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24651  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."
24652  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 11, 2008, 07:12:02 AM
I have been in Louisiana since June 1st.  Normally things move right along for me, but until last night I had defecated only 3 times in 8 days. shocked  So I am quite grateful for the laxative I took before dinner last night  , , ,  cheesy
24653  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 11, 2008, 07:09:18 AM
Woof Dog Ryan:

Where do you fit in all that?

Guro C.
24654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 11, 2008, 06:53:12 AM
Well, what's the point of the fingerprinting?

Do you favor EVERYONE being fingerprinted?

24655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Muslim and Indonesian on: June 11, 2008, 06:49:18 AM
Muslim and Indonesian
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.
24656  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
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.
24657  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?
24658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Electoral college on: June 11, 2008, 06:34:39 AM


Why the Electoral College Decides
Alan Caruba

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.
24659  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? 
24660  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.”
24661  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
24662  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: June 10, 2008, 07:29:58 AM
Pappy Dog has been looking into things on our behalf while I am out of town and things seem to be moving forward.

R1 is not something we are interested in.
24663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bushing helping Sauds build nukes?!? on: June 10, 2008, 07:26:11 AM
WTF?!? angry angry angry

Why Is Bush Helping Saudi Arabia Build Nukes?
June 10, 2008

Here's a quick geopolitical quiz: What country is three times the size of Texas and has more than 300 days of blazing sun a year? What country has the world's largest oil reserves resting below miles upon miles of sand? And what country is being given nuclear power, not solar, by President George W. Bush, even when the mere assumption of nuclear possession in its region has been known to provoke pre-emptive air strikes, even wars?

If you answered Saudi Arabia to all of these questions, you're right.

Last month, while the American people were becoming the personal ATMs of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, the American consumer is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia has poured money into developing its vast reserves of natural gas for domestic electricity production. It continues to invest in a national gas transportation pipeline and stepped-up exploration, building a solid foundation for domestic energy production that could meet its electricity needs for many decades. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, would require enormous investments in new infrastructure by a country with zero expertise in this complex technology.

Have Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush or Saudi leaders looked skyward? The Saudi desert is under almost constant sunshine. If Mr. Bush wanted to help his friends in Riyadh diversify their energy portfolio, he should have offered solar panels, not nuclear plants.

Saudi Arabia's interest in nuclear technology can only be explained by the dangerous politics of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, a champion and kingpin of the Sunni Arab world, is deeply threatened by the rise of Shiite-ruled Iran.

The two countries watch each other warily over the waters of the Persian Gulf, buying arms and waging war by proxy in Lebanon and Iraq. An Iranian nuclear weapon would radically alter the region's balance of power, and could prove to be the match that lights the tinderbox. By signing this agreement with the U.S., Saudi Arabia is warning Iran that two can play the nuclear game.

In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "[Iran is] already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. No one can figure why they need nuclear, as well, to generate energy." Mr. Cheney got it right about Iran. But a potential Saudi nuclear program is just as suspicious. For a country with so much oil, gas and solar potential, importing expensive and dangerous nuclear power makes no economic sense.

The Bush administration argues that Saudi Arabia can not be compared to Iran, because Riyadh said it won't develop uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing, the two most dangerous nuclear technologies. At a recent hearing before my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman shrugged off concerns about potential Saudi misuse of nuclear assistance for a weapons program, saying simply: "I presume that the president has a good deal of confidence in the King and in the leadership of Saudi Arabia."

That's not good enough. We would do well to remember that it was the U.S. who provided the original nuclear assistance to Iran under the Atoms for Peace program, before Iran's monarch was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Such an uprising in Saudi Arabia today could be at least as damaging to U.S. security.

We've long known that America's addiction to oil pays for the spread of extremism. If this Bush nuclear deal moves forward, Saudi Arabia's petrodollars could flow to the dangerous expansion of nuclear technologies in the most volatile region of the world.

While the scorching Saudi Arabian sun heats sand dunes instead of powering photovoltaic panels, millions of Americans will fork over $4 a gallon without realizing that their gas tank is fueling a nascent nuclear arms race.

Rep. Markey (D., Mass.) is chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

See all of today's editorials
24664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We are winning on: June 10, 2008, 07:18:37 AM
How Prime Minister Maliki Pacified Iraq
June 10, 2008

America is very close to succeeding in Iraq. The "near-strategic defeat" of al Qaeda in Iraq described by CIA Director Michael Hayden last month in the Washington Post has been followed by the victory of the Iraqi government's security forces over illegal Shiite militias, including Iranian-backed Special Groups. The enemies of Iraq and America now cling desperately to their last bastions, while the political process builds momentum.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presses the flesh in Basra, March 29, 2008.
These tremendous gains remain fragile and could be lost to skillful enemy action, or errors in Baghdad or Washington. But where the U.S. was unequivocally losing in Iraq at the end of 2006, we are just as unequivocally winning today.

By February 2008, America and its partners accomplished a series of tasks thought to be impossible. The Sunni Arab insurgency and al Qaeda in Iraq were defeated in Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad provinces, and the remaining leaders and fighters clung to their last urban outpost in Mosul. The Iraqi government passed all but one of the "benchmark" laws (the hydrocarbon law being the exception, but its purpose is now largely accomplished through the budget) and was integrating grass-roots reconciliation with central political progress. The sectarian civil war had ended.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), swelled by 100,000 new recruits in 2007, was fighting hard and skillfully throughout Iraq. The Shiite-led government was showing an increasing willingness to use its forces even against Shiite militias. The announcement that provincial elections would be held by year's end galvanized political movements across the country, focusing Iraq's leaders on the need to get more votes rather than more guns.

Three main challenges to security and political progress remained: clearing al Qaeda out of Mosul; bringing Basra under the Iraqi government's control; and eliminating the Special Groups safe havens in Sadr City. It seemed then that these tasks would require enormous effort, entail great loss of life, and take the rest of the year or more. Instead, the Iraqi government accomplished them within a few months.

- Mosul: After losing in central Iraq, remnants of al Qaeda and Baathist insurgents were driven north. These groups started to reconstitute in Mosul as the last large urban area open to them. Mosul also contained financial networks that had funded the insurgency, was a waypoint for foreign fighters infiltrating from Syria, and has ethno-sectarian fault lines that al Qaeda sought to exploit.

The Iraqi government responded by forming the Ninewah Operations Command early in 2008, concentrating forces around Mosul, and preparing for a major clearing operation. In February, the ISF cleared the neighborhoods of Palestine and Sumer, two key al Qaeda safe havens.

In the meantime, American forces conducted numerous raids against the terrorist network, netting hundreds of key individuals. The ISF launched Operation Lion's Roar on May 10. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited Mosul on May 14, and the ISF began Operation Mother of Two Springs shortly thereafter.

The results have been dramatic. Enemy attacks fell from an average of 40 per day in the first week of May to between four and six per day in the following two weeks. Coalition forces have captured or killed the al-Qaeda emirs of Mosul, Southeast Mosul, Ninewah Province and much of their networks.

Mr. Maliki announced a $100 million reconstruction package for Mosul on May 17 and dispatched an envoy on May 29 to oversee the distribution of funds. Security progress was made possible in part by the enrollment of 1,000 former members of the Iraqi Army. They were part of the revision of the de-Baathification policy legislated by the Iraqi Parliament earlier in the year.

- Basra: Al Qaeda's defeat in 2007 exposed Iranian-backed Special Groups and Shiite militias as the most important sources of violence and casualties. The Maliki government had shown its willingness to target Sunni insurgents, but many feared it would not challenge Iran's proxies and the Sadrist militias within which they functioned. Basra, in particular, seemed an almost insurmountable problem following the withdrawal of British combat forces from the city. This left Iraq's second-largest city (and only port) in the hands of rival militias.

Iraqi and American commanders began planning for a gradual effort to retake the city. Mr. Maliki decided not to wait. He ordered clearing operations to begin on March 22, sent reinforcements to support those operations, and accompanied the first of those reinforcements to Basra on March 24.

Operation Knight's Charge started on March 25, as Iraqi Security Forces moved into Mahdi Army (JAM) safe havens throughout the city. Initial operations were not promising – some 1,000 ISF personnel deserted or refused to fight, most of them from the newly formed 14th Iraqi Army Division. Nevertheless, the Iraqi Army seized control of the port.

Initial setbacks did not deter Mr. Maliki, who continued to send in reinforcements, including Iraqi Special Forces, Iraqi helicopters and the Quick Reaction Force of the 1st Iraqi Army Division from Anbar. Negotiations between Iraqi leaders and Iranian Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force, produced a "cease-fire" on March 30.

But operations continued, and after two weeks the ISF, with American advisers and aviation but no American combat units, launched clearing operations throughout the city on April 12. By mid-May, the ISF controlled Basra's neighborhoods, and drove JAM and Special Groups fighters out of their safe havens, pursuing them north and south of the city.

Mr. Maliki had authorized the recruitment of 2,500 local security volunteers and begun negotiating with their tribal leaders for their incorporation into the ISF. The establishment of Iraqi government control in Basra was symbolized by the recapture of state buildings and open areas that had been occupied by various Sadrist and other insurgent groups, and by the seizure of enormous weapons caches.

- Sadr City: The Special Groups had been preparing for an offensive of their own in the first months of 2008, stockpiling arms and moving trained fighters into and around the country. Mr. Maliki's move into Basra led them to begin their offensive prematurely, including the launching of heavy rocket and mortar attacks against the Green Zone from their bases in Sadr City. Iraqi Security Forces crushed these attacks in central Iraq and, with American assistance, in most of Baghdad.

The rocketing of the Green Zone, however, convinced American and Iraqi leaders to cordon off Sadr City, and to clear the two southernmost neighborhoods from which most of the rockets were coming. The government and U.S. commanders moved reinforcements toward Sadr City and began planning for a clearing operation. In the meantime, Iraqi officials began negotiating with Sadr City leaders, as U.S. forces erected a wall to separate the cleared neighborhoods from the rest of Sadr City.

On May 20, the ISF, supported by U.S. airpower and advisers, moved rapidly into the remainder of Sadr City. They received help from the local population in identifying IED locations and enemy safe houses, and destroyed enemy leadership centers. By the end of May, most of the Special Groups and hard-core Sadrist fighters had been killed, captured or driven off.

At present, al Qaeda is left with a tenuous foothold in Ninewah and a scattered presence throughout the rest of Sunni Iraq. Special Groups leaders who survived have mostly fled to Iran, while hard-core Sadrist fighters have fallen back to Maysan Province, whose capital, Amarah, has become their last urban sanctuary. All of Iraq's other major population centers are controlled by the ISF, which can now move freely throughout the country as never before.

The war is not over. Enemy groups are reforming, rearming and preparing new attacks. Al Qaeda in Iraq will conduct spectacular attacks in 2008 wherever it can. Special Groups and their JAM affiliates will probably reconstitute within a few months and launch new offensives timed to influence both the American and Iraqi elections in the fall.

And for all its progress and success, the ISF is not yet able to stand on its own. Coalition forces continue to play key support roles, maintaining stability and security in cleared but threatened areas, and serving as impartial and honest brokers between Iraqi groups working toward reconciliation.

But success is in sight. Compared with the seemingly insurmountable obstacles already overcome, the remaining challenges in Iraq are eminently solvable – if we continue to pursue a determined strategy that builds on success rather than throwing our accomplishments away. No one in December 2006 could have imagined how far we would have come in 18 months. Having come this far, we must see this critical effort through to the end.

Ms. Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., and author of "The Surge: A Military History," forthcoming from Encounter Books. Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
24665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Dubai's favorite senators on: June 10, 2008, 07:12:50 AM
Dubai's Favorite Senators
June 10, 2008
The first refuge of a politician panicked by rising prices is always to blame "speculators." So right on time for this election season, Congress has decided to do something about rising oil prices by shooting the messenger known as the energy futures market. Apparently this is easier than offending the Sierra Club by voting for more domestic energy supply.

Futures markets aren't some shadowy dangerous force, but are essentially a price discovery mechanism. They allow commodity producers and consumers to lock in the future price of goods, helping to hedge against future price movements. In the case of oil prices, they are a bet about supply and demand and the future rate of inflation. Democrats nonetheless now argue that these futures markets are generating the wrong prices for oil and other commodities.

And who are these "speculators" driving up prices? The futures market operator Intercontinental Exchange says that an increasing share of its customers are not financial houses but commercial firms that need to manage oil-price risks – refiners, airlines, and other major energy consumers. Another term for these "speculators" would be "American business."

Not ironically, the leaders of Capitol Hill's shoot-the-messenger caucus are among those most culpable for the lack of domestic oil supplies. Senator Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) has been threatening to hold up appointments to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission until the CFTC increases regulation of oil trading. In the best tradition of bureaucratic self-protection, the CFTC's acting chief Walter Lukken has agreed to investigate.

Ms. Cantwell's recent press release on "outrageous energy prices" didn't mention her own contributions to the problem. According to the Almanac of American Politics, she "successfully worked the phones" in 2005 to round up enough colleagues to block drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. Ms. Cantwell has also backed a slew of mandates and subsidies that have helped to raise food prices by diverting corn and other crops to fuel. She even claims to have helped create the biofuels industry in her state.

Her counterpart in the House is Michigan's Bart Stupak, who claims special credit for a permanent ban on drilling in the Great Lakes and has also cast votes against exploration in Alaska and off the California coast. With $4 gasoline, this is a man in need of political cover as Michiganders head into the summer driving season. A spokesman says Mr. Stupak is hoping to roll out a new bill by the end of this week to require "additional reporting and oversight' in the oil futures markets.

Then there's New York Senator Chuck Schumer, another staunch opponent of new domestic oil supplies. Mr. Schumer has egged on the Federal Reserve's rate-cutting binge that has contributed so much to the oil price spike. But, with impeccable political timing, he now suspects "price manipulation by speculators" is the real cause of rising gas prices.

