Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Irena Sendler
on: May 13, 2008, 01:35:36 PM
Fate may have led Irena Sendler to the moment almost 70 years ago when she began to risk her life for the children of strangers. But for this humble Polish Catholic social worker, who was barely 30 when one of history's most nightmarish chapters unfolded before her, the pivotal influence was something her parents had drummed into her.
"I was taught that if you see a person drowning," she said, "you must jump into the water to save them, whether you can swim or not."
Irena SendlerWhen the Nazis occupying Poland began rounding up Jews in 1940 and sending them to the Warsaw ghetto, Sendler plunged in.
With daring and ingenuity, she saved the lives of more than 2,500 Jews, most of them children, a feat that went largely unrecognized until the last years of her life.
Sendler, 98, who died of pneumonia Monday in Warsaw, has been called the female Oskar Schindler, but she saved twice as many lives as the German industrialist, who sheltered 1,200 of his Jewish workers. Unlike Schindler, whose story received international attention in the 1993 movie "Schindler's List," Sendler and her heroic actions were almost lost to history until four Kansas schoolgirls wrote a play about her nine years ago.
The lesson Sendler taught them was that "one person can make a difference," Megan Felt, one of the authors of the play, said Monday.
"Irena wasn't even 5 feet tall, but she walked into the Warsaw ghetto daily and faced certain death if she was caught. Her strength and courage showed us we can stand up for what we believe in, as well," said Felt, who is now 23 and helps raise funds for aging Holocaust rescuers.
Sendler was born Feb. 15, 1910, in Otwock, a small town southeast of Warsaw. She was an only child of parents who devoted much of their energies to helping workers.
She was especially influenced by her father, a doctor who defied anti-Semites by treating sick Jews during outbreaks of typhoid fever. He died of the disease when Sendler was 9.
She studied at Warsaw University and was a social worker in Warsaw when the German occupation of Poland began in 1939. In 1940, after the Nazis herded Jews into the ghetto and built a wall separating it from the rest of the city, disease, especially typhoid, ran rampant. Social workers were not allowed inside the ghetto, but Sendler, imagining "the horror of life behind the walls," obtained fake identification and passed herself off as a nurse, allowed to bring in food, clothes and medicine.
By 1942, when the deadly intentions of the Nazis had become clear, Sendler joined a Polish underground organization, Zegota. She recruited 10 close friends -- a group that would eventually grow to 25, all but one of them women -- and began rescuing Jewish children.
She and her friends smuggled the children out in boxes, suitcases, sacks and coffins, sedating babies to quiet their cries. Some were spirited away through a network of basements and secret passages. Operations were timed to the second. One of Sendler's children told of waiting by a gate in darkness as a German soldier patrolled nearby. When the soldier passed, the boy counted to 30, then made a mad dash to the middle of the street, where a manhole cover opened and he was taken down into the sewers and eventually to safety.
Decades later, Sendler was still haunted by the parents' pleas, particularly of those who ultimately could not bear to be apart from their children.
"The one question every parent asked me was 'Can you guarantee they will live?' We had to admit honestly that we could not, as we did not even know if we would succeed in leaving the ghetto that day. The only guarantee," she said, "was that the children would most likely die if they stayed."
Most of the children who left with Sendler's group were taken into Roman Catholic convents, orphanages and homes and given non-Jewish aliases. Sendler recorded their true names on thin rolls of paper in the hope that she could reunite them with their families later. She preserved the precious scraps in jars and buried them in a friend's garden.
In 1943, she was captured by the Nazis and tortured but refused to tell her captors who her co-conspirators were or where the bottles were buried. She also resisted in other ways. According to Felt, when Sendler worked in the prison laundry, she and her co-workers made holes in the German soldiers' underwear. When the officers discovered what they had done, they lined up all the women and shot every other one. It was just one of many close calls for Sendler.
During one particularly brutal torture session, her captors broke her feet and legs, and she passed out. When she awoke, a Gestapo officer told her he had accepted a bribe from her comrades in the resistance to help her escape. The officer added her name to a list of executed prisoners. Sendler went into hiding but continued her rescue efforts.
Felt said that Sendler had begun her rescue operation before she joined the organized resistance and helped a number of adults escape, including the man she later married. "We think she saved about 500 people before she joined Zegota," Felt said, which would mean that Sendler ultimately helped rescue about 3,000 Polish Jews.
When the war ended, Sendler unearthed the jars and began trying to return the children to their families. For the vast majority, there was no family left. Many of the children were adopted by Polish families; others were sent to Israel.
In 1965, she was recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust authority, as a Righteous Gentile, an honor given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Nazi reign. In her own country, however, she was unsung, in part because Polish anti-Semitism remained strong after the war and many rescuers were persecuted.
Her status began to change in 2000, when Felt and her classmates learned that the woman who had inspired them was still alive. Through the sponsorship of a local Jewish organization, they traveled to Warsaw in 2001 to meet Sendler, who helped the students improve and expand the play. Called "Life in a Jar," it has been performed more than 250 times in the United States, Canada and Poland and generated media attention that cast a spotlight on the wizened, round-faced nonagenarian.
After each performance, Felt and the other cast members passed a jar for Sendler, raising enough money to move her into a Catholic nursing home with round-the-clock care. They and the teacher who assigned them the play project, Norman Conard, started the Life in a Jar Foundation, which has raised more than $70,000 to help pay for medical and other needs of Holocaust rescuers.
Last year, Sendler was honored by the Polish Senate and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, which brought dozens of reporters to her door. She told one of them she was wearying of the attention.
"Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth," she said, "and not a title to glory."
Sendler, who was the last living member of her group of rescuers, is survived by a daughter and a granddaughter.
For more information on Irena Sendler, or to contribute to the Life In a Jar Foundation, go to www.irenasendler.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on High Energy Prices
on: May 13, 2008, 01:32:35 PM
We Can Thank Shortsighted Politicians for High Energy Prices
The starting point of any discussion of America's energy future has to be this: Shortsighted politicians have created the current energy crisis.
For decades left-leaning politicians have advocated higher prices and less energy. They were going to save the environment by punishing Americans into driving less and driving smaller cars. Now their policies have succeeded with a vengeance.
The very left wing politicians who favored a policy of no oil and gas exploration, no use of coal, no development of nuclear power, and no aggressive development of new technologies are now panic-stricken that their policies of higher prices have led to higher prices.
And now the same shortsighted, dishonest politicians who created the crisis are blaming everyone but themselves for the crisis. Because they refuse to be honest about the policies which led to this crisis, they can't be honest about the policies that will lead us out of it.
The politicians want scapegoats. The American people just want solutions.
The Solution? A Pro-Investment, Pro-Creativity, Pro-Production Energy Coalition
Politicians with vision -- working with entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers -- could rapidly replace
the current shortages and high prices with a flood of new energy at lower prices. And America's current vulnerability to blackmail by foreign dictators could rapidly be turned into virtual independence with a North American energy strategy that includes Canada and Mexico.
The key is to create a new coalition of Americans who favor greater investment, greater discovery, greater creativity, and greater production.
That coalition could lead to a new era of American prosperity with a more prosperous economy, more abundant energy, a healthier environment, and greater national security.
The Current Crisis of High Prices and Limited Supply
The fact is, with leadership that unleashes the potential of the American people, there is no reason why America can't have safe, abundant, and relatively inexpensive energy.
America still has the world's largest supply of fossil fuels. We have more coal than any other country by a huge margin. We have abundant oil and gas reserves. We have the potential for nuclear, wind, solar and biofuels in tremendous quantities.
And, critically, America is still technologically the most advanced nation in the world, despite decades of bad policies. We have the potential for enormous breakthroughs in future technologies such as hydrogen power.
Without Real Change the Energy Problem Will Get Much Worse
The second inescapable fact of America's energy future is this: India and China are realities. As they become more prosperous their people want to have better lives. And having better lives means using more and more energy.
This year Asia bought more cars than the United States for the first time in history. The pressure for more energy on a worldwide basis is going to continue to grow.
The only solutions to the current high prices and scarcity are higher energy supply and/or lower energy demand.
In the long run we will almost certainly find dramatic breakthroughs including electric cars (super hybrids) and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
But in the short and near term, oil is going to remain the primary source of energy for transportation. And any strategy that does not substantially increase the production of oil and the use of coal is a strategy for much higher prices and growing scarcities.
The Left's Strategy is Anti-Oil and Anti-Coal
Yet the current strategy of the left is anti-oil and anti-coal.
It is a recipe for very high prices for Americans who drive.
It is a recipe for higher inflation as the cost of energy is driven through the entire economy.
It is a recipe for growing vulnerability to blackmail by foreign dictatorships.
And it is a recipe for starving poor people in the third world. The price of oil has a much bigger impact on the cost of food than the production of biofuels. Higher oil prices mean higher fertilizer and transportation prices. Combine that with the impact of speculators and really destructive government policies (including the Left's opposition to scientifically improved food production), and you have a formula for starvation for the poorest people.
Americans Support Energy Independence, Innovation, Incentives, and Nuclear Power
At AmericanSolutions.com you can view the Platform of the American People, a collection of 91 planks with the support of the majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans.
The Platform shows that the American people overwhelmingly agree that we should use our resources to become independent from foreign dictators.
Brazil recently discovered two very large oil fields in the Atlantic Ocean. They are so large that they will make Brazil completely independent from Middle Eastern oil.
This is important because the Minerals Management Service has estimated a mean of 85.9 billion barrels of undiscovered recoverable oil and a mean of 419.9 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered recoverable natural gas in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf of the United States. And that estimate does not include any Brazil-size surprise discoveries.
The Platform also shows that Americans believe deeply in the power of technology, incentives, and innovation to develop new sources of energy and new methods of energy conservation. For example:
"We can solve our environmental problems faster and cheaper with innovation and new technology than with more litigation and more government regulation. (79 to 15)
If we use technology and innovation and incentives we do not need to raise taxes to clean up our environment. (68 to 29)"
And Americans also believe in the safety and reliability of nuclear energy.
"We support building more nuclear power plants to cut carbon emissions. (65 to 28)"
The First Step: Replace Warner-Lieberman with Domenici
In a sign of how out of touch the Congress is with the current realities of the average American, the Senate is planning to bring up the Warner-Lieberman bill. This "tax and trade" bill will be an economic disaster. A better name for it would be "The China and India Full Employment Act" because it is going to raise the costs of doing business in America so dramatically that most future factories will be built outside the United States.
SUMMARY OF WARNER-LIEBERMAN
FINANCIAL COSTS OF WARNER-LIEBERMAN
ESTIMATED JOB LOSS DUE TO WARNER-LIEBERMAN
"Tax and trade" is a more accurate term than "cap and trade" because buried in this bill is a massive tax increase which will lead to a much bigger federal government with much more bureaucracy and a much smaller private sector operating only with the permission of federal bureaucrats.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CAP AND TRADE
At a time when the American driver is already complaining about the cost of gasoline and the American homeowner is beginning to complain about the cost of natural gas and home heating oil, the Warner-Lieberman bill will make those costs much worse.
Instead of turning to Warner-Lieberman, the Senate would send a better signal to the American people by taking up the American Energy Production Act, sponsored by New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici (R)
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AMERICAN ENERGY PRODUCTION ACT
Where the Warner-Lieberman bill is one more step toward higher prices, more scarcity, and less production, the Domenici Bill is a first step toward trying to increase production.
If the Senate votes to bring up the Domenici Bill, they are beginning to get the message that we want more energy and lower prices.
The Next Steps to Clean, More Abundant, Lower Cost Domestic Energy
After switching focus from the Warner-Lieberman bill to the Domenici bill, here are the next steps toward an energy abundant American future:
Change federal law to give all states with offshore oil and gas the same share of federal royalties Wyoming gets for land-based resources (48%). Today most states get zero royalties from offshore oil and gas development while states like Wyoming reap 48% of federal royalties for its land-based oil and gas. If Richmond, Tallahassee, and Sacramento suddenly had the potential to find billions of dollars a year in new revenues, their willingness to tolerate new oil and gas development with appropriate environmental safeguards might go up dramatically.
Change federal law to allow those states that want to permit exploration with appropriate safeguards to do so. Companies could be required to post bonds to pay for any environmental problems, and a share of the state and federal revenues from new offshore development could be set aside to finance biodiversity and national park projects.
Allow companies engaged in oil and gas exploration and development to write off their investments in one year by expensing all of it against their tax liabilities. This will lead to an explosion of new exploration and development.
Immediately renegotiate the clean coal (FutureGen) project for Illinois to get it built as rapidly as possible (see the chapter in Real Change for rapid contracting techniques with incentives that can reduce construction time from years to months). It is utterly irrational for the Department of Energy to postpone the most advanced clean coal project in America (LEARN MORE ABOUT DOE'S FAILURE ON FUTURE GEN).
Coal is America's most abundant and lowest-cost energy resource. If clean coal technologies can be demonstrated to produce power with virtually no carbon release, then coal becomes environmentally very acceptable. America IS the Saudi Arabia of coal. We simply must fund the most advanced experiment and get on with using our most abundant resource.
Congress should pass a series of tax-free prizes to accelerate innovation in developing new technologies for using coal. The result will be a better environment, more energy independence, and more energy at lower cost. Eliminate half the Department of Energy bureaucracy and turn the money into paying for prizes. America will get a much bigger, faster return on its investment.
Develop a tax credit for refitting existing coal plants. There are a lot of existing coal plants which are going to be around for a long time. The most efficient way to make them more environmentally acceptable is to create a tax credit for retrofitting them with new methods and new technologies.
Pass a streamlined regulatory regime and a favorable tax regime for building nuclear power plants.
Make the solar power and wind power tax credits permanent to create a large scale industry dedicated to domestically produced renewable fuel. A contractor recently told me about a solar project he had planned for the American southwest that is now being built in Spain because he distrusts the American Congress and is tired of it playing games with short-term tax credits. We have enormous opportunities in solar, wind, and other renewable fuels; and they can be developed with a stable tax policy.
Develop long distance transmission lines to move wind power from the Dakotas to Chicago. The potential is there for an enormous amount of electricity generation, but it is locked up geographically because the neighboring states have no reason to be helpful. The Dakotas can generate the power and Chicago can use the power, but the federal government may have to make the connection possible.
Allow the auto companies to use their tax credits for the cost of flex fuels cars, hybrids, and the development of hydrogen cars including necessary retooling for manufacturing. The American auto companies have billions in tax credits, but they have no profits to turn the tax credits into useful money. The federal government could make the tax credits refundable and therefore useful if they were spent on helping solve the energy problem. This would be a win-win strategy of much greater power than the fight over CAFE standards.
Conservation as a Parallel, Co-Equal Strategy with Production
At the same time we work to increase production of energy, we must work to find ways to increase energy conservation. There are a number of steps that can be taken.
Congressman Roy Blunt notes that we currently spend eight times more money on federal subsidies for low income heating than we spend on modernizing homes so they don't use as much energy.
A variety of tax credits should be developed to accelerate maximum efficiency in energy use and to accelerate the replacement of inefficient systems with more modern, more efficient systems.
The Choice is Ours
The time has come for Americans to demand a fundamental change in energy policy.
If we want less expensive gasoline, then we have to demand the policies that will increase the supply of oil and reduce its cost.
If we want a reliable energy policy that reduces our dependence on foreign dictatorships, then we have to demand greater use of American resources and American technology.
If we want these changes to come before we are blackmailed or bankrupted by foreign dictatorships, then we must demand that politicians cut through the red tape, change the bureaucracy, and get the job done.
And if our elected officials want to stick with the current scarcity-producing, high price-resulting energy policies, then its time to retire them for leaders who want more production at lower cost.
The choice is ours.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: May 13, 2008, 11:37:13 AM
Political analysts in both Washington and New York's Staten Island now expect GOP Rep. Vito Fossella not to seek re-election. His media adviser says only he plans to continue working on behalf of his constituents "in the weeks" and months to come. But Mr. Fossella's political future probably became untenable after he revealed he fathered a secret daughter three years ago with Laura Fay, a retired Air Force officer.
It was Ms. Fay who picked him up from jail in Alexandria, Virginia when Mr. Fossella was arrested for drunk driving on May 1, after which the story came out.
Mr. Fossella has been urged to resign by the largest paper in his district, the Staten Island Advance, as well as by the New York Post, the tabloid that is a staple of the island's conservative and largely Catholic voters. The district, which includes a portion of Brooklyn, gave President Bush 58% of its vote in 2004.
But don't look for Mr. Fossella to resign immediately. If he left office before July 1, New York's Democratic Gov. David Paterson would call a special election, which would probably force cash-strapped Republicans to spend $2 million in a potentially losing battle. Even should the GOP win the election, it would likely have to spend a like amount to hold the seat again in November.
Candidates are already lining up for the expected vacancy. On the Republican side. State Senator Andrew Lanza would be a strong candidate but his departure from the State Senate could imperil the slim GOP majority in that body. A more likely candidate is Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donavan, who has close ties to both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He won re-election last year with 68% of the vote.
Democrats have several potential candidates, including State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a former aide to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. But Ms. Savino would also be under pressure from party officials not to run because her departure from the Senate could allow Republicans to capture her seat.
-- John Fund
The Manchin Candidate
Inside the confines of a voting booth today, popular West Virginia Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin will cast a ballot for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Manchin finds himself in the midst of his party’s most contentious nomination fight in 40 years, and the first nomination fight to reach his state since JFK campaigned there in 1960. But Mr. Manchin has steadfastly refused publicly to endorse either candidate. He's offered to appear at campaign rallies for both. His wife delivered opening remarks at one event that featured a keynote address from Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Manchin has mainly used the election coverage to boost his state in national media outlets.
More than a few analysts wonder where Mr. Manchin comes down. West Virginia has a hefty proportion of unionized blue-collar workers. It has more senior citizens per capita than nearly any other state. These demographics give Hillary Clinton a near a lock on winning the state's primary. Yet Mr. Manchin is also uniquely suited to be a strong vice presidential candidate under Barack Obama. Mr. Obama would need to move quickly to the political center. He also needs to find a way to win voters he hasn't won in the primaries -- rural, poor and middle class whites. Mr. Manchin's political base of support are West Virginians who own guns, head to church on Sundays and carry union cards in their wallets.
Yet he’s also shown himself to be an effective, practical, moderate reformer. Over his four years in office, he's cut taxes, reformed the state's worker's compensation program and pushed fiscally responsible policies that have left the state in surplus. He brags about the Japanese companies he's attracted to the state. And he has publicly criticized his own party for being in love with "renewable" energy at the expense of coal -- something that could make him appealing to voters given the backlash against ethanol and high food and gas prices.
Going by voter registration alone, West Virginia is a heavily Democratic State. Democrats outnumber Republicans by two-to-one and control the governor's mansion, the state legislature and both U.S. Senate seats. But George W. Bush carried the Mountain State twice in presidential years and Democrats certainly noticed that had Al Gore won there in 2000, he would have won the presidency regardless of the outcome of Florida. Maybe that explains Mr. Manchin’s caginess. Helping to carry West Virginia might earn him a close look as veep by either nominee -- after all, the last Democrat to win the White House without carrying West Virginia was Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"In last Tuesday's North Carolina primary, [Hillary] Clinton got only 7% of the black vote -- a lower percentage than Nixon or Reagan had won in general elections.... No constituency has swung as much over the past few months. The Clintons are used to loving and supporting minorities -- as long as the minorities know their place and see the Clintons as the instrument of their salvation. Obama broke that dependency and that relationship. And that was why the Clintons had to do all they could to destroy and belittle and besmirch him. But in that venture the Clintons are destroying themselves and their legacy and their capacity to bridge the very gaps they now must widen to stay in the race. It is a Clinton tragedy -- and one that most Americans seem slowly, cautiously but palpably determined not to make their own" -- columnist Andrew Sullivan writing in the London Times.
Quote of the Day II
"The Clintons find themselves victimized and under siege. The presidency is being stolen from them. The press is out to get them. They deride elites and champion the masses. They live in a constant state of emergency. But they will endure any humiliation, ride out any crisis, fight on even when fighting seems hopeless. That might sound like a fair summary of how Bill and Hillary Clinton have viewed the past five months. But it also happens to describe what, until now, was the greatest ordeal of the Clintons' almost comically turbulent political careers: impeachment. That baroque saga hardened the Clintonian worldview about politics and helps to explain their approach to this brutal campaign season. The Clintons have been here before, you see. They're being impeached all over again" -- columnist Michael Crowley, writing in the New Republic.
