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24551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 21, 2008, 06:32:13 PM
SB Mig:

Great piece of history!  If you don't put it on the Race thread on the "Science etc" forum for posterity, I will.

Marc
24552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brit tactics questioned on: June 21, 2008, 10:52:56 AM
Afghanistan: British troops shooting themselves in the foot over Taliban fight

By Thomas Harding
Last updated: 2:15 AM BST 21/06/2008

Outdated tactics and severe equipment shortages are our worst enemies in Afghanistan, not the Taliban, argues Thomas Harding.

It's been a good fortnight for the Taliban. Nine British soldiers dead in 10 days, hundreds of imprisoned fighters set free in a daring jailbreak and the floundering Afghan government struggling to convince the population that the security they long for is close at hand.

They will be happy, too, that they have probably made the British commander regret telling me three weeks ago that the insurgency was on the verge of defeat.

Power in Afghanistan is all about posture and perception. The Taliban swept through the country in 1996, barely firing a shot, because local warlords saw that the future was with the black turban and did not want to be left behind. What will be the perception now?

First a suicide bomber killed three Paras, and then a well-planned ambush accounted for another two. Tuesday's bomb attack left a further four soldiers dead – including, in an invaluable publicity coup for the insurgents, Corporal Sarah Bryant, 26, the first female British soldier to die in Afghanistan.

From the safety of their hideouts in Pakistan, the Taliban's leaders and their al-Qa'eda cronies will be counting the dollars from the opium harvest haul, ready to purchase more men, bombs and bullets as the fighting season begins.

After spending a week on the ground with our commanders in Lashkar Gah, and then a fortnight marching, eating and sleeping alongside the Parachute Regiment, I have heard first-hand the worries of our troops – and their diagnosis of the problem.

They fear that the "war of our generation" is turning into a slog that will suck in more troops, who will require increasing logistical support, which will in turn give the enemy many more targets.

This is because the Taliban's tactics are changing. For the first two years, we fought pitched battles against an insurgency determined to over-run our undermanned outposts, which often came close to running out of food and ammunition.

The Taliban's losses were very heavy – in the thousands. But the last fortnight could signal the start of a new approach. Why waste a score of fighters when a suicide bomber or well-placed mine will do?

With more than 8,000 British troops in Helmand, supported by 2,400 Americans, there are plenty of targets to go round.

The Taliban knows the value of public opinion – so important in a counter-insurgency battle – but you sometimes suspect that Whitehall does not. In the opening rounds of the battle for Helmand in 2006, there was no serious public debate about what the mission was. When it became clear that a very serious battle was unfolding, Downing Street banned the press from covering it, in case the public got a whiff that another bloody campaign was unravelling while the insurgency in Iraq was in full cry.

The senior members of the military cannot complain. They were the ones who assured ministers that fighting a war on two fronts was feasible, so long as troop numbers came down in Basra. They also agreed with the politicians that 3,000 men was a suitable number to contain Helmand.

Two years on, we are approaching three times that number, but the increase has gone largely unnoticed, with increments of a few hundred here and there.

Many of our best and brightest military minds – such as Brigadier Ed Butler of the SAS – have called it a day, fed up with poor pay, uncaring civil servants and having to spend too much time away from their families. But there are some very sharp men left, and many of them believe that our greatest enemy is not the Taliban, but our own doctrines and regulations.

The enemy has been forced to adapt to survive. A full-frontal assault on allied positions will fail: indeed, firing anything more than a couple of mortar rounds will attract a vicious hail of retaliatory fire.

So when he hears an Apache attack helicopter approaching, or sees a jet overhead, he no longer stands and fights, but drops his weapon and melts away, no longer a legitimate target. He knows the rules: if you are not carrying a weapon, you cannot be killed. And time is on your side.

Yes, the British might enter a district for a few weeks, but when they leave, the Taliban return, meting out brutal punishment to anyone who has co-operated with the foreigners. And the amount of force needed to take these towns and overwhelm the Taliban makes our own troops less nimble, thereby absorbing manpower, supplies and precious helicopter hours.

"The problem," says one officer, "is that we are focusing on protective mobility. We are definitely going down the road the Russians went in the Eighties, with over-reliance on massive armoured vehicles."

The debate is starting on the ground because soldiers are frustrated that they can march their hearts out all day to track the enemy, only to be blown up by a mine. They query how a lumbering convoy of 100 armoured vehicles can ever surprise an enemy who knows every rock and cave in his own back yard. The time has come, suggest some, to fight the way the enemy fights – but smarter.

In the Rhodesian insurgency, tiny units called fire forces, working in groups of four or eight, would drop into enemy territory by parachute or helicopter, unheard and unseen.

With the aid of local trackers, they remained concealed for days, watching the enemy's movements and waiting patiently for the optimum time to strike. Again and again the guerrillas were horrified as their safety cordon unravelled, with colleagues falling dead around them.

By contrast, our strategy is static, based on bases in fixed locations. Troops leave them to go on patrol in full view of the enemy – which had fatal consequences this month. "It's bloody hard to deceive the enemy with a column of ground movement that can be picked up 500 metres beyond the base," says one veteran. "The effect of four helicopters disgorging 100 soldiers from an unexpected direction would have a huge impact, and would lead to a reduction in the opportunities to blow us up with mines."

Partly, the problem is the same risk-averse culture that enveloped our campaign in Basra, where the highest priority, to which everything else was subordinated, was avoiding British deaths.

At the moment, regular troops are only allowed to move around in numbers considerably larger than the small groups of the Rhodesian campaign. Even snipers, whose pricey new long-range rifles could be a massive asset, are not allowed to go out with just a spotter, but have to be part of more unwieldy units.

For some soldiers, the excuses about excessive danger wear thin, given the huge support available from air and artillery if things go sour. "At times," one told me wearily, "I am waiting for someone to mention the Health and Safety Executive."

However, the single greatest symbol of what is going wrong with our campaign is the lack of helicopters. At some point a senior commander is going to have to find the courage to mortgage his career and say in public what so many have said to me in private – that we are losing lives needlessly because there are not enough.

The eight RAF Chinooks are being flown relentlessly, and fatigue must be setting in. The Ministry of Defence says that the answer is to fly them for even more hours per month, but that's a stupid argument: we need more airframes, more spare parts and more pilots.

This is a refrain that occurs again and again in conversations with senior officers and seasoned NCOs. "Helicopters would put you in places where vehicles cannot," says one. Another says wistfully: "If I could get my hands on four Chinooks for two whole days…"

The reason why the US Marines were so successful in southern Helmand this spring was because they were able to land 600 troops in one lift in one night. In the two weeks I was with them, the Paras could only muster one air assault of two helicopters that had to go in three lifts, hugely increasing the risk of the enemy assembling an anti-aircraft team to attack them.

Then, as we pushed further into Taliban territory, we were forced to travel on foot alongside vehicles, because there were no helicopters available. The Taliban probably just laughed and walked off into the next valley.

Even when we detained a suspected roadside bomber – after slogging through the desert for hours – we almost had to release him because there was no helicopter to take him back to a legal holding facility for three days – the maximum detention time is four days.

The MoD knows that what we have is not enough, and has done for years. But the bean counters have never listened. "If the Government really cared about troops, they would pull their fingers out and get the resources out here," says one soldier.

We can win in Afghanistan, but to do so we will have to find the courage and resourcefulness shown by the enemy – not to mention a few of those long-prayed-for Chinooks.

Story from Telegraph News:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...ban-fight.html
24553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 21, 2008, 09:42:59 AM
Woof All:

I'm following with interest this business about allowing the States to permit offshore drilling.  It may be that BO has made a major political blunder with this one and JM may finally have an opportunity which he is willing to take to go for blood.

Also, the good news out of Iraq continues-- see the Iraq thread today wherein even the NYTimes has to admit how well things are going.  Without missing a beat BO has tried using this to say "See, we can leave now"   rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes  There are heavy political points to be scored by JM here.

TAC,
Marc
24554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 21, 2008, 09:36:06 AM
I am deeply grateful for the conversation with my son last night as we walked the dog.  Likewise for the joy in buying my daughter a wonderful bicycle for her sixth birthday and seeing the joy in her as she sat on it and believed for the first time that she could learn to ride it.  Today is her birthday party-- a pool party with some 20+ children coming to play.

24555  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario on: June 21, 2008, 09:26:12 AM
Hola Alfonso:

Me da gusto verte siguiendo crecer con Palo Canario.

Yo me acuerdo del sitio que se ve en estos enlaces-- tu tomaste fotos de Benjamin y yo alli'.  ?Todovia las tienes?  Fuereon buenisimas, pero los perdi' cuando mi computadora se murio  cry  Agradeceria muchisimo que me las mandaras todas de ellas de nuevo , , ,

Marc
24556  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Preparando su familia on: June 21, 2008, 09:20:21 AM
Hola Omar:

Muchisimas gracias por tu esfuerzo aqui-- que lastima que todavia nadie haya respondido.

La Aventura continua!
24557  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 21, 2008, 09:18:17 AM
Pues, segun este informe del Stratfor, Chavez esta' en muchas problemas:

Venezuela: The United States Turns the Screws
Stratfor Today » June 19, 2008 | 2236 GMT

EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Summary
The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused a Venezuelan diplomat and head of the Caracas-based Shia Islamic Center of giving Hezbollah financial support. The United States, which is targeting other Venezuelan nationals suspected of involvement with Hezbollah, is working to increase the pressure on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is already weakening under the weight of domestic problems.

Analysis
The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused Ghazi Nasr al-Din, a Venezuelan diplomat and president of a Caracas-based Shia Islamic center, of giving financial assistance to Hezbollah. The United States has also targeted Fawzi Kanan and two Venezuelan-based travel agencies that he allegedly owns or controls. Although the United States has made accusations of involvement with Hezbollah before, in taking the step to target Venezuelan nationals, the United States is ramping up pressure on already-weakened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The most recent set of accusations against Chavez’s government were released by U.S.-based Venezuelan reporter Patricia Poleo in a report that gave detailed accounts of Hezbollah, al Qaeda and other Arab movements in Venezuela. The report alleged that Venezuela is hosting at least five camps in various parts of the country where Venezuelan and Lebanese Hezbollah members learn to use munitions, and that those members plan to use Venezuela as a launching point for attacks on the United States. The report is suspiciously detailed in its descriptions of alleged terrorist training activities in Venezuela’s jungles. The information would have been very hard to come by without the aid of a sophisticated intelligence agency.

Washington has long been concerned about security threats originating in Venezuela. A well-known transit point for illegal drugs and arms, Venezuela also poses a serious risk to U.S. security because of its lax visa regulations and rampant corruption. Furthermore, Venezuela has been the most significant port of entry for illegal immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere since before Chavez took control of the country.

Although Stratfor has no direct evidence that Hezbollah is operating in Venezuela, it would not be much of a surprise. In fact, Venezuela’s close relationship with Iran makes it almost inevitable. Most of Venezuela’s “joint” programs with Iran — such as a recently announced joint bank — make little sense because, depending on the project, Venezuela and Iran lack the cash, technology and/or organic market to launch them. Both countries are exporters of oil, with very little other economic strength, so trading between the two is largely superfluous. But helping Iran by supporting Hezbollah only requires some land in the jungle and lax security with passports — two things Venezuela has in spades.

What Venezuela would get out of such a partnership is not entirely clear. A core part of Chavez’s domestic security strategy has been to develop local militias that he can call on to support him in case the Venezuelan military turns against him. But harboring terrorist training camps in one’s backyard is like painting a big bullseye on one’s country and inviting the U.S. Air Force to take their best shot. But it is possible Iran is worth the risk, whether it is able to offer money or political favors in return.

Whether or not it is true that Venezuela is helping Hezbollah, the possibility for such cooperation has existed for several years. But the timing of this asset seizure poses some interesting possibilities, as it coincides with some dramatic shifts in Chavez’s behavior. These shifts include an apparent decision to deny public support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a move to revise a key intelligence law that would have strengthened his authoritarian control over Venezuela.

Chavez’s support of the FARC has been unpopular in Venezuela; in an April poll by Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans expressed disapproval of the FARC. This fact no doubt played a large part in his decision to reverse support for the group. With support for a second terrorist organization coming to light, Chavez’s credibility will only suffer more.

At the same time, Chavez is experiencing serious challenges on other fronts.

Inflation in Venezuela is skyrocketing, in part because of monetary inflation partially driven by massive government spending. Coupled with rising global food prices, the inflation has made life measurably harder for Venezuelans (especially poor Venezuelans), and dissatisfaction with Chavez’s policies is increasing.

Furthermore, Chavez’s social programs that service his support base rely on funding from Venezuelan state-owned energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) — and things are not looking so good for PDVSA. Burdened with the financial responsibilities of the entire state, the company is at risk of not being able to maintain its oil production, much less increase it to meet rising fiscal needs. And all this is with oil at $130 per barrel; any price drop and Chavez immediately will have to choose who not to give subsidies to.

