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24451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: November 15, 2007, 04:43:36 PM
Justice for Sale
How special-interest money threatens the integrity of our courts.

BY SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR
Thursday, November 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Voters generally don't express much interest in the election of judges. This year, as in years past, voter turnout in elections for judges was very low. But judicial elections, which occur in some form in 39 states, are receiving growing attention from those who seek to influence them. In fact, motivated interest groups are pouring money into judicial elections in record amounts. Whether or not they succeed in their attempts to sway the voters, these efforts threaten the integrity of judicial selection and compromise public perception of judicial decisions.

The final four candidates running for open seats on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania raised more than $5.4 million combined in 2007, shattering fund-raising records in Pennsylvania judicial elections. Since 2006, high court campaigns in Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington also set fund-raising records. Since 2004, nine other states broke records for high court election spending.

Most of this money comes from special interest groups who believe that their contributions can help elect judges likely to rule in a manner favorable to their causes. As interest-group spending rises, public confidence in the judiciary declines. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvanians regard judicial fund raising as evidence that justice is for sale, and many judges agree. According to a nationwide survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Institute, partisan judicial elections decrease public confidence that courts are fair, impartial and operating in the best interest of the American people.

The first step that a state like Pennsylvania can take to reverse this trend is replace the partisan election of its judges with a merit-selection system, or at least with a nonpartisan system in which the candidates do not affiliate with political parties. In a typical merit-based system, an independent commission of knowledgeable citizens recommends several qualified candidates suitable for appointment by the governor of the state. After several years of service, the appointed judge's name is then submitted to the voters for an up or down vote known as a retention election.
The second step a state can take is set up campaign-conduct committees to educate voters and the media about the criteria people should use to select judges. These committees can also publicize accurate information about the sources of big contributions, providing the kind of transparency that allows voters to decide whether a judicial candidate's impartiality may be compromised by her contributors. Finally, the committees can flag inappropriate campaign conduct and provide information to help voters interpret charges made in campaign advertising sound bites.

The boundary of decency was certainly crossed in Pennsylvania this year when a candidate for the Supreme Court was called "the drug dealer's choice" by the opposing political party because of a decision that she had made to overturn a conviction based on an illegal search. Campaign-conduct committees can help restore a little perspective when the going gets too rough in judicial races.

The third step a state can take is distribute voter education pamphlets to provide accurate and unbiased information about the qualifications of a judicial candidate. Voter education guides can provide information about relevant qualifications that are often left out of campaign ads and meager media coverage.

These three reforms will help, but will not solve the problem of direct interest-group attacks on judicial candidates. Pennsylvania's experience demonstrates this problem. In addition to the contested Supreme Court seats, 67 state judges were up for retention election in Pennsylvania this year. Retention elections are historically very low profile, but they became contentious in 2007 when a small but organized grass-roots campaign sought to oust all but one of the judges whose names were before the voters because the judges had accepted a legislatively enacted pay raise rather than returning the money to the state treasury. They attacked the judges as "pigs in robes," conjuring images of greedy out-of-control politicians.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania voters were not swayed by the spurious attack, but that doesn't mean that the attacks weren't harmful, as they were essentially all anyone heard about Pennsylvania's 2007 retention elections. One of the dangers of low media coverage and high interest-group spending is that voters hear only from activists who have targeted a particular judicial race. The Pennsylvania retention races show how easily the issues in judicial elections can be controlled by special interests.

Special interest appeals to emotion and policy preferences tempt voters to join efforts to control the decisions of judges. Voters are less likely to devote themselves to the core value of judicial independence, because when judges apply the law fairly and impartially they cannot guarantee the outcome any particular voter might want. But fair and impartial judging is an essential part of our government, and must be preserved.

In the long term, a commitment to judicial independence will only come from robust civics education, starting at a very young age. Today, only a little more than one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government--much less explain the balance of power among them. If we lose appreciation for our government's structure and the role of the judiciary within it, it is only a matter of time before the judicial branch becomes just another political arm of the government. With the stakes so high, we cannot wait until the election cycle to educate the citizenry. We must start with civics education in our nation's schools.
Perhaps children can understand the role of a fair and impartial judiciary better than any of us. Children depend on their teachers, their parents and their sports referees to know the rules and to apply them fairly. Thus schools are the ideal place for the life-long process of civics education to begin. In the meantime, we need to look at practical short-term reforms that will restore public confidence in the selection of state judges.

Justice O'Connor is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

24452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: November 15, 2007, 04:33:22 PM
A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.


Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
24453  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: November 15, 2007, 04:18:17 PM
Woof All:

An eagle-eyed reader has noted that we failed to mention in the invitation the admission of $15 and the starting time of 11:00 AM.

TAC,
CD
24454  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 15, 2007, 04:08:29 PM
Speaking of that JCVD fight scene in Lionheart-- his opponent in that fight was Stuart , , , Wilson (?) who was a buddy in my days in the mid 80s with Paul Vunak.  His dad was Mr. Whipple in the Charmin toilet paper ads ("Don't squeeze the Charmin").

But I digress , , ,

I'm playing phone tag with Nigel over at OP about the wall , , ,
24455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The ping goes on , , , on: November 15, 2007, 10:44:01 AM
http://www.theaviationnation.com/200...d-with-mirror/

(U//FOUO) Suspicious Activity Onboard Flight to Milwaukee
(U//FOUO) On 24 October 2007, crewmembers aboard a Reagan-Washington National to Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport flight reported to a Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) flying in non-mission status that they noticed suspicious behavior by four passengers.
One of the subjects entered and exited the rear aircraft lavatory three times and failed to comply with crewmembers' verbal instructions. The FFDO seated himself near this subject to observe his behavior. Shortly afterward, two more of the subjects moved into the aisles and entered both lavatories. After one of the subjects vacated the rear left lavatory, the FFDO searched it, noting that the mirror above the sink was not properly latched.
He exited the lavatory and a fourth subject was waiting second in line with a passenger in front of him. The FFDO offered the fourth subject access to the right lavatory, but the subject declined, claiming the right lavatory was dirty.The FFDO noted the right lavatory was clean, and the subject reluctantly entered the right lavatory and remained there for an extended period of time. (TSA/SD-10-3849-07)
(U//FOUO) TSA Office of Intelligence Comment: Although there is no information that the aircraft was being specifically targeted for a future terrorist attack, the actions of the four passengers are highly suspicious. FFDO confirmation of possible tampering of the lavatory mirror in one of the lavatories could be indicative of an attempt to locate concealment areas for smuggling criminal contraband or terrorist materials. In this case, it appears the left lavatory was the sole area of interest for the passengers. One subject's excuse that the right lavatory was dirty when it was confirmed to be clean shows the four passengers had a specific, operational objective. Although unconfirmed at this time, this incident has many of the elements of pre-operational terrorist planning.
Source: TSA Suspicious Incidents Report #177
24456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on taxation on: November 15, 2007, 08:33:11 AM
"Excessive taxation...will carry reason and reflection to every
man's door, and particularly in the hour of election."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Taylor, 1798)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 10:64.
24457  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 03:27:33 PM
Folks:

OP is wanting out of setting up a wall again.  I liked having it, but want to ask everyone: Is this something that matters to us? 

TAC,
CD
24458  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 12:49:28 PM
One of the EMTs who will be there suggests bringing "Crazy Glue" for temp repair of any severe cuts.

Also, Tricky Dog sends his regrets.  He mentions he plans to be at the Summer Gathering with shield and spear, shield and stick.
24459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 12:44:33 PM
The birth rate numbers stated in the article are quite extraordinary-- working from memory here of my reading of Mark Steyn's "America Alone", Germany is a disaster at 1.3 and Spain is in a virtual spiral down the drain at 1.1 (2.1 is the level at which a population maintains), but .66?!?  After 6.5?!?  If I calculate correctly, at 6.5 rate means that there was a population growth rate of 4.4%!!!  Still working from memory, when I studied Mexico in the seventies its pop growth rate was 3.6 or so (which was considered off the charts, and 4.4% is roughly 4/3 of that rate!!!)  and that the numbers cranked out to half its population being 16 years of age or less. 

I must say that I find both numbers highly unusual and would like to see some sort of confirmation elsewhere.
24460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson , Franklin on: November 14, 2007, 11:03:21 AM
“Newspapers... serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.” —Thomas Jefferson

"Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to John Alleyne, 9 August 1768)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 7
(415)
24461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: November 14, 2007, 09:13:04 AM
A Hizbollah Mole?
Case against CIA spy shocks counter-intelligence community

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 7:46 PM ET Nov 13, 2007

A former FBI agent who pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and then improperly accessing sensitive computer information about Hizbollah was working until about a year ago as a CIA spy assigned to Middle East operations, Newsweek has learned.

The stunning case of Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old Lebanese native who is related to a suspected Hizbollah money launderer, appears to raise a nightmarish question for U.S. intelligence agencies: Could one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups have infiltrated the U.S. government?

"I'm beginning to think it's possible that Hizbollah put a mole in our government," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief under Presidents Clinton and, until 2002, Bush. "It's mind-blowing."

A U.S. official familiar with the case said Tuesday that the government's investigation has uncovered no evidence so far that Prouty, who was employed by the CIA until last week, had compromised any undercover operations or passed along sensitive intelligence information to Hizbollah operatives. After joining the CIA in June 2003, Prouty was an undercover officer for the agency's National Clandestine Service, the espionage division, working on Middle East-related cases. She was reassigned to a less sensitive position about a year ago, after she first came under suspicion, officials said.

Prosecutors have not charged Prouty with espionage. Nonetheless, the case remains an "ongoing investigation" and "that is obviously something we're looking at," a senior law enforcement official said. Her lawyer declined comment today. Under the terms of her plea agreement, she faces six to twelve months behind bars, and could be stripped of her U.S. citizenship.

The case is clearly a major embarrassment for both the FBI and CIA and has already raised a host of questions. Chief among them: how did an illegal alien from Lebanon who was working as a waitress at a shish kabob restaurant in Detroit manage to slip through extensive security background checks, including polygraphs, to land highly sensitive positions with the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies?

Indeed, the bizarre details of the Prouty investigation—which include connections to both Hizbollah and a multi-million dollar bribery ring involving a former senior U.S. Homeland Security official—could ultimately be cast as a war-on-terror version of the notorious spy cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, Soviet spies who worked for the CIA and FBI respectively.

"It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government," said Stephen J. Murphy, the U.S. attorney in Detroit.

According to court papers filed Tuesday, Prouty pleaded guilty to three charges in federal court in Detroit: naturalization fraud; unlawfully accessing a federal computer system to obtain information about her relatives as well as Hizbollah; and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Prouty, according to court documents, first entered the United States from Lebanon in 1989 on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa. After her visa expired, she illegally remained in the country, residing in Taylor, Michigan with her sister and another individual. In order to stay in the country and evade immigration laws, she offered money to an unemployed U.S. citizen to marry her in the summer of 1990. But, according to her indictment, Prouty "never lived as husband and wife with her fraudulent 'husband' and the marriage was never consummated sexually."
By 1992, the court papers say, Prouty landed a job as a waitress and hostess at La Shish, a popular chain of Middle Eastern shish kabob restaurants in the Detroit area owned by a Lebanese businessman, Talil Khalil Chahine, who later came under federal investigation for his suspected ties to Hizbollah.

At this point, Prouty's case seemed like a garden variety case of marriage and immigration fraud. But as laid out in the court papers, the story took a more ominous turn in April, 1999, when Prouty, using the alias of "Nada Nadim Alley" and her fraudulently-obtained U.S. citizenship, landed a job as an FBI special agent. Prouty got the job under a special FBI "language program" designed to recruit Arabic and other foreign-language speakers, a bureau official said today. Not only was she quickly granted a security clearance, she was then assigned to the bureau's Washington field office, where she worked on an extraterritorial squad investigating crimes against U.S. persons overseas. In that capacity, Prouty in September 2000 improperly tapped into bureau computers to access information about herself, her sister, and Chahine. Three years later, Prouty again tapped into bureau computers to obtain information about a case she was not assigned to: a national security investigation targeting Hizbollah being conducted by the Detroit field office.

Prouty, the court papers suggest, may have had a personal motive for seeking information about Chahine and Hizbollah. Her sister, Elfat El Aouar, had by then married Chahine and both of them in August 2002 had attended a "fundraising event in Lebanon." The keynote speakers at the event, according to the court papers, were Chahine and Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hizbollah, who has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist."

Chahine was subsequently charged in two federal indictments. One of them last year accused him of skimming $20 million from his chain of restaurants in Detroit and routing some of that cash to unnamed persons in Lebanon. (Prouty's sister was also charged in that case. She has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last May.) In the second indictment last month, Chahine—now believed to be a fugitive in Lebanon—was charged with conspiring with a former senior official of the Homeland Security's office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Detroit to extort funds from former employees of Chahine's La Shish restaurant chain. (Although he has since left the country, his lawyer has denied that Chahine had any involvement in terrorism.) The ICE official, Roy Bailey, was accused of misusing his position to accept "large sums of currency and other property in return for granting immigration benefits," according to a Justice Department press release last month. (Bailey has entered a plea of not guilty.)

Officials emphasized that there is still there is much they don't know about Prouty's activities—most importantly, whether she was actively providing U.S. government intelligence to Hizbollah. But the FBI acknowledged Tuesday that they didn't discover Prouty's connections to Hizbollah until December 2005—apparently as a result of the ICE bribery probe--and more than two years after she left the bureau to go work for the CIA's Clandestine Service. Eventually, the bureau alerted the agency and the CIA later reassigned her into a less sensitive position, a U.S. official said. But while both agencies are still doing damage control assessments, the mere fact that Prouty got as far as she did has stunned the counter-intelligence community. "This is not good," said one chagrined senior official, who, like all officials quoted anonymously in this story, declined to speak on the record owing to the sensitivity of the subject.

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said: "The CIA, among other federal agencies, cooperated with the investigation. Ms. Prouty was a mid-level employee who came to us in 2003 from the FBI, where she had been a special agent. The naturalization issue occurred well before she was hired by the Bureau. She formally resigned from the federal service as part of her plea agreement."



URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/70309
24462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Are we turning the corner in Iraq? on: November 13, 2007, 04:13:48 PM
Iraq: Positive Signs
By George Friedman

The latest reports concerning the war in Iraq suggest the situation is looking up for the United States. First, U.S. military and Iraqi civilian casualties continue to fall. Second, there are confirmed reports that Sunni insurgents controlled by local leaders have turned on al Qaeda militants, particularly those from outside the country. Third, the head of U.S. Central Command, in an interview with the Financial Times, implied that an attack against Iran is a distant possibility.

It is tempting to say the United States has turned the corner on the war. The temptation might not be misplaced, but after many disappointments since 2003, it is prudent to be cautious in declaring turning points -- and it is equally prudent not to confuse a turning point with a victory. That said, given expectations that the United States would be unable to limit violence in Iraq, and that Sunni insurgents would remain implacable -- not to mention the broad expectation of a U.S. attack against Iran -- these three points indicate a reversal -- and must be taken seriously.

The most startling point is the decline in casualties, and particularly the apparent decline in sectarian violence. Explaining this is difficult. It could simply be the result of the more efficient use of U.S. troops in suppressing the insurgency and controlling the Shiite militias. If that were the only explanation, however, it would be troubling. Standard guerrilla warfare doctrine holds that during periods of intense enemy counterinsurgency operations, guerrillas should cease fighting, hide weapons and equipment and blend into the civilian population. Only after the enemy shifts its area of operations or reduces operational tempo should the guerrillas resume combat operations. Under no circumstances should insurgents attempt to fight a surge.

Therefore, if we were considering U.S. military operations alone, few conclusions could be drawn until after the operations shifted or slowed. In addition, in a country of 25 million, the expectation that some 167,000 troops -- many of them not directly involved in combat -- could break the back of an entrenched insurgency is optimistic. The numbers simply don't work, particularly when Shiite militias are added to the equation. Therefore, if viewed simply in terms of military operations, the decline in casualties would not validate a shift in the war until much later, and our expectation is that the insurgency would resume prior levels of activity over time.

What makes the situation more hopeful for the United States is the clear decline in civilian casualties. Most of those were caused not by U.S. combat operations but by sectarian conflict, particularly between Sunnis and Shia. Part of the decline can be explained by U.S. operations, but when we look at the scope and intensity of sectarian fighting, it is difficult to give U.S. operations full credit. A more likely explanation is political, a decision on the part of the various sectarian organizations to stop operations not only against the Americans but also against each other.

There were two wars going on in Iraq. One was against the United States. The more important war, from the Iraqi point of view, was the Sunni-Shiite struggle to determine who would control Iraq's future. Part of this struggle, particularly on the Shiite side, was intrasectarian violence. All of it was political and, in a real sense, it was life and death. It involved the control of neighborhoods, of ministries, of the police force and so on. It was a struggle over the shape of everyday life. If either side simply abandoned the struggle, it would leave a vacuum for the other. U.S. operations or not, that civil war could not be suspended. To a significant extent, however, it has been suspended.

