Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Clintons' $109 Million
on: April 07, 2008, 09:42:27 AM
Clinton Tax Lessons
April 7, 2008; Page A12
New York Senator Hillary Clinton and her husband spend a lot of time on the Presidential trail deploring the "wealthy" and "well-connected." As their newly released tax records for 2000 to 2007 show, they know of whom they speak.
The former, and perhaps future, first couple earned $109 million over the past eight years, putting them among the top .01% of taxpayers. Apparently the Bush years haven't been a Depression era for everyone. The bulk of the Clintons' income came from speech-making ($51.9 million) and book-writing ($29.6 million), and it's hard to begrudge their desire to cash in on the Presidency after toiling for so many years in public service. The Clintons are hardly unique in showing that in today's Washington you can do very, very well after you've done good.
Senator Hillary Clinton
We can also now understand why the couple took so long to release their returns, and are still reluctant to release other information. Their political status has given them access to wealthy folks who've helped make them rich. For example, Mr. Clinton raked in as much as $15 million working as an adviser and rainmaker for billionaire financier Ron Burkle's Yucaipa firm. We're not sure what advice Mr. Clinton gave but it must have been fabulous. The former President also took in $3.3 million in consulting fees from InfoUSA CEO Vinod Gupta, who has also helped fund Mrs. Clinton's White House bid. These are not opportunities that fall into every American's lap.
Meanwhile, the Clintons also made liberal use of the charitable deduction, claiming $10.2 million in charitable giving over the eight years. Intriguingly, nearly all the donations went to the Clinton Family Foundation, which has disbursed only half the money. The Clintons can thus use the foundation for, er, strategic giving, such as the $100,000 it donated last year to a local South Carolina library – the day after Mrs. Clinton debated in that key primary state. There are other examples of such politically targeted philanthropy, and it's worth noting that most of the foundation's disbursements came only after Mrs. Clinton announced her Presidential run.
Similar conflict-of-interest questions apply to the separate William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, for which the couple has so far refused to release a list of donors. Such a list could contain more of the likes of Canadian mining tycoon Frank Giustra, who took Mr. Clinton along on a trip to Kazakhstan as a character reference, won a Kazakh mining concession, and gave more than $30 million to the foundation. The Clintons have an obligation to let voters see who their foundation donors are.
Like other Americans during this tax season, the Clintons have also had to endure the complexity of the tax code. Their 2006 return alone totaled 67 pages. While they can afford a smart accountant to sift through all those forms, would it be too optimistic to think Mrs. Clinton might be inspired by her tax experience to promote tax reform?
Alas, yes. Senator Clinton's main tax proposal is to repeal the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, raising rates to the levels of the Clinton Presidency. "We didn't ask for George Bush's tax cuts. We didn't want them, and we didn't need them," Mrs. Clinton explained.
With friends like Mr. Burkle, clearly they didn't. But her higher tax rates wouldn't merely hit those who make $109 million; they'd soak middle-class families that make $100,000 or $200,000 a year and hardly feel "rich." If the former first lady feels so strongly that she should pay more taxes, we suggest she lay off the middle class and instead write a personal check to the U.S. Treasury for the difference between the Clinton and Bush tax rates. She and her husband can afford it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Several days worth
on: April 07, 2008, 09:25:23 AM
I've fallen a bit behind here with the run-up to our just completed "3 Day Gathering of the Pack", so here are several days worth of posts:
“f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.” —James Madison
“How can limited government and fiscal restraint be equated with lack of compassion for the poor? How can a tax break that puts a little more money in the weekly paychecks of working people be seen as an attack on the needy? Since when do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes—one rich, one poor—both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other? Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?” —Ronald Reagan
"Stability in government is essential to national character and
to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and
confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief
blessings of civil society."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 37, 11 January 1788)
Reference: The Federalist
“The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” —Samuel Adams
“Facts are stubborn things.” —John Adams
"The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the
introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution
of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good
behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by
deputies of their own election... They are means, and powerful
means, by which the excellences of republican govenrment may be
retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 9, 1787)
"The convention have done well, therefore, in so disposing of
the power of making treaties, that although the President must,
in forming them, act by the advice and consent of the Senate,
yet he will be able to manage the business of intelligence in
such a manner as prudence may suggest."
-- John Jay (Federalist No. 64, 7 March 1788)
Reference: The Federalist
“Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be.” —John Adams
"Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a
noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and
blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and
faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity
all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of
liberty, property, religion, and independence."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 718.
"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles
-- John Adams (Defense of the Constitutions, 1787)
Reference: The Learning of Liberty, Prangle and Prangle (96);
original The Works of John Adams, C.F. Adams, ed., vol. 6 (168)
“I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic.” —James Madison
"If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it
be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers,
whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, & talk
by the hour? That 150 lawyers should do business together ought
not to be expected."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Autobiography, 1821)
Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bird Flu: Human to Human in Pakistan?
on: April 07, 2008, 01:36:48 AM
First case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu confirmed in Pakistan
April 6 : A report by BBC News has confirmed the first case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s north-west and southern regions were hit by bird flu last year. Thousands of birds were culled to control the spread of the disease.
Tests carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have now shown that bird flu killed some members of a family in north-west Pakistan late last year.
This is the first confirmation of people dying from bird flu in the country, with the samples collected from the family in Peshawar testing positive.
According to Dr Mukhtiar Zaman Afridi, head of the isolation ward for avian flu patients at Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar, a poultry worker in Peshawar apparently passed the disease on to members of his family.
“The worker, whose name is being withheld on the request of the WHO, was brought to the hospital with avian flu symptoms on 29 October 2007,” he said.
Though this worker has fully recovered since then, on 12 November, his elder brother was brought in with similar symptoms. He died a week later.
On 21 November, two more brothers of the same worker came down with bird flu.
“One of them died on 28 November, while the other has recovered,” said Dr Afridi.
Apart from the poultry worker, none of the others was found to have had any direct contact with sick or dead poultry.
Genetic sequencing tests performed by WHO laboratories in Egypt and the US on samples collected from three of the four brothers established human-to-human transmission.
Serum taken from all three was found to have been infected by the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
Though a WHO report said that the tests suggest “limited human-to-human transmission,” it adds, however, that this “outbreak did not extend into the community, and appropriate steps were taken to reduce future risks of human infections.” (ANI)http://www.ebiologynews.com/4229.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Health Care fib
on: April 06, 2008, 10:27:39 AM
April 5, 2008
Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells
By DEBORAH SONTAG
Over the last five weeks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has featured in her campaign stump speeches the story of a health care horror: an uninsured pregnant woman who lost her baby and died herself after being denied care by an Ohio hospital because she could not come up with a $100 fee.
The woman, Trina Bachtel, did die last August, two weeks after her baby boy was stillborn at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio. But hospital administrators said Friday that Ms. Bachtel was under the care of an obstetrics practice affiliated with the hospital, that she was never refused treatment and that she was, in fact, insured.
“We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” said Rick Castrop, chief executive officer of the O’Bleness Health System.
Linda M. Weiss, a spokeswoman for the not-for-profit hospital, said the Clinton campaign had never contacted the hospital to check the accuracy of the story, which Mrs. Clinton had first heard from a Meigs County, Ohio, sheriff’s deputy in late February.
A Clinton spokesman, Mo Elleithee, said candidates would frequently retell stories relayed to them, vetting them when possible. “In this case, we did try but were not able to fully vet it,” Mr. Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that.”
The sheriff’s deputy, Bryan Holman, had played host to Mrs. Clinton in his home before the Ohio primary. Deputy Holman said in a telephone interview that a conversation about health care led him to relate the story of Ms. Bachtel. He never mentioned the name of the hospital that supposedly turned her away because he did not know it, he said.
Deputy Holman knew Ms. Bachtel’s story only secondhand, having learned it from close relatives of the woman. Ms. Bachtel’s relatives did not return phone calls Friday.
As Deputy Holman understood it, Ms. Bachtel had died of complications from a stillbirth after being turned away by a local hospital for her failure to pay $100 upfront.
“I mentioned this story to Senator Clinton, and she apparently took to it and liked it,” Deputy Holman said, “and one of her aides said she’d be using it at some rallies.”
Indeed, saying that the story haunted her, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly offered it as a dire example of a broken health care system. At one March rally in Wyoming, for instance, she referred to Ms. Bachtel, a 35-year-old who managed a Pizza Hut, as a young, uninsured minimum-wage worker, saying, “It hurts me that in our country, as rich and good of a country as we are, this young woman and her baby died because she couldn’t come up with $100 to see the doctor.”
Mrs. Clinton does not name Ms. Bachtel or the hospital in her speeches. As she tells it, the woman was turned away twice by a local hospital when she was experiencing difficulty with her pregnancy. “The hospital said, ‘Well, you don’t have insurance.’ She said, ‘No, I don’t.’ They said, ‘Well, we can’t see you until you give $100.’ She said, ‘Where am I going to get $100?’
“The next time she came back to the hospital, she came in an ambulance,” Mrs. Clinton continued. “She was in distress. The doctors and the nurses worked on her and couldn’t save the baby.”
Since Ms. Bachtel’s baby died at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, the story implicitly and inaccurately accuses that hospital of turning her away, said Ms. Weiss, the spokeswoman for O’Bleness Memorial said. Instead, the O’Bleness health care system treated her, both at the hospital and at the affiliated River Rose Obstetrics and Gynecology practice, Ms. Weiss said.
The hospital would not provide details about the woman’s case, citing privacy concerns; she died two weeks after the stillbirth at a medical center in Columbus.
“We reviewed the medical and patient account records of this patient,” said Mr. Castrop, the health system’s chief executive. Any implication that the system was “involved in denying care is definitely not true.”
Although Mrs. Clinton has told the story repeatedly, it first came to the attention of the hospital after The Washington Post cited it as a staple of her stump speeches on Thursday. That brought it to the attention of The Daily Sentinel in Pomeroy, Ohio, which published an article on Friday.
Neither paper named the hospital or challenged Mrs. Clinton’s account.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD: WSJ
on: April 05, 2008, 11:01:47 AM
- Mad as Hell
- Mentioning Portman
- The Middle Rich (Quote of the Day)
- The Edwards Distraction
Ferraro Takes No Bull
Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic Party's 1984 presidential candidate, is still
smarting from attacks leveled against her last month for suggesting that Barack
Obama owes his meteoric political rise partly to his skin color.
She was at Fox News in New York last night to comment on the suspension of Air
America liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes for her comments this week calling both
Ms. Ferraro and Hillary Clinton "whores" and for comparing Ms. Ferraro to "David
Duke in drag."
Ms. Ferraro told me in the green room that she doesn't miss having stepped down from
Mrs. Clinton's fundraising committee as a result of the controversy, but the charge
of racism rankles her. She is contemplating legal action against Ms. Rhodes because
her words "were clearly inflammatory.... they come on top of the threats I've been
getting for weeks."
Ms. Ferraro says her comments have been twisted completely out of context. She
showed me a Chicago Tribune article from June 2005. It reported that Mr. Obama
himself had "bluntly noted" that if he were white, "he would simply be one of nine
freshman senators almost certainly without a multi-million-dollar book deal and a
shred of celebrity. Nor would he have been elected at all." Mr. Obama summed up his
good fortune by telling the Tribune: "I was not a child of the civil rights
movement. I was a beneficiary of the civil rights movement."
Given those comments, Ms. Ferraro says it is the height of hypocrisy for the Obama
campaign to stir up criticism of her. "David Axelrod, who's his white campaign
manager, has played this race card time and time and time again," Ms. Ferraro told
Hannity & Colmes last night. "I've had attempts to have me fired, threats.... [The
Obama campaign] can just say 'OK, that's it. No more of this stuff.' Once they stop
it, I stop."
-- John Fund
Although he appears on many short lists to become John McCain's running mate, former
Bush budget director Rob Portman downplays his chances so much that reporters are
starting to believe there may be something to the boomlet for him.
Mr. Portman, who represented Cincinnati in the House for over a decade, was back in
Washington this week for the signing of a bill he had championed to provide released
convicts with job training and mentoring from faith-based groups. As part of his
visit, he endured questioning from reporters about becoming Mr. McCain's political
wingman. One reporter even presented him with a "Vice Presidential Busts" pamphlet
with a youthful photo of Portman glued to the cover.
Mr. Portman wasn't biting. "I am happy being home. I don't aspire to go back to
Washington right now," he told Roll Call. "I think [John McCain's] got a lot of
other really great choices." Among those widely admired potential candidates are
Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Securities and Exchange Chairman Chris Cox,
and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
But that won't stop the speculation. In many ways, Mr. Portman makes a natural fit
for the GOP ticket. He's from Ohio, a key state in any Electoral College
calculation. At age 52, he has had a wealth of experience, including stints as
budget director and trade representative. In the House, he steered a bipartisan
package that made the IRS a more user-friendly place and also won repeal of the 3%
excise tax on telephones, which had survived for over a century after being
instituted as a temporary measure to finance the Spanish-American War.
Mr. Portman may not be lobbying for the job of vice president, but that won't stop
his boosters -- who include National Association of Manufacturers head John Engler.
Columnist Robert Novak claims that Mr. Portman actually tops the short list for VP
above all of "those other really great choices" that the former Congressman takes
pains to praise.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day
"When people think of the 'rich,' they might imagine billionaire plutocrats
presiding over yacht fleets. Reality shows have made these folks appear remarkably
prevalent. Lost in our obsession with the extremely rich, though, is another trend:
over the past two decades, the ranks of the somewhat rich have also exploded.
Indeed, the 8.4 million American households -- some 7.6 percent of all U.S.
households -- with a net worth between $1 million and $10 million comprise one of
the fastest growing demographics in the country. 'The rich are different from you
and me,' F. Scott Fitzgerald once said. But according to The Middle-Class
Millionaire by Russ Alan Prince and Lewis Schiff, these working-rich households are
not so different from the rest of us, at least in their stated values....
Predominantly small business owners or principals in professional partnerships,
these millionaires 'have achieved the American dream the American way'" -- writer
Laura Vanderkam, writing at American.com.
Is Elizabeth Edwards getting ready to swap in as the Democrats' new health policy
doyenne? With Hillary Clinton's campaign guttering out, there may be an opening.
First, she gave a speech over the weekend attacking John McCain's health case plan
for insufficient regulation of insurance companies. She further spelled out her
critique on the liberal Web site Think Progress, then on NBC's today show (Meredith
Viera: How are you feeling? Ms. Edwards: I feel great. I have good health care
The point she makes over and over is that neither she (breast cancer) nor John
McCain (melanoma) could get health insurance under a plan that allows health
insurers to continue to reject people with pre-existing conditions. Of course the
McCain camp has nothing to gain by engaging the cancer-stricken wife of a former
Democratic candidate, and it didn't help that McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin
suggested she did not "understand" the McCain plan, allowing commentators to portray
her as sick woman who had been talked down to by a stuffy economist.
Yet the general argument is one Mr. McCain ought to welcome. By shifting the tax
preference so it doesn't favor employer-provided insurance, Mr. McCain would make
insurance portable, so fewer people would find themselves having to reapply for
insurance just because they changed jobs. Secondly, his plan offers a government
backstop for expensive cases.
But the bigger problem is the magical pass Democrats take on the challenge of
relentlessly rising costs. Like virtually all Democrats, Ms. Edwards simply refuses
to acknowledge a long-standing recognition by economists of how our employer-based
system drives costs out of sight by hiding price tags from those who ultimately pay.
Mr. McCain will likely do fine when voters actually look to see which candidate has
a way of addressing the cost problem.
-- Joseph Rago
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good Times if,, ,
on: April 05, 2008, 10:52:55 AM
Friday Feature /Really Good Times Ahead, If...
STEVE FORBES, www.Forbes.com
(04/04/08): Our next President will look like
an economic genius if he or she doesn't goof up by raising taxes,
continuing the Bush weaken-the-dollar policy or sitting by while agencies
such as the FCC issue stupid regulations.
Yes, the new Oval Office occupant will have to clean up the Bush/Bernanke
monetary mess. But don't be misled by stock market gloom and lurid
headlines on the credit crisis. The U.S. and, indeed, the global economy
are on the verge of another surge of breathtaking innovations. As you'd
expect, major breakthroughs are evolving around the Internet, whose IP
traffic could grow fiftyfold by 2015. In January Bret Swanson, a fellow at
the Progress & Freedom Foundation, in conjunction with George Gilder, of
the Discovery Institute, released a report about a dazzling future of
movie downloads, Internet video and an explosion in business traffic.
Real-time 3-D will become a reality. Each month YouTube traffic is 50
petabytes; in comparison, annual original cable, television and radio
content created is 100 PB. In other words, YouTube matches traditional
media's annual content every two months. And this kind of creativity and
social interaction is only just beginning.
The implications for medicine are staggeringly positive. Imagine, Swanson
points out, digital medical imaging being able to examine your brain 1,024
ways. As he also notes, "[All this] will require a dramatic expansion of
bandwidth, storage and traffic management capabilities in core, edge,
metro and access networks. In the U.S., currently lagging Asia, the total
new network investments will exceed $100 billion by 2012."
Peter Huber, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an
extraordinarily insightful observer of technology, wrote in his Feb. 25
FORBES column ("Techno-Optimism"): "Scientists will soon bioengineer
bacteria to melt oil out of tar sands, turn grass into diesel fuel and
scavenge natural resources of every kind out of low-grade, thinly
dispersed deposits. They can design drugs to replace, boost or suppress
anything in nature. … Within a decade or two sensors will allow
microprocessors to see, hear and feel far better than we can.
