Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's investments
on: March 28, 2008, 05:30:25 PM
Where Does Obama Invest His Money?
March 27, 2008 10:26 p.m.
Barack Obama gave a major economic speech Thursday in New York, where the financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks, to put it mildly. That makes it all the more curious that Mr. Obama's tax returns, which he released this week, apparently show that he and his wife Michelle have next to no stake in the investor class.
Ryan Ellis of the American Shareholders Association has examined the Obama returns for calendar years 2001 to 2006 and found that, in all of those years, the couple reported a mere $1,188 in dividends in 2006 and another $2,754 in dividends in 2005. In the previous years, they reported no dividends of any kind.
Indeed, even though Michelle Obama had income from the University of Chicago's Hospital System that exceeded $1 million during the period the tax returns were filed, she appears to have neither a 401(k) plan nor an IRA for retirement contributions. In another sign the Obama household wasn't into building a nest egg, the couple cashed out $6,260 from a pension or 401(k) plan in 2000.
Given all this, Mr. Ellis asks why the Senator is so "hell-bent on pursuing punitive taxes on capital that would wreck America's retirement savings?" His answer: Perhaps it's "because, by and large, he doesn't have any skin in the game."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: March 28, 2008, 02:59:29 PM
50 Ways to Beat the Reaper
It's simple: Employ these scientific strategies now and add years of good living to your future
By: Denny Watkins & Alison Granell & Heather Loeb
We've been told that the only sure things are death and taxes. But just as creative accountants have helped many men triumph over their 1040s, we can help you outrun the reaper. Maybe it's a game you can't ultimately win. But by following these 50 tips, you sure as hell can send it into overtime.
1. Drink at Least Five 8-ounce Glasses of Water a Day
Scientists at Loma Linda University found that men who drank this amount of H2O were 54 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those who drank two glasses or less every day.
2. Take a Laugh Break
Watching 15 minutes of funny video can improve bloodflow to your heart by 50 percent, report researchers at the University of Maryland. "This may reduce blood-clot formation, cholesterol deposition, and inflammation," says study author Michael Miller, M.D. For your daily dose, click on the "hilarious" video link at ebaumsworld.com.
3. Don't Go to Work Sick
Over a 3-year period, men who clocked in despite feeling under the weather had double the heart-attack risk of guys who stayed in bed, according to a U.K. study.
4. Put Out the Fire in Your Chest
Untreated heartburn can lead to a heart attack, according to a study in the International Journal of Cardiology. Scientists discovered that as acid levels in the esophagus rise, the incidence of blocked bloodflow to the heart also rises by 20 percent. A natural remedy: Analyze your diet. Don't make a habit of drinking wine, juice, or carbonated beverages, all of which are highly acidic and may trigger heartburn, say South Carolina researchers.
5. Indulge Your Chocolate Craving
In a 15-year study, Dutch scientists determined that men who ate just 4 grams of cocoa a day had half the risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate less. That's the equivalent of two 25-calorie Hershey's Kisses -- an amount that can fit into any diet.
6. Say No to Froot Loops
In a review of 53 studies, Australian researchers found that regularly eating cereal made from refined grains raises insulin and C-reactive protein, and lowers good cholesterol -- all factors that boost your odds of developing heart disease. A better choice for your morning bowl: Post Shredded Wheat cereal, which is made from 100 percent whole grains and contains no sugar.
7. Take a Magnesium Supplement
Over an 18-year period, French researchers determined that men with the highest blood levels of magnesium are 40 percent less likely to die of any cause than those with the lowest levels. Magnesium can make multivitamins too bulky, so add a 250 milligram (mg) pill from iherb.com or GNC to your daily regimen.
8. Burn 1,100 Calories a Week
Duke University scientists discovered that this amount of exercise prevents the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue -- the dangerous belly fat that causes arterial inflammation and hypertension. Falling short? Join a league: A recent British Medical Journal study reported that people who exercised in groups boosted their average calorie burn by 500 a week.
9. Take a Daily Multivitamin
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that this helps prevent the DNA damage that causes cancer. We like Centrum Silver.
10. Hit the Weights
University of Michigan scientists found that men who completed three total-body weight workouts a week for 2 months lowered their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That's enough to reduce the risk of stroke by 40 percent and heart attack by 15 percent.
11. Set a Three-Drink Limit
Harvard researchers determined that downing more than three drinks in a 24-hour period increases your risk of atrial fibrillation, a condition that may boost your odds of a stroke fivefold during that time. An important note: When the average man pours himself a glass of wine, it's typically twice the size of a standard drink (4 ounces), report researchers at Duke University.
IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK...
12. Plop an Alka-Seltzer
It contains 325 milligrams of aspirin, the same as a regular aspirin, and begins fighting blood clots almost 3 minutes faster than a pill, according to a study in Thrombosis Research.
13...and Call a Ride
Walk-in patients wait almost twice as long in the E.R. as those who arrive by ambulance, according to a University of New Mexico study.
14. Treat a Killer Bee Sting
You may not know if you're allergic to the venom of a bee, wasp, or hornet until you've already been stung. But if you start to experience the symptoms of a life-threatening reaction--hives, wheezing, abdominal cramping--you can save yourself in 3 steps:
Step 1. Call 911.
Step 2. Take a Benadryl.
Step 3. Lie on your back and elevate your legs while you wait for help, says Steven Kernerman, D.O., an allergist at the Spokane Allergy and Asthma Clinic. An allergic reaction can constrict your blood vessels, and our three-step strategy counteracts that by improving bloodflow to your heart.
15. Eat Produce at Every Meal
If you consume more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you have a 26 percent lower risk of stroke than people who eat fewer than three servings, according to a recent U.K. study.
16. Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Johns Hopkins University researchers recently determined that people with the highest blood-sugar levels have twice the risk of heart disease as those with the lowest. A warning sign: fasting blood sugar that's greater than 100 mg per deciliter.
17. Think Positive
Purdue scientists discovered that constant worrying shortens your life span by 16 years.
18. Keep Your Cool
Men who frequently express anger outwardly are more than twice as likely to have a stroke than guys who control their tempers, according to the journal Stroke. If you have anger-management issues, try fish oil. National Institutes of Health scientists found that hostile, aggressive men often have low blood levels of DHA--one of the main omega-3 fats found in the oil. We like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega ($27 for 60 1,000-milligram (mg) softgels; nordicnaturals.com). Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg every day.
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T END UP AS FISH FOOD.
Most shark attacks occur at dawn and dusk, when sharks feed, says Alan Henningsen, a marine biologist and shark researcher at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. You can watch the sky for clues to their location: Seabirds eat the same fish as sharks. Here are three more ways to avoid a grisly death.
19. Dive with a Partner
This cuts the chance of a shark attack by 50 percent, say Australian scientists.
20. If You're Attacked, Hit the Shark in Its Eyes or Gills
These are its most sensitive areas. The snout might work as a target, but this tactic often results in a bitten arm, according to a University of Maryland study.
21. For God's Sake, Don't Pee in the Ocean
Bodily Fluids attract sharks
22. Try a Natural Remedy
According to Israeli scientists, eating one red grapefruit a day lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 20 percent, even in people who don't respond to statins.
23. Have Breakfast within 90 Minutes of Waking
A University of Massachusetts study found that men who waited longer than that were 50 percent more likely to become obese. And U.K. researchers determined that increases in body mass were directly proportionate to the likelihood of dying of gut cancers -- specifically rectal, bladder, colon, and liver.
24. Vacuum for 30 Minutes
Doing 150 calories' worth of chores a day can lower high blood pressure by 13 points, according to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The reduction lasts only 8 hours, but make it a daily habit and you can lower your BP in the long term. (Helping out more with housework may improve your sex life, too.)
25. Eat Berries
The antioxidants in cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have been shown to offer protection from a stroke, keep you mentally sharp as you age, and ward off cancer.
26. Drownproof Yourself
If you're dumped in the water without a life preserver, the key to survival is staying warm and conserving energy. Use the method taught to U.S. Navy pilots: Float facedown in the water with your knees tucked against your chest in the fetal position. (This slows the drop in body temperature.) Exhale bubbles slowly, turning your head to one side only to inhale deeply. Repeat until help arrives.
27. Sleep on Your Side
This can halve the number of sleep-apnea-related wakeups you experience during the night. Such interruptions make you up to six times more likely to be involved in an auto accident, due to residual fatigue, according to researchers at University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland. To keep from rolling over onto your back as you sleep, stuff a small, firm neck pillow down the back of your T-shirt before dozing off.
