Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: McCain can win
on: February 11, 2008, 02:57:34 PM
Getting to 270
Can John McCain win in November?
February 11, 2008
The conventional wisdom is that Republicans start at a serious disadvantage in trying to hold the White House. A still-unpopular war and a softening economy certainly represent challenges. So far, most of the enthusiasm in the primaries has been on the Democratic side, with some 13 million voters casting Democratic ballots and fewer than 9 million picking a GOP one.
But despite these obstacles, John McCain will now begin to assemble his fall election team with surprisingly good poll results. The average of all the recent national polls summarized by RealClearPolitics.com show the Arizona senator leading Hillary Clinton by 47% to 45% and trailing Barack Obama by only 44% to 47%. Both results are within the statistical margin of error for national polls, so it's fair to say Mr. McCain starts out with an even chance of winning.
How could that be? The answer is that the same maverick streak and occasional departures from conservative orthodoxy that make conservatives queasy have the opposite effect on independents and even some Democrats. Mr. McCain's favorable numbers with independents exceed those of Barack Obama, who has emphasized his desire to work across party lines.
* * *
All of this plays out in the Electoral College map that is the key to victory in November. One candidate or the other must win at least 270 electoral votes. The assumption has been that Democrats have an advantage because they can supposedly win every state John Kerry took in 2004 plus Ohio, which has fallen on hard economic times and seen its state Republican Party discredited. That would give the Democratic nominee at least 272 electoral votes.
But Mr. McCain's rise to the GOP nomination throws that calculation out the window. He is the only potential GOP candidate who is clearly positioned to keep the basic red-blue template of how each state voted in 2004 intact and then be able to move into blue territory.
Let's assume that Ohio goes to either Mr. Obama or Ms. Clinton. It's at least as likely that Mr. McCain could carry New Hampshire. The Granite State went only narrowly to Mr. Kerry, a senator from a neighboring state, and Mr. McCain has unique advantages there. New Hampshire elections are determined by how that state's fiercely independent voters go, and Mr. McCain has won over many of them in both the 2000 and 2008 GOP primaries. He spent 47 days in New Hampshire before this year's primary and is well-known in the state. If Mr. McCain lost Ohio but carried New Hampshire and all the other states Mr. Bush took in 2004, he would win, 270-268.
It's true that Democrats will make a play for states other than Ohio that Mr. Bush won. Iowa is a perennially competitive state that could go either way this fall. Arkansas polls show that Hillary Clinton might well be able to carry the state where she served as First Lady for over a decade.
But Mr. McCain's roots in the Rocky Mountain West complicate Democratic efforts to take states in that region. His fierce individualism and support for property rights play well in Nevada and Colorado, which were close in 2004. New Mexico, next door to Mr. McCain's Arizona, gave Mr. Bush a very narrow 49.6% to 49% victory in 2004. But Mr. McCain's nuanced position on immigration marks him as the GOP candidate who is most likely to hold the Hispanic voters who are the key to carrying New Mexico.
Mr. McCain also puts several Midwest battleground states in play. Should he pick Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his vice presidential choice, he might have a leg up on carrying both Minnesota and Wisconsin, which went narrowly for Mr. Kerry in 2004.
"The media markets in western Wisconsin get Minneapolis television and are oriented to their news--Pawlenty would be a plus there," says Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican. "McCain's independent stands would play well in that region--which is exactly where GOP presidential candidates have done poorly enough so that they lost statewide by 12,000 votes or so in both 2004 and 2000."
Mr. McCain can be competitive in other blue states. Michigan went Democratic in 2004 by only 3.4% of the total vote, and Oregon by just over 4%. The latest Field Poll in California puts Mr. McCain and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie. If Democrats have to spend valuable time and resources holding down California, it will make it more difficult for them to take states they lost in 2000 and 2004.
Mr. McCain could even make a foray into the Northeast, where his support from Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party's 2000 vice presidential candidate, could put Connecticut in contention. Ditto New Jersey, which Mr. Bush lost by only 53% to 46% in 2004.
Then there is Pennsylvania, which John Kerry carried by only 2.5% points in 2004. Michael Smerconish, the most popular talk-show host in Philadelphia, believes Mr. McCain has a real chance to carry the state. While Mr. Smerconish is a conservative who didn't support Mr. McCain, he thinks "the conservative blasting of McCain is good publicity around here." His independence and maverick status are exactly the qualities that could help him carry the tightly contested Philadelphia suburbs that voted to re-elect GOP senator Arlen Specter, a moderate, in 2004 but rejected conservative Rick Santorum in 2006.
* * *
In some ways Mr. McCain resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the French conservative who won last year's presidential election even though the retiring president, Jacques Chirac, was unpopular and a member of his own party. "Like Sarko, who was of Chirac's party but not of Chirac, America's swing voters have intuited over the years that there is little love lost between McCain and George Bush," says the blog Race42008.
Mr. Sarkozy was able to convince a majority of French voters that he represented real change that would improve conditions, while his socialist rival, Segolene Royal, represented risky change that could make matters worse. That is precisely the challenge Mr. McCain faces this year against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
When you hear that the demise of the Republicans is a foregone conclusion, remember that when the campaign is joined this fall and voters will have to make real choices about the direction of the country, the result is likely to be close. Recall that pundits were ready to crown Michael Dukakis the winner of the 1988 election after he opened up a 17-point edge over George H.W. Bush. In 2000, they declared the race over around Labor Day after Al Gore opened up a clear lead over George W. Bush.
Given that polls show Mr. McCain is currently in a dead heat against either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, it would be wise for the pundits to show a little humility this year. The Democratic strategists I talk to believe the race will be hard-fought and close, regardless of the direction the economy or the war in Iraq takes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK kow tows to China
on: February 11, 2008, 02:10:49 PM
Britain kow tows to China as athletes are forced to sign no criticism contracts
By ROB DRAPER and DANIEL KING -
Gagged: Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe is likely to be one of those affected by the ban
British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China's appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing.
The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest.
The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes' contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games. It is contained in a 32-page document that will be presented to all those who reach the qualifying standard and are chosen for the team. From the moment they sign up, the competitors – likely to include the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips and world record holder Paula Radcliffe – will be effectively gagged from commenting on China's politics, human rights abuses or illegal occupation of Tibet.
Prince Charles has already let it be known that he will not be going to China, even if he is invited by Games organisers. His views on the Communist dictatorship are well known, after this newspaper revealed how he described China's leaders as “appalling old waxworks” in a journal written after he attended the handover of Hong Kong. The Prince is also a long-time supporter of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader.
Yesterday the British Olympic Association (BOA) confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that any athlete who refuses to sign the agreements will not be allowed to travel to Beijing.
* Shameful picture of England squad giving Nazi salute still haunts British sport. Why, 70 years later, do we still suck up to dictators?
Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China, they will be put on the next plane home.
The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: “[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.”
It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which “provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.
Zara Phillips and Toytown
Contention: the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips stands to be among the athletes who will be forced to sign the gagging order
The BOA took the decision even though other countries – including the United States, Canada, Finland, and Australia – have pledged that their athletes would be free to speak about any issue concerning China. To date, only New Zealand and Belgium have banned their athletes from giving political opinions while competing at the Games.
Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, said: “There are all sorts of organisations who would like athletes to use the Olympic Games as a vehicle to publicise their causes. I don't believe that is in the interest of the team performance. As a team we are ambassadors of the country and we have to conform to an appropriate code of conduct.”
However, human rights campaigner Lord David Alton condemned the move as “making a mockery” of the right to free speech.
The controversial decision to award the Olympics to Beijing means this year's Games have the potential to be the most politically charged since 1936. Adolf Hitler used the Munich Games that year to glorify his Nazi regime, although his claims of Aryan superiority were undermined by black American athlete Jesse Owens winning four gold medals.
More recently, there was a mass boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
But Colin Moynihan – now BOA chairman Lord Moynihan – defied Margaret Thatcher's calls for British athletes to stay at home and won a silver medal as cox of the men's eight rowing team. Former Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent has already criticised the Chinese authorities over the training methods used on children, which he regarded as tantamount to abuse.
Past shame: The England team give Nazi salutes at the 1938 Berlin Olympics, a memory which critics do not want to see recalled in China
Young gymnasts told him they were repeatedly beaten during training sessions.
Mr Clegg confirmed that such criticisms would be banned under the team's code of conduct, which will be in force from when athletes are selected in July, until the end of the Games on August 24.
Mr Clegg said: “During the period of the contract, that sort of action would be in dispute with the team-member agreement.
“There are all sorts of sanctions that I can apply. I had to send a team member home in Sydney because they breached our sponsorship agreement and that is the first time it happened. I have to act in the interest of the whole British team, not one individual. No athlete is above being part of the team. There is a requirement on team members to sign the agreement. If athletes step out of line, action will have to be taken.”
Darren Campbell, Olympic relay gold winner at the 2004 Games in Athens, said the BOA's move would “heap extra pressure on athletes”. But he added: “We are there to represent our country in sporting terms, just as our Army do when they go off to war. It is not supposed to be about politics.”
The BOA is taking a far more stringent stance than authorities in other countries. Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said: “What we will be saying to the athletes is that it's best to concentrate on your competitions.
“But they're entitled to have their opinions and express them. They're free to speak.”
Jouko Purontakanen, secretary general of the Finnish Olympic Committee, said: “We will not be issuing instructions on the matter. The freedom of expression is a basic right that cannot be limited.
“But the starting point is that we will go to Beijing to compete, not to talk politics.”
Political gestures have been made at previous Olympics, most famously in Mexico City in 1968 when black American 200m champion Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute.
Both were suspended from the US Olympic team and barred from the Olympic village.
Forty years on, British athletes face similar sanctions if they highlight the abuse of human rights in China.
Last night Edward McMillan-Scott, Conservative MEP and the European Parliament vice-president, predicted a public outcry over the BOA's move.
He said: “Foreign Secretary David Miliband is off to China soon. But before he gets on the plane, he and the rest of the Government should tell the BOA to take this clause out of the agreement.”
Potentially the contract means that a British athlete who witnesses someone being mistreated on the way to a stadium is forbidden from even speaking to their colleagues about it.
Competitors emailing home or writing blogs will also have to exercise self-censorship – or face having their Olympic dreams ruined.
Lord Alton said: “It is extraordinary to bar athletes from expressing an opinion about China's human-rights record. About the only justification for participating in the Beijing Games is that it offers an opportunity to encourage more awareness about human rights. Imposing compulsory vows of silence is an affront to our athletes, and in China it will be viewed as acquiescence. Each year 8,000 executions take place in China, political and religious opinion is repressed, journalists are jailed and the internet and overseas broadcasts are heavily censored. For our athletes to be told that they may not make any comment makes a mockery of our own country's belief in free speech.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Head Scarves in Turkey
on: February 11, 2008, 01:49:12 PM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Head Scarves and Liberty
February 11, 2008; Page A18
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited us in New York a few years ago, he said his daughters chose to study in the U.S. in part because it was illegal to wear head scarves at Turkish universities. Saturday, Turkey's Parliament voted to lift that ban.
There's probably no more contentious issue in Turkish public life, and thousands of secularists took to the streets in protest. The debate goes back to the founding of modern Turkey, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned the fez, veil and head scarf in many public places. When the military outlawed head scarves at public universities after a 1980 coup, it said the move was necessary to push back against Islamists.
Our own view is that lifting the ban is a sign of Turkey's democratic maturity. Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamic roots, rightly argued that the restriction violated freedom of religion. The vote to amend the constitution and permit head scarves on campus passed by 411 to 103, and included support from the big secular MHP party. The ban on face-covering veils remains.
Mr. Erdogan would nonetheless be foolish to ignore the concerns of secular democrats. The head scarf is not always merely an expression of female piety. It can also be a symbol of subjugation to political Islam. The challenge is to make sure that the freedom to wear one doesn't evolve into social compulsion to cover up. Some professors say the ban has protected secular students from peer pressure to cover their hair. The trend goes in the other direction, however. According to the European Stability Initiative, a research institute, the number of Turkish women appearing uncovered in public rose to 37% in 2006 from 27% in 1999.
The AKP, in power since 2002, has already demonstrated that a government with Islamist roots can coexist with democracy and free markets. Our hope is that lifting the ban on head scarves is another move toward a modern Muslim state.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 11, 2008, 01:42:20 PM
Who is Maggie Williams?
At first glance, Maggie Williams is a curious choice to be Hillary Clinton's new campaign manager. Though she ran the First Lady's staff during the Clinton years and served as Hillary's chief gatekeeper, she has never run a political campaign.
But what she lacks in experience, she makes up in fierce loyalty to the Clintons. During the 1993 investigation into the death of White House aide Vince Foster, a Secret Service agent swore under oath that he believed she had obstructed the investigation when he saw her carrying files from Foster's office into the family quarters of the White House on the night of his death. Ms. Williams denied the charge.
Three years later, Ms. Williams accepted a $50,000 political donation in her White House office from Johnny Chung, a fundraiser who was later found to have ties to Chinese intelligence agencies. Mr. Chung later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, one of 23 people to do so after the 1996 Clinton fund-raising scandals.
Ms. Williams will certainly play a major role in the Clinton campaign, no doubt because she isn't afraid to "crack heads" as one Democratic strategist told the New York Daily News. She also served for a time as head of former President Clinton's personal and foundation staff. So the real news behind her appointment is that Bill Clinton is now likely to take a more active day-to-day role in campaign strategy. Just as Hillary Clinton came to his rescue during the impeachment fight of 1998, it may now be his turn to see if he can rescue his wife's struggling campaign.
-- John Fund
The Presumptive Stalking Horse
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have wasted no time trying to convince Democratic voters that each of them is best-equipped to defeat John McCain.
Mr. Obama emphasized the freshness of his message at campaign stops, noting that John McCain has "embraced the failed policies of George Bush's Washington" and defended the war in Iraq.
Mrs. Clinton countered by telling an audience in Maine over the weekend: "I can go toe-to-toe with John McCain every single day," emphasizing that she is battle-tested after nearly two decades of Republican criticism.
"Sen. Obama has never had, I don't think, a single negative ad ever run against him," Mrs. Clinton told CBS News. "He's never had to face this. I am much better prepared and ready to . . . withstand whatever comes my way." Many political observers took her comments to mean Mr. Obama should quickly prepare himself for some negative ads -- from the Clinton campaign.
But for now the two Democrats are focusing on undermining Mr. McCain. Both made veiled references to Mr. McCain's age, which is 71. Mr. Obama saluted the former POW's "half century of service" to the country. For her part, Mrs. Clinton referred to the Arizona senator's "legendary, long background" as a war hero. That's called praising someone while at the same time skillfully inserting a needle into them.
-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I
"Congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.... The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House.... [W]e might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame" -- columnist Matt Tiabbi, writing in the February edition of Rolling Stone magazine.
Quote of the Day II
"In a time when online news supposedly has all the momentum, the vintage mass medium is enjoying a little renaissance. Last week's Democratic debate on CNN was the most watched primary debate in the history of cable news, drawing more than 8 million viewers. All of the major cable-news channels recorded large ratings increases in January versus both the previous month and a year ago. The broadcast networks have experienced the same phenomenon and have responded with their own expanded campaign coverage. ABC, for instance, scrapped its original plans for one hour of Super Tuesday coverage, expanding to a multihour broadcast (the writer's strike also helped -- the networks are desperate for good content)" -- National Journal columnist William Powers.
Senator John McCain's biggest challenge remains proving himself to conservatives on core issues like judges. That's why at last week's CPAC speech, he was at pains to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whom he said would appoint federal judges "intent on achieving political changes that the American people cannot be convinced to accept through the election of their representatives."
He echoed those sentiments in a recent manifesto for a Federalist Society symposium -- and none too soon. Conservative critics, led by Rush Limbaugh, have turned their attention on former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, who endorsed Mr. McCain and served as co-chair of his 2000 campaign. Senator Rudman was a chief sponsor in 1990 of David Souter, now part of the Supreme Court's reliable left flank and a "disaster" for conservatives, according to Mr. Limbaugh. "Rudman... the guy who misled us all on David Souter happens to be a top honcho on McCain's campaign," the radio host told listeners last Tuesday.
As it happens, Mr. Rudman is not a "top honcho" in the campaign this year, but as recently as the Florida debate, Mr. McCain did name him as an important adviser in the "the circle that I have developed over many years." Not helping matters is a remark Mr. McCain reportedly made questioning Bush Justice Sam Alito because he "wore his conservatism on his sleeve." Mr. McCain now says he doesn't recall making the statement.
Voters like to know what they are voting for, and Mr. McCain has gradually come around to making clear, specific promises to appoint "proven" conservative judges. His biggest credibility challenge, however, may be his authorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Whatever Candidate McCain says now, the only way a President McCain would likely be able to preserve his handwork is by appointing more liberal Justices to the Supreme Court.
-- Collin Levy
Political Diary: WSJ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson; Reagan
on: February 11, 2008, 11:23:49 AM
"Experience having long taught me the reasonableness of mutual
sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for
any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can;
when we cannot do all we would wish."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Randolph, 1 December 1803)
“[A] wise and frugal government... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” —Thomas Jefferson
“We must remove government’s smothering hand from where it does harm; we must seek to revitalize the proper functions of government. We do these things to set loose again the energy and the ingenuity of the American people. We do these things to reinvigorate those social and economic institutions which serve as a buffer and a bridge between the individual and the state—and which remain the real source of our progress as a people.” —Ronald Reagan
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Hello from SA
on: February 10, 2008, 10:24:18 PM
I have heard some very interesting things about stickfighting methods in South Africa, and also about knife. Please feel free to share about these.
I have also heard that the street crime situation in SA can be very bad. Again, please feel free to contribute in this regard as well.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon
on: February 10, 2008, 10:19:10 AM
South Baghdad has truly quieted down. There is still some violence reminding us this is not over, but I walked down the street of one neighborhood the other day wearing no body armor or helmet.
I mentioned back in December that I expected US casualties likely would rise in January and February, and unfortunately this is occurring. The same is likely to happen in March. This masks the reality that much progress is being made and Iraq as a whole appears to be settling down, because it is easy to cherry pick facts that make it appear worse than it is. I believe that JAM is cooperating more than is being reported in the news.
The increased US causalities are to be expected due to the rapidly diminishing habitat for al Qaeda. Al Qaeda continues to get hammered south of Baghdad, out in Diyala, up in Salah ad Dinh, Nineveh, and other places, but of course some of them always squirt and escape.
Many al Qaeda have "escaped" to (or are being trapped in? ) Mosul. There are reports that al Qaeda has learned from their mistakes and are treating the people in Mosul better than they have treated people elsewhere; this could make it tougher to root them out of Mosul. But these reports are ambiguous: AQI typically treats people mostly well when they first move in, but the pattern is clear: eventually they go Helter Skelter and start cutting off kids' heads and so forth.
I expect fierce fighting to unfold in Mosul, and I should be there in a few days.
On Monday, I'll talk on the Dennis Miller show, and Tuesday on NPR. Please click here for more information, and to see three "Photos of the Year" (almost), that I shot in Iraq.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Father sodomizes stepson in revenge for rape of daughter
on: February 09, 2008, 06:14:08 PM
SOURCE = http://www.wfaa.com/sharedcontent/dw....a3a18879.html
Dallas rape suspect beaten, shot in melee
04:26 PM CST on Saturday, February 9, 2008, By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News
[ Shows a pic of an apartment door, with the caption: "People at the apartment complex are refusing to talk about the incident." ]
A mob turned the tables on a man accused of raping a mother at knifepoint in her Red Bird-area apartment with her children present, authorities said.
The 26-year-old man, who had not been identified, was undergoing surgery Friday afternoon after being beaten with a baseball bat and shot at least twice, apparently once in the head.
"I would have to say this is unusual," Lt. Sally Lannom, commander of the assaults unit for the Dallas police, said of the melee. "It is outside the norm."