That means that some political decisions were made, at least on the local level and likely at higher levels as well, as several U.S. authorities have implied recently. Civilian casualties from the civil war would not have dropped as much as they have without some sort of political decisions to restrain forces, and those decisions could not be made unilaterally or simply in response to U.S. military pressure. It required a set of at least temporary political arrangements. And that, in many ways, is more promising than simply a decline because of U.S. combat operations. The political arrangements open the door to the possibility that the decline in casualties is likely to be longer lasting.

This brings us to the second point, the attacks by the Sunnis against the jihadists. Immediately after the invasion in 2003, the United States essentially attempted to strip the Sunnis -- the foundation of Saddam Hussein's strength -- of their power. The U.S. de-Baathification laws had the effect of eliminating the Sunni community's participation in the future of Iraq. Viewing the Shia -- the victims of Hussein's rule -- as likely interested not only in dominating Iraq but also in retribution against the Sunnis, the Sunni leadership, particularly at the local level, supported and instigated an insurgency against U.S. forces. The political purpose of the insurgency was to force the United States to shift its pro-Shiite policy and include the Sunnis, from religious to Baathist, in the regime.

Given the insurgency's political purpose, the power of U.S. forces and the well-organized Shiite militias, the Iraqi Sunnis were prepared to form alliances wherever they could find them. A leading source of support for the Iraqi Sunnis came from outside Iraq, among the Sunni jihadist fighters who organized themselves under the banner of al Qaeda and, weapons in hand, infiltrated the country from outside, particular through Syria.

Nevertheless, there was underlying tension between the local Sunnis and the jihadists. The Iraqi Sunnis were part of the local power structure, many having been involved in the essentially secular Baath Party, and others, more religious, having remained outside the regime but ruled by traditional tribal systems. The foreign jihadists were revolutionaries not only in the sense that they were prepared to fight the Americans but also in that they wanted to revolutionize -- radically Islamize -- the local Sunni community. By extension, they wanted to supplant the local leadership with their own by supporting and elevating new local leaders dependent for their survival on al Qaeda power.

For an extended period of time, the United States saw the Sunni insurgency as consisting of a single fabric. The local insurgents and the jihadists were viewed as the same, and the adopted name of the jihadists, al Qaeda, caused the Americans to see them as the primary enemy. Over time, and particularly since the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the United States has adopted a more nuanced view of the Sunni insurgency, drawing a distinction between the largely native Iraqi insurgents and the largely foreign jihadists.

Once this occurred and the United States began to make overtures to the native Iraqi insurgents, the underlying tensions between the foreign jihadists and the Iraqi insurgents emerged. The Sunnis, over time, came to see the jihadists as a greater danger to them than the Americans, and by the time U.S. President George W. Bush last visited Iraq, several Sunni leaders were prepared to be seen publicly with him. The growing animosities eventually turned into active warfare between the two factions, with al Qaeda being outnumbered and outgunned and the natives enjoying all of the perks of having the home-court advantage.

From the U.S. point of view, splitting the Sunni insurgency politically and militarily was important not only for the obvious reasons but also for influencing the Shia. From a Shiite point of view -- and now let's introduce Iran, the primary external backer of Iraq's Shiites -- the worst-case scenario would be the re-establishment of a predominantly Sunni government in Baghdad backed by the U.S. military. The political accommodation between the United States and the Iraqi Sunnis represented a direct threat to the Shia.

It is important to recall that Hussein and his Baathist predecessors -- all Sunnis leading a predominantly Sunni government -- were able to dominate the more numerous Shia for decades. The reason was that the Shia were highly fragmented politically, more so than the Sunnis. This historic factionalization made the Shia much weaker than their numbers would have indicated. It was no accident that the Sunnis dominated the Shia.

And the Shia remained fragmented. While the Sunnis were fighting an external force, the Shia were fighting both the Sunnis and one another. Given those circumstances, it was not inconceivable that the United States would try, and perhaps succeed, to re-establish the status quo ante of a united Iraq under a Sunni government -- backed by U.S. power until Iraq could regenerate its own force. Of course, that represented a reversal of the original U.S. goal of establishing a Shiite regime.

For Iran, this was an intolerable outcome because it would again raise the possibility of an Iran-Iraq war -- in which Iran might take another million casualties. The Iranian response was to use its influence among the competing Shiite militias to attack the Sunnis and to inflict casualties on American troops, hoping to force a withdrawal. Paradoxically, while the jihadists are the Iranians' foe, they were useful to Tehran because the more they attacked the Shia -- and the more the Shia retaliated -- the more the Sunnis and al Qaeda aligned -- which kept the United States and the Sunnis apart. Iran, in other words, wanted a united Sunni-jihadist movement because it would wreck the emerging political arrangements. In addition, when the Iranians realized that the Democrats in the U.S. Congress were not going to force a U.S. withdrawal, their calculations about the future changed.

Caught between al Qaeda and the militias, the Sunnis were under intense pressure. The United States responded by conducting operations against the jihadists -- trying to limit engagements with Iraqi Sunni insurgents -- and most important, against Shiite militias. The goal was to hold the Sunnis in the emerging political matrix while damaging the militias that were engaging the Sunnis. The United States was trying increase the cost to the Shia of adhering to the Iranian strategy.

At the same time, the United States sought to intimidate the Iranians by raising, and trying to make very real, the possibility that the United States would attack them as well. As we have argued, the U.S. military options are limited, so an attack would make little military sense. The Iranians, however, could not be certain that the United States was being rational about the whole thing, which was pretty much what the United States wanted. The United States wanted the Shia in Iraq to see the various costs of following the Iranian line -- including creating a Sunni-dominated government -- while convincing the Iranians that they were in grave danger of American military action.

In this context, we find the third point particularly interesting. Adm. William Fallon's interview with the Financial Times -- in which he went out of its way to downplay the American military threat to Iran -- was not given by accident. Fallon does not agree to interviews without clearance. The United States was using the interview to telegraph to Iran that it should not have undue fear of an American attack.

The United States can easily turn up the heat again psychologically, though for the moment it has chosen to lower it. By doing so, we assume Washington is sending two messages to Iran. First, it is acknowledging that creating a predominantly Sunni government is not its first choice. Also, it is rewarding Iran for the decline in violence by the Shiite militias, which undoubtedly required Tehran to shift its orders to its covert operatives in Iraq.

The important question is whether we are seeing a turning point in Iraq. The answer is that it appears so, but not primarily because of the effectiveness of U.S. military operations. Rather, it is the result of U.S. military operations coupled with a much more complex and sophisticated approach to Iraq. To be more precise, a series of political initiatives that the United States had undertaken over the past two years in fits and starts has been united into a single orchestrated effort. The result of these efforts was a series of political decisions on the part of various Iraqi parties not only to reduce attacks against U.S. troops but also to bring the civil war under control.

A few months ago, we laid out four scenarios for Iraq, including the possibility that that United States would maintain troops there indefinitely. At the time, we argued against this idea on the assumption that what had not worked previously would not work in the future. Instead, we argued that resisting Iranian power required that efforts to create security be stopped and troops moved to blocking positions along the Saudi border. We had not calculated that the United States would now supplement combat operations with a highly sophisticated and nuanced political offensive. Therefore, we were wrong in underestimating the effectiveness of the scenario.

That said, a turning point is not the same as victory, and the turning point could turn into a failure. The key weaknesses are the fragmented Shia and the forces and decisions that might emerge there, underwritten by Iran. Everything could be wrecked should Iran choose to take the necessary risks. For the moment, however, the Iranians seem to be exercising caution, and the Shia are responding by reducing violence. If that trend continues, then this really could be a turning point. Of course, any outcome that depends on the Shia and Iranians doing what the United States hopes they will do is fragile. Iran in particular has little interest in giving the United States a graceful solution unless it is well compensated for it. On the other hand, for the moment, Tehran is cooperating. This could simply be another instance of Iran holding off before disappointing the United States, or it could mean it has reason to believe it will be well compensated. Revealing that compensation -- if it is coming -- is the next turn of the wheel.


24463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: November 13, 2007, 11:43:24 AM
Mighty Dog

There's a new lease on life for the dogs of war: For Veteran's day, SPCA International kicked off a program to repatriate the Iraqi pets that have become adored companions of American troops serving in Iraq. Inspiring the effort was a story the group learned of one flea-bitten and starved puppy named Charlie. The "size of a potato," he was rescued during a routine patrol and gradually brought from the edge of extinction by a diet of MREs. He's now the official Charlie Company mascot.

The plan, called Operation Baghdad Pups (www.baghdadpups.com), aims to make sure "no buddy gets left behind," despite obstructionist military regulations and a cost estimated at $4000 per dog. The bond between soldiers and their faithful friends, of course, is legendary: A dog named "Stubby" received the rank of sergeant in WWI and at least three dogs were recognized for valor in WWII. These days, there's even a United States War Dogs Association to honor the memory of man's best friend in peace and war.

-- Collin Levy
WSJ
24464  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Clips de Video de interes on: November 13, 2007, 11:27:28 AM
Enfocado en su tarea, un hombre esta' asaltado-- y abandonado por su amigo:

 http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=323_1194597695
24465  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 13, 2007, 11:05:05 AM

IRAN, CHINA: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Iran for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki regarding Tehran's nuclear program, state news agency IRNA reported. Ahead of the visit, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, "We urge Iran to respond to the concerns of the international community and take a more flexible stance so as to promote a resolution on the issue."

U.K., IRAN: The United Kingdom plans to push to curb investments in Iran if the Iranian government fails to address the nuclear issue, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Nov. 12, according to media reports. Unless EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the International Atomic Energy Agency provide positive reports on Iran's activities, Brown said his country "will lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the United Nations and in the European Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector."

stratfor
24466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 13, 2007, 07:42:14 AM
More Taxes vs. More Savings

One debate we'd like to see is Barack Obama versus Fred Thompson. Both men have just unveiled approaches to Social Security reform that couldn't be more sharply distinct.

Mr. Obama told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that higher Social Security taxes are the answer to the system's looming insolvency. "I think the best way to approach this is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like myself are paying a little bit more and people who are in need are protected," he said.

Currently, only the first $97,500 of a person's annual income is taxed. He properly zinged Hillary Clinton for saying publicly she doesn't favor raising payroll taxes, but quietly telling an Iowa voter this month that she would look favorably on the idea.

Fred Thompson spent much of last Friday explaining the details of his own Social Security plan. He'd leave untouched the benefits of near-term retirees 57 and older, but would reduce benefits for younger workers by indexing them to inflation, not wage growth. Younger workers would also be given the option of contributing up to 2% of their monthly wages, matched by the federal government, into personal retirement accounts similar to a 401(k) plan.

"My plan to protect Social Security guarantees promises made to our seniors and gives today's workers more choice and greater opportunity for their future," said Mr. Thompson.

No doubt Mr. Obama would attack the Thompson plan's resemblance to the personal-accounts proposal put forth by the Bush administration in 2005, which flopped in Congress. Mr. Thompson's plan is also aimed at increasing private retirement savings so Americans can enjoy a more comfortable retirement than Social Security can provide. But his approach doesn't involve diverting payroll tax receipts into private accounts. "There's no reason to run for president of the United States if you can't tell the American people the truth about complex issues like Social Security," he said in a statement released with his plan.

Of course, hoping for such a debate is no doubt a pipe dream. But the media has now been put on notice that at least some candidates have decided to touch the third rail of Social Security and actually want to talk about it.

-- John Fund
The Case for Disqualifying Hillary

Two generations after anti-nepotism laws began to open up civil-service positions to excluded groups like Jews and blacks, "the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way," says Adam Bellow, author of a book entitled "In Praise of Nepotism."

But there are countervailing pressures springing from the deep-seated American distrust of those who seem to ascend to high office in part through artificial privilege. More and more voters are bringing up the fact that if Hillary Clinton is elected and re-elected as president, two dynastic families will have shared the White House for an amazing 28 years.

That's why Grover Norquist, the conservative who runs Americans for Tax Reform, is a few weeks away from unveiling a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban family members from succeeding each other to elected or appointed office. As a parallel, he points out that term limits for the president were once unneeded because office-holders observed the Founders' wishes voluntarily. That changed when FDR broke the unwritten rule by running for a third and fourth term. Today, says Mr. Norquist, we need a formal ban on nepotism in the form of a "Protection From Families" amendment to our governing document.

"We're the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], 'You can't hand off the presidency to your son,'... or, 'Hey Syria and North Korea, you've got to knock this stuff off and be like us,'" he told the London Times.

Mr. Norquist agrees nothing will change the natural human impulse to seek advantage for one's kin. But political dynasties don't sit well with most Americans. In 1960, a Scripps-Howard reporter won a Pulitzer Prize for the shocking revelation that one in five members of Congress had relatives on the official payroll.

Though his version wouldn't technically ban Hillary's run this year (since she wouldn't be directly succeeding her husband), Mr. Norquist, a long-time Republican strategist, knows such a debate would highlight an unattractive aspect of her candidacy. The issue is underlined by the recent presidential election in Argentina, where Cristina Kirchner, wife of current president Nestor Kirchner, will switch roles with him early next year. Her case shows the danger is high with presidential office, whose glamour and power can be handed off to one's relatives. Americans like to think of themselves as having a more mature democracy than that. Mr. Norquist's proposed amendment is a good starting point for a needed debate.

Political Journal/WSJ
24467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 13, 2007, 06:25:43 AM
And here is a completely different take, also from the WSJ:

Indira and the Islamists
By SHIKHA DALMIA
November 13, 2007

The Bush administration has so far taken only perfunctory steps to prod Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to lift "emergency rule," reinstate the constitution and hold elections. Doing anything more, the United States seems to fear, might produce an Islamist victory at the polls -- and undermine a key ally in its war on terror. In effect, the old foreign policy bogeyman of the "fear of the alternative" is back in the White House.

But at least with respect to Pakistan, this fear ought to be banished. If anything, the longer Mr. Musharraf is allowed to suspend democracy, the more politically powerful Pakistan's religious extremists are likely to become. Those who doubt this thesis should peer across Pakistan's southern border and examine what happened during India's two-year flirtation with emergency rule in 1975.

 
Like Mr. Musharraf, India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared emergency after a state high court invalidated the elections that had brought her to power, on grounds of corruption and fraud. But instead of stepping down, she gave herself extraordinary powers and launched a massive crackdown on every democratic institution that India had painstakingly built since its independence from the British in 1947. She threw leaders of opposition parties behind bars and clamped down on the press, threatening to cut off the power supply to newspapers that refused to submit to her censorship. She also banned political activity by grassroots organizations.

Shutting down these institutions had a perverse side effect from which India's secular democracy has yet to fully recover: It left the field of resistance open to Hindu extremist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its then political front Jan Sangh, allowing them to regain the political legitimacy they had lost after one of their erstwhile recruits assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS was banned shortly after the assassination, but once the ban was lifted, it decentralized its organization further, making it harder for authorities to keep track of all its activities. The RSS maintained a public face of a charitable social organization, but beneath that facade lay a more sinister side that engaged in communal sectarian incitement and other subversive activities.

The RSS's quasi-underground character proved to be a vital asset after Gandhi choked off all regular channels for political organization. Unlike the other parties, Jan Sangh was quickly able to mobilize the nationwide network of RSS's "shakhas," or highly disciplined cadres, and take over the mantle of resistance. It temporarily suspended its ideology of "Hindutva," or Hindu nationalism, to make common cause with what it dubbed the "second struggle for independence." It played an important role in producing and disseminating underground literature chronicling Gandhi's excesses, publishing speeches by her opponents and reaching out to families of arrested dissidents.

The upshot was that once the emergency was lifted and elections called, Jan Sangh declared itself the savior of Indian democracy -- a boast that its successors like the Bharatiya Janata Party still make -- and won a prominent place in the coalition of secular parties that ultimately defeated Gandhi. This alliance collapsed in less than two years, thanks in no small part to Jan Sangh's sectarian demands. Nevertheless, as New York University Professor Arvind Rajagopal has noted, this brief stint in power proved an invaluable launching pad for the group's virulent ideology and did lasting damage to the country's commitment to secularism.

Indeed, although Gandhi, like her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was an ardent secularist, after she returned to power she assiduously tried to build her Hindu bona fides, even accepting an invitation by a Hindu fundamentalist group to inaugurate the Ganga Jal Yatra, an annual event under which Hindus gather in a show of unity and collectively march to the mountains to get water from the holy Ganges river. Gandhi's gesture was significant because it legitimized the use of Hindu symbolism for political mobilization, something that subsequently produced immense tensions and ugly confrontations among Hindus and Muslims.