Mr. Schumer's answer is the "Consumer-First Energy Act," due for a cloture vote in the Senate today. Bundled with a windfall profits tax on oil companies, the plan also includes an increase in margin requirements for those who wish to trade oil futures. This would of course make it more expensive to trade in U.S. futures markets, which in a world of computerized, instantaneous trading means that those trades would merely move to markets overseas. As luck would have it, the Dubai Mercantile Exchange celebrated its first birthday last week with the launch of two new oil futures contracts that compete with those offered by American exchanges.

Leave aside the question of whether Mr. Schumer believes that the Dubai exchange, which is majority-owned by Middle Eastern governments, will offer more consumer protection than America's shareholder-owned exchanges. This is the same Chuck Schumer who warned in 2007 that heavy regulation threatens New York's pre-eminence in global finance. Along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mr. Schumer introduced a long report on the threats facing New York with a short note that specifically mentioned Dubai as an increasingly formidable competitor. That of course was not an election year.

If Democrats won't believe futures traders, maybe they'll heed their biggest political funder. When Senator Cantwell invited hedge-fund billionaire George Soros to testify last week, she probably didn't expect the backer of left-wing causes to deviate from her market-manipulation narrative. But among other things, Mr. Soros noted that "Regulations may have unintended, adverse consequences. For instance, they may push investors further into unregulated markets which are less transparent and offer less protection."

Democrats will find that moving jobs to Dubai from New York and Chicago will not end the commodity inflation that they themselves have helped to create.
24666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Border issues over oil on: June 09, 2008, 11:31:02 PM
Border battle brews over Mexico's undersea oil


Unable to develop its deepwater wells and crowded by foreign energy giants, the nation weighs opening up a key industry.

By Marla Dickerson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 5, 2008

U.S. GULF OF MEXICO -- Eight miles north of the maritime border with Mexico, in waters a mile and a half deep, Shell Oil Co. is constructing the most ambitious offshore oil platform ever attempted in the Gulf of Mexico.

As tall as the Eiffel Tower, the floating production facility will be anchored to the ocean floor by moorings spanning an area the size of downtown Houston. Slated to begin operating late next year, this leviathan known as Perdido (or Lost) will cost billions and be capable of pumping 100,000 barrels of crude a day.

But Perdido's most-notable achievement may be to compel Mexico to loosen its 70-year government monopoly on the petroleum sector, thanks to a phenomenon Mexicans have dubbed the "drinking straw effect."

Mexicans fear that companies drilling in U.S. waters close to the border will suck Mexican crude into their wells. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis' fictional oilman in "There Will Be Blood" likened the concept to siphoning a rival's milkshake.

"When they take petroleum from the American side, our petroleum is going to migrate," Sen. Francisco Labastida Ochoa, head of the Mexican Senate's Energy Committee, told the newspaper Milenio recently.

Oil isn't a simple commodity in Mexico. It's a powerful symbol of national sovereignty. Rancor over foreigners profiting from its hydrocarbons -- namely America's Standard Oil -- led Mexico to nationalize its industry in 1938. The state-owned oil company Pemex is forbidden by law from partnering with outsiders to exploit a drop of Mexican crude.

But for a growing chorus of Mexicans, sharing a milkshake is preferable to watching your neighbor drink it up. Mexico has no viable deepwater drilling program to match U.S. efforts near the maritime border. And it lacks an iron-clad legal means to defend its patrimony. Some are urging their government to partner with the U.S. to co-develop border fields or risk losing those deposits.

Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel has spoken repeatedly of her desire to negotiate such a pact. Cross-border fields are a hot topic in Mexico's Congress. Lawmakers are embroiled in a heated debate on how to strengthen Pemex, which provides 40% of Mexico's tax revenue but whose slumping output is alarming the nation.

Proposed legislation would still ban partnerships. But the consensus to permit some exception in the gulf region is growing as oil companies move closer to Mexican territory. The U.S. has issued drilling rights on dozens of parcels less than 10 miles from Mexican waters. Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, plus independents including Houston's Bois d'Arc Energy, have secured acreage adjacent to the boundary.

"The pressure is forcing [legislators] to do something," said Mexico City attorney David Enriquez, a maritime law expert who will testify at a Senate hearing today on transborder reservoirs. "It's the one area where they are unified."

It's unclear whether big shared deposits even exist in the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, the region's deepwater finds have been isolated pockets of petroleum, not mega-fields.

Officials at the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates U.S. offshore production, said they had no knowledge that any gulf reservoirs now under development crossed the international divide.

Shell, which is developing its Perdido platform with Chevron and BP, said the deposits they were targeting were confined to U.S. territory.

Mexicans are skeptical. A recent editorial cartoon showed a greedy Uncle Sam sucking from a straw plunged deep into the gulf. But Pemex hasn't done the seismic and drilling work needed to determine if there is crude on its side.

All the more reason, Enriquez said, for Mexico to collaborate with the U.S. to find out what lies near the 470-nautical-mile gulf border and end all the speculation.

A spokesman for Minerals Management said his agency had worked with Mexico before on boundary issues and was open to discussing cross-border fields. "It's the neighborly thing to do," said Dave Cooke, deputy regional supervisor for resource evaluation for the agency in New Orleans.

Oil and gas fields straddle international borders all over the globe. Countries typically strike a "unitization agreement" to share the costs to extract the deposits and split the proceeds based on how much lies in each nation.

Britain has partnered with the Netherlands and Norway in the crowded North Sea. Australia and East Timor have a unitization agreement. So do Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

But the U.S. and Mexico have long skirted the topic, given their prickly history with oil.

Until recently, such an agreement wasn't necessary. Both nations had plenty of shallow-water reserves to keep them occupied. Low oil prices didn't justify the exorbitant costs of deepwater drilling, where a single well can cost $100 million or more.

But exploding crude prices and advances in seismic technology now have oil companies pushing into the farthest reaches of the U.S. gulf. Private operators snapped up a record $3.7 billion worth of leases at Mineral Management Services' March auction, virtually all of them in deep water.

Since 1992, firms have drilled more than 2,100 wells at depths greater than 1,000 feet in the U.S. gulf. Pemex has drilled seven deepwater wells since 2004, none of which is producing, and none is likely to for years.

Therein lies the nation's predicament. Mexico is the world's sixth-largest crude producer, but production is in its fourth straight year of decline. Mexico could become a net oil importer within a decade if it doesn't find new reserves fast.

Cantarell, a shallow-water gulf field in southern Mexico, is drying up after more than a quarter-century of production. April output averaged just over 1 million barrels a day, less than half of its peak in 2003.

Pemex says there are billions of untapped barrels in Mexico's deep waters. But it lacks the capital and know-how to go after them.

A bill being pushed by President Felipe Calderon's administration would make it easier for Pemex to hire the expertise it needs. But deep-water projects cost billions and can take a decade to come on line. Oil majors typically want a share of any crude that they find -- a standard industry practice forbidden by Mexico's constitution.

It's unclear whether a constitutional change would be necessary to let Mexico forge a unitization agreement with the United States. But industry experts said a deal would make sense for both sides.

Companies working in U.S. waters wouldn't have to worry about Mexico taking legal action if it were determined that Mexican crude was ending up in their wells. International law and commercial custom dictate that communal reservoirs be shared. But the U.S. has not ratified a key United Nations treaty on maritime law, which could complicate Mexico's effort to pursue any complaint over pilfered crude.

Nevertheless, oil companies don't like surprises, said Michelle Foss, chief energy economist at the University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology. "You're not going to put a billion dollars at risk if . . . you might have to suspend operations because of an international dispute," she said.

A unitization deal would give Pemex a chance to learn from deepwater veterans who have been working the gulf for decades. There is pipeline infrastructure on the U.S. side, eliminating the need for Mexico to duplicate such a costly effort.

Yet critics such as Mexican opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador say border fields are the first step in opening Mexico's energy sector to foreigners and privatizing Pemex. Calderon denies it.

As Mexico mulls its next move, the U.S. is hitting the gas. Its gulf crude production averages 1.3 million barrels daily and is projected to rise to as much as 2.1 million barrels a day by 2016, thanks to Perdido and other deepwater projects.

Shaped like a giant tin can, Perdido will be anchored in 8,000 feet of water, making it the deepest so-called spar in the world. The movable structure, with up to 150 workers, will tap oil at three fields, Silvertip, Tobago and Great White.

"The easy oil is gone," said Russ Ford, Shell's technical vice president for the Americas.
24667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: June 09, 2008, 07:03:58 PM
June 9, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- Talk About Talk
- That Judge Thang
- Old and In the Way (Quote of the Day I)
- Warming Cooling (Quote of the Day II)
- Republic of the Media

Who's Lincoln? Who's Douglas?

For two candidates who have both benefited greatly from favorable media coverage,
Barack Obama and John McCain are now keeping the press at arms-length as they
negotiate a possible series of town hall meetings.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News had jointly proposed a 90-minute
network special from Federal Hall in Manhattan as the kickoff event. ABC proposed
that its Diane Sawyer moderate the event.

But emissaries for the two candidates quickly decided they didn't want media
sponsors for any events they might agree to do. "Both campaigns have indicated that
any additional appearances will be open to all networks for broadcast on TV or
Internet... rather than sponsored by a single network or news organization," said a
statement from Team Obama. Sounds like both candidates have had quite enough of the
media picking the questions during this past campaign season's interminable series
of debates. Some of the debate questions turned out to be either downright silly or

But the candidates seem intrigued by the Lincoln-Douglas style debates where
candidates themselves control the agenda and the flow of the exchanges. The idea
isn't new on the presidential level. The late Barry Goldwater once said that he and
President John Kennedy discussed barnstorming across the country together and
debating in joint appearances. But no candidate has ever taken the tremendous risks
such a series of appearances would involve. Should the two candidates come to an
agreement this year, it would truly represent a whiff of the "new politics" that
both men proclaim they want to encourage.

-- John Fund

Judges Readathon

Last week's Senate reading of a 492-page climate bill amendment, demanded by
Republicans who blocked the customary vote to waive the reading, was more than a
parliamentary trick to slow consideration of the massive energy tax-and-spend
legislation. It was payback for Harry Reid's treatment of Bush administration
judicial nominations.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the reading, which slowed Senate work to a halt
for much of last Wednesday, would "give the majority time to contemplate and
consider the importance of keeping your word."

Here's the background: In the days before the Memorial Day recess, Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid abandoned a spring pledge to Republicans to do his "utmost" to
confirm three of the President's circuit court nominees. So far, only Steven Agee,
appointed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, has been confirmed under Mr.
Reid's promised timeline. Two others for the same court, Bob Conrad and Steve
Matthews, have seen their nominations languish for nearly a year. As of today, only
eight circuit judges have been confirmed since the mid-term elections -- well off
the historical averages of 17 for President Reagan's last two years and 15 for
President Bill Clinton's. Mr. Reid had originally promised at least to equal the
pace of previous administrations, but his overriding goal now is to keep as many
judicial seats open as possible for the next Democratic president -- his party being
committed to the idea of rule through judges to enact a "progressive" agenda that
voters may not favor at the ballot box.

Which brings us to the irony of the climate bill. The GOP reading gambit ended up
saving Barack Obama from having to cast an unpopular vote for higher energy prices.
Having made a legislative gesture, Democrats can now return to Plan A -- relying on
the courts to deliver greenhouse regulation via the EPA and California's contested
auto mileage mandates.

-- Collin Levy

Quote of the Day I

"Expect open season in the coming campaign for implicitly bashing the elderly as
McCain's political foes and some media personalities stereotype him in ways that are
justifiably considered off limits regarding Barack Obama's race. Still, there is a
silver lining for McCain if Clinton's experience is any guide. Women voters rallied
to Clinton in response to the rampant sexism.... Democrats and media commentators
who relentlessly mock his age could end up rallying elder votes to his side" --
Congressional Quarterly political analyst Craig Crawford.

Quote of the Day II

"If tomorrow the theory of manmade global warming were proved to be a false alarm,
one might reasonably expect a collective sigh of relief from everyone. But instead
there would be cries of anguish from vested interests. About the only thing that
might cause global warming hysteria to end will be a prolonged period of cooling...
or at least, very little warming. We have now had at least six years without
warming, and no one really knows what the future will bring. And if warming does
indeed end, I predict that there will be no announcement from the scientific
community that they were wrong. There will simply be silence" -- University of
Alabama climate scientist Roy Spencer, writing at

The Media Primary

The presidential primaries are finally over. We know how the candidates fared with
voters but what did voters think of the news media that covered the race? If
objectivity and balance are the goals, not well at all. A new Rasmussen Reports
survey finds that 68% of Americans "believe most reporters try to help the candidate
that they want to win." Not surprisingly, a majority of voters also thought that
Barack Obama received the most favorable coverage during the primary season.

The belief that news reporters are often news twisters isn't confined to cranky
ideologues. It cuts across all racial, gender and income groups. A full 82% of
Republicans, 56% of Democrats and 69% of independents believe reporters try to give
an assist to the candidate they prefer. Only 17% of all voters believe most
reporters actually attempt to deliver unbiased coverage.

Barack Obama is likely to be the beneficiary of this favoritism come the fall
campaign. During the primaries 54% of those surveyed by Rasmussen thought he
received the most favorable coverage vs. 22% for John McCain and only 14% for
Hillary Clinton.

This fall, a full 44% of voters think the media will try to make Senator Obama look
good while only 13% think most reporters will tilt in Senator McCain's direction.
Even Democrats believe that the news media will be part of the Obama cheering
section -- 27% believe reporters will shape coverage in Mr. Obama's favor, 16% think
they will want Mr. McCain to win, while 34% think reporters will be largely

No real surprises in any of this. Nonetheless, I am still struck by how many
reporters insist to me that they "just report the facts" and firmly believe the
public overwhelmingly views them as impartial. Poll results like Rasmussen's show
most readers and viewers continue to be a lot more savvy than the people delivering
the news give them credit for being. Shouldn't that also be news? Somehow I doubt
the Rasmussen survey will get much coverage -- thereby proving its central message.