Re-Airing Ronald Reagan
It's been two decades since Ronald Reagan left office and so many young people under 30 have little or no understanding of him or what he represented.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation hopes to remedy that by producing a series of two-minute radio retrospectives featuring excerpts from the over 1,000 commentaries Reagan did in the 1970s between his years as governor and president. Those radio commentaries, published in annotated form recently, have played no small role in forcing even liberals to have a second look and give the Gipper his due as a thinker and writer. Additional broadcasts will use portions of Reagan's Saturday radio addresses as president.
Harry O'Connor, the original producer of what was called "Reagan Radio," is working with the Foundation to produce the commentaries. Peter Hannaford, who wrote some of the commentaries that Reagan himself did not pen, will provide an introduction to each segment. Each one, while non-partisan in nature, will address an issue such as taxes, terrorism, abortion and the economy and in Mr. O'Connor's words "establish the connection between the classic radio addresses and contemporary issues."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia and Georgia
on: May 13, 2008, 11:30:05 AM
Although a clash between Georgia and Russia over the secessionist region of Abkhazia seemed very possible last week as both players positioned troops, a trigger is still necessary before this long-standing feud erupts.
An escalation between Georgia and Russia made it look as if the two countries’ simmering conflict over Abkhazia had reached a breaking point. But the escalation fizzled shortly thereafter given that Tbilisi knows it remains solo in its attempts to fight its larger neighbor — especially after a meeting between Georgian officials and a European envoy May 12.
Intelligence Guidance: Week of May 11, 2008
While the clash between Russia and Georgia has subsided somewhat into its typical stagnation, that does not mean the chatter will stop entirely. Stratfor assumed that a large escalation was occurring that could turn this crisis into a war because both players have moved large numbers of troops into positions on the border of Georgia’s secessionist region of Abkhazia.
For Russia, the troop movement was an easy maneuver. In fact, Russia’s military is nearly 75 percent bigger than the entire population of Georgia. But for Georgia, positioning troops to total a force of 7,500 along Abkhazia’s border was a big deal — or so Stratfor assumed since it knows that Tbilisi understands that a military confrontation with Russia would be suicidal. This is what has kept Tbilisi from acting in the past.
This awareness is what prompted the Georgian government to court Western players for support, especially among the United States, NATO and the European Union. But the United States and NATO have turned a cold shoulder to Georgia. They have no appetite for a Russian confrontation when they have Iraq and Afghanistan still on their plates. While initially the European Union seemed to pay attention, European heavyweights such as Germany and France have continually cautioned against tangling with Russia. They know how easily Moscow can turn off the switch supplying energy to Europe, which is dependent on Russia for 40 percent of its energy intake.
However, this reservation has not stopped European countries from at least reaching out to Georgia on the diplomatic front. On May 12, an envoy from Europe consisting of the foreign ministers from EU president Slovenia and anti-Russian hardliners like Poland, Sweden and Lithuania met in Tbilisi with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The delegation, though including the Slovene foreign minister, was not EU-sanctioned since most EU members would not support a move on Georgia’s behalf. In fact, Stratfor sources in Georgia report that none of the countries will be sending military or technical support to Georgia, though each plans to extend diplomatic support – a weak substitute for what Tbilisi hoped to garner.
One form of support these European countries can offer Georgia is their ability to veto a resumption of Russian-EU talks. Poland, Lithuania and Sweden all have their own reasons to veto the talks. Russian missile threats against Poland, a prolonged break in oil supplies from Russia to Lithuania and a timber supply crisis from Russia to Sweden are all reasons why European countries might veto the talks.
The European Union says it has been talking with Lithuania to resume the Russian-EU partnership despite the oil crisis. However, with Lithuania saying it will continue its veto policy until both the oil and Georgia situations are resolved, those EU-Lithuanian negotiations do not look promising. Moreover, countries such a Poland or Sweden could also take up the helm of vetoing EU-Russian relations.
Regardless, at least for now, the drama between Georgia and Russia seems at a standstill. Both actors know that outsiders are not going to push the situation. Tbilisi knows it cannot proceed alone and Moscow does not seem eager to invade. Even with troops in place, Stratfor is still waiting for a trigger that could finally break this long-standing feud.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Diarea heading towards fan
on: May 13, 2008, 11:23:51 AM
Mexico Security Memo: May 12, 2008
Stratfor Today » May 12, 2008 | 2046 GMT
a.. Tracking Mexico's Drug Cartels
More High-Level Assassinations
While drug-related violence was widespread around Mexico this past week,
much attention was focused on the capital after two high-profile
assassinations occurred there within two days. In the first, alleged members
of a murder-for-hire gang shot and killed Edgar Millan Gomez on May 8 in his
own home. Millan Gomez was Mexico's highest-ranking federal law enforcement
official, responsible for coordinating much of the federal police
counternarcotics campaign. He reportedly was shot up to eight times at close
range by a gunman armed with two handguns - one of which had a silencer --
who was waiting inside his apartment building. One of Millan Gomez's
bodyguards, who was departing for the evening, was wounded as he apprehended
the gunman. Millan Gomez was the highest-ranking federal official to be
killed since the May 2007 assassination of Jose Nemesio Lugo Felix, also in
The second assassination involved Esteban Robles Espinosa, head of Mexico
City's judicial police anti-kidnapping unit. Robles reportedly was shot nine
times by four gunmen traveling in a vehicle outside his home.
Although no substantial links have been reported, the Mexican government
suspects the Sinaloa cartel was behind these killings. Indeed, Millan
reportedly had orchestrated the arrest of several Sinaloa enforcers in the
capital earlier this year. These killings - as well as the assassination
last week of two federal police officials in Mexico City - also match the
trend reported last week of increasing cartel activity in Mexico City. The
targeting of federal authorities - especially by the Sinaloa cartel - in
Mexico City has been a key aspect of this activity since the beginning of
This past week's assassinations prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon
and other officials to vow the government would not be deterred in the fight
against organized crime. While this increase in killings in Mexico City puts
the government in the position of needing to respond, it probably will not
fundamentally shift the government's strategy. In fact, it is unclear
exactly how the government will be able to respond in a meaningful way.
Without deploying additional military forces - which Calderon so far has
been reluctant to do - Mexico City is resigned to shifting around the
currently available forces - and this means withdrawing them from ongoing
security operations elsewhere.
This sort of response appears to be precisely the outcome that the Sinaloa
cartel or other criminal groups were hoping for, however. If that is the
case, other officials in Mexico City probably will be targeted. As the
cartel prepares for increased pressure from the Mexican government, which is
about to deploy reinforcements to Sinaloa state, greater violence against
federal authorities in other parts of the country can be expected -
especially if the deployment is large enough actually to negatively affect
the Sinaloa cartel's ability to traffic drugs.
Targeting the Son of 'El Chapo'
The Sinaloa cartel was at the center of another high-profile killing in
Mexico this week, also. The son of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo"
Guzman Loera was shot and killed outside a shopping center in Culiacan,
Sinaloa state, in an attack reportedly carried out by more than 40 gunmen
traveling in five vehicles. The son of the Sinaloa cartel's top money
launderer, Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar, also was killed in the attack.
The Gulf cartel's enforcement arm, Los Zetas, carried out the killing,
according to a Stratfor source in Mexico with ties to the law enforcement
community. Recent reports of a split between Sinaloa and a resurgent Juarez
cartel mean Sinaloa has more than one enemy, however. Watching for where
retaliatory attacks are aimed will be perhaps the best way to figure out who
carried out the attack in Sinaloa - the killing of Guzman's son undoubtedly
will prompt strong reprisals by the Sinaloa cartel, which most likely knows
very well who was behind this incident.
a.. The Mexican military launched an operation in Chiapas state involving
aircraft and navy ships looking for boats transporting illegal goods.
b.. Authorities in a remote part of Michoacan state discovered two shallow
graves containing the bodies of three individuals who apparently had been
c.. A tactical intelligence unit of the federal police will be deployed to
Sinaloa state, a state official announced.
d.. The body of a police commander was found with five severed fingers in
Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state.
e.. Authorities in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, reported the shooting death of
a man who may have been shot more than 100 times.
f.. The second in command of a Chihuahua state police agency was shot dead
by several assailants in her garage in Ciudad Juarez.
a.. One police officer and one gunman died during a firefight between
police and several armed men who had just committed a targeted killing in
Nogales, Sonora state.
b.. Several gunmen shot and killed a police commander in Culiacan, Sinaloa
state. Several stray bullets also struck and killed a civilian bystander at
a nearby gas station.
c.. A police captain in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, died when he was
shot several times while driving his vehicle.
a.. At least seven people died during a firefight between army forces and
armed men in Villa de Cos, Zacatecas state.
b.. Five people were reported wounded after a group of gunmen opened fire
on a police patrol in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
a.. Four people were wounded in the Pronaf district of Ciudad Juarez,
Chihuahua state, after gunmen traveling in a vehicle shot them.
b.. Mexico's federal security Cabinet met to discuss drug violence in
Sinaloa state; one of the officials present said the government intends to
increase the presence of security forces in the state.
c.. Approximately three armed men shot and killed the bodyguard of the
police chief in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state.
d.. A Chinese tourist was stabbed to death by an alleged drug dealer
outside a nightclub in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was seen
arguing with his attacker moments before he was killed.
a.. Three police officers in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, were wounded
in their patrol car when several armed men shot them.
b.. The chief and deputy chief of police in Sinaloa state resigned their
positions after apparently receiving death threats, media reported.
c.. The local governments of Tijuana and Mexicali, Baja California state,
asked the federal police to send a special anti-kidnapping task force to the
cities in order to combat the increasing incidence of extortion-related
d.. A former political leader in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, was
abducted by a group of armed men. Some reports indicate that a current
government official who was with him at the time was wounded during the
e.. Police in Navolato, Sinaloa state, reported the discovery of seven
bodies with signs of torture. At least one of the victims was a police
f.. A man and his son were shot dead in an apparently drug-related
shooting incident in Palomas, Chihuahua state; more than 60 shell casings
were recovered from the scene.
a.. The second highest-ranking police official in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
state, died after being shot several times while driving near his home. His
name had been on a hit list left in January at a memorial to fallen police
officers in the city.
b.. A soldier was found alive in Jacona, Michoacan state, bound at the
hands and feet and bearing signs of torture.
a.. Authorities in Huetamo, Michoacan state, reported finding the body of
an unidentified man who appeared to have been shot more than 100 times.
b.. Five people were shot dead in separate incidents in Sinaloa state in
the cities of Culiacan, Salvador Alvarado and Angostura.
c.. The police chief in Amecameca, Mexico state, received a death threat
from a group of several armed men who demanded he discontinue efforts to
halt illegal logging operations in the area.
d.. Five people died in an apparent drug-related shooting incident in
Palomas, Chihuahua state. Authorities reported recovering more than 160
shell casings from the crime scene.
I don't agree with this one. I think for US intervention to be considered
things would have to get A LOT worse than they are now.
Geopolitical Diary: High Stakes South of the Border
May 13, 2008 | 0440 GMT
The Mexican government has arrested five individuals involved in the killing
of Edgar Millan Gomez, Mexico's highest-ranking federal law enforcement
official. The five men allegedly operated on the orders of the Sinaloa
Cartel. The death of Millan Gomez at his home in Mexico City is the latest
example of the escalation of violence in the ongoing war between the Mexican
federal government and the cartels that control large swaths of Mexican
territory. The assassination of such a high-level target clearly puts
increased pressure on the government.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon's boldest initiative upon taking office 18
months ago was the deployment of thousands of troops to combat Mexican drug
cartels. In doing so, he brought the fight to the doorstep of organized
Calderon's efforts in combating the cartels have been notable, as he is the
first Mexican president to challenge cartel control of Mexican territory in
a serious way. But his resources are limited. To tackle the threats and
challenges facing the government, Calderon has shifted troops from one place
to another. But any fundamental ramping up of dedicated troops would strain
The shift of cartel violence into the interior of Mexico, and particularly
into Mexico City itself, has been a gradual trend that Stratfor has observed
over the past year. Cartel involvement - particularly by the Sinaloa
cartel - in the capital appears to have increased noticeably since a failed
attack with an improvised explosive device in February. Millan Gomez's
assassination is the latest example of this trend.
Mexico's continued descent into chaos could have enormous implications for
the United States, with the potential to shift considerable U.S. attention
to the Western Hemisphere.
The economic importance of Mexico to the United States is difficult to
overstate. The potential disruption of trade between the two countries -
particularly relevant at a point when the United States is staring down the
maw of a recession - would be a massive liability for the United States.
U.S.-Mexican trade totaled about $350 billion worth of goods in 2007, making
Mexico one of the United States' largest trading partners.
Now, there is a real danger that Mexico's crime situation could spin out of
control. The cartels need stable supply routes to the United States to
secure their drug shipments, while the government is seeking to stem the
tide of violence that has wracked Mexico for decades. The law of unintended
consequences is in play here, and there is a distinct danger that violence
could further spill over into the United States - disrupting trade flows and
Although the United States may be moving forward with policies like the
Merida initiative, which will lend aid to Mexico's war on the cartels, the
current efforts are limited. U.S. forces are largely preoccupied in Iraq and
Afghanistan. While it would take a great deal to tip the scale toward a U.S.
military intervention in Mexico, we may now be at a point where that has to
be considered given what is at stake.
The last time the United States meaningfully asserted control over a
deteriorating situation in Mexico was in the early 20th century during the
Mexican Revolution, when the United States occupied Veracruz for six months
to protect U.S. business interests. If violence on the border started
hurting the bottom line, the cost of not doing anything would start to
approach the cost of military action. The potential for an escalation of
violence between the cartels and the government spiraling out of control
could tip that balance.
It is unclear what the threshold for U.S. action in Mexico would be. But the
stakes are high. If the United States sees trade flows threatened, and the
security situation deteriorating, Washington might see fit to intervene. And
just because it hasn't done so in a century doesn't mean it will not choose
to do so in the future.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Challenge from China
on: May 13, 2008, 09:20:51 AM
I have mixed feelings about this piece, but post it as representing one POV:
The Challenge From China
By MARK HELPRIN
May 13, 2008; Page A17
Even as our hearts go out to the Chinese who have perished in the earthquake, we cannot lose sight of the fact that every day China is growing stronger. The rate and nature of its economic expansion, the character and patriotism of its youth, and its military and technical development present the United States with two essential challenges that we have failed to meet, even though they play to our traditional advantages.
The first of these challenges is economic, the second military. They are inextricably bound together, and if we do not attend to both we may eventually discover in a place above us a nation recently so impotent we cannot now convince ourselves to look at the blow it may strike. We may think we have troubles now, but imagine what they will be like were we to face an equal.
Beijing: Delegates from China's military attend the annual session of the National People's Congress.
China has a vast internal market newly unified by modern transport and communications; a rapidly flowering technology; an irritable but highly capable workforce that as long as its standard of living improves is unlikely to push the country into paralyzing unrest; and a wider world, now freely accessible, that will buy anything it can make. China is threatened neither by Japan, Russia, India, nor the Western powers, as it was not that long ago. It has an immense talent for the utilization of capital, and in the free market is as agile as a cat.
Unlike the U.S., which governs itself almost unconsciously, reactively and primarily for the short term, China has plotted a long course, in which with great deliberation it joins economic growth to military power. Thirty years ago, in what may be called the "gift of the Meiji," Deng Xiaoping transformed the Japanese slogan fukoku kyohei (rich country, strong arms) into China's 16-Character Policy: "Combine the military and the civil; combine peace and war; give priority to military products; let the civil support the military."
Japan was able to vault with preternatural speed into the first ranks of the great powers because it understood the relation of growth to military potential. A country with restrained population increases and a high rate of economic expansion can over time dramatically improve its material lot while simultaneously elevating military spending almost beyond belief. The crux is to raise per-capita income significantly enough that diversions for defense will go virtually unnoticed. China's average annual growth of roughly 9% over the past 20 years has led to an absolute tenfold increase in per-capita GNP and 21-fold increase in purchasing-power-parity military expenditure. Though it could do more, it prudently limits defense spending, with an eye to both social stability – the compass of the Chinese leadership – and assimilable military modernization.
As we content ourselves with the fallacy that never again shall we have to fight large, technological opponents, China is transforming its forces into a full-spectrum military capable of major operations and remote power projection. Eventually the twain shall meet. By the same token, our sharp nuclear reductions and China's acquisitions of ballistic-missile submarines and multiple-warhead mobile missiles will eventually come level. The China that has threatened to turn Los Angeles to cinder is arguably more cavalier about nuclear weapons than are we, and may find parity a stimulus to brinkmanship. Who will blink first, a Barack Obama (who even now blinks like Betty Boop) or a Hu Jintao?
Our reductions are not solely nuclear. Consider the F-22, the world's most capable air dominance aircraft, for which the original call for 648 has been whittled to 183, leaving, after maintenance, training, and test, approximately 125 to cover the entire world. The same story is evident without relief throughout our diminished air echelons, shrinking fleets, damaged and depleted stocks, and ground forces turned from preparation for heavy battle to the work of a gendarmerie.
As the military is frustrated and worn down by a little war against a small enemy made terrible by the potential of weapons of mass destruction, the shift in the Pacific goes unaddressed as if it is unaddressable. But it is eminently addressable. We can, in fact, compete with China economically, deter it from a range of military options, protect our allies, and maintain a balance of power favorable to us.
In the past we have been able to outwit both more advanced industrial economies and those floating upon seas of cheap labor – by innovating and automating. Until China's labor costs equal ours, the only way to compete with its manufactures is intensely to mechanize our own. Restriction of trade or waiting for equalization will only impoverish us as we fail to compete in world markets. The problem is cheap labor. The solution, therefore, is automation. Who speaks about this in the presidential campaign? The candidates prefer, rather, to whine and console.
We must revive our understanding of deterrence, the balance of power, and the military balance. In comparison with its recent history, American military potential is restrained. Were we to allot the average of 5.7% of GNP that we devoted annually to defense in peacetime from 1940-2000, we would have as a matter of course $800 billion each year with which to develop and sustain armies and fleets. During World War II we devoted up to 40% of GNP to this, and yet the economy expanded in real terms and Americans did not live like paupers.
The oceans have been our battlefields since the beginning; we invented powered flight; and our automobiles still await us on the surface of the moon – our métiers are the sea, air and space. Thus, we have been blessed by geography, for with the exception of South Korea our allies in the Pacific are islands. With Japan, Australasia, our own island territories, and Admiral Nimitz's ocean, we can match and exceed indefinitely any development of Chinese strategic power – which, by definition, must take to the sea and air.
* * *
And there we will be, if we are wise, not with 280 ships but a thousand; not eleven carriers, or nine, but 40, not 183 F-22s, but a thousand; and so on. That is, the levels of military potential that traditional peacetime expenditures of GNP have provided, without strain, throughout most of our lives. As opposed either to ignominious defeat without war, or war with a rising power emboldened by our weakness and retirement, this would be infinitely cheaper.
And yet what candidate is alert to this? Who asserts that our sinews are still intact? That we can meet any challenge, especially when it can be answered with our historical strengths? That beneath a roiled surface is a power limitless yet fair, supple yet restrained? Who will speak of these things in time, and who will dare to awaken them?
Mr. Helprin, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, is the author of, among other works, "Winter's Tale" (Harcourt) and "A Soldier of the Great War" (Harcourt). This piece was adapted from a speech given at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon's 300
on: May 13, 2008, 09:11:04 AM
Post three of the morning;
By Walid Phares (bio)
While the West is busy living its daily life, a beast is busy killing the freedom of a small community on the East Mediterranean: Lebanon. Indeed, as of last week, the mighty Hezbollah, armed to the teeth with 30,000 rockets and missiles and aligning thousands of self described “Divine soldiers” has been marching across the capital, terrorizing its population, shutting down media, taking its politicians and the Prime Minister as hostages, and looting at will. The hordes of Lebanon’s “Khomeinist Janjaweeds” have conquered already half of the Middle East’s cultural capital, Beirut. As I have reported before, Hezbollah has occupied West Beirut and has since sent its storm troops in multiple directions to resume the blitz.