The mother, who didn't know her attacker, was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Her condition was unknown.
At the apartment complex, only one woman was willing to talk about what happened.
"He got what he deserved," Sharon Ivy said. "You don't go into [a] house ... do things to [a] momma and think it's all right. That was just a community watch."
According to police, the man forced his way into the 22-year-old woman's unlocked apartment in the 1400 block of West Wheatland Road around noon. Five children, some of whom belonged to the woman, were in the apartment at the time, police said.
"The suspect forced her into the bedroom and started tearing her clothes off," Lt. Lannom said. He then sexually assaulted her, police said.
Some of the children fled the apartment as the assault was going on, police said. When the man laid down the knife and began getting dressed, the woman ran out of her apartment to tell her boyfriend, who was in the parking lot with several friends, police said.
"She told him what was going on," Lt. Lannom said. He and his friends confronted the suspect in the apartment and a fight ensued, she said.
Police said the fight spilled out into the parking lot, with an unknown number of people taking part in the melee. The suspect eventually broke free and ran into another apartment, where he was shot. He did not live in that apartment, but it may belong to a relative, police said.
The melee that followed the assault was under investigation, and it was unclear Friday whether charges would be filed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stryker; Mil-supplier scum
on: February 09, 2008, 08:29:29 AM
New Stryker Faring Poorly in Field
Military.com | By Christian Lowe | January 30, 2008
BAQUBAH, Iraq - The newest version of the Army’s popular Stryker combat vehicle is garnering poor reviews here from Soldiers assigned to man its tank-like hull.
The General Dynamics Corp.-built Mobile Gun System looks like a typical eight-wheeled Stryker, except for a massive 105mm gun mounted on its roof. The gun fires three different types of projectiles, including explosive rounds, tank-busters and a "canister round" that ejects hundreds of steel pellets similar to a shotgun shell.
But while the system looks good on paper and the Army’s all for it, Soldiers with the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment -- one of the first units to receive the new vehicle for their deployment to Iraq -- don’t have a lot of good things to say about it.
More news from our man in Iraq .
"I wish [the enemy] would just blow mine up so I could be done with it," said Spec. Kyle Handrahan, 22, of Anaheim, Calif., a tanker assigned to Alpha Company, 4/9’s MGS platoon.
"It’s a piece," another MGS platoon member chimed in. "Nothing works on it."
The gripes stem from a litany of problems, including a computer system that constantly locks up, extremely high heat in the crew compartment and a shortage of spare parts. In one case, a key part was held up in customs on its way to Iraq, a problem one Soldier recognizes is a result of a new system being pushed into service before it’s ready.
"The concept is good, but they still have a lot of issues to work out on it," said Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Teimeier, Alpha, 4/9’s MGS platoon sergeant and a tanker by trade.
According to a Jan. 28 report by Bloomberg News, the 2008 Pentagon Authorization bill included language limiting funds for the MGS pending an Army report on fixes to the vehicle’s growing list of problems. The Pentagon’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in his annual report the vehicle was "not operationally effective," Bloomberg reported.
Soldiers here say the searing heat in the vehicles -- especially during Iraq’s blazing summer -- forces them to wear a complicated cooling suit that circulates cold water through tubing under their armor. Ironically, Soldiers often complain the suit makes them cold, Teimeier said, adding to their vehicular woes.
Despite the poor review from DoD auditors, the Army is standing by its vehicle, Bloomberg reported.
"The Army has determined that the MGS is suitable and operationally effective," Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin Downie, told the financial news service.
Where there is no debate is in the lethality of the vehicle’s firepower.
But Soldiers in the middle of a tough counterinsurgency fight here in Diyala province say commanders are reluctant to use the vehicle’s lethal gun on enemy strongholds out of concern of killing or wounding civilians. As a result, many of the dozens of MGS vehicles go unused while precision air strikes have become increasingly prevalent -- along with the usual Soldier-driven raids.
That’s got MGS drivers here frustrated. Not only do they have to deal with a complex system that gives them fits, but when it is working, they’re not allowed to employ the vehicle in combat.
"You can kick down doors and risk losing our guys," Handrahan said. "Or I can just knock down the building from a [kilometer] away and call it a day."
DoD Cover-Up Alleged Over Helmet Fine
New York Post | February 04, 2008
Two whistleblowers claim that a $1.9 million fine leveled against their former bosses - who allegedly underweighted the bulletproof material in combat helmets to save money - is too measly and part of a Pentagon cover-up.
Jeff Kenner and Tamara Elshaug, who worked at the Sioux Manufacturing Corp. in North Dakota, had charged that their company was involved in the "underweaving" of the bulletproof fabric in more than 2 million "P.A.S.G.T." helmets handed out to National Guardsmen, Army Soldiers and Navy Sailors across the country.
With the help of Long Island lawyer Andrew Campanelli, the pair sued on behalf of the government, and each received $200,000. The company - which has denied the allegations and said no U.S. Soldier was ever injured or killed as a result of the alleged underweaving - also was fined $1.9 million.
"The Department of Justice really did a good job, but I feel the Department of Defense is trying to cover up things," Kenner said, charging that the $1.9 million fine was less than the company had saved on shorting the Kevlar bulletproofing material in the helmets.
"Any time there's less Kevlar, there's less protection. The American people should know about this. It's just greedy people - it's all about money to them [the company]," Kenner said.
Despite the problems with shorting the lifesaving material, the Pentagon awarded a new $16 million to $72 million Kevlar helmet contract to the same firm, before the lawsuit was settled, said an incredulous Campanelli. Campanelli said that, before the settlement last month, someone fired three bullets into Elshaug's mobile home. One bullet pierced her stall shower but no one was injured. No arrest was made.
"It has the earmarks of a cover-up," the lawyer said of the shooting.
U.S. Attorney David Peterson said, "The matter was looked into, and a settlement was ultimately reached."
He declined to comment further.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson
on: February 09, 2008, 07:46:22 AM
"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their
attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim
them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the
public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges,
and Governors, shall all become wolves."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787)
Reference: The Learning of Liberty, Prangle, 111.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: February 09, 2008, 07:30:31 AM
NY Times: Caveat Lector
MADRASA kojast?” Where is the religious school?
Leaving my hotel on the tree-shaded boulevard of Chahar Bagh Abbasi in Esfahan, Iran, I had ducked down a small lane just south of Takhti Junction, made a couple of turns, and gotten lost. I was trying to follow a seven-mile walking route recorded in my Lonely Planet guidebook — and nowhere else, it seemed, not on signs or on any local map — and wandered into a maze of alleys flanked by tawny walls.
A man repairing a motorcycle in a small garage smiled and gave me directions. “Madrasa,” he said, pointing to the right.
If you’re going to get lost, Esfahan (also spelled Isfahan), a city of 1.3 million about 200 miles south of Tehran in central Iran, is an extraordinary place to do it. There’s a centuries-old saying that Esfahan is “half the world,” meaning it contains fully half of the earth’s wonders.
Jean Chardin, a 17th-century French traveler, wrote that Esfahan “was expressly made for the delights of love”; in the 1930s, the British travel writer Robert Byron rated it “among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity.”
I had arrived in Iran two weeks earlier, last May, considerably less venturesome and more anxious. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I sputtered in phrase book Farsi to the first person I met — a bearded soldier.
I knew only the news-report version of Iran: renegade developer of nuclear technology, member of the Axis of Evil, and mortal enemy of the Great Satan, the United States. I was hoping to learn what the country was actually like; I wanted to know how it would feel to be an American in Iran.
“Where are you from?” a German tourist asked on my first day in Tehran.
When I said, “The United States,” her eyes bulged. “Ssssh, I won’t tell,” she said.
Tehran didn’t dispel negative stereotypes, at least not at first. Braving streets jammed with pollution-spewing motorcycles and Paykan sedans, I walked under the watchful eye of my Iranian guide, who said that it would be dangerous for me to leave his sight. We passed a billboard showing the glaring visage of the Ayatollah Khomeini and reached the former United States Embassy. Site of C.I.A. plotting — including for the 1953 coup that installed the Shah — and of the 1979-81 hostage crisis, the compound is now a museum and historical site known as the Den of U.S. Espionage.
I walked past a painted slogan in rough English — “United States of America Ghods Occupier Regime Is the Most Hated State Before Our Nation”— and another that read “Down With USA.” A young man stood smiling in front of it. I snapped a photo; discreetly, or so I thought, but he ran down the sidewalk after me.
“I don’t hate America,” he said plaintively. “I love America.”
Nearly three decades after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is undergoing a quieter transformation, this one in tourism. Last July, a government official announced a worldwide campaign to boost tourism, with new tourist offices to be opened in 20 countries.
This closely followed the news that Iran would offer cash bonuses to travel agents who can attract certain categories of tourists, especially those from Europe and America. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, probably hoping to convey peaceful intentions, has even announced that foreign tourists will soon be able to visit the country’s controversial nuclear sites.
This charm offensive hasn’t translated yet to an easy process for Americans hoping to visit. Independent travel is all but impossible — you need a host, typically a commercial outfitter — and the wait for a visa often lasts several months. I traveled with the photographer Greg Von Doersten, and despite the fact that he made arrangements well in advance with a company called Iranian Mountain Guides, he was forced to travel to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, which handles Iranian interests in America, on the morning of our flight to pick up our visas. He barely made it back to New York in time for our evening departure.
Iran has sprawling pre-Islamic ruins, mosques glittering with kaleidoscopic mosaics of tile, and cities that present both a stern theocratic face and a glitzier Western one set to a ring-tone soundtrack. Its deserts are vaster than those of the American Southwest, its mountains higher than the Rockies.
Our itinerary would take us from Tehran to the highest summit in the Middle East, 18,606-foot Mount Damavand, to Persepolis, the 2,500-year-old masterpiece of the Achaemenids, the first Persian Empire. The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the long walk I took in Esfahan.
After following the motorcycle mechanic’s directions, I stood before a set of hulking wooden doors with peeling paint and dangling chains. This was the entrance to the Madrasa-ye Nimurvand, a small school known for being friendly to foreign visitors.
Robed students with books under their arms crossed the leafy interior courtyard; there was a low murmuring of voices and pleasant chirping of birds. A mullah, his beard flecked with gray and his head wrapped in a white turban, walked by, and we wound up in an hourlong discussion through a translator.
The mullah, Abdullah Dehshan, didn’t shy away from asking meaty questions: Do you think Islam is violent? If you could have one wish for the world what would it be? Do you believe in God? Maybe, I said, but people often get in the way.
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Do we need priests, rabbis, mullahs? I asked him. Mullah Dehshan smiled at this theological softball. If you want to go to Shiraz, he said, you would need a car, a road and a map. It is difficult to reach a far-off destination without help. “And so it is with God,” he said.
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Leaving the madrasa, I followed an alley to the northeastern edge of the Grand Bazaar Bazaar, one of the country’s largest. Built primarily in the 16th century, with some parts dating back to A.D. 700, the covered passages extended for miles and presented a maze even more convoluted than the alleyways that had preceded it.
The ceiling was high and vaulted. Star-shaped portals admitted spears of sunlight that cut through dusty air. Vendors and their wares were crammed into tiny stalls, selling spices, jeans, toiletries, soft-serve ice cream and cheap plastic toys. The atmosphere was souk meets 99-cent store.
Many booths, however, sold the very sort of handmade crafts that one would hope to find: ornate Persian carpets, many woven by nomadic peoples like the Turkmen and Lors; finely painted miniatures depicting hunting trips and polo matches; lacquered vases and bowls; and copper, silver and gold platters.
The passage ahead grew brighter. I passed through the Qeysarieh Portal, a faded but still colorful fresco overhead showing Shah Abbas I battling the Uzbeks. Esfahan owes much of its greatness to Abbas, who, after driving the Ottoman Turks out of Persia in the 16th century, began an architectural campaign to glorify his new capital city. Abbas’s verdant gardens, glittering palaces, grand ceremonial square, arched bridges and resplendent mosques still stand and are easily connected on a walking tour — one from a guidebook or, even better, one of your own invention.
I emerged from the portal onto a grand plaza under brilliant sunshine. Measuring 1,680 feet long by 535 feet wide — over 20 acres —Iman Square is one of the largest plazas in the world, and holds what is possibly the most stunning assemblage of Islamic architecture. A procession of arched bays enclosed a grassy esplanade and long reflecting pool.
At the far south end, twin minarets guarded the towering alcove entryway to Imam Mosque, which was capped by onion-shaped domes. To the right was Ali Qapu Palace. Six stories high, it had thin wooden columns supporting a roof over the elevated terrace, the royal vantage point for watching the polo matches that were played below hundreds of years ago. To the left was the broad, colorful cupola of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque, dedicated to Abbas’s father-in-law.
Trotting horses towed carriages. Families picnicked on the grass. If a traveler had any lingering doubts about the hospitality of Iranians toward Americans, this was the place to dispel them. Making a new friend required no more effort than standing still for 30 seconds.
I was approached first by a trio of giggling girls in black chadors. Next came an older man who invited me to have tea with three of his friends. Everyone wanted to know why I had come to Iran, and wondered what people back home thought of this undertaking. They had a pretty good idea about the answer.
“People think that we are all religious extremists with nuclear weapons and beards down to our stomachs,” said a carpet vendor named Vahid Mousavifard. “But Iran is actually very safe for tourists.”
Many people wanted to talk politics, though this, I knew, was to be done with caution. Members of the secret police are known to circulate in crowds, I was told by a guide; visitors have been detained for saying the wrong thing.
The people I met, as one might expect, weren’t big fans of President Bush. “You have troops in Afghanistan and troops in Iraq,” one young man said. “How long before you invade Iran?”
But I also heard comments that could have been scripted by Karl Rove.
“In Iran we have no wine, no music, no dancing, no disco, no loving,” said a ranting middle-age neuroscientist. “We want your government. We want your freedom.”
The Imam Mosque is the larger of the two at Imam Square; Sheik Lotfollah is the more beautiful. Its tiled dome was covered by twirling black-and-white vines and turquoise flowers, a design with the precision more of fine china than of monumental architecture. A high, honeycombed arch known as an aivan, decorated with Koranic inscriptions and complex arabesques, capped the entryway.
Inside, a cool, dim passage led to a prayer sanctuary beneath the dome. Light filtered in through screened windows, revealing glass and tile mosaics even more colorful and elaborate than those outside.
Iranians are proud of these 17th-century monuments, as they are of much of Persia’s history over the millennia. In the course of my travels, people complained more frequently and vigorously about the American movie “300,” which was perceived to portray ancient Persia in an unflattering light, than about any contemporary political issue.
In Shiraz, 225 miles south of Esfahan, I had met a young Iranian tour guide, Maziar Rahimi, who had just spent the day at Persepolis. “When I went there I saw how big we were back then and how small we are now,” he said.
He believed that there was great dissatisfaction with the current state of the country and that it was time to live up to the glories of the past.
“You see it everywhere,” he said. “The young women are wearing their scarves far back and more makeup. Change is coming.”
LATE one afternoon in Esfafahan, I strolled from Imam Square down to the Zayandeh River, which snakes through the heart of the city. Yet more of the legacy of Shah Abbas and his successors is on view there, a series of stunning old bridges spanning the broad, calm waterway. Following a path along the bank, I saw people spread out on blankets for picnic dinners, groups of laughing girls, even some couples boldly holding hands.
I reached the Si-o-Seh Bridge, the Bridge of 33 Arches. The sun was setting, and lights came on to fill each of the alcoves with a golden glow. Silhouetted figures gazed out from the portals.
Farther east, near the base of the Chubi Bridge, stood a small teahouse. The inside was packed with men sitting shoulder to shoulder smoking qalyans, or water pipes. Spotting the visitor, they squeezed even tighter to make room. A waiter brought tea, sugar and a qalyan. The smoke was sweet and rich; there was so much in the air that the people across the room were hazy.
The man on my right asked where I was from. “America,” I said.
The room got quieter. Everyone seemed to be looking my way. Then the man clapped my shoulder and smiled.
“Our governments are bad,” he said. “But the people are good.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Deadly Force Study
on: February 09, 2008, 06:57:51 AM
Force Science News #91
Part 1 of a 2-part series
The story is a frequent staple of the evening news. An officer shoots and kills a minority subject who turns out to be...unarmed. Protests explode, and the familiar litany is again asserted: racial bias by the cops underlies many of these inflammatory events.
Now a new study by a member of the Force Science Research Center's national advisory board confirms what law enforcement officials have argued all along: Such controversial shootings aren't about race. What really prompts an officer to pull the trigger in circumstances that are rapidly evolving and uncertain is the suspect's behavior.
"That's the bottom-line finding," researcher Tom Aveni told Force Science News. "If you confront a police officer in what appears to be a felonious context, it's the way you act that will get you shot-not your race. And that's true regardless of the officer's sex, age, experience, or type of duty location."
In fact, Aveni was able to pinpoint specific body-language that tends to be associated with the decision to shoot.
Moreover, among less important factors that also influence decision-making, even a suspect's clothing and age are likely to be more compelling than his or her ethnicity in determining officers' reactions.
Aveni's conclusions come from his detailed analysis of the reactions of 307 officers who engaged armed and unarmed suspects in simulated confrontations designed to accurately reflect conditions under which officer-involved shootings often occur. Founder of the consulting and training organization The Police Policy Studies Council in addition to serving on FSRC's board, Aveni funded the project largely from his own pocket. He also received some financial aid and substantial logistical assistance from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, an insurer of law enforcement agencies.
The full report of his findings, titled "A Critical Analysis of Police Shootings Under Ambiguous Circumstances," can be found at: www.theppsc.org
"This is a very significant, first-of-its-kind investigation," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of FSRC at Minnesota State University-Mankato. "Tom Aveni has measured critical variables in shooting situations that other researchers have ignored completely. As a result, his findings are far more realistic and meaningful in identifying the factors that truly drive deadly force decision-making."
Aveni himself believes the study potentially will "radically alter the way police use of deadly force is examined in the future."
PROJECT ORIGIN. Something of a dual motivation propelled him into the study, which was "years in the making," Aveni says. For one thing, he was intrigued by an assertion made by the ACLU some years ago that 25% of all suspects shot by police are "unarmed and not-assaultive." And he was also curious about research concerning the "disproportionate" use of deadly force by officers against racial minorities.
"Race has been explored extensively as a factor" in police shootings, Aveni says, particularly in those where no suspect weapon is found after the smoke clears. "The implication has been that the police are racist" and that negative stereotyping causes them to overreact with excessive force in circumstances where, in fact, no lethal threat exists.
As Aveni reviewed existing research, he found that studies on the subject seemed invariably to explore the matter "without meaningful context." They merely reported gross numbers without "delving deeply into the generally overlooked critical micro-behavioral components that are the very essence of the police decision-making process."
Consequently, if minorities indeed are disproportionately targeted in "ambiguous" shootings where a deadly threat is not clearly confirmed before an officer fires, "one is left to wonder why."
With the cooperation of 6 law enforcement agencies in Michigan-3 municipal police departments and 3 sheriff's departments, representing urban, suburban, and rural jurisdictions-Aveni set about to "better understand the behavior of officers forced to make critical, split-second decisions that may result in the taking of a life."
TESTING FORMAT. A troupe of actors from a local theater, representing a diversity of races, sexes, ages, and attire, were videotaped depicting subjects at a furniture store location. They performed specifically prescribed reactions as if interrupted by an officer responding to a purported robbery-in-progress, a burglar alarm activation, or a possible mugging-in-progress.
Using a mix of players, clothing, and reactions, 80 different scenarios were taped. These were then projected in random order on a laser-based IES Interactive Training MILO system. Participating officers, also diverse as to race, gender, age, experience, agency affiliation, and assignment, then were randomly exposed, one at a time, to 3 different scenarios with 3 different outcomes: a suspect who intends to surrender empty-handed, a suspect who intends to surrender with a non-weapon object (cell phone, flashlight, police ID wallet) in hand, and a subject determined to shoot.