-- John Fund
24668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: June 09, 2008, 06:38:20 PM
 Brit Secretary, says sidelining of Christianity is 'common sense'


Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, says sidelining of Christianity is 'common sense'

By George Pitcher and Jonathan Wynne-Jones
Last updated: 1:17 PM BST 09/06/2008

It is "common sense" for Christianity to be sidelined at the expense of Islam, a Government minister claimed on Sunday.

Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, defended Labour’s policy on religion after a report backed by the Church of England claimed that Muslims receive a disproportionate amount of attention.

She said it was right that more money and effort was spent on Islam than Christianity because of the threat from extremism and home-grown terrorism.

Ms Blears told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “That’s just common sense. If we’ve got an issue where we have to build resilience of young Muslim men and women to withstand an extremist message.”

She added: “We live in a secular democracy. That’s a precious thing. We don’t live in a theocracy, but we’ve always accepted that hundreds of thousands of people are motivated by faith. We live in a secular democracy but we want to recognise the role of faith.”

The Church of England bishop responsible for the report, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, said afterwards: “She said we live in a secular democracy. That comes as news to me – we have an established Church, but the Government can’t deal with Christianity.”

As The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday, the landmark report commissioned by the Church and written by academics at the Von Hugel Institute accuses ministers of paying only “lip service” to Christianity and marginalising the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, while focusing “intently” on Islam.

However Malaysia’s Prime Minister warned yesterday that Muslim extremism in Britain will grow unless the Government and society learn to understand Islam.

Abdullah Badawi claimed that the legacy of Britain’s imperial past has hampered its ability to appreciate its Islamic population.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the prime minister urged Gordon Brown to allow the country’s Muslims to live under Islamic law, but also said that they must prove their worth to society.

Mr Abdullah argues that the Government must do more to ensure Muslims do not feel discriminated against if it is to tackle the rise of radicalism.

“The failure to understand Muslims is driving a divide between the communities,” he said.

“Gordon Brown must encourage a better understanding because Britain must appreciate its Muslims.”

Mr Abdullah argued that Britain needs to come to terms with being home to immigrants from countries that it used to rule over.

“The British Empire expanded in Asia, everywhere, throughout the Muslim land, through the land of Hindus and the land of Buddhists.

“When they were ruling it was different because they wanted it to be peaceful and to keep it peaceful they had to use diplomacy.”

He said that Muslims in Britain were more likely to be radicalised because they feel ignored rather than due to religious reasons.

“Is it because of poverty, social unrest, deprivation, feeling discriminated against, thinking people don’t care much because of the colour of their skin?”

Mr Abdullah, who was talking on the eve of a landmark summit of world leaders, echoed the calls of the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year for Muslims to be able to live under sharia.

The Malaysian Prime Minister also acknowledged that Muslims must also play their part in proving their value as immigrants.

“If they want to be respected then they must do something for the community,” he said.

“They must not be a liability. They have to be an asset.”

Story from Telegraph News:
24669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Weak dollar threat to world order on: June 09, 2008, 07:06:43 AM
Second post of morning 

The Weak-Dollar Threat to World Order
June 9, 2008; Page A17

Imagine how Americans would feel if we suddenly realized that our most trusted trade partners have been slowly but inexorably imposing a tariff against U.S. goods since 2002 – a tariff now in excess of 50%.

What really stings is that these same trade partners are also our most important allies, in both military and ideological terms. We like to think we share the same moral values when it comes to defending democracy and the virtues of free market capitalism.

David Gothard 
How disillusioning to discover that the leading proponents of open global trade – the ones who insist on a "level playing field" – think nothing of adopting policies that render our products overly expensive for their consumers, even as they proffer their goods around the world at inordinately discounted prices.

Now you know how members of the European Union feel these days.

As former New York Fed economist David King recently observed, the value of the U.S. dollar against the euro has fallen drastically in the last few years. In December 2002, one dollar was equal in value to one euro; today, it requires more than half again as many dollars to equal one euro. For American consumers, that means prices of imported European goods are more than half again higher than they would be had the dollar retained its value relative to the euro.

Too bad for our esteemed friends across the Atlantic. If the steep price rise was the result of a tariff imposed by the U.S. government, they could haul us before the World Trade Organization on a complaint that we engage in unfair trade practices. But since it's accomplished through loose monetary policy for domestic purposes and bolstered by plausible deniability at the highest levels – "A strong dollar is in our nation's interest" – there is little the Europeans can do about it.

The euro is the official currency used by 320 million Europeans in 15 member states: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Another three member states – Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom – use their own currencies. But the nine countries that have become EU member states since 2004 have all set convergence goals to join the eurozone in the near future: Slovakia (2009), Lithuania (2010), Estonia (2011), Bulgaria (2012), Hungary (2012), Latvia (2012), Czech Republic (2012), Poland (2012) and Romania (2012).

Taking note of these latest EU member states – former victims of Soviet-style central planning, now advocates for private enterprise – makes it clear that the U.S. has much more at stake than merely undercutting the competition in global markets with cheapened dollars. The connection between price stability and entrepreneurial effort is profound. Why should anyone work hard or take risks if financial rewards can be blithely confiscated through inflation? The old communist aphorism – "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work" – reflects deep cynicism borne of citizen subservience to totalitarian government. Honest money is the bedrock of democratic capitalism.

When the U.S. turns a blind eye to the consequences of diluting the value of its monetary unit, when we abuse the privilege of supplying the global reserve currency by resorting to sleight-of-hand monetary policy to address our own economic problems – inflating our way out of the housing crisis, pushing taxpayers into higher brackets through stealth – it sends a disturbing message to the world.

Why would the nation that espouses Adam Smith and the wisdom of the invisible hand permit its currency to confound the validity of price signals in the global marketplace? How can Americans champion the cause of free trade and exhort other nations to rid themselves of protectionist measures such as tariffs and subsidies – and then smugly claim that U.S. exports are becoming "more competitive" as the dollar sinks?

That's not competing. It's cheating.

The U.S. cannot go on pretending the dollar's fate is somehow beyond our ken. Maintaining a reliable currency is a moral responsibility as well as a strategic imperative. To the extent we force Europeans to bear the costs of fighting inflation unleashed by accommodative Fed policy – higher interest rates and the hidden tariff of currency appreciation – we renege on our shared commitment to democratic capitalism, both in principle and practice. Moreover, we risk causing a rift in our vital alliance at a time when the geopolitical situation most requires strategic partnership.

It is interesting that one of the major foreign policy goals envisioned by Republican presidential candidate John McCain is to form a "League of Democracies" to promote the values of freedom and democracy. "I am an idealist," Sen. McCain noted in remarks before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council this past March, "and I believe it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure, and American ideals that are transforming the world, the principles of free people and free markets, advance even farther than they have."

The greatest ideological struggle since World War II – the one with the potential to devastate mankind through a nuclear exchange – united the U.S. and what was then called "Western Europe" against an "Eastern bloc" dominated by the Soviet Union. As today's Russia displays renewed interest in recapturing old territory, the seeming Cold War victory of democratic capitalism cannot be taken for granted. Nor should we underestimate the role of stable international monetary relations to facilitate free markets and secure the blessings of free trade.

Ukraine is among the most besieged – and perhaps the most pivotal – of Europe's recent converts to democracy. The biggest threat to Ukraine's prospects for success, both politically and economically? Inflation, now soaring past 30%. Ukraine's hryvnia is pegged to the dollar; every cut in the U.S. fed-funds rate spawns huge dollar inflows that must be converted by Ukraine's central bank into the domestic currency, further exacerbating inflation.

One way to mitigate the impact would be to let the hryvnia appreciate relative to the dollar. But that would doom Ukraine's efforts to boost its two main exporting industries, metallurgy and chemicals. Ironically, Russia finds itself in a similar monetary predicament, forced to choose between inflation (the ruble is based 55% on the dollar, 45% on the euro) or a rising currency.

It's hard to elicit sympathy for oil-rich Russia right now. Still, the economic uncertainties and social tensions unleashed by currency chaos can only damage the outlook for democratic states across Europe and the world. Mr. McCain's proposal for creating new institutions to secure and advance the transforming values of individual liberty and entrepreneurial capitalism holds out great promise. But to provide a stable foundation for global prosperity, the League of Democracies also needs to take on the essential task of international monetary reform.

Edouard Balladur, France's former prime minister, called for a union between Europe and the U.S. in a 120-page essay published in France last November, asserting it is time "to put an end to the disorder of floating currencies, which threatens the prosperity of the world and its progress, and which, in the end will destroy the very idea of liberalism." Nobel laureate Robert Mundell suggests a multiple-currency monetary union among the dollar, euro and yen that could be patterned similarly to the process that brought about European monetary union. Both men have invoked the possible inclusion of gold in a reformed international monetary system, recognizing the importance of protecting its integrity through automatic mechanisms and sanctions beyond the control of governments.

Notwithstanding Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's assurances – "We are attentive to the implications of changes in the value of the dollar for inflation" – the need for honest money remains.

A gold standard beats a gab standard.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown" (Free Press, 1994).
24670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Weak dollar threat to world order on: June 09, 2008, 07:02:44 AM

The Weak-Dollar Threat to World Order
June 9, 2008; Page A17

Imagine how Americans would feel if we suddenly realized that our most trusted trade partners have been slowly but inexorably imposing a tariff against U.S. goods since 2002 – a tariff now in excess of 50%.

What really stings is that these same trade partners are also our most important allies, in both military and ideological terms. We like to think we share the same moral values when it comes to defending democracy and the virtues of free market capitalism.

David Gothard 
How disillusioning to discover that the leading proponents of open global trade – the ones who insist on a "level playing field" – think nothing of adopting policies that render our products overly expensive for their consumers, even as they proffer their goods around the world at inordinately discounted prices.

Now you know how members of the European Union feel these days.

As former New York Fed economist David King recently observed, the value of the U.S. dollar against the euro has fallen drastically in the last few years. In December 2002, one dollar was equal in value to one euro; today, it requires more than half again as many dollars to equal one euro. For American consumers, that means prices of imported European goods are more than half again higher than they would be had the dollar retained its value relative to the euro.

Too bad for our esteemed friends across the Atlantic. If the steep price rise was the result of a tariff imposed by the U.S. government, they could haul us before the World Trade Organization on a complaint that we engage in unfair trade practices. But since it's accomplished through loose monetary policy for domestic purposes and bolstered by plausible deniability at the highest levels – "A strong dollar is in our nation's interest" – there is little the Europeans can do about it.

The euro is the official currency used by 320 million Europeans in 15 member states: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Another three member states – Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom – use their own currencies. But the nine countries that have become EU member states since 2004 have all set convergence goals to join the eurozone in the near future: Slovakia (2009), Lithuania (2010), Estonia (2011), Bulgaria (2012), Hungary (2012), Latvia (2012), Czech Republic (2012), Poland (2012) and Romania (2012).

Taking note of these latest EU member states – former victims of Soviet-style central planning, now advocates for private enterprise – makes it clear that the U.S. has much more at stake than merely undercutting the competition in global markets with cheapened dollars. The connection between price stability and entrepreneurial effort is profound. Why should anyone work hard or take risks if financial rewards can be blithely confiscated through inflation? The old communist aphorism – "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work" – reflects deep cynicism borne of citizen subservience to totalitarian government. Honest money is the bedrock of democratic capitalism.

When the U.S. turns a blind eye to the consequences of diluting the value of its monetary unit, when we abuse the privilege of supplying the global reserve currency by resorting to sleight-of-hand monetary policy to address our own economic problems – inflating our way out of the housing crisis, pushing taxpayers into higher brackets through stealth – it sends a disturbing message to the world.

Why would the nation that espouses Adam Smith and the wisdom of the invisible hand permit its currency to confound the validity of price signals in the global marketplace? How can Americans champion the cause of free trade and exhort other nations to rid themselves of protectionist measures such as tariffs and subsidies – and then smugly claim that U.S. exports are becoming "more competitive" as the dollar sinks?

That's not competing. It's cheating.

The U.S. cannot go on pretending the dollar's fate is somehow beyond our ken. Maintaining a reliable currency is a moral responsibility as well as a strategic imperative. To the extent we force Europeans to bear the costs of fighting inflation unleashed by accommodative Fed policy – higher interest rates and the hidden tariff of currency appreciation – we renege on our shared commitment to democratic capitalism, both in principle and practice. Moreover, we risk causing a rift in our vital alliance at a time when the geopolitical situation most requires strategic partnership.

It is interesting that one of the major foreign policy goals envisioned by Republican presidential candidate John McCain is to form a "League of Democracies" to promote the values of freedom and democracy. "I am an idealist," Sen. McCain noted in remarks before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council this past March, "and I believe it is possible in our time to make the world we live in another, better, more peaceful place, where our interests and those of our allies are more secure, and American ideals that are transforming the world, the principles of free people and free markets, advance even farther than they have."

The greatest ideological struggle since World War II – the one with the potential to devastate mankind through a nuclear exchange – united the U.S. and what was then called "Western Europe" against an "Eastern bloc" dominated by the Soviet Union. As today's Russia displays renewed interest in recapturing old territory, the seeming Cold War victory of democratic capitalism cannot be taken for granted. Nor should we underestimate the role of stable international monetary relations to facilitate free markets and secure the blessings of free trade.

Ukraine is among the most besieged – and perhaps the most pivotal – of Europe's recent converts to democracy. The biggest threat to Ukraine's prospects for success, both politically and economically? Inflation, now soaring past 30%. Ukraine's hryvnia is pegged to the dollar; every cut in the U.S. fed-funds rate spawns huge dollar inflows that must be converted by Ukraine's central bank into the domestic currency, further exacerbating inflation.

One way to mitigate the impact would be to let the hryvnia appreciate relative to the dollar. But that would doom Ukraine's efforts to boost its two main exporting industries, metallurgy and chemicals. Ironically, Russia finds itself in a similar monetary predicament, forced to choose between inflation (the ruble is based 55% on the dollar, 45% on the euro) or a rising currency.

It's hard to elicit sympathy for oil-rich Russia right now. Still, the economic uncertainties and social tensions unleashed by currency chaos can only damage the outlook for democratic states across Europe and the world. Mr. McCain's proposal for creating new institutions to secure and advance the transforming values of individual liberty and entrepreneurial capitalism holds out great promise. But to provide a stable foundation for global prosperity, the League of Democracies also needs to take on the essential task of international monetary reform.

