DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done?
on: April 03, 2007, 12:41:10 AM
"As per the failure to act, never underestimate the power of by-stander apathy, a real phenomenon where diffusion of responsibility allows most people to avoid acting by waiting until someone else acts. It's a proven phenomenon that the more people who are present, the less likely someone is to act."
This is an interesting idea. It sounds logical, but so too the idea that there is courage in numbers. Would you flesh this out some more please?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: April 02, 2007, 12:38:55 AM
Sorry no URL on this one but it comes to me from a highly reliable internet friend from India.
Note the concluding point of this article...
*Paper no. 2189*
*LOOMING JIHADI ANARCHY IN PAKISTAN - INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
MONITOR--PAPER NO. 212*
by B. Raman
There has been an increasingly disturbing challenge to the authority of
Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, from jihadis inspired by the
Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda, who are actively supported by a group of retired
officers of the Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This group
is led by Gen. Mohammad Aziz, a Kashmiri Sudan from the Pakistan-Occupied
Kashmir (POK), Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir, Lt. Gen. Mahmood
Ahmed, Maj.Gen. Zahir-ul-Islam Abbasi and Sq. Leader Khalid Khawaja.
2. Mohammad Aziz and Mahmood Ahmed used to be the most trusted Lt.Gen. of
Musharraf when he took over as the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) in
October,1998. It is they who staged the coup against Nawaz Sharif, the then
Prime Minister, on October 12,1999, when he dismissed Musharraf while he was
flying from Colombo to Karachi and ordered Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, the then DG of
the ISI, to take over as the COAS. They prevented Ziauddin from taking over
and overthrew Nawaz even before Musharraf's plane landed in Karachi. After
taking over as the Chief Executive, Musharraf sacked Ziauddin and had him
arrested. He promoted Mahmood Ahmed in his place as the DG of the ISI.
3. The US did not feel comfortable with them because of their perceived
links with the Islamic fundamentalist elements and they had to be shifted by
Musharraf under US pressure in October 2001. Mohammad Aziz, who was then the
Chief of the General Staff (CGS) in the Army Headquarters, was transferred
to Lahore as a Corps Commander. Ahmed was also transferred to a Corps. Both
of them have since retired. They were lying low for a while avoiding
participating in any activities directed against Musharraf. Even now, they
avoid any statements, remarks or actions, which could be misinterpreted as
anti-Musharraf, but they have been increasingly hobnobbing with Hamid Gul.
4. Hamid Gul was the DG of the ISI under Mrs.Benazir Bhutto during the first
few months of her first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988 to 90), but she
removed him from the post following the fiasco of an attack by the Afghan
Mujahideen and Osama bin Laden's followers which he had organised in a bid
to capture Jalalabad from the control of the then Afghan President
Najibullah's army in 1989. The attack was repulsed by the Afgan Army after
inflicting heavy casualties on the invaders.
5. After his retirement, Hamid Gul joined the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi
Hussain Ahmed and worked for some years for the Pasban, the militant youth
wing of the JEI. He is no longer with the Pasban. He now owns a flourishing
road transport business and has been at the forefront of all anti-Musharraf
and anti-US activities by ex-servicemen. He has also been helping the Neo
Taliban and its Amir, Mulla Mohammad Omar, in running their training camps
in Pakistani territory. He has also rallied the support of many
ex-servicemen for the current agitation by the lawyers and the JEI against
Musharraf over the suspension of Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury, the Chief
Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, on March 9, 2007.
6. Javed Nasir, former Amir of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), was the DG of the
ISI during Nawaz Sharif's first tenure as the Prime Minister (1990-93). The
US forced Nawaz to sack him because of its unhappiness over his perceived
non-co-operation in the implementation of a project of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the purchase of the unused Stinger missiles
from the Afghan Mujahideen. Since then, he has been virulently anti-US and
has been helping the Neo Taliban and the TJ. He has also been playing an
active role in the mobilisation of TJ cadres to join the lawyer's agitation.
Mohammad Rafique Tarar, former President, who was removed from office by
Musharraf in 2001, has also been in the forefront of this agitation. He was
and continues to be an active member of the TJ.
7. Abbasi used to be the ISI station chief in New Delhi in the late 1980s.
He was expelled by the Government of India. In 1995, the Pakistan Army then
headed by Gen. Adul Waheed Kakar, discovered a plot by Abbasi and some other
officers to have the General and Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minster for a
second time (1993-96), assassinated and capture power. They were working
secretly with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI). They were arrested,
court-martialled and jailed. After coming out of jail, Abbasi has been
active in campaigning against the policies of Musharraf. He is since
reported to have joined the Hizbut-Tehrir (HT), which has many followers in
the lower levels of the army.
8. Khawaja was also in the ISI and used to be in touch with the Taliban
after it came into being in 1994 and Osma bin Laden after he shifted to
Afghanistan in 1996. After leaving the ISI, he joined the Jamaat-ul-Furqa
(JUF) of Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Jilani, which has many followers in
the Muslim communities of the US and the West Indies. Daniel Pearl had
sought his help for arranging a meeting with Jilani. Pearl wanted to enquire
about any links between the JUF and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. It was
Khawaja, who had tipped off the kidnappers of Pearl about his Jewish
background and created a suspicion in their mind that Pearl had links with
the CIA and Mossad. He is now in detention on a charge of instigating the
women students of a madrasa of Islamabad (Jamia Hafsa) to start an agitation
against the demolition of some mosques in Islamabad. This agitation has been
going on for the last two months. In addition to other demands, the
agitating women students, who project themselves as future wives and mothers
of suicide bombers, are now demanding his release from jail. They have been
shouting slogans in praise of bin Laden and Mulla Omar.
9. These retired officers and their followers have been actively helping the
Neo Taliban by organising training camps for its recruits and by
facilitating its procurement of arms and ammunition. They have also been
instigating the madrasas not to comply with the orders of Musharraf for
their registration and for the expulsion of foreign students. They have also
been urging the tribals in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to continue to provide
hospitality to the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in their territory and help them
in their operations in the Afghan territory. They have been encouraging the
lawyers to keep up their agitation against Musharraf.
10. The jihadis trained, armed and motivated by them have stepped up their
activities not only in Afghan territory against the NATO forces, but also in
Pakistani territory in reprisal for the co-operation allegedly extended by
Musharraf to the US in its war against Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban. Recent
examples of the resulting escalation in the jihadi violence in Pakistani
- An unidentified suicide bomber blew himself up at a military
training ground near Kharian, 130 kilometers south-east of Islamabad, on
March 29, 2007, killing one (some reports say three) soldier and wounding
at least six more. Three Lt. Gen of the Pakistan Army were to visit the camp
that day. It is not yet known whether he was planning to kill them and blew
himself up prematurely. As the suicide attacker approached the training
centre, an Army security guard stopped and asked him to show his identity
card. The attacker blew himself up. This is the eighth incident involving a
suicide bomber in Pakistani territory since the beginning of this year.
- On March 27, 2007, unidentified gunmen on motorbikes hurled
grenades and opened fire on an army vehicle in the Bajaur Agency, killing
five persons, including two officials of the ISI, one of them a
middle-level officer of the rank of Assistant Director. This attack came
despite a cease-fire agreement concluded by the Army earlier this week with
the pro-Neo Taliban tribal leaders of the Agency.
- On March 28, there was a confrontation between the Islamabad police
and the agitating women students of the Jamia Hafsa madrasa. The students
took hostage three women from a house near Lal Masjid to which the madrasa
is attached. They accused them of running a brothel. The police retaliated
by capturing four members of the staff of the madrasa. The women retaliated
from their side by setting fire to a police van and taking two police
officers hostage. Ultimately, the two sides released their respective
hostages. The deputy imam of the Lal Masjid, which is headed by Qazi Abdul
Aziz, and the agitating women students have given a 15- day ultimatum to the
police to release Khalid Khawaja and four other activists of their movement
who have been detained. The agitating women students and their male
supporters from other madrasas nearby attacked police vehicles and seized
their communication sets. The pro-Neo Taliban madrasas and mosques in the
Islamabad area have managed to get hold of FM radio equipment from the FATA,
to which many of the women students belong, and started making
anti-Musharraf and anti-US broadcasts to the people of the capital.
- On March 26, 2007, there was a clash between the police of Tank
(previously known as Tonk), a district headquarters town of the NWFP, and
some recruiters of the Neo Taliban who went to a local school to recruit its
students to the Neo Taliban. One police officer and one of the recruiters
were killed. About 200 members of the Neo Taliban raided the town in
retaliation for the death of the recruiter on March 28, looted the local
banks and engaged in exchanges of fire with the local security forces for
six hours in different parts of the town. The Army had to be called out and
a curfew imposed in order to restore law and order.
11. Earlier, on March 6, 2007, the Governor of the NWFP Lt-Gen (retd) Ali
Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, had convened a meeting attended by the Chief
Minister, Mr. Akram Khan Durrani, and senior officials of the province to
discuss the worsening law and order situation in the province due to the
escalation in the activities of the Neo Taliban and its local supporters.
According to the "Dawn" of Karachi (March 29), the local officials gave the
following assessment to the Governor: ""Inaction on the part of the
law-enforcement agencies has led to the Government being on the retreat.
Writ of the government shrinking with every passing day. Vacuum being filled
by non-state actors. Respect for law and state authority gradually
diminishing. Morale of the law-enforcing agencies and people supportive of
the Government on the decline. Talibanisation, lawlessness and terrorism on
12. The following points were reportedly made at the meeting: The number of
bomb explosions in the NWFP increased from 27 in 2005 to 35 in 2006.In the
first two months of this year, there have already been 25 explosions,
killing 23 persons. Talibanisation has particularly affected Tank, Dera
Ismail Khan, Bannu and Lakki Marwat. There has been a resurgence of the
activities of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi, particularly in the
Swat region where Maulana Fazlullah alias Maulana Radio was making full use
of his illegally set up FM radio station to carry on propaganda against the
Government. While the situation is getting out of control, there appears to
be a total paralysis and inaction on the part of the Federal Government.
13. Sources in the local police force say that a time when there has been
an escalation in the activities of the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in the FATA
and the NWFP, they are finding themselves handicapped in dealing with the
situation for want of adequate forces. According to them, Musharraf has
been giving priority to quelling the Baloch nationalist movement in
Balochistan rather than to action against the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda. As a
result, there are more security forces deployed in Balochistan than in the
FATA and the NWFP. The peace agreements signed by him with the pro-Taliban
elements in South and North Waziristan and Bajaur agencies were mainly
intended to enable the Army to divert forces to Balochistan. This has given
a free field for the Neo Taliban and Al Qaeda in the FATA and the NWFP. They
have not only stepped up their offensive against the NATO forces in
Afghanistan, but also launched an offensive against the Pakistani security
forces themselves in Pakistani territory.
14. The Neo Taliban, assisted by Al Qaeda, has become Musharraf's
Frankenstein's monster. He helped in its post-9/11 resurgence to achieve
Pakistan's Afghan agenda. It is showing signs of slipping out of his
control. As regards the role of the retired officers backing the Neo Taliban
with their own anti-US agenda, it is doubtful whether they would have
instigated some of the incidents mentioned above such as the suicide attack
at a training camp of the army and the killing of two ISI officers.
15.It would seem that the Neo Taliban has assumed a momentum of its own and
is increasingly not amenable to anybody's control----either Musharraf's or
his detrators'. The international community has reasons to be seriously
concerned over the goings-on in Pakistan. It is slowly moving towards a
situation of jihadi anarchy.
*(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government
of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 300
on: April 01, 2007, 11:22:38 PM
I appreciate the inclination of your sentiments, but disagree with what I understand to be your position-- that this is a fight for oil. Not only is this in my opinion not so, but to say it is so is to fortify the beliefs of the weak horses amongst us and amongst our enemy and Muslims who sit upon the fence.
I submit that we have repeatedly shown that we are willing to buy oil from just about anyone. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah et al control zero oil.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: April 01, 2007, 11:17:15 PM
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed.
It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.
The study, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, looked into 'emotive and controversial' history teaching in primary and secondary schools.
It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.
The researchers gave the example of a secondary school in an unnamed northern city, which dropped the Holocaust as a subject for GCSE coursework.
The report said teachers feared confronting 'anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils'.
It added: "In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.
"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."
A third school found itself 'strongly challenged by some Christian parents for their treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict-and the history of the state of Israel that did not accord with the teachings of their denomination'.
The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness. Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether palatable or unpalatable."
The researchers also warned that a lack of subject knowledge among teachers - particularly at primary level - was leading to history being taught in a 'shallow way leading to routine and superficial learning'. Lessons in difficult topics were too often 'bland, simplistic and unproblematic' and bored pupils. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to Attack
on: March 30, 2007, 10:36:31 AM
From today's WSJ, one AF General's ideas on how we could attack Iran
By THOMAS G. MCINERNEY
March 30, 2007; Page A15
President Reagan once famously quipped that his strategy in confronting the Soviet Union was "We win, they lose." Today, we need a similarly clear strategy to confront Iran, if we are to successfully counter its aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and -- as we see with the 15 British sailors the Iranians have taken hostage -- attempts to intimidate Western powers into inaction.
That strategy begins not with the Kabuki dance now underway at the United Nations. Turtle Bay is usually, and seems destined to be again in this case, a diplomatic sideshow meant more to distract us than to disarm a rogue regime.
While we dither the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons, give support to our enemies in Iraq and undermine our credibility with our European allies. We need to demonstrate now that there are viable military options in dealing with a rogue regime in Tehran and that not all of those options will leave us embroiled in a shooting war with yet another large, sprawling nation in the Middle East.
I believe that our options for dealing with Iran are more numerous and could be more productive than many Washington policy makers have heretofore argued. Let us remember that Iran is a very diverse nation whose population is only 51% Persian. The rest is Azari (24%), Kurdish (10%) and a mix of other ethnic minorities including Turkman, Arab and others. This is a rich environment for unrest and one reason why there were an estimated 4,300 protest demonstrations in 2005 alone. In recent weeks, we may have benefited from another form of protest. Former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asgari appears to have used a trip to Turkey to defect with his family. If he is now talking to Western intelligence officials, we'll soon know a lot more about the inner workings of the Iranian regime.
And the Middle East itself is no monolithic bloc of support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel, of course, is a natural ally in gaining intelligence and lining up support against the Iranian regime. But Iran is bent on destabilizing and dominating the Arabian Peninsula from Lebanon through Gaza into Iraq with a stopover in Bahrain. That makes Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan potentially strong -- if not overt -- allies in countering Iranian influence. The situation has gotten so serious that King Abdullah of Jordan called it a Shia crescent sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia summoned Vice President Cheney to Riyadh last fall.
If we demonstrate that we are sufficiently serious in countering Iran, we could form a coalition of the willing with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and those European allies with the courage to consider what their future will look like with a nuclear-armed Iran within missile range. No more denial or hoping Iran will negotiate their nuclear weapons development away. The criteria for joining this coalition would be to join in making the following demands of Iran: Stop developing fissile material, submit to unambiguous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, turn over all al Qaeda operatives within your borders and stop supporting Hezbollah.
The hard part, of course, of forming any meaningful coalition is the consequences of noncompliance. And this case is no different. The obvious punishment for a defiant Iran could be an air strike that aims to destroy its nuclear development facilities and overt support for Iranians working to overthrow their government. This is where the discussion of taking stringent actions against Iran usually breaks down. Few people believe Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations would join a coalition that carried out a military strike and there is little reason to believe many European nations would either.
This is where President Reagan in confronting the Soviets is instructive. The Gipper was elected in 1980 at a time when it appeared inevitable that the Soviet Union would dominate world affairs and just as inevitably that the U.S. was unable to do anything about it short of waging a bloody, military campaign that would have few allies in fighting and not every chance of success. In the end, as they say, Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.
We have similar options now. One of which is to enact drastic economic sanctions that, oddly, would involve forcing a gasoline crisis in Iran. Tehran is kept afloat on oil revenues, but it has done so at the expense of its oil industry. While it exports large quantities of crude oil, Iran imports 40% of its domestically consumed gasoline, and each gallon at the pump is heavily subsidized. Shutting off or even restricting the supply of gasoline flowing into the country would put the regime in a crunch and drive up public discontent without creating a corresponding humanitarian crisis.