* * *
A similar political mainstreaming of radical Islamist groups might occur in Pakistan if Mr. Musharraf is allowed to prolong his power grab. In fact, the situation could be worse, given that, unlike India, Pakistan has never been a secular country and Islamists have always exerted considerable behind-the-scenes influence on government. They have infiltrated the Pakistani intelligence services and are well represented in the ranks of the civil bureaucracy. And there has always been close cooperation between Pakistan's generals and mullahs because of their common interest in cultivating Pakistan's Islamic identity and playing up the threat that Hindu India poses to it. The one government institution where Islamists have only a minority presence is the Pakistani Parliament.

But that might change if Mr. Musharraf continues to postpone elections and crush political opponents. Under such circumstances, Jammat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan's oldest religious party with ties to the Taliban -- and an organization that harbors a long-standing desire to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, on the country -- and its sister organizations might well become useful to secular parties such as former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. JI and its cohorts command even bigger powers of mobilization than Jan Sangh did during India's emergency. They run madrassas, or religious schools, publish newspapers and have sizeable cadres that can be quickly deployed for street protests. These resources might prove vitally important in resisting Mr. Musharraf.

"Instead of the secular and religious parties working against each other, they will start working together," fears Prof. Hasan-Askari Rizvi of Punjab University in Lahore. Indeed, the Associated Press has already reported that Ms. Bhutto is inviting the Islamist parties, many of whose members too have been thrown in jail, to "join hands" with her. All of this will allow the Islamists to mask their real agenda and piggyback on a popular cause to win more representation in parliament when elections are held. Even if secularists like Ms. Bhutto prevail in these elections eventually, it will be much harder for them to resist Islamist demands if they are beholden to them for beating back the emergency. In effect, the Islamist reach will not only gain in depth -- but legitimacy as well.

* * *
If Mr. Musharraf were prodded to call off the emergency and honor his commitment to hold genuinely free and transparent elections in early January, would that lead to an Islamist victory, or at least significant gains, as the Bush administration fears? Not at all.

Islamist parties had their best showing in the 2002 general elections, when they secured 11.1% of the vote and 53 out of 272 parliamentary seats -- a major gain over the pathetic three seats they won a decade before. But this gain was less serious than it seems. Most of the additional seats came not from Pakistan proper, but a few border provinces in the West that were experiencing a resurgence of anti-Americanism given their deep cross-border ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan. More crucially, however, Mr. Musharraf banned Ms. Bhutto and leaders of other secular parties from running, making it hard for these parties to secure a decent voter turnout. If free and fair elections were to be held today, Prof. Rizvi estimates secular parties would win handily, with the Islamists commanding no more than 5% of the national vote.

Islamist victory at the polls is not a real threat in Pakistan right now. The Bush administration should not allow that fear to deter it from applying maximum pressure on Mr. Musharraf to hold elections posthaste. The U.S. can, for instance, threaten to cut off Pakistan's supply of F-16 fighter jets and other nonterrorism-related aid.

India's example shows that even one vacation from democracy can be a huge setback for secularism. Yet another prolonged suspension of democracy will leave Pakistan few resources to beat back its Islamists. This is one instance where the Bush administration's avowed commitment to democracy is not just the more principled -- but also the more practical -- way of countering the threat of Islamic extremists.

Ms. Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based think tank.

24468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Health Cost Myth on: November 13, 2007, 06:20:02 AM
The Health Cost Myth
By JOHN R. GRAHAM
November 13, 2007; Page A25

'As major employers, we are engaging in one of the most crucial domestic policy debates of our time -- fixing our nation's health-care crisis, reducing out of control costs, and ensuring every American has affordable health care," said CEO Steve Burd of Safeway, a supermarket chain, earlier this year.

He's not alone. Several American business leaders have come to believe that the American health-care system is not only bad for our health but also for national competitiveness. In the automotive industry, General Motors claims that it spends about $1,600 per car on health care. In Japan, according to GM, Toyota's per automobile healthcare expenditure is just $110.

Some politicians and executives have concluded that the "solution" to this problem is universal, government-run health care. They must be onto something, right?

Health coverage is indeed becoming more expensive for businesses. Over the past eight years, the percentage of firms offering health benefits to employees has dropped significantly, to 60% from 69%.

This decline, however, is almost completely accounted for by businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

These firms find health benefits unaffordable because states have laid a massive burden of over-regulation on small-group health insurance since the early 1990s, making it increasingly expensive. In the face of this, the freedom to contract employment without health benefits provides a valuable option for American entrepreneurs and workers. Only in the U.S. can they opt out of the government-regulated health "system," if it allows them to be more competitive.

But what about the share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on health care, a metric of health system performance and value that some consider definitive? The United States leads the pack in this regard, spending far more on health than other countries. Surely this puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage, doesn't it?

No: It's the other way around. America's high productivity gives us the ability to spend more on health care, especially the latest treatments and technologies, than other developed nations that labor under forms of socialized health care.

Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John R. Schneider of the American Enterprise Institute have determined that health spending increases at a constant rate of about 8% for every $1,000 increase in GDP per capita. For example, if GDP rises from $30,000 per capita to $31,000, health spending increases by $232. But if GDP per capita rises from $40,000 to $41,000, health spending increases by $500.

Thus, because Americans earn so much more than people in other countries, it naturally follows that we spend more on health care.

Consider four countries whose health-care systems are often held up as admirable alternatives: Canada, Germany, France and Great Britain. Certainly, the U.S. spends significantly more on health care than those countries do, but these nations also earn significantly less income per person.

Look at it this way: Even after paying for our health care, Americans have far more money left over than their neighbors to spend on other goods and services. It works out to about $8,000 more than the average German or Frenchman, and about $4,000 more than the average Canadian or Briton.

Of course, averages obscure many harsh realities and hide the fact that many Americans are unable to afford health care.

To improve the state of American health care and lighten the burden on business and workers, policy leaders should push for portability of health benefits, transparent pricing for health services, tort reform and more competition among both insurers and providers.

Crusaders for "universal" health care allege that America's unique lack of government-mandated coverage is a handicap to the nation's competitiveness. Given America's superior economic performance, however, it is a uniqueness we should not rush to abandon.

Mr. Graham is the director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute.
WSJ
24469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan on: November 13, 2007, 06:16:42 AM
Being Pervez Musharraf
What's it like to be Pakistan's ruler?

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Imagine yourself as Pervez Musharraf, the 64-year-old military ruler of Pakistan. As a young artillery officer, and later as a commando, you acquired a reputation for personal bravery--and for doing just as you pleased, whatever your orders. Your subsequent performance as a general and politician has been of a similar piece. In recent days, you have declared a state of emergency, imprisoned thousands of lawyers and civil society types, fired the Supreme Court and put its chief justice under house arrest, and shut down much of the independent media. You have done all this to keep your grip on power, all the while insisting you have "no personal ego and ambitions to guard."

Abroad, the conventional wisdom is that you have shredded what little legitimacy you had and that your days, politically or otherwise, are numbered. You think they're wrong. You're probably right.

No doubt you are sensitive to the appearance of hypocrisy. In your self-applauding autobiography, "In the Line of Fire," you wrote about former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as follows: "He threw many of his opponents, including editors, journalists and even cartoonists, into prison. He was really a fascist--using the most progressive rhetoric to promote regressive ends, the first of which was to stay in power forever." Of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, you recalled how he "got his party goons to storm the Supreme Court building while the court was in session. . . . This was, to put it mildly, a very low point in Pakistani political history." Concerning the efficacy of martial law, you said that "our past experience had amply demonstrated that martial law damages not only military but also civilian institutions."

The way you see it, however, there's just no comparing you to Pakistan's past leaders. The elder Bhutto, his daughter Benazir, and Mr. Sharif were a trio of political mesmerists--aristocrats posing as populists--who enriched themselves and their friends to the tune of billions as they bankrupted the country. You are a refugee from partition, a man for whom Pakistan is a sanctuary that must be preserved at all cost. You have raised your family on a soldier's wages. Nobody can accuse you of being a thief.





Besides, who in his right mind would want to return to the days of Mr. Sharif or the Bhuttos? When you took over in 1999, the country was $30 billion in debt and its credit rating was among the world's worst. Since then, the number of cell phone subscribers is up 100%, the number of air conditioners sold is up 200%, the stock market is up 800%, foreign direct investment is up more than tenfold and the economy has averaged 7% annual growth over five years. Did the shambolic democracy of years past ever register these kinds of figures?
That's one reason why you are confident you can ride out this storm, just as you have so many others. The intellectuals, the leftists, the human-rights activists and the lawyers--lawyers!--may be against you, but the worst they can do is write nasty op-eds in the pages of the Western press. That may be a stain on your vanity, but it is not a threat to your regime.

By contrast, the merchant classes, political allies from the beginning, remain your great beneficiaries and would be the last to cheer your ouster. As for the poor, they will do nothing to risk their livelihoods for the sake of politics. Come to think of it, that's another excellent reason to enforce the state of emergency well past the next election.

Then there is Ms. Bhutto, whose political smarts don't quite match her rhetorical gifts. She did you a favor earlier this year when she all but agreed to rule in condominium with you in exchange for having her corruption charges dropped. But she was under the mistaken impression that you needed her "democratic legitimacy" every bit as much as she craved a return to power. You've rubbished that assumption. Maybe now she'll understand the favor you have done her by keeping her under house arrest, thereby preserving the pretense of her political oppositionism.

As for the military, you've had eight years to make sure your lieutenants are loyal. Not only do they see you as one of their own, they also see you as the man who will keep the money coming from Washington. And the money will keep coming. The ostensible purpose of President Bush's phone call last week may have been to insist that you hold elections and relinquish your uniform, and you're probably prepared to meet him halfway. But the subtext of the call is that the two of you remain on speaking terms. Had it been otherwise, the consequences could have been devastating to you. For now, though, you're still the one.





What worries you? The business about the uniform, for starters. You are old enough to remember 1958, when a former general turned civilian president named Iskander Mirza dissolved the government, declared martial law and put Ayub Khan, the army chief of staff, in charge. Bad move: Khan exiled Mirza to London in three weeks flat.
You also can't be sure the street violence won't spiral out of control. You have gone out of your way to treat the detained lawyers gingerly, by local standards. What if they don't get the message and return to the streets, unchastened and emboldened? What if there is some kind of "event" that galvanizes the protestors? Most of your army is Punjabi: Could they be counted on to crack the heads of fellow Punjabis in Lahore, if it came to that?

There's also this pesky matter of increasingly assertive Islamist militants in the North-West Frontier Province, who have repeatedly humiliated the army in recent confrontations. Your motives for declaring an emergency have been so transparently self-serving that it's easy to forget there really is a terrorist threat to the country. It may soon dawn on you that your assault on civil liberties has only ripened the conditions in which terrorists thrive.

Fortunately for you, the first two scenarios aren't likely to come to pass, and the third you'll somehow handle. Your support, both at home and abroad, may never again be what it was, but the absence of support does not necessarily mean active opposition. In your case it will probably mean reluctant acquiescence to the facts you lay on the ground. Were you a democrat, you might feel ashamed to carry on ruling that way. Soldier that you are, it won't make you lose much sleep.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

24470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 13, 2007, 06:05:18 AM
"Nothing...is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights
of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Cartwright, 1824)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh,
eds., 16:48.
24471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Swarming on: November 13, 2007, 05:55:17 AM
If you have ever observed ants marching in and out of a nest, you might have been reminded of a highway buzzing with traffic. To Iain D. Couzin, such a comparison is a cruel insult — to the ants.

Christian Ziegler/Agentur Focus
Army ants in Panama.
Americans spend a 3.7 billion hours a year in congested traffic. But you will never see ants stuck in gridlock.

Army ants, which Dr. Couzin has spent much time observing in Panama, are particularly good at moving in swarms. If they have to travel over a depression in the ground, they erect bridges so that they can proceed as quickly as possible.

“They build the bridges with their living bodies,” said Dr. Couzin, a mathematical biologist at Princeton University and the University of Oxford. “They build them up if they’re required, and they dissolve if they’re not being used.”

The reason may be that the ants have had a lot more time to adapt to living in big groups. “We haven’t evolved in the societies we currently live in,” Dr. Couzin said.

By studying army ants — as well as birds, fish, locusts and other swarming animals — Dr. Couzin and his colleagues are starting to discover simple rules that allow swarms to work so well. Those rules allow thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

Deciphering those rules is a big challenge, however, because the behavior of swarms emerges unpredictably from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals.

“No matter how much you look at an individual army ant,” Dr. Couzin said, “you will never get a sense that when you put 1.5 million of them together, they form these bridges and columns. You just cannot know that.”

To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Couzin builds computer models of virtual swarms. Each model contains thousands of individual agents, which he can program to follow a few simple rules. To decide what those rules ought to be, he and his colleagues head out to jungles, deserts or oceans to observe animals in action.

Daniel Grunbaum, a mathematical biologist at the University of Washington, said his field was suddenly making leaps forward, as math and observation of nature were joined in the work of Dr. Couzin and others. “In the next 10 years there’s going to be a lot of progress.”

He said Dr. Couzin has been important in fusing the different kinds of science required to understand animal group behavior. “He’s been a real leader in bringing a lot of ideas together,” Dr. Grunbaum said. “He has a larger vision. If it works, that’ll be a big advance.”

In the case of army ants, Dr. Couzin was intrigued by their highways. Army ants returning to their nest with food travel in a dense column. This incoming lane is flanked by two lanes of outgoing traffic. A three-lane highway of army ants can stretch for as far as 150 yards from the ant nest, comprising hundreds of thousands of insects.

What Dr. Couzin wanted to know was why army ants do not move to and from their colony in a mad, disorganized scramble. To find out, he built a computer model based on some basic ant biology. Each simulated ant laid down a chemical marker that attracted other ants while the marker was still fresh. Each ant could also sweep the air with its antennas; if it made contact with another ant, it turned away and slowed down to avoid a collision.

Dr. Couzin analyzed how the ants behaved when he tweaked their behavior. If the ants turned away too quickly from oncoming insects, they lost the scent of their trail. If they did not turn fast enough, they ground to a halt and forced ants behind them to slow down. Dr. Couzin found that a narrow range of behavior allowed ants to move as a group as quickly as possible.

It turned out that these optimal ants also spontaneously formed highways. If the ants going in one direction happened to become dense, their chemical trails attracted more ants headed the same way. This feedback caused the ants to form a single packed column. The ants going the other direction turned away from the oncoming traffic and formed flanking lanes.

To test this model, Dr. Couzin and Nigel Franks, an ant expert at the University of Bristol in England, filmed a trail of army ants in Panama. Back in England, they went through the film frame by frame, analyzing the movements of 226 ants. “Everything in the ant world is happening at such a high tempo it was very difficult to see,” Dr. Couzin said.
===================

Page 2 of 3)



Eventually they found that the real ants were moving in the way that Dr. Couzin had predicted would allow the entire swarm to go as fast as possible. They also found that the ants behaved differently if they were leaving the nest or heading back. When two ants encountered each other, the outgoing ant turned away further than the incoming one. As a result, the ants headed to the nest end up clustered in a central lane, while the outgoing ants form two outer lanes. Dr. Couzin has been extending his model for ants to other animals that move in giant crowds, like fish and birds. And instead of tracking individual animals himself, he has developed programs to let computers do the work.

The more Dr. Couzin studies swarm behavior, the more patterns he finds common to many different species. He is reminded of the laws of physics that govern liquids. “You look at liquid metal and at water, and you can see they’re both liquids,” he said. “They have fundamental characteristics in common. That’s what I was finding with the animal groups — there were fundamental states they could exist in.”

Just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, animal swarms can also change abruptly thanks to some simple rules.

Dr. Couzin has discovered some of those rules in the ways that locusts begin to form their devastating swarms. The insects typically crawl around on their own, but sometimes young locusts come together in huge bands that march across the land, devouring everything in their path. After developing wings, they rise into the air as giant clouds made of millions of insects.

“Locusts are known to be around all the time,” Dr. Couzin said. “Why does the situation suddenly get out of control, and these locusts swarm together and devastate crops?”

Dr. Couzin traveled to remote areas of Mauritania in Africa to study the behavior of locust swarms. Back at Oxford, he and his colleagues built a circular track on which locusts could walk. “We could track the motion of all these individuals five times a second for eight hours a day,” he said.

The scientists found that when the density of locusts rose beyond a threshold, the insects suddenly began to move together. Each locust always tried to align its own movements with any neighbor. When the locusts were widely spaced, however, this rule did not have much effect on them. Only when they had enough neighbors did they spontaneously form huge bands.

“We showed that you don’t need to know lots of information about individuals to predict how the group will behave,” Dr. Couzin said of the locust findings, which were published June 2006 in Science.

Understanding how animals swarm and why they do are two separate questions, however.

In some species, animals may swarm so that the entire group enjoys an evolutionary benefit. All the army ants in a colony, for example, belong to the same family. So if individuals cooperate, their shared genes associated with swarming will become more common.