Edouard Balladur, France's former prime minister, called for a union between Europe and the U.S. in a 120-page essay published in France last November, asserting it is time "to put an end to the disorder of floating currencies, which threatens the prosperity of the world and its progress, and which, in the end will destroy the very idea of liberalism." Nobel laureate Robert Mundell suggests a multiple-currency monetary union among the dollar, euro and yen that could be patterned similarly to the process that brought about European monetary union. Both men have invoked the possible inclusion of gold in a reformed international monetary system, recognizing the importance of protecting its integrity through automatic mechanisms and sanctions beyond the control of governments.

Notwithstanding Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's assurances – "We are attentive to the implications of changes in the value of the dollar for inflation" – the need for honest money remains.

A gold standard beats a gab standard.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown" (Free Press, 1994).
24671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stagflation on: June 09, 2008, 06:58:59 AM
That Stagflation Show
June 9, 2008; Page A16
Friday's market rout in employment, oil, the dollar and stocks was not the end of the world, but it is a warning. The message is that the current Washington policy mix of easy money and Keynesian fiscal "stimulus" is taking us down the road to stagflation.

Stocks hit the skids following a plunge in the dollar and a nearly $11 leap in the oil price, which in turn followed a jump in the jobless rate to 5.5% in May from 5%. Investors are guessing that the weak jobs report means that the Federal Reserve won't follow through on its recent pledge to defend the dollar. That sent the dollar lower and gold and oil (which is denominated in dollars) soaring, which in turn adds to doubts about future economic growth. The market foreboding concerns a rerun of "That '70s Show" of higher prices but mediocre growth.

Washington has been on this path in earnest since the credit market blowup last August. The Fed slashed interest rates dramatically to save Wall Street and prevent a recession, ignoring the risk to the dollar. Meanwhile, Congress and the White House agreed to about $168 billion in "stimulus," mainly in the form of tax-rebate checks to prop up consumer spending. If you don't feel stimulated by this repeat of nostrums from the 1970s, join the club.

The Fed's strategy has triggered a dollar rout and commodity boom that has sent food and energy prices soaring. The nearby chart shows how oil prices have risen as interest rates have fallen. This commodity spike has made a recession more likely, not less. The trend is ominous enough that early last week Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke finally dropped his not-so-benign neglect and talked up the dollar; oil prices fell.

But Friday's markets show that investors still have little confidence in the Fed's ability to resist political pressure to keep easing money. A day earlier, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet signaled that he'll soon raise rates no matter what the Fed does. Mr. Trichet is right not to want to repeat the Fed's mistake, but his action didn't help confidence in the greenback.

As for those rebate checks, they were promoted in January by the Democratic Party's main policy intellectuals, including former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. The idea was that the rebates would tide the economy over until the credit crunch passed and the Fed's easy money began to work. The checks have been at least one-third distributed, and we're still waiting for their growth kick. Much of the cash is going to pay for $4 gasoline and higher food prices. In any event, such temporary rebates provide at best a short-term lift to consumer spending and do nothing to change the incentives to save or invest.

The White House acquiesced for the sake of bipartisan amity and the appearance of "doing something." Yet now that the jobless rate is rising, Democrats are blaming Republicans anyway. As a political matter, Republicans would have been better off fighting in January for tax cuts that stimulated something other than new Democratic voters. Instead, they've added $168 billion to the deficit without any growth payback.

The vast, diverse U.S. economy has shown remarkable resilience, and left to its own devices its natural tendency is to grow. But the problem looking forward is the Washington policy consensus. Mr. Bernanke continues to blame the commodity spike on a change in "relative prices" caused by growing demand for oil, even though demand is falling as the world economy slows.

Last week, Mr. Bernanke also explicitly rejected any comparison to the 1970s. The fact that he felt he had to defend himself on that score is telling. We prefer to stick with Paul Volcker, who lived through the 1970s and has said publicly that today's policy explanations sound exactly like those that were used to justify easy money in the early part of that lost economic decade. The Fed has to protect the dollar with deeds, not words.

Meanwhile, the born-again Democratic Keynesians are already demanding a second round of nonstimulating stimulus. They now want tens of billions of dollars in new public spending and a housing bailout this year, while in stark contradiction promising a huge tax increase to reduce the deficit next year. The one thing they rule out is a tax cut that would work.

None of this means Republicans have to repeat their January error. John McCain has a chance to break with this Beltway consensus and offer a pro-growth policy mix. To wit, tighter money to defend the dollar, burst the oil bubble and protect middle-class purchasing power; and marginal, immediate and permanent tax cuts to boost incentives and restore risk-taking.

No doubt Democrats would block a tax cut in Congress this year, and Barack Obama would say it's for the rich. But this is a fight Mr. McCain should welcome. Without his own economic narrative and policy breakout, Mr. McCain will find himself lashed to the status quo and playing defense. The markets are saying they don't want a repeat of the 1970s, and if they aren't heeded the voters will deliver the same message in November.

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

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
24672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: June 08, 2008, 09:20:41 PM
Council: Mongtomery schools cave to pressue with Islam book
Jun 7, 2008 7:21 AM (1 day ago) by Leah Fabel, The Examiner
» 1 day ago: Council: Mongtomery schools cave to pressue with Islam book «
Map data ©2008 LeadDog Consulting, Tele Atlas - Terms of UseMapSatelliteHybrid 
 # 1 of 5,322
Filed under: Washington, D.C. , Leah Fabel , Textbooks
Washington, D.C. (Map, News) -

A new report issued by the American Textbook Council says books approved for use in local school districts for teaching middle and high school students about Islam caved in to political correctness and dumbed down the topic at a critical moment in its history.

"Textbook editors try to avoid any subject that could turn into a political grenade," wrote Gilbert Sewall, director of the council, who railed against five popular history texts for "adjust[ing] the definition of jihad or sharia or remov[ing] these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths."

Sewall complains the word jihad has gone through an "amazing cultural reorchestration" in textbooks, losing any connotation of violence. He cites Houghton Mifflin's popular middle school text, "Across the Centuries," which has been approved for use in Montgomery County Schools. It defines "jihad" as a struggle "to do one's best to resist temptation and overcome evil."

"But that is, literally, the translation of jihad," said Reza Aslan, a religion scholar and acclaimed author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam." Aslan explained that the definition does not preclude a militant interpretation.

D.C., Montgomery public workers most likely to earn more than $100K
Immigrant advocacy agency reports threatening calls
State joins lawsuit accusing EPA of loose ozone pollution standards
Numbers from the Democratic presidential nominating contests
Toll Brothers swings to hefty 2Q loss on write-downs "How you interpret [jihad] is based on whatever your particular ideology, or world viewpoint, or even prejudice is," Aslan said. "But how you define jihad is set in stone."

A statement from Montgomery County Public Schools said that all text used by teachers had been properly vetted and were appropriate for classroom uses.

Aslan said groups like Sewall's are often more concerned about advancing their own interpretation of Islam than they are about defining its parts and then allowing interpretation to happen at the classroom level.

Sewall's report blames publishing companies for allowing the influence of groups like the California-based Council on Islamic Education to serve throughout the editorial process as "screeners" for textbooks, softening or deleting potentially unflattering topics within the faith.

"Fundamentally I'm worried about dumbing down textbooks," he said, "by groups that come to state education officials saying we want this and that - and publishers need to find a happy medium."

Maryland state delegate Saqib Ali refrained from joining the fray. "The job of assigning curriculum is best left to educators and the school board, and I trust their judgment," he said.
24673  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Dos Triques Formula" on: June 08, 2008, 06:25:30 PM
Woof All:

Ta daa!!!

A promo clip should be posted in the coming week.

Guro Crafty
24674  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Tokyo Knife Attack on: June 08, 2008, 05:44:12 PM

It also shows what happens when none of the victimes or onlookers are armed.

If someone has some good article(s) on this would they please post it in the "knives for bad" or "Crimes involving knives" or whatever the name of it is thread?  Please discuss on that thread as well.

24675  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 27, 28-29 DBMA Camp with Guro Crafty on: June 08, 2008, 12:10:26 PM
Woof All:

Bruno's ticket is bought and the basic out line of the plan is this.

1) Seminar will be held in Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach

2) Three days.  We understand that many people will not be able to come on Friday, so not to worry if this is the case with you.

More soon.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
24676  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 08, 2008, 11:41:48 AM
June 8, 2008

Chávez Suffers Military and Policy Setbacks


On the same day Colombia said it had captured a Venezuelan national guard officer carrying 40,000 AK-47 assault rifle cartridges believed to be intended for leftist guerrillas, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela said Saturday he would withdraw a decree overhauling intelligence policies that he had made earlier that week.

The rare reversal by Mr. Chávez came amid intensifying criticism in Venezuela from human rights groups.

The capture of the Venezuelan officer in eastern Colombia could reignite tensions between the neighboring countries over Venezuela’s support for the rebel group FARC.

Colombia’s attorney general, Mario Iguarán, said Saturday that security forces had captured the national guard officer carrying cartridges that the Colombian authorities believe were intended for the FARC.

While Mr. Chávez’s government did not immediately comment on the arrest of the Venezuelan officer, who was identified as Manuel Teobaldo Agudo Escalona, the episode suggests that pressure could mount in Washington to add Venezuela to the list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism.

Colombian officials have recently said that Venezuela tried to provide arms and financing for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, basing their claims on references to such dealings in archives from computers obtained in an April raid on the rebels. The United States and the European Union classify the FARC as terrorists.

Venezuela, which expresses ideological solidarity with the Marxist-inspired FARC, has said that no further proof of such assistance has emerged. But that was before Colombia announced the arrest of the Venezuelan officer, captured in Puerto Nariño in eastern Colombia with another Venezuelan citizen and two Colombians.

The type of cartridges in the possession of the four men are used in assault rifles commonly employed by the FARC, which has been active in Colombia for more than four decades. Colombia, one of the largest recipients of American counterinsurgency aid outside the Middle East, has recently killed several senior FARC commanders.

Amid festering tension with Colombia, including claims that Colombian paramilitaries were fomenting destabilization plots, President Chávez quietly unveiled his intelligence law in late May, which would have abolished the DISIP secret police and DIM military intelligence, replacing them with new intelligence and counterintelligence agencies.

But in a rare act of self-criticism on Saturday, Mr. Chávez acknowledged the ire that his intelligence overhaul had provoked among legal scholars and human rights groups, which said Mr. Chávez was attempting to introduce a police state by forcing judges to cooperate with intelligence services and criminalizing dissent.

“Where we made mistakes we must accept that and not defend the indefensible,” Mr. Chávez said at a campaign rally in Zulia State for gubernatorial and mayoral candidates from his Socialist party. “There is no dictatorship here,” he continued. “No one here is coerced into saying more than they want to say.”

Reeling from the defeat of a constitutional reform in December that would have expanded his powers, Mr. Chávez, in his 10th year in power, is facing multiple challenges as a reinvigorated opposition fields candidates in regional elections this year and Venezuela’s economic growth slows despite record oil prices.
24677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 08, 2008, 11:30:12 AM
I think if you look at POT's chart you will see that the price of 50 is not so long ago.  I got hipped to it in something Scott Grannis shared with me.  The logic presented to me seemed very strong and so I entered into a position.

I have been following and ignoring  cheesy DMG's advice for years now.  GOOG is very solid for me and recently he kept me from panicking out of my position  grin  ISRG I ignored him on  cry And MA I followed on  smiley  I followed on VMW too cry

Thanks for the tip on SMS, I will look into it.
24678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 08, 2008, 11:23:28 AM

If  you want to discuss the NIE's assessment, that would belong on the Iran thread.  (BTW Stratfor's theory is that it was our way of telling the Iranians we would not bomb them as part on ongoing negotiations.)

24679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR intimidates public school into access to students? on: June 08, 2008, 11:20:00 AM
In Defense of the Constitution

News & Analysis
009/08  June 8, 2008

CAIR:  Intimidating Public School?

On 31 May, Erica Mellon posted a blog entry to the "School Zone" titled
"Friendswood superintendent: Islam presentation not meant for students".

(The "School Zone" blog is sponsored by the Houston Chronicle; Ms.  Mellon is the
Chronicle's education reporter.)

In the blog post, Ms. Mellon quotes a letter by Trish Hanks, Friendswood Independent
School District Superintendent.  From the letter:

"In response to an incident that occurred between students at Friendswood Junior
High School and the perception and fear that it caused to some involved, Robin Lowe,
principal, was contacted by the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and
told that they considered the incident a hate crime and had reported it to the FBI.
Mrs. Lowe and Sherry Green, Deputy Superintendent, attended a meeting with
representatives of CAIR."

An unexplained "hate crime" has, according to CAIR, been committed and CAIR has
reported the crime to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

End of story?

No.  Apparently, a report to the FBI isn't good enough.  From the letter:

"At the meeting, CAIR requested an opportunity to present factual and basic
information about Muslims to students at Friendswood Junior High School since the
school is predominantly Anglo Christian."

Did CAIR intimidate the principal and deputy superintendent?  CAIR representatives
report a "hate crime" and request time to do a presentation on Islam; no connection?

Further confusing the issue, the Galveston Daily News reports that Asmara Siddiqi
denies that CAIR contacted the FBI because "...the school decided to resolve the

This raises two questions:

1)  Is CAIR now threatening school administrators to gain secret access to American
school children?
2)  Why was CAIR, with a proven track record of supporting Islamic terrorism,
invited to the school in the first place? 

The Friendswood School invited representatives of an Islamic-terrorist supporting
organization to make a presentation to the most vulnerable of our citizens: our
children.  What could these children possibly learn from a hateful organization like
CAIR, one that is on record praising Islamic terrorist groups that have and continue
to target and terror-murder innocent school children? 

No representative of CAIR should be allowed access to any student, in any school, at
any time, for any reason.  The insanity of allowing CAIR representatives into
schools must end, now.  No administrator, at any level, should have the authority to
grant CAIR access to children under any circumstances.