Microengineered materials are simultaneously transforming the manufacture
of clothes, cars, jets--just about everything people make--because they're
far stronger, lighter and more functional than metals, plastics and
The next President must overhaul the FCC, lest it--with the connivance of
lobbyist-influenced Congress--gum up these advances with stifling
regulations or by enacting net neutrality, which would have politicians
and bureaucrats fixing prices for access to broadband networks. Such price
controls would halt investments in expanding capacity. It's happened
before: Congressional/FCC price controls in the mid-1990s cratered
investment in fiber-optics projects, which enabled South Korea and others
to leap past us. Observe Swanson and Gilder: "South Korea, with just
one-sixth the population of the U.S., now approaches the U.S. in Internet
traffic. [The country] deployed fiber-optic networks sooner than the U.S.
did. South Korea also was an aggressive first builder of 3G [broadband]
Are you listening, Senators McCain, Obama and Clinton?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Man stops knife attack, saves victim
on: April 05, 2008, 02:15:07 AM
Man who stopped knife fight on I-40 was ‘blessing from above’
Ex-Marine praised for providing first aid
by John Boyle
published April 3, 2008 12:15 am
SWANNANOA – Police do not recommend doing what Will Gardner did Tuesday afternoon, but they do acknowledge that he probably saved a life.
The 56-year-old intervened in a brawl just off Interstate 40, kicking a knife out of the hand of one man and then separating the fighters. But Gardner, an ex-Marine who saw combat in Vietnam, says he did what most people would do in that situation — the right thing.
“If more people would get involved, less people would get hurt,” said Gardner, an electrical engineer by training. “It’s their responsibility.”
The man who sustained three knife wounds, Candler resident Robby Ammons, 37, called Gardner’s actions “a blessing from above.”
“Will was instrumental in stopping the bleeding in my arm, in my side, in my abdomen,” Ammons said. “He kept me alert, kept me awake. I was blinking in and out. Thank God for him, I’ll tell you that.”
Ammons was treated at Mission Hospitals Tuesday. He was back home Wednesday.
No charges yet
The fight started in a clearing just off exit 59 in Swannanoa around 4:30 p.m.
The two men met for “a pre-arranged child swap where one individual was giving custody to another individual,” Buncombe County Sheriff’s Lt. Ross Dillingham said Tuesday.
Ammons said he confronted the man about comments made about his wife, and the argument quickly escalated into a fight.
Contacted for this story, the other man declined to comment.
Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ross Dillingham said detectives are still investigating the case and will present their evidence to the district attorney, who will then decide what charges, if any, may be appropriate.
“Usually, when there’s an assault, we make charges immediately,” Dillingham said. “But whenever there’s the possibility of self-defense, we gather the information, present the case and let the DA make the final determination.” He would not reveal any other information about the incident, including the name of the other man involved in the fight.
Dillingham said that police do not encourage citizens to emulate Gardner’s actions.
“I would never recommend anyone putting themselves in harm’s way, which is exactly what Mr. Gardner did — which is very admirable in this situation,” Dillingham said. “He played a large part in saving the life of the man who was stabbed by using the tourniquet and the appropriate medical techniques.”
Dillingham said passersby should call police or emergency responders who are trained to handle such situations.
‘Just pumping blood’
Gardner, who is well known locally as the owner of White Dog Printing from 1991-2004 and the owner of the Black Mountain Folk Music Festival from 1992-1997, says plain instinct drove his decision to stop and help as he was on his way to his Swannanoa home. When he pulled up, he could see the man swinging a knife at Ammons.
He said other motorists had stopped, but no one was approaching the men.
“So I just walked over and when I saw the knife, I booted it,” Gardner said. “I just booted the knife because I was afraid of getting stabbed.”
He got the men separated and then started applying pressure to Ammons’ wounds. The ex-Marine has a theory as to why the men remained apart.
“I have two very, very large German shepherds,” Gardner said. “The window was down, and I think both the guys thought they were going to get bit.”
Gardner used his own undershirt to apply pressure on Ammons’ back wound and applied pressure to the abdominal wound. He also fashioned a tourniquet from one of his German shepherd’s leashes to stop the bleeding in Ammons’ arm.
“It was just pumping blood,” Gardner said.
At this point, Rudi Sommer, the operations director at MANNA Foodbank, had exited the interstate to pick his kids up from school. He jumped out and helped Gardner stanch the bleeding.
“I was impressed with Will’s handling of the situation,” Sommer said. “Time really seems to drag on when you’re waiting for an ambulance.”
Gardner elevated Ammons’ legs, and he kept telling him jokes to keep him alert. At one point, Gardner said he told Ammons he was “cut like the Mississippi River — wide, deep and long.”
“The idea was to keep him from bleeding to death before the rescue squad got there,” Gardner said, adding that he admires Sommer for jumping in to help. “It wasn’t rocket science.”
While he eschews the “hero” tag — he says his knees were knocking the rest of the night after the encounter — Gardner does allow that he’s something of an eccentric.
“Quite frankly, being odd is not an easy thing; it’s not a comfortable thing,” Gardner said. “On the other hand, if being odd allows me to do what I did, I’ll guess I’ll be odd.”
Contact John Boyle at 828-232-5847, via e-mail at jboyle@CITIZEN-TIMES.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: April 05, 2008, 01:45:33 AM
I'm on lousy connection during a very busy few days, so I have not had time to read the URLs in Doug's post; I post only to note that I have read that BO has once again come out against CCW.
Also here is this-- of which I have no idea what to make:
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Stalking Jim Scoutten
Interesting Article on Obama...
Interesting article in IsraaelInsider...
Is Barack Obama a Muslim wolf in Christian wool?
By Reuven Koret March 27, 2008
The glib handling of criticism of his relationship with the anti-American ("God Damn America!") and anti-Israel ("a dirty word for Negroes") Reverend James Wright may have bought him a little time. But the legacy of dissimulation about his long-concealed identity is about to come crashing down around the ears of Barack Hussein Obama, courtesy of the assembled testimony of his family, friends, classmates and teachers.
The accumulated research indicates that Obama was in his childhood a devout Muslim, the son of a devout Muslim, the step-son of a devout Muslim and the grandson and namesake ("Hussein") of a devout Muslim. He was registered in school as a Muslim and demonstrated his ability to chant praise to Allah in impressive Arab-accented tones even as an adult. Just as he has not disavowed his "uncle" Jeremiah, neither has he disavowed his Muslim faith that he was born into, raised with, celebrated and never abandoned. He just covered it over with a thin veneer of his own self-styled "Christianity."
Although as an adult he would register as a Christian, and occasionally attend a Christian Church (but apparently not often enough to listen to the preaching of his pastor, or so he would claim) this was a necessary step for a man who from earliest boyhood has nurtured the precocious ambition to be President of the United States.
He was entered into the Roman Catholic, Franciscus Assisi Primary School, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on January 1, 1968, registered under the name Barry Soetoro, an Indonesian citizen whose religion was listed as Islam. Catholic schools accept non-Catholics worldwide. Non-Catholic students are typically excused from religious instruction and ceremony.
In kindergarten, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want to Become President.'"Iis Darmawan, 63, Senator Obama's kindergarten teacher, remembers him as an exceptionally tall and curly haired child who quickly picked up the local language and had sharp math skills. He wrote an essay titled, 'I Want To Become President,' the teacher said." [AP, 1/25/07]
Three years later, in 1971, Obama enrolled in the Besuki Primary School, a government school, as Barry Soetoro, Muslim. In third grade, Senator Obama wrote an essay titled 'I Want To Be a President.' His third grade teacher: Fermina Katarina Sinaga "asked her class to write an essay titled 'My dream: What I want to be in the future.' Senator Obama wrote 'I want to be a President,' she said." [The Los Angeles Times, 3/15/07]
All Indonesian students are required to study religion at school and a young Barry Soetoro, being a Muslim, would have been required to study Islam daily in school.
He would have been taught to read and write Arabic, to recite his prayers properly, to read and recite from the Quran and to study the laws of Islam.
In his autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," Obama mentions studying the Koran and describes the public school as "a Muslim school."
"In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies."
According to Tine Hahiyary, one of Obama's teachers and the principal from 1971 through 1989, Barry actively took part in the Islamic religious lessons during his time at the school. "I remembered that he had studied "mengaji" (recitation of the Quran)" Tine said.
The author of the Laotze blog writes from Jakarta: "The actual usage of the word 'mengaji' in Indonesian and Malaysian societies means the study of learning to recite the Quran in the Arabic language rather than the native tongue. "Mengagi" is a word and a term that is accorded the highest value and status in the mindset of fundamentalist societies here in Southeast Asia. To put it quite simply, 'mengaji classes' are not something that a non practicing or so-called moderate Muslim family would ever send their child to. To put this in a Christian context, this is something above and beyond simply enrolling your child in Sunday school classes."
"The fact that Obama had attended mengaji classes is well known in Indonesia and has left many there wondering just when Obama is going to come out of the closet."
"As I've stated before, the evidence seems to quite clearly show that both Ann Dunham and her husband Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo were in fact devout Muslims themselves and they raised their son as such."
The Obama Campaign told the LA Times he wasn't a "practicing Muslim." (3/14/2007). But his official website says: "Obama Has Never Been A Muslim, And Is a Committed Christian" (11/12/2007)
That's not what his friends and classmates have said. Classmate Rony Amiris describes young Barry as enjoying playing football and marbles and of being a very devout Muslim. Amir said, "Barry was previously quite religious in Islam. We previously often asked him to the prayer room close to the house. If he was wearing a sarong, he looked funny," said Rony.
Amiris, now the manager of Bank Mandiri, Jakarta, recently said, "Barry was previously quite religious in Islam. His birth father, Barack Hussein Obama was a Muslim economist from Kenya. Before marrying Ann Dunham, Hussein Obama was married to a woman from Kenya who had seven children. All the relatives of Barry's father were very devout Muslims"
Emirsyah Satar, CEO of Garuda Indonesia, was quoted as saying, "He (Obama) was often in the prayer room wearing a 'sarong', at that time."
"He was quite religious in Islam but only after marrying Michelle, he changed his religion."
So Obama, according to his classmates and friends was a Muslim until the confluence of love and ambitious, caused him to adopt the cloak of Christianity: to marry Michelle and to run for President of the United States.
In "Dreams," Obama sheds light on his formative years and the political views of his mother, an anthropologist and Islamophile who hated America and subsequently "went native." (It was her mother -- Barry's "other" grandmother who cared for him in his druggie teenage years -- that he would describe as a "typical white person" who was, he said scoldingly, fearful of black men and prone to making stereotypical racial remarks.)
Obama Senior also had three sons by another woman who are all Muslim. Although Obama claims Senior was an atheist, Senior was buried as a Muslim.
Barack Obama's brother Roy opted for Islam over Christianity, as the Senator recounted in his book when describing his 1992 wedding. "The person who made me proudest of all," Obama wrote, "was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam, and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol."Abongo "argues that the black man must "liberate himself from the poisoning influences of European culture." He urged his younger brother to embrace his African heritage.
In Kenya while he was a Senator, Obama stumped for his cousin, opposition leader Raila Odinga, the son of Senior's sister, a direct first cousin and nephew of Obama's father.
On August 29, 2007, Raila Odinga and Shiekh Abdullah Abdi, chairman of the National Muslim Leaders Forum of Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which it pledges the support of Kenyan Moslems for Raila's election. In return, as President of Kenya, Raila agrees ... within 6 months re-write the Constitution of Kenya to recognize Shariah as the only true law sanctioned by the Holy Quran for Muslim declared regions [and] within one year to facilitate the establishment of a Shariah court in every Kenyan divisional headquarters -- everywhere in Kenya, not just in "Muslim declared regions" -- and to popularize Islam, the only true religion ... by ordering every primary school in Kenya in the regions to conduct daily Madrassa classes.
an interview with the New York Times, published on April 30th, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's younger half sister, told the Times, "My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim."
Obama describes his new found "Christian" faith as: (1) Suspicious of dogma (2) Without any monopoly on the truth (3) Nontransferable to others (4) Infused with a big healthy dose of doubt, and (5) Indulgent of and compatible with all other religions.
On February 27th, speaking to Kristof of The New York Times, Barack Hussein Obama said the Muslim call to prayer is "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
In an interview with Nicholas Kristof, published in The New York Times, Obama recited the Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan, "with a first-class [Arabic] accent."
The opening lines of the Adhan (Azaan) is the Shahada:
"Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet? "
According to Islamic scholars, reciting the Shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith, makes one a Muslim. This simple yet profound statement expresses a Muslim's complete acceptance of, and total commitment to, the message of Islam. Obama chanted it with pride and finesse.
An American Expat in Southeast Asia blog, written by an American who has lived in Indonesia for 20 years and has met with both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, contains the following:
"Barack Hussein Obama might have convinced some Americans that he is no longer a Muslim, but so far he has not convinced many in the world's most populous Muslim country who still see him as a Muslim and a crusader for Islam and world peace."
"Barack Hussein Obama's race, his staunch opposition to the war in Iraq, his sympathy to Islam and Muslims worldwide and his Muslim heritage receive the Indonesian media coverage. There is no mention of his apostasy."
"A good example of how some of the Indonesian media is reporting on Obama's religion can be found in the following."
"What I found interesting in the article was the use of the word 'mengaku' when refering to Obama's conversion from Islam to Christianity. The word 'mengaku' in Indonesian means "claimed" and as such leaves the insinuation to the native Indonesian reader being that Obama might actually still be a Muslim.
But this is how Indonesians see Obama, they don't see him as an apostate at all, they see him as a crusader for the cause of Islam."
Obama wants it both ways, has always wanted it both ways. Black and white, Indonesian and American, Muslim and Christian. He loves playing one off the other, using one to hide the other even as the traces of the truth may be assembled to reveal the whole cloth of deception and self-promotion he has been weaving so skillfully since his childhood. No wonder he is a man of change. He IS a changeling, a veritable chameleon, adapting and amending his life story to fit the circumstances.
The charm may have worked once. It still works on some. It won't work forever in the age of the Internet. The fog of ambiguity and dissimulation is dissipated by the harsh, unforgiving and scrutiny of the blogosphere and its unlimited access to historical facts and time-stamped testimony.
Many have been puzzled why Obama could claim not to be familiar with Wright's rants. It turns out the TrinityChurch, like many African-American churches, happily accepts believing Muslims within its congregation. And evidently many Muslims have no problems surrounding themselves with an anti-American, anti-Israel preacher who week in and week out wins the amens of his adoring congregation.
On Feb 15/08, Usama K. Dakdok, President of The Straight Way of GraceMinistry called Obama's Church and reported the following conversation: " I then asked the person who answered what I needed to do to join. She told me that I needed to attend two Sunday School classes in a row and then I would walk the aisle. I replied, "That sounds easy. One last question please. If I am Muslim and I believe in the Prophet Mohammed, peace be unto him and I also believe in Jesus, peace be unto him, do I have to give up my Islamic faith to be a member in your church? She answered: "No, we have many Muslim members in our church." http://web.israelinsider.com/Article...tics/12745.htm
Like I said above, I have no idea what to make of this, but we know extraordinarily little of a man who stands a serious shot at being president.
Question: Was BO ever baptised? When? Where?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: April 05, 2008, 01:34:15 AM
I like that Doug begins a discussion about the complexity of our relationship with China.
In addition to the well known platitudes, I offer to the mix:
1) China as a unique demographic profile due to the one child policy. What are the implications thereof?
2) China is a toxic dump, an ecological disaster;
3) China's banking industry's books make Enron a paradigm of financial rectitude. Is there a disaster in the making? Or will it lead to an even worse version of what happened to former econ juggernaut Japan?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Balintawak and Dog Brothers Martial Arts
on: April 05, 2008, 01:14:14 AM
Just a quick yip from a bad connection out of town:
Lets see if we can discuss this without negative reference to particular styles.
It is not that corto striking is a bad idea. IMHO there are two elements here:
1) The Art and Science of closing technically is IMHO a missing link from some systems' curriculum.
2) Even if one can close technically(and I regard our Attacking Blocks material as technique driven more than attribute driven) if one studies corto striking to the exclusion of clinch dynamics, it will be harder to apply corto techniques than if one has both modalities.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Secret Gathering: It was 20 years ago , , ,
on: April 03, 2008, 01:07:56 AM
As we complete our 20th year of the Dog Brothers, on April 4, 5, and 6 some 20 odd members of the Tribe plus a few friends will be getting together at a secret location to re-enact the Creation of the Dog Brothers, known in our lore as "The Rumble at Ramblas" wherein those there fought for three days.
I have no idea how much posting I will be doing here during this time.
The Adventure continues,
Guidiing Force of the Dog Brothers
PS: We are shooting this with an eye to making a movie along the lines of "Pumping Iron meets Tao of the Dog Brothers"
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Secret Gathering: It was 20 years ago , , ,
on: April 03, 2008, 01:05:57 AM
As we complete our 20th year of the Dog Brothers, on April 4, 5, and 6 some 20 odd members of the Tribe plus a few friends will be getting together at a secret location to re-enact the Creation of the Dog Brothers, known in our lore as "The Rumble at Ramblas" wherein those there fought for three days.
I have no idea how much posting I will be doing here during this time.
The Adventure continues,
Guidiing Force of the Dog Brothers
PS: We are shooting this with an eye to making a movie along the lines of "Pumping Iron meets Tao of the Dog Brothers"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cyberspace
on: April 02, 2008, 11:22:36 AM
Continuing with this theme, , , ,
The new U.S. Air Force Cyber Command released its first statement of Strategic Vision on March 4. The document indicates the United States’ preparations for the challenges that lie ahead in cyberspace.
Now six months old, the provisional U.S. Air Force Cyber Command — which will stand up formally Oct. 1 — released its first Strategic Vision document March 4. It partially appears like something of a marketing document, but it offers important insights into the future structure of the new command.
Though the United States has been working under the radar to deal with cyber threats for more than a decade, and far longer in related fields such as signals intelligence and network warfare, the new Air Force command has been part of an increasingly public government and military acknowledgment of the challenges in this new arena. The Cyber Command is partially about consolidating the disparate specialties relevant to this field, which currently are spread across the Air Force.
Cyber Command: The New Face of Warfare?
Hezbollah: The Deadly Cell Phone Ping?
Kosovo: The Potential for a Cyberwarfare Strike
Germany: Cracking Down on Cyber-Jihadists
Related Special Topic Page
U.S. Military Dominance
U.S. Air Force Cyber Command Strategic Vision Statement
Stratfor is not responsible for the content of other Web sites.