But in the deserts of Utah, Dr. Couzin and his colleagues discovered that giant swarms may actually be made up of a lot of selfish individuals.

Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.

“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”

This collective movement causes the crickets to form vast swarms. “All these crickets are on a forced march,” Dr. Couzin said. “They’re trying to attack the crickets who are ahead, and they’re trying to avoid being eaten from behind.”

Swarms, regardless of the forces that bring them together, have a remarkable ability to act like a collective mind. A swarm navigates as a unit, making decisions about where to go and how to escape predators together.

“There’s a swarm intelligence,” Dr. Couzin said. “You can see how people thought there was some sort of telekinesis involved.”

===========

What makes this collective decision-making all the more puzzling is that each individual can behave only based on its own experience. If a shark lunges into a school of fish, only some of them will see it coming. If a flock of birds is migrating, only a few experienced individuals may know the route.

Modeling Ant Behavior Dr. Couzin and his colleagues have built a model of the flow of information through swarms. Each individual has to balance two instincts: to stay with the group and to move in a desired direction. The scientists found that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively. They do not even need to send any special signals to the animals around them. They create a bias in the swarm’s movement that steers it in a particular direction.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right information, though,” Dr. Couzin pointed out.

Two leaders may try to pull a swarm in opposite directions, and yet the swarm holds together. In Dr. Couzin’s model, the swarm was able to decide which leaders to follow.

“As we increased the difference of opinion between the informed individuals, the group would spontaneously come to a consensus and move in the direction chosen by the majority,” Dr. Couzin said. “They can make these decisions without mathematics, without even recognizing each other or knowing that a decision has been made.”

Dr. Couzin and his colleagues have been finding support for this model in real groups of animals. They have even found support in studies on mediocre swarmers — humans.

To study humans, Dr. Couzin teamed up with researchers at the University of Leeds. They recruited eight people at a time to play a game. Players stood in the middle of a circle, and along the edge of the circle were 16 cards, each labeled with a number. The scientists handed each person a slip of paper and instructed the players to follow the instructions printed on it while not saying anything to the others. Those rules correspond to the ones in Dr. Couzin’s models. And just as in his models, each person had no idea what the others had been instructed to do.

In one version of the experiment, each person was instructed simply to stay with the group. As Dr. Couzin’s model predicted, they tended to circle around in a doughnut-shaped flock. In another version, one person was instructed to head for a particular card at the edge of the circle without leaving the group. The players quickly formed little swarms with their leader at the head, moving together to the target.

The scientists then sowed discord by telling two or more people to move to opposite sides of the circle. The other people had to try to stay with the group even as leaders tried to pull it apart.

As Dr. Couzin’s model predicted, the human swarm made a quick, unconscious decision about which way to go. People tended to follow the largest group of leaders, even if it contained only one additional person.

Dr. Couzin and his colleagues describe the results of these experiments in a paper to be published in the journal Animal Behavior.

Dr. Couzin is carrying the lessons he has learned from animals to other kinds of swarms. He is helping Dr. Naomi Leonard, a Princeton engineer, to program swarming into robots.

“These things are beginning to move around and interact in ways we see in nature,” he said. Ultimately, flocks of robots might do a better job of collecting information in dangerous places. “If you knock out some individual, the algorithm still works. The group still moves normally.” The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies. Dr. Couzin is working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish.

“One of the really fun things that we’re doing now is understanding how the type of feedbacks in these groups is like the ones in the brain that allows humans to make decisions,” Dr. Couzin said. Those decisions are not just about what to order for lunch, but about basic perception — making sense, for example, of the flood of signals coming from the eyes. “How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you’re seeing?” Dr. Couzin said. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm.

NY Times


24472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: November 13, 2007, 04:21:16 AM
The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced

The forum where I found this had one poster say that this happend last year.  If so, I missed it at that time.
==============

By MATTHEW HICKLEY - More by this author » Last updated at 00:13am on 10th November 2007


When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence.

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels.

Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War.

He said: "It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

"It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan."

In January China carried a successful missile test, shooting down a satellite in orbit for the first time.
24473  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Psychology: Evolutionary and otherwise on: November 12, 2007, 10:08:04 PM
Darley and Batson designed an experiment aimed at uncovering which of these differences might be most relevant to explaining the differences in behavior. Subjects in this experiment were students at Princeton Theological Seminary. As each subject arrived, he was informed that he was to give a talk that would be recorded in another building. Along the way to the place for the talk, the subject encountered a "victim" slumped in a doorway. The question was under what conditions would a subject would stop to help the victim.

Half of the subjects were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable; the others were assigned a different topic. Some of the subjects were told they were late and should hurry; some were told they had just enough time to get to the recording room; and some were told they would arrive early. Judging by their responses to a questionnaire, they had different religious and moral orientations.

The only one of these variables that made a difference was how much of a hurry the subjects were in. 63% of subjects that were in no hurry stopped to help, 45% of those in a moderate hurry stopped, and 10% of those that were in a great hurry stopped. It made no difference whether the students were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable, nor did it matter what their religious outlook was.

Standard interpretations of the Good Samaritan Parable commit the fundamental attribution error of overlooking the situational factors, in this case overlooking how much of a hurry the various agents might be in.

1 6 Direct Empirical Challenges to Character Traits

But don't we know from ordinary experience that people differ in character traits? Here it is useful to consider related issues.

Psychoanalysts acquire a considerable experience in treating patients and can cite many instances in which psychoanalytic treatment is successful. However, emprical studies of psychoanalytic treatment as compared with no treatment have found no objective benefit. (Dawes, 1994)

Some diagnosticians have used Rorschach inkblot tests to make psychological diagnoses. It seemed to those using these tests that they had abundant evidence that certain characteristics of the test results were diagnostic of certain disorders. Empirical studies showed there was no correlation between those characteristics and the test results. (Nisbett & Ross, 1980, pp. 93-97)

Many employers are convinced that useful information can be gained from interviewing potential employees. However, for the most part, interviews simply add noise to the decision process. Empirical studies indicate that decisions made on information available apart from an interview are more reliable than decisions made when an interview is added. (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, pp. 136-138)

Discovery of such errors in reasoning has encouraged research into why people are subject to such errors (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974, Nisbett & Ross, 1980). One suggested reason is confirmation bias. Given a hypothesis, one tends to look for confirming evidence. Finding such evidence, one takes it to support the hypothesis. Evidence against the hypothesis tends to be ignored or downplayed.

Ross & Nisbett suggest that the initial source of the fundamental attribution error may have to do with Gestalt considerations of figure and ground. Where we distinguish figure from ground, we pay more attention to figure and less to ground and we try to explain what happens in terms of features of the figure rather than in terms of features of the ground. Typically the actor is figure and the situation is ground, so we seek an explanation of the action in features of the actor in the foreground rather than in features of the background situation. The suggested explanation is then subject to confirmation bias. Additional support comes from the fact that other people give explanations in terms of dispositional features of agents rather than in terms of aspects of their situations.

When investigators have looked for objective evidence that people differ in character traits, the results have been much as with psychoanalysis, Rorschach tests, and interviews. People take themselves to have lots of evidence that agents differ in character traits. Yet empirical studies have not found any objective basis for this confidence. Summarizing a number of studies, Ross & Nisbett (1991, p. 95) report that the "average correlation between different behavioral measures designed to tap the same personality trait (for examples, impulsivity, honesty, dependency, or the like) was typically in the range between .10 and .20, and often was even lower." These are very low correlations, below the level which people can detect. Using such correlations to make predictions yields hardly any improvement over guessing. Even if predictions are limited to people one takes to be quite high on a particular trait, the correlations are still very low.

Ross & Nisbett observe that people have some appreciation of the role of situation in the way they understand such stories as The Prince and the Pauper or the movie Trading Places. But for the most part, people are quick to infer from specific actions to character traits.

It is true that there are better correlations for very specific situations. "Hartshorne and May (1928) found that the tendency to copy from an answer key on a general information test on one occasion was correlated .79 with copying from an answer key on a similar test six months later. Newcomb (1929) found that talkativeness at lunch was a highly stable attribute; it just was not very highly correlated with talkativeness on other occasions..." (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, p. 101).

Surprisingly, Flanagan (1991) argues that this shows there really are character traits, "albeit not traits of unrestricted globality or totally context- independent ones." I guess he means such character traits as "being disposed to copy from an answer key on a certain sort of test" and "being talkative at lunch." But, first, no reason has been given for thinking that these specific narrow regularities in behavior reflect dispositions or habits rather than, for example, skills or strategies that have worked in the past. Second, and more importantly for our purposes, ordinary thinking about personality and character attributes is concerned with more global traits like honesty and talkativeness.

Flanagan concludes: "Yes, there are character traits. The language of character traits picks out psychologically real phenomena." But I do not see that he has cited any empirical evidence for this claim.

Flanagan also seems to think that it inconsistent to argue against character traits by appeal to the fundamental attribution error. He says, "It is telling against the situationalist who is also an eliminativist that he will have extreme difficulty (indeed he courts inconsistency) in positing attributional biases of any sort if by these he means to refer to what he must be taken to want to refer to, namely, dispositions to think in certain ways" (305). But this is true only if a "situationalist" is someone who denies that there are any dispositions at all, or who (perhaps like Skinner, 1974) denies that it is useful to explain anything in terms of dispositions. The issue we have been concerned with is whether people differ in certain particular dispositions--character traits. To deny that people differ significantly in character traits is not to deny that they have any dispositions at all. People might well all share certain dispositions, such as a disposition to make the fundamental attribution error. Secondly, they might differ in various dispositions that do not constitute character traits, such as personality disorders and other mental illnesses. (So, for example, to deny that there are character traits is not to accept the view in Laing,1960, that schizophrenia is simply a rational response to a difficult family situation.)

7 Benefits of Appreciating the Fundamental Attribution Error

There are various benefits to a proper appreciation of ways in which ordinary moral thinking rest on the fundamental attribution error.

1 7.1 Philosophy

7.1.1 Virtue ethics

Character based virtue ethics may offer a reasonable account of ordinary moral views. But to that extent, these ordinary views rest on error.

It is worth mentioning that there are variants of virtue ethics that do not require character traits in the ordinary sense. For example, Thomson (1996) tries to explicate moral thinking by appeal to judgments about whether particular actions are just or courageous or whatever. To the extent that such judgments are concerned entirely with the action and not with any presumed underlying trait of character, Thomson's enterprise is unaffected by my discussion.

Maria Merritt (forthcoming) has been developing a version of virtue ethics that emphasizes the role of the situation in maintaining relevant regularities in behavior.

7.1.2 Better understanding of Moral luck.

Adam Smith (1759) wrote about the influence of fortune on our moral judgments, giving nice examples. Someone carelessly throws a brick over a wall. His companion may complain about this even if no harm is done. But if the brick does hit someone, much greater condemnation ensues. Nagel (1979) gives a similar example of a driver who takes his eyes off the road for a second. That's bad, but suppose in that second a child darts into the street and is hit. Then much worse condemnation seems appropriate.

Smith and Nagel note that from a certain point of view, our moral judgment of the act should be based entirely on the motives of the agent and the agent's epistemic situation, so that from that point of view there should be no difference between two cases that are the same in those respects in one of which someone is hit by the brick (or car) and in the other of which no one is hit. Yet, it is clear that we will judge the cases differently.

Perhaps these are simply further instances of the fundamental attribution error. This bad thing has happened and we attribute it to the bad character of the agent in the foreground.

1 7.2 Real Life7.2.1 Moral Education

If there is no such thing as character, then there is no such thing as character building.

7.2.2 Tolerance

When things go wrong, we typically blame the agent, attributing the bad results to the agent's bad character. Even when things do not go bad, we are quick to interpret actions as expressive of character traits, often hostile traits. For example, a person with poor vision may fail to recognize an acquaintance, who then attributes this to coldness in that person.

A greater understanding of the agent's situation and how it contributed to the action can lead to a greater tolerance and understanding of others.

7.2.3 Better understanding of ethnic hatred

Recent terrible events in the former Yugoslavia are often attributed to historical "ethnic hatreds". Yet it is possible to explain these events in rational terms (Hardin, 1995). Suppose there are limited resources and a successful coalition will benefit its members more than those excluded from the coalition. Such a coalition is possible only if insiders can be distinguished from excluded outsiders and only if it is possible to keep members from defecting to other groups. Coalitions formed around ethnic or religious lines might succeed. The threat that one such coalition may form can lead other groups to form competing coalitions and to struggle against each other. If stakes are high enough, such struggles can become violent. If we attribute the resulting violence to ethnic hatred, we may very well doubt that there is anything we can do. If we understand the way the violence arises from the situation, we may see more opportunities to end the conflict.

1 8 Summary

We very confidently attribute character traits to other people in order to explain their behavior. But our attributions tend to be wildly incorrect and, in fact, there is no evidence that people differ in character traits. They differ in their situations and in their perceptions of their situations. They differ in their goals, strategies, neuoses, optimism, etc. But character traits do not explain what differences there are.

Our ordinary views about character traits can be explained without supposing that there are such traits. In trying to explain why someone has acted in a certain way, we concentrate on the figure and ignore the ground. We look at the agent and ignore the situation. We are naive in our understanding of the way others view a given situation. We suffer from a confirmation bias that leads us to ignore evidence against our attributions of character.

It is very hard to do studies that might indicate whether or not people differ in character traits, but the few studies that have been done do not support this idea. We must conclude that, despite appearances, there is no empirical support for the existence of character traits.

Furthermore, it is clear that ordinary thinking about character traits has deplorable results, leading to massive understanding of other people, promoting unnecessary hostility between individuals and groups, distorting discussions of law and public policy, and preventing the implementation of situational changes that could have useful results.

Bibliography

Aristotle, (1985). Nicomachean Ethics, translated by T. Irwin. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett.

Bennett, W. J. (1993). The Book of Virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Brandt, R. B. (1988). "The structure of virtue." Midwest Studies in Philosophy XIII, pp. 64-82.

Darley, J. M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). "`From Jerusalem to Jericho': A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27.

Dawes, R. M. (1994). House of Cards. New York: Free Press.

Doris, J. M. (forthcoming). People Like Us: Personality and Moral Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Fischer, J. M., & Ravizza, M., editors, (1992). Ethics: Problems and Principles. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Flanagan, O. (1991). Varieties of Moral Personality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hardin, R. (1995). One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Harman, G. (1983). "Human flourishing, ethics, and liberty," Philosophy and Public Affairs 12, pp. 307-322.

Harman, G. (1996). "Moral relativism," part I of Harman & Thomson, 1996.

Harman, G. (forthcoming). "Moral philosophy and linguistics," Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy (Philosophy Documentation Center).

Harman, G., & Thomson, J. J. (1996). Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hartshorne, H., & May, M. A. (1928). Studies in the Nature of Character, I: Studies in Deceit. New York: Macmillan.

Holland, J. H., Holyoak, K. Jl, Nisbett, R. E., & Thagard, P. R. (1986). Induction: Processes of inference, learning and discovery. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/M.I.T.

Hursthouse, R. (1996). "Normative virtue ethics." Crisp, R., How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 19-36

Kagan, S. (1989). The Limits of Morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Laing, R. D. (1960). The Divided Self. Chicago: Quadrangle.

Lewin, K. (1935). Dynamic Theory of Personality. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Merritt, M. (forthcoming). "Virtue Ethics and the Social Psychology of Character," Ph. D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Milgram, S. (1963). "Behavioral study of obedience." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67.

McCloskey, M. (1983). "Intuitive physics." Scientific American 248, pp. 122-130.

Nagel, T. (1979). "Moral luck." In Mortal Questions. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Newcomb, T. M. (1929). The Consistency of Certain Extrovert-Introvert Behavior Patterns in 51 Problem Boys. New YOrk: Columbia University Teachers College Bureau of Publications.

Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment. Englewood-Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Railton, P. (1997). "Made in the Shade: Moral Compatibilism and the Aims of Moral Theory," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 21.

Ross, L. (1977). "The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings." In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol 10. New York: Academic Press.

Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. (1991). The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism.. New York: Knopf.

Smith, A. (1759). "Of the Influence of Fortune upon the Sentiments of Mankind, with regard to the Merit or Demerit of Actions." Theory of the Moral Sentiments, Part II, Section III.

Taylor, R. (1991). Virtue Ethics. Interlaken, New York: Linden Books.

Thomson, J. J. (1996). "Evaluatives and directives," chapter 8 of Harman & Thomson, 1996.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). "Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases," Science 185: 1124-31.


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[1 "The relation between lay personology and a more correct theory of personality is analogous to the relation between lay and scientific physics," Ross and Nisbett (1991) pp. 161, citing earlier work including Lewin (1935).

2 An alternative view (Harman, forthcoming) is that children no more require moral instruction in order to acquire morality than they require instruction in their first language in order to acquire that language.