The principal of Friendswood School has been reassigned.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, a well-known expert in the field of Islamist extremism, has
commented on this case.  For his thoughts:


If you come across information regarding CAIR in the public/private schools, please
let us know.  Include as much information as you have; name of school, presentation
offered, when offered, who was/will be in attendance, dates/times, etc.  Our goal is
to report any interaction between CAIR and school students/staff and hopefully work
toward the day when all schools will, as a matter of course, refuse CAIR access to
students or staff. 

CAIR has no legitimate reason to meet with school students or staff; help us make
this a reality.


Andrew Whitehead

24680  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Does Anyone Teach MCMAP on the outside? on: June 08, 2008, 12:33:28 AM
24681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: June 08, 2008, 12:28:37 AM
Now THAT is some serious chutzpah.

Sadly I am predicting that the response given will be less than the correct answer of FCUK OFF. angry cry angry
24682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 08, 2008, 12:15:22 AM
A thoughtful Indian friend forwards me the following:

While this sort of thing is usual at the Indo-Pak border, at the present
time...Mush may use this as a pretext to bring back military rule....Yash

Pak troops fire at Indian post
8 Jun 2008, 0232 hrs IST,Anil Kotwal,TNN
 EMail <javascript:openWindowmail('/mail/3110290.cms');>  Discuss New
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   JAMMU: In yet another incident of unprovoked cross-border firing,
Pakistani troops targeted second battalion of Eighth Gurkha Rifles at the
Krnati post along the Line of Control in Poonch district's Mendhar area,
official sources said in Jammu.

Sources also said intermittent firing was reported for more than an hour at
the post on Thursday. They said the Gurkhas returned the fire without
suffering any casualty. Army spokesperson Lt Col S D Goswami, however,
refused to comment on the latest ceasefire violation.

Pakistani troops had resorted to firing at Regal in Samba, Salhutri in
Mendhar and Tangdhar in Kupwara sector in violation of ceasefire agreement.

24683  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: June 07, 2008, 11:49:40 AM
The question arose on the WT forum as to whether a citizen could video interactions with the police without their knowing about it.  Here's the response that made the best sense to me:


The law in California is fairly simple for recording conversations. It is illegal (a misdemeanor) to record (including video recordings accompanied by sound) conversations that are intended by the parties to be private or confidential. See California Penal Code section 632. The test of whether a conversation is intended to be private turns on the reasonable objective (not subjective) expectations of the parties that their conversation would remain private. California courts have generally held that conversations in a public place or in any area where the parties could not have reasonably expected their conversation to be private can be recorded. I don't know if there is any case law on point but I would expect that a police officer who has pulled someone over for a traffic violation was not intending that his conversation was going to remain confidential. After all, many police agencies tape record the stops themselves and the traffic stops almost invariably occur in public spaces. I think you are safe (at least legally) taping the conversation in California.


Contrast the CA law requiring both people to know if a phone conversation is being recorded.
24684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: June 07, 2008, 07:36:49 AM
Another Haditha Marine cleared
“Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them,” Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said in May 2006, “and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Murtha was referring to the Haditha “massacre,” an incident in which 24 Iraqi civilians were killed after a roadside bomb killed Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas in November 2005. Five Marines had already seen charges against them dropped, and this week brought a sixth. 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson finally got the not-guilty verdict for which he had waited more than two years. Grayson, who was actually not even present with the others at Haditha, was found not guilty of making false statements, obstruction of justice and attempting to separate from service fraudulently. One Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, still awaits trial, but it seems to us that Murtha and others who have made a spectacle of the situation should be preparing their apologies.
24685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up on: June 07, 2008, 07:36:01 AM
I've been on the road, and so have not posted on this thread for several days:

"Reading, reflection and time have convinced me that the interests
of society require the observation of those moral
which all religions agree."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Westmoreland County Petition, 2 November 1785)

Reference: Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,
Hutson, (84); original Westmoreland County, petition, November 2,
1785, to V
"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his
countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes
of private life.  Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere;
uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying
to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting;
correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue
always felt his fostering hand.  The purity of his private charter
gave effulgence to his public virtues;.  Such was the man for
whom our nation morns"

-- John Marshall (official eulogy of George Washington, delivered
by Richard Henry Lee, 26 December 1799)

Reference: Patriot Sage, Spalding


"The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that
of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement
equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of
the blessing."

-- James Madison (letter to Littleton Dennis Teackle, 29 March

Reference: Advice to My Country, Mattern ed. (42); original
Madison Papers in the Library of Congress

"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among
mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect
towards supporting free and good government."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East
Tennessee College, 6 May 1810)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, ed.,
vol. 5 (521)

“We should always remember that our strength still lies in our faith in the good sense of the American people.”  “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid.”  “To those who are fainthearted and unsure, I have this message: If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.”  “We must remove government’s smothering hand from where it does harm.”  “Trust but verify.”  “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.”  “We’ve long thought there are two things in Washington that are unbalanced—the budget and the liberals.” —Ronald Reagan

“The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” —Samuel Adams

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.”—Thomas Jefferson

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.” —C.S. Lewis

“An opportunity society awaits us. We need only believe in ourselves and give men and women of faith, courage, and vision the freedom to build it. Let others run down America and seek to punish success. Let them call you greedy for not wanting government to take more and more of your earnings. Let them defend their tombstone society of wage and price guidelines, mandatory quotas, tax increases, planned shortages, and shared sacrifices. We want no part of that mess, thank you very much. We will encourage all Americans—men and women, young and old, individuals of every race, creed, and color—to succeed and be healthy, happy, and whole. This is our goal. We see America not falling behind, but moving ahead; our citizens not fearful and divided, but confident and united by shared values of faith, family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom.” —Ronald Reagan

24686  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Six year old hero on: June 07, 2008, 07:21:00 AM
Not exactly defense, but certainly heroic:

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- Adults didn't see a drowning 5-year-old, but his 6-year-old friend did.Haden Stusak, 6, of Fayetteville is being called a hero after he dived into a pool to investigate a shadow on the bottom that turned out to be his friend.Josiah Buddah, 5, and Haden are buddies. Haden is a good swimmer, but Josiah can't swim without his water wings.On Sunday, Josiah took off his water wings and sank to the bottom of the deep end."I was scared, I was scared," said Josiah.An adult spotted a shadow in the pool, but couldn't get to it. No one knew the shadow was Josiah. But Haden got curious and dove down to investigate. He had been practicing diving to the bottom. When he discovered Josiah, he grabbed him and pulled him to the surface.VIDEO: 6-Year-Old Saves 5-Year-Old Friend From Drowning
"Well, I grabbed him like that; he was like unconscious. I grabbed him and I was swimming like this," said Haden."He jumped inside the water; he helped me get back up," said Josiah.Two nurses and doctor started CPR."They took me to the hospital," said Josiah. "I was dead and couldn't breathe."It all happened in seconds."I could have been burying my baby this week, so just to know that he's here, No. 1, is amazing, because to see your child lifeless for a few minutes, you think it's over," said Josiah's mother, Judith Buddha."So I called 'Help, help, he drowned,'" said Haden.Haden's parents told Channel 2 they ask him not to talk so loudly and to keep his voice down. This is one time they're glad they heard his screams.Josiah is doing well and is now swimming with a float suit. He will start lessons in a couple of weeks.And in true hero fashion, Haden says what he did was no big deal."We're friends. That's what friends do," said Haden.
24687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 07, 2008, 07:11:18 AM
The Audacity of Death
June 5, 2008

According to Barack Obama, Gianna Jessen shouldn't exist.

Miss Jessen is an exquisite example of what antiabortion advocates call a "survivor." Well into her third trimester of pregnancy, Gianna's biological mother was injected with a saline solution intended to induce a chemical abortion at a Los Angeles County abortion center. Eighteen hours later, and precious minutes before the abortionist's arrival, Gianna emerged. Premature and with severe injuries that resulted in cerebral palsy. But alive.

Had the abortionist been present at her birth, Gianna would have been killed, perhaps by suffocation. As it was, a startled nurse called an ambulance, and Gianna was rushed to a nearby hospital, where, weighing just two pounds, she was placed in an incubator, then, months later, in foster care.

Gianna survived then, and thrives now, because, as she told me recently with a laugh, "I guess I don't die easy." Which is what the abortionist might have thought as he signed his victim's birth certificate. Gianna's medical records state that she was "born during saline abortion."

* * *

As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama twice opposed legislation to define as "persons" babies who survive late-term abortions. Babies like Gianna. Mr. Obama said in a speech on the Illinois Senate floor that he could not accept that babies wholly emerged from their mother's wombs are "persons," and thus deserving of equal protection under the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

A federal version on the same legislation passed the Senate unanimously and with the support of all but 15 members of the House. Gianna was present when President Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002.

When I asked Gianna to reflect on Mr. Obama's candidacy, she paused, then said, "I really hope the American people will have their eyes wide open and choose to be discerning. . . . He is extreme, extreme, extreme."

"Extreme" may not be the impression the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have bought Mr. Obama's autobiography have been left with. In "The Audacity of Hope," Mr. Obama's presidential manifesto, he calls abortion "undeniably difficult," "a very difficult issue," "never a good thing" and "a wrenching moral issue."

He laments his party's "litmus test" for "orthodoxy" on abortion and other issues, and even admits, "I do not presume to know the answer to that question." That question being the moral status of the fetus, who he nonetheless concedes has "moral weight."

Those statements are seriously made but, alas, cannot be taken at all seriously. Mr. Obama has compiled a 100% lifetime "pro-choice" voting record, including votes against any and all restrictions on late-term abortions and parental involvement in teenagers' abortions.

To Mr. Obama, abortion, or "reproductive justice," is "one of the most fundamental rights we possess." And he promises, "the first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act," which would overturn hundreds of federal and state laws limiting abortion, including the federal ban on partial-birth abortion and bans on public funding of abortion.

Then there's Mr. Obama's aforementioned opposition to laws that protect babies born-alive during botched abortions. If partial-birth abortion is, as Democratic icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan labeled it, "too close to infanticide," then what is killing fully-birthed babies?

* * *

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama seldom speaks about abortion and its related issues. But his few moments of candor are illuminative. When speaking extemporaneously, Mr. Obama will admit things like "I don't want [my daughters] punished with a baby." Or he'll say that voting for legislation allowing Terri Schiavo's family to take its case from state courts to federal courts in an effort to stop her euthanasia was his "biggest mistake" in the Senate. Biggest mistake?

Worst of all are Mr. Obama's accusations against antiabortion advocates. He recently compared his relationship with unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers, a member of a group responsible for bombing government buildings, to his friendship with stalwart pro-life physician and senator Tom Coburn.

In his campaign book, Mr. Obama accuses "most anti-abortion activists" of secretly desiring more partial-birth abortions "because the image the procedure evokes in the mind of the public has helped them win converts to their position."

All this explains why the National Abortion Rights Action League voted unanimously to endorse Mr. Obama over Hillary Clinton, as did abortion activist Frances Kissling, who called Mrs. Clinton "not radical enough on abortion."

It's surprising that 18- to 30-year-olds, the most pro-life demographic in a generation, are the same voting bloc from which Barack Obama, the most antilife presidential candidate ever, draws his most ardent supporters.

What's not surprising is that Gianna Jessen, who turned 31 last month, plans not to support Obama.

In "The Audacity of Hope," Mr. Obama denounces abortion absolutism on both ends of the ideological spectrum. That is audacious indeed considering Obama's record, which epitomizes the very radicalism and extremism he denounces.

Mr. Allott is senior writer at American Values, a Washington-area public policy organization.
24688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We are winning on: June 07, 2008, 06:42:53 AM
Iraq and the Election
June 6, 2008; Page A14
This spring, the Iraqi army routed insurgents in three of their most important urban strongholds. These gains follow the success of the surge in crushing al Qaeda in the Sunni triangle, meaning that we are at last on the verge of winning in Iraq and securing a strategic victory in the Middle East. Question: Is this emerging victory – achieved at a cost of more than 4,000 American lives – something we are prepared to abandon after November?

* * *
The good news in Iraq is increasingly undeniable, even to the media. In March, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered Iraqi troops to retake the southern Shiite city of Basra from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. After a shaky start, the city has now been liberated from Sadrist goon squads, and it is mostly peaceful. "The presence of the Iraqi army has made people safe, not 100%, but 90%," a Basra barber told the Washington Post. The army is pursuing the Sadrists in their last redoubt, Amarah, while other radicals have followed Moqtada to Iran.

Mr. Maliki then repeated the exercise in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army's Baghdad stronghold. Mr. Sadr backed down from a full-scale confrontation, following an Iranian-brokered "truce" that had all the hallmarks of a de facto surrender. Meanwhile, Iraqi army operations in the northern city of Mosul recently netted more than 1,000 suspected Sunni insurgents in al Qaeda's last major urban sanctuary. The remaining terrorists were forced to scatter to the countryside or flee for Syria. "They've never been closer to defeat than they are now," says U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who is not given to claims of premature progress.

For three consecutive weeks, the number of violent incidents have been at their lowest level since the spring of 2004. The number of U.S. combat fatalities last month, 19, was the lowest of the entire war, and Iraqi military and civilian deaths are also sharply down. In the first five months of this year, 4,500 insurgent weapons caches were found, compared to 6,900 for all of 2007. These numbers have sometimes moved in the wrong direction and may do so again, particularly during major combat operations. But the trend is unmistakably positive.

The military gains have, in turn, had salutary political consequences. Mr. Maliki's decision to take Basra forced Iraq's political class to take sides – either with the government, or the Sadrist militias. All but the Sadrists chose Mr. Maliki, even some who had thought of trying to topple the government. The prime minister has emerged stronger and with more support from all ethnic groups, not merely from fellow Shiites. Insofar as "political reconciliation" is supposed to be the acid test of progress in Iraq, it is happening.