The burning of TV stations in Beirut
Unstoppable, including by the Lebanese Army which Commander Michel Sleiman has allowed the slaughter to occur the Pasdaran-founded militia is now hurdling towards the Druze Mountain and positioning its forces against the Sunni North and the Christian Mount Lebanon. Ironically, the geographical bases of Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, are well guarded by the United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL). Per a UNSCR 1701 in 2006, more than 10,000 international troops are stationed across the southern parts of Lebanon, technically protecting the 200 Shia towns and villages from where the bulk of Hezbollah fighters came from. Hence, free from guarding their own areas, a dozen thousands well trained “Hezbollahis” have marched north to join another 5,000 already based in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
This huge force, by Lebanon’s standards, was joined by an undetermined number of real Iranian Guards, shipped from Tehran to man sophisticated weapons offered by the Khamanei regime as a gift to topple the democratically elected Government of Fuad Seniora. In addition, from the four corners of the country, Jihadist and ultra radical organizations have joined the fray including: The Nazi-like SSNP, the Amal Movement, the Wi’amWahhab pro-Syrian militia, and many others. And to top it, Damascus was able to neutralize the Lebanese Army which has been equipped recently by the United States. Its Commander, a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic was “convinced” by the Assad regime to open the passages to Beirut and all other regions for the hordes to thrust into their enemies’ backyards. Reminding us of the tales of Greek Antiquity, this Xerxes –Khomeinist- Army burst into the capital, whipping out the thin internal security forces and reigning with brutality.
Hezbollah’s “Immortal Guards” against the “300″?
After securing the Muslim side of the city, the “Immortal Guards” –since most of the Hezbollahis believe in martyrdom as a path to eternal after-life, encircled the mostly Druze Mountain from all directions. Closing in from the coast, the south and the Bekaa, thousands of fighters and their heavy artillery were ordered into battle this week end. The massive “Persian” Army is now attempting to take these passes into the Bekaa and from there into the North and the Christian Mountain. In a sense these may become Lebanon’s Thermopylae: A vast Hezbollah Iranian-backed Army unleashing its power against few Lebanese Spartans, to dislodge them and open the paths for the rest of the country. Indeed, it looks like the few hundred Druze fighters in Aley and the Shuf –who have decided to fight on their own, may become Lebanon’s “300”. The vision is chilling. Despite the calls by their leader Walid Jumblat, now hostage to the Pasdaran in Beirut, to desist from resisting, the mountainous peasants decided to fight and resist the onslaught. The balance of power is terribly uneven. The forces of Hassan Nasrallah, hyper armed by “Xerxes” Ahmedinijad, line up thousands of soldiers, Special Forces, missiles and endless containers of ammunition. They have hardened their battle experience through years of fighting against a powerful Israeli Army, Air Force and Navy. Nasrallah is convinced that his Army of Suicide-bombers has defeated the region’s nuclear super power in 2006. Hence, a few “hundreds” of Druses won’t even stand for a day. Logically, he is correct. The Lebanese Army was tamed by Hezbollah, the Sunnis of Beirut collapsed in few hours, the Christians are intimidated, the U.S and Europe fears Hezbollah’s Terror and the Arab regimes are terrified by his myth. Who on Earth will resist the Khomeinist Xerxes? Well so far, Lebanon’s 300 have.
The Grand Hezbollah PlanThe first waves of attacks launched by the Iranian backed forces aimed at seizing the first portion of the strategic Damascus Highway (the I-70 of Lebanon) linking Beirut to the Syrian border via the Mountain. The offensive began from Kayfoun towards Baysur. Instead of seizing terrain, Hezbollah lost Kayfoun with heavy casualties (about 23 killed) and the Druze fighters of the Socialist Party planted their flag on the enemy bunker before they pulled back to their positions. The Iranian commanders were stunned by these mountain “Rangers.” But the Druze had only AK 47 with one or two clips of ammunitions; rarely an RPG. While the whole of Lebanon was watching with fear, awaiting their turn, the “300” were repelling the waves of “Immortal Hezbollah” who in fact got very mortal in 24 hours. Another battle raged in Aley and the “Persians” lost again: 9 casualties or so: Among the bodies, three Iranians. Near Aley the strategic hill 888 was assaulted repetitively but the defenders repelled the “Guards.” Later on, the Druze transferred the hill to the Lebanese Army. Nasrallah’s troops then stormed Deir Qubal but were pushed back towards the surrounding hills. Hezbollah tried to seize Ein Unub but again the attack failed.
Druze clerics Hezbollah Guard
Then Hezbollah ordered its forces to advance on the coastal axis towards Shueifat. There, the Druze pulled back inside the town allowing the “Hezbos” to take the control of the beaches and the adjacent roads. But when the Iranian backed militias moved toward the neighborhoods, their advance was stopped. Frustrated the “Xerxes” War Room decided the grand assault by early Monday: More than 2,000 Khomeinist-trained commandos took the back roads to the Baruk Mountain coming from the southern Bekaa. Their target are the Maaser heights and from there to the district capital of the Shuf, Mukhtara. From south Lebanon, the hordes of Hezbollah are marching across Jezzine, Tumate heights into the southern frontiers of the Druze lands. According to reports, 5000 Hezbollah/Iranian/Syrian infantry, backed by rockets and artillery are to close in from the south. The Druze, youth and elderly, have mobilized all they could, but are isolated with little ammunition. Their adversaries are numerous, well equipped, fanaticized and have their supply lines opened to Syria and via Damascus, to Iran. The tableau looks like a real collection of small Thermopylae where the “300” of Lebanon will be fighting a Goliath.
Pasdaran and Hezbollah’s forces
But irony is that the United States and other Democracies, whose forces are present in the area and ships cruising the waters along the Eastern Mediterranean, and who have committed to fight terror around the globe may be watching these “300” falling in this epic fight. The greater irony is that these peasants of Mount Lebanon have withstood the mighty machine of Hezbollah for three days and maybe for a few more, while the standing myth internationally was that no one on Earth can defeat this Terror force. Well, for few days the myth of invincibility of Hezbollah was shattered. Eventually if the powers -who have already spent 500 billion dollars on the War on terror- would fail the Lebanese “300” in their mountains, the legend will be owned by the those little intrepid and courageous peasants. But if Washington and Paris would quickly assume their strategic responsibilities –which they initiated by voting UNSCR 1559 to liberate Lebanon- then perhaps Khomeinist-Terror won’t plant its banners on the Eastern Mediterranean.
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor
on: May 13, 2008, 09:09:44 AM
Post two of the morning:
Two days after Lebanon’s Shiite Islamist movement Hezbollah took over western Beirut, the Syrian- and Iranian-backed militia and its allies on Sunday defeated Sunni and Druze forces allied with the United States and the Arab countries (particularly Saudi Arabia) in other areas such as Bekaa, Tripoli and Mount Lebanon. Back in the capital, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met with the charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and then held an emergency Cabinet meeting. An Arab League delegation is supposed to arrive in the country May 12 to try and broker a negotiated settlement.
In many ways, these developments are to be expected, given that Lebanon is a nonfunctioning state where pro- and anti-Syrian factions have long been struggling for power. But what makes these latest clashes significant is that one side — the side allied with Iran and Syria — appears to be gaining the upper hand. Furthermore, the Lebanese army has not come to the aid of the government.
For the longest time, Lebanon was caught in a stalemate between the Shiite- and Sunni-led camps, which manifested in the gridlock over the election of a new president. Having defeated its opponents on the battlefield and then worked skillfully with the Lebanese military to try and avoid the perception of a complete takeover, Hezbollah is now in a position to not just dictate terms on the issue of the vacant presidency but also possibly force a new power-sharing agreement — one in which it has a significant advantage.
Put differently, Hezbollah has demonstrated that it is the premier political force in the country. Its performance in the war with Israel in 2006 and the attitude of the Lebanese army in recent days underscores Hezbollah’s status as much more than a typical paramilitary organization. The government’s indication that it is willing to reverse its decision to try and dismantle Hezbollah’s communications array — the decision that triggered the events of the past several days — shows that it has all but capitulated.
So, what we have now is a Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, which has significant geopolitical ramifications for a number of players in the region and beyond. Israel will have the most immediate concerns; it has been oscillating between peace talks with Syria and the need to reverse the outcome of the 2006 war with Hezbollah. Furthermore, Israel now has to deal with hostile forces taking over areas on two fronts: Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. All of this is materializing as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government is trying to survive amid a bribery scandal.
Hezbollah’s control over Lebanon is something that the Syrians have been waiting for ever since Damascus was forced to withdraw its troops from the country in the wake of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination. Similarly, for Iran, which is seeking to assert its regional player status, Hezbollah’s gains greatly enhance its position in the region.
Saudi Arabia’s position has been doubly weakened. First, the events in Lebanon represent a reversal of sorts for Riyadh, which has spent a great deal of energy trying to weaken Damascus’ influence in Lebanon and pry Syria away from the Iranian orbit. More importantly, the Saudis now have to worry about pro-Iranian Shiite forces gaining dominance not just in Iraq, but also in Lebanon.
Far more important is the U.S. calculus for the region. Washington has been working hard to contain the rise of Iran and its radical alliance consisting of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. The key theater in this respect has been Iraq, where the United States has been engaged in excruciatingly complex and difficult negotiations with Iran to stabilize Iraq. Hezbollah gaining the upper hand will allow the Iranians to drive a much harder bargain with the Americans on not just Iraq, but also the nuclear issue.
This emerging configuration on the regional chessboard is clearly out of line with U.S. interests. Thus, the key question is whether the situation in Lebanon will prompt the United States to deal with Iran in a much more aggressive manner than it has for the past five years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollahstan
on: May 13, 2008, 09:07:16 AM
From Lebanon to Hezbollahstan
May 13, 2008; Page A15
On Friday, Hezbollah gunmen set fire to the Beirut offices of Future TV, a Lebanese broadcaster. On a purely symbolic level, it was an apt demonstration of where the Party of God stands in relation to the future itself.
But that wasn't the worst of what has happened in the past week in Lebanon, where scores of people have been killed in interfactional violence. More ominous was the role of the Lebanese army, avowedly neutral and nominally under civilian control. "An army officer accompanied by members of Hezbollah walked into the station and told us to switch off transmission," an unnamed Future TV official told Reuters. So much for army neutrality.
Shiite gunmen patrol the streets in Chouweifat, south of Beirut, May 11.
The army also countermanded government orders to dismantle Hezbollah's telecommunications network at the Beirut airport and remove the brigadier responsible for airport security, who is said to be a Hezbollah pawn. "I have called on the army to live up to its national responsibilities . . . and this has not happened," Fouad Siniora, Lebanon's increasingly irrelevant prime minister, said on national TV.
Future historians will look for the precise moment the Lebanese Republic began to transmogrify into Hezbollahstan. Was it the June 2005 murder of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir – the earliest sign that Syria, whose 29-year military occupation of its neighbor had ended just two months before, intended to reinsert itself by stealth and terror (and with the connivance of Hezbollah)? Was it the role played by the Maronite Gen. Michel Aoun, a hero of the last Lebanese civil war, who returned from exile in 2005 intending to play the part of de Gaulle only to become, after striking a bargain with Hezbollah, another Pétain?
Was it the summer war of 2006, when Israel failed to destroy Hezbollah militarily and, in so failing, gave Hezbollah an aura of invincibility? Was it the unwillingness of international peacekeepers to patrol the Lebanese-Syrian border, thereby allowing Hezbollah to rearm itself after the war? Was it the absence of an effective, or even intelligible, American policy toward Lebanon, epitomized by Condoleezza Rice's decision to rehabilitate Damascus by inviting it to November's Annapolis Middle East conference?
The answer is all of the above: An accumulation of policy mistakes, political dodges and moral atrocities that have nearly killed the "new" Lebanon in its crib.
Demography has also played a role. Christians in particular have been fleeing Lebanon for decades. And though a census hasn't been taken in Lebanon in 75 years, Nizar Hamze of the American University of Beirut estimates that there are between eight and nine live births per Shiite household. The comparable figure for Lebanon's Sunnis is about five; for Christians and Druze, about two. These numbers must ultimately count against an outmoded constitutional order geared to favor Christians first, Sunnis second, Shiites third.
But even if Lebanon cannot escape its Shiite destiny, it is not ordained that it must also become a Hezbollah state, taking its orders from Tehran. So what are the U.S.'s policy options?
Inside Lebanon, they are few. No American president will send American troops back to Beirut and risk a reprise of 1983. Supplying the Lebanese army is a nonstarter; it is no longer clear whose side that army is on. Should the U.S. arm the anti-Hezbollah factions in the event of an all-out civil war? Some of them, like Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, have well-earned reputations as war criminals.
A more productive thought comes from Dwight Eisenhower, who observed that "if a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it." The reason the U.S. lacks for options in Lebanon is because it has no policy toward Syria.
In 2003, Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act, but the administration has observed only its weakest provisions. They could be enforced in full. A Syria Liberation Act, similar to the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, would be a step forward. So would international sanctions for Syria's violations of the Nonproliferation Treaty, exposed by Israel in its raid last year on an unfinished nuclear reactor. Bombing the runway of the Damascus airport for the role it plays in serving as a conduit for Iranian arms to Hezbollah would also be an appropriate signal of American displeasure.
None of this is likely to happen, however. U.S. policy toward Syria will continue to vacillate between partial engagement and partial ostracism, achieving neither. And Lebanon will continue its transformation into Hezbollahstan, a sad fate for a country that might have stood for something fine.
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Red Belt
on: May 13, 2008, 08:59:42 AM
Mamet's Jiu-Jitsu Isn't Just Verbal
By GORDON MARINO
May 13, 2008; Page D9
Santa Monica, Calif.
A well-established black belt in verbal jiu-jitsu, David Mamet has spent much of the past six years on the mats practicing the real Brazilian art of self-defense. The preternaturally prolific Mr. Mamet seems to process his experience by writing about it, and the many hours that he has logged in the world of choke holds is no exception. Fascinated by both the philosophy and culture of martial arts, Mr. Mamet has written and directed the recently released "Redbelt," a movie that he describes as "something between a traditional American fight film and Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai.'"
Because of the recent explosion of interest in Ultimate Fighting and other forms of professional mixed martial arts, a combat sport that draws upon all types of self-defense, jiu-jitsu has become the rage in the U.S. After a visit to his gym, I asked Mr. Mamet, who now holds a purple belt, how he came by his passion for this combat art. He recalled: "When I moved to L.A., I bumped into my old friend, the actor Ed O'Neill. He had been training with Rorion Gracie, the famous jiu-jitsu teacher. Knowing that I had boxed and wrestled, Ed had long ago promised that if I ever came to L.A. he would get me together with the jiu-jitsu guys. So when we met, I asked him where the nearest studio was and he pointed to a gym right next to the restaurant" -- which happened to be the same establishment where the interview was now being conducted.
While there have been other famous scribblers, often potbellied, with tough-guy alter egos, the 60-year old Mr. Mamet is in fighting fettle and has the appearance of someone who has indentured himself to a physical art. During the film's fervid production process, he still managed to squeeze in at least two jiu-jitsu sessions a week.
Since his jiu-jitsu conversion, Mr. Mamet has taken a few swipes at boxing, even going so far as to say that, in comparison with mixed martial arts, watching boxing is "like watching paint dry." During our session, the former lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, who is a friend of Mr. Mamet and has a role in "Redbelt," was sitting at a nearby table. A Boxing Hall of Famer, Mr. Mancini participated in a number of legendary bouts that had even hardened fans wincing. I ribbed Mr. Mamet: "Did you tell Boom Boom that boxing is like watching paint dry?"
Mr. Mamet, who ultimately has a profound respect for the great pugilists, laughed and, nodding toward Mr. Mancini, shook his head and said: "Did you see his fights? Wasn't it amazing that he could go like that for 15 rounds? Even now, whenever Ray leads the workouts at the gym, everyone ends up out in the street throwing up. He is the only one that happens with."
Jiu-jitsu is all about prevailing in personal combat. The notion that life is, at bottom, a fight comes naturally to Mr. Mamet, the intellectually pugnacious son of a labor lawyer. I jabbed: "Why would a writer like you and in his 60s spend all this energy thinking about and physically rehearsing for an alley scrape? After all, there are not a lot of people out there looking to throw a punch at David Mamet, are there?" Rolling with my lead, Mr. Mamet replied: "That's true. But jiu-jitsu is all about avoiding confrontation." Continuing in a more personal vein: "It has made me calmer, less inclined to get angry quickly. And it has given me more control over my emotions."
Something of a martial-arts evangelist, Mr. Mamet believes that out of the discipline of jiu-jitsu a certain wisdom and moral discernment bubble up. It is as though, with practice, the puzzles that one faces on the mat -- of husbanding your strength and energy, and of remaining calm enough to glean your opponent's mistakes -- transmogrify into a general sagacity about responding to the battles of workaday life.
In his essays, Mr. Mamet has taken frequent note of the powerful need to belong in America. There can be no doubt that he has found a cadre in his Santa Monica dojo, whom he profoundly respects and feels at home with. Indeed, to hear him tell it, it was largely because of his enchantment with and affection for this subculture that Mr. Mamet resolved to write "Redbelt."
Plato and his teacher Socrates moved fluidly from the gym to the agora. Mr. Mamet, his revered jiu-jitsu mentor Renato Magno, and his circle of bouncers, cops, stunt men, body guards and former soldiers seem to live on tracks between the gym and the nearby restaurant where they regularly congregate for an afternoon repast.
"When I have a problem I will sometimes take it to the group," confessed the natural-born alpha male. Mr. Mamet, who is also an ardent student of the Stoics, elaborated: "For instance, someone who I thought was a friend did something rather traitorous. I asked the guys how they would handle the situation. My teacher Renato, of course, came back with 'Don't carry someone else's weight. Let him carry the weight; let it come back to haunt him.' This is one of the central tenets of jiu-jitsu. When you carry the other person's mass you tire yourself and so lose your ability to think clearly. That was the group's way of telling me to let the situation go, to walk away -- which I did."
However, I suspect that the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright would have found it harder to take the path of least resistance had the nettlesome situation involved one of his movies or plays. Mr. Mamet is an unrepentant moralist when it comes to his art form. In his book "Bambi vs. Godzilla," he chastised the entertainment industry for having lost its appreciation for film's mysterious power to ignite self-transformation. Though DVD players may have replaced the hearth in America, Mr. Mamet believes that most movies today are devoid of true drama, which, he notes in his essay, "Decadence" (1986), always requires engaging "the human capacity for choice."
The choice that sets "Redbelt" in motion is this: The main character, Mike Terry, an Iraq veteran played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, owns a financially troubled jiu-jitsu academy near Hollywood. There is much pressure on Mr. Terry to solve his financial difficulties by fighting professionally. But he is a purist who believes that competition weakens the fighter. Ironically enough, Mike Terry's creator, Mr. Mamet, is himself a zealous fan of mixed-martial-arts competition.
Though he does not regard "Redbelt" as a Bruce Lee-type flick, Mr. Mamet said that one of the greatest challenges was constructing the film's fight sequences: "Jiu-jitsu is a grappling, not a striking form of fighting. Striking is very filmable, because you have distance between the fighters. They come together and then apart, and the audience can follow it. But jiu-jitsu looks much more like wrestling. The fighters are tied up, and instead of fancy kicks and roundhouse punches the most dramatic thing might be one guy working to get a hand free and turn the fight around."
As our conversation drew to a close, Mr. Mamet proved as slippery as a well-oiled grappler, especially when served up some film-school-type questions: "How does 'Redbelt' relate to the rest of your work?" I asked. "It's later," he answered with restraint.
"How does it compare with 'Fight Club'?" I pressed. "I didn't see it," he said.
"Are there any differences from your other works in the use of language in this action-based film?" "None," he snapped, sneaking a glance at his watch. A cue? Pause.
"Well then," I eked out, "what are you doing the rest of the afternoon?"
"Writing. . . I'm always writing."
"On what?" I peeped. "A book of cartoons," responded the Marcus Aurelius of Tinseltown. Smiling warmly and extending his hand, Mr. Mamet emphatically stated: "I have always loved cartoons."