28. Light a Jasmine-Scented Candle
Men who did this for just 1 minute before bed fell asleep faster, tossed and turned less, and felt more refreshed in the morning than those who didn't inhale the aroma, report scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University. That's important, because insufficient sleep boosts your risk of diabetes, and restless sleep increases your odds of a stroke.
29. Live Life in a Smoke-free Zone
Secondhand smoke, besides boosting your risk of lung cancer, raises your diabetes risk by 40 percent -- nearly the same as smoking does.
30. Dodge a Deadly Lightning Bolt
Stay off the toilet during severe thunderstorms. If lightning hits within even 60 feet of your house, it can not only jump through phone and electrical lines but also run through plumbing, according to the National Weather Service.
31. Put Your iPod on a Mount
Reaching for an unsecured object as you drive makes you eight times more likely to swerve into a road barrier, according to the Mayo Clinic.
32. Check Your Smoke Alarms
The most likely reason a house fire ends in a fatality: no early warning. While just about every U.S. residence has smoke alarms, a Morehouse School of Medicine study revealed that the devices were nonfunctioning in one-third of homes due to dead or absent batteries. If you've ever let the juice in any of your detectors dwindle -- or removed the battery simply to disable the low-power beep -- consider installing at least one DuPont self-charging smoke alarm ($26; target.com). It screws into a ceiling light socket and feeds off your home's electricity.
33. Sip on Mint Tea
It contains the powerful antioxidant hesperidin, which reduces the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with diabetes by 52 percent, according to a study at the University of Buffalo. And despite its lack of caffeine, mint tea also increases alertness.
34. Don't Jaywalk
This is particularly good advice if you've had too much to drink, because 77 percent of pedestrians killed while crossing the road aren't at intersections. And 53 percent of those killed at night had blood-alcohol concentrations at or above .08 percent, the legal limit in all 50 states.
35. Don't Get Blown to Bits
Keep bleach, paint stripper, fabric softener, glue, and sidewalk salt away from gas appliances. The chlorine or fluorine in these products breaks down into ionized gas, which can eat holes in the pipes that deliver the fuel for your furnace, range, or dryer. Think you smell fumes? Don't call for help from inside your house; using your phone could create an electric spark and set off an explosion.
IMPROVE YOUR OUTLOOK, SAVE YOUR LIFE
Scandinavian researchers have observed that deep depression (and its spinoff, suicide) is often caused by job stress. Here's how to lower stress, boost your mood, and simultaneously improve your overall health.
36. Find Time to Exercise...
People who exercise at any intensity for 2 hours a week--an average of about 17 minutes a day--are 61 percent less likely to feel highly stressed than their sedentary counterparts, according to researchers in Denmark.
37...Then Take it Outside
British researchers found that people who exercised outdoors reduced their depression by 71 percent, while indoor exercisers' depression decreased by only 45 percent after their workouts.
38. Cut Out the Sweet Stuff
Tufts University researchers found that men on low-sugar diets had lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who consumed all types of carbs. The happier people also limited their total carb intake to 40 percent of total calories.
39. Douse Your Salad with Oil and Vinegar
European scientists determined that unheated olive oil reduces cancer risk. As for vinegar, eating it prior to a high-carbohydrate meal (like pasta) slows the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream. This prevents the spikes in blood sugar and insulin that signal your body to store fat.
40. Add Curry to Vegetables
Rutgers University scientists discovered that a combination of turmeric (found in curry powder) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (a compound in broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) helps fight prostate cancer. The researchers believe that dusting your vegetables just once a week will provide protection.
41. Be a Career Coach
A man married to a woman who is upset by her work is 2.7 times more likely to develop heart disease. If your wife won't find a new job, help her practice her negotiating skills. A Harvard study found that due to anxiety, women don't initiate money talks at work as often as men do, especially when the boss is male.
42. Stash a Cinnamon Air Freshener in your car
The strong, spicy smell can help you stay alert as you drive. Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University found that a whiff increases alertness by 25 percent. Sucking on an Altoid may work, too.
43. Test Yourself for HIV
A recent British study confirms that early detection is the key to extending your life. You can order a take-home HIV test online ($44, homeaccess.com), mail in your blood sample, and receive your results in the mail just 7 days later.
44. Fall on Your Butt
If you feel yourself losing balance on the stairs, crouch so that your butt hits first, says Robert Nirschl, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Don't be afraid to bounce down a few steps -- it'll make a fatal blow less likely.
45. Design a Colorful Menu
Colorado State University scientists discovered that men who eat the widest variety of fruits and vegetables gain greater cancer-fighting benefits than those who eat more total servings but choose from a smaller assortment. That's because the plant chemicals that protect against disease vary between botanical families. Mix it up by choosing one serving from five different color groups: blues and purples, greens, whites, reds, and yellows and oranges.
46. Take a Noontime Nap
Breaking up your day with a 30-minute snooze can reduce coronary mortality by 37 percent, report Greek researchers. Why? It reduces stress that can damage your heart. Even a short nap once or twice a week was found to decrease the risk of early death.
47. Steep Your Tea for at Least 3 Minutes
Any less than that lowers the number of disease-fighting antioxidants.
48. Use Watercress in Your Salad
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that eating 3 ounces of watercress every day increases levels of the cancer-fighting anti-oxidants lutein and beta-carotene by 100 and 33 percent, respectively.
49. Enjoy Your Joe
Brooklyn College researchers recently discovered that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day lowers your risk of dying of heart disease by 53 percent. If you like Starbucks, choose a Caffè Americano: A grande counts as 4 cups and contains just 15 calories.
50. Ask for the Heel
Bread crust has up to eight times more pronyl lysine -- an antioxidant that fights cancer -- than what's in the center. Similarly, the skin of produce is loaded with healthy nutrients, too. http://www.menshealth.com/cda/article.do
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anatomy part two
on: March 28, 2008, 02:50:21 PM
By then, the leadership of the newly triumphant Democrats on Capitol Hill had already determined that the war was irretrievably lost and that the only responsible course was to get out as quickly as possible. Signaling the emphasis the Democrats meant to place on ending our involvement in Iraq quickly, Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, sought to make Jack Murtha her principal deputy.
As for the president's new strategy, the Democrats labeled it "an escalation"--no doubt because polls and focus groups showed that this would make it seem least palatable to the American public. The administration countered with the proposition that we were sending "reinforcements." The media settled on "surge." Each of these labels had the unfortunate side-effect of obscuring the many other changes contained in the new strategy and focusing attention exclusively on the increase in military troops--certainly the gutsiest element in terms of our domestic politics but by no means the only important one.
Week after week, the Democrats attempted to use their control of Congress to suffocate the surge in its cradle. Various proposals were advanced to hobble Gen. Petraeus and render implementation impossible. In April, just as the 30,000 new surge troops were entering the country, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared peremptorily: "This war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything."
Mr. Reid was wrong. While the political standoff in Washington worsened, the situation in Iraq began to improve. Not right away or all at once, of course. In fact, to judge by the measures of greatest salience to the American media, the situation only eroded in the first half of 2007. Attacks rose in number, as did American fatalities. But Gen. Petraeus was steadily refining and adapting the new strategy, and his efforts became especially productive after the full complement of new forces was on the ground and the "surge in operations" could begin in earnest by the beginning of June.
By September 2007, when Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker gave their first report to Congress, the trend line toward success was discernible. Still, the matter remained debatable--to the point where Sen. Clinton felt confident enough to inform Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker on national television that "the reports you provided to us require the willing suspension of disbelief" and to characterize the two men as "the de facto spokesmen of what many of us consider to be a failed policy."
A few months after that showdown, however, the progress was all but indisputable. By now, indeed, we can see that the surge has bought precious time for the United States and the nascent Iraqi state to progress meaningfully toward five specific objectives.
First is extirpating the inciters of sectarian violence: al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunnis and the rogue militias among the Shiites. Second is building up a larger, more capable, and more integrated Iraqi Security Force than existed in 2006.
At the same time, Iraqis are being given the opportunity to create the means of political accommodation locally and from the "bottom up," in ways that reflect the realities of life inside the highly complex mosaic of their country. The achievement of this third goal is the precursor to the fourth, which is to make the central, "top down" government in Baghdad more responsive to the nation's 18 provinces by opening its pocketbook for projects that will improve the economic and living conditions of the country's citizenry at large.
The final goal is, perhaps, the trickiest: pushing Iraqi politicians to pass legislation on a number of important measures, including the sharing of oil revenues, the funding of infrastructure projects, the reform of de-Baathification laws, and the like. These are the notorious "benchmarks" mentioned by the president in his January 2007 speech and subjected to much derision by skeptics.