The Iraqi military is also improving, partly from the confidence gained from its recent successes. The government now counts more than half a million men under arms, and the army is emerging as a reliable and multiethnic national institution. The lead division that took Basra in March was largely led by Sunni officers, who were nonetheless welcomed by the city's Shiites.

All of this means that it is now possible to foresee not merely a stable Iraq, but also one that can achieve our original strategic goals in the region. The strategist Frederick Kagan – an architect of the surge – makes the analogy to West Germany during the Cold War. A secure and pro-American Iraq would be crucial to expanding U.S. influence in the Arab heart of the Middle East, and especially to containing Iran. A democratic Iraq can serve as an alternative pole of Shiite power in the region, as well as an alternative political model to theocratic, radical Tehran.

All of this depends, however, on securing the progress of the last 18 months, and this means not departing too soon. The gains of recent weeks mean that the five surge brigades can return home this summer without sacrificing security. But both al Qaeda and Iranian-backed Special Groups are likely to stage some kind of offensive in the fall – not least to influence the Iraqi provincial and U.S. elections.

The insurgents know they've lost militarily, so their goal will be to make enough violent noise to prevail politically. Inside Iraq, the Sadrists will try to intimidate Iraqis from supporting competing Shiite groups. But the bigger immediate prize will be in the U.S., where they hope that a President Barack Obama would follow through on his pledge to abandon Iraq.

That kind of withdrawal is the only way we can now lose in Iraq. The minute it is announced, the Iraqis who have allied themselves with us would have to recalculate their prospects in a post-U.S. era. Iran and its proxies would immediately leap in influence – precisely the kind of outcome that Mr. Obama now claims to want to prevent. Progress toward political reconciliation might well stop, as the various Iraq factions worry about their own security without America's mediating presence.

* * *
By contrast, a permanent U.S. military presence – albeit one reduced over time – would give Iraqis the confidence to continue their political maturation. Another Iraq national election is scheduled for next year, and it is an opportunity for democracy to put down even deeper roots. It's crucial for Americans to understand that, apart from the Sadrists, all factions of Iraqi politics now support some kind of U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement to succeed the U.N. mandate that expires later this year.

We are winning in Iraq. Indeed, we can now say with certainty that we will win, as long as we don't repeat our earlier mistakes and seek to draw down too soon. This is the improving Iraq that the next U.S. President will inherit, and it is the heart of the Iraq debate Americans should have in November.
24689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on: June 07, 2008, 06:37:04 AM
I love Peggy Noonan, but in my opinion she has been getting a bit wooly headed of late.  There's some of that on display here, but there are good points too.



Recoil Election
June 6, 2008; Page A11
It is the most amazing thing that a young black man who was just a few short years ago unknown to most of his countrymen—really, unknown—could, this week, win the presidential nomination of one of our two great political parties. It is even more amazing that this historic news could be overshadowed by the personal drama and spite of the woman who lost to him.

M.E. Cohen 
I like it that she spent the campaign accusing America of being sexist, of treating her differently because she is a woman, and then, when she lacked the grace to congratulate the victor, she sent her stewards out to tell the press she just needs time, it's so emotional. In other words, she needs space because she's a woman.

A friend sent, by instant message, the AP flash that ran at 16:56 ET on 06-03-2008. There it was suddenly on my screen:

"*** WASHINGTON (AP)—Obama clinches Democratic nomination, making him first black candidate to lead his party."

A great old-school bulletin, and of course it carried a huge and moving message. It is good when barriers fall; it's good when possibilities seem to open up to more people, especially the young, who are always watching. (That's what's wrong with them, they're always watching, and we're always doing terrible things, like, say, not congratulating the winner on the night he won.)

But what I thought of when the friend sent the flash was something another friend told me months ago. It was the night Mr. Obama won Alabama. My friend was watching on TV, in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, looked, saw "Obama Wins" and "Alabama." She said, "Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school." She said, "That's where they used the hoses." Suddenly my friend saw it new. That's the place they used the water hoses on the civil rights marchers crossing the bridge. And now look. The black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

What kind of place makes a change like this? Only a great nation. We should love it tenderly every day of our lives.

* * *

We will hear a lot of tasteful tributes this weekend to Hillary Clinton's grit and fortitude. The Washington-based media may go a little over the top, but only out of relief. They know her well and recoil at what she stands for. They also know they don't like her, so to balance it out they'll gush.

But this I believe is the truth: America dodged a bullet. That was the other meaning of the culminating events of this week.

Mrs. Clinton would have been a disaster as president. Mr. Obama may prove a disaster, and John McCain may, but she would be. Mr. Obama may lie, and Mr. McCain may lie, but she would lie. And she would have brought the whole rattling caravan of Clintonism with her—the scandal-making that is compulsive, the drama that is unending, the sheer, daily madness that is her, and him.

We have been spared this. Those who did it deserve to be thanked. May I rise in a toast to the Democratic Party.

They had a great and roaring fight, a state-by-state struggle unprecedented in the history of presidential primaries. They created the truly national primary. They brought 36 million people to the polls, including the young, minorities and first-time voters. They brought a kind of dogged brio to the year.

All of this is impressive, but more than that, they threw off Clintonism. They threw off the idea that corruption is part of the game, an acceptable fact. They threw off the idea that dynasticism was an unstoppable dynamic in modern politics, that Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton could, would, go on forever. They said: "No, that is not the way we do it."

They threw off the idea of inevitability. Mrs. Clinton didn't lose because she had no money or organization, she didn't lose because she had no fame or name, she didn't lose because her policies were unusual or dramatically unpopular within her party. She lost because enough Democrats looked at her and thought: I don't like that, I don't like the way she does it, I'm not going there. Most candidates lose over things, not over their essential nature. But that is what happened here. For all her accomplishments and success, it was her sketchy character that in the end did her in.

But the voters had to make the decision. So, to the Democrats: A nod. A bow. Well done.

May this mark the beginning of the remoralization of a great party.

* * *

Should he make her his vice president? He shouldn't, and he won't.

The reasons:

The only ones who could force him to do it are party elders, and they don't like Mrs. Clinton. They're the ones who finally forced her from the race. Their antipathy was not apparent when she was inevitable. It is obvious now.

She would never be content to be vice president. She'd be plotting against him from day one. She'd put poison in his tea.

She brings Bill.

She undercuts the cleanness of Obama's message. She doesn't turn the page, she is the page.

She would give Republicans something to get excited about. She will revivify them. They're not excited about Mr. McCain, but they could become excited about opposing her.

Her presence on the ticket would force the party to have two breakthrough moments when a rule of political life, and life in general, is: one breakthrough at a time.

He doesn't need her. He needs a boring white man. Because he's an interesting black man. He needs a sober, experienced, older establishment player who will be respected by the press, the first responders of the political game. They'll set the tone in which the choice is celebrated, or not. He needs someone like Sam Nunn. Or, actually, Sam Nunn. He could throw a wild pass at Jim Webb because he has a real-guy, Southern, semi-working-class persona, and a Scots-Irish grit and chippiness. He is from important Virginia, has Vietnam boots and is moderate.

Choosing Mrs. Clinton would make Mr. Obama look weak. No one would believe he picked her because he respected or liked her. They'd think he was appeasing her. This is not something he can afford! And in any case some people cannot be appeased. Voters would assume she and her people did their voodoo—I have 18 million voters!—and he fell for it. She doesn't have 18 million voters, she got 18 million votes. It is telling the way she thinks of them, as if they are working-class automatons awaiting her command.

As for reports of their rage, there are always dead-enders, and frantic lovers of this candidate or that. This goes under the larger heading "lonely people." But there's reason to think, and some Democratic insiders do think it, that a lot of the supposed pro-Clinton furor is ginned up on Web sites by the Clinton campaign, and even manufactured by the Clinton campaign, to prove Clinton loyalists are real and their demands must be met. In any case, you can see how Mrs. Clinton views her supposed working-class heroes by what she is doing with them now: using them as a bargaining chip to get whatever she wants.

Democrats this year have the winning fever, and Democrats will come out. By November they will be united.

Also, he doesn't like her. He recoils. Just like his party.

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24690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 07, 2008, 06:32:18 AM

Thank you for that reminder-- I had forgotten that about Reagan.  (Is there a chance he was posturing for the Arab world?)

I would add though that here there is the matter of US control over Iraqi airspace.  Unless Israel launches missiles from its submarines (a rarely discussed capability) then to get to Iran and back US acquiescence would appear to be necessary.

24691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: June 07, 2008, 06:28:17 AM
"Poor Americans, so close to Mexico, and with a still unsecured border......."

A witty rejoinder GM, and entirely valid-- we are in complete agreement about the border and that Mexico's inability to have opportunity for its people within its own borders presents profound problems for us.

I would also add that if Americans weren't buying the cocaine that we do, the drug trade would not be what it is.  (For the record, in my opinion our "War on Drugs" is a tremendous mistake.)
24692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 07, 2008, 06:22:21 AM
Woof Rachel:

I am on the road at the moment and am reminded that I still owe you a more substantive answer to your previous post.  For the moment though, I address this

"One -- Should gay marriage be legal according to the  US Constitution and State Constitutions and various case law etc?
Two --- Is  allowing gay marriage the right thing to do?"

The first question properly presented is whether the US Constitution or any of the State Consitutions compel the recognition of gay marriage-- as was just held by the CA Supreme Court.

To me the answer is clearly not.  Marriage in our country and culture has always been defined as between a man and a woman, and the court simply imperialisiticaly misused and abused its power in our system to impose its believe that marriage should be legally redefined over the expressly stated views via initiative of the people of California.

I'm not trying to stop gays from living together and doing what they do.  I AM saying other people are free to make of it what they will and that liberalism becomes fascism when it seeks to make "thought crimes" legal crimes.
24693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: June 06, 2008, 08:29:33 PM

Bruce Blumberg, who is the chair of the Academic Senate Council on Student Experience at the University of California-Irvine, wasn’t happy about a recent PJM article I co-wrote with Jonathan Movroydis. In the piece, we make the claim that UCI administrators have capitulated to the university’s radical Muslim Student Union (MSU), whose members regularly voice support for terrorist groups and denounce America and Israel.

In an email posted by Jerry Pournelle, Blumberg writes that “no one” in the “media or on campus” is aware of the inaction on the part of the administration and the UCI Police Department that is alleged in the article. It appears that Blumberg, like most of the UCI faculty and administration, will never come the defense of students who can think for themselves, will stand up for their civil liberties, and won’t flock with the rest of the sheep.
During the academic year at UCI, the MSU holds several hateful events, including an annual anti-Israel week. Although MSU events certainly fall within the bounds of “free speech,” freedom of speech and expression does not include the right of MSU members to engage in blatant harassment. Nor should it enable UCI administrators to restrict the freedoms of other individuals at the university campus.

For example, student journalist Jonathan Movroydis and his brother were harassed out of an auditorium for simply recording a lecture by the radical imam Amir Abdel Malik-Ali in 2007. University officials allowed for members of the MSU to police their own event and allowed the group to prohibit filming at a public university event. Fortunately, California Assemblyman Chuck Devore was able to convince UCI Chancellor Michael Drake to reverse the campus taping policy. The administration, however, has been unwilling to fully enforce this new rule.

Moreover, UC Irvine police officers will stand idly while intimidation occurs, and administrators continue efforts to censor certain groups and people on the campus. I learned this firsthand last year, when I had a camera shoved in my face by a member of the MSU. At the scene a police officer refused to take a statement from me. Because I was appalled and could not believe that shoving a camera in someone’s face would be considered lawful behavior, I could not let such a matter fall. After several phone calls and e-mails, I was finally able to schedule a meeting with Edgar Dormitorio, Dean of Judicial Affairs at UCI, and given the opportunity to file a complaint with the police department on campus. I had the perpetrator’s face on camera and witnesses. However, no action has yet been taken against the student.

While I studied at UCI, I witnessed an affirmative action bake sale being shut down by administrators. Because a group of students wanted to sell cupcakes at different suggested prices for various racial groups in order to demonstrate what they felt were the injustices of affirmative action, the administration decided to completely shut down the event for what appeared to be “sensitivity” issues. Regardless of one’s position on affirmative action, it is outrageous that one’s view on a college campus, which so often promotes itself as the marketplace of different ideas, would be restricted by the administration.

Interestingly enough, when the Muslim Student Union brings speakers who have called for genocidal actions against Jews and Israelis, the administration refuses to speak out against this blatant hate speech.

MSU’s right to free speech does not require the administration to be silent when the group’s members call for the destruction of Israel and threaten students who are Israel supporters . At the very least, administrators should uphold the rights of all students and make certain that individuals have the right to film and protest. The university should refrain from selective enforcement of its rules and regulations.

Thus far the administration at UCI has been extremely negligent. An independent task force investigation recently issued findings that clearly suggest anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and pro-terror speech is well documented at UC Irvine. The full report can be read here.

According to this independent investigation, harassment and intimidation has occurred on campus and the administration has not worked to alleviate the problems that plague the campus. Instead, the administration’s lack of response and selective enforcement of policy has aided groups like the MSU in vilifying other students and groups.

For instance, when an anti-hate rally took place after a cardboard “apartheid wall” put up on campus by the MSU was vandalized in 2004, Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez refused to invite Jewish organizations. In a more recent incident, a non-Jewish student described the atmosphere at UCI as dominated by a philosophy that looks at the United States and Israel as enemies, while supporting terror organizations. The same student had a professor who had a picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on her computer. She also recounts an argument with an Iranian student who said “f- Israel” and pulled down his trousers to show his swastika tattoo.

In his email, Blumberg implies that the situation at UCI is a “pro-Israel” and “pro-Palestine” issue with mistreatment on both sides. With all due respect to Dr. Blumberg, he has got to venture outside his office a bit more. If the Academic Senate Council really supports the freedoms of all students and believes that UCI is truly a beacon of “free speech,” they are doing a poor job of showing it. They could learn a thing or two from Democratic Representative Brad Sherman, who recently urged Chancellor Drake to “publicly denounce” the MSU’s hate speech.