All scenarios were taped in low-light conditions, to "inject more ambiguity into the situations" and to reflect the fact that more than 70% of police shootings of unarmed subjects occur in settings with unfavorable illumination.
"Realistic uncertainties like officers regularly encounter on the street were built into all the scenarios," Aveni explains. Officers were told that the robbery-in-progress report, for example, had come via a 911 hang-up; no further details available, including no description of the offender and no information on whether a weapon is involved. When the participating officer "arrives" at the scene, viewing things from the camera's perspective, an unidentified subject bursts out of the front door and starts to run away.
When an officer responds to the burglar alarm, he or she spots a subject trying to crowbar a side door. The subject drops the bar, eliminating the only potential weapon-that's visible, at least.
In the possible mugging scenario, officers were told only that they are doing business checks in an industrial park at 0100 hours. Yelling that suggests a "verbal altercation" is heard. The camera leads the participating officer around a visual obstruction, where he or she then sees one individual pushing another against a wall; again, no explanation immediately available.
Officers stood about 15 feet away from the action. They were told to react to what they saw on the screen as they would on the street. Most immediately issued loud verbal commands: "Police! Don't move!" or "Show me your hands!" or both. In each scenario, the subject "responded" by standing with back to the officer, hands out of sight at waist level. "This added to the 'threat ambiguity' of each situation," Aveni says.
Each subject had been coached to look back over his or her shoulder at least once during the encounter, as if taking a "target glance" at the participating officer. Then, unexpectedly, the subject abruptly turned to the left, toward the officer. Hands were kept at waist level at least through the first half-turn, and then they moved up somewhat as the turn was completed.
Subjects who were armed (1/3 of the scenarios) fired a .38 Special S&W M640 revolver, loaded with full-flash Hollywood blanks. The participating LEOs were warned that if someone on screen shot at them first, a modified paintball apparatus beside the simulator screen would also begin firing foam-rubber balls at them. "This factor was injected into the study in the hope that it might diminish participant apathy or complacency," Aveni explains.
The scenarios lasted, at maximum, about 30 seconds apiece. All the "confrontations" were videotaped to allow minute analysis later.
RESULTS. Aveni found that of the 307 LEOs participating, 38%-nearly 4 in every 10-shot unarmed subjects depicted in the scenarios (in all, 117 such subjects got shot). Some officers shot more than one suspect who turned out not to have a weapon. Carefully tabulating and analyzing details of the officers' actions to illuminate the percentage, he reached several important conclusions:
What didn't matter. "No significant correlation existed between the officers' actions and the suspects' race," Aveni says. "Likewise, there was no significant correlation between what the officers did and their own gender, age, experience, or type of jurisdiction in which they worked-urban, suburban, or rural.
"Statistically, there was a significant correlation in black officers shooting unarmed subjects. But with only 9 African-American LEOs participating in the study, that number may be too small to warrant firm conclusions."
What did matter. The strongest correlation was found between the subjects' actions and the officers' decision to shoot. Also significant, though of somewhat lesser influence, was the type of crime believed to be involved in the scenario and 2 attributes of the subject-age and attire.
Aveni explains: "Officers were more likely to shoot in the robbery scenario than in the possible mugging and more likely to shoot in the mugging scenario than in the apparent burglary-in-progress."
The nature of the crime involved, he says, clearly affected the officers' "vigilance and situational readiness." Responding to the reported robbery, they were more likely to have their sidearm drawn quickly and pointed at the suspect when verbal commands were issued, compared to the spontaneously discovered possible mugging and the alarm activation call (a frequent false run in police work) where their readiness was "measurably worse."
Also, officers were "more likely to shoot when the subject was young and also when the subject was wearing scruffy 'punk' clothing rather than 'business' attire."
Predictably, officers overwhelmingly shot at suspects when suspects shot at them. But many also fired "preemptively," before a weapon could actually be discerned, resulting in rounds being delivered to unarmed subjects. "The major influence here was how the subject behaved," Aveni says. Particularly involved was what he calls "the acting quotient."
Acting quotient. All suspects in the scenarios followed the same choreographed pattern of movement: With their back to the participating officer, they initially kept their hands at waist level, glanced over their shoulder, then turned without warning to face the officer, concealing their hands until well into the turn.
Aveni had not anticipated that the actors would perform with different levels of energy and conviction. Yet some performed more "convincingly" than others, and that proved to be a key component of the research.
"The subjects most likely to get shot," Aveni says, "displayed a high-level 'acting quotient.' They performed with unchoreographed nuances. That is, they made their moves with vigorous intensity and speed, versus tepidly. They kept their hands low, rather than high. They tended to crouch partially or fully as they turned instead of remaining upright, and they fully or partially clenched their hands, rather than keeping them open."
Such energetic movement in a setting where a serious crime appears to be involved "is much less likely to be viewed as innocuous," Aveni says. "A suspect's intensity had much to do with whether an officer felt compelled to pull the trigger before the circumstances became manifest. It became one of the most reliable predictors of whether a person got shot."
Time pressure. For their own safety, officers had little time to react. Even with "tepid" movements, the suspects' hands came around "almost always too fast to determine" the true nature of any object being held or whether the hands were, in fact, empty, Aveni says.
As the hands typically swung through an arc of 4-5 feet, the officers' eye movement inevitably lagged behind, so that the action was perceived "as a blur or a smear of motion. Judgment about what, if anything, the suspects held could not be made with certainty until the hand movement stopped. When a suspect had a gun, that was too late."
With an officer behind the reactionary curve, Aveni says, "the lag time can allow the suspect to fire one or more shots before the officer can shoot back." Indeed, in the study armed suspects were able to shoot first 61% of the time.
From a critical juncture in a scenario, an officer typically had "1/3 of a second or less" to decide whether to use deadly force or risk being shot, Aveni claims.
"Those officers who managed to shoot armed suspects before the suspect was able to fire seemed to have elected to use deadly force before it could be clearly determined that the suspect did, in fact, have a handgun. The officers decided to fire either before the suspect started to turn or at the earliest possible moment turning was perceived.
"This tends to explain why a significant percentage of unarmed subjects, who intended to surrender with or without innocuous objects in hand, also were shot."
All unarmed role players in the scenarios were told to culminate their movements in the "surrender" position: hands held at sternum height or above, palms facing forward, fingers pointed "mostly upward."
Aveni reports that "92% of the unarmed subjects who were shot during the study were in the 'surrender position' " at the time the officers' shots reached them.
Lewinski offers some pertinent observations. First, he says, "time pressure is notorious for significantly increasing errors in judgment. That's true not just in officer-involved shootings but also in activities that are not life-threatening, such as fingerprint analysis. As time tightens, the incidence of false-positive and false-negative decisions expands."
Time plays into these situations in another critical way, too, Lewinski explains. "A passage of time necessarily occurs between the instant an officer makes a decision to shoot and the instant his rounds impact. Force Science research has clearly established that if a suspect is moving, his position will be different when a bullet strikes than it was when the decision was made to shoot.
"This can account for subjects being shot in the surrender posture. They weren't necessarily in those 'no-shoot' postures when the officer's shooting decision was made."
Aveni's study further revealed "a common tendency" for officers to continue shooting once they started. Aveni offers 2 explanations: 1) "it takes time to 'apply the brakes' of a neuromuscular response" like firing a gun. Studies by FSRC have shown that officers, on average, fire 2 or more shots after they've received a visual cue that shooting should end; 2) the scenarios Aveni used did not have a branching capability, so the suspects did not fall when "hit." Thus, "any officer trained to 'fire until your foe falls' would likely continue shooting."
Lewinski elaborates. "In the midst of shooting to save their lives, officers often can't see where their bullets are striking. They rely on highly detectable visual cues that the subject has ceased being a threat, such as the suspect dramatically thrusting his or her arms overhead or collapsing.
"Even then, officers often will continue to shoot because of the perception-reaction lag time, resulting in bullets hitting the body as the suspect falls."
Agency differences. Marked differences in performance were evident among the 6 departments that participated in Aveni's study. At the "highest-frequency" end of the scale, nearly half the officers from one agency shot unarmed suspects. The lowest frequency was compiled by an agency whose participating officers shot unarmed suspects 24% of the time. The rest ranged from 39% to 44%.
"The question will undoubtedly arise: 'What noted differences were there between the agency with the lowest frequency of mistake-of-fact shootings and the agency with the highest frequency?' " Aveni observes, noting that both these agencies patrol urban jurisdictions.
"The answer, simply put: 'It was a difference in training.' "
[In Part 2 of our report, we'll explore what that difference is, as well as other implications that Aveni's findings have for officer survival, training, investigations, policy-making, and courtroom defenses.]
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: February 09, 2008, 06:01:05 AM
Sharia law row: Archbishop is in shock as he faces demands to quit
The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing demands to quit last night as the row over sharia law intensified. Leading bishops publicly contradicted Dr Rowan Williams's call for Islamic law to be brought into the British legal system. With the Church of England plunged into crisis, senior figures were said to be discussing the archbishop's future.
One member of the church's "Cabinet", the Archbishop's Council, was reported as saying: "There have been a lot of calls for him to resign. I don't suppose he will take any notice, but, yes, he should resign."
Officials at Lambeth Palace told the BBC Dr Williams was in a "state of shock" and "completely overwhelmed" by the scale of the row. It was said that he could not believe the fury of the reaction. The most damaging attack came from the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali. He said it would be "simply impossible" to bring sharia law into British law "without fundamentally affecting its integrity". Sharia "would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence. This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy."
The church's second most senior leader, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, refused to discuss the matter. But he has said sharia law "would never happen" in Britain. Politicians joined the chorus of condemnation, with Downing Street saying British law should be based on British values. Tory and LibDem leaders also voiced strong criticism.
Even prominent Muslims were rounding on Dr Williams. Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, said: "I haven't experienced any clamour or fervent desire for sharia law in this country. "If there are people who prefer sharia law there are always countries where they could go and live." Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, rejected the idea that British law forces Muslims to choose between their religion and their society. He said: "This will alienate people from other communities because they will think it is what Muslims want - and it is not."
The Muslim Council of Britain came to Dr Williams's aid, however, describing his comments in a lecture to lawyers and a BBC interview as "thoughtful".
But Oxford University Islamic scholar Professor Tariq Ramadan admitted: "These kinds of statements just feed the fears of fellow citizens. I really think we, as Muslims, need to come up with something that we abide by the common law and within these latitudes there are possibilities for us to be faithful to Islamic principles."
The archbishop is likely to come under heavy fire next week at a meeting of the Church's General Synod. Liberal and feminist critics have been appalled by the thought of sharia law while evangelical opponents believe Dr Williams has failed to defend Christianity.
The archbishop was already battling intractable difficulties within the church over gay rights, a row which began nearly five years ago and has brought him criticism from all sides. Later this year he has to face a conference of hundreds of bishops from around the world which threatens further bitter division. Dr Williams's opponents on the conservative evangelical wing - who resent his liberal beliefs on issues such as gay rights - were suggesting last night that the archbishop is finished.
The Reverend Paul Dawson of the Reform group of around 500 clergy said: "We are very sad that he does not seem to be able to articulate a clear Christian vision for Britain. It is true to say that there is a lot of dissatisfaction."
Dr Williams defended himself in a Lambeth Palace statement saying he had been trying to "tease out" the issue. The archbishop had said it could help build a better and more cohesive society if Muslims were able to choose to have marital disputes or financial matters, for example, dealt with in a sharia court. The adoption of some elements of sharia law "seems unavoidable".
But the statement insisted: "The archbishop made no proposals for sharia, and certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law."
Even fellow bishops, however, think this is precisely what Dr Williams did say.
Bishop of Southwark Tom Butler, a liberal who would normally be expected to defend Dr Williams, said the archbishop had been entering a minefield and added: "It will take a great deal of thought and work before I think it is a good idea."
He was more blunt in a circular to clergy in his diocese, saying he had yet to be convinced of the feasibility of incorporating any non-Christian religious law into the English legal system.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK Sharia
on: February 08, 2008, 06:51:07 PM
Last updated at 16:32pm on 8th February 2008 Comments (16)
Sharia law "courts" are already dealing with crime on the streets of London, it emerged today.
The revelation came after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, called for an "accommodation" with parts of the Islamic legal code in a speech which attracted widespread condemnation.
The Archbishop said parts of civil law could be dealt with under the sharia system but already some communities have gone much further - and it was revealed today that a teenage stabbing case among the Somali community in Woolwich had been dealt with by a sharia "trial".
Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths were arrested by police on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager.
The victim's family told officers the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.
A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate the victim.
"All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing."
An Islamic Council in Leyton also revealed that it had dealt with more than 7,000 divorces while sharia courts in the capital have settled hundreds of financial disputes.
Today's revelations came as controversy raged over Dr Williams's call for parts of sharia law to be adopted in Britain.
His comments were condemned by Downing Street, the Tories and the chairman of the Government's Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
They were described as a "recipe for chaos" by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.
Along with the Islamic Council in Leyton, there are reports of at least two other sharia courts sitting in London.
There are also courts in a number of other areas of the country with high Muslim populations, including Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Most are understood to concentrate on divorce cases - although such judgments are not recognised in British law - as well as financial disputes. Suhaib Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, which was set up in 1982, said that he and his colleagues dealt with more than 200 cases a year, ranging from inheritance to marriage and divorce.
"From the beginning, people have wanted our services. More and more come back to us. Each month we deal with 20 cases," he said.
On its website, the Islamic Sharia Council warns those who use its services that the divorces it grants cannot invalidate a union under British civil law and advises that a separate civil divorce should be obtained. As well as giving advice on legal matters, such as inheritance, the website also gives general guidance on Muslim practices including the need for beards and the need for women to cover themselves in public.
It also covers issues such as whether women should train as doctors. It supports this as a "lesser evil", but suggests that training should take place at an all-female college and that future treatment should be given to "women only".
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan on BO vs. the Hillbillary Clintons
on: February 08, 2008, 06:39:54 PM
Can Mrs. Clinton Lose?
By PEGGY NOONAN
February 8, 2008
If Hillary Clinton loses, does she know how to lose? What will that be, if she loses? Will she just say, "I concede" and go on vacation at a friend's house on an island, and then go back to the Senate and wait?
Is it possible she could be so normal? Politicians lose battles, it's part of what they do, win and lose. But she does not know how to lose. Can she lose with grace? But she does grace the way George W. Bush does nuance.
She often talks about how tough she is. She has fought "the Republican attack machine" that has tried to "stop" her, "end" her, and she knows "how to fight them." She is preoccupied to an unusual degree with toughness. A man so preoccupied would seem weak. But a woman obsessed with how tough she is just may be lethal.
Does her sense of toughness mean that every battle in which she engages must be fought tooth and claw, door to door? Can she recognize the line between burly combat and destructive, never-say-die warfare? I wonder if she is thinking: What will it mean if I win ugly? What if I lose ugly? What will be the implications for my future, the party's future? What will black America, having seen what we did in South Carolina, think forever of me and the party if I do low things to stop this guy on the way to victory? Can I stop, see the lay of the land, imitate grace, withdraw, wait, come back with a roar down the road? Life is long. I am not old. Or is that a reverie she could never have? What does it mean if she could never have it?
We know she is smart. Is she wise? If it comes to it, down the road, can she give a nice speech, thank her supporters, wish Barack Obama well, and vow to campaign for him?
It either gets very ugly now, or we will see unanticipated--and I suspect professionally saving--grace.
I ruminate in this way because something is happening. Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she's funding her campaign with her own wealth, her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down, and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn't have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he's played a tough and knowing inside/outside game.
The day she admitted she'd written herself a check for $5 million, Obama's people crowed they'd just raised $3 million. But then his staff is happy. They're all getting paid.
Political professionals are leery of saying, publicly, that she is losing, because they said it before New Hampshire and turned out to be wrong. Some of them signaled their personal weariness with Clintonism at that time, and fear now, as they report, to look as if they are carrying an agenda. One part of the Clinton mystique maintains: Deep down journalists think she's a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he'd tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary.
And that is a grim and over-the-top analogy, which I must withdraw. What I really mean is they see her as the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction": "I won't be ignored, Dan!"
* * *
Mr. Obama's achievement on Super Tuesday was solid and reinforced trend lines. The popular vote was a draw, the delegate count a rough draw, but he won 13 states, and when you look at the map he captured the middle of the country from Illinois straight across to Idaho, with a second band, in the northern Midwest, of Minnesota and North Dakota. He won Missouri and Connecticut, in Mrs. Clinton's backyard. He won the Democrats of the red states.
On the wires Wednesday her staff was all but conceding she is not going to win the next primaries. Her superdelegates are coming under pressure that is about to become unrelenting. It was easy for party hacks to cleave to Mrs Clinton when she was inevitable. Now Mr. Obama's people are reportedly calling them saying, Your state voted for me and so did your congressional district. Are you going to jeopardize your career and buck the wishes of the people back home?
Mrs. Clinton is stoking the idea that Mr. Obama is too soft to withstand the dread Republican attack machine. (I nod in tribute to all Democrats who have succeeded in removing the phrase "Republican and Democratic attack machines" from the political lexicon. Both parties have them.) But Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. He will be hard to get at, hard to address. There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them. No one, no candidate, no party, no heavy-breathing consultant, will want to cross any line--lines that have never been drawn, that are sure to be shifting and not always visible--in approaching the first major-party African-American nominee for president of the United States.
* * *
He is the brilliant young black man as American dream. No consultant, no matter how opportunistic and hungry, will think it easy--or professionally desirable--to take him down in a low manner. If anything, they've learned from the Clintons in South Carolina what that gets you. (I add that yes, there are always freelance mental cases, who exist on both sides and are empowered by modern technology. They'll make their YouTubes. But the mad are ever with us, and this year their work will likely stay subterranean.)
With Mr. Obama the campaign will be about issues. "He'll raise your taxes." He will, and I suspect Americans may vote for him anyway. But the race won't go low.
Mrs. Clinton would be easier for Republicans. With her cavalcade of scandals, they'd be delighted to go at her. They'd get medals for it. Consultants would get rich on it.
The Democrats have it exactly wrong. Hillary is the easier candidate, Mr. Obama the tougher. Hillary brings negative; it's fair to hit her back with negative. Mr. Obama brings hope, and speaks of a better way. He's not Bambi, he's bulletproof.
The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented--"He's too young, he's never run anything, he's not fully baked"--the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.
The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 08, 2008, 01:05:46 PM
McCain Slays Them in the Green Room
Democrats, and even a few Republicans, have suggested that John McCain may not wear well as a candidate, with many making comparisons to Bob Dole, the former war hero and longtime senator who was the uninspired GOP nominee in 1996 against Bill Clinton.
But Mr. McCain put many of those doubts to rest yesterday with a thundering speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He couldn't have asked for a better platform -- Mitt Romney had just used the same stage to suspend his candidacy, thus giving Mr. McCain a chance to present himself as the de facto GOP nominee to the party's most enthusiastic activists.
Mr. McCain knew he was addressing a crowd with whom he had many policy disagreements -- from campaign finance reform to global warming. He didn't pretend to paper those over, but instead asked his audience to "examine the totality of my record." He pointed out he has consistently voted for pro-life causes for a quarter century, pledged to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution and laid into the departed GOP Congress for tarnishing the party's fiscal conservative credentials. "I will not sign a bill with any earmarks in it," he said to thunderous applause. He then roused the crowd again by pointing out that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would set an arbitrary timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.
He clearly won over a lot of skeptical conservatives. I was in the green room where many prominent CPAC speakers had gathered to watch the speech, and where Mr. McCain had mingled prior to mounting the stage. "It was a great speech, with a perfect tonal pitch," said Don Devine, a former Reagan administration official who is normally a dour pessimist when it comes to GOP electoral chances. "I think he could beat Hillary." Ken Blackwell, a former GOP candidate for governor from Ohio, called the speech "the start of a great conversation with conservatives and much better than I expected."
