Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington
on: February 29, 2008, 10:28:26 AM
"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended
by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy
should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor
granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural
course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the
streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers
so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course."
-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)
Reference: Maxims of George Washington, Schroeder, ed. (71)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill Buckley RIP
on: February 29, 2008, 10:13:48 AM
May We Not Lose His Kind
February 29, 2008
He was sui generis, wasn't he? The complete American original, a national treasure, a man whose energy was a kind of optimism, and whose attitude toward life, even when things seemed to others bleak, was summed up in something he said to a friend: "Despair is a mortal sin."
I am not sure conservatives feel despair at Bill Buckley's leaving--he was 82 and had done great work in a lifetime filled with pleasure--but I know they, and many others, are sad, and shaken somehow. On Wednesday, after word came that he had left us, in a television studio where I'd gone to try and speak of some of his greatness, a celebrated liberal academic looked at me stricken, and said he'd just heard the news. "I can't imagine a world without Bill Buckley in it," he said. I said, "Oh, that is exactly it."
Feb. 21, 1983, Washington D.C. -- President Reagan and William F. Buckley Jr. laugh heartily at a reception for the opening of the Washington office of the Naitonal Review.
It is. What a space he filled.
It is commonplace to say that Bill Buckley brought American conservatism into the mainstream. That's not quite how I see it. To me he came along in the middle of the last century and reminded demoralized American conservatism that it existed. That it was real, that it was in fact a majority political entity, and that it was inherently mainstream. This was after the serious drubbing inflicted by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and the rise of modern liberalism. Modern liberalism at that point was a real something, a palpable movement formed by FDR and continued by others. Opposing it was . . . what exactly? Robert Taft? The ghost of Calvin Coolidge? Buckley said in effect, Well, there's something known as American conservatism, though it does not even call itself that. It's been calling itself "voting Republican" or "not liking the New Deal." But it is a very American approach to life, and it has to do with knowing that the government is not your master, that America is good, that freedom is good and must be defended, and communism is very, very bad.
He explained, remoralized, brought together those who saw it as he did, and began the process whereby American conservatism came to know itself again. And he did it primarily through a magazine, which he with no modesty decided was going to be the central and most important organ of resurgent conservatism. National Review would be highly literate, philosophical, witty, of the moment, with an élan, a teasing quality that made you feel you didn't just get a subscription, you joined something. You entered a world of thought.
I thought it beautiful and inspiring that he was open to, eager for, friendships from all sides, that even though he cared passionately about political questions, politics was not all, cannot be all, that people can be liked for their essence, for their humor and good nature and intelligence, for their attitude toward life itself. He and his wife, Pat, were friends with lefties and righties, from National Review to the Paris Review. It was moving too that his interests were so broad, that he could go from an appreciation of the metaphors of Norman Mailer to essays on classical music to an extended debate with his beloved friend the actor David Niven on the best brands of peanut butters. When I saw him last he was in a conversation with the historian Paul Johnson on the relative merits of the work of the artist Raeburn.
His broad-gaugedness, his refusal to be limited, seemed to me a reflection in part of a central conservative tenet, as famously expressed by Samuel Johnson. "How small of all that human hearts endure / That part which laws or kings can cause or cure." When you have it right about laws and kings, and what life is, then your politics become grounded in the facts of life. And once they are grounded, you don't have to hold to them so desperately. You can relax and have fun. Just because you're serious doesn't mean you're grim.
* * *
Buckley was a one-man refutation of Hollywood's idea of a conservative. He was rising in the 1950s and early '60s, and Hollywood's idea of a conservative was still Mr. Potter, the nasty old man of "It's a Wonderful Life," who would make a world of grubby Pottersvilles if he could, who cared only about money and the joy of bullying idealists. Bill Buckley's persona, as the first famous conservative of the modern media age, said no to all that. Conservatives are brilliant, capacious, full of delight at the world and full of mischief, too. That's what he was. He upended old clichés.
This was no small thing, changing this template. Ronald Reagan was the other who changed it, by being a sunny man, a happy one. They were friends, admired each other, had two separate and complementary roles. Reagan was in the game of winning votes, of persuading, of leading a political movement that catapulted him to two terms as governor of California, the nation's biggest state, at a time when conservatives were seemingly on the defensive but in retrospect were rising to new heights. He would speak to normal people and persuade them of the efficacy of conservative solutions to pressing problems. Buckley's job was not reaching on-the-ground voters, or reaching voters at all, and his attitude toward his abilities in that area was reflected in his merry answer when asked what he would do if he won the mayoralty of New York. "Demand a recount," he famously replied. His role was speaking to those thirsting for a coherent worldview, for an intellectual and moral attitude grounded in truth. He provided intellectual ballast. Inspired in part by him, voters went on to support Reagan. Both could have existed without the other, but Buckley's work would have been less satisfying, less realized, without Reagan and his presidency, and Reagan's leadership would have been more difficult, and also somehow less satisfying, without Buckley.
* * *
I share here a fear. It is not that the conservative movement is ending, that Bill's death is the period on a long chapter. The house he helped build had--has--many mansions. Conservatism will endure if it is rooted in truth, and in the truths of life. It is.
It is rather that with the loss of Bill Buckley we are, as a nation, losing not only a great man. When Jackie Onassis died, a friend of mine who knew her called me and said, with such woe, "Oh, we are losing her kind." He meant the elegant, the cultivated, the refined. I thought of this with Bill's passing, that we are losing his kind--people who were deeply, broadly educated in great universities when they taught deeply and broadly, who held deep views of life and the world and art and all the things that make life more delicious and more meaningful. We have work to do as a culture in bringing up future generations that are so well rounded, so full and so inspiring.
Bill Buckley lived a great American life. His heroism was very American--the individualist at work in the world, the defender of great creeds and great beliefs going forth with spirit, style and joy. May we not lose his kind. For now, "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels take thee to thy rest."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: February 29, 2008, 10:02:18 AM
What a pleasant surprise!
In case the WP takes it down, I print it here:
]Staying to Help in Iraq
We have finally reached a point where humanitarian assistance, from us and others, can have an impact.
By Angelina Jolie
Thursday, February 28, 2008; 1:15 PM
The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."
But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.
In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways.
We still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive. Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country -- without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man's land. Many of the survivors huddle in mosques, in abandoned buildings with no electricity, in tents or in one-room huts made of straw and mud. Fifty-eight percent of these internally displaced people are younger than 12 years old.
An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge outside Iraq, mainly in Syria and Jordan. But those host countries have reached their limits. Overwhelmed by the refugees they already have, these countries have essentially closed their borders until the international community provides support.
I'm not a security expert, but it doesn't take one to see that Syria and Jordan are carrying an unsustainable burden. They have been excellent hosts, but we can't expect them to care for millions of poor Iraqis indefinitely and without assistance from the U.S. or others. One-sixth of Jordan's population today is Iraqi refugees. The large burden is already causing tension internally.
The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.
In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.
UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner AntÃ³nio Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief.
During my trip I also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has announced the creation of a new committee to oversee issues related to internally displaced people, and a pledge of $40 million to support the effort.
My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.
Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?
What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.
As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.
It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.
Angelina Jolie, an actor, is a UNHCR goodwill ambassador.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 29, 2008, 09:56:48 AM
Cut and Run and Then Run Back
By JAMES TARANTO
February 28, 2008
With Hillary Clinton being written off (perhaps prematurely), the eight-month general election campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama seems to be getting under way. Obama, apparently moving to the right, is now threatening military intervention in Iraq after years of demanding America's immediate surrender. As the Associated Press reports:
McCain criticized Obama for saying in Tuesday night's Democratic debate that, after U.S. troops were withdrawn, as president he would act "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."
"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called 'al-Qaida in Iraq,' " McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas, drawing laughter at Obama's expense. He said Obama's statement was "pretty remarkable."
Quips Glenn Reynolds: "In Obama's defense, he probably reads the New York Times, which always calls it 'Al Qaida in Mesopotamia.' That may have confused him."
Obama's response to McCain, described in the same AP dispatch, makes even less sense:
"I do know that al-Qaida is in Iraq and that's why I have said we should continue to strike al-Qaida targets," he told a rally at Ohio State University in Columbus.
"But I have some news for John McCain," Obama added. "There was no such thing as al-Qaida in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq. . . . They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11 and that would be al-Qaida in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001."
Obama said he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq "so we actually start going after al-Qaida in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan like we should have been doing in the first place."
So let's see if we have this straight. Al Qaeda in Iraq isn't worth fighting because it wouldn't be there if it weren't for Bush and McCain. Obama is going to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq to go fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although he will send them back to Iraq if al Qaeda are there, even though he now wants to withdraw notwithstanding al Qaeda's presence.
Yes, we can!
By the way, the left has been denying al Qaeda's presence in Iraq since before the 2003 liberation. This is from a February 2003 article in In These Times, a leftist magazine:
[Secretary of State Colin] Powell told the world, "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants." This information, Powell said, came from "detainees." But American officials have admitted those very detainees are subjected to torture, raising questions about the reliability of that information. . . .
Meanwhile, someone at Britain's Defense Intelligence Staff leaked a document to the BBC indicating that its agents doubt there is any link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. And the the [sic] New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials "said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama Bin Laden's network." The Times quoted an unnamed intelligence official: "We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there . . . the intelligence is obviously being politicized."
At least Zarqawi isn't in Iraq anymore.
"Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously," reports Canada's CTV:
Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.
The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.
Apparently the real enemy isn't Canada, it's cynicism.
Let's Get Metaphysical
Mystified by the Obama phenomenon? Let Susan Neiman of the Einstein Forum, writing in the Boston Globe, explain it all to you:
Strange as it sounds, this is an election where metaphysics may count more than demographics, and focusing on the latter misses the point. Metaphysics determines what you hold to be self-evident and what you hold to be possible; what you think has substance and what you can afford to ignore. Hope is based on, or undermined by, your metaphysical standpoint. . . .
If it's a message so catchy that it has now made the rounds of cyberspace as a star-studded video, it's also one with roots as deep as Immanuel Kant. The "Critique of Pure Reason" is not easy reading, but it makes some startling claims. Kant tells us that Plato's ideal of a perfectly just state was always dismissed as a utopian dream; but if everyone had worked to realize those ideals, they would be true today. . . .
Obama's is a message to demand more--and not just for the young. His idealism is unsettling to many not because it's naive, but because it poses a challenge. If you assume that things cannot get better you have nothing to do but sit back and watch them get worse.
Yes, we Kant!
McCain's Canal Birth
Having failed to gin up a sex scandal, the New York Times tries a new tack to stop John McCain:
Mr. McCain's likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a "natural-born citizen" can hold the nation's highest office.
The Times labors mightily to present this as an actual controversy. It notes that in 1790 Congress passed a law "that did define children of citizens 'born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born,' " and, further, that "laws specific to the Canal Zone," then a U.S. territory, leave no doubt that McCain was born a citizen. So why does the Times think this is an issue? Because "whether he qualifies as natural-born has been a topic of Internet buzz for months." And if it's on the Internet, there has to be something to it.
The Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post have both dealt with this question, the latter way back in 1998, and both concluded with little trouble that McCain is indeed natural born. So he should have no problem--unless, perhaps, his mother had a caesarean section.
Where's the Rest of Me?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Straydog Report
on: February 28, 2008, 12:41:11 PM
Posting this on Stray Dog's behalf:
Yes, we know the reports...as of Feb. 27th, we've lost 29 U.S. troops in Iraq this month. We know this because the anti-U.S. media keeps reminding us every night.
But you must also look at the terrorist losses. Each terrorist we kill and capture in Iraq is one less we have to worry about in the future. We don't have to worry about those we have killed or captured sneaking into our country to hurt us.
Our troops wouldn't want it any other way.
This is a sample of just ONE WEEK'S LOSSES to the terrorists...(I didn't put every story here). Our boys & girls out there in the military are seriously kicking terrorist butt...
U.S. forces kill 7 terrorists in firefight near Khan Bani Sa’ad
TIKRIT, Iraq – U.S. Soldiers killed 7 terrorists during a firefight near Khan Bani Sa’ad, Iraq, in the early morning hours of Feb. 25.
Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division were ambushed while conducting an operation to capture a known al-Qaeda in Iraq operative. When the Soldiers closed within 30 feet of the target house, they came under attack by small arms fire and grenades. 3 U.S. Soldiers were injured in the initial attack.
The troops, shielding their wounded buddies with their bodies, returned fire, killing 3 terrorists. A scout weapons team observed several more fighters fleeing the target house and engaged them with rockets, killing 4 more terrorists.
Two AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) were captured, including the targeted al-Qaeda member.
“Everyone fell back on the training, and no one panicked,” said Staff Sergeant Carl VanDyke, 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 2-1 Cav., who was one of the Soldiers involved in the attack. “Everyone was calm and engaged the enemy bravely. This was an example of great teamwork between the ground and air units.”
The 3 wounded Soldiers are in stable condition and doing well at Coalition hospitals.
U.S. Forces capture 4 key al-Qaeda leaders
BAGHDAD – U.S. Forces captured 4 key al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in Baghdad Feb 24. The terrorists are associated with numerous terrorist attacks in the Baghdad area, to include vehicle-borne IED attacks, suicide VBIEDs and suicide vest IED attacks. A series of recent terrorist attacks is believed to have been actively targeting innocent Iraqi civilians and Sons of Iraq (U.S.-backed Iraqi civilian security forces).
Soldiers capture special groups leader
BAGHDAD – U.S. Soldiers captured a Special Groups commander during an operation in Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood Feb. 24. The terrorist was involved in multiple improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
Paratroopers with 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, detained the terrorist after receiving actionable intelligence on his activities. Several other criminal members were captured with him.
The terrorists were captured with explosively formed projectiles or EFPs. These EFPs are especially dangerous explosives being brought into Iraq by Iranian agents.
Paratroopers capture Special Groups facilitator in Sha’ab
BAGHDAD – Paratroopers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, captured a Special Groups facilitator during an operation in Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood Feb. 22. The terrorist was captured after U.S. forces received actionable intelligence.
U.S. forces target terrorist networks; 1 killed, 4 captured
BAGHDAD – U.S. forces killed 1 terrorist and captured 4 Saturday during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in central Iraq.
Saturday afternoon in Baghdad, U.S. forces killed a wanted terrorist and captured another wanted individual, both of whom were reportedly close associates of the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader for the networks operating in the city. During the operation, U.S. forces detained both individuals on site. One of the terrorists then attempted to escape, lunging toward U.S. forces, who then shot and killed him.
In Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an al-Qaeda in Iraq member and one other terrorist involved in the planning of suicide attacks in the city. The terrorist had arranged to receive a suicide vest in order to attack a group of Concerned Local Citizen recruits (friendly U.S.-backed forces). Intelligence indicates the terrorist is a close associate of several leaders involved in AQI networks throughout Baghdad. Information gained from this operation led Coalition forces to a nearby location, where they captured a member of the city’s car bombing network, who is also involved in attacks against CLCs.
U.S. forces attack terrorist operations; 3 killed, 25 captured
BAGHDAD – U.S. forces killed 3 terrorists and captured 25 others Saturday and Sunday during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in Iraq.
U.S. forces conducted an operation east of Samarra Saturday targeting an al-Qaeda in Iraq associate of the Baqouba suicide bombing network. The terrorist is associated with 2 terrorists killed during operations Feb. 10.
When U.S. forces arrived in the area, they were fired on by a man matching the description of the wanted individual. Responding in self-defense, U.S. forces engaged the terrorist, killing him. As they continued to clear the area, they observed several other enemy personnel nearby, and a supporting helicopter engaged, killing 2 additional terrorists. Once the area was secure, the ground force confirmed the first terrorist killed was the wanted individual. In one of the target buildings, U.S. forces discovered what appeared to be an improvised explosive device manufacturing facility. The IED materials and several vehicles found on site were destroyed to prevent future use for terrorist attacks. U.S. forces also captured 7 terrorists.
In Samarra today, U.S. forces captured an associate of an AQI network. Reports indicate the terrorist is connected to an AQI leader associated with numerous senior terrorists operating both inside and outside Iraq.
Intelligence reports led U.S. forces to an area in Mosul believed to be a possible safe haven for a group of foreign terrorists involved in recent attacks on Iraqi and U.S. forces. During the operation, the ground force surrounded the area and captured 17 wanted terrorists.
Iraqi, U.S. forces capture 27 terrorists, discover 4 caches in operations in Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi Army and U.S. Forces captured 27 terrorists and discovered 4 weapons caches in the Ninewa Province in recent joint operations.
During these operations joint forces also rescued a hostage from an underground prison.
U.S. forces targets weapons, car-bombing networks; 14 terrorists captured
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces captured 14 terrorists Friday and today during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in central Iraq.
West of Samarra Friday, U.S. forces captured an al-Qaeda in Iraq cell leader involved in the al-Jazirah network. The terrorist commanded a group of 10 to 15 terrorists who conduct attacks in the area.
Reports indicate the wanted individual’s two brothers are also associated with the al-Qaeda in Iraq network, one of whom was detained Feb. 12 for his involvement in weapons facilitation. The other brother is alleged to be an AQI executioner in the area. During the operation, the wanted individual identified himself to the ground force and was subsequently captured along with six other terrorists.
During an operation in Tikrit today, U.S. forces captured 2 terrorists to include an AQI associate involved in weapons facilitation. The terrorist is involved in the recent transfer of weapons from Bayji to Tikrit. Reports also indicate the terrorist is connected to foreign terrorist safe houses and a large weapons cache found during a previous operation in the area.
5 additional terrorists were captured today while targeting an al-Qaeda car-bombing network in the city.
Operation Red River nets 19 criminals
BAGHDAD – U.S. paratroopers captured 19 criminals during Operation Red River in Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood Feb. 21.
The operation consisted of a series of raids targeting a Special Group criminal cell operating in Sha’ab. The operation involving soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, raided multiple target houses. The operation lasted 6 hours, from shortly after midnight to just before sunrise.
The Special Group members targeted during the operation were identified by local residents, who resent the violence in their neighborhoods.
U.S. targets al-Qaeda operating in Mosul, 11 terrorists caught
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces captured 11 terrorists Friday morning during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in Mosul.
During operations Friday, U.S. forces captured an associate of al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders, who are responsible for recent attacks against the U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul. In addition to the wanted individual, the ground force captured 10 terrorists. Upon securing the area, U.S. forces discovered a weapons cache consisting of 20 mortar rounds, which was destroyed to prevent future use by terrorists.