Highlighting the significance of this emerging issue, the U.S. intelligence community’s 2008 Annual Threat Assessment prominently featured cyber threats for the first time. The Pentagon’s 2008 Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China also placed an increased emphasis on the threat posed by Beijing in this area in particular.
Fundamental to understanding this issue is grasping the cyber challenges ahead. The United States has a very impressive ability to function in and command cyberspace. But by no means does it enjoy the unquestioned military dominance it enjoys in so many other domains. The Pentagon’s systems come under attack on a daily basis. Furthermore, the United States is particularly reliant on the Internet (and thus vulnerable to cyber threats) for everything from personal banking to the functioning of the financial systems that manage the nation’s wealth.
The Cyber Command’s Strategic Vision statement shows the Air Force is making more than an overdue organizational shift. The statement is reflective of an intellectual and conceptual grasp of the challenges that lay ahead. Particularly relevant passages include:
“Controlling cyberspace is the prerequisite to effective operations across all strategic and operational domains -– securing freedom from attack and freedom to attack.”
“Successfully controlling cyberspace creates the potential to achieve victory before a kinetic shot is fired. Our cyberspace capabilities will dissuade and deter potential aggressors, but if deterrence fails, our mastery of it will help to ensure that we prevail.”
“Cyberspace favors offensive operations.”
Despite the Air Force’s preparations, challenges lie ahead. Cyber warfare inherently entails operations on both sides of the traditional boundaries that have separated military functions from police functions. Though much has been done in the legal realm to accommodate this new reality since 9/11, cyberspace will continue to be a very difficult arena for the military to fight in legally, especially since some of the operations involved in cyber warfare must inherently be directed against civilian targets to be effective. Furthermore, establishing dominance in cyberspace is not a simple measure of troops, computers and the latest technology.
The most exceptionally skilled personnel — hackers — exist primarily outside traditional demographics for government and military service, and more likely than not have a strong distaste for authority and a distrust of government. There have been — and will continue to be — instances where the hacker community has been rallied in the interest of a nation, but they mostly do so out of their own inclination and interests. Harnessing these personnel and achieving the legal space to function without undue hindrance will be just two of the problems that still await Cyber Command.
Editor’s note: Stratfor is currently developing a featured series of analyses on cyberspace as battlespace. Look for it soon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: April 02, 2008, 11:12:27 AM
Iran has set up sophisticated listening stations in Syria to intercept Israeli military communications, The Associated Press reported April 2, citing Israeli security officials. As a result, Israel is taking new precautions, including not allowing top brass to bring mobile phones into rooms where classified information is being discussed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust
on: April 01, 2008, 11:32:52 AM
The relative lack of Jewish resistance in Europe is a common myth. However inadequate, it was far more than anyone else in Europe was doing. And a lot of other important factors keep getting conveniently overlooked.
A very important discussion of that is posted here by noted writer and political scientist Dave Kopel.http://www.davekopel.com/2A/Foreign/...-holocaust.htm
I would suggest reading the whole thing and its references.
The key quote would be "Jews resisted Hitler more so than any other group behind Nazi lines"
However, a few more quotes seem in order.
"Contrary to myth of Jewish passivity, many Jews did fight back during the Holocaust. They shut down the extermination camp at Sobibor, rose up in the Warsaw Ghetto, and fought in the woods and swamps all over Eastern Europe. Indeed, Jews resisted at a higher rate than did any other population under Nazi rule."
"Jewish resistance was extensive, and succeeded in saving many lives. The record also explains that a key impediment to even more effective resistance was the lack of firearms, as well as Jewish unfamiliarity with arms during the pre-war years. The article dispels the myth of Jewish passivity during the Holocaust"
About who else was helping, in no small way, to murder Jews:
"In the woods and swamps of Eastern Europe, the Jewish partisans were often attacked by local civilians, or by non-Jewish partisan groups, including remnants of the Russian or Polish armies."
Locals collaborating with Nazis were a major factor too.
Also note that a very large fraction of combat capable Jews were already serving in various armies and/or units. Note the interesting statistic for one partisan formation:
"On the day the Bielski unit was disbanded, it comprised 1,140 Jews, including 149 armed combatants."
Given that there was a most remarkable 95% survival rate in this unit, that says a great deal about available human resources.
Looks like it's the Europeans, and not the Jews (Poles in this case) who were the real passive bunch
"In 1942-43, Jews constituted half of all the partisans in Poland."
Being a Jewish partisan apparently carried about 80% death rate, on average.
"There were armed revolts in over forty different ghettos, mostly in Eastern Poland."
More on who was really passive. And why we don't hear much about it.
"In other parts of Europe, Jews likewise joined the resistance at much higher rates than the rest of the population. Unlike in Eastern Europe, though, Jews were generally able to participate as individuals in the national resistance, rather than having to fight in separate units."
At risk of reinforcing stereotypes of France and French. Nothing passive here.
"For example, in France, Jews amounted to than one percent of French population, but comprised about 15-20 percent of the French Resistance."
Similar situation in Greece.
"In Greece too, Jews were disproportionately involved in the resistance. In Thessaly, a Jewish partisan unit in the mountains was led by the septuagenarian Rabbi Moshe Pesah, who carried his own rifle. The Athenian Jew Jacques Costis led the team which demolished the Gorgopotoma Bridge, thereby breaking the link between the mainland and Peloponnesian Peninsula, and interfering with the delivery of supplies to Rommel’s Afrika Korps."
"Approximately 10,000 of the 80,000 Jews in Minsk escaped to the wood to fight as partisans.Half of them survived the war."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Get off the bus
on: April 01, 2008, 11:24:20 AM
When you read the Sun story below make sure you click on the link to view the pictures.
A MUSLIM bus driver told stunned passengers to get off so he could PRAY.
Published: 29 Mar 2008http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article976258.ece
By ALEX PEAKE and ANDY CRICK
The white Islamic convert rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca. Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant.
One, who filmed the man on his mobile phone, said: “He was clearly praying and chanting in Arabic.
“We thought it was a wind-up at first, like Jeremy Beadle.”
The 21-year-old plumber added: “He looked English and had a London accent. He looked like a Muslim convert, with a big, bushy beard.
“Eventually everyone started complaining. One woman said, ‘What the hell are you doing? I’m going to be late for work’.”
After a few minutes the driver calmly got up, opened the doors and asked everyone back on board.
But they saw a rucksack lying on the floor of the red single-decker and feared he might be a fanatic. So they all refused.
The passenger added: “One chap said, ‘I’m not getting on there now’.
“An elderly couple also looked really confused and worried.
“After seeing that no-one wanted to get on he drove off and we all waited until the next bus came about 20 minutes later. I was left totally stunned. It made me not want to get on a bus again.”
The bizarre event unfolded on the number 81 in Langley, Berkshire, at around 1.30pm on Thursday.
The passenger said he rang the bus firm to complain but claimed it did not believe him.
He said: “They asked me, ‘Are you sure?’. Then they said they would get back to me, but they weren’t taking me seriously at all.”
Yesterday the driver, who said his name was Hrun, told The Sun: “I asked everyone to get off because I needed to pray. I was running late and had not had time.
“I pray five times a day as a Muslim — but I don’t normally ask people to get off the bus to do it.”
Muslims pray at pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening.
A spokesperson for bus company London United said: “We are aware of a reported incident involving our route 81.
“We are currently undertaking a full investigation into the matter.”
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Australia
on: April 01, 2008, 11:06:34 AM
SYDNEY, dic 28 (Sun Times) - El Primer Ministro australiano, John Howard, dijo el miércoles a los musulmanes que quieran vivir bajo la Sharia islámica que se marchen de Australia, en momentos en que el gobierno se encuentra aislando a posibles grupos radicales que podrían lanzar ataques terroristas contra el pueblo de esa isla-continente en un futuro.
Asimismo, Howard despertó la furia de algunos musulmanes australianos cuando dijo que le ha dado todo su apoyo a las agencias de contrainteligencia australianas para espiar a las mezquitas que hay en la nación.
'Los que tienen que adaptarse al llegar a un nuevo país son los inmigrantes, no los australianos', expresó con firmeza el mandatario. 'Y si no les gusta, que se vayan. Estoy harto de que esta nación siempre se esté preocupando de no ofender a otras culturas o a otros individuos. Desde el ataque terrorista en Bali, hemos experimentado un incremento de patriotismo entre los australianos'.
'Nuestra cultura se ha desarrollado sobre siglos de luchas, pruebas y victorias de millones de hombres y mujeres que vinieron aquí en busca de libertad', agregó Howard.
'Aquí hablamos inglés fundamentalmente', dijo el primer ministro en un momento de su enérgico discurso. 'No hablamos árabe, chino, español, ruso, japonés ni ninguna otra lengua. Por lo tanto, si los inmigrantes quieren convertirse en parte de esta sociedad, ¡que aprendan nuestro idioma!'
El mandatario continuó diciendo que la mayoría de los australianos son cristianos. 'Esto no es un ala política ni un juego político. Se trata de una verdad, de hombres y mujeres cristianos que fundaron esta nación basados en principios cristianos, lo cual está bien documentado en todos nuestros libros. Por lo tanto, es completamente adecuado demostrar nuestra fe cristiana en las paredes de las escuelas. Si Cristo les ofende, entonces le sugiero que busquen otra parte del Mundo para vivir, porque Dios y Jesucristo son parte de nuestra cultura'.
'Toleraremos vuestras creencias, pero tienen que aceptar las nuestras para poder vivir en armonía y paz junto a nosotros', advirtió Howard. 'Este es nuestro país, nuestra patria, y estas son nuestras costumbres y estilo de vida. Permitiremos a todos que disfruten de lo nuestro, pero cuando dejen de quejarse, de lloriquear y de protestar contra nuestra bandera, nuestro compromiso nacionalista, nuestras creencias cristianas o nuestro modo de vida. Les recomiendo encarecidamente que aprovechen la gran oportunidad de libertad que tienen en Australia. ¡Aquí tienen el derecho de irse a donde más les convenga!'
'A quienes no les guste cómo vivimos los australianos', prosiguió Howard. 'Tienen la libertad de marcharse. Nosotros no los obligamos a venir. Ustedes pidieron emigrar aquí, así que ya es hora de que acepten al país que los aceptó'.
**** Si estás de acuerdo con el primer ministro australiano, hazlo circular por el Mundo. Las ideas de los grandes hombres deben divulgarse
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Dollar and the Credit Crunch
on: March 31, 2008, 05:52:20 PM
A companion post to the preceding post:
The Dollar and the Credit Crunch
By RONALD MCKINNON
March 31, 2008; Page A19
We are all too familiar with the problem of mortgage credit associated with the slump in home prices. The great unresolved puzzle in today's financial crisis is why some other private credit markets are seizing up.
The financial press is full of stories about a shortage of the U.S. Treasury bonds necessary in the multitrillion-dollar interbank market as collateral for borrowing by illiquid banks. This shortage seems even stranger in the face of a large federal fiscal deficit ($237.5 billion in 2007) that continually increases the supply of new Treasurys.
This shortage of Treasurys, and the unexpected severity of the credit crunch, is linked to the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has hastily cut short-term interest rates to just 2.25% in March 2008 from 5.25% in July 2007. Unsurprisingly, private capital inflows for financing the huge U.S. trade deficit have dried up. Hot money has flowed out of the U.S. into those countries (of which China is the most prominent) with currencies that are most likely to appreciate.
Foreign central banks (apart from those in Europe) are then induced to intervene, sometimes massively, to buy dollars in order to slow their currencies' appreciations. In 2007, China had the biggest overall reserve buildup of $460 billion. Other central banks, from the Gulf oil-producing states to Russia, Brazil and some smaller Latin American and Asian countries, have also intervened to accumulate dollar reserves.
A substantial proportion of these official reserves is invested in U.S. Treasurys. The Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds data (March 2008) show that in 2007 foreign central banks accumulated about $209 billion of U.S. Treasurys. Somewhat inconsistently, the Treasury's own data show an accumulation of $250 billion.
Although acute in 2007 and more so going into 2008, this drain of Treasurys was also very large from 2003 to 2005. By early 2004, the federal funds rate had been cut to just 1%, which also triggered a flight from the dollar -- at that time more into yen than renminbi. This previous episode of easy money and unduly low interest rates greatly aggravated both the U.S. housing bubble and the more general overleveraging of the American financial system from 2003 to 2006.
In 2007-08, the crash in housing and the implosion of over-leveraged hedge funds, special investment vehicles and so on, has increased counterparty risk in most financial transacting. Illiquid financial institutions cannot effectively bid for funds by putting up suspect private bonds or loans as collateral. Unsurprisingly, there is a "flight to quality" that increases the private domestic demand for Treasurys. But this is happening at a time when the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges has greatly reduced their supply.
This increased demand coupled with a fall in supply helps explains why, in the midst of a U.S. credit squeeze with higher interest rates on private financial instruments, nominal interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen to surprisingly low levels. Despite substantial ongoing U.S. price inflation of 4.3% in the consumer price index and 6.4% in the producer price index, Treasury yields are less than 1% on a three-month bill, 1.32% on a two-year note, and 3.5% on the benchmark 10-year bonds. There are even reports of effectively negative nominal yields on certain very short-term Treasurys. The real yield on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities has turned negative. (See chart.)
So we have a paradox. Despite the financial turmoil in the U.S. and its government's not-so-strong fiscal position, with huge contingent liabilities for guaranteeing private and public pensions as well as bailing out failing banks, its credit standing has strengthened. The fact that the U.S. government can market Treasury bonds at insultingly low interest rates at least provides an argument for using fiscal stimuli -- such as the $160 billion tax rebate passed in February 2008 -- to prop up the sagging U.S. economy.
Beginning on March 27, the Fed offered to lend banks and bond dealers as much as $200 billion of Treasurys from its own portfolio for up to 28 days, in return for a variety of collateral. The Fed was responding to complaints from dealers of a shortage of Treasurys in the interbank markets, but without recognizing that the root cause was the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges.
In the 1970s under the dollar standard, episodes of a weak and depreciating dollar led to monetary explosions in foreign trading partners, with world-wide inflationary consequences. Now, the inflation threat to the U.S. could be aggravated if foreign central banks intervene to prevent their currencies from appreciating too fast and overly expand their money supplies.
Stabilizing the dollar in the foreign exchanges and encouraging the return of flight capital to the U.S. will require two things. The first is to convince the U.S. Federal Reserve that continually cutting interest rates and expanding the U.S. monetary base is not the appropriate response to today's credit crunch; rather it triggers a vicious cycle.
The Fed responds to the credit crunch by cutting interest rates, which would be the seemingly correct textbook strategy if the economy were closed and the foreign exchanges could be ignored. But the economy is open, and capital flies out of the country. Because of the unique position of the U.S. at the center of the world dollar standard, the drain of Treasurys -- the prime collateral in impacted credit markets -- exacerbates the credit crunch, and monetary expansion abroad worsens world-wide inflation. The Fed then further expands in response to the tightening of U.S. credit markets.
The second component of a strong dollar policy is more direct action on exchange rates. At the very least, China bashing as a means to force dollar depreciation against the renminbi should end. The U.S. government should also cooperate with central banks in Europe, Japan, Canada and elsewhere to stabilize the sinking dollar.
The best solution to the current crisis is to stop the flight from the dollar. This would be beneficial beyond relieving the drain of Treasurys and relaxing the crunch in American credit markets. Letting the dollar depreciate without any convincing action to secure its long-term value against other major currencies undermines confidence in the dollar's long-term purchasing power. It also lets the inflation genie out of the bottle, and makes a return to 1970s-style stagflation look imminent.
Mr. McKinnon is a professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institution for Economic Policy Research.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hillary's Bad History
on: March 31, 2008, 05:48:44 PM
Hillary's Bad History
March 31, 2008; Page A18
No, not sniper fire in Bosnia. We're referring to Hillary Clinton's lament last week that the U.S. is flirting with a 1990s Japan-style deflation. Perhaps it's a good time to remind everyone what really happened in Japan, so Mrs. Clinton and the rest of Washington don't make the same mistakes.
"I don't think we can work our way out of the problems we're in in the broad-based economy with monetary policy alone," Mrs. Clinton said in the interview with Journal reporters. "I think the Japanese tried that and tried and tried that." She added Japan should have relied more on fiscal stimulus spending and aid to banks and homeowners, which is what she wants Washington to try now.
The Senator needs a refresher in Japanese economic history. Far from easing monetary policy, the Bank of Japan kept money too tight for too long in the early 1990s. Japan's stock market slide began in early 1990, but its central bank raised interest rates through most of that year and didn't cut them until July 1991. While the Bank of Japan eventually chased interest rates down to zero, it was always too late to break the deflationary spiral.
There's little sign the U.S. is facing a similar danger today, given that the Federal Reserve has been dropping rates quickly as the economy has slowed. If anything, the problem is the opposite, with the Fed risking future inflation by putting rates into negative real territory and devaluing the dollar. (See Ronald McKinnon nearby.)
Japan also made the mistake of refusing to make banks pay for the mistakes they made during their global lending spree in the late 1980s. As the world economy fell into recession in 1990, so did Japan. But rather than letting banks take their losses, the Liberal Democratic Party kept bailing them out. This merely delayed the day of reckoning, as insolvent banks were allowed to exist as "zombies," alive in name but unable to lend.
The government also raised consumption taxes, burdening consumers at exactly the wrong time. Meanwhile, with encouragement from the Clinton Treasury, Tokyo launched a vast Keynesian spending program. Roads, bridges, trains -- you name it, Japan built it. The nearby chart shows the impact this spending had on overall Japanese government debt, which exploded over the decade. The nearly annual spending programs led to several false recoveries with growth blips, but they never changed incentives enough to revive domestic risk-taking.
Yet this is exactly the policy that Mrs. Clinton now wants the U.S. to emulate. Rather than let housing speculators and lenders take the hit for mispricing credit and allow the market to clear, she wants a 90-day freeze on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on mortgage resets. She also wants the feds to buy up mortgage-backed securities and guarantee troubled mortgages. Rather than let housing markets find a bottom where they can begin a recovery, she and her allies in both parties would prolong the agony. While some homeowners and banks would be saved from foreclosure or greater losses, the cost would be to lengthen the housing recession.