We could also apply minimal military pressure without straining our relations with our allies. To date Iran is responsible for killing more than 200 American soldiers and wounding over 635 through the introduction of what the U.S. military calls Explosively Formed Penetrators. These EFPs are shaped charges specifically designed to pierce the hulls of our armored vehicles and are much deadlier than what al Qaeda and run-of-the-mill insurgents could have come up with on their own in Iraq. Enough is enough. We could develop a tit-for-tat strategy for each EFP that is detonated in Iraq that could target nuclear support facilities or Iranian leadership or other targets calculated to put heat on the regime without endangering civilians. Many of these responses may be written off as mere happenstance or accidents in a dangerous part of the world. But even as Iran becomes the unluckiest country in the world, our allies in the region could hardly blame us for a calculated response.
The U.S. can also assemble a large-scale force capable of an air offensive. This would serve a similar role to Reagan's military buildup, forcing the Soviets into an arms race that they ultimately couldn't maintain. The immediate strike force could be composed of some 75 stealth attack aircraft -- B2s, F117s and the F22s -- and some 250 nonstealth F15s, F16s, B52s, B1s and three carrier battle groups. These carrier battle groups are composed of over 120 F18s and cruise missiles galore. We also have over 750 UAVs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq today. There is more than enough to support a campaign aimed at demonstrating to the Iranian regime that with 48 hours we could hit its nuclear development facilities, command and control facilities, integrated air defenses, Air Force and Navy units and the Shahab 3 missiles using over 2,500 aim points.
Back in Washington, Congress also needs to exercise its responsibility and fund missile defenses, bunker busters and other technologies specifically designed to counter the Iranian regime. Tehran has the world scrambling to respond as it sets about assembling a nuclear weapon that may be more advanced than Fat Man and Little Boy, but which is still far less technologically advanced than the weapons systems we trust 20-somethings to operate every day in our military. Forcing Iran to expend its resources to keep pace with our technological advances is central to any strategy of defeating them.
We don't need to drop leaflets from the air spelling it out for the regime in Tehran that, if we were to carry out an air campaign, it would probably unleash a new Iranian revolution. But the leadership in Iran has to first come to understand that we neither fear a Hezbollah uprising over such a strike -- as Hezbollah is already carrying out terrorist attacks, we'd welcome an open fight on our terms -- nor would we need the main-line coalition ground forces we used in Iraq. Instead, we could simply use the Afghan model of precision airpower supporting covert and indigenous forces.
We're the United States of America. We don't threaten any nation. What Iran must come to realize -- and we must now decide for ourselves -- is that we are in this confrontation to win it.
Lt. Gen. McInerny is retired assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and Fox News military analyst.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forbes on Guiliani
on: March 30, 2007, 08:16:59 AM
Rudy's the One
The free-market leader of the GOP field.
BY STEVE FORBES
Friday, March 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Rudy Giuliani is the real fiscal conservative in the 2008 presidential race. That's why I'm endorsing him for president.
Most Americans know that Mr. Giuliani turned around America's largest city. They know he cut crime and welfare in half; they know that he improved the quality of life from Times Square to Coney Island and everywhere in between. And they witnessed his Churchillian leadership following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Less well known is the mayor's fiscal record. Nonetheless, conservatives will find it impressive. He built New York's resurgence not just on fundamental police work, but also on a foundation of fiscal discipline. He cut taxes and the size of government and turned an inherited deficit into a multibillion dollar surplus.
Mr. Giuliani entered office in 1994 with a $2.3 billion budget deficit handed to him by his predecessor, Mayor David Dinkins. Liberal conventional wisdom held that the only way to close the gap was to raise taxes while cutting back on basic city services such as sanitation. The new mayor rejected this advice--in fact, he famously threw the report recommending tax hikes in the trash!
Instead, he set out to restore fiscal discipline to the "ungovernable city"--and achieved results that Reagan Republicans can applaud.
In his first budget address Mr. Giuliani explained that he would "cut taxes to attract jobs so our people can work." While lots of politicians make promises about cutting taxes Mr. Giuliani delivered, overcoming the initial resistance of the overwhelmingly Democratic City Council. He ultimately prevailed 23 times, including cuts in sales, personal income, commercial rent and hotel occupancy taxes. He understood that these taxes were not revenue producers, but counterproductive job killers.
When he left office after eight years, New Yorkers had saved over $9 billion, while enjoying their lowest tax burden in decades. The private sector, which had been hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years before he took office, produced over 423,000 new jobs. Meanwhile the unemployment rate was cut in half. Businesses responded to Mr. Giuliani's reforms by returning to the center of city life.
So when he talks about his belief in supply-side economics, its not just theory, it's a plan he has already succeeded at putting into action. He's seen the results of supply-side economics first hand--higher revenues from lower taxes.
Controlling government spending is another pledge often made by politicians. Conservative voters now know to be skeptical of such claims. But Mr. Giuliani has a record they can have confidence in. His first budget cut spending for the first time in the city since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s--and over the course of his administration he controlled the city's spending while federal government spending grew by over 40% and average state spending ballooned by over 60%. Mr. Giuliani always made fiscal discipline a priority: instructing city commissioners to cut agency budgets even when the deficits had turned to surpluses.
Mr. Giuliani set out to cut the size of city government, insisting that New York should live within its means. New Yorkers saw their quality of life improve with more effective delivery of services while the bureaucratic ranks were being thinned by nearly 20,000--a near 20% decrease in city headcount, excluding police officers and teachers. He increased the number of cops and teachers because he understood that public safety and quality education are what we expect in return for our tax dollars, not partisan job protection or union featherbedding. As mayor, he proved that government can be smaller and smarter--more efficient and more effective.
Rudy Giuliani can unite the Republican Party and restore our traditional claim as the party of fiscal conservatism. He has already proven he can stand up to liberal special interest groups and achieve tax cuts, even with a Democrat-controlled City Council. That's the kind of leadership we need in Washington. That's the kind of leadership that will inspire the next generation of the Reagan Revolution. And that's why America's Mayor should be America's next president.
Mr. Forbes is president and CEO of Forbes Inc. and editor in chief of Forbes magazine.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in France
on: March 30, 2007, 08:06:24 AM
That was an interesting read.
From today's NY Slimes, here's this about France:
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: March 30, 2007
PARIS, March 29 — France’s presidential campaign has been seized by a subject long monopolized by the extreme right: how best to be French.
The conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, wants to create a ministry of “immigration and national identity” that would require newcomers to embrace the secular values of the republican state.
The Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, wants every French citizen to memorize “La Marseillaise” and keep a French flag in the cupboard for public display on Bastille Day.
The far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of the National Front party, chortles that his rivals have stolen — and therefore validated — his message of “France for the French.”
Some political commentators have accused Mr. Sarkozy of harking back to the darkest period in modern French history: the collaborationist Vichy government during the Nazi occupation. Ms. Royal, meanwhile, is being attacked by both her rivals and her own camp for manipulating symbols that historically have been the domain of the far right.
With the first round of the election 24 days away, the battle over French identity has overtaken discussion of more practical issues like reducing unemployment and making France more competitive.
On Tuesday, as if to underscore the tensions over identity, roving bands of young people threw objects at the police, smashed store windows and damaged property for several hours at the Gare du Nord, a major train station in Paris. The trouble started when an illegal immigrant from Congo jumped a turnstile in the subway and tried to punch a transit agent who asked to see his ticket.
The police shut down the subway and commuter train system, arrested 13 suspects and used tear gas before restoring order after midnight.
The shift to debating Frenchness is aimed in part at luring the right-wing vote away from Mr. Le Pen, who shocked France in 2002 when he finished the first round of voting in second place.
It is also an attempt to reassure jittery voters that France will remain an important power at a time when it is losing prominence in a larger European Union and a globalized world and struggling with a disaffected Muslim and ethnic Arab and African population at home.
“Resolving the identity crisis in France is a very serious problem, but both Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal have trivialized it in this election,” said Eric Dupin, a political scientist and an author. “Both of them are playing on the fears and the base emotions of the people.”
François Bayrou, the centrist candidate who leads the tiny Union for French Democracy party, denounced the “nationalistic obsession” that had infiltrated the campaign. “Every time in our past that we have wanted to go back to external signs, it has led to periods that are unhappy,” he said.
For the past few years, France has struggled with economic and cultural issues related to its immigrants. One is shared by much of the rest of Europe: how to stop the influx of illegal immigrants who drain a country’s economy and social services. A second is how to force French citizens of immigrant origin to obey laws, including those banning practices like polygamy and the wearing of head scarves by Muslim girls and women in schools and universities.
As interior minister before he stepped down Monday to focus on his campaign, Mr. Sarkozy tightened immigration laws and boasted that he had expelled tens of thousands of illegal immigrants and prevented others from entering. His pledge in 2005 to rid France’s ethnic Arab and Muslim suburbs of “scum” contributed to a three-week orgy of violence there.
Mr. Sarkozy, who has largely avoided the suburbs during his campaign, has criticized immigrants and their offspring who resist the French model of integration, saying it is unacceptable to want to live in France without respecting and loving the country or learning French.
He touched off the current debate in a television appearance on March 8 when he announced a plan to create a “ministry of immigration and national identity” if elected.
Ms. Royal called the plan “disgraceful,” adding, “Foreign workers have never threatened French identity.”
“Indecent,” was the reaction of Azouz Begag, the minister for equal opportunity. “I’m not stupid, and neither are the French,” he said. “It’s a hook to go and look for the lost sheep of the National Front.”
Simone Veil, a beloved former government minister and Holocaust survivor, found herself denouncing Mr. Sarkozy’s idea shortly after she endorsed him for president.
“I didn’t at all like this very ambiguous formula,” she told the magazine Marianne. She said a ministry for immigration and “integration” would be a better idea.
Mr. Sarkozy was unfazed. “I want the promotion of a common culture,” he said in reply to his critics.
Published: March 30, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
Indeed, an OpinionWay Internet poll for the newspaper Le Figaro, splashed on the paper’s front page this month, indicated that 55 percent of French voters approved. Sixty-five percent agreed that the “immigrants who join us must sign up to the national identity.”
Although the poll was conducted using a representative sample via the Internet, not by using more reliable telephone surveys, it was widely cited as evidence that the French wanted a more restrictive immigration policy and that they wanted Muslims here conform to secular French customs.
But Mr. Sarkozy’s proposal has revived memories of the Vichy era. The idea of a national identity ministry has been compared to the General Commissariat of Jewish Affairs, which was created with ministerial rank under the Vichy administration. “Only Vichy developed administrative structures in their efficient way to defend a certain concept of ‘national identity,’ ” the columnist Philippe Bernard wrote in Le Monde last week. He said that the Commissariat, “even before being a tool in the service of the policy of extermination, responded to the objective of purification of the French nation.”
Some conservative Jewish voters, who were planning to vote for Mr. Sarkozy because of his staunch support of Israel, say they now are considering shifting to Mr. Bayrou.
Despite Ms. Royal’s criticism of Mr. Sarkozy, she followed his lead by wrapping herself tightly in her own mantle of nationalism. She started by encouraging her supporters to sing “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem and the rallying cry of the right, at the end of her rallies.
Last week in southern France, which historically votes for the right and extreme right, she called for a “reconquest of the symbols of the nation” from the right.
She said all French citizens should have the French flag at home, adding, “In other countries, they put the flag in the windows on their national holiday.” And she promised that if elected, she would “ensure that the French know ‘La Marseillaise.’ ”
In the end, both camps acknowledge that they are trying to appeal to voters on the right.
“Ségolène Royal is taking back the terrain too often abandoned by the left for ages to the right and the extreme right,” said a former defense and interior minister, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, who supports her.
Mr. Sarkozy was more explicit. “Since 1983, we have the strongest far right in Europe,” he said this month. “We must not proceed as if it does not exist. I want to talk to those who have moved toward the far right because they are suffering.”
During a campaign trip last week in the Caribbean, where some of the region’s residents can vote in French elections, Mr. Sarkozy boasted that after he proposed his immigration and national identity ministry, his standing in the polls jumped.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Playboy in Indonesia
on: March 29, 2007, 06:42:25 PM
Playboy in Indonesia
By SADANAND DHUME
March 29, 2007; Page A16
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The latest round of the global culture war between Islamists and the West is being played out in a small courtroom here. Erwin Arnada, the beleaguered editor of Playboy Indonesia, faces a two-year jail term for breaching the country's indecency laws.
Earlier this month, about 100 belligerent Islamists, bearded and skull-capped, packed the courtroom shouting "hang him, hang him!" as prosecutors read out the charges against Mr. Arnada. Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation: the gaunt presence of Abu Bakar Bashir, alleged spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group associated with al Qaeda that was behind the 2002 Bali bombings and subsequent attacks on Jakarta's J. W. Marriott hotel and the Australian embassy.
The Playboy affair captures the world's most populous Muslim country's steady slide toward intolerance. But the silence with which it has been greeted in the U.S. -- no press releases from the Committee to Protect Journalists clog my inbox -- also underscores the cringe of bien pensant America toward the export of popular culture, especially to Muslim lands. You'll be hard-pressed to find an NGO head or professional pundit eager to stand up for Playboy, or for that matter for Baywatch or Desperate Housewives. For the most part, such fare is seen as a provocation. Why give the permanently angry Muslim street another excuse to seethe?
In reality, the problem is not Playboy's predilection for the scantily clad, but Islamists' tendency to fly into a rage over a flash of thigh or a bare midriff. (There's no nudity in the Indonesian edition.) American popular culture ought to be celebrated rather than derided. In its crass commercialism and blithe disregard for Islamist sensibilities lie the greatest hopes of bringing Muslim societies to terms with modernity.
Indonesia used to be considered immune to fundamentalism; Muslims practiced an easy-going folk religion inflected with the Hindu-Buddhism that held sway in the archipelago for more than a millennium before Islam took hold in the 1400s. Elites -- Indic by culture and Dutch by outlook -- were determinedly non-sectarian. But the dislocation caused by rapid economic growth, flawed government policies that encouraged religion as an antidote to communism, and the global resurgence of Islam have challenged the very nature of Indonesian society. Suicide bombings, mob violence against Christians and "heretical" Ahmadiyya Muslims, as well as attempts to ban miniskirts and kissing in public, mark a rising tide of intolerance.
Islamists have momentum on their side, but Indonesia's traditional pluralism and kitschy openness have not quite disappeared. Last April it became only the second Muslim majority country, after Turkey, to embrace Hugh Hefner's iconic brand. Though baring less skin than other editions, it immediately became the focal point of Islamist ire. A mob attacked the magazine's Jakarta offices, forcing the editors to move base to the Hindu island of Bali. Headscarved women picketed and harassed the magazine's models. The government buckled under the pressure and took Mr. Ernada to court.
In practical terms, Islamist movements around the world -- from Hamas in the Palestinian territories to the Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent to Indonesia's Justice and Prosperity Party -- follow a two-pronged strategy. They seek to emulate the West's science and technology while walling off their societies from the taint of Western culture. These groups see the path to an Islamist state through the creation of a fundamentalist society. This requires shutting down anything that gets in the way.
American popular culture challenges Islamism like no other force on the planet, certainly more effectively than State Department diplomats, who seem to spend all their time apologizing on al-Jazeera or trotting out banalities about the universality of motherhood. The idea of a woman dressing or undressing as she pleases, or that you may personally disapprove of the Playboy bunny but respect your neighbor's right to fantasize about her, undermines the very core of Islamist totalitarianism.
On a more flippant note, persuading young men to blow themselves up in order to claim 72 dark-eyed virgins in paradise is that much harder when the dark-eyed virgin next door can be found spread across a centerfold. It's no coincidence that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, a country where Starbucks isn't allowed to use its mermaid logo lest it cause offense.
If we're lucky, the Indonesian court deciding on Mr. Arnada's fate will see the larger issues at stake -- the choice between an open society and a repressive one -- and vote to acquit. If we're luckier still, Indonesian Playboy will be joined one day by Baywatch Pakistan and Desperate Saudi Housewives.