A year after Mr. Bush first announced the new strategy, progress on the first three objectives has exceeded everyone's expectations, even those who helped design the surge. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been gravely wounded. The rogue elements within the Shiite militias are being pruned away. The Iraq Security Force is growing in size and reliability. And, following the decision of Sunni tribes to turn on al Qaeda and throw in their lot with the United States and the new Iraq, local political accommodation is proceeding at a remarkable pace.
There has also been some movement toward linking the Iraqi Parliament's spending to the needs of localities, but so far this is less impressive. As for the benchmarks on political reconciliation from the top down, it is useful to recall that we once thought such political change should precede everything else. That approach did not work. Our new strategy was based on the contrary assumption that security came first, and that parliamentary progress would lag significantly behind other elements. Of course, this has hardly prevented the president's critics from seizing on the failure of the Iraqi government to have completed all of it benchmarks as putative evidence of the surge's overall failure. Even here, however, there has been a measure of progress on the ground: in February, for example, the Iraqi Parliament passed legislation addressing several key benchmarks, notably including de-Baathification reform and the facilitation of provincial elections as well as of better relations between the provinces and the central government.
* * *
The Petraeus-Crocker report to Congress will no doubt offer further evidence that the new approach is working but is far from having completed its assigned task. No fair-minded observer could conclude otherwise. Gen. Petraeus has already indicated that the central military element of the surge--the increase of 30,000 troops--will end by summer 2008. At that point, U.S. forces in Iraq are set to decline to pre-surge levels, roughly 130,000. The question Gen. Petraeus will now have to answer is: how long will troop levels need to stay there, and when can they start moving down?
What Gen. Petraeus must have uppermost in his mind is the record compiled by his predecessors in trying to produce results with just enough troops to come close but not enough to succeed. A premature drawdown would, by definition, cause the forfeiture of his hard-won gains. And the political reality is that once those troops left Iraq, they would not be coming back.
In a slide presentation that accompanied his September 2007 testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus gave a picture of what he considered an appropriate drawdown. In his reckoning, after remaining at 130,000 for some time, American troops could decline in number to approximately 115,000, then by slow and measured steps to around 100,000, then perhaps to 85,000, and so onward. The closer the troop levels came to 100,000 (or fewer) the more manageable the deployment would be militarily. At those levels, our ground forces would be able to return to a peacetime rotation schedule, which would put far less strain on the all-volunteer force.
In other words, a substantial American presence in Iraq is sustainable militarily over the long term. The great unknown is whether such a commitment would be sustainable politically here at home.
The evidence of the past 16 months is that the American people are likely to support, or at least tolerate, a reduction in American numbers gradual enough to preserve the gains of the surge. A President McCain, for example, would probably have no trouble taking advantage of this sustainable strategy and bringing our mission in Iraq to the most successful end achievable.
What of a President Barack Obama or a President Hillary Clinton? If one were to attempt an answer to this question from the two candidates' words and conduct during the long primary season, one would have reason to conclude that both, in promising a rapid "end" to the war with an equally rapid withdrawal of American forces, are bound and determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of at least partial victory.
But it is not impossible to imagine that these vital matters would appear differently to a Democratic president considering Iraq's and America's future from a seat at the desk in the Oval Office rather than from the stage of a college gymnasium filled with delirious Democratic primary voters. One might even permit oneself to hope that, while continuing to speak derogatorily of George Bush's years as the shepherd of our Iraq policy, such a president would come to know, privately and in time, that he or she had been bequeathed something very different from a fiasco: the promise of a better outcome for Iraq, for the Middle East, and for the American people.
Mr. Feaver is the Alexander F. Hehmeyer professor of political science and public policy at Duke University and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. He is a co-author of "Getting the Best Out of College," to be published by Ten Speed Press in June. This article appears in the April issue of Commentary.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feaver: Anatomy of the Surge
on: March 28, 2008, 02:49:14 PM
Anatomy of the Surge
By PETER D. FEAVER
March 26, 2008
Over the past 16 months, the United States has altered its trajectory in Iraq. We are no longer headed toward a catastrophic defeat and may be on the path to a remarkable victory. As a result, the next president, Democrat or Republican, may well find it easier to adopt the broad contours of this administration's current strategy than to jeopardize progress by changing course abruptly.
That would be an ironic, but satisfying, outcome to the tortuous journey on which the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq, and this nation's views of Iraq, have been traveling over the past three years.
The administration's description of the long-term American goal--a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, govern itself and sustain itself, and will be an ally in the war on terror--has remained consistent from the time the war was launched in 2003 until now. What has shifted, due to sobering experience, is its sense of how long it might take to achieve this goal: a time frame that has stretched from months, to years, and even to decades.
I witnessed the shift firsthand. For two years, from June 2005 to July 2007, I left my teaching position at Duke to join the National Security Council staff as a special adviser for strategic planning, and in that capacity I worked closely on Iraq policy. By the middle of 2005, it was painfully obvious to everyone involved that the only decisive outcome that could be achieved during President Bush's tenure was the triumph of our enemies, America's withdrawal, and Iraq's descent into a hellish chaos as yet undreamed of.
The challenge, therefore, was to develop and implement a workable strategy that could be handed over to Mr. Bush's successor. Although important progress could be made on that strategy during Mr. Bush's watch, ultimately it would be carried through by the next president. This was the reality behind the course followed by the administration in 2005-06, and it remains the reality behind the new and different course the administration has been following since 2007.
This new and different strategy, now called the "surge" but at one point called by insiders the "bridge," emerged out of a growing recognition over 2006 that our critics were right about one thing: Our Iraq policy was not working. At the same time, however, and whether knowingly or ignorantly, many of those same critics were insisting that the answer lay in pursuing precisely the same strategy we already had in place. That is, they were telling us that we needed (a) to push Iraqi government officials to come together politically and (b) to train Iraqi troops so that they could take over from American forces. We had been doing exactly these things for a year, and we had been driven to the brink.
This was no solution at all. The results on the ground in Iraq made it clear that without a dramatic change, the president would be leaving his successor with an untenable mess, if not the prospect of a catastrophic American rout. A review of administration policy was therefore launched that led to the dramatic course revision we have seen unfolding over the past year-and-a-half.
Next month, the military leader of the surge, Gen. David Petraeus, and America's chief diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will present their second report to Congress on the surge and its effects. Prudent and circumspect men, they will surely not advance bold claims on behalf of the policy the United States has been following under their leadership. But I expect they will speak more optimistically about the future than many thought possible eighteen months ago. Their testimony will demonstrate that, at last, the United States has a sustainable strategy for Iraq with a reasonable chance of success, and one that George W. Bush will be able to turn over with confidence to the next incumbent of the White House.
How we got here is a story in itself.
* * *
In the summer of 2005, Gen. George Casey, the theater commander in Iraq, was pressing a military campaign whose primary goal was the training and maturing of Iraqi security forces. At the same time, Iraqis had designed a national constitution that would be the subject of a countrywide referendum in October, to be followed (assuming the constitution's ratification) by national elections in December.
Here at home, administration policy was inundated by criticisms on every front. Much of it was reckless, but not all of it. From "skeptical supporters" of the war like Sen. John McCain and the military analyst Fred Kagan came the charge that the number of American "boots on the ground" was far from sufficient to accomplish the mission. Although our military commanders in Iraq kept assuring the White House that this was not the case, the criticism flitted like Banquo's ghost in the background of every internal discussion about the war.
Some Democrats in the "loyal opposition"--i.e., those who were not simply advocating an irresponsible strategy of defeat and withdrawal--made the same point, but more often they took a different tack. Charging that the administration had no strategy beyond "staying the course," they proposed instead that the United States pressure the Iraqis to bring the sullen and disaffected Sunni minority into the political sphere. This would siphon support from the insurgency. In addition, the Pentagon needed to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces to handle more of the load against the enemies of the new Iraq. And the State Department had to lean on Iraq's neighbors to do more to help.
This counsel seemed maddeningly sensible to us. It was, to the letter, the administration's strategy at that very moment. Still, exasperating though it may have been to be told that we should do what we were actually doing, this line of criticism also seemed to contain potentially good news. Perhaps, we thought, we could find common ground with these Democratic critics--their number included Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Carl Levin--and forge a consensus on how to move forward.