Even Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader who has clashed often with the Arizona senator in the past, grudgingly acknowledged that he might bring himself to vote for Mr. McCain in the fall -- a major concession from someone who has publicly stated that the party's new presumptive nominee has been "the most destructive force against [the GOP] of any elected official I know."
John McCain strode into the toughest imaginable audience of conservatives yesterday. While he didn't exactly conquer them, he left them feeling hopeful that he will run a spirited campaign based on their fundamental principles. "He said all the right things, and if he now delivers, we have a chance to unite the movement," concluded Richard Viguerie, a conservative who spent much of the last few months denouncing most of the GOP field for apostasy.
Even a week ago, I couldn't have imagined John McCain leaving such a positive impression on the hard-bitten conservatives at CPAC. But he did, and he now has a real chance to lead a united party into the fall campaign.
-- John Fund
Who Is No. 2?
At age 71, John McCain certainly needs a running mate, and picking a solid conservative could help him win over some of his skeptics within the GOP. At the top of nearly every list is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Even Karl Rove mentioned him on Fox News as the Super Tuesday results rolled in.
Mr. Sanford is nearly universally loved by conservatives for good reason. Now serving his second term in South Carolina, he has made himself famous for his unremitting war on pork, even though his own party controls the legislature. A few years ago, he drove the point home by carrying two squealing pigs into the state capitol. Typically he vetoes about 100 bills a years (though his fellow Republican frequently override him). Last year, he vetoed the entire state budget.
Mr. Sanford understands the power of symbolism but also how to work the machinery of government. Sitting on my desk is a copy of an executive budget his office published a few years ago -- the first comprehensive budget a South Carolina governor ever compiled. Previously, governors simply reacted to spending bills as they came along. Mr. Sanford's record also bespeaks a commitment to policy ideas that conservatives hold dear -- expanding school choice, pushing through a broad-based property tax cut and proposing a phase-out the state income tax. One key achievement was enacting a voucher-based state Medicaid reform -- a model for overhauling entitlement programs for the 21st century.
As a member of Congress in the 1990s, Mr. Sanford gave every indication that he wasn't interested in becoming a permanent fixture in Washington. He never bought a house. He slept in his office and commuted home every weekend. He ran on a self-imposed term limit, and unlike some others, actually honored it by returning home to run for governor in 2002. He has consistently reached out to conservatives, making the state capitol in Columbia an important stop for party activists. After supporting Mr. McCain for president in 2000, Mr. Sanford stayed neutral in his state's important primary this year. That's another reason for conservatives to be enthusiastic about the governor of South Carolina. His agreement to sign aboard the McCain ticket would be seen as conferring real comfort about Mr. McCain's conservative bona fides.
-- Brendan Miniter
Barack Obama edged closer to one of the enduring Clinton mysteries, the exact source of their sizeable personal wealth. Asked by the New York Times yesterday about news that Hillary Clinton had written her campaign a $5 million check, he responded: "I'll just say that I've released my tax returns. That's been a policy I've maintained. I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from."
The Clinton campaign offers only hints, telling reporters that Mrs. Clinton didn't have to sell off any assets to raise the money and that she didn't need to win bank approval or put up collateral. The Times sums up the campaign's explanation: "Advisers said the loan was made on Jan. 28 from Mrs. Clinton's share of her personal funds that she has with Mr. Clinton."
And just like that, the Clintons may have rendered all campaign finance restrictions meaningless. For, if Hillary can dip into funds held jointly with her husband, and her husband is free to travel the world collecting large speaking fees without disclosing how much or from whom, it would seem to create a route for unlimited amounts of cash from anyone in the world to be funneled into the campaign without disclosure.
Meeting with the media yesterday, Mrs. Clinton stressed that "it's my money" and called it an "investment" in her campaign. Those expressions may come back to haunt her. Her campaign says she'll release her tax returns just as soon as she wins her party's nomination and that, anyway, all anyone needs to know about her finances can be found in her Senate financial disclosure statements. Stay tuned. The $5 million loan may yet trigger an avalanche of media attention on the Clinton campaign's finances. The issue, of course, would also be a natural for John McCain in the fall.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day
"Obamaphilia has gotten creepy.... What the Cult of Obama doesn't realize is that he's a politician. Not a brave one taking risky positions like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, but a mainstream one. He has not been firing up the Senate with stirring Cross-of-Gold-type speeches to end the war. He's a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him" -- Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein.
Rambo for Real
A measure of Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo" franchise is the fact that most people have forgotten the first movie wasn't called "Rambo." It was called "First Blood." Now the fourth installment is out, finally named just "Rambo," and one place the film is gaining serious critical attention is Burma (recently renamed "Myanmar").
Mr. Stallone's Burmese fans apparently are finding hope in John Rambo's latest plotline, in which he seeks to save Christian aid workers who run afoul of Myanmar's nasty military regime while trying to help members of the Karen ethnic minority. "This movie could fuel the sentiment of Myanmar people to invite American troops to help save them from the junta," one local film enthusiast told Reuters.
That seems unlikely without at least an Oscar nomination or two, but pirated DVDs of "Rambo" have indeed become an underground hit in Rangoon (also known as "Yangon"). In turn, the military regime has ordered street hawkers to discontinue stocking the film. Burma's military junta was already on the world's pariah list for its treatment of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Now that it's on Hollywood's list of approved baddies too, apparently the regime is really worried.
For his part, Mr. Stallone has embraced Rambo's newfound status as a symbol of resistance. Last week he challenged the regime to defend its human-rights record by allowing him to tour Burma. Alternatively, he invited a representative to debate him in front of a congressional hearing. "But I doubt that's going to happen," he added. Should the desired confrontation materialize, let's hope the actor and the junta both remember that John Rambo is just a character in a movie.
-- Brian M. Carney
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
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Iranian Nuclear Rewrite
February 8, 2008; Page A16
Give Admiral Michael McConnell credit for trying to walk back the cat. Questioned this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Director of National Intelligence defended the "integrity and the professionalism" of the process that produced last December's stunning National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear program. Yet his testimony amounts to a reversal of the previous judgment.
The December NIE made headlines the world over for its "key judgment" that in 2003 "Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programs" -- programs that previously had been conducted in secret and in violation of Iran's Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
This was a "high confidence" judgment, though the intelligence community had only "moderate confidence" that the program hasn't since been restarted. The NIE also waded into speculative political and policy judgments, such as that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs."
So it was little wonder that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad quickly called the NIE a "declaration of victory" for Iran's nuclear programs. Diplomatic efforts to pass a third round of U.N. economic sanctions ground to a crawl, though another weak draft resolution is currently making the rounds. Russia decided to ship nuclear fuel to the reactor it has built for Iran at Bushehr, a move it had previously postponed for months and which has worrisome proliferation risks.
Elsewhere, the NIE complicated U.S. efforts to deploy an antiballistic-missile shield in Central Europe. The Israelis worried that the report signaled the death of American seriousness on Iran, possibly requiring them to act alone. At home, Democrats used the NIE to accuse the Administration of hyping intelligence. "It's absolutely clear and eerily similar to what we saw with Iraq," said John Edwards.
Now Admiral McConnell is clearly trying to repair the damage, even if he can't say so directly. "I think I would change the way that we described [the] nuclear program," he admitted to Evan Bayh (D., Ind.) during the hearing, adding that weapon design and weaponization were "the least significant portion" of a nuclear weapons program.
He expressed some regret that the authors of the NIE had left it to a footnote to explain that the NIE's definition of "nuclear weapons program" meant only its design and weaponization and excluded its uranium enrichment. And he agreed with Mr. Bayh's statement that it would be "very difficult" for the U.S. to know if Iran had recommenced weaponization work, and that "given their industrial and technological capabilities, they are likely to be successful" in building a bomb.
The Admiral went even further in his written statement. Gone is the NIE's palaver about the cost-benefit approach or the sticks-and-carrots by which the mullahs may be induced to behave. Instead, the new assessment stresses that Iran continues to press ahead on enrichment, "the most difficult challenge in nuclear production." It notes that "Iran's efforts to perfect ballistic missiles that can reach North Africa and Europe also continue" -- a key component of a nuclear weapons capability.
Then there is the other side of WMD: "We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW [Chemical Warfare] agent in times of need and conducts research that may have offensive applications." Ditto for biological weapons, where "Iran has previously conducted offensive BW agent research and development," and "continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare."
All this merely confirms what has long been obvious about Iran's intentions. No less importantly, his testimony underscores the extent to which the first NIE was at best a PR fiasco, at worst a revolt by intelligence analysts seeking to undermine current U.S. policy. As we reported at the time, the NIE was largely the work of State Department alumni with track records as "hyperpartisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They did their job too well. As Senator Bayh pointed out at the hearing, the NIE "had unintended consequences that, in my own view, are damaging to the national security interests of our country." Mr. Bayh is not a neocon.
Admiral McConnell's belated damage repair ought to refocus world attention on Iran's very real nuclear threat. Too bad his NIE rewrite won't get anywhere near the media attention that the first draft did.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: February 08, 2008, 10:46:02 AM
Profiles of valor: USMC Corporal Stokes
Sometimes the media do get it right. On Wednesday, both NBC and CBS paid tribute to only the third Marine private ever to be awarded the Silver Star, Corporal Sean Stokes, who was honored posthumously for his heroism in the battle of Fallujah in 2004. Stokes was an athlete who volunteered to serve with the Marines after 9/11, rather than go to college. On 17 November 2004, Stokes took part in Operation Phantom Fury, which aimed to clear Fallujah of jihadis. Serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment, then-Private Stokes was point man for his platoon, meaning he kicked in the doors and entered the houses first. “At each house I said a prayer,” Stokes said. “Please God get me out of this one. When I come out of the house, I’d thank him, light up a cigarette and move on to the next one.” Patrick O’Donnell, an author embedded with Stokes’ unit, said, “He was clearly one of the most courageous Marines in 1st platoon. He killed nine guys single-handedly. He was combat wounded two or three times and he hid his wounds so he wouldn’t be evacuated... so he could stay and fight with his brothers.” Stokes was killed in July 2007, during his third tour in Iraq, when he was once again walking “point” and an IED detonated underneath him. CBS reported that “on what would have been his 25th birthday, Sean was awarded the coveted Silver Star for courage in battle.” His father accepted the medal on his behalf.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 08, 2008, 12:19:13 AM
Romney's concessison speech today.
IMHO if he had given speeches like this when he was running, he might be the nominee.
Governor Mitt Romney Addresses CPAC
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Thursday, Feb 07, 2008
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Washington, D.C. – Today, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Governor Romney announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign for the sake of Republican unity and the future of our country. In 2008, Republicans must stand united if we are to prevent Senators Clinton and Obama from taking the White House. As a nation at war and facing uncertain economic times, the American people cannot afford the Democrats and their agenda for retreat and economic slowdown. With today's speech, Governor Romney outlined the significance of this election and the need for the Republican Party to remain strong.
Governor Romney's Address To CPAC (As Prepared For Delivery):
"I want to begin by saying thank you. It's great to be with you again. And I look forward to joining with you many more times in the future.
"Last year, CPAC gave me the sendoff I needed. I was in single digits in the polls, and I was facing household Republican names. As of today, more than 4 million people have given me their vote for President, less than Senator McCain's 4.7 million, but quite a statement nonetheless. Eleven states have given me their nod, compared to his 13. Of course, because size does matter, he's doing quite a bit better with his number of delegates.
"To all of you, thank you for caring enough about the future of America to show up, stand up and speak up for conservative principles.
"As I said to you last year, conservative principles are needed now more than ever. We face a new generation of challenges, challenges which threaten our prosperity, our security and our future. I am convinced that unless America changes course, we will become the France of the 21st century – still a great nation, but no longer the leader of the world, no longer the superpower. And to me, that is unthinkable. Simon Peres, in a visit to Boston, was asked what he thought about the war in Iraq. 'First,' he said, 'I must put something in context. America is unique in the history of the world. In the history of the world, whenever there has been conflict, the nation that wins takes land from the nation that loses. One nation in history, and this during the last century, laid down hundreds of thousands of lives and took no land. No land from Germany, no land from Japan, no land from Korea. America is unique in the sacrifice it has made for liberty, for itself and for freedom loving people around the world.' The best ally peace has ever known, and will ever know, is a strong America.
"And that is why we must rise to the occasion, as we have always done before, to confront the challenges ahead. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the attack on the American culture.
"Over the years, my business has taken me to many countries. I have been struck by the enormous differences in the wealth and well-being of people of different nations. I have read a number of scholarly explanations for the disparities. I found the most convincing was that written by David Landes, a professor emeritus from Harvard University. I presume he's a liberal – I guess that's redundant. His work traces the coming and going of great civilizations throughout history. After hundreds of pages of analysis, he concludes with this:
"If we learn anything from the history of economic development, it is that culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference.
"What is it about American culture that has led us to become the most powerful nation in the history of the world? We believe in hard work and education. We love opportunity: almost all of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came here for opportunity – opportunity is in our DNA. Americans love God, and those who don't have faith, typically believe in something greater than themselves – a 'Purpose Driven Life.' And we sacrifice everything we have, even our lives, for our families, our freedoms and our country. The values and beliefs of the free American people are the source of our nation's strength and they always will be.
"The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960's welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven't given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug. We have got to fight it like the poison it is.
"The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography – even celebration of it – and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare programs have led to today's grim realities: 68% of African American children are born out-of-wedlock, 45% of Hispanic children, and 25% of White children. How much harder it is for these children to succeed in school and in life. A nation built on the principles of the Founding Fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.
"The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of a nation. I wonder how it is that unelected judges, like some in my state of Massachusetts, are so unaware of this reality, so oblivious to the millennia of recorded history. It is time for the people of America to fortify marriage through Constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it.
"Europe is facing a demographic disaster. That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life and eroded morality. Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America's vitality; we know that it is the source of our strength. And we are not dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values, and morality, and culture. We will always be honored to stand on principle and to stand for principle.
"The attack on our culture is not our sole challenge. We face economic competition unlike anything we have ever known before. China and Asia are emerging from centuries of poverty. Their people are plentiful, innovative and ambitious. If we do not change course, Asia or China will pass us by as the economic superpower, just as we passed England and France during the last century. The prosperity and security of our children and grandchildren depend on us.
"Our prosperity and security also depend on finally acting to become energy secure. Oil producing states like Russia and Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran are siphoning over $400 billion per year from our economy – that's almost what we spend annually for defense. It is past time for us to invest in energy technology, nuclear power, clean coal, liquid coal, renewable sources and energy efficiency. America must never be held hostage by the likes of Putin, Chavez, and Ahmadinejad.
"And our economy is also burdened by the inexorable ramping of government spending. Don't focus on the pork alone – even though it is indeed irritating and shameful. Look at the entitlements. They make up 60% of federal spending today. By the end of the next President's second term, they will total 70%. Any conservative plan for the future has to include entitlement reform that solves the problem, not just acknowledges it.
"Most politicians don't seem to understand the connection between our ability to compete and our national wealth, and the wealth of our families. They act as if money just happens – that it's just there. But every dollar represents a good or service produced in the private sector. Depress the private sector and you depress the well-being of Americans.
"That's exactly what happens with high taxes, over-regulation, tort windfalls, mandates, and overfed, over-spending government. Did you see that today, government workers make more money than people who work in the private sector? Can you imagine what happens to an economy where the best opportunities are for bureaucrats?
"It's high time to lower taxes, including corporate taxes, to take a weed-whacker to government regulations, to reform entitlements, and to stand up to the increasingly voracious appetite of the unions in our government.
"And finally, let's consider the greatest challenge facing America – and facing the entire civilized world: the threat of violent, radical Jihad. In one wing of the world of Islam, there is a conviction that all governments should be destroyed and replaced by a religious caliphate. These Jihadists will battle any form of democracy. To them, democracy is blasphemous for it says that citizens, not God shape the law. They find the idea of human equality to be offensive. They hate everything we believe about freedom just as we hate everything they believe about radical Jihad.
"To battle this threat, we have sent the most courageous and brave soldiers in the world. But their numbers have been depleted by the Clinton years when troops were reduced by 500,000, when 80 ships were retired from the Navy, and when our human intelligence was slashed by 25%. We were told that we were getting a peace dividend. We got the dividend, but we didn't get the peace. In the face of evil in radical Jihad and given the inevitable military ambitions of China, we must act to rebuild our military might – raise military spending to 4% of our GDP, purchase the most modern armament, re-shape our fighting forces for the asymmetric demands we now face, and give the veterans the care they deserve.
"Soon, the face of liberalism in America will have a new name. Whether it is Barack or Hillary, the result would be the same if they were to win the Presidency. The opponents of American culture would push the throttle, devising new justifications for judges to depart from the Constitution. Economic neophytes would layer heavier and heavier burdens on employers and families, slowing our economy and opening the way for foreign competition to further erode our lead.
"Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are fully behind my campaign. You are with me all the way to the convention. Fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976. But there is an important difference from 1976: today, we are a nation at war.
"And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child's play. About this, I have no doubt.
"I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.
"This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters – many of you right here in this room – have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.
"I will continue to stand for conservative principles. I will fight alongside you for all the things we believe in. And one of those things is that we cannot allow the next President of the United States to retreat in the face evil extremism.
"It is the common task of each generation – and the burden of liberty – to preserve this country, expand its freedoms and renew its spirit so that its noble past is prologue to its glorious future.
"To this task, accepting this burden, we are all dedicated, and I firmly believe, by the providence of the Almighty, that we will succeed beyond our fondest hope. America must remain, as it has always been, the hope of the Earth.
"Thank you, and God bless America."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President McCain
on: February 07, 2008, 11:59:04 PM
Geopolitical Diary: The International Implications of a McCain Presidency
February 8, 2008 | 0300 GMT
Mitt Romney withdrew from the U.S. presidential race on Thursday, handing the Republican nomination for the presidency to John McCain in all but fact. The remaining candidates for the nomination simply lack the national appeal to be more than a minor nuisance to a strengthening McCain campaign.
While calling any election months ahead is hardly an exact science, at this point, it appears that McCain is the candidate to beat. This is not a Stratfor endorsement for McCain or a statement of opposition to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (so please do not flood us with hate mail); this is an analysis of the proclivities of the U.S. electorate, the quirks of the U.S. electoral system and its impact abroad.
To be perfectly blunt, the Clinton and Obama campaigns both suffer from eminently exploitable flaws. Clinton, while by far the most intelligent candidate in the field, is not well-liked — even among the left. Obama, despite being the most inspirational candidate, sports the middle name “Hussein.” And the much-discussed Clinton-Obama (or Obama-Clinton, if you prefer) ticket simply would marry these problems.
But even if the Clinton and Obama campaigns were not facing such obstacles, McCain would still be the candidate to beat for one reason: The Democrats are locked into a Clinton-Obama death match for the loyalty of the left, while McCain — who has secured the political right — can begin courting the center and run for the presidency itself (rather than for the nomination).
In the weeks and months ahead, this distinction will allow strategists far beyond the United States to deal with a far simpler matrix of U.S. presidential possibilities, and they increasingly will be forced to consider the possible implications of a “President McCain.” The deepest impact would be felt in Russia and Iran. McCain has become rather famous in Russia for saying that all he saw when he looked into Putin’s eyes were three letters: K, G and B. And Iran is more than a touch nervous about McCain’s assertion that the United States needs to think of its Iraq deployment in a manner similar to that of Germany or South Korea — a decades-long commitment.
The fear of an aggressive United States is not one that will fail to shape Russian and Iranian policies between now and the election. Tehran has been pussy footing around talks with the Bush administration, attempting to get as good of terms as possible on the future of Iraq. If Tehran thought 2009 would bring a more aggressive U.S. presidency, then the logic for reaching a settlement with the Bush administration would increase greatly. Suddenly, the United States could see some dramatic gains in its Middle East policy.