Mr. Dhume, a Bernard Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society, has completed a book on the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: March 29, 2007, 06:36:45 PM
Then we are succeeding in our mission
More seriously, part of my vision for this forum is to be a place that is part of intelligent and thoughtful people's day-- to be a place that they regularly turn to develop their understanding and thinking about what is going on.
From today's WSJ Online:
The Palestinian Sewer
"Further deadly sewage floods are feared after a wave of stinking waste and mud from a collapsed septic pool inundated a Gaza village, killing five people, including two babies," the Associated Press reports:
The collapse has been blamed on residents stealing sand from an embankment.
It highlighted the desperate need to upgrade Gaza's overloaded, outdated infrastructure--but aid officials say construction of a modern sewage treatment plant has been held up by constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
The report gets a bit more specific as to the meaning of "constant Israeli-Palestinian fighting":
Umm Naser is about 300 metres [300 million microns] from the border with Israel, in an area where Palestinians have frequently launched rockets into Israel and Israeli artillery and aircraft have fired back. The situation worsened after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier last June in a cross-border raid, and Israel responded by invading northern Gaza.
The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this month that metal provided by Israel had been used in the construction of those terrorist rockets. And why was Israel selling the Palestinians metal? "For the construction of a sewage system in Gaza."
Palestinian babies drown in sewage because of the bloodlust of Palestinian grown-ups. What a fetid political culture.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / French private sector perfidy
on: March 29, 2007, 06:31:53 PM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
A French oil giant's deals with a rogue regime--this time in Iran.
Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Don't stop us if you've heard this one: French oil giant Total SA is being investigated for illicit dealings with a rogue regime in the Middle East. This time it's Iran, but maybe you recall its experience with another dictator and something called Oil for Food.
A French judge is investigating bribes that Total executives allegedly paid Iranian officials to secure business in the Islamic Republic. Last week, the judge issued preliminary charges of abuse of company funds and corruption of foreign agents against Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie. The company and Mr. de Margerie deny any wrongdoing, but the Total experience is all too typical of the way European firms cut deals with dictators while their own governments provide political cover.
Meanwhile, the same French prosecutor continues to investigate Total for alleged kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein in return for Iraqi oil. In his report on Oil for Food corruption, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that Total, through intermediaries, had purchased some of the 11 million barrels of oil that former Iraqi officials claim was allocated to French Senator Charles Pasqua in thanks for his support of Saddam's Iraq. Total and Mr. Pasqua also deny any wrongdoing.
However the probes play out, Total's business with Tehran is probably a violation of the U.S. 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The Clinton Administration thought so as far back as early 1998, when crude oil futures were selling for a quarter of the current price, and Tehran was desperate for cash to finance Hezbollah and, as we later learned, its nuclear program.
"We believe that transactions that substantially enhance Iran's ability to acquire the revenues necessary to acquire missile technology and weapons of mass destruction should not be in any way made easier," Defense Secretary William Cohen argued at the time. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was even more blunt: "As far as the French are concerned, I must say it passes my understanding why there is no realization that pumping money into the system of Iran is not helpful to the rest of us."
But after French carping and trade threats by the European Union, President Clinton waived sanctions on Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas for the $2 billion natural-gas deal they had inked with the mullahs in 1997. That waiver set an informal precedent, as both the Clinton and Bush Administrations have stayed silent as companies from Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, South Korea and Japan have signed energy deals with Iran worth some $11.5 billion, as the nearby table shows.
That patience may be ending now that Iran is kidnapping British sailors, supplying bombs that kill Americans in Iraq, and defying U.N. orders to stop enriching uranium. The Bush Administration is pressing financial sanctions against Iran especially hard, but pressure is building on Capitol Hill for firmer action. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg is talking about more severe penalties for U.S. firms that do business with states that sponsor terrorism, and stricter sanctions on the U.S. interests of foreign companies could be in the cards as well.
We've always thought sanctions are a blunt instrument, and they can backfire when used on the wrong target. It's also true that U.S. sanctions wouldn't hurt Total in the short term; the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is limited to penalties for companies' U.S. businesses, and the bulk of Total's activities are in Europe and Latin America. But against a regime such as Iran's--which is now the biggest threat to world security--sanctions are also a form of diplomatic pressure short of the military action that European governments claim to want to avoid at all costs. Total executives and European politicians are fooling themselves if they think U.S. pressure for action against Iran will stop once the Bush Administration leaves power.
There's some debate in France about why prosecutors are suddenly showing so much interest in what is by now a 10-year-old case. Perhaps allies of Jacques Chirac have less political cover as his presidency winds down, or maybe big companies are no longer seen as untouchable on the Continent after a series of corporate scandals. Or it could be that investigative judge Philippe Courroye is anxious to close out his current docket before his scheduled transfer to another court. Whatever the reason, it's good to see someone in Paris take corrupt dealings with dictators seriously.
In Iraq 10 years ago, Total and its political protectors canoodled with Saddam and propped him up until the U.S. decided it had no choice but to act against him. Europe shouldn't make the same mistake in Iran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dhimmitude
on: March 29, 2007, 05:51:01 PM
An ordinary American with some fitness centers in Europe responds to the Bernard Lewis piece:
Good to hear from you. I work all over Europe, especially in Spain and Germany and I can tell you first hand that we don't want to do things the way they are over here.
The terrorists run the show and the people and governments are afraid of offending them.
You should see Belgium, for example. The Moors control many districts and make the people follow their laws, not those of the state of whom they are guests.
In France the Moors are constantly battling the police, burning cars and generally disrupting the society. Yesterday 200 Moors battled the police in the metro for 12 hours, before order was restored.
In England the Moors openly preach hate of their hosts and their ways, laws and existence and call for rebellion and a state within a state.
In Spain, the government collaborated with the terrorists to win the election in 2003, and today the government has politicized the judiciary branch so that no actions or convictions happen against the terrorists.
3 days ago, in a public protest, on live tv, a terrorist kicked one of the organizers of the opposition square in the b----, and his bodyguard caught the terrorist and as he was handing him over to the police, the cops let him go. They actually witnessed it all and they let the guy go.
This is all true and I live it everyday. But don't be discouraged to visit. There is much to like.
It's amazing how people who live in the place where more wars have occured in the entire history of the world forget and refuse to learn from the past.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / KC-30 Tanker
on: March 29, 2007, 05:15:00 PM
U.S.: A joint Northrop Grumman/ European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. team announced March 28 -- as expected -- that it will formally submit its KC-30 tanker design to the Pentagon on April 12 for the $40 billion competition to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging KC-130 tanker fleet with 179 new aerial refueling planes. The KC-30 (a militarized version of the Airbus A330) will compete against Boeing's KC-767, which is based on the civilian 767 airframe. The replacement program is a top priority for the U.S. Air Force. As such, the Pentagon is expected to award the contract during this calendar year. Northrop-Grumman maintains that more than 50 percent of the production would take place in the United States, despite the Airbus frame. Boeing, of course, estimates 85 percent domestic production. The A330 is also a larger plane than the 767, and its commercial counterpart runs $160 million per plane -- $30 million more than the commercial 767. Both are two-engine aircraft with seating in the two-aisle 200-300 range.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bellheads vs. Netheads
on: March 29, 2007, 04:00:23 PM
"Netheads" take on "Bellheads." Look out, Mrs. Clinton.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The thing I like most about the "Hillary 1984" political ad on YouTube isn't the face, shrouded in a ghastly pixel haze, but the voice. Her voice recedes into a weird, unreal echo. Truth to tell, you could insert any of the faces imploring us now to make them president, and achieve the same effect. (If you're still playing catch-up, go into YouTube.com, search "Hillary"--or just click here--and watch in wonder.)
It took some days after it posted on YouTube for the non-Web media to confer legitimacy on the one-minute, 13-second clip, calling it a potential "conflict" between the Hillary and Obama camps. Days later, after claiming ownership of the video, political pro Phil de Vellis wrote on the Huffington Post that he'd done the ad in a Sunday afternoon on his Mac with "some software." He said there's more where that came from. "The game has changed."
He's right. But it began a long time ago. The change came some 40 years back, when the U.S. defense department bought into a suggestion by electrical engineer Paul Baran, the son of a grocery store owner, that it build a data transmission network based on "packet switching." This was the Internet.
As someone who's on the Web too many hours, I have wondered what changing screens hundreds of times each day to access different gobs of "information" has done to the way our brains order the world, which is known as human consciousness. This "change" is having a material effect on just about everything else; why not on who gets elected president next year?
In 1996, an eon ago, Steve G. Steinberg wrote a prescient article in Wired magazine on the battle between what he called Bellheads and Netheads. This was essentially an argument over the network design of the Web between engineers for the established phone companies, the Bellheads, and the anarchic engineers of the Web, Netheads. It was a war between the old world of circuit-switching and the new world of packet-switching, the one we inhabit today.
This may have been an arcane argument among engineers, but the grander philosophical claims then were justified. What was at stake, as Mr. Steinberg accurately predicted, was "very different visions" of how we communicate. The engineers were changing how we think.
For more than a century, we were conditioned by the world of Lily Tomlin's famous telephone switchboard operator, Ernestine. Ernestine's "switch" was a circuit-switch, which means it connects A directly to B. Conversation or faxed data travels in a predetermined channel.
Packet-switching could hardly be more different. Information departs point A but then breaks into pieces, or packets, and bounces around a shared network almost randomly, then somehow arrives together at point B. The packet is a bundle of electrons, but "packet" is an apt metaphor for how the technology has changed us. Rather than sit still to fully absorb a copper-wire's stiff stream of information, we flip through screens, sorting fragments of data into a final thought or solution.
Like it or not (I dislike a lot of it), this is how most of us now live--and think. Viacom is suing YouTube because YouTubers are extracting five-minute clips of the best parts of "The Daily Show." Why waste 30 minutes?
Today, the Bellheads are long-form TV, traditional political ads, 74-minute CDs, two-hour movies--predetermined A-to-B formats. (Newspapers are in fact a collection of "packets," a subject for another time.) The Netheads are YouTube, shared playlists, remixed videos, the idea of personal choice, and randomly arriving political ads such as "Hillary 1984." That Netheads are chop-shopping "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" is ironic, but as the Yoda of old-media Walter Cronkite said, "That's the way it is." Prepackaging versus packets. And so in politics.
One of the conundrums of politics now is why Rudy Giuliani's polling lead for the GOP nomination is not just strong but persistent. Conventional wisdom holds it will fall when "conservative" voters learn his full biography and liberal social views. How could they not have heard? An alternative explanation is that voters are "processing" Mr. Giuliani differently.
Packet-switching is what allows us to flip effortlessly through torrents of data on Web screens, holding in mind a basic search goal. By now, this experience has forced more people than ever to think in terms of hierarchies--how to sort through lots of information and assign values, the way we quickly separate the flood of email into levels of importance. By now, we all have an Intel inside.
This may be why Mr. Giuliani is getting away with his social views in the GOP. We've become so adept at assigning value to good and bad information in searches that we can do it for a "flawed" candidate like Rudy Giuliani. Faced with an array of Rudy "packets"--the anti-terror reputation, three marriages, abortion and all the rest--GOP voters have already sorted the data, put anti-terror at the top of the hierarchy and are comfortable giving the social issues relatively lower values. Still relevant, but mid-range. This is how we do work now, every day. Why should it not affect politics?
If it is true that our political thinking is being bent by constant streams of small, value-laden packets of data that we constantly remix into personal hierarchies, then paradoxically the "new" politics of Web sites such as Moveon.org or the Daily Kos are really Old School.
Like Bellheads who originated deep in the last century, the leftwing sites think politics is still straight and simple: "pull the plug" on Iraq, "enact universal health care." For sites on the right, the one answer is the Fence to stopper Mexico. But political reality is more fluid and contingent than ever before. The Big Solution is wholly alien to the packet-switching political mindset now. Nancy Pelosi thought the Iraq vote was a slam dunk; in fact, her caucus broke into a random array of views on Iraq. That final vote has about as much stability as a Web page.
Some say ads such as "Hillary 1984" are democratizing politics. But that's just hardware--more sellers throwing stuff at us. The bigger change is happening inside the public's mental software. No poll can capture how the voting mind is processing the political inbox today. What's not to like about that?
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Thursdays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: March 29, 2007, 10:51:09 AM
General Petraeus and his people seem to be making progress here. I can actually see hope in the areas I go. Please click for the latest RUBS dispatch.
General Barry McCaffrey (Ret) has just released a report of his Iraq trip and it is also published on the website. All his trip reports are excellent resources for helping one understand the true situation here in Iraq. The man is blunt, and knows his business.
I greatly appreciate the reader support that comes in. Without it, my own mission of observing and reporting on the events unfolding in Iraq would fail. I cannot adequately express my gratitude, other than by sticking it out here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 29, 2007, 10:50:45 AM
Forbes does have a good grasp of supply side economics/tax policy. This is important for Republicans to escape the class warfare/racebaiting tactics of the Demogogue Party. As mayor, Rudy showed tax-cutting tendencies so Forbes looks like an honest fit.
There's much to like about Rudy, but his history on gun rights is downright bad. This issue IS a very important one for me. Also I see him as a RINO a certain other issues.
Still, he is an easy call over any Dem.
PS: Newt is on Hannity & Wife tonight
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Andy Wang
on: March 29, 2007, 01:44:33 AM
Just got this from R-1 gym buddy and Machado BJJ BB Andy Wang:
Way to go Andy!
Here's an interview I did for the Ultimate Fighter Season 5 and
another reminder that the season will be starting next Thursday
night...thanks for the support and please reply with how you are
doing; I'd like to hear from all of you!
Quick Shots: 20 questions with TUF 5 fighter Andy Wang
By Robert Cheshire on March 28, 2007
Andy Wang is the next fighter who took the time to answer our "Quick
Shots" questions. Andy looks to show that he is the real deal and not
just another fighter thinking they are "The Last Dragon" to enter the
1. Name: Andy Wang
2. Do you have a nickname? "Yellow Peril" It was originally a racist
term used by the West against Asians, particularly Chinese people,
from immigrating. Since then, it has become a symbol for persevering
and not giving up during hard times. I'd like to think I share some of
those same qualities.
3. Place of birth: Kaoshiung, Taiwan. You can thank us for all the
computer chips and cheap toys you guys have bought over the years!
4. Birthday: May 28, 1977, but I always use the Chinese calendar when
a girl asks me my age, which is about 10 years behind. (Laughs)
5. Fight Record: 8-6
6. How long have you competed in MMA? I started competing in MMA when
I was about 9 or 10 years old and a kid came up to me at school and
not only asked me for my lunch money, but proceeded to reach his hands
into my pockets to check for himself. He had both hands in my pockets
and I thought, "How is he going to protect his face?" He didn't.
7 . How did you get started in competing? The first time I saw the UFC
on videotape back in 1995, I felt right away that those guys who
entered the Octagon, win or lose, were modern day warriors. I wanted
to become one.
8. Who do you train with? Bruce Leroy is a legend in my town! He can
bite bullets with his teeth, he'll never bow down to anybody, even if
they are wearing Converse! Rumor has it he can even glow...
9. What is your favorite UFC moment? Back in the early UFC when Fred
Ettish fought Johnny Rhodes. I remember my stomach was turning as Fred
was getting beat, and I was screaming at the TV, "Tap...why don't you
just tap!" It was then that I realized Fred, even in defeat, had more
heart and character than 99.9% of the people in this world.
10 . What is your favorite TUF moment from the previous seasons? So
far my favorite was when Dana White dropped $10,000 cash for a
billiards game between the coaches, Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz...I'm
Chinese, which means cash gets me really, really excited. (Laughs)
11. What do you like to do when you are not training/fighting? Like
most Asians, I like to relax by playing ping-pong and solving calculus
equations for fun.
12. What does it mean to you to get a chance to compete in the UFC?
Honestly, it means I get a chance to find my destiny...to compete
against the best fighters in the world and to know exactly where I
stand in this sport, that's an awesome and rare opportunity.