Demands on PDVSA will not slacken soon, either. With local elections approaching, Chavez is under pressure to bring his party — the United Socialist Party of Venezuela — under his control. Designed to unite all leftist parties in Venezuela under one banner, the party is not as united as Chavez would like it to be. The upcoming November elections have exposed deep disagreements among party members and have provoked Chavez to go so far as to kick prominent figures out of the party. The elections will test his ability to hold the country together, and Chavez will need all the help he can get from his costly social programs to secure public support.

The bottom line is that Chavez is vulnerable like never before. With food prices soaring, local elections approaching and criticism of his policies mounting, the implication that Chavez’s government is aiding a second terrorist organization is well-timed to take advantage of his already-declining popularity.

The kind of moves the United States is making to undermine Chavez’s popular support are well in line with Stratfor’s projection that outside forces — including the United States — are supporting the unity of the Venezuelan opposition. What remains to be seen is where exactly the break point is for Chavez’s supporters, and whether or not the military will support Chavez in the face of a concerted attempt by the opposition to throw a revolution.
24558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: June 21, 2008, 09:16:35 AM
Venezuela: The United States Turns the Screws
Stratfor Today » June 19, 2008 | 2236 GMT

EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Summary
The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused a Venezuelan diplomat and head of the Caracas-based Shia Islamic Center of giving Hezbollah financial support. The United States, which is targeting other Venezuelan nationals suspected of involvement with Hezbollah, is working to increase the pressure on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is already weakening under the weight of domestic problems.

Analysis
The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused Ghazi Nasr al-Din, a Venezuelan diplomat and president of a Caracas-based Shia Islamic center, of giving financial assistance to Hezbollah. The United States has also targeted Fawzi Kanan and two Venezuelan-based travel agencies that he allegedly owns or controls. Although the United States has made accusations of involvement with Hezbollah before, in taking the step to target Venezuelan nationals, the United States is ramping up pressure on already-weakened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The most recent set of accusations against Chavez’s government were released by U.S.-based Venezuelan reporter Patricia Poleo in a report that gave detailed accounts of Hezbollah, al Qaeda and other Arab movements in Venezuela. The report alleged that Venezuela is hosting at least five camps in various parts of the country where Venezuelan and Lebanese Hezbollah members learn to use munitions, and that those members plan to use Venezuela as a launching point for attacks on the United States. The report is suspiciously detailed in its descriptions of alleged terrorist training activities in Venezuela’s jungles. The information would have been very hard to come by without the aid of a sophisticated intelligence agency.

Washington has long been concerned about security threats originating in Venezuela. A well-known transit point for illegal drugs and arms, Venezuela also poses a serious risk to U.S. security because of its lax visa regulations and rampant corruption. Furthermore, Venezuela has been the most significant port of entry for illegal immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere since before Chavez took control of the country.

Although Stratfor has no direct evidence that Hezbollah is operating in Venezuela, it would not be much of a surprise. In fact, Venezuela’s close relationship with Iran makes it almost inevitable. Most of Venezuela’s “joint” programs with Iran — such as a recently announced joint bank — make little sense because, depending on the project, Venezuela and Iran lack the cash, technology and/or organic market to launch them. Both countries are exporters of oil, with very little other economic strength, so trading between the two is largely superfluous. But helping Iran by supporting Hezbollah only requires some land in the jungle and lax security with passports — two things Venezuela has in spades.

What Venezuela would get out of such a partnership is not entirely clear. A core part of Chavez’s domestic security strategy has been to develop local militias that he can call on to support him in case the Venezuelan military turns against him. But harboring terrorist training camps in one’s backyard is like painting a big bullseye on one’s country and inviting the U.S. Air Force to take their best shot. But it is possible Iran is worth the risk, whether it is able to offer money or political favors in return.

Whether or not it is true that Venezuela is helping Hezbollah, the possibility for such cooperation has existed for several years. But the timing of this asset seizure poses some interesting possibilities, as it coincides with some dramatic shifts in Chavez’s behavior. These shifts include an apparent decision to deny public support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a move to revise a key intelligence law that would have strengthened his authoritarian control over Venezuela.

Chavez’s support of the FARC has been unpopular in Venezuela; in an April poll by Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans expressed disapproval of the FARC. This fact no doubt played a large part in his decision to reverse support for the group. With support for a second terrorist organization coming to light, Chavez’s credibility will only suffer more.

At the same time, Chavez is experiencing serious challenges on other fronts.

Inflation in Venezuela is skyrocketing, in part because of monetary inflation partially driven by massive government spending. Coupled with rising global food prices, the inflation has made life measurably harder for Venezuelans (especially poor Venezuelans), and dissatisfaction with Chavez’s policies is increasing.

Furthermore, Chavez’s social programs that service his support base rely on funding from Venezuelan state-owned energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) — and things are not looking so good for PDVSA. Burdened with the financial responsibilities of the entire state, the company is at risk of not being able to maintain its oil production, much less increase it to meet rising fiscal needs. And all this is with oil at $130 per barrel; any price drop and Chavez immediately will have to choose who not to give subsidies to.

Demands on PDVSA will not slacken soon, either. With local elections approaching, Chavez is under pressure to bring his party — the United Socialist Party of Venezuela — under his control. Designed to unite all leftist parties in Venezuela under one banner, the party is not as united as Chavez would like it to be. The upcoming November elections have exposed deep disagreements among party members and have provoked Chavez to go so far as to kick prominent figures out of the party. The elections will test his ability to hold the country together, and Chavez will need all the help he can get from his costly social programs to secure public support.

The bottom line is that Chavez is vulnerable like never before. With food prices soaring, local elections approaching and criticism of his policies mounting, the implication that Chavez’s government is aiding a second terrorist organization is well-timed to take advantage of his already-declining popularity.

The kind of moves the United States is making to undermine Chavez’s popular support are well in line with Stratfor’s projection that outside forces — including the United States — are supporting the unity of the Venezuelan opposition. What remains to be seen is where exactly the break point is for Chavez’s supporters, and whether or not the military will support Chavez in the face of a concerted attempt by the opposition to throw a revolution.
24559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah in context on: June 21, 2008, 09:13:31 AM
Canada: Hezbollah Activity in Context
Stratfor Today » June 20, 2008 | 1534 GMT

Photo by Donald Weber/Getty Images
A Jewish rally in TorontoSummary
Hezbollah operatives reportedly have been spotted surveilling Jewish targets in Canada. The reports come as Hezbollah finds itself at risk of losing its Syrian sponsor, making it all the more important for the militant group to prove its value to its Iranian sponsor. They also come amid continued tensions between an internally divided Iran and a United States facing a presidential election in November.

Analysis
Related Special Topic Page
Hezbollah
Reports from Canada say Hezbollah operatives have been detected conducting surveillance on Jewish targets in Toronto, including schools and synagogues. U.S. sources have confirmed increased Hezbollah activity as well. Intriguingly, the reports specifically said the men conducting the surveillance were Hezbollah members, not just men of Middle Eastern appearance. That either indicates a deep penetration of Hezbollah in Canada — the Canadians knew the political affiliation of the men — or psychological warfare against Hezbollah, an attempt to let the group know the Canadians are on to them. If this is a Hezbollah operation, the Canadians just told them they were busted.

There is a complex situation developing around Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is in deep trouble. Syria has shifted its position by entering into serious negotiations with Israel. Syria wants to come out of those negotiations with Lebanon in its sphere of influence. The Israeli price for that would be Syria curtailing Hezbollah activities. The Syrians, more interested in Lebanese wealth than in the interests of a Shiite religious movement — Syria is neither Shiite nor particularly religious — might well make the deal.

This puts Hezbollah in a very difficult position. They have operated in the past with the sponsorship of Iran and Syria. Syria is closer. If the Syrians were to shift their policy, Hezbollah would be isolated and in jeopardy. Indeed, there is a debate in Stratfor as to who actually killed Imad Mugniyah, the death of whom Hezbollah swore to avenge. Some take the conventional line that it was Israel. Others believe the killing was a Syrian down payment to Israel on the Israeli-Syrian negotiations and a signal to Hezbollah not to do anything to upset the negotiations unless and until the Syrians gave the word.

At this moment, Hezbollah’s only ally is Iran. It needs to make itself valuable to Iran. The United States and Israel are constantly signaling they might attack Iran in the next few months. The very fact that these signals come and are taken seriously reduces the likelihood of such an attack. If either country really wanted to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, they would want to take out all the facilities’ equipment and the personnel. Expertise is everything, and they would want to eliminate it. Signaling the possibility of an attack increases the likelihood that Iran would disperse all of the expertise and some of the equipment. That would decrease the effectiveness of the attacks dramatically. You do not signal an attack on facilities to give the other side a chance to shift things around and undermine your intelligence.

Thus, there is a great deal of psychological warfare involved in these threats. The United States and Israel want Iran to feel insecure. This has resulted in increased tensions within the Iranian government, namely, between factions around Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who believe the United States is bluffing and factions around Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and others who might also believe the United States is bluffing, but are using the bluff to undermine Ahmadinejad’s position by portraying him as reckless — and a poor custodian of the economy to boot.

It is in Ahmadinejad’s interest to attempt to counter American and Israeli pressure by demonstrating Iran’s strategic options. Tehran does not have many, but it does have one: Hezbollah. U.S. President George W. Bush’s nightmare is that his presidency will end as it began, with terrorist attacks. His one claim to success — and it is an important one — is that regardless of what might have happened in Iraq, the United States itself has not been attacked since 9/11, and that this was the result of his global actions. To the extent he will have a positive legacy, it will be built on that claim.

But if Hezbollah were to carry out strikes in the United States as Bush exits, his legacy would be further tarnished. The question of whether the Republican strategy is really effective against terrorism would be raised in the middle of a campaign for president, and the campaign would turn around this question. The Republicans will want to show that the Democrats do not take terrorism seriously enough and have no plan to deal with it. The Democrats would claim that it is the Republicans who seven years after 9/11 still do not have an effective counterstrategy.

Hezbollah needs to do a service for Iran. They need Iran. The Iranians need to signal Washington that their psywar — or even real plans to attack — would have a swift and devastating counter, a counter Bush really does not want to see. Therefore, it was in Iran’s interest to have Hezbollah surveillance noticed. It sends the message that Ahmadinejad wants to send to the United States and Israelis. It also increases the strategic value of Hezbollah to Iran, which in turn can pressure Syria on the future of Hezbollah.

Thus, there are two reasons why the Canadians could know what group these operatives were members of. One is that they and the Americans have penetrated Hezbollah and are letting them know that their cover is blown. The other is that Hezbollah wanted to telegraph its punch to signal the U.S. administration to move very carefully in pressuring Iran. This message would be that if you strike Iran, we will strike at you, and if you keep threatening us we will threaten you. Without doubt the Iranians are split politically. But they are signaling the United States that as much as Iran is split, they are not as politically split as the United States is at the moment.
24560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 21, 2008, 08:29:29 AM
OMG! Can this be the NYTimes?  cheesy

BAGHDAD — What’s going right? And can it last?


Violence in all of Iraq is the lowest since March 2004. The two largest cities, Baghdad and Basra, are calmer than they have been for years. The third largest, Mosul, is in the midst of a major security operation. On Thursday, Iraqi forces swept unopposed through the southern city of Amara, which has been controlled by Shiite militias. There is a sense that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government has more political traction than any of its predecessors.
Consider the latest caricatures of Mr. Maliki put up on posters by the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric who commands deep loyalty among poor Shiites. They show the prime minister’s face split in two — half his own, half Saddam Hussein’s. The comparison is, of course, intended as a searing criticism. But only three months ago the same Sadr City pamphleteers were lampooning Mr. Maliki as half-man, half-parrot, merely echoing the words of his more powerful Shiite and American backers. It is a notable swing from mocking an opponent perceived to be weak to denouncing one feared to be strong.

For Hatem al-Bachary, a Basra businessman, the turnabout has been “a miracle,” the first tentative signs of a normal life.

“I don’t think the militias have disappeared, and maybe there are sleeper cells which will try to revive themselves again,” he said. “But the first time they try to come back they will have to show themselves, and the government, army and police are doing very well.”

While the increase in American troops and their support behind the scenes in the recent operations has helped tamp down the violence, there are signs that both the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi government are making strides. There are simply more Iraqi troops for the government to deploy, partly because fewer are needed to fight the Sunni insurgents, who have defected to the Sunni Awakening movement. They are paid to keep the peace.

Mr. Maliki’s moves against Shiite militias have built some trust with wary Sunnis, offering the potential for political reconciliation. High oil prices are filling Iraqi government coffers. But even these successes contain the seeds of vulnerability. The government victories in Basra, Sadr City and Amara were essentially negotiated, so the militias are lying low but undefeated and seething with resentment. Mr. Maliki may be raising expectations among Sunnis that he cannot fulfill, and the Sunni Awakening forces in many cases are loyal to their American paymasters, not the Shiite government. Restive Iraqis want to see the government spend money to improve services. Attacks like the bombing that killed 63 people in Baghdad’s Huriya neighborhood on Tuesday showed that opponents can continue to inflict carnage.