That was the background to a decision in the fall of 2005 to release an unclassified version of Gen. Casey's campaign plan, along with a document explaining how all elements of American power were being mobilized to assist in its realization. The full document was called the National Strategy for Supporting Iraq, the name of which changed somewhere along the way to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, or NSVI. There was nothing new here. The release of the NSVI, bolstered by a series of frank presidential addresses, was simply an attempt to make public a number of details about our approach and offer a reasonable response to our reasonable critics.
The effort was doomed. It was overtaken by political events or, rather, by one specific event: a press conference, on Nov. 17, 2005, by John Murtha, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.
Mr. Murtha was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a hawk on defense spending--someone generally thought to be at home with the old "Scoop" Jackson wing of the Democratic party. When it came to Iraq, he turned out to be something else. "Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty," Mr. Murtha summarily declared at his press conference, and now it was time to bring the troops home--as soon as possible, but no later than in six months.
Mr. Murtha was not calling for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. To the contrary, he was advocating the wholesale abandonment of Iraq. As he well knew, moreover, six months would be the fastest possible withdrawal under the most optimistic timetable, with our forces working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to pull out all of the equipment and matériel we had brought in over the previous three years. This was not a brief for haste but rather a recipe for panic.
Unlike those critics who lambasted our policy and then commended it to our attention, Mr. Murtha was presenting an unambiguous alternative. The left wing of the Democratic :arty and its supporters in MoveOn.org had finally found a spokesman with credentials on national security to make the most extreme case for the war's end.
The media lauded the Murtha plan, but they did not examine it closely. I spent hours with reporters in a futile effort to persuade them to show Mr. Murtha the respect of subjecting his scheme--including his bizarre notion of redeploying troops 5,000 miles away on the island of Okinawa in the Sea of Japan--to the same level of scrutiny they lavished upon administration policy. One key reporter told me, "We don't scrutinize Murtha's plan because none of us takes it seriously."
Inside the White House, we joked bitterly that the only way we could get people to see the flaws in Murtha's proposal would be to offer it as our own.
* * *
In the end, however, even if we had managed to secure some kind of bipartisan support for our strategy, it would have made little difference. Over the course of 2006, the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq collapsed.
We had assumed that steady political movement would drain Sunni support for the insurgency by giving Sunnis a stake in the new Iraq--and that such political progress could be completed before the safety of the Iraqi population had been secured. Alas, the stunningly successful constitutional referendum of October 2005 and the national election two months later were followed by a dreadful stalemate. It took Sunnis nearly six weeks to acknowledge that the vote had been free and fair, and then squabbling within the Shiite community paralyzed its politicians in turn. Month after month, the nascent Iraqi political class found itself unable to form and seat a government. Almost a half-year of political momentum was forgone.
No less worrisome was the discovery that the Iraqi security forces were not yet in any condition to shoulder an increasing portion of the burden--to "stand up" so that coalition forces could "stand down." At the same time, the security challenge became far grimmer. In February, al Qaeda terrorists blew up the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shiite shrines in Iraq. Shiite militia groups responded just as the terrorists had hoped, launching retaliatory strikes against Sunni citizens. A bloody pattern--sectarian atrocity, sectarian reprisal, sectarian counter-reprisal--took hold. Each week, attack levels reached new heights. Since even the vastly more capable U.S. forces seemed unable to tamp down the violence, there was no chance that fledgling Iraqi security forces might do so any time soon.
With the situation deteriorating throughout the spring, the administration might have begun the full-fledged reconsideration of the National Strategy for Victory that it would conduct later in the year. But suddenly the existing strategy appeared to receive a boost. After months of wrangling, the Iraqis finally installed a unity government under the leadership of the little-known Nouri al-Maliki. And U.S. special forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the charismatic leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind behind its strategy of fomenting civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Hope rekindled that the chaos could be brought under control.
But the boost proved illusory. Gen. Casey launched a new effort to regain control of the capital, but within weeks it foundered when several of the Iraqi units on which it depended simply failed to show up for the fight. A revised version of the Casey plan likewise came a cropper when the new Maliki government interfered with efforts to go after rogue Shiite militias that were now rivaling al Qaeda in Iraq in wreaking havoc.
Over the summer, doubts began to grow among White House officials working on Iraq; by September the NSC staff initiated a quiet but thorough review of strategy with an eye to developing a new way forward. The review, which soon expanded beyond the confines of the National Security Council, became a matter of public knowledge after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's departure in November, the day after the landslide Democratic victory in the midterm elections. The election underscored the fact that, at a minimum, the administration would have to reposition the Iraq mission in the minds of the American people. Our review confirmed that it would take more than a change of face to rescue the possibility of victory--it would take an entirely new strategy.
The idea was for our proposed change in course to be completed in time to take advantage of the release of another document. This was the much-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Inside the White House, we hoped that the report's recommendations would be palatable enough to blend with whatever new approach the president decided to adopt. The long-sought holy grail--a bipartisan consensus on the way forward in Iraq--seemed again within reach.
* * *
It was not to be. While sharply criticizing the lack of progress thus far, the Baker-Hamilton commission essentially recommended back to us an accelerated version of the strategy envisioned by the NSVI: stand them up so we can stand down. While there was still some support inside the administration for continuing on that path, the interagency team on which I served was of a different mind. The situation in Iraq had eroded beyond the point envisioned by the Baker-Hamilton report; under the horrific conditions now at play, we concluded, Iraq's security forces were far more likely to crack under the strain than to "stand up." And those forces were the essential glue of a stable, unified future. If they went the way of Humpty Dumpty, neither they nor the new Iraq could ever be put back together again.
The Baker-Hamilton report did offer theoretical support for a short-term surge of military forces--something the president and the interagency team were also looking at very closely--but this was mentioned only in a brief passage and was far from the document's central thrust. The White House never succeeded in shifting the conventional wisdom in Washington that Baker-Hamilton provided an alternative to current policy. Nor, unfortunately, were we ready with our own genuine alternative when the Baker-Hamilton report was released on Dec. 6, 2006. That put paid to the idea that we could use the occasion as a means of securing bipartisan support for a new approach. By the time the president announced the surge in January, the climate had turned frostier still.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 02:18:54 PM
Second post of the day:
Geopolitical Diary: Ukraine, The Main Battlefield of Cold War II
March 28, 2008
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday that no NATO bases would be deployed in his country in the event that Kiev became a member of that organization. Citing Ukraine’s Constitution, which forbids the establishment of foreign military bases in the country, Yushchenko said, “Some people are spreading the fable that there will be a NATO military base in Sevastopol. There will be no base.” This statement comes within three weeks of Kiev saying it had abandoned its bid for membership in the Western military alliance.
This is not the first time Ukraine has done such a flip-flop. On the contrary, this oscillation between aligning with the West and placating Russian concerns has been the hallmark of the country’s behavior for some years now — if not historically. Structurally, Ukraine is divided between the people in the western part of the country, who want to align with the United States and Europe, and the people in the eastern part, who are looking eastward toward Moscow.
The ill-fated Orange Revolution of late 2004/early 2005 — which failed to bring the country under Western influence –- complicated things. It exacerbated the divisions within the country, creating a stalemate between the two sides. Ukraine’s geopolitical position has failed to allow the country to break its dependence on and past with Russia. As a result, on a larger geopolitical scale, the United States and Russia are locked in a long-term tug-of-war over Ukraine.
In fact, Ukraine represents the major arena in which Cold War II is being played out between Washington and Moscow. Ukraine is of critical importance to both sides. For the United States, a successful extraction of the country from the influence of Moscow — not to mention NATO’s arrival on Moscow’s doorstep — means relegating Russia to the status of a declining regional power. Conversely, and more importantly, for Russia, it is not just about its efforts to revive the bipolar world, but it is an issue of survival.
The loss of Ukraine could critically weaken the Kremlin. It is not merely a buffer separating Russia from the West; it is integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural base. This is why Moscow has been using the tool of natural gas cutoffs and coercion by the FSB to keep Ukraine’s leadership in check. Moreover, Moscow has laid out the consequences of Kiev teaming up with NATO, saying it will point missiles at its neighbor if it were part of the alliance.
Moscow, however, can take comfort from the fact that there is no consensus within the West regarding Ukraine’s entry into NATO. The Europeans, particularly Germany, do not share Washington’s level of enthusiasm for Kiev’s assimilation into NATO. Uninterrupted supply of Russian gas via Ukraine is of far greater value to the Central and Eastern Europeans than any grandiose plans to secure the downfall of Russia. It isn’t that Germany is against Ukraine joining the West, but that it would rather pick that fight another day — preferably when Europe wasn’t so dependent on Russia for energy.