Mr. Marino is a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / On Mother's Day: 2nd Largest Mosque in North America Honors . . .
on: May 13, 2008, 08:25:15 AM
On Mother's Day: 2nd Largest Mosque in North America Honors . . .
By Debbie Schlussel
. . . a woman who proudly proclaims she's embarrassed to be an American, and is the "mother" of thousands of Muslim anchor babies she helped get delivered here through Medicaid fraud.
That's right, for its Mother's Day program, last night, the Islamic House of Wisdom--Dar Al-Hikma--the 2nd largest mosque in North America, is honoring Najah Bazzy, about whom I've written a great deal.
Ms. Bazzy--the Muslim Nurse Ratched--is a very interesting candidate for Muslims to pick as their "Mother of the Year." You see, as head transcultural nurse for Dearbornistan's Oakwood Hospital, she was intimately involved in Medicaid fraud, in which she served as translator and co-conspirator for pregnant Muslim aliens who used phony social security numbers to get Medicaid to cover the births of their babies (they also got U.S. citizenship for those babies--citizenship which can be traded on the open market, since there are no hard-and-fast identifying items on the birth certificate but for the gender).
Najah Bazzy:Embarrassed to Be American; Not Embarrassed About Medicaid FraudIn addition to that, Najah Bazzy told participants in a 2004 CAIR-Michigan political event, "I'm embarrassed to be an American." As I always say, we're embarrassed you're an American, too, Najah Bazzy. Bazzy was excoriated by Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter who was shocked that any Muslim born and raised in America would say such a thing. I wasn't shocked. That's their usual proclamation when they think they are "among friends."
And finally, Najah Bazzy, was the proud donor of an interesting "exhibit" at the Arab American National Museum--a propaganda videotape, which lies about Israel's conduct in Jenin during the height of Muslim homicide bombings in Israel. As we all know, even the pan-Palestinian U.N. reports that only about 26 people died--not the 500 claimed on the baloney-tape--at Jenin, and most of those deaths were attributable to causes--natural and Palestinian--other than the Israelis.
And you might remember Najah Bazzy from her whining press conference, last year, demanding that Northwest Airlines reimburse Muslims who missed their flights returning from the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia), even though they arrived late. She and the other whiners, predictably, succeeded in getting Dhimmi Airline, Northwest, to reimburse them AND start a whole new round of Muslim sensitivity training taught by CAIR.
No shocker that the Islamic House of Wisdom is featuring her for its Mother's Day event, since--as I've repeatedly noted--this mosque is headed by Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, former spiritual leader of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian Navy, and longtime buddy of Hezbollah spiritual leaders Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.
Yep, this is the "Mother of the Year" for Shi'ite Muslims in America. Well they got one part right. She's definitely, as they say, a "Mother" . . . . And, yes, sadly, she has kids who share her unique brand of hatred, phoniness, and anti-American politics.
Like I said, more Americans than Ms. Bazzy are embarrassed she's an American.
I think I like the way Cosa Nostra celebrates Mother's Day a whole lot better than the way Shi'ite Muslims do.
Posted by Debbie at May 11, 2008 01:59 PM
SCSU student leaves training at Technical High School
By Dave Aeikens • firstname.lastname@example.org
• May 12, 2008
A St. Cloud State University student in a teacher-training program at Technical High School left the school in late April because he says he feared for the safety of his service dog.
The school district calls it a misunderstanding, and officials there say they hoped Tyler Hurd, a 23-year-old junior from Mahtomedi who aspires to teach special education, would continue his training in the district.
Hurd said a student threatened to kill his service dog named Emmitt. The black lab is trained to protect Hurd when he has seizures.
The seizures, which can occur weekly, are from a childhood injury.
The dog has a pouch on his side that assists those who stop to help Hurd.
Hurd said he was unable to finish his 50 hours of field training at Tech. The university waived the remaining 10 hours, he said. He plans to do his student teaching outside a high school setting.
“We came up with a solution because I felt threatened by it," Hurd said.
The school district and university are working to make sure a similar situation doesn't happen.
Kate Steffens, dean of the college of education at St. Cloud State, and Tech assistant principal Lori Lockhart met Thursday.
The threat came from a Somali student who is Muslim, according to Hurd, St. Cloud State and school district officials.
The Muslim faith, which is the dominant faith of Somali immigrants, forbids the touching of dogs.
Hurd trained at Talahi Community School and Tech. He said his experience at Talahi was good. The Somali students there warmed to the dog and eventually petted him using paper to keep their hands off his fur, Hurd said.
Things didn't go as well at Tech, Hurd said. Students there taunted his dog, and he finally felt he had to leave after he was told a student made a threat. Hurd met with Lockhart but said he did not feel comfortable continuing.
Julia Espe, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for St. Cloud school district, said the school needed to do a better job communicating.
“I think it was a misunderstanding where we didn't really prepare either side for possible implications," Espe said.
Espe said the school's investigation determined the student did not make a direct threat.
“We certainly welcome (Hurd) in our district, and we hope we can get this all resolved so he feels welcome and his dog is welcome," Espe said.
St. Cloud State places about 1,000 students in 240 schools to help prepare them for careers in education.
In St. Cloud school district, 330 are in the field training program Hurd was in and 94 are in student teaching.
Steffens said it is important to respect different cultures and the rights of disabled students.
“I think this is part of the growth process when we become more diverse," Steffens said.
Steffens called Hurd a good student and committed young man.
Gary Loch, who is the diversity coordinator for the district, said the situation was an unfortunate case of miscommunication.
“I'm not quite sure where the breakdown comes into play here," Loch said.http://www.sctimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll...WS01/105120058
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams: Foundation of Constitution
on: May 13, 2008, 07:35:51 AM
"Statesmen by dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it
is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles
upon which Freedom can securely stand....The only foundation
of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be
inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it
now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government,
but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty."
-- John Adams (letter to Zabdiel Adams, 21 June 1776)
Reference: Our Sacred Honor, Bennett, pg. 371.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: sean sherk vs. bj penn
on: May 12, 2008, 09:55:17 PM
Tangent re the Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie fight:
I happened to run into Royce and his dad Helio two days before the fight while picking up one of their BBs in from out of town for training. I was flattered that Royce remembered me from the time that Rigan Machado had introduced us. I told him he would take guard, get past MH's elbow on a punch, slither to his back, and choke him out. His dad and he laughed (I was in awe at how relaxed he was two days before a major fight.) and he said to me "From your lips to God's ear."
Actually I was quite concerned for Royce based on what I knew of his training preparation via youtube clips and local gossip. Apparently he had been training kickboxing with one of his students who was a hopkido instructor and for his wrestling preparation the youtube clip showed him dealing with obviously non-wrestling students trying to shoot double legs on him.
IMHO the essence of the fight was for him to establish guard position. For him kickboxing was utterly irrelevant to this mission. IMHO he needed to experience the way a good wrestling based MMA fighter can shoot a double leg and pass the guard, but apparently his thinking was set in his hey day in the early UFC days before the advent of MMA seasoned wrestlers and before the advent of Greco Roman based clinch. IMHO he should have been up at Rico Chiapparelli's RAW/R-1 Gym in El Segundo experiencing the wrestling based fighters there-- men like Rico, Vlady Matyushenko, and Frank Trigg.
If you watch the fight again, you will see MH take him down from clinch while he (RG) is trying to throw a punch. This is how he missed establishing guard and therefore had no chance in the fight.
In other words IMHO his downfall was underestimating what good wrestling/Greco-Roman based grappling can contribute to a MMA fight.
RG changed the martial art world and launched a revolution. His fights in the early UFC, showed a much smaller, weaker man who fearlessly beat three men every time he stepped into the cage in fights that were truly paradigmatic. But IMHO on the night he fought MH he underestimated how much things had changed. He was older, and more dinged up from injuries than he was in his prime and there is no shame in losing to a great fighter like MH was at that time.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Pre-emption and Sucker Punches
on: May 12, 2008, 02:00:02 PM
As someone born and raised in Manhattan, NYC, I easily indentify with the points Davd makes here-- yet IMHO these hueristics tend to apply more to anonymous strangers whereas many sucker punches come with people known to us to some degree, or with whom the social context makes "Stay Back!" a social disaster.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Testilying
on: May 12, 2008, 12:43:04 PM
NYC Police Face Disbelief in Court Over Gun Searches
May 12, 2008
Police in Gun Searches Face Disbelief in Court
By BENJAMIN WEISER
After listening carefully to the two policemen, the judge had a problem: He did not believe them.
The officers, who had stopped a man in the Bronx and found a .22-caliber pistol in his fanny pack, testified that they had several reasons to search him: He was loitering, sweating nervously and had a bulge under his jacket.
But the judge, John E. Sprizzo of United States District Court in Manhattan, concluded that the police had simply reached into the pack without cause, found the gun, then “tailored” testimony to justify the illegal search. “You can’t have open season on searches,” said Judge Sprizzo, who refused to allow the gun as evidence, prompting prosecutors to drop the case last May.
Yet for all his disapproval of what the police had done, the judge said he hated to make negative rulings about officers’ credibility. “I don’t like to jeopardize their career and all the rest of it,” he said.
He need not have worried. The Police Department never learned of his criticism, and the officers — like many others whose word has been called into question — faced no disciplinary action or inquiry.
Over the last six years, the police and prosecutors have cooperated in a broad effort that allows convicted felons found with a firearm to be tried in federal court, where sentences are much harsher than in state court. Officials say the initiative has taken hundreds of armed criminals off the street, mostly in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and turned some into informers who have helped solve more serious crimes.
But a closer look at those prosecutions reveals something that has not been trumpeted: more than 20 cases in which judges found police officers’ testimony to be unreliable, inconsistent, twisting the truth, or just plain false. The judges’ language was often withering: “patently incredible,” “riddled with exaggerations,” “unworthy of belief.”
The outrage usually stopped there. With few exceptions, judges did not ask prosecutors to determine whether the officers had broken the law, and prosecutors did not notify police authorities about the judges’ findings. The Police Department said it did not monitor the rulings and was aware of only one of them; after it learned about the cases recently from a reporter, a spokesman said the department would decide whether further review was needed.
Though the number of cases is small, the lack of consequences for officers may seem surprising, given that a city commission on police corruption in the 1990s pinpointed tainted testimony as a problem so pervasive that the police even had a word for it: “testilying.”
And these cases may fuel another longtime concern that flared up again in recent days: suspicions that the police routinely subject people to unjustified searches, frisks or stops. Last week, the Police Department reported a spike in street stops, which it said were “an essential law enforcement tool”: 145,098 from January through March, more than during any quarter in six years.
The judges’ rulings emerge from what are called suppression hearings, in which defendants, before trial, can argue that evidence was seized illegally. The Fourth Amendment sets limits on the conditions that permit a search; if they are not met, judges must exclude the evidence, even if that means allowing a guilty person to go free.
Prosecutors and police officials say many of the suppressions stem from difficult, split-second judgments that officers must make in potentially dangerous situations about whether to search someone for a weapon — decisions that are not always easy to reconstruct in a courtroom.
But one former federal judge, John S. Martin Jr., said the rulings are meant to deter serious abuses by the police. “The reason you suppress,” he said, “is to stop cops from going up to people and searching them when they don’t have reason.”
Federal judges rarely suppress evidence, Judge Martin said, and the unusual number of suppressions in New York City gun cases raises questions about whether such tactics may be common. “We don’t have the statistics for all the people who are hassled, no gun is found, and they never get into the system,” he said.
Whatever one makes of the legal debate, these cases offer a revealing glimpse into some police practices — in the street and on the witness stand — that have gone largely unexamined outside the courtroom.
‘A Dismal Record’
In one case, the officer explained that he had a special technique for detecting who was hiding a gun. He had learned it from a newspaper article that described certain clues to watch for: a hand brushing a pocket, a lopsided gait, a jacket or sweater that seems mismatched or out of season.
That was one reason, he told a judge, that he was certain the man he saw outside a Brooklyn housing project last September was concealing a gun. The man, Anthony McCrae, had moved his hand along the front of his waistband, as if moving a weapon, the officer said. Sure enough, a search turned up a gun.
The judge, John Gleeson of Brooklyn federal court, asked the officer, Kaz Daughtry, how successful his method had been in other cases.
Officer Daughtry replied that over a three-day period, he and his partner had stopped 30 to 50 people. One had a gun.
Calling that a “dismal record,” the judge said the officer’s technique was “little more than guesswork.”
Moreover, Judge Gleeson said he did not believe that Officer Daughtry could even have seen the gesture he found so suspicious: Mr. McCrae’s hand was in front of him and the officer was about 30 feet behind.
The judge would not allow the gun as evidence, and on April 24, federal prosecutors dropped the charges. A law enforcement official said the Brooklyn district attorney’s office learned of the ruling and was reviewing Officer Daughtry’s other cases to see if there were problems.
The Police Department declined to make Officer Daughtry, or any other officers, available for comment.
The decisions to suppress, which The New York Times found by interviewing lawyers and examining more than 1,000 court dockets since 2002, came from 18 federal judges in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Several rulings involved police raids on homes without warrants — and judges’ doubts that the owners had consented to a search, as the police claimed and the law requires.
In one case, a group of officers investigating a fatal shooting in 2002 entered an apartment in the Bronx and arrested a man named Justice Taylor after finding a shotgun in a bedroom. Sgt. Brian Branigan, who led the search, testified in federal court in Manhattan that Mr. Taylor had given the officers permission to enter.
But Mr. Taylor denied that. Two other officers did not mention his giving consent. And the judge, Jed S. Rakoff, said that Sergeant Branigan “felt the need to embellish his account with details indicating consent that the court finds unbelievable.”
Judge Rakoff even took issue with the demeanor of the sergeant, “whose cockiness was evident even on the stand.” His apparent “disregard for niceties,” the judge wrote, made it “wholly plausible” that he had forced his way into the apartment.
The case was dismissed, and the city, while denying liability, paid $280,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by Mr. Taylor and others in the apartment.
In another case, a judge did more than cast doubt on an officer’s testimony. She proved it wrong.
The judge, Laura Taylor Swain, heard the officer, Sean Lynch, testify that he had shined his flashlight through the window of a parked sport utility vehicle one night in the Bronx and had seen a gun. The driver’s lawyer said that Officer Lynch could not have seen the gun because the car’s windows were heavily tinted.
So after sunset one evening in January 2006, the judge walked outside the Manhattan federal courthouse and shined a flashlight into the vehicle. She could see nothing.
Her inspection and other evidence, she wrote, “give the lie” to Officer Lynch’s account, which she called “impossible.” Prosecutors dropped the case.
The police, to be sure, have a difficult job trying to root out guns without overstepping the law. Some judges acknowledged this in court, saying they believed not that officers had lied, but rather that they had failed to recall an event accurately, perhaps because of its brevity, a limited vantage point or the subsequent passage of time.
And some expressed sympathy for the police. Judge Gleeson said in one case that while he found two officers’ testimony contradictory, he did not want to imply they had lied.
“I’m always reluctant in these circumstances, having been in the executive branch myself, having a feel for the consequences of an adverse credibility determination — I’m sensitive to it,” he said last November.
Judges typically do not discuss cases, but some have said that, in general, it is not their responsibility to follow up their criticisms of officers. The rulings are on the record, for prosecutors or others to act on if they wish.
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said that only one of the critical rulings had been reported to the police, by a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who said he had no doubts about the officer’s truthfulness. The police took no action.
More broadly, Mr. Browne said an officer’s failure to convince a judge that his suspicions were justified “doesn’t necessarily mean the officer did something wrong.”
“In each case,” he added, “the suspect in fact had a gun.”
Federal prosecutors would not comment on individual cases. But Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said his office reviews any negative rulings about an officer’s credibility to decide whether any action is necessary.
“Any time evidence gets suppressed is a serious thing,” he said.
In court, prosecutors have vigorously defended the officers’ conduct and testimony. In one brief, a prosecutor argued that a police lieutenant had no reason to lie, because that could “jeopardize a fast-moving N.Y.P.D. career.” But writing in response, a federal defender, Deirdre von Dornum, cited cases in which officers faced no repercussions — “not the loss of their jobs, not disciplinary action.”
Still, one judge was so struck by what he said were an officer’s lies that he tried to do something about it.
Two officers had arrested a man and confiscated a gun in a Bronx apartment in 2002. But Judge Martin, then on the Manhattan federal court, was troubled that one officer had given the district attorney’s office an account of how she gained entry to the apartment, then largely contradicted it on the stand.
“This has to be one of the most blatant cases of perjury I’ve seen,” Judge Martin, a former United States attorney, said in his courtroom in September 2003. He said he doubted the officer, Kim Carillo, had “any use for the truth.”
“She will tell it, I think, whatever way it suits her to tell it,” he added.
The judge told the prosecutor to ask his superiors to review Officer Carillo’s testimony. They later replied that they had found no perjury, he said, and that the officer was not at fault.
If the fallout for police officers has been slight, the judges’ rulings have exacted other costs.
For one thing, they may free a weapons offender, and scuttle the chance to win his cooperation in more significant prosecutions, like investigations into violent gangs or gun trafficking. “The lost value of those bigger cases is really incalculable,” said Alan Vinegrad, a former United States attorney in Brooklyn.
Questions about police credibility can also hamper other cases. When a judge finds, for example, that an officer has lied, prosecutors must alert defense lawyers in other cases involving that officer.
Judge David G. Trager of Brooklyn federal court was so indignant over what he called an officer’s “blatantly false” testimony in an October 2005 suppression hearing that he told prosecutors, “I hope you won’t darken my courtroom with this police officer’s testimony again.”
Judge Trager did not suppress the gun, concluding that some of the officer’s testimony had been credible. But the officer, Herbert Martin, was about to testify in a federal trial stemming from another gun arrest.
The defense lawyer in that case, Howard Greenberg, said that learning of Judge Trager’s findings “was like manna from heaven.”
When Officer Martin took the stand in that trial, Mr. Greenberg confronted him, asking, “Didn’t you commit perjury a week ago when you said in this very building, in an altogether different case, that someone had a gun in his waist?”
The officer denied that he had lied. But Mr. Greenberg said he believed that his question made an impression on the jury. His client was acquitted.http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/12/nyregion/12guns.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Textbook propaganda
on: May 12, 2008, 12:14:01 PM
History textbooks promoting Islam
New report says Muslim activists 'succeeding' in expunging criticism
Posted: May 10, 2008
12:30 am Eastern
World Net Daily does hyperventilate sometimes, but it also goes where others fear to tread.
By Bob Unruh
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
History textbooks being used by hundreds of thousands of students across the U.S. are blatantly promoting Islam, according to a new report by an independent organization that researches and reviews textbooks.
WND has reported several times on issues involving the promotion of Islam in public school texts, including a recent situation in which California parents complained their children were being taught that "jihad" to Muslims means "doing good works."
The new report is from the American Textbook Council, which was established in 1989 as an independent national research organization to review social textbooks and advance the quality of instructional materials in history.
In the two-year project, whose report was authored by Gilbert T. Sewall, the ATC reviewed five junior and five high school world and texts, concluding:
"Many political and religious groups try to use the textbook process to their advantage, but the deficiencies in Islam-related lessons are uniquely disturbing. History textbooks present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security."
The report finds that the texts present "disputed definitions and claims [regarding Islam] … as established facts."
"Islamic activists use multiculturalism and ready-made American-made political movements, especially those on campus, to advance and justify the makeover of Islam-related textbook content," the report continued.
"Particular fault rests with the publishing corporations, boards of directors, and executives who decide what editorial policies their companies will pursue," the report said.
<LI dbPHh="0" wiRFj="0">Medieval and Early Modern Times by Jackson J. Spielvogal
<LI dbPHh="0" wiRFj="0">Medieval to Early Modern Times by Stanley M. Bernstein and Richard Shek
World Medieval and Early Modern Times by Douglas Carnine, Carlos Cortes, Kenneth R. Curtis and Anita T. Robinson
Medieval and Early Modern Times by Dianne Hart
History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond by Bert Bower and Jim Lobdell
World History: The Modern World by Elizabeth Gaynor Ellis and Anthony Esler
World History: Modern Times by Jackson J. Spielvogel
America: Pathways to the Present by Andrew Cayton and others
The American Vision: Moder Times by Joyce Appelby and others and
The Americans: Reconstruction to the Twenty-first Century by Gerald A. Danzer
The report noted that several of the textbooks have found harsh critics among parents and others, and "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond" published by the privately held Curriculum Institute has been criticized repeatedly.