Perhaps most worrisome, more than five years after the American invasion, which knocked Mr. Hussein from power but set off great chaos, Iraq still lacks the formal rules to divide the power and spoils of an oil-rich nation among ethnic, religious and tribal groups and unite them under one stable idea of Iraq. The improvements are fragile.

The changes are already affecting Iraq’s complicated relationship with America. In the presidential campaign, a debate is rising about whether the quiet means American soldiers can leave.

Iraqi Officials Gain Confidence

American military commanders are seeing a new confidence among Iraqi leaders. They said they believed that the success of the recent military operations had played a role in the Iraqi government’s firm rebuff of American negotiators over a new long-term security pact to govern the United States military presence after the end of this year.

“They are feeling very strong right now, after Basra, Mosul and Sadr City,” said one senior American official.

The most obvious but often overlooked reason for the recent military success has been an increase in the number of trained Iraqi troops.

The quality of the recruits and leadership has often been poor, even in recent months. In Baghdad’s Sadr City, one Iraqi company abandoned its position in April, forcing American and Iraqi commanders to fill the gap with hastily summoned reinforcements. In Basra, more than 1,000 recently qualified soldiers deserted rather than obey orders to fight against Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army. One senior Iraqi government official conceded that the deserters simply “felt that the other side was too strong.”

But sheer numbers have helped to overcome the shortcomings. After the embarrassing setback in Basra, Mr. Maliki was able to pull units from elsewhere to provide reinforcements and saturate the city with checkpoints and patrols, restoring a measure of order after years of domination by Islamist militias and oil-smuggling mafias.

American officials said 50,000 members of Iraqi security forces took part in the Basra campaign, 45,000 in Mosul, and 10,000 in Sadr City — troops that would not have been available to Mr. Maliki’s predecessors. The Iraqis had by far the largest numbers of troops, although American and other coalition troops provided crucial air power, reconnaissance, logistics, medical support and even expertise in psychological operations.

--------------

One key source of that manpower has been training: Over the past year the Iraqi Army has added 52,000 soldiers; the Iraqi police and the national police have added 59,000; and Iraq special operations forces have added 1,400 troops, Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, chief of the American security training and equipping mission, said last month. Yet another reason was that many troops were not tied down fighting Sunni insurgents in places like Anbar Province. That is thanks to the Sunni Awakening, and a related program in which the American military has paid thousands of former insurgents and militia fighters and made them neighborhood guards.


“Our successes reduced the pressure on the Iraqi security forces by more than 50 percent,” said Sheik Hussain Abaid, the leader of one such pro-American group south of Baghdad.
Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, an Awakening leader in Anbar, said an entire Army regiment of Anbari tribesmen was sent to fight in Mosul, while a division based in Anbar was rushed to Basra after commanders decided that a more stable security situation in Anbar meant the troops could be freed to fight elsewhere. Even Shiite government officials, long suspicious of the Awakening because it employs insurgents responsible for the deaths of Shiites, agreed. “Before, there was a security void in their areas, but they were able to fill it,” said Ali Adeeb, a senior official in the Dawa party and a close ally of Mr. Maliki.

Defining a Military Victory

But the government’s successes in Basra and Sadr City were not so much victories as heavy fighting followed by truces that allowed the militias to melt away with their weapons. “We may have wasted an opportunity in Basra to kill those that needed to be killed,” said one American defense official, who would speak candidly about the issue only if he was granted anonymity.

And in Mosul, the celebrations over the performance of the Iraqis who fought there have glossed over the tremendous — but hidden — role played by American Special Operations forces to clear out the toughest enemy fighters before the Iraqi soldiers arrived in full. “It is underreported how much the secret guys did to set the conditions for the Iraqi Army to go in and do what they did,” the official said.

What remains to be seen is whether the Iraqi government can capitalize on the operational successes with concrete steps that improve the lives of people in the three areas, like basic municipal services and economic opportunities. “The fear is unrealistic expectations,” the American defense official said. “Services do take time.”

Failure to follow through could wipe out many of the gains in places like Hayaniya, one of Basra’s most deprived areas and a Sadrist stronghold, where residents already grumble that they have seen little evidence of improvement. “They said they will repair schools and roads — but when and where?” said Ali Alwan, 45. “It is only talk. We suffered during the military operation, but what is the reward?” Mr. Maliki’s operations against fellow Shiites in Basra and Sadr City have bought at least temporary political good will from Sunnis who long saw his Shiite-dominated government as the enemy. Interviews with three dozen Sunni merchants, academics, teachers, laborers, government officials and office workers in former insurgent strongholds like Falluja, Tikrit, and Baghdad’s Adhamiya, Amiriya and Fadhil neighborhoods suggested that the prime minister had gained some ground with a group whose loyalty is essential in building a unified and stable state.

Abdul Hadi Jasim, a barber from Adhamiya, said, “Now, after one of the biggest Shiite militias that ravaged Basra was targeted, I think there is a sense of justice and fairness.” But old suspicions linger, and Sunnis remember the slaughter inflicted by Shiite militias from 2004 to 2007, and how Shiite death squads were protected by Iraqi security forces. In addition to the Mahdi Army, many Sunnis fear the Badr organization, the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a close ally of Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party. Badr forces dominate some Iraqi security force units.

“Maliki’s war was a selective one,” says Falah Muhammad Abdullah, 46, an engineer from Falluja. “Why does Maliki’s government hunt down the Mahdi militia while it neglects Badr?”

Sunni Skepticism Remains

----------------

Many Sunnis are convinced that Mr. Maliki is trying to serve other masters: Iran, the Americans, or his own Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council. Both face a serious challenge from the Sadrists in provincial elections later this year.



Mowafaq Abu Omar, a 52-year-old street merchant in Adhamiya, voiced a common suspicion — that the true aims of the Basra operation were to seize control of Iraq’s only significant port and to advance the creation of a large, autonomous and oil-rich Shiite super-province in the south.

There is also less enthusiasm for the recent operation in western Mosul, which is largely Sunni. Eman al-Hayali, a teacher in Amiriya, praised Mr. Maliki for weakening Mr. Sadr’s Mahdi Army but said she feared the Mosul operation was intended to satisfy the Maliki government’s patrons in Iran and telegraph a message to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “Do not worry, your excellency, we are also killing Sunnis.’ ”

With such suspicions just below the surface, stability would be jeopardized if former insurgents serving in the Awakening forces come to believe that they are being used by the Shiite-led government while getting little in return.

“We are pleased with the government only regarding the war against the Shiite militias,” says Khalid al-Summaraie, a Sunni militia leader in Baghdad’s Fadhil neighborhood. He added pointedly, “They haven’t done anything for us that will give us a better standard of living.”

Another important factor buoying Mr. Maliki has been the sharp rise in oil prices, which, among other things, has allowed the Iraqi central bank to buy back its currency at a feverish pace, forcing the value of the Iraqi dinar higher and limiting increases in consumer prices. Driven by higher food costs, inflation stood last month at the rate of 16 percent, up from 11 percent in January.

But that rate might be a good deal higher without the central bank’s aggressive policies. The bank spends $1 billion to $1.5 billion every month in oil revenue to buy Iraqi dinars on the open market, said Mudher M. Salih Kasim, senior adviser to the bank. This is the main lever for controlling consumer prices, said Mr. Kasim, who noted that the value of the dinar had risen about 20 percent against the dollar. An oil price crash, he added, would be “a disaster.”

The government is also trying to funnel money to placate Iraqis who endured the military operations in Sadr City, Mosul and Basra and cement their loyalty. Tahseen al-Sheikhly, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said $100 million would go to Sadr City to upgrade economic and social conditions there in the wake of the two-month military operation, which left buildings shattered and markets destroyed. Dr. Safaa al-Deen al-Safi, who is charged with carrying out development and reconstruction activities, said another $100 million would be spent on areas like health and education.

Reversible Gains

The anti-government and anti-occupation forces have also stumbled. The Islamist Sunni insurgents alienated many Iraqis with a trail of blood and bans on alcohol and smoking. And as attacks on Shiite areas by Sunni insurgents dropped, Shiites who had looked to the Mahdi Army for self-defense were less willing to put up with abuses.

But the improvements in Iraq face an array of destabilizing provincial, national and regional forces. The Sunni insurgency — now in many places operating as pro-American Awakening groups — continues to wait to see whether the government makes good on promises of jobs and a less sectarian administration of security and public services and infrastructure.

The Sadrists remain powerful and may not forgive what many consider a betrayal by Mr. Maliki, who could not have become prime minister two years ago without their blessing. Mohanned al-Gharrawi, a senior Sadrist cleric in Baghdad, said, “We feel like a bridge that they used to reach their aims and goals, and then they left us behind.”

Despite their newfound confidence, some senior Iraqi officials close to Mr. Maliki said that without an American military safety net they are vulnerable to threats from outside and inside their borders. One important but less-noticed element of the security negotiations has been Iraq’s effort to extract an American pledge to defend the government against foreign or domestic aggression. Mr. Adeeb, the top Maliki adviser, said officials wanted the Americans to protect the Iraqi government against anything the government viewed as a threat — not just what the Americans saw as a threat.

“Our political system is weak, the terrorists and former regime members are sparing no effort to overthrow the system, and neighboring countries have their own ambitions,” Mr. Adeeb said. “Our army is not qualified to defend Iraq yet.”
24561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mundell on: June 21, 2008, 07:26:38 AM
An Economist Who Matters
By KYLE WINGFIELD
June 21, 2008; Page A7

Copenhagen

Robert Mundell isn't in the habit of making fruitless policy recommendations, though some take a long time ripening. Nearly four decades passed between his early work on optimal currency areas and the birth of the euro in 1999 – the same year he received the Nobel Prize for economics.

 
Terry Shoffner 
So when Mr. Mundell says that rescinding the Bush tax cuts "would be devastating to the world economy," that oil prices are "not so far off track," that Asia needs its own multilateral currency, or that the ham sandwiches sitting before us could use some mustard, one is inclined to pay attention – and, except in the case of lunch, to think long term.

It's late May, and we are in surprisingly sunny Denmark for a Copenhagen Consensus summit. Mr. Mundell is one of eight economists debating cost-effective solutions to such problems as malnutrition and global warming. Europe is a natural enough place to meet the Ontario native, and not only because of his advocacy for the euro. When Mr. Mundell is not in New York City – where he's a professor at Columbia University and occasionally appears on David Letterman's late-night TV show (reading from Paris Hilton's book, listing the top 10 ways winning the Nobel has changed his life) – he's often in Tuscany at his 500-year-old castle, "Palazzo Mundell," restored in part with his Nobel winnings.

Back in America, there's an election going on. There's also been a spate of financial problems, not the least of which is a weak dollar. But Mr. Mundell says "the big issue economically . . . is what's going to happen to taxes."

Democratic nominee Barack Obama regularly professes disdain for the Bush tax cuts, suggesting that those growth-spurring measures may be scrapped. "If that happens," Mr. Mundell predicts, "the U.S. will go into a big recession, a nosedive."

One of the original "supply-side" economists, he has long preached the link between tax rates and economic growth. "It's a lethal thing to suddenly raise taxes," he explains. "This would be devastating to the world economy, to the United States, and it would be, I think, political suicide" in a general election.

Should taxes instead be cut again, I ask him, to stimulate the sluggish economy? Mr. Mundell replies that he favors a ceiling of 30% on marginal rates (the current top rate is 35%). He recounts how the past century experienced a titanic struggle over whether tax rates are too high or too low: from a 3% income tax in 1913; up to 60% during World War I; down to 25% before Congress and President Herbert Hoover raised taxes back to 60% in 1932 and "sealed the fate of our economy for a long, long time"; all the way up to 92.5% during World War II before falling in three steps, reaching 28% under President Ronald Reagan; and back to nearly 40% under Bill Clinton before George W. Bush lowered them to their current level.

In light of this fiscal roller coaster, Mr. Mundell says, "the most important thing that could be done with respect to tax rates now is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Eliminating that uncertainty would be more important than pushing for a further cut – in the income tax rates, anyway."

One tax that he would cut, to 25%, is the corporate tax rate. "It could be even lower," he says, "but I think it would be a big step to lower it to 25% . . . I made that proposal back in the 1970s."

A long-haired Mr. Mundell spent that decade not only arguing for the euro, but laying the intellectual groundwork for the Reagan tax-cut revolution. Mr. Mundell says those tax cuts remain "as important to the United States as the creation of the euro was to Europe – a fundamental change." Combined with Paul Volcker's tight-money policy at the Fed, which Mr. Mundell also championed, supply-side economics killed off stagflation.

Or at least it killed it off at the time. With prices again rising as growth slows, some economists are worried that stagflation could be making a comeback. Not Mr. Mundell – not yet.

He draws a comparison with the situation in 1979-1980. Start with the dollar price of oil, which he calls "one of the two most important prices in the world" (the other being the dollar-euro exchange rate, which we'll get to in a moment).