But it is Ukraine that is being tugged and pushed from all sides, leaving it to balance precariously between surviving with a very aggressive Russia to its east, ambivalence to its west and a Washington eager to use Kiev as its pawn to stick it to Moscow. For the next week, Ukraine will toe the line — not accepting or rejecting the other and waiting for the United States and Russia to decide how far this battle will go.
In short, Ukraine is not just the premier battlefield of Cold War II, but a more-or-less permanent standoff arena –- unless, of course, one side decides to back off, which isn’t about to happen anytime soon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Natural Aristocracy
on: March 28, 2008, 02:17:21 PM
"For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy
among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813)
Reference: Jefferson Writings, Lemay, ed., 1305.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 28, 2008, 02:11:12 PM
Are Democrats overrating the political appeal of a federal housing bailout?
Rep. Tom Feeney, from Florida of all places, called us this week to slam House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank's draft mortgage bill. Although Mr. Feeney represents more than 70 miles of coastline in a state that is ground zero in the housing downturn, he calls a taxpayer-financed rescue a "terrible idea." During the Easter recess, Mr. Feeney has been strolling along Daytona Beach talking to voters. His findings are bracing. "My constituents for the most part have no sympathy for the lenders, and they are not terribly sympathetic with borrowers who made bad decisions," he says. In fact, relief for borrowers is not even at the top of the list of housing concerns. He hears more complaints about high property taxes based on bubble-era assessments.
Mr. Feeney says his constituents realize that most of the pending plans to help strapped borrowers will benefit a relative few, while raising costs for all borrowers. Mr. Feeney says of a specific plan to let bankruptcy judges knock down the loan amount due on a house: "The percentage of people who will benefit is minuscule. The other 99.5% of Americans will pay for it."
-- James Freeman
Reading the Matchup Tea Leaves
The argument rages over whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would do better against John McCain in the fall. Nationally, the two fare about the same, with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mr. Obama leading Mr. McCain by 2 points, and Mr. McCain slightly ahead of Mrs. Clinton, results that are all within the margin of error.
But the results vary dramatically from state to state. In Pennsylvania, Mr. McCain picks up a lot of the old Reagan Democrats in a matchup with Mr. Obama, putting that state in play even though it hasn't voted for a Republican for president in 20 years. The latest Susquehanna Poll finds Mr. McCain leads Mr. Obama by four points, but trails Hillary Clinton in a fall matchup by three points.
In Connecticut, the results are dramatically different. Mr. McCain has a fighting chance against Mrs. Clinton, trailing her by only 45% to 42%. Against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain certainly benefits from an endorsement by independent Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat. But it's a different story when the Arizonan is paired up against Mr. Obama -- he loses by a whopping 52% to 35%. The reason? Mr. Obama is phenomenally popular with voters under age 35 -- he gets almost three quarters of their votes.
But a big caveat for Mr. Obama is the past pattern of younger enthusiasts drifting off before Election Day and failing to vote. Should Mr. Obama be the Democratic nominee, he will need to make sure his young supporters don't exhaust the "audacity of hope."
-- John Fund
A letter of protest from some of Hillary Clinton's big donors to Nancy Pelosi has stirred up the "She can't win, why is she running?" caucus in the media one more time.
But the premise is false. Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Barack Obama can win on pledged delegates, and party rules prescribe that the deciding votes fall to the superdelegates. Mrs. Clinton's donors, led by New York financier Steven Rattner and media mogul Robert Johnson, yesterday wrote to the House Speaker and rightly demanded that she stop trying to fix the outcome by insisting superdelegates must follow the popular vote in their states or districts and vote (in effect) for Barack Obama.
That's not what party rules say, specifically empowering superdelegates to make up their own minds. One who is ironically unimpressed by Ms. Pelosi's reasoning is Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., possessed of one of the most powerful Democratic names in the state. He plans to endorse Mr. Obama today despite polls showing Mrs. Clinton leading by double digits in Pennsylvania.
Of course, the pro-Clinton letter writers weren't about to highlight the real problem. The most influential superdelegates, such as Ms. Pelosi and Al Gore, should simply stop being so coy and throw their lot behind a candidate, while urging their fellow superdelegates to do the same. They could settle this race now if they are so concerned about it dragging out. The likely result would be to put Mr. Obama over the top, but at least rank-and-file voters in the coming primaries would know where the superdelegates stand.
Then again, don't discount the possibility that Mr. Gore and Ms. Pelosi don't want the stalemate to end. Each would play a starring role at the most dramatic convention in decades. In a total breakdown, they might even end up being drafted for a party unity ticket.
-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.
Mugabe's Election Farce
Independent surveys show Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with only 20% support as the country heads toward a March 29 election in the midst of an economic nightmare in which 80% of the population lacks a regular job.
But no one expects Mr. Mugabe to lose. He has gerrymandered districts to ensure his rural supporters carry much more weight in the election. Then there's the vote fraud he is actively promoting. Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says leaked documents from the government's security printers show nine million ballots have been ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote on Saturday. Under amended laws, police will also be allowed to go into polling booths to "assist" illiterate people in voting -- a clear violation of Mr. Mugabe's previous pledges not to have police moonlight as election officials.
Then there are the voter rolls themselves, which are stuffed with the names of the dead or nonexistent. The London Times reports one electoral register included people born in 1900 and 1901, along with a former minister of justice who died a quarter-century ago. Mugabe opponents say these "ghost voters" will give the government a ready means of stuffing ballot boxes.
Before the last election, Mugabe critics were able to obtain voter rolls for 12 districts. An independent analysis found that 45% of the named individuals didn't exist. This year, the government has kept the voter rolls under lock and key.
It's true Mr. Mugabe only won 54% of the vote in the last rigged election, and strongmen ranging from Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Chavez have in the past miscalculated the amount of fraud necessary to steal an election. But few in Zimbabwe doubt that the wily 84-year-old Mr. Mugabe will stop at nothing in order to maintain his grip on power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 10:12:56 AM
NATO Expansion Should Continue
By DONALD RUMSFELD
March 28, 2008; Page A13
Next week Romania's capital of Bucharest will host representatives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 26 member nations. There the alliance will make critical choices about its mission in Afghanistan and expanding to several former Soviet-bloc nations. These decisions need not and should not be further delayed for yet more "meetings" and "consultations" in capitals across Europe.
Today NATO needs clarity of purpose. A display of timidity in Bucharest could derail its recent progress in adjusting to the demands of the still new 21st century. Moving decisively beyond NATO's traditional mindset is a strategic imperative if the alliance is to remain relevant to the challenges it is likely to face.
There is no better way for NATO to move forward than by extending full membership invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and by beginning the process to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance in the future through membership action plans (MAPs). At a time when European commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan are being questioned, the determination of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to contribute to tough missions is clear. Collectively, the three Balkan nations have more than 650 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the moment Croatia has more than 200 troops training the Afghan National Army and serving in Provincial Reconstruction Teams. A company of Macedonian troops leads the mission of defending NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. In addition to its continuous troop presence in Afghanistan since 2002, Albania was among the first nations to deploy to Iraq in 2003. Five years later, Albania intends to be among the last to leave. As the Albanian military commander in Mosul, Iraq, recently said, "We'll be here as long as the Americans are."
As was the case with NATO invitations to other former Soviet-bloc nations in 1999 and 2004, this year's expansion would consolidate democratic and economic gains in Southeast Europe. The region's trajectory toward free political institutions and free markets is unmistakable.
For the past several years under membership action plans, the governments of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have been preparing to join the ranks of NATO. They now meet the necessary criteria for membership. They have shown their commitment to human rights and regional stability by protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. They have allocated a greater percentage of their GDP to defense expenditures than most NATO countries in Western Europe, and they have built sound defense capabilities in intelligence, medical support, and special operations.
Perhaps most important in light of NATO's demonstrated shortcomings, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have made use of those capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq by taking on the tough missions that several current NATO members have been unwilling to carry out. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are certainly not large geographically, but the operational -- and attitudinal -- contributions they bring to NATO will far outstrip their size.
With respect to Georgia and Ukraine, both nations are democratic, politically mature, relatively stable and committed to the international community after the Orange and Rose revolutions in 2003 and 2004. Neighboring Russia recently suggested it might turn its nuclear arsenal on Ukraine or incite civil disorder in Georgia if either takes steps to join NATO. Undeterred, the Georgian and Ukrainian governments have expressed their clear desire to initiate membership action plan proceedings.
Silence on the issue of Georgia and Ukraine in Bucharest -- including postponement of MAPs, as some Western European governments seem to be suggesting -- would amount to a rejection of Georgia's and Ukraine's international aspirations. It would prove disillusioning to their people, and it would serve as a green light to Russia to continue the tired rhetoric of the Cold War.