A better model is the one the late Al Casey put into practice during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1990s. As president of the Resolution Trust Corp., Mr. Casey sold almost $400 billion of bankrupt assets as rapidly as he could. Declaring that his purpose was to "put the RTC out of business," Mr. Casey let investors buy those assets even at "vulture" prices. The real estate market was able to find a bottom, and the recovery came so fast that Bill Clinton inherited an economy that grew by 3.3% in 1992.
The Beltway class also now wants to indulge in the same Keynesian "stimulus" that failed in Japan. Mrs. Clinton's "Rebuild America Plan" would invest $10 billion over 10 years in an "Emergency Repair Fund" -- a plan she claims would create 48,000 jobs for every billion dollars spent, or close to half a million jobs. She would build ports, railroads, airports, public transit, tunnels and roads. Senate Democrats are proposing more than $35 billion in new spending -- on top of their $168 billion in tax rebates. These may also lead to false recoveries, but they won't ignite a new round of risk-taking and investment.
Japan finally emerged from its funk earlier this decade after it realized its bank losses and caught the updraft from global monetary reflation. Still, its economic growth remains mediocre -- a level that wouldn't be tolerated in the U.S. and may not be enough even in Japan. Sluggish growth has already sunk one Prime Minister and could prove fatal to the current leader, Yasuo Fukuda, whose approval ratings are dropping fast.
The way to revive U.S. growth is by learning from Japan's mistakes, and doing the opposite. The U.S. needs monetary policy that maintains a stable price level, bank supervision that recognizes mortgage losses and lets markets clear, and marginal rate tax cuts that boost incentives to work and invest. In short, the American policies of the 1980s, not those of Japan's lost decade.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 31, 2008, 05:45:42 PM
Probably written before the preceding post:
March 31, 2008; Page A18
Among the worst mistakes of the Iraq war has been starting battles we weren't prepared to finish. Think Fallujah in 2004. We hope Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki absorbed that lesson before he began his campaign last week to defeat rogue militias in Basra.
Yesterday's political maneuvering amid a new cease-fire offer by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is hard to read from afar. "Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us," Mr. Sadr said. The government welcomed the offer while saying it would continue its Basra campaign, and it wasn't clear how many in the Mahdi Army and its offshoots would even heed Mr. Sadr. There were also conflicting reports of whether the militias would give up their weapons.
The worst outcome would be for Iraqis to conclude that Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi Security Forces are backing down amid more resistance than they expected. This would be a blow to the morale of the fledgling army just when it has been gaining confidence, and it would damage Mr. Maliki's own credibility with the Iraqi public. To adapt Napoleon's famous admonition, if you decide to take Basra -- take Basra.
It isn't clear why Mr. Maliki chose to act now against the militias, though he had to do so eventually. The presence of private militias makes political compromise that much harder to achieve, and it increases the prospect of greater violence after the U.S. departs. Iran is also assisting some elements of the Mahdi Army in order to expand Tehran's influence in the Shiite-dominated south and parts of Baghdad.
Naturally, the war's American critics are saying this is proof that General David Petraeus's "surge" has failed. Yet Basra is one part of Iraq where the surge has never been tried. British troops have been the coalition leaders in southern Iraq, and they long ago gave up any attempt at a Petraeus-like counterinsurgency. They mainly stay in their garrisons, much as U.S. troops did pre-surge, and much as the two Democratic Presidential candidates want U.S. troops to do now on their way out of the country.
This British strategy has allowed militias to fill the security vacuum, especially as Iraq forces have been preoccupied with holding territory in Baghdad and parts of the Sunni Triangle once they have been cleared of al Qaeda. It's a sign of how well those operations are going that Iraqi forces feel confident enough to take on the added challenge of Basra. This is precisely the kind of independent operation that U.S. training is supposed to make possible, and it is something the war's critics have said couldn't be achieved as long as American forces stay in Iraq. Apparently it is possible.
Mr. Maliki's decision is also a show of political independence. The Prime Minister is a Shiite from the Dawa party and has been criticized as beholden to Mr. Sadr because he became Prime Minister with his political support. But Mr. Maliki is now willing to use force against militias aligned with Mr. Sadr. The Basra offensive also gives the lie once again to the claim that a Shiite government in Baghdad will be purely sectarian. The battle for Basra is about a Shiite-led but multiethnic central government challenging rogue Shiite militias.
All of this won't mean much, however, unless Mr. Maliki's offensive ends in what Iraqis perceive to be a victory for their national forces. In the fog of journalism last week, it looked as if the Sadrists fought back harder than the government expected. Elements of the Mahdi Army opened counterattacks in Baghdad and elsewhere, seeming to catch Iraqi generals by surprise. U.S. air strikes and Army Stryker units had to be called in for support.
Battles rarely go as planned, and what matters in the end is who is seen to have emerged with a victory. Too many times since 2003, Iraqi and U.S. officials have fought Mr. Sadr's forces, only to let them slip away or give him a pass in some political compromise. A signal mistake in the war was failing to arrest and try him in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion. How to handle Mr. Sadr now is a decision for the Maliki government, but it cannot allow the Mahdi Army and especially its Iranian-backed "special groups" to operate with impunity.
Some Americans -- including more than a few in the U.S. military -- think the U.S. has little stake in the Basra fight. But President Bush clearly isn't one of them. "Any government that presumes to represent the majority of people must confront criminal elements or people who think they can live outside the law," Mr. Bush said at the White House on Friday. "And that's what's taking place in Basra and in other parts of Iraq. I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq."
Unlike Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has failed to suppress terrorist elements, Mr. Maliki understands that his government must establish a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Now he and his army have to win the battle they started.
See all of today's op-eds and editorials, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 31, 2008, 11:39:25 AM
Second post of the AM
The Conspiracy Conspiracy
Give Hillary Clinton credit for a willingness to confront her adversaries and often besting them. Take last week's memorable meeting between her and Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh billionaire who bankrolled much of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that bedeviled her husband before the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
Mr. Scaife, owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a publisher's letter on Sunday in which he made clear his "very favorable" impressions of the former First Lady after she stopped by for an editorial board session prior to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.
"It was so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do," she told the group. Mr. Scaife reports that "the room erupted in laughter. Her remark defused what could have been a confrontational meeting."
Mrs. Clinton spent 90 minutes at the paper and clearly scored points. "Walking into our conference room, not knowing what to expect, took courage and confidence," wrote Mr. Scaife. "Not many politicians have political or personal courage today.... I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today than before last Tuesday's meeting -- and it's a very favorable one indeed.... Her answers were thoughtful, well-stated, and often dead-on."
Mr. Scaife made it clear he wasn't endorsing Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary, but he left open that possibility after his paper's editorial board meets with Barack Obama. Should that stunning event happen, you can bet the vast left-wing blogging community will create new conspiracy theories to explain the Hillary-Scaife alliance of convenience.
-- John Fund
Rhymes with Vice President
Had Al Gore carried his home state, he would have been sworn in as the 43rd president irrespective of what happened in Florida. Maybe that's why Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is now getting a serious look as a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate.
To win in November, Democrats need to upend the electoral map and win in formerly Republican territory. Mr. Bredesen has several qualities that make him attractive, especially facing an opponent with the cross-over appeal of John McCain: Mr. Bredesen hails from outside the Beltway, has a fiscally conservative record and has shown a willingness to run against the party's left-wing orthodoxy. First elected in 2002, he made his political bones by trimming the state's health-care entitlement program -- TennCare -- which was then eating up a third of the state's budget. He was blasted by Sen. Ted Kennedy, but won plaudits from voters for not trying to solve the budget mess by introducing a state income tax, as his predecessor, Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, did.
Lately Mr. Bredesen has emerged on the national stage with a novel solution to his party's Presidential nomination impasse -- he wants the party's superdelegates to meet in June in a mini-convention to settle on either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Some political analysts -- Larry Sabato, for one -- discount the idea of Mr. Bredesen for veep. But if some version of Mr. Bredesen's idea is adopted and he spares the party a divisive national convention, the eventual nominee will have reason to thank him for his levelheaded intervention. Plus, there's always those 11 Tennessee electoral votes that would have put Al Gore in the White House.
-- Brendan Miniter
Predictably, Democrats exploded when EPA chief Stephen Johnson last week decided to open to public comment the question of how the agency should respond to a Supreme Court decision saying it must consider whether to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Said Nancy Pelosi's point-man on global warming, Ed Markey: "This is the latest quack from a lame-duck EPA intent on running out the clock on the entire Bush Presidency without doing a thing to combat global warming."
Mr. Markey's crocodile outrage is just a huge exercise in buck-passing. The Democrats haven't themselves pasted together a global-warming bill. It's much easier to blame the Bush Administration than to do the hard work of passing actual legislation -- and accepting the consequences. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has to decide if carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and if so, to regulate emissions. That process is underway. In refusing to act the imperial bureaucrat, Mr. Johnson deserves credit for not inventing a carbon regime out of whole cloth -- though it would have served Democrats in Congress right, since they would have been the first target for voters angry over rapid hikes in their energy bills.
Mr. Johnson's issuance of a so-called Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking may even prove a landmark in public education. The global-warming chorus has proceeded without any serious cost-benefit analysis. Whatever the truth about a human contribution to climate change, the costs of carbon controls would be vast, and the benefits to the American people or the global atmosphere would be negligible or non-existent -- usually a political non-starter when you get down to it.
-- Joseph Rago
Canada may now have a Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but you'd never know it from the programming on CBC, the country's national public broadcaster.
Last night Canadians had inflicted on them the first part of a two-part miniseries called "Trojan Horse." It's the story of how Canadians were bamboozled into voting by the slimmest of margins into surrendering their sovereignty and merging with the superpower to the south. The Maple Leaf flag is lowered, and the nation's ten proud provinces are dismembered and turned into six U.S. states.
Watching this in horror is former Canadian Prime Minister Tom McLaughlin (played by Tom Gross). Intent on revenge against the new U.S. Empire, he conspires with three European nations to run as an independent for President and restore Canada to its rightful place. Meanwhile, a British journalist (played by Greta Scacchi) is targeted for assassination by sinister intelligence agents after she uncovers a computer program designed to fix the vote in U.S. elections. She wonders if the vote to end Canada's independence was similarly manipulated. She joins forces with Mr. McLaughlin in hopes of uncovering the deep corruption at the heart of the administration of U.S. President Stanfield (Tom Skerritt), who plans to invade Saudi Arabia in order to cut off China's oil supply.
While I have no doubt "Trojan Horse" is entertaining, maybe its airing helps explain why relations between the two countries are frostier than they used to be. Canada's media has been unrelentingly hostile towards U.S. administrations for most of the past three decades and now even its popular culture has been turned into a vehicle for paranoid fantasies that portray the U.S. as a new "evil empire."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post
on: March 31, 2008, 11:28:42 AM
THE FOUNDATION: CHARACTER
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate - look to his character...” —Noah Webster
“What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can’t trace the line from ‘this moment’s difficulties’ to ‘my triumphant end.’ But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don’t lose. She can’t figure out how to win, and she can’t accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn’t know how he did it!) She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she’s doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder.” —Peggy Noonan
“Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near. Last week, an important Clinton adviser...[said] that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance. Five percent. Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism... We’ll have campaign aides blurting ‘blue dress’ and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt. For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound... And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance. When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.” —David Brooks
RE: THE LEFT
“Hillary is being ‘swiftboated’! She claimed that she came under sniper fire when she visited in Bosnia in 1996, but was contradicted by videotape showing her sauntering off the plane and stopping on the tarmac to listen to a little girl read her a poem. Similarly, John Kerry’s claim to heroism in Vietnam was contradicted by 264 Swift Boat Veterans who served with him. His claim to having been on a secret mission to Cambodia for President Nixon on Christmas 1968 was contradicted not only by all of his commanders—who said he would have been court-martialed if he had gone anywhere near Cambodia—but also the simple fact that Nixon wasn’t president on Christmas 1968. In Hillary’s defense, she probably deserves a Purple Heart about as much as Kerry did for his service in Vietnam. Also, unlike Kerry, Hillary acknowledged her error, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: ‘I was sleep-deprived, and I misspoke.’ (What if she’s sleep-deprived when she gets that call on the red phone at 3 a.m., imagines a Russian nuclear attack and responds with mutual assured destruction? Oops. ‘It proves I’m human.’)” —Ann Coulter
OPINION IN BRIEF
“It being a free country and all, no one has to have a ‘conversation’ he doesn’t want to have, a fact that explains our longstanding non-conversation on race: the one we’re going to continue not having, never mind the pundits and Barack Obama. A conversation has at least two participants. That’s one more than most American liberals desire. A liberal, black or white, doesn’t by and large want an exchange of viewpoints on racial questions of consequence. What he wants is a microphone and an audience—preferably white, but he’ll take what he can get. This audience he proposes to instruct as to the collective iniquity of white America in its dealings with non-white America. That isn’t all he wants. He wants utter silence from the audience. No back talk. You couldn’t characterize a one-sided lecture as ‘conversation,’ and yet it’s pretty much what we get every time the matter of race intrudes itself into public affairs.” —William Murchison
“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” —Booker T. Washington
“The spendthrifts who mangled America with the nightmare of double-digit inflation, record interest rates, unfair tax increases, too much regulation, credit controls, farm embargoes, gas lines, no-growth at home, weakness abroad, and phony excuses about ‘malaise’ are the last people who should be giving sermonettes about fairness and compassion... Believe me, you cannot create a desert, hand a person a cup of water, and call that compassion. You cannot pour billions of dollars into make-work jobs while destroying the economy that supports them and call that opportunity. And you cannot build up years of dependence on government and dare call that hope.” —Ronald Reagan
FOR THE RECORD
“Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published ‘Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.’ The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives. If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:—Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).—Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.—Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.—Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.—In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.—People who reject the idea that ‘government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality’ give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.” —George Will
“Two weeks ago, the story came from a town with a college that has been a leading force in the advancement of Christian civilization for 900 years: Oxford, England... It seems that authorities at the Oxford Central Mosque have requested permission to use loadspeakers to blast the call to prayer five times a day from atop their minaret across the town that has heard for the past 900 summers, falls, winters and springs only the bells of the local churches. Unsurprisingly, the Church of England’s bishop for Oxford, the Right Rev. John Pritchard, has announced his support, calling on his congregation to ‘enjoy community diversity.’ He would be a likely successor to the current archbishop of Canterbury, who called for Shariah law for England recently. Perhaps surprisingly, two Englishmen stepped forward to oppose the proposal: professor Allan Chapman, an Oxford University historian, and Charlie Cleverly, the rector of St. Aldates Church in the heart of Oxford. ‘I don’t have any problem with Islam, but don’t force it on the people. I’m a liberal; I want to be inclusive, but I don’t want to be walked over,’ stated the professor. The Anglican rector of St. Aldates was a bit more blunt: ‘It is common knowledge, though few will say it, that radical Islam has a program to take Europe, take England and take Oxford. In this strategy, some say the prayer call is like a bridgehead, spreading to other mosques in the city.’ As if to support this politically incorrect assertion, Inayat Bunglawala, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain rejected the complaint dismissively, asserting that the ‘call to prayer will be part of Britain and Europe in the future.’... England, in her tolerance, has admitted into her midst—and given succor—those who loathe her. But more loathsome yet are the natural born Englishmen—most in high places—who have forgotten the simple truth of [a] World War II song: ‘There’ll always be an England, And England shall be free, If England means as much to you, As England means to me’.” —Tony Blankley
“Freedom is not a natural state—otherwise more people would be free. Tyranny, oppression, dictatorship and the denial of human rights are the norm for much of the planet. Mankind’s lower nature dictates that far too many seek to reduce others to servitude in order to elevate themselves. President Bush has repeatedly said that freedom is a God-given right that resides in the heart of every human. Maybe, but sometimes one must fight to extract it from the hardened hearts of others who want it exclusively for themselves. Looking at the faces of those who have fallen and driving by Arlington National Cemetery, I am reminded of the cost of freedom. Those who died allow me to travel freely. Those who sacrificed everything invested in freedom for my family and yours so that we can all live our lives where we choose to live them and worship where, and however, we please. These are freedoms most of the world can only dream about.” —Cal Thomas
SELECT READER COMMENTS
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“As a career military officer, I have no doubt that anti-war media rhetoric and ‘pollaganda’ have needlessly contributed to the deaths of soldiers and to the lessening of our nation’s defense. However, I am concerned about Mark Alexander’s claim in Democrats, more ‘aid and comfort’ to the enemy that General Giap attributed his victory in part Leftists influence on American public opinion. The web is full rumors run without checking, often becoming resurrected after a trip around the world. It would seem that Urban Legends refutes the Giap assertion.” —Houston, Texas
Publisher’s Reply: Most of the urban legends circulating refer to false claims about Giap’s “memoirs” and claims that he directly implicated that John Kerry’s cadre played a role in brining down the U.S. I did not make either claim. The facts are not derived from Internet e-mails propagating urban legends. We know that Giap knew full well the value the Kerry/Fonda cadres had in undermining U.S. war fighting resolve, and we also know that Giap, a faithful Communist, would not single out such efforts from fellow Socialists in this country, during a CBS interview. Additionally, in a 1996 CNN interview Giap stated, “And [after Tet] the Americans had to back down and come to the negotiating table, because the war was not only moving into the cities, to dozens of cities and towns in South Vietnam, but also to the living rooms of Americans back home for some time. And that’s why we could claim the achievement of the objective.” I do not have to tell you who was bringing defeatist propaganda “into the living rooms of Americans back home,” and which side of the war they were on.
More to the point, in a 1995 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bui Tin, a communist contemporary of Giap and Ho Chi Minh, who was serving as an NVA colonel assigned to the general staff at the time Saigon fell, had this to say about the Leftmedia and Soviet puppets like “Hanoi” Jane Fonda: “[They were] essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” Bui stated further, “Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor...[T]hrough dissent and protest [America] lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.” Make no mistake, Giap and Bui know “aid and comfort” from those, ostensibly, on our side.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Wilson: Religion and Law
on: March 31, 2008, 11:12:13 AM
"Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin
sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences
run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and
the moral sense, forms an essential part of both."