U.S. forces target al-Qaeda in Iraq; 6 killed, 6 captured
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces killed 6 terrorists and captured 6 other terrorists Thursday during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in Iraq.
During an operation, U.S. forces targeted an al-Qaeda in Iraq associate involved in the suicide bombing and IED network that runs from Baqouba to Baghdad. Reports indicate the terrorist is associated with Abu Karrar, the AQI leader also involved in the suicide bombing network who was killed during a U.S. forces operation Feb. 17.
As the U.S. ground force arrived in the area, they were engaged by enemy fire from what appeared to be an underground bunker. U.S.A.F. fighters were called to engage the threat, killing 3 terrorists. An additional 2 enemy personnel outside the building were engaged by an Apache attack helicopter, and both were killed. As the U.S. ground force continued to clear the area, they called for the occupants of one of the target buildings to come out. One individual refused to comply and moved toward two weapons in the building. U.S. forces engaged and killed the terrorist. The ground force also captured 6 terrorists and destroyed a vehicle in the area that contained a weapons cache.
U.S. forces discover disguised truck-bomb
MOSUL, Iraq – U.S. forces discovered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) disguised as a Red Crescent (Red Cross) food relief truck in Mosul Feb. 15. The truck was labeled with hospital markings but contained 8 55-gallon drums with more than 5,000 pounds of unknown bulk explosives.
The discovery was made during a route clearance operation as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix. Because of the proximity of the VBIED to civilian population, an EOD team determined the truck would need to be removed from the neighborhood before destruction.
“A VBIED detonation of this size would kill or injure many innocent civilians. This just shows how ruthless al Qaeda is and their lack of concern for the effect of their operations on the Iraqi people,“ said Lt. Col. Christopher Johnson, commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.
Insurgents kill child during attack
TIKRIT, Iraq – An Iraqi boy was killed Feb. 24 when insurgents attacked a U.S. patrol in the Palestine neighborhood of Mosul. U.S. Forces were conducting a patrol in Mosul when insurgents on a nearby road fired on the patrol. Several children were playing in the street close by when one of the bullets struck the boy.
U.S. Forces secured the site and rendered medical aid to the child. Their efforts were unsuccessful, the child was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The insurgents’ complete disregard for the citizens of Iraq, especially the children, is a disgrace,” said Maj. Gary Dangerfield, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. “It is very disheartening to know the insurgents do not care about who they hurt or kill in the process of trying to attack Iraqi Security or Coalition Forces.”
3 Iraqi children killed by terrorists’ mortar fire while playing soccer, 7 injured
BALAD, Iraq – Three Iraqi children playing soccer were killed during a terrorist mortar attack outside Coalition force’s Logistical Supply Area Anaconda near Balad Feb. 19.
Seven other children were injured in the indirect fire attack and were treated for wounds at a Coalition forces hospital.
“The indiscriminate violence wrought by these terrorists is intolerable,” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, spokesperson. “We will continue to pursue terrorists and disrupt their networks across our area of operation.”
U.S. forces capture Iranian-backed Special Groups terrorist, capture 7 others
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces captured an Iranian-backed Special Groups finance facilitator and captured 6 others early Sunday in the Suwayrah area, south of Baghdad.
The targeted individual was reportedly a finance leader for Iranian-affiliated Special Groups criminals and militias in Iraq’s southern provinces. He was also a mortar and rocket specialist who had trained in Iran. Reports indicate he was an associate of other senior-level Special Groups leaders involved in attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces.
Intelligence led U.S. ground forces to the target area where they captured the wanted individual and six others, along with large amounts of American currency.
U.S. Paratroopers continue to dismantle criminal organizations
BAGHDAD – U.S. paratroopers captured 5 extremists Feb. 19. The arrests were made by paratroopers with 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
Paratroopers were conducting a cordon and knock operation with the Iraqi National Police in Sha’ab when they discovered a wanted criminal. The individual is wanted for conducting IED attacks against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces as well as intimidating local members of the Sons of Iraq security force.
While conducting a search of the man’s house, the paratroopers discovered a 60mm mortar. The individual and 6 other men were arrested after testing positive for handling explosives.
Iraqi Army performs recruiting drive despite attacks
MOSUL, Iraq – Despite 2 mortar attacks, an Iraqi Army recruiting team recruited over 2,200 Iraqi soldiers and officers here in the Ninewa province during a drive Feb. 11-19.
"This is extremely impressive, as these recruits and rejoiners had to travel through the city braving IEDs and insurgent attacks in order to be recruited into the ranks of the Iraqi Army," said U.S. Marine CPT Jose Acevedo, Iraqi armed forces recruiting advisor.
CPT Acevedo also pointed out that during the drive, the recruits continued standing their ground despite 2 separate mortar attacks near them. Elements from the 2nd Iraqi Army Division along with other teams from the Mosul and Baghdad recruiting centers provided security for the mobile recruiting site.
During the time frame, the recruiting team processed and recruited approximately 1,300 new enlistees and saw the return of nearly 1,000 former Iraqi Army noncommissioned and commissioned officers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslims want democracy
on: February 28, 2008, 12:32:19 PM
The largest survey to date of Muslims worldwide suggests the vast majority want Western democracy and freedoms, but do not want them to be imposed. The poll by Gallup of more than 50,000 Muslims in 35 nations found most wanted the West to instead focus on changing its negative view of Muslims and Islam.
The huge survey began following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.
The overwhelming majority of those asked condemned them and subsequent attacks, citing religious reasons.
The poll, which claims to represent the views of 90% the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, is to be published next month as part of a book entitled Who Speaks For Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think.
According to the book, the survey of the world's Muslim community was commissioned by Gallup's chairman, Jim Clifton, shortly after US President George W Bush asked in a 2001 speech: "Why do they hate us?"
The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims - but they're more cynical about whether they'll ever get it.
Author, Who Speaks For Islam?
Mr Bush wondered why radical Islamist militant groups such as al-Qaeda hated democratically elected governments, as well as "our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assembly and disagree with each other".
But one of the book's authors, John Esposito, says the survey's results suggest Muslims - ironically even many of the 7% classing themselves as "radical" - in fact admire the West for its democracy and freedoms. However, they do not want such things imposed on them.
"Muslims want self-determination, but not an American-imposed and defined democracy. They don't want secularism or theocracy," said the professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
"What the majority wants is democracy with religious values."
The poll sought to answer a question asked by George Bush
Mr Esposito said "radical" Muslims believed in democracy even more than many of the moderate Muslims questioned.
"The radicals are better educated, have better jobs, and are more hopeful with regard to the future than mainstream Muslims," he added.
"But they're more cynical about whether they'll ever get it."
The research also indicates most Muslims want guarantees of freedom of speech and would not want religious leaders to have a role in drafting constitutions.
Those polled also said the most important thing the West could do to improve relations with Muslim societies was to change its negative views towards Muslims and respect Islam.
The authors said the conflict between Islam and the West was not inevitable, but needed decision makers to listen and consider new policies if the extremists on both sides were not to gain ground.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...as/7267100.stm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight
on: February 27, 2008, 10:42:52 AM
Christian couple told: 'You can't foster if you think it's wrong to be gay'
By DAVID WILKES
They are devoted foster parents with an unblemished record of caring for almost 20 vulnerable children.
But Eunice and Owen Johns have been forced to abandon their good work because they refuse to tell children as young as ten that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle.
To do so, they say, would go against their Christian beliefs.
The devastated couple withdrew an application to their council to continue as foster carers after being told they must condone homosexuality to adhere to gay rights laws.
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation), which came into force last April, makes it illegal for any business or organisation providing a public service to discriminate against anyone because of their sexuality.
The council says its fostering panel felt it would not be following the regulations if it placed a child with a couple who could not comply with the Act.
The couple's case comes at a time when there is a chronic shortage of foster parents, who work on a voluntary basis. Around 8,000 more are needed nationally.
The couple, who have four grownup children of their own, first became foster parents in 1996 and provided weekend respite care for 18 children over the next four years at their home in Derby. They gave up fostering when a catering business they ran became too time-consuming.
They then re-applied to provide weekend respite foster care to children aged under ten when they felt they were able to devote themselves fully to the task again.
Yesterday Mrs Johns, 59, a Sunday school teacher, said: "We started going through the assessment and were told that there was new legislation.
"They were asking: "What would you do if a 10 year-old child came home and said they had been picked on because they were homosexual?"
"They said, "Do you know you would have to tell them that it's ok to be homosexual?"
"But I said I couldn't do that because my Christian beliefs won't let me. Morally I couldn't do that, spiritually I couldn'tdo that.
"I said I was there to explain that I would not compromise my faith.
"I said I would have to tell the child that as I am a Christian I don't believe in homosexuality but I can give as much love and security as I possibly can."
Mr Johns, 63, a metal polisher, said: "I would love any child, black or white, gay or straight.
'But I cannot understand why sexuality is an issue when we are talking about boys and girls under the age of ten."
Their case has been taken up by the Christian Legal Centre, which is to seek a judicial review if the council does not reverse its decision.
Religious campaigners say Mr and Mrs Johns are the victims of an equality drive which puts gay rights above religious beliefs.
Stephen Green, director of Christian Voice said: "The fostering service is in danger of losing an experienced Christian couple all for the sake of worshipping at the altar of diversity."
Sara Bolton, Derby City Council cabinet member for children and young people, said: "This is an unfortunate case. But these laws are in place for the good of the children in our care.
"We need to treat everybody fairly because we're looking after vulnerable children and therefore we need to keep strictly to the legislation and the policy."http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's Patriot Act
on: February 27, 2008, 09:02:32 AM
Obama's 'Patriot' Act
February 27, 2008; Page A16
No, we're not talking about Barack Obama's opposition to the post-9/11 antiterror law. We're referring to the Senator's support for something called the Patriot Employer Act, which deserves more attention as an indicator of his economic agenda.
Along with Democratic co-sponsors Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin, Mr. Obama introduced the bill in the Senate in August 2007. Recently in Janesville, Wis., he repeated his intention to make it a priority as President: "We will end the tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas, and we will give those breaks to companies who create good jobs with decent wages right here in America."
Mr. Obama's proposal would designate certain companies as "patriot employers" and favor them over other, presumably not so patriotic, businesses.
The legislation takes four pages to define "patriotic" companies as those that: "pay at least 60 percent of each employee's health care premiums"; have a position of "neutrality in employee [union] organizing drives"; "maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in the United States relative to the number of full-time workers outside of the United States"; pay a salary to each employee "not less than an amount equal to the federal poverty level"; and provide a pension plan.
In other words, a patriotic employer is one which fulfills the fondest Big Labor agenda, regardless of the competitive implications. The proposal ignores the marketplace reality that businesses hire a work force they can afford to pay and still make money. Coercing companies into raising wages and benefits above market rates may only lead to fewer workers getting hired in the first place.
Under Mr. Obama's plan, "patriot employers" qualify for a 1% tax credit on their profits. To finance this tax break, American companies with subsidiaries abroad would have to pay the U.S. corporate tax on profits earned abroad, rather than the corporate tax of the host country where they are earned. Since the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, while most of the world has a lower rate, this amounts to a big tax increase on earnings owned abroad.
Put another way, U.S. companies would suddenly have to pay a higher tax rate than their Chinese, Japanese and European competitors. According to research by Peter Merrill, an international tax expert at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, this change would "raise the cost of capital of U.S. multinationals and cause them to lose market share to foreign rivals." Apparently Mr. Obama believes that by making U.S. companies less profitable and less competitive world-wide, they will somehow be able to create more jobs in America.
He has it backwards: The offshore activities of U.S. companies tend to increase rather than reduce domestic business. A 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research study by economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan found that more foreign investment by U.S. companies leads to greater domestic investment, and that U.S. firms' hiring of more offshore workers is positively, not negatively, associated with the number of American workers they hire. That's in part because often what is produced overseas by subsidiaries are component parts to final, higher-value-added products manufactured here.
Mr. Obama is also proposing to raise tax rates on affluent individuals, as well as on capital gains and dividends. This would also lead to more capital and jobs leaving the U.S. The after-tax return on U.S. investment would fall appreciably if these tax hikes were adopted, and no amount of tax-credit subsidy will keep capital from fleeing to lower tax jurisdictions.
If the U.S. didn't impose the second highest corporate income tax rate in the world, companies would have less incentive to move jobs overseas. Rather than giving politically correct companies a 1% tax credit, it makes more sense to reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate for everyone -- by at least 10 percentage points to the global average.
Economists have long understood that companies don't really pay taxes; they merely collect them. A study by the American Enterprise Institute has shown that U.S. workers bear the cost of the corporate income tax in lower wages and salaries. To borrow Mr. Obama's language, what's really unpatriotic is the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: February 27, 2008, 08:50:08 AM
February 27, 2008; Page A16
Lev Ponomarev is a well-known Russian human-rights activist. So you can guess where this story is going.
On Friday, Mr. Ponomarev, a former aide to Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and a colleague of opposition leader Garry Kasparov, was charged with criminally "slandering" General Yuri Kalinin, who runs Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service. Mr. Ponomarev has been calling attention to the often brutish treatment of prisoners in Russia's roughly 700 penal colonies, some 50 of which have acquired reputations as "torture colonies." He now is required to get government permission to leave Moscow. If convicted, he could face up to three years in a penal colony.
Officially, the charge concerns statements by Mr. Ponomarev about Mr. Kalinin from November 2006. But this looks to be a case of retribution for comments Mr. Ponomarev made during a two-week tour of the U.S. this month, particularly to this newspaper. In a February 12 column "Putin's Torture Colonies," our Bret Stephens quoted extensively from his interview with Mr. Ponomarev; the column also referred readers to a YouTube video showing what appears to be Russian guards violently abusing their prisoners. Mr. Stephens's column was translated and reprinted in the Russian media, while the video has disappeared from YouTube.
Whether there is a link among our reporting, the vanishing video and Mr. Ponomarev's legal jeopardy is a matter of speculation. But it says something about the way Russia is governed today that it is now all too easy to believe that political retribution is afoot. That bodes ill for Mr. Ponomarev, and for the causes of human rights and democracy that he courageously represents.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: February 27, 2008, 08:13:45 AM
Pakistan nuclear staff go missing
Two employees of Pakistan's atomic energy agency have been abducted in the country's restive north-western region abutting the Afghan border, police say.
The technicians went missing on the same day as Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, was reportedly abducted in the same region.
Mr Azizuddin had been going overland from the city of Peshawar to Kabul.
Pakistan's north-west has witnessed fierce fighting between Islamist militants and government troops.
The pro-Taleban guerrillas declared a unilateral ceasefire last week after months of clashes with troops garrisoned there.
The workers from Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission were on a mission to map mineral deposits in the mountains when they were kidnapped, police say.
"The technicians were going for some geological survey in the area when they were kidnapped at gunpoint along with their driver," Romail Akram, a senior police official, told Reuters news agency.
Their vehicle was intercepted by masked gunmen in the Dera Ismail Khan district, a stronghold of local militants.
"We don't know if the abductors were militants or members of some criminal gang," a local police chief, Akbar Nasir, told the AFP news agency.
He said efforts to locate the missing men had yet to yield any results.
Efforts are also continuing to locate the missing Pakistani envoy, Tariq Azizuddin.
Mr Azizuddin went missing on Monday as he was travelling overland from the Pakistani city of Peshawar to the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was certain the envoy had been abducted, adding: "I hope he is safe and I hope he will be released soon."
The Khyber region has long been a base for bandits and smugglers but has seen little of the unrest linked to an uprising by Islamist militants in adjoining areas.
Pro-Taleban militants recently kidnapped more than 200 Pakistani troops in the South Waziristan region.
The soldiers were reportedly released in a prisoner exchange with Pakistani authorities.
Pakistan's government has refused to confirm Mr Azizuddin has been kidnapped, saying only that he was missing.
The Pakistani embassy in Kabul said contact was lost with Mr Azizuddin at around 1045 local time (0645 GMT) on Monday.
There were reports on Pakistani television of his car going through a checkpoint without stopping.
An official of the Khyber agency tribal administration told the BBC that the ambassador went through the Khyber agency without taking a security escort that was waiting for him at the start of the tribal territory.
Correspondents say that such escorts are routinely sent with dignitaries and officials when they travel through tribal areas.
But some travellers dispense with them because they think it makes their movements more noticeable.
Mr Azizuddin is said to have previously travelled to Kabul by road, often without the tribal security escort.
The route through the agency is believed to be the shortest and quickest way between Peshawar and Kabul.
Being the main trade route, the Khyber agency road is busy in daylight hours, supplying reinforcements and to the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. It is also one of the most protected of all the tribal roads, with a contingent of tribal police posted every 100m. The paramilitary Frontier Corps have a fort along the road. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7240414.stm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: February 26, 2008, 11:17:00 PM
Geopolitical Diary: A Military Choice and Challenge for India?
February 27, 2008
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is visiting India. The most public issue between the two countries is the U.S. offer of civilian nuclear technology for India, despite the fact that New Delhi has declined to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. While this is not trivial, the most significant geopolitical dimension of the visit is the rumor that Gates plans to offer India the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, to be delivered when it is retired from the U.S. fleet in 2012. This rumor is persistent and widespread, though the Defense Department has strongly denied it. However, if the reports turn out to be true, such an offer would be an interesting and potentially effective U.S. move.
India: Aircraft Carrier Dynamics
This would place the United States and Russia in competition with each other over India. In 2004, the Russians and Indians signed a deal under which New Delhi would acquire the Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov for $1.5 billion. But in 2007, the Russians surprised the Indians by raising their asking price. After intense negotiations, the Indians agreed to pay approximately $800 million extra. In return, the Russians agreed to improve the modernization package they had offered the Indians to include a new ski jump facility that would allow for the use of the Russian MiG-29. Given the potential aircraft sale, the Russians are ahead on the deal. However, as of Gates visit, the new agreement had not been signed.
If the rumors about a U.S. decision to offer the Kitty Hawk to India are true, the move clearly is designed to block the sale of the Gorshkov. An American and a Russian carrier in one fleet would create substantial problems for the Indians. Operating an aircraft carrier is one of the most complex military and engineering functions in the world. Having two different carriers made by two different countries housing two different sets of equipment separated not only by age but also by fundamentally different engineering cultures would create a hurdle that probably would be beyond anyone’s capability to manage — and certainly beyond India’s. If India wanted both carriers, it would have to sequence the acquisitions and have the second one rest on the lessons learned from the first.
So, Gates could be offering the Indians a choice and a challenge. The choice would be between U.S. carrier technology — which, even when obsolete by American standards, is the result of several generations of battle-tested systems — and a Soviet-era system that challenged the Soviet ship and aircraft designers. On that level, the choice would be easy.
