Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up
on: June 16, 2008, 12:18:51 PM
"My confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and
good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Edward Rutledge, 1788)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 7:81.
"[H]onesty will be found on every experiment, to be the best and
only true policy; let us then as a Nation be just."
-- George Washington (Circular letter to the States, 14 June 1783)
Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (244)
"We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that
the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is
the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape -
that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to
the views of political institutions of a different form? It is
too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the
public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is
the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government
whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the
attainment of this object."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 45)
Reference: Federalist No. 45.
"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."
-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Benjamin Vaughn, 14 March 1783)
Reference: Respectfully Quoted, p. 201
"The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national
capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more
than any appellation derived from local discriminations."
-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796)
Reference: Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United
"So that the executive and legislative branches of the national
government depend upon, and emanate from the states. Every
where the state sovereignties are represented; and the national
sovereignty, as such, has no representation."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 191.
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams
Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens.” —James Madison
“And as to the Cares, they are chiefly what attend the bringing up of Children; and I would ask any Man who has experienced it, if they are not the most delightful Cares in the World.” —Benjamin Franklin
“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.” —James Madison
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 16, 2008, 11:03:35 AM
"Technology will continue to advance. If there is an answer to your concerns, it's from legislation. What legislation do you suggest that will protect your privacy? Would this legislation cover both gov't and private entities? What technology should law enforcement be allowed to use, if any?"
Good and fair questions-- and I readily admit to not having answers to them worked out. I do think though that as a society we had really better get to it though, before it is too late to stop things from going too far.
I will say that I have no problem with monitoring radiation as discussed in your previous post
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / unpleasant speculation
on: June 16, 2008, 10:51:12 AM
Following up on the preceding post:http://www.powerlineblog.com/archive.../06/020762.php
Two stories that were in the news yesterday offer interesting opportunities for speculation. Note: what follows is exactly that, speculation.
The first comes from the Washington Post:
An international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups. The drawings, discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen, included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries, the report states.
This relates to the Khan group, which, led by a Pakistani nuclear scientist, sold Pakistan's nuclear secrets to rogue nations. The significance of this new discovery (the discovery reportedly dates to 2006 but is now being made public) is that the Khan group may have sold the design for a nuclear weapon that was more advanced than previously believed--more advanced because it was small enough to fit on missiles that countries like Iran and North Korea already possess. The Post's sources say that they have no idea what countries (if any) may have received these advanced nuclear weapons designs from Khan.
It occurs to me that this story could possible be related to the controversy last winter over the NIE that claimed that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. That conclusion, trumpeted by the NIE itself, was obviously overstated: if you read the NIE, it acknowledged that Iran's work on uranium enrichment--the hardest part of nuclear weapons development--continued unabated, but claimed that Iran had stopped its "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work." Let's assume that the CIA did get information to the effect that Iran stopped its nuclear weapon design effort in 2003. Given what we now know about the "products" made available by the Khan network, isn't it possible that Iran did so because it had the weapons designs it needed? And if so, shouldn't the NIE, to the extent we place any credence in it, make us more concerned about Iran's nuclear program, rather than less so?
The second story comes from the London Times; I haven't seen it picked up in the U.S. yet. (But then, I haven't scoured the papers yet this morning.) The story's headline is arresting, even though it is supported only by implication in the article itself: "Get Osama Bin Laden before I leave office, orders George W Bush."
The TImes writes:
President George W Bush has enlisted British special forces in a final attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before he leaves the White House. Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source. ***
One US intelligence source compared the “growing number of clandestine reconnaissance missions” inside Pakistan with those conducted in Laos and Cambodia at the height of the Vietnam war. ***
A Pentagon source said US forces were rolling up Al-Qaeda’s network in Pakistan in the hope of pushing Bin Laden towards the Afghan border, where the US military and bombers with guided missiles were lying in wait. “They are prepping for a major battle,” he said.
The main operations in Pakistan are being undertaken by Delta, the US army special operations unit, and the British SBS.
I've wondered for a long time whether we have had a better idea of bin Laden's whereabouts than has been publicly revealed, and whether we have preferred to leave him at large rather than to capture or kill him. Why could this be the case? Presumably because we have cracked the security surrounding bin Laden and have been able to acquire valuable intelligence by leaving him at large.
This may be what was going on with Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, the Pakistani whose laptop was seized several years ago, revealing a number of al Qaeda plots. It may be that Khan was bin Laden's link to the outside world, and that bin Laden's instructions to cells around the world were being intercepted by our intelligence agencies. After Khan's capture was made public, it may be that bin Laden's new links to the outside world were likewise penetrated.
This is, as I said above, pure speculation. But the administration's success in preventing new attacks after September 11 has long suggested the possibility of an intelligence coup equal in magnitude to Enigma. If bin Laden's security was penetrated years ago, it would explain why the administration has preferred to leave him at large despite the occasional annoyance of his propaganda missives.
If the Times' report is correct, then perhaps President Bush has decided that al Qaeda is sufficiently degraded, or the intelligence recoverable through bin Laden is no longer sufficiently valuable, so that it makes sense to try to kill or capture him. No doubt President Bush would like to bequeath his successor a world free of both bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. So it's pure speculation, but for what it's worth, I wouldn't be shocked to see bin Laden killed or captured between now and January.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 16, 2008, 10:33:58 AM
As far as this particular quote goes, fair enough-- but I am thinking the "we" envisions the US more than the US and France-- and not appearing here is Chirac's sordid history of personal friendship with SH dating back to those years, , , Furthermore, IMHO Chirac played a pretty despicable role during the UN's Oil for Food program and during the run up to the Iraq War.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Smugglers had design for advanced warhead
on: June 16, 2008, 10:25:46 AM
Duplicating on this thread GM's post on the Homeland Security thread:
Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Warhead
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 15, 2008; A01
An international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups.
The drawings, discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen, included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries, the report states.
The computer contents -- among more than 1,000 gigabytes of data seized -- were recently destroyed by Swiss authorities under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, which is investigating the now-defunct smuggling ring previously led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
But U.N. officials cannot rule out the possibility that the blueprints were shared with others before their discovery, said the report's author, David Albright, a prominent nuclear weapons expert who spent four years researching the smuggling network.
"These advanced nuclear weapons designs may have long ago been sold off to some of the most treacherous regimes in the world," Albright wrote in a draft report about the blueprint's discovery. A copy of the report, expected to be published later this week, was provided to The Washington Post.
The A.Q. Khan smuggling ring was previously known to have provided Libya with design information for a nuclear bomb. But the blueprints found in 2006 are far more troubling, Albright said in his report. While Libya was given plans for an older and relatively unsophisticated weapon that was bulky and difficult to deliver, the newly discovered blueprints offered instructions for building a compact device, the report said. The lethality of such a bomb would be little enhanced, but its smaller size might allow for delivery by ballistic missile.
"To many of these countries, it's all about size and weight," Albright said in an interview. "They need to be able to fit the device on the missiles they have."
The Swiss government acknowledged this month that it destroyed nuclear-related documents, including weapons-design details, under the direction of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to keep them from falling into terrorists' hands. However, it has not been previously reported that the documents included hundreds of pages of specifications for a second, more advanced nuclear bomb.
"These would have been ideal for two of Khan's other major customers, Iran and North Korea," wrote Albright, now president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. "They both faced struggles in building a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop their ballistic missiles, and these designs were for a warhead that would fit."
It is unknown whether the designs were delivered to either country, or to anyone else, Albright said.
The Pakistani government did not rebut the findings in the report but said it had cooperated extensively with U.N. investigators. "The government of Pakistan has adequately investigated allegations of nuclear proliferation by A.Q. Khan and shared the information with IAEA," Nadeem Kiani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said yesterday. "It considers the A.Q. Khan affair to be over."
A CIA official, informed of the essential details of Albright's report, said the agency would not comment because of the extreme diplomatic and security sensitivities of the matter. In his 2007 memoir, former CIA director George Tenet acknowledged the agency's extensive involvement in tracking the Khan network over more than a decade.
Albright, a former IAEA inspector in Iraq, has published detailed analyses of the nuclear programs of numerous states, including Iran and North Korea. His institute was the first to publicly identify the location of an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israeli warplanes last September.
A design for a compact, missile-ready nuclear weapon could help an aspiring nuclear power overcome a major technical hurdle and vastly increase its options for delivery of a nuclear explosive. Such a design could theoretically help North Korea -- which detonated a nuclear device in a 2006 test -- to couple a nuclear warhead with its Nodong missile, which has a proven range of 1,300 kilometers (about 800 miles).
Iran also possesses medium-range ballistic missiles and is believed by U.S. government officials to be seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons in the future, although an assessment late last year by U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Iran had discontinued its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Weapons experts have long puzzled over whether Tehran might have previously acquired a weapons design from the Khan network, which sold the Iranian government numerous other nuclear-related items, including designs for uranium-enrichment equipment.
The computers that contained the drawings were owned by three members of the Tinner family -- brothers Marco and Urs and their father, Friedrich -- all Swiss businessmen who have been identified by U.S. and IAEA officials as key participants in Khan's nuclear black market. The smuggling ring operated from the mid-1980s until 2003, when it was exposed after a years-long probe by the U.S. and British intelligence agencies.
Khan, who apologized for his role in the smuggling network in a 2004 speech broadcast in Pakistan, was officially pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf without being formally charged with crimes. The Tinner brothers are in Swiss prisons awaiting trial on charges related to their alleged involvement in the network. They and their father are the focus of an ongoing probe by Swiss authorities, who discovered the blueprints while exploring the heavily encrypted contents of the Tinners' computers, the report said. Several published reports have asserted that Urs Tinner became an informant for U.S. intelligence before the breakup of the smuggling ring, but that has not been officially confirmed.
Switzerland shared the finding with the IAEA as well as the United States, which asked for copies of the blueprints, the report states. The IAEA has acknowledged that it oversaw the destruction of nuclear-design material by Swiss authorities in November 2007. However, IAEA officials would neither confirm nor deny the existence of a second weapons design or comment on Albright's report.
Albright, citing information provided by IAEA investigators, said the designs were similar to that of a nuclear device built by Pakistan. He contends in the report that IAEA officials confronted Pakistan's government shortly after the discovery, adding that the private reaction of government officials was astonishment. The Pakistanis "were genuinely shocked; Khan may have transferred his own country's most secret and dangerous information to foreign smugglers so that they could sell it for a profit," Albright said, relating a description of the encounter given to him by IAEA officials.
Pakistan has previously denied that Khan stole the country's weapons plans. Musharraf has not allowed IAEA experts to interview Khan, an engineer who is regarded as a national hero for his role in establishing Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Khan, in interviews last month with The Post and several other publications, asserted that the allegations of nuclear smuggling were false.
Albright said it remains critical that investigators press Khan and others for details about how the blueprints were obtained and who might have them. Because the plans were stored electronically, they may have been copied many times, he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sharansky- Democracies can't compromise on core values
on: June 16, 2008, 09:16:45 AM
Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values
By NATAN SHARANSKY
June 16, 2008
As the American president embarked on his farewell tour of Europe last week, Der Spiegel, echoing the sentiments of a number of leading newspapers on the Continent, pronounced "Europe happy to see the back of Bush." Virtually everyone seems to believe that George W. Bush's tenure has undermined trans-Atlantic ties.
There is also a palpable sense in Europe that America will move closer to Europe in the years ahead, especially if Barack Obama wins the presidential election.
But while Mr. Bush is widely seen by Europeans as a religious cowboy with a Manichean view on the world, Europe's growing rift with America predates the current occupant of the White House. When a French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, declared that his country "cannot accept a politically unipolar world, nor a culturally uniform world, nor the unilateralism of a single hyper power," President Clinton was in the seventh year of his presidency and Mr. Bush was still governor of Texas.
The trans-Atlantic rift is not the function of one president, but the product of deep ideological forces that for generations have worked to shape the divergent views of Americans and Europeans. Foremost among these are different attitudes toward identity in general, and the relationship between identity and democracy in particular.
To Europeans, identity and democracy are locked in a zero-sum struggle. Strong identities, especially religious or national identities, are seen as a threat to democratic life. This is what Dominique Moisi, a special adviser at the French Institute of International Relations, meant when he said in 2006 that "the combination of religion and nationalism in America is frightening. We feel betrayed by God and by nationalism, which is why we are building the European Union as a barrier to religious warfare."
This attitude can be traced back to the French Revolution, when the forces fighting under a universal banner of "liberty, equality and fraternity" were pitted against the Church.
In contrast, the America to which pilgrims flocked in search of religious freedom, and whose revolution amounted to an assertion of national identity, has been able to reconcile identity and freedom in a way no country has been able to match. That acute observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, long ago noted the "intimate union of the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty" that was pervasive in America and made it so different than his native France.
The idea that strong identities are an inherent threat to democracy and peace became further entrenched in Europe in the wake of World War II. Exponents of what I call postidentity theories – postnationalism, postmodernism and multiculturalism – argued that only by shedding the particular identities that divide us could we build a peaceful world. Supranational institutions such as the EU, the International Court of Justice and the United Nations were supposed to help overcome the prejudices of the past and forge a harmonious world based on universal values and human rights.
While these ideas have penetrated academia and elite thinking in the U.S., they remain at odds with the views of most Americans, who see no inherent contradiction between maintaining strong identities and the demands of democratic life. On the contrary, the right to express one's identity is seen as fundamental. Exercising such a right is regarded as acting in the best American tradition.
The controversy over whether Muslims should be able to wear a veil in public schools underscores the profound difference in attitudes between America and Europe. In Europe, large majorities support a law banning the veil in public schools. In the U.S., students wear the veil in public schools or state colleges largely without controversy.
At the same time severe limits are placed on the harmless expression of identity in the public square, some European governments refuse to insist that Muslim minorities abide by basic democratic norms. They turn a blind eye toward underage marriage, genital mutilation and honor killings.
The reality is that Muslim identity has grown stronger, has become more fundamentalist, and is increasingly contemptuous of a vapid "European" identity that has little vitality. All this may help explain why studies consistently show that efforts to integrate Muslims into society are much less effective in Europe than in America, where identity is much stronger.
Regardless of who wins in November, the attitudes of Americans toward the role of identity in democratic life are unlikely to change much. Relative to Europe, Americans will surely remain deeply patriotic and much more committed to their faiths.
Europeans, meanwhile, may move closer to the Americans in their views. The recent shift to the right in Europe – from the victory of conservative leaders like Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi to the surprise defeat of the leftist mayor of London, Ken Livingston – might partially reflect a belated awareness there that a unique heritage is under assault by a growing Muslim fundamentalism.
The logic of the struggle against this fundamentalist threat will inevitably demand the reassertion of the European national and religious identities that are now threatened.
Europeans are now saying goodbye to Mr. Bush, and hoping for the election of an American president who they believe shares their sophisticated postnational, postmodern and multicultural attitudes. But don't be surprised if, in the years ahead, European leaders, in order to protect freedom and democracy at home, start sounding more and more like the straight-shooting cowboy from abroad they now love to hate.
Mr. Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident, is chairman of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is the author, most recently, of "Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy" (PublicAffairs).