-- James Wilson ()
Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., 125.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 31, 2008, 11:01:46 AM
March 31, 2008
Maverick Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his followers to end fighting with the country’s Shiite-dominated security forces. In a statement issued by his office in the Shiite holy city of An Najaf, al-Sadr explained that in the interest of peace and stability, “We have decided to withdraw from the streets of Basra and all other provinces,” and that his movement would “cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The move stems from an agreement with the government, under which Baghdad has promised to stop randomly arresting members of al-Sadr’s group. The agreement does not require al-Sadr’s movement to relinquish its weapons, though al-Sadr said, “Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”
There have been signs for several months now that the al-Sadrite militia, the Mehdi Army, is moving away from its original role as a renegade outfit. Sunday’s move by al-Sadr in the wake of the Iraqi military’s Basra operation, however, is the strongest indication to date that the al-Sadrite movement no longer will be challenging the writ of the Iraqi central government dominated by its Shiite rivals. The silencing of the al-Sadrite guns required Iranian acquiescence.
Two key Shiite parliament members — Hadi al-Amri from the Badr Organization (affiliated with the movement led by Iraq’s most powerful and most pro-Iranian politician Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim) and Ali al-Adeeb (deputy leader of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawah party) — traveled to Tehran to get the Iranians to pressure al-Sadr. It is quite interesting that al-Sadr’s announcement comes a little over a month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineajd’s trip to Baghdad. There are reports that during that trip, in a secret meeting with U.S. officials, Ahmadinejad offered to finally help Washington stabilize Iraq in exchange for security guarantees for Tehran. It is unclear to what extent the Iranians and Americans agreed to cooperate on Iraqi security, but the Basra security operation did not emerge in a vacuum.
The Basra operation was a way for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to extend its writ to one of the last remaining and critical outposts in the Shiite south — the oil-rich Basra region. While there are other Shiite factions and oil syndicates in the area targeted by the operation, the main target was the al-Sadrite militia. It also should be noted that the operation was not limited to Basra; it targeted other al-Sadrite strongholds in the Shiite south and Baghdad.
The Iranians have realized that they no longer can use the Shiite militia threat against the United States to force Washington’s hand on Iraq without jeopardizing their own interests. Thus far, Tehran had allowed intra-Shiite conflicts to persist in the hopes of using violence perpetrated by Shiite militants to pressure the United States into accepting Iranian terms for stabilizing Iraq. More recently, though, Iran had a rude awakening when the U.S. military began cultivating its own direct relations with members of al-Sadr’s movement. This demonstrated that Washington was not beholden to Iranian goodwill to stabilize Iraq and that all roads to Baghdad did not go through Tehran.
It was not just the threat of unilateral moves on the part of the Americans that forced the Iranians into a course correction. The Iranians were also terrified that the schisms within the Iraqi Shiite landscape have deteriorated so badly over the past five years that unless Tehran acted soon, any hope that its Shiite proxies would be able to dominate Iraq would evaporate into thin air. In other words, reining in the al-Sadrites was no longer something that was purely a U.S. interest; it was a necessity from the Iranian point of view.
Iran expects that al-Sadr’s backing down can help get the Iraqi Shiite house in order. After all, as long as the Shia (who, despite being the majority, have never ruled Iraq) are at war with themselves, they have no chance of standing up to the Sunnis, much less dominating Iraq. Iran, at a bare minimum, wants an Iraq that can never again threaten its national security, and it needs cohesion among the Shia for that purpose.
Just how much cohesion the Iraqi Shia are capable of will become apparent in the coming months.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cell phones = Brain Cancer?!?
on: March 30, 2008, 06:42:14 PM
Mobile phones 'more dangerous than smoking'
Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation
Young people are at particular risk from exposure to radiation
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Change font size: A | A | ABy Geoffrey Lean
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.
The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.
It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.
Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.
Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.
He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that "there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours". He believes this will be "definitively proven" in the next decade.
Noting that malignant brain tumours represent "a life-ending diagnosis", he adds: "We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous situation." He fears that "unless the industry and governments take immediate and decisive steps", the incidence of malignant brain tumours and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.
"It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking," says Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke. Smoking kills some five million worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths in Britain as road accidents.
Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana's study as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual". It believes he "does not present a balanced analysis" of the published science, and "reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews".http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/mobile-phones-more-dangerous-than-smoking-or-asbestos-802602.html?r=RSS
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / NY Times: Files suggest Venz aid to FARC
on: March 30, 2008, 02:17:15 PM
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Files provided by Colombian officials from computers they say were captured in a cross-border raid in Ecuador this month appear to tie Venezuela’s government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia’s largest insurgency.
Skip to next paragraph
Times Topics: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)Officials taking part in Colombia’s investigation of the computers provided The New York Times with copies of more than 20 files, some of which also showed contributions from the rebels to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa.
If verified, the files would offer rare insight into the cloak-and-dagger nature of Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla conflict, including what appeared to be the killing of a Colombian government spy with microchips implanted in her body, a crime apparently carried out by the rebels in their jungle redoubt.
The files would also potentially link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States says is a terrorist group and has fought to overthrow Colombia’s government for four decades.
Though it was impossible to authenticate the files independently, the Colombian officials said their government had invited Interpol to verify the files. The officials did not want to be identified while any Interpol inquiry was under way.
Both the United States and Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, have a strong interest in undercutting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has sought to counter United States influence by forming his own leftist bloc in the region. But the Colombian officials who provided the computer files adamantly vouched for them.
The files contained touches that suggested authenticity: they were filled with revolutionary jargon, passages in numerical code, missives about American policy in Latin America and even brief personal reflections like one by a senior rebel commander on the joy of becoming a grandfather.
Other senior Colombian officials said the files made public so far only scratched the surface of the captured archives, risking new friction with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom have dismissed the files as fakes.
Vice President Francisco Santos said Colombia’s stability was at risk if explicit support from its neighbors for the FARC, the country’s largest armed insurgency, was proved true. “The idea that using weapons to topple a democratic government has not been censured,” Mr. Santos said in an interview, “is not only stupid — it is frankly frightening.”
Colombia’s relations with its two Andean neighbors veered suddenly toward armed conflict after Colombian forces raided a FARC camp inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 26 people, including a top FARC commander, and capturing the computers, according to the Colombians.
Though tensions ebbed after a summit meeting of Latin American nations in the Dominican Republic this month, the matter of the computer files has threatened to reignite the diplomatic crisis caused by the raid.
Shortly after the crisis erupted, Colombian officials began releasing a small portion of the computer files, some of which they said showed efforts by Mr. Chavez’s government to provide financial support for the FARC.
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview that officials had obtained more than 16,000 files from three computers belonging to Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a commander known by his nom de guerre, Raúl Reyes, who was killed in the raid. Two other hard drives were also captured, he said.
“Everything has been accessed and everything is being validated by Interpol,” Mr. Santos said, adding that he expected the work on the validation to be completed by the end of April. “It is a great deal of information that is extremely valuable and important.”
Mr. Santos, who said the computers survived the raid because they were in metal casing, strongly defended Colombia’s military foray into Ecuador, which drew condemnation in other parts of Latin America as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.
“Personally I do not regret a thing, absolutely nothing, but I am a minister of a government that has agreed this type of action would not be repeated,” he said. “Of course, this depends on our neighbors collaborating on the fight against terrorism.”
For his part, Mr. Chávez, in a meeting with foreign journalists last week in Caracas, lashed out at Colombia’s government and mocked the files.
“The main weapon they have now is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” Mr. Chávez said. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”
The correspondence also pointed to warm relations between Venezuela’s government and the FARC.
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One letter, dated Jan. 25, 2007, by Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat, discussed a meeting with a Venezuelan official called Carvajal. “Carvajal,” Mr. Márquez wrote, “left with the pledge of bringing an arms dealer from Panama.”
Times Topics: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)Officials here said they believed that the official in question was Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the director of military intelligence in Venezuela, a confidant of Mr. Chávez and perhaps Venezuela’s most powerful intelligence official.
In other correspondence from September 2004 after the killing by the FARC of six Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan engineer on Venezuelan soil that month, General Carvajal’s longstanding ties to the guerrillas also come into focus. In those letters, the guerrillas describe talks with General Carvajal, Mr. Chávez’s emissary to deal with the issue.
“Today I met with General Hugo Carvajal,” a FARC commander wrote in on letter dated Sept. 23, 2004. “He said he guarded the secret hope that what happened in Apure,” the rebel wrote in reference to the Venezuelan border state where the killings took place, “was the work of a force different from our own.”
Officials in General Carvajal’s office at the General Directorate of Military Intelligence in Caracas did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Chávez responded to a report earlier this year in Colombia claiming that General Carvajal provided logistical assistance to the FARC by calling it an “attack on the revolution” he has led in Venezuela.
Another file recovered from Mr. Devia’s computers, dated a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2007, described efforts by the FARC’s secretariat to secure Mr. Chávez’s assistance for buying arms and obtaining a $250 million loan, “to be paid when we take power.”
The FARC, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has persisted for four decades, finances itself largely through cocaine trafficking and kidnappings for ransom. But other files from the computers suggested that Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort, financed in large part by $600 million a year in aid from Washington, was making those activities less lucrative for the FARC, forcing it to consider options like selling Venezuelan gasoline at a profit in Colombia.
The release of the files comes at a delicate time when some lawmakers in Washington are pressing for Venezuela to be included on a list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. But with Venezuela remaining a leading supplier of oil to the United States, such a move is considered unlikely because of the limits on trade it would entail.
Moreover, interpretations of the files from Mr. Devia’s computers have already led to some mistakes.
For instance, El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading daily newspaper, issued an apology this month to Gustavo Larrea, Ecuador’s security minister, after publishing a photograph obtained from the computers in which the newspaper claimed Mr. Larrea was shown meeting with Mr. Devia at a FARC camp. In fact, the photograph was of Patricio Etchegaray, an official with the Communist Party in Argentina.
Still, the files from Mr. Devia’s computers are expected to haunt relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela for some time.
For instance, one piece of correspondence dated Nov. 21, 2006, and circulated among the FARC’s secretariat, describes a $100,000 donation to the campaign of Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president.
Of that amount, $50,000 came from the FARC’s “Eastern bloc,” a militarily strong faction that operates in eastern Colombia, and $20,000 from the group’s “Southern bloc,” according to the document.
President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia referred this month to files from Mr. Devia’s computers showing financing of Mr. Correa’s campaign by the FARC, but he stopped short of releasing them after tensions eased at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic.
“Any archive is not valid until it is verified,” said Pedro Artieda, a spokesman at the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment. “Therefore, the government cannot comment on something that is not confirmed.” Mr. Correa had previously disputed the campaign-finance claims based on the computers files, saying they lacked “technical and legal” validity.
Other files offer insight into the methods employed both by the FARC and Colombia’s government in their four-decade war. In one letter by Mr. Devia dated Jan. 5, 2007, to Manuel Marulanda, the most senior member of the FARC’s secretariat, he described a woman in their ranks who was discovered to be a government spy.
“The new thing here,” Mr. Devia wrote, “was that she had two microchips, one under her breast and the other beneath her jaw.”
Mr. Devia went on to describe the reaction to this discovery, explaining in the rebels’ slang that she was given “a course.”
“Yesterday they threw her into the hole after proving what she was,” he wrote, “and giving her the counsel of war.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: March 30, 2008, 01:51:27 PM
I enjoyed that fight quite a bit. Impressive to see CL challenge the MMA received wisdom about kicking. I thought his understanding of unmatched lead to be very high.
Thoughts on why FS did not go for clinch/ground with more determination?
I have not cared for FS's personality over the years, but thought he handled defeat well. Interesting to see what a man is made of in such a moment , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fitna pulled down by Liveleak
on: March 30, 2008, 01:40:24 PM
Score one for Islamo-fascism:
Breaking news: “FITNA” video removed following serious threats to hosting company staff
We learn this evening that Internet hosting operation, LiveLeak, have been forced to remove Dutch MP Geert Wilders “FITNA” video, following very serious threats to its staff. At the present time it is not known who is behind the threats or the nature of the threats. However, the cowardly ritualistic murder of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic fanatic, does mean that all such threats have to be taken very seriously.
Unfortunately for those who would try to stifle our western democracy through naked fascism and criminality, many thousands of copies of the controversial video have been downloaded and it can only be a matter of time before they start appearing in “cyberspace”!
The fact that this has happened only goes to underline one of the themes of “FITNA” - that western democracy and freedom of speech are under attack by the enemies of freedom! Appeasement cannot be an option!
An explanatory message posted on the LiveLeak site reads:-
“Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.
"This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one. Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture. We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high.”
See the LiveLeak announcement here .http://www.bnp.org.uk/2008/03/28/breaking-news-fitna-video-removed-following-serious-threats-to-hosting-company-staff/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: March 30, 2008, 01:10:17 PM
Hillary Clinton goes to her doctor for a check-up, only to find out that she's pregnant. She is furious... Here she is in the middle of her first run for President as Senator for New York .... now this has happened to her. She calls home, gets Bill on the phone and immediately starts screaming:
'How could you have let this happen? With all that's going on right now, you go and get me pregnant! How could you? I can't believe this! I've just found out I'm five weeks pregnant and it's all your fault! Well, what have you got to say?'
There is nothing but silence on the phone. She screams again, 'Did you hear me?'
Finally she hears Bill's very, very quiet voice in a barely audible whisper, he asks: 'Who's speaking?'
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Justice for Iraq
on: March 29, 2008, 10:54:16 AM
Justice for Iraq
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
March 29, 2008; Page A8
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning whether U.S. officials in Iraq can turn over American nationals, held in that country by Coalition Forces, to the Iraqi government for trial and punishment.
The men involved, Shawqi Ahmad Omar (a dual U.S./Iraqi national) and Mohammad Munaf (a dual U.S./Jordanian national), traveled voluntarily to Iraq and are accused of criminal offenses there – kidnapping for ransom (Mr. Munaf) and assisting Iraqi insurgents, also in connection with a kidnapping for ransom scheme (Mr. Omar). Both men have demanded intervention by the U.S. federal courts – through habeas corpus petitions – and seek judicial orders forbidding their transfer to Iraqi officials and other forms of cooperation between the U.S. and Iraqi authorities. This judicial relief would manifest disdain for Iraqi sovereignty and violate settled law.
Every country has the legal right to punish criminal offenses that occur on its territory. This is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty, and is fully recognized by the U.N. Charter. When Americans go overseas, they are subject to this rule – as are foreign nationals who visit the U.S. Diplomats enjoy internationally recognized immunities from local jurisdiction, and military personnel are generally covered by status-of-forces agreements which regulate application the host country's laws.
These exceptions to the general rule are, in fact, broader under Iraqi law – exempting both non-Iraqi military personnel and certain civilian security professionals.
But neither Mr. Omar nor Mr. Munaf enjoy any of these immunities. They are private citizens who claim U.S. government protection, and access to the federal courts, based upon their detention in Coalition facilities maintained, in part at least, by American officials. The Supreme Court has made clear that Americans overseas – even when held formally in U.S. custody – can lawfully be transferred to local authorities for criminal trial. The leading case is Wilson v. Girard (1957), in which the Supreme Court rejected an American soldier's efforts to avoid transfer to Japanese officials to face criminal charges for recklessly causing the death of a Japanese woman.
A great deal is at stake here. Iraqis are proud and, despite all of the American blood and treasure spent in Iraq, many resent the legal immunity that has been accorded to U.S. personnel and contractors. They resent even more when this immunity is broadened to include individuals who arrive as private travelers and then engage in criminal conduct on Iraqi soil.
Add in such episodes as a December 2006 escape from the Green Zone by the former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ayham al Samarrai (who was awaiting sentencing on corruption charges and is now rumored to be living in the U.S.), and the repeated snubbing of Iraqi government delegations at various international gatherings, and Iraqis see a concerted campaign to diminish their sovereignty.
The government has sought to convince the Court that it does not have jurisdiction even to consider the habeas petitions filed by Messrs. Omar and Munaf, arguing that they are held under the Coalition's, and not American, authority. A number of Justices posed questions this week evincing skepticism about this distinction. But they also appeared skeptical of the petitioners' claims that they would be entitled to more than simple release from custody – the normal relief granted in a successful habeas corpus action – and that the U.S. should be required to protect them from Iraqi government officials.
Messrs. Omar and Munaf argue that the Iraqi judicial system is fundamentally flawed and that they are likely to be tortured if recaptured by local officials. But the only alternative to release would require the U.S. to grant them "asylum" from Iraqi justice on Iraqi soil or to spirit them out of the country. Both courses of action would clearly violate Iraq's sovereignty and would risk a confrontation between the U.S. and the Iraqi government.
In addition, such orders would exceed the proper, constitutional bounds of judicial authority by directing the president how to manage American-Iraqi relations at a time and place where the U.S. military operates alongside the Iraqi forces in an ongoing armed conflict.
The choice before the Court is clear. It should respect international law and recognize Iraq's sovereign right to try and punish criminal defendants within its own territory. The U.S. has chosen not to seek (as a diplomatic matter) special treatment for these individuals because of their American citizenship, a decision properly within the executive branch's discretion. Even if the Court concludes that it has jurisdiction to consider the habeas petitions, it should reject them and let Messrs. Munaf and Omar have their day in the Iraqi courts.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Sunni-Shia Terror Network
on: March 29, 2008, 10:51:40 AM
This post could have gone in various threads, but I wound up putting it here because this is a point that is important to understand in developing our abiilty to communicate effectivley with the Muslim world.
The Sunni-Shiite Terror Network
By AMIR TAHERI
March 29, 2008; Page A9
The American presidential election campaign took a bizarre theological turn recently when Barack Obama accused John McCain of not being able to distinguish Sunnis from Shiites.
The exchange started when Sen. McCain suggested that the Islamic Republic in Iran, a Shiite power, may be helping al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit, in its murderous campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. Basing its position on received wisdom, the Obama camp implied that Sunnis and Shiites, divided as they are by deep doctrinal differences, could not come together to fight the United States and its allies.