As a recent alumnus of the university, I will continue to advise my friends and family members not to attend UC Irvine unless changes are made.
24694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So sad on: June 06, 2008, 08:16:45 PM
As Porfirio Diaz said some 100 years ago, "Poor Mexico; so far from God and so close to the United States."

24695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FDR and Gold on: June 05, 2008, 09:33:22 PM
Contracts as Good as Gold
June 5, 2008

People these days fear inflation. We also fear changing rates of inflation. And most of the tools we might use to protect ourselves, such as the Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities bond or gold stocks, are imperfect. TIPS are, after all, based on an inflation-measure whose accuracy is itself controversial – the Consumer Price Index.

So it's worth remembering that, 75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt destroyed an inflation hedge that was literally as good as gold: the so-called "gold clause." This helped prolong the Depression and has been causing damage ever since.

Consider an investor in the gold standard era. An ounce of gold was worth $20.67 and you could, at least in theory, trade your greenbacks for gold at the bank. The gold standard checked a government's willingness to inflate, since it started losing gold when it did so. Those who traded bonds knew a confidence we can never know.

Washington, like all governments, could occasionally cheat on the gold standard – suspend it, limit the ability of citizens to convert paper into gold, and so on. But investors could protect themselves by writing a gold clause into their contracts. Such a clause promised a borrower that he could be repaid "in gold coin of the United States of America of or equal to the present standard of weight and fineness." The gold clause fostered economic growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by making it easier for young industries to raise capital. Since investors protected by these clauses knew they would get their money back, interest rates were lower. To finance World War I, Washington even inserted gold clauses into Liberty Loans.

The powerful deflation of the early 1930s gave Roosevelt the excuse to end the gold standard. Dirt-low commodity prices, starving farmers, bank seizures of homes, 20% unemployment: All these miseries shouted, "looser money now!" The agricultural community, including eccentric Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace, viewed the end of the gold standard as the ultimate revenge of the farmers punishing Wall Street for its 1920s prosperity.

One night in April, 1933, FDR surprised a bunch of advisers, saying "Congratulate me." He'd taken the country off the gold standard, and now planned to personally manage the dollar's exchange rate and price levels. Hearing the news, colleagues "began to scold Mr. Roosevelt as though he were a perverse and particularly backward schoolboy," recalled Ray Moley. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, the great free trader, "looked as though he had been stabbed in the back. FDR took out a ten-dollar bill, examined it and said 'Ha! . . . How do I know it's any good? Only the fact that I think it is makes it so.'"

Congress then drafted a joint resolution declaring gold clauses – protection against any damage Roosevelt might do – to be "against public policy." Roosevelt couldn't wait to see the resolution become law. Henry Wallace wrote that Roosevelt "looked up at the clock and put down 4:40 p.m., June 5, 1933 and signed his name."

Randall Kroszner, a governor at the Federal Reserve Board, has studied this period and has noted that the price went up on most stocks and bonds, even gold-clause bonds, when the Supreme Court eventually validated FDR's action. Mr. Kroszner and others argue that the abrogation of the gold clause had some virtue because it reduced the cost and inconvenience of debt renegotiation in a period of credit crisis.

But you can also argue that those price movements were more an expression of relief that a futile battle was over rather than a vote of approval. In my own review of the period I found evidence that snatching away from investors the perfect inflation hedge hurt the economy.

The market rally in the spring of 1933 slowed as investors watched FDR fiddle with the dollar and commodities over the course of the fall. In 1934, FDR thought better of it all and fixed the dollar to gold again, albeit now at $35 dollars an ounce. But the abrogation of the gold clause suggested that Washington had no regard for property rights. The general uncertainty generated by government economic policies did not abate. Capital went on strike. The Great Depression endured to the end of the decade. The positive transparency that the Securities and Exchange Commission or the creation of deposit insurance brought to markets was offset by losses like that of the gold clause.

And from then on, the federal government enjoyed wider license to inflate. Without the gold-clause option, citizens tried out other hedges – today a line about the CPI may stand where the old gold line once stood. In the 1970s, Sen. Jesse Helms pushed for repeal of the old abrogation, and eventually, with the support of Treasury Secretary William Simon, he won. But the average investor never used the clause to the same extent.

Today, as in the last days of the gold clause, officials like Mr. Kroszner of the Fed's Board of Governors are weighing a difficult choice between efficient crisis management and property rights. People don't talk more about the damage of monetary uncertainty because that damage is so spread out – harder to discern than, say, a single giant event like the implosion of Bear Stearns. But the old gold clause footnote explains why we may see yet more angst over the Consumer Price Index, the TIPS bond, or even LIBOR, the London Interbank rate. We have lost our bearings and our confidence in money generally.

After a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the gold clause abrogation, Justice James McReynolds read the dissent. Today McReynolds is generally regarded as an irrelevant reactionary, a footnote himself. But his rueful words ring true for those trying to reckon the dollar's future. It was, he said, "impossible to estimate the result of what has been done."

Miss Shlaes is a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression," out in paperback this week (Harper Perennial).
24696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: June 05, 2008, 09:30:47 PM

Lincoln's Rule: Organization Matters
June 5, 2008

Politics has become hi-tech with sophisticated databases, the Internet, TV ads, focus groups and polls.

But a lanky Sangamon County, Ill., lawyer described the essential task of politics in 1840 in a letter to his Whig campaign committee. Make a list of the voters, he wrote, ascertain for whom they will vote, have undecided voters talked to by someone they hold in confidence, and, on Election Day, get all Whig voters to the polls.

Barack Obama feeds his volunteers.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but he was also a very practical politician. And Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would be wise to take his advice. In a close election, organization matters a lot.

Mr. Obama's background as a community organizer makes him comfortable with organizing. His supporters are demonstrating great energy and enthusiasm. Many are Internet savvy, making communicating with them inexpensive and fast. The long primary season has given Mr. Obama's team time to grow, test and learn. Left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (Acorn) and unions are already actively registering new Democrats in battleground states. And Democrats now have a single national voter database, albeit more than a decade after the GOP built its own database.

However, Mr. Obama could repeat a big mistake Howard Dean made in 2004 when he had college students call on voters with whom they shared little. This violated Lincoln's rule.

Mr. Obama has a serious problem with some traditional Democratic voters. He consistently lost blue-collar households in the primaries. A recent Pew poll shows him slipping among white women (down eight points over the past month) and voters without a college degree (down seven points). Mr. Obama's support among Latino voters was a tepid 34% in the 13 primary contests with an appreciable number of Hispanics. He carried a majority of the Hispanic vote in only one state – his home state of Illinois, which he won by the slim margin of 50%-49%.

Mr. Obama also can't count on his voter-registration strength. His allies Acorn and the NAACP pay a bounty for each new voter registered, so their workers often register people who don't exist or who are already registered.

Mr. McCain's strengths start with him doing better among Independents and Democrats than any other Republican. Three times as many Democrats say they will cross party lines to vote for him than Republicans who say they will support Mr. Obama, a recent Newsweek poll found. Mr. McCain is also winning 41% of Hispanic voters, according to a recent Gallup poll. And while he still needs to win over working class voters (especially Catholics) and older white women, the openings are there.

Mr. McCain has a superior tool available to him – the GOP's Victory Committee, with its 72-Hour program that uses sophisticated targeting and vast numbers of volunteers to focus on Lincoln's four tasks.

In 2004, the Victory Committee proved its value when the Democrats far outspent the GOP, but still failed to beat Republican turnout. Fueled by George Soros's money, Democratic 527s (independent political groups) along with the Democratic National Committee and John Kerry's campaign spent a combined $121 million more than Republicans. Yet the GOP registered more voters and identified persuadable households better than Democrats, and got 12 million more Bush voters to the polls than in 2000. Democratic dollars were no match for the Victory Program's "microtargeted" database and detailed planning.

On the debit side, Mr. McCain hasn't historically valued organization, dismissing its tedious requirements as unnecessary. Mr. McCain also has an "enthusiasm deficit" with grassroots GOP activists who work the phones, walk the neighborhoods and register the voters. And he has no grassroots groups to match the Democrats, outside of the National Rifle Association and Right to Life. Mr. McCain will have to build coalitions of veterans, Catholics, Latinos, small business people, evangelicals and women in key states to close the enthusiasm gap.

There's time, but not much time, for both candidates to build effective organizations. Public interest is likely to wane in the coming months and then pick up with a bang at the end of August. The candidates will need to have their structures in place before then.

So how are the candidates doing in building their organizations? I had a colleague call the parties' headquarters in 12 battleground states to ask who the Obama and McCain state chairmen were. Mr. Obama has four states with a chairman and eight without. Mr. McCain has nine states with chairmen and three without. Having a state chairman doesn't automatically translate into an effective organization, but having one is an essential early step.

Mr. McCain has many obstacles to overcome this year, including a political environment that favors Democrats. Mr. Obama is stumbling across the primary finish line barely ahead of Hillary Clinton, and faces big problems in uniting his party. Organization could provide the winning margin in the fall.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

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24697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO to Iraq on: June 05, 2008, 09:27:41 PM
Why Obama Must Go to Iraq
June 5, 2008

Earlier this year, I spent five days in Iraq, walking the same streets in Baghdad where I had served two years earlier as an infantry platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division.

The visit reinforced for me not only the immense complexity of the war – so often lost in our domestic political debate – but also the importance of taking the time to visit Iraq to talk with the soldiers and Marines serving on the front lines in order to grasp the changing dynamics of a fluid battlefield.

Chad Crowe 
It is for this reason that the failure of Sen. Barack Obama to travel to Iraq over the past two and a half years is worrisome, and a legitimate issue in this presidential election.

Since his election to the United States Senate in 2004, Mr. Obama has traveled to Iraq just once – in January 2006. This was more than a year before Gen. David Petraeus took command and the surge began. It was also several months before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government came into office. Although Mr. Obama frequently criticizes the Iraqi leader on the campaign trail, he has never actually met him.

Mr. Obama's conduct is strikingly different from that of Sen. John McCain, who has been to Iraq eight times since 2003 – including three times since surge forces began to arrive in Baghdad. The senior senator from Arizona has made it his mission to truly understand what is happening on the ground, in all its messy reality.

Mr. Obama has dismissed the value of such trips, suggesting they are stage-managed productions designated to obfuscate, not illuminate, the truth. This has become an all-too-common sentiment within the Democratic Party leadership, especially since the surge began to transform conditions on the ground for the better. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has denied that there is any value in visiting the troops in Iraq, and has never done so.

In fairness, there are a number of Democrats who visit Iraq frequently – namely Sens. Joe Biden, who has made eight Iraq trips, and Jack Reed, with 10 trips. Mr. Obama's absence and cynicism stands in stark contrast to their serious approach. It is especially problematic given his intention to become our next commander in chief.

As anyone who has spent time on the ground in Iraq – speaking with troops of all ranks and backgrounds – can tell you, it is hardly a mission impossible to get them out to speak bluntly and openly about the problems they face.

Indeed, Mr. McCain's own frequent and vociferous criticisms of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his warnings, as early as 2003, that the Bush administration was pursuing a flawed strategy in Iraq, were directly informed by his firsthand interactions during his trips to Iraq. Troops and commanders warned him that we lacked sufficient forces to defeat al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, and they were correct.

In turn, Mr. McCain's early advocacy for the surge and his prescient conviction that it would succeed were rooted not only in his extensive knowledge of military affairs, but in his close consultations with troops serving in the theater. They recognized that the new strategy was succeeding far before the mainstream media in the U.S. was willing to acknowledge these gains.

That Mr. Obama apparently doubts his ability to distinguish spin from reality, and to draw bad news out of subordinates, does not bode well for his possible future as our nation's chief executive. As I'm sure he will discover, if he wins the White House, these are among the most important skills for a president to possess.

Even more astonishing than Mr. Obama's absence from Iraq, however, is the fact that he has apparently never sought out a single one-on-one meeting with Gen. Petraeus. The general has made repeated trips back to Washington, but Mr. Obama has shown no interest in meeting privately with him. It's enough to make you wonder who exactly Mr. Obama listens to when it comes to Iraq?

Mr. Obama frequently decries the danger of "dogmatists" and "ideologues" in public policy, yet he himself has proven consistently uninterested in putting himself in situations where he might be confronted with the hard complexities of this war. It suggests a dangerous degree of detachment and overconfidence in his own judgment.

After all, Mr. Obama was among those in January 2007 who stridently opposed the surge and confidently predicted its failure – even going so far as to vote against funding our soldiers in the field unless the Bush administration abandoned this new approach. It is now clear that Mr. Obama's judgment on the surge was spectacularly wrong.

Yet rather than admit his mistake, Mr. Obama has instead tried to downplay or disparage the gains our troops have achieved in the past 12 months, clinging to a set of talking points that increasingly seem as divorced from reality as some in the Bush administration were at the darkest moments of the war.

Mr. Obama continues to insist that "Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war" – despite the passage of numerous pieces of benchmark legislation by the Iraqi Parliament and unequivocal evidence of grassroots reconciliation across the country.

Mr. Obama also continues to claim that America has "simply thrown U.S. troops at the problem, and it has not worked" – despite the dramatic reduction in violence in precisely those areas of Iraq where American forces have surged, and since handed over to Iraqi Security Forces.

And of course, Mr. Obama persists in his pledge to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq, on a fixed timeline, beginning the moment he enters office – regardless of the recommendations of our commanders on the ground, regardless of conditions on the ground, and regardless, in short, of reality.

America is longing for an informed and principled debate about the future of Iraq. However, such a debate seems unlikely if the Democratic nominee for president won't take the time to truly understand the dynamics on the ground, let alone meet with commanders.

The time for talking points is over. Too much is at stake. When will Mr. Obama finally return to Iraq and see the situation for himself?

Mr. Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom, served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and returned as an embedded reporter.

24698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 05, 2008, 09:04:33 PM

You make your points well.

For me not throwing away our sacrifices in Iraq especially now that things are looking up, carries A LOT of weight with me.  BO opposed the Surge, and now wants to undo the proof that he was profoundly wrong.

McCain's record on gun rights is not perfect, but BO's intentions are absolutley terrible.