See all of today's editorials and op
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: New Evidence
on: June 16, 2008, 09:13:22 AM
New Evidence on Government and Growth
By KEITH MARSDEN
June 16, 2008
In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan embraced the ideas of a small group of economists dubbed "supply-siders." They argued that lower taxes and slimmer government would stimulate growth, enterprise, harder work and higher levels of saving and investment. These views were widely ridiculed at the time, dismissed as "voodoo economics."
Reagan did succeed in lowering some taxes. But a Democrat-controlled Congress weakened their impact by raising government spending sharply, resulting in large budget deficits.
A quarter of a century later, many more countries have cut taxes and reined in heavy-handed government intervention. How far have they gone down this path, and with what success?
My study, "Big, Not Better?" (Centre for Policy Studies, 2008), looks at the performance of 20 countries over the past two decades. The first 10 have slimmer governments with revenue and expenditure levels below 40% of GDP. This group includes Australia, Canada, Estonia, Hong Kong, Ireland, South Korea, Latvia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic and the U.S.
I compared their records to the 10 higher-taxed, bigger-government economies: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Both groups cover a representative range of large, medium and small economies measured by their gross national incomes. The average incomes per capita of the two groups are similar ($27,046 and $30,426 respectively in 2005).
Most governments have reduced their top tax rates and spending-to-GDP ratios over the last decade or so, according to data published by the OECD, IMF and World Bank. But slimmer governments have done so at a faster pace, and to significantly lower levels. Their highest tax rate on personal income fell to a group average of 30% in 2006 from 36% in 1996. Top corporate rates were lowered to an average of 22% from 30%. Their average ratio of total government outlays to GDP fell to 31.6% in 2007, from an average peak level during the previous two decades of 40.4%
Investment growth jumped to an average annual rate of 5.9% in 2000-2005, from 3.8% over the previous decade. Exports have risen by 6.3% annually since 2000. The net result was a surge in economic growth. The IMF reports that GDP soared in the slimmer-government group at a 5.4% average annual rate from 1999-2008 (including its forecast for the current year), up from a 4.6% rate over the previous decade.
Over that same period, the bigger-government group was more timid in its tax reductions. Their highest individual rates declined to an average of 45% from 49%, and corporate rates to 29% from 35%. Furthermore, their average spending-to-GDP ratio only fell to 48.3% from a peak of 55.2%.
The bigger-government group therefore failed to gain any competitive advantages in global markets by generating or attracting larger investment funds. Their investment growth slowed to an average annual rate of 0.8% in 2000-2005, from 4.1% in 1990-2000. Their export growth rate almost halved to 3.1% annually in 2000-2005, down from 6.1% in 1990-2000. The bottom line is a drop in their average annual GDP growth rate to 2.1% in 1999-2008, from 2.3% over the previous decade.
Nor did they balance their books. They ran budgetary deficits averaging 1.1% of GDP in 2006, whereas slimmer governments generated an average surplus of 0.3% of GDP. Their net government debt averaged 39.2% of GDP in 2006, more than four times higher than the latter's. Interest payments on their debt took 2.3% of their GDP, compared with an average of just 0.5% in the slimmer-government group.
Slimmer-government countries also delivered more rapid social progress in some areas. They have, on average, higher annual employment growth rates (1.7% compared to 0.9% from 1995-2005). Their youth unemployment rates have been lower for both males and females since 2000. The discretionary income of households rose faster in the first group. This allowed their real consumption to increase by 4.1% annually from 2000-2005, up from 2.8% in 1990-2000. In the bigger-government group, the growth of household consumption has slowed to a 1.3% average annual rate, from 2.1% during the 1990-2000 period.
Faster economic growth in the first group also generated a more rapid increase in government revenue, despite (or rather, because of, supply-siders suggest) lower overall tax burdens.
Slimmer-government countries seem to have made better use of their smaller health resources. Total spending on health programs reached 9.5% of GDP in the bigger government group in 2004, 1.6 percentage points above the average in the slimmer-government group. Yet slimmer-government countries have raised their average life expectancy at birth at a faster pacer since 1990, reaching an average level of 78 years in 2005, just one year below the average for bigger spenders. Average life expectancy is now 80 years in Singapore, although government and private health programs combined cost only 3.7% of its GDP.
Finally, spending by bigger governments on social benefits (such as unemployment and disability benefits, housing allowances and state pensions) was higher (20.3% of GDP in 2006) than that of slimmer governments (9.6%). But these transfers do not appear to have resulted in greater equality in the distribution of income. The Gini index measuring income distribution is similar for both groups.
Other forces clearly helped to narrow income disparities in slimmer-government economies. These forces include wage-setting practices, saving habits, the availability of employer-funded pension schemes, and income sharing among extended families.
Both groups reduced the share of defense spending in GDP over the past decade. The slimmer-government average fell 0.1 points to 2.2% in 2005, but this level was 0.5 percentage points above the bigger-government average. The average share of armed forces personnel in the total labor force in the bigger-government group fell to 1.1% from 1.5% in 1995, whereas it grew to 1.7% from 1.5% in the slimmer-government group.
Information on public order and safety expenditures is incomplete. But for the 11 countries for which data are available, slimmer governments seem to take their responsibilities more seriously. They spent an average of 1.8% of GDP on these functions in 2006, compared with 1.5% by bigger governments.
The early supply-siders were right. My findings firmly reject the widely held view that lower taxes inevitably result in cuts in public services, slower growth and widening income inequalities. Today's policy makers should take note of how tax cuts and the pruning of inefficient government programs can stimulate sluggish economies.
Mr. Marsden, a fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies in London, was previously an adviser at the World Bank and senior economist in the International Labour Organization.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question
on: June 16, 2008, 09:03:18 AM
"I am reflecting on the day as I write this and I apologize for waxing away here."
Actually, to my sense of things this is a perfect thread to do exactly that and I for one am glad that you have done so and hope that others will do so as well.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 15, 2008, 07:43:31 PM
"I'm not sure what the answer is to your concerns. , , , We live in a technology driven society, why should law enforcement not use technology commonly in use in other areas of the public and private sector? Do you avoid Las Vegas casinos because of the surveillance technology? I assure you the private security entities in the average strip casino use technology outside the wildest dreams of most anyone in law enforcement. Why is state of the art video and pattern recognition software good in the Bellagio and lowest bidder, outdated tech in the hands of cops have us on the cusp of 1984?"
Actually I don't go to Vegas-- it is a voluntary tax upon the mathematically impaired
A big part of what concerns me with all this is not where we are, but where we are going. The logic you use and the technology coming down the pike combine to something that can pretty much keep track of where we go and what we do. Amongst various negatives, this make really deter anyone with a colorful, adventurous life, or simply a sense of privacy, from wanting to go into politics or take on governmental misdeeds.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 15, 2008, 07:35:38 PM
You are clearly a bright gal, so I will deny myself the cheap shot about reading comprehension and suggest you read this again:
Apparently from his diaries Regan believed The French was going to save Israel which is about as intelligent as saying ketchup is a vegetable.
“Sun. June 7 • Got word of Israeli bombing of Iraq—nuclear reactor. I swear I believe Armageddon is near.
Returned to W.H. at 3 p.m. More word on bombing. P.M. Begin informed us after the fact.
Tues. June 9 • Ended day with an N.S.C. meeting re the bombing of Iraq. P.M. Begin insists the plant was preparing to produce nuclear weapons for use on Israel. If he waited 'til the French shipment of "hot" uranium arrived he couldn't order the bombing because of the radiation that would be loosed over Baghdad.
The point is that delay would have meant that the French shipment TO SH/IRAQ would have taken place, thus making for a lot of collateral damage via radiation.
BTW, the French minister responsible for the nuke program with SH was one Jacques Chirac.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 15, 2008, 11:39:11 AM
And how much worse would it have been had they had them?
GM, you continue to give good examples of how these technologies can be used to the good, but for me the profound concern raises when the State thinks to use them for control and oppression , , , AND for there is something viscerally creepy about having your everymove watched and recorded.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yon:
on: June 14, 2008, 11:38:16 PM
The trend lines are clear. Iraq war seems to be winding-down. At this rate it is entirely conceivable that at the end of 2008 we will be able to say, in good conscience, that the Iraq war has ended.
Of course this is speculation.
Grabbing headlines today is the news that Australia is drawing down it’s forces from Iraq. The Australian military is comprised of some of the finest soldiers in the world. Yet the Australian government’s commitment to the war in Iraq has been militarily insignificant. The loss of the Australian military contingent is strategically irrelevant.
I’m in constant communications with forces on the ground in Iraq. al-Qaeda continues to be hammered into the dirt. The Iraq Army has demonstrated great competence in Sadr City. They are at the fore front of destroying al-Qaeda in Nineveh province.
Washington Post reports growing success in Basra by the Iraq security forces. Violence in Iraq is reaching an all time low, perhaps lower than at anytime in several decades. But make no mistake Iraq and it’s people have been ravaged by decades of war. Finally they are getting their chance at freedom thanks to the sacrifice of the men and women who have set them free from tyrants. With any luck, on my next trip to Iraq I will see little to no combat.
There are several new dispatches on the website. Free copies of Moment of Truth in Iraq are available with a one year subscription to Town Hall Magazine.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife for Self Defense
on: June 14, 2008, 11:30:26 PM
Maija and/or anyone:
"I think it is an interesting balance you talk about between expecting danger at any moment, and not thinking it will ever happen .... how do you live a relaxed and happy life and at the same time keep prepared for the unexpected?"
This is a profound question; IMHO worthy of its own thread. If anyone feels like kicking it off please have at it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Fair Enough?
on: June 14, 2008, 06:54:37 AM
Barack Obama's Rise Has Americans Debating
Whether Affirmative Action Has Run Its Course
By JONATHAN KAUFMAN
June 14, 2008
WARREN, Mich. -- Stan Sheyn, a white student who attends community college in this working-class Detroit suburb, supports Barack Obama for president. But he has no time for what he calls "double standards and propagation of victim mentality."
"The fact that a black man can run for the position of the President of the United States of America only corroborates that there is enough opportunity and equality for great things like that to happen," he says. "And that there is no need to create special advantages for any demographic group."
U.S. perceptions of race have changed considerably over the last half century. As a result, do you think race is over-emphasized or under-emphasized in the U.S. today? Do we still look closely at another person's race, or are we in an age where race matters less than it once did? And do you think affirmative action should continue to have a future in the U.S.? Share your thoughts.Electra Fulbright, a black small-business consultant in prosperous Southfield, Mich., couldn't disagree more.
"Obama's privileges and his accomplishments are minute compared to the black population at large," says Ms. Fulbright, who plans to vote for Sen. Obama. "When we talk about Obama, we are not talking about the average black American. There is injustice in this country, and until we correct it, we need affirmative action."
Few issues have been as incendiary in the workplace and on college campuses as affirmative action -- in large part because so many blacks and whites have been personally affected by affirmative action, in ways both good and bad.
Now, Sen. Obama's rise is prompting some whites to ask -- and some blacks to fear -- the question: Does America still need affirmative action, given that an African-American has made it to the top of American politics?
The question has been asked before, as other blacks have risen to high positions. But Sen. Obama's swift ascent to the verge of the presidency may have created a turning point in the debate.
Affirmative action has stirred controversy for decades, including this 2002 protest.
The issue of affirmative action is likely to dog Sen. Obama on the campaign trail as he seeks to win over white blue-collar voters in battleground states like Michigan. For many of these voters, affirmative action has been divisive since the 1970s. Ward Connerly, a prominent affirmative-action opponent, is seeking to place anti-affirmative action referendums on the ballot in Arizona, Nebraska and Colorado. Voters would be asked to ban "preferential treatment" of women and minorities in state university admissions, the filling of state-funded jobs and awarding of state contracts.
Favoring the Middle Class
White anger over affirmative action has diminished as the Supreme Court has systematically narrowed the scope of programs in colleges and the workplace. Still, the gap between black and white opinion remains wide.
More than half of blacks -- 57% -- say the country should make "every effort to improve the position of blacks and minorities, even if it means giving preferential treatment," according to a poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan Washington think tank that studies social attitudes. Just 27% of whites agree with that view. The same poll shows that nearly half of whites -- 48% -- believe the U.S. has "gone too far in pushing equal rights in this country." Far fewer African Americans -- 27% -- agree.
Opinions about affirmative action vary depending on how researchers word their questions; support tends to grow, for example, when the question describes the programs in more detail. But the Gallup polling firm says that regardless of the wording, all of its surveys on affirmative action show blacks overwhelmingly support it, while whites tend to be much more divided.
Sen. Obama's success has also stirred an uncomfortable debate within the black community over who has reaped the gains of affirmative action. Some argue the policies skew toward middle-class blacks instead of poor blacks, and have favored too many individuals like Sen. Obama -- people with a biracial background or the children of African and Caribbean immigrants, as opposed to blacks born in the U.S.
In a 2000 interview with the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Sen. Obama, then an Illinois state senator, said: "I have no way of knowing if I was a beneficiary of affirmative action either in my admission to Harvard or my initial election to the [Harvard Law] Review. If I was, then I am certainly not ashamed of the fact, for I would argue that affirmative action is important precisely because those who benefit typically rise to the challenge when given an opportunity."
Sen. Obama's newfound prominence has also prompted some successful blacks to wonder whether his achievements, and theirs, mean affirmative action should be modified to help poor and working-class whites.
"You have this traditional assumption that whites have made it and have it all -- that 'because I am black, I am disadvantaged,' and 'because I am white, I am advantaged,' " says Rev. Carlyle Stewart, who holds degrees from the University of Chicago and Northwestern and heads a large middle-class black church in Southfield, a short drive from Warren. "It may be time to broaden that discussion."
Sen. Obama "believes that no one can deny that our country has made tremendous progress in the past 50 years," said campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor in a statement. "But the suggestion that somehow Senator Obama's campaign represents an easy shortcut to racial reconciliation is just not realistic." He said Sen. Obama believes "affirmative action in universities today is appropriate only if race is one of many factors. The Supreme Court has made that clear."
Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain opposes "affirmative action plans and quotas that give weight to one group of Americans at the expense of another," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Plans that result in quotas, where such plans have not been judicially created to remedy a specific, proven act of discrimination, only result in more discrimination and violate the concept of equality of opportunity."
Affirmative action began in 1961, when President Kennedy issued an executive order declaring that federal contractors should "take affirmative action" to integrate their work forces.
The initiative broadened to include policies that favored women and minorities in hiring and promotion at work and in college admissions, the goal being to overcome past discrimination.
Many whites charged that this amounted to "reverse discrimination." In the landmark Bakke case of 1978, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of affirmative action, declaring unconstitutional the use of some rigid quota systems. But it upheld the principle of affirmative action.
In 2003, a more-conservative Supreme Court again upheld the principle of affirmative action, but narrowed the interpretation still further, adding in a majority opinion, "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary." Opponents of affirmative action recently filed another suit challenging affirmative action in Texas.
Many economists and sociologists agree that affirmative-action programs have helped spur the growth of the black middle and upper classes, defined as households making more than $40,000 a year. Today, this group accounts for about 40% of black households, up from about 25% in 1970, according to U.S. Census figures. During that same period, the percentage of white households in the middle class and above has risen to about 60%, from just under 50%.