But the potential U.S. offer also poses a challenge. India once was a historic ally of the Soviet Union and hostile toward the United States. After 9/11, U.S. and Indian interests converged. The United States offered India military technology, and the Indians bought a great deal of it. But as good as U.S. military technology is, each purchase increases Indian dependence on the United States for spare parts and support. It has not been easy shifting away from the Soviet weapons culture; years of training and a substantial Indian knowledge base rest on those weapons. If the Indians continue adopting American weapon systems, not only will they have to retrain and restructure their knowledge base, they also will get locked into American systems. And that locks them into dependence on the United States. If the United States were to cut the flow of weapons, parts and support, the Indians could be systematically weakened.
Buying the Gorshkov rather than the Kitty Hawk would give the Indians second-rank technology with fewer potential political strings. Since the Indians are not going to be challenging the American fleet, the Gorshkov might well suit their purposes and keep their non-American options open. This is where the Russian decision to renegotiate the Gorshkov’s price could hurt Moscow. The only reason to buy the Gorshkov instead of the Kitty Hawk is the perception of Russian reliability. But the Russians badly damaged this perception by renegotiating.
The Russians assumed that the Indians had no choice but to rework the deal. But the purpose of Gates’ visit could be to let India know that it does have a choice and that the Kitty Hawk is the safer option. If so, he will tell New Delhi that the Russians can’t be trusted. They have shown India how they will behave if they think it has no options. The United States isn’t going to be less trustworthy than that. And India doesn’t have to go with Russian carrier technology and aircraft; it can have U.S. carrier technology, an upgrade of the Kitty Hawk and F/A-18 battle-tested aircraft, trainers and advisers, rather than MiG-29s.
If Gates does make this case, the issue then will be whether the United States will permit some or all of the F/A-18s to be produced in India — something the Russians have permitted with other aircraft purchases. We suspect something could be worked out and U.S.-Indian relations will continue to develop if the Indian fear of being completely dependent on the United States can be overcome.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whoops! "The Acceptable face of modern Islam"?
on: February 26, 2008, 01:43:47 PM
'Osama bin London' groomed 21/7 bombers
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:40pm GMT 26/02/2008
The missed opportunities in relation to the July 21 bombers can be disclosed today following the conviction of one of the most senior terrorist recruiters in Britain - a man who called himself "Osama bin London".
Street preacher Mohammed Hamid - who once told young Muslims the 52 deaths in the July 7 attacks on London were "not even breakfast to me" - groomed the would-be suicide bombers under the noses of watching police, security services and even the BBC.
Hamid, 50, who is believed to have met senior al-Qa'eda figures in Afghanistan, organised a series of training camps in the New Forest, the Lake District, and Scotland and paintballing sessions in Berkshire and Kent to train his followers.
He also held regular Friday prayer meetings at his home in Clapton, East London, where he would urge Muslims to attack non-believers.
All four of the failed suicide bombers of July 21 attended his meetings and Hamid ran an Islamic bookstall on Oxford Street with Muktar Ibrahim, the leader of the July 21 gang.
He was spoken to by police on three other occasions before July 2005 at his Oxford Street stall and on eight separate occasions afterwards - but was not arrested until September 2006, more than a year after the July attacks, after an undercover policeman infiltrated his group.
The 50-year-old was found guilty of organising terrorist training camps and encouraging Muslims to murder non-believers at the end of a four-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
Police first observed the July 21 bombers being put through their paces in the Lake District at one of Hamid's camps on May 2, 2004 - more than a year before they launched their failed attacks on London's transport system.
Following a tip off, a Cumbrian officer out fell running came across a group of 20 Asian men training in Great Langdale as Hamid barked orders.
Special Branch was called in to photograph the group and close-up surveillance pictures showed all four of the men who went on to attack London on July 21 the following year.
Hamid's home in Hackney, East London was subsequently put under surveillance and four weeks later, on May 29, he was seen collecting another group together to return to Great Langdale.
Once again the fell-running officer located them in the Lake District and this time the surveillance was left to Cumbrian police who saw the group "holding branches or sticks as though they were carrying rifles".
The case was handed over to MI5 but their agents brought the wrong camera equipment when they turned up in August 2004 because they were not expecting the group to be there again. They shot just 11 minutes of footage across three days, however the film once again included Muktar Ibrahim.
One former Royal Marine Commando watched the group as they performed press-ups, sit-ups, an anti-ambush drill and "leopard crawling," moving low and flat along the ground.
But the three-man surveillance team seemed to take a relaxed approach to the operation, at one point signing off on the camera: "And what a lovely view it is."
Also there were Hamid's co-accused Kibley da Costa, 24, Mohammed Al-Figari, 42, and Kader Ahmed, 20. They have been found guilty of attending terror camps in the New Forest and at a Berkshire paintballing centre.
Hamid was also joined in his teachings by Atilla Ahmet, 43, the self-styled emir of the gang, who admitted three charges of soliciting murder at the start of the trial.
Ahmet was Abu Hamza's right-hand man at Finsbury Park Mosque and took control of his notorious Supporters of Shariah group after his arrest in 2004.
During Hamid's trial, the court heard how he and Muktar Ibrahim set up a stall selling Islamic literature outside Debenhams department store in Oxford Street and how, in October 2004, both men were arrested following a disturbance at the stall.
Police called to reports of three men blocking the pavement with a trestle table stacked with religious books found they refused to move and started to abuse the black and Asian officers when they were threatened with arrest.
The officers had to call for assistance and as Hamid was handcuffed and dragged to the police van he told the officers: "I've got a bomb and I'm going to blow you all up."
At the police station Hamid gave his name as Osama bin London and was only identified after a fingerprint check which showed up his extensive criminal record for theft and burglary. Ibrahim ran from police and was only stopped when a member of the public tripped him up. However, he failed to turn up at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court because he had travelled to Pakistan where it is thought he learned how to make the bombs for July 21.
Perhaps the ultimate irony came courtesy of a BBC documentary called "Don't Panic I'm Islamic" broadcast in June 2005. Hamid was recruited from his stall on Oxford Street to represent the acceptable face of modern Islam.
He was filmed, along with co-accused Mohammed al-Figari and 14 other men at a paintball centre in Tonbridge, Kent where they were seen ducking behind oil barrels and shooting at cut out figures before lining up to pray at the end of the day.
The documentary was shot in February 2005 at the Delta Force centre because it was convenient for the TV crew but Hamid's group returned four days before the July 7 attacks, this time bringing with them Ramzi Mohammed and Hussain Osman, who went on to launch failed attacks on July 21.
The producer returned to talk to Hamid as the July 21 gang were on the run and said he admitted knowing them and was "agitated, concerned, and worried", but the producer claimed her bosses took the decision not to notify the police.
Hamid exchanged 155 calls and text messages with the four July 21 bombers, including one message sent to Hussain Osman on the evening of July 7, in which he used the alias Al-Quran and wrote: "Assalam bro, we fear no-one except ALLAH, we will not change our ways, we are proud to be a Muslim an we will not hide. 8pm Friday at my place, be there food and talk, AL-QURAN."
He also sent Mohammed and Osman a text on the night of July 21 and attempted to ring both of them the following day.
Co-accused Kader Ahmed and Kibley da Costa also made attempts to contact the men in the two days after the attacks.
Hamid, assisted by Ahmet, was said to be a "recruiter, groomer and corrupter of young Muslims."
Both men talked of shedding blood to implement sharia [Islamic law] and suggested Parliament as a target, with Ahmet saying: "The House of Parliament, the big people, the MPs, the police, the army, the city slickers are all halal [permitted]."
MI5 put a recording device in Hamid's home in September 2005 and in April 2006 an undercover officer managed to join the group after approaching Hamid at his stall in Oxford Street.
The officer, codenamed Dawood, joined Hamid at his home for his Friday meetings and went with the group on camping weekends in the New Forest and an Islamic school in Sussex.
At a meeting at his house on June 16 2006, he told his followers they were "Soldiers of Allah" who were "fighting for sharia".
"The whole aspect is for you to get shahada [martyred] for you to be shaheed [martyr]," he added.
Hamid and Kibley da Costa, 24, of West Norwood, south east London, were also found guilty of providing training for terrorism. Mohammed al-Figari, 42, of Tottenham, north London, and Kader Ahmed, 20, of Plaistow, east London, were found guilty of receiving terrorist training.
Two further members of the gang, Mohammed Kyriacou, 19, and Yassin Mutegombwa, 23, admitted attending terrorist training camps, it can be reported today after restrictions were lifted.
Property manager Mousa Brown, 41, was cleared of providing and receiving weapons training and has been freed from custody.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...526.xml&page=1
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: February 26, 2008, 01:10:01 PM
I have heard of the situation in South Africa and look forward to the perspective you will contribute to our conversations.
By the way, the second half of your story is an example of "knives for good", not "crimes"
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3 out of 4 mosques say , , ,
on: February 26, 2008, 12:30:29 PM
WND is not always the most reliable of sites. That said, this does raise concerns:
3 in 4 US Mosque preach anti Western extremism
The WorldNetDaily story below is a MUST-READ, for two reasons. First, the study reported in the story confirms what a Freedom House study of a few years ago found – that a high percentage of mosques in the United States are promoting hatred, violence, jihad, and the goal of sharia law to replace American constitutional law.
Second, that there is no, we repeat, no systematic U.S. government effort to investigate these mosques. Stunning!
Please forward this email to as many people as possible.
Study: 3 in 4 U.S. mosques preach anti-West extremism
Secret survey exposes widespread radicalism
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
An undercover survey of more than 100 mosques and Islamic schools in America has exposed widespread radicalism, including the alarming finding that 3 in 4 Islamic centers are hotbeds of anti-Western extremism, WND has learned [emphasis added].
The Mapping Sharia in America Project, sponsored by the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, has trained former counterintelligence and counterterrorism agents from the FBI, CIA and U.S. military, who are skilled in Arabic and Urdu, to conduct undercover reconnaissance at some 2,300 mosques and Islamic centers and schools across the country.
"So far of 100 mapped, 75 should be on a watchlist," an official familiar with the project said [emphasis added].
Many of the Islamic centers are operating under the auspices of the Saudi Arabian government and U.S. front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood based in Egypt.
Frank Gaffney, a former Pentagon official who runs the Center for Security Policy, says the results of the survey have not yet been published. But he confirmed that "the vast majority" are inciting insurrection and jihad through sermons by Saudi-trained imams and anti-Western literature, videos and textbooks.
The project, headed by David Yerushalmi, a lawyer and expert on sharia law, has finished collecting data from the first cohort of 102 mosques and schools. Preliminary findings indicate that almost 80 percent of the group exhibit a high level of sharia-compliance and jihadi threat, including:
Ultra-orthodox worship in which women are separated from men in the prayer hall and must enter the mosque from a separate, usually back, entrance; and are required to wear hijabs.
Sermons that preach women are inferior to men and can be beaten for disobedience; that non-Muslims, particularly Jews, are infidels and inferior to Muslims; that jihad or support of jihad is not only a Muslim's duty but the noblest way, and suicide bombers and other so-called "martyrs" are worthy of the highest praise; and that an Islamic caliphate should one day encompass the U.S. [emphasis added].
Solicitation of financial support for jihad [emphasis added].
Bookstores that sell books, CDs and DVDs promoting jihad and glorifying martyrdom.
Though not all mosques in America are radicalized, many have tended to serve as safe havens and meeting points for Islamic terrorist groups. Experts say there are at least 40 episodes of extremists and terrorists being connected to mosques in the past decade alone.
Some of the 9/11 hijackers, in fact, received aid and counsel from one of the largest mosques in the Washington, D.C., area. Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center is one of the mosques identified by undercover investigators as a hive of terrorist activity and other extremism.
It was founded and is currently run by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Imams there preach what is called "jihad qital," which means physical jihad, and incite violence and hatred against the U.S.
Dar al-Hijrah's ultimate goal, investigators say, is to turn the U.S. into an Islamic state governed by sharia law [emphasis added].
Another D.C.-area mosque, the ADAMS Center, was founded and financed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has been one of the top distributors of Wahhabist anti-Semitic and anti-Christian dogma.
Even with such radical mosques operating in its backyard, the U.S. government has not undertaken its own systematic investigation of U.S. mosques [emphasis added].
In contrast, European Union security officials are analyzing member-state mosques, examining the training and funding sources of imams, in a large-scale project.
Some U.S. lawmakers want the U.S. to conduct its own investigation.
"We have too many mosques in this country," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. "There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully."
ACT for America
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Virginia Beach, VA 23456 www.actforamerica.org
ACT for America is an issues advocacy organization dedicated to effectively organizing and mobilizing the most powerful grassroots citizen action network in America, a grassroots network committed to informed and coordinated civic action that will lead to public policies that promote America’s national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of radical Islam. We are only as strong as our supporters, and your volunteer and financial support is essential to our success. Thank you for helping us make America safer and more secure.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 26, 2008, 12:17:21 PM
Obama and the Power of Words
By STEPHEN F. HAYES
February 26, 2008; Page A19
These are words that move and uplift, that give hope to the hopeless. These words inspired millions of voters nationwide to join the grand experiment called democracy, casting votes for their candidate, their country, their destiny:
"More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values . . . For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"
So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.
Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"
Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."
Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a-simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.
One Reagan adviser had predicted such a win shortly after Reagan had become the de facto nominee the previous spring. In a memo about the coming general election contest with Jimmy Carter, Richard Whalen wrote Reagan's "secret weapon" was that "Democrats fail to take him very seriously."
Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?
For months now, Hillary Clinton has suggested that Mr. Obama is all rhetoric, no substance. This claim, or some version of it, has been at the center of her campaign since November. One day after losing to him in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- her ninth and tenth consecutive defeats -- she rather incredibly went back to it again. "It's time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions," she said -- a formulation that could be mistaken for a sound bite.
As she complained about his lack of substance, tens of thousands of people lined up in city after city, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, for a chance to get a shot of some Mr. Obama hopemongering. Plainly, her critique is not working.
And yet, Republicans are picking it up. In just the past week, conservative commentators have accused Mr. Obama of speaking in "Sesame Street platitudes," of giving speeches that are "almost content free," of "saying nothing." He has been likened to Chance the Gardner, the clueless mope in Jerzy Koscinski's "Being There," whose banal utterances are taken as brilliant by a gullible political class. Others complain that his campaign is "messianic," too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential.
John McCain has joined the fray. In a speech after he won primaries in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, Mr. McCain said: "To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude." After Wisconsin, he sharpened the attack, warning that he would expose Mr. Obama's "eloquent but empty call for change."
The assumption behind much of this criticism is that because Mr. Obama gives a good speech he cannot do substance. This is wrong. Mr. Obama has done well in most of the Democratic debates because he has consistently shown himself able to think on his feet. Even on health care, a complicated national issue that should be Mrs. Clinton's strength, Mr. Obama has regularly fought her to a draw by displaying a grasp of the details that rivals hers, and talking about it in ways Americans can understand.
In Iowa, long before the race became the national campaign it is today, Mr. Obama spent much of his time at town halls in which he took questions from the audience. His answers in such settings were often as good or better than the rhetoric in his stump speech, and usually more substantive. He spoke about issues like immigration and national service in a thoughtful manner -- not wonky, not pedantic, but in a way that suggested he'd spent some time thinking about them before.
More important for the race ahead, Mr. Obama has the unique ability to offer doctrinaire liberal positions in a way that avoids the stridency of many recent Democratic candidates. That he managed to do this in the days before the Iowa caucuses -- at a time when he might have been expected to be at his most liberal -- was quite striking.
His rhetorical gimmick is simple. When he addresses a contentious issue, Mr. Obama almost always begins his answer with a respectful nod in the direction of the view he is rejecting -- a line or two that suggests he understands or perhaps even sympathizes with the concerns of a conservative.
At Cornell College on Dec. 5, for example, a student asked Mr. Obama how his administration would view the Second Amendment. He replied: "There's a Supreme Court case that's going to be decided fairly soon about what the Second Amendment means. I taught Constitutional Law for 10 years, so I've got my opinion. And my opinion is that the Second Amendment is probably -- it is an individual right and not just a right of the militia. That's what I expect the Supreme Court to rule. I think that's a fair reading of the text of the Constitution. And so I respect the right of lawful gun owners to hunt, fish, protect their families."
Then came the pivot:
"Like all rights, though, they are constrained and bound by the needs of the community . . . So when I look at Chicago and 34 Chicago public school students gunned down in a single school year, then I don't think the Second Amendment prohibits us from taking action and making sure that, for example, ATF can share tracing information about illegal handguns that are used on the streets and track them to the gun dealers to find out -- what are you doing?"
"There is a tradition of gun ownership in this country that can be respected that is not mutually exclusive with making sure that we are shutting down gun traffic that is killing kids on our streets. The argument I have with the NRA is not whether people have the right to bear arms. The problem is they believe any constraint or regulation whatsoever is something that they have to beat back. And I don't think that's how most lawful firearms owners think."
In the end, Mr. Obama is simply campaigning for office in the same way he says he would operate if he were elected. "We're not looking for a chief operating officer when we select a president," he said during a question and answer session at Google headquarters back in December.
"What we're looking for is somebody who will chart a course and say: Here is where America needs to go -- here is how to solve our energy crisis, here's how we need to revamp our education system -- and then gather the talent together and then mobilize that talent to achieve that goal. And to inspire a sense of hope and possibility."
Like Ronald Reagan did.
Mr. Hayes, a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, is the author of "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President," (HarperCollins, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 26, 2008, 12:13:41 PM
Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and the Good War
February 25, 2008
By George Friedman
There has been tremendous controversy over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which consistently has been contrasted with Afghanistan. Many of those who opposed the Iraq war have supported the war in Afghanistan; indeed, they have argued that among the problems with Iraq is that it diverts resources from Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been seen as an obvious haven for terrorism. This has meant the war in Afghanistan often has been perceived as having a direct effect on al Qaeda and on the ability of radical Islamists to threaten the United States, while Iraq has been seen as unrelated to the main war. Supporters of the war in Iraq support the war in Afghanistan. Opponents of the war in Iraq also support Afghanistan. If there is a good war in our time, Afghanistan is it.
It is also a war that is in trouble. In the eyes of many, one of the Afghan war’s virtues has been that NATO has participated as an entity. But NATO has come under heavy criticism from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for its performance. Some, like the Canadians, are threatening to withdraw their troops if other alliance members do not contribute more heavily to the mission. More important, the Taliban have been fighting an effective and intensive insurgency. Further complicating the situation, the roots of many of the military and political issues in Afghanistan are found across the border in Pakistan.