The administration, bipartisan majorities in Congress, and most members of NATO have expressed support for extending membership to nations in Southeastern Europe and for partnerships with those nations beyond. Why then the hold up? Aside from Russia's opposition, Greece has threatened to issue a sole veto over Macedonia's entry because Macedonia refuses to change its country name. The future of the trans-Atlantic alliance -- and its credibility as the pre-eminent political and military instrument of the world's democracies -- are too important to be constrained by narrow disputes over semantics or to intimidation tactics more befitting the last century.
A larger, reinvigorated alliance, with three new members and two potential members, would augment NATO with countries that have a proven track record of not only recognizing today's challenges but also of consistently contributing to the alliance's efforts to promote and protect its interests. Expansion would bring operational expertise and a spirit of cooperation to an alliance in need of both. All five nations would also bring to NATO an appreciation for the vigilance required to defend liberty. With their peoples' first hand experience of Communist occupation, they see in Islamic extremism the dangers of an all too familiar totalitarian ideology.
NATO's mission in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from the European continent, has been an historic step toward transforming NATO to meet new challenges of the 21st century. But its work there has laid bare some hard truths about the state of the alliance.
Restrictive national caveats imposed by some member nations currently prevent their contingents from engaging in combat, causing other NATO and non-NATO members of the coalition -- such as those being considered for membership currently -- to carry a disproportionate burden of the alliance's work and sacrifice. Outdated rules of engagement, uneven national commitments, and a lack of sufficient urgency among several of its members are indisputable facts. And so too are the possibilities of failure and creeping irrelevance if NATO does not act wisely in Bucharest.
Expanding NATO to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and building closer partnerships with Georgia and Ukraine would help to assuage any concerns that the alliance no longer has the collective grit for the tough work necessary to overcome the challenges in Afghanistan. All five non-NATO nations currently under consideration -- in contrast with several full NATO members -- have demonstrated willingness to accept NATO responsibilities.
Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are today ready to accept those responsibilities. Georgia and Ukraine will likely be ready to accept NATO responsibilities in the coming years if issued membership action plans next week. The Bucharest summit presents an opportunity to advance the interests of all 26 member nations by expanding the NATO alliance. Now is not a time for self-doubt. It is a time for U.S. and European leadership.
Mr. Rumsfeld was U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1973 to 1974 and was the 13th and 21st U.S. secretary of Defense.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others.
on: March 28, 2008, 10:03:25 AM
Police: Teen makes mistake of trying to rob former U.S. Marine
Bay City News Service
Article Launched: 03/27/2008 10:39:20 AM PDT
SANTA ROSA - A boy in his mid-teens learned Wednesday afternoon that it is not a good idea to try to rob a former U.S. Marine at knifepoint, even if the former Marine is 84 years old, police said today. Santa Rosa police Sgt. Steve Bair said that's what happened around 2 p.m. in the 1600 block of Fourth Street. The elderly man was walking with a grocery bag in each arm when the boy approached him with a large knife, Bair said.
The boy said, "Old man, give me your wallet or I'll cut you," Bair said. The man told the boy he was a former Marine who fought in three wars and had been threatened with knives and bayonets, Bair said.
The man then put his bags on the ground and told the boy that if he stepped closer he would be sorry. When the boy stepped closer, the man kicked him in the groin, knocking him to the sidewalk, Bair said. The ex-Marine picked up his grocery bags and walked home, leaving the boy doubled over, Bair said.
The man reported the attempted robbery to police 45 minutes later.
Bair said the teen is described only as 15 or 16 years old. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan
on: March 28, 2008, 09:22:46 AM
Getting Mrs. Clinton
March 28, 2008
I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.
That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).
But either you get it now or you never will. That's the importance of the Bosnia tape.
Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.
Not that her staff isn't policing them too. Mrs. Clinton's people are heavy-handed in that area, letting producers and correspondents know they're watching, weighing, may have to take this higher. There's too much of this in politics, but Hillary's campaign takes it to a new level.
It's not only the press. It's what I get as I walk around New York, which used to be thick with her people. I went to a Hillary fund-raiser at Hunter College about a month ago, paying for a seat in the balcony and being ushered up to fill the more expensive section on the floor, so frantic were they to fill seats.
I sat next to a woman, a New York Democrat who'd been for Hillary from the beginning and still was. She was here. But, she said, "It doesn't seem to be working." She shrugged, not like a brokenhearted person but a practical person who'd missed all the signs of something coming. She wasn't mad at the voters. But she was no longer so taken by the woman who soon took the stage and enacted joy.
The other day a bookseller told me he'd been reading the opinion pages of the papers and noting the anti-Hillary feeling. Two weeks ago he realized he wasn't for her anymore. It wasn't one incident, just an accumulation of things. His experience tracks this week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mrs. Clinton's disapproval numbers have risen to the highest level ever in the campaign, her highest in fact in seven years.
* * *
You'd think she'd pivot back to showing a likable side, chatting with women, weeping, wearing the bright yellows and reds that are thought to appeal to her core following, older women. Well, she's doing that. Yet at the same time, her campaign reveals new levels of thuggishness, though that's the wrong word, for thugs are often effective. This is mere heavy-handedness.
On Wednesday a group of Mrs. Clinton's top donors sent a letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, warning her in language that they no doubt thought subtle but that reflected a kind of incompetent menace, that her statements on the presidential campaign may result in less money for Democratic candidates for the House. Ms. Pelosi had said that in her view the superdelegates should support the presidential candidate who wins the most pledged delegates in state contests. The letter urged her to "clarify" her position, which is "clearly untenable" and "runs counter" to the superdelegates' right to make "an informed, individual decision" about "who would be the party's strongest nominee." The signers, noting their past and huge financial support, suggested that Ms. Pelosi "reflect" on her comments and amend them to reflect "a more open view."
Barack Obama's campaign called it inappropriate and said Mrs. Clinton should "reject the insinuation." But why would she? All she has now is bluster. Her supporters put their threat in a letter, not in a private meeting. By threatening Ms. Pelosi publicly, they robbed her of room to maneuver. She has to defy them or back down. She has always struck me as rather grittier than her chic suits, high heels and unhidden enthusiasm may suggest. We'll see.
What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)
She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.
* * *
What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."
Made me laugh. It was like the voice of the people answering back. This guy knows that what Mrs. Clinton said is sort of crazy. He seems to know her reputation for untruths. He seemed to be saying, "I get it."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another CAIR official indicted
on: March 28, 2008, 09:06:30 AM
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
003/08 March 26, 2008
CAIR: The Treason from Within; Another CAIR Official Indicted
On Wednesday, 26 March, a Grand Jury indictment against Muthanna Al-Hanooti was unsealed in Michigan. The indictment accuses Al-Hanooti of violations of 18 and 50 United States Code. The specifics include allegations that Al-Hanooti provided information on members of the congress who were of interest to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), acted under direction of the IIS, accepted payments in oil (two million barrels) from the Iraqi government for acting as its agent, and provided a written brief to the Iraqi government outlining methods that could be used to lift the sanctions then in place against Iraq.
The indictment may be read here (PDF): http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/112.pdf
Al-Hanooti was the executive director of CAIR’s then-new regional office in Michigan at the time he committed the alleged crimes. Once again, we see the dirty black hand of CAIR connected to yet another arguably traitorous individual who apparently sold out “his” country for 30 pieces of silver.
For over a decade, we Americans have allowed CAIR to dictate to us how we should behave, believe, and react to Islam in our country. We have kow-towed to CAIR’s demands for special rights based on Islam; watched our law enforcement genuflect at the feet of radical Islamists; observed our president and other elected leaders contort our language to comport with CAIR’s demands, and we have, for the most part, remained silent.
Silent, no more!
How many CAIR connected radical Muslims will we tolerate before we DEMAND of our President that he close down CAIR as he did the Holy Land Foundation? How many treasonous acts are too many? What is the tipping point for CAIR-connected crimes against our country? How many of our brave warriors must die in the war on terror before we close down what is arguably the Embassy for Hamas in North America - CAIR?
The day has finally come when we Americans can no longer say about CAIR that “we didn’t know”.
CAIR has told us, numerous times, that they are here to defend radical Islam, that they want the United States to become an Islamic dictatorship, and that they approve of the actions of many Islamist terrorist groups and individuals; including those that terror-murder on an almost daily basis women and children.
Why aren’t we listening...?