Affirmative action policies have helped blacks gain access to large corporations and top universities, studies have shown, and the presence of blacks in these places has encouraged others to follow. The number of African Americans at the country's top 50 colleges and universities has doubled in recent decades, according to Harry Holzer, a Georgetown University economist. Women have benefited, too, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, when they began breaking into traditionally male-dominated fields.
A Leg Up for Whites
Michigan's Macomb County is home to many of the fabled "Reagan Democrats," the conservative working-class whites who left the Democratic Party largely over social issues including race in the 1980s. Here, life has been changed by affirmative action and the rise of the black middle class. In the past five years, the African-American population has doubled to about 6% from about 3%, in part as blacks have left Detroit for safer suburbs with better schools.
ROAD TO EQUALITY
Allan Bakke graduates from the U.C. Davis medical school after a Supreme Court ruling granted him admission in 1978
Key Events Involving Affirmative Action:
1961: President John F. Kennedy signs an executive order that instructs federal contractors to take 'affirmative action' to ensure against discrimination
1964: Civil Rights Act prohibits race-based discrimination by large employers. The Act forms the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a driving force in affirmative-action policies
1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson issues an order requiring federal contractors to expand job opportunities for minorities
1971: President Richard M. Nixon issues an executive order directing federal agencies to develop specific program goals for national Minority Business Enterprise contracting program
1978: The Supreme Court rules in favor of a white man who was denied admission to medical school. The opinion upholds the use of race in choosing among qualified applicants but rules that inflexible quotas are unconstitutional
1986: The Supreme Court upholds a judicially ordered 29% minority 'membership admission goal' for a union that had intentionally discriminated against minorities
1995: President Bill Clinton asserts that affirmative action is still needed but calls for elimination of any federal program that creates quotasSuch changes make some whites here wonder why affirmative action is needed at all. "If blacks are living in the same houses that I am living in, and they can afford the same things I can afford, why shouldn't I have the same breaks as they do?" says Tony Licata, a professional photographer in Macomb County who is white and says he is leaning toward voting for Sen. McCain.
"Race should not be the deciding point about who gets what," says Jessalin Horne, a white working-class college student who plans to vote for Sen. Obama in the fall.
In conversations, many white blue-collar and middle-class workers in Macomb County said they blame competition from China, India and elsewhere for their job losses, not competition from blacks. But the economic battering that many poor and working-class whites have taken as Michigan's auto industry has shrunk makes some whites feel that it's their turn for a leg up.
"I have been a supporter of affirmative action, but it needs to be refocused -- other groups need to be included," says Marceia Lugo, a divorced white mother of three whose mother and ex-husband have left Michigan to look for work. Ms. Lugo says she backed Sen. Clinton but will now vote for Sen. Obama. "I am not black, so I don't know those issues. But I have been poor, and I have had to struggle, so I should get special treatment."
Wooed by Elite Colleges
A half-hour drive from Warren lies Southfield, Mich., a leafy, integrated middle-class and upper-middle-class suburb that is a testament to the impact of affirmative action. Barbara Talley, now a retired financial analyst and a Southfield resident, became one of the first black owners of a KFC franchise in the 1980s, after Rev. Jesse Jackson lobbied the company to sell more franchises to African Americans. Wanda Cook-Robinson, Southfield's black school superintendent, has been the first black in several teaching and administrative positions at area schools. "That wouldn't have happened without affirmative action," says Ms. Cook-Robinson.
Many blacks here don't want to lose the boost that they say affirmative action gives them. Stephen Kemp, a successful black funeral director in Southfield, sends his son to a $24,000-a-year private high school. His son, a junior, has been receiving letters from elite colleges wooing him to apply. "When they look at his application they see he is an African-American male -- he has so much opportunity," says Mr. Kemp, who himself attended the University of Michigan. "Brown called him yesterday."
President Lyndon B. Johnson turns to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the signing of the Civil Rights Act
Mr. Kemp thinks it is fine that his son gets special attention, because diversity on campus benefits whites as well as blacks. "If you are getting a true education, that has to reflect all kinds of people," he says.
The election, especially Sen. Obama's success in winning white voters, has Mary Donaldson thinking that affirmative action is likely to fade away in coming years as the country continues to change. "My son is 9 years old. Just because he is black, he can't think he's going to get special treatment," says Ms. Donaldson, who works at a pre-school in Southfield and supports Sen. Obama. "I don't want him to totally depend on something like that."
Twyla Griffin, who works for a health-care company and attends church in Southfield, says she thinks bias lives on. "It's fear -- 'this black boy is going to take my little white Johnny's job,' " says Ms. Griffin. Affirmative action, she says, simply levels a still-tilted playing field.
"It would be great if Obama made all the decisions for us, but there are a lot of people who still have decision-making power who are still a little prejudiced," says Marilyn Hobbs, an intellectual-property manager who supports Sen. Obama
James Jackson, a black banker and another Obama supporter, nods in agreement. He says he doesn't put his photograph on his business card like many of his white colleagues, because he thinks it will discourage white customers. "Race is a real issue still, no matter what happens in November," he says.
Write to Jonathan Kaufman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Don't tell the teacher unions
on: June 14, 2008, 06:50:32 AM
Amazing Teacher Facts
June 14, 2008
This month 3,700 recent college grads will begin Teach for America's five-week boot camp, before heading off for two-year stints at the nation's worst public schools. These young men and women were chosen from almost 25,000 applicants, hailing from our most selective colleges. Eleven per cent of Yale's senior class, 9% of Harvard's and 10% of Georgetown's applied for a job whose salary ranges from $25,000 (in rural South Dakota) to $44,000 (in New York City).
Hang on a second.
Unions keep saying the best people won't go into teaching unless we pay them what doctors and lawyers and CEOs make. Not only are Teach for America salaries significantly lower than what J.P. Morgan might offer, but these individuals go to some very rough classrooms. What's going on?
It seems that Teach for America offers smart young people something even better than money – the chance to avoid the vast education bureaucracy. Participants need only pass academic muster and attend the summer training before entering a classroom. If they took the traditional route into teaching, they would have to endure years of "education" courses to be certified.
The American Federation of Teachers commonly derides Teach for America as a "band-aid." One of its arguments is that the program only lasts two years, barely enough time, they say, to get a handle on managing a classroom. However, it turns out that two-thirds of its grads stay in the education field, sometimes as teachers, but also as principals or policy makers.
More importantly, it doesn't matter that they are only in the classroom a short time, at least according to a recent Urban Institute study. Here's the gist: "On average, high school students taught by TFA corps members performed significantly better on state-required end-of-course exams, especially in math and science, than peers taught by far more experienced instructors. The TFA teachers' effect on student achievement in core classroom subjects was nearly three times the effect of teachers with three or more years of experience."
Jane Hannaway, one of the study's co-authors, says Teach for America participants may be more motivated than their traditional teacher peers. Second, they may receive better support during their experience. But, above all, Teach for America volunteers tend to have much better academic qualifications. They come from more competitive schools and they know more about the subjects they teach. Ms. Hannaway notes, "Students are better off being exposed to teachers with a high level of skill."
The strong performance in math and science seems to confirm that the more specialized the knowledge, the more important it is that teachers be well versed in it. (Imagine that.) No amount of time in front of a classroom will make you understand advanced algebra better.
Teach for America was pleased, but not exactly shocked, by these results. "We have always been a data-driven organization," says spokesman Amy Rabinowitz. "We have a selection model we've refined over the years." The organization figures out which teachers have been most successful in improving student performance and then seeks applicants with similar qualities. "It's mostly a record of high academic achievement and leadership in extracurricular activities."
Sounds like the way the private sector hires. Don't tell the teachers unions.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Counterinsurgency
on: June 13, 2008, 10:19:24 PM
Our troops have been ridden hard by President Bush and former Secretary of Def Rumbo. IMHO one of the greatest failures of President Bush was his failure to increase our military back in 2003-2004 when it would have been much more easy to do so than now and when much sadness could have been avoided. This piece calls for longer tours-- an even greater hardship on the troops involved. I have no idea whether to ask this of them is fair, but this article raises what seems to me to be questions worthy of consideration.
In War Too, Personnel Is Policy
By ANN MARLOWE
June 14, 2008
As it becomes clear that the surge in Iraq is working – and with the Marines in southern Afghanistan succeeding where the British spent two years in a stalemate – we should beware of the temptation to congratulate ourselves on getting counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine right. In following a well-planned and executed counterinsurgency in Khost Province, Afghanistan, from summer 2007 to the present, I've seen that doctrine is not enough.
There are recognized best practices, such as living among the people and separating them from the insurgency. But in the societies where an army is likely to be fighting an insurgency – tribal, badly governed, poorly educated, and where politics is overwhelmingly personal – the role of commanders' personalities may be larger than we want to acknowledge.
Experience – and the intuition it brings – may be as valuable as doctrine. The long tours of duty that the U.S. Army has been mandating in Iraq and Afghanistan are thus an excellent idea – at least for our fight against terror, if not for military families.
On three embeds – in July and November 2007 and March 2008 – I saw the American military adopting best-practice COIN strategies. The troops in question were the 619 paratroopers of the second battalion of the 321st regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. They spent most of a 15-month deployment in Khost, and all but two returned home.
As a result of their efforts, this million-population, San Francisco Bay-sized border province became known as the "model province" among the 14 under American command.
But the real secret was the decision of Khost maneuver commander Lt. Col Scottie D. Custer to move his men off the big base at Salerno, and to live, platoon by platoon, in eight Force Protection Centers around the province, providing security to the people. Also playing key roles were Arsala Jamal, Khost's efficient 43-year-old governor, and Navy Cmdr. David Adams, an unusually gifted Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) commander.
"Key to our counterinsurgency success in Khost was that projects went hand-in-hand with our presence in the districts," Cmdr. Adams explains. "We would respond to every attack with a new project ceremony in order to point out that the Afghan government and coalition were partnering to rebuild the country, while the enemy was just blowing things up. It seemed after a while the insurgents got tired of competing because the tribes were clearly on our side."
As a result, 11 of Khost's 12 districts supported the Afghan government by the end of the battalion's deployment. (The two paratroopers who were killed died in the 12th district, Sabari.) In later 2007 and early 2008, a greater number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were being called in before they could explode. Khostis were engaging with local government in increasing numbers. A network of asphalt roads crisscrossed Khost, 50 schools were built by the American military and 12,000 jobs added to the economy.
In April 2008, the 82nd Airborne troops in Khost went home. They were replaced by soldiers from the 101st Airborne. At the same time, Gov. Jamal went to Canada to see his family.
Suddenly, the successful COIN program in Khost began to show signs of strain. Within two months, five American troops and one military civilian died in IED and vehicle-born IED attacks in Sabari. A new type of IED began to appear, essentially 20 pounds of explosives in a plastic bucket. Without any metal elements, it can't be detected by mine sweepers.
A young officer of the 101st serving in Khost explained to me that these "command-pull" IEDs "are accurate, and can be targeted against any vehicle in an element. Sure, the attacker exposes himself during the attack, but if you are 300 meters away and can immediately drive off, there's little threat."
This same officer emailed me that two months after the arrival of the 101st, no area of Khost was secure from IEDs anymore, the Taliban was gaining political support, and the people's cooperation with the government was deteriorating in Gov. Jamal's absence.
A more senior officer who served in Khost confided that the success there was at least in part "a perfect storm" created by personality, the fruit of the collaboration of Gov. Jamal with the brilliant and personable Lt. Col. Custer and Cmdr. David Adams. These men left and were replaced by commanders still at the beginning of their learning curve.
As Lt. Col. Custer put it, "despite the best COIN pre-deployment training in the world, it took me 90 to 120 days to understand the battlefield environment, personalities, and gain trust with the Afghan officials. It is only at this point does the ground maneuver commander become effective."
The original genius of COIN theory, the Tunisian-French pied-noir colonel David Galula, touches on this problem in the last pages of his masterpiece, "Pacification in Algeria. 1956-1958."
Galula's big idea was simple: Place small numbers of the 100 soldiers under his command in isolated villages, living among the populace. Galula's men supervised and funded the building of the area's first schools, latrines, garbage pits and street cleaning in their villages. According to Galula, the very fact that he could disperse his company so much was proof of success.
Galula realized that the objective wasn't to kill terrorists so much as to create an environment in the civilian population where they could not find support. This idea – which was eventually adopted by the entire French Army in Algeria – is the kernel of all subsequent COIN theory.
"There were no sharp edges to Galula," recalls defense expert Stephen Hosmer. "He was charming." Just days after Galula finished his rotation in Kabilya, his successor was shot dead on an evening patrol. That officer's replacement was then assassinated after eight months in command.
Perhaps Galula's success stemmed as much from his extraordinary personality as from his innovative ideas. This implies that the U.S. should approach our counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan in the spirit of true conservatism – skeptical of grand claims, patient and aware that war is more art than science.
Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer. This year she completed her 10th trip to Afghanistan and her third embed with U.S. forces there.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Charter school promotes Islam
on: June 13, 2008, 10:14:05 PM
Charter Schools Shouldn't Promote Islam
By KATHERINE KERSTEN
June 14, 2008
At what point does a publicly funded charter school with strong Islamic ties cross the line and inappropriately promote religion?
That's a question now facing us in Minnesota. For the past five years, the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., has operated in close connection with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. The school accepts public funds, and thus the broader constitutional requirements placed on all public schools. Nonetheless, in many ways it behaves like a religious school.
A teacher talks to her students at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, Oct. 12, 2004.
The school is named for the Muslim general who conquered Spain in the eighth century. It shares a building with a mosque and the headquarters of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. The cafeteria serves Halal food. Arabic is a required subject. There is a break for midday prayers.
On Fridays, many students join with Muslim teachers and attend religious services in the school's gym. There are voluntary Islamic Studies classes held "after" school, but before the buses leave to take the school's 400 students home. Most of the students are the children of low-income Muslim immigrants.
In March, substitute teacher Amanda Getz happened to be at the school on a Friday. She has said publicly that she was instructed to take her fifth-grade students to the bathroom for "ritual washing" and then to the gym for a prayer service. In the classroom where she assisted, an Islamic Studies assignment was written on the blackboard. Students were told to copy it into their planners. "That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other," she said afterward.
Since starting the school five years ago, Asad Zaman and co-founder Hesham Hussein – both imams – have held top positions with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, and also with the school. The Muslim American Society, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is the American branch of the international Muslim Brotherhood, "the world's most influential Islamic fundamentalist group."
Mr. Zaman is the school's principal, and Mr. Hussein was chairman of its governing board until he was killed in a car crash in Saudi Arabia in January. In 2004, Mr. Zaman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that when students have family problems, he can call on a "network" of imams for help. "Children feel comfortable here asking questions about their own religion," a teacher told a reporter at the time.
If the school is promoting Islam, it would be in keeping with the mission of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota. Last year, the society featured Shaykh Khalid Yasin at its annual convention. Mr. Yasin is well-known for preaching that husbands can beat disobedient wives, among other inflammatory messages. When he spoke at the society's convention, his topic was "Building a Successful Muslim Community in Minnesota." And until I wrote about the issue in my column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in March and April, the society also had "beneficial and enlightening information" about Islam on its Web site, including "Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr."
I've written just two columns critical of the school for the Star Tribune. But that was enough for State Rep. Mindy Greiling, the chairman of the Minnesota House of Representatives' K-12 Finance Committee, to publicly call for me to be fired from the newspaper.