13. What job do you have or had before coming to the UFC? I taught
high school World History and U.S. Government all the way until last
semester and it's a job that was a lot of fun and I met some of the
coolest kids along the way who had such amazing and inspirational
stories. One kid that stands out was a student of mine whose whole
family was a part of a Crip gang based in Long Beach, California. He
had been in and out of jail, had a child and was heading to prison or
the morgue, but he made the decision to go to college for his infant
son, and even though he got zero support or help, he made something of
himself and he had the guts to do the right thing...it was amazing to
14. Did you go to college and if so, where? I am a proud alumni of the
University of Hawaii at Manoa...GO BOWS!
15. Have you held any rank or titles? I am proudly the South Torrance
H.S. 1995 Prom King. I was so emotional when they handed me my
16. Who do you look up to? Without question my mother and father.
Anytime a family emigrates to a new country, they do it for their kids
and my parents endured a lot and gave up everything they had to give
me and my brother a shot at making our dreams come true.
17. What is your favorite technique? Anything that gets the crowd
"ooohing and aahing"!
18. Are you married and/or have kids? I've never been married and do not
have children at this time.
19. What sponsors do you have? Howard Combat Kimonos, who has been
with me from day one, Fokai, MonsterWarrior crosstraining systems and,
of course, Chef Wang's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach...NO MSG, for real!
20. What do you want to say to the fans? It's an honor to step into
the Octagon for all of you and I'm always going to try and represent
my family, friends and fans to the best of my ability. Thank you!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USS Jason Dunham
on: March 29, 2007, 01:31:52 AM
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=10654
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
or +1 (703) 428-0711 +1
March 23, 2007
Navy Names New Guided-Missile Destroyer USS Jason Dunham
The Department of Navy announced today that the Navy's newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer will be named the USS Jason Dunham, honoring Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, made the announcement in Dunham's hometown of Scio, N.Y. "Jason Dunham, the friendly, kind-hearted, gifted athlete who followed his star in the United States Marine Corps, went on to become one of the most courageous, heroic and admired Marines this great country has ever known," said Winter. "His name will be forever associated with DDG 109. May those who serve in her always be inspired by the heroic deeds of Jason Dunham, and may all of us strive to be worthy of his sacrifice."
Dunham was born in Scio, Nov. 10, 1981, sharing the same birthday as the U.S. Marine Corps. After high school graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2000 and completed recruit training 13 weeks later at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.
Following his first duty assignment with Marine Corps Security Forces, Kings Bay, Ga., Dunham transferred to the infantry and was later assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Before deploying to Iraq in spring 2004, Dunham was selected to lead a rifle squad, a position that ultimately placed him on the front line in the war against the Iraqi insurgency.
On April 14, 2004, Dunham's squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, when his battalion commander's convoy was ambushed. When Dunham's squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham.
As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand. He immediately alerted his fellow Marines, and when the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. In an ultimate selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines.
In November 2006 at the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, President George W. Bush announced that the Medal of Honor would be awarded posthumously to Dunham.
During his speech, President Bush said, "As long as we have Marines like Corpoal Dunham, America will never fear for her liberty." President Bush presented Dunham's family with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 11, 2007.
In the spirit of this Marine, the USS Jason Dunham will continue protecting America's liberty by providing a multi-mission maritime platform to lead the Navy into the future.
Utilizing a gas turbine propulsion system, the ship can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and underway replenishment groups. The ship's combat systems center on the Aegis combat system and the SPY-Ld (V) multifunction phased array radar.
With the combination of Aegis, the vertical launching system, an advanced anti-submarine warfare system, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Arleigh Burke-class continues the revolution at sea.
For more information on Arleigh Burke class destroyers, visit http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4200&tid=900&ct=4
For more information about the naming of DDG 109, contact the Navy Office of Information at (703) 697-5342.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "A close US ally , , ,"
on: March 28, 2007, 03:56:29 PM
SAUDI KING SLAMS 'ILLEGITIMATE OCCUPATION' OF IRAQ: Saudi King Abdullah, whose country is a close US ally, on Wednesday slammed the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq in an opening speech to the annual Arab summit in Riyadh. "In beloved Iraq, blood is being shed among brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and ugly sectarianism threatens civil war," Abdullah said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Troops salute fallen leader
on: March 28, 2007, 11:56:35 AM
Troops salute fallen leader
By Sharon Behn
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
March 27, 2007
A Stryker Brigade soldier paid his respects during a memorial service in Baghdad yesterday for Staff Sgt. Darrell R. Griffin. ( )
BAGHDAD -- First Sgt. Tito Ferrera stood up straight yesterday, looked out over his troops and started the roll call.
He called out three names, and each answered: "Here, 1st sergeant." Then he called out the name of Staff Sgt. Darrell R. Griffin. Silence.
He tried twice more. Still no answer.
And then, as the soldiers of the battle-hardened Stryker Brigade stood in tears, soldiers fired a memorial salute for the once larger-than-life squad leader, killed by a bullet on the streets of western Baghdad just eight days after his 36th birthday.
"He's one of those people you would never expect that to happen to," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Mersino five days earlier, as word drifted through the gray-covered tents of the Stryker camp that one of their own had died.
This is where the politics stop.
"He was just one of those soldiers, individuals, that everyone will look at -- he is bigger than this war, and one little bullet did it," said Capt. Stephen Phillips, the last person to see Sgt. Griffin alive. He held the wounded man's hand as he was rushed to the helicopter that would take him to a neurosurgeon at Balad Air Base.
Inside the operations center in Camp Stryker, Baghdad, phone calls whipped back and forth, everyone anxiously waiting for any bit of information, any reason to stay hopeful, to not let go.
But within hours, anguish crossed the face of the battalion senior medic Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Wallace as he walked quietly over to the battalion operations officer and handed him a yellow slip of paper. "Time of death, sir."
Everyone in the Tactical Operations Center looked shocked. Sgt. Griffin had been a popular leader, a well-read, hard-talking man, who loved his wife, Diana, and his dog Luna.
On March 21, Sgt. Griffin's Stryker unit was returning from an operation in Baghdad's tough Shi'ite area of Sadr City. As they approached the home stretch, there was a burst of gunfire.
"I got a radio report that is forever marked in my mind," Capt. Phillips, 31, recalled yesterday. The platoon leader had told him simply, "I've got a casualty: gunshot wound to the head." Sgt. Griffin, who typically stood in the hatch of the powerful Stryker vehicle, had taken a bullet underneath his helmet.
Everyone moved. Sgt. Griffin was rushed to Baghdad's top combat surgical hospital inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.
Capt. Phillips didn't lay eyes on his wounded soldier until 15 minutes later when the Stryker group pulled into the hospital. He climbed out of his vehicle and ran the quarter-mile of dusty road to the emergency room just as they were moving Sgt. Griffin on a stretcher into the operating room.
"I saw the wound, and I knew it was grim," Capt. Phillips said. In the meantime, plans were made to evacuate Sgt. Griffin to Balad. The transfer was done in record time, but the squad leader didn't make it.
Capt. Phillips turned away his head and fought back the tears. He took a long drink of water and looked up. It was only hours before the memorial service, when the roll call would be taken and taps played one last time for his fallen friend.
"This [conversation] is good," he struggled to say. "Because I can't cry in front of the men, because tomorrow we go right back into Sadr City." He paused. "I held his hand, as they moved him to the helicopter. I wrote his wife, in a letter of condolence, that I still felt life in him."
There was not much time left to mourn. The memorial was going to start soon, and Capt. Phillips had to get his men back to their base that same night.
"I'll deal with it on my own time, on my own terms," he said. "But right now, there is still work to be done."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Men & Women
on: March 28, 2007, 11:33:49 AM
Ex-wife becomes a man; ex-husband seeks end to alimony
CLEARWATER, Florida (AP) -- Lawrence Roach agreed to pay alimony to the woman he divorced, not the man she became after a sex change, his lawyers argued in a Florida court Tuesday in an effort to end the payments.
But the ex-wife's attorneys said the operation does not alter the agreement.
The lawyers and Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold agreed the case delves into relatively uncharted legal territory. They found only a 2004 Ohio case that addressed whether or not a transsexual could still collect alimony after a sex change.
"There is not a lot out there to help us," St. Arnold said.
Roach and his wife, Julia, divorced in 2004 after 18 years of marriage. The 48-year-old utility worker agreed to pay her $1,250 a month in alimony. Since then, Julia Roach, 55, has had a sex change and legally changed her name to Julio Roberto Silverwolf.
"It's illegal for a man to marry a man, and it should likewise be illegal for a man to pay alimony to a man," said Roach's attorney, John McGuire. "When she changed to a man, I believe she terminated that alimony."
Silverwolf did not appear in court Tuesday and has declined to talk about the divorce. His lawyer, Gregory Nevins, said the language of the divorce decree is clear and firm -- Roach agreed to pay alimony until his ex-wife dies or remarries.
"Those two things haven't happened," said Nevins, a senior staff attorney with the national gay rights group Lambda Legal.
St. Arnold is considering the arguments. But lawyers on both sides agreed Tuesday that Roach will probably have to keep paying alimony to Silverwolf.
The judge poked holes in several of Roach's legal arguments and noted that appeals courts have declined to legally recognize a sex change in Florida when it comes to marriage. The appellate court "is telling us you are what you are when you are born," St. Arnold said.
In the Ohio case, an appeals court ruled in September 2004 that a Montgomery County man must continue to pay $750 a month in alimony to his transsexual ex-wife because her sex change was not reason enough to violate the agreement.
Roach's other attorney, John Smitten, said the case falls into a legal void.
"It's probably something that has to be addressed by the Legislature," Smitten said. "There is one other case in the entire United States. It really needs to be addressed either for or against the concept of eliminating alimony for that reason."
Roach, who has since remarried, said has been unable to convince state and federal lawmakers to tackle the issue. He said he will continue to fight.
"This is definitely wrong. I have a right to move forward with my life. I wish no harm and hardship to that person," Roach said of his ex-wife. "They can be the person they want to be, to find happiness and peace within themselves. I have the right to do the same. But I can't rest because I'm paying a lot of money every month."
The legal fight is the second transsexual rights showdown in Pinellas County in less than a week. On Friday, transsexual activists from around the United States packed a City Commission meeting in neighboring Largo to oppose the firing of City Manager Steve Stanton after he announced he was seeking a sex-change operation.
Despite the support, commissioners voted 5-2 to fire Stanton.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jihadist War on ISI?
on: March 28, 2007, 08:56:35 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Jihadist War Against the ISI?
Suspected jihadists in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt on Tuesday attacked a vehicle belonging to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country's premier intelligence agency. The incident took place near the village of Rashakai -- six miles from the town of Khar, in the Bajaur agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) -- when masked assailants on a motorbike opened fire and lobbed grenades at the vehicle, which was on its way from the town of Nawagai to Khar. At least four ISI officials, including a deputy director who is also a major in the Pakistani military, were killed.
This is perhaps the first incident in which jihadist elements have staged an attack against the ISI, which is indicative of a change -- especially given the historically close relationship between the two. Even now, certain elements within and close to the ISI are believed to maintain relations with militant Islamists. The political context and the location of the recent attack suggest the perpetrators likely are Pashtun jihadists with close ties to al Qaeda.
The travel itineraries of ISI officials are not easy to acquire, especially by those living in the tribal badlands. The only way the attackers could have gained access to such information is through a tip-off from someone within or close to the ISI office in which the officials worked. This lends credence to the suspicion that there are still ties between the agency and some Islamist militants, despite the purges and shakeups the ISI has undergone since Sept. 11, 2001.
This also shows that, connections not withstanding, the jihadists view the ISI as a threat to their existence, and are targeting it. This decision likely has to do also with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's move to de-Talibanize the country's Pashtun areas, even as Islamabad continues to exploit the Afghan Taliban for its foreign policy objectives vis-a-vis Kabul.
The attack against the ISI officials took place a day after the Pakistani government signed a peace deal with the Salarzai and Utmankhel tribes, under which the tribal leadership in Bajaur agreed to work with the government to rid the agency of foreign militants. This is the third such deal between Pashtun tribal militants and the government in the past three years, including one in South Waziristan in 2004 and in North Waziristan in 2006.
While the 2004 agreement did not produce the desired results, the 2006 deal caused fighting to break out between tribal maliks and al Qaeda-linked militants. The Taliban, who are trying to maintain ties to both al Qaeda and local Pakistani contacts, were caught in the middle.
There appears to be a fault line running through the militant spectrum in the Pashtun areas, causing a rift between transnational al Qaeda elements and religious nationalists. The foreign militants are seeing Islamabad's attempts to use regional religious elements against them, and are reacting. Al Qaeda also worries that, unlike the North and South Waziristan deals, the Bajaur deal threatens the group directly because the northernmost agency in the FATA is a known operating area for al Qaeda. Four ranking al Qaeda operatives were killed in a Hellfire missile strike in January 2006, and later in October, another U.S. airstrike against a madrassa killed some 80 individuals. Deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is known to frequent the area as well, and escaped the January 2006 missile attack by a CIA Predator drone.
Moreover, Bajaur borders Dir and Malakand, the two districts of the North-West Frontier Province and the likely location of al Qaeda's global headquarters and the hideouts of its apex leadership. A number of people deemed U.S. spies have also been killed in the area, because al Qaeda knows that human intelligence, as opposed to signals intelligence, will reveal its hideouts.
It is too early to predict the outcome of the deal in Bajaur, but the killing of the ISI officials suggests that at least some jihadists have declared war on their former handlers.
1135 GMT -- PAKISTAN -- Militants equipped with rockets and mortars attacked a police station and Frontier Constabulary paramilitary base in the Pakistani town of Tank in the North-West Frontier Province on March 28. Fighting lasted from midnight until dawn and several buildings reportedly were destroyed. The town is near the border of the restive Waziristan tribal region.
1114 GMT -- AFGHANISTAN -- A suicide bomber riding a motorcycle targeted Kamaludin Khan Achikzay, a director of Afghanistan's secret service agency, the National Directorate of Security, on March 28 in Kabul. Achikzay and his guards were unhurt, though some four people were killed in the blast. Achikzay is the former intelligence chief of counter-insurgency in the southern province of Kandahar. This is the second suicide bombing in the Afghan capital in 2007.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight
on: March 28, 2007, 08:09:50 AM
I think it is an open question whether gay is 0% or 100% a matter of genetics or somewhere in between. I think people should be allowed to think there is something "off" about being gay. I think the State should stay out of the conversation our society is having about all of this, especially with children. The State is FORCE and this is a matter for people to search for truth as best they can.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Animal farming practices
on: March 28, 2007, 08:02:13 AM
Burger King Shifts Policy on Animals
By ANDREW MARTIN
Published: March 28, 2007
In what animal welfare advocates are describing as a “historic advance,” Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, said yesterday that it would begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that did not confine their animals in cages and crates.
The company said that it would also favor suppliers of chickens that use gas, or “controlled-atmospheric stunning,” rather than electric shocks to knock birds unconscious before slaughter. It is considered a more humane method, though only a handful of slaughterhouses use it.
The goal for the next few months, Burger King said is for 2 percent of its eggs to be “cage free,” and for 10 percent of its pork to come from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, rather than being confined to crates. The company said those percentages would rise as more farmers shift to these methods and more competitively priced supplies become available.
The cage-free eggs and crate-free pork will cost more, although it is not clear how much because Burger King is still negotiating prices, Steven Grover, vice president for food safety, quality assurance and regulatory compliance, said. Prices of food at the chain’s restaurants will not be increased as a result.
While Burger King’s initial goals may be modest, food marketing experts and animal welfare advocates said yesterday that the shift would put pressure on other restaurant and food companies to adopt similar practices.
“I think the whole area of social responsibility, social consciousness, is becoming much more important to the consumer,” said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. “I think that the industry is going to see that it’s an increasing imperative to get on that bandwagon.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said Burger King’s initiatives put it ahead of its competitors in terms of animal welfare.
“That’s an important trigger for reform throughout the entire industry,” Mr. Pacelle said.
Burger King’s announcement is the latest success for animal welfare advocates, who were once dismissed as fringe groups, but are increasingly gaining mainstream victories.
Last week, the celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announced that the meat and eggs he used would come from animals raised under strict animal welfare codes.