Additional Links:http://www.investigativeproject.org/article/626 http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/NEWS03/80326063 http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/METRO/803260441/1361 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/06/17/MNGJ477FCK1.DTL
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's last hope
on: March 27, 2008, 04:49:03 PM
Hillary's Last Hope
By LAWRENCE B. LINDSEY
March 27, 2008; Page A15
I'm a numbers guy, especially if they have to do with politics or economics. So even though I am a Republican, analyzing the Democratic primary results has become a great pastime. This is especially true when it comes to the Democrats' dilemma about how to handle Florida and Michigan -- two states that broke party rules by holding their primaries before the allowed date, but which probably hold the key to the Democratic presidential nomination. To this numbers guy, the solution is pretty obvious from the data.
But the Democrats appear to be a party of lawyers. Only lawyers could have invented delegate selection rules as complicated and opaque as the ones the Democrats are struggling under. It also looks like only lawyers have a chance at the Democratic nomination. Harvard Law (Obama) and Yale Law (Clinton) candidates have survived, while University of North Carolina Law (Edwards), Syracuse Law (Biden), and the University of Louisville Law (Dodd) have been eliminated. And lawyers at the DNC Rules Committee will decide what happens next.
Still, sometimes lawyers call in numbers guys as expert witnesses.
The first question is whether Florida and Michigan voters acted like these primaries mattered, even though they knew the delegates they chose were not recognized by the national party. This can be discerned from turnout, and in the case of Florida the answer is yes.
Florida had a closed primary in which only registered Democrats could vote; turnout amounted to 46.7% of John Kerry's 2004 popular vote. The primary turnout relative to Kerry's 2004 vote in other closed primaries ranged from 39.8% in New York and 40.8% in Connecticut to 48% in Delaware, 49% in Arizona to 58.5% in Maryland. In other words, Florida Democrats acted as if their primary mattered just as much as other Democrats. By contrast, turnout in Michigan was only 23.7% of Kerry's 2004 vote, and it is an open primary. Michigan Democrats did not act like their primary mattered.
The second question is whether the two states' primary votes were skewed because of their timing, or whether they looked like what would have occurred had they happened on some "legal" day like Super Tuesday. A survey of exit polls from the primaries held so far shows patterns of voting by factors like age, gender, racial and ethnic identification, income, education and religion. This allows us to test whether the Florida and Michigan results looked the way they "should," based on how the voting occurred in other states.
Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by 17 points in Florida. If one takes the voting by age in large Super Tuesday states like California and New Jersey and applies it to the demographics of Florida, a predicted margin of 16 points emerges.
The similarities don't end there. For example, Jewish voters made up 9% of the Democratic electorate in Florida and New Jersey. Mrs. Clinton won this group by 32 points in Florida and 26 points in New Jersey. This is not surprising, since many Jewish residents of Florida emigrated from up north, and thus voted the same way their cousins, nieces, nephews and children did.
The statistical evidence strongly suggests that the outcome in Florida reflected what would have occurred had the state voted on Super Tuesday rather than one week earlier.
The voting in Michigan reflects many similarities to other states, but is far less conclusive. Sen. Obama's name was of course not on the Michigan ballot. Yet voters had the option of voting "uncommitted" -- and the demographic evidence suggests they understood that voting "uncommitted" was a vote for Mr. Obama, or at least against Mrs. Clinton. California and New Jersey votes by age, where Mr. Obama was on the ballot, were almost exactly the same as in Michigan, where "uncommitted" was the alternative to Mrs. Clinton. A difference does emerge in the over-60 group, which gave Mrs. Clinton a 37-point margin in Michigan compared with 21 in California, 25 in Missouri and 28 in New Jersey. The average of those would have reduced her 15-point overall margin in Michigan to 12 points.
That difference in margin is virtually identical to the key difference between Michigan and other states: less of a racial gap. Among the 23% of Michigan Democrats who identified themselves as black, "uncommitted" beat Clinton by 38 points. Remember that Michigan voted four days before South Carolina, when the racial issue moved to the forefront. In South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, Mr. Obama beat Mrs. Clinton by margins between 50 and 60 points. Had this happened in Michigan, Clinton's victory margin would have been 11 points instead of 15. Although unprovable without access to the actual polling questionnaires, the likelihood is that older black voters trended decisively to Mr. Obama after Michigan and South Carolina. That same conclusion also appears to be consistent with national polling.
In sum, the Michigan vote was flawed in ways the Florida vote was not. The most statistically valid conclusion would be that changes in voter attitudes in the second half of January would have produced a much narrower win for Mrs. Clinton of 10-12 points (not 15) had the state voted on Super Tuesday instead of Jan. 15. Still, Mrs. Clinton would almost certainly have won.
The behavior of Mrs. Clinton, who went to Michigan to lobby for a revote, and that of the Obama campaign, which worked to thwart a Michigan revote, indicate that both camps know this would be the outcome. Demographically Michigan looks almost identical to Ohio, which gave Clinton a 10-point victory.
Discussion among Democrats on how to deal with Florida and Michigan centers on three options. The first is not to seat them at all. Legally appropriate, but it would doubtless hurt the Democrats in both states in November -- which may be why Republicans in the state legislatures found themselves as allies of Mr. Obama in working against a revote.
The second option would be to seat delegations that were evenly split between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. This would make the votes of 2.3 million Democrats irrelevant, while creating artificial representation for the states. It is very much like the 72 bonus delegates selected by party leaders to "represent" women, ethnic minorities, the gay and lesbian communities and the handicapped.
The third option would be to let the early primary votes stand, and select delegates according to the outcome. On a statistical basis, this is clearly the right result for Florida. The easiest solution for Michigan is to simply award the 45% of the vote uncommitted or for another candidate to Mr. Obama. This appears to be the intent of those voters, as well as the likely result of a rematch. It would reduce Mr. Obama's current edge in pledged delegates to 115 from 167. It would also reduce the adjusted popular-vote margin, that converts caucus votes to primary votes, to an edge for Mr. Obama of 466,000. If Mrs. Clinton wins Pennsylvania by the margin polls now suggest, the two candidates would be essentially tied in popular votes, with an Obama edge in delegates of about 80. That would leave the remaining primaries and the superdelegates to decide the outcome of an essentially tied race.
Democrats are clearly going to have to rewrite their delegate selection rules after this contest, like they did after similar fiascos in 1968 and 1988. Until then, it's up to the lawyers, and may the cleverest lawyer win. My money is on Mr. Obama blocking the statistically based solution described above. After all, as a product of Harvard myself, I know perfectly well that Harvard produces cleverer lawyers than Yale, regardless of what the numbers might say.
Mr. Lindsey is president and CEO of the Lindsey Group, and author of "What a President Should Know . . . But Most Learn too Late" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A PM's perspective
on: March 27, 2008, 04:45:13 PM
NATO's Balkan Destiny
By ANTONIO MILOSOSKI
March 27, 2008
The NATO summit in Bucharest is less than a week away. Yet Macedonia's bid to join the trans-Atlantic alliance hangs in the balance. Strangely, the problem is the name of my country, which Greece doesn't recognize, and not our record on civil and military reforms, which Macedonia has been diligently pursuing.
Seven years ago, Macedonia was a net security consumer. We're now a net provider with 3.5% of our troops engaged in security missions abroad -- mainly in Afghanistan. Ninety percent of our citizens support NATO membership, a rarity in this region. Support for the alliance unites the multiethnic Macedonian society and cuts across ethnic, party and social lines.
Our close cooperation with NATO goes back to its 1999 intervention against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Macedonia was the key country in the region in assisting the alliance, providing infrastructure and logistics for NATO combat operations. We also opened our doors to 380,000 Kosovo refugees who found a shelter in Macedonia. Some stayed on to make their lives in Macedonia.
Kosovo remains a pressing security issue today, and Macedonia is honoring its end of the bargain. We are the host country of the logistics headquarters for KFOR, the Kosovo stabilization force. It is operated by the Macedonian army and financed through our budget.
Kosovo's independence last month changed the security and political outlook for the Balkans. We still don't know what the end game will look like. Much progress was made in the recent years in the Western Balkans in terms of keeping stability and expanding our economies. This has been achieved in no small part thanks to the positive roles played by the EU and the U.S. in our region in the last decade.
But there are numerous potential sources of instability. Political structures in Kosovo are underdeveloped. Political cohesion in the region is weak. From a security perspective, NATO is still needed, particularly in and around Kosovo to help administer borders and keep a close watch on trafficking and organized crime.
Positive messages from the EU and the U.S. on integration into NATO and the EU are vitally important. NATO membership is a staple of progress in our region. To this extent, progress, stability and prosperity will be enhanced in the Balkans if Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are invited to join NATO next week in Bucharest.