After my columns appeared, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation, which is still underway. The Minnesota Department of Education also investigated. Its report, released last month, concluded that the school is breaking the law by holding Friday religious services on school grounds; that it should stop Muslim teachers' practice of praying with students at that service; and that it must provide bus transportation home before Islamic Studies classes let out.
But the report was flawed in important respects. Most significantly, it was silent about the school's close entanglement with the religious organization with which it is affiliated.
It's a safe bet that if the school in question here were essentially a Catholic school, this wouldn't be a debate. Imagine a public charter located in the headquarters building of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Its principal is a priest and its board chairman is the archbishop. Catholic students there "are comfortable asking questions about their own religion." Latin is required, and the cafeteria serves fish during Lent. Students break for prayer and attend Mass during the school day, and buses leave only when after-school Catholic Catechism classes are over. Such a school would never open.
But with Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy we have something different. It's held up as a model, "religiously sensitive" public school. It is justified in terms of culture and "religious accommodation."
Minnesota education officials need both the backbone and the oversight tools necessary to prevent the blurring of lines between Islam and the public schools. If they continue their tepid response, a separate system of taxpayer-financed education for Muslims may take root here. Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy could be the first of many.
Ms. Kersten is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / America's disappearing fathers
on: June 13, 2008, 10:10:02 PM
The Tragedy of America's Disappearing Fathers
By JUAN WILLIAMS
June 14, 2008
Walter Dean Myers, a best-selling author of books for teenagers, sometimes visits juvenile detention centers in his home state of New Jersey to hold writing workshops and listen for stories about the lives of young Americans.
One day, in a juvenile facility near his home in Jersey City, a 15-year-old black boy pulled him aside for a whispered question: Why did he write in "Somewhere in the Darkness" about a boy not meeting his father because the father was in jail? Mr. Myers, a 70-year-old black man, did not answer. He waited. And sure enough, the boy, eyes down, mumbled that he had yet to meet his own father, who was in jail.
As we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, we should reflect upon a sad fact: It is now common to meet young people in our big city schools, foster-care homes and juvenile centers who do not know their dads. Most of those children have come face-to-face with their father at some point; but most have little regular contact with the man, or have any faith that he loves or cares about them.
When fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like "throwaway people." In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them. The stories are like letters to unknown dads – some filled with imaginary scenes about what it might be like to have a dad who comes home and puts his arm around you or plays with you.
They feel like they've been thrown away, Mr. Myers says, because "they don't have a father to push them, discipline them, and they give up trying to succeed . . . they don't see themselves as wanted." A regular theme of their stories is that they feel safer in a foster care home or juvenile detention center than on the outside, because they have no father to hold together the family. There is no one at home.
The extent of the problem is clear. The nation's out-of-wedlock birth rate is 38%. Among white children, 28% are now born to a single mother; among Hispanic children it is 50% and reaches a chilling, disorienting peak of 71% for black children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of America's white children (22%) do not have any male in their homes; nearly a third (31%) of Hispanic children and over half of black children (56%) are fatherless.
This represents a dramatic shift in American life. In the early 1960s, only 2.3% of white children and 24% of black children were born to a single mom. Having a dad, in short, is now a privilege, a ticket to middle-class status on par with getting into a good college.
The odds increase for a child's success with the psychological and financial stability rooted in having two parents. Having two parents means there is a greater likelihood that someone will read to a child as a preschooler, support him through school, and prevent him from dropping out, as well as teaching him how to compete, win and lose and get up to try again, in academics, athletics and the arts. Maybe most important of all is that having a dad at home is almost a certain ticket out of poverty; because about 40% of single-mother families are in poverty.
"If you are concerned about reducing child poverty then you have to focus on missing fathers," says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, based in Gaithersburg, Md. This organization works to encourage more men to be involved fathers.
The odds are higher that a child without a dad will have more contact with the drug culture, the police and jail. Even in kindergarten, children living with single parents are more likely to trail children with two parents when it comes to health, cognitive skills and their emotional maturity. They are in the back of the bus before the bus – their life – even gets going.
A study of black families 10 years ago, when the out-of-wedlock birthrate was not as high as today, found that single moms reported only 20% of the "baby's daddy" spent time with the child or took a "lot" of interest in the baby. That is quite a contrast to the married black mothers who told researchers that 88% of married black men, or men living with the mother, regularly spent time with the child and took responsibility for the child's well-being.
In his fictional books, Walter Dean Myers has found that the key to reaching young readers is to connect with their "internal life of insecurities and doubts." These doubts and insecurities involve answers to painful questions such as, "do you feel loved, do you ever feel lonely?" These are feelings that are hard to share with a teacher, a coach or even a friend.
More so today than in the past, reaching the heart of insecurity among young people means writing about the hurt of life without a dad. It also means writing about being young and black or brown in the midst of the flood of negative images in rap videos without a positive male role model. These young people see so many others just like them standing on street corners, unconnected to family life and failing at school and work and threatening violence – and in so many cases just like them, without an adult male to guide them.
When these children see Barack Obama, Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, they tell Walter Dean Myers that those black people must be "special; they are not like me, they don't have the background that I have."
In his own life, Mr. Myers often looked down on the man in his house: his stepfather, who worked as a janitor and was illiterate. He felt this man had little to teach him.
Then his own son complained one day that he, Myers, "sounded just like granddad" when he told the boy to pick up after himself, to work harder and show respect to people.
"I didn't know it at the time," says Mr. Myers of his stepfather, "but just having him around meant I was picking up his discipline, his pride, his work ethic. . ." He adds: "Until I heard it from my son I never understood it."
Mr. Williams is a political analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: President Kennedy
on: June 13, 2008, 06:16:03 AM
June 13, 2008; Page A14
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy isn't known for his judicial modesty. But for sheer willfulness, yesterday's 5-4 majority opinion in Boumediene v. Bush may earn him a historic place among the likes of Harry Blackmun. In a stroke, he and four other unelected Justices have declared their war-making supremacy over both Congress and the White House.
Boumediene concerns habeas corpus – the right of Americans to challenge detention by the government. Justice Kennedy has now extended that right to non-American enemy combatants captured abroad trying to kill Americans in the war on terror. We can say with confident horror that more Americans are likely to die as a result.
An Algerian native, Lakhdar Boumediene was detained by U.S. troops in Bosnia in January 2002 and is currently held at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. military heard the case for Boumediene's detention in 2004, and in the years since he has never appealed the finding that he is an enemy combatant, although he could under federal law. Instead, his lawyers asserted his "right" – as an alien held outside the United States – to a habeas hearing before a U.S. federal judge.
Justice Kennedy's opinion is remarkable in its sweeping disregard for the decisions of both political branches. In a pair of 2006 laws – the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act – Congress and the President had worked out painstaking and good-faith rules for handling enemy combatants during wartime. These rules came in response to previous Supreme Court decisions demanding such procedural care, and they are the most extensive ever granted to prisoners of war.
Yet as Justice Antonin Scalia notes in dissent, "Turns out" the same Justices "were just kidding." Mr. Kennedy now deems those efforts inadequate, based on only the most cursory analysis. As Chief Justice John Roberts makes clear in his dissent, the majority seems to dislike these procedures merely because a judge did not sanctify them. In their place, Justice Kennedy decrees that district court judges should derive their own ad hoc standards for judging habeas petitions. Make it up as you go!
Justice Kennedy declines even to consider what those standards should be, or how they would protect national security over classified information or the sources and methods that led to the detentions. Eventually, as the lower courts work their will amid endless litigation, perhaps President Kennedy will vouchsafe more details in some future case. In the meantime, the likelihood grows that our soldiers will prematurely release combatants who will kill more Americans.
To reach yesterday's decision, Justice Kennedy also had to dissemble about Justice Robert Jackson's famous 1950 decision in Johnson v. Eisentrager. In that case, German nationals had been tried and convicted by military commissions for providing aid to the Japanese after Germany's surrender in World War II. Justice Jackson ruled that non-Americans held in a prison in the American occupation zone in Germany did not warrant habeas corpus. But rather than overrule Eisentrager, Mr. Kennedy misinterprets it to pretend that it was based on mere "procedural" concerns. This is plainly dishonest.
By the logic of Boumediene, members of al Qaeda will now be able to challenge their status in court in a way that uniformed military officers of a legitimate army cannot. And Justice Scalia points out that this was not a right afforded even to the 400,000 prisoners of war detained on American soil during World War II. It is difficult to understand why any terrorist held anywhere in the world – whether at Camp Cropper in Iraq or Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan – won't now have the same right to have their appeals heard in an American court.
Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution contains the so-called Suspension Clause, which says: "The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Justice Kennedy makes much of the fact that we are not currently under "invasion or rebellion." But he ignores that these exceptions don't include war abroad because the Framers never contemplated that a non-citizen, captured overseas and held outside the U.S., could claim the same right.
Justice Kennedy's opinion is full of self-applause about his defense of the "great Writ," and no doubt it will be widely praised as a triumph for civil liberties. But we hope it is not a tragedy for civil liberties in the long run. If there is another attack on U.S. soil – perhaps one enabled by a terrorist released under the Kennedy rules – the public demand for security will trample the Constitutional delicacies of Boumediene. Just last month, a former Gitmo detainee killed a group of Iraqi soldiers when he blew himself up in Mosul. And he was someone the military thought it was safe to release.
Justice Jackson once famously observed that the Constitution is "not a suicide pact." About Anthony Kennedy's Constitution, we're not so sure.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: June 12, 2008, 10:05:36 PM
Sunnis to Baghdad
June 13, 2008
You can tell security is improving fast in Iraq because even some neighboring Arab countries are deciding to send envoys back to Baghdad. The United Arab Emirates announced plans last week to appoint an ambassador, and Bahrain and Jordan have since said they plan to do the same.
The Sunni-led Arab autocrats in the region have long been cool to Iraq's new government, not least because it is Shiite-led and democratically elected. In withdrawing their ambassadors, or staffing their embassies with junior-level diplomats since 2003, these countries could also point to security concerns. One of the insurgency's first car-bomb targets was the Jordanian embassy in August 2003, and terrorists later killed, wounded or kidnapped officials from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and the UAE.
But with violence markedly declining, the security justification is increasingly implausible. As UAE Foreign Minister Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan recently explained, "the regional countries needed some time to understand the new Iraq, which has undergone a big change."
One Arab neighbor is notably absent from the list of returning Sunni nations. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal promised in September to open an embassy in Baghdad "soon," but the Saudis have made no visible progress. Numerous U.S. officials have asked the Saudis to do so, and last week Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told us that he and General David Petraeus "spoke to the King [Abdullah] to stress the important changes in Iraq and the parallel importance of Arabs recognizing that change by re-establishing their diplomatic presence." The Saudis, Mr. Crocker added, expressed concern about Iranian influence in Baghdad, despite his argument that a Saudi presence would in that case be "a good antidote."
It's about time the Saudis began to play a role in Iraq other than as a recruiting ground for suicide bombers. The Wahhabis in Riyadh may not prefer a Shiite regime in Baghdad, but the government of Nouri al-Maliki has shown it is willing to oppose both Shiite and Sunni extremists. The Sunni insurgency in Anbar Province is dying, and a stable Iraq with a U.S. presence would be the best protection Saudi Arabia could have against Iran's regional adventurism.
The Saudis love to back a winner, and that is what the new Iraq increasingly looks like. As for the risks to the House of Saud from Iraq's democratic example, there's always the option of learning from it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: June 12, 2008, 09:58:56 PM
Glad to see some serious posts on this.
Here the WSJ weighs in:
By JAMES TARANTO
June 12, 2008
"The Nation will live to regret what the Court had done today," Justice Antonin Scalia writes at the end of his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush, the case in which a bare majority of the Supreme Court, for the first time ever, extended rights under the U.S. constitution to enemy combatants who have never set foot on U.S. soil.
It's worth noting that the nation has lived to regret things the court has done in earlier wars. In Schenck v. U.S. (1919), the court upheld the conviction of a Socialist Party leader for distributing an anticonscription flier during World War I--material that would unquestionably be protected by the First Amendment under Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). In Korematsu v. U.S. (1944), the court held that the government had the authority to ban Japanese-Americans from certain areas of California, simply on the ground that their ethnic heritage rendered their loyalty suspect. Korematsu has never been overturned, but there is no doubt that it would be in the vanishingly unlikely event that the question ever came up again.
This war was different. Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, we began hearing dire warnings about threats to civil liberties. Five members of the high court seem to have internalized these warnings. As Justice Anthony Kennedy put it in his majority opinion today, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." Kennedy and his colleagues seemed determined to err on the side of an expansive interpretation of constitutional rights.
And err they did. As Justice Scalia writes:
[Today's decision] will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. That consequence would be tolerable if necessary to preserve a time-honored legal principle vital to our constitutional Republic. But it is this Court's blatant abandonment of such a principle that produces the decision today.
In establishing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, President Bush relied on a Supreme Court precedent of more than a half century's standing, Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950), which held that nonresident alien enemy combatants had no right to habeas corpus. As Scalia explains:
Had the law been otherwise, the military surely would not have transported prisoners [to Guantanamo], but would have kept them in Afghanistan, transferred them to another of our foreign military bases, or turned them over to allies for detention. Those other facilities might well have been worse for the detainees themselves.
This points to a key limitation in today's ruling. The majority distinguished Guantanamo from the facility at issue in Eisentrager--a U.S.-administered prison in occupied Germany--on the ground that although the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is technically on Cuban territory, America exercises "complete jurisdiction and control" over it. Thus, detainees have constitutional rights pursuant to today's ruling only if they are held at Guantanamo.
What does Boumediene mean in practice? Almost all Guantanamo detainees already have lawyers and have petitioned for habeas corpus. Those cases will go forward in the Washington, D.C., federal trial court. The judges there will have to settle on a standard of proof, and to rule on such tricky questions as how much classified material the government is obliged to provide to terrorists and their lawyers. Since the military's existing procedures are already overly lenient--Scalia lists several cases of released detainees showing up on the battlefield--it seems unlikely that many detainees will end up winning release.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain have said they want to close down Guantanamo, and this ruling makes that outcome more likely. There is little advantage to the U.S. in sending enemy combatants to a facility where they will immediately be able to lawyer up, and indeed, Guantanamo has admitted few new detainees in the past several years. A notable exception occurred in 2006, when President Bush transferred Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and a dozen or so other "high value" detainees there--a dramatic action that helped galvanize Congress to pass the Detainee Treatment Act This turns out to have been a mistake. KSM & Co. now have "constitutional rights." Had they been kept where they were, wherever that was, this would not be the case.
It's possible that Scalia is wrong when he predicts more Americans will die as a result of this ruling. It may be that al Qaeda is a weak enough enemy that America can vanquish it even with the Supreme Court tying one hand behind our back. Anyway, keeping future detainees away from Guantanamo should prevent them from coming within the reach of the justices' pettifogging.