3 But see 7.1.1 below, where I mention two versions of "virtue ethics" that do not treat virtues as traits of character.
24474  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Psychology: Evolutionary and otherwise on: November 12, 2007, 10:06:50 PM
Not that I agree with everything in this piece, but a worthy read:

http://www.princeton.edu/~harman/Papers/Virtue.html


Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology
Virtue Ethics and the Fundamental Attribution Error
Gilbert Harman
Princeton University
1 1 Folk physics and folk morality

Ordinary untrained physical intuitions are often in error. For example, ordinary people expect that something dropped from a moving vehicle or airplane will fall straight down to the point on earth directly underneath the place from which it was released. In fact, the dropped object will fall in a parabolic arc in the direction of the movement of the vehicle or airplane from which it was dropped. This means, among other things, that bombardiers need to be trained to go against their own physical intuitions. There are many similar examples (McCloskey, 1983; Holland, Holyoak, Nisbett, & Thagard, 1986).

Considering the inadequacies of ordinary physical intuitions, it is natural to wonder whether ordinary moral intuitions might be similarly inadequate. And, while many moral philosophers seem to put great confidence at least in their own moral intuitions, others argue for revisions. Consequentialism may be put forward not as an attempt to capture intuitive folk morality but rather as a critique of ordinary intuitions (Kagan, 1989). Similarly, moral relativism might be defended as the truth about morality, whether or not moral relativism accords with everyone's intuitions (Harman, 1996).

On this occasion I discuss a different kind of rejection of folk morality, one that derives from contemporary social psychology. It seems that ordinary attributions of character traits to people are often deeply misguided and it may even be the case that there is no such thing as character, no ordinary character traits of the sort people think there are, none of the usual moral virtues and vices.

In attempting to characterize and explain the movements of a body, folk physics places too much emphasis on assumed internal characteristics of the body, ignoring external forces. Similarly, in trying to characterize and explain a distinctive action, ordinary thinking tends to hypothesize a corresponding distinctive characteristic of the agent and tends to overlook the relevant details of the agent's perceived situation.[1] Because of this tendency, folk social psychology and more specifically folk morality are subject to what Ross (1977) calls "the fundamental attribution error."

Empirical studies designed to test whether people behave differently in ways that might reflect their having different character traits have failed to find relevant differences. It is true that studies of this sort are very difficult to carry out and there have been very few such studies. Nevertheless, the existing studies have had negative results. Since it is possible to explain our ordinary belief in character traits as deriving from certain illusions, we must conclude that there is no empirical basis for the existence of character traits.

2 Character

Character traits must be distinguished from psychological disorders like schizophrenia, mania, and depression, and from innate aspects of temperament such as shyness or being basically a happy or sad person. Character traits include virtues and vices like courage, cowardice, honesty, dishonesty, benevolence, malevolence, friendliness, unfriendliness, as well as certain other traits like friendliness or talkativeness.

Aristotle (1985) describes the ordinary conception of such character traits. They are relatively long-term stable disposition to act in distinctive ways. An honest person is disposed to act honestly. A kind person is disposed to act kindly. The relevant dispositions must involve habits and not just skills, involving habits of desiring. To be sure, as we normally conceive of certain character traits or virtues, they may involve certain strengths or skills, as in courage or strength of will (Brandt, 1988). But they involve more than simply having relevant skills or know-how. A person with the relevant character trait has a long term stable disposition to use the relevant skills in the relevant way. Similarly, the virtue of benevolence may involve practical knowledge concerning how to benefit people; but mere possession of that knowledge with no disposition to use it to benefit people would be insufficient for possession of a benevolent character.

In ordinary conceptions of character traits and virtues, people differ in their possession of such traits and virtues. A particular character trait fits into one or more ranges of ways of behaving. In some cases, the relevant virtue can be seen as a mean between extremes (Aristotle, 1985). Courage is a mean between rashness and timidity, for example. Proper benevolence is a mean between stinginess and profligacy. Where some people have a given virtue, others have one or another corresponding vice. Different ways in which people behave on different occasions are sometimes due to their having such different character traits. Finding a wallet on the sidewalk, an honest person tries to locate the owner, whereas a dishonest person pockets the contents and throws the rest of the wallet away. How a stranger reacts to you would depends whether the stranger is basically friendly or unfriendly.

We ordinarily suppose that a person's character traits help to explain at least some things that the person does. The honest person tries to return the wallet because he or she is honest. The person who pockets the contents of the wallet and throws the rest of the wallet away does so because he or she is dishonest.

The fact that two people regularly behave in different ways does not establish that they have different character traits. The differences may be due to their different situations rather than differences in their characters. To have different character traits, they must be disposed to act differently in the same circumstances (as they perceive those circumstances).

Furthermore, character traits are broad based dispositions that help to explain what they are dispositions to do. Narrow dispositions do not count. If fifteen year old Herbert is disposed to refuse to ride any roller coaster, but is not cowardly or fearful in other ways, his particular disposition is not an instance of cowardice or fear and indeed may fail to be an instance of any character trait at all. If Herbert also acquires a disposition to refrain from speaking up in history class (but not in other subjects) and the explanation of this latter reluctance is quite different from the explanation of his avoidance of roller coaster rides, then these two dispositions are not special cases of a single character trait. Nor can cowardice or fearfulness be constructed out of a collection of quite separable dispositions of this sort, if there is no common explanation of the resulting behaviors.

3 Virtue Ethics

Some theorists suppose that proper moral development requires moral instruction in virtue.[2] In this view, moral instruction involves teaching relevant habits of action, perhaps habits of desire, in some cases also relevant skills. If a learner's dispositions fall more toward one of the extremes in one or another relevant range of behavior, moral educators should encourage the learner to aim more towards the opposite extreme until the right balance is achieved. It is occasionally remarked that one thing wrong with contemporary American society is that too little attention is being paid to this sort of character development (e.g., Bennett, 1993).

Some philosophers argue, further, that morality or perhaps the ordinary conception of morality is best analyzed by beginning with a conception of virtue and character and then explaining other aspects of morality in terms of them (Taylor, 1991; Hursthouse, 1996). In this view, we determine what a person ought morally to do in a particular situation by considering what a person of good character would do in that situation. An act is morally right to the extent that it is the result of the agent's good character and morally wrong to the extent that it is the result of the agent's bad character. Perhaps we can also say that a situation or state of affairs is morally good to the extent that it would be favored by a good person.

Some versions of virtue ethics connect virtues with human flourishing. In one version, a virtue is a character trait that contributes to the flourishing of the agent. In another version, the virtues are character traits that contribute to the flourishing of people in general. In either version, it is not easy to provide a noncircular account of human flourishing that leaves the resulting view sounding plausible (Harman, 1983).

The details of how virtue ethics might be developed are interesting, but I do not want to get into them on this occasion. For present purposes, the main point is that this sort of virtue ethics presupposes that there are character traits of the relevant sort, that people differ in what character traits they have, and these traits help to explain differences in the way people behave.[3]

4 Social Psychology

Philosophers have begun to notice that recent social psychology challenges ordinary and philosophical views about character traits. Flanagan (1991) discusses the challenge at length, arguing that it is not as radical as it may seem. Railton (1997) thinks the challenge is more serious, as does Doris (forthcoming) in an important book length study.

Let me begin my own account by emphasizing that the empirical results of contemporary social psychology can seem extremely counter-intuitive on first acquaintance. Students of mine who read parts of Nisbett and Ross' useful textbook (Nisbett & Ross, 1991) report that their parents express dismay at the "nonsense" they are being taught at Princeton.

Flanagan (1991), who is a philosophical pioneer in discussing the relevant social-psychological literature, does not seem to me fully to appreciate its radical import. He mentions what he calls the "extreme view," according to which "Good behavior is not the result of good character. It is the result of a certain kind of dominating environment. Take away the powerful external props, and what seems to be a consistently good character will evaporate into thin air." He continues, "Almost no one holds such an extreme view." However, contrary to this remark of Flanagan's, the "extreme view" is in fact widespread among social psychologists.

Nisbett and Ross (1991) report that "[t]he experience of serious graduate students, who, over the course of four or five years, are immersed in the problems and the orientation of the field [of social psychology], ... is an intellectually wrenching one. Their most basic assumptions about the nature and the causes of human behavior ... are challenged" (1).

At one point, Nisbett and Ross "seriously entertained the hypothesis that most of [the] seeming order [in ordinary human behavior] was a kind of cognitive illusion. We believed that human beings are adept at seeing things as they believe them to be, at explaining away contradictions and, in particular, at perceiving people as more consistent than they really are." Nisbett and Ross now think that there are at least regularities in human behavior and that lay personality may work in the sense of enabling people to manage in ordinary life, just as lay physics works for many ordinary situations. "That is, people often make correct predictions on the basis of erroneous beliefs and defective prediction strategies" (7-8).

n everyday experience the characteristics of actors and those of the situations they face are typically confounded--in ways that contribute to precisely the consistency that we perceive and count on in our social dealings. People often choose the situations to which they are exposed; and people often are chosen for situations on the basis of their manifest or presumed abilities and dispositions. Thus, clerics and criminals rarely face an identical or equivalent set of situational challenges. Rather they place themselves, and are placed by others, in situations that differ precisely in ways that induce clergy to look, act, feel, and think rather consistently like clergy and that induce criminals to look, act, feel, and think like criminals (19).

In addition, "individuals may behave in consistent ways that distinguish them from their peers not because of their enduring predispositions to be friendly, dependent, aggressive, or the like, but rather because they are pursuing consistent goals using consistent strategies, in the light of consistent ways of interpreting their social world" (20). And "people sometimes feel obliged, even committed to act consistently. This may be because of their social roles, because of the real- world incentives" etc. (19).

5 Two Experiments

Social psychologists have shown many different ways in which ordinary observers wrongly infer that actions are due to distinctive character traits of an agent rather than relevant aspects of the situation. Here I briefly review two well known experiments, one by Milgram and one by Darley and Batson.

5.1 Obedience to Authority

Milgram (1963) describes an experiment in which a subject was given the task of administering an increasingly intense electric shock to a second person, the "learner," whenever the learner gave the wrong answer. (Subjects were also told to treat a failure to answer answer as a wrong answer.) The shocks started at 15 volts and increased in 15 volt intervals to the highest level of 450 volts. The device used had labels at various points indicating "Slight Shock," "Moderate Shock, "Strong Shock," "Very Strong Shock," "Intense Shock," "Extreme Intensity Shock," "Danger: Severe Shock," and "XXX." At the 300 volt level the learner pounded loudly on the wall of the room but did not answer the question. This is repeated at the 315 volt level. At higher levels there was no further response from the learner.

Whenever the subject asked the experimenter for advice or the subject said he did not want to continue, the experimenter had a list of four things to say, which would be said only if needed and only in sequence: (1) "Please continue" or "Please go on." (2) "The experiment requires that you continue." (3) "It is absolutely essential that you continue." and (4) "You have no other choice, you must go on." If the subject persisted in asking to stop after being told these four things, he or she would then be excused.

The experiment was designed to test how far subjects would go in administering shock under these conditions. The experimenters had expected that few subjects would go beyond the designation "Very Strong Shock" (150 volts). But in fact, of the 40 subjects in one (typical) early experiment, all went past that point. Five stopped at the 300 volt level right before the label "Extremely Intense Shock" and the point at which the learner pounded on the wall. Four more stopped at the next stage, 315 volts, when the learner pounded the wall again. Two stopped at 330 volts, when the learner made no response at all. One stopped at 345 volts and another at 360 volts. The 26 remaining subjects, 65% of the total, continued on to 450 volts. In other words, most of the 40 subjects went all the way to give the maximum shock.

To repeat an important point, the experimenters (and others whom they questioned both before and after) did not at all expect this sort of result. They expected almost everyone to stop well before 300 volts, by 150 volts. In addition, people who have had the experiment described to them in detail, tend to be quite confident that, if they had participated in the original experiment, they would have stopped administering shocks at or before that relatively early point (150 volts), much earlier than anyone did in the actual experiment.

Now consider any one of the subjects who went all the way to 450 volts, past the label "Danger: Severe Shock" and well past the point at which the learner had stopped responding in any way. It is hard not to think there is something terribly wrong with the subject. It is extremely tempting to attribute the subject's performance to a character defect in the subject rather than to details of the situation.

But can we really attribute a 2 to 1 majority response to a character defect? And what about the fact that all subjects were willing to go at least to the 300 volt level? Does everyone have this character defect? Is that really the right way to explain Milgram's results?

A different kind of explanation (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, pp. 56-8) invokes relevant features of the situation. First, there is "the step-wise character of the shift from relatively unobjectionable behavior to complicity in a pointless, cruel, and dangerous ordeal," making it difficult to find a rationale to stop at one point rather than another. Second, "the difficulty in moving from the intention to discontinue to the actual termination of their participation," given the experimenter's refusal to accept a simple announcement that the subject is quitting -- "The experiment requires that you continue." Third, as the experiment went on, "the events that unfolded did not `make sense' or `add up' ... The subjects' task was that of administering severe electric shocks to a learner who was no longer attempting to learn anything ... [T]here was simply no way for [subjects] to arrive at a stable `definition of the situation'."

The fundamental attribution error in this case consists in "how readily the observer makes erroneous inferences about the actor's destructive obedience (or foolish conformity) by taking the behavior at face value and presuming that extreme personal dispositions are at fault."

5.2 Good Samaritans

The second experiment that I will mention derives from the parable of the Good Samaritan, which goes like this.

"And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied. "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down the road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [Levites were important participants in temple ceremonies.] But a Samaritan [a religious outcast], as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion and went to him and bound his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two dennarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back." Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37, Revised Standard Version)

Darley and Batson (1973) observe that people can envision various differences between the priest and Levite on the one hand and the Samaritan on the other hand. The priest and Levite might have well have had their minds on religious matters, whereas the Samaritan probably did not. The priest and Levite were probably hurrying along to various appointments, whereas the Samaritan was probably less in a hurry. The parable also suggests that there is a difference in type of religiosity or morality. The priest and Levite in Jesus's act virtuously in order to please God, where the Samaritan responds more directly to the needs of another person.

The standard interpretation of the parable focuses on the third of these variables, the type of religious or moral character of the agent.
24475  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: November 12, 2007, 07:33:29 PM
Iraq, Turkey: Border Problems Resolved
November 12, 2007 21 50  GMT


A political advisor to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said border problems between Iraq and Turkey had been resolved, Fars News Agency reported Nov. 12. He said steps taken by the Iraqi central government to soothe Turkey's concerns had helped to reduce "Kurdish Workers' Party-related problems." He also said Kurd officials in northern Iraq helped the central government in taking these steps.

stratfor
24476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 12, 2007, 07:32:18 PM

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called domestic critics of his nuclear policies "traitors" who spied for Iran's enemies, The Associated Press reported Nov. 12. Ahmadinejad also warned that he would expose the critics. "If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."

stratfor
24477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 12, 2007, 07:26:37 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 12, 2007
November 12, 2007 20 30  GMT



Influence on the Border

The U.S.-Mexico border area stood out this past week as a venue for violence by drug cartels and other criminal groups. Several incidents occurred in the Baja California state border town of Mexicali, where the targeted killing of a state police officer was followed two days later by a firefight that left one person dead and two wounded. Farther east, at least one candidate for political office in Tamaulipas state was abducted in Reynosa, a town just across the border from McAllen, Texas.

The notion that drug traffickers are starting to influence local politics in the border area is of particular concern to the United States, where, despite the implementation of various security initiatives, Mexico's drug cartels and criminal groups have continued to expand their networks. The success of the new Merida Initiative -- the joint U.S.-Mexico counternarcotics and border security program -- relies on political cooperation on both sides of the border. Any success is questionable, however, when politicians face criminal opponents as well as political opponents.

Cocaine Haul

Twenty-six tons of cocaine seized this past week in Manzanillo, Colima state, belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's attorney general said. Together with the more than three tons seized from a drug plane that crashed in the Yucatan in September, the haul makes it clear that Sinaloa has well-established connections with South American cocaine traffickers. This conclusion conflicts with statements made by Mexican government officials that the Gulf cartel is the only Mexican drug trafficking organization capable of maintaining relationships with South American cartels. Following the most recent seizure, Sinaloa is unlikely to break its relationship with its Colombian counterparts, though it will certainly review its security plan for receiving drug shipments in certain ports.

Cartel-Related IEDs?

Also this past week, a small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the trunk of a car parked in a hospital parking lot in Toluca, Mexico state. No one was injured in the explosion, though several nearby cars were damaged. The car belonged to a doctor who worked at the hospital. Planting explosives in cars is rare in Mexico, and it is unclear who was responsible for the bombing. Speculation that drug traffickers were behind the incident was prompted by unconfirmed reports that some inmates from a federal prison had recently been moved to the hospital for treatment.