In Lodi, Calif., parents "were not objecting to a word or two that they took out of context but to a textbook long on chapters filled with adulatory lessons on Islam."
This was the same book cited by parents who contacted WND with their concerns about such indoctrination.
A parent whose child has been handed the text in a Sacramento district at that time accused the publisher of a pro-Muslim bias to the point that Islamic theology has been incorporated into the public teachings.
"It makes an attempt to seem like an egalitarian world history book, but on closer inspection you find that seven (not all are titled so) of the chapters deal with Islam or Muslim subjects," wrote the parent, whose name was being withheld, in a letter to WND.
"The upsetting part is not only do they go into the history (which would be acceptable) but also the teaching of Islam," she said. "This book does not really go into Christianity or the teachings of Christ, nor does it address religious doctrine elsewhere to the degree it does Islam."
She said the book's one page referencing Jews "is only to convey that they were tortured by Crusaders to get them to convert to 'Christianity.' (It fails to mention that the biggest persecutors of Jews throughout history and still today are Arab Muslims). It gives four other one-liner references to the Jews being blamed for the plagues and problems in the land. It does not talk about the Jews as making a significant impact on the culture at large."
Bert Bower, founder of TCI, told WND at that time not only did his company have experts review the book, but the state of California also reviewed it, and has approved it for use in public schools.
"Keep in mind when looking at this particular book scholars from all over California (reviewed it)," he said.
One of those experts who contributed to the text, according to the ATC, which earlier released a scathing indictment of that specific project, was Ayad Al-Qazzaz.
"Al-Qazzaz is a Muslim apologist, a frequent speaker in Northern California school districts promoting Islam and Arab causes," the ATC review said. "Al-Qazzaz also co-wrote AWAIR's 'Arab World Notebook.' AWAIR stands for Arab World and Islamic Resources, an opaque, proselytizing 'non-profit organization' that conducts teacher workshops and sells supplementary materials to schools."
The newest report cited the same issue raised by parents.
"In a passage meant to explain jihad, they encountered this: 'Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs,'" the new report said.
The ATC report noted a complicating factor is a ban in California, to whose standards most textbook publishers align their work, on "adverse reflection" on religion inGeorgia.
"Whatever 'adverse reflection' is, such a mandate may be conceptually at odds with historical and geopolitical actuality," the study said.
"None of this is accidental. Islamic organizations, willing to [provide] misinformation, are active in curriculum politics. These activists are eager to expunge any critical thought about Islam from textbook and all public discourse. They are succeeding, assisted by partisan scholars and associations… It is alarming that so many individuals with the power to shape the curriculum are willfully blind to or openly sympathetic to these efforts," the report said.
Regarding the TCI book, the report said its lessons contain "stilted language that seem scripted or borrowed from devotional, not historical, material." Also, the "Medieval to Early Modern Times" book features a two-page prayer to Allah "the Merciful."
"Among the textbooks examined, the editorial caution that marks coverage of Christian and Jewish beliefs vanishes in presenting Islam's foundations. With materials laden with angels, revelations, miracles, prayers, and sacred exclamations; the story of the Zamzam well; and the titles 'Messenger of God' and 'Prophet of Islam' the seventh-grade textbooks cross the line into something other than history, that is, scripture or myth."
Among the lessons public school students must learn from the various books:
Muhammad "taught equality"
Fasting reminds Muslims of people who struggle to get enough food
Muhammad told his followers to make sure guests never left a table hungry
Arab traditions include being kind to strangers and helping needy
"These effusive formulations stop just short of invention and raise questions about the sources of information," the report said.
The books' praises of Islam continues, the report said. "TCI devotes 13 text-heavy pages to textiles, calligraphy, design, books, city building, architecture, mathematics, medicine, polo, and chess, some of it spun like cotton candy," the report said.
For example, the book reports: "Singing was an essential part of Muslim Spain's musical culture. … Although this music is lost today, it undoubtedly influenced later musical forms in Europe and North Africa."
"Undoubtedly, the TCI volume declares. Yet the book acknowledges the music is lost and the claims are speculative. Empty text dilates Islamic achievements," the report said.
Glossing over the actual physical conquering of some peoples, the "World History: Medieval and Early Modern Times" says people were converted to Islam because they were "attracted by Islam's message of equality and hope for salvation," the report said.
Another book teaches: "Q: How did the caliphs who expanded the Muslim Empire treat those they conquered? A: They treated them with tolerance."
"At a time when intolerance marks Islamic cultures worldwide and multiculturalism is a ruling idea in U.S. schools, these 'wonderland-of-tolerance' tropes constitute a major content distortion," the report said.
The books teach the Crusades were "religious wars launched against Muslims by European Christians."
"When … Muslims groups attack Christian peoples, kill them, and take their lands, the process is referred to as 'building' an empire. Christian attempts to restore those lands are labeled as 'violent attacks' or 'massacres,'" the report said.
Some of the books are rife with other errors. In the TCI book, it says the Crusaders wore red crosses. "No. Only Templars did," said the report.
"While Christian belligerence is magnified, Islamic inequality, subjugation, and enslavement get the airbrush," said the report, which also found inaccuracies in teaching about sharia religious law, women's rights and terrorism, especially the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, which killed nearly 3,000.
"The Modern World" says, "On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, teams of terrorists hijacked four airplanes on the East Coast. Passengers challenged the hijackers on one flight, which they crashed on the way to its target. But one plane plunged into the Pentagon in Virginia, and two others slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York…"
"The flatness and brevity of this passage are dismaying. In terms of content, so much is left unanswered. Who were the teams of terrorists and what did they want to do? What were their political ends? Since 'The Modern World' avoids any hint of the connection between this unnamed terrorism and jihad, why September 11 happened is hard to understand," the report said.http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=63872
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: May 12, 2008, 12:03:11 PM
John McCain's campaign is strongly considering presenting Barack Obama with a proposal for a completely new kind of presidential debates -- a series of town hall meetings in which the two men would debate without a moderator.
"The town hall meeting is John's best format," writes Mark McKinnon, a former media strategist for President Bush who is now supporting the Arizona senator. "He's a natural campaigner up close with the public. That would test Obama's claims that he wants a clean fight on the issues."
The idea for Lincoln-Douglas style debates isn't new on the presidential level. The late Barry Goldwater once said that he and President John Kennedy discussed barnstorming across the country together and debating in joint appearances. But no candidate has ever taken the tremendous risks such a series of appearances would involve.
For all that Mr. Obama says he wants a "New Politics," don't place large bets on him accepting a McCain offer on free-wheeling debates. Over the weekend, Mr. Obama told reporters he would be open to appearing in "town hall" style events, but indicated such appearances would have to be negotiated. His campaign adviser David Axelrod said only that any invitation from the McCain camp would be considered "very seriously."
Most analysts don't expect Mr. Obama to take the plunge. Mr. McCain is an uneven debater, but the memory of Mr. Obama's last debate in mid-April on ABC is still fresh on the minds of his advisers. Mr. Obama was generally viewed as turning in a peevish and tentative performance and since then has avoided other invitations.
Mr. Obama might view more favorably the traditional tightly-controlled debates such as the ones normally hosted in the fall by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, who would be unlikely to bring up any of the divisive character issues that Mr. Obama had to confront in the mid-April ABC debate.
-- John Fund
Not entirely oblivious to the talk of his possible future as John McCain's running mate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently launched in his state what he calls a "21st Century Tax Reform Commission." The idea is to rewrite the state's tax code to reflect changes in its more diversified and modern economy -- though one reporter jokingly asked if it should have been called the "Pawlenty No New Taxes Commission."
No wonder the Minnesota governor is on almost everyone's shortlist of potential GOP VP candidates. Karl Rove floated his name on Fox News recently. Mr. Pawlenty has managed to win election twice in a swing state that Republicans would love to win in November. President Bush ran well in the Twin Cities suburbs in 2004. The GOP hopes to build on the momentum by holding the party's national convention in Minneapolis late this summer. Picking Mr. Pawlenty, the thinking goes, would give Mr. McCain a solid foundation in the upper Midwest.
But vice presidential contenders need to bring more to the table than possibly winning a state. Not since John F. Kennedy tapped Lyndon Johnson has a running mate tipped a state to a presidential ticket (though some credit Al Gore with helping Bill Clinton in Tennessee in 1992). For a more complete case for Pawlenty, we spoke recently with former Rep. Mark Kennedy, who's close to the governor and knows the ins and outs of Minnesota politics (he lost a hard fought Senate campaign two years ago). His case for his Minnesota colleague goes as follows: In a liberal state with a profligate legislature, Mr. Pawlenty has amassed a respectable record as a fiscal conservative. He's fought against spending hikes and closed a multi-billion-dollar hole in the budget (15% of state spending) without raising taxes. He's now looking to reform the state's tax code. Gov. Pawlenty has presided over "the smallest government growth in 40 years," Mr. Kennedy says, and been a champion of performance pay for teachers, eminent domain reform and tort reform.
That impressive record hasn't stopped certain GOP conservatives from criticizing Mr. Pawlenty for months, hoping to quash a potential McCain/Pawlenty ticket. One red flag is Mr. Pawlenty's statement in 2006 that "the era of small government is over. . . Government has to be more proactive, more aggressive." But Mr. Kennedy brushes the conservative worries aside. Looking at the totality of the governor's record, he says, "Pawlenty would be a great vice presidential candidate."
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate's politics were born in Chicago. Yet [Barack Obama] is presented to the nation as not truly being of this place, as if he floats just above the political corruption here, uninfected, untouched by the stain of it or by any sin of commission or omission.... My argument is not with him -- but with the national political media pack that refuses to look closely at what Chicago is.... Why is Obama allowed to campaign as a reformer, virtually unchallenged by the media, though he's a product of Chicago politics and has never condemned the wholesale political corruption in his home town the way he condemns those darn Washington lobbyists" -- Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass.
Quote of the Day II
"Obama has run a brilliant campaign. He has won over many white voters by making them proud to vote for a supremely educated and capable man who, at his best, makes race a secondary concern. It is not inconsistent, unfair or unsavory to point out, at the same time, that Obama has been growing weaker over the months in his ability to win all but black voters. Nor am I necessarily suggesting that white voters are drifting from him because of his race -- as opposed to judgments about the content of his character or candidacy. This is about facing facts. And history will reflect poorly on Democrats if they believe it is virtuous to ignore race in the name of nominating the first black candidate for the White House - even if it means giving the Republicans a better chance to once again walk away with the big prize of the presidency" -- Juan Williams, a political analyst with NPR and Fox News, writing in the New York Daily News.
Greens Going for the Green
Even with the human tragedy of Cyclone Nargis still unfolding in Burma, environmentalists aren't wasting any time linking the disaster to global warming. Or at least one isn't: Al Gore. Citing the deadly Burmese storm and recent storms in China and Bangladesh, he declared on National Public Radio: "We're seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming."
There's just one problem -- it's not clear there's any link between climate change and hurricane numbers or intensity. The number of big storms has been falling, not rising. As for intensity, researchers led by Christopher Landsea of the National Hurricane Center have found that earlier generations of hurricane-watchers using inferior satellite imagery incorrectly classified many storms as weaker than they actually were. After correcting for this mismeasurement, the "increase" in storm intensity since the 1970s nearly disappears.
But Mr. Gore is perhaps too busy these days to follow the science closely. In April, a London-based company he chairs began selling shares in its so-called Global Sustainability Fund to small investors in New Zealand, following a similar offer to investors in Australia (interestingly, out of sight of the U.S. press). He was also a conspicuously invoked presence when the Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins this month announced a new $500 million "green growth" fund in partnership with Mr. Gore's London firm. Asked by the San Jose Mercury News if Mr. Gore had been helpful in raising money, co-manager John Denniston replied: "That's not been his primary responsibility."
Uh huh. Mr. Gore's primary responsibility, from the looks of it, is to spread alarm about global warming and create the political conditions (subsidies, mandates) without which Kleiner's "green" energy ventures are unlikely to flourish. Expect the payoff to come next year as a new Congress and President debate global warming policy.
-- Joseph Sternberg
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cassandras wrong again?
on: May 12, 2008, 11:50:08 AM
BASRA, Iraq — Three hundred miles south of Baghdad, the oil-saturated city of Basra has been transformed by its own surge, now seven weeks old.
The Quietening of Basra In a rare success, forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have largely quieted the city, to the initial surprise and growing delight of many inhabitants who only a month ago shuddered under deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and Shiite militias.
Just as in Baghdad, Iraqi and Western officials emphasize that the gains here are “fragile,” like the newly planted roadside saplings that fail to conceal mounds of garbage and pools of foul-smelling water in the historic port city’s slums.
Among the many uncertainties are whether the government, criticized for incompetence at the start of the operation, can maintain the high level of troops here. But in interviews across Basra, residents overwhelmingly reported a substantial improvement in their everyday lives.
“The circle of fear is broken,” said Shaker, owner of a floating restaurant on Basra’s famed Corniche promenade, who, although optimistic, was still afraid to give his full name, as were many of those interviewed.
Hopes for a similar outcome in Baghdad’s Sadr City district were undercut when an Iraqi armored unit was struck by three roadside bombs on Sunday, one day after a cease-fire there was negotiated.
The principal factor for improvement that people in Basra cite is the deployment of 33,000 members of the Iraqi security forces after the March 24 start of operations, which allowed the government to blanket the city with checkpoints on every major intersection and highway.
Borrowing tactics from the troop increase in Baghdad, the Iraqi forces raided militia strongholds and arrested hundreds of suspects. They also seized weapons including mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and sophisticated roadside bombs that officials say were used by Iranian-backed groups responsible for much of the violence.
Government forces have now taken over Islamic militants’ headquarters and halted the death squads and “vice ‘enforcers’ ” who attacked women, Christians, musicians, alcohol sellers and anyone suspected of collaborating with Westerners.
Shaker’s floating restaurant stands as one emblem of the change since then.
Just two months ago, he said, masked men in military uniforms walked into the packed dining room and abducted a businessman at gunpoint. The man was never seen again, and the restaurant closed.
Now, however, customers who fled that evening are pressing the 34-year-old owner to stay open later at night, so they can enjoy their unaccustomed freedom from the gangs, which once banned the loud Arabic pop music now blaring from Shaker’s loudspeakers.
“Now it is very different,” he said. “After we heard that the lawless people have been arrested or killed, we have a kind of courage.”
Even alcohol, once banned by the extremists, is discreetly on sale again in some areas.
Nevertheless, few Basra residents trust that the change is permanent or that the death squads have been vanquished.
Asked how long it would take for Basra to slip back into lawlessness if the army departed, Afrah, a 20-year-old theater student at Basra’s College of Fine Arts, replied, “One day.”
Capturing a mood that flits between bad recent memories, giddy relief and brittle future expectations, she added, “It is over, but it could come back any moment, because the people who are doing the intimidation on the streets, sometimes they are your neighbor and you trust them.”
Mr. Maliki’s hastily begun operation to rein in the extremists did not start with great promise.
The offensive, grandly named Charge of the Knights, was widely criticized for being poorly planned and ill-coordinated. It was derided as the Charge of the Mice by followers of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr after more than 1,000 soldiers deserted in the face of heavy resistance from his Mahdi Army and other extremist groups. The fierce early clashes halted only after a pro-government delegation went to Iran and struck a deal with the Sadrists.
An overwhelmingly Shiite city of more than three million people, Basra sits atop huge oil reserves, which, Western officials say, provide 40 percent of Iraq’s annual oil revenue of $38 billion.
Page 2 of 3)
Thus, stability in a city that could be Iraq’s economic engine room is a major priority for the Shiite-led government. However, the Basra experience may not translate to other cities like Mosul or Kirkuk in the north, with a much more complicated religious and ethnic mix.
The Quietening of Basra The push into Basra succeeded in part because people here were exhausted with the violence and in part because Mr. Maliki received crucial help from the American and British military.
British forces, who headed the coalition military forces in Basra beginning in 2003, handed security control to the Iraqis six months ago. But a British military spokesman said British and American forces were providing fighter jets, helicopters, surveillance and logistical support for the government operation.
In addition to the 4,000 British troops in Basra, he said, the Americans sent 800 people, including surveillance experts and around 200 transition team “advisers” embedded with Iraqi troops.
An American military spokesman in Baghdad confirmed that one American had been killed and eight wounded in the Basra operation but said the United States had not had “conventional ground forces in direct support of combat operations.”
Iraqi commanders acknowledge that the American and British support helped them wrest control of Mahdi Army strongholds like Hayyaniyah — a slum that is Basra’s equivalent of Sadr City — and other poor districts that are fertile recruiting grounds for militias.
But a majority of the military presence on the streets is Iraqi.
From the moment motorists drive through the huge arch at the city’s northern entrance, they are confronted with a ragtag but daunting collection of armored police vehicles, Iraqi Army Humvees, cold war-era tanks, pickup trucks with turret-mounted machine guns and bullet-riddled personnel carriers.
Canal bridges are guarded by head-high steel pyramids, from which soldiers observe bustling markets through a bulletproof window.
Maj. Tom Holloway, a British military spokesman, conceded that the Iraqis would have “struggled” without the warplanes available to coalition forces. But he said: “I don’t think it’s a crutch. I think they would have tackled it in their own way and possibly, probably, achieved the same result.”
And the result, whoever is ultimately responsible, is in many ways remarkable.
At the College of Fine Arts, female students said they felt more, but not entirely, free to wear the clothes they liked.
“I used to be challenged for what I wear,” said Athari, a 19-year-old student wearing heavy makeup and a bright orange headscarf pushed high back on her head in the liberal fashion disapproved of by Islamic radicals. “Makeup was forbidden; short skirts were forbidden. I will not mention their name, but they were extremists. They are still here, but quieter now.”
Qais, a music student, spoke of his relief at no longer having to hide his violin in a sack of rice in his trunk.
Most of the students were Shiite, but one youth named Alaa said that he was a Sunni and that 95 percent of his relatives had fled Basra after sectarian killings, including that of his uncle. “I want to thank Mr. Nuri al-Maliki, because he cleaned Basra of murderers, hijackers and thieves,” Alaa said.
It was not an uncommon sentiment. In his city center office, Yahya, a wealthy businessman said he had just begun going onto the streets without his customary 10 bodyguards. Insisting that he was not a political supporter of the prime minister, he said he was nevertheless so grateful for the security improvements that he and colleagues had downloaded Mr. Maliki’s face onto their mobile telephones as screensavers.
But as with the American-led surge in Baghdad, there are abiding uncertainties.
These center on how long such a heavy military presence can be sustained on urban streets, and what happens when it departs.
Gen. Mohan al-Freiji, the Iraqi commander in Basra, said the city was “75 percent” under control. He said the principal threat stemmed from rogue elements of the Mahdi Army and factions like the Iraqi Hezbollah (Party of God), Thairallah (Revenge of God) and Fadhila (Virtue).
(Page 3 of 3)
Emphasizing the urgent need to address decades of poverty and neglect, he said the government had to provide jobs and investment to convert short-term military gains into long-term political and economic ones.
The Quietening of Basra “This is a city which sits on top of oil, but its young people are unemployed,” he said.
Sadrists protest that the Basra operation is a cynical exercise to weaken Mr. Maliki’s Shiite rivals ahead of provincial elections in the fall.
At Friday prayers in Kufa last week, the Sadrist preacher, Sheik Abdul Hadi al-Muhamadawi, said, “There is a large-scale conspiracy to remove the Sadr movement from the government’s way by all means, because it refuses the presence of the occupier in Iraq.”
Such words underscore the widespread belief here that the Mahdi army has its own reasons for lying low and is by no means eliminated.
During one Iraqi Army patrol in Hayyaniyah at dusk, the soldiers, elsewhere relaxed, became jittery. Belying the local commander’s insistence that the Sadrist stronghold was “90 percent or more secure,” some pulled up face masks that they had not worn in other districts. They also fired bullets into the air at the slightest delay in traffic, an aggression unlikely to endear them in an area that, although calm, was noticeably less welcoming.
Haider, a policeman at a checkpoint outside the Sadrists’ former headquarters, said his family had been threatened, even at his home in the capital.