The truth is that Sunni and Shiite extremists have always been united in their hatred of the U.S., and in their desire to "bring it to destruction," in the words of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The majority of Muslims does not share that hatred and have no particular problem with the U.S. It is the country most visited by Muslim tourists and it attracts the largest number of Muslim students studying abroad.
But to understand the problem with extremists, it is important to set aside the Sunni-Shiite divide and focus on their common hatred of America. Theology is useless here. What we are dealing with is politics.
For Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, the slogan "Death to America" was as important as the traditional device of Islam "Allah Is The Greatest" – hence his insistence that it be chanted at all public meetings and repeated after each session of the daily prayers. And to that end, Khomeinists have worked with anyone, including brother-enemy Sunnis or even Marxist atheists.
The suicide attacks that claimed the lives of over 300 Americans, including 241 Marines, in Lebanon in 1983, were joint operations of the Khomeinist Hezbollah and the Marxist Arab Socialist Party, which was linked to the Syrian intelligence services. The Syrian regime is Iran's closest ally, despite the fact that Iranian mullahs regard the Alawite minority that dominates it as heretics or worse. Today in Lebanon, Tehran's surrogate, Hezbollah, is in league with a Maronite Christian faction, led by ex-Gen. Michel Aoun, in opposition to a majority bloc that favors close ties with the U.S.
For more than a quarter century, Tehran has been host to the offices of more than three dozen terrorists organizations, from the Colombian FARC to the Palestinian Hamas and passing by half a dozen Trotskyite and Leninist outfits. It also finances many anti-American groups and parties of both extreme right and extreme left in Europe and the Americas. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has bestowed the Muslim title of "brother" on Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Communist North Korea is the only country with which the Islamic Republic maintains close military-industrial ties and holds joint annual staff sessions.
George Ibrahim Abdallah, the Lebanese maverick who led a campaign of terror in Paris in the 1980s on behalf of Tehran, was a Christian. So was Anis Naqqache, who led several hit-teams sent to kill Iranian exile opposition leaders. For years, and until a recent change of policy, Tehran financed and offered shelter to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Marxist movement fighting to overthrow the Turkish Republic. Why? Tehran's displeasure with Turkish membership of NATO and friendship with the U.S.
Yes, Mr. Obama might ask, but what about Sunni-Shiite cooperation?
The Islamic Republic has financed and armed the Afghan Sunni Hizb Islami (Islamic Party) since the 1990s. It's also financed the Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS), a Sunni political-terrorist outfit in Algeria between 1992 and 2005.
In 1993, a senior Iranian delegation, led by the then Islamic Parliament Speaker Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi, attended the Arab-Muslim Popular Congress organized by Hassan al-Turabi, nicknamed "The Pope of Islamist Terror," in Khartoum. At the end of this anti-American jamboree a nine-man "Coordinating Committee" was announced. Karrubi was a member, along with such Sunni eminences as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. Turabi and the Algerian Abdallah Jaballah. The fact that Karrubi was a Shiite mullah did not prevent him from sitting alongside Sunni sheikhs.
In 1996, a suicide attack claimed the lives of 19 American servicemen in Al Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia. The operation was carried out by the Hezbollah in Hejaz, an Iranian-financed outfit, with the help of the Sunni militant group "Sword of the Peninsula."
In 2000, Sunni groups linked to al Qaeda killed 17 U.S. servicemen in a suicide attack on USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. This time, a Shiite militant group led by Sheikh al-Houti, Tehran's man in Yemen, played second fiddle in the operation.
In Central Asia's Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Tehran has for years supported two Sunni movements, the Rastakhiz Islami (Islamic Awakening) and Hizb Tahrir Islami (Islamic Liberation Party). In Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, Tehran supports the Sunni Taleshi groups against the Azeri Shiite majority. The reason? The Taleshi Sunnis are pro-Russian and anti-American, while the Shiite Azeris are pro-American and anti-Russian.
There are no Palestinian Shiites, yet Tehran has become the principal source of funding for radical Palestinian Sunni groups, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad and half a dozen leftist-atheist minigroups. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh refuses to pray alongside his Iranian hosts during his visits to Tehran. But when it comes to joining Khomeinist crowds in shouting "Death to America" he is in the forefront.
With Arab oil kingdoms no longer as generous as before, Iran has emerged as the chief source of funding for Hamas. The new Iranian budget, coming into effect on March 21, allocates over $2 billion to the promotion of "revolutionary causes." Much of the money will go to Hamas and the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah.
In Pakistan, the Iran-financed Shiite Tehrik Jaafari joined a coalition of Sunni parties to govern the Northwest Frontier Province, until they all suffered a crushing defeat at last month's parliamentary elections.
The fact that the Sunnis and Shiites in other provinces of Pakistan continued to kill each other did not prevent them from developing a joint, anti-U.S. strategy that included the revival of the Afghan Taliban and protection for the remnants of al Qaeda. Almost all self-styled "holy warriors" who go to Iraq on a mission of murder and mayhem are Sunnis. And, yet most pass through Syria, a country that, as already noted, is dominated by a sect with a militant anti-Sunni religious doctrine.
Next month, Tehran will host what is billed as "The Islamic Convergence Conference," bringing together hundreds of Shiite and Sunni militants from all over the world. The man in charge, Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Taskhiri, has described the goal of the gathering to be delivering "a punch in the face of the American Great Satan."
Still, Mr. Obama might ask: what about al Qaeda and Iran?
The 9/11 Commission report states that Tehran was in contact with al Qaeda at various levels before the 2001 attacks. Tehran has admitted the presence of al Qaeda figures in Iran on a number of occasions, and has arranged for the repatriation of at least 13 Saudi members in the past five years. The Bin Laden family tells us that at least one of Osama's sons, Sa'ad, has lived in Iran since 2002.
Reports from Iran claim that scores of Taliban leaders and several al Qaeda figures spend part of the year in a compound-style housing estate near the village of Dost Muhammad on the Iranian frontier with Afghanistan. One way to verify these claims is to allow the world media access to the area. But Tehran has declared large segments of eastern Iran a "no-go" area, even for its own state-owned media.
In short, the claim that al Qaeda and the Khomeinists, not to mention other terrorist groups operating in the name of Islam, would not work together simply because they have theological differences is both naive and dangerous.
Messrs. McCain and Obama do not need to know about doctrinal differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The problem they face is not theological but political. All they need to know is that there are deadly and determined groups dedicated to destruction of the U.S. in the name of a perverted version of Islam, and that they need to be resisted, fought and ultimately defeated.
Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran and the Khomeinist Revolution," will be published later this year by Encounter Books.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DEA Agents losing guns faster than every
on: March 29, 2008, 10:37:48 AM
Is That a Gun in Your Wastebasket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
DEA Agents Lose Their Weapons Faster Than Ever, According to a New DOJ Report
BY JUSTIN ROOD
March 28, 2008
How do Drug Enforcement Administration special agents lose their guns?
Faster than ever, according to a new report from the Department of Justice inspector general. From 2002 to 2007, DEA lost 91 weapons, the audit found. The DEA isn't always reporting the losses of weapons or laptop computers to the proper authorities, and when it does, it often comes weeks -- even years -- after the fact.
But just how do the guns disappear? Let us count the ways.
"Special agent left weapon on roof of car and drove off," reads one incident description. In his report released today, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine included descriptions of how each weapon was said to have been lost.
"May have fallen into trash basket at work," read another. "Left weapon in supermarket." "Left weapon on airplane." One report sounded like it was filed by an agent on Larry Craig patrol, "Left weapon in airport restroom."
The thieves were often brazen. "Stolen from hotel room -- Special Agent out on balcony," one report stated. "Weapon stolen [from] purse while at social function at bar in Jamaica." "It was believed a carpet installer stole it." At least once, the alleged culprit was a family member, "Weapon stolen by Special Agent's son."
But the most common incident, by far, were guns stolen from agents' official or personal vehicles while they were otherwise engaged -- despite DEA regulations which prohibit leaving weapons unattended in autos.
"Stolen from an official government vehicle parked at restaurant while Special Agent had lunch." "Stolen from official government vehicle while agent was exercising." Stolen "while agent was shopping," from a car parked "at a summer rental house," "from official government vehicle parked at convenience store while Special Agent was buying coffee." One was even reportedly stolen from an agent's car while he was at a middle school football game.
Asked about the reported losses, DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said the investigations would have been handled by DEA itself. "Any of those instances would be referred to our internal investigating arm," Courtney said. "We would take the appropriate actions to make sure the agents are educated on how to handle their weapons appropriately."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics
on: March 29, 2008, 10:14:23 AM
Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More
More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.
None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.
The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.
But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.
The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.
According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.
Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?
In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.
James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.
“There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.
“Scientifically, we’re not hiding away,” he said.
But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. “They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”
In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”
Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.
“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.
This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a “quark-gluon plasma,” has been operating without incident since 2000.
Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.
Mr. Sancho, who describes himself as an author and researcher on time theory, lives in Spain, probably in Barcelona, Mr. Wagner said.
Doomsday fears have a long, if not distinguished, pedigree in the history of physics. At Los Alamos before the first nuclear bomb was tested, Emil Konopinski was given the job of calculating whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere on fire.
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.
The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?
According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.
As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.
But William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia, whose paper exploring the limits of Dr. Hawking’s radiation process was referenced on Mr. Wagner’s Web site, said they had missed his point. “Maybe physics really is so weird as to not have black holes evaporate,” he said. “But it would really, really have to be weird.”
Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist whose work helped fuel the speculation about black holes at the collider, pointed out in a paper last year that black holes would probably not be produced at the collider after all, although other effects of so-called quantum gravity might appear.
As part of the safety assessment report, Dr. Mangano and Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been working intensely for the last few months on a paper exploring all the possibilities of these fearsome black holes. They think there are no problems but are reluctant to talk about their findings until they have been peer reviewed, Dr. Mangano said.
Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's investments
on: March 28, 2008, 05:30:25 PM
Where Does Obama Invest His Money?
March 27, 2008 10:26 p.m.
Barack Obama gave a major economic speech Thursday in New York, where the financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks, to put it mildly. That makes it all the more curious that Mr. Obama's tax returns, which he released this week, apparently show that he and his wife Michelle have next to no stake in the investor class.
Ryan Ellis of the American Shareholders Association has examined the Obama returns for calendar years 2001 to 2006 and found that, in all of those years, the couple reported a mere $1,188 in dividends in 2006 and another $2,754 in dividends in 2005. In the previous years, they reported no dividends of any kind.
Indeed, even though Michelle Obama had income from the University of Chicago's Hospital System that exceeded $1 million during the period the tax returns were filed, she appears to have neither a 401(k) plan nor an IRA for retirement contributions. In another sign the Obama household wasn't into building a nest egg, the couple cashed out $6,260 from a pension or 401(k) plan in 2000.
Given all this, Mr. Ellis asks why the Senator is so "hell-bent on pursuing punitive taxes on capital that would wreck America's retirement savings?" His answer: Perhaps it's "because, by and large, he doesn't have any skin in the game."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: March 28, 2008, 02:59:29 PM
50 Ways to Beat the Reaper
It's simple: Employ these scientific strategies now and add years of good living to your future
By: Denny Watkins & Alison Granell & Heather Loeb
We've been told that the only sure things are death and taxes. But just as creative accountants have helped many men triumph over their 1040s, we can help you outrun the reaper. Maybe it's a game you can't ultimately win. But by following these 50 tips, you sure as hell can send it into overtime.
1. Drink at Least Five 8-ounce Glasses of Water a Day
Scientists at Loma Linda University found that men who drank this amount of H2O were 54 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those who drank two glasses or less every day.
2. Take a Laugh Break
Watching 15 minutes of funny video can improve bloodflow to your heart by 50 percent, report researchers at the University of Maryland. "This may reduce blood-clot formation, cholesterol deposition, and inflammation," says study author Michael Miller, M.D. For your daily dose, click on the "hilarious" video link at ebaumsworld.com.
3. Don't Go to Work Sick
Over a 3-year period, men who clocked in despite feeling under the weather had double the heart-attack risk of guys who stayed in bed, according to a U.K. study.
4. Put Out the Fire in Your Chest
Untreated heartburn can lead to a heart attack, according to a study in the International Journal of Cardiology. Scientists discovered that as acid levels in the esophagus rise, the incidence of blocked bloodflow to the heart also rises by 20 percent. A natural remedy: Analyze your diet. Don't make a habit of drinking wine, juice, or carbonated beverages, all of which are highly acidic and may trigger heartburn, say South Carolina researchers.
5. Indulge Your Chocolate Craving
In a 15-year study, Dutch scientists determined that men who ate just 4 grams of cocoa a day had half the risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate less. That's the equivalent of two 25-calorie Hershey's Kisses -- an amount that can fit into any diet.
6. Say No to Froot Loops
In a review of 53 studies, Australian researchers found that regularly eating cereal made from refined grains raises insulin and C-reactive protein, and lowers good cholesterol -- all factors that boost your odds of developing heart disease. A better choice for your morning bowl: Post Shredded Wheat cereal, which is made from 100 percent whole grains and contains no sugar.
7. Take a Magnesium Supplement
Over an 18-year period, French researchers determined that men with the highest blood levels of magnesium are 40 percent less likely to die of any cause than those with the lowest levels. Magnesium can make multivitamins too bulky, so add a 250 milligram (mg) pill from iherb.com or GNC to your daily regimen.
8. Burn 1,100 Calories a Week
Duke University scientists discovered that this amount of exercise prevents the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue -- the dangerous belly fat that causes arterial inflammation and hypertension. Falling short? Join a league: A recent British Medical Journal study reported that people who exercised in groups boosted their average calorie burn by 500 a week.
9. Take a Daily Multivitamin
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that this helps prevent the DNA damage that causes cancer. We like Centrum Silver.
10. Hit the Weights
University of Michigan scientists found that men who completed three total-body weight workouts a week for 2 months lowered their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That's enough to reduce the risk of stroke by 40 percent and heart attack by 15 percent.
11. Set a Three-Drink Limit
Harvard researchers determined that downing more than three drinks in a 24-hour period increases your risk of atrial fibrillation, a condition that may boost your odds of a stroke fivefold during that time. An important note: When the average man pours himself a glass of wine, it's typically twice the size of a standard drink (4 ounces), report researchers at Duke University.
IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK...
12. Plop an Alka-Seltzer
It contains 325 milligrams of aspirin, the same as a regular aspirin, and begins fighting blood clots almost 3 minutes faster than a pill, according to a study in Thrombosis Research.
13...and Call a Ride
Walk-in patients wait almost twice as long in the E.R. as those who arrive by ambulance, according to a University of New Mexico study.
14. Treat a Killer Bee Sting
You may not know if you're allergic to the venom of a bee, wasp, or hornet until you've already been stung. But if you start to experience the symptoms of a life-threatening reaction--hives, wheezing, abdominal cramping--you can save yourself in 3 steps:
Step 1. Call 911.
Step 2. Take a Benadryl.
Step 3. Lie on your back and elevate your legs while you wait for help, says Steven Kernerman, D.O., an allergist at the Spokane Allergy and Asthma Clinic. An allergic reaction can constrict your blood vessels, and our three-step strategy counteracts that by improving bloodflow to your heart.
15. Eat Produce at Every Meal
If you consume more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you have a 26 percent lower risk of stroke than people who eat fewer than three servings, according to a recent U.K. study.
16. Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Johns Hopkins University researchers recently determined that people with the highest blood-sugar levels have twice the risk of heart disease as those with the lowest. A warning sign: fasting blood sugar that's greater than 100 mg per deciliter.
17. Think Positive
Purdue scientists discovered that constant worrying shortens your life span by 16 years.
18. Keep Your Cool
Men who frequently express anger outwardly are more than twice as likely to have a stroke than guys who control their tempers, according to the journal Stroke. If you have anger-management issues, try fish oil. National Institutes of Health scientists found that hostile, aggressive men often have low blood levels of DHA--one of the main omega-3 fats found in the oil. We like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega ($27 for 60 1,000-milligram (mg) softgels; nordicnaturals.com). Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg every day.
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T END UP AS FISH FOOD.
Most shark attacks occur at dawn and dusk, when sharks feed, says Alan Henningsen, a marine biologist and shark researcher at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. You can watch the sky for clues to their location: Seabirds eat the same fish as sharks. Here are three more ways to avoid a grisly death.
19. Dive with a Partner
This cuts the chance of a shark attack by 50 percent, say Australian scientists.
20. If You're Attacked, Hit the Shark in Its Eyes or Gills
These are its most sensitive areas. The snout might work as a target, but this tactic often results in a bitten arm, according to a University of Maryland study.
21. For God's Sake, Don't Pee in the Ocean
Bodily Fluids attract sharks
22. Try a Natural Remedy
According to Israeli scientists, eating one red grapefruit a day lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 20 percent, even in people who don't respond to statins.
23. Have Breakfast within 90 Minutes of Waking
A University of Massachusetts study found that men who waited longer than that were 50 percent more likely to become obese. And U.K. researchers determined that increases in body mass were directly proportionate to the likelihood of dying of gut cancers -- specifically rectal, bladder, colon, and liver.
24. Vacuum for 30 Minutes
Doing 150 calories' worth of chores a day can lower high blood pressure by 13 points, according to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The reduction lasts only 8 hours, but make it a daily habit and you can lower your BP in the long term. (Helping out more with housework may improve your sex life, too.)
25. Eat Berries
The antioxidants in cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have been shown to offer protection from a stroke, keep you mentally sharp as you age, and ward off cancer.
26. Drownproof Yourself
If you're dumped in the water without a life preserver, the key to survival is staying warm and conserving energy. Use the method taught to U.S. Navy pilots: Float facedown in the water with your knees tucked against your chest in the fetal position. (This slows the drop in body temperature.) Exhale bubbles slowly, turning your head to one side only to inhale deeply. Repeat until help arrives.
27. Sleep on Your Side
This can halve the number of sleep-apnea-related wakeups you experience during the night. Such interruptions make you up to six times more likely to be involved in an auto accident, due to residual fatigue, according to researchers at University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland. To keep from rolling over onto your back as you sleep, stuff a small, firm neck pillow down the back of your T-shirt before dozing off.