"If you look at the price level since 1980," he begins, "oil prices would naturally double by the year 2000. So from $34 a barrel in 1980 to $68 a barrel. And then . . . because the inflation rate's about 3.5%, it would double again by 2020. So the natural price . . . would be something like $136 in 2020.

"Now, we [already] got to $130-something, but . . . I really think the price is going to settle down, probably below $100, if not below $90. What I'm saying is we're not so far off track."

American motorists still shocked by $4-a-gallon gasoline might think we're rather more off track than Mr. Mundell suggests. Bolstering his case, he immediately moves on to another commodity often invoked to demonstrate inflation: gold.

"The price of gold in 1980 was $850 an ounce. And the price of gold today is about the same. It's astonishing," he says. "It's true, gold did go up" to more than $1,000 an ounce earlier this year, "but the public doesn't believe that there is inflation. If there was big inflation coming, then you'd see the price of gold going up to $1,500 an ounce very quickly, and that hasn't happened."

In any case, don't expect to hear Barack Obama or John McCain talk about the weak dollar's contributions to any problem. "As [journalist] Robert Novak once put it, it's like cleaning ladies who come in and say 'I don't do ironing.' [Politicians] say, 'I don't do exchange rates,'" Mr. Mundell chuckles. "They think they can only lose by talking about exchange rates, because they don't know enough about it, and it's hard to predict anyway, for anyone."

If Mr. Mundell had his way, there wouldn't be anything for politicians to say about exchange rates. They would be fixed – as they were under the Bretton Woods arrangement after World War II until 1971, when President Nixon took the U.S. off the postwar gold standard and effectively launched the era of floating exchange rates.

"It's a very poor and a dangerous system," Mr. Mundell says of the floating regime, "because it creates exaggerated swings in the exchange rate." Case in point is the dollar-euro rate. From a low of about 82 cents in 2000, Europe's common currency has risen fairly steadily and has been valued at more than $1.50 since late February, even breaking the $1.60 barrier once.

"What people have to realize is there's been a fundamental change in the way markets work in the past 20 years," Mr. Mundell says. "Now, exchange rates are driven not so much by trade but by capital accounts and capital movements, and the huge amount of liquidity that's sloshing around the world."

Central banks world-wide, he notes, are trying to reach an equilibrium between dollars and euros in their $6.5 trillion worth of foreign reserves. Roughly two-thirds of these reserves are kept in dollars now, so they have about $1 trillion left to move into euros.

"If you did a hundred billion dollars" annually, Mr. Mundell points out, "you'd need 10 years to build that up, and that amount of capital movement has a tremendous effect in keeping the euro overvalued. It's not good for Europe and . . . ultimately it would cause more inflation in the United States."

But this continuing shift doesn't mean that the dollar's status as the world's dominant currency is in danger, at least not in the short run. Countries like Iran may be pushing for the pricing of oil in another currency, "but it wouldn't happen unless Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states moved in that direction, and I don't see any way in which they would do this," Mr. Mundell says. "It would be very damaging to the relations between the United States and the Gulf countries. There's an implicit defense alliance between those, and that's what overrides as a top priority."

Nor is there a macroeconomic argument for demoting the dollar. "Remember, the growth prospects for the United States are probably stronger than that of Europe, because you've got continued and substantial population growth in the United States, and zero population growth in Europe," Mr. Mundell says. "Quite apart from the fact that the U.S. economy is innovating more rapidly, and the population is younger and not getting old as rapidly, so they pick up new technology faster. So I look upon the United States still as the main sparkplug of economic growth in the world."

As for the euro's overvalued status, he forecasts deflation in Europe, along with a slowdown and an end to its housing boom. The answer, he suggests, is for the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank to cooperate in putting a floor and a ceiling on both the euro and the dollar. "You have to grope" to the appropriate range, he maintains, but a good starting point would be to keep the euro between 90 cents and $1.30.

Even better, in his mind – and now we're really talking long term – would be to have a global currency. This could take the form of a new money or a dominant existing one to which all others are fixed – probably the dollar. "As Paul Volcker says," Mr. Mundell relates, "the global economy needs a global currency."

To get there, he proposes holding a new, Bretton Woods-type meeting in 2010 at the Shanghai World's Fair. Mr. Mundell, who has been spending "a lot of time" in China advising the government, says reviving an international system of fixed exchange rates would be a tremendous help to Beijing as it tries to fend off demands from U.S. and European politicians that it appreciate or float its currency.

Here, he recalls Washington's similar "bashing" of the Japanese yen in the 1980s, and its ultimately disastrous effects: "Japan got stuck with an overvalued currency for a decade, and suffered from a perpetual deflation in its housing market from 1990 until just a couple of years ago. And China doesn't want to have the same problem."

Another part of his solution is for Asian countries to form their own currency bloc. If they did so, he says, "it'd be comparable in size to the European and the American bloc. And then it would not be so much the question of . . . the U.S. and Europe bashing China" or other rising economies.

These three currency blocs, he predicts, would be large enough to weather wide swings in their exchange rates. But the swings would still do economic damage, so "the best thing you could do is to stabilize them, and that's where the global currency comes in."

Could it happen? Mr. Mundell allows that three decades may pass, but predicts that like the euro and the Reagan revolution before it, the global currency's time, too, will come. Any skeptics might want to review the last few decades before betting against him.

Mr. Wingfield is an editorial-page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.
24562  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question on: June 21, 2008, 07:18:42 AM
Woof Guide Dog:

"I know a lot of mean men who treated women like dirt and seemed to keep sleeping with a bevy of beautiful ladies."

But YOU are married and have begun having a family.  Why does this matter to you?

"I seem to keep running into the fact that EVERYONE is judging, and no one, family, friends, or coworkers really have your back."

Welcome to the human condition smiley

"They are too busy pointing out that they live in bigger houses and that my car is dirty."

Humans are a social animal i.e. hierarchical animal.   Who are these people who judge you?  Are they in competition with you?  Or you with them? , , , and why is your car dirty? cheesy

"Naturally, they do this behind your back, and life never seems to be free from judgement."

Well, duh.  cheesy

The question presented is what to do/not do about it.

I think you may have heard me talk about my personal rules of engagement in the street (i.e. interaction with the anonymous) :  If he says his dick is bigger than mine, I say congratulations.  If he says he used it to fcuk my mother last night, I wish that he had a good time, for WHAT YOU THINK OF ME IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS.  As Guro Inosanto more pithily puts it "BE THE TEMPERATURE, NOT THE THERMOMETER."

Surely you knew when you went into teaching, the the financial returns would be less than you could make elsewhere-- and other returns greater.  So what is going on here?

 
24563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 21, 2008, 07:02:18 AM
Bernanke's Market Week
June 21, 2008; Page A8
The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee meets again next week, and one of its jobs will be to clean up the mess the Fed made this week.

Earlier this month, Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled a turn in Fed policy to include a focus on maintaining a "stable" dollar. Sure enough, the dollar strengthened, the price of oil fell and stocks crept up. Then earlier this week, someone in the upper reaches of the Fed began leaking to the press in advance of next week's FOMC meeting that Mr. Bernanke saw no reason to raise interest rates this month, or indeed until the autumn.

 
Sure enough, oil shot up and gold rose back above $900 an ounce, with equities tanking in turn on stagflation fears. Throw in renewed worries over credit problems in the banking system, and the markets had a very ugly week.

What we can't figure out is what in the world Fed officials are thinking, assuming that's even the right word. The most precious commodity a Fed Chairman has is credibility. When he makes a widely advertised public commitment to maintain dollar stability, and then he or his minions leak that he has no plans to back that up with any action, he is squandering his own currency. Central banking isn't an academic seminar where ideas don't have consequences.

With inflation climbing around the globe, most of it inspired by dollar weakness, the Fed has a growing credibility problem. Mr. Bernanke needs to understand that investors are beginning to suspect that the most important financial official in the world doesn't seem to appreciate the Fed's primary role in undermining the greenback. If that conclusion becomes fixed, this week's market meltdown will look pretty by comparison.
 
wsj
24564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 20, 2008, 10:20:44 PM
"the reality is how 'Voting for Obama' makes his supporters FEEL about themselves as 'enlightented human beings'."

"Where do you get this? I've met more than a handful of Obama supporters, and I have yet to come across this sentiment."

Exhibit A:  My sister and brother-in-law  cheesy
24565  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 20, 2008, 10:16:48 PM
Hi Rachel:

I simply don't know.  IMHO I have Stratfor to be an unusually well-informed and thoughtful assessor of what goes in, particularly in the mid-east.   It does seem like SOMETHING BIG is going on-- particularly in the aftemath of taking out the NK reactor effort in Syria, and the change of power in the US, the success of the US in Iraq which apparently has BO beginning to backtrack on his "run away" statements. 

The Adventure continues!
Marc
24566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: June 20, 2008, 09:16:17 AM
"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have
past at home in the bosom of my family."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Francis Willis Jr., 18 April 1790)
24567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unesco on: June 20, 2008, 09:07:11 AM
Being Farouk Hosni
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
June 20, 2008

Like the Saudi royals, the House of Mubarak tries to keep both its Islamists and the West happy. It's not easy to have it both ways. Just ask Farouk Hosni.

Egypt's culture minister finds himself in a revealingly knotty predicament. In early May, responding to a question in Parliament from a member of the Muslim Brotherhood about cultural ties with Israel, he said: "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt." The opposition MP, Mohsen Radi, was satisfied with the minister's response.

 
The statement was unremarkable in a country where media and politics are full of anti-Israel venom. But Mr. Hosni also happens to be a leading candidate for the top job at the U.N. Education Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco. His remark drew an official protest from Israel, among others. Declining to comment on Mr. Hosni's observation, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based agency told the New York Sun, "Unesco does not condone book burning of any sort." That's good to know.

With a plum U.N. job slipping out of his reach, Mr. Hosni backtracked. He said the "book burning" remark was merely "a hyperbole -- a popular expression to prove something does not exist." The minister, who is close to President Hosni Mubarak and his wife and considered a liberal by local standards, went further the following day. He told Agence France-Presse that it is "a big mistake that Israeli books have not yet been translated (into Arabic). I have officially asked for it to be done. If people protest, I don't give a damn."

So, three decades after the Camp David accords, would Mr. Hosni support the opening of so far nonexistent cultural ties with Israel? What about a museum of Jewish antiquity and culture in Cairo? The Egyptian went into reverse again. Impossible, Mr. Hosni said, as long as "there are bloody attacks every day against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza strip."

This story has now been picked up in France, which backs Mr. Hosni's candidacy for the Unesco post, which comes open next year. The Paris daily Libération cited a Simon Wiesenthal Center report that the Egyptian minister had "personally" invited the "Islamo-Communist Holocaust denier" (in Libération's words) Roger Garaudy to appear on Egyptian television.

Back in damage-control mode, Mr. Hosni gave an interview to the Tel Aviv newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth last week, saying he "wouldn't be against going to Israel." He was in Paris this week to smooth things over. "This is a terrible polemic, but things will be clarified."

Meantime, in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood MP got wind of Mr. Hosni's comments abroad and demanded that he appear before Parliament to explain himself. The suggestion that Egypt's culture minister visit the Jewish state "was humiliating to the Egyptian people," said Mr. Radi.

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

24568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Idle Oil on: June 20, 2008, 08:43:12 AM
The 'Idle' Oil Field Fallacy
By RED CAVANEY
June 20, 2008; Page A13

A bill introduced in Congress this week would "compel" oil and natural gas companies to produce from federal lands they are leasing. If only it were that easy to find and produce oil. Imagine, an act of Congress that could do what geology could not.

These lawmakers ask why oil and gas companies want more access to federal lands to drill if they aren't using all of the 68 million acres they already have? Anyone with even the most basic understanding of how oil and natural gas are produced – and this should include many members of Congress – knows that claims of "idle" leases are a diversionary feint.

A company bids for and buys a lease because it believes there is a possibility that it may yield enough oil or natural gas to make the cost of the lease, and the costs of exploration and production, commercially viable. The U.S. government received $3.7 billion from company bids in a single lease sale in March 2008.

However, until the actual exploration is complete, a company does not know whether the lease will be productive. If, through exploration, it finds there is no oil or natural gas underneath a lease – or that there is not enough to justify the tremendous investment required to bring it to the surface – the company cuts its losses by moving on to more promising leases. Yet it continues to pay rent on the lease, atop a leasing bonus fee.

In addition, if the company does not develop the lease within a certain period of time, it must return it to the federal government, forfeiting all its costs. All during this active exploration and evaluation phase, however, the lease is listed as "nonproducing."

Obviously, companies want to start producing from active fields as soon as possible. However, there are a number of time-consuming steps to be taken before they can do so: Delineation wells must be drilled to size the field, government permits must be obtained, and complex production facilities must be engineered and installed. All this takes considerable time, and during that time, the lease is also listed as "nonproducing."

Because a lease is not producing, critics tag it as "idle" when, in reality, it is typically being actively explored and developed. Multiply these real-world circumstances by hundreds or thousands of leases, and you end up with the seemingly damning but inaccurate figures our critics cite.