Perhaps decades from now we will learn that detainees ended up being abused in some far-off place because the government closed Guantanamo in response to judicial meddling. Even those who support what the court did today may live to regret it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Global drying
on: June 12, 2008, 08:50:32 PM
By PETER BRABECK-LETMATHE
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 13, 2008
The world's agriculture and water crisis is only going to get worse. As China and India grow, their populations are demanding more and wider varieties of food stuffs, competition for arable land is intensifying and freshwater withdrawals of agriculture are soaring. Food prices are rising, in large part because agriculture suppliers can barely keep up with today's demand. So what is the world doing? Reorienting land away from food production and toward plants cultivated for energy needs.
This could be the single most destructive set of policy mistakes made in a generation. From time immemorial, mankind has struggled to produce enough food. Wars have been fought over arable land. Whole populations have been forced to migrate, and untold millions of human beings have died because circumstances, climate, war or political ineptitude have deprived them of what the German language describes as "Lebensmittel," or a "means for survival." This problem hasn't disappeared; our world today needs to feed some six billion people. According to some projections, that number will rise to nine billion by 2050.
So why introduce a new competitor for this scarce resource? The blame falls squarely on global warming advocates. Politicians, business, academia are all struggling to come to grips with it. But why? The impact of global warming will be felt in decades at worst, and no one at this stage can predict with any degree of reliability what its consequences might be. Does it make sense to reduce the use of fossil energy? Yes, for many reasons. Are we right in dealing carefully and responsibly with what is left of the oil? And will biofuels really solve our problems?
If there's one certainty, it is this: The production of biofuels has stimulated a massive, and destructive, reorientation of the world's agriculture markets. The U.S. Department of Energy calculates that every 10,000 liters of water produces as little as five liters of ethanol, or one to two liters of biodiesel. Biofuels are economical nonsense, ecologically useless and ethically indefensible. This year, the U.S. will use around 130 million tons of corn for biofuels. This corn was not available as human food, nor as fodder to animals. Is this the right strategy, for a product that won't satisfy even a small percentage of our energy needs?
The biofuel madness is contributing to water shortages that are already endemic. Stretches of the Rio Grande, which partly separates the U.S. from Mexico, have dried up in regular intervals since 2001. China's Yellow River ran dry in 1972, in 1996 and in 1997. Worse yet, we are overusing ground water in large parts of the world. Water levels are sinking rapidly both in China as well as in India's Punjab state. Great aquifers, whether in the Sahara or in the southwestern U.S., are being depleted rapidly. This is water that dates from thousands of years ago. Like oil, once gone, it is lost forever.
Increasing agricultural productivity is only part of the solution. The real juggernaut is to encourage the responsible use of water. And the only way to do that is to introduce competitive pricing. Water is being wasted and misused because few people are even aware of its worth. Today, 94% of available water is used by agriculture – and because there are no cost consequences for the farmer, almost all of that water is underused or misused. The same is true for water used in industry and for household purposes. If the cost of infrastructure is not covered, the degradation of municipal water distribution will continue. Water for basic needs should of course remain free. But there is no need whatsoever to subsidize water to wash a car, fill a swimming pool or maintain a golf course.
The biofuel craze, egged on by global warming activists, has helped fuel a huge agricultural crisis. But this crisis can at least be partially mitigated through better and more efficient use of the resources that we already have. Right now, the urgent issue is water, not global warming, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer.
Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe is chairman of Nestlé.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: June 12, 2008, 07:40:31 AM
Washington Post, Thursday, June 12, 2008
Group Criticizes Texts at Saudi Academy
A study has found that some textbooks at a private Islamic school in Northern Virginia teach that it is permissible for Muslims to kill adulterers and converts from Islam.
The Islamic Saudi Academy receives much of its funding from the Saudi government and teaches about 900 students from kindergarten to 12th grade at two Fairfax County campuses.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said yesterday it obtained 17 academy textbooks and found several disturbing passages.
A 12th-grade text says that apostates -- those who leave Islam -- and adulterers may be permissibly killed. A social studies text states that "the Jews conspired against Islam and its people."
The academy has said it promotes tolerance and revises Saudi textbooks as needed. A telephone call yesterday afternoon to the school's main office was not immediately returned.
-- Associated Press
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 12, 2008, 07:39:31 AM
I too am glad that we are discussing this.
"I can assure you that today, the USG and other levels of government in the US are far from omnipotent. I'm willing to bet that private marketing firms know much more about you than any governmental entity does."
As someone who has kept a bit of an eye on the trends in technological capabilities, I have a strong sense that they are evolving very, very quickly and will accelerate as time goes by.
While I certainly agree that our government is inherently incompetent in many things, what concerns me here is what happens to the citizen who presents a problem to the interests in power in government and what can be brought to bear against him. The politics of personal destruction has cost we the American people many fine people who otherwise would have run and has brought down many a whistle blower.
Private marketing firms may know quite a bit about you and me (and I do my best to keep that as little as possible) but they do not have the motive or power to cause me damage should I be a threat to vested interests.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USAF and the Next War
on: June 11, 2008, 05:53:38 PM
GEOPOLITICAL WEEKLY: THE U.S. AIR FORCE AND THE NEXT WAR
By George Friedman
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has fired the secretary of the Air Force and
the Air Force chief of staff. The official reason given for the firings was the
mishandling of nuclear weapons and equipment related to nuclear weapons, which
included allowing an aircraft to fly within the United States with six armed nuclear
weapons on board and accidentally shipping nuclear triggers to Taiwan. An
investigation conducted by a Navy admiral concluded that Air Force expertise in
handling nuclear weapons had declined.
Focusing on Present Conflicts
While Gates insisted that this was the immediate reason for the firings, he has
sharply criticized the Air Force for failing to reorient itself to the types of
conflict in which the United States is currently engaged. Where the Air Force
leadership wanted to focus on deploying a new generation of fighter aircraft, Gates
wanted them deploying additional unmanned aircraft able to provide reconnaissance
and carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These are not trivial issues, but they are the tip of the iceberg in a much more
fundamental strategic debate going on in the U.S. defense community. Gates put the
issue succinctly when he recently said that "I have noticed too much of a tendency
toward what might be called 'next-war-itis' -- the propensity of much of the defense
establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict." This is
what the firings were about.
Naturally, as soon as the firings were announced, there were people who assumed they
occurred because these two were unwilling to go along with plans to bomb Iran. At
this point, the urban legend of an imminent war with Iran has permeated the culture.
But the Air Force is the one place where calls for an air attack would find little
resistance, particularly at the top, because it would give the Air Force the kind of
mission it really knows how to do and is good at. The whole issue in these firings
is whether what the Air Force is good at is what the United States needs.
There is a neat alignment of the issues involved in the firings. Nuclear arms were
the quintessential weapons of the Cold War, the last generation. Predators and
similar unmanned aircraft are part of this generation's warfare. The Air Force sees
F-22s and other conventional technology as the key weapons of the next generation.
The Air Force leadership, facing decades-long timelines in fielding new weapons
systems, feels it must focus on the next war now. Gates, responsible for fighting
this generation's war, sees the Air Force as neglecting current requirements. He
also views it as essentially having lost interest and expertise in the last
generation's weapons, which are still important -- not to mention extremely
Fighting the Last War
The classic charge against generals is that they always want to fight the last war
again. In charging the Air Force with wanting to fight the next war now, Gates is
saying the Air Force has replaced the old problem with a new one. The Air Force's
view of the situation is that if all resources are poured into fighting this war,
the United States will emerge from it unprepared to fight the next war. Underneath
this discussion of past and future wars is a more important and defining set of
questions. First, can the United States afford to fight this war while
simultaneously preparing for the next one? Second, what will the next war look like;
will it be different from this one?
There is a school of thought in the military that argues that we have now entered
the fourth generation of warfare. The first generation of war, according to this
theory, involved columns and lines of troops firing muzzle-loaded weapons in
volleys. The second generation consisted of warfare involving indirect fire
(artillery) and massed movement, as seen in World War I. Third-generation warfare
comprised mobile warfare, focused on outmaneuvering the enemy, penetrating enemy
lines and encircling them, as was done with armor during World War II. The first
three generations of warfare involved large numbers of troops, equipment and
logistics. Large territorial organizations -- namely, nation-states -- were required
to carry them out.
Fourth-generation warfare is warfare carried out by nonstate actors using small,
decentralized units and individuals to strike at enemy forces and, more important,
create political support among the population. The classic example of
fourth-generation warfare would be the intifadas carried out by Palestinians against
Israel. They involved everything from rioters throwing rocks to kidnappings to
suicide bombings. The Palestinians could not defeat the Israel Defense Forces (IDF),
a classic third-generation force, in any conventional sense -- but neither could the
IDF vanquish the intifadas, since the battlefield was the Palestinians themselves.
So long as the Palestinians were prepared to support their fourth-generation
warriors, they could extract an ongoing price against Israeli civilians and
soldiers. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict thus became one of morale rather than
materiel. This was the model, of course, the United States encountered in Iraq.
Fourth-generation warfare has always existed. Imperial Britain faced it in
Afghanistan. The United States faced it at the turn of the last century in the
Philippines. King David waged fourth-generation warfare in Galilee. It has been a
constant mode of warfare. The theorists of fourth-generational warfare are not
arguing that the United States will face this type of war along with others, but
that going forward, this type of warfare will dominate -- that the wars of the
future will be fourth-generation wars.
Nation-States and Fourth-Generation Warfare
Implicit in this argument is the view that the nation-state, which has dominated
warfare since the invention of firearms, is no longer the primary agent of wars.
Each of the previous three generations of warfare required manpower and resources on
a very large scale that only a nation-state could provide. Fidel Castro in the Cuban
mountains, for example, could not field an armored division, an infantry brigade or
a rifle regiment; it took a nation to fight the first three generations of warfare.
The argument now is that nations are not the agents of wars but its victims. Wars
will not be fought between nations, but between nations and subnational groups that
are decentralized, sparse, dispersed and primarily conducting war to attack their
target's morale. The very size of the forces dispersed by a nation-state makes them
vulnerable to subnational groups by providing a target-rich environment. Being
sparse and politically capable, the insurgent groups blend into the population and
are difficult to ferret out and defeat.
In such a war, the nation-state's primary mission is to identify the enemy, separate
him from the population and destroy him. It is critical to be surgical in attacking
the enemy, since the enemy wins whenever an attack by the nation-state hits the
noncombatant population, even if its own forces are destroyed -- this is political
warfare. Therefore, the key to success -- if success is possible -- is intelligence.
It is necessary to know the enemy's whereabouts, and strike him when he is not near
the noncombatant population.
The Air Force and UAVs
In fourth-generation warfare, therefore, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are one of
the keys to defeating the substate actor. They gather intelligence, wait until the
target is not surrounded by noncombatants and strike suddenly and without warning.
It is the quintessential warfare for a technologically advanced nation fighting a
subnational insurgent group embedded in the population. It is not surprising that
Gates, charged with prosecuting a fourth-generation war, is furious at the Air Force
for focusing on fighter planes when what it needs are more and better UAVs.
The Air Force, which was built around the concept of air superiority and strategic
bombing, has a visceral objection to unmanned aircraft. From its inception, the Air
Force (and the Army Air Corps before it) argued that modern warfare would be fought
between nation-states, and that the defining weapon in this kind of war would be the
manned bomber attacking targets with precision. When it became apparent that the
manned bomber was highly vulnerable to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft systems, the
doctrine was modified with the argument that the Air Force's task was to establish
air superiority using fighter aircraft to sweep the skies of the enemy and strike
aircraft to take out anti-aircraft systems -- clearing the way for bombers or,
later, the attack aircraft.
The response to the Air Force position is that the United States is no longer
fighting the first three types of war, and that the only wars the United States will
fight now will be fourth-generation wars where command of the air is both a given
and irrelevant. The Air Force's mission would thus be obsolete. Only nation-states
have the resources to resist U.S. airpower, and the United States isn't going to be
fighting one of them again.
This should be the key point of contention for the Air Force, which should argue
that there is no such thing as fourth-generation warfare. There have always been
guerrillas, assassins and other forms of politico-military operatives. With the
invention of explosives, they have been able to kill more people than before, but
there is nothing new in this. What is called fourth-generation warfare is simply a
type of war faced by everyone from Alexander to Hitler. It is just resistance. This
has not superseded third-generation warfare; it merely happens to be the type of
warfare the United States has faced recently.
Wars between nation-states, such as World War I and World War II, are rare in the
sense that the United States fought many more wars like the Huk rising in the
Philippines or the Vietnam War in its guerrilla phase than it did world wars.
Nevertheless, it was the two world wars that determined the future of the world and
threatened fundamental U.S. interests. The United States can lose a dozen Vietnams
or Iraqs and not have its interests harmed. But losing a war with a nation-state
could be catastrophic.
The Next War vs. the War That Matters
The response to Gates, therefore, is that the Air Force is not preparing for the
next war. It is preparing for the war that really matters rather than focusing on an
insurgency that ultimately cannot threaten fundamental U.S. interests. Gates, of
course, would answer that the Air Force is cavalier with the lives of troops who are
fighting the current war as it prepares to fight some notional war. The Air Force
would counter that the notional war it is preparing to fight could decide the
survival of the United States, while the war being fought by Gates won't. At this
point, the argument would deadlock, and the president and Congress would decide
where to place their bets.
But the argument is not quite over at this point. The Air Force's point about
preparing for the decisive wars is, in our mind, well-taken. It is hard for us to
accept the idea that the nation-state is helpless in front of determined subnational
groups. More important, it is hard for us to accept the idea that international
warfare is at an end. There have been long periods in the past of relative
tranquility between nation-states -- such as, for example, the period between the
fall of Napoleon and World War I. Wars between nations were sparse, and the European
powers focused on fourth-generational resistance in their colonies. But when war
came in 1914, it came with a vengeance.
Our question regards the weapons the Air Force wants to procure. It wants to build
the F-22 fighter at enormous cost, which is designed to penetrate enemy airspace,
defeat enemy fighter aircraft and deliver ordnance with precision to a particular
point on the map. Why would one use a manned aircraft for that mission? The
evolution of cruise missiles with greater range and speed permits the delivery of
the same ordnance to the same target without having a pilot in the cockpit. Indeed,
cruise missiles can engage in evasive maneuvers at g-forces that would kill a pilot.
And cruise missiles exist that could serve as unmanned aircraft, flying to the
target, releasing submunitions and returning home. The combination of space-based
reconnaissance and the unmanned cruise missile -- in particular, next-generation
systems able to move at hypersonic speeds (in excess of five times the speed of
sound) -- would appear a much more efficient and effective solution to the problem
of the next generation of warfare.
We could argue that both Gates and the Air Force are missing the point. Gates is
right that the Air Force should focus on unmanned aircraft; technology has simply
moved beyond the piloted aircraft as a model. But this does not mean the Air Force
should not be preparing for the next war. Just as the military should have been
preparing for the U.S.-jihadist war while also waging the Cold War, so too, the
military should be preparing for the next conflict while fighting this war. For a
country that spends as much time in wars as the United States (about 17 percent of
the 20th century in major wars, almost all of the 21st century), Gates' wish to
focus so narrowly on this war seems reckless.
At the same time, building a new and fiendishly expensive version of the last
generation's weapons does not necessarily constitute preparing for the next war. The
Air Force was built around the piloted combat aircraft. The Navy was built around
sailing ships. Those who flew and those who sailed were necessary and courageous.