And in January, the world’s largest pork processor, Smithfield Foods, said it would phase out confinement of pigs in metal crates over the next decade.
Some city and state governments have banned restaurants from serving foie gras and have prohibited farmers from confining veal calves and pigs in crates.
Temple Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, said Smithfield’s decision to abandon crates for pregnant sows had roiled the pork industry. That decision was brought about in part by questions from big customers like McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, about its confinement practices.
“When the big boys move, it makes the entire industry move,” said Ms. Grandin, who serves on the animal welfare task forces for several food companies, including McDonald’s and Burger King.
Burger King’s decision is somewhat at odds with the rebellious, politically incorrect image it has cultivated in recent years.
Its commercials deride “chick food” and encourage a more-is-more approach to eating with its turbo-strength coffee, its enormous omelet sandwich, and a triple Whopper with cheese.
Burger King executives said the move was driven by their desire to stay ahead of consumer trends and to encourage farmers to move into more humane egg and meat production.
“We want to be doing things long before they become a concern for consumers,” Mr. Grover said. “Like a hockey player, we want to be there before the puck gets there.”
He said the company would not use the animal welfare initiatives in its marketing. “I don’t think it’s something that goes to our core business,” Mr. Grover said.
Beef cows were not included in the new animal welfare guidelines because, unlike most laying hens and pigs, they continue to be raised outdoors. Burger King already has animal welfare standards for cow slaughter, he said.
The changes were made after discussions with the Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, known as PETA.
PETA, in particular, has started a series of high-profile campaigns to pressure fast-food companies to change their animal welfare practices, including a “Murder King” campaign that ended in 2001 when Burger King agreed to improve its animal welfare standards to include, among other things, periodic animal welfare audits.
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Since that time, PETA officials said they had met periodically with Burger King officials to encourage them to adopt tougher standards. About a year ago, the Humane Society began its own efforts to encourage Burger King to improve its farm animal standards.
Mr. Grover said his company listened to suggestions from both groups, but ultimately relied on the advice of its animal welfare advisory board, which was created about six years ago and includes academics, an animal welfare advocate, an executive of Tyson Foods and Burger King officials.
“Where we think we can support what our animal advisers think is right, we do it,” Mr. Grover said.
The changes apply to Burger King suppliers in North America and Canada, where the chain purchases more than 40 million pounds of eggs a year and 35 million pounds of pork, he said.
A reason that such a small percentage of purchases will meet the new guidelines is a lack of supply, Mr. Grover said.
Burger King plans to more than double its cage-free purchases by the end of this year, to 5 percent of the total, and will also double its purchases of pork from producers who do not use crates, to 20 percent.
Most laying hens in the United States are raised in “battery cages,” which are usually stacked on top of each other three to four cages high. Sows, during their pregnancies, are often kept in gestation crates, which are 24 inches across and 7 feet long.
Matt Prescott, PETA’s manager for factory farm campaigns, argued that both confinement systems were filthy and cruel because the animals could barely move and were prone to injury and psychological stress.
Under Burger King’s initiative, laying hens would be raised in buildings where they would be able to wander around. Similarly, sows would be raised indoors, most likely in pens where they would be able to move freely.
“This is not free range, but simply having some room to move around inside a controlled environment,” Mr. Grover said.
While converting barns for crate-free sows is relatively simple, Ms. Grandin said it was much more difficult and expensive to raise cage-free hens because not nearly as many birds fit in one building.
Burger King officials say they hope that by promoting controlled-atmosphere stunning, more slaughterhouses will adopt the technology. Currently, there are only a few in the United States using the technique, and most of them process turkeys.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: March 27, 2007, 11:44:44 PM
Little Sweaty Fist
Why is Putin now getting tough on Iran?
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
"This is very easy to understand," said Russian President Vladimir Putin last year, explaining his idea of an energy policy. "Just think back to childhood when you go into the street with a sweet in your hand and another kid says, Give it to me. And you clutch your little sweaty fist tight around it and say, What do I get then?"
So why, when it comes to the Iranian nuclear file, has Mr. Putin finally opened his little sweaty fist, signing on--with no apparent compensations--to additional U.N. sanctions on the Islamic Republic while calling a halt to Russia's construction of the nuclear reactor at Bushehr?
That's the $64,000 question to which nobody seems to have anything better than a partial answer. Nearly from day one of his presidency, Mr. Putin has been Iran's best friend at the U.N. and, not so coincidentally, the leading supplier of its advanced conventional weapons. In 2000, the Kremlin tore up the so-called Chernomyrdin Agreement, a secret protocol negotiated by then Vice President Al Gore, in which Russia pledged to stop selling arms to Iran within five years. In 2002, deputy foreign minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov went out of his way to state that "Russia does not accept President George W. Bush's view that Iran is part of an 'axis of evil.'"
Since then, Russia has openly supplied Iran with sophisticated surface-to-air missiles. There are reliable reports that Russia has also assisted Iran covertly with its ballistic-missile technology. The Bushehr deal, itself valued at $1 billion, was intended as just the first of five planned reactors, worth $10 billion. Russian diplomats have diluted to near-insignificance the sanctions imposed so far by the U.N. In January, Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov paid a call on Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It seems the meeting went well: "The Islamic Republic," said the Ayatollah, "welcomes all-out promotion of relations with Russia, believing the capacity for expansion between the two sides is higher than expected."
And then, on March 19, Iranian, European and U.S. sources reported that Russia had informed Iran that it would not supply the reactor with the uranium it needs to function unless Iran complied with U.N. resolutions calling on it to suspend its enrichment program. And citing a payment dispute, the Russians also began pulling some of their 2,000 personnel from the site, while officially claiming it was a routine staff rotation. At the Security Council, U.S. diplomatic sources confirmed that Russia had been remarkably cooperative in negotiating Saturday's unanimous resolution on Iran, going so far as to blunt an attempt by some of the nonpermanent members to insert language calling for a nuclear-free Middle East--code for disarming Israel.
What gives? Past experience suggests the answer may yet turn out to be not much at all. At the 2003 G-8 summit in Evian, France, Mr. Putin reportedly assured other leaders that Russia would not supply the Iranians with nuclear fuel unless they agreed to snap U.N. inspections of their nuclear facilities. A later "clarification" from Russia's atomic energy minister indicated that Russia would provide the fuel no matter what Iran chose to do about the inspections. Similarly, Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the U.N., has recently insisted that "there has been no Russian ultimatum to Iran of any kind," while adding that the deal with the Iranians "was on track." Put simply, the (easily resolved) payment dispute may be all the "fire" there is here, and not smoke to cover a sweeping change in Russian policy.
For their part, U.S. diplomats are sticking to their story that the Russian-Iranian split is real--as do the Iranians, who in the last week have publicly accused Russia of being an "unreliable partner" practicing "double-standard stances." The words are carefully chosen. As Victor Yasmann of Radio Free Europe writes, "Russia cares about its commercial supplier . . . [and] in preserving its political reputation within the Islamic world." That's especially the case now that Russia's once-failing military exporters are doing a thriving business selling bottom-of-the-shelf weapons to Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Yemen, Algeria and other bottom-of-the-shelf states. If Russia is seen to succumb to international pressure on Iran, other dubious regimes may be less inclined to attach themselves to it as clients.
Yet another reading of events suggests the mixed signals coming from Russia reflect policy schizophrenia within the Kremlin itself. "There is clearly an active pro-Iranian lobby in Moscow," says Pavel Felgenhauer, defense correspondent for Novaya Gazeta. He adds, however, that Moscow's change of policy is "the result of an assessment that a nuclear Iran is a major danger to Russia and its national interests." Among other indicators, Mr. Felgenhauer points to Russia's naval buildup in the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea.
The Russian leadership may also have started to notice that it is increasingly in bad odor with a West that, at some level, it longs to be considered a part of. "There is a compact pro-Western group who think that cooperation with the major industrial states, primarily the United States, could benefit Russia much more than murky dealings with questionable partners like China, Iran, Iraq or Libya," writes former Russian diplomat Victor Mizin in a perceptive analysis in the Middle East Review of International Affairs.
Finally, there is the "little sweaty fist" hypothesis. Critics of the Putin government were dismayed last year when the Bush administration agreed to Russian membership in the World Trade Organization, apparently for nothing in return. The Bushehr volte face may be the delayed (and disguised) payoff. Alternatively, Russia may expect that its sudden pliancy on the Iranian file may yield dividends on the things it cares about most, particularly in what it considers its rightful sphere of influence. In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed that may have also served as a trial balloon, the Nixon Center's Dimitri Simes proposes two prospective giveaways: The breakaway Georgian "republics" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Mr. Putin has long regarded as rightfully Russian, and the looming question of Kosovo's independence, to which Russia is vehemently opposed.
In the meantime, the Kremlin preserves all its options, a reminder, as Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation observes, of an old KGB maxim: First create a problem, and then offer to be part of the solution. On that score, at least, Mr. Putin is nothing if not true to type.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 27, 2007, 12:03:47 PM
Quote of the Day I
"A national poll of likely voters by independent pollster John Zogby found nearly half (46 percent) said they couldn't vote for the former first lady under any circumstances... [A]nother number was even more disturbing to senior advisers in her campaign. Mr. Zogby found that among likely Democratic voters, 18 percent said they 'would never cast a vote in Mrs. Clinton's favor.' That such a large percentage of overall voters would flatly express an aversion to electing her president was troubling enough to top Democratic officials. But that she appeared to be losing support within the base of her own party set off alarm bells among her high command" -- Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent, writing in the Washington Times.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: March 27, 2007, 09:01:18 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Another Step in the U.S.-Iranian Covert War
The diplomatic row over the Iranian seizure of 15 British servicemen and marines entered its fourth day Monday, with Iran saying the Britons are "fit and well" and being held at a secret location until the Iranians can determine through interrogation whether their alleged entry into Iranian waters was intentional.
The U.S. and British governments say the British personnel were intercepted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) naval forces March 23 after completing a search of a civilian vessel on the Iraqi side of the 120-mile Shatt al-Arab waterway leading to the Persian Gulf. The Iranian government, however, says the British servicemen admitted to illegally entering Iranian territory, and that it has the satellite tracking images to prove the "blatant aggression into Iranian territorial waters."
Iran has a track record of stirring up diplomatic spats in the oil-rich Persian Gulf in order to reassert its political and military relevance, as it did in June 2004 when it seized three British patrol boats in the Shatt al-Arab. At that time, the Iranian nuclear controversy was gaining steam as Washington attempted to transfer the issue to the U.N. Security Council while building a new government in Baghdad without consulting Iran.
This latest incident occurred a day ahead of the widely expected unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to tighten sanctions against Iran. Included in the resolution is a clause freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations ostensibly involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Many of them belong to the elite IRGC and Quds Force (a paramilitary arm of the IRGC), which have been heavily involved in fueling the Iraq insurgency. The IRGC is evidently displeased with the financial hit, as well as the January seizure of five Iranians -- including IRGC and Quds Force members -- in a U.S. raid in Arbil. IRGC weekly newspaper Subhi Sadek expressed this outrage, saying the IRGC has "the ability to capture a bunch of blue-eyed, blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks."
There are a number of reasons behind the IRGC's recent seizure of the British servicemen, but there could be more to this diplomatic row than is apparent.
While Iran and the United States have kept the media busy with diplomatic maneuverings over Iraq and threats linked to the Iranian nuclear program, Iran has been entangled in an intense covert intelligence war with the West. As part of this fight, the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist by Israel's Mossad was met a few weeks later -- as expected -- with a retaliatory strike in Paris against David Dahan, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry Mission to Europe. Though Dahan's death was treated as a suicide, intelligence suggests Dahan was singled out by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in a tit-for-tat strike.
Several weeks ago, Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Pasdaran commander defected while traveling in Turkey and was turned over to the U.S. government. Asghari is undoubtedly a valuable asset for Western intelligence agencies, who likely hope to use him to dissect the Iranian defense establishment -- representing a significant threat to Iran's national security. In the course of Asghari's debriefing, he undoubtedly was grilled on his knowledge of any suspected U.S. agents operating in Iran in order to determine if any agents have been or are close to being exposed by Iranian security agencies.
With this in mind, there have been recent indications from U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources that the British MI6 was engaged in an operation to extract one of its agents from Iran, but a leak tipped MOIS off to the plan. According to an unconfirmed source, the IRGC nabbed the British personnel, as well as the agent, to use as a bargaining chip in order to secure the release of the five detained Iranians. If these negotiations go poorly for Iran, the Britons could very well be tried for espionage.
The motive behind the seizure of the British servicemen is still unclear, but the operation likely was planned well in advance by key figures within the IRGC. At this point, the Iranians are watching their backs closely, and are willing to take the political risk of flaring up another diplomatic dispute in order to plug further intelligence leaks.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight
on: March 26, 2007, 04:44:09 PM
I honest doubt that "honest discussion" is what this was about. My strong hunch is that anything other than complete neutrality or approval of homosexuality would have been virulently slammed as "homophobic bigotry"-- not just a "don't pick on the gays" lesson in live and let live. "The conclusion from U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf found that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality."
"Accept and endorse"?!?
Is this not what you want?
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica
on: March 26, 2007, 03:24:58 PM
VENEZUELA: The Venezuelan government seized 16 ranches in Anzoategui, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Cojedes, Guarico and Portuguesa states, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said late March 25. Chavez said the land, comprising about 817,000 acres, will be converted into cattle production and will be managed by cooperatives. Chavez added that the expropriation of unproductive land will continue, and said any resistance to the expropriations will result in a forceful response from the government.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: March 26, 2007, 09:22:03 AM
A Howl of Greeting:
The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Summer Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack". On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts hereby cordially invites all people of good spirit to its "Dog Brothers Summer Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00 AM on Sunday, June 24, 2007 at the R-1 Gym in El Segundo to conclude when the fighters are done.
Many of you may remember our Gatherings held in the park in Hermosa Beach, which, although they were hosted at considerable expense, were always free to you our friends, our guests. However with a private facility involved we now need to charge admission of $15. We ask that you still consider yourselves to be our friends and our guests. In this context we ask that you respect our wishes in the matter of Video.
It is very simple:
NO VIDEO CAMERAS, NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS (i.e. with both still photo and video capabilities). THIS MATTER IS OF IMPORTANCE TO US! And, if you see someone videoing, please don't let them abuse our hospitality-please let us know.
As always, you may take photographs for personal, non-commercial use PROVIDED you give us a complete set of the ones you take. Thanks to the increasing numbers of you who actually remember and bother to do this! It is very much appreciated!
The Magic Words:
The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way! Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you. Protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies."
This matter of accepting the risk applies to those of you in the crowd too. For example, sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. For example, sitting on the heavy bags ringing the fighting area is a really risky idea for a child (or adult for that matter). If a stick or a fight comes careening your way-get out of the way!
This matter of copyright is of particular importance with this Gathering. It is looks likely that Original Productions (who did the "Pilot" clip you see on our front page) will be recording the day as part of a one hour documentary that will appear on National Geographic! OP will be at the door with some sort of legal release giving it permission to have you (fighters & audience members) appear in the documentary, not sue them, etc. OP also will be looking to interview some of the fighters for the documentary.
Assuming the deal with OP/Nat Geo comes together, the Gathering may be held in a warehouse owned by OP in the Burbank area. I have seen it and it seems like a very promising location. Director Dan Jackson will be working with me to assure that the fighting area is everything that it should be and seating and viewing conditions should be very good.
At this Gathering, we will continue starting the knife fights with a handshake and the knives undrawn. Again we encourage you to fight knife versus stick-- the stick versus electric knife fight last time was a great success and the electric knife will again be available. Stick vs. knife has been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let's continue the research!
Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff fights, the fighters may wear wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks.
There is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they have fought before. WE WILL BE RUTHLESS ON THIS! The Fighter's Registration form can be found on the website and must be filled out whether you have fought before or not. For all Fighter Registration matters, please contact Cindy at email@example.com
310-540-6853. You are not registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on the website!!!
As I write this (March 26th) we already have 22 fighters listed (from throught the US, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, Australia) which is the most we have ever had this far in advance. With the probability of the Nat Geo documentary, as Gathering time approaches Cindy will be very busy. We strongly suggest that you register as far in advance as possible.