If the endgame in Iraq is murky, the endgame if Afghanistan is invisible. The United States, its allies and the Kabul government are fighting a holding action strategically. They do not have the force to destroy the Taliban — and in counterinsurgency, the longer the insurgents maintain their operational capability, the more likely they are to win. Further stiffening the Taliban resolve is the fact that, while insurgents have nowhere to go, foreigners can always decide to go home.
To understand the status of the war in Afghanistan, we must begin with what happened between 9/11 and early 2002. Al Qaeda had its primary command and training facilities in Afghanistan. The Taliban had come to power in a civil war among Afghans that broke out after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban had close links to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While there was an ideological affinity between the two, there was also a geopolitical attraction. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan concerned Pakistan gravely. India and the Soviets were aligned, and the Pakistanis feared being caught in a vise. The Pakistanis thus were eager to cooperate with the Americans and Saudis in supporting Islamist fighters against the Soviets. After the Soviets left and the United States lost interest in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis wanted to fill the vacuum. Their support of the Taliban served Pakistani national security interests and the religious proclivities of a large segment of the ISI.
After 9/11, the United States saw Afghanistan as its main problem. Al Qaeda, which was not Afghan but an international Islamist group, had received sanctuary from the Taliban. If the United States was to have any chance of defeating al Qaeda, it would be in Afghanistan. A means toward that end was destroying the Taliban government. This was not because the Taliban itself represented a direct threat to the United States but because al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan did.
The United States wanted to act quickly and decisively in order to disrupt al Qaeda. A direct invasion of Afghanistan was therefore not an option. First, it would take many months to deploy U.S. forces. Second, there was no practical place to deploy them. The Iranians wouldn’t accept U.S. forces on their soil and the Pakistanis were far from eager to see the Taliban toppled. Basing troops in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan along the northern border of Afghanistan was an option but also a logistical nightmare. It would be well into the spring of 2002 before any invasion was possible, and the fear of al Qaeda’s actions in the meantime was intense.
The United States therefore decided not to invade Afghanistan. Instead, it made deals with groups that opposed the Taliban. In the North, Washington allied with the Northern Alliance, a group with close ties to the Russians. In the West, the United States allied with Persian groups under the influence of Iran. The United States made political arrangements with Moscow and Tehran to allow access to their Afghan allies. The Russians and Iranians both disliked the Taliban and were quite content to help. The mobilized Afghan groups also opposed the Taliban and loved the large sums of money U.S. intelligence operatives provided them.
These groups provided the force for the mission. The primary U.S. presence consisted of several hundred troops from U.S. Special Operations Command, along with CIA personnel. The United States also brought a great deal of air power, both Navy and Air Force, into the battle. The small U.S. ground force was to serve as a political liaison with the Afghan groups attacking the Taliban, to provide access to what weapons were available for the Afghan forces and, above all, to coordinate air support for the Afghans against concentrations of Taliban fighters. Airstrikes began a month after 9/11.
While Washington turned out an extraordinary political and covert performance, the United States did not invade. Rather, it acquired armies in Afghanistan prepared to carry out the mission and provided them with support and air power. The operation did not defeat the Taliban. Instead, it forced them to make a political and military decision.
Political power in Afghanistan does not come from the cities. It comes from the countryside, while the cities are the prize. The Taliban could defend the cities only by massing forces to block attacks by other Afghan factions. But when they massed their forces, the Taliban were vulnerable to air attacks. After experiencing the consequences of U.S. air power, the Taliban made a strategic decision. In the absence of U.S. airstrikes, they could defeat their adversaries and had done so before. While they might have made a fight of it, given U.S. air power, the Taliban selected a different long-term strategy.
Rather than attempt to defend the cities, the Taliban withdrew, dispersed and made plans to regroup. Their goal was to hold enough of the countryside to maintain their political influence. As in their campaign against the Soviets, the Taliban understood that their Afghan enemies would not pursue them, and that over time, their ability to conduct small-scale operations would negate the value of U.S. airpower and draw the Americans into a difficult fight on unfavorable terms.
The United States was not particularly disturbed by the outcome. It was not after the Taliban but al Qaeda. It appears — and much of this remains murky — that the command cell of al Qaeda escaped from Afghan forces and U.S. Special Operations personnel at Tora Bora and slipped across the border into Pakistan. Exactly what happened is unclear, but it is clear that al Qaeda’s command cell was not destroyed. The fight against al Qaeda produced a partial victory. Al Qaeda clearly was disrupted and relocated — and was denied its sanctuary. A number of its operatives were captured, further degrading its operational capability.
The Afghan campaign therefore had these outcomes:
Al Qaeda was degraded but not eliminated.
The Taliban remained an intact fighting force, but the United States never really expected them to commit suicide by massing for U.S. B-52 strikes.
The United States had never invaded Afghanistan and had made no plans to occupy it.
Afghanistan was never the issue, and the Taliban were a subordinate matter.
After much of al Qaeda’s base lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan and had to relocate to Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan became a sideshow for the U.S. military.
Over time, the United States and NATO brought about 50,000 troops to Afghanistan. Their hope was that Hamid Karzai’s government would build a force that could defeat the Taliban. But the problem was that, absent U.S. and NATO forces, the Taliban had managed to defeat the forces now arrayed against them once before, in the Afghan civil war. The U.S. commitment of troops was enough to hold the major cities and conduct offensive operations that kept the Taliban off balance, but the United States could not possibly defeat them. The Soviets had deployed 300,000 troops in Afghanistan and could not defeat the mujahideen. NATO, with 50,000 troops and facing the same shifting alliance of factions and tribes that the Soviets couldn’t pull together, could not pacify Afghanistan.
But vanquishing the Taliban simply was not the goal. The goal was to maintain a presence that could conduct covert operations in Pakistan looking for al Qaeda and keep al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan. Part of this goal could be achieved by keeping a pro-American government in Kabul under Karzai. The strategy was to keep al Qaeda off balance, preserve Karzai and launch operations against the Taliban designed to prevent them from becoming too effective and aggressive. The entire U.S. military would have been insufficient to defeat the Taliban; the war in Afghanistan thus was simply a holding action.
The holding action was made all the more difficult in that the Taliban could not be isolated from their sources of supply or sanctuary; Pakistan provided both. It really didn’t matter whether this was because President Pervez Musharraf’s government intended to play both sides, whether factions inside the Pakistani military maintained close affinities with the Taliban or whether the Pakistani government and army simply couldn’t control tribal elements loyal to al Qaeda. What did matter was that all along the Afghan border — particularly in southern Afghanistan — supplies flowed in from Pakistan, and the Taliban moved into sanctuaries in Pakistan for rest and regrouping.
The Taliban was and is operating on their own terrain. They have excellent intelligence about the movements of NATO forces and a flexible and sufficient supply line allowing them to maintain and increase operations and control of the countryside. Having retreated in 2001, the Taliban systematically regrouped, rearmed and began operating as a traditional guerrilla force with an increased penchant for suicide attacks.
As in Vietnam, the challenge in fighting a guerrilla force is to cut it off from its supplies. The United States failed to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and that allowed men and materiel to move into South Vietnam until the United States lost the appetite for war. In Afghanistan, it is the same problem compounded. First, the lines of supply into Pakistan are even more complex than the Ho Chi Minh trail was. Second, the country that provides the supplies is formally allied with the United States. Pakistan is committed both to cutting those lines of supply and aiding the United States in capturing al Qaeda in its Northwest. That is the primary mission, but the subsidiary mission remains keeping the Taliban within tolerable levels of activity and preventing them from posing a threat to more and more of the Afghan countryside and cities. There has been a great deal of focus on Pakistan’s assistance in northwestern Afghanistan against al Qaeda, but much less on the line of supply maintaining the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. And as Pakistan has attempted to pursue a policy of balancing its relations with the Taliban and with the United States, the Pakistani government now faces a major jihadist insurgency on its own turf.
Afghanistan therefore is not — and in some ways never has been — the center of gravity of the challenge facing the United States. Occupying Afghanistan is inconceivable without a fundamental shift in Pakistan’s policies or capabilities. But forcing Pakistan to change its policies in southern Afghanistan really is pointless, since the United States doesn’t have enough forces there to take advantage of a Pakistani shift, and Washington doesn’t care about the Taliban in the long run.
The real issue is the hardest to determine. Is al Qaeda prime — not al Qaeda enthusiasts or sympathizers who are able to carry out local suicide bombings, but the capable covert operatives we saw on 9/11 — still operational? And even if it is degraded, given enough time, will al Qaeda be able to regroup and ramp up its operational capability? If so, then the United States must maintain its posture in Afghanistan, as limited and unbalanced as it is. The United States might even need to consider extending the war to Pakistan in an attempt to seal the border if the Taliban continue to strengthen. But if al Qaeda is not operational, then the rationale for guarding Kabul and Karzai becomes questionable.
We have no way of determining whether al Qaeda remains operational; we are not sure anyone can assess that with certainty. Certainly, we have not seen significant operations for a long time, and U.S. covert capabilities should have been able to weaken al Qaeda over the past seven years. But if al Qaeda remains active, capable and in northwestern Pakistan, then the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will continue.
As the situation in Iraq settles down — and it appears to be doing so — more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.
Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Joseph Story: Federalism
on: February 26, 2008, 11:55:07 AM
"The true test is, whether the object be of a local character, and
local use; or, whether it be of general benefit to the states. If
it be purely local, congress cannot constitutionally appropriate
money for the object. But, if the benefit be general, it matters
not, whether in point of locality it be in one state, or several;
whether it be of large, or of small extent."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 453.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts
on: February 26, 2008, 11:53:21 AM
Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts
By Robert Piggott
Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News
Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.
The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.
The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.
As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.
This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation. Not exactly the same, but... it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion
Turkey expert, Chatham House
But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.
It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.
Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.
Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.
Some messages ban women from travelling without their husband's permission... But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone
Prof Mehmet Gormez,
Department of Religious Affairs
Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.
The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology.
An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.
"Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says.
"You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition."
The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.
Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.
Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.
But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.
Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.
"There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine.
"But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons."
The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.
Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone".
So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.
Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.
There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment... This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them
Hulya Koc, a "vaize"
As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes".
They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior.
One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran - one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.
She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.
"There are honour killings," she explains.
"We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.
"There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them."
According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.
He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.
"This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation," he says.
"Not exactly the same, but if you think, it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. "
Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.
Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam."
Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.
They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.
"You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura.
"You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.
"I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7264903.stm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is that your final question?
on: February 26, 2008, 11:37:13 AM
Is That Your Final Question?
Published: February 26, 2008
Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will debate in Ohio. It will be the 20th debate, and possibly the last, of the Democratic presidential campaign. Is there anything left to ask? The Opinion section asked five experts to pose the questions that they feel have not been answered over the course of more than a year of campaigning. Here’s what they would ask the candidates if they were moderating tonight’s debate.
1. Responding to a questionnaire from The Boston Globe on presidential power, you both criticized President Bush’s use of signing statements, with which he has asserted a constitutional right to bypass more than 1,000 sections of bills that he has signed into law. You both also said you would continue using signing statements, though in a less aggressive way.
But the American Bar Association has called for an end to this practice, and Senator John McCain says he will never issue a signing statement. Why are they wrong?
2. Both of you have said the Constitution does not allow a president to detain a citizen without charges as an enemy combatant. But President Bush won court rulings upholding the indefinite detention of two Americans as enemy combatants. Were the courts wrong? Does a president have the authority to interpret the Constitution differently from the judiciary? Would you ever use the court-approved authority to hold a citizen indefinitely as an enemy combatant?
3. Both of you have said that President Bush cannot attack Iran without first obtaining Congressional authorization for the use of military force. But two Democratic presidents, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, ordered American forces into extended armed conflicts without Congressional authorization. Did the Korean and Kosovo wars violate the Constitution? Would an attack on Iran be legally different, and if so, how?
4. Are there any circumstances — including in matters of detention, surveillance, interrogation and troop deployments — under which you believe that presidents have the constitutional power as commander in chief to bypass laws in order to take an action they think is necessary to protect national security?
5. Proponents of the so-called unitary executive theory argue that the Constitution does not allow Congress to enact statutes that place the actions of executive-branch officials beyond the president’s control, such as by giving independent decision-making authority to the head of a regulatory agency. Do you agree?
— CHARLIE SAVAGE, a reporter for The Boston Globe and the author of “Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.”
1. Social Security will go into a cash deficit during the next president’s prospective second term. Therefore, if elected, you will: a) do nothing and leave growing deficits to your successor; b) cut benefits, eligibility or both, as President Bush tried; c) raise the payroll tax; or d) there is no d. Those are the only options.
2. Domestic gun owners kill more Americans each year than terrorists have in total since 2000 (even if you define all American fatalities in Iraq as related to terrorism). Can the homeland be secure when our schools are not? If your answer is no, will you take on the National Rifle Association and work for a gun law with teeth?
3. Senator Obama, virtually all economists say trade is good for growth, but you have blamed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement for the loss of American jobs. Do you really think building an economic wall along the Rio Grande will promote a stronger, more resilient American economy, and if so why?
4. Senator Clinton, will you take on your Wall Street friends and raise the effective income tax on private-equity fund managers and hedge fund managers, who are now taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent? Please explain why the richest Americans should pay the lowest taxes.
5. Senator Obama, you rail against the oil companies, but under the American system of free enterprise, aren’t companies supposed to earn a profit — and even to charge what the market will bear?
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a president you both have evoked, said Americans need fear only fear itself. Under President Bush, Americans have been told to so fear terrorism that the executive branch has been permitted to snoop on citizens, hijack the powers of Congress and torture foreigners. Do you agree that fear of terrorism has been pushed too far, and if so, what measures would you adopt to return the United States to a more normal civilian life?
— ROGER LOWENSTEIN, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the author of the forthcoming “While America Aged.”
1. Both of you have argued for more widespread access to the Internet in schools. Given the recent “To Read or Not to Read” report from the National Endowment for the Arts, which revealed a steep decline in reading among young people, and the lack of evidence that computers in the classroom help students learn, wouldn’t federal funds be better spent on projects that encourage reading and engagement with the arts?
2. The Internet is often praised as a liberating force in American culture, but it has also drawn comparisons to an unruly mob. Would you support a federally financed, long-term study of how our use of this technology is changing our behavior, for good and for ill?
3. You have both admitted to being BlackBerry addicts. How has this desire for constant connection and endless information changed your personal relationships and how has it transformed political culture?
— CHRISTINE ROSEN, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society.
The long advocacy for universal health-care coverage by Democrats has earned a base of public support, but it has also provided an easy focus for political attacks. Although universal coverage will protect businesses and families from unmanageable costs, it will also increase government spending considerably and increase government involvement in health care.
The strategy you have adopted as candidates is the same one that Democrats have used for decades without success (including in 1993, when I was a health policy adviser in the first Clinton administration). You have both designed plans that aim to minimize government costs and to minimize changes for Americans with good health coverage, while still constructing a safety net of coverage for the growing millions without insurance.
This approach, however, inevitably increases the complexity of our Rube Goldberg health system. It has made your policies difficult to explain. It has failed to prevent charges that you are promoting “socialized medicine.” And it has cost you the enthusiasm of Americans who want a simpler, tax-based, Medicare-for-all system.
How do you persuade supporters of single-payer health care that your proposals are worth fighting for? And how can you assure the rest of us that the costs and complexities of your plans are actually manageable?
— ATUL GAWANDE, a general surgeon, a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.”
1. Senator Obama, as commander in chief an American president must understand the sense of honor that motivates his armed forces. Last September, MoveOn.org ran an advertisement in The Times that mocked Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, as “General Betray Us.” You chose not to vote on the Senate resolution that condemned the advertisement. Would you still characterize the Senate vote as a “stunt” and “empty politics”?
2. Samantha Power, one of Senator Obama’s chief foreign policy advisers, strongly criticized the United States in her book “A Problem From Hell” for failing to intervene in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and for the three-year delay in intervening in the Bosnian war, until the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Saddam Hussein also committed genocide by killing thousands of Iraqi Kurds with chemical weapons in the late 1980s and massacring thousands of Shiite marsh dwellers in southern Iraq after the first gulf war. How could we have left Mr. Hussein in power? How can Senator Obama say that removing a genocidal killer was a “dumb” war?
3. Senator Clinton, you have stated that American troop withdrawals from Iraq will begin as soon as you take office as president. But you also note on your campaign Web site that you will order “narrow and targeted operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.”
Isn’t that what the surge is about? The United States and local leaders have allied to drive out members of Al Qaeda from Baghdad and other areas. How is your policy any different from the policy of President Bush?
4. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution bars any former president from election to a third term. Is it truly consistent with the spirit of the Constitution to have the same professional couple occupying the White House for 12 years? Isn’t this all the more true when Bill Clinton promised that voters would receive, during his first term, “two for the price of one”?
— RUTH WEDGWOOD, a professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins, was an adviser to the Rudolph Giuliani campaign.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain
on: February 26, 2008, 11:20:39 AM
Well, its the NY Times, so McCain Feingold gets kid glove treatment, but FWIW:
The Real McCain
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: February 26, 2008
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but political consultants are as faddish as anyone else. And the current vogueish advice among the backroom set is: Go after your opponent’s strengths. So in the first volley of what feels like the general election campaign, Barack Obama has attacked John McCain for being too close to lobbyists. His assault is part of this week’s Democratic chorus: McCain isn’t really the anti-special interest reformer he pretends to be. He’s more tainted than his reputation suggests.
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Go to Columnist Page » Well, anything is worth trying, I suppose, but there is the little problem of his record. McCain has fought one battle after another against lobbyists and special interests. And while I don’t have space to describe all his tussles, or even the lesser ones like his fight with the agricultural lobby against sugar subsidies, I thought that, amidst all these charges, it might be worth noting some of the McCain highlights from the past dozen years.
In 1996, McCain was one of five senators, and the only Republican, to vote against the Telecommunications Act. He did it because he believed the act gave away too much to the telecommunications companies, and protected them from true competition. He noted that AT&T alone gave $780,000 to Republicans and $456,000 to Democrats in the year leading up to the vote.
In 1998, McCain championed anti-smoking legislation that faced furious opposition from the tobacco lobby. McCain guided the legislation through the Senate Commerce Committee on a 19-1 vote, but then the tobacco companies struck back. They hired 200 lobbyists and spent $40 million in advertising (three times as much as the Harry and Louise health care reform ads). Many of the ads attacked McCain by name, accusing him of becoming a big government liberal. After weeks of bitter debate, the bill died on the Senate floor.