But sailing ships don't fit into the modern fleet, and it is not clear to us that
manned aircraft will fit into high-intensity peer conflict in the future.
We do not agree that preparing for the next war is pathological. We should always be
fighting this war and preparing for the next. But we don't believe the Air Force is
preparing for the next war. There will be wars between nations, fought with all the
chips on the table. Gates is right that the Air Force should focus on unmanned
aircraft. But not because of this war alone.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution towww.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Indonesia
on: June 11, 2008, 05:44:39 PM
More on this story:
Indonesia’s government has issued restrictions on the Ahmadiyah sect of Islam, but stopped short of banning the group. The decision will provoke the radical Islamic Defender’s Front to increase its attacks, which in turn will legitimize the ruling coalition’s efforts to form militias and root out extremism. The country’s two most powerful political factions are driving these confrontations as they jockey for position ahead of the Southeast Asian nation’s 2009 presidential election.
Indonesia passed a law June 9 restricting the Ahmadiyah sect of Islam, a religious minority that has become a focal point of political controversy in the Southeast Asian country. The decree has provoked outrage among the numerous political and religious factions in Indonesia and led to large protests. Liberals and many mainstream Muslims blame the government for violating freedom of religion, while Islamist radicals are calling for the sect to be completely banned and forcefully dissolved.
The controversy over the Ahmadiyah movement is not just legal or religious in nature. Instead, Indonesia’s major political factions are using Ahmadiyah as a tool while battling for influence in the run-up to the 2009 Indonesian presidential election.
Ahmadiyah is a religious group with 200,000 members in Indonesia. Members associate themselves with Islam, though mainstream Muslims consider them unorthodox and unaffiliated with Islam. In Indonesia the group has become symbolic of the struggle between secular and Islamic ideals, with the country’s Islamists accusing the Ahmadiyah sect of heresy and seeking for decades, often violently, to banish it.
The joint ministerial decree issued yesterday under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems to strike a balance between the Islamists and those who support constitutional freedom of religion, since it calls for Ahmadiyah to stop spreading the faith but does not proscribe practicing it. But this appearance of compromise is misleading because neither group actually gets what it wants from the decision; it neither preserves freedom of religion nor purges heresy. Instead, it merely makes life harder for Ahmadiyah believers, who are irrelevant to the interests driving the political players in Jakarta.
In fact, the decree will almost certainly stir up fiercer flames between the country’s most powerful parties and their proxies.
There are hundreds of political parties scattered throughout the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia. Two of the strongest parties existed before the country’s independence from the Netherlands.
On one side stands Nahdatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest and most politically influential Islamist group with a 40 million-strong constituency. Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid leads NU, which was founded in 1926 by his grandfather, Ulema Hasyim Asyari. Wahid also founded the related National Awakening Party (PKB). NU mainly comprises moderate Muslims who reject radical Islamism and hope to preserve Indonesia’s secular credentials to maintain ties with Western and non-Muslim allies and business partners. At present, NU is allied with Yudhoyono.
On the other side stands Muhammadiyah, a coalition of stridently conservative Muslims as well as a number of radical Islamist groups. With 29 million followers, the party represents a formidable opposition to the government. It has some strong backers in the government — mainly in the departments overseeing religious affairs and education — but draws the bulk of its strength from an influential cadre of retired generals. Some rogue elements in the Indonesian army are suspected of orchestrating riots against Wahid in 1999 through the radical Islamic Defense Front (FPI), which leans toward Muhammadiyah.
With a presidential election approaching in 2009, NU and Muhammadiyah are vying for position. Political transitions in Indonesia always see the emergence of radical groups, which often receive surreptitious backing from bigger parties. Small factions have always been used as instruments of major parties in Indonesia, with student protests partially engineered in this way overthrowing Suharto in 1998.
Accordingly, FPI has increased attacks and vandalism against the Ahmadiyah sect to revive a nationally polarizing issue and pressure Yudhoyono’s government. Recently, FPI wounded Wahid in an outburst of violence, leading him to redouble his efforts against FPI. FPI also struck out against peaceful NU demonstrators June 1 at the Monas in Jakarta. Since FPI is a relatively small, radical group comprising mostly young Islamists who are sometimes implicated in vandalism, the massive protests against the government’s decision yesterday implies that a larger force — rumors in Jakarta implicate former generals — is backing it financially. A small group like FPI hardly could have orchestrated such a large demonstration (requiring multiple buses for transporting protesters) on its own.
In response, NU and PKB have begun forming special militias to retaliate against FPI. The stated mission of these militias, which will have roughly 300 members, each armed with knives and machetes, is to protect the public and force FPI to disband. Yudhoyono and Wahid have allied to pioneer this operation, which already has led to the June 5 arrest of FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab.
For Yudhoyono, retaining power in 2009 means counterbalancing the opposition factions. He probably did not wish for the Ahmadiyah question to be revived or to make an executive decision on it. But political necessity forced him to make a move, so he chose a path that will prove less aggravating for foreign investors and suppliers sensitive to religious freedom since he did not formally banish the group. He must have known that a merely soft restriction of Ahmadiyah would provoke the FPI into further attacks, and that he (and Wahid’s NU) can use the FPI’s attacks to their advantage by pointing to them as justifications for a crackdown on FPI through the new special militias.
If Yudhoyono manages to shut down FPI, he will have destroyed a potentially destabilizing force that could obstruct his bid for re-election. FPI is not popular enough for such a crackdown to spawn a backlash against Yudhoyono, so putting FPI under his heel might even allow him to present himself as a strong leader in the national elections.
Whatever happens, the competition between Indonesia’s political factions can be expected to get fiercer during the build-up to the 2009 elections.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: June 11, 2008, 05:42:09 PM
U.S. President George W. Bush on June 11 raised the possibility of a military strike against Iran to thwart the country’s presumed nuclear ambitions, The Associated Press reported. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to a crowd in the Iranian city of Shahr-e-Kord, said Bush would not be able “to harm even one centimeter of the sacred land of Iran.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Security pact issues
on: June 11, 2008, 05:35:33 PM
David Satterfield, the U.S. State Department’s top adviser on Iraq, said Tuesday that a U.S.-Iraq security pact would be finalized in July. This is likely wishful thinking on Washington’s part, though. If a Shiite-dominated parliament in Iraq is going to sign anything that deals with the terms and conditions of U.S. forces remaining in Iraq, the United States is first going to have to reach an understanding with its political adversaries in Tehran.
Since the U.N. mandate for coalition forces in Iraq expires in December, the United States has been trying to coax Iraq’s fractured government into signing onto a deal for “long-term” bases in the country. This is absolutely crucial for Washington to appease the concerns of Sunni Arabs, as well as its own, that Iran and its Shiite allies in Iraq should be kept at bay. But a political storm has erupted in Iraq over rumors of the United States using the pact to establish permanent bases in the country surreptitiously, with Iraq’s Shiite community leading the protest against what they see as a U.S. attempt to keep Iraq on ball and chain.
There is no question that Iran has played a role in stirring up opposition against the security pact. In fact, Iran’s supreme leader made a point of telling the Iraqi prime minister during his visit to Iran this week that the occupiers who interfere with Iraq’s affairs through their “military and security might” are the number one issue in Iraq. There is little doubt that this is a top priority for Iran as well.
A long-term U.S. military presence on Iran’s western frontier, after all, is one of the core sticking points in Iran’s ongoing negotiations with the United States. This is simply not an issue that is going to be decided between Americans and Iraqis alone, and Iran is doing its part to make sure the United States understands this. Already Iran has succeeded in getting the bulk of Iraqis to protest against the security pact. But Iran also has other, more powerful levers to get Washington’s attention.
Senior Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammad al-Modaressi, who has close relations with Iran, issued an implicit warning on June 8 that the U.S.-Iraq security pact might cause an uprising in Iraq. The prospect of a sectarian uprising in Iraq that could reverse the success of the troop surge, during a U.S. election year no less, is more than enough to give the U.S. administration some pause, and al-Modaressi did just that.
But this is still just posturing. Iran has threatened uprisings before, but at the end of the day it still wants stability in Iraq so it can consolidate influence there. And there is little doubt that Iran has played a significant role in reducing sectarian violence by curbing Shiite militia activity as part of its ongoing negotiations with the United States. However, the Iranians are showing little intent of giving up their Shiite militant card entirely — at least until they get the appropriate security guarantees from the United States.
A Stratfor source recently revealed that Iran and its Shiite allies in Iraq launched a new militant unit in late April under the direction of the Quds force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) and Iran’s main militant extension into Iraq — the Badr Organization (previously known as Badr Brigade). The Badr Brigade is the armed wing of Iran’s main Shiite ally in Iraq, the Islamic Supreme Iraqi Council led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, and has been formally incorporated into Iraq’s army and police forces. The new unit is called al Tariqa al Safraa’, (the Yellow Way), and is responsible for executing clandestine operations including kidnappings, assassinations and spying on rival Shiite organizations (such as Muqtada al Sadr’s current movement). While the Badr Brigade has been integrated into Iraq’s security apparatus, this new unit has more freedom to maneuver and could be utilized by Tehran to instigate attacks — and help spur a potential uprising — to turn the screws on Iraq, and hence Washington.
The stakes will be high for Iran if it decides to risk throwing Iraq back into chaos as a pressure tactic against the United States. The Iranians have had a hard enough time already getting the Iraqi Shiite house in order, and it is highly uncertain that Iran would land on its feet again if it suffers a major setback in its negotiations with Washington, especially without knowing for certain what a new U.S. presidency might bring in January.
But the Iranians still want Washington to know that they have options. The mere threat of an Iranian-sponsored uprising in Iraq carries enough punch for now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Virginity restored
on: June 11, 2008, 05:10:37 PM
For Muslim women in Europe, a medical road back to virginity
For Muslim women in Europe, a medical road back to virginity
By Elaine Sciolino and Souad Mekhennet Published: June 10, 2008
PARIS: The surgery in the private clinic off the Champs-Élysées involved one semicircular cut, 10 self-dissolving stitches and a discounted fee of $2,900.
But for the patient, a 23-year-old French student of Moroccan descent from Montpellier, the 30-minute procedure represented the key to a new life: the illusion of virginity.
Like an increasing number of other Muslim women in Europe, she had a "hymenoplasty," a restoration of her hymen, the thin vaginal membrane that normally breaks during the first act of intercourse.
"In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt," said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery Thursday. "Right now, virginity is more important to me than life."
As Europe's Muslim population grows, many young Muslim women find themselves caught between the freedoms that European society affords and the deep-rooted traditions of their parents' and grandparents' generations.
Gynecologists report that in the past few years, more Muslim women are asking for certificates of virginity before marriage.
That trend in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; there are medical tourism packages to countries like Tunisia where the procedure is less expensive.
"If you're a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage," said Hicham Mouallem, a doctor in London who performs the surgery. "So if you're looking to marry a Muslim and don't want to have problems, you'll try to recapture your virginity."
There are no reliable statistics on how many women undergo the procedure because it is mostly done in private clinics and in most cases is not covered by tax-financed insurance plans.
But the subject of hymen repair is becoming so talked about that it has become the subject of a film comedy that opens in Italy this week. "Women's Hearts," as its title is translated in English, tells the story of a Moroccan-born woman living in Italy who takes a road trip to Casablanca for the operation.
"We realized that what we thought was a sporadic practice was actually pretty common," said Davide Sordella, the director. "These women can live in Italy, adopt our mentality and wear jeans. But in the moments that matter, they don't always have the strength to go against their culture."
The issue has been particularly charged in France, where there has been a renewed and fierce debate about a prejudice that was supposed to have been buried with the country's sexual revolution 40 years ago: the importance of a woman's virginity.
The furor followed the revelation two weeks ago that a court in the northern city of Lille had annulled the 2006 marriage of two French Muslims after the groom discovered his bride was not the virgin she had claimed to be.
The domestic saga has gripped the nation. The bridegroom, an unidentified engineer in his 30s, left the nuptial bed and announced to the still-partying wedding guests that his bride had lied about her past. She was delivered that night to her parents' doorstep.
The next day, he asked a lawyer to annul the marriage. The bride, then a nursing student in her 20s, confessed the truth to the court and agreed to an annulment.
In its ruling, there was no mention of religion. Rather, it cited breach of contract, concluding that he had married her after "she was presented to him as single and chaste."
In secular, republican France, the case touches on several sensitive subjects: the intrusion of religion into daily life, the grounds for dissolution of a marriage and the equality of the sexes.
There were calls in Parliament this week for the resignation of Rachida Dati, the minister of justice, after she upheld the ruling. Dati, who is a Muslim, backed down and ordered an appeal.
Some feminists, lawyers and doctors warned that the court's acceptance of the centrality of virginity in marriage would encourage more French women from Arab and African Muslim backgrounds to have their hymens rebuilt. But there is much debate over whether the procedure is an act of liberation or repression.
"The judgment was a betrayal of France's Muslim women," said Elizabeth Badinter, a feminist writer. "It sends these women a message of despair by saying that virginity is important in the eyes of the law. More women are going to say to themselves: 'My God, I'm not going to take that risk. I'll recreate my virginity."'
The plight of the rejected bride persuaded the Montpellier student to go ahead with the surgery.
She insisted that she had never had intercourse and said that she had discovered her hymen was torn only when she tried to obtain a certificate of virginity to present to her boyfriend and his family.
She said she had bled after an accident on a horse when she was 10.
The trauma of realizing that she could not prove her virginity was so intense, she said, that she quietly took out a loan to pay for the procedure.
"All of a sudden, virginity is important in France," she said. "I realized that I could be seen like that woman everyone is talking about on television."
Surgeons who perform the procedure said they were empowering their patients by giving them a viable future and preventing them from being abused - or even killed - by their fathers or brothers.
"Who am I to judge?" asked Marc Abecassis, the plastic surgeon who restored the Montpellier student's hymen. "I have colleagues in the United States whose patients do this as a Valentine's present to their husbands. What I do is different. This is not for amusement. My patients don't have a choice if they want to find serenity - and husbands."
A specialist in what he calls "intimate" surgery, including penile enhancement, Abecassis says he performs two to four hymen restorations a week.
The French College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians opposes the hymen procedure on moral, cultural and health grounds.
"We had a revolution in France to win equality; we had a sexual revolution in 1968 when women fought for contraception and abortion," said Jacques Lansac, the association's president. "Attaching so much importance to the hymen is regression, submission to the intolerance of the past."
But the stories of the women who have had the surgery capture the complexity and raw emotion behind their decision.
One 32-year-old Macedonian-born Muslim said that she had chosen the surgery to avoid being punished by her father after her relationship with her boyfriend of eight years ended.
"I was afraid that my father would take me to a doctor and see whether I was still a virgin," said the woman, who owns a small business and lives on her own in Frankfurt. "He told me, 'I will forgive everything, but not if you have thrown dirt on my honor.' I wasn't afraid he would kill me, but I was sure he would have beaten me."
In other cases, the woman and her partner together decide on the surgery. A 26-year-old French woman of Moroccan descent said she lost her virginity four years ago when she fell in love with the man she was now planning to marry. She and her fiancé decided to share the cost of her $3,400 hymen replacement surgery in Paris.
His extended family in Morocco is very conservative, she said, and required that a gynecologist - and family friend - in Morocco examine her for proof of virginity before their wedding.