"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact"
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts
310-543-7521 (Remember, please use 310-540-6853 for matters concering registration)Craftydog@Dogbrothers.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Poor Behavior Linked to Day Care
on: March 26, 2007, 07:58:12 AM
By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: March 26, 2007
A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class — and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.
N.I.C.D. Study of Early Child Care (secc.rti.org)The effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents’ guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.
But the finding held up regardless of the child’s sex or family income, and regardless of the quality of the day care center. With more than two million American preschoolers attending day care, the increased disruptiveness very likely contributes to the load on teachers who must manage large classrooms, the authors argue.
On the positive side, they also found that time spent in high-quality day care centers was correlated with higher vocabulary scores through elementary school.
The research, being reported today as part of the federally financed Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, tracked more than 1,300 children in various arrangements, including staying home with a parent; being cared for by a nanny or a relative; or attending a large day care center. Once the subjects reached school, the study used teacher ratings of each child to assess behaviors like interrupting class, teasing and bullying.
The findings are certain to feed a long-running debate over day care, experts say.
“I have accused the study authors of doing everything they could to make this negative finding go away, but they couldn’t do it,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education. “They knew this would be disturbing news for parents, but at some point, if that’s what you’re finding, then you have to report it.”
The debate reached a high pitch in the late 1980s, during the so-called day care wars, when social scientists questioned whether it was better for mothers to work or stay home. Day care workers and their clients, mostly working parents, argued that it was the quality of the care that mattered, not the setting. But the new report affirms similar results from several smaller studies in the past decade suggesting that setting does matter.
“This study makes it clear that it is not just quality that matters,” said Jay Belsky, one of the study’s principal authors, who helped set off the debate in 1986 with a paper suggesting that nonparental child care could cause developmental problems. Dr. Belsky was then at Pennsylvania State University and has since moved to the University of London.
That the troublesome behaviors lasted through at least sixth grade, he said, should raise a broader question: “So what happens in classrooms, schools, playgrounds and communities when more and more children, at younger and younger ages, spend more and more time in centers, many that are indisputably of limited quality?”
Others experts were quick to question the results. The researchers could not randomly assign children to one kind of care or another; parents chose the kind of care that suited them. That meant there was no control group, so determining cause and effect was not possible. And some said that measures of day care quality left out important things.
The study did not take into account employee turnover, a reality in many day care centers that can have a negative effect on children, said Marci Young, deputy director of the Center for the Child Care Workforce, which represents day care workers. Most employees are “egregiously underpaid and have no benefits,” Ms. Young said, and when they leave for other work, “children experience this as a loss, and that does have an effect on them.”
The study, a $200 million project financed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, recruited families in 10 cities from hospitals, after mothers gave birth. The researchers regularly contacted the mothers to find out where their children were being cared for, and visited those caregivers to see how attentive and how skilled they were with the youngsters.
In 2001, the authors reported that children who spent most of their day in care not provided by a parent were more likely to be disruptive in kindergarten. But this effect soon vanished for all but those children who spent a significant amount of time in day care centers.
Every year spent in such centers for at least 10 hours per week was associated with a 1 percent higher score on a standardized assessment of problem behaviors completed by teachers, said Dr. Margaret Burchinal, a co-author of the study and a psychologist at the University of North Carolina.
The Children’s Defense Fund estimates that 2.3 million American children under age 5 are in day care centers, many starting as toddlers and continuing until they enter kindergarten. Some 4.8 million are cared for by a relative or a nanny, and 3.3 million are at home with their parents.
The study was not designed to explain why time in day care could lead to more disruptive behavior later on. The authors and other experts argue that preschool peer groups probably influence children in different ways from one-on-one attention. In large groups of youngsters, disruption can be as contagious as silliness, studies have found, while children can be calmed by just the sight of their own mother.
“What the findings tell me is that we need to pay as much attention to children’s social and emotional development as we do to their cognitive, academic development, especially when they are together in groups,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.
Loudell Robb, program director of the Rosemount Center in Washington, which cares for 147 children ages 5 and under at its main center and in homes, said she was not surprised that some children might have trouble making the transition from day care to school.
“At least our philosophy here is that children are given choices, to work alone or in a group, to move around,” Ms. Robb said. “By first or second grade, they’re expected to sit still for long periods, to form lines, not to talk to friends when they want to; their time is far more teacher-directed.”
And as parents in the thick of it know all too well, the stress of juggling chores, work and young children does not help. “It’s not an easy ride,” Ms. Robb said, “and you can see that here at drop-off time and in the evening when kids are picked up.”
The continuing research project began in 1991. The investigators have financing to follow the same children into high school, and are proposing to follow some into their 20s.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / For Many Palestinians, 'Return' is not a Goal
on: March 26, 2007, 07:54:59 AM
For Many Palestinians, ‘Return’ Is Not a Goal
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
Published: March 26, 2007
AMMAN, Jordan, March 22 — For nearly 60 years Nimr Abu Ghneim has waited, angrily but patiently, for the day he would return to the home he left in 1948.
Abdallah Zalatimo, a shop owner in Amman, Jordan, says of Palestinians who want to reclaim land, “What are we holding out for?”
A resident of a sprawling Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Mr. Abu Ghneim, like most Arabs, says there can be no peace with Israel until he and 700,000 other Palestinians are permitted back to the homes they left in the 1948 fighting that led to Israel’s creation.
But with the Arab League expected to focus later this week on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, there is another, albeit quieter, approach being voiced, especially by younger and wealthier Palestinians: it may be neither possible nor desirable to go back.
“Every time people talk peace, you hear discussion of this subject,” said Hanin Abu Rub, 33, a Web content manager at a Jordanian Internet startup, Shoofeetv, who has been active in Palestinian politics. “But now it is a major part of the discussions we have. When people think, ‘Is it possible for us to go back?’ deep inside they now know they are not going back.”
Even having such a debate — rethinking a sacred principle — was once impossible. Now the discussion is centering on how to define the right of return in a new way. Some have come to see the issue as two separate demands: the acceptance, by Israel, that its creation caused the displacement and plight of the Palestinians; and the ability to move back to the lands they or their families left.
Almost no Palestinian questions the demand for Israel’s recognition of the right to return; many, however, now say returning is becoming less and less feasible.
The debate has been spurred again recently by plans to revive the so-called Arab Peace Initiative at the annual Arab League meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday and Thursday. The initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel full recognition and permanent peace with the Arab states in return for Israel’s withdrawal to 1967 lines, the establishment of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and a “just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194” of 1948.
Resolution 194 says, “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” and calls for them to be compensated if they choose not to return.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have spoken of “positive” elements in the Saudi initiative, but they have expressed reservations about many parts, especially the issue of the refugees.
Israel says that Palestinians should have the right to return to a new Palestine, not to their original homes, especially considering that their numbers have exploded since the original 711,000 people fled in 1948. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees says it has 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees.
But the prevailing Palestinian view is that the right of return is at the core of the dispute.
“The issue of the refugees is the Palestinian problem,” said Talat Abu Othman, chairman of the Jordanian chapter of the Committee to Protect the Right of Return, an independent Palestinian organization. “The rest, Jerusalem, the settlements and the Palestinian Authority are details. It is not about getting a few inches here or there, it is about the return itself. And even by demanding our return, we are walking away from some of our rights.”
For refugees in camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories, the right of return is both a symbol of their plight and a financial consideration.
“The Israelis were betting that the elders would die, and the youth would forget,” said Mr. Abu Ghneim, the refugee, as he sat flanked by several other Palestinian elders who have campaigned for the right of return. “But we are here and the young haven’t forgotten. Our right to return to our homes and lands can never be replaced, not with money or anything else.”
He worries, he said, that the Arab states will give in to Israeli demands to drop the issue altogether.
Most Palestinians who fled to Jordan were granted citizenship and today account for well over half of the country’s population. Palestinian refugees living elsewhere, however, have survived with few rights and no citizenship.
A few Palestinians in Jordan now propose a more negotiable stance that seeks recognition from the Israelis, but also offers terms for restitution.
The right of return “is my right, which I have inherited from my parents and grandparents,” said Maha Bseis, 39, a Palestinian whose family comes from Jerusalem. “But if I have the right, I will not return because I was born and grew up here.”
In 2003, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in one of the most comprehensive surveys conducted on the subject, found that most Palestinians would be unlikely to move if they were granted the right of return.
“Once the Palestinian narrative is assured, then the tactical issue of where they will go becomes easy to approach,” said Khalil Shikaki, who directs the center. “Everybody wants the emotional question addressed; everybody is happy with the likely modalities.”
He added, “The novel aspect of the survey is, once we gave assurances about the right of return, the other issues became very resolvable,” meaning that many said they would take compensation and would not move.
For Abdallah Zalatimo, 41, the decision on where he will go was made long ago. Born in the United States while his father, a physician from a prominent Jerusalem family, was doing his specialization, Mr. Zalatimo returned to Amman in 1976, before attending college in the United States.
In the late 1980s he opened a business making Arabic sweets that has grown to include shops in several Arab countries with several million dollars in revenues.
“What right do I have to ask for awda when I am here and content?” Mr. Zalatimo said, using an Arabic word for return. “We’ve been accepting less and less every year. What are we holding out for?”
Mr. Zalatimo said the nearly singular focus of many Palestinian refugees on returning detracted from the daily hardships of Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, people who had far fewer options and whose conditions were far worse.
“I think the Palestinian cause today is about helping the Palestinians in the occupied territories to live a better life,” Mr. Zalatimo said. “My pressing issue is to solve the problems of the Palestinians that are living there.”
Suha Maayeh contributed reporting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: March 25, 2007, 10:57:49 PM
Another piece on the idea that the sun is responsible for temperature changes:http://www.junkscience.com/Greenhouse/Cosmic_rays_and_climate.html
We know there are effects from land use change and we know we have added to atmospheric backscatter of solar radiation from particulates (sulfate aerosols, dust from agriculture...) but we are no longer certain of the net sign of anthropogenic temperature change.
The one thing we are reasonably sure of is that twiddling about with emissions of carbon dioxide will have no discernable effect on global mean temperature.
If you think the above is really quite significant in the "greenhouse debate" then you are right, which is probably why the mainstream media seem to have completely ignored it
Cosmic rays and Earth's climate
Summary: Almost ignored by the media the Royal Society has quietly published what may prove to be the most significant paper on Earth's climate in decades. Here we present background on the paper and explore some of its ramifications.
A most fascinating item was published online in "Proceedings of the Royal Society A", October 3rd., under the title: "Experimental Evidence for the role of Ions in Particle Nucleation under Atmospheric Conditions". Persons lacking access to the original publication and with a desperate need for the full paper can request a copy here although "all you need to know and were keen to ask" can be found in the media release and two publicly accessible files: Description of the SKY-experiment (38Kb .pdf, 3pp) and Background article on "Influence of Cosmic Rays on Earth's climate" (617Kb .pdf, 5pp). Update: these files are apparently no longer available from the original source but can be found here, here and here, respectively. End update.
Also available are some pretty nice animations:
These animations illustrate the physical process which the theory about the cosmic connection to Earth's climate proposes: 1) A giant star explodes in a supernova explosion and emits cosmic rays, 2) cosmic rays enter Earth's atmosphere, 3) rays release free electrons which act a catalysts for the building blocks for cloud condensation nuclei, 4) on which water vapour condenses into clouds.
Uncompressed AVI-animation (97 MB) or Compressed AVI-animation (41 MB) Note: we found the animation files very slow to download so, if you can't get them we have local copies here for the uncompressed and here for the compressed version. Naturally we prefer you get them direct from the source.
Now, some will fail to read the linked or provided documents or simply fail to understand the significance of this work so let's expand on this somewhat.
Firstly, this new work is a severe blow to proponents of the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis and advocates of Anthropogenic Global Warming who have worked so hard to deny solar influence on global climate. Recall that we had this in September of this year:
<chuckle> Now they're turning down the sun: "Study acquits sun of climate change, blames humans" - "OSLO - The sun's energy output has barely varied over the past 1,000 years, raising chances that global warming has human rather than celestial causes, a study showed on Wednesday. Researchers from Germany, Switzerland and the United States found that the sun's brightness varied by only 0.07 percent over 11-year sunspot cycles, far too little to account for the rise in temperatures since the Industrial Revolution." (Reuters) | Changes in solar brightness too weak to explain global warming (NCAR/UCAR)
Such claims of solar variation insufficiency survive because indications of feedback mechanisms were supported only by historical records and statistical associations but were not empirically demonstrated (never mind that situation applies particularly to the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis, the simple fact is that hypothesis is currently politically correct and hence requires no evidentiary support). This situation has now changed because Svensmark and the team at the Danish National Space Center have experimentally demonstrated the very mechanism they proposed a decade ago.
How big a deal is this indirect cloud effect? Huge, actually. In just 5 years it was responsible for a 2% decrease in low clouds (the kind that reflect incoming solar radiation by day) which, in turn, equates to an increase in surface warming of 1.2 Wm-2 from incident radiation -- equivalent to some 85% of the IPCC's estimate for the effect of all carbon dioxide increase since the Industrial Revolution.
Significantly, the "Svensmark Effect" only operates in the lower troposphere because there is always more than sufficient ionization of the upper atmosphere to ensure no shortage of cloud nuclei. This is important since high, thin clouds do not reflect incoming sunlight and are a net warming influence while the reverse is true of low, bright clouds. The effect then directly influences cooling cloud cover.
Note that this is only part of the story since, as far as we are aware, no one has yet investigated a counterintuitive parallel effect -- condensation and precipitation will likely reduce the total lower atmospheric concentration of that ubiquitous greenhouse gas, water vapor, so increasing clear sky radiative cooling. It's true that clouds account for roughly one-fifth of the greenhouse effect but gaseous water vapor accounts for more than one-half of the total effect. Reduced condensation then would leave an increased proportion of gaseous water vapor with corresponding increase in clear sky greenhouse effect.
Of course, Svensmark et al are not alone in associating solar activity and cloudiness, see for example, Influence of Solar Activity on State of Wheat Market in Medieval England (Pustilnik, 2003), a seemingly radical hypothesis dating from British astronomer William Herschel, who suggested a link between sunspots and wheat prices in 1801.
So, now we know that the more active sun warms the planet directly with increased incident radiation and indirectly both by reducing low cloud and likely by elevating the proportion of gaseous water -- the most important greenhouse gas.
This is precisely the kind of feedback hypothesized for enhanced greenhouse except this now has a demonstrated physical mechanism and is of such importance we should walk through its function just to be clear.
Increased solar activity acts directly on the Earth with a small increase in radiation, a small heating effect and an associated increase in evaporation. This same increase in activity suppresses cosmic ray penetration of Earth's atmosphere, thus reducing available low cloud condensation nuclei. This sequence of events increases clear sky and incoming radiation while increasing the already dominant clear sky greenhouse effect from gaseous water vapor.
The reverse effect of a more quiescent sun reduces direct solar warming and, by permitting the penetration of cosmic rays, facilitates low cloud formation, which increases reflection of already reduced solar radiation, reduces clear sky, reduces evaporation and simultaneously reduces the availability of the most important greenhouse gas, water vapor, through condensation and precipitation.
Thus solar activity has associated positive feedback when more active and negative feedback when less active, dramatically magnifying Earth's thermal response to changes in solar activity and explaining how fractions of Wm-2 change in direct solar radiation translate to many Wm-2 effect between positive and negative phases of relative solar activity.
Good cloud data is in short supply and covers only the recent decades but we can derive cosmic ray intensity and deduce there has been a general reduction in cloud cover during the 20th Century. While we are hesitant to extrapolate from very short data series (always a dubious procedure) it is entirely plausible that reduction in low cloud over the period could conservatively be estimated to have increased heating at Earth's surface by 5-10 Wm-2, an amount more than sufficient to account for all the estimated warming over the period.
Additionally, the mechanism described by Svensmark et al explains observed drought response to the recently more active sun and the reduction in cloudiness, probably coupled with snowfield discoloration from dust, soot and other particulates goes a long way toward explaining a disproportionate Arctic response, one apparently lacking in the Antarctic where such pigments are in relatively short supply, leaving snowfield albedo relatively unchanged.