As we have noted previously, though, Mexico's drug cartels are not known for using IEDs. Despite how easy it is to acquire explosives in the country, drug cartels have demonstrated a preference for killing with guns and grenades. One group known for using small IEDs in locations that will not cause casualties is the guerrilla group Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). However, an unclaimed attack on a doctor's car does not match the operational history of EPR, which most recently has focused on bombing oil pipelines. The incident this past week in Toluca was most likely linked to some other crime, such as extortion, and not to drug trafficking or guerrilla activity.





Violent Kidnappings

Several incidents involving businessmen this past week highlight the kidnapping risk in Mexico and how violent those kidnappings can be. A Spanish businessman was released Nov. 4 after being held for nearly two weeks by a kidnapping gang in Mexico City. The kidnappers reportedly cut off two of his fingers and sent them to his family to convince them to pay the ransom. During the actual abduction, gunmen stopped the victim's car and killed his bodyguard.

In what appears to have been a similar incident on Nov. 9, an apparent kidnapping attempt against a businessman in Monterrey ended with his bodyguard being killed and him being wounded. According to reports, gunmen in several vehicles followed the two men as they left a hotel. As the driver attempted to lose them, he drove the wrong way down a one-way street, eventually running into a bus. The gunmen then cornered them and opened fire on their vehicle. These incidents highlight the false sense of security that traditional protective services provide in Mexico and underscore the need for comprehensive security programs that include protective intelligence.

Nov. 5
An official from the National Action Party confirmed that a municipal presidential candidate's campaign manager was abducted by a group of armed men in Tamaulipas state.

A Baja California state police officer was shot to death outside his home in Mexicali by two men who approached him as he was entering his house.

The bodies of two unidentified men who had been shot to death were found in shallow graves in Durango state. Police believe they are two men who were abducted Sept. 27.

Nov. 6
Authorities in Sinaloa state reported two unrelated drug-related killings that occurred in the state capital Culiacan. In one case, an unidentified victim was shot at least 20 times; in the other, gunmen armed with assault rifles shot and killed a man outside his home.

Nov. 7
One person died and two were wounded in a firefight in Mexicali, Baja California state, just across the border from Calexico, California.

A man in Mexico City died when he was shot at point blank range in his vehicle after a group of gunmen blocked his car in the street.

Nov. 8
Federal police in Mexico City arrested Pedro Alfonso Alatorre Damy (aka, Pedro Barraza Urtusuástegui and El Piri), a suspected accountant for the Sinaloa cartel. The arrest reportedly came after an account containing $2.7 million in a Chicago bank was frozen, based on information exchanged between authorities in Mexico and the United States.

A high-ranking official of the Workers Confederation of Mexico, a labor union, was unhurt when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in Mexico state.

Nov. 9
Two sailors in the Mexican navy were wounded in an ambush outside a supermarket in Tampico, the capital of Tamalipas state. According to reports, gunmen fired shots near a night club in Tampico, then intercepted the military convoy carrying troops to respond to the violence.

Nov. 10
A federal police commander in Coahuila state was wounded when he was shot at least five times by gunmen in two vehicles in the state capital Saltillo.

Nov. 11
An official of the civil aviation authority in Quintana Roo state was found shot to death in Cancun. He had reportedly been kidnapped the night before at a soccer game.

A Mexico state police commander was shot to death outside his home. He was unarmed at the time of the attack.

The body of an unidentified man with three gunshot wounds was found in Acapulco, Guerrero state.


stratfor
24478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: November 12, 2007, 07:24:07 PM
Iraq, Iran: Prelude to a Pipeline
November 12, 2007 16 53  GMT



A spokesman for Iraq's South Oil Co. said Nov. 12 that the firm is working on a pipeline between the southern Iraqi region of Basra and the Iranian port city of Abadan. Such a pipeline would be very easy to build, logistically and financially, and would be a significant financial asset to both sides. But it requires a U.S.-Iranian understanding on Iraq.

A pipeline linking Basra to Abadan can be constructed quickly and inexpensively, given that 6.2 miles of flat terrain separates the two. It would help transport Iraqi crude from the Al Faw Peninsula through the Shatt al-Arab waterway to the refinery in Abadan, located in Iran's southwestern oil-rich Khuzestan region.





More important, though, the pipeline could increase Iraqi crude exports by roughly 400,000 barrels per day (the capacity of the Abadan refinery) -- which, at current prices, translates into a daily energy revenue increase of approximately $35 million. Iran's Abadan refinery could make use of cheaper Iraqi crude, allowing Tehran to export a similar amount of its own crude to the wider world. In addition to bringing together two major petroleum complexes on the northern side of the Persian Gulf, it also could help bolster pan-Shiite relations between Iran and Iraq.

Though the costs are few and the benefits many, this pipeline has a major prerequisite: a political settlement between the United States and Iran on Iraq. In recent days, there have been a few positive signs underscoring some progress in the U.S.-Iranian dealings, but a final deal remains elusive.

Another factor in a U.S.-Iranian deal -- one that would affect the pipeline's viability -- is finding a way to handle the oil mafia, anti-Iranian political forces and rival Shiite militias in the Basra region. The Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies would have to deal with these rogue elements to reap the benefits of such a pipeline. Since the intra-Iraqi Shiite situation is linked to a U.S.-Iranian deal, it would have to be sorted out more or less in the same time frame.

This pipeline is representative of the energy ties Iran and Iraq can enjoy if a political deal can be clinched.

stratfor
24479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: November 12, 2007, 07:16:08 PM
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America ", for an amount of "up to and including my life."

That is honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it. 

Author unknown.
24480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 12, 2007, 07:14:53 PM
PNA: Hamas police shot six people dead in Gaza City at a mass gathering to commemorate the death of Yasser Arafat. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the largest Fatah party rally held since it was ousted by Hamas. Witnesses and medics said another 130 people were wounded when the police opened fire as crowds threw rocks at them and chanted "Shiite, Shiite," accusing Hamas of being a proxy for Iran and Syria.

stratfor
24481  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: November 12, 2007, 06:31:58 PM
El mundo hispano hablante reacciona: 

http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/?p=9684

Tambien el Wall Street Journal ofrece su opinion:

Royal Reprimand
November 12, 2007; Page A16
Spain's King Juan Carlos is revered for his decisive role in restoring democracy in his country after the death of General Francisco Franco. Over the past quarter century, the Spanish royal has been a voice for civility and reconciliation, both in his home country and throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

 
So it was a rebuke heard 'round the world this weekend when he told Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, "why don't you shut up," at the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile. Mr. Chávez had gone on a rant against former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, calling him a "fascist" and stating that "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Venezuelans have endured this sort of rhetoric for nine years from their strongman president, and Mr. Chavez has shown the same bullying style without rebuke at the United Nations. But the summiteers apparently had enough. Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero -- who has enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Venezuelan government and is no ally of Mr. Aznar -- demanded that Mr. Chávez respect the participants at the table. He reminded the Venezuelan that Mr. Aznar had been elected by the Spanish people. As he later told journalists, Mr. Chávez's words were "inappropriate and unacceptable."

Mr. Chávez would have none of it and, although his microphone was turned off, tried to talk over the Spanish head of state. That's when King Juan Carlos leaned forward, looked directly at Mr. Chávez, and told him to close down his act. Mr. Zapatero finished his dress down of Mr. Chávez and the room erupted in applause. The king rose and walked out shortly thereafter, having made his point in defense of civil discourse.
24482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Benjamin Franklin on: November 12, 2007, 06:22:07 PM
"Human Felicity is produced not so much by great Pieces of good
Fortune that seldom happen, as by little Advantages that occur
every Day."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Autobiography, 1771)

Reference: Autobiography, Franklin (207) [Sheehan (3:3)]
24483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: November 12, 2007, 06:21:04 PM
This piece from today's WSJ addresses extremely inflammatory material. 
====================================================

Intelligence Failure
"In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice" reads the headline on an article in yesterday's New York Times. The Times reports that some people are fretting about the implications of new discoveries about genetic differences between races:

The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal. . . .

Nonscientists are already beginning to stitch together highly speculative conclusions about the historically charged subject of race and intelligence from the new biological data. Last month, a blogger in Manhattan described a recently published study that linked several snippets of DNA to high I.Q. An online genetic database used by medical researchers, he told readers, showed that two of the snippets were found more often in Europeans and Asians than in Africans.

No matter that the link between I.Q. and those particular bits of DNA was unconfirmed, or that other high I.Q. snippets are more common in Africans, or that hundreds or thousands of others may also affect intelligence, or that their combined influence might be dwarfed by environmental factors. Just the existence of such genetic differences between races, proclaimed the author of the Half Sigma blog, a 40-year-old software developer, means "the egalitarian theory," that all races are equal, "is proven false."

Note that "the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal" is quite different from the notion "that all races are equal." The former is a moral principle, a premise about the basic dignity of every individual; the latter is an empirical presumption about group averages in measurable traits. Someone with an IQ of 80 is as human as someone with an IQ of 120; and this is so regardless of whether the average IQ of one race is different from that of another.

What worries people like those in the Times story is that racial differences in IQ or other traits seem to lend empirical support to racist theories. But those theories are qualitatively wrong, so that no empirical evidence could make them right. If all individuals are of equal dignity and worth regardless of IQ, then a group is not fundamentally superior or inferior to another group by virtue of differences in average IQ.

It seems that some very smart people mistakenly think that intelligence is a measure of fundamental worth. Maybe they're a little too impressed with their own brilliance.

24484  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: November 12, 2007, 06:12:59 PM
This update from Jeff Quail of Shocknife (he's Canadian):
======================================
Hi Marc,
 
I just wanted to give you a heads up that your knives are currently seized by customs.... We are working at rectifying this problem, I will advise.
 
Jeff
 
 
 
Jeff Quail
Executive Director
 
Shocknife Inc.
B-1415 Henderson Hwy
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
R2G 1N3
24485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: November 12, 2007, 04:47:20 PM
This piece from the NY Times raises some points worth considering-- others are , , , very NY Times.

=========

Bring the Real World Home
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By ROGER COHEN
Published: November 12, 2007
In the gym at the NATO base in Kabul, U.S. soldiers hit the treadmills every morning and gaze at TV screens broadcasting Al Jazeera’s English news channel. When Osama bin Laden makes news, as he did recently with a statement about Iraq, America’s finest work out beneath the solemn gaze of their most wanted enemy.

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Roger Cohen

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Blog: Passages
 This sounds like a scene from Donald Rumsfeld’s private hell. The former secretary of defense dismissed Al Jazeera as a “mouthpiece of Al Qaeda.” He once called the network, which is based in and owned by Qatar, “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

In an indication of what the Bush administration thinks of Al Jazeera journalism (and habeas corpus), it has locked up one of the network’s cameramen, Sami al-Hajj, in Guantánamo Bay for more than five years without charging him.

The choice of viewing at the NATO gym is a lot wiser than Rumsfeld’s choice of words or the terrible treatment of Hajj. America, and not just its front-line soldiers, needs to watch Al Jazeera to understand how the world has changed. Any other course amounts to self-destructive blindness.

The first change that must be grasped is America’s diminished ability to influence people. Global access to information now amounts to an immense à la carte menu. Networks escape control. To hundreds of millions of people accessing information for the first time, from central China to Kenya’s Rift Valley, the United States can easily look exclusive and less relevant to their future.

The second essential change is the erosion of American power. Samantha Power, the author and Harvard professor, calls this “the core fact of recent years.”

America’s hard power — its military — is compromised by intractable counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its economy is strained; witness the ever feebler dollar. Its soft power — the resonance of the American idea — has been hurt by a loss of legitimacy (Hajj languishing) and by incompetence (Iraq).

The third essential change is the solidification of anti-Americanism as a political idea. Jihadist Islamism is the most violent expression of this, but its agents benefit from swimming in a sea of less murderous resentments.

In response to all this, America can say to heck with an ungrateful world. It can mutter about third, even fourth, world wars. Therein lies a downward spiral. Or it can try to grasp the new, multinetworked world as it is.

To this world Al Jazeera English offers a useful primer. The network can be tendentious — bin Laden’s face up there for several minutes — in stomach-turning ways. But, over all, its striving for balanced reporting from a distinct perspective seems genuine.

A year after its launch, it reaches 100 million households worldwide. Its focus is on “reporting from the political south to the political north,” as Nigel Parsons, its managing director, put it. The world it presents, more from the impact than the launch point of U.S. missiles, is one that must be understood.

Yet, the network has been sidelined in the United States. Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, told me: “There’s definitely an attitude here that these guys are the enemy. But in the Mideast, Asia and Europe they have a credibility the U.S. desperately needs.”

Moran met recently with Al Jazeera English executives seeking to extend the service’s Lilliputian reach here. Right now, you can watch it in Toledo, Ohio, through Buckeye Cablesystem, which reaches 147,000 homes.

Or, if you’re in Burlington, Vt., a municipal cable service offers the network to about 1,000 homes. Washington Cable, in the capital, reaches half that. Better options are YouTube or GlobeCast satellite distribution.

These are slim pickings. Al Jazeera English is far more accessible in Israel. Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns Buckeye, told me: “It’s a good channel. Sir David Frost and David Marash are not terrorists. The attempt to blackball it is neo-McCarthyism.”

Block, like other cable providers, got protest letters from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog. Cliff Kincaid, its editor, cites the case of Tayseer Allouni, a former Afghanistan correspondent jailed in Spain for Al Qaeda links. This is evidence, he suggests, that “cable providers shouldn’t give them access.”

Most cable companies have bowed to the pressure while denying politics influenced their decisions. “It just comes down to channel capacity and other programming options,” Jenni Moyer, a Comcast spokeswoman, told me.

Nonsense, says Representative Moran, blaming “political winds plus a risk-averse corporate structure.”

These political winds hurt America. Counterinsurgency has been called armed social science. To win, you must understand the world you’re in.

Comparative courses in how Al Jazeera, CNN, the BBC and U.S. networks portray the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be taught in all U.S. high schools and colleges. Al Jazeera English should be widely available.



You are invited to comment at my blog: www.iht.com/passages.
24486  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: November 12, 2007, 09:06:57 AM
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=58595

LAW OF THE LAND
Students who 'desecrated' terrorist flags vindicated
Judge cancels university policies protecting Hezbollah, Hamas banners

Posted: November 9, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern


© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


College Republican member argues with Palestinian supporter at Oct. 17 anti-terrorism rally at San Francisco State University (Photo: Golden Gate Xpress)
In a decision hailed as a victory for free speech, a federal judge ordered San Francisco State University and the California State University system to stop enforcing speech codes used to prosecute students for the "desecration" of flags used by terrorist groups.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil issued a preliminary injunction to bar the schools from enforcing several policies challenged in a lawsuit. One required students to act in accordance with SFSU "goals, principles, and policies" and another, a CSU system-wide policy, called for students "to be civil to one another."

"This decision is a vital step in the fight against unconstitutional campus speech codes," said Greg Lukianoff, president of the non-profit advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. "The court's decision frees hundreds of thousands of students throughout the CSU system from unlawful restrictions on their expression."

The judge, who described himself at the hearing as a "friend of the First Amendment," also limited the CSU system's ability to enforce a policy prohibiting "intimidation" and "harassment," holding that the policy could only be applied to conduct that "reasonably is concluded to threaten or endanger the health or safety of any other person."

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund defended the SFSU College Republicans and two of the group's members in cooperation with FIRE.


San Francisco State University

As WND reported in March, the university decided – after months of pressure – not to punish College Republicans who had been accused of desecrating the name of Allah by stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags at an anti-terrorism rally.

The trouble began at an Oct. 17, 2006, anti-terrorism rally in which the students stepped on butcher paper painted to resemble the flags of the Middle East terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. The College Republicans say they simply copied the script from an image on the Internet and didn't know it bore the name of Allah in Arabic script.

A student who is not a member of the club had filed a complaint with university officials after the protest.

The student claimed that the Republican students engaged in "acts of incivility" and "intimidation" and created a "hostile environment" by publicly walking over the terrorist flags.

"I believe that the complaint is [about] the desecration of Allah," a university official told the San Francisco Chronicle.

SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan eventually wrote that the Student Organization Hearing Panel "unanimously concluded that the College Republicans organization had not violated the Student Code of Conduct and that there were no grounds to support the student complaint lodged against them."

But FIRE contended the speech codes led to a "burdensome, unnecessary investigation and five months of ridicule and harassment for these students," even though they did nothing but exercise their constitutional rights.

The ADF lawsuit asked the court to strike down the ill-defined speech code policies of SFSU and the entire California State University system at issue in the investigation.

ADF attorney David Hacker said Judge Brazil's decision this week "sends a clear message to administrators in California and nationwide that they are not above the Constitution."

The San Francisco State and California State University system case is the latest victory in FIRE's Speech Codes Litigation Project, which seeks to "dismantle unconstitutional speech codes on public university campuses." Other schools wher the group has seen success are Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, Texas Tech University, the State University of New York at Brockport and California's Citrus College.