"It doesn't matter for my fiancé that I am not a virgin, but it would pose a huge problem for his family," she said. "They know that you can pour blood on the sheets on the wedding night, so I have to have better proof."
Meanwhile, the lives of the young French couple whose marriage was annulled are on hold. The Justice Ministry has asked the Lille prosecutor for an appeal, arguing that the court decision "provoked a heated social debate" that "touched all citizens of our country and especially women." At the Islamic Center of Roubaix, the suburb of Lille where the marriage took place, there is sympathy for the woman.
"The man is the biggest of all the donkeys," said Abdelkibir Errami, the center's vice president. "Even if the woman was no longer a virgin, he had no right to expose her honor. This is not what Islam teaches. It teaches forgiveness."http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/...ope/virgin.php
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Muslim and Indonesian
on: June 11, 2008, 06:49:18 AM
Muslim and Indonesian
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
June 11, 2008
If the war on terror teaches anything, it's that radical Islam cannot tolerate religious pluralism. So it's worrying, and dangerous, to see the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, restrict a moderate religious group at the behest of a radical fringe. This is no way for a democracy to behave.
The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Monday ordered "all Ahmadiyah followers to stop their activities" or face jail. The Ahmadiyah is a small Muslim sect concentrated mostly in South Asia, with about 200,000 adherents in Indonesia. Its followers revere the Quran and have formally renounced the idea of violent jihad. They respect interfaith dialogues.
By restricting the Ahmadiyah, the President isn't acting in accordance with the country's constitution, which guarantees "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief." Instead, he's kowtowing to the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which beat up a peaceful gathering of religious moderates in Jakarta last week and called for the Ahmadiyah to be banned.
The President's refusal to stand up for the Ahmadiyah is part of a pattern. In 2005, the Council of Indonesian Ulama issued a fatwa banning the Ahmadiyah as a "heretical sect" because the group recognizes its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to be a prophet like Mohamed. The President's office said nothing. In recent years Ahmadiyah mosques have been forced to close by angry mobs. Again, the President's office was silent. Last year, a few local governments banned the faith. Once more, no word from Jakarta.
Last week the President waited 48 hours before ordering the arrests of the FPI members who led the violence in central Jakarta – until after local media exploded in outrage. The police chief explained that arresting the FPI members immediately would only have "triggered bigger riots." Which tells you something about Jakarta's resolve to enforce its own laws.
Mr. Yudhoyono's decree increases the danger for Ahmadiyah members, who now have had targets painted on their chests. It's also dangerous for any other religious minorities to whom the FPI or other radical Islamists object. They have done so in the past. From 1999 to 2002, to take one example, Muslim extremists carried out execution-style killings of more than a thousand Christians in Poso on Sulawesi Island.
The FPI thug who allegedly led the June 1 Jakarta attacks said in a televised video that attacks on women and unarmed men were justified by the government's inaction on banning Ahmadiyah. He turned himself in to police Monday, claiming his mission was accomplished. Violence against Christians is also starting to percolate in conservative Muslim areas, like West Java.
It is unclear how local governments will interpret the President's edict. Will Ahmadiyah mosques be shuttered? Will members be allowed to worship in their homes? The government already has had to dispatch police around the country to protect Ahmadiyah worshippers. Where will it end?
Citizens in a democratic society must be free to worship as they please. Anything but full religious freedom is a betrayal of Indonesia's pluralism and a dangerous precedent for the country's future.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Wesbury
on: June 11, 2008, 06:46:05 AM
I'm not sure how well this will print here, but anything by Brian Wesbury, an absolutely outstanding supply side economist (and market prognosticator) is worth the reading:
Change We Can Believe In Is All Around Us
By BRIAN WESBURY
June 11, 2008; Page A23
Rarely do senators become president, but in less than five months either John McCain or Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the United States. That's change, and that's interesting.
It's also what everyone seems to want – change. Sen. Obama promises to provide "Change We Can Believe In." Sen. McCain suggests that "the choice is between the right change and the wrong change." If it's the war that is the focus of all this talk about change, well, that's understandable, and maybe people really do want change. But if it's the economy, it's hard to imagine that change could happen any faster.
In fact, the U.S. economy (really, the global economy) is transforming at an absolutely astounding rate. We're living in Internet Time, where policies and their consequences travel the world at the speed of light. The normal human reaction to such a rapid pace of change is to be overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious and fearful. As a result, it is probably true that when voters listen to talk about change, what they really hear are promises of "no change," which would be a huge difference from the status quo. They just want things "the way they were."
Look at the chart nearby. America's manufacturing output, as measured by the Federal Reserve, is up seven-fold since 1950, but manufacturing jobs as a share of all jobs have fallen to 10% from 30%. Your grandfather and father may have worked for General Motors (and joined the UAW), but it's likely that you don't and won't.
The problem, if it really is one, is not foreign competition or evil financiers. It is technology and productivity. In the 10 years ending in 2007, durable goods manufacturing productivity averaged an annual growth rate of 4.8%. In other words, if real growth is less than 4.8%, the sector needs fewer workers year after year.
For the economy as a whole, overall U.S. business productivity rose 2.7% at an average annual rate during the decade ending in 2007, 1.7% in the decade ending in 1997 and 1.4% in the 10 years through 1987. Change is everywhere, and it's accelerating.
This has happened before – in the Industrial Revolution – where the political environment bred America's first real populists, people like William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt. Bryan was perhaps the best orator of American political history, and like Mr. Obama, he could affect people emotionally. Roosevelt, like Mr. McCain today, was a true American hero and one tough guy. History may not be exactly repetitive, but it sure seems to move to similar rhythms.
Unfortunately for the American economy, the populist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to a rapid growth in government intrusion into business activity. The populists didn't like the gold standard and demanded more government regulation.
Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in January 2007.
In 1913, the Federal Reserve System was created and the income tax was introduced to pay for a growing government. And then, during the Great Depression – which was caused by the new Fed, trade protectionism and tax rate increases – a massive expansion in government took place. Forty years later, in the malaise of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the U.S. finally figured out what it was doing wrong. By returning to hard money under Paul Volcker, and lower taxes and less regulation under Ronald Reagan, the high-tech leg of the Industrial Revolution began.
The fruits of this are plain to see. Rather than watching the sun set on the U.S., as many believed would happen in the early 1980s, the U.S. has experienced one of the greatest booms in wealth creation in world history. And the impact of our technological innovation has helped lift untold numbers out of poverty.
This technology has created massive amounts of change. Like the Industrial Revolution before it, the current transformation is anything but pain-free. It's what Joseph Schumpeter called creative destruction. Google, Craigslist and Microsoft have been prospering. General Motors, United Airlines and the New York Times have not. In the midst of layoffs in the newsroom, it's hard to see anything good happening in the rest of the economy.
Yes, there are serious problems in the housing market, and yes, oil prices are at all-time highs, even after adjusting for inflation. As a result, it feels like things are getting worse rapidly. But the subprime mess will end up costing much less in real terms than the savings-and-loan crisis. Americans are spending about 7% of their total budget on energy, roughly the same as in 1970 and well below the peak of 9% in 1981. Once the Fed starts to lift rates again, oil prices should drop.
Americans have had it so good, for so long, that they seem to have forgotten what government's heavy hand does to living standards and economic growth. But the same technological innovation that is causing all this dislocation and anxiety has also created an information network that is as near to real-time as the world has ever experienced.
For example, President Bush put steel tariffs in place in March 2002. Less than two years later, in December 2003, he rescinded them. This is something most politicians don't do. But because the tariffs caused such a sharp rise in the price of steel, small and mid-size businesses complained loudly. The unintended consequences became visible to most American's very quickly.
Decades ago the feedback mechanism was slow. The unintended consequences of the New Deal took too long to show up in the economy. As a result, by the time the pain was publicized, the connection to misguided government policy could not be made. Today, in the midst of Internet Time, this is no longer a problem. So, despite protestations from staff at the White House, most people understand that food riots in foreign lands and higher prices at U.S. grocery stores are linked to ethanol subsidies in the U.S., which have sent shock waves through the global system.
This is the good news. Policy mistakes will be ferreted out very quickly. As a result, any politician who attempts to change things will be blamed for the unintended consequences right away.
Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama view the world from a legislative perspective. Like the populists before them, they seem to believe that government can fix problems in the economy. They seem to believe that what the world needs is a change in the way government attacks problems and fixes the anxiety of voters. This command-and-control approach, however, forces a misallocation of resources. And in Internet Time this will become visible in almost real-time, creating real political pain for the new president.
In contrast to what some people seem to believe, having the government take over the health-care system is not change. It's just a culmination of previous moves by government. And the areas with the worst problems today are areas that have the most government interference – education, health care and energy.
The best course of action is to allow a free-market economy to reallocate resources to the place of highest returns. In the midst of all the natural change, the last thing the U.S. economy needs is more government involvement, whether it's called change or not.
Mr. Wesbury is chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friends of BO
on: June 11, 2008, 06:37:49 AM
Friends of Barack
June 11, 2008; Page A22
Barack Obama may have come up with a creative way to solve the housing recession: Let everyone buy property at a discount the way he did from Tony Rezko, and give everyone in America a discount mortgage the way Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide did for Fannie Mae's Jim Johnson. Team Obama's real estate and mortgage transactions are certainly a change from business as usual. They suggest old-fashioned back-scratching below even current Beltway standards.
A former CEO of mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae, Mr. Johnson is now vetting Vice Presidential candidates for Mr. Obama. But he is also a textbook case for poor disclosure as regulators sifted through the wreckage of Fannie's $10 billion accounting scandal. Despite an exhaustive federal inquiry, Mr. Johnson managed to avoid disclosing one very special perk: below-market interest-rate mortgages from Countrywide Financial, arranged by Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and James Hagerty broke the story this weekend.
Fannie Mae tells us that Mr. Johnson did not inform the company's board of these sweetheart mortgage deals, nor did his CEO successor Franklin Raines, who also received such loans. We can understand why. Fannie bought mortgages from loan originator Countrywide, and then packaged them into securities for sale or kept the loans and profited from the interest. Mr. Mozilo told Dow Jones in 1995 that he was "working very closely . . . with Jim Johnson of Fannie Mae to come up with a rational method of making the process more efficient by the use of credit scoring."
Since Fannie was buying Countrywide's loans, under terms set by Mr. Johnson and later Mr. Raines – or by people in their employ – the fact that Fannie's CEO had a separate personal financial relationship with Countrywide was an obvious conflict of interest. The company's code of conduct required prior approval of such arrangements. Neither Mr. Johnson nor Mr. Raines sought such approval, according to Fannie.
Even if they had received waivers from the board to enjoy these perks, conscientious board members would then have wanted to disclose the waivers to investors. Post-Enron, the Sarbanes-Oxley law requires such disclosures. But even in the late-1990s, when the Friends of Angelo loans began, board members would likely have raised red flags.
Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt tells us that "the best way to deal with issues like this is not to have these kinds of relationships. From both the Countrywide and the Fannie perspective, it is simply bad policy to permit loans to 'friends' on more favorable terms than others similarly situated would be able to get."
One question is whether Messrs. Johnson and Raines were using their position to pad their own incomes that were already fabulous thanks to an implicit taxpayer subsidy. (See the table nearby.) But the bigger issue is whether they steered Fannie policy into giving Mr. Mozilo and Countrywide favorable pricing, which means they helped to facilitate the mortgage boom and bust that Countrywide did so much to promote. A further federal probe would seem to be warranted, and we assume Barney Frank and his fellow mortgage moralists will want to dig into this palm-greasing from Capitol Hill.
The irony here is that Mr. Obama has denounced Mr. Mozilo as part of his populist case against corporate excess, calling Mr. Mozilo and a colleague in March "the folks who are responsible for infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis." Obama campaign manager David Plouffe also said in March that "If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors." But now this protector of the working class has entrusted his first big task as Presidential nominee to the very man who received "favors" in return for enriching Mr. Mozilo.
Yesterday, ABC News asked Mr. Obama whether he should have more carefully vetted Mr. Johnson and Eric Holder, who is working with Mr. Johnson on veep vetting. Correspondent Sunlen Miller noted Mr. Johnson's loans from Countrywide and Mr. Holder's involvement as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration in the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. Said Mr. Obama: "Everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships – I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters."
Vetting Mr. Johnson's finances would have been time well spent, judging by a May 2006 report from Fannie Mae's regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (Ofheo). Even if Mr. Obama considers the advisers helping him select a running mate "tangentially related" to his campaign, he might have thought twice about any relationship with Mr. Johnson.
Addressing the company's too smooth (and fraudulent) reported earnings growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ofheo reported: "Those achievements were illusions deliberately and systematically created by the Enterprise's senior management with the aid of inappropriate accounting and improper earnings management . . . By deliberately and intentionally manipulating accounting to hit earnings targets, senior management maximized the bonuses and other executive compensation they received, at the expense of shareholders."
* * *
The regulator described how, despite an internal Fannie analysis that valued Mr. Johnson's 1998 compensation at almost $21 million, the summary compensation table in the firm's 1999 proxy suggested his pay was no more than $7 million. Ofheo found that Fannie had actually drafted talking points to deflect such media questions as: "He's trying to hide how much he's made, isn't he?" and "Gimme a break. He's hiding his compensation."
To this list we would add one more, directed at Mr. Obama: Is this what you mean by bringing change to Washington?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Electoral college
on: June 11, 2008, 06:34:39 AM
Why the Electoral College Decides
Call it the Gore Curse. In 2000 Albert Gore had a slim margin of popular votes nationwide until the Supreme Court shut down what had already become an endless process of re-counting the Florida votes. When, as Vice President, Gore presided over the counting of the Electoral College votes in the Senate, it was George W. Bush who was the winner.
That was precisely the way the Founding Fathers intended the election of a President should be. It is also pretty much a mystery to most voters who assume that whoever gets the most popular votes is the winner.
As Sen. Mitch M. McConnell says in an interesting book on the subject, “Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College”, this unique instrument of the Constitution, was “the only thing that kept us from an even worse national nightmare.”
I recall thinking at the time how calmly Americans accepted the Supreme Court decision and the outcome of the election. The judges had read the Constitution!
What many Americans do not realize when they go to the polls is that presidential elections are “state-by-state battles to accumulate a majority in the Electoral College.” As McConnell explains it, “When our citizens go to vote, they are technically not voting directly for president. Rather, they are voting for a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for a particular presidential candidate.”
The Constitution is such a devilishly clever—nay, brilliant—instrument of government that I can’t blame the average citizen for a lack of understanding of it, but its essential principles are not difficult to understand. First, all power resides in the nation’s citizens. They in turn elect Electoral College and congressional representatives on the basis of population per state (updated by regularly scheduled census) to conduct the nation’s affairs.
Thus, several weeks after an election, those electors meet in their state capitals where they cast two ballots—one for president and one for vice president. Those ballots are then sealed and sent to Congress to be opened and counted in January. In theory they are free to vote for whomever they want. In practice, they are party activists and loyal supporters of the presidential candidate in their state. All the votes are then counted in a joint session of Congress.
That’s how the President and Vice President are chosen! One candidate must receive a majority of the electoral votes cast to become President. These days, that number is 270, out of 538 total electoral votes. Failure to achieve that would throw the election into the House of Representatives where they would vote as a state delegation, not as individuals.