In 2000, McCain ran for president and reiterated his longstanding opposition to ethanol subsidies. Though it crippled his chances in Iowa, he argued that ethanol was a wasteful giveaway. A recent study in the journal Science has shown that when you take all impacts into consideration, ethanol consumption increases greenhouse gas emissions compared with regular gasoline. Unlike, say, Barack Obama, McCain still opposes ethanol subsidies.
In 2002, McCain capped his long push for campaign finance reform by passing the McCain-Feingold Act. People can argue about the effectiveness of the act, but one thing is beyond dispute. It was a direct assault on lobbyist power, and earned McCain undying enmity among many important parts of the Republican coalition, who felt their soft money influence was being diminished.
In 2003, the Senate nearly passed the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The act was opposed by the usual mix of energy, auto and mining companies. But moderate environmental groups were thrilled that McCain-Lieberman was able to attract more than 40 votes in the Senate.
In 2004, McCain launched a frontal assault on the leasing contract the Pentagon had signed with Boeing for aerial refueling tankers. McCain’s investigation exposed billions of dollars of waste and layers of contracting irregularity.
In 2005, McCain led the Congressional investigation into the behavior of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The investigation was exceedingly unpleasant for Republicans, because it exposed shocking misbehavior by important conservative activists.
Over the past few years, McCain has stepped up his longstanding assault on earmarks. Every year, McCain goes to the Senate floor to ridicule the latest batch of earmarks, and every year his colleagues and the lobbyists fume. For years, McCain has proposed legislative remedies — greater transparency, a 60-vote supermajority requirement — that were brutally unpopular with many colleagues until, suddenly, now.
Over the course of his career, McCain has tried to do the impossible. He has challenged the winds of the money gale. He has sometimes failed and fallen short. And there have always been critics who cherry-pick his compromises, ignore his larger efforts and accuse him of being a hypocrite.
This is, of course, the gospel of the mediocre man: to ridicule somebody who tries something difficult on the grounds that the effort was not a total success. But any decent person who looks at the McCain record sees that while he has certainly faltered at times, he has also battled concentrated power more doggedly than any other legislator. If this is the record of a candidate with lobbyists on his campaign bus, then every candidate should have lobbyists on the bus.
And here’s the larger point: We’re going to have two extraordinary nominees for president this year. This could be one of the great general election campaigns in American history. The only thing that could ruin it is if the candidates become demagogues and hurl accusations at each other that are an insult to reality and common sense.
Maybe Obama can start this campaign over.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans
on: February 25, 2008, 11:13:21 PM
Organization of Islamic Conference: ‘Independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the joint Islamic action’
February 20th, 2008 INFORMATION (via an email dated Feb. 18, 2008) :
With regard to the declaration of independence by Kosovo yesterday, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu made the following remark today (18 February 2008) in Dakar at the opening of the OIC Senior Officials Meeting preparatory to the forthcoming OIC Summit to be held there on 13-14 March 2008:
“…a very important event took place yesterday. Kosovo has finally declared its independence after a long and determined struggle by its people. As we rejoice this happy result, we declare our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there. The Islamic Umma wishes them success in their new battle awaiting them which is the building of a strong and prosperous a state capable of satisfying of its people. There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and further enhance the joint Islamic action.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior
on: February 25, 2008, 02:40:51 PM
It's all downhill from here
From The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead by David Shields. © 2008 by David Shields.
Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Your brain starts shrinking at 25. Your handshake starts going soft at 30. At 40, your memory starts to slip. In a new book, author David Shields catalogues the myriad ways that our bodies gradually betray us.
If you could live forever in good health at a particular age, what age would you be? As people get older, their ideal age gets higher. For 18- to 24-year-olds, it's age 27; for 25- to 29-year-olds, it's 31; for 40- to 49-year-olds, it's 40; and for people over 64, it's 59.
Your strength and coordination peak at 19. Your body is the most flexible until age 20; after that, joint function steadily declines. World-class sprinters are almost always in their late teens or early 20s. Your stamina peaks in your late 20s or early 30s; marathon records are invariably held by 25- to 35-year-olds.
Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine, said, "The effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of 25 and 40." Which is in fact true: Creativity peaks in the 30s, then declines rapidly; most creative achievements occur when people are in their 30s. Degas said, "Everyone has talent at 25; the difficulty is to have it at 50." The consolation of the library: When you're 45, your vocabulary is three times as large as it is at 20. When you're 60, your brain possesses four times the information than it does at 20.
Your IQ is highest between ages 18 and 25. Once your brain peaks in size—at age 25—it starts shrinking, losing weight, and filling with fluid. As you age, your responses to stimuli of all kinds become slower and more inaccurate, especially in more complex tasks. From ages 20 to 60, your reaction time to noise slows 20 percent. At 60, you make more errors in verbal learning tasks. Given a list of 24 words, an average 20-year-old remembers 14 of the words, a 40-year-old remembers 11, a 60-year-old remembers nine, and a 70-year-old remembers seven.
Most people reach skeletal maturity by their early 20s. At 30, you reach peak bone mass. Your bones are as dense and strong as they'll ever be. In your late 30s, you start losing more bone than you make. At first you lose bone slowly, 1 percent a year. The older you get, the more you lose.
Beginning in your early 20s, your ability to detect salty or bitter things decreases, as does your ability to identify odors. The amount of ptyalin, an enzyme used to digest starches, in your saliva decreases after age 20. After age 30, your digestive tract displays a decrease in the amount of digestive juices. At 20, in other words, your fluids are fleeing, and by 30, you're drying up.
Lauren Bacall said, "When a woman reaches 26 in America, she's on the slide. It's downhill all the way from then on. It doesn't give you a tremendous feeling of confidence and well-being."
Until you're 30, your grip strength increases; after 40, it declines precipitously. After age 65, your lower arm and back muscle strength declines. Owing to reduced coordination rather than loss of strength, your power output—e.g., your ability to turn a crank over a period of time—falls after age 50.
By age 35, nearly everyone shows some of the signs of aging, such as graying hair, wrinkles, less strength, less speed, stiffening in the walls of the central arteries, degeneration of the heart's blood vessels, diminished blood supply to the brain, elevated blood pressure. The maximum rate your heart can attain is your age subtracted from 220; therefore it falls by one beat every year. Your heart is continually becoming a less-efficient pumping machine.
Emerson said, "After 30, a man wakes up sad every morning, excepting perhaps five or six, until the day of his death."
In My Dinner With André, Wallace Shawn says, "I grew up on the Upper East Side, and when I was 10 years old I was rich, an aristocrat, riding around in taxis, surrounded by comfort, and all I thought about was art and music. Now I'm 36, and all I think about is money."
Mozart died at 35; Byron, at 36; Raphael and van Gogh, at 37. The oldest age at which anyone broke a track-and-field record was 41, in 1909.
Beginning at 40, your white blood cells, which fight cancer and infectious diseases, have a lowered capacity. Each year, more fat gets deposited in the walls of medium and larger arteries, causing the arterial walls to narrow. The weight of your small intestine decreases; the volume and weight of your kidneys shrink. Total blood flow to the kidneys decreases by 10 percent for every decade after the age of 40. Every organ will eventually get less nourishment than it needs to do its job.
Cicero said, "Old age begins at 46." He died at 53.
Victor Hugo said, "Forty is the old age of youth. Fifty is the youth of old age."
Every decade after age 50, your brain loses 2 percent of its weight. You have difficulty learning things and you remember less and less. Memory per se—the actual encoding of information—isn't diminished in a healthy, older person, but retrieval can be an excruciatingly slow process and take many more attempts. Older people are more susceptible to distraction, have trouble coordinating multiple tasks, and have decreased attention spans. In simple tasks and common situations, the old do fine, but when exercise or other stress is added, they often struggle. Perhaps this is why some older people, finding it harder to cope, tend to start searching for comfort rather than excitement.
Evelyn Waugh said, "Old people are more interesting than young. One of the particular points of interest is to observe how after 50 they revert to the habits, mannerisms, and opinions of their parents, however wild they were in youth."
"At 50, everyone has the face he deserves," said George Orwell.
Virgil, author of The Aeneid, died at 50. Shakespeare died at 52.
You gain weight until age 55, at which point you begin to shed weight (specifically, lean tissue, muscle mass, water, and bone). More fat now accumulates in your thighs and less in your abdomen. Your extremities become thinner and your trunk thicker. Middle-aged spread isn't only the result of increased fatty tissue; it's also caused by losing muscle tone and your skin literally thinning out as each skin cell loses its robustness.
In late middle age, the skin in your hands becomes less sensitive to touch. Your skin cells regenerate less often. The skin weakens and dries, the number of sebaceous glands declines dramatically, and all of the tissues of the skin undergo some change: You get wrinkles and gray hair. Wrinkles don't come from age, though. They come from sunlight, which slowly maims the face, causing wrinkles, mottling, and loose skin. "The years between 50 and 57 are the hardest," said T.S. Eliot. "You are being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down."
Your blood cholesterol increases. At 60, you've lost 25 percent of the volume of saliva you normally secrete for food; it becomes more difficult to digest heavy meats.
Emerson said, "'Tis strange that it is not in vogue to commit hara-kiri, as the Japanese do, at 60. Nature is so insulting in her hints and notices, does not pull you by the sleeve, but pulls out your teeth, tears off your hair in patches, steals your eyesight, twists your face into an ugly mask, in short, puts all contumelies upon you, without in the least abating your zeal to make a good appearance, and all this at the same time that she is moulding the new figures around you into wonderful beauty, which of course is only making your plight worse."
The PR flak Harlan Boll defends his lying about his celebrity clients' ages by saying, "The American public doesn't really forgive people for getting older." Which is of course true. Jackie Kennedy said if she knew she was going to get cancer at 65, she wouldn't have done all those sit-ups. In jail, O.J. Simpson bemoaned to his girlfriend that the once admirable, apple-like shape of his posterior had collapsed into middle-aged decrepitude. Gravity sucks.
By the time you reach 65, you've lost 30 percent to 40 percent of your aerobic power. The walls of your heart thicken, and you're more likely to develop coronary disease. Sixty percent of 60-year-old men, and the same percentage of 80-year-old women, have a major narrowing in at least one coronary artery. A stiffening in the walls of the major arteries results in a progressive increase in blood pressure, which imposes an increasing load on the heart. Since the heart has to work harder for each heartbeat and use more energy, the overall efficiency of the cardiovascular system drops significantly.
When you're a young adult, the reflex that tells you it's time to urinate occurs when your bladder is half-full. For people over age 65, the message isn't received until your bladder is nearly full.
At 68, Edmund Wilson said, "The knowledge that death is not so far away, that my mind and emotions and vitality will soon disappear like a puff of smoke, has the effect of making earthly affairs seem unimportant and human beings more and more ignoble. It is harder to take human life seriously, including one's own efforts and achievements and passions."
In your late 60s, you eat less. Your metabolic rate decreases slightly. The density of your skin's circulatory systems—veins, capillaries, arterioles—is reduced, which is why old people feel cold sooner. Also, your skin functions less well as a barrier because the skin is thinner—like wearing too light a coat. As you age, your facial skin temperature falls. For older people, a comfortable temperature is 10 to 15 degrees higher than it is for a younger person.
There are now more people in the United States over 65 than ever before. Only 30 percent of people ages 75 to 84 report disabilities—the lowest percentage ever reported.
Five percent to 8 percent of people over 65 have dementia; half of those in their 80s have it.
Aristotle described childhood as hot and moist, youth as hot and dry, and adulthood as cold and dry. He believed aging and death were caused by the body being transformed from one that was hot and moist to one that was cold and dry—a change that he viewed as not only inevitable but desirable.
At age 90, you grow increasingly less likely to develop cancer; the tissues of an old person don't serve the needs of aggressive, energy-hungry tumors.
When you're very young, your ability to smell is so intense as to be nearly overwhelming, but by the time you're in your 80s, not only has your ability to smell declined significantly but you yourself no longer even have a distinctive odor. You can stop using deodorants. You're vanishing.
"As we get older," the British poet Henry Reed helpfully observed, "we do not get any younger."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: February 25, 2008, 02:31:14 PM
Muslims want universities to fit prayer time
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Richard Kerbaj and Milanda Rout | February 25, 2008
MUSLIM university students want lectures to be rescheduled to fit in with prayer timetables and separate male and female eating and recreational areas established on Australian campuses.
International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.
But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.
La Trobe University International chief officer John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers.
Mr Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.
La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables.
"That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable."
Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.
A spokesman for RMIT University would neither confirm nor deny reports that Muslim students had requested timetable changes.
One university source told The Australian that the requests by Muslim international students for timetable changes included a petition.
"Some of the students would prefer that lecture times were organised so it would be easy for them to attend prayers," he said. "But it wouldn't be a good precedent to set."
Islamic leaders yesterday backed the push by Muslim students to have their lectures arranged to accommodate prayer sessions, but said such a move would be essential only for congregational Friday prayers.
Female Muslim leader Aziza Abdel-Halim said yesterday it was a religious duty for those who followed Islam to preach with their fellow believers on Fridays.
But the former senior member of John Howard's Muslim reference board said there was nothing in Islam that indicated men and women be segregated when it came to educational activities.
"There's nothing in Islam that says there should be complete segregation, especially in educational institutions," said Sister Abdel-Halim.
She said afternoon prayers for Muslims - Zhohor, at 1.10pm, and Asr, at 4.50pm - could be performed until 10 minutes before the following daily prayer, so it was more appropriate to alter prayer times than lecture schedules.
"It's reasonable to ask for the lectures to be shifted around on Friday," Sister Abdel-Halim said. "But if it's going to cause havoc with the timetable, I don't think it's really feasible to ask forevery single prayer to be catered for."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Joseph Sotry: Taxes
on: February 25, 2008, 12:36:30 PM
"In a general sense, all contributions imposed by the government
upon individuals for the service of the state, are called taxes,
by whatever name they may be known, whether by the name of tribute,
tythe, tallage, impost, duty, gabel, custom, subsidy, aid, supply,
excise, or other name."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 337.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 25, 2008, 12:32:49 PM
A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in Rawalpindi killed the Pakistani army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. This is the second attack in less than a month that has targeted the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi, and it likely signifies that Pakistan’s jihadists now are targeting senior military officials.
A Feb. 25 suicide bombing in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi killed the army’s surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Ahmed Baig. Preliminary reports said the bomber, who was disguised as a beggar, approached Baig’s car in a crowded commercial area on Mall Road, not far from the army’s general headquarters, and detonated. Baig was traveling with his driver and bodyguard. Eight people were killed and another 35 were injured. This is the second attack targeting the army’s medical corps in Rawalpindi in less than a month; on Feb. 4, a suicide bomber drove his car into a bus carrying doctors from the Army Medical College, killing eight people.
Baig is the first general to be killed in the jihadist insurgency, which mostly has targeted security forces, especially the army. The three-star surgeon general is among the lesser-known principal staff officers. He likely was the easiest to target, given his modest security. Nevertheless, it seems that the jihadists, after striking various key institutions (the army, air force, Inter-Services Intelligence and Special Service Group), have started targeting senior military officials — several of whom live and work in Rawalpindi.
It is worth noting that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Abdullah Mehsud, declared a cease-fire a few days ago, and Islamabad said it is engaged in talks with the group. Following the Feb. 18 elections, which passed without any jihadist-related violence, Mehsud issued a statement via his spokesman saying he is ready to enter into a peace agreement with the new government.
That said, the jihadist insurgency is a key issue for Pakistan’s new civilian government.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ElBaradei's Real Agenda
on: February 25, 2008, 11:18:05 AM
ElBaradei's Real Agenda
By DANIELLE PLETKA and MICHAEL RUBIN
February 25, 2008; Page A14
On Friday, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program to the IAEA's Board of Governors. It concluded that, barring "one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear programme" -- including a mysterious "green salt project" -- Iran's explanations of its suspicious nuclear activities "are consistent with [the IAEA's] findings [or at least] not inconsistent."
The report represents Mr. ElBaradei's best effort to whitewash Tehran's record. Earlier this month, on Iranian television, he made clear his purpose, announcing that he expected "the issue would be solved this year." And if doing so required that he do battle against the IAEA's technical experts, reverse previous conclusions about suspect programs, and allow designees of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an unprecedented role in crafting a "work plan" that would allow the regime to receive a cleaner bill of health from the IAEA -- so be it.
Mr. ElBaradei's report culminates a career of freelancing and fecklessness which has crippled the reputation of the organization he directs. He has used his Nobel Prize to cultivate an image of a technocratic lawyer interested in peace and justice and above politics. In reality, he is a deeply political figure, animated by antipathy for the West and for Israel on what has increasingly become a single-minded crusade to rescue favored regimes from charges of proliferation.
Mr. ElBaradei assumed the directorship on Dec. 1, 1997. On his watch, but undetected by his agency, Iran constructed its covert enrichment facilities and, according to the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, engaged in covert nuclear-weapons design. India and Pakistan detonated nuclear devices. A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear godfather, exported nuclear technology around the world.
In 2003, Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi confessed to an undetected weapons effort. Mr. ElBaradei's response? He rebuked the U.S. and U.K. for bypassing him. When Israel recently destroyed what many believe was a secret (also undetected) nuclear facility in Syria, Mr. ElBaradei told the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh that it is "unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility," although his agency has not physically investigated the site.
The IAEA's mission is to verify that "States comply with their commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other non-proliferation agreements, to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes." Yet in 2004 Mr. ElBaradei wrote in the New York Times that, "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security."
IAEA technical experts have complained anonymously to the press that the latest report on Iran was revamped to suit the director's political goals. In 2004, Mr. ElBaradei sought to purge mention of Iranian attempts to purchase beryllium metal, an important component in a nuclear charge, from IAEA documents. He also left unmentioned Tehran's refusal to grant IAEA inspectors access to the Parchin military complex, where satellite imagery showed a facility seemingly designed to test and produce nuclear weapons.
The IAEA's latest report leaves unmentioned allegations by an Iranian opposition group of North Korean work on nuclear warheads at Khojir, a military research site near Tehran. It also amends previous conclusions and closes the book on questions about Iran's work on polonium 210 -- which nuclear experts suspect Iran experimented with for use as an initiator for nuclear weapons, but which the regime claims was research on radioisotope batteries. In 2004, the IAEA declared itself "somewhat uncertain regarding the plausibility of the stated purpose of the [polonium] experiments." Today it finds these explanations "consistent with the Agency's findings and with other information available."