The inverse is true for Russia. The Kremlin already is feeling pressure to secure its interests in the former Soviet Union before the United States can extricate itself from Iraq. McCain’s strength raises the possibility not only of a United States that is led by a man who sees the Kremlin leadership as requiring containment, but also of a United States that is no longer bogged down with Iraq and Iran and therefore is free to focus all of its attention on Moscow
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela
on: February 07, 2008, 07:42:55 PM
Exxon to freeze $12B in Venezuelan assetsHigh Court of England grants
U.S. oil company the right to freeze assets belonging to the
country's recently nationalized oil company.
NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) -- ExxonMobil Corp. has secured court orders
to freeze more than $12 billion in worldwide assets of Venezuela's
state-owned oil company, as it prepares to dispute the
nationalization of a multibillion-dollar oil project.
The move limits Petroleos de Venezuela's room to maneuver as it fends
off challenges from major Western oil companies over President Hugo
Chavez's 2007 decision to nationalize four heavy oil projects in the
Orinoco Basin, one of the richest oil deposits in the world.
Exxon (XOM, Fortune 500) and ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500) opted
to walk away from the contracts rather than stay on in a minority
role. Both have filed arbitration proceedings with the World Bank
seeking compensation and Conoco "continues to discuss an amicable
resolution specific to the assets that were expropriated in
Venezuela," Conoco spokesman Bill Tanner said.
ExxonMobil has so far been the most aggressive in fighting back. The
Irving, Texas-based oil major's legal action essentially seeks to
ring-fence Venezuelan assets ahead of any decision by the arbitration
According to documents filed last month in the U.S. District Court in
Manhattan, Exxon Mobil has secured an "order of attachment" on about
$300 million in cash held by PdVSA. A hearing to confirm the order is
scheduled in New York for Feb. 13. Exxon also filed documents with
the New York court showing it had secured a freeze on $12 billion on
PdVSA's worldwide assets from a U.K. court.
"On Jan. 24, the High Court of England and Wales was satisfied that
there is a real risk that PdVSA will dissipate its assets and
accordingly entered a Worldwide Freezing Order ex parte," Exxon said
in the filing to the New York court. The order prohibits PdVSA from
"disposing of its assets worldwide up to a value of $12 billion
whether directly or indirectly held."
Further hearings on the $12 billion freeze are scheduled on Feb. 22,
according to Exxon's filing.
In a statement, Exxon Mobil spokesperson Margaret Ross confirmed the
court filings. She added that the company "has obtained attachment
orders from courts in the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles
against PdVSA assets in each of these jurisdictions up to $12
billion." Exxon said the orders are subject to further review by the
courts. "We will not comment further on legal proceedings," she said.
In a filing, PdVSA disputed the need for a freeze. In a Jan. 24
response disputing orders of attachment from Dec. 27 and Jan. 8,
PdVSA said Exxon Mobil "has failed to sustain its burden of
establishing that any arbitration award it obtains may be rendered
ineffectual without provisional relief." A PdVSA spokesman declined
Exxon's move signals an aggressive response to the trend of resource-
rich countries flexing their muscle over the large oil majors. Since
oil prices began skyrocketing earlier in the decade, oil-producing
nations have grown bolder in their dealings with publicly traded
companies active on their territories by demanding larger stakes in
existing projects and raising taxes.
Venezuela will pay two European oil companies that were partners in
other Orinoco heavy oil projects less than half the estimated market
value of their stakes, according to a copy of the compensation
agreement reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires.
That agreement offers an inkling of what ExxonMobil and
ConocoPhillips could be expecting as they carry on compensation talks
Exxon shatters profit records
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prostate Cancer Treatments
on: February 07, 2008, 09:51:17 AM
Second post of the day
No Answers for Men With Prostate Cancer
Last year, 218,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, but nobody can tell them what type of treatment is most likely to save their life.
Those are the findings of a troubling new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which analyzed hundreds of studies in an effort to advise men about the best treatments for prostate cancer. The report compared the effectiveness and risks of eight prostate cancer treatments, ranging from prostate removal to radioactive implants to no treatment at all. None of the studies provided definitive answers. Surprisingly, no treatment emerged as superior to doing nothing at all.
“When it comes to prostate cancer, we have much to learn about which treatments work best,'’ said agency director Carolyn M. Clancy. “Patients should be informed about the benefits and harms of treatment options.”
But the study, published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, gives men very little guidance. Prostate cancer is typically a slow-growing cancer, and many men can live with it for years, often dying of another cause. But some men have aggressive prostate cancers, and last year 27,050 men died from the disease. The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer has nearly doubled to 20 percent since the late 1980s, due mostly to expanded use of the prostate-specific antigen, or P.S.A., blood test. But the risk of dying of prostate cancer remains about 3 percent. “Considerable overdetection and overtreatment may exist,'’ an agency press release stated.
The agency review is based on analysis of 592 published articles of various treatment strategies. The studies looked at treatments that use rapid freezing and thawing (cryotherapy); minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic or robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy); testicle removal or hormone therapy (androgen deprivation therapy); and high-intensity ultrasound or radiation therapy. The study also evaluated research on “watchful waiting,'’ which means monitoring the cancer and initiating treatment only if it appears the disease is progressing.
No one treatment emerged as the best option for prolonging life. And it was impossible to determine whether one treatment had fewer or less severe side effects.
Many of the treatments now in widespread use have never been evaluated in randomized controlled trials. In the research that is available, the characteristics of the men studied varied widely. And investigators used different definitions and methods, making reliable comparisons across studies impossible.
“Investigators’ definitions of adverse events and criteria to define event severity varied widely,'’ the report notes. “We could not derive precise estimates of specific adverse events for each treatment.'’
The report findings highlighted by the agency include:
All active treatments cause health problems, primarily urinary incontinence, bowel problems and erectile dysfunction. The chances of bowel problems or sexual dysfunction are similar for surgery and external radiation. Leaking of urine is at least six times more likely among surgery patients than those treated by external radiation.
Urinary leakage that occurs daily or more often was more common in men undergoing radical prostatectomy (35 percent) than external-beam radiation therapy (12 percent) or androgen deprivation (11 percent). Those were the findings of the 2003 Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study, a large, nationally representative survey of men with early prostate cancer.
External-beam radiation therapy and androgen deprivation were each associated with a higher frequency of bowel urgency (3 percent) compared with radical prostatectomy (1 percent), according to the 2003 report.
Inability to attain an erection was higher in men undergoing active intervention, especially androgen deprivation (86 percent) or radical prostatectomy (58 percent) than in men receiving watchful waiting (33 percent), according to the 2003 report.
One study showed that men who choose surgery over watchful waiting are less likely to die or have their cancer spread, but another study found no difference in survival between surgery and watchful waiting. The benefit, if any, appears to be limited to men under 65. However, few patients in the study had cancer detected through P.S.A. tests. As a result, it’s not clear if the results are applicable to the majority of men diagnosed with the disease.
Adding hormone therapy prior to prostate removal does not improve survival or decrease recurrence rates, but it does increase the chance of adverse events.
Combining radiation with hormone therapy may decrease mortality. But compared with radiation treatment alone, the combination increases the chances of impotence and abnormal breast development.
The most obvious trend identified in the complicated report is how little quality research exists for prostate cancer, despite the fact that it is the most diagnosed cancer in the country.
Studies comparing brachytherapy, radical prostatectomy, external-beam radiation therapy or cryotherapy were discontinued because of poor recruitment. Two ongoing trials, one in the United States and one in Britain, are evaluating surgery and radiation treatments compared with watchful waiting in men with early cancer. Other studies in progress or development include cryotherapy versus external-beam radiation and a trial evaluating radical prostatectomy versus watchful waiting.
“Successful completion of these studies is needed to provide accurate assessment of the comparative effectiveness and harms of therapies for localized prostate cancers,” the study authors said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Diabetes Study Shocker
on: February 07, 2008, 09:49:27 AM
Diabetes Study Partially Halted After Deaths
By GINA KOLATA
Published: February 7, 2008
For decades, researchers believed that if people with diabetes lowered their blood sugar to normal levels, they would no longer be at high risk of dying from heart disease. But a major federal study of more than 10,000 middle-aged and older people with Type 2 diabetes has found that lowering blood sugar actually increased their risk of death, researchers reported Wednesday.
The researchers announced that they were abruptly halting that part of the study, whose surprising results call into question how the disease, which affects 21 million Americans, should be managed.
The study’s investigators emphasized that patients should still consult with their doctors before considering changing their medications.
Among the study participants who were randomly assigned to get their blood sugar levels to nearly normal, there were 54 more deaths than in the group whose levels were less rigidly controlled. The patients were in the study for an average of four years when investigators called a halt to the intensive blood sugar lowering and put all of them on the less intense regimen.
The results do not mean blood sugar is meaningless. Lowered blood sugar can protect against kidney disease, blindness and amputations, but the findings inject an element of uncertainty into what has been dogma — that the lower the blood sugar the better and that lowering blood sugar levels to normal saves lives.
Medical experts were stunned.
“It’s confusing and disturbing that this happened,” said Dr. James Dove, president of the American College of Cardiology. “For 50 years, we’ve talked about getting blood sugar very low. Everything in the literature would suggest this is the right thing to do,” he added.
Dr. Irl Hirsch, a diabetes researcher at the University of Washington, said the study’s results would be hard to explain to some patients who have spent years and made an enormous effort, through diet and medication, getting and keeping their blood sugar down. They will not want to relax their vigilance, he said.
“It will be similar to what many women felt when they heard the news about estrogen,” Dr. Hirsch said. “Telling these patients to get their blood sugar up will be very difficult.”
Dr. Hirsch added that organizations like the American Diabetes Association would be in a quandary. Its guidelines call for blood sugar targets as close to normal as possible.
And some insurance companies pay doctors extra if their diabetic patients get their levels very low.
The low-blood sugar hypothesis was so entrenched that when the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases proposed the study in the 1990s, they explained that it would be ethical. Even though most people assumed that lower blood sugar was better, no one had rigorously tested the idea. So the study would ask if very low blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes — the form that affects 95 percent of people with the disease — would protect against heart disease and save lives.
Some said that the study, even if ethical, would be impossible. They doubted that participants — whose average age was 62, who had had diabetes for about 10 years, who had higher than average blood sugar levels, and who also had heart disease or had other conditions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that placed them at additional risk of heart disease — would ever achieve such low blood sugar levels.
Study patients were randomly assigned to one of three types of treatments: one comparing intensity of blood sugar control; another comparing intensity of cholesterol control; and the third comparing intensity of blood pressure control. The cholesterol and blood pressure parts of the study are continuing.
Dr. John Buse, the vice-chairman of the study’s steering committee and the president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association, described what was required to get blood sugar levels low, as measured by a protein, hemoglobin A1C, which was supposed to be at 6 percent or less.
“Many were taking four or five shots of insulin a day,” he said. “Some were using insulin pumps. Some were monitoring their blood sugar seven or eight times a day.”
They also took pills to lower their blood sugar, in addition to the pills they took for other medical conditions and to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol. They also came to a medical clinic every two months and had frequent telephone conversations with clinic staff.
Those assigned to the less stringent blood sugar control, an A1C level of 7.0 to 7.9 percent, had an easier time of it. They measured their blood sugar once or twice a day, went to the clinic every four months and took fewer drugs or lower doses.
So it was quite a surprise when the patients who had worked so hard to get their blood sugar low had a significantly higher death rate, the study investigators said.
The researchers asked whether there were any drugs or drug combinations that might have been to blame. They found none, said Dr. Denise G. Simons-Morton, a project officer for the study at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Even the drug Avandia, suspected of increasing the risk of heart attacks in diabetes, did not appear to contribute to the increased death rate.
Nor was there an unusual cause of death in the intensively treated group, Dr. Simons-Morton said. Most of the deaths in both groups were from heart attacks, she added.
For now, the reasons for the higher death rate are up for speculation. Clearly, people without diabetes are different from people who have diabetes and get their blood sugar low.
It might be that patients suffered unintended consequences from taking so many drugs, which might interact in unexpected ways, said Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
Or it may be that participants reduced their blood sugar too fast, Dr. Hirsch said. Years ago, researchers discovered that lowering blood sugar very quickly in diabetes could actually worsen blood vessel disease in the eyes, he said. But reducing levels more slowly protected those blood vessels.
And there are troubling questions about what the study means for people who are younger and who do not have cardiovascular disease. Should they forgo the low blood sugar targets?
No one knows.
Other medical experts say that they will be discussing and debating the results for some time.
“It is a great study and very well run,” Dr. Dove said. “And it certainly had the right principles behind it.”
But maybe, he said, “there may be some scientific principles that don’t hold water in a diabetic population.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: February 07, 2008, 09:28:36 AM
The Coming Dhimmitude:
Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable'
Posted on 02/07/2008 6:03:54 AM PST by Sub-Driver
Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable' The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is "unavoidable".
Dr Williams told BBC Radio 4's World at One that the UK has to "face up to the fact" that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.
Dr Williams argues that adopting some aspects of Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.
For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.
He says Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty".
In an exclusive interview with BBC correspondent Christopher Landau, ahead of a lecture to lawyers in London later on Monday, Dr Williams argues this relies on Sharia law being better understood. At the moment, he says "sensational reporting of opinion polls" clouds the issue.
He stresses that "nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states; states; the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women as well".
But Dr Williams says the argument that "there's one law for everybody... I think that's a bit of a danger".
"There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law." Dr Williams adds: "What we don't want either, is I think, a stand-off, where the law squares up to people's religious consciences."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 07, 2008, 09:23:29 AM
Stealing my wisdom from something I heard Newt say last night
the Super Delegates are simply Super Politicians-- if BO has more support, I suspect most of them will go with BO.
Anyway, here's a piece in support of McCain:
McCain or the Wilderness
February 7, 2008; Page A18
Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham aren't the only conservatives in agony over John McCain. The base is bummed. At the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, Fla., where Rudy Giuliani went down with a graceful valedictory concession, an energetic Rudy guy in dark glasses and slicked black hair -- hours before ebulliently cheering up anyone who would talk to him -- ran up to a reporter waiting for a car. "My wife just heard. Rudy's gonna endorse McCain! S---!!!!"
Wonder Land Columnist Daniel Henninger says it's time conservatives play the hand they've been dealt.
Conservatives can't catch a break. Taxes, judges, the culture -- somewhere a conservative is always getting shafted. The party broke up on the rocks of the 2006 election. Its 2008 presidential nomination has been contested by men claiming the mantle of Ronald Reagan but who in fact are: John McMaverick, a New York City mayor on his third marriage, the moderate governor of liberal Massachusetts, and the funniest governor ever from Hope, Ark.
There are murmurs of heading into the political wilderness. Sit this one out. Rather than sell the party's soul to John McCain, let Hillary have it, or Barack. Go into opposition for four years while the party gets its head together and comes up with an authentic conservative candidate. If this sourness takes hold at the margin, say among GOP anti-immigrant voters, it might happen.
The wilderness is a good place to find yourself, if you're a prophet. There are reasons, though, why a principled political retreat won't make conservative prospects better. The point of a principled retreat would be to rediscover coherence amid doctrinal confusion. The exact opposite is likely to happen.
Conservatives, like everyone else, live in a new political space. It's a 24/7 world of blogs, Web sites and talk shows. It's feisty and maybe even democratic. But consensus? This milieu makes consensus harder than ever.
The Web is an engine of constant complaint, not idea formation. The vaunted, take-no-prisoners style of the left-wing netroots came a cropper with John Edwards plateauing at 18% of the Democratic vote. In four years, conservatives will be more confused, incoherent and madder at each other than they are now.
In this world, ideological cohesion that voters can recognize is going to require a large, stabilizing force, like the office of the presidency. Newt Gingrich as House speaker gave a glimpse of how to use another such institution to organize ideas. The promise of the new technologies as intellectual drivers in politics has proven false. They mainly ensure that a big cost of being out of power will be endless intraparty warfare. Evangelicals especially could suffer.
The planets and vapors of politics have put Mr. McCain in this place. He is not Ronald Reagan, who arrived at his moment with decades of thinking about his beliefs. But the next president will have an opportunity to shape his party in ways rarely given to political figures.
This has become an unusual presidential election. If the gods have willed that Barack Obama should suddenly stir the electorate into a state of grand expectation -- another 1960 or 1980 -- then you shouldn't want to be on the losing side when the winning wave breaks in November. Gerald Ford losing to Jimmy Carter in 1976 was no big deal. This one will be a big deal. The energy exploding out of both parties' primaries, producing record turnout, makes that clear. This isn't just about "change" anymore. It's tectonic. Ask the Clintons. In such a time, many voters' allegiances are on offer. But one has to compete for them.
Conservatives, for whom any glass is always half full, have sold themselves short. Notwithstanding the moderate pedigrees of the three major GOP candidates on entry, all emerged from the debates as Reagan conservatives on what matters: taxes, spending, regulation and national defense. Most of the worrisome moderate positions were in the past.
When Reaganomics appeared in the late 1970s, the Republican establishment mocked it. Voodoo economics, someone said. Today for a Republican presidential candidate, it's gospel.
This is an achievement.
Some will say the debate promises were just politics. As opposed to what? Presumably moving people toward one's position is the point of all this daily political heavy-lifting. To now call a candidate's embrace of your ideas unacceptable is churlish and self-defeating. Conservatives won a decades-long debate in their party. Bank it. The demand now that Sen. McCain repudiate that old vote on the Bush tax cuts is an attempt at public humiliation. Ain't gonna happen. If life doesn't work for you without public penance, join a monastery.
Most of the distrust of the McCain candidacy is rooted in personal ill will. He's a hard case, and activists are often brittle. The fear is that one of the strongest impulses in a McCain presidency will be payback, and that he might sell out conservatives on taxes and the judiciary. That is possible, though by now it would require an act of deep duplicity by Mr. McCain. Here again, the conservatives should show more self-confidence.
The big lesson of the failed Harriet Miers nomination is that a real establishment on judicial nominations exists now in Washington. Throwing another David Souter over the transom and onto the Court is nearly impossible. A participant in this process who has discussed it with Sen. McCain tells me that he says his advisers on major judicial nominations will include Ted Olson, Sam Brownback and Jon Kyl. Miguel Estrada, a victim of the Gang of 14 senators on the judicial filibuster, has endorsed Mr. McCain.
Sen. McCain's capos on economics and taxes are Phil Gramm, the probable Treasury nominee, and Steve Forbes, a GOP Hall of Famer who in the 1996 and 2000 campaigns kept Reaganomics alive. By now, the coming sellout is reaching Himalayan proportions. One may still assume the worst. Conservatives always do, not without reason. It is politically obstinate, though, to ignore the presence of this ballast. (For those who still insist on sitting it out over immigration, global warming or stem cells, there is no hope.)
The idea of a concession on national security by conservatives is especially troubling. After six years of blood and treasure, and with the counterinsurgency working, to consciously turn over Iraq to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama . . . words fail.
This isn't an apologia for the senator. Unlike Reagan, he is too self-preoccupied. There is a danger his presidency would be mainly about legacy, and therefore disorganized. This is a call to play the cards on the table. Conservatives are not in the wilderness. They should get back in the game.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Wages of HillaryCare
on: February 07, 2008, 09:07:34 AM
The Wages of HillaryCare
February 7, 2008
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agree on most policy issues, but that makes their rare differences all the more revealing. To wit, their running scrap over Mrs. Clinton's "individual mandate" for health care, which Mr. Obama has now had the nerve to expose for its inevitable government coercion.
Mrs. Clinton's proposal requires everyone to buy health insurance, along with more insurance regulation, a government insurance option for everyone and tax hikes. Mr. Obama likes all that but his mandate would only apply to children. He argues that the reason many people aren't insured is because it's too expensive, not because they don't want it. Mrs. Clinton counters that coverage can't be "universal" without a mandate.