This puts anthropogenic emissions in an interesting light. Since solar effects, both direct and indirect, are more than sufficient to account for net estimated temperature change over the period of significant fossil fuel usage, have humans been warming or cooling the planet? We know there are effects from land use change and we know we have added to atmospheric backscatter of solar radiation from particulates (sulfate aerosols, dust from agriculture...) but we are no longer certain of the net sign of anthropogenic temperature change.
The one thing we are reasonably sure of is that twiddling about with emissions of carbon dioxide will have no discernable effect on global mean temperature.
If you think the above is really quite significant in the "greenhouse debate" then you are right, which is probably why the mainstream media seem to have completely ignored it. The hazards of excessive investment in the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis, we suppose.
Looks like there's nothing new under the sun after all.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We the Well-armed Sheeple
on: March 25, 2007, 06:13:49 PM
Second post of the day:
(Manchester-WTNH) _ A chaotic scene at a Manchester auto parts shop Thursday night. Police say a man tried to thwart a theft by pulling out his gun, but he's now facing charges.
It happened around 7:00 at the Pep Boys on Spencer Street in the K-Mart mall.
Police say it started when someone went into the store to steal a generator.
"Guys have been stealing generators from us off the shelves," Pep boys worker Dave Sciaudone said. "We knew who they were, what their license plate was because they've been hitting all our stores. And my boss saw him grab a generator tonight, walk out the door and throw it into the truck. And he pulled his gun to stop him."
While the manager did have a permit for the gun, he was arrested.
"There's a line you can not cross when you're running through the parking lot chasing after a suspect brandishing a gun," Sgt. Christopher Cross said.
There was no evidence any shots were fired. The gunfire sounds people say they heard was likely backfire from the getaway truck.
"The truck was backfiring like crazy, so if there were shots I didn't hear anything like that. I heard backfiring a lot," Tracey Wilkerson of East Hartford said.
The manager, whose name was not available, may be charged with breech of peace and reckless endangerment.
"Right now my boss is in jail, but he didn't do anything," Sciaudone said.
Police are looking for an older model maroon Chevy truck that they believe was used by the thieves.http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1805494/posts
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone'
on: March 25, 2007, 01:31:32 PM
POPE FEARS LOW EURO-BIRTH RATE: Europe appears to be "losing faith in its own future," Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday. Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Benedict expressed concern about the "demographic profile" of Europe, where many are having fewer children. He said the trends ''favor dangerous individualism.''
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: March 25, 2007, 01:11:13 PM
Islamic groups impose tax on Christian “subjects”
Islamic militias in Baghdad and Mosul order Christians to pay the jizya, a poll tax which dates back to the period of the Ottoman Empire, which guaranteed non Muslims the right to practise their religion as well as Muslim protection; the groups are ordered “not to reveal their activities” to Iraqi authorities while all contributions are given in alms to the Mosques.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Non Muslim subjects must pay a contribution to the jihad if they wish to be allowed to live and practise their faith in Iraq”. These orders are being imposed on the Christians of Mosul and Baghdad by Islamic militias. Besides these threats of extortion, thousands of non Muslims are also being forced to leave their homes by letters assigning their house to Muslim citizens. The initiative is part of the general campaign to Islamafy the entire country, which begun with the imposition of the veil on all women. The website Ankawa.com was the first to carry news of this latest development; the website has eye witness accounts of Iraqi refugees in Erbil, in the semi autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The fourth anniversary of the US military’s arrival in Baghdad, March 20th 2003, brings with it little improvement in the conditions of the ever decreasing Christian community. Bomb attacks, kidnappings and threats continue to mark the daily existence of those few who so far have not been able to leave. The latest sign of the increasingly worrying situation is news that the community is now being forced to pay the jizya, a “poll tax” requested from non Muslims according to the Koran, guaranteeing “protection” form the Islamic umma. The tax was once extracted by the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in 1918, but now Baghdad and Mosul’s Mosques have ordered it be put in place again, “without revealing it to authorities”.
According to local Christians it really is a contribution to the holy war, which – the jihad maintains - will also protect their community from external aggression. The monies collected are then given over to Mosques, but “without the knowledge of authorities”.
Other accounts tell of letters being left in gardens or the entrance to Christian homes, notifying the families that they must leave their dwellings because they have been assigned to others, whose names and surnames are listed in black and white in the letters.
For three translations of sura 9 verse 29 below. See http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/009.qmt.html
YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Man bites dog: Hindu Chief Justice
on: March 25, 2007, 10:34:44 AM
Pakistan gets its first Hindu chief justice
Judge Rana Bhagwandas is on panel that will hear charges against suspended top jurist Chaudhry.
By Henry Chu, Times Staff Writer
March 25, 2007
KARACHI, PAKISTAN — He is the first Hindu to preside over this Muslim nation's highest court. And he is now in the eye of a political hurricane engulfing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Judge Rana Bhagwandas, 64, was sworn in Saturday as acting chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court. Upon taking the oath in this southern port city, Bhagwandas was thrust into the controversy surrounding the removal of the man who had held the top job.
Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry on March 9 on the basis of charges that he had abused his position. The move prompted street protests that caught the Pakistani leader off guard and triggered his most serious domestic crisis since he came to power in a coup nearly eight years ago.
Critics see Chaudhry's removal as a naked attempt to silence a judge who had embarrassed the government on several occasions, including by making a strong push to make Pakistan's powerful intelligence services subject to the rule of law. A police crackdown on lawyers and opposition politicians protesting Chaudhry's dismissal has fueled public anger at Musharraf, whose grip on power, analysts say, has been compromised as he prepares for national elections this year.
As the acting chief justice, Bhagwandas will head the panel of five senior jurists hearing the case against their colleague. Chaudhry, who was appointed by Musharraf in 2005, has called the charges a sham, and his supporters are demanding his reinstatement.
Bhagwandas, who joined the Supreme Court in 2000 after serving on the bench here in Sindh province, told reporters Saturday that the judges would "decide this case on merit, without any favor or ill will."
A member of Pakistan's tiny Hindu community, Bhagwandas has a master's degree in Islamic studies. He has been treated as something of a rock star since his return a few days ago from a visit to India. Cameras and reporters surround him wherever he goes.
He is not the first non-Muslim to preside over Pakistan's high court. In the 1960s, a Roman Catholic, A.R. Cornelius, served in the post for eight years.
But the appointment of a Hindu in a nation that was founded as a homeland for Muslims by breaking away from predominantly Hindu India, has stirred up consternation among hard-line religious parties. The Daily Times quoted an academic last week as saying Bhagwandas' elevation would be "against Islam."
Such voices appear to be in a very small minority. Many analysts and observers described Bhagwandas as an ethical judge who would act fairly.
Even a member of Chaudhry's legal defense team, which boycotted Saturday's swearing-in ceremony on the grounds that their client was still the rightful chief justice, praised Bhagwandas.
"No reasonable man can raise an objection," said attorney Tariq Mahmood. "He is a man of integrity."
No one is taking bets as to how the judges' council will rule on Chaudhry's case.
The suspended chief justice is popular among Pakistanis because of stands he has taken against powerful interests. Last year, he voided the privatization of the nation's largest steel mill, which critics said would line the already-deep pockets of a well-connected clique.
In recent months, Chaudhry has repeatedly ordered Pakistan's intelligence agencies to answer allegations that they are illegally holding dozens of people officially listed as missing.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bernard Lewis Part Two
on: March 25, 2007, 08:44:57 AM
The third case is that of a visitor. For long, the only purpose that was considered legitimate was to ransom captives. This was later expanded into diplomatic and commercial missions. With the advance of the European counterattack, there was a new issue in this ongoing debate. What is the position of a Muslim if his country is conquered by infidels? May he stay or must he leave?
We have some interesting documents from the late 15th century, when the reconquest of Spain was completed and Moroccan jurists were discussing this question. They asked if Muslims could stay. The general answer was no, it is not permissible. The question was asked: May they stay if the Christian government that takes over is tolerant? This proved to be a purely hypothetical question, of course. The answer was no; even then they may not stay, because the temptation to apostasy would be even greater. They must leave and hope that in God's good time they will be able to reconquer their homelands and restore the true faith.
This was the line taken by most jurists. There were some, at first a minority, later a more important group, who said it is permissible for Muslims to stay provided that certain conditions are met, mainly that they are allowed to practice their faith. This raises another question which I will come back to in a moment: what is meant by practicing their faith? Here I would remind you that we are dealing not only with a different religion but also with a different concept of what religion is about, referring especially to what Muslims call the shari`a, the holy law of Islam, covering a wide range of matters regarded as secular in the Christian world even during the medieval period, but certainly in what some call the post-Christian era of the Western world.
There are obviously now many attractions which draw Muslims to Europe including the opportunities offered, particularly in view of the growing economic impoverishment of much of the Muslim world, and the attractions of European welfare as well as employment. They also have freedom of expression and education which they lack at home. This is a great incentive to the terrorists who migrate. Terrorists have far greater freedom of preparation and operation in Europe--and to a degree also in America--than they do in most Islamic lands.
I would like to draw your attention to some other factors of importance in the situation at this moment. One is the new radicalism in the Islamic world, which comes in several kinds: Sunni, especially Wahhabi, and Iranian Shiite, dating from the Iranian revolution. Both of these are becoming enormously important factors. We have the strange paradox that the danger of Islamic radicalism or of radical terrorism is far greater in Europe and America than it is in the Middle East and North Africa, where they are much better at controlling their extremists than we are.
The Sunni kind is mainly Wahhabi and has benefited from the prestige and influence and power of the House of Saud as controllers of the holy places of Islam and of the annual pilgrimage, and the enormous oil wealth at their disposal. The Iranian revolution is something different. The term revolution is much used in the Middle East. It is virtually the only generally accepted title of legitimacy. But the Iranian revolution is a real revolution in the sense in which we use that term of the French or Russian revolutions. Like the French and Russian revolutions in their day, it has had an enormous impact in the whole area with which the Iranians share a common universe of discourse--that is to say, the Islamic world.
Let me turn to the question of assimilation, which is much discussed nowadays. How far is it possible for Muslim migrants who have settled in Europe, in North America, and elsewhere, to become part of those countries in which they settle, in the way that so many other waves of immigrants have done? I think there are several points which need to be made.
One of them is the basic differences in what precisely is meant by assimilation and acceptance. Here there is an immediate and obvious difference between the European and the American situations. For an immigrant to become an American means a change of political allegiance. For an immigrant to become a Frenchman or a German means a change of ethnic identity. Changing political allegiance is certainly very much easier and more practical than changing ethnic identity, either in one's own feelings or in one's measure of acceptance. England had it both ways. If you were naturalized, you became British but you did not become English.
I mentioned earlier the important difference in what one means by religion. For Muslims, it covers a whole range of different things--marriage, divorce, and inheritance are the most obvious examples. Since antiquity in the Western world, the Christian world, these have been secular matters. The distinction of church and state, spiritual and temporal, lay and ecclesiastical is a Christian distinction which has no place in Islamic history and therefore is difficult to explain to Muslims, even in the present day. Until very recently they did not even have a vocabulary to express it. They have one now.
What are the European responses to this situation? In Europe, as in the United States, a frequent response is what is variously known as multiculturalism and political correctness. In the Muslim world there are no such inhibitions. They are very conscious of their identity. They know who they are and what they are and what they want, a quality which we seem to have lost to a very large extent. This is a source of strength in the one, of weakness in the other.
A term sometimes used is constructive engagement. Let's talk to them, let's get together and see what we can do. Constructive engagement has a long tradition. When Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem and other places in the holy land, he allowed the Christian merchants from Europe to stay in the seaports. He apparently felt the need to justify this, and he wrote a letter to the caliph in Baghdad explaining his action. I would like to quote it to you. The merchants were useful since "there is not one among them that does not bring and sell us weapons of war, to their detriment and to our advantage." This continued during the Crusades. It continued after. It continued during the Ottoman advance into Europe, when they could always find European merchants willing to sell them weapons they needed and European bankers willing to finance their purchases. Constructive engagement has a long history.
One also finds a rather startling modern version of it. We have seen in our own day the extraordinary spectacle of a pope apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades. I would not wish to defend the behavior of the Crusaders, which was in many respects atrocious. But let us have a little sense of proportion. We are now expected to believe that the Crusades were an unwarranted act of aggression against a peaceful Muslim world. Hardly. The first papal call for a crusade occurred in 846 C.E., when an Arab expedition from Sicily sailed up the Tiber and sacked St. Peter's in Rome. A synod in France issued an appeal to Christian sovereigns to rally against "the enemies of Christ," and the Pope, Leo IV, offered a heavenly reward to those who died fighting the Muslims. A century and a half and many battles later, in 1096, the Crusaders actually arrived in the Middle East. The Crusades were a late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad--an attempt to recover by holy war what had been lost by holy war. It failed, and it was not followed up.
Here is another more recent example of multiculturalism. On October 8, 2002--I insist on giving the date because you may want to look it up--the then French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who I am told is a staunch Roman Catholic, was making a speech in the French National Assembly and talking about the situation in Iraq. Speaking of Saddam Hussein, he remarked that one of Saddam Hussein's heroes was his compatriot Saladin, who came from the same Iraqi town of Tikrit. In case the members of the Assembly were not aware of Saladin's identity, M. Raffarin explained to them that it was he who was able "to defeat the Crusaders and liberate Jerusalem." Yes. When a French prime minister describes Saladin's capture of Jerusalem from the largely French Crusaders as an act of liberation, this would seem to indicate a rather extreme case of realignment of loyalties.
I was told this, and I didn't believe it. So I checked it in the parliamentary record. When M. Raffarin used the word "liberate," a member--the name was not given--called out, "Libérer?" He just went straight on. That was the only interruption, and as far as I was aware there was no comment afterwards.
The Islamic radicals have even been able to find some allies in Europe. In describing them I shall have to use the terms left and right, terms which are becoming increasingly misleading. The seating arrangements in the first French National Assembly after the revolution are not the laws of nature, but we have become accustomed to using them. They are difficult when applied to the West nowadays. They are utter nonsense when applied to different brands of Islam. But as I say, they are what people use, so let us put it this way.
They have a left-wing appeal to the anti-U.S. elements in Europe, for whom they have so-to-speak replaced the Soviets. They have a right-wing appeal to the anti-Jewish elements in Europe, replacing the Axis. They have been able to win considerable support under both headings. For some in Europe, their hatreds apparently outweigh their loyalties.
There is an interesting exception to that in Germany, where the Muslims are mostly Turkish. There they have often tended to equate themselves with the Jews, to see themselves as having succeeded the Jews as the victims of German racism and persecution. I remember a meeting in Berlin convened to discuss the new Muslim minorities in Europe. In the evening I was asked by a Muslim group of Turks to join them and hear what they had to say about it, which was very interesting. The phrase which sticks most vividly in my mind from one of them was, "In a thousand years they (the Germans) were unable to accept 400,000 Jews. What hope is there that they will accept two million Turks?" They used this very skillfully in playing on German feelings of guilt in order to inhibit any effective German measures to protect German identity, which I would say like others in Europe is becoming endangered.
My time is running out so I think I'll leave other points that I wanted to make. [Shouts to go on.] You don't mind a bit more?
I want to say something about the question of tolerance. You will recall that at the end of the first phase of the Christian reconquest, after Spain and Portugal and Sicily, Muslims--who by that time were very numerous in the reconquered lands--were given a choice: baptism, exile, or death. In the former Ottoman lands in southeastern Europe, the leaders of what you might call the reconquest were somewhat more tolerant but not a great deal more. Some Muslim minorities remained in some Balkan countries, with troubles still going on at the present day. If I say names like Kosovo or Bosnia, you will know what I am talking about.
Nevertheless, I mention this point because of the very sharp contrast with the treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims in the Islamic lands at that time. When Muslims came to Europe they had a certain expectation of tolerance, feeling that they were entitled to at least the degree of tolerance which they had accorded to non-Muslims in the great Muslim empires of the past. Both their expectations and their experience were very different.