Our companies have made tremendous strides in developing cutting-edge exploration technology. But they are not magicians. They cannot produce oil or natural gas where it does not exist. A significant percentage of federal leases simply may not contain oil and natural gas, especially in commercial quantities.

As I've often said, the first step in our business is called "exploration" for a reason. Exploration is time consuming, very costly and involves a great deal of risk. Importantly, you see neither a drop of usable oil nor a cubic foot of natural gas while it is going on. But it is absolutely essential, and there is nothing "idle" about it. Without the exploration that took place years ago, less domestic oil and natural gas would be available today to meet consumer demand.

In reality, a lease is simply a block on a map, with no guarantee that it contains any resources. If all of them did, one could simply pay for the lease, haul in equipment and start pumping oil. But that only happens in fiction.

And it happens in the minds of those who use the undeveloped-lease argument as a smokescreen to mask their intent to keep America's vast energy resources locked up underground, despite increasingly strong consumer demand for oil and natural gas. For exploration to take place, our companies need access to the areas – offshore and onshore – that we know have the potential to produce the oil and natural gas consumers will need, if ours is to remain a viable economy in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Today's short-term need was yesterday's long-term opportunity. If Congress had acted on that opportunity years ago, America would not be in the energy bind it finds itself in today. Working with industry, Congress now has the opportunity to help secure America's energy future. It should not miss the chance again.

Mr. Cavaney is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association that represents America's oil and natural gas industry.

See all of today's editorials and
24569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pipes: The enemy has a name on: June 20, 2008, 08:31:54 AM
The Enemy Has a Name
by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
June 19, 2008
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5629

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If you cannot name your enemy, how can you defeat it? Just as a physician must identify a disease before curing a patient, so a strategist must identify the foe before winning a war. Yet Westerners have proven reluctant to identify the opponent in the conflict the U.S. government variously (and euphemistically) calls the "global war on terror," the "long war," the "global struggle against violent extremism," or even the "global struggle for security and progress."

This timidity translates into an inability to define war goals. Two high-level U.S. statements from late 2001 typify the vague and ineffective declarations issued by Western governments. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defined victory as establishing "an environment where we can in fact fulfill and live [our] freedoms." In contrast, George W. Bush announced a narrower goal, "the defeat of the global terror network" – whatever that undefined network might be.

"Defeating terrorism" has, indeed, remained the basic war goal. By implication, terrorists are the enemy and counterterrorism is the main response.

But observers have increasingly concluded that terrorism is just a tactic, not an enemy. Bush effectively admitted this much in mid-2004, acknowledging that "We actually misnamed the war on terror." Instead, he called the war a "struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world."

A year later, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London transport bombings, British prime minister Tony Blair advanced the discussion by speaking of the enemy as "a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam." Soon after, Bush himself used the terms "Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism," and "Islamo-fascism." But these words prompted much criticism and he backtracked.

By mid-2007, Bush had reverted to speaking about "the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East." That is where things now stand, with U.S. government agencies being advised to refer to the enemy with such nebulous terms as "death cult," "cult-like," "sectarian cult," and "violent cultists."

In fact, that enemy has a precise and concise name: Islamism, a radical utopian version of Islam. Islamists, adherents of this well funded, widespread, totalitarian ideology, are attempting to create a global Islamic order that fully applies the Islamic law (Shari‘a).

Thus defined, the needed response becomes clear. It is two-fold: vanquish Islamism and help Muslims develop an alternative form of Islam. Not coincidentally, this approach roughly parallels what the allied powers accomplished vis-à-vis the two prior radical utopian movements, fascism and communism.

First comes the burden of defeating an ideological enemy. As in 1945 and 1991, the goal must be to marginalize and weaken a coherent and aggressive ideological movement, so that it no longer attracts followers nor poses a world-shaking threat. World War II, won through blood, steel, and atomic bombs, offers one model for victory, the Cold War, with its deterrence, complexity, and nearly-peaceful collapse, offers quite another.

Victory against Islamism, presumably, will draw on both these legacies and mix them into a novel brew of conventional war, counterterrorism, counterpropaganda, and many other strategies. At one end, the war effort led to the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan; at the other, it requires repelling the lawful Islamists who work legitimately within the educational, religious, media, legal, and political arenas.

The second goal involves helping Muslims who oppose Islamist goals and wish to offer an alternative to Islamism's depravities by reconciling Islam with the best of modern ways. But such Muslims are weak, being but fractured individuals who have only just begun the hard work of researching, communicating, organizing, funding, and mobilizing.

To do all this more quickly and effectively, these moderates need non-Muslim encouragement and sponsorship. However unimpressive they may be at present, moderates, with Western support, alone hold the potential to modernize Islam, and thereby to terminate the threat of Islamism.

In the final analysis, Islamism presents two main challenges to Westerners: To speak frankly and to aim for victory. Neither comes naturally to the modern person, who tends to prefer political correctness and conflict resolution, or even appeasement. But once these hurdles are overcome, the Islamist enemy's objective weakness in terms of arsenal, economy, and resources means it can readily be defeated.
24570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Israel-Syria deal? on: June 20, 2008, 01:53:13 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Growing Possibility of an Israeli-Syrian Deal
June 19, 2008
The Israeli-Syrian peace process lurched toward fruition today.

Middle Eastern — and especially Levantine — politics are sufficiently Byzantine to be classified as a health hazard in most Western states. We could weave you a story of how the Iranians fear losing their hold in Lebanon and so are pushing for violence, how the Americans are looking for subtle ways to sabotage the talks in order maintain leverage over Iran, or how Syria and Israel’s respective economic and military interests actually dovetail quite nicely in southern Lebanon. But sometimes it does an outside observer a great service simply not to get inside the minds of those involved. Wednesday was one of those days.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a man under considerable public pressure at home, announced that the time was rapidly approaching for Israel to open direct, public talks with Syria. And far from leaving such a meeting in the airy realm of maybe-land, Olmert even publicly indicated that he would be meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Paris on July 13.

As a general rule one does not garner a great deal of support among one’s people for posing for photo ops with the leaders of states who are considered enemies. So either Olmert has lost his mind (unlikely) or the informal peace talks which Turkey has been hosting for weeks are generating sufficient progress for Olmert to take the plunge. To take the historical view, Israeli leaders only met in person with their Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts when those respective peace deals were in the home stretch. Details of the deal are certainly nebulous at present, but we suspect they would involve a combination of land transfers and demilitarized zones that would secure Israel’s northern borders and guarantee Syria’s economic interests in Lebanon. Hezbollah would have to go, and it would probably be up to Syria to stuff it into a bag and throw it in the river.

An Israeli-Syrian deal would do more than remove the last major specter threatening Israeli security (existing deals with Egypt and Jordan already cover Israel’s other borders, and a deal with Syria would have to cover Lebanon as well). The Arab-Israeli conflict has been the key feature molding regional developments for 60 years. Its dissolution would fundamentally reshape the region.

Many of the United States’ rivals have used the Israeli-Arab conflict as a lever to pry open the region and challenge American power, with the most obvious example being the Soviet Union. Arab hostility toward Israel spilled over to the United States and caused the 1973 oil embargo. For decades Arab-Israeli disagreements have fueled Islamism and militancy throughout the region. In the case of a deal with Syria, the only remaining group with the opportunity to take a shot at Israel will be the Palestinians, a nationality with fewer friends, tools, money and options than ever before.

We do not mean to paint a picture of sunshine and joy for the region, and an end to the hot portions of the Arab-Israeli conflict should not be confused with regional “peace.” This is still the Middle East after all, and the role of Iran — a state that is not Arab and is not included in the pending deal — has yet to be determined and so remains at the very minimum an Israeli and American security concern. But an end to theArab-Israeli conflict cannot help but take some of the heat out of the region’s troubled politics. The United States, for one, will be glad to be able to turn at least some of its attention elsewhere.

Ironically, the greatest future challenge to U.S. power in the Levant may well come from the country that has long been America’s staunchest ally: Israel. Israel’s existence requires one of two things: a heavy qualitative technological edge over its neighbors, or an external sponsor willing to guarantee Israeli security. Should Syria join Egypt and Jordan in standing down from the regional cold war that has marked the years since the 1973 war, Israel would not only be freed from having to maintain a high alert status, but the rationale for a firm alliance with the United States would erode somewhat. That’s not to say that Israel is itching for a break with Washington or that the two powers’ interests would otherwise be diametrically opposed — far from it — but that if Syria and Israel can bury the hatchet, then Israel will have something that it has not had for some time: room to maneuver.
24571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: June 20, 2008, 01:51:33 AM
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is Obsolete
By JANE HARMAN
June 20, 2008; Page A11

If claims by Iran that it's building 3,000 more centrifuges to enrich nuclear fuel are true, then the Bush administration and Congress face a more serious challenge than we first thought. Even assuming that Iran intends to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes – and there are very good reasons to doubt Iran's stated intentions – the dangers posed by unsupervised, weapons-grade material in the hands of a regime that has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" are unacceptable.

The best course would be to persuade Iran to abandon its designs on the bomb and make its nuclear activities completely transparent to international authorities – as three United Nations Resolutions have required.

But Iran is not the only problem. Other countries may travel down the same path, waving the banner of peaceful nuclear energy. Some – including North Korea – already have, and the international system is ill-prepared to prevent wannabes.

Today's legal regime is no match for the wide dissemination of nuclear technology. Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) standards are obsolete, and the growth in the sheer number of nuclear facilities world-wide has made it difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to achieve its mission.

Moreover, the NPT cuts most of the world out of the nuclear weapons club. It grandfathered in states that had nuclear weapons before 1967, and said that only they could keep them. Given the skyrocketing demand for alternatives to oil, we have to expect that more countries will want to develop nuclear energy. We need a system that allows states to pursue nuclear energy but prevents them from developing nuclear weapons under the radar.

According to IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei, what's needed is a multinational initiative that ensures uninterrupted supplies of fuel, regardless of market disturbances or disagreements with suppliers. But the next NPT conference is scheduled for 2010. We should not wait two years to consider a new path.

In 1946, American presidential adviser Bernard Baruch called for countries to transfer ownership and control over civil nuclear activities and materials to a new international organization. Seven years later, President Dwight Eisenhower rolled parts of Baruch's plan into the "Atoms for Peace" initiative, which laid the groundwork for the IAEA. These ideas, though they advanced important goals, were never fully implemented, partly because demand for nuclear energy was low and the nuclear club was relatively small.

More recently, the Department of Energy attempted to tackle this issue by creating a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) – a blueprint for an international organization to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Although 19 countries bought in to GNEP, it has failed to stem the spread of nuclear technology – largely because the Bush administration has treated it as a research and development initiative, and because the National Academies of Science concluded that it is dependent on technology that is unproven.

A more promising approach might be to create an international consortium of fuel centers that provide enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel, and end-to-end oversight of nuclear resources. Driven by market demand, private companies could operate facilities with IAEA oversight, and participating states would agree not to engage in independent enriching and reprocessing. Material would be purchased from the international market, thereby creating supply assurance for nations who fear being denied fuel.

This concept is a private-sector version of the International Nuclear Fuel Authority envisioned by Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, and could borrow from the low-enriched uranium "emergency" stockpile concept proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

It differs from piecemeal ideas like Iran's 2006 offer that France create a means for production of enriched uranium in Iran, Russia's notion that all of Iran's enrichment take place on Russian soil, or the Saudi suggestion that Switzerland enrich nuclear material for the Middle East. These ideas would not advance U.S. counterproliferation goals. Instead, a comprehensive international consortium would make nuclear energy available and cost effective for countries while solving the guessing game Iran has played by denying its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Even Al Gore agrees that nuclear energy must be considered as the world reduces reliance on fossil fuels and starts to meet the energy demands of exploding populations. Some argue that the nuclear renaissance is already upon us – 23 new permit applications for nuclear reactors have been filed in the past two years in the U.S. alone, and another 150 are planned across the globe.

Iran's unsupervised nuclear program poses an existential threat to Israel and possibly other nations. While we can't take away the knowledge gained through their clandestine program, by "renting" only the amount of fuel necessary for production of peaceful nuclear energy, we may be able to convert these threats posed by Iran and future Irans into a roadmap to nuclear security for the entire world.

Ms. Harman, a Democratic congresswoman from California, is chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.
24572  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: June 20, 2008, 01:35:21 AM
I could be mistaken, but it reads to me that the vaccination was already approved ("became available") and the girls were sought out to generate data over time to compare to girls who did not take the vaccine.
24573  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: June 20, 2008, 01:12:32 AM
Woof KJ:

At this point, the Shocknives are a standard feature of our Gatherings.

I spoke with Linda this evening.  Pressing family matters distract her at this point and her attendance is a genuine question mark.  I did my best to remind her that there is nothing like a good day of stickfighting to put things right.  She laughed and said she would see.