"FIRE's Speech Codes Litigation Project has ended virtually every code it has challenged," Lukianoff said. "At public universities, these vague and overbroad speech codes are unconstitutional, period. Courts have held this again and again, yet somehow the scandal of campus speech codes continues."
24487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: November 12, 2007, 08:57:47 AM
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=58616

GLOBAL JIHAD
D.C. imam declares Muslim takeover-plan
Washington-based cleric working toward 'Islamic State of North America' by 2050

posted: November 10, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Art Moore
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


Logo of D.C. imam's movement* -- *picture on original site

A Washington, D.C., imam states explicitly on the website for his organization that he is part of a movement working toward replacement of the U.S. government with "the Islamic State of North America" by 2050.

With branches in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Philadelphia, the group As-Sabiqun – or the Vanguard – is under the leadership of Abdul Alim Musa in the nation's capital.

Musa's declaration of his intention to help lead a takeover of America was highlighted by noted Islam observer Robert Spencer on his website Jihad Watch.

Spencer told WND that figures such as Musa should not be ignored, "Not because they have the power to succeed, but because they may commit acts of violence to achieve their purpose."

Musa's website declares: "Those who engage in this great effort require a high level of commitment and determination. We are sending out a call to the believers: Join with us in this great struggle to change the world!"

Musa launched the group in the early 1990s at the Al-Islam mosque in Philadelphia. His group says it is influenced by the writings and life work of Muslim thinkers and leaders such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Iranian revolutionary Ayatollah Khomenei.

The writings of Al-Banna and Qutb figured prominently in al-Qaida's formation.

Musa's organization says its leadership "has delivered numerous speeches in the United States and abroad, contributing their analyses and efforts to solve contemporary problems in the Muslim world and in urban America."


Abdul Alim Musa

"The paramount goal of the movement is the establishment of Islam as a complete way of life in America," the group declares. "This ultimate goal is predicated on the belief – shared by many Muslims worldwide – that Islam is fully capable of producing a working and just social, political, economic order."

The groups says it does not "advocate participation in the American political process as an ideal method for advancing Islamic issues in the U.S.; instead, it believes in a strong and active outreach to the people of the U.S."

Spencer told WND he does not know of any direct influence Musa has on prominent Muslim leaders or on U.S. policymakers, but he says it's "unclear how much 'mainstream' Muslim leaders harbor similar hopes – because no one dares question them about it."

As WND reported, the founder of the leading Islamic lobby group CAIR, the Council on Islamic-American Relations, reportedly told a group of Muslims in California they are in America not to assimilate but to help assert Islam's rule over the country. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper also has said, in a newspaper interview, he hopes to see an Islamic government over the U.S. some day, brought about not by violence but through "education."

In London last summer, as WND reported, Muslims gathered in front of the London Central Mosque to applaud fiery preachers prophesying the overthrow of the British government – a future vision that encompasses an Islamic takeover of the White House and the rule of the Quran over America.

Musa says he wants to avoid what he calls an "absolutist" outlook on "the advancement of Muslims."

His group's philosophy is to stress unity between the various streams of Islam "in the attainment of common goals."

Although As-Sabiqun is a Sunni movement, it has publicly voiced support for Shia movements and organizations such as the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, which waged war on Israel in the summer of 2006.

Musa, the group says, repeatedly has "stressed that the tendency by some Muslims to focus on the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam at this juncture in history is counterproductive to the goals of the Islamic movement as a whole."

The group says it encourages social-political advancement concurrent with a program of spiritual and moral development according to the Quran and Sunnah, compilations of stories from the life of Islam's prophet Muhammad.

The group says it has a six-point plan of action which is implemented at each location where a branch of the movement is established.

Establishing a mosque "as a place to worship Allah in congregation and as a center of spiritual and moral training."
"Calling the general society" to embrace Islam.
Establishing a full-time school "that raises children with a strong Islamic identity so they can, as future Islamic leaders, effectively meet and deal with the challenges of growing up in the West."
Establishing businesses to "make the movement financially stable and independent."
Establishing "geographical integrity by encouraging Muslims of the community to live in close proximity" to the mosque.
Establishing "social welfare institutions to respond to the need for spiritual and material assistance within the community as well as the general society."
In addition to daily classes, each mosque in the movement "also provides youth mentorship, marriage counseling, a prison outreach program, and employment assistance for ex-convicts."

As-Sabiqun says its branch in Los Angeles "was instrumental in creating a free health clinic in cooperation with other Islamic groups. The headquarters branch in D.C. has developed scout programs for young members of the community."

The group says the inspiration for its name comes from Quran, 9:100:

"The vanguard (as-Sabiqun) of Islam – the first of those who forsook their homes, and of those who gave them aid, and also those who follow them in all good deeds – well-pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him: For them hath He prepared Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever: that is the supreme Felicity."
24488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Washington on: November 11, 2007, 09:47:03 AM
  Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
                        George Washington
24489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: November 11, 2007, 09:38:14 AM
"WHAT IS A VET?"

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel. He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor that has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU."


Warner Anderson MD
Chief, Emergency Medicine
Gallup Indian Medical Center
U.S. Public Health Service and LTC, MC Group Surgeon
19 Special Forces Group Airborne
Wednesday, November 11th Veterans' Day
24490  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives for good on: November 10, 2007, 10:39:16 PM
Store owner who fought off robber with machete speaks outIt happened in the Woodhaven section of Queens
Eyewitness News
(New York - WABC, November 8, 2007) - A would-be robber remains hospitalized after a bodega owner fought him off with a machete in Woodhaven, Queens, Wednesday night.



Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has his story.

It was hand-to-hand combat in an all-out, bloody brawl. We asked the store owner if he'd do anything differently. He said next time, he'd have two machetes.

"Whether it was to rob or to kill him, but then after he hit him with the machete, the robber said, 'Just call the cops, please just call the cops,'" Johann Marte said through his translator, Queens Assemblyman Jose Peralta.

Hiding his face for now, in case someone seeks revenge, the bodega owner justified reducing the robber to a bloody mess last night.

"He pulled his gun, I pulled my machete and we went to war," Marte said.

Marte, a father of four, said the alleged criminal walked in his Woodhaven corner store with guns blazing, then wound up begging him to call the police.

"He was aiming for the gun," Peralta said. "As soon as he saw the gun, he was aiming for the gun, and that's all he was aiming for. He started swinging away at the gun, and it was lucky for him he ended up hitting the hand."

Marte's machete slashed the gun-toting bandit's trigger finger off, along with part of his ear, in a battle witnesses believe the suspect deserved.

"He had to protect himself," one said. "You do what you can."

Local legislators warn store owners not to fight violence with violence. They're pushing for bodega safety measures, like panic buttons, connected to local precincts.

"He was very lucky to endure what he did, but we want to teach bodega owners not to do what he did," Peralta said. "Because unfortunately, nine times out of 10, they will end up dead."

Still, an eye-for-an-eye, says Marte, who was fired at four times before his machete beat the bullets.

"I came here to work, to work hard, and I work hard everyday," Marte said through Peralta. "And I had to defend myself, and that's what I did."

The store has been robbed three times in the past, and it seems the Queens district attorney will treat this as self-defense and not charge Marte with anything. The robber-turned-victim is still recovering. He faces a number of charges. 


http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?se...cal&id=5750763
24491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: American Politics on: November 10, 2007, 10:31:56 PM
wsj

So in the end, the Senate voted to confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General on Thursday night, 53-40. What happened to the grave threats he posed to the republic?

Yes, Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor to explain that the judge was unfit to serve because he wouldn't declaim on the legality of "waterboarding," an interrogation technique that Congress itself hasn't banned. But notably missing in action were the Democrats running for President. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd had all declared their opposition but never showed for the vote. Their absence suggests that the entire Mukasey "fight" was a political charade. Democrats wanted to appease their antiwar base by raising a fuss, but without actually defeating him. As Dan Rather would say, "Courage."
24492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 10, 2007, 08:52:11 PM
WEEKEND INTERVIEW

Consultant in Chief
What Mitt Romney seems to have in mind is a turnaround project for Washington.

BY BRIAN M. CARNEY
Saturday, November 10, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

"I love data." Mitt Romney has been speaking for less than two minutes when he makes this profession.

The former Massachusetts governor is meeting with the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal to discuss his campaign for the presidency. And he starts not with the economy, "global jihad" or the country as a whole, but with himself.

While some have questioned Mr. Romney's authenticity, the immediate impression he gives is that he speaks straight from the heart. Especially where data are concerned. "I used to call it 'wallowing in the data,' " Mr. Romney continues. "Let me see the data. I want to see the client's data, the competitors' data. I want to see all the data."

This is not only a description of his approach to business. It sums up his political outlook: "You may ask me questions about topics that I haven't studied in depth. I'll be happy to give you my assessment of what I think at this point. But before I would actually make a decision on a very important topic, I would really study it in depth."

At one level, this is a caveat so obvious that most politicians wouldn't bother offering it. But Mr. Romney gives the impression that this is a methodological first principle so important to how he does things that he wants everyone he meets to understand it about him.





Having established his biography, he turns without pause to the question, which he asks himself, "Why am I running for president?"
The answer to this question is as abstract as his overture was personal. The "I" in the question seems to disappear: "I think what America faces now are extraordinary challenges, which, if we deal with appropriately, will allow us to remain the world's military and economic superpower for an indefinite period of time."

Mr. Romney does then introduce a personal element, but it's not his own person. "If we instead take the course that Hillary Clinton would prescribe," he warns, "it would lead to America becoming the France of this century--having started as a superpower, ending up as a second-tier power."

Those challenges include: "global jihad" and "the emergence of Asia as an economic challenge." On the domestic front, he lists: "entitlement-driven financial distress," "overuse of foreign oil" and "the inability of our school system to prepare our kids for the jobs of today, let alone tomorrow." To that, Mr. Romney adds, "the inability of the health-care system to rein in the explosive growth in costs." Needless to say, he thinks "we have a good prospect of solving all of them and remaining the world's power."

Those, then, are the problems that, in his word, "drive" him. And it's a pretty good list. But rather than explain why he is the person to solve them, Mr. Romney shifts gears to talk about himself in another sense.

Politicians don't like to describe themselves as ideological, but most have a core of political precepts. Mr. Romney describes his thus: "Obviously, I have--just like in the consulting world--I have 'concepts' that I believe. I believe the free market works and government doesn't--that when government takes over a function which can be effectively managed in the free market, we make a huge mistake. I think government is almost by necessity inefficient, inflexible, duplicative, wasteful, expensive and burdensome." This is fairly traditional small-government, free-market conservative talk--or would be, if it weren't framed as a "concept," like those used in consulting.

Which makes it seem at first a curious way to describe why one is running for president of the United States and leader of the free world. But it turns out to be a perfect encapsulation of the Romney campaign.

Mr. Romney spent a decade as a consultant, and later ran a private equity concern that grew out of that. For most of his adult life, then, Mr. Romney has been figuring out how to run businesses better. It is not much of a stretch to say that he views the federal government as just one more candidate for a data-driven makeover.

In fact, it may not be a stretch at all. When asked for details about how he would reduce the size of government if elected, he mentions two things: The organizational chart of the executive branch, and consultants. "There's no corporation in America that would have a CEO, no COO, just a CEO, with 30 direct reports."

Running a government organized like this is, he explains, impossible. "So I would probably have super-cabinet secretaries, or at least some structure that McKinsey would guide me to put in place." He seems to catch a note of surprise in his audience, but he presses on: "I'm not kidding, I probably would bring in McKinsey. . . . I would consult with the best and the brightest minds, whether it's McKinsey, Bain, BCG or Jack Welch."





This is not a new idea. The New Democrats too became enamored of the idea of "reinventing government," and Al Gore extolled the potential to making government work more like business as vice president. Except in that case, the larger goal was to show that government need not be sclerotic, bloated and inefficient. Mr. Romney seems to view it more as a turnaround project--trim the fat, reduce expenditure and shrink the organization.
Mr. Romney's data-driven world-view, however, really stands out when he starts talking foreign policy. In a debate last month, he responded to a question about the president's legal authority to attack Iran by saying, "You sit down with your attorneys" and figure out what authority you have.

But this was not merely a dodge--if it had been, it would have been a clumsy one at best. It was a glimpse into the workings of Mr. Romney's mind. At his meeting in our offices this week, he was asked how Candidate Romney would respond upon learning that President Bush had launched an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"I would hope that the president would have outlined a great deal of information," was Mr. Romney's response. "I have very little information, for instance, on: How many nuclear facilities are there? Where are they? Can we take them out? Can we not? What is the capacity of the Iranian military to respond? Are our 160,000 troops in Iraq safe, or are they going to get hit?" Coming from someone else, it might sound like evasion.

But given Mr. Romney's habits of mind, it sounded, instead, perfectly natural. He continued: "It's such a wide array of information I'd need to know whether something is a good idea or a bad idea. . . . So it depends."

He then proceeded to outline examples of good and bad scenarios for attacking before coming around, at last, to what passes for a traditional political assessment of the situation, to wit: He thinks sanctions could still work if we can get other nations on board, and if we can pressure Iran diplomatically and economically, "then I think we have a good shot of getting Iran to behave more responsibly."





The charge that Mr. Romney lacks "authenticity" emerges from the fact that he has flip-flopped over the years, especially on social issues. He famously tried to run to the left of Ted Kennedy on some of those issues in his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race. At that time, he also expressly disavowed being a "Reagan-Bush" Republican.
These days, of course, Mr. Romney is right with "the base" on abortion, same-sex marriage and the whole panoply of "social" issues, which has led to suspicions that Mr. Romney, the businessman, is simply tailoring the product, himself, to the customer--then, the Massachusetts electorate, and now, the national Republican Party.

The impression he gives in person is not, however, that of a salesman tailoring his message to his audience. It is, instead, precisely the person he described in the opening moments of our meeting: A man who goes first to the data, who refers to what some would call their "core beliefs" as "concepts."

At any rate, his response to a question about his former disdain for "Reagan-Bush" is consistent with that version of the man. "Reagan gets a lot smarter the older I get," he allows. He then explains what bothered him then: "I was concerned about what seemed to be looming deficits and inability to rein in spending in those days. And as time has gone on, I've recognized that he was brilliant and did the right thing for our economy. And so I may not have been entirely in sync with Reagan-Bush back at the time, but as time has gone on, I think what they proposed was smarter and smarter."

Framed in that way, what was a flip-flop becomes an openness to reconsider former positions. That may not do much to mollify those who worry about his ideological reliability--he's changed his views before, so what's to stop him from changing them again? But it is a kind of Romneyian consistency--belief in what works, belief in praxis over abstract theory or ideology.

This frame of mind seems to make politics both a befuddlement and a great challenge for the businessman in Mr. Romney. "My wife says," he explains, "that watching Washington is like watching two guys in a canoe on a fast-moving river headed to a waterfall and they're not paddling, they're just arguing. As they get closer to the waterfall, they'll finally start to paddle."

That's characteristically optimistic. But in business, most of the time, everyone agrees on the goal, or which way the waterfall is. The goal is profits at a minimum, and ideally growth too. In politics, the two men in the canoe are probably arguing because they can't agree which way to paddle. Mr. Romney encountered this while governor of Massachusetts, as he acknowledges when describing how he vetoed certain elements of the state's health-care reform law, only to have his vetoes overridden.





And then there is the fact that, in his words, "government is almost by necessity inefficient, inflexible, duplicative, wasteful, expensive and burdensome." And yet he speaks hopefully of whittling down the "342 economic-development programs in this country," the 13 teenage [pregnancy] prevention programs" and the like.
It probably takes a consultant to believe that we have 342 economic-development programs because no one ever hired a consultant to explain that maybe one, or five, or none, would do. And even Mr. Romney is not that naive. There is even something attractive about a politician who is driven by the facts of the case; an excess of ideology is never appealing, and in the worst cases leads to fanaticism of the ugliest sort.

The question for the electorate is whether Mitt Romney is the man of the hour. But when asked whether his "nuts-and-bolts" approach can possibly succeed in an ideological, divided age, he returns to the nuts and bolts.

"I think I'm the only guy who can win the general election," he explains. "That may seem strange, but I think it's going to take someone from outside Washington to win. I think it's going to take someone who's not a lifelong politician to win . . ." Then he goes tactical: "Of course we have to win Florida. And I think almost all of the leading contenders could win Florida with the right running mate and the right policies and the right effort.

"But we also have to win Michigan or Ohio. Winning both would be critical. I don't see how you get there without winning Michigan or Ohio. And I can win Michigan, and I may be able to win Ohio too . . ."