BO would open the borders, give driver licenses to illegals and make dariver licenses sufficient proof to vote.

BO would socialize health care.  You think it is expensive now-- wait until BO makes it free!  McCain at least seeks steps towards freer markets.

The matter of judicial appointments also carries heavy weight with me-- BO would be affirmative action for liberals in action-- the juidges he would appoint would put us under the UN, castrate the second amendment, and much more and worse.


June 5, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- From Green to Blue
- Haunted by Rezko
- Yes, Virginia, Virginia Will Matter in 2008
- Not Ready for Prime Time

Climate Change Collapse

Environmentalists are stunned that their global warming agenda is in collapse.
Senator Harry Reid has all but conceded he lacks the vote for passage in the Senate
and that it's time to move on. Backers of the Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade bill
always knew they would face a veto from President Bush, but they wanted to flex
their political muscle and build momentum for 2009. That strategy backfired. The
green groups now look as politically intimidating as the skinny kid on the beach who
gets sand kicked in his face.

Those  groups spent millions advertising and lobbying to push the cap-and-trade bill
through the Senate. But it would appear the political consensus on global warming
was as exaggerated as the alleged scientific consensus. "With gasoline selling at $4
a gallon, the Democrats picked the worst possible time to bring up cap and trade,"
says Dan Clifton, a political analyst for Strategas Research Partners. "This issue
is starting to feel like the Hillary health care plan."

It's a good analogy. Originally, Hillary health care had towering levels of support,
but once people looked at the cost and complexity they cringed. Jobs were on the
mind yesterday of Senator Arlen Specter, who has endorsed a tamer version of
cap-and-trade. "Workers in Pennsylvania worry that this will send jobs to China," he
tells me. They're smart to worry. Look no further than the failure of the Kyoto
countries to live up to their promised emissions cuts. Bjorn Lomborg, the author of
the Skeptical Environmentalist, tells me: "The Europeans are so far behind schedule,
it is almost inconceivable that they will meet their targets."

Even John McCain, a cap-and-trade original co-sponsor, now says that this scheme
won't fly until China and India sign on -- which could be never.

Senators also criticized Warner-Lieberman's failure to clearly specify what would
happen with the vast revenues the climate bill would generate -- some $1 trillion
over the first decade, which environmental groups wanted as a slush fund to finance
"green technologies." Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire insisted the proceeds be
used for other tax cuts, like the elimination of the corporate income tax. The
Natural Resources Defense Council desperately tried to persuade Congress in the 11th
hour that the expensive price tag is a bargain because "the cost of inaction" would
reach $1.8 trillion by 2100 due to increased hurricanes and rising oceans -- an
argument without a shred of scientific or fiscal credibility.

Republicans in the Senate this week did such a masterful job of picking the cap and
trade bill apart with objections, yesterday Barbara Boxer of California was pulling
her hair out with frustration, as one Republican leadership staffer put it.

Environmentalists have always eyed 2009 as the real target year for enactment. But
there was no show of strength this week and cap-and-trade may have reached its
political high water mark. Conservatives at least are in a far stronger position now
to demand major pro-growth tax cuts in exchange for new global warming taxes.

-- Stephen Moore

And Then There's Rezko

Barack Obama released a statement last night saying he was "saddened" that Tony
Rezko, his old friend and top fundraiser, had been convicted on 16 out of 24 counts
of fraud and political corruption by a Chicago jury. Previously, Mr. Obama felt
compelled to donate over $150,000 in Rezko-linked campaign contributions to charity.

But that probably won't be enough to erase Tony Rezko from the 2008 fall campaign as
an issue. Mr. Rezko offered Mr. Obama a job back in 1990 just as he was leaving
Harvard Law School. Mr. Obama didn't take it, but nonetheless became close to the
Syrian-born political fixer. In 2005, Mr. Rezko was helpful in Mr. Obama's purchase
of a large Hyde Park house by having his wife, Rita, buy the adjoining garden on the
same day Mr. Obama closed his transaction. Mr. Obama has since said the move was a
"bone-headed" mistake, especially since newspapers were already full of reports that
Mr. Rezko was being investigated on charges he had corruptly influenced appointments
made by  Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Mr. Obama has yet to answer a lot of questions about his relationship with Mr. Rezko
or his business partner, Iraqi-British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. He claims the Rezko
case simply highlights the need for more campaign finance reform laws. Yesterday, he
issued a statement adding that the man convicted in a Chicago courtroom "isn't the
Tony Rezko I knew." Hmmm... But Mr. Obama knew him as a close friend and ally for
over 20 years as Mr. Rezko rose to become Illinois' top political fixer. Exactly
which Tony Rezko did Mr. Obama know?

As for Gov. Blagojevich, Chicago political observers believe the Rezko verdict will
tighten the net around him. Federal prosecutors have already subpoenaed his campaign
records, scrutinized his donors, and looked into his wife's real estate dealings.

-- John Fund

Obama in Wilder Country

Like Barack Obama, Doug Wilder was serving only his second year in state-wide office
when, in September 1991, he launched a run for president. Elected in 1989 as
governor of Virginia and the first black governor of any state, his achievement had
been all the more impressive for coming in a state where just three decades earlier
much of the Democratic Party leadership had declared "Massive Resistance" to

However, his presidential star never burned as brightly as Mr. Obama's and Mr.
Wilder is now finishing up a stint as the reformist mayor of troubled Richmond. But
his home state could still play a pivotal role in sending the first African-American
to the White House. Tonight Mr. Obama will speak in Virginia in his first campaign
event since wrapping up the nomination.

Despite the fact that Virginia has voted Republican in 10 straight presidential
elections, the Old Dominion appears up for grabs in Mr. Obama's fall race against
John McCain. The Illinois Senator will need to score big gains in the overwhelmingly
Democratic suburbs in Northern Virginia if he's to carry the state. He'll also
likely need to win some Appalachian counties in western Virginia, which Hillary
Clinton won in the February 12 primary and where Mr. Wilder won a surprising amount
of support in his 1989 gubernatorial victory.

According to his Richmond mayoral office, Mr. Wilder will not be attending Mr.
Obama's event tonight, but he's sure to campaign for him over the next five months.
"As I watched last night the certification of the nomination of Barack Obama, I was
filled with many emotions," Mr. Wilder said yesterday. "I was proud and appreciative
of how far we had come in this country.... He has done this without making any
claims to be running to 'make history' but instead, to be the best possible
candidate for the position."

-- Kyle Trygstad,

The Gang That Couldn't Primary Straight

Republicans have had terrible problems recruiting top-notch Senate candidates this
year, but in Massachusetts and Montana they appear to have recruited Keystone Kops.

In Massachusetts, former Air Force officer Jim Ogonowski was at least a credible
candidate, having nearly won a special election for the House last year. He promptly
built on that showing by announcing he would challenge Sen. John Kerry. But there
was the small matter of making the ballot.

This week it was revealed that Mr. Ogonowski had only turned in 9,970 legal
signatures on his petitions, falling 30 short of the required number. This means the
lone GOP candidate on the primary ballot will be security business owner Jeff Beatty
-- by no means the party's first choice.

But at least Mr. Beatty is serious. In Montana, Republicans this week had to witness
the humiliating spectacle of seeing their Senate nomination go to an 85-year-old
eccentric who was the Green Party's candidate in the last statewide election and
only ran as a Republican this time because he wanted a bigger stage for his platform
to turn the U.S. into a parliamentary democracy.

Butte attorney Bob Kelleher has lost 14 previous races for office, having started
out as a Democrat who finally switched to the Greens after 30 years of losses. The
Green Party repudiated him, saying he didn't represent its views either. Now he's
the Republican Party's headache. At least the debates between Mr. Kelleher and
Senate incumbent Max Baucus will be entertaining.

-- John Fund

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24699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: June 05, 2008, 05:54:59 PM
Savy trader DG stays away from GG like the plague!

My biggest current winner is POT.  I bought at 50 and it is now well over 200  grin grin grin

24700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 04, 2008, 09:26:15 PM
June 4, 2008

In today's Political Diary:

- Obama By a Nose (Uplifted)
- Hillary for Veep?
- Osama School of Journalism (Quote of the Day I)
- Bad Man (Quote of the Day II)
- Voters vs. the Climate Gang

A Less Than Convincing Victory

Barack Obama effectively won the Democratic nomination last night, and he must be
relieved the long primary season is over. Every primary since early March has
demonstrated a worrying inability on his part to expand his coalition within the
Democratic Party. The Montana and South Dakota primaries last night showed him once
again winning upper-class Democrats who frequent Starbucks, while salt-of-the-earth
Democrats who like Dunkin Donuts coffee are still with Hillary Clinton.

In Montana, Mr. Obama won 75% of the vote in trendy Bozeman, where Ted Turner and
other celebrities have ranches. He won only 50% in Billings, the state's largest
city. He won college-educated voters but not those without college educations.
Meanwhile, in winning South Dakota yesterday, Mrs. Clinton won six out of ten female
voters and split men with Mr. Obama.

There are other troubling signs for Mr. Obama in yesterday's primary numbers. Once
again, Mrs. Clinton carried the one-fifth of voters who made up their minds in the
last week of campaigning -- winning that group by six points in Montana and a
stunning 26 points in South Dakota.

Worse for Mr. Obama, about one-fourth of Clinton voters in Montana told exit
pollsters they would plump for John McCain in November if his opponent is Barack
Obama. Another 10% said they planned to stay home. In South Dakota, about 15% of
Clinton supporters indicated a preference for Mr. McCain and an equal number said
they didn't plan to vote in the fall.

Mr. Obama has pulled off a remarkable feat in snatching the nomination from someone
who once appeared to be an invincible frontrunner. But he did so without ever
cracking into Mrs. Clinton's support among working-class, female, and older white
voters. Mr. Obama's hopes of winning the White House will hinge on whether he can
reach those voters in the fall election.

-- John Fund.

Inside the Tent or Out?

Can Hillary Clinton cajole or bully Barack Obama into putting her on his ticket as
the vice presidential candidate? It won't be for lack of trying. Yesterday, Mrs.
Clinton said she "was open" to the idea. In reality, her allies behind the scenes
are pushing the idea hard, with the emphasis on bullying.

"Last night, when Obama went over the top in delegates and could claim the
nomination as his, Hillary organized a rally of all of her supporters, directly
competing for airtime with the newly minted nominee," notes Dick Morris, the former
Clinton political consultant who is now a strong critic of the couple.

On another front, a group called sent out an email
last night claiming to represent a half-million Hillary backers "who are ready to be
'former' Democrats because of the contempt and disregard that has been shown to the
many party faithful who support Sen. Clinton's presidential candidacy." The implied
message is that Hillary backers might be coaxed back into the fold if she were made
the vice presidential nominee.

On the surface, Mrs. Clinton has a good argument that she could combine her
lower-income supporters with the upscale liberals that form the heart of Mr. Obama's
coalition. But in reality, the bitterness that Obama advisers, especially his wife
Michelle, harbor against Mrs. Clinton may override any matchmaking efforts.

Then there is the issue of governing. Should Mr. Obama become president, no doubt
Mrs. Clinton will demand a relevant role shaping public policy -- and one that could
conflict with Obama priorities. There's also the issue of Bill Clinton, who would
soak up Washington media attention as the spouse of a vice president. Given the
former president's recent penchant for seemingly uncontrollable outbursts, not all
the attention would necessarily be good.

Mrs. Clinton may desperately want the visibility of the vice presidential nomination
as a way to extend her political shelf life for a future presidential run. But right
now, she is far from having convinced Team Obama that she can transform herself into
a trusted and loyal member of their team.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"The New York Times won the Pulitzer for revealing the fact of the Terrorist
Surveillance Program. Now, with all due respect to being here in the National Press
Club with a lot of my friends in the press, I thought the idea that The New York
Times would win the Pulitzer Prize, one of the highest awards in journalism, for
revealing one of the nation's most important secrets and telling the enemy how it
was we were intercepting their communications, frankly was less than honorable. It
bothered me, greatly" -- Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking Monday at the Gerald
R. Ford Journalism Prize Luncheon:

Quote of the Day II

"Why do we love to believe that mankind is a plague upon the Earth? We view anything
and everything that happens in nature, no matter how barbaric, bloody, or
destructive, as good. Indeed, the word 'natural' has no negative connotation at all.
If a volcano like Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines dumps millions of tons of sulfur
into the stratosphere, cooling the Earth for two or three years, this is simply
Mother Nature at work. If humans did it, we would call it an environmental
catastrophe" -- University of Alabama climate scientist Roy Spencer, writing in
National Review.

Voters on Cap and Trade: Just Say No

Today the Senate will take its first major vote on the cap-and-trade
Lieberman-Warner bill to reduce global warming. It's expected to fail to get the 60
votes needed for passage, but what's more important is that the U.S. voting public
is almost universally against paying the costs.

A just-released Wilson Research Poll commissioned by the National Center for Public
Policy Research finds that 91% of respondents do not want to pay even the
conservative cost estimates associated with cap and trade. The poll also found that
71% are not willing to pay more for electricity and 65% don't want to pay even a
penny more at the pump for gasoline.

"If you ask the public do they want to do something to fight global warming, they
say 'sure,'" says David Ridenour, the director of NCPPR. "But when you ask them if
they want to pay more for cap and trade, they almost universally say 'no.'" In other
words, only if it's a free lunch are voters willing to go along. And given the high
costs and uncertainty of any benefits from policies to prevent climate change, it's
far from clear that voters are being irrational here.

A spokesman from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change objects that such polls and
studies don't take account of the "offsetting benefits to the economy from cap and
trade." But those benefits are speculative at best. A study by climate expert
Patrick J. Michaels of the University of Virginia estimates that cap and trade would
only lower temperatures by 0.01 degrees by 2050, which is hardly going to yield
major economic windfalls.

The Lieberman-Warner plan would increase petroleum prices by 5.9% by 2015, according
to Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The
National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the Lieberman-Warner proposal
would increase electricity prices by about 13%. With oil prices exceeding $120 a
barrel, Americans want the Senate to find ways to lower, not raise, their energy

-- Stephen Moore

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