TAC,
CD
24574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: June 19, 2008, 06:58:47 PM
Mrs. Obama and the Tuskegee Superstition
By JAMES TARANTO
June 19, 2008

In February 2007, we noted a rare instance of agreement between this column and the New York Times editorial page. The topic was whether 11- and 12-year-old girls should be vaccinated for the human papillomavirus. HPV is sexually transmitted and is believed to cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, this year 11,070 new cases of cervical cancer are expected to be diagnosed, and 3,870 women are expected to die of the disease. Do the arithmetic: Had the HPV vaccine been administered to these women when they were girls, some 7,749 would have been spared cancer and 2,709 would have died later of some other cause.

"Social conservatives object that the vaccine will encourage promiscuity," the Times wrote last year, "but it seems farfetched to believe that protection from cervical cancer will change any girl's behavior." That seems right to us--and even if the vaccine has some marginal bad effect on sexual behavior, several thousand cancer deaths a year seems a high price to pay to avoid it. Even the Times editors thought cancer prevention an important enough goal to abandon their usual liberal keep-your-laws-off-my-body orthodoxy when it comes to matters gynecological.

Now, as blogger Tom Maguire notes, the subject of HPV vaccination has come up in a different context: yesterday's New York Times story about Michelle Obama's "subtle makeover." Maguire cites an anecdote from Mrs. Obama's work at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a story that, in Maguire's words, is "ludicrously presented as a sympathetic and positive story of her professional efforts":

She also altered the hospital's research agenda. When the human papillomavirus vaccine, which can prevent cervical cancer, became available, researchers proposed approaching local school principals about enlisting black teenage girls as research subjects.
Mrs. Obama stopped that. The prospect of white doctors performing a trial with black teenage girls summoned the specter of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment of the mid-20th century, when white doctors let hundreds of black men go untreated to study the disease.
"She'll talk about the elephant in the room," said Susan Sher, her boss at the hospital, where Mrs. Obama is on leave from her more-than-$300,000-a-year job.
This isn't the first time the Tuskegee experiment has come up during the presidential campaign. In April the Obamas' then-pastor, Jeremiah Wright, explained his belief that the U.S. government had invented AIDS as a tool of genocide against black people: "Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything."

The Tuskegee outrage was real. But the notion that the Tuskegee experiment--which began in the Jim Crow era (1932) and ended in 1972, eight years after the Civil Rights Act became law--reflects the attitudes of American governmental and medical institutions today is an urban legend, a superstition--and potentially a deadly one.

The Times's account suggests that girls in Chicago were denied potentially lifesaving vaccinations because Michelle Obama pandered to racial paranoia instead of standing up for the truth. Is that why they pay her the big bucks?

24575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Calls Rise for Public Control of Water Supply on: June 19, 2008, 06:28:48 PM
Calls Rise for Public Control of Water Supply
By JIM CARLTON

FELTON, Calif. -- The faucets in one of six U.S. homes pour water provided by a private company. Now, some of these communities are revolting against their corporate water systems, attempting to put their water under government control because of concerns over rising rates and service disruptions.

Residents of Felton, Calif., fought to bring back local control of the town's water, part of a backlash against a wave of privatization deals.
 
Cheers broke out in a packed senior center near the mountain village of Felton on June 5, when the local water district officially wrested control of the town's water from a unit of American Water Works Co. Residents of Felton, 70 miles south of San Francisco, had been unhappy ever since the Voorhees, N.J., company bought their water system from another corporation in 2002 and proposed a 74% rate increase. Germany's RWE AG bought American Water in 2003.  (Is this AWR?  If so, I have a moderate position in it-- Marc)

Felton residents waged a years-long battle to bring their water back to local control. American Water finally agreed in May to sell the system to the local public water district, which Felton recently joined, for $10.5 million in cash and assumption of $2.9 million in debt.

Similar conflicts have flared up around the U.S. over the past few years -- part of a backlash against a wave of water-works-privatization deals in the U.S. that began in the 1990s as cash-strapped municipalities sought to defray the costs of upgrading old water plants and other infrastructure.

RWE earlier this year spun off American Water -- the nation's largest privately held water company -- in part because of the uprisings that have spread throughout the U.S. "Public resistance to privatization schemes of companies was growing" in the U.S., according to a Sept. 16, 2005, summary of the minutes from an RWE board meeting at which officials discussed why they potentially needed to divest American Water and another British unit.

In all, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates about 16% of Americans get their water from nongovernment sources, a number that has remained little changed over the past decade.

In some cities, "There's an aversion to getting involved with a private company," says Peter Cook, executive director of the National Association of Water Companies, an industry trade group based in Washington. Mr. Cook said more growth is likely to occur, though, as cities face having to rebuild expensive water infrastructure.

One common tactic that communities are using in this water fight is eminent domain, the power that cities and other local agencies have to seize a corporate water system in the public's interest. Earlier this year, the cities of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Cave Creek, Ariz., condemned all or parts of water systems owned by private companies because of issues including user complaints over service and maintenance. Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tiffin, Ohio; and Homer Glen, Ill.; have all this year initiated steps that could result in takeovers of local water systems.

Water-industry officials say they don't see any widespread customer backlash against private ownership. The take-back efforts in some communities represent only isolated resistance, says Dan Kelleher, an outside adviser and spokesman for American Water, which reports a continued increase in business. "I would argue that a mayor in Tiffin who wants to look into government ownership is not indicative of a problem," he says.

Mr. Kelleher says the vast majority of the company's 15.6 million customers in 32 states and the Canadian province of Ontario are "very satisfied with our service," and that some other efforts to take over private water utilities, such as in Lexington, Ky., have failed. He and other industry executives say rate increases are needed to help underwrite the cost of major upgrades to water systems.

In the case of Felton, Mr. Kelleher says the company's proposal in 2002 to raise rates 74% over three years was driven by the fact the town hadn't had a rate increase since 1998, while American Water needed to invest $1.1 million between 2002 and 2005 to replace old facilities. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a 44% jump in the water rate. But many customers in the town of about 1,000 were still so incensed they formed a group called Friends of Locally Owned Water, or FLOW, and embarked on a campaign to force out American Water.

They gained support in the community as customers also began complaining of slower response times to broken water mains and other service glitches, as American Water routed accident reports to a national call center in Illinois. American Water officials have said the call center was designed to improve service.

One tactic by the opposition group was to persuade local Santa Cruz County officials to expand the boundaries of the adjoining San Lorenzo district to include Felton, so it would have condemnation powers over the water system there. Another was to get voters to pass a local ballot initiative -- Measure W -- in 2005, which allocated up to $11 million in bonds to buy the water system and offset legal fees.

After American Water officials said the system wasn't for sale, the San Lorenzo district initiated eminent-domain proceedings. In May, the company agreed to the Felton purchase. "I think a handful of people [in Felton] felt government ownership was a better choice," says Mr. Kelleher, the American Water adviser.

Felton residents will see an almost immediate benefit. Over the past decade, their water rates have more than tripled to about $180 a month. Now rates will drop to about $80 -- what customers of the San Lorenzo district pay. "We're happy," says Jim Mosher, an attorney who helped lead the fight for FLOW.
24576  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Being Prepared without Being Paranoid on: June 19, 2008, 02:40:43 PM
From a point made on the Bouncer thread on the DBMA Assn forum:

It is a REALLY good idea to have some sort of a medical kit and to have some training in what to do with it.  The Emergency Medicine thread on this forum can be a good place to get started.

24577  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: June 19, 2008, 02:35:56 PM
KJ:

Thank you for the integrity of being candid about your background.

At the moment we are unsure whether Linda M. is coming.  OTOH Ashley of Manassas VA is excited and training well.  Currently some cyber gremlins are fouling up her efforts to get registered for the forum here, but do know that she will be posting in response to you , , , soon.  This will be Ashley's first experience with weapon fighting and to the best of my knowledge her focus has been for single stick, but I leave it to the two of you to work things out.

TAC,
Crafty Dog

PS:  Would you please email me at Craftydog@dogbrothers.com ?
24578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 19, 2008, 02:13:48 PM
"When was the last time a president came into office with unchecked power, completely changed the fabric of our society, our political standing in the world, and ignored anything that the voting public or Congress said? I'm going to go with....never."

Ummm how about LBJ?  cheesy tongue cry

The point I think you have not considered yet is that if elected BO will head an overwhelimingly Demogogue Congress-- one determined e.g. to socialize 15% of GDP (health care).  This alone is a dramatic change.  The point is that there will be little to no countervailing political power.  BO and the Demogogues look to raise taxes dramatically.  This too is a big change-- one that will be catastropic IMHO.  BO and the Demogogues want to re-apply the Carter solutions to the energy challenges of our time-- this too will lead to disaster.

24579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO doing about face? on: June 19, 2008, 02:06:03 PM
Pivoting to Victory
By JAMES TARANTO
June 18, 2008

A Washington Post editorial reports on a meeting between the Post's editors and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in which Zebari describes a conversation he had with Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:

The foreign minister said "my message" to Mr. Obama "was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress." He said he was reassured by the candidate's response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain. Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that "if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field."
This confirms the reporting of Al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, which we noted Friday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also reports that Obama, who last set foot in Iraq in 2006, before the surge, "is considering going to Iraq soon to visit with troops and commanders," even though snarly Susan Rice, a top Obama foreign-policy adviser, says that the GOP argument that he should do so is "complete garbage."

Could it be that Obama is planning to pivot? That is, what if he goes to Iraq and declares upon his return that he has been persuaded that the surge has made a difference, that things are going much better, and that he is now convinced victory is both possible and crucial?

On the downside, he would risk alienating those among his supporters who crave defeat in Iraq, either for ideological reasons or out of sheer hatred for George W. Bush.

But on the upside, it would show political courage and open-mindedness, two qualities his supporters are eager to ascribe to him but so far on the basis of evidence that is somewhere between scant and nonexistent. Those who do want America to win in Iraq would no longer have to vote against Obama for that reason. As for those who want defeat, where would they go? By their lights, John McCain is even worse; he voted for the war to begin with. So, oddly enough, did the Libertarian nominee. Unless you count Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader, Obama would still be the best "antiwar" candidate on the ballot.

We've long been skeptical of the Obama hype, but if he is smart and bold enough to adopt a sensible position on Iraq, we will have to admit there is more to him that we've given him credit for.

Back to the Future
24580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Story: State Govts on: June 19, 2008, 01:26:45 PM

"The state governments have a full superintendence and control over
the immense mass of local interests of their respective states,
which connect themselves with the feelings, the affections,
the municipal institutions, and the internal arrangements of the
whole population. They possess, too, the immediate administration
of justice in all cases, civil and criminal, which concern the
property, personal rights, and peaceful pursuits of their own
citizens."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 191.
24581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sounds of Silence on: June 19, 2008, 01:24:15 PM
Sounds of Silence
By MARK DUBOWITZ
June 19, 2008

Welcome to a world where criticism of militant Islam could land you in court or worse. In Vancouver, Canada's venerable Maclean's magazine awaits a hate-speech verdict from a human-rights tribunal for publishing a chapter from syndicated columnist Mark Steyn's best-selling book "America Alone." The accusers charge the author and publisher with "Islamophobia."

Last week, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), warned a gathering in Kuala Lumpur that "mere condemnation or distancing from the acts of the perpetrators of Islamophobia" would not suffice. He recommended that Western countries restrict freedom of expression and demanded that the media stop publishing "hate material" like the Danish cartoons. "It is now high time for concrete actions to stem the rot before it aggravates any further," he said.

 
AP 
Kabul speech: Afghans demonstrate against a Dutch Quran documentary and Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. March 21, 2008.
Islamic countries already scored a victory on this front back in March. They pushed through a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council urging a global ban on the public defamation of religion -- read Islam.

* * *
These are examples of a growing campaign to use judicial power to silence critics of militant Islam. In the U.N. Durban Review Conference, scheduled for April 20-24, 2009 in Geneva, it appears that the OIC and its cohorts have identified the perfect platform to further their agenda.

Recall the first Durban meeting, the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism, which took place only days before 9/11. That gathering deteriorated into a hate-fest against Jews, America and Israel. Disgusted by the vile rhetoric and Stürmer-like caricatures of Jews on display, the U.S. and Israeli delegations walked out.

Hopes that the Durban II conference next year will be a more enlightened event have already been dashed by the fact that some of the worst human rights abusers are setting its agenda. At the urging of the OIC, Libya secured chairmanship of the preparatory committee. Iran and Pakistan each won a seat on the committee. And Egypt, another OIC member, has been representing the 53-nation African Group during floor debates.

And so instead of Durban II rectifying the sins of the past, this latest U.N. forum will seek to undermine free societies by invoking the specter of Islamophobia. The OIC is the U.N.'s most powerful voting bloc. As the democracies at the U.N. have repeatedly learned, the OIC, with 57 members the controlling group in the 130-member bloc of developing countries, can usually push through its agenda with little difficulty.

The likely outcome of Durban II will be to urge all U.N. member states to pass legislation restricting basic freedoms of speech and action -- all in the interest of preventing "Islamophobia." The discrimination or defamation of Muslims, or of any other group for that matter, is of course reprehensible. But "Islamophobia," as defined by Libya, Iran and the other Durban II organizers, covers any criticism of Islam, Muslims or their actions.