At this point, Mr. Romney may have started to worry that it sounded like he was bragging, because he abruptly shifted to a strange form of self-deprecation: "I can win those states--and by the way, not because of me, but because of my dad," he says. George Romney was governor of Michigan in the 1960s. "My dad's reputation is better than mine will ever be in Michigan. His reputation for integrity and can-do accomplishment is what I think helps me win Michigan. And that's what it takes to win the White House."

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
24493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 10, 2007, 08:44:25 PM
No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334
24494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 10, 2007, 08:38:10 PM
Confusion reigns over U.S. rules on growth hormone even as crackdown is increased
By DAVID B. CARUSO (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
November 10, 2007 8:35 PM EST
NEW YORK - Jeffrey George had no background in health care when he founded his business to sell human growth hormone on the Internet.

But even though most uses of the drug are illegal, he is absolutely certain that selling HGH is not against the law, as long as customers have a prescription.

"It's the same thing as getting antibiotics," the 26-year-old bodybuilder said in a recent interview.

His confidence is understandable. Seventeen years after Congress made it a felony to distribute synthetic HGH improperly, there is still confusion about who may legally get the drug.

Doctors, pharmacists and even law enforcement agents disagree about the meaning of the law that, at least on paper, appears to ban prescriptions for HGH for anything other than a handful of rare illnesses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that anyone who distributes HGH for athletic enhancement or as an anti-aging remedy faces up to five years in prison, but that threat is rarely enforced.

Web sites frequented by bodybuilders brazenly hawk mail-order growth hormone as a way of increasing strength and stamina.

George's company, South Beach Rejuvenation and Health, touts the drug as a "fountain of youth," capable of removing wrinkles and boosting sex drive.

"Rejuvenation" centers catering to aging Baby Boomers offer HGH injections as a remedy for everything from low energy to expanding waistlines.

Distributors, according to a recent FDA alert, have increasingly offered to fulfill demand by importing unapproved versions of the drug from China, even though all such shipments are flatly illegal.

After years of treating it as a minor problem, some law enforcement agencies have recently turned more attention to HGH.

In September, the founder of one of China's largest drug manufacturers, the GeneScience Pharmaceuticals Company, was indicted on federal charges that he smuggled huge amounts of HGH into the U.S.

Last month, state officials seized $7.5 million (euro5.1 million) in Chinese-made growth hormone from a New York City pharmacy that had been supplying anti-aging clinics in New York and Florida.

A St. Louis pharmacy company, Specialty Distribution Systems Inc., agreed to pay a $10.5 million (euro7.2 million) fine for distributing HGH to athletes, entertainers and others who did not qualify for treatment.

And since the spring, a long list of doctors, clinic owners and pharmacy operators from several states have faced charges in Albany, the New York state capital, that they distributed HGH and steroids to patients who had no medical need for the drugs.

However, authorities acknowledge that the crackdown has been limited.

Prosecutors have been especially reluctant to take on one of the largest sources of HGH: Doctors who prescribe the drug as part of an anti-aging regimen.

Under the law, physicians are allowed to prescribe HGH when a patient's pituitary gland stops producing normal amounts of hormone, usually because it has been damaged by a tumor or a cancer treatment like surgery or radiation therapy.

Since the early 1990s, however, a minority of doctors have claimed that millions of other adults also can be legitimately said to have a hormone deficiency because the pituitary gland naturally tapers off HGH production after a person reaches middle age.

The growth of that approach infuriates doctors like Thomas Perls, an aging expert at Boston University Medical School, who said that while HGH has legitimate benefits there is little evidence to back claims it can slow aging.

"It's the worst kind of quackery," he said.

It also may not be safe, he said. Some studies have suggested that people who take HGH supplements run a greater risk of getting cancer. HGH treatment can also have side effects like joint pain and diabetes.

Prosecuting doctors, however, is not easy. Just last week, one of the FDA's few efforts to crack down on a doctor ended in failure. A federal jury acquitted Reno, Nevada, physician James Forsythe, who was charged in 2005 with prescribing HGH to middle-aged patients who wanted to get into better shape. Forsythe denied doing anything wrong.

State medical boards also appear loath to discipline physicians.

New York's Board for Professional Medical Conduct has taken action against only a handful of doctors in the past two decades for writing unwarranted HGH prescriptions.

After Albany Country District Attorney P. David Soares complained last spring that legal loopholes had made it more difficult to target doctors selling the drug to bodybuilders, Sen. Charles Schumer proposed a bill that would put HGH in the same regulatory category as narcotics and steroids.

At least some people in the business agree that changes are needed.

"The industry is polluted with the wrong types of people," said Brian Cotugno, a Floridian who worked as a consultant to several hormone replacement clinics.

Like George, Cotugno's original background was not in medicine. As a young man, he served a 10-year prison sentence for cocaine trafficking.

After his release, he said, he became a consultant, telling clinics how to satisfy government regulations. But he said many of his clients ignored advice that might cut into their profits.

Cotugno said he recently stopped advising the clinics, and abandoned a small HGH marketing business of his own.

"It always ended with some sort of disastrous scenario," he said.
24495  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / !Fuego! on: November 10, 2007, 07:56:26 PM
http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/?p=9647


Grave incidente diplomático entre Chávez, Ortega y el Rey de España
12:11 pm | 10 Nov 2007 | 622 comentarios | 81,697 views

En la reunión de hoy de la Cumbre, se ha producido un lamentable y fuerte altercado verbal entre Hugo Chávez y la delegación española, que respondió, con evidente molestia, los nuevos insultos del presidente venezolano a Aznar. El Rey Juan Carlos visiblemente indignado gritó a Chávez: “¿Por qué no te callas?”. Al seguir las ofensas por parte de Daniel Ortega, el Rey de España abandonó la reunión. Terminadas las palabras de Ortega, unos minutos después regresó para la Clausura.

Si por medio de la violencia o medios ilegítimos la oligarquía, los “pitiyanquis”, llegarán a cerrarle el camino a las revoluciones pacíficas el continente puedo explotar el violencia. Así lo acaba de decir Hugo Chávez en su participación en la Cumbre, que ha vuelto a repetir su amenaza de los Vietnams en el continente.

Chávez, en su intervención, ha reiterado su narración de los sucesos del 11 de abril de 2002, haciendo énfasis en que “estuvo a punto de morir una madrugada”. Igualmente reiteró sus críticas a España y EE.UU., lo que ha provocado la visible molestia de Zapatero, quien esta mañana insistió ante la prensa, en referencia a Hugo Chávez, la necesidad de dirigirse con respeto a los demás, incluso a los oponentes políticos.

El presidente Zapatero pidió la palabra y exigió a Hugo Chávez, con vehemencia, respeto a los gobernantes democráticos, “ahora y en el futuro”

El Rey Juan Carlos, muy molesto, le gritó “¿por qué no te callas?” a Hugo Chávez, ante las descalificaciones vertidas por éste contra el ex presidente del gobierno español, José María Aznar.

Hugo Chávez, también molesto volvió a hablar y le dijo a Zapatero que “con la verdad ni ofendo ni temo”.

El presidente de Nicaragua está criticando ahora a los “europeos y gringos” ante un Zapatero cuya cara de crispación es cada vez más evidente. Ortega está echando leña al fuego acusando a España de haber colaborado con EE.UU. en el ataque a Libia donde murió una hija de Gadaffi.

Las imágenes han mostrado la visible molestia del Rey Juan Carlos I ante la discusión que se está llevando a cabo.

Esta es la crónica completa de la Agencia Efe:

Tras una monumental bronca, protagonizada por Venezuela y España, en la que el Rey Juan Carlos abandonó el plenario, se clausuró la XVII Cumbre Iberoamericana.

Las descalificaciones del presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, al ex-presidente del gobierno español, Jose María Aznar, provocaron una respuesta del presidente Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, en la que le recordó que “en una mesa en la que hay gobiernos democráticos, se tiene como principios esenciales el respeto”.

El presidente venezolano Hugo calificó de nuevo de fascista a Aznar y sostuvo que en una conversación privada le respondió “esos se jodieron (sic)” al aludir a los países más pobres del mundo.

Chávez reveló detalles de una conversación mantenida con Aznar durante la visita oficial a Caracas que el entonces presidente del Gobierno hizo en julio de 1999 para “invitarle” a incorporarse al “club del primer mundo”.

En la sesión de clausura de la Cumbre Iberoamericana, Chávez reiteró su acusación a Aznar de que éste apoyó el golpe que intentó derrocarle en 2002. “Sabía del golpe y lo apoyó”, dijo.

Chávez había pedido la palabra para replicar a la intervención del presidente del Gobierno español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, centrada en subrayar que un país nunca podrá avanzar si busca justificaciones de que alguien desde fuera impide su progreso.

El presidente venezolano mostró su desacuerdo con los argumentos de Rodríguez Zapatero y dijo que “no se pueden minimizar” el impacto de los factores externos, paso previo a un largo discurso en el que volvió a atacar con dureza a Aznar.

En el momento en que Chávez interrumpió a Zapatero, el Rey Juan Carlos le espetó “¿por qué no te callas?”.

Ortega critica las empresas españolas y el Rey abandona la sala

El presidente de Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, lanzó duras críticas, en presencia del rey Juan Carlos y del jefe del Gobierno español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a la empresa eléctrica española Unión Fenosa, a la que dijo que en la actualidad no le hubieran dejado entrar en el país.

El 90 por ciento de la opinión de Nicaragua “está en contra de Unión Fenosa”, afirmó. “Esa empresa española llega a Nicaragua a ayudar, decía, a que la energía llegue a todo el país, se va a controlar el precio y todo lo demás. Llegó con los Gobiernos peleles, nosotros no le hubiéramos dejado entrar a Unión Fenosa, no le hubiéramos entregado la distribución“.

“Le entregaron la generación del 47 por ciento de la energía”, pero “los inversionistas no compraron las empresas generadoras que estaban en mal estado, compraron mediante actos de corrupción las empresas generadoras que estaban en buen estado donde podían sacarle utilidades y ganar lo que estaban dando por la empresa en un año”, señaló Ortega durante una intervención en la turbulenta sesión de clausura de la XVII Cumbre Iberoamericana.

El rey de España Juan Carlos I abandonó entonces el plenario de la Cumbre.

Resultados de la Cumbre que terminó en polémica

En la Cumbre se aprobó la “Declaración de Santiago” y un Plan de Acción, que incluye medidas destinadas a mejorar la cohesión social, lema del encuentro. También se aprobaron una serie de comunicados especiales sobre la lucha contra el terrorismo y la corrupción, la reclamación por Argentina de la soberanía en las Islas Malvinas, el rechazo del bloqueo de Estados Unidos a Cuba y la cooperación para el desarrollo con países de renta media.

Los Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno se comprometieron también a poner en marcha un Convenio Multilateral de Seguridad Social, con el se podrán beneficiar seis millones de inmigrantes latinoamericanos. La presidenta de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, el presidente de El Salvador, Elías Antonio Saca, y el Secretario General Iberoamericano, Enrique Iglesias, ofrecerán una rueda de prensa para informar de los resultados de la cumbre.
24496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 10, 2007, 07:45:49 PM
GM:

Good to have you with us again.

Given the history of the border with India, this development seems quite significant.  Is it a sign that Mush fears the situation unravelling completely?  Or is he readying a genuinely aggressive move against to Whackostans?  Or?

We certainly live in interesting times , , ,
===============
WSJ

The Bush-Biden Doctrine
November 10, 2007; Page A10
Whatever Pervez Musharraf's failings in Islamabad, his impact in Washington has been nothing short of miraculous. With his declaration of emergency rule, the Pakistan President has single-handedly revived the Bush Doctrine. The same people who only days ago were deriding President Bush for naively promoting democracy are now denouncing him for not promoting it enough in Pakistan.

"We have to move from a Musharraf to a Pakistan policy," declared Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden on Thursday. "Pakistan has strong democratic traditions and a large, moderate majority. But that moderate majority must have a voice in the system and an outlet with elections. If not, moderates may find that they have no choice but to make common cause with extremists, just as the Shah's opponents did in Iran three decades ago."

HOT TOPIC

 
 
Pakistan Plunges Deeper Into ChaosJoe Biden, neocon.

The Senator's epiphany underscores that Pakistan has long been the playground not of democracy promoters but of the foreign-policy "realists." General Musharraf may have taken power in a coup, but when Colin Powell famously gave him the for-us-or-against-us choice after 9/11, the general chose "for." He is a U.S. ally in a rough neighborhood, his government captured such al Qaeda bigs as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and as an authoritarian he was of the moderate kind. The Bush Administration did push Mr. Musharraf to restore democratic legitimacy, but quietly and without great urgency. Brent Scowcroft would have approved.

We don't summarize this history to deride it the way Mr. Biden and many neocons-come-lately are. There are exceptions to every foreign policy rule, and sometimes democracy promotion must compete with other American interests, such as the need to pursue al Qaeda. In the Cold War, Americans often had little choice but to support authoritarian rulers who were allies in the larger struggle against Communism. Sometimes the alternatives are worse, and Pakistan is a hard case.

Clearly, however, this calculation has to change after Mr. Musharraf's "emergency" declaration. His arrest of lawyers, human-rights activists and political opponents shows that his main targets aren't Islamists. They are the pro-Western parts of Pakistan civil society that oppose Islamism more than the general does. He is making a heavy-handed play to avoid a Supreme Court ruling against his recent Presidential election, and he has undermined the talks he was having with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on a transition to democracy. As a national leader, he has made himself even less legitimate.

So what should the U.S. do? To some, like Mr. Biden, the answer is to issue an ultimatum to restore elections by a date certain, and if Mr. Musharraf refuses, cut off the U.S. aid of $150 million a month and walk away. This has its virtues as a political threat, but it is less useful if you actually have to follow through.

The last time the U.S. tried to isolate Pakistan, after its nuclear test in the late 1990s, we lost contact with a generation of Pakistani military officers. Pakistan also got in bed with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the U.S. had little or no influence. It was only after 9/11, with the resumption of U.S. aid, that Mr. Musharraf replaced some generals and intelligence officials who sympathized with the Taliban. There are benefits to staying engaged with the military and other parts of Pakistan society -- both to understand it better and to help deter the worse possible outcome, which would be an Islamist coup.

At the same time, however, the U.S. can't quietly acquiesce in the status quo. Mr. Musharraf's days are numbered, and his country's democrats need to know that the U.S. stands squarely for restoring the rule of law, freedom of the airwaves, and democratic legitimacy. President Bush already seems to be making some progress on this front, calling Mr. Musharraf this week and urging him both to resign his military commission and set a date for elections. The general has responded by saying elections will be held by February, a month after they had been scheduled before the "emergency" was declared.

Some of our neocon friends point to the Cold War precedent of the Philippines, where Ronald Reagan helped to push long-time ally Ferdinand Marcos from power. What they forget is that the Gipper's push came at the end of a long process of private engagement and public pressure, and only after Marcos had tried to steal a Presidential election. It also came in a country whose political culture we clearly understood, and one with close bilateral military ties. When Marcos ordered military leaders to arrest the opposition, they refused and a bloodbath was prevented.

Others point to the Iran example of 1979, but that too is an imperfect model. Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski abandoned the Shah with little understanding that the military as an institution would crumble, and none at all about the radical designs of the Ayatollah Khomeini. We have been living with the consequences of that blunder ever since.

Pakistan today is not Iran in 1979, but neither is it the Philippines in 1986. It requires its own unique U.S. engagement and diplomacy. The restoration of democracy should be one goal of that engagement, even if we have to call it the Bush-Biden Doctrine.

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24497  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar reviews on: November 10, 2007, 07:34:34 PM
Woof Shadowdancer:

Dino provided this clip of Porn Star Dog working the Attacking Blocks generator with Ashley

http://www.teamruthless.com/100_1435.MOV

Its a subtle one that many people have a hard time picking up--  so I am pleased with his teaching.

TAC,
CD

24498  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: November 10, 2007, 08:05:38 AM
Dog Ryan: 

I have written Jeff Quail of Shocknife two times about since he first mentioned it but have not heard back from him yet.

Cat Linda:

I am in Temecula until Monday night.  When I return I will look up Gina's contact info.  In the meantime know that you may have all the knife fights you want.

All:

At the moment the drummer situation is still open.  Henrik now lives in Sacramento and is a maybe and I seemed to have misplaced the contact info for Charles Telerant.  I will try Edit Dog on Tuesday, but he often has a heavy schedule and I'm guessing the odds of him being available at the last minute are not strong.   So if you are or now someone, please let us know.

TAC,
CD
24499  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA event in Manila on Dec 7 or 8 on: November 09, 2007, 08:43:17 PM
PLATINUM PRODUCTIONS, out of Las Vegas NV

Ring of Fire

24500  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / MMA event in Manila on Dec 7 or 8 on: November 09, 2007, 08:06:40 PM
Does anyone have any info about this event or the coordinator (promoter?) Dave Brock?

Please post here and/or email me at Craftydog@dogbrothers.com

Thank you!
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