But then Mr. Obama had the impudence to defend his views. His campaign distributed a mailer in key primary states that claimed the Clinton plan "forces everyone to buy insurance, even if you can't afford it." It also featured an image of an anxious couple at a kitchen table. The Clinton apparat went apoplectic, claiming the flyer evokes the famous "Harry and Louise" commercials. A common article of liberal faith is that this "smear campaign" doomed HillaryCare in 1994 -- as opposed to, say, its huge cost and complexities. But never mind.
Yet if Mrs. Clinton's plan is better because it has a mandate, how does it work in the real world, where some people still won't be able to afford insurance, or would decline to acquire it? At a recent debate, the Illinois Senator drove the point home, asking Mrs. Clinton, "You can mandate it but there will still be people who can't afford it. And if they can't afford it, what are you going to fine them? Are you going to garnish their wages?" And in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Mrs. Clinton conceded that "we will have an enforcement mechanism" that might include "you know, going after people's wages."
Well, well. In other words, HillaryCare II isn't all about "choice," but would require financial penalties for people to pay attention, including garnishing wages. To put it more accurately, the individual mandate is really a government mandate that requires brute force plus huge subsidies to get anywhere near its goal of universal coverage.
Mitt Romney's mandate program in Massachusetts is already expected to reach $1.35 billion in annual costs by 2011, up from $158 million today. And that's with only half of the previously uninsured currently enrolled; no less than 20% didn't qualify for subsidies and were granted exemptions because the costs were too much of a hardship.
Most experts calculate that a national mandate with subsidies like Mrs. Clinton's would enroll about half to two-thirds of the uninsured, less for a voluntary plan and subsidies alone. But such guesswork is pointless without the basic enforcement assumptions, which Mrs. Clinton refuses to provide. She's more interested in wielding what she calls "a core Democratic principle" against Mr. Obama. "My opponent will not commit to universal health care," she said Saturday.
The logic of Mr. Obama's approach is that policy makers should target those who are priced out of coverage. The Census Bureau says 38% of the uninsured earned more than $50,000 in 2006, 19% above $75,000. They aren't a major public policy problem -- except that a big reason they lack coverage is because it is more expensive than it needs to be thanks to government market interference. And 29% earn under $25,000, which means they probably qualify for existing subsidy programs like Medicaid or Schip but haven't enrolled.
The news here is that all of this is being exposed now, and by a fellow Democrat. Many Americans are uncomfortable with the coercion of the mandate -- and not all of them are Republicans. The California health-care overhaul was recently done in by liberals concerned about its consequences for the working poor.
The political lesson that Mrs. Clinton learned in 1994 wasn't about compromise or market forces. It was that a government health-care takeover can only be achieved gradually and by stealth. Her individual mandate is an attempt to force everyone to buy into a highly regulated and price-controlled system where government redistributes income and dictates coverage. We assume the McCain campaign is paying attention.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / T. Paine: Tyranny
on: February 07, 2008, 08:55:33 AM
"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this
consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more
glorious the triumph."
-- Thomas Paine (American Crisis, No. 1, 19 December 1776)
Reference: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings , Foner ed., Library
of America (91)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt part 2
on: February 06, 2008, 09:00:52 PM
I was so deeply offended by this, it's hard for me to express it without sounding irrational. I'm an Army brat. My dad served 27 years in the infantry. The idea that an American general would come to the American Congress, testify in public that our young men and women are being killed by Iran, and we have done nothing, I find absolutely abhorrent.
So I'm preparing to come and talk today. I got up this morning, and a friend had sent me yesterday's Jerusalem Post editorial, which if you haven't read, I recommend to you. It has, for example, the following quote: "On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, 'The problem of the content of the document setting out joint principles for peace-making post-Annapolis has not been resolved. One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state. We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined.' "
What truly bothers me is the shallowness and the sophistry of the Western governments, starting with our own. When a person says to you, "I don't recognize that you exist," you don't start a negotiation. The person says, "I literally do not recognize" and then lies to you. I mean the first thing you say to this guy is "Terrific. Let's go visit Mecca. Since clearly there's no other state except Israel that is based on religion, the fact that I happen to be Christian won't bother anybody." And then he'll say, "Well, that's different."
We tolerate this. We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red-vs.-blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.
And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The
Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful."
I just want to share with you, as a grandfather, as a citizen, as a historian, as somebody who was once speaker of the House, this is a serious national crisis. This is 1935 or 1936, and it's getting worse every year.
None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.
I was once interviewed by a BBC reporter, a nice young lady who was only about as anti-American as she had to be to keep her job. Since it was a live interview, I
turned to her halfway through the interview and I said, "Do you like your job?" And it was summertime, and she's wearing a short-sleeve dress. And she said, "Well, yes." She was confused because I had just reversed roles. I said, "Well, then you should hope we win." She said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Well, if the enemy wins, you won't be allowed to be on television."
I don't know how to explain it any simpler than that.
Now what do we need?
We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe , and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.
Iran produces 60 percent of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40 percent of its gasoline. The entire 60 percent is produced at one huge refinery.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to break the Soviet empire. He was asked what's your vision of the Cold War. He said, "Four words: We win; they lose." He was clearly seen by The New York Times as an out-of-touch, reactionary, right-wing cowboy from California who had no idea what was going on in the world. And 11 years later the Soviet Union disappeared, but obviously that had nothing to do with Reagan because that would have meant he was right. So it's just a random accident the Soviet Union disappeared.
Part of the war we waged on the Soviet Union involved their natural gas supply because we wanted to cut off their hard currency. The Soviets were desperate to get better equipment for their pipeline. We managed to sell them through third parties very, very sophisticated American pipeline equipment, which they were thrilled to buy and thought they had pulled off a huge coup. Now we weren't playing fair. We did not tell them that the equipment was designed to blow up. One day in 1982, there was an explosion in Siberia so large that the initial reflection on the satellites looked like there was a tactical nuclear weapon. One part of the White House was genuinely worried, and the other part of the White House had to calm them down. They said, "No, no, that's our equipment blowing up."
In the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."
We don't have to be stupid. The choice is not cowardice or total war. Reagan unlocked Poland without firing a shot in an alliance with the pope, with the labor unions and with the British. We have every possibility if we're prepared to be honest to shape the world. It'll be a very big project. It's much closer to World War II than it is to anything we've tried recently. It will require real effort, real intensity and real determination. We're either going to do it now, while we're still extraordinarily powerful, or we're going to do it later under much more desperate circumstances after we've lost several cities.
We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. 'Three nuclear weapons' is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.
I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants
on: February 06, 2008, 08:59:59 PM
Subject: Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare, by Newt Gingrich
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered the following remarks to a Jewish National Fund meeting Nov. 15 at the Selig Center:
I just want to talk to you from the heart for a few minutes and share with you where I think we are.
I think it is very stark. I don't think it is yet desperate, but it is very stark. And if I had a title for today's talk, it would be sleepwalking into a nightmare. 'Cause that's what I think we're doing.
I gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute Sept. 10 at which I gave an alternative history of the last six years, because the more I thought about how much we're failing, the more I concluded you couldn't just nitpick individual places and talk about individual changes because it didn't capture the scale of the disaster.
And I had been particularly impressed by a new book that came out called Troublesome Young Men, which is a study of the younger Conservatives who opposed appeasement in the 1930's and who took on Chamberlain.
It's a very revealing book and a very powerful book because we tend to look backwards and we tend to overstate Churchill's role in that period. And we tend to understate what a serious and conscientious and thoughtful effort appeasement was and that it was the direct and deliberate policy of very powerful and very willful people. We tend to think of it as a psychological weakness as though Chamberlain was somehow craven. He wasn't craven. Chamberlain had a very clear vision of the world, and he was very ruthless domestically.
And they believed so deeply in avoiding war with Germany that as late as the spring of 1940, when they are six months or seven months into they war, they are dropping leaflets instead of bombs on the Ruhr, and they are urging the British news media not to publish anti-German stories because they don't want to offend the German people. And you read this book, and it makes you want to weep because, interestingly, the younger Tories who were most opposed to appeasement were the combat veterans of World War I, who had lost all of their friends in the war but who understood that the failure of appeasement would result in a worse war and that the longer you lied about reality, the greater the disaster.
And they were severely punished and isolated by Chamberlain and the Conservative machine, and as I read that, I realized that that's really where we are today.
Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem.
Let me work back. I'm going to get to Iran since that's the topic, but I'm going to get to it eventually.
Let me work back from Pakistan. The dictatorship in Pakistan has never had control over Wiziristan. Not for a day. So we've now spent six years since 9/11 with a sanctuary for Al-Qaida and a sanctuary for the Taliban, and every time we pick up people in Great Britain who are terrorists, they were trained in Pakistan.
And our answer is to praise Musharraf because at least he's not as bad as the others. But the truth is Musharraf has not gotten control of terrorism in Pakistan. Musharraf doesn't have full control over his own government. The odds are even money we're going to drift into a disastrous dictatorship at some point in Pakistan. And while we worry about the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Pakistanis already have 'em, So why would you feel secure in a world where you could presently have an Islamist dictatorship in Pakistan with a hundred-plus nuclear weapons? What's our grand strategy for that?
Then you look at Afghanistan. Here's a country that's small, poor, isolated, and in six years we have not been able to build roads, create economic opportunity, wean people off of growing drugs. A third of the GDP is from drugs. We haven't been able to end the sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan. And I know of no case historically where you defeat a guerrilla movement if it has a sanctuary. So the people who rely on the West are out-bribed by the criminals, outgunned by the criminals, and faced with a militant force across the border which practiced earlier defeating the Soviet empire and which has a time horizon of three or four generations. NATO has a time horizon of each quarter or at best a year, facing an opponent whose time horizon is literally three or four generations. It's a total mismatch.
Then you come to the direct threat to the United States, which is Al-Qaida. Which, by the way, we just published polls. One of the sites I commend to you is AmericanSolutions.com. Last Wednesday we posted six national surveys, $428,000 worth of data. We gave it away. I found myself in the unique position of calling Howard Dean to tell him I was giving him $400,000 worth of polling. We have given it away to both Democrats and Republicans.
It is fundamentally different from the national news media. When asked the question "Do we have an obligation to defend the United States and her allies?" the answer is 85 percent yes. When asked a further question "Should we defeat our enemies?" - it's very strong language - the answer is 75 percent yes, 75 to 16.
The complaint about Iraq is a performance complaint, not a values complaint.
When asked whether or not Al-Qaida is a threat, 89 percent of the country says yes. And they think you have to defeat it, you can't negotiate with it. So now let's look at Al-Qaida and the rise of Islamist terrorism.
And let's be honest: What's the primary source of money for Al-Qaida? It's you, recirculated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.
Now that's what a serious national strategy would look like, but that would require real change.
So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.
It's not complicated. We're inviting Saudi Arabia to come to Annapolis to talk about rights for Palestinians when nobody is saying, "Let's talk about rights for Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabia. Let's talk about rights for women in Saudi Arabia."
So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
You keep pumping billions of dollars a year into countries like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Russia, and you are presently going to have created people who oppose you who have lots of money. And they're then going to come back to your own country and finance, for example , Arab study institutes whose only requirement is that they never tell the truth. So you have all sorts of Ph.D.s who now show up quite cheerfully prepared to say whatever it is that makes their funders happy - in the name, of course, of academic freedom. So why wouldn't Columbia host a genocidal madman? It's just part of political correctness. I mean, Ahmadinejad may say terrible things, he may lock up students, he may kill journalists, he may say, "We should wipe out Israel," he may say, "We should defeat the United States," but after all, what has he done that's inappropriate? What has he done that wouldn't be repeated at a Hollywood cocktail party or a nice gathering in Europe?
And nobody says this is totally, utterly, absolutely unacceptable. Why is it that the No. 1 threat in intelligence movies is the CIA?
I happened the other night to be watching an old movie, To Live and Die in L.A., which is about counterfeiting. But the movie starts with a Secret Service agent who is defending Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the person he is defending Ronald Reagan from is a suicide bomber who is actually, overtly a Muslim fanatic. Now, six years after 9/11, you could not get that scene made in Hollywood today.
Just look at the movies. Why is it that the bad person is either a right-wing crazed billionaire, or the CIA as a government agency. Go look at the Bourne Ultimatum. Or a movie like the one that George Clooney made, which was an absolute lie, in which it implied that if you were a reformist Arab prince, that probably the CIA would kill you. It's a total lie. We actually have SEALs protecting people all over the world. We actually risk American lives protecting reformers all over the world, and yet Hollywood can't bring itself to tell the truth:
(a) because it's ideologically so opposed to the American government and the American military; and,
(b) because it's terrified that if it said something really openly, honestly true about Muslim terrorists, they might show up in Hollywood. And you might have somebody killed as the Dutch producer was killed.
And so we're living a life of cowardice, and in that life of cowardice we're sleepwalking into a nightmare.
And then you come to Iran. There's a terrific book. Mark Bowden is a remarkable writer who wrote Black Hawk Down, has enormous personal courage. He's a Philadelphia newspaper writer, actually got the money out of the Philadelphia newspaper to go to Somalia to interview the Somalian side of Black Hawk Down. It's a remarkable achievement. Tells a great story about getting to Somalia, paying lots of cash, having the local warlord protect him, and after about two weeks the warlord came to him and said, "You know, we've decided that we're very uncomfortable with you being here, and you should leave."
And so he goes to the hotel, where he is the only hard-currency guest, and says, "I've got to check out two weeks early because the warlord has told me that he no longer will protect me." And the hotel owner, who wants to keep his only hard-currency guest, says, "Well, why are you listening to him? He's not the government. There is no government." And Bowden says, "Well, what will I do?" And he says, "You hire a bigger warlord with more guns," which he did. But then he could only stay one week because he ran out of money.
But this is a guy with real courage. I mean, imagine trying to go out and be a journalist in that kind of world, OK? So Bowden came back and wrote Guest of the Ayatollah, which is the Iranian hostage of 1979, which he entitled, "The First Shots in Iran's War Against America." So in the Bowden world view, the current Iranian dictatorship has been at war with the United States since 1979. Violated international law. Every conceivable tenet of international law was violated when they seized the American Embassy and they seized the diplomats. Killed Americans in Lebanon in the early '80s. Killed Americans at Khobar Towers in '95 and had the Clinton administration deliberately avoid revealing the information, as Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI, has said publicly, because they didn't want to have to confront the Iranian complicity.
And so you have an Iranian regime which is cited annually as the leading supporter of state terrorism in the world. Every year the State Department says that. It's an extraordinary act of lucidity on the part of an institution which seeks to avoid it as often as possible.
And you have Gen. Petraeus come to the U.S. Congress and say publicly in an open session, "The Iranians are waging a proxy war against Americans in Iraq."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: February 06, 2008, 02:31:50 PM
What Color Is Your Parachute?
Hillary Clinton's firewall last night was her support among Hispanic voters and, in California, support among both Hispanic and Asian voters.
Barack Obama pulled out all the stops to woo Hispanics, including the last-minute endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy, who represents a family revered in many Hispanic households. But with the exception of his home state of Illinois, Mr. Obama came up short. In New Mexico, Mr. Obama continues to lead narrowly by carrying Anglo voters but performed less well among the one-third of Democratic voters who were Hispanic.
In California, a much-larger than expected share of the voters were Hispanic or Asian -- some 29% were Hispanic and another 8% were Asian. Mrs. Clinton won a resounding 72% of the Asian vote and two-thirds of the Hispanic vote to put her over the top. Barack Obama carried white voters overall by 49% to 44%. He also won eight out of ten black voters.
The contrast in support was striking in neighborhoods that were practically adjacent to each other. In Los Angeles's 33rd Congressional district represented by black Democrat Diane Watson, Mr. Obama won 61% to 37%. In the nearby 34th district represented by Hispanic Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard, he lost 73% to 23%.
The split between black voters and brown voters that was so evident in California and other states yesterday will be important in some future contests, especially Texas, which votes on March 4.
-- John Fund
Democratic officials are dusting off something they never thought they would have to consult: convention rule books.
That's because there is a real possibility that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will arrive in Denver in late August for the convention roughly tied in their number of delegates elected by primary and caucus voters. If so, then the party's so-called "super-delegates" move front and center -- i.e. Democratic governors, members of Congress and other notables, who make up about one-fifth of the total delegate pool and who are free under current rules to commit themselves to any candidate they choose.
Every convention has the right to change or alter its rules on the floor. If Obama and Clinton forces are close enough, look for rules fights reminiscent of the hard-fought 1976 GOP convention. That contest was won in a whisker by Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan. "Many people will rebel if the party big shots vote differently than the choice of the primary electorate," one leading Democratic parliamentarian tells me. "You could have a fight to force the superdelegates to accept the decision of their home-state voters."
And what if the convention decision comes down to the disputed delegations of Florida and Michigan, neither of whom are currently legally seated because their state parties broke rules against holding early primaries?
"We believe the delegates from Michigan and Florida ought to be seated," says Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson. That's even though Mrs. Clinton was the only name offered primary voters in Michigan and neither Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama campaigned in Florida.
A fight over whether delegations should be seated would remind convention mavens of the 1952 GOP fight at that party's Chicago convention. There, Dwight Eisenhower only clinched the Republican nomination over Robert Taft after winning a contentious floor fight over the seating of key Southern delegations.
In other words, for the first time in decades, convention historians may find their skills in demand if this year's Democratic conclave turns out to be something besides the usual exercise in media relations.
-- John Fund
Huckabee's Ace in the Hole
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee revived his campaign last night by winning five Southern states. It was also a big day for West Virginia Republicans, who deliberately sought to revive their flagging fortunes by scheduling a nominating convention for Super Tuesday. The aim was to pick a convention winner hours before the polls closed elsewhere and thereby influence the national outcome. It worked. By mid-afternoon, the buzz from his West Virginia triumph provided Mr. Huckabee with a fresh storyline that he, not Mitt Romney, was the conservative alternative candidate to John McCain.
Small states with just a handful of delegates need creative ways to draw attention. For West Virginia, a nominating convention succeeded wonderfully. Mr. Romney even dropped by personally to make his case, hoping to score a few hours in the media spotlight on Super Tuesday. His efforts initially appeared to be paying off. He won enthusiastic applause by telling conventioneers: "I'll make sure that the house that Reagan built is the house we live in." Mr. Romney led after the first convention ballots were cast, but no candidate won a majority and during an hour-long intermission, Mr. McCain called and asked his supporters to throw in behind Mr. Huckabee. That was enough to change the dynamics on the second ballot and give Mr. Huckabee his new lease on political life.
Moving forward, Mr. Huckabee will continue to take votes mainly from Mr. Romney, even if he remains largely unsuccessful outside the South. Louisiana voters head to the polls on Saturday, and next Tuesday will feature contests in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. In short, the next few news cycles will be far more friendly to the former Arkansas governor than the former Massachusetts one.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day
"California's decades-long isolation from national politics ended Tuesday as voters turned out heavily to vote in two close contests for presidential nominations -- and they could play a critical role again in November. Party identification is weak in California, and both parties have been losing ground in voter registration -- especially the Democrats -- and the rapidly growing ranks of independent voters hold the balance of political power.... Were McCain to win the GOP nomination, therefore, it could put California in play. The Democratic candidate, either Clinton or Obama, would still be favored but could no longer take the state for granted. Without California's 55 electoral votes, Democratic hopes for recapturing the White House are slender, so at the very least, Democrats would have to devote resources to California" -- Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.
Job Losses for Bureaucrats
Friday's lousy jobs report of negative growth wasn't all that bad -- since one of the new unemployed Americans was John Edwards. But economists assure us that there's another reason not to panic just yet. The 17,000 jobs losses in January overshadowed a revision upward to 82,000 new jobs in December. Job growth has certainly slowed dramatically but private employment growth has still not turned negative.