If the leaders of these countries have it their way, writing op-eds criticizing Islamic radicalism, or speaking out against Muslim terrorists or, of course, publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, are soon to be considered criminal examples of racism.

During the most recent Durban II preparatory meetings in April and May, OIC members from Iran to Indonesia all insisted that freedom of expression is what causes Islamophobia. "The most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia," noted the Pakistani representative to the U.N., Marghoob Saleem Butt, on behalf of the OIC. "While it is expressed in the form of defamation of religion, it takes cover behind the freedom of expression and opinion." Voicing the demands of the Muslim bloc and its many authoritarian leaders, Mr. Butt requested that the Durban process "devise normative standards that provide adequate guarantees" against the intolerance of Muslims promoted by these freedoms.

Human rights advocates worried about this threat to civil liberties have been voicing their concerns with little success. Juliette De Rivero, for example, the Human Rights Watch advocacy director in Geneva, raised the alarm in late April: "Justified concerns about the complex relationship of racial and religious intolerance and hatred should not be the pretext to undermine key freedoms, including freedom of speech," she told the conference organizers in Geneva.

The danger of the Durban process is that it seeks to shape international and national laws. If the OIC succeeds, a broad definition of "Islamophobia" will be incorporated into Durban II's final outcome document. Thereafter, expect U.N. bodies, such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to call countries to task if they fail to implement these recommendations. Other organs of the international system will adopt and cite the Islamophobia definition as well, until it and its ill effects have migrated throughout the international system.

The Durban II recommendations, however, will not stop only at warping international standards on what constitutes Islamophobia -- the OIC aims to export its language into individual countries' domestic laws. The first point in a draft of the conference's final outcome document compels countries to pursue the "enactment of adequate legislation in line with [those] international standards." The same diplomatic draft paper identifies freedom of expression as a "main challenge and obstacle" to addressing contemporary forms of racism.

Only the European Union can now stop this insidious process. Canada has already announced that it will boycott the conference, and the U.S. has also indicated that it will not participate in Durban II unless satisfied that it will not be another fiasco. But only the threat of a European pullout would deal a true blow to the credibility of the proceedings and deny the partisans of "Islamophobia" the U.N. imprimatur they crave.

Next month, France ascends to the EU presidency. It will be up to Paris to lead the fight for Western freedoms and, for once, put Iran, Libya, and other authoritarian states on the defensive. Let's hope French President Nicolas Sarkozy understands what's at stake.

Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal
24582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 19, 2008, 12:38:46 PM
The man's mentor, Frank something, is/was a formal member of the US Communist Party; there is his friendship with unrepentant Weather underground terrorists, there is his association with Rev Wright's church (which praises and honors Louis Farrakan), his wife's shame in our country, etc etc etc.  Then there is the matter of the man's voting record, and his positions.

Does not the confluence of all these things raise a warning flag for you as to the man's inner compass?  And does not our President's inner compass matter?
24583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Turkish Regress on: June 19, 2008, 12:28:12 PM
Turkish Regress
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE
June 19, 2008

Turkey's soccer team scored three goals in the last 15 minutes against the Czechs the other night to make the quarterfinals of the European championship. Now if only miracles happened in Turkish politics.

The country needs one to get out of its latest self-inflicted crisis. For the second time in a year, a clash between the old secular establishment and an elected government with roots in Islam has split and paralyzed Turkey. Tensions look bound to escalate, putting the Muslim world's strongest democracy in peril.

The current fight is ostensibly over Islam and its most potent symbol, the headscarf. But that's a proxy for a broader struggle over political power. The so-called secularists have run the place since Kemal Atatürk founded modern Turkey through their control of the military, state bureaucracy and schools, and the courts. But in this century, the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP, has claimed the votes and the reform credentials.

Now the Kemalists have the AKP on a back foot. In coming weeks, Turkey's highest court will -- barring the miracle -- outlaw the AKP for "anti-secular activities." The court tipped its hand recently by striking down an AKP-backed law to lift the prohibition against women wearing headscarves at public universities. The law led a Kemalist prosecutor to bring the case against the AKP in the first place. Seventy-one politicians, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also face a five-year ban from belonging to any party. Such a decision would undo the outcome of last summer's elections. The AKP won 47% of the vote, a landslide by Turkish standards.

Other consequences are harder to predict, but none is welcome. Turkey's negotiations on membership with the European Union, along with its modernization drive, would be put on hold -- again. Political infighting has already stalled reform, and Turkey would be consumed for many more months with sorting out who should run the government.

A ban on Mr. Erdogan's party would amount to a judicial coup. It's also perfectly legal. Under the 1982 constitution, the courts can outlaw parties and have done so on nearly two dozen occasions. The secular elite says the military and the courts are the only checks and balances Turkish democracy has against an AKP with a wide majority in Parliament and its own man in the presidency. Never mind that the AKP won those offices fair and square.

The crux of the secular case against the AKP has always been a hypothetical fear that its secret agenda is to Islamize Turkey. If women are allowed to wear headscarves at university, goes the oft-heard argument, all women will soon be forced to wear them everywhere. Stories are told of AKP mayors who outlaw alcohol or force girls to cover their hair.

Some Turkish Islamists can be as pushy in telling women how to dress modestly as some secularists can be in telling them not to. Yet these tend to be isolated incidents, and the AKP's record in power tells a wholly different story. In his first term in office, Mr. Erdogan did more than any Turkish leader in the past two decades to strengthen democractic institutions and open up the economy. Minority rights, especially for the Kurds, were expanded. So were civil liberties. Turkey's economy flourished. Membership talks started with the EU.

Critics say the AKP is aggressive and intolerant. If anything, the party has been so obliging of the opposition that its reform efforts have suffered. In deference to the secularists, Mr. Erdogan backed off on plans to decriminalize certain political speech and liberalize the law on political parties to make it harder to ban them. In the headscarf case, the AKP moved only at the behest of the secular Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. The MHP, naturally, isn't in the high court facing a ban. In retrospect, Mr. Erdogan may have walked into a trap. This supposedly overbearing Prime Minister these days looks weak.

The AKP's rise reflects that of a new elite in a fast-changing Turkey. Its supporters tend to hail from blue-collar families, from the rural areas as well as the lower-class suburbs that rose around Istanbul and other cities in recent decades. They tend to work in the booming private sector. They also tend to be more socially and culturally conservative.

The urban, educated secular establishment is a minority that finds this emerging reality discomfiting. They don't trust ordinary Turks to make up their own minds about whom to vote for, and claim to know what's better for them.

Here's an irony. Through their actions these past few months, the secularists are now the leading opponents of the West and pose a threat to secularism itself. Under the AKP, Turkey was moving at a dizzying pace to try to reconcile Islam and democracy, turning away from the mildly authoritarian precepts of Kemalism toward Western liberalism.

In the Turkish context, that would mean keeping Islam and politics separate while giving Turks greater space to practice their religion (or not). The job was imperfectly and barely half done. Now that modernization drive, watched closely across the Muslim world, has been stopped cold. The next neo-Islamist Turkish government may not be as eager to liberalize as this one has been.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
24584  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Dos Triques Formula" on: June 19, 2008, 10:49:05 AM
Until it gets posted on our front page, you can find the promo clip here:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=3mc74Ppoom8
24585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife for Self Defense on: June 19, 2008, 10:25:50 AM
Which is why I (not David) inserted the change.
24586  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Being Prepared without Being Paranoid on: June 19, 2008, 10:24:03 AM
"you might feel a bit better if you didn't , , , NEED to carry."

This seems to be the essence of the point you are making.
24587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 6/22 Guro Crafty seminar at Surf Dog's in Hemet on: June 18, 2008, 04:23:04 PM
THANK YOU!!!
24588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Henryk Mandelbaum on: June 18, 2008, 11:41:35 AM
Henryk Mandelbaum, 85; Jew was forced to empty the gas chambers at Auschwitz
From Times Wire Reports
June 18, 2008


Henryk Mandelbaum, a member of the Sonderkommando -- Jewish prisoners who were forced to empty the gas chambers at Auschwitz after fellow Jews were gassed and burned -- died Tuesday. He was 85.

Mandelbaum died at a hospital in the southern Polish city of Bytom several days after undergoing heart surgery, said Igor Bartosik, a historian at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum who has co-written an upcoming book on Mandelbaum.

Bartosik said he did not know the exact cause of death, and hospital officials refused to comment.

Mandelbaum was Poland's last surviving member of the Sonderkommando, in which he was forced by the Nazis to search the body cavities of fellow Jews for valuables and pull out gold teeth and fillings after they were executed. They then had to carry the bodies to crematories for burning and when the crematories were filled to capacity they dug huge pits to burn the bodies.

"I thought I was in hell. Fire and smoke were everywhere. I had to clean the gas chambers and put the bodies in the crematoria, or burn them outside when the extermination was in full swing and the crematoria were not enough," he told reporters some time ago.

Mandelbaum was forced to do the work from his arrival in Auschwitz, at age 21, on April 10, 1944, until January 1945, when the Nazis forced him and other fit inmates on a death march to flee the advancing Red Army. He was able to escape the march and hid at a farm for several weeks. The Soviets liberated the camp Jan. 27, 1945.

During his months in the camp, Mandelbaum -- inmate No. 181970 -- witnessed the death of some of the 400,000 Jews brought in transports from Hungary in the summer of 1944, and handled their dead bodies.

"He saw people going into the changing rooms, he saw people changing, he saw the moment of the gassing, the throwing of the Zyklon [B gas] into the gas chambers, he heard the screams," Bartosik told the Associated Press.

Mandelbaum was born Dec. 15, 1922, in the southern Polish town of Olkusz.

As the oldest of four children, he went to work cutting stone in a quarry to help support the family when his father's butcher's business became bankrupt. He developed physical strength that helped him pass an initial selection at Auschwitz, separating those capable of work from those who were sent immediately to the gas chambers.

Bartosik said Mandelbaum spent decades trying to teach younger generations about what happened during the Holocaust. He gave guided tours of Auschwitz and spoke frequently to groups about his experience.

Mandelbaum found himself in the spotlight in May 2006 when Pope Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz. In an emotionally charged event, the German-born pope prayed at the Wall of Death, where the Nazis executed thousands.  There he met with 32 camp survivors, most of them Catholics; he stopped to speak to each one, and kissed Mandelbaum -- the only Jewish survivor in the group -- on both cheeks.

Mandelbaum's parents, along with a brother and sister, were killed in the Holocaust. He is survived by his wife, a son, a sister and grandchildren, Bartosik said.


LA Times
24589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 18, 2008, 09:11:59 AM
When cell phones first came out, they did not have GPS.  Then the State mandated that they do so.  Why should I have to allow the State to track me in order to use the telephone?!?

I appreciate the point about no reasonable expectation of privacy in public places, but when developed that doctrine did not have to address as we do now the matter of having all of one's comings and goings tracked. 

Private entities are limited to their space, and cannot bring the power of the State to bear on whom they observe; contast Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
24590  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 6/22 Guro Crafty seminar at Surf Dog's in Hemet on: June 18, 2008, 08:55:20 AM
I suppose it would be a good idea to include the location and contact number , , ,  embarassed

Lester "Surf Dog" Griffin:
114 E. Florida
Hemet, CA 92545
phone: 909-766-0702
24591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Limitations of federal govt. on: June 18, 2008, 08:26:06 AM

"[T]he government of the United States is a definite government,
confined to specified objects. It is not like the state
governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part
of the legislative duty of the government."

-- James Madison (speech in the House of Representatives, 10
January 1794)

Reference: Elliot's Debates,
24592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 18, 2008, 08:20:15 AM
While I was on the road, while allowing someone to pass my guard I got overstacked and my left hip went out.  Dull, aching pain for several days, lessened by my remedial actions, but there nonetheless.  Back home now, today I am grateful for my absolutely wonderful chiropractor of many years, Dr. Shelly Bosten.
24593  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: June 18, 2008, 08:16:40 AM
KJ:

Delighted to have another woman coming.  As always, the Gathering will be held somewhere in the Los Angeles region.  The plan is for me to look at two locations tomorrow. 

TIA,
CD
24594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: June 17, 2008, 11:53:07 PM
Well 42 posts on this thread has 2888 reads at present.  That averages to , , , almost 69 reads per post.  Do a similar calculation on some of the other threads, and consider that this forum-- no brag just fact-- tends to attract above average IQ readership. 

I think we do important work here.
24595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 17, 2008, 11:49:49 PM
You said that we were a long way from having a GPS on everyone, and I pointed out that in point of fact they already do have a GPS on most people, so it is rather non-responsive to say that one can avoid it by handicapping oneself in the efficiency of daily communication.