28. Light a Jasmine-Scented Candle
Men who did this for just 1 minute before bed fell asleep faster, tossed and turned less, and felt more refreshed in the morning than those who didn't inhale the aroma, report scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University. That's important, because insufficient sleep boosts your risk of diabetes, and restless sleep increases your odds of a stroke.
29. Live Life in a Smoke-free Zone
Secondhand smoke, besides boosting your risk of lung cancer, raises your diabetes risk by 40 percent -- nearly the same as smoking does.
30. Dodge a Deadly Lightning Bolt
Stay off the toilet during severe thunderstorms. If lightning hits within even 60 feet of your house, it can not only jump through phone and electrical lines but also run through plumbing, according to the National Weather Service.
31. Put Your iPod on a Mount
Reaching for an unsecured object as you drive makes you eight times more likely to swerve into a road barrier, according to the Mayo Clinic.
32. Check Your Smoke Alarms
The most likely reason a house fire ends in a fatality: no early warning. While just about every U.S. residence has smoke alarms, a Morehouse School of Medicine study revealed that the devices were nonfunctioning in one-third of homes due to dead or absent batteries. If you've ever let the juice in any of your detectors dwindle -- or removed the battery simply to disable the low-power beep -- consider installing at least one DuPont self-charging smoke alarm ($26; target.com). It screws into a ceiling light socket and feeds off your home's electricity.
33. Sip on Mint Tea
It contains the powerful antioxidant hesperidin, which reduces the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with diabetes by 52 percent, according to a study at the University of Buffalo. And despite its lack of caffeine, mint tea also increases alertness.
34. Don't Jaywalk
This is particularly good advice if you've had too much to drink, because 77 percent of pedestrians killed while crossing the road aren't at intersections. And 53 percent of those killed at night had blood-alcohol concentrations at or above .08 percent, the legal limit in all 50 states.
35. Don't Get Blown to Bits
Keep bleach, paint stripper, fabric softener, glue, and sidewalk salt away from gas appliances. The chlorine or fluorine in these products breaks down into ionized gas, which can eat holes in the pipes that deliver the fuel for your furnace, range, or dryer. Think you smell fumes? Don't call for help from inside your house; using your phone could create an electric spark and set off an explosion.
IMPROVE YOUR OUTLOOK, SAVE YOUR LIFE
Scandinavian researchers have observed that deep depression (and its spinoff, suicide) is often caused by job stress. Here's how to lower stress, boost your mood, and simultaneously improve your overall health.
36. Find Time to Exercise...
People who exercise at any intensity for 2 hours a week--an average of about 17 minutes a day--are 61 percent less likely to feel highly stressed than their sedentary counterparts, according to researchers in Denmark.
37...Then Take it Outside
British researchers found that people who exercised outdoors reduced their depression by 71 percent, while indoor exercisers' depression decreased by only 45 percent after their workouts.
38. Cut Out the Sweet Stuff
Tufts University researchers found that men on low-sugar diets had lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who consumed all types of carbs. The happier people also limited their total carb intake to 40 percent of total calories.
39. Douse Your Salad with Oil and Vinegar
European scientists determined that unheated olive oil reduces cancer risk. As for vinegar, eating it prior to a high-carbohydrate meal (like pasta) slows the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream. This prevents the spikes in blood sugar and insulin that signal your body to store fat.
40. Add Curry to Vegetables
Rutgers University scientists discovered that a combination of turmeric (found in curry powder) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (a compound in broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) helps fight prostate cancer. The researchers believe that dusting your vegetables just once a week will provide protection.
41. Be a Career Coach
A man married to a woman who is upset by her work is 2.7 times more likely to develop heart disease. If your wife won't find a new job, help her practice her negotiating skills. A Harvard study found that due to anxiety, women don't initiate money talks at work as often as men do, especially when the boss is male.
42. Stash a Cinnamon Air Freshener in your car
The strong, spicy smell can help you stay alert as you drive. Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University found that a whiff increases alertness by 25 percent. Sucking on an Altoid may work, too.
43. Test Yourself for HIV
A recent British study confirms that early detection is the key to extending your life. You can order a take-home HIV test online ($44, homeaccess.com), mail in your blood sample, and receive your results in the mail just 7 days later.
44. Fall on Your Butt
If you feel yourself losing balance on the stairs, crouch so that your butt hits first, says Robert Nirschl, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Don't be afraid to bounce down a few steps -- it'll make a fatal blow less likely.
45. Design a Colorful Menu
Colorado State University scientists discovered that men who eat the widest variety of fruits and vegetables gain greater cancer-fighting benefits than those who eat more total servings but choose from a smaller assortment. That's because the plant chemicals that protect against disease vary between botanical families. Mix it up by choosing one serving from five different color groups: blues and purples, greens, whites, reds, and yellows and oranges.
46. Take a Noontime Nap
Breaking up your day with a 30-minute snooze can reduce coronary mortality by 37 percent, report Greek researchers. Why? It reduces stress that can damage your heart. Even a short nap once or twice a week was found to decrease the risk of early death.
47. Steep Your Tea for at Least 3 Minutes
Any less than that lowers the number of disease-fighting antioxidants.
48. Use Watercress in Your Salad
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that eating 3 ounces of watercress every day increases levels of the cancer-fighting anti-oxidants lutein and beta-carotene by 100 and 33 percent, respectively.
49. Enjoy Your Joe
Brooklyn College researchers recently discovered that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day lowers your risk of dying of heart disease by 53 percent. If you like Starbucks, choose a Caffè Americano: A grande counts as 4 cups and contains just 15 calories.
50. Ask for the Heel
Bread crust has up to eight times more pronyl lysine -- an antioxidant that fights cancer -- than what's in the center. Similarly, the skin of produce is loaded with healthy nutrients, too. http://www.menshealth.com/cda/article.do
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anatomy part two
on: March 28, 2008, 02:50:21 PM
By then, the leadership of the newly triumphant Democrats on Capitol Hill had already determined that the war was irretrievably lost and that the only responsible course was to get out as quickly as possible. Signaling the emphasis the Democrats meant to place on ending our involvement in Iraq quickly, Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, sought to make Jack Murtha her principal deputy.
As for the president's new strategy, the Democrats labeled it "an escalation"--no doubt because polls and focus groups showed that this would make it seem least palatable to the American public. The administration countered with the proposition that we were sending "reinforcements." The media settled on "surge." Each of these labels had the unfortunate side-effect of obscuring the many other changes contained in the new strategy and focusing attention exclusively on the increase in military troops--certainly the gutsiest element in terms of our domestic politics but by no means the only important one.
Week after week, the Democrats attempted to use their control of Congress to suffocate the surge in its cradle. Various proposals were advanced to hobble Gen. Petraeus and render implementation impossible. In April, just as the 30,000 new surge troops were entering the country, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared peremptorily: "This war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything."
Mr. Reid was wrong. While the political standoff in Washington worsened, the situation in Iraq began to improve. Not right away or all at once, of course. In fact, to judge by the measures of greatest salience to the American media, the situation only eroded in the first half of 2007. Attacks rose in number, as did American fatalities. But Gen. Petraeus was steadily refining and adapting the new strategy, and his efforts became especially productive after the full complement of new forces was on the ground and the "surge in operations" could begin in earnest by the beginning of June.
By September 2007, when Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker gave their first report to Congress, the trend line toward success was discernible. Still, the matter remained debatable--to the point where Sen. Clinton felt confident enough to inform Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker on national television that "the reports you provided to us require the willing suspension of disbelief" and to characterize the two men as "the de facto spokesmen of what many of us consider to be a failed policy."
A few months after that showdown, however, the progress was all but indisputable. By now, indeed, we can see that the surge has bought precious time for the United States and the nascent Iraqi state to progress meaningfully toward five specific objectives.
First is extirpating the inciters of sectarian violence: al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunnis and the rogue militias among the Shiites. Second is building up a larger, more capable, and more integrated Iraqi Security Force than existed in 2006.
At the same time, Iraqis are being given the opportunity to create the means of political accommodation locally and from the "bottom up," in ways that reflect the realities of life inside the highly complex mosaic of their country. The achievement of this third goal is the precursor to the fourth, which is to make the central, "top down" government in Baghdad more responsive to the nation's 18 provinces by opening its pocketbook for projects that will improve the economic and living conditions of the country's citizenry at large.
The final goal is, perhaps, the trickiest: pushing Iraqi politicians to pass legislation on a number of important measures, including the sharing of oil revenues, the funding of infrastructure projects, the reform of de-Baathification laws, and the like. These are the notorious "benchmarks" mentioned by the president in his January 2007 speech and subjected to much derision by skeptics.
A year after Mr. Bush first announced the new strategy, progress on the first three objectives has exceeded everyone's expectations, even those who helped design the surge. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been gravely wounded. The rogue elements within the Shiite militias are being pruned away. The Iraq Security Force is growing in size and reliability. And, following the decision of Sunni tribes to turn on al Qaeda and throw in their lot with the United States and the new Iraq, local political accommodation is proceeding at a remarkable pace.
There has also been some movement toward linking the Iraqi Parliament's spending to the needs of localities, but so far this is less impressive. As for the benchmarks on political reconciliation from the top down, it is useful to recall that we once thought such political change should precede everything else. That approach did not work. Our new strategy was based on the contrary assumption that security came first, and that parliamentary progress would lag significantly behind other elements. Of course, this has hardly prevented the president's critics from seizing on the failure of the Iraqi government to have completed all of it benchmarks as putative evidence of the surge's overall failure. Even here, however, there has been a measure of progress on the ground: in February, for example, the Iraqi Parliament passed legislation addressing several key benchmarks, notably including de-Baathification reform and the facilitation of provincial elections as well as of better relations between the provinces and the central government.
* * *
The Petraeus-Crocker report to Congress will no doubt offer further evidence that the new approach is working but is far from having completed its assigned task. No fair-minded observer could conclude otherwise. Gen. Petraeus has already indicated that the central military element of the surge--the increase of 30,000 troops--will end by summer 2008. At that point, U.S. forces in Iraq are set to decline to pre-surge levels, roughly 130,000. The question Gen. Petraeus will now have to answer is: how long will troop levels need to stay there, and when can they start moving down?
What Gen. Petraeus must have uppermost in his mind is the record compiled by his predecessors in trying to produce results with just enough troops to come close but not enough to succeed. A premature drawdown would, by definition, cause the forfeiture of his hard-won gains. And the political reality is that once those troops left Iraq, they would not be coming back.
In a slide presentation that accompanied his September 2007 testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus gave a picture of what he considered an appropriate drawdown. In his reckoning, after remaining at 130,000 for some time, American troops could decline in number to approximately 115,000, then by slow and measured steps to around 100,000, then perhaps to 85,000, and so onward. The closer the troop levels came to 100,000 (or fewer) the more manageable the deployment would be militarily. At those levels, our ground forces would be able to return to a peacetime rotation schedule, which would put far less strain on the all-volunteer force.
In other words, a substantial American presence in Iraq is sustainable militarily over the long term. The great unknown is whether such a commitment would be sustainable politically here at home.
The evidence of the past 16 months is that the American people are likely to support, or at least tolerate, a reduction in American numbers gradual enough to preserve the gains of the surge. A President McCain, for example, would probably have no trouble taking advantage of this sustainable strategy and bringing our mission in Iraq to the most successful end achievable.
What of a President Barack Obama or a President Hillary Clinton? If one were to attempt an answer to this question from the two candidates' words and conduct during the long primary season, one would have reason to conclude that both, in promising a rapid "end" to the war with an equally rapid withdrawal of American forces, are bound and determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of at least partial victory.
But it is not impossible to imagine that these vital matters would appear differently to a Democratic president considering Iraq's and America's future from a seat at the desk in the Oval Office rather than from the stage of a college gymnasium filled with delirious Democratic primary voters. One might even permit oneself to hope that, while continuing to speak derogatorily of George Bush's years as the shepherd of our Iraq policy, such a president would come to know, privately and in time, that he or she had been bequeathed something very different from a fiasco: the promise of a better outcome for Iraq, for the Middle East, and for the American people.
Mr. Feaver is the Alexander F. Hehmeyer professor of political science and public policy at Duke University and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. He is a co-author of "Getting the Best Out of College," to be published by Ten Speed Press in June. This article appears in the April issue of Commentary.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feaver: Anatomy of the Surge
on: March 28, 2008, 02:49:14 PM
Anatomy of the Surge
By PETER D. FEAVER
March 26, 2008
Over the past 16 months, the United States has altered its trajectory in Iraq. We are no longer headed toward a catastrophic defeat and may be on the path to a remarkable victory. As a result, the next president, Democrat or Republican, may well find it easier to adopt the broad contours of this administration's current strategy than to jeopardize progress by changing course abruptly.
That would be an ironic, but satisfying, outcome to the tortuous journey on which the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq, and this nation's views of Iraq, have been traveling over the past three years.
The administration's description of the long-term American goal--a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, govern itself and sustain itself, and will be an ally in the war on terror--has remained consistent from the time the war was launched in 2003 until now. What has shifted, due to sobering experience, is its sense of how long it might take to achieve this goal: a time frame that has stretched from months, to years, and even to decades.
I witnessed the shift firsthand. For two years, from June 2005 to July 2007, I left my teaching position at Duke to join the National Security Council staff as a special adviser for strategic planning, and in that capacity I worked closely on Iraq policy. By the middle of 2005, it was painfully obvious to everyone involved that the only decisive outcome that could be achieved during President Bush's tenure was the triumph of our enemies, America's withdrawal, and Iraq's descent into a hellish chaos as yet undreamed of.
The challenge, therefore, was to develop and implement a workable strategy that could be handed over to Mr. Bush's successor. Although important progress could be made on that strategy during Mr. Bush's watch, ultimately it would be carried through by the next president. This was the reality behind the course followed by the administration in 2005-06, and it remains the reality behind the new and different course the administration has been following since 2007.
This new and different strategy, now called the "surge" but at one point called by insiders the "bridge," emerged out of a growing recognition over 2006 that our critics were right about one thing: Our Iraq policy was not working. At the same time, however, and whether knowingly or ignorantly, many of those same critics were insisting that the answer lay in pursuing precisely the same strategy we already had in place. That is, they were telling us that we needed (a) to push Iraqi government officials to come together politically and (b) to train Iraqi troops so that they could take over from American forces. We had been doing exactly these things for a year, and we had been driven to the brink.
This was no solution at all. The results on the ground in Iraq made it clear that without a dramatic change, the president would be leaving his successor with an untenable mess, if not the prospect of a catastrophic American rout. A review of administration policy was therefore launched that led to the dramatic course revision we have seen unfolding over the past year-and-a-half.
Next month, the military leader of the surge, Gen. David Petraeus, and America's chief diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will present their second report to Congress on the surge and its effects. Prudent and circumspect men, they will surely not advance bold claims on behalf of the policy the United States has been following under their leadership. But I expect they will speak more optimistically about the future than many thought possible eighteen months ago. Their testimony will demonstrate that, at last, the United States has a sustainable strategy for Iraq with a reasonable chance of success, and one that George W. Bush will be able to turn over with confidence to the next incumbent of the White House.
How we got here is a story in itself.
* * *
In the summer of 2005, Gen. George Casey, the theater commander in Iraq, was pressing a military campaign whose primary goal was the training and maturing of Iraqi security forces. At the same time, Iraqis had designed a national constitution that would be the subject of a countrywide referendum in October, to be followed (assuming the constitution's ratification) by national elections in December.
Here at home, administration policy was inundated by criticisms on every front. Much of it was reckless, but not all of it. From "skeptical supporters" of the war like Sen. John McCain and the military analyst Fred Kagan came the charge that the number of American "boots on the ground" was far from sufficient to accomplish the mission. Although our military commanders in Iraq kept assuring the White House that this was not the case, the criticism flitted like Banquo's ghost in the background of every internal discussion about the war.
Some Democrats in the "loyal opposition"--i.e., those who were not simply advocating an irresponsible strategy of defeat and withdrawal--made the same point, but more often they took a different tack. Charging that the administration had no strategy beyond "staying the course," they proposed instead that the United States pressure the Iraqis to bring the sullen and disaffected Sunni minority into the political sphere. This would siphon support from the insurgency. In addition, the Pentagon needed to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces to handle more of the load against the enemies of the new Iraq. And the State Department had to lean on Iraq's neighbors to do more to help.
This counsel seemed maddeningly sensible to us. It was, to the letter, the administration's strategy at that very moment. Still, exasperating though it may have been to be told that we should do what we were actually doing, this line of criticism also seemed to contain potentially good news. Perhaps, we thought, we could find common ground with these Democratic critics--their number included Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Carl Levin--and forge a consensus on how to move forward.
That was the background to a decision in the fall of 2005 to release an unclassified version of Gen. Casey's campaign plan, along with a document explaining how all elements of American power were being mobilized to assist in its realization. The full document was called the National Strategy for Supporting Iraq, the name of which changed somewhere along the way to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, or NSVI. There was nothing new here. The release of the NSVI, bolstered by a series of frank presidential addresses, was simply an attempt to make public a number of details about our approach and offer a reasonable response to our reasonable critics.
The effort was doomed. It was overtaken by political events or, rather, by one specific event: a press conference, on Nov. 17, 2005, by John Murtha, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.
Mr. Murtha was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a hawk on defense spending--someone generally thought to be at home with the old "Scoop" Jackson wing of the Democratic party. When it came to Iraq, he turned out to be something else. "Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty," Mr. Murtha summarily declared at his press conference, and now it was time to bring the troops home--as soon as possible, but no later than in six months.
Mr. Murtha was not calling for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. To the contrary, he was advocating the wholesale abandonment of Iraq. As he well knew, moreover, six months would be the fastest possible withdrawal under the most optimistic timetable, with our forces working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to pull out all of the equipment and matériel we had brought in over the previous three years. This was not a brief for haste but rather a recipe for panic.
Unlike those critics who lambasted our policy and then commended it to our attention, Mr. Murtha was presenting an unambiguous alternative. The left wing of the Democratic :arty and its supporters in MoveOn.org had finally found a spokesman with credentials on national security to make the most extreme case for the war's end.