One piece of overlooked good news in the January report is that the net decline was entirely accounted for by government. The public sector had 18,000 fewer workers on its payrolls last month. Folks, that's not an economic downer, but cause for celebration. We should be thrilled to see many more such pink slips issued in Washington, D.C. and state capitals. Fewer government bureaucrats is one of the best economic stimulants we can possibly think of.
Overall, today's 4.9% unemployment rate is hardly a measure of job scarcity for those searching for work. That number underscores the folly of the Democratic proposal to extend unemployment insurance benefits -- a policy that increases joblessness by giving people an incentive to sit on the sidelines rather than aggressively seeking the private-sector jobs that continue to be created.
-- Stephen Moore
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan
on: February 06, 2008, 10:46:40 AM
"And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way. My fondest hope for each one of you — and especially for young people — is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here. May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill." —Ronald Reagan
“We, the members of the New Republican Party, believe that the preservation and enhancement of the values that strengthen and protect individual freedom, family life, communities and neighborhoods and the liberty of our beloved nation should be at the heart of any legislative or political program presented to the American people.”
“We believe that liberty can be measured by how much freedom Americans have to make their own decisions, even their own mistakes.”
“Families must continue to be the foundation of our nation. Families—not government programs—are the best way to make sure our children are properly nurtured, our elderly are cared for, our cultural and spiritual heritages are perpetuated, our laws are observed and our values are preserved... We fear the government may be powerful enough to destroy our families; we know that it is not powerful enough to replace them.”
“Extreme taxation, excessive controls, oppressive government competition with business... frustrated minorities and forgotten Americans are not the products of free enterprise. They are the residue of centralized bureaucracy, of government by a self-anointed elite.”
“We must be ever willing to negotiate differences, but equally mindful that there are American ideals that cannot be compromised. Given that there are other nations with potentially hostile design, we recognize that we can reach our goals only while maintaining a superior national defense, second to none.”
“Our party must be based on the kind of leadership that grows and takes its strength from the people... And our cause must be to rediscover, reassert and reapply America’s spiritual heritage to our national affairs. Then with God’s help we shall indeed be as a city upon a hill with the eyes of all people upon us."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sentenced to death for drinking
on: February 06, 2008, 10:36:49 AM
Man Sentenced to Death for Drinking
An Iranian court has sentenced a 22 year old man to death for violating the Islamic Republic's ban on drinking alchohol several times, a news agency said.
Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, a person who is caught drinking for a fourth time and confesses faces possible capital punishment, even though legal experts say executions for the offense are very rare.
The man, identified only by his first name, Mohsen, can appeal
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: February 06, 2008, 10:32:07 AM
Lebanon cleric advises 'modern Shiites'
Dalia Khamissy / Associated Press
The cleric Fadlallah has issued edicts that shocked conservative Muslims around the world.
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah's liberal fatwas, or edicts, have shocked conservative Muslims around the world.
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2008
BEIRUT -- The ayatollah has a simple piece of advice for any Muslim woman being abused by her husband: Hit him back.
"A woman can respond to physical violence inflicted on her by a man with counter- violence as a self-defense measure," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's senior-most Shiite cleric, wrote in a fatwa late last year that shocked conservative Muslims around the world.
Fadlallah long has been considered a leader of the most radical faction of Shiite Muslims in Lebanon. He endorsed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution in Iran and was accused of ordering, or at least encouraging, the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Marine barracks here, a charge he and his supporters have denied. He issued fatwas, or religious edicts, calling on the faithful to resist the United States, and urged Muslims to boycott American products.
But the 72-year-old cleric, who agreed to an interview recently in his South Beirut compound, has toned down his rhetoric in recent years. Instead, he espouses a more modest vision for the faithful than the ambitious agenda set forth by Iran, which considers itself the patron of Shiites worldwide and has been trying to increase its influence throughout the Muslim world.
"I don't see there is a unity in the situation of Shiites in the world," he said.
He leaned forward, his piercing brown eyes becoming animated as he discussed religion, politics and international affairs. "I think the current Iranian president lacks diplomatic skills, and I think he creates problems for Iran," he said of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Fadlallah, whose black turban identifies him as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, focuses on daily bread-and-butter issues of concern to his followers. Such as parenting.
"One of the general principles in raising children is that parents should not consider their child as part of their possessions," he wrote in a ruling translated and placed on the English section of his website, english.bayynat.org.lb. "Instead, they should consider him God's trust that Allah . . . has put in their hands. This is done by loving the child, listening to him and respecting his mind."
Grand ayatollahs, the highest-ranked clerics in the Shiite hierarchy, have the right to interpret primary religious texts and serve as marja, or source of emulation, for their millions of followers in countries with large Shiite populations such as Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India and Bahrain. Most search for a niche. Khomeini espoused a highly politicized version of Islam; Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq advocates piety, modesty and good deeds.
Fadlallah's fatwas and statements seem more like daytime talk show fodder.
"Sistani is very popular in the Shiite world, but he's not involved in the daily lives of Shiites," said Fadlallah's aide, Hani Abdullah. "This is why Fadlallah is more of a reference for modern Shiites."
On gender issues in particular, he takes positions that raise eyebrows among his conservative counterparts, such as questioning the conventional Islamic prohibition on female judges and challenging the traditional view that a woman's place is in the house and the man's in the workplace.
"The belief that it is disgraceful for the man to manage household tasks is derived from the social culture and not from Islam," he says in a statement on his website. "Personally, I think that no woman would be obliged to bring her social life to a standstill just because she is being occupied with her children."
Also from his website: "Knowledge is a merit for man and woman equally, and the importance of acquiring it is identical to both of them."
A statement from Fadlallah's office said he opposed a man "using any sort of violence against a woman, even in the form of insults and harsh words."
He also has addressed issues such as cloning and plastic surgery.
"Mostly his fatwas are on the side of modernity and progress," said Fawwaz Traboulsi, a Lebanese historian and journalist. "He's very influential, and he's got a lot of money."
His most liberal rulings and attempts to distance Lebanese Shiites from Iran's policies have angered some Shiite clerics close to the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Fadlallah was once Hezbollah's spiritual leader, but now the two camps compete for donations from wealthy Shiites, who traditionally have given more money to him.
"There's a real rivalry with Nasrallah, who has become both a military and religious leader," Traboulsi said. "Many conservative Hezbollah clerics are reacting against Fadlallah's rulings."
Fadlallah appears to have eased his anti-American stances, even though he and others suspect U.S. operatives were behind an attempt on his life in 1985, apparently as retaliation in the belief that he had ordered the Marine barracks attack. The massive car bomb near his home killed more than 80 people in an apartment block, but he was unhurt.
He is critical of the Bush administration but takes pains to underscore that he's not anti-American. He recently answered a question about astronomy and Ramadan posed by a U.S. Marine, a decision criticized by other clerics. He was among the first religious leaders in the Middle East to condemn the Sept. 11 attacks.
But Fadlallah remains a staunch critic of Israel, once describing the Jewish state as "a conglomerate of people who come from all parts of the world to live in Palestine on the ruins of another people."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 06, 2008, 10:24:29 AM
Canadians need help fighting the resurgent Taliban in Kandahar. A top provincial official says only Americans can do the job.
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2008
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- As the most powerful Afghan official in the troubled southern province of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai says he knows just how to tame the shadowy Taliban campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations that have raised the specter of a country sliding toward anarchy.
He wants more American soldiers on the ground.
"The Canadians are fine, but Americans are Americans -- the mentality is different," said Karzai, chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar where the Canadian-led military mission has struggled to contain the regrouped Taliban.
Amid the recent deluge of discouraging reports citing declining security in swaths of southern Afghanistan, Karzai's is a rare voice of optimism, claiming that U.S. special forces already have begun to turn the tide in Kandahar with targeted strikes against individual commanders of the fundamentalist group, which was ousted from power six years ago.
"These operations are extremely quiet. They cause no civilian casualties and no damage to the villages," said Karzai, whose power derives in part from being the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"The Americans are very professional," he said. "They go in; they get out. It's just like you see in the movies."
Karzai is about to get his wish for a greater American presence. About 3,200 U.S. Marines are set to deploy to Afghanistan in coming weeks, most of them ticketed for a seven-month stay in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's traditional heartland and home of its revived insurgency.
Beleaguered Canadians in Kandahar can't wait for the Americans to arrive either. They acknowledge that their 2,500 troops have not been enough to create much of a footprint across the province. And they say they are not able to undertake regular patrols of the dangerous back roads in the fertile farming region outside the city of Kandahar, with the result that the Taliban now operates with impunity in some villages not far from the provincial capital.
The implications of a Taliban comeback are being felt far beyond Kandahar, placing a major stress on the 41,000-strong international alliance, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that was supposed to secure and rebuild all of Afghanistan. The jump in insurgent violence over the last two years has led to recriminations within NATO, with the U.S. military leaders questioning whether their partners have the stomach for the fight against the Taliban, and the Canadians, British and Dutch complaining that risks are not being evenly shared across the alliance.
The Canadian government recently warned that it would end its mission in Kandahar by early 2009 unless NATO sends an additional 1,000 soldiers into the fray. The British are also appealing for help containing an equally violent insurgency in neighboring Helmand province.
And the violence has opened up wide disagreements over strategy, mostly over how much force to direct against the Taliban.
In Kandahar, the Canadians are particularly bitter over U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' widely quoted comments last month that some of America's allies "don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations."
His unusually pointed criticism was part of a wider whispering campaign by American officials that accuses Canadian and European forces of being locked in a peacekeeping mind-set, of playing fanciful diplomatic games trying to woo less extreme elements of the Taliban away from the hard core, and of not pushing Afghan soldiers into the forefront of counterinsurgency missions.
"I frankly don't know where Gates gets that," said Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche, who commands the Canadian contingent in Kandahar. Laroche contends that training the Afghan army and police to take over the sharp end of the fighting is actually now the centerpiece of the Canadian approach in Kandahar.
And suggestions that the Canadians might be trying to avoid casualties enrages soldiers who have been taking a pounding from roadside bombs. With 78 soldiers and one diplomat killed since 2002, Canada has the highest casualty percentage among all nations in the NATO forces, and Canadian officers say attacks against troops in Kandahar rose by 50% last year from 2006.
Laroche said there is no friction between Canadian and American troops on the ground. Yet Canadian soldiers and diplomats also say they do not share what some see as an American obsession with tracking down the Taliban.
"We're not hunting Taliban," Laroche said. "We're not going to win by killing every Taliban. We're going to win by getting the Afghan population to say 'enough' to the Taliban."
Canadian troops did initially find themselves engaged in ferocious fighting with the Taliban when they took over command of the NATO forces in the province in 2006. But the Taliban has mostly avoided direct engagements since then, and Laroche says he is happiest avoiding the kinds of clashes that can kill civilians.
Instead, the Canadians say their counterinsurgency strategy is based on securing areas where productive reconstruction and development can occur: supervising the recent completion of a bridge across the Arghandab River north of the city of Kandahar using well-paid local labor, and a road-paving project that will employ 400 Afghans.
Yet the Canadians say their attempt to build trust among the people of Kandahar is undermined by confusion surrounding the future of the mission.
"The Afghans have to make a decision about where to put their loyalties," said one Canadian officer who deals with the people in Kandahar on a regular basis. "They say, 'You're here during the day, a couple of times a week, but the Taliban are here all the time.' I tell them not to worry, that we're staying, that the rest is just politics.
"But they worry that they are going to be stuck with the Taliban."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Father sodomizes stepson in revenge for rape of daughter
on: February 06, 2008, 09:19:46 AM
"Blind rage just consumed everything - all the anger, the fury. When I calmed down, the police were here, and I was in cuffs.”
Former boxer who killed pedophile wins prosecutors’ hearts
30.01.2008 Source: Pravda.Ru
Law-enforcement agencies of St.Petersburg investigate a murder case filed against former boxer Alexander Kuznetsov who murdered a pedophile rapist. The jury will decide the man’s fate in the next several days. It is not ruled out that Kuznetsov can be fully acquitted, Vesti.ru reports.
The former athlete committed the crime in a state of temporary insanity on New Year’s night, January 1, 2008. Alexander Kuznetsov entered the apartment building where he lived with his family and saw an unidentified adult male abusing a little boy. The boy was Kuznetsov’s eight-year-old adopted son.
The defendant said that the boy was unconscious, beaten and stripped. The boy’s step-father, formerly a professional boxer, killed the pedophile with a few blows. The latter was subsequently identified as a 20-year-old native of Uzbekistan (a former republic of the Soviet Union), a student at one of Russian universities.
“I wanted to detain him. I don’t know how it happened. I could not control myself,” Kuznetsov said at court.
There are no eyewitnesses in the case, but all facts testify to Kuznetsov’s honesty. Prosecutors tend to believe the defendant too. The state of affairs will be cleared out completely when investigators are granted a decision to interrogate the boy, the victim of attempted rape. Psychologists do not allow to conduct the procedure at the moment yet not to harm the child.
For the time being, Alexander Kuznetsov has been charged with causing grievous severe bodily harm entailing a lethal outcome. The defendant can be jailed for up to ten years.
Alexander Kuznetsov’s case is reminiscent of that of Alexandra Ivannikova, a female resident of Moscow. The young woman was charged with murder in 2003. Ivannikova, was returning home late at night on 8 December 2003. On her way home, the woman decided to flag down a car. The first driver was able to take the woman home only halfway. Alexandra Ivannikova had to stop another car. Instead of taking the woman to her address, the young driver, named only as Sergei B., stopped the car in a dark side street and asked the woman to perform oral sex on him.
The driver was trying to force the girl to oral sex, but she was fighting. When Alexandra said “Wait” and reached out to her purse, Sergei loosened the grip: the young man apparently thought that the girl wanted to take a condom. The girl pulled out a small kitchen knife and stabbed the man in his leg. The blade went into the femoral artery and caused profuse bleeding. Alexandra opened the door of the car and escaped. Sergei B. died from loss of blood.
Ivannikova was fully acquitted on November 25, 2005.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 06, 2008, 09:12:17 AM
Obama claims delegate lead
By: Mike Allen
Feb 6, 2008 08:24 AM EST
Updated: February 6, 2008 09:47 AM EST
In a surprise twist after a chaotic Super Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) passed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in network tallies of the number of delegates the candidates racked up last night.
The Obama camp projects topping Clinton by nine delegates, 845 to 836.
NBC News, which is projecting delegates based on the Democratic Party's complex formula, figures Obama will wind up with 840 to 849 delegates, versus 829 to 838 for Clinton.
Clinton was portrayed in many news accounts as the night’s big winner, but Obama’s campaign says he wound up with a higher total where it really counts — the delegates who will choose the party’s nominee at this summer’s Democratic convention.
With the delegate count still under way, NBC News said Obama appears to have won around 840 delegates in yesterday’s contests, while Clinton earned about 830 — “give or take a few,” Tim Russert, the network’s Washington bureau chief, said on the “Today” show.
The running totals for the two, which includes previous contests and the party officials known as “superdelegates,” are only about 70 delegates apart, Russert said.
The bottom line is that the two are virtually tied.
Obama won 13 states, some of them smaller, and Clinton won eight.
On Wednesday morning, the battle was on to shape public perceptions about Tuesday.
The Clinton campaign said it was crunching its delegate numbers but was not sure it was correct that Obama got more.
The Obama campaign sent an e-mailed statement titled: “Obama wins Super Tuesday by winning more states and more delegates.”
Campaign Manager David Plouffe said: “By winning a majority of delegates and a majority of the states, Barack Obama won an important Super Tuesday victory over Sen. Clinton in the closest thing we have to a national primary.”
“From Colorado and Utah in the West to Georgia and Alabama in the South to Sen. Clinton’s backyard in Connecticut, Obama showed that he can win the support of Americans of every race, gender and political party in every region of the country,” Plouffe said. “That’s why he’s on track to win Democratic nomination, and that’s why he’s the best candidate to defeat John McCain in November.”
The Obama campaign attached an Excel spreadsheet containing “state-by-state estimates of the pledged delegates we won last night, which total 845 for Obama and 836 for Clinton — bringing the to-date total of delegates to 908 for Obama, 884 for Clinton.” http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8358.html
Dems head for messy nomination process
By: Roger Simon
February 6, 2008 12:54 AM EST
The Democrats may be heading for a fine mess.
Because of party reforms in the past and a close race for delegates this year, a nightmare scenario is building for the Democratic National Convention in August: It is easy to imagine that Barack Obama could get to Denver with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, but that she could get the nomination based on the votes of the superdelegates.
“And that,” a senior Obama aide told me Tuesday night, “would create havoc.”
Pledged delegates are those won in primaries and cacucuses. Superdelegates are party big-shots.
The Associated Press, CNN, CBS and a website called 2008 Democratic Convention Watch all disagree on exactly how the superdelegates are currently split.
But they all agree that Clinton has more of them than Obama, with hundreds still up for grabs.
Being a superdelegate is usually just a way of getting to go to the convention, cast a meaningless vote and have a good time.
But that could change this year.
And that’s because superdelegates make up one-fifth of all the delegates at the convention, and this year they could determine the nominee.
As Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson puts it: “The process is designed really to avoid picking a nominee rather than pick one.”
In other words, by banning winner-take-all contests and by awarding delegates on a proportional basis, the Democrats draw out the process.
They do this to be “fair” and to protect underdog candidates.
Usually it doesn’t matter. But this time it could because the pledged delegate race could be so close.
“We have a 15 pledged delegate lead going into tonight,” David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said on Super Tuesday evening.
(The number, with California still being counted, would grow to 43 according to the Obama campaign.)
“And with the superdelegates, we have made real progress. Before Iowa, Sen. Clinton had a lead over 100 to 120 and we have whittled that down to 55 by our count. A lot of [superdelegates] who chose Sen. Clinton, chose her last year. We think we will continue to do well.”
The system of superdelegates was invented not just to reward party fatcats, but to make sure “fairness” did not get out of hand.
Superdelegates are designed to protect front-runners and make sure dark horses don’t run away with things. Superdelegates grow in number as the party gets more successful: They include all Democratic members of Congress, members of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic governors. They also are the party warhorses and include “all former Democratic presidents, all former Democratic vice presidents, all former Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic minority leaders, as applicable, and all former chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”
This means that not only Bill Clinton, but Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, are superdelegates. And their votes count just as much as the delegates chosen by actual primary voters.
But what happens if the margin of victory at the convention is the superdelegates. Is that the the way the party really will choose a nominee? By letting the big-shots pick the winner?
Instead, there could be a huge floor flight. The convention can make whatever rules it wants, and I am guessing there would be a fight to bar the superdelegates and accept the votes of only the pledged delegates.
And then there is the problem of Florida and Michigan, whose delegates, both pledged and superdelegates, are currently banned.
The Clinton campaign has announced it wants them to count.
“There is a role for superdelegates as per the rules of our party, and they are not rules that we set,” Wolfson of the Clinton campaign said. “We will play under rules we are given. [But] we believe the delegates from Michigan and Florida ought to be seated.
But how do you really do that? In Michigan, Hillary Clinton was the only name on the Democratic ballot. In Florida, Democratic candidates were banned from campaigning. Are the Democrats really going to seat them if they could make the difference in who wins and who loses?
As I said, a fine mess. Which, quite possibly, could lead to something we are not used to: a convention that is more than just a TV show whose ending we know in advance.http://www.politico.com/rogersimon/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Stimulus Markets
on: February 06, 2008, 08:58:31 AM
The 'Stimulus' Markets
February 6, 2008
President Bush and Congress are marching arm in arm to pass their economic "stimulus," but it's clear that at least one group of observers isn't impressed: investors. They blew right through all the Beltway happy talk yesterday, selling off the major stock indexes by some 3% or so on an ugly day.
Investors were more impressed, or we should say depressed, by the plunge in the Institute for Supply Management's services index for January. The ISM survey took a header to 41.9, down from 54.4 for December, which suggests a decline in the service economy for the first time in nearly five years. Any reading below 50 indicates contraction, so January's reading is another talking point for those who think the economy is heading toward recession.