As for the ease of searching the database of camera networks, I agree that at present it is a tedious thing to do, but the tedium and the load on the system of doing so in diminishing with extraordinary rapidity.  I offer for your consideration that your logic is like the frog in the pot who does not notice until too late that the temperature is heading for boiling.  Once the network are in place, do you think it possible to draw some sort of bright line based upon processing speed?
24596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 17, 2008, 07:27:50 PM
Well, the GPS device is already mandated in everyone's cell phone, and in this thread we have seen networks of cameras covering everyone's comings and goings.
24597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: June 17, 2008, 07:26:13 PM
And you and I and some others are the Paul Reveres "The Islamo Fascists are coming!  The Islamo Fascists are coming!  One if by border crossing, two if by sea, three if by air!!!"
24598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim Hairdresser covers her hair, makes $4000 Euros on: June 17, 2008, 07:24:04 PM
How I nearly lost my business after refusing to hire a Muslim hair stylist who wouldn't show her hair

By Natasha Courtenay-Smith
Last updated at 10:10 PM on 17th June 2008


It seems too lunatic to be true. But here a hair salon boss reveals how she was driven to the brink of ruin - and forced to pay £4,000 for 'hurt feelings' - after refusing to hire a Muslim stylist who wouldn't show her hair at work

For Sarah Desrosiers, meeting Bushra Noah was not a moment in her life that she would describe as especially memorable.
Not only was it brief - lasting little more than ten minutes - but it was rapidly obvious to Sarah that Bushra was not the person for the junior stylist position she was trying to fill at her hairdressing salon.

Sarah's reasoning? Quite simply that Bushra, a Muslim who wears a headscarf for religions reasons, had made it clear she would not be removing the garment even while at work.

Sarah Desrosiers says she did nothing wrong by not employing Bushra Noah and would have done the same if an employee refused to remove a baseball cap.  Sarah felt that a job requirement of any hairdresser was that the stylist's hair would provide clients with a showcase of different looks. Especially one working in a salon such as hers, which specialises in alternative cuts and colours. Yet the ten minutes during which Sarah's world collided with Bushra's has resulted in an extraordinary employment battle, in which she was accused of 'direct' and 'indirect' discrimination.  For a year, Sarah has been facing financial ruin, due to a compensation claim for £34,000 brought by Bushra, 19, who has maintained she is due that figure after being turned down for a job at the Wedge salon in London's King's Cross.

In the event, the tribunal ruled this week that while Bushra's claim of direct discrimination failed, her claim for indirect discrimination had succeeded.  Sarah has therefore been ordered to pay £4,000 compensation by way of 'injury to feelings'.  Although this is a smaller sum than she'd feared she might have to hand over, Sarah, 32, is still outraged.

'I am a small business and the bottom line is that this is not a woman who worked for me,' says Sarah.

E
Bushra Noah says that Sarah Desrosiers 'hurt her feelings' by not employing her after a ten minute interview

'She is simply someone I met for a job interview, who, for a host of reasons, was not right for the job. I cannot see how she deserves £4,000. As for the notion that I've injured her feelings - well, people's feelings get injured every day. I dread to think the sorts of things that people will try to claim injured feelings for now that this precedent has been set.'

In its ruling, the tribunal said it was 'satisfied that Bushra was not treated less favourably than Sarah would have treated any woman who, whether Muslim or not, wears a hair covering at all times when at work'.

Accordingly, the claim of direct discrimination failed.

But with regard to the issue of indirect discrimination, they found that Sarah had pursued a 'legitimate aim - that aim being to promote the image of the business'.  However, the burden of proof was on Sarah to prove that her means of achieving that legitimate aim was proportionate. She was not able to prove her contention that employing someone with a headscarf would have the negative impact on her business's stylistic integrity that she feared.

Since the judgment, Bushra, who is of Syrian descent and has worn a headscarf since she was 13, has, so far at least, chosen not to comment.  But, speaking last year, she admitted she had attended 25 interviews for hairdressing jobs without success. But Sarah, she told the tribunal, had upset her the most.

She said: 'I felt so down and got so depressed. I thought: "If I am not going to defend myself, who is?" Hairdressing has been what I've wanted to do ever since I was at high school.

'This has ruined my ambitions. Wearing a headscarf is essential to my beliefs.'
Bushra had a job in a salon in London, where her tasks included cutting hair, highlighting, tinting and perming, before she left to get married in Syria in 2006.

But on her return to Britain, she was unable to find work. She has given up her ambitions to become a hairdresser and is studying travel and tourism at Hammersmith and West London College while working part-time in a shop. At the tribunal, Bushra was asked if Sarah had made derogatory remarks about her headscarf.

She replied: 'She did not. She just asked me if I wore it all the time, or whether I'd take it off.'

Although Bushra is believed to have been acting alone, in the past similar cases have been championed by Muslim traditionalist groups.
In 2006, the Law Lords overturned a court ruling that teenager Shabina Begum's human rights were violated when she was banned from wearing full Islamic dress at school.

Enlarge
Sarah in her salon - Wedge - located in north London says that the discrimination case against her almost ruined her business
The extremist Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir later admitted that it had 'advised her'.

Meanwhile, Sarah Desrosiers is wondering how to raise the £4,000 she has been ordered to pay Bushra. She has spent her savings on her legal battle and simply has no money left.

'I am a one-woman band, and am already in debt due to the set-up costs of opening my own salon,' says Sarah. 'I dread to think how many haircuts I'm going to have to do to earn the £4,000 I have to pay Bushra. This has, without doubt, been the worst year of my life.'

Such a messy set of circumstances, let alone the strain of having the case bought against her, was certainly not what Sarah expected when she started out on her career aged 17. From the outset, she had grand ambitions, telling her mother that she would one day have her own salon.

'Even back then, I realised how important your own hair is to the job,' says Sarah. 'I went into hairdressing a rather plain brunette, but within a few weeks I had a bright red crop. I wanted to provide clients with inspiration through my own hair. Whether they're in a conventional High Street salon, or something slightly different like my salon, customers expect to see the stylists with hair that is on trend, striking and can give them ideas for their own look.'

In 1997, Sarah got a job at a salon on London's Portobello Road, where she remained for almost a decade. In March 2006, feeling ready to spread her wings, she wrote a business plan, secured a loan and invested £5,000 of her savings into the lease on a small salon on Caledonian Road. She named it Wedge, and planned to specialise in 'urban and edgy' cuts, rather like the cerise colour she often dyes her own hair.

'I'd never felt as proud as I did on the day I picked up the keys to my salon,' says Sarah.  'I was prepared to put my heart and soul into my business in order to make ends meet, and for the first few months, I worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, all by myself. I barely saw daylight, but I didn't mind because I was fulfilling my ambition. Of course, there were a few nerve-racking moments, such as when another salon opened a few doors away. But that is part of owning your own business, and I felt proud of all I was achieving.'

By March 2007, the business was doing so well that Sarah needed to take on another stylist. To minimise her overheads, she decided the best way to do this would be by renting out a chair in her salon to an experienced stylist - who would take a share of her profits - and employ a junior to work for both of them.

Sarah received dozens of applications for the junior position, one of which was from Bushra Noah.

'Her CV didn't stand out because I was looking for someone who lived locally - something I'd specified in the advert so that I could call them in as and when required - and she lived several miles away in Acton,' says Sarah.
=========
'One day she rang up to see if I'd got her CV and begged me for an interview. I told her I had concerns about where she lived, but she sounded so desperate that I agreed she could come in for a chat.'

A few days later, Bushra duly arrived at the salon.

'I have to say I didn't take to her,' says Sarah. 'She waltzed into the salon and hung up her coat as though she already had the job.

'Naturally, I noticed her headscarf. But I presumed that, as she's a hairdresser, she'd take if off when she was working. In 16 years, I've never known any stylist cover their hair with a headscarf. And this particular headscarf came all the way down to her eyebrows and covered her entire hairline.'

Sarah broached the subject with Bushra, who said she would not be removing the garment. After ten minutes, with the interview complete, Sarah said she would come back to Bushra about the vacancy.

'As she left, Bushra turned to me and said that she'd been turned down for jobs before,' says Sarah. 'And I admit I thought: "Well, what do you expect? It was not a religious matter. If she'd come in wearing a baseball cap and saying she wouldn't take it off for work, then she wouldn't have got the job either.'

One morning in the second week of June 2007, an innocuous white envelope landed on Sarah's doormat. It contained a letter saying that she was being sued for £15,000 for indirect and direct discrimination by Bushra Noah. This, the letter stated, related to compensation for injury to her feelings and lost earnings. Later, that figure was increased to £34,000.

'I read it and re-read it and stood there dumbfounded,' says Sarah. 'I remembered Bushra, and I guessed straight away that the claim related to the headscarf. In my mind I was saying "But I wasn't discriminating, it's just a part of the job", over and over again. I dialled the number at the top of the letter and was told I needed to get a solicitor, but that because I worked, I wasn't entitled to Legal Aid. I thought: "This is it - my business is over." I was devastated.'

Using her savings of £2,000, Sarah employed a lawyer who helped her draft a statement about her meeting with Bushra. But with his fees at £280 an hour, she knew she couldn't afford to fight a satisfactory legal battle. Her parents - her mother is a nurse, and her father is retired - weren't in a position to help her out financially either.

'I was at my wits' end, and I had no idea how I was going to pay for my legal fees,' says Sarah. 'I was virtually being accused of racism, which is ridiculous. I've cut the hair of people from all walks of life, including transsexuals, and you can hardly run an alternative salon if you are prejudiced.'

Help came when a friend tipped off a reporter about what was happening, and Sarah's case gained publicity, first locally, then nationally. Since then, she has received support from hundreds of people in the hairdressing industry, including black celebrity stylist Errol Douglas. Still, the wave of support did little to ease the stress as she fought to clear her name.

'For months, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I felt as though my whole life was on hold. All I could see was that I'd be forced into bankruptcy and lose my business.'

In the course of preparing for her trial, Sarah estimates she has lost £40,000 of her salon's annual income.  She also faced a further blow when it emerged that Bushra had increased the figure to £34,000 to compensate for hate mail she had received following Press coverage of the trial. In March, Sarah faced a three- day employment tribunal, and endured four hours of cross-examination.

'I managed to defend myself and not cry, but it was incredibly difficult,' she says. 'I'd even had to ask my accountant, who is a Muslim, and another Muslim friend to write letters confirming that I am not racist. The whole experience was so humiliating and, most importantly, unnecessary. I kept thinking: "I've worked hard all my life - how can it be possible that someone can come into my shop, talk to me for ten minutes and then sue me for £34,000? How is that possibly fair?".'

As she reels from the verdict, Sarah is contemplating her next move. While part of her is tempted to pay, simply to close the door on this unpleasant episode, she also feels she should fight to clear her name. Her lawyers are advising her on whether or not she can appeal.

'Because of this there will be a black mark against my name for the rest of my life,' she says. 'I feel I have not done anything wrong, and this is a terrible price to pay for a meeting that lasted ten minutes.'


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/ar...ldnt-hair.html
24599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: June 17, 2008, 05:05:41 PM
Iran: Terrorists will get bomb

[Excerpted from Patriot Post Digest, June 13, 2008]

"Last week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a speech in which he predicted that terrorists would obtain nuclear weapons and 'take away security from all the tyrants of the world.' He later made it clear that by 'tyrants' he meant the United States. The statement is darkly ironic, since Iran is the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, and the pariah state is almost certainly in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Khamenei was quick to add that Iran could never possess or use nuclear weapons since they are against 'Islamic beliefs,' but Iran’s Islamic government has never been known for being straightforward, and the supreme leader urged his listeners to continue exporting the Islamic revolution. If anything, Khamenei’s statement could be interpreted as a warning that Iran’s nuclear weapons will not be used by the country’s military, but rather by proxy terrorist groups. Meanwhile, the international 'community' finds itself incapable of taking any real action against Iran thanks to strong opposition from China and Russia, making it likely that whoever challenges Iran militarily will do so alone.


"Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz seems willing to take that chance. Mofaz recently announced his candidacy to succeed Ehud Olmert as Israel’s leader, and should he win, he intends to deal with Iran using whatever means necessary. 'If Iran continues its nuclear weapons program, we will attack it,' Mofaz said last week. 'Other options are disappearing. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear program.' Given Israel’s expertise in destroying such programs (Osirak, Iraq in 1981 and al-Kibar, Syria in 2007), Iran would do well to heed Mr. Mofaz’s warning."


So, "Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei...predicted that terrorists would obtain nuclear weapons and 'take away security from all the tyrants of the world.' He later made it clear that by 'tyrants' he meant the United States." No, he didn't add, "...and Iran will supply those terrorists with nuclear weapons", but I'm not sure it doesn't still stand as a de facto declaration of intent. At least some Israelis aren't fooled, or worried about making a clear statement of intent of their own.
24600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 17, 2008, 05:03:35 PM
"As long as there is police power, there is the potential for the abuse of the police power. Is the answer then to not have police? That would ensure there were no abuses of police power. There are certainly those who call themselves libertarians that advocate such a position. I think a cost/benefit analysis is a better method of examining the issue."

Exactly.  So what is the cost/benefit of the government being able to keep track of everyone's comings and goings?
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