Coming to European countries, they got both more and less than they had expected: More in the sense that they got in theory and often in practice equal political rights, equal access to the professions, all the benefits of the welfare state, freedom of expression, and so on and so forth.
But they also got significantly less than they had given in traditional Islamic states. In the Ottoman Empire and other states before that--I mention the Ottoman Empire as the most recent--the non-Muslim communities had separate organizations and ran their own affairs. They collected their own taxes and enforced their own laws. There were several Christian communities, each living under its own leadership, recognized by the state. These communities were running their own schools, their own education systems, administering their own laws in such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the like. The Jews did the same.
So you had a situation in which three men living in the same street could die and their estates would be distributed under three different legal systems if one happened to be Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim. A Jew could be punished by a rabbinical court and jailed for violating the Sabbath or eating on Yom Kippur. A Christian could be arrested and imprisoned for taking a second wife. Bigamy is a Christian offense; it was not an Islamic or an Ottoman offense.
They do not have that degree of independence in their own social and legal life in the modern state. It is quite unrealistic for them to expect it, given the nature of the modern state, but that is not how they see it. They feel that they are entitled to receive what they gave. As one Muslim friend of mine in Europe put it, "We allowed you to practice monogamy, why should you not allow us to practice polygamy?"
Such questions--polygamy, in particular--raise important issues of a more practical nature. Isn't an immigrant who is permitted to come to France or Germany entitled to bring his family with him? But what exactly does his family consist of? They are increasingly demanding and getting permission to bring plural wives. The same is also applying more and more to welfare payments and so on. On the other hand, the enforcement of shari`a is a little more difficult. This has become an extremely sensitive issue.
Another extremely sensitive issue, closely related to this, is the position of women, which is of course very different between Christendom and Islam. This has indeed been one of the major differences between the two societies.
Where do we stand now? Is it third time lucky? It is not impossible. They have certain clear advantages. They have fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking. They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography, the combination of natural increase and migration producing major population changes, which could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries.
But we also have some advantages, the most important of which are knowledge and freedom. The appeal of genuine modern knowledge in a society which, in the more distant past, had a long record of scientific and scholarly achievement is obvious. They are keenly and painfully aware of their relative backwardness and welcome the opportunity to rectify it.
Less obvious but also powerful is the appeal of freedom. In the past, in the Islamic world the word freedom was not used in a political sense. Freedom was a legal concept. You were free if you were not a slave. The institution of slavery existed. Free meant not slave. Unlike the West, they did not use freedom and slavery as a metaphor for good and bad government, as we have done for a long time in the Western world. The terms they used to denote good and bad government are justice and injustice. A good government is a just government, one in which the Holy Law, including its limitations on sovereign authority, is strictly enforced. The Islamic tradition, in theory and, until the onset of modernization, to a large degree in practice, emphatically rejects despotic and arbitrary government. Living under justice is the nearest approach to what we would call freedom.
But the idea of freedom in its Western interpretation is making headway. It is becoming more and more understood, more and more appreciated and more and more desired. It is perhaps in the long run our best hope, perhaps even our only hope, of surviving this developing struggle. Thank you.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bernard Lewis: a serious read
on: March 25, 2007, 08:43:39 AM
The 2007 Irving Kristol Lecture by Bernard LewisPosted: Tuesday, March 20, 2007SPEECHESAEI Annual Dinner, Irving Kristol Lecture (Washington) Publication Date: March 7, 2007
Thank you, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, ladies and gentlemen. As you have been told, I have studied a number of languages, but I cannot find words in any of them adequate to express my feeling of gratitude for the honor and appreciation which I have been shown this evening. All I can say is thank you.
My topic this evening is Europe and Islam. But let me begin with a word of personal explanation. You are accustomed for the most part to hearing from people with direct practical involvement in military and intelligence matters. I cannot offer you that. My direct involvement with military and intelligence matters ended quite a long time ago--to be precise, on 31 August 1945, when I left His Majesty's Service and returned to the university to join with colleagues in trying to cope with a six-year backlog of battle-scarred undergraduates.
What I would like to try and offer you this evening is something of the lessons of history. Here I must begin with a second disavowal. It is sometimes forgotten that the content of history, the business of the historian, is the past, not the future. I remember being at an international meeting of historians in Rome during which a group of us were sitting and discussing the question: should historians attempt to predict the future? We batted this back and forth. This was in the days when the Soviet Union was still alive and well. One of our Soviet colleagues finally intervened and said, "In the Soviet Union, the most difficult task of the historian is to predict the past."
I do not intend to offer any predictions of the future in Europe or the Middle East, but one thing can legitimately be expected of the historian, and that is to identify trends and processes - to look at the trends in the past, at what is continuing in the present, and therefore to see the possibilities and choices which will face us in the future.
One other introductory word. A favorite theme of the historian, as I am sure you know, is periodization--dividing history into periods. Periodization is mostly a convenience of the historian for purposes of writing or teaching. Nevertheless, there are times in the long history of the human adventure when we have a real turning point, a major change--the end of an era, the beginning of a new era. I am becoming more and more convinced that we are in such an age at the present time--a change in history comparable with such events as the fall of Rome, the discovery of America, and the like. I will try to explain that.
Conventionally, the modern history of the Middle East begins at the end of the 18th century, when a small French expeditionary force commanded by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte was able to conquer Egypt and rule it with impunity. It was a terrible shock that one of the heartlands of Islam could be invaded, occupied, and ruled with virtually no effective resistance.
The second shock came a few years later with the departure of the French, which was brought about not by the Egyptians nor by their suzerains, the Turks, but by a small squadron of the Royal Navy commanded by a young admiral called Horatio Nelson, who drove the French out and back to France.
This is of symbolic importance. That was, as I said, at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. From then onward, the heartlands of Islam were no longer wholly controlled by the rulers of Islam. They were under direct or indirect influence or control from outside.
The dominating forces in the Islamic world were now outside forces. What shaped their lives was Western influence. What gave them choices was Western rivalries. The political game that they could play--the only one that was open to them--was to try and profit from the rivalries between the outside powers, to try to use them against one another. We see that again and again in the course of the 19th and 20th and even into the beginning of the 21st century. We see, for example, in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Cold War, how Middle Eastern governments or leaders tried to play this game with varying degrees of success.
That game is now over. The era that was inaugurated by Napoleon and Nelson was terminated by Reagan and Gorbachev. The Middle East is no longer ruled or dominated by outside powers. These nations are having some difficulty adjusting to this new situation, to taking responsibility for their own actions and their consequences, and so on. But they are beginning to do so, and this change has been expressed with his usual clarity and eloquence by Osama bin Laden.
We see with the ending of the era of outside domination, the reemergence of certain older trends and deeper currents in Middle Eastern history, which had been submerged or at least obscured during the centuries of Western domination. Now they are coming back again. One of them I would call the internal struggles--ethnic, sectarian, regional--between different forces within the Middle East. These have of course continued, but were of less importance in the imperialist era. They are coming out again now and gaining force, as we see for example from the current clash between Sunni and Shia Islam--something without precedent for centuries.
The other thing more directly relevant to my theme this evening is the signs of a return among Muslims to what they perceive as the cosmic struggle for world domination between the two main faiths--Christianity and Islam. There are many religions in the world, but as far as I know there are only two that have claimed that their truths are not only universal--all religions claim that--but also exclusive; that they--the Christians in the one case, the Muslims in the other--are the fortunate recipients of God's final message to humanity, which it is their duty not to keep selfishly to themselves--like the Jews or the Hindus--but to bring to the rest of humanity, removing whatever obstacles there may be on the way. This self-perception, shared between Christendom and Islam, led to the long struggle that has been going on for more than fourteen centuries and which is now entering a new phase. In the Christian world, now at the beginning of the 21st century of its era, this triumphalist attitude no longer prevails, and is confined to a few minority groups. In the world of Islam, now in its early 15th century, triumphalism is still a significant force, and has found expression in new militant movements.
It is interesting that both sides for quite a long time refused to recognize this struggle. For example, both sides named each other by non-religious terms. The Christian world called the Muslims Moors, Saracens, Tartars, and Turks. Even a convert was said to have turned Turk. The Muslims for their part called the Christian world Romans, Franks, Slavs, and the like. It was only slowly and reluctantly that they began to give each other religious designations and then these were for the most part demeaning and inaccurate. In the West, it was customary to call Muslims Mohammadans, which they never called themselves, based on the totally false assumption that Muslims worship Muhammad in the way that Christians worship Christ. The Muslim term for Christians was Nazarene--nasrani--implying the local cult of a place called Nazareth.
The declaration of war begins at the very beginning of Islam. There are certain letters purported to have been written by the Prophet Muhammad to the Christian Byzantine emperor, the emperor of Persia, and various other rulers, saying, "I have now brought God's final message. Your time has passed. Your beliefs are superseded. Accept my mission and my faith or resign or submit--you are finished." The authenticity of these prophetic letters is doubted, but the message is clear and authentic in the sense that it does represent the long dominant view of the Islamic world.
A little later we have hard evidence--and I mean hard in the most literal sense--inscriptions. Many of you, I should think, have been to Jerusalem. You have probably visited that remarkable building, the Dome of the Rock. It is very significant. It is built on a place sacred to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Its architectural style is that of the earliest Christian churches. It dates from the end of the 7th century and was built by one of the early caliphs, the oldest Muslim religious building outside Arabia. What is significant is the message in the inscriptions inside the Dome: "He is God, He is one, He has no companion, He does not beget, He is not begotten." (cf. Qur'an, IX, 31-3; CXII, 1-3) This is clearly a direct challenge to certain central principles of the Christian faith.
Interestingly, they put the same thing on a new gold coinage. Until then, striking gold coins had been an exclusive Roman privilege. The Islamic caliph for the first time struck gold coins, breaching the immemorial privilege of Rome, and putting the same inscription on them. As I said, a challenge.
The Muslim attack on Christendom and the resulting conflict, which arose more from their resemblances than from their differences, has gone through three phases. The first dates from the very beginning of Islam, when the new faith spilled out of the Arabian Peninsula, where it was born, into the Middle East and beyond. It was then that they conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa--all at that time part of the Christian world--and went beyond into Europe, conquering a sizable part of southwestern Europe, including Spain, Portugal, and southern Italy, all of which became part of the Islamic world, and even crossing the Pyrenees into France and occupying for a while parts of France.
After a long and bitter struggle, the Christians managed to retake part but not all of the territory they had lost. They succeeded in Europe, and in a sense Europe was defined by the limits of that success. They failed to retake North Africa or the Middle East, which were lost to Christendom. Notably, they failed to recapture the Holy Land, in the series of campaigns known as the Crusades.
That was not the end of the matter. In the meantime the Islamic world, having failed the first time, was bracing for the second attack, this time conducted not by Arabs and Moors but by Turks and Tartars. In the mid-thirteenth century the Mongol conquerors of Russia were converted to Islam. The Turks, who had already conquered Anatolia, advanced into Europe and in 1453 they captured the ancient Christian citadel of Constantinople. They conquered a large part of the Balkans, and for a while ruled half of Hungary. Twice they reached as far as Vienna, to which they laid siege in 1529 and again in 1683. Barbary corsairs from North Africa--well-known to historians of the United States--were raiding Western Europe. They went to Iceland--the uttermost limit--and to several places in Western Europe, including notably a raid on Baltimore (the original one, in Ireland) in 1631. In a contemporary document, we have a list of 107 captives who were taken from Baltimore to Algiers, including a man called Cheney.
Again, Europe counterattacked, this time more successfully and more rapidly. They succeeded in recovering Russia and the Balkan Peninsula, and in advancing further into the Islamic lands, chasing their former rulers whence they had come. For this phase of European counterattack, a new term was invented: imperialism. When the peoples of Asia and Africa invaded Europe, this was not imperialism. When Europe attacked Asia and Africa, it was.
This European counterattack began a new phase which brought the European attack into the very heart of the Middle East. In our own time, we have seen the end of the resulting domination.
Osama bin Laden, in some very interesting proclamations and declarations, has this to say about the war in Afghanistan which, you will remember, led to the defeat and retreat of the Red Army and the collapse of the Soviet Union. We tend to see that as a Western victory, more specifically an American victory, in the Cold War against the Soviets. For Osama bin Laden, it was nothing of the kind. It is a Muslim victory in a jihad. If one looks at what happened in Afghanistan and what followed, this is, I think one must say, a not implausible interpretation.
As Osama bin Laden saw it, Islam had reached the ultimate humiliation in this long struggle after World War I, when the last of the great Muslim empires--the Ottoman Empire--was broken up and most of its territories divided between the victorious allies; when the caliphate was suppressed and abolished, and the last caliph driven into exile. This seemed to be the lowest point in Muslim history. From there they went upwards.
In his perception, the millennial struggle between the true believers and the unbelievers had gone through successive phases, in which the latter were led by the various imperial European powers that had succeeded the Romans in the leadership of the world of the infidels--the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the British and French and Russian empires. In this final phase, he says, the world of the infidels was divided and disputed between two rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. In his perception, the Muslims have met, defeated, and destroyed the more dangerous and the more deadly of the two infidel superpowers. Dealing with the soft, pampered and effeminate Americans would be an easy matter.
This belief was confirmed in the 1990s when we saw one attack after another on American bases and installations with virtually no effective response of any kind--only angry words and expensive missiles dispatched to remote and uninhabited places. The lessons of Vietnam and Beirut were confirmed by Mogadishu. "Hit them, and they'll run." This was the perceived sequence leading up to 9/11. That attack was clearly intended to be the completion of the first sequence and the beginning of the new one, taking the war into the heart of the enemy camp.
In the eyes of a fanatical and resolute minority of Muslims, the third wave of attack on Europe has clearly begun. We should not delude ourselves as to what it is and what it means. This time it is taking different forms and two in particular: terror and migration.
The subject of terror has been frequently discussed and in great detail, and I do not need to say very much about that now. What I do want to talk about is the other aspect of more particular relevance to Europe, and that is the question of migration.
In earlier times, it was inconceivable that a Muslim would voluntarily move to a non-Muslim country. The jurists discuss this subject at great length in the textbooks and manuals of shari`a, but in a different form: is it permissible for a Muslim to live in or even visit a non-Muslim country? And if so, if he does, what must he do? Generally speaking, this was considered under certain specific headings.
A captive or a prisoner of war obviously has no choice, but he must preserve his faith and get home as soon as possible.
The second case is that of an unbeliever in the land of the unbelievers who sees the light and embraces the true faith--in other words, becomes a Muslim. He must leave as soon as possible and go to a Muslim country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: March 25, 2007, 07:37:37 AM
As some of you may know, the six imans who deliberately created an incident to get themselves thrown off a plane are now suing various people/institutions/compaines including the citizens who reported their strange behavior.
Little Green Footballs blog is reporting one US Muslim group with the integrity to stand by these citizens:
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Legal Aid Offered to CAIR Targets
People from across the board are outraged at the Council on American Islamic Relations’ announced plan to file lawsuits against US Airways passengers who reported the six non-flying imams. Now the American Islamic Forum for Democracy has offered to pay for the legal defense of any “John Doe” passengers who end up being sued by CAIR.
A U.S. Islamic group is offering to pay to defend “John Does” being sued by six imams who were removed from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior.
The suit arose from an incident last November in which passengers and crew reported the men aboard a US Airways plane were disruptive, did not take assigned seats, loudly criticized the war in Iraq and shouted about al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. They were removed from the flight, interrogated and later released.
They have since filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the airline, the airport authority and the “John Does” who reported them, The Washington Times reported Wednesday.
However, M. Zuhdi Jasser, director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told the Times his group will raise money for the unnamed peoples’ defense. He said anti-Muslim “backlash will be even greater when Americans see Islamists trying to punish innocent passengers reporting fears.”
Minnesota law firm Faegre & Benson LLP is also offering to represent the passengers for free, the report said.
The AIFD is an example of a legitimate (if unfortunately rather small) Muslim group that deserves the label “moderate.”
Here’s another Minneapolis attorney who’s offering to defend any passengers sued by CAIR: Attorney to defend passengers in Imam suit.