The IAEA director seems intent on undercutting Security Council diplomacy. Just weeks after President George Bush toured the Middle East to build Arab support for pressure on Tehran, Mr. ElBaradei appeared on Egyptian television on Feb. 5 to urge Arabs in the opposite direction, insisting Iran was cooperating and should not be pressured. And as he grows more and more isolated from Western powers intent on disarming Iran, Mr. ElBaradei has found champions in the developing and Arab world. They cheer his self-imposed mission -- to hamstring U.S. efforts to constrain Iran's program, whether or not the regime is violating its non-proliferation obligations or pursuing nuclear weapons.
In working to undermine sanctions, however, Mr. ElBaradei demeans the purpose of his agency and undercuts its non-proliferation mission. He also makes military action all the more likely.
Ms. Pletka and Mr. Rubin are, respectively, vice president for and resident scholar in Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mexico Under Siege
on: February 25, 2008, 11:04:01 AM
Mexico Under Siege
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
February 25, 2008; Page A14
Perhaps it is a sign of a maturing electorate that Barack Obama's past drug use has not become a disqualifying factor in his bid for the presidency. It may signify that Americans are beginning to view the intake of mind-altering substances as a private decision.
For those who embrace the notion of personal responsibility, such a change in public attitudes might be considered progress. But in Mexico, what suggests an increase in tolerance of illegal drug use in the U.S. has a tragic flipside: the gut-wrenching violence that arises when demand meets prohibition. This country is paying dearly for that contradiction.
Under prohibition, only criminals can serve the market for illegal narcotics. And they have a lot of incentive to do so since prohibition pushes prices up. These market dynamics have given rise to transnational crime networks -- modern, savvy businesses run by ruthless killers bent on preserving their income. Anyone who tries to get in the way risks becoming a statistic. Last year in Mexico there were 2,713 homicides attributable to organized crime, up from 2,120 in 2006 -- according to the intelligence arm of the country's attorney general.
It's a pretty grim picture. Yet there is at least one man in Mexico who believes that it doesn't have to be this way. His name is Eduardo Medina Mora, and 14 months ago he chose to accept what some would regard as mission impossible: taking on the job of attorney general with the express goal of restoring order to a nation turned upside down by organized crime.
I interviewed him last year, just 100 days into his new job, and I met with him again two weeks ago to take a reading on progress. He reports that the Mexican state is reasserting itself, though he also warns that the battle is far from won.
Mr. Medina Mora suffers no illusions about his office's capacity to shut off the supply of drugs to the U.S., or for that matter in Mexico, where drug use is on the increase. That's a welcome relief: After decades of a war on drugs claiming thousands of innocent lives, poisoning institutions in developing countries, and raising the incentive for pushing narcotics on children -- all the while delivering not a modicum of success -- the argument for attacking supply to end demand is by now tedious.
Instead, Mr. Medina Mora is a realist. "The objective," he says, "cannot be destroying narcotrafficking or drug-related crime, because demand is inelastic." "It is very important not to lose perspective on the goal," he tells me. "Trying to get rid of consumption and trafficking is impossible, as a bold objective."
This in no way implies surrender on his part. What's important, he says, is that the goal be clearly understood. Instead of focusing on supply, he is concentrating on the suppliers, and specifically their ability to run business empires. It's about removing "the enormous economic and fire power" of the cartels which threaten the Mexican democracy, and "recovering the territory [controlled by organized crime] for the people and the state." This view is not unlike that of Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe, who has led the fight to end the tyranny of organized crime in some parts of his country.
In Mexico, Mr. Medina Mora continues, "there are areas where organized crime disputes the state's exclusive use of force and its power to collect taxes. They are not only shipping drugs but they are involved in extortion, prostitution rings, smuggling goods and people, stealing Pemex [the state-owned oil company] products, and forcing legal businesses to pay protection taxes."
The attorney general's strategy has been to hit these businesses where it hurts most: in their pocketbooks. By studying the way the narcotics market works, his office has used "operational mapping and mapping of their supply and distribution routes" to "put obstacles in the way and block traditional flows." This approach involves tighter controls on air traffic, better technology and smarter inspection systems for shipments from South America.
Mr. Medina Mora says the plan is working, and rattles off a string of captures and seizures, including some 10 drug-trafficking planes -- even one DC-9 -- large enough to carry up to five metric tons of cocaine. Last year he reeled in a 23.5 metric-ton shipment of cocaine coming by sea from the Colombian port of Buenaventura, and broke up a Mexico City operation that allegedly supplied "meth" producers annually with over 100 metric tons of the precursor pseudoephedrine.
The attorney general is rightly proud of this record, and says that lower availability has meant sharp increases in the street price of both cocaine and "meth" in 38 cities in the U.S. -- according to U.S. officials. Still, the seizure scorecard does nothing to prove progress in the battle against drug use, any more than body counts reveal who is winning a war. And as prices rise so do cartel incentives, particularly when demand is notoriously resistant to change.
But going by Mr. Medina Mora's measure of success -- which is damage to organized crime such that it ceases to dominate Mexican territory and society -- there may be progress. Unfortunately, he says, proof of that could come in the form of more violence in the short run. "When this kind of criminal network begins to collapse, the criminals go back to more primitive methods of crime -- kidnapping, car theft and extortion. They fragment and lose control; cells start operating on their own and fighting with each other. Turf becomes very important."
As if to prove his point, two days after we talked a bomb exploded in the trendy neighborhood of Zona Rosa here. A government investigation is ongoing, but there is reason to believe that the device was meant as payback to law enforcement for the arrest two days earlier of seven members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
Mr. Medina Mora believes more could be done with greater international cooperation against money laundering, and with a U.S. effort to stem the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico. Another way, which he is too polite to mention, would be for U.S. authorities to acknowledge that under present policies they are losing their drug war.
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's Finance Ploy
on: February 25, 2008, 10:48:26 AM
Obama's Finance Ploy
February 25, 2008; Page A14
Barack Obama is promising to end partisanship in Washington, and here's a place to start: He could stop playing politics with the Federal Election Commission in a way that could hamper John McCain's campaign against, well, Mr. Obama.
The Illinois Senator is blocking confirmation of one of President Bush's appointees to the FEC, which administers election laws. This has left the agency two commissioners short of the quorum it needs to make decisions -- with the potential for direct harm to Mr. McCain's campaign. As we've been writing, the Arizona Senator took out a controversial $1 million loan that FEC Chairman David Mason has said might lock him into the public finance system for the primary season. Mr. McCain doesn't want to do that because he'd have to abide by spending limits that would reduce his campaigning this spring and summer. Mr. Mason says the FEC needs to rule on the matter, but without a quorum Mr. McCain is left hanging.
The FEC must also vote to certify that Mr. McCain can receive an estimated $85 million in public funds for the November election. The Republican has already pledged to accept those funds, and the spending limits that go with them, and he is counting on the money to make him competitive against a Democratic nominee. However, no FEC quorum, no public McCain funds in the fall -- and a potentially big advantage for Mr. Obama, who is raising far more in private donations.
The FEC dispute centers on Hans von Spakovsky, a Bush appointee whose two-year recess term ended in December and who has been renominated. Before coming to the FEC, Mr. von Spakovsky was a lawyer in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supported voter-ID laws that Democrats claim will harm black voters but have been vindicated in court. Mr. von Spakovsky's nomination was approved by the Rules Committee in September, but then Mr. Obama intervened with a "hold." Other Democrats have since joined him.
Mr. von Spakovsky was supposed to be voted on in a package of four FEC nominees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid instead demanded that all four get individual votes, hoping to tank only Mr. von Spakovsky. The six FEC commissioners have staggered terms, and one Republican and one Democrat are supposed to end their terms simultaneously so there is no partisan advantage. Mr. von Spakovsky is paired with Steven Walther, a Nevada lawyer with close ties to Mr. Reid. The Majority Leader can hardly expect to get his hand-picked choice, while throwing Mr. Bush's overboard.
All of this is the rankest sort of partisan Beltway gamesmanship, all the worse because it is rooted in racial politics. It is precisely what Mr. Obama says he wants to rise above, but apparently that will happen only after he wins the Presidency. Mr. Obama also boasts about his role in crafting last year's lobbying and ethics law, which includes a provision requiring candidates to report "bundled" campaign contributions. The FEC was unable to devise the rules for that provision before it lost its quorum in December. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is bundling away.
We dislike these campaign laws, in part because they allow the likes of Mr. Obama to claim to be reformers while working the rules to their own advantage. But if Senators who want to be President are going to pass these rules, the least they can do is give the FEC the ability to enforce them.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question
on: February 24, 2008, 03:23:17 PM
Well this matter wandered off the radar screen until my son's class was shown a video repeating this cowardly doctrine this past week. He came home to me upset. He feels afraid he will be thrown out of the school should ever he have to defend himself.
So I spoke with the school's office and made arrangements to see the video in question for myself this coming Thursday. The principal got wind of my interest and we had a very serious conversation this past Friday. In our previous dealings I have found her to be a rather level headed woman and I suspect she finds me to be , , , interesting
so we had a basis upon which I could begin the conversation.
I stated the matter plainly-- the school's policy was wrong and I most certainly am teaching my son to defend himself. She countered with the to-be-expected. I told her I had told him to disobey the schools policy should he be struck, and she said he would be punished. I asked if that would include a mark on his record. She said it could, though not likely for ordinary scuffles. Then I hit her with a point that I picked up here; I told her that like all human beings, my son had the God-given right, the constitutional right under the Ninth Amendment, and statutory rights under the laws of California to defend himself and that should the school ever put a disciplinary mark on him that I would bring the full power of the courts to bear.
This she was not expecting
She knows I used to be a lawyer and it most certainly knocked her off-balance for the logic of the point was new to her. I followed up by saying that I understood that if she had two scrapping boys both hollering "He started it!" that I had no problem with both being given detention or analogous punishment, but any mark on his record would be met by a lawsuit.
We talked some more. She tried PC twaddle and I told her the school was teaching cowardice and I was teaching my son to grow up into a man. Eventually she said she would take another look at the handbook, consult with the distict bureacracy etc. I offered to help her redraft the passage in question and she answered that she just might take me up on that.
The Adventure continues , , ,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Living, Training, and Fighting with Eyeglasses
on: February 24, 2008, 09:49:21 AM
At my wife's urging I finally got around to something I should have done many years ago-- I went to the eye doctor.
Apparently I am 20/70 for near range and 20/30 for far range. I now have blended bi-focals for my desk, aorund the house, and another pair that are for out and about (beyond arm's length).
My wife had me get silver frames "to go with my hair" (Ouch! )
Anyway, its a whole new world-- things are much sharper!
So as I start this chapter, and figuring out how to live with glasses (e.g. developing habits so that I don't lose them--the
f@#$%ng things are expensive!) it occurs to me that there are issues regarding fighting, training etc.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / After serving they fight to become citizens
on: February 24, 2008, 07:45:15 AM
Its the NY Times, so caveat lector
Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. One, Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick of the Army, who had tried three times to file for citizenship, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq as he returned from submitting fingerprints for his application.
Reach of War
Alan Zale for The New York Times
Abdool Habibullah, an ex-marine, is waiting to hear about his application. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is,” he said.
About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems.
“I’ve pretty much given up on finding out where my paperwork is, what’s gone wrong, what happened to it,” said Abdool Habibullah, 27, a Guyanese immigrant who first applied for citizenship in 2005 upon returning from a tour in Iraq and was honorably discharged from the Marines as a sergeant. “If what I’ve done for this country isn’t enough for me to be a citizen, then I don’t know what is.”
The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year.
But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.
At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.
“Most soldiers clear the checks within 30 to 60 days, or 60 to 90 days,” said Leslie B. Lord, the Army’s liaison to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes citizenship applications. “But even the soldier with the cleanest of records, if he has a name that’s very similar to one that’s in the F.B.I. bad-boy and bad-girl list, things get delayed.”
Such explanations are why Mr. Habibullah has decided that once he does become a citizen — if he ever becomes a citizen — he will change his name.
“I figured that’s part of the reason things got delayed,” he said. “You know, that I have a Muslim name.”
Thousands of Muslim civilians have also found themselves waiting months or years for background checks, and have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Denver. But advocates for the immigrant service members said that those with pending applications are from a variety of backgrounds and that they do not suspect a pattern of discrimination against Muslims.
Some 31,200 members of the military were sworn in as citizens between October 2002 and December 2007, according to the immigration service, but a spokeswoman, Chris Rhatigan, said she could not determine how long it took for them to be naturalized since the agency does not maintain a database tracking military cases.
Page 2 of 2)
Over all, 312,000 citizenship or green card applications are pending name checks, including 140,000 that have been waiting more than six months, immigration officials said. This month, immigration authorities eased background-check requirements for green cards, saying that if applicants had been waiting more than six months, they could be approved without an F.B.I. check, and approvals could be revoked later “in the unlikely event” that troubling information was found.
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Mr. Mohammed on duty in Iraq, where he was in the Army.
Reach of War
Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times
Michelle Murphy, whose son Sgt. Kendell K. Frederick was killed in Iraq before his citizenship application was approved.
After hearing complaints from at least half a dozen service members over the past three months, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York has drafted a bill to create a special clearinghouse to ensure that applications from active and returning members of the military are processed quickly and smoothly. A spokesman said several other lawmakers reported hearing many similar stories.
“These are men and women who are risking their lives for us,” Mr. Schumer said in a telephone interview. “They’ve met all the requirements for citizenship, they have certainly proved their commitment to our country, and yet they could lose their lives while waiting for a bureaucratic snafu to untangle.”
In interviews, immigration lawyers and military officials said that in general, the naturalization process takes service members between six months and a year, which is about half the current average wait for civilians. But some cases drag on much longer because of background-check delays or because applications are misplaced, or notices are mailed to stateside addresses after an applicant has been deployed, causing appointments to be missed.
“You try to resolve these things amicably, reaching out to the military, reaching out to immigration officials, but you hit roadblock after roadblock,” said David E. Piver, a Pennsylvania lawyer who filed at least six petitions in federal court over the past five years on behalf of service members experiencing longer than usual delays on their citizenship applications.
“It’s usually not any substantive issue that’s causing those delays,” he said. “What it boils down to are bureaucratic snafus.”
Feyad Mohammed, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who lives with his parents in Richmond Hill, Queens, was naturalized last month — four years after he filed the first of four citizenship applications, and six months after his honorable discharge from the Army as a sergeant.
Mr. Mohammed first applied in 2004, after he returned from the first of his two tours in Iraq. But the application seemed to have been lost; when he checked after a few months, he said, no one at the immigration service could tell him where it was or even if it had been received. He filed again in 2005, but missed his interview several months later; it had been scheduled in Iraq, during his second combat tour, but he was home on leave on the appointed day.
After he was discharged in July 2007, Mr. Mohammed filed another application. The paperwork was returned because he had not included a check covering the processing fee, he said, ignoring a Bush administration initiative that exempts combat veterans from application fees for up to a year after discharge. It was then that Mr. Mohammed reached out to Senator Schumer’s office, which helped him file a fourth, and final, time.
When he was sworn in Jan. 25 at the federal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, Mr. Mohammed said, he felt “relieved.”
“I was a citizen,” he said. “I could finally move on with my life.”
But Sergeant Frederick, a 21-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, would be awarded citizenship only posthumously, on the day of his burial. He is one of more than 90 immigrant service members to be naturalized after losing their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Sergeant Frederick’s mother, Michelle Murphy, said that he had filed his citizenship application a year before he was deployed to Iraq in 2005, but that his application was sent back to her Maryland home three times — once because of incomplete biographical information, again because he had left a box unchecked, and once more because he had not paid the fee.
Finally, Ms. Murphy said, Sergeant Frederick received a letter saying that the fingerprints he had included with his application could not be read and that he needed to submit new ones. She contacted immigration officials, who arranged for him to submit a new set of fingerprints on Oct. 19, 2005, near his base in Tikrit. On the way back from the appointment, his convoy hit a roadside bomb.
“If somebody is fighting for a country, if he’s deployed, if he’s in the middle of a war, it shouldn’t be that hard for them to become a citizen,” Ms. Murphy, 42, said in a telephone interview.
After his death, the immigration service began accepting enlistment fingerprints with service members’ citizenship applications, provided applicants authorized the military to share their files with immigration officials. A bill to make such sharing automatic has been passed by the House and is pending a final Senate vote.
In the meantime, Mr. Habibullah is working as an aircraft hydraulics mechanic in Connecticut, though he hopes to get a better-paying job in the federal government once he is naturalized. In October, Mr. Habibullah’s father and grandmother became citizens in separate ceremonies, though they applied fully two years after he did.
Mr. Habibullah has passed the citizenship test and been interviewed, and he said he does not know what to do to move his application through the backlog faster.
“Every time I ask about it, I get the same answer: it’s pending the background check,” Mr. Habibullah said as he looked over his military medals, which are displayed on a wall in the Mount Vernon, N.Y., apartment he shares with his wife and 1-month-old son. “I’m at the point right now that I’ve almost given up on it.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans
on: February 24, 2008, 07:37:20 AM
Third article of the morning giving the case against our support of Kosovo secession. Again, the reliability of the source is unknown.
Genocide in Kosovo
Albanian Skenderbeg Division
The historical and political precedents for the creation of a greater Sqiperia or Greater Albania was set during World War II when the Kosovo and Metohija regions along with territory Southwest of lake Skutari from Montenegro and the western region of Southern Serbia, or Juzna Srbija (now part of Macedonija), were annexed to Albania by the Axis powers led by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, under a plan devised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to dismember and to destroy the Serbian Nation and people, which the Germans and Italians perceived as the main threat to the axis powers and to the Third Reich in the Balkan.
On April 7, 1939, Italian troops invaded and occupied Albania forcing the Albanian ruler King Zog I Ahmed Bey Zogu, to flee to Greece. Italy formally annexed into the Kingdom of Italy under the Italian king Victor Immanuel and established a military government and viceroy. The Italian began a program to colonize the country when thousands of settlers emigrated to Albania. An Albanian Fascist Party was established with Albanian Black skirts based on Italian models. The Albanian Army consisted of three infantry brigades of 12 000 men.
On October 28 1940, Italy invaded Greece from Albania with 10 Italian divisions and the Albanian Army but were driven back.
Germany sought to assist the Italian-Albanian offensive by operation Alpine Violet, a plan to move a corps of tree German mountain divisions to Albania by air and sea. Instead German built up a heavy concentration of the German Twelfth Army on the northwest Greek Border with Bulgaria, from where the German invasion was launched.