“I have spent 60 days in Basra and haven’t been home to Baghdad,” he said. “I will be killed if I go now. My family have received dozens of fliers with threats from the Mahdi Army.”
Nevertheless he, like many others, said the evacuation of the factions from their once-untouchable headquarters had brought about a psychological shift. Outside the Sadr office, Iraqi soldiers now sit atop the roof, their tripod-mounted machine guns overlooking the tin-roofed Sadrist prayer hall, which lies half-demolished.
“The Mahdi Army used to use this office like the Baathists when they were The Party,” Haider said. “They were ruling like the government of a state. They stopped police doing their duty, from implementing the law.”
Noting that the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, once much stronger than the Mahdi Army, had been routed, he said, “The Mahdi Army will meet the same fate exactly, and worse.”
Yet traces of the old order remain. One wall in central Basra still bore the unsigned scrawl: “We warn girls not to put on makeup and to wear scarves. Anyone who does not follow these orders will be killed.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story: Presidential Power
on: May 12, 2008, 11:37:13 AM
"If, for instance, the president is required to do any act, he is
not only authorized, but required, to decide for himself, whether,
consistently with his constitutional duties, he can do the act."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 124.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Historical ignorance or Orwellian lie?
on: May 12, 2008, 11:30:03 AM
“In his victory speech after the North Carolina primary, Sen. Barack Obama...[defended] his stated intent to meet with America’s enemies without preconditions...: ‘I trust the American people to understand that it is not weakness, but wisdom to talk not just to our friends, but to our enemies, like Roosevelt did, and Kennedy did, and Truman did.’ That he made this statement, and that it passed without comment by the journalists covering his speech indicates either breathtaking ignorance of history on the part of both, or deceit. I assume the Roosevelt to whom Sen. Obama referred is Franklin D. Roosevelt. Our enemies in World War II were Nazi Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler; fascist Italy, headed by Benito Mussolini, and militarist Japan, headed by Hideki Tojo. FDR talked directly with none of them before the outbreak of hostilities, and his policy once war began was unconditional surrender. FDR died before victory was achieved, and was succeeded by Harry Truman. Truman did not modify the policy of unconditional surrender. He ended that war not with negotiation, but with the atomic bomb. Harry Truman also was president when North Korea invaded South Korea in June, 1950. President Truman’s response was not to call up North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung for a chat. It was to send troops... Sen. Obama is on both sounder and softer ground with regard to John F. Kennedy. The new president held a summit meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev in Vienna in June, 1961. Elie Abel, who wrote a history of the Cuban missile crisis (The Missiles of October), said the crisis had its genesis in that summit... Mr. Abel wrote, ‘There is no evidence to support the belief that Khrushchev ever questioned America’s power. He questioned only the president’s readiness to use it.’... It’s worth noting that Kennedy then was vastly more experienced than Sen. Obama is now. A combat veteran of World War II, Jack Kennedy served 14 years in Congress before becoming president. Sen. Obama has no military and little work experience, and has been in Congress for less than four years... History is an elective few liberals choose to take these days... The lack of historical knowledge among journalists is merely appalling. But in a presidential candidate it’s dangerous. As Sir Winston Churchill said: ‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’.” —Jack Kelly
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Air Combat by Remote Control
on: May 12, 2008, 11:11:10 AM
Air Combat by Remote Control
By BRIAN M. CARNEY
May 12, 2008; Page A13
Indian Springs, Nev.
The sniper never knew what hit him. The Marines patrolling the street below were taking fire, but did not have a clear shot at the third-story window that the sniper was shooting from. They were pinned down and called for reinforcements.
Help came from a Predator drone circling the skies 20 miles away. As the unmanned plane closed in, the infrared camera underneath its nose picked up the muzzle flashes from the window. The sniper was still firing when the Predator's 100-pound Hellfire missile came through the window and eliminated the threat.
The airman who fired that missile was 8,000 miles away, here at Creech Air Force Base, home of the 432nd air wing. The 432nd officially "stood up," in the jargon of the Air Force, on May 1, 2007. One year later, two dozen of its drones patrol the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan every hour of every day. And almost all of them are flown by two-man crews sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of a "ground control station" (GCS) in the Nevada desert.
Col. Chris Chambliss, 49, was an F-16 pilot for 20 years before being tapped as the 432nd's first wing commander. He can tell you -- to the day -- the last time he flew an F-16 (March 29, 2007), but he insists he has no regrets about giving up his cockpit for the earthbound GCS of the Predator and its big sibling, the Reaper. "It's much more fun," Col. Chambliss admits, "to climb up a ladder and strap on an airplane than it is to walk into a GCS and sit down." But the payoff comes, he contends, in far greater effectiveness "in the fight."
"In that F-16 squadron that I was in," he says, "you'd come into that squadron for three years, and you might deploy once or twice for 120 days into the theater," but after 120 days, normal military rotations would require you to come back, rest and retrain. So in a three-year tour, an airman might be deployed for eight months or a year.
Col. Chambliss's Predator and Reaper squadrons don't have that problem. Out of 250 aviators, they might deploy eight of them to Iraq or Afghanistan at any given time to take off and land the planes -- a task that still has to be done locally. The rest of the pilots and crew men work shifts at Creech, flying for eight hours before handing the plane off to the next shift. This means that at any given moment a squadron of drones is using 80% of its assets in combat, compared to perhaps 30% for an F-16 squadron.
It's this effectiveness multiplier that led Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently to call on the Air Force to put every available Predator into the air in Iraq. But how we got here is itself a story of innovation and creative thinking going back more than a decade. It's a story that shows how even the military can do more with less, starting with the modestly priced $4.2 million airframe originally designed as a reconnaissance vehicle.
Predators were first deployed in Bosnia in 1996. At the time, they were limited to the line of sight of their base stations. But in 2003, two things happened to expand the range of possibilities by an order of magnitude. For one, the Air Force routed the signal from the satellite downlink via fiber-optics. This allowed them to put the ground control stations -- the cockpits -- anywhere in the world that a fiber connection was available. Also that year, as the Iraq invasion was gearing up, the Air Force decided to try strapping a Hellfire missile on the Predator, transforming it from a reconnaissance role into a multipurpose weapon.
Today, the Reaper, which went into service in Afghanistan last September (a year ahead of schedule), can carry nearly the same payload as an F-16 -- typically two 500-pound laser-guided bombs and four Hellfires.
These are early days for unmanned aerial warfare. The 432nd is only one year old, and its mission continues to evolve. The 42nd Attack Squadron -- the Reaper squadron -- is still young, and still small, with only enough men and equipment to keep two planes at a time in the skies over Afghanistan.
Col. Chambliss compares the situation to the early decades of manned flight. "You know how fast things went from the end of the First World War to the end of the Second World War, how aviation, the capabilities vastly increased. That's where we're sitting right now. . . . I have no doubt when I'm sitting in my rocking chair, a retired old guy, I will be sitting there going, 'You've got to be kidding me.'"
Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR-OH banquet speaker: 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator Siraj Wahha
on: May 11, 2008, 02:22:21 PM
Second post of the day:
CAIR-OH banquet speaker: 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator Siraj Wahhaj
Later today CAIR-Ohio will host their 10th annual fundraising banquet here in Columbus. This week, we've revisited some of the more infamous moments in CAIR-OH history:
1999 CAIR-OH banquet speaker: convicted terrorist and bin Laden operative, Abdurahman Alamoudi
CAIR-OH revisited, 2001: CAIR-OH holds fundraiser for notorious cop killer, Jamal Al-Amin
CAIR-OH revisited, 1999: CAIR-OH rushes to aid pre-9/11 dry-run hijackers
But the appearance of Siraj Wahhaj, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as the keynote speaker for the 2006 CAIR-OH annual banquet has to rank among one of the most despicable acts in that group's ten years of existence.
And following the banquet featuring Wahhaj, CAIR-OH bragged in a press release how the Wahhaj fundraiser had netted them more than $100,000 in one evening to help spread their hate speech and terror apologies. Here is the CAIR press release following the event (click to enlarge):
In a March 2006 article, "CAIR's Blood Money", I prefaced my evaluation of CAIR-OH's activities with this historical reflection:
At 12:17 pm on February 26, 1993, a 1,500lb urea-nitrate fuel-oil bomb hidden inside a rental van caused a massive explosion that ripped through the parking garage of the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring another 1,042 – the first large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil by Islamic extremists. The terrorists had intended to topple one of the buildings onto the other, potentially killing tens of thousands of innocent Americans. Sadly, the fourteenth anniversary of that event passed last week with very little discussion by major media outlets, even though that lethal attack by Islamic terrorists ominously foreshadowed the unspeakable horror of 9/11.
At 8:00 pm on June 6, 2006, the Ohio affiliate of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OH) honored one of the unindicted conspirators in that 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Siraj Wahhaj, a Brooklyn, NY imam that had also served as a defense witness at the trial of one of the men convicted for that terrorist attack, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman (a conviction that CAIR has labeled “a travesty of justice”). More than 400 CAIR-OH supporters gathered at this fundraising banquet.
Read the whole article. And consider the terrible legacy of hatred and terrorist support that CAIR-OH has wrought over the past decade.
Posted by Patrick Poole at 2:19 AM
Labels: CAIR-OH, Siraj Wahhaj
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: May 11, 2008, 01:38:17 PM
Islamic Divorce Ruled Not Valid in Maryland
Custom Allowing Men to End Marriage With Oral Declaration Lacks 'Due Process'
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008; B02
After his wife of more than two decades filed for divorce in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Irfan Aleem responded in writing in 2003, and not just in court.
Aleem went to the Pakistani Embassy in the District, where he executed a written document that asserted he was divorcing Farah Aleem. He performed "talaq," exercising a provision of Islamic religious and Pakistani secular law that allows husbands to divorce their wives by declaring "I divorce thee" three times. In Muslim countries, men have used talaq to leave their wives for centuries.
But they can't use it in Maryland, the state's highest court decided this week.
The state Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 21-page opinion Tuesday declaring that talaq is contrary to Maryland's constitutional provisions providing equal rights to men and women.
"Talaq lacks any significant 'due process' for the wife, its use, moreover, directly deprives the wife of the 'due process' she is entitled to when she initiates divorce litigation in this state. The lack and deprivation of due process is itself contrary to this state's public policy," the court wrote.
The decision affirms a 2007 ruling by the Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court, which also said that talaq does not apply in the Free State.
Under Islamic traditions, talaq can be invoked only by a husband, unless he grants his wife the same right.
According to the Court of Appeals' opinion, Irfan Aleem, who worked for years as an economist with the World Bank, is worth about $2 million, half of which Farah Aleem is entitled to under Maryland law. When Irfan Aleem tried to divorce his wife under the concept of talaq, a sum of $2,500 was mentioned as a "full and final" settlement, according to the appellate decision.
That amount was written into the marriage contract Farah Aleem signed the day she married him in their native Pakistan in 1980, according to the appellate decision. The contract was in accordance with Pakistani custom. At the time, he was 29 and she was 18. The couple moved to the Washington area in 1985.
"I don't even know how to express how happy I am. I am ecstatic, relieved," Farah Aleem, 46, said yesterday.
Over the years, a lack of financial support from her ex-husband caused hardship for her and her son and daughter, who are in college, she said. "All I ever wanted was my fair share, not a penny more," said Aleem, who lives in the Washington area, works full time for an accounting firm and is pursuing an accounting degree at night.
At the direction of the judge who presided over the Aleems' divorce proceedings, the couple's Potomac home was sold, and half the proceeds -- about $200,000 -- went to Farah Aleem, said Susan Friedman, her attorney.
Friedman said she thinks that Irfan Aleem, who retired in recent years, invoked talaq to avoid paying Farah half of his World Bank pension, which provides him with $90,000 annually, the attorney said.
"It will be very pleasant when [Farah] gets her share of that," Friedman said. "She's delighted about that."
Friedman said she will serve papers on the World Bank showing that the original order from the Circuit Court -- that Farah Aleem is entitled to half her ex-husband's pension -- is now final and that the bank has to give her half.
Irfan Aleem, who is in his late 50s, lives in Pakistan, Friedman said.
His attorney, Priya R. Aryar, said, "We're very disappointed with the decision. We think this could have adverse ramifications for a whole bunch of people who reside in the D.C. area under diplomatic visas and assume that their family law rights and obligations are governed by the laws of their country of citizenship."
A legal scholar and an Islamic leader said the appellate court's decision was not surprising.
"For the most part, Muslims expected this kind of ruling," said Muneer Fareed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Ind. "The contrary would be a surprise to them. They do not expect the U.S. legal system to give full recognition of talaq."
Julie Macfarlane, a legal scholar who is researching a book about Islamic divorces in North America, said the decision was not surprising. "There's no legal enforceability [for talaq] in U.S. courts," said Macfarlane, a professor at the University of Windsor in Canada.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Texas
on: May 11, 2008, 09:19:10 AM
SOURCE = http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dw....e2b80f8a.html
Victim speaks about donut shop robbery
04:22 PM CDT on Friday, May 9, 2008
David Schechter reports
May 9, 2008
Neighborliness has been redefined in a West Fort Worth neighborhood. Early this morning a robber invaded a local donut shop. Before he could get away a neighbor shot the intruder dead outside the Happy Donut Shop.
It’s a beloved neighborhood gathering spot owned by Chong Randle. Early this morning, when Randle was in the back she heard a loud noise up front. The robber broke through the glass and entered.
“He said, ‘I’m going to shoot you’. I said, ‘Go ahead and shoot. I’m going to heaven. Go ahead shooting. I just put my hands up and lay down,’” said Randle.
“He said I’m going to shoot you and you said go ahead and shoot me?” asked reporter David Schechter.
“You wanna shoot. Shoot. Because I’m going to heaven,” she added.
Randle says she gave him everything she had—about $30 in change. Instead of leaving, though, the robber kept demanding more. What that robber didn't know was that as the seconds ticked by Randle’s neighbor was on his way to help with a loaded shotgun. He shot and killed the intruder-- 45-year old Richard Lane.
“How do you feel about him? Are you thankful?” Schechter asked Randle.
“He shoot them because he’s doing the right thing,” she said.
Randle was lucky to get away with minor injuries. She says this is the second time this week Randle’s been robbed. She thinks it was the same person, both times.
“Not a very happy week for Happy Donuts,” Schechter asked.
“Still happy donuts. We didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.
The neighbor who shot the robber was not available for an interview today. He likely will not face any charges… though the case may be reviewed by a grand jury. But if any witnesses are needed, there was actually a police officer driving by just as the gun went off.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pre-emption and Sucker Punches
on: May 10, 2008, 07:26:13 PM
As people who seek a harmonious path in Life, our training must prepare us for unequal initiative/pre-emption/sucker attacks. All our training with equal initiative can get completely mooted if we are taken out of the fight before it starts. We need to appreciate just how quickly can be done.
Spotting cues is a very, very important part of being able to handle this . My friend Southnark has developed "managing unknown contacts" to a high level and organizes the most likely cues into four categories. Around here we will call them "The Southnark 4".
Study for effectiveness, and for cues:http://youtube.com/watch?v=cuCF1B_Muas
Anyone else have some good clips in this vein?
Edited to add: I have added the term "sucker punch" to the title of the thread because I realized that this distinction needs to be added to the conversation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obstacles to I-P Peace
on: May 10, 2008, 10:09:30 AM
How good it feels to read something like this coming from a major player in the Muslim world.
The Obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian Peace
By ABDURRAHMAN WAHID and ABDUL A'LA
May 10, 2008; Page A11
The prolonged Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a far-reaching impact not only upon the lives of those who dwell in the Holy Land, but upon virtually every nation and community on earth. On a daily basis, self-interested parties are callously manipulating the most basic values of humanity and religion in order to advance their personal or political interests. Sectarianism, violence, arrogance and deception are constantly subverting the fundamental values of life, and turning religious principles upon their heads.
This horrific process demands that every moral human being, religious community and nation throughout the world contemplate this tragedy and offer assistance, however small, to help resolve the profound human crisis in the Holy Land. Peace is both a process and a goal that the world can neither morally nor practically afford to push off into the future yet again.
We must develop and implement concrete strategies to resolve the conflict, while inspiring hope that peace can actually be achieved. The problem is that the various obstacles to peace seem nearly impossible to eliminate. These obstacles are rendered even more severe by the fact that both major parties in the conflict harbor groups absolutely convinced of the correctness of their mutually exclusive views and agendas. Such groups reject not only the rights, but the very existence, of the other side.
The corrosive effect of this phenomenon is the evocation and rationalization of the use of violence, either through terrorism or militarism. Prejudiced views on both sides, not only by those directly engaged in the conflict, but by their allies as well, further stoke the flames of hatred and violence.
These prejudices contaminate public discourse throughout the world, and are constantly exploited by Middle Eastern regimes that fuel anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic emotions for political purposes, while displaying little or no actual concern for the well-being of the Palestinians themselves.
Under such conditions, it is nearly impossible for sincere dialogue even to occur, much less to develop or flourish. Instead, the cycle of violence breeds a hardening of mutual hatred.
The Palestinian side routinely condemns its enemy as a colonial power whose entire population is demonized as "imperialists," while the Israeli side brands its political opponents as terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers.
For six decades, the peace process has been conducted primarily by self-interested political players who cannot penetrate to the heart of the underlying problems, much less resolve them. This gives rise to deeply cynical views on the part of certain groups on both sides, who view the peace process as absurd, its goals unobtainable, and continued violence better than compromise.
Yet the difficulties that have swamped every Israeli-Palestinian peace process to date do not mean that achieving peace is impossible. Rather, they point to the need for a new and more holistic path to peace in the Middle East. This path would mobilize the populations of Israel and Palestine toward this goal, with the active encouragement and support of the rest of the world.
The December 2007 visit to Israel and Palestine by a group of Indonesian ulama from the world's two largest Muslim organizations – LibForAll Foundation and the Indonesian Peace Delegation – represents one such effort, and the first step in a larger, systematic process. Conducted under the joint aegis of LibForAll Foundation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, members of the group consistently observed that the silent majorities on both sides of the conflict sincerely desire an end to the cycle of violence, and peace for themselves and their children. This is remarkable, given the decades of incitement to hatred and violence in Palestinian mosques, schools and mass media, and a political culture that eschews compromise.
It is tragic that the voice of the people – full of an honest and sincere longing for peace – should be drowned out by violence and the narrow interests of politicians and extremists on both sides. We have a responsibility to amplify the voices of the innocent who pay with their blood and sorrow the price of others' ambitions and hatred.
We must also strengthen and facilitate the people's efforts to pressure their political elites – in a manner that is focused, intense and vocal, yet simultaneously civilized – to create a just and lasting peace.
Palestinians and Israelis need the world's support to create a new reality, in which the highest values of religion and humanity are restored to their proper dignity. We must also help Muslim populations – not only in Palestine, but throughout the Arab world – to rise to embrace a profoundly spiritual and tolerant understanding of Islam, and a humanistic attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that acknowledges the legacy of suffering on all sides. Such an attitude is a necessary precondition for recognizing Israel's unique history and right to exist, while truly advancing the interests of Palestinians as well.
Last year's LibForAll/Indonesian Peace mission to Israel and Palestine was designed to initiate such a process. After the religious leaders who participated returned to Indonesia, they faced intense condemnation from Muslim extremists, who accused them of having betrayed their Palestinian brethren and embarrassed Indonesia's Muslim community. Yet there is nothing shameful about working to realize the highest values of religion – which God intended to serve as a blessing, and not a curse, to all of humanity.
Although the obstacles to peace in the Holy Land may appear insurmountable, it is the responsibility of religious leaders on all sides to attempt the impossible, and to accept whatever threats, slander and stigma may follow.
Mr. Wahid is the former president of Indonesia and co-founder of LibForAll Foundation. Mr. A'la is an associate dean of graduate studies at Sunan Ampel Islamic State University in Surabaya, Indonesia.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Single Officer vs. Active Killer
on: May 10, 2008, 09:26:43 AM
Force Science News #97
In this issue:
I. Ohio trainer makes the case for single-officer entry against active killers
II. Force Science News to be translated for 14,000 French-speaking officers
I. Ohio trainer makes the case for single-officer entry against active killers
If you're a patrol officer who's first on the scene of an active-shooter call, should you make immediate entry in hunt for the suspect...or wait for other early responders and improvise a rapid deployment team?