Heretofore, the recession evidence had been decidedly mixed. Friday's Labor Department jobs report for January was rotten with a decline of 17,000, but a private sector survey that's typically accurate found 130,000 new jobs. Durable goods were strong last week, and the ISM manufacturing survey also showed surprising strength above recession levels. But with services now such a dominant part of the U.S. economy, there's no sugar-coating yesterday's report.
Naturally, the ISM news encouraged predictions that the Federal Reserve will have to cut interest rates even more than it has in the past two weeks. The Fed's Open Market Committee next meets on March 18, but given its recent willingness to respond to Wall Street's demands, look for more voices to encourage another big "emergency" interest rate cut before then.
In case the Fed still cares, however, we'd note that yesterday's ISM report was hardly reassuring on prices. The prices paid index came in at 70.7, down only slightly from December's 71.5, which suggests considerable upward pricing pressure. In the 1970s, the word for this kind of predicament was "stagflation."
And, much like the 1970s, the political class is riding to the fiscal rescue with a "jobs program" designed mostly to preserve its own jobs. The House passed its $146 billion version of tax rebates and tax credits last week, while the Senate wants to raise the bidding to $157 billion. Republicans tried to resist this last week, but yesterday the White House signaled it will roll over again. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said he'll "work something out" on expanding the tax rebates to include 20 million retirees.
These one-time federal checks will give Americans a little more ready cash in time for Election Day, but they aren't impressing investors worried about recession. Yesterday's selloff came despite the White House concession to the Senate, and perhaps even because of it. The real damage from this exercise in bipartisan self-delusion is the lost opportunity for a serious tax cut that would increase incentives for capital investment and risk-taking.
Meanwhile, Senator John Sununu (R., N.H.) is being attacked by Democrats for voting against the extra Senate "stimulus" last week. As one of the strongest pro-growth voices still left in the Senate, but facing a tough re-election battle, Mr. Sununu's prospects aren't helped by yesterday's White House retreat. Mark that down as another reason investors can be forgiven for looking at Washington, and then selling stocks.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: February 06, 2008, 08:55:44 AM
Tall Torture Tales
February 6, 2008; Page A18
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri planned the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Abu Zubaydah was the mastermind of the foiled millennium terrorist attacks, which had Los Angeles airport as one of its targets. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed directed the September 11 attacks, and has claimed to have personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl.
All three men were captured by the CIA in 2002 and waterboarded in the course of their interrogations. They are also the only U.S. detainees to have been waterboarded. That fact, publicly confirmed yesterday by CIA Director Michael Hayden, shreds whatever is left to the so-called torture narrative, according to which the Bush Administration has engaged in widespread, needless and systematic torture of detainees.
Instead, we have sworn public testimony that the waterboarding was conducted against the three individuals best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities. The interrogations took place when a second major terrorist attack was widely seen as inevitable. And we know that the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah helped lead to the capture of KSM, and to the foiling of an active terrorist plot against the United States.
The waterboarding was conducted by intelligence professionals who understood they were operating not only with the approval of the Justice Department but also the informed consent of key Congressional leaders, including Democrat Jay Rockefeller, then the ranking minority Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In his own testimony yesterday, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell refused to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future, though he said it would have to be approved by the President and Attorney General. To the extent that his comments provide a measure of uncertainty to terrorist detainees who might otherwise think they have nothing to fear from their captors, this helps make us safer.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interesting Stratfor.com Read
on: February 06, 2008, 08:34:15 AM
Foreign Policy and the President's Irrelevance
February 5, 2008 | 2051 GMT
By George Friedman
We are now a year away from the inauguration of a new president, and Super Tuesday has arrived, when it seems likely that the Democratic and Republican nominees will start to become obvious. At the moment, there is a toss-up between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among the Democrats, while John McCain appears to be moving in front of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee among the Republicans. It seems an opportune time to ask whether it matters who gets the nomination and who ultimately wins the November election, at least from the standpoint of foreign policy.
The candidates’ discussion of foreign policy has focused on one issue: Iraq. Virtually all other major foreign policy issues, from the future of U.S.-Russian relations to the function of NATO to the structure of the U.S. armed forces in the next generation, have been ignored in the public discussions.
The discussion of Iraq has been shaped and reshaped by events. The apparent improvement in the U.S. position in Iraq has quieted that debate as well. At one extreme, Obama has said he favors a rapid U.S. withdrawal, although he has been vague as to the timing. At the other extreme, McCain has endorsed the Bush administration’s handling of the war. This means that even though he has been quite pro-surge, he does not oppose withdrawal in principle but does insist on not setting a timeline for one. The others’ views are less clear.
The consensus on foreign policy is the most interesting feature of the election, especially regarding Iraq. We don’t mean the posturing or the shouting or the attempt to position one candidate against the others. We mean two things: first, what the candidates are saying after the passion is boiled away, and second, what they are likely to do if they become president.
There is, of course, a great deal of discussion about who supported or opposed what and when. That is not a trivial discussion, but it doesn’t really point to what anyone will do. On a second level, there is the discussion about whether the United States should withdraw from Iraq. Even here, there is actually little that divides the candidates. The real question is when that withdrawal should take place, over what period of time and whether the timeline should be announced.
There is no candidate arguing for the permanent stationing of more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are those who believe that political ends can and should be achieved in Iraq, and that the drawdown of forces should be keyed to achieving those ends. That is essentially the Bush policy. Then there are those who believe that the United States not only has failed to achieve its political goals but also, in fact, is not going to achieve them. Under this reasoning, the United States ought to be prepared to withdraw from Iraq on a timetable that is indifferent to the situation on the ground.
This has been Obama’s position to this point, and it distinguishes him from other candidates — including Clinton, who has been much less clear on what her policy going forward would be. But even Obama’s emphasis, if not his outright position, has shifted as a political resolution in Iraq has appeared more achievable. He remains committed to a withdrawal from Iraq, but he is not clear on the timeline. He calls for having all U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months, but qualifies his statement by saying that if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes against the group. Since al Qaeda is in fact building a base within Iraq, Obama’s commitment to having troops in Iraq is open-ended.
The shift in Obama’s emphasis — and this is the important point — means his position on Iraq is not really different from that of McCain, the most pro-Bush candidate. Events have bypassed the stance that the situation on the ground is hopeless, so even Obama’s position has tacked toward a phased withdrawal based on political evolutions.
It has long been said that presidential candidates make promises but do what they want if elected. In foreign policy, presidential candidates make promises and, if elected, do what they must to get re-elected. Assume that the situation in Iraq does not deteriorate dramatically, which is always a possibility, and assume a president is elected who would simply withdraw troops from Iraq. The withdrawal from Iraq obviously would increase Iranian power and presence in Iraq. That, in turn, would precipitate a crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two powers with substantial differences dividing them. The United States would then face the question of whether to support the Saudis against Iran. Placing forces in Saudi Arabia is the last thing the Americans or the Saudis want. But there is one thing that the Americans want less: Iranian dominance of the Arabian Peninsula.
Any president who simply withdrew forces from Iraq without a political settlement would find himself or herself in an enormously difficult position. Indeed, such a president would find himself or herself in a politically untenable position. The consequences of a withdrawal are as substantial as the consequences of remaining. The decline in violence and the emergence of some semblance of a political process tilts the politics of decision-making toward a phased withdrawal based on improvements on the ground and away from a phased withdrawal based on the premise that the situation on the ground will not improve. Therefore, even assuming Obama wins the nomination and the presidency, the likelihood of a rapid, unilateral withdrawal is minimal. The political cost of the consequences would be too high, and he wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Though Obama is the one outrider from the general consensus on Iraq, we would argue that the relative rhetorical consensus among the candidates extends to a practical consensus. It is not that presidents simply lie. It is that presidents frequently find themselves in situations where the things they want to do and the things they can do — and must do — diverge. We have written previously about situations in which policymakers are not really free to make policy. The consequences of policy choices constrain the policymaker. A president could choose a range of policies. But most have unacceptable outcomes, so geopolitical realities herd presidents in certain directions.
At least at this point in its cycle, Iraq is such a situation. The debate over Iraq thus mostly has focused on whether a candidate supported the war in the beginning. The debate over what is to be done now was more a matter of perception than reality in the past, and it certainly is much more muted today. To the extent they ever existed, the policy choices have evaporated.
The candidates’ consensus is even more intense regarding the rest of the world. The major geopolitical evolutions — such as the re-emergence of an assertive Russia, Chinese power growing beyond the economic realm and the future of the European Union — are simply nonissues.
When you drill down into position papers that are written but not meant to be read — and which certainly are not devised by the candidates — you find some interesting thoughts. But for the most part, the positions are clear. The candidates are concerned about Russia’s growing internal authoritarianism and hope it ends. The candidates are concerned about the impact of China on American jobs but generally are committed to variations on free trade. They are also concerned about growing authoritarianism in China and hope it ends. On the unification of Europe, they have no objections.
This might appear vapid, but we would argue that it really isn’t. In spite of the constitutional power of the U.S. president in foreign policy, in most cases, the president really doesn’t have a choice. Policies have institutionalized themselves over the decades, and shifting those policies has costs that presidents can’t absorb. There is a reason the United States behaves as it does toward Russia, China and Europe, and these reasons usually are powerful. Presidents do not simply make policy. Rather, they align themselves with existing reality. For example, since the American public doesn’t care about European unification, there is no point in debating the subject. There are no decisions to be made on such issues. There is only the illusion of decisions.
There is a deeper reason as well. The United States does not simply decide on policies. It responds to a world that is setting America’s agenda. During the 2000 campaign, the most important issue that would dominate the American presidency regardless of who was elected never was discussed: 9/11. Whatever the presidential candidates thought would or wouldn’t be important, someone else was going to set the agenda.
The issue of policies versus character has been discussed many times. One school of thought holds that the foreign policies advocated by a presidential candidate are the things to look at. In fact, the candidate can advocate whatever he or she wants, but foreign policy is frequently defined by the world and not by the president. In many cases, it is impossible to know what the issue is going to be, meaning the candidates’ positions on various topics are irrelevant. The decisions that are going to matter are going to force the president’s hand, not the other way around.
The most important decisions made by Roosevelt before and during World War II were never anticipated by him or by the voters when he was first elected. Wilson didn’t know he would be judged by Versailles, Truman didn’t know he would be judged by Korea and Bush didn’t know he would be judged by 9/11 and its aftermath. None of them had position papers on these issues because none of them anticipated the events. They couldn’t.
That is why it is not disturbing that the candidates are drifting toward consensus on Iraq and have no clear and divergent positions elsewhere. This is not simply a consequence of the interest or lack of interest of the American public. It has to do with a hidden dimension of presidential power, and indeed, with the limits of power everywhere. History deals up the agenda, and the options in response are severely constrained. If Thomas Dewey had been elected in 1948, do we really believe the Korean War would have played out differently?
Presidents are not to be judged by how they make history. They are to be judged by how gracefully they submit to the rules that history lays down. The consensus or disinterest of candidates is not important. What is important is this: The dominant foreign policy issue facing the candidates is going to hit them out of the blue one day. Their options will be few, and how quickly they recognize what must be done as opposed to what they would like to do is about all they will be judged by.
We know that Johnson made a terrible hash of Vietnam, while Roosevelt did pretty well in World War II. We strongly suspect that if Johnson had been president during World War II he would be respected and admired today, while if Roosevelt had been president during Vietnam he would be reviled. It’s not that presidents don’t matter. It’s that they don’t matter nearly as much as we would like to think and they would have us believe. Mostly, they are trapped in realities not of their own making.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Restatement of NIE assessment ignored by NY Times; AQ stronger than ever
on: February 06, 2008, 08:04:46 AM
WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda is gaining in strength from its refuge in Pakistan and is steadily improving its ability to recruit, train and position operatives capable of carrying out attacks inside the United States, the director of national intelligence told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Al QaedaThe director, Mike McConnell, told lawmakers that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, remained in control of the terrorist group and had promoted a new generation of lieutenants. He said Al Qaeda was also improving what he called “the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.” — producing militants, including new Western recruits, capable of blending into American society and attacking domestic targets.
A senior intelligence official said Tuesday evening that the testimony was based in part on new evidence that Qaeda operatives in Pakistan were training Westerners, most likely including American citizens, to carry out attacks. The official said there was no indication as yet that Al Qaeda had succeeded in getting operatives into the United States.
The testimony, in an annual assessment of the threats facing the United States, was the latest indication that Al Qaeda appears to have significantly rebuilt a network battered by the American invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.
It follows a National Intelligence Estimate last summer that described a resurgent Al Qaeda, and could add fuel to criticisms from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates that the White House focus on Iraq since 2002 has diverted attention and resources from the battle against the Qaeda organization’s core.
In recent weeks, fresh concerns about the threat posed by Al Qaeda have prompted senior Bush administration officials to travel to Pakistan to seek approval for more aggressive American military action against militants based in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.
As part of his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, also offered the government’s most extensive public defense for the use of waterboarding, saying that the C.I.A. had used the harsh interrogation technique against three Qaeda operatives in 2002 and 2003 in a belief that another terrorist attack on the United States was imminent. He identified the three as Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
General Hayden said the technique, which induces a feeling of drowning, had not been used since 2003. Mr. McConnell said that a future C.I.A. request to use waterboarding on a detainee would need to be approved both by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and by President Bush.
The C.I.A. is the only agency permitted under law to use interrogation methods more aggressive than those used by the American military. Senate Democrats sought to use the hearing to exploit divisions about those techniques.
Both Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers that their agencies had successfully obtained valuable intelligence from terrorism suspects without using what Mr. Mueller called the “coercive” methods of the C.I.A.
But General Hayden bristled when asked about Congressional attempts to mandate that C.I.A. interrogators be required to use the more limited set of interrogation methods contained in the Army Field Manual, which is used by military interrogators.
“It would make no more sense to apply the Army’s field manual to C.I.A.,” General Hayden said, “than it would to take the Army Field Manual on grooming and apply it to my agency, or the Army Field Manual on recruiting and apply it to my agency. Or, for that matter, the Army Field Manual on sexual orientation and apply it to my agency.”
During the testimony, Mr. McConnell tried to recalibrate somewhat the intelligence agencies’ view of Iran’s nuclear program, telling senators that the public portion of a National Intelligence Estimate released in December placed too much significance on the fact that Iran had halted secret work on nuclear weapons design in 2003.
Mr. McConnell said that weapons design was “probably the least significant part of the program” and that Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment meant that it still posed a potential nuclear threat.
The fact that Iran was continuing its enrichment efforts was mentioned in that intelligence assessment, but Republican lawmakers and many conservative commentators have criticized the report as misleading.
Intelligence officials have defended the assessment on Iran as an example of the more rigorous analysis that American spy agencies have adopted in response to the prewar intelligence failures on Iraq. But while Mr. McConnell praised the assessment, he said his office had not been clear enough about its conclusions as it hurried to make it public.
“In retrospect, as I mentioned, I would do some things differently,” he said.
Among his litany of worldwide threats, Mr. McConnell also warned the Senate panel about the growing threat of “cyberattacks” by terror groups or homegrown militants. He said President Bush signed a classified directive in January outlining steps to protect American computer networks.
In his testimony on Al Qaeda, Mr. McConnell said Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri were precluded by “security concerns” from the day-to-day running of the organization. But he said both men “regularly pass inspirational messages and specific operational guidance to their followers through public statements.”
Mr. McConnell said the flow of foreign militants into Iraq slowed somewhat during the final months of 2007. At the same time, however, he warned that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group in Iraq that American officials say is led by foreigners, could shift its focus to carrying out attacks outside Iraq.
Based on captured documents, Mr. McConnell said, fewer than 100 militants from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia to date have left Iraq to establish cells in other countries.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, blamed the Iraq war for undermining the campaign against Al Qaeda.
“The focus of America’s military forces and intelligence resources were mistakenly shifted,” he said, “from delivering a decisive blow against Al Qaeda, which is the enemy.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M. Dowd: Darkness and Light
on: February 06, 2008, 07:52:17 AM
Maureen is my idea of , , , well, nevermind. Regardless, although she usually is to be utterly ignored, I find her interesting to read in this moment to see how the other side sees its intramural contest.
Darkness and Light
Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president:
Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.
I think Hillary truly believes that she and Bill are the only ones tough enough to get to the White House. Jack Nicholson endorsed her as “the best man for the job,” and she told David Letterman that “in my White House, we’ll know who wears the pantsuits.” But her pitch is the color of pitch: Because she has absorbed all the hate and body blows from nasty Republicans over the years, she is the best person to absorb more hate and body blows from nasty Republicans.
Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.
“I think we should never be derisive about somebody who has the ability to inspire,” Senator McCaskill told David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday. “You know, we’ve had some dark days in this democracy over the last seven years, and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. I watch these kids, these old and young, these black and white, 20,000 of them, pour into our dome in St. Louis Saturday night, and they feel good about being an American right now. And I think that’s something that we have to capture.”
Tuesday’s voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don’t want a pat ending. Even though Hillary reasserted her strength, corraling New York, California and Kennedy country Massachusetts, she and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of “You owe me,” or more precisely, “Bill owes me and you owe him,” to a subtext of “Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right.”
Hillary’s strategist Mark Penn argued last week that because the voters have “very limited information” about Obama, the Republican attack machine would tear him down and he would lose the support of independents. Then Penn tried to point the way to negative information on Obama, just to show that Obama wouldn’t be able to survive Republicans pointing the way to negative information.
As she talked Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.
“I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” she said.
And on Tuesday night she told supporters, “Let me be clear: I won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.”
Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that’s Cheney-level paranoia.
Bill is propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia, as well. His visceral reaction to Obama — from the “fairy tale” line to the inappropriate Jesse Jackson comparison — is rooted less in his need to see his wife elected than in his need to see Obama lose, so that Bill’s legacy is protected. If Obama wins, he’ll be seen as the closest thing to J. F. K. since J. F. K. And J. F. K. is Bill’s hero.
For much of the campaign, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. But he has moved up to heavyweight, even while losing five pounds as he has raced around the country. The big question is: Can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic? Will he have the muscle to take on the opposition, from Billary to the Republican hate machine to the terrorists overseas?
“I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I’m tough,” he told a crowd of more than 15,000 in Hartford the other night, with the Kennedys looking on. “I’m from Chicago.”
The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama’s tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back. When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn’t think about mythic narratives, and Tuesday night in Chicago he was reaching up for “a hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world.”
But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on George Washington
on: February 06, 2008, 06:38:44 AM
"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible
I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity,
of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.
He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good,
and a great man."
-- Thomas Jefferson (on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter
Jones, 2 January 1814)
Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Redneck and the Game Warden
on: February 06, 2008, 12:17:10 AM
A redneck was stopped by a game warden in Tennessee with two ice chests
full of fish. He was leavin' a cove well-known for its fishing.
The game warden asked the man, "Do you have a license to catch those fish?"
"Naw, sir", replied the redneck. "I ain't got none of them there licenses.
You must understand, these here are my pet fish."
"Yeah. Every night, I take these here fish down to the lake and let 'em
swim 'round for awhile. Then, when I whistle, they jump right back into
these here ice chests and I take 'em home."
"That's a bunch of hooey! Fish can't do that."
The redneck looked at the warden for a moment and then said, "It's the
truth Mr. Government Man. I'll show ya. It really works."
"O. K.", said the warden. "I've got to see this!"
The redneck poured the fish into the lake and stood and waited. After
several minutes, the warden says, "Well?"
"Well, what?", says the redneck.
The warden says, "When are you going to call them back?"
"Call who back?"
"The FISH", replied the warden!
"What fish?", replied the redneck.
Moral of the story: We may not be as smart as some city slickers, but we
ain't as dumb as most government employees.
You can say what you want about the South, but you never hear of anyone
retiring and moving north.