On April 6, 1941, Nazi Germany and the axis powers invaded Yugoslavia, Operation Punishment, and Greece forcing the capitulation of Yugoslavia on the 17th, and Greece on the 23rd. Yugoslavia was subsequently occupied and dismembered. The Axis powers established a greater Albania or greater Shqiperia at the expense of Serbia and Montenegro. Territory from Montenegro was annexed to Greater Albania. From Serbia, the Kosovo and Metohija were ceded to greater Albania, along with the western part of Southern Serbia (Juzna Srbija), now part of Macedonia, an area which was part of Stara Srbija (Ancient Old Serbia). This Kosovo-metohija region and the surrounding territory annexed to Greater Albania was called "New Albania".
To create an ethnically pure Shqiptar Kosovo, which Albanian called "Kosova", the Shqiptari (Albanians) launched a widescale campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ethnic Serbs in the Kosovo-Metohija regions were massacred, and their homes were burned, and survivors were brutally driven out and expelled in policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The Balli Kombetar (BK or National Union) was an Albanian nationalist group led by Midhat Fresheri and Ali Klissura whose political objective was to in incorporate Kosovo-Metohija into a Greater Albania and to ethnically cleanse the region of Orthodox Serbs
The Abanian Committee of Kosovo organized massive campaigns of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Orthodox Serbian inhabitants of Kosovo- Metohuja. A contemporary report described the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Serbs as follows:
Armed with material supplied by the Italians, the Albanians hurled themselves against helpless settlers in their homes and villages. According to the most reliable sources, the Albanian burned many Serbian settlements, killing some of the people and driving out others who escaped to the mountains. At present other Serbian settlement are being attacked and the property of individuals and of communities is either being confiscated or destroyed. It is not possible to ascertain at the present time the exact number of victims of those atrocities, but it may be estimated that at least between 30.000 and 40.000 perished.
Bedri Pejani, the Muslim leader of the Albanian National committee, called for the extermination of Ortodox Serbian Cristians in Kosovo Metohija and for a union of a Greater Albania with Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Rashka (Sandzak) region of Serbia, into a great Islamic state. The grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El Husseini was presented to Pejani a plan which he approved as a being in the interest of Islam. The Germans however rejected the plan.
On September 3, 1943, Italy capitulated by signing an armistice with the Allies. The German were now forced to occupy Albania with the collapse of the Italian forces. The Germans sent the 100th Jaeger Division from Greece and the 297th Infantry Division from Serbia and the German 1st Mountain Division to occupy Albania. These troops were organized into the XXI Mountain Corps which was under the command of General Paul Bader.
Additional security forces for the interior were needed, however, to free up Germans troops for defense of the coastline. The decision was made to form an Albanian SS mountain division for this purpose. In April in 1944, recruitment for the Albanian SS division began under direction of the newly formed Albanian Nazi party, which has been formed through the efforts of Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Acting upon instructions of Reichsfuehrer SS Henrich Himmler, the SS main office ordered the formation of an Albanian volunteer mountain division on April 17, 1944. SS Brigadefuehrern and Generalmajor of the Waffen SS Josef Fitzhum, who Headed the Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, oversaw the forming and training of the division.
The SS high Command planed to create a mountain division of 10.000 men. The Higher SS and Police Command in Albania, in conduction with the Albanian National Committee, listed 11.398 possible recruits for the Waffen SS mountain division. Most of these recruits were "kossovars", shqiptar Ghegs from Kosovo Metohija in Serbia. The Shqiptar Tosks were found mainly in southern Albania. Most of the Shqiptar collaborators with the nazi forces were theNazi forces were the so-called Kossovars, ethnic Shqiptars from the Kosmet of Serbia. The Nazi German-sponsored Albanian gendarmes, special police and para-military units were made up by Kossovars. The Kossovars were under the direct control of the Albanian Interior Minister Xhafer Deva.
The Skanderbeg Division was formed and trained in Kosovo and was made up mostly of muslim Shqiptar Kossovars. There were only a small number of Albanians from Albania proper in the division. The Skanderbeg Mountain Division of the Wafen SS was thus essentially a Kosovo or Kosmet Division. The Division was stationed and operated in Kosovo and other Serbian regions almost exclusively.
Its a long article but worth reading............. the rest is here -------> http://www.kosovo.net/skenderbeyss.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Balkans
on: February 24, 2008, 07:35:13 AM
The reliability of this source is unknown to me. I post it as an example of part of the case being made that our support of Kosovo independence is a mistake. Note the date.
Albanians and Afghans fight for the heirs of to Bosnia's SS past
Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1993
By Robert Fox in Fojnica (Bosnia)
"DOCUMENTS!" shouted a man in a beret with an insignia in green Arabic script outside the UN house in the Bosnian mountain town of Fojnica. He was hostile and demanded our presence at the police station.
Later the police chief apologised, but made clear that authority had passed to the men with the Koranic texts hanging from their fatigues.
Last summer Muslim and Croat leaders in Fojnica asked the WN to declare it a "zone of peace". Since then war has ravaged the town, bringing murder, mayhem and exile to at least half its original population of 12,000. Different, and alien, forces are now in charge -- some of the toughest in the Bosnian Muslim army.
These are the men of the Handzar division. "We do everything with the knife, and we always fight on the frontline," a Handzar told one UN officer.
Up to 6000-strong, the Handzar division glories in a fascist culture. They see themselves as the heirs of the SS Handzar division, formed by Bosnian Muslims in 1943 to fight for the Nazis. Their spiritual model was Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who sided with Hitler.
According to UN officers, surprisingly few of those in charge of the Handzars in Fojnica seem to speak good Serbo-Croatian. "Many of them are [Muslim] Albanian, whether from Kosovo (the Serb province where Albanians are the majority) or from Albania itself."
They are trained and led by veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, say UN sources. The strong presence of native Albanians is an ominous sign. It could mean the seeds of war are spreading south via Kosovo and into Albania, thence to the Albanians of Macedonia.
Pakistani fundamentalists are known to have had a strong hand in providing arms and a small weapons industry for the Bosnian Muslims.
Hardline elements of the Bosnian army, like the Handzar, appear to have the backing of an increasingly extreme leadership in Sarajevo, represented by Mr Ejup Ganic, Foreign Minister, Mr Haris Silajdzic, Prime Minister, and Mr Enver Hadjihasanovic, the new army chief.
The Handzars are working closely with other units around Fojnica, preparing for the long assault on Kiseljak to the east and Prozor to the west, a campaign likely to last years.
The first political act in this new operation appears to have been the murder of the two monks in the monastery. Last month Brother Nikola Milicevic, 39, and Brother Mato Migic, 56, were surprised by a four-man squad.
After an argument, Brother Nikola was shot dead on the spot. His colleague was only wounded, but finished off by a shot in the neck.
Mysteriously, the police guard disappeared a few minutes before. The murder squad withdrew after the killings.
The Provincial for the Franciscans of Bosnia, Petar Andjelovic, demanded an explanation. He received condolences from President Alija Izetbegovic and a note from the police in Sarajevo that the matter was under investigation.
The Provincial is convinced this was a political murder to deepen the division between Croats and Muslims. He also believes it was sanctioned by Sarajevo.
"I can say that for the moment all responsibility for this killing falls at the door of the Bosnian army," he told an Italian Catholic magazine last week. "Somebody very powerful must have organised this."
The way the Handzars have settled in Fojnica suggests they are playing for a long war. The town is self-sufficient in meat, vegetables and cereals. The terrain is ideal for guerrilla operations.
More significant is the nature of the Handzars, and the influences of the Albanians in their command, and the support from Pakistan. These suggest, politically and militarily, the war in Bosnia has spread - under the dozing eyes of the West. http://www.srpska-mreza.com/Bosnia/again-hanjar.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We bombed the wrong side?
on: February 24, 2008, 07:29:37 AM
We bombed the wrong side?
by Lewis MacKenzie
National Post, 6 April 2004 www.globalresearch.ca
11 April 2004
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MAC404A.html
Five years ago our television screens were dominated by pictures of Kosovo-Albanian refugees escaping across Kosovo's borders to the sanctuaries of Macedonia and Albania. Shrill reports indicated that Slobodan Milosevic's security forces were conducting a campaign of genocide and that at least 100,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been exterminated and buried in mass graves throughout the Serbian province. NATO sprung into action and, in spite of the fact no member nation of the alliance was threatened, commenced bombing not only Kosovo, but the infrastructure and population of Serbia itself -- without the authorizing United Nations resolution so revered by Canadian leadership, past and present.
Those of us who warned that the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant, Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers. The fact that the lead organization spearheading the fight for independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was universally designated a terrorist organization and known to be receiving support from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored.
The recent dearth of news in the North American media regarding the increase in violence in Kosovo compared to the comprehensive coverage in the European press strongly suggests that we Canadians don't like to admit it when we are wrong. On the contrary, selected news clips on this side of the ocean continue to reinforce the popular spin that those dastardly Serbs are at it again.
A case in point was the latest crisis that exploded on March 15. The media reported that four Albanian boys had been chased into the river Ibar in Mitrovica by at least two Serbs and a dog (the dog's ethnic affiliation was not reported).Three of the boys drowned and one escaped to the other side. Immediately, thousands of Albanians mobilized and concentrated in the area of the divided city. Attacks on Serbs took place throughout the province resulting in an estimated 30 killed and 600 wounded. Thirty Serbian Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed, more than 300 homes were burnt to the ground and six Serbian villages cleansed of their occupants. One hundred and fifty international peacekeepers were injured.
Totally ignored in North America were the numerous statements from impartial sources that said there was no incident between the Serbs, the dog and the Albanian boys. NATO Police spokesman Derek Chappell stated on March 16 that it was "definitely not true" that the boys had been chased into the river by Serbs. Chappell went on to say that the surviving boy had told his parents that they had entered the river alone and that three of his friends had been swept away by the current. Admiral Gregory Johnson, the overall NATO commander, further stated that the ensuing clashes were "orchestrated and well-planned ethnic cleansing" by the Kosovo-Albanians. Those Serbs forced to leave joined the 200,000 who had been cleansed from the province since NATO's "humanitarian" bombing in 1999. The '"cleansees" have become very effective "cleansers."
In the same week a number of individuals posing as Serbs ambushed and killed a UN policeman and his local police partner. During the firefight one of them was wounded which caused an immediate switch from Serbian to Albanian as he screamed, "I've been hit"! The UN pursued the attackers and tracked them to an Albanian-run farm where they discovered weapons and the wounded Albanian who had died from his wounds. Four Albanians were arrested. Once again, the ambush had been reported in the United States but not the follow-up which clearly indicated yet another orchestrated provocation by the Albanian terrorists.
Kosovo is administered by the UN, the very organization many Canadians have indicated they would like to see take over from the United States in Iraq. The fact the UN cannot order its civilian employees to go or stay anywhere -- they have to volunteer -- combined with recent history that saw the UN abandon Iraq after a single brutal attack on their compound in Baghdad and the reality that Kosovo, under the organization's administration, is a basket case, disqualifies it from consideration for such a role.
Since the NATO/UN intervention in 1999, Kosovo has become the crime capital of Europe. The sex slave trade is flourishing. The province has become an invaluable transit point for drugs en route to Europe and North America. Ironically, the majority of the drugs come from another state "liberated" by the West, Afghanistan. Members of the demobilized, but not eliminated, KLA are intimately involved in organized crime and the government. The UN police arrest a small percentage of those involved in criminal activities and turn them over to a judiciary with a revolving door that responds to bribes and coercion.
The objective of the Albanians is to purge all non-Albanians, including the international community's representatives, from Kosovo and ultimately link up with mother Albania thereby achieving the goal of "Greater Albania." The campaign started with their attacks on Serbian security forces in the early 1990s and they were successful in turning Milosevic's heavy-handed response into worldwide sympathy for their cause. There was no genocide as claimed by the West -- the 100,000 allegedly buried in mass graves turned out to be around 2,000, of all ethnic origins, including those killed in combat during the war itself.
The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early '90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary. When they achieve independence with the help of our tax dollars combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, just consider the message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported independence movements around the world.
Funny how we just keep digging the hole deeper!
Maj-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, now retired, commanded UN troops during the Bosnian civil war of 1992.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism
on: February 23, 2008, 10:03:40 PM
Islamic Charities Draw More Scrutiny
By GLENN R. SIMPSON
February 23, 2008; Page A4
Counterterrorism officials in the U.S. and the Middle East, who in recent years have shut down several Islamic charities accused of financing terrorist organizations, now are pursuing what they describe as a second constellation of such groups.
Key figures who avoided the initial legal dragnet in 2001 and 2002 have continued to raise funds that help Islamic militants in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and other conflict areas, counterterrorism officials in Washington and the Middle East said in recent interviews. The officials said Islamic fund-raisers have taken donor files and moved from one group to another a step ahead of the authorities, officials said.
• The News: Counterterrorism officials who shut down Islamic charities that they accused of funding terrorist organizations are targeting a second group of charities.
• The Background: Officials say Islamic fund-raisers have taken donor files and moved from one group to another, remaining a step ahead of authorities.
• The Controversy: Over the last six years, little evidence has emerged directly connecting charities to individual acts of terrorism."Government can come in and close down the charity, but the donor list still exists," said prosecutor Pat Roane, the Justice Department's point man on terrorism financing. "The donor list is gold."
Islamic charities became a major focus after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when U.S. officials concluded the charities played a large role in sustaining the infrastructure of radical Islamic groups. Using a set of new laws, the U.S. Treasury froze the assets of numerous groups in the U.S. and overseas.
But over the last six years little evidence has emerged directly connecting charities to individual acts of terrorism, and Muslim leaders and civil libertarians have charged that the government is over-reaching in pursuing the charities.
Questions about the government's approach arose particularly after prosecutors failed in some high-profile trials to prove that charities were connected to terrorists or terrorist organizations. The charities' leaders and their supporters say they send money from American Muslims to legitimate social and aid organizations in the Middle East.
One scholar, Ibrahim Warde of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, argues in a 2007 book, "The Price of Fear," that the connection between charities and terrorism is largely a myth.
Government officials, while acknowledging that charities' role in individual attacks seems to be slight, say evidence from several of the criminal cases have demonstrated direct ties between charities and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Kenneth Wainstein, the Justice Department national-security chief, said in an interview that intelligence reports continue to find that charities are being used by terrorist groups to provide both funds and logistics help, such as with visas and work permits in conflict zones. Mr. Wainstein and other officials say many of an estimated six million Muslims in the U.S. follow the tenets of their faith and give generously to charities that promote Islam and provide welfare to needy Muslims in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but the funds often are diverted to other purposes in these war zones to underwrite items such as communications, logistics and medicine for groups fighting the U.S. military or U.S. allies.
In the years after Sept. 11, the Justice Department now alleges, fund-raising efforts in the U.S. shifted to at least two existing groups that were missed in the initial sweep: a charity in Boston called Care International, and another in Columbia, Mo., called the Islamic American Relief Agency. Care International's officers were recently convicted of tax fraud in Boston federal court, while backers of the Missouri group are under indictment for similar offenses. In the Care International case, prosecutors presented evidence that the group was an extension of Osama bin Laden's original outpost in the U.S., a Brooklyn-based Islamic organization. But Mr. Warde criticized prosecutors for not charging any of the defendants with terrorism support. The Care International officers are expected to appeal.
A month after the government shut down many top charities in December 2001, Islamic fund-raisers set up a new group in Toledo, Ohio, called Kindhearts, which the Treasury in 2006 shut down and identified in a public statement as "the progeny of Holy Land Foundation and Global Relief Foundation," two defunct charities that the U.S. designated as supporters of terrorism. Two other charities, Kinder USA and Life for Relief and Development, remain under investigation but have denied any ties to terrorism.
Terrorism investigators say Islamic charity fund-raisers are more sophisticated than they originally realized. Khalil Jassemm, the founder of one group under investigation, self-published a 494-page guide to running such groups -- "Islamic Perspective on Charity, a Comprehensive Guide for Running a Muslim Nonprofit In the U.S." -- that walks charity officials through the numerous laws governing such groups. The book was made available by The Investigative Project, a Washington nonprofit that researches terrorism issues.
Mr. Jassemm founded Life for Relief and Development. Terrorism investigators say some of its personnel are supporters of the Islamic Party of Iraq and in 2006 was raided by the FBI in Michigan and by the U.S. military in Iraq. A spokesman for the charity said Mr. Jassemm has left the group and now lives in Jordan. He didn't respond to an email request for a meeting. The group says it isn't affiliated with any political groups in Iraq.
Officials say the moves against the organizations have aroused anger and opposition among many American Muslims and some civil-liberties advocates -- creating what counterterrorism officials acknowledge is a public-relations problem.
For one thing, critics have chided the government for keeping much of its evidence of terrorist connections secret and resorting to nonterrorism charges, such as tax and money-laundering violations, to put the leaders of some charities out of business.
Prosecutors say, though, that they won't abandon tactics that have brought results. "We incapacitate the bad guys," said Justice's Mr. Wainstein. "It might not be the sexiest way of doing it, and if we get criticized, so be it."
One big problem, some front-line prosecutors said, is that intelligence can show signs of terrorism support, but it is difficult to obtain the kind of unambiguous evidence that will stand up in court to prove money ended up with terrorists overseas. "Once it hits a foreign bank, it is gone to us," said one federal prosecutor who asked not to be named.
Write to Glenn R. Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 23, 2008, 09:59:37 PM
New Pakistani Leaders, U.S., at Odds on Militants
Key Parties Seek Talks
With Islamic Forces;
Americans Urge Battle
By YOCHI DREAZEN in Washington and ZAHID HUSSAIN in Pakistan
February 23, 2008; Page A4
The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan. But the country's new leaders are already signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.
With Pakistan being hit by a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks, including a car bomb Friday that killed at least 12 people, U.S. policymakers believe senior Pakistani military officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat to the country's future and may now be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the religious militants responsible for the bloodshed.
• The News: The U.S. wants Pakistan to take stronger measures against Islamic militants who are threatening the stability of neighboring Afghanistan.
• The Background: Policy makers believe Pakistani officials have come to see Islamic violence as a serious threat and may be willing to mount an aggressive campaign against the militants.
• The Other Side: The country's new leaders already are signaling that they would prefer a softer approach.Pakistan's unpopular president, Pervez Musharraf, has expressed concern about the possible "Talibanization" of his country by al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and periodically ordered his military to battle the extremists.
But key officials in Pakistan's two main opposition parties -- the Pakistan People's Party, led by the widower of assassinated former Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League of ex-Premier Nawaz Sharif -- say that they want instead to open talks with the Islamic militants operating along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
"We will use force wherever it is necessary, but will also use other means to veer them away from extremism," said Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower and the leader of the PPL.
The two parties swept to victory in the past week's parliamentary elections and are working together to form a new government. They spent Friday mulling candidates for prime minister.