Since the Columbine massacre 9 years ago, few if any trainers any longer advocate delaying for a formal SWAT call-out, which can take 30 minutes or more in some areas. But commonly a hasty assembly of 3 or more officers for a search-and-confrontation team is recommended, with coordinated movement tactics taught accordingly.
To trainer Ron Borsch, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who manages the small SEALE (South East Area Law Enforcement) Regional Training Academy in Bedford, Ohio, that's a deadly waste of time when seconds can mean lives.
Based on his on-going research of active-shooter realities, he's convinced that single-officer entries can potentially lessen the toll of casualties while exposing the responders involved to little additional risk. Although popular law enforcement literature has just lately begun to explore the single-officer concept, Borsch has promoted the idea to in-service trainees for more than 2 years and has taught solo- and 2-officer entry-action models in academy courses for the past year. And he finds that administrators whose officers are exposed to this approach generally accept it enthusiastically.
"We offer this report not necessarily as a tactical advisory but as an example of one trainer's effort to give tactical instruction a research base," explains Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato. "We offer it for your thoughtful consideration and we'd be interested in hearing comments from our readers on Ron Borsch's conclusions." If you have comments, please e-mail the editor.
"Time is our worst adversary in dealing with active killers," Borsch told Force Science News. "We're racing what I call 'the Stopwatch of Death.' Victims are often added to the toll every several seconds."
Where times have been reliably documented, the average post-Columbine "rapid mass murder episode" lasts just 8 minutes, according to Borsch's calculations. "The murderer's timeline begins when he says it begins. Any prevention, deterrence or delay efforts have failed at that point, and the police are handicapped with catching up whenever they are notified."
To have any hope of successfully intervening in a slaughter spree under the usual tight time strictures, law enforcement "needs to get less manpower on site sooner." Training LEOs to wait even moments to form an impromptu entry team shows that "our country's tactical community at large has failed to do its homework and to evolve strategies that accurately reflect the known methods of operation and patterns of active killers," Borsch asserts. "Law enforcement has already proved many times over that we can arrive 'too late with too many' and spend too much time gathering pre-entry intelligence. Now we need to fix what is obviously a broken strategy."
Borsch, who logged 17 years as a part-time SWAT team member before retiring from street work, has analyzed more than 90 active-shooter incidents on the basis of data largely ferreted out from Internet reports. Most involved schools and colleges, but workplaces, shopping malls, churches and other public places are also represented. Among his findings that have helped shape his tactical thinking:
• 98% of active killers act alone.
• 80% have long guns, 75% have multiple weapons (about 3 per incident), and they sometimes bring hundreds of extra rounds of ammunition to the shooting site.
• Despite such heavy armaments and an obsession with murder at close range, they have an average hit rate of less than 50%.
• They strike "stunned, defenseless innocents via surprise ambush. On a level playing field, the typical active killer would be a no-contest against anyone reasonably capable of defending themselves."
• "They absolutely control life and death until they stop at their leisure or are stopped." They do not take hostages, do not negotiate.
• They generally try to avoid police, do not hide or lie in wait for officers and "typically fold quickly upon armed confrontation."
• 90% commit suicide on-site. "Surrender or escape attempts are unlikely."
Because active shooters seem so intent on killing, it's often difficult to convince first responders that "this bad guy is one of the easiest man-with-gun encounters they will ever have," Borsch observes. "Most officers have already faced worse opponents from a personal safety standpoint than these creeps."
He believes the profile he has drawn should "empower officers with probable cause to believe that they can successfully prevail against the predictable patterns of these mass murderers" if they arrive in time to abort an actual attack.
From their experience in dealing with "a myriad of urgent circumstances" in their normal work, street officers are "already quite used to a multi-tiered response that begins with one officer, with backup en route." A solo officer entering an active-killer scene "has a virtual guarantee that an avalanche of manpower is coming fast behind him," so he won't be alone for long.
Once into the scene, to further gain confidence in advancing aggressively toward the suspect, officers need to understand the nature of these killers. Unlike conventional criminal predators, who often have no reluctance about attacking police, active shooters tend to be "cowardly," Borsch says.
"They choose unarmed, defenseless innocents for a reason: They have no wish to encounter someone who can hurt them. They are personally risk- and pain-avoidant. The tracking history of these murderers has proved them to be unlikely to be aggressive with police. If pressed, they are more likely to kill themselves." In his research, he has found no evidence of any LEO in the U.S. yet being wounded or killed in an active-shooting incident where mass murder was intended or accomplished.
"Officers need to understand valid military principles that apply to these calls, such as speed, surprise and violence of action," Borsch insists. "They need to learn how to close in and finish the fight with aggression, having and keeping the 'momentum of battle' on their side. The idea is to keep the adversary off-balance by forcing him always to react to your actions, rather than, after contact, reacting to him."
For example, once an active killer is spotted, Borsch favors the swift application of deadly force over seeking defensive cover in most instances. "An unintentional consequence of going to cover may be to lose sight of the offender, allowing him to gain the momentum of battle and shoot more defenseless innocents until he says it's over."
SEALE's active-killer countermeasures, taught through a course called Tactical First Responder, bypass traditional instruction in team formations and movement. These can be important in a mass murder response, Borsch says--but only later, during a search-and-rescue phase. What's realistically needed by the first one or two patrol officers to arrive at a scene--"the first of the first responders"--are instruction and practice in how to enter, move and confront the threat alone.
Thus after a briefing on the predictable patterns of offender behavior that his research has revealed, the trainees concentrate on perfecting a swift zig-zag movement down hallways, on mastering an accelerated slicing-the-pie technique for taking corners, on maneuvering up and down stairways with a patrol rifle (the response weapon of choice, given the killer's likely armaments), and on using sight, sound, smell and intuition to gather intel that will help them close quickly on the threat. "We practice until there's no speed less than rapid."
If an officer enters a school in response to an active-killer call "he may see or hear nothing out of order initially," Borsch says. "The place may be in lock-down and there may be hundreds of rooms, some of them quite distant and out of earshot, where the killer could be wreaking havoc.
"The officer may have to set out in a direction with little guidance and cover a lot of ground until he comes across something. In these situations, intelligence often belongs only to those who go get it. But what's the alternative--just stop and wait? The killing may be continuing while you hear nothing."
Single-officer entry has been a controversial concept, Borsch says, but he senses that the tide is starting to turn. In a recent issue of Law and Order Magazine, hardly an advocate of radical innovation, the executive director of the National Assn. of School Resource Officers wrote in an article aimed as police chiefs, "Training CANNOT be limited to the active shoot training where three, four or more officers respond and form a team." At SEALE, Borsch has found that chiefs whose officers have completed the First Responder course often want their personnel to repeat the training to reinforce the single-entry precepts. Some departments have also hired him as a consultant to evaluate and revise their active-killer protocols.
"A slow-and-methodical approach--what I call 'tactical loitering'--is still appropriate for most types of police encounters," Borsch says. "Dynamic active killers are a unique problem. With time as a relentless enemy, an officer has a choice to make: does he or she take the risk of going in alone...or are potential victims left to the mercy of a rogue human while the officer stays safe?"
Even with an immediate solo entry, Borsch concedes, police may not find the killer until his bloodletting is over. But saving time by "getting called early enough and taking action early enough," he argues, still offers the best chance for mitigating casualties.
Aided by his research, "we prepare the officers' mind first, then work on the motor skills in hallways, stairwells and rooms," Borsch says. To motivate courage, he hangs the walls of his training classroom with photographs of victims and their active shooters. "The victims' pictures are big," he explains. "Those of the killers are small. They're worthless cowards. The innocent people who may be their victims if we don't stop them are what matter."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany-Plus
on: May 10, 2008, 08:45:33 AM
Obama Promises Germany-Plus
By GABOR STEINGART
May 10, 2008; Page A9
When I begin to feel homesick for Germany, I have discovered a cheap and easy way out. I simply turn on the TV and listen to a Barack Obama stump speech.
The promised land of universal health care, secure pensions, a lot of green-collar jobs and stable bridges brings me back to my home country. My grandma, who has worked in a post office all her life, enjoys her pension without having ever observed the stock market. Everyone who travels through the countryside can see thousands of windmills, but never a collapsed bridge. And the best: My mom, my friends and everyone around them have access to first-class medical services.
Sometimes it appears to me that Mr. Obama wants to trump all that. He has promised not only a $160 billion program for new green-collar jobs, a higher minimum wage, affordable health care for everybody, a massive investment in infrastructure and tax-free status for pensioners who make less than $50,000. All these nice things come with no tax increase for 95% of Americans. Wow! That's Germany-plus!
I've been in the U.S. for a while, but if I remember my home country correctly, all the German comforts come with a price. My grandma has paid 10% of her salary to the public pension system, and her employer has matched the contribution. For our health insurance everyone has to sacrifice 7% of his or her earnings, which again is matched by the company. Fashionable windmills go along with extra taxes for fuel. A gallon of regular gas in Munich or Berlin costs – fasten your seat belt – more than $8.
Not all of my fellow Germans are happy with this, but the overwhelming majority of my fellow countrymen made their decision a long time ago. They prefer big government. They have learned to live with growth rates far behind and an unemployment rate far above the U.S.
Maybe I am being unfair to Mr. Obama. But it seems to me that the agent of change was window-shopping in Germany without looking at the price tag. You should ask him for the bill.
Mr. Steingart is the senior correspondent in Washington, D.C., for Der Spiegel news magazine and author of the "The War for Wealth – The True Story of Globalization" (McGraw Hill, 2008).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strafor
on: May 10, 2008, 08:36:28 AM
May 9, 2008
Indications continued to mount on Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would be indicted on charges of bribery. Violence broke out in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Lebanese groups opposed to it. The Turks announced that they had suspended talks between Israel and Syria because of Syrian leaks concerning talks with Israel that the Turks had brokered. Things are in flux, to say the least.
It is important to note that Olmert was not indicted and that he said that he had not taken any bribes. However, the unsealing of the information that the prosecutors had about the bribe, which triggered Olmert’s denial, kicked off a political storm in Israel, with many political leaders either calling for his resignation immediately or predicting that he would be forced to resign eventually — given that Olmert had stated that he would resign if indicted.
Israeli politics are, therefore, in a meltdown. Olmert’s ability to govern under these circumstances is limited. Everyone is maneuvering in anticipation of his leaving office, and his leverage has evaporated. Should he again be given a clean bill of health, the situation will undoubtedly reverse. However, there is a broadly held sense in Israel that he will not survive. That throws the future of the coalition into question and likely makes elections necessary. If that happens, Israel will not be in a position to make any decisions on Palestinian or Syrian negotiations.
That makes the decision by the Turks to announce publicly that they would suspend negotiations over a leak that happened weeks ago particularly interesting. There was no reason to hold the announcement, and, having held it, there was no reason to announce it now. Moreover, the Turks did not say the talks were canceled, only that they were on hold. Given the state of Israeli politics, of course, that is quite accurate. We suspect that the Turks were quite irritated with the Syrians over the leak, but also decided that they needed a reason to put things on hold at this time. Still, the strategic reasons that led the Turks to want an Israeli-Syrian settlement are still in place, as are Israeli and Syrian interests — and this was a pause with a signal to the Syrians to behave.
And that is an important signal, given what happened in Lebanon today. Lebanese politicians decided to move against Hezbollah’s private communication system — the system that enables Hezbollah to be a self-contained army within Lebanon, outside the bounds of the Lebanese Army. Hezbollah understood that this was a direct threat to its power in Lebanon and reacted with violence, ranging from stone-throwing to mortar fire. Hezbollah made it clear that it did not intend to have its power reduced.
Taking on Hezbollah is dangerous for anyone, particularly the Lebanese. The move to shut down Hezbollah’s communications was obviously going to cause a violent response, and few in Lebanon are eager to risk Hezbollah’s wrath — unless they have an understanding with Syria. Syria is a supporter of Hezbollah, but its relationship with the group is complex. There are times when Syria has wanted Hezbollah to be as aggressive as possible and times when Syria was very active in restraining Hezbollah. The Syrians never wanted to dismantle the group, but there were times they wanted it to be benign. Given Syria’s talks with the Israelis –- for which the Syrians publicly celebrated, and the Turks rapped them on the knuckles — an unconditional demand on the part of Israel had to have been Syria reining in Hezbollah.
Whoever decided to shut down Hezbollah’s communication system had to have some confidence that they would not be facing Hezbollah alone. There are three possibilities. One, that they thought they could handle Hezbollah themselves. We find that hard to believe. Two, that they thought Israel might intervene, perhaps because Olmert would start a war to cover his indictment. If that’s so, we think it was a major miscalculation; Israel won’t go to war on that basis. Three, that anti-Hezbollah forces in Lebanon have gotten the signal from Syria that they can act against Hezbollah, as a gesture of good faith to Israel on the part of Damascus. Our suspicion is that this is what happened. Incurring the displeasure of both Hezbollah and Syria is not wise for any Lebanese.
The tangle caused by Olmert’s situation is now intense. Left out of this discussion are the Palestinian negotiations or any of the other complexities of the region. This is quite enough. But as frequently happens in the Middle East, what appeared to be a promising opening a couple of weeks ago has bogged down in the internal politics of one of the actors. Even Olmert’s departure will not solve the problem, as it will create a vacuum that could take months to fill.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude
on: May 10, 2008, 08:32:41 AM
I am grateful for the time yesterday when my 5 year old daughter played iwth "Magna-stix" on floor of my office as I worked and for the time I had pitching to my son before dinner with my daughter chasing the balls he hit on her scooter and brining them to me; the wonderful dinner that my wife cooked, and our time together as a family.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson
on: May 09, 2008, 10:39:43 PM
The present desire of America is to produce rapid population by as great importations of foreigners as possible. But is this founded in good policy? … [A]re there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected from a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners? It is for the happiness of those united in society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which they must of necessity transact together. Civil government being the sole object of forming societies, its administration must be conducted by common consent. Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours perhaps are more peculiar than those of any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution, with others derived from natural right and natural reason. To these nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies. Yet, from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of VA. 123-5
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thin Skin
on: May 09, 2008, 08:16:59 PM
By JAMES TARANTO
May 9, 2008
(Note: We'll be traveling and thus absent the early part of next week.)
For all the hype about Barack Obama being some new kind of politician, in one respect he is very similar to recent Democratic presidential nominees: He takes criticism very badly, responding to it by getting both defensive and nasty. It is a most unattractive quality.
CNN reports on a case in point:
"This is offensive, and I think it's disappointing," Obama told [Wolf] Blitzer, when asked his thoughts about McCain's comments that the terrorist organization Hamas wants Obama to be president. "Because John McCain always says 'I am not going to run that kind of politics,' and to engage in that kind of smear is unfortunate, particularly because my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.
"I've said it's a terrorist organization and we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they are willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. So for him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don't need name calling in this debate."
Commentary's Abe Greenwald has the background on the so-called smear:
Jennifer [Rubin, a Commentary blogress] is too modest to mention it, but she played a considerable role in the "smear" to which Obama [yesterday] referred. It was during a blogger conference call on April 25 that she, in fact, asked John McCain to comment on Hamas's preference for Obama above the other presidential candidates. As it happens, I was on that call as well. And it's worth noting the nature of McCain's response to Jennifer. He began his reply by saying, "All I can tell you, Jennifer, is that I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next President of the United States."
Considering the situation, this is about the most delicately phrased response that one could have expected. It was not in the least a smear. Jennifer introduced Hamas's very real preference into the conversation. John McCain essentially chose to let the facts speak for themselves.
As we noted last month, Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef did in fact endorse Obama, in an interview with WABC-AM's John Batchelor. McCain's statement that "it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president" is far less of a smear than Obama's characterization of McCain as having "lost his bearings," plainly an attempt to stereotype the septuagenarian McCain as suffering from dementia. No wonder Hillary Clinton does so well among superannuated primary voters.
Obama's perturbability in the face of criticism was also evident in his response to the various comments by Jeremiah Wright*. Sept. 11 was chickens coming home to roost? Hey, we all have uncles who say crazy things. "God damn America"? He meant it in the best possible way. Barack Obama is acting like a politician? That got him angry, although it was almost as indisputably accurate as McCain's statement about Hamas.
One difference between Obama's and McCain's policies toward Hamas, as The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb points out, is that Obama is eager to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the public face of Iran's revolutionary Islamic regime, which is the terror group's chief patron. The purpose of the meeting is unclear, but Obama seems to suggest that he would somehow charm Ahmadinejad into submission. Can there be any doubt, though, that Ahmadinejad is now taking note of how easily rattled his prospective interlocutor is?
* The man of whom Barack Obama says, "He was never my quote-unquote spiritual adviser," although he served on the Obama campaign's quote-unquote spiritual advisory committee.
Elect Me, I'm Electable
Yesterday we noted Hillary Clinton's unfortunate comment in an interview with USA Today: "There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans is weakening again. . . . I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on."
Peggy Noonan quotes an Obama supporter as saying of Mrs. Clinton's remark, "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white, even with the Southern strategy." We suppose Nixon was a smoother politician than Mrs. Clinton, and using the word "white" was (as we told her yesterday) a mistake. But there is a reason she is speaking in these terms.
The Tampa Tribune's William March reports that Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz released a statement making essentially the same point, although without being explicitly racial about it:
Senator Clinton continues to demonstrate that she has what it takes to win the Presidency . . . while Senator Obama does well in areas and demographic groups that the Democratic nominee will win anyway.
It isn't only Mrs. Clinton's side that is insulting Democratic voters. These remarks are of a piece with Barack Obama's statement about "bitter" working-class Pennsylvanians. Jay Cost of RealClearPolitics had an insightful take on that:
Mr. Obama presumed to explain the behavior of the voters he is courting. We might not know for sure exactly how he was explaining them, but we know that he was trying to. This is something that is best left to political scientists, not candidates. They should never speak of voters in any but the most flattering terms. Otherwise, there is a risk of alienating them. When you analyze people, you are signaling that you are separate from them. You are an "other." What is more, nobody likes to feel that they are being analyzed. The analyst can come across as haughty. "Who the hell does he think he is to explain me?"
Why are they insulting voters? Because at the moment, they are not trying to appeal to voters but to so-called superdelegates, the elected and party officials who will actually decide the Democratic nominee. Both candidates are trying to persuade the superdelegates that they have better prospects in November, and that is why they are referring to the voters in the third person.
In the olden days, of course, these conversations would have taken place in smoke-filled rooms, not in public. Being dragged through this is a fitting punishment for the woman who banned smoking in the White House.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine
on: May 09, 2008, 03:39:51 PM
Man Saves Own Life, Uses Steak Knife for At-Home Tracheotomy
OMAHA, Neb. — An Omaha man struggling to breath used a steak knife to perform an at-home tracheotomy.
Steve Wilder says he thought he was going to die when he awoke one night last week and couldn't breath.
Wilder says he didn't call 911 because he didn't think help would arrive in time. So, the 55-year-old says, he got a steak knife from the kitchen and made a small hole in his throat, allowing air to gush in.
Wilder suffered from throat cancer and related breathing problems several years ago. About that time, he had an episode where he couldn't breath because his air passages swelled shut. He says that's what happened this time around.
Doctors don't expect Wilder to suffer any adverse affects from the tracheotomy once it's healed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rise and Collide
on: May 09, 2008, 03:26:24 PM
Rise and Collide
By MARY KISSEL
May 9, 2008; Page A15
By Bill Emmott
(Harcourt, 342 pages, $26)
The rise of China is easy to exaggerate and even easier to fear. China is a vast country of 1.3 billion people, governed by menacing authoritarians who are plowing money into its military complex and managing a stunning economic transformation; before long it will dominate Asia, and someday it will threaten America's place in the world. Or at least that is the argument of certain worried pundits these days.
For a striking counterargument – and some much-needed nuance – look no further than Bill Emmott's "Rivals." Mr. Emmott, a former editor of The Economist and a longtime Asia-watcher, acknowledges that China will continue its remarkable rise for years to come. But he thinks that a modernizing India and a resurgent Japan could end up jostling for Far East supremacy, too, pitting "Asians against Asians." A balance-of-power politics could evolve resembling Europe's in the 19th century.