The more states from the Balkans we have joining NATO, the less NATO we will need in the Balkans. The alliance would then be freed up to cope with challenges further a field
Considering what's at stake, Macedonia's NATO membership shouldn't be held hostage to a bilateral dispute with Greece over my country's name. But that's just what has happened in recent months.
Our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with the Greek, Americans, the Dutch, and others. No one minds the label "Macedonia" on their uniforms. Macedonia was asked to fulfill the Membership Action Plan (or MAP) criteria to be considered for NATO membership. This we did.
Our issue with Greece is a bilateral one. We are prepared to settle it together with our Greek friends. We are ready to compromise. But we won't be pushed into accepting a solution concerning our name as a condition of getting into NATO.
My country remains committed to the 1995 Interim Accord where we agreed -- with the UN serving as the guarantor -- that neither Macedonia nor Greece will block the other's membership in international organizations.
NATO membership and the start of the accession talks with the EU are the two bottom-line priorities for Macedonia -- no matter who's in power. But Macedonia will not yield to pressure.
NATO isn't where the name issue should be decided. Let's keep the alliance focused on security. With that in mind, it should be clear that excluding Macedonia from the club will do nothing to boost security in the Balkan region. It may even bring about the opposite result.
Mr. Milososki is foreign minister of Macedonia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More from Morris
on: March 27, 2008, 02:58:51 PM
More from Morris:
Hillary's List of Lies
Thursday, March 27, 2008 7:40 AM
By: Dick Morris & Eileen McGann Article Font Size
The USA Today/Gallup survey clearly explains why Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is losing. Asked whether the candidates were “honest and trustworthy,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won with 67 percent, with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right behind him at 63. Hillary scored only 44 percent, the lowest rating for any candidate for any attribute in the poll.
Hillary simply cannot tell the truth. Here's her scorecard:
Chelsea was jogging around the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (She was in bed watching it on TV.)
Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. (She admitted she was wrong. He climbed Mt. Everest five years after her birth.)
She was under sniper fire in Bosnia. (A girl presented her with flowers at the foot of the ramp.)
She learned in The Wall Street Journal how to make a killing in the futures market. (It didn't cover the market back then.)
Whoppers She Won't Admit
She didn't know about the FALN pardons.
She didn't know that her brothers were being paid to get pardons that Clinton granted.
Taking the White House gifts was a clerical error.
She didn't know that her staff would fire the travel office staff after she told them to do so.
She didn't know that the Peter Paul fundraiser in Hollywood in 2000 cost $700,000 more than she reported it had.
She opposed NAFTA at the time.
She was instrumental in the Irish peace process.
She urged Bill to intervene in Rwanda.
She played a role in the '90s economic recovery.
The billing records showed up on their own.
She thought Bill was innocent when the Monica scandal broke.
She was always a Yankees fan.
She had nothing to do with the New Square Hasidic pardons (after they voted for her 1,400-12 and she attended a meeting at the White House about the pardons).
She negotiated for the release of refugees in Macedonia (who were released the day before she got there).
With a record like that, is it any wonder that we suspect her of being less than honest and straightforward?
Why has McCain jumped out to a nine-point lead over Obama and a seven-point lead over Hillary in the latest Rasmussen poll?
OK, Obama has had the Rev. Wright mess on his hands. And Hillary has come in for her share of negatives, like the Richardson endorsement of Obama and the denouement of her latest lie — that she endured sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. But why has McCain gained so much in so short a period of time? Most polls had the general election tied two weeks ago.
McCain's virtues require a contrast in order to stand out. His strength, integrity, solidity and dependability all are essentially passive virtues, which shine only by contrast with others.
Now that Obama and Hillary are offering images that are much weaker, less honest, and less solid and dependable, good old John McCain looks that much better as he tours Iraq and Israel while the Democrats rip one another apart.
It took Nixon for us to appreciate Jimmy Carter's simple honesty. It took Clinton and Monica for us to value George W. Bush's personal character. And it takes the unseemly battle among the Democrats for us to give John McCain his due.
When Obama faces McCain in the general election (not if but when) the legacy of the Wright scandal will not be to question Obama's patriotism or love of America. It will be to ask if he has the right stuff (pardon the pun).
The largest gap between McCain and Obama in the most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll was on the trait of leadership. Asked if each man was a “strong, decisive leader,” 69 percent felt that the description fit McCain while only 56 percent thought it would apply to Obama, and 61 percent said it of Hillary. Obama has looked weak handling the Wright controversy.
His labored explanation of why he attacks the sin but loves the sinner comes across as elegant but, at the same time, feeble. Obama's reluctance to trade punches with his opponents makes us wonder if he could trade them with bin Laden or Ahmadinejad.
We have no doubt that McCain would gladly come to blows and would represent us well, but about Obama we are not so sure.
© 2008 Dick Morris & Eileen McGann
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: People can be fooled
on: March 27, 2008, 10:49:31 AM
"It is an unquestionable truth, that the body of the people in
every country desire sincerely its prosperity. But it is equally
unquestionable that they do not possess the discernment and
stability necessary for systematic government. To deny that they
are frequently led into the grossest of errors, by misinformation
and passion, would be a flattery which their own good sense
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the Ratifying Convention of New
York, June 1788)
Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 42.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: March 27, 2008, 09:56:19 AM
Islam’s ‘Public Enemy #1’
Coptic priest Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire.
By Raymond Ibrahim
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.
Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.
The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, manyof them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world. Several factors account for the Botros phenomenon.
First, the new media — particularly satellite TV and the Internet (the main conduits for Life TV) — have made it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal. It is unprecedented to hear Muslims from around the Islamic world — even from Saudi Arabia, where imported Bibles are confiscated and burned — call into the show to argue with Botros and his colleagues, and sometimes, to accept Christ.
Secondly, Botros’s broadcasts are in Arabic — the language of some 200 million people, most of them Muslim. While several Western writers have published persuasive critiques of Islam, their arguments go largely unnoticed in the Islamic world. Botros’s mastery of classical Arabic not only allows him to reach a broader audience, it enables him to delve deeply into the voluminous Arabic literature — much of it untapped by Western writers who rely on translations — and so report to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.
A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has provenirrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.
Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.
More often than not, the response from the ulema is deafening silence — which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim viewers. The ulema who have publicly addressed Botros’s conclusions often find themselves forced to agree with him — which has led to some amusing (and embarrassing) moments on live Arabic TV.
Botros spent three years bringing to broad public attention a scandalous — and authentic — hadith stating that women should “breastfeed” strange men with whom they must spend any amount of time. A leading hadith scholar, Abd al-Muhdi, was confronted with this issue on the live talk show of popular Arabic host Hala Sirhan. Opting to be truthful, al-Muhdi confirmed that going through the motions of breastfeeding adult males is, according to sharia, a legitimate way of making married women “forbidden” to the men with whom they are forced into contact — the logic being that, by being “breastfed,” the men become like “sons” to the women and therefore can no longer have sexual designs on them.
To make matters worse, Ezzat Atiyya, head of the Hadith department at al-Azhar University — Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institution — went so far as to issue a fatwa legitimatizing “Rida’ al-Kibir” (sharia’s term for “breastfeeding the adult”), which prompted such outrage in the Islamic world that it was subsequently recanted.
Botros played the key role in exposing this obscure and embarrassing issue and forcing the ulema to respond. Another guest on Hala Sirhan’s show, Abd al-Fatah, slyly indicated that the entire controversy was instigated by Botros: “I know you all [fellow panelists] watch that channel and that priest and that none of you [pointing at Abd al-Muhdi] can ever respond to him, since he always documents his sources!”
Incapable of rebutting Botros, the only strategy left to the ulema (aside from a rumored $5-million bounty on his head) is to ignore him. When his name is brought up, they dismiss him as a troublemaking liar who is backed by — who else? — international “Jewry.” They could easily refute his points, they insist, but will not deign to do so. That strategy may satisfy some Muslims, but others are demanding straightforward responses from the ulema.
The most dramatic example of this occurred on another famous show on the international station, Iqra. The host, Basma — a conservative Muslim woman in full hijab — asked two prominent ulema, including Sheikh Gamal Qutb, one-time grand mufti of al-Azhar University, to explain the legality of the Koranic verse (4:24) that permits men to freely copulate with captive women. She repeatedly asked: “According to sharia, is slave-sex still applicable?” The two ulema would give no clear answer — dissembling here, going off on tangents there. Basma remained adamant: Muslim youth were confused, and needed a response, since “there is a certain channel and a certain man who