The media lauded the Murtha plan, but they did not examine it closely. I spent hours with reporters in a futile effort to persuade them to show Mr. Murtha the respect of subjecting his scheme--including his bizarre notion of redeploying troops 5,000 miles away on the island of Okinawa in the Sea of Japan--to the same level of scrutiny they lavished upon administration policy. One key reporter told me, "We don't scrutinize Murtha's plan because none of us takes it seriously."
Inside the White House, we joked bitterly that the only way we could get people to see the flaws in Murtha's proposal would be to offer it as our own.
* * *
In the end, however, even if we had managed to secure some kind of bipartisan support for our strategy, it would have made little difference. Over the course of 2006, the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq collapsed.
We had assumed that steady political movement would drain Sunni support for the insurgency by giving Sunnis a stake in the new Iraq--and that such political progress could be completed before the safety of the Iraqi population had been secured. Alas, the stunningly successful constitutional referendum of October 2005 and the national election two months later were followed by a dreadful stalemate. It took Sunnis nearly six weeks to acknowledge that the vote had been free and fair, and then squabbling within the Shiite community paralyzed its politicians in turn. Month after month, the nascent Iraqi political class found itself unable to form and seat a government. Almost a half-year of political momentum was forgone.
No less worrisome was the discovery that the Iraqi security forces were not yet in any condition to shoulder an increasing portion of the burden--to "stand up" so that coalition forces could "stand down." At the same time, the security challenge became far grimmer. In February, al Qaeda terrorists blew up the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shiite shrines in Iraq. Shiite militia groups responded just as the terrorists had hoped, launching retaliatory strikes against Sunni citizens. A bloody pattern--sectarian atrocity, sectarian reprisal, sectarian counter-reprisal--took hold. Each week, attack levels reached new heights. Since even the vastly more capable U.S. forces seemed unable to tamp down the violence, there was no chance that fledgling Iraqi security forces might do so any time soon.
With the situation deteriorating throughout the spring, the administration might have begun the full-fledged reconsideration of the National Strategy for Victory that it would conduct later in the year. But suddenly the existing strategy appeared to receive a boost. After months of wrangling, the Iraqis finally installed a unity government under the leadership of the little-known Nouri al-Maliki. And U.S. special forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the charismatic leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind behind its strategy of fomenting civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Hope rekindled that the chaos could be brought under control.
But the boost proved illusory. Gen. Casey launched a new effort to regain control of the capital, but within weeks it foundered when several of the Iraqi units on which it depended simply failed to show up for the fight. A revised version of the Casey plan likewise came a cropper when the new Maliki government interfered with efforts to go after rogue Shiite militias that were now rivaling al Qaeda in Iraq in wreaking havoc.
Over the summer, doubts began to grow among White House officials working on Iraq; by September the NSC staff initiated a quiet but thorough review of strategy with an eye to developing a new way forward. The review, which soon expanded beyond the confines of the National Security Council, became a matter of public knowledge after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's departure in November, the day after the landslide Democratic victory in the midterm elections. The election underscored the fact that, at a minimum, the administration would have to reposition the Iraq mission in the minds of the American people. Our review confirmed that it would take more than a change of face to rescue the possibility of victory--it would take an entirely new strategy.
The idea was for our proposed change in course to be completed in time to take advantage of the release of another document. This was the much-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Inside the White House, we hoped that the report's recommendations would be palatable enough to blend with whatever new approach the president decided to adopt. The long-sought holy grail--a bipartisan consensus on the way forward in Iraq--seemed again within reach.
* * *
It was not to be. While sharply criticizing the lack of progress thus far, the Baker-Hamilton commission essentially recommended back to us an accelerated version of the strategy envisioned by the NSVI: stand them up so we can stand down. While there was still some support inside the administration for continuing on that path, the interagency team on which I served was of a different mind. The situation in Iraq had eroded beyond the point envisioned by the Baker-Hamilton report; under the horrific conditions now at play, we concluded, Iraq's security forces were far more likely to crack under the strain than to "stand up." And those forces were the essential glue of a stable, unified future. If they went the way of Humpty Dumpty, neither they nor the new Iraq could ever be put back together again.
The Baker-Hamilton report did offer theoretical support for a short-term surge of military forces--something the president and the interagency team were also looking at very closely--but this was mentioned only in a brief passage and was far from the document's central thrust. The White House never succeeded in shifting the conventional wisdom in Washington that Baker-Hamilton provided an alternative to current policy. Nor, unfortunately, were we ready with our own genuine alternative when the Baker-Hamilton report was released on Dec. 6, 2006. That put paid to the idea that we could use the occasion as a means of securing bipartisan support for a new approach. By the time the president announced the surge in January, the climate had turned frostier still.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 02:18:54 PM
Second post of the day:
Geopolitical Diary: Ukraine, The Main Battlefield of Cold War II
March 28, 2008
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday that no NATO bases would be deployed in his country in the event that Kiev became a member of that organization. Citing Ukraine’s Constitution, which forbids the establishment of foreign military bases in the country, Yushchenko said, “Some people are spreading the fable that there will be a NATO military base in Sevastopol. There will be no base.” This statement comes within three weeks of Kiev saying it had abandoned its bid for membership in the Western military alliance.
This is not the first time Ukraine has done such a flip-flop. On the contrary, this oscillation between aligning with the West and placating Russian concerns has been the hallmark of the country’s behavior for some years now — if not historically. Structurally, Ukraine is divided between the people in the western part of the country, who want to align with the United States and Europe, and the people in the eastern part, who are looking eastward toward Moscow.
The ill-fated Orange Revolution of late 2004/early 2005 — which failed to bring the country under Western influence –- complicated things. It exacerbated the divisions within the country, creating a stalemate between the two sides. Ukraine’s geopolitical position has failed to allow the country to break its dependence on and past with Russia. As a result, on a larger geopolitical scale, the United States and Russia are locked in a long-term tug-of-war over Ukraine.
In fact, Ukraine represents the major arena in which Cold War II is being played out between Washington and Moscow. Ukraine is of critical importance to both sides. For the United States, a successful extraction of the country from the influence of Moscow — not to mention NATO’s arrival on Moscow’s doorstep — means relegating Russia to the status of a declining regional power. Conversely, and more importantly, for Russia, it is not just about its efforts to revive the bipolar world, but it is an issue of survival.
The loss of Ukraine could critically weaken the Kremlin. It is not merely a buffer separating Russia from the West; it is integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural base. This is why Moscow has been using the tool of natural gas cutoffs and coercion by the FSB to keep Ukraine’s leadership in check. Moreover, Moscow has laid out the consequences of Kiev teaming up with NATO, saying it will point missiles at its neighbor if it were part of the alliance.
Moscow, however, can take comfort from the fact that there is no consensus within the West regarding Ukraine’s entry into NATO. The Europeans, particularly Germany, do not share Washington’s level of enthusiasm for Kiev’s assimilation into NATO. Uninterrupted supply of Russian gas via Ukraine is of far greater value to the Central and Eastern Europeans than any grandiose plans to secure the downfall of Russia. It isn’t that Germany is against Ukraine joining the West, but that it would rather pick that fight another day — preferably when Europe wasn’t so dependent on Russia for energy.
But it is Ukraine that is being tugged and pushed from all sides, leaving it to balance precariously between surviving with a very aggressive Russia to its east, ambivalence to its west and a Washington eager to use Kiev as its pawn to stick it to Moscow. For the next week, Ukraine will toe the line — not accepting or rejecting the other and waiting for the United States and Russia to decide how far this battle will go.
In short, Ukraine is not just the premier battlefield of Cold War II, but a more-or-less permanent standoff arena –- unless, of course, one side decides to back off, which isn’t about to happen anytime soon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Natural Aristocracy
on: March 28, 2008, 02:17:21 PM
"For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy
among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813)
Reference: Jefferson Writings, Lemay, ed., 1305.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 28, 2008, 02:11:12 PM
Are Democrats overrating the political appeal of a federal housing bailout?
Rep. Tom Feeney, from Florida of all places, called us this week to slam House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank's draft mortgage bill. Although Mr. Feeney represents more than 70 miles of coastline in a state that is ground zero in the housing downturn, he calls a taxpayer-financed rescue a "terrible idea." During the Easter recess, Mr. Feeney has been strolling along Daytona Beach talking to voters. His findings are bracing. "My constituents for the most part have no sympathy for the lenders, and they are not terribly sympathetic with borrowers who made bad decisions," he says. In fact, relief for borrowers is not even at the top of the list of housing concerns. He hears more complaints about high property taxes based on bubble-era assessments.
Mr. Feeney says his constituents realize that most of the pending plans to help strapped borrowers will benefit a relative few, while raising costs for all borrowers. Mr. Feeney says of a specific plan to let bankruptcy judges knock down the loan amount due on a house: "The percentage of people who will benefit is minuscule. The other 99.5% of Americans will pay for it."
-- James Freeman
Reading the Matchup Tea Leaves
The argument rages over whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would do better against John McCain in the fall. Nationally, the two fare about the same, with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mr. Obama leading Mr. McCain by 2 points, and Mr. McCain slightly ahead of Mrs. Clinton, results that are all within the margin of error.
But the results vary dramatically from state to state. In Pennsylvania, Mr. McCain picks up a lot of the old Reagan Democrats in a matchup with Mr. Obama, putting that state in play even though it hasn't voted for a Republican for president in 20 years. The latest Susquehanna Poll finds Mr. McCain leads Mr. Obama by four points, but trails Hillary Clinton in a fall matchup by three points.
In Connecticut, the results are dramatically different. Mr. McCain has a fighting chance against Mrs. Clinton, trailing her by only 45% to 42%. Against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain certainly benefits from an endorsement by independent Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat. But it's a different story when the Arizonan is paired up against Mr. Obama -- he loses by a whopping 52% to 35%. The reason? Mr. Obama is phenomenally popular with voters under age 35 -- he gets almost three quarters of their votes.
But a big caveat for Mr. Obama is the past pattern of younger enthusiasts drifting off before Election Day and failing to vote. Should Mr. Obama be the Democratic nominee, he will need to make sure his young supporters don't exhaust the "audacity of hope."
-- John Fund
A letter of protest from some of Hillary Clinton's big donors to Nancy Pelosi has stirred up the "She can't win, why is she running?" caucus in the media one more time.
But the premise is false. Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Barack Obama can win on pledged delegates, and party rules prescribe that the deciding votes fall to the superdelegates. Mrs. Clinton's donors, led by New York financier Steven Rattner and media mogul Robert Johnson, yesterday wrote to the House Speaker and rightly demanded that she stop trying to fix the outcome by insisting superdelegates must follow the popular vote in their states or districts and vote (in effect) for Barack Obama.
That's not what party rules say, specifically empowering superdelegates to make up their own minds. One who is ironically unimpressed by Ms. Pelosi's reasoning is Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., possessed of one of the most powerful Democratic names in the state. He plans to endorse Mr. Obama today despite polls showing Mrs. Clinton leading by double digits in Pennsylvania.
Of course, the pro-Clinton letter writers weren't about to highlight the real problem. The most influential superdelegates, such as Ms. Pelosi and Al Gore, should simply stop being so coy and throw their lot behind a candidate, while urging their fellow superdelegates to do the same. They could settle this race now if they are so concerned about it dragging out. The likely result would be to put Mr. Obama over the top, but at least rank-and-file voters in the coming primaries would know where the superdelegates stand.
Then again, don't discount the possibility that Mr. Gore and Ms. Pelosi don't want the stalemate to end. Each would play a starring role at the most dramatic convention in decades. In a total breakdown, they might even end up being drafted for a party unity ticket.
-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.
Mugabe's Election Farce
Independent surveys show Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with only 20% support as the country heads toward a March 29 election in the midst of an economic nightmare in which 80% of the population lacks a regular job.
But no one expects Mr. Mugabe to lose. He has gerrymandered districts to ensure his rural supporters carry much more weight in the election. Then there's the vote fraud he is actively promoting. Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says leaked documents from the government's security printers show nine million ballots have been ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote on Saturday. Under amended laws, police will also be allowed to go into polling booths to "assist" illiterate people in voting -- a clear violation of Mr. Mugabe's previous pledges not to have police moonlight as election officials.
Then there are the voter rolls themselves, which are stuffed with the names of the dead or nonexistent. The London Times reports one electoral register included people born in 1900 and 1901, along with a former minister of justice who died a quarter-century ago. Mugabe opponents say these "ghost voters" will give the government a ready means of stuffing ballot boxes.
Before the last election, Mugabe critics were able to obtain voter rolls for 12 districts. An independent analysis found that 45% of the named individuals didn't exist. This year, the government has kept the voter rolls under lock and key.
It's true Mr. Mugabe only won 54% of the vote in the last rigged election, and strongmen ranging from Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Chavez have in the past miscalculated the amount of fraud necessary to steal an election. But few in Zimbabwe doubt that the wily 84-year-old Mr. Mugabe will stop at nothing in order to maintain his grip on power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 10:12:56 AM
NATO Expansion Should Continue
By DONALD RUMSFELD
March 28, 2008; Page A13
Next week Romania's capital of Bucharest will host representatives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 26 member nations. There the alliance will make critical choices about its mission in Afghanistan and expanding to several former Soviet-bloc nations. These decisions need not and should not be further delayed for yet more "meetings" and "consultations" in capitals across Europe.
Today NATO needs clarity of purpose. A display of timidity in Bucharest could derail its recent progress in adjusting to the demands of the still new 21st century. Moving decisively beyond NATO's traditional mindset is a strategic imperative if the alliance is to remain relevant to the challenges it is likely to face.
There is no better way for NATO to move forward than by extending full membership invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and by beginning the process to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance in the future through membership action plans (MAPs). At a time when European commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan are being questioned, the determination of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to contribute to tough missions is clear. Collectively, the three Balkan nations have more than 650 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the moment Croatia has more than 200 troops training the Afghan National Army and serving in Provincial Reconstruction Teams. A company of Macedonian troops leads the mission of defending NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. In addition to its continuous troop presence in Afghanistan since 2002, Albania was among the first nations to deploy to Iraq in 2003. Five years later, Albania intends to be among the last to leave. As the Albanian military commander in Mosul, Iraq, recently said, "We'll be here as long as the Americans are."
As was the case with NATO invitations to other former Soviet-bloc nations in 1999 and 2004, this year's expansion would consolidate democratic and economic gains in Southeast Europe. The region's trajectory toward free political institutions and free markets is unmistakable.
For the past several years under membership action plans, the governments of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have been preparing to join the ranks of NATO. They now meet the necessary criteria for membership. They have shown their commitment to human rights and regional stability by protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. They have allocated a greater percentage of their GDP to defense expenditures than most NATO countries in Western Europe, and they have built sound defense capabilities in intelligence, medical support, and special operations.
Perhaps most important in light of NATO's demonstrated shortcomings, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have made use of those capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq by taking on the tough missions that several current NATO members have been unwilling to carry out. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are certainly not large geographically, but the operational -- and attitudinal -- contributions they bring to NATO will far outstrip their size.
With respect to Georgia and Ukraine, both nations are democratic, politically mature, relatively stable and committed to the international community after the Orange and Rose revolutions in 2003 and 2004. Neighboring Russia recently suggested it might turn its nuclear arsenal on Ukraine or incite civil disorder in Georgia if either takes steps to join NATO. Undeterred, the Georgian and Ukrainian governments have expressed their clear desire to initiate membership action plan proceedings.
Silence on the issue of Georgia and Ukraine in Bucharest -- including postponement of MAPs, as some Western European governments seem to be suggesting -- would amount to a rejection of Georgia's and Ukraine's international aspirations. It would prove disillusioning to their people, and it would serve as a green light to Russia to continue the tired rhetoric of the Cold War.
The administration, bipartisan majorities in Congress, and most members of NATO have expressed support for extending membership to nations in Southeastern Europe and for partnerships with those nations beyond. Why then the hold up? Aside from Russia's opposition, Greece has threatened to issue a sole veto over Macedonia's entry because Macedonia refuses to change its country name. The future of the trans-Atlantic alliance -- and its credibility as the pre-eminent political and military instrument of the world's democracies -- are too important to be constrained by narrow disputes over semantics or to intimidation tactics more befitting the last century.
A larger, reinvigorated alliance, with three new members and two potential members, would augment NATO with countries that have a proven track record of not only recognizing today's challenges but also of consistently contributing to the alliance's efforts to promote and protect its interests. Expansion would bring operational expertise and a spirit of cooperation to an alliance in need of both. All five nations would also bring to NATO an appreciation for the vigilance required to defend liberty. With their peoples' first hand experience of Communist occupation, they see in Islamic extremism the dangers of an all too familiar totalitarian ideology.
NATO's mission in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from the European continent, has been an historic step toward transforming NATO to meet new challenges of the 21st century. But its work there has laid bare some hard truths about the state of the alliance.
Restrictive national caveats imposed by some member nations currently prevent their contingents from engaging in combat, causing other NATO and non-NATO members of the coalition -- such as those being considered for membership currently -- to carry a disproportionate burden of the alliance's work and sacrifice. Outdated rules of engagement, uneven national commitments, and a lack of sufficient urgency among several of its members are indisputable facts. And so too are the possibilities of failure and creeping irrelevance if NATO does not act wisely in Bucharest.
Expanding NATO to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and building closer partnerships with Georgia and Ukraine would help to assuage any concerns that the alliance no longer has the collective grit for the tough work necessary to overcome the challenges in Afghanistan. All five non-NATO nations currently under consideration -- in contrast with several full NATO members -- have demonstrated willingness to accept NATO responsibilities.
Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are today ready to accept those responsibilities. Georgia and Ukraine will likely be ready to accept NATO responsibilities in the coming years if issued membership action plans next week. The Bucharest summit presents an opportunity to advance the interests of all 26 member nations by expanding the NATO alliance. Now is not a time for self-doubt. It is a time for U.S. and European leadership.
Mr. Rumsfeld was U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1973 to 1974 and was the 13th and 21st U.S. secretary of Defense.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.