How this transformation will unfold, and whether it will be entirely peaceful, is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain: All three of Asia's emerging giants are being forced to open up at speeds that none is quite comfortable with. China's Communist Party has freed a wide cross-section of its economy, bringing a new prosperity to much of the population. India is shedding its socialist shackles at whatever pace its vibrant, contentious democracy will allow. Japan's dominant political party, notoriously resistant to change, is still struggling to pull the country out of a decade-long economic nosedive; but the push for reform is becoming ever more urgent as Japan's population ages.
In "Rivals," Mr. Emmott mines the past for clues to the future. Start with China: Most analysts conclude that the 21st century will belong to China because the country's economy is now roaring ahead. But its growth rates aren't unprecedented. Like China today, Japan by the 1970s had reached a high investment-to-GDP ratio (roughly 40%) and enjoyed double-digit, export-led industrial growth. South Korea followed a similar path. By those measure, Mr. Emmott says, China's growth is "excellent, but not exceptional."
China also faces some bumps in the road, not least of which is rising inflation – a problem that Japan once also faced. Capital inflows are pushing up wages and expanding the monetary base, which is in turn inflating asset bubbles in stocks and property. Something has got to give. "The longer a change in economic policy and direction is delayed," Mr. Emmott writes, "the bigger the risk that mere adjustment turns into something more dramatic."
India's trajectory, meanwhile, most closely follows China's – at least at the moment. With the liberalizing of India's economy, its investment and savings have grown along with its standard of living. In 2006, India's exports of goods and services, as a percentage of GDP, had risen to a point that they were "roughly the same as China's in 1996," Mr. Emmott notes. The common view of India – as a land dominated by extremes of wealth and poverty – is simply out of date; in fact, India's income inequality is about the same as Britain's. The question now is whether the government will speed up India's growth by upgrading its shoddy infrastructure and liberalizing its energy industries so that domestic producers can make adequate returns and afford to increase output.
Japan's future is harder to forecast. The crash of the 1990s was bad, though hardly of Depression-like dimensions. That it was not worse, Mr. Emmott says, has a lot to do with Japan's free flow of trade and capital and its fiscal surplus. Oddly (for a writer long affiliated with the laissez-faire Economist magazine), Mr. Emmott praises the Japanese government for its Keynesian interventions in the 1990s. Huge spending programs, he claims, "helped prevent an economic drama from becoming a disaster." Perhaps. But they also prevented Japan from embracing low taxes and liberalizing its markets – surely a speedier means to growth and widespread prosperity.
Mr. Emmott notes that Japan, for all the exporting it does, isn't really a "globalized country." Its trade with the outside world, measured by imports plus exports as a percentage of GDP, is dwarfed by China's. And its level of English proficiency – now essential for global players – is low. If anything, Mr. Emmott says, "Japan needs to emulate America in the 1990s, when the 'new economy' " – that is, the Internet revolution – "brought a sharp and unexpected jump in U.S. productivity." Without doing something "dramatic" to kickstart growth, he argues, Japan's leaders will simply be "managing the country's relative decline," eclipsed by India and China.
Of course, the future of Asia's economies depends in part on the future of its regional politics. India has rocky relationships with its neighbors – and some of them, including Nepal, Pakistan and Burma, are led by unstable regimes. China, meanwhile, has border disputes with Bhutan and India, not to mention disputes over sovereignty with Tibet and Taiwan. Japan has only recently moved to mend ties with South Korea's new leadership. But a nuclear-armed North Korea remains the biggest menace. Mr. Emmott believes that, if "regime change" comes about in North Korea, it will be of the homegrown variety and not imposed from the outside. The result may be "a risky moment," as China, South Korea and factions within North Korea vie for power.
In economics and business, Mr. Emmott notes, competition generally has "overwhelmingly positive results." But "in politics, we cannot be so sure." To separate the two spheres so sharply, though, seems forced, at best. China's economic prosperity increasingly relies on its integration with its rivals and with the rest of the world – a trend that may someday change the way the country is governed, for the better. That is a future to welcome, not to fear.
Ms. Kissel is editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: May 09, 2008, 12:28:55 PM
Pay Me to Go
Why is she still running? That's what Democrats are asking about Hillary Clinton in the wake of her disappointing performance in Tuesday's primaries.
One explanation is that something could always turn up once again to knock Mr. Obama off-stride, just as happened with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Mr. Obama's infamous "bitter" comments. Another possible reason is that she can't afford to leave the race. So far, Mrs. Clinton has loaned over $11 million of her own money into the campaign and still has substantial debts, including $4.5 million to her former chief strategist Mark Penn.
A little-known provision of the McCain-Feingold election law makes her exit a difficult question. If she hopes to get paid back for the money she lent her campaign, she can only accept repayment until the date of the Democratic convention in August. After that she can only accept a maximum of $250,000 from contributors.
"If she wants to be repaid, she'd have to move on that between now and the national convention," former Federal Election Commission chairman Michael Toner told U.S. News & World Report. The longer Mrs. Clinton stays in the race, the greater the chance she can still find some donors who have not already given her the maximum contribution allowed by law. Should she drop out, her chances of raising money from anyone effectively become zero.
There's also the chance of negotiating her exit from the race with Barack Obama, whose campaign is so flush with cash he doesn't know how to spend it all. Mr. Obama could offer to appear at fundraisers on her behalf to retire her campaign debt as well as suggest to his donors that they write a check to her campaign.
Perhaps the resolution of the endless Democratic primary struggle is close at hand. It may take only a few phone calls between the two camps for Mrs. Clinton to suddenly discover her long-suppressed desire for party unity.
-- John Fund
She Don't Need No Stinkin' Economists
Why didn't we think of that?
Campaigning in Indiana on Monday, Hillary Clinton proposed to fix the problem of high oil prices once and for all -- by breaking up OPEC. "We're going to go right at OPEC," she promised a crowd. "They can no longer be a cartel . . ."
Maybe she'll stop the tide from coming in next. Mrs. Clinton ignores a salient fact: OPEC isn't nearly as powerful as it sometimes pretends to be -- and as its critics like to declaim. We would never have seen $15 oil a decade ago. Five years ago, OPEC established a policy of maintaining the world price of oil in a $10 band around $25 a barrel. See how well that worked out.
But Mrs. Clinton's real innovation lies elsewhere -- in breaking with the tradition of politicians seeking validation for their economic nostrums from economic experts. Indeed, she dismissed the very idea of needing approval from the pointy-headed, saying, "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists." Mrs. Clinton was defending specifically her gas-tax holiday proposal, which virtually all economists judge to be worthless. But her handy "just say no" strategy when it comes to carping experts is something budding demagogues everywhere will want to note.
-- Brian M. Carney
Quote of the Day I
"There's only one remaining chapter in this fascinating spectacle. Negotiating the terms of Hillary's surrender. After which we will have six months of watching her enthusiastically stumping the country for Obama, denying with utter conviction Republican charges that he is the out of touch, latte-sipping elitist she warned Democrats against so urgently in the last, late leg of her doomed campaign" -- Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Quote of the Day II
"We cannot win with eggheads and African Americans. That's the Dukakis coalition which carried ten states" -- former Bill Clinton campaign adviser Paul Begala, on CNN arguing that Barack Obama needs to win back the white working-class voters who rejected him for Hillary Clinton.
It's Morning in London
The most satisfying part of the news that London ousted Labour Party Mayor Ken Livingstone in favor of Conservative Boris Johnson is that the list of notables honored by the city will now change dramatically. Mayor Livingstone, known as "Red Ken" for his avowedly socialist beliefs, had announced plans to honor the 50th anniversary of Communist Cuba's revolution on January 1, 2009 with a week-long series of street parties and a celebration of Fidel Castro's life in Trafalgar Square. With the election of Mr. Johnson, a staunch anti-Communist, you can bet that party is heading for the dustbin of history.
The political earthquake that swept Mr. Johnson into office with 53% of the vote can be compared to the voter revolts of the 1990s that led New York and Los Angeles to elect Republican mayors. Mr. Johnson ran on a campaign of getting tougher on crime, withdrawing free transit rights from people who abuse them, and giving better value for the high taxes Londoners pay. He also called for peeling away the excesses of multiculturalism that had Mr. Livingstone simultaneously passing out grants to lesbian dance collectives while he defended a local Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Quaradawi, who supported wife-beating and the execution of gays.
Mr. Johnson will now share with Tory leader David Cameron the spotlight as the two most prominent Conservative politicians in Britain. Should he govern London successfully, it will be a further blow to the Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which backed Mr. Livingstone to no avail and on the same night as Mr. Johnson won was badly beaten in local elections across Britain.
While it will be Mr. Cameron who will lead the Tories into battle in the next general election in 2010, observers have already noted that at age 44 the new mayor of London could have a prominent role in British politics for years to come -- perhaps even on the national stage someday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's faulty tax argument
on: May 09, 2008, 12:10:10 PM
The author fails to discuss BO's approach to capital gains taxes wherein he admits he would raise rates even though it would yield less revenues, but I post it anyway because I think his point about bracket creep a worthy one.
Obama's Faulty Tax Argument
By ANDREW G. BIGGS
May 9, 2008; Page A17
As the presidential campaign heats up, a key issue is whether to extend the 2001 and 2003 income tax cuts, which expire in 2011. John McCain wants to make the tax cuts permanent. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to let the rates rise.
Opponents of the tax cuts point to spending programs that could be financed by the extra revenues. Chief among these is Social Security. Sen. Obama's Web site, for example, argues that "extending the Bush tax cuts will cost three times as much as what is needed to fix Social Security's solvency over the next 75 years."
Such statements imply that if we return to the seemingly modest tax rates of the 1990s, we could fund the $4.3 trillion Social Security deficit, and so much more. As Mr. Obama recently told Fox News, "I would roll back the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans back to the level they were under Bill Clinton, when I don't remember rich people feeling oppressed."
This argument seems compelling, but it is misguided. In reality, repealing the tax cuts would raise taxes far above Clinton-era levels. Due to quirks in the tax code, average taxes would be almost 25% higher than during the 1990s.
Mr. Obama's claim that the lost revenue from the income-tax cuts exceeds the Social Security shortfall derives from an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Center's conclusions have been widely cited, but rely on dubious assumptions.
The basic methodology is simple: Compare the income-tax revenues if the tax cuts expire to revenues if the tax cuts are extended. The Center measures the difference in revenue 10 years from now – to match the government's 10-year budget measurement period – then extends the difference over 75 years to make it comparable to the 75-year Social Security shortfall.
To account for the effects of inflation and economic growth, analysts compare tax revenues to the size of the economy. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if the tax cuts expire, income-tax receipts in 2018 will be 1.5% higher relative to gross domestic product than if the cuts are made permanent. By comparison, Social Security's 75-year shortfall is just 0.6% of GDP.
So Social Security is a costly problem, but the tax cuts cost much more. Open and shut case, right?
Not exactly. Tax revenues would skyrocket if the tax cuts expire, due to "bracket creep." Average incomes are higher today than in the 1990s, but income-tax brackets aren't adjusted for the growth of earnings. As a result, Americans will shift into higher tax brackets and pay a greater share of their incomes in taxes.
Going back to the tax rates of the 1990s doesn't mean that households will pay 1990s taxes. Because the tax brackets haven't risen along with incomes, average taxes would be significantly higher, and grow each year.
If the tax cuts expire, income-tax revenues by 2018 will rise to 10.8% of the total economy from 8.7% today – an increase of 24%. Compared to the average over the last 50 years, allowing the rates to rise would increase tax revenues by 32%.
Believe it or not, income taxes will rise even if the tax cuts remain in place, because the revenue-increasing effects of bracket creep more than offset the lower rates. With the lower rates, total income-tax revenues will increase to 9.3% of GDP by 2018. This level is 7% higher than today, and 13% above the 1957-2007 average. Thus even with the tax cuts, revenues will increase by more than enough to fix Social Security.
So even if the tax cuts are made permanent, future Americans will pay a greater share of their incomes to the government than in the past. But for some in Washington, that's not enough.
Not surprisingly, neither party highlights these rising tax receipts. They undercut liberal arguments that the government is starved of revenue. And they render conservative claims for the tax cuts unimpressive. ("Vote GOP: A smaller tax increase than the other guys!")
The next president will face difficult choices regarding how much to collect in taxes, and how much to spend on entitlements like Social Security. Future citizens may decide that paying higher taxes is worthwhile. But in any event, the misleading tax cuts vs. Social Security argument should not guide policy makers on this issue.
Mr. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., is the former principal deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Captive 220
on: May 09, 2008, 12:04:09 PM
May 9, 2008; Page A16
It's a fair bet that no high-powered American law firm will lend a caring hand to the relatives of the seven Iraqis murdered last month by a suicide bomber named Abdullah Salih Al Ajmi and two accomplices. That's too bad, seeing as how Ajmi was himself a beneficiary of some of that high-powered legal help.
Ajmi is a Kuwaiti who was 29 when he blew himself up in the northern city of Mosul in April. But before that he had spent more than three years as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo, where he was known as "Captive 220." He was taken prisoner at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, after the fall of the Taliban, in whose service he had reportedly spent eight months. While in detention, he told interrogators that his intention was "to kill as many Americans" as he possibly could.
In April 2002, a group of Kuwaiti families retained the law firm of Shearman & Sterling to represent the Kuwaitis held at Guantanamo, including Ajmi. (An attorney at Shearman tells us the firm donated its fees to charity.) Ajmi was one of 12 Kuwaiti petitioners in whose favor the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2004 in Rasul v. Bush, which held that the detainees were entitled to a habeas corpus hearing.
At the time, we wrote that Rasul had "opened the door to a flood of litigation. . . . This pretty much guarantees that the 600 or so Guantanamo detainees will bring 600 or so habeas corpus cases – perhaps in 600 or so different courtrooms, with 600 or so different judges demanding 600 or so different standards of what evidence constitutes a threat to the United States."
The Pentagon seems to have understood this point only too well, because in November 2005 it released Ajmi into Kuwaiti custody before he could have his hearing. A Kuwaiti court later acquitted Ajmi of terrorism charges, and last month the Kuwaiti government issued Ajmi and his accomplices with passports, which they used to travel to Mosul via Syria.
Ajmi's story is hardly unique. Some 500 detainees have been released from Guantanamo over the years, mostly into foreign custody. Another 65 of the remaining 270 detainees are also slated to go. Yet of all the prisoners released, the Pentagon is confident that only 38 pose no security threat. So much for the notion that the Gitmo detainees consist mostly of wrong-time, wrong-place innocents caught up in an American maw.
The Defense Intelligence Agency reported on May 1 that at least 36 former Guantanamo inmates have "returned to the fight." They include Maulavi Abdul Ghaffar, who was released after eight months in Gitmo and later became the Taliban's regional commander in Uruzgan and Helmand provinces. He was killed by Afghan security forces in September 2004.
Another former detainee, Abdullah Mahsud, was released from Guantanamo in March 2004. He later kidnapped two Chinese engineers in Pakistan (one of whom was shot during a rescue operation). In July 2007 he blew himself up as Pakistani police sought to apprehend him.
Ajmi's case now brings the DIA number to 37. It's worth noting that these are only the known cases. It is worth noting, too, that people like Ajmi were among those the Defense Department thought it would be relatively safe to free, or at least not worth the hassle and expense of the litigation brought about by cases like Rasul.
All this should give some pause to those – John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among them – calling for closing Guantanamo. The prison is helping to save lives by keeping dangerous men from returning to the fight against our soldiers.
Stranger still are those who argue that people like Ajmi were somehow a creation of Guantanamo. They might want to have a chat with a detainee named Mohammed Ismail, who told the press after his release from Gitmo that his American captors "were very nice to me, giving me English lessons." Ismail was recaptured four months later while attacking an American military position in Kandahar.
Our liberal friends argue that the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay have hurt America's image in the world, and that's true. Then again, Ajmi and others show that there are also lethal consequences to the legal war that liberals are waging on the war on terror. Liberals claim they are only fighting for "due process," but they are doing so for foreign enemies who want to kill innocents and don't deserve such protections. Mosul is one result.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: May 09, 2008, 12:01:38 PM
The Clinton Divorce
May 9, 2008; Page A16
No, we don't mean Bill and Hillary. We mean the separation now under way between the Clintons and the Democratic Party. Like all divorces after lengthy unions, this one is painful and has had its moments of reconciliation, but after Tuesday a split looks inevitable. The long co-dependency is over.
Truth be told, this was always a marriage more of convenience than love. The party's progressives never did like Bill Clinton's New Democrat ways, but after Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis they needed his epic political gifts to win back the White House. They hated him for their loss of Congress in 1994, but they tolerated Dick Morris and welfare reform to keep the presidency in 1996.
The price was that they had to put their ethics in a blind Clinton trust. Whitewater and the missing billing records, Webb Hubbell, cattle futures and "Red" Bone, the Lincoln Bedroom, Johnny Chung and the overseas fund-raising scandals, Paula Jones and lying under oath, Monica and the meaning of "is." Democrats, or all of them this side of Joe Lieberman and Pat Moynihan, defended the Clintons through it all. Everything was dismissed as a product of the "Republican attack machine," an invention of the "Clinton haters," or "just about sex."
Democrats and the media did make a fleeting attempt at liberation when Bill Clinton left office after 2000 amid the tawdry pardons. Barney Frank, the most fervent of the Clinton defenders throughout the 1990s, even called the pardons a "betrayal" and "contemptuous." More than a few Democrats also noticed that George W. Bush's main campaign theme in 2000 was restoring "dignity" and "honor" to the Oval Office, and that Al Gore had somehow lost despite two-thirds of voters saying the U.S. was moving in the right direction.
But Hillary Clinton had also won a Senate seat that year, and she had presidential ambitions of her own. So the trial separation was brief. Democrats acquiesced as the first couple put their own money man, Terry McAuliffe, in charge of the Democratic National Committee. As the Bush years rolled on and John Kerry lost, they watched Hillary build her machine and plot a Clinton restoration. They watched, too, as the New York Senator did her own triangulating on Iraq, first voting for it, then supporting it before turning against it as the election neared. Party regulars fell in line behind her, and her nomination was said to be "inevitable."
Then something astonishing happened. A new star emerged in Barack Obama, a man who had Bill Clinton's political talent but Hillary's liberal convictions. He had charisma, a flair for raising money, and he held out the chance of a 2008 Democratic landslide. Something more than a return to the trench warfare of the 1990s seemed possible – perhaps the revival of a liberal majority, circa 1965.
More remarkable still, Democrats supporting Mr. Obama had a revelation about Clintonian mores. David Geffen, channeling William Safire, declared that "everybody in politics lies," but the Clintons "do it with such ease, it's troubling." Ted Kennedy was shocked to see the Clintons play the race card in South Carolina. The media discovered their secrecy over tax records and Clinton Foundation donors, while columnists were appalled to hear her assail Mr. Obama for his associations with radical bomber William Ayers. Listen closely and you could almost hear Bob Dole asking, "Where's the outrage?"
By the time Mrs. Clinton made her famous claim about dodging Bosnian sniper fire, Democrats and their media friends no longer called it a mere gaffe, as they once might have. This time the remark was said to be emblematic of her entire political career. The same folks who had believed her about Whitewater and the rest now claimed she never tells the truth about anything.
As the scales suddenly fell from liberal eyes, the most striking statistic was the one in this week's North Carolina exit poll. Asked if they considered Mrs. Clinton "honest and trustworthy," no fewer than 50% of Democratic primary voters said she was not. In Indiana, the figure was merely 45%.
Slowly but surely, these Prisoners of Bill and Hill are now walking away, urging Mrs. Clinton to leave the race. Chuck Schumer damns her with faint support by saying any decision is up to her. Columnists from the New York Times, which endorsed her when she looked inevitable, now demand that she exit so as not to help John McCain. With Mr. Obama to ride, they no longer need the Arkansas interlopers.
If the Clintons play to their historic form, they will ignore all this for as long as they can. They will fight on, hoping that something else turns up about Mr. Obama before the convention. Or they'll try to play the Michigan and Florida cards. Or they'll unleash Harold Ickes on the superdelegates and suggest that if Mr. Obama loses in November she'll be back in 2012 and her revenge will be, well, Clintonian.
The difference between now and the 1990s, however, is that this time the Clinton foes aren't the "vast right-wing conspiracy." This time the conspirators are fellow Democrats. It took 10 years, but you might say Democrats have finally voted to impeach.