The Bush administration is using the violence to prod Pakistan to take steps it has long resisted, like giving the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Special Operations commandoes a freer hand to hunt Islamic militants within Pakistan and agreeing to have larger numbers of American military trainers deploy to Pakistan to help the country's army prepare for a long-term struggle against Islamic guerillas.
Pentagon officials have also publicly expressed a willingness to mount joint combat operations with the Pakistani military, should Pakistan request such assistance.
"If I was wearing a different hat and was in the Pakistani military, I would be deeply concerned about the unrest and the lack of stability and security that appears to be caused by Talibanization," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, who commands the Army's 101st Airborne Division, which is deploying to Afghanistan this spring.
The push comes amid mounting American concern about the situation in the largely lawless tribal regions along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, which have devolved into safe havens for Islamic militants carrying out attacks inside both countries. Senior American commanders had long worried that an unstable Afghanistan had the potential to spark unrest inside Pakistan but now worry just as much about instability inside Pakistan spilling over into Afghanistan.
U.S. officials worry that Pakistan's next government may try to back out of agreements Mr. Musharraf made with the Pentagon on operations in the tribal areas, including the mobilization of a tribal military unit and the aggressive use of American Predator drones to attack terrorist targets.
"We're not saying that the leader has to be Musharraf," said a U.S. official working on Pakistan. "But we're concerned that politics could end up distracting" Pakistan from the growing threat posed by the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The Pakistani armed forces have long believed that India posed the biggest threat to Pakistani national security, and senior Pakistani officials may be unwilling -- or unable -- to reorient their military towards a protracted conflict with Islamic militants inside their own borders.
"The Pakistani armed forces are trained to fight India and fighting pro al-Qaeda insurgents in the tribal areas is a completely new experience for them," a senior Pakistani official acknowledged.
James Dobbins, an analyst at the Rand Corp. who served as the Bush administration's first envoy to Afghanistan, said many Pakistani leaders fundamentally disagree with American officials about the magnitude of the threat posed by Islamic violence. "The popular attitude towards the attacks is that they are a reaction to the U.S. war on terror rather than an intended threat to the Pakistani sovereignty and government," he said.
Pakistani officials say that they have nearly 30,000 troops battling militants in northwest Pakistan and in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, as well as an additional 70,000 deployed on the entire 1,500-mile-long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The size of that deployment, they argue, shows that the country is already serious about battling Islamic extremists.
Still, Pakistani commanders acknowledge that their forces have struggled to oust the well-entrenched militants, who have inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani troops and shown resiliency in the face of Pakistani and U.S. strikes.
A senior Pakistani commander said that the army's morale had plummeted after a long series of tactical setbacks, including the killings of hundreds of troops by suicide bombers who struck their convoys, camps and mess halls, and the videotaped beheadings of some of the soldiers who fell into the hands of the militants. "This challenge cannot be met until the army's standing is restored," the officer said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Virtual Fence
on: February 23, 2008, 09:42:18 PM
U.S. Curbs Big Plans
For Border Tech Fence
By EVAN PEREZ and AUGUST COLE
February 23, 2008; Page A1
WASHINGTON -- The government yesterday officially unveiled its $20 million "virtual fence," touted for months as one of the most effective ways to secure America's leaky U.S.-Mexico border.
But the problems that have plagued the high-tech barrier mean that the fence's first 28 miles will also likely be its last. The Department of Homeland Security now says it doesn't plan to replicate the Boeing Co. initiative anywhere else. A spokeswoman says there are no plans to expand the project beyond its first phase, although Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says "some elements" of the project may be used in other locations.
Nine tall towers punctuate the fence.
The effective mothballing of the concept is a setback for the government's border-protection efforts, an embarrassment for politicians backing the idea of an electronic fence and a blow to Boeing, the project's designer. It will also do little to settle the fractious politics of immigration, which continue to reverberate around the campaign trail.
The virtual fence, called Project 28, came up during Thursday's debate in Austin, Texas, when both Democratic presidential candidates expressed their support for a high-tech alternative to the federal government's construction of a 12-foot-tall physical fence. That project, begun last year, has elicited outcry from Texas property owners and local officials.
"Let's deploy more technology and personnel, instead of the physical barrier," said New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama of Illinois agreed: "There may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. But for the most part, having [the] border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that's going to be the better approach." Both senators had earlier voted for legislation mandating 700 miles of physical fence in sections of California, Arizona and Texas.
It's unlikely that any administration will be able to embark on an immigration revamp until it can persuade skeptical Republicans it can effectively police the border. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and likely presidential nominee, sponsored a comprehensive immigration bill last year that collapsed due to strong opposition from his own party. He has since said he supports securing the border before tackling more controversial immigration proposals, such as providing a way for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status in the U.S.
Project 28 was based on off-the-shelf technology tied together by Boeing. Cameras and radar mounted atop 98-foot towers would pick out smugglers and illegal immigrants from miles away, allowing fewer agents to patrol a given stretch of border. Command centers and mobile communications systems were also part of the contract.
But getting all these elements to work together harmoniously has proven problematic. Project 28's technology problems included software integration issues and difficulty getting the towers' cameras to synch with the radar systems. The radar had trouble identifying objects amid desert scrub and trees. Rain posed problems to the surveillance systems, and concerns persist that the towers are tempting targets for increasingly well-armed drug gangs looking to shut down the system.
At his news conference yesterday, Mr. Chertoff played down the technological problems, which he likened to finding problems during a house inspection that aren't significant enough to nullify a purchase contract. "I have personally witnessed the value of this system, and I have spoken directly to the border-patrol agents who are involved in operating that system over the last few months and who have seen it produce actual results in terms of identifying and allowing the apprehension of people who are illegally smuggling across the border," he said.
A Boeing spokeswoman says Project 28 "is a proof of concept. The concept works." The company is nonetheless changing how it produces the technology. There will be more hardware and software testing at special centers, instead of relying on fixes made at the border, the spokeswoman says.
Government officials had great ambitions for the project. Although it's unlikely that the entire border would be policed electronically, there are potentially 6,000 miles of the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico that could have been covered by advanced systems. That work would be worth billions of dollars. Success in the U.S. could also have led to overseas customers who want to use technology to track cross-border traffic and smuggling.
Last month during a tour, customs and border-patrol officials showed Attorney General Michael Mukasey the rugged terrain that Project 28 oversees. A Homeland Security Blackhawk helicopter soared above a vast expanse of breathtaking jagged desert peaks, amid which Project 28 towers stood their sentinel watch over the border. "Admittedly, we gave Boeing some of the roughest parts of the border to work with," a border-patrol official told the attorney general, explaining what he said were many problems the system had encountered.
In August, Boeing replaced the manager of Project 28. For months, Boeing and Homeland Security wouldn't say when the work was going to be complete. In early December, the government said it was closing in on taking delivery. But that same month, the government gave Boeing another $64 million contract to fix the "common operating picture," which lets agents in vehicles see imagery from the towers' surveillance systems. Yesterday's announcement marked the final end of the testing period.
Homeland Security officials took possession of the system over the objections of Congress, which has been critical of the department and of Boeing for the problems that have bedeviled the program. "We are no safer and out millions of dollars," said Democratic Pennsylvania Congressman Christopher Carney, oversight chairman in the House Homeland Security committee. "We were led to believe that this was going to be a Beta test for a virtual fence for the border. Certainly this is not the force multiplier it was supposed to be."
Laura Keehner, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said, "Those who choose to criticize without seeing the technology firsthand are merely bystanders of the product and have no idea how hard our border patrol is working to keep America safe. We would not have accepted it if it didn't work."
In the meantime, construction of the physical barrier continues. On Friday, Mr. Chertoff said the government has already built about 300 miles of fence and is on pace to build about 670 miles by the end of the year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea
on: February 23, 2008, 09:35:44 PM
Gen. Burwell B. Bell
The North Korean Threat
By MELANIE KIRKPATRICK
February 23, 2008; Page A9
On the Acela between
New York and Washington
The Cold War may be over, but Gen. Burwell B. (B.B.) Bell is still on duty. This American soldier is serving in the one place on the planet where that conflict hasn't ended, and where it has the potential to turn "hot" in the blink of an eye: the Korean Peninsula. With a new president taking over in Seoul on Monday promising to take a tougher line with Pyongyang, it's a good moment to revisit the subject of the North's military capabilities -- and the South's readiness.
In Pentagon lingo, Gen. Bell is "triple-hatted." He commands the 28,500 U.S. forces in South Korea, the combined U.S.-South Korean forces in time of war, and the United Nations forces that have been stationed south of the 38th parallel since 1953, when the armistice in the Korean War was signed. As such, he is probably the world's leading expert on North Korea's military strength.
That's the topic we start with as we chat aboard the express train taking the general and his entourage from New York to Washington, where he'll report to the president the next day. The general is in plain clothes -- for security reasons, U.S. military officers don't travel in uniform -- but that doesn't stop passengers from staring at the straight-backed men in buzz cuts as we climb aboard at Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan. We are escorted by local police officers and two of the soldiers who have been patrolling Penn Station since the 9/11 attacks.
In light of all the publicity given the six-party disarmament talks, it's interesting that the first words out of Gen. Bell's mouth don't include "nuclear." "First and foremost, I'm worried . . . about the conventional threat that the North Korean military poses to South Korea," he says.
"What worries me is that North Korea is a 'military first' country where all their resources and their focus goes into the maintenance of the military apparatus . . . This is a very large military, over a million men under arms in a very small country of only 22 million people. That means . . . [at] any time 5% of the whole country, regardless of age, [is] serving on active duty."
The North Korean army is in the midst of its winter training cycle right now, the general says. He notes that Pyongyang didn't bother to inform the U.N. command in advance, as required under the armistice accord. "Every time we conduct a large exercise, 30 days before that exercise . . . we inform them just like we're supposed to. . . . But they don't afford us with the same privileges. I will tell you that. We have to find out through other means what they are up to." Six-party negotiators take note: Kim Jong Il is not in the habit of keeping promises.
Gen. Bell describes the North Korean military as deployed in a "threatening posture" with "about 70% of their force within 90 miles of the demilitarized zone." Their equipment is old -- the Russians and the Chinese have stopped supplying them -- and training is poor. The army's capabilities have deteriorated in recent years, he says -- a factor, some argue, in Kim Jong Il's reluctance to give up his nuclear program. The North Korean dictator knows his army's potential to hammer the South with conventional arms isn't as good as it used to be.
Even so, Gen. Bell says, the North Koreans "certainly have the capability of bringing aerial fires, rocket and conventional cannon artillery to bear against Seoul . . . They don't need to bring any guns forward. So, they can certainly, at a moment's notice, engage targets in Seoul, should they choose to." He adds: "There would be casualties. But I will tell you, our purpose is to quickly eliminate that threat." Some of the missiles, many believe, would be carrying chemical weapons.
On the nuclear threat, Gen. Bell states bluntly, "We don't know what we don't know." North Korea tested a nuclear device in October 2006, but, he says, it is "totally unclear to me" whether the country has the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon on a missile. That's why the six-party talks are important, he says, even though the North Koreans refused to declare their nuclear programs on Dec. 31, as they had promised. Why did they miss the deadline?
"I can't speculate," the general responds, but "I assume that they want something that they're going to negotiate for." They've "slowed the process down, and it's disquieting, but nevertheless they're still disabling their [Yongbyon nuclear] reactor. That process has gone forward. . . . We've got people up there, the five parties, [and] there are people supervising, observing [the] removal of these fuel rods."
Things are "pretty quiet" along the DMZ these days, Gen. Bell says, though there's "a flare-up every now and then" and "there is some kind of engagement with a North Korean citizen once or twice a month" -- usually a ship straying into South Korean waters. Most such visitors want to be repatriated, he says -- any North Korean may stay in South Korea if he wishes -- but "we see defections from their military from time to time."
Overall, he says, North Korea specializes in "wild cyclical flows in behavior" -- what he characterized in Senate testimony last year as "alternating provocations and engagement overtures." Lately, however, "they haven't shown that kind of aggressive provocative stuff." Kim Jong Il has even invited the New York Philharmonic to visit later this month, he notes. "That sounds really nice, doesn't it? Meanwhile, his army is training like crazy in their forward position." Sarcasm noted.
Gen. Bell addressed the Korea Society earlier in the day on the subject of the South's readiness to take more responsibility for its own defense. He stresses this point in our conversation.
The Republic of Korea's military "is world class," he says. Or, as he told the Korea Society, in language that befits his native Oak Ridge, Tenn. (and explains why Bell impersonators abound at the Pentagon), "This beast can hunt." To translate from the Tennessean: "I proclaim loudly and clearly that the capacities of the [South] Korean forces are second to none on the globe, and it would not be wise for the North Koreans to test that."
The South Korean army has already largely replaced the U.S. Second Infantry Division along the DMZ. And on April 17, 2012, the South will take full responsibility for its own defense in wartime, with the U.S. military in a supporting role -- 59 years after the end of the Korean War. Meanwhile, the U.S. base in the heart of downtown Seoul is being moved south.
South Korea's anti-American President Roh Moo-hyun leaves office Monday, and while any man with four stars on his shoulders knows better than to publicly diss the leader of a U.S. ally, it's not hard to see that Gen. Bell is counting the days. "The alliance weathered a couple of storms recently," he told the Korea Society, "but it's got to rain a little for the flowers to grow."
This particular flower is called Lee Myung-bak. He's the former businessman, legislator and mayor of Seoul who is the president-elect. The general calls Mr. Lee "pro-American" and notes that he was elected "by an overwhelming majority" of voters on a platform that promised to improve relations with the U.S.
Gen. Bell points to a recent poll showing that 77% of South Koreans support having U.S. troops in their country. To Americans who say the U.S. should pack up and go home, he says, "The Republic of Korea several years ago sent a message to Americans that perhaps we weren't welcome . . . But I can flat tell you that those days are behind us."
Gen. Bell thinks the U.S. military will have a role on the peninsula even after reunification of the two Koreas. The alliance "has purpose throughout the 21st century and beyond," he says. "The mutual defense treaty between the two nations has merit outside the single context of North Korea."
A rising China goes unmentioned here. "It's not to anybody's advantage to create a security vacuum which could lead to misunderstanding and even conflict," the general says. "You know, when you look at the history in that area of the world it's replete with conflict after conflict after conflict. It's been very quiet for 55 years and there's no reason why it ought not to be throughout this century and beyond." He also notes that 25% of the world's trade goes through Northeast Asia.
Gen. Bell is the senior-most general in the U.S. Army, and Korea is his last posting before retirement. He began his military career in 1969 as a second lieutenant in a cavalry unit in the Fulda Gap. It was the height of the Cold War.
"Bad Hersfeld, Germany," he says, "12 kilometers from the East-West German border. Unbelievable military apparatus just across the border, facing us." Thirty-nine years later and 5,000 miles east, it's deja vu along the DMZ.
Gen. Bell talks of the "negative Cold War environment" that pertains in the North, the global economic miracle that has passed it by, and the "tortured" people. He expresses the hope that North Korea will "take down that wall," as the East Germans did. But "until then, we've got to deter and be ready."
Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma
on: February 23, 2008, 09:31:40 PM
And here is Peggy's piece:
Try a Little Tenderness
February 22, 2008; Page W14
Barack Obama's biggest draw is not his eloquence. When you watch an Obama speech, you lean forward and listen and think, That's good. He's compelling, I like the way he speaks. And afterward all the commentators call him "impossibly eloquent" and say "he gave me thrills and chills." But, in fact, when you go on the Internet and get a transcript of the speech and print it out and read it--that is, when you remove Mr. Obama from the words and take them on their own--you see the speech wasn't all that interesting, and was in fact high-class boilerplate. (This was not true of John F. Kennedy's speeches, for instance, which could be read seriously as part of the literature of modern American politics, or Martin Luther King's work, which was powerful absent his voice.)
Mr. Obama is magnetic, interacts with the audience, leads a refrain: "Yes, we can." It's good, and compared with Hillary Clinton and John McCain, neither of whom seems really to enjoy giving speeches, it comes across as better than it is. But is it eloquence? No. Eloquence is deep thought expressed in clear words. With Mr. Obama the deep thought part is missing. What is present are sentiments.
Our country can be greater, it holds unachieved promise, our leaders have not led us well. "We struggle with our doubts, our fears, our cynicism." Fair enough and true enough, but he doesn't dig down to explain how to become a greater nation, what specific path to take--more power to the state, for instance, or more power to the individual. He doesn't unpack his thoughts, as they say. He asserts and keeps on walking.
So his draw is not literal eloquence but a reputation for eloquence that may, in time, become the real thing.
But his big draw is this. In a country that has throughout most of our lifetimes been tormented by, buffeted by, the question of race, a country that has endured real pain and paid in blood and treasure to work its way through and out of the mess, that for all that struggle we yielded this: a brilliant and accomplished young black man with a consensus temperament, a thoughtful and peaceful person who wishes to lead. That is his draw: "We made that." "It ended well."
People would love to be able to support that guy.
His job, in a way, is to let them, in part by not being just another operative, plaything or grievance-monger of the left-liberal establishment and left-liberal thinking. By standing, in fact, for real change.
Right now Mr. Obama is in an awkward moment. Each day he tries to nail down his party's leftist base, and take it from Mrs. Clinton. At the same time his victories have led the country as a whole to start seeing him as the probable Democratic nominee. They're looking at him in a new way, and wondering: Is he standard, old time and party line, or is he something new? Is he just a turning of the page, or is he the beginning of a new and helpful chapter?
Mr. Obama did not really have a good week, in spite of winning a primary and a caucus, and both resoundingly. I don't refer to charges that he'd plagiarized words from a Deval Patrick speech. He borrowed an argument that was in itself obvious--words matter--and used words in the public sphere. In any case Mrs. Clinton has lifted so many phrases and approaches from Mr. Obama, and other candidates, that her accusation was like the neighborhood kleptomaniac running through the street crying, "Thief! Thief!"
His problem was, is, his wife's words, not his, the speech in which she said that for the first time in her adult life she is proud of her country, because Obama is winning. She later repeated it, then tried to explain it, saying of course she loves her country. But damage was done. Why? Because her statement focused attention on what I suspect are some basic and elementary questions that were starting to bubble out there anyway.
* * *
Here are a few of them.
Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?
Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?
Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it's his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America's leaders don't love America tenderly, who will?
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don't teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.
And if you feel you're losing America, you really don't want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?
* * *
Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.
That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.
Does Mrs. Obama know this? I don't know. If she does, love and gratitude for the place that tries to give everyone an equal shot would seem to be in order.