It is ingenious and it reflects the fact that America is a republic composed of separate republics, the States, each of which has a constitution of its own. The Constitution delineates the specific powers and limitations on the federal government while specifically stating in the Tenth Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The whole purpose of the Constitution is to defuse power so that neither the President, nor the Supreme Court, nor Congress could become a tyranny over the people. It deliberately made the process of passing legislation laborious in order to slow it down for adequate deliberation and for the people’s voices to be heard.
As Gary L. Gregg II, the editor of “Securing Democracy” points out, “Properly understood, the Electoral College and its origins point to the ideas and values that undergird the entire America constitutional system as these were embedded in the foundations of the Electoral College itself.”
Everything about the Constitution is about the republican form of government that is dependent on “the consent of the governed.” That implies, as it should, that citizens have a responsibility to be involved as voters and be responsive in terms of letting their elected representatives know what they wish their government to do.
As the Democrat Party met on Saturday, May 31, to figure out what to do with their horrid primary system that left Michigan and Florida hanging like so many chads, the argument that Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan put forth was that two nearly all-white States, New Hampshire and Iowa, should not and do not have the right to go first on the primary calendar and thus force candidates to spend an inordinate amount of time and money in order to influence the other state primaries.
This is why the nomination process came down to the power of the Democrat Party’s super delegates. It is the Gore curse. Hillary Clinton may have the popular vote, but Barack Obama has the delegate votes. She could argue she is more “electable”, but he had worked within the system devised to secure the party’s nomination.
In January 2009, the Electoral College will have the final vote as to who becomes the next President of the United States of America. This is precisely the outcome the Founding Fathers and the Constitution intended.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: June 10, 2008, 07:53:54 PM
Obama and the New Party
Obama and the New Party
by Erick Erickson
Posted: 06/10/2008 Print This
Two weeks ago at RedState, we documented Obama’s 1996 endorsement by the New Party. A review of the New Party establishes that not only was the party an amalgamation of far left groups, but Barack Obama knew that when he sought the party’s endorsement.
Most of the New Party’s history has been lost in the digital age. It was established in 1992 and started to die out in 1998, well before Google and the modern web were established. But through lengthy searches of the Nexis archive and microfilm at the local university library, I’ve been able to piece this together.
The New Party was established in 1992 “by union activist Sandy Pope and University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers,” USA Today reported on November 16, 1992. The paper wrote that the new party was “self-described [as] ‘socialist democratic.’”
The seeds, however, had been sown all the way back in 1988. Quoting John Nichols in the March 22, 1998 issue of In These Times, “The roots of the New Party go back to the aftermath of Jesse Jackson’s run for president in 1988. At that time, Dan Cantor, who had served as labor coordinator for the Jackson campaign, and University of Wisconsin sociology professor Joel Rogers began talking about how to formulate an alternative between the increasingly indistinguishable Democratic-Republican monolith.”
Joel Rogers sought to use the idea of “fusion” as a way to get the New Party into power.
Fusion is a pretty simple concept. A candidate could run as both a Democrat and a New Party member to signal the candidate was, in fact, a left-leaning candidate, or at least not a center-left DLC type candidate. If the candidate -- let’s call him Barack Obama -- received only 500 votes in the Democratic Party against another candidate who received 1000 votes, Obama would clearly not be the nominee. But, if Obama also received 600 votes from the New Party, Obama’s New Party votes and Democratic votes would be fused. He would be the Democratic nominee with 1100 votes.
The fusion idea set off a number of third parties, but the New Party was probably the most successful. A March 22, 1998 In These Times article by John Nichols showed just how successful. “After six years, the party has built what is arguably the most sophisticated left-leaning political operation the country has seen since the decline of the Farmer-Labor, Progressive and Non-Partisan League groupings of the early part of the century …. In 1996, it helped Chicago’s Danny Davis, a New Party member, win a Democratic congressional primary, thereby assuring his election in the majority-black district …. The threat of losing New Party support, or of the New Party running its own candidates against conservative Democrats, would begin a process of forcing the political process to the left, [Joel] Rogers argued.”
Fusion, fortunately for the country, died in 1997. William Rehnquist, writing for a 6-3 Supreme Court, found the concept was not a protected constitutional right. It was two years too late to stop Obama.
On December 1, 1994, after the Gingrich revolution swept the Democrats from congress and forced Bill Clinton to triangulate, the Chicago Tribune ran an article by Steve Mills entitled “Looking for the Left: The Old Progressives and Marxists Still Breathe Idealist Fire, but They’re Too Splintered to Generate Any Heat.”
“‘The Left is in crisis, and it has been for some time,’ said Carl Davidson, the former national secretary for the radical Students for a Democratic Society. ‘I don’t know if it’s even bottomed out yet,’” he reported to Mr. Mills. Mills continued, “The Socialist Workers Party is in this corner; the International Socialist Organization is in this one. The [communist group Committee of Correspondence] is in another. The radicals, or even the liberals with some radical leanings -- so-called ‘soft radicals’ -- seem to find it hard to abandon individual issues for a broader movement.”
But, Mills reported, “It is amid this political confusion that The New Party would like to step in. ‘If there’s anything that defines the American Left, it’s fragmentation,’ said Dan Cantor, the party’s national organizer.… The New Party aims to change that. By uniting the progressives behind a cohesive ideology, one that, in theory at least, will have room for all the factions that now litter the landscape of the Left, The New Party is confident progressives can again be strong.”
In 1995, the New Ground, the newsletter of the Chicago Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, noted, “In Chicago, the New Party's biggest asset and biggest liability is ACORN.
“Like most organizations, ACORN is a mixed bag. On one hand, in Chicago, ACORN is a group that attempts to organize some of the most depressed communities in the city. Chicago organizers for ACORN and organizers for SEIU Local 880 have been given modest monthly recruitment quotas for new New Party members. On the other hand, like most groups that depend on canvassing for fundraising, it's easy enough to find burned out and disgruntled former employees. And ACORN has not had the reputation for being interested in coalition politics -- until recently and, happily, not just within the New Party.”
Naturally, Barack Obama was an active part of ACORN at the time, helping it legally in court and helping it organize voters. By 1996, ACORN and the New Party were essentially the same body. Along with the Democratic Socialists of America, the New Party endorsed Barack Obama in his State Senate bid.
Obama began seeking the New Party endorsement in 1995. He had been running in a four way primary against his former boss, Senator Alice Palmer, herself a far left radical, and two other individuals. But an election law quirk gave Obama the upper hand. In order to get on the ballot, candidates had to collect signatures of voters. Printed names were not allowed. Obama challenged the petitions of his rivals and was able to get every one of them thrown off the ballot. By the time the ballot was drawn up for the 1996 election, Obama’s was the only name in the race.
Nonetheless, Obama still coveted the New Party endorsement. The New Party required candidates who received the endorsement sign a pledge of support for the party. Obama did not need to support a party that was, in effect, a front group for communists; yet he still chose to. The July issue of the New Ground noted that 15% of the New Party consisted of Democratic Socialists of America members and a good number of Committee of Correspondence members.
Barack Obama, not needing to, chose to affiliate himself with this band of quasi-communists. As the nation moves closer to the election, it is clear that Obama chose to affiliate with assorted anti-American radicals. Machiavelli once noted that we can know a leader by the people he surrounds himself with. What does that say about Barack Obama, who chose to surround himself with people committed to overthrowing the United States and capitalism?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Barack Orwell Obama
on: June 10, 2008, 07:51:20 PM
Housing Bill Creates National Fingerprint Registry
Posted June 9th, 2008 at 12.40pm in Entrepreneurship.
Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) authored a bill (with 11 co-sponsors, including Sen. Barack Obama) that was incorporated into a housing bill passed by the Senate Banking Committee 19-2 before the Memorial Day recess — a bill that creates a national fingerprint registry.
According to a Martinez press release, the language merely “create
national licensing and oversight standards for residential mortgage originators.”
One of the standards, John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, may “require thousands of individuals working even tangentially in the mortgage and real estate industries — and not suspected of anything — to send their prints to the feds.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: June 10, 2008, 05:43:56 PM
June 10, 2008
In today's Political Diary:
- If You Work, You're Rich
- Revolt of the Conservatives
- Shilly-Shallying on Shale (Quote of the Day)
- Beware the Food Police
Obama and the 'Rich'
Barack Obama has been on a class warfare tirade since he locked up the nomination,
accusing John McCain of defending Bush tax cuts for "the rich." "For eight long
years," he said yesterday in a speech laying out his economic agenda, "our president
sacrificed investments in health care, and education, and energy, and infrastructure
on the altar of tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs."
Hmmm. Anybody even dimly acquainted with the record, especially President Bush's
vast expansion of Medicare, might doubt the factual basis of such a statement. Never
mind. Mr. Obama and the Congressional Democrats promise to sock it to "rich"
taxpayers next year to pay for "middle class tax cuts" as well as some $300 billion
in new spending. But there's a problem: They won't tell us exactly who the rich are.
In various tax proposals Mr. Obama has set the definition of rich at levels of
$100,000, $200,000 and $250,000 in annual income. He has vowed, for example, to
erase the Bush tax cuts not only for those who make more than $250,000, but to end
the cap on Social Security taxes, which amounts to a tax hike on anyone who makes
more than $100,000 in income. More recently, Austan Goolsbee, an Obama economic
adviser, told me the new cap might be set at $200,000.
All of this has caused some heartburn among certain Democrats in high cost-of-living
states. New York Rep. Joseph Crowley says a couple with earnings of $100,000 could
be "a police officer and nurse." "In New York City," he adds, "they'd be
A similar argument came to the fore as Democrats debated the recent farm bill. Under
the new law, farmers will be able to retain full subsidies even if they have incomes
of $750,000. Because of various gimmicks, the USDA says that farmers could even have
incomes up to $2 million and still be eligible for a farm welfare check. When it
comes to farmers, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama apparently believe
that "soaking the rich" means soaking them with handouts.
This is not just a rhetorical exercise. It could tell us a lot about whether
Democrats can come anywhere close to paying for all their spending promises and
still meet their vow to balance the budget. One problem for Senator Obama and his
class-warfare crowd is that repealing the Bush tax cuts for those with earnings of
more than $250,000 would raise only about $40 billion a year, according to Cato
Institute economist Alan Reynolds. That would leave President Obama with a $360
billion shortfall to meet his other proposals. Either those nurses and policemen are
going to have to be defined as "rich" by Team Obama, or the Democrats' pledge of
balancing the budget in five years is a fantasy. Add the fact that his various
spending proposals will certainly prove more costly than projected. It sounds like
not just the top 2% but most of the bottom 98% had better get ready for higher taxes
under an Obama administration.
-- Stephen Moore
The Road Back
When told recently that Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is running to unseat him in an
August Republican primary, Rep. Don Young had this to say to his challenger:
"Congratulations. I beat your dad and I'm going to beat you."
Mr. Young is the kind of politician journalists love to cover. He's quotable, feisty
and now he's in a real jam. Federal investigators have already searched his house
and are looking into his fundraising practices. One issue is an earmark the
congressman stuck into a spending bill for a Florida highway project that benefited
a campaign contributor. There's open speculation in Alaska that Mr. Young could be
indicted before the November election. His approval ratings are in the low 30s and
one recent poll found him dead even with Mr. Parnell.
This is where Mr. Parnell steps in. He hopes to become part of a growing trend of
conservatives rising up and defeating moderate and free-spending Republicans in GOP
primaries. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, previously mayor of the town of Wasilla, started
the trend two years ago when she picked off Gov. Frank Murkowski. The imperious Mr.
Murkowski had drawn flak for appointing his daughter to a senate seat he vacated and
for insisting taxpayers pay for a new plane to ferry him about the state. And the
stable-cleaning movement has accelerated since then. Consider three congressional
races. In March, State Sen. Andy Harris defeated Capitol Hill veteran Rep. Wayne
Gilchrist in Maryland. In April, Pennsylvania entrepreneur Chris Hackett won an open
primary against wheelchair-manufacturer Dan Meuser, who had a record of campaign
donations to Democrats. And last week conservative State Sen. Tom McClintock
defeated former Congressman Doug Ose in California. On the Senate side, Steve Pearce
beat Heather Wilson in a New Mexico GOP primary despite her last-minute endorsement
by retiring Sen. Pete Domenici. In all these races, the winning candidate ran an
anti-pork campaign and promised conspicuously to remain true to his conservative
principles once in Washington.
Mr. Parnell say he isn't seeking revenge for his father Pat Parnell, who ran as a
Democrat and lost to Mr. Young in a blowout in 1980. But he is seeking to be a
leader in a campaign by conservatives to regain control of the Republican Party.
When the GOP lost control of Congress two years ago, optimists on the right said
that a detour into the political wilderness would be good for Republicans. The GOP,
they hoped, would rediscover its principles of fiscal conservatism, low taxes and
limited government. Mr. Young survived two years ago despite being the author the
infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" earmark. There may be no better way to bring the GOP
back to its principles than to send him to the showers.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day
"I'm generally the last guy to lambaste the media, but generally you do not hear
these facts. We're sending $600 billion annually to enemies of our country. If one
acre of oil shale produces 1 million barrels of oil, that's 1 million barrels that
we would not be importing from Russia and the Middle East. People are going to go
berserk when they find out that all along we had the capacity, within our own
borders, to alleviate our dependency in an environmentally friendly way. Ironically,
the local governments in Colorado's oil shale areas do support oil shale
development, but it's being stopped by the ski-resort elites.... Now if those nice,
rich people in Aspen really cared about the environment, they might save an acre or
two of those beautiful forests they're building on and support some oil-shale
development in the not-so-nearby and not-so-beautiful oil shale areas of Colorado"
-- Sen. Orrin Hatch, in an interview with Fortune magazine, about political
obstacles to tapping the humongous 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil shale in
Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
Democrats have laid down the environmental law for their Denver presidential
convention this August.
The convention organizing committee is going green to such an extent that any liquid
served in an individual plastic container will be banned at all 22 events hosted by
the convention. Also banned will be fried foods. Any plates must be reusable or
compostable. Catered meals will be expected to follow a strict color code. Such
meals must not only be locally or organically grown, but consist of at least three
of the following five colors -- red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white. (Oranges
and carrots would appear to be have lost out.)
"Blue could be a challenge," Ed Janos, owner of the local Cook's Fresh Market, told
the Denver Post. "All I can think of are blueberries." Nick Agro, owner of Whirled
Peas Catering, is worried. "I question the feasibility," he says, noting that the
growing season in Colorado is short and that using "organic stuff pretty much
doubles your price."
Then there are ethical dilemmas. Compostable products, such as forks and knives made
from cornstarch, usually are imported from Asia on massive, fuel-consuming
freighters. Are they a better environmental choice than recyclable plates?
Back in 2003, Democrats snickered at the intolerance of a Republican House chairman
who expressed his disdain for France's refusal to back the Iraq War by insisting
that "Freedom Fries" be served in the House cafeteria. Now, Democrats are going much
further with their political correctness. French fries -- and all other fried foods
-- will be banned from their convention's parties. Food critics are already
wondering what else liberals may have in store for us if they have control of both
the White House and Congress next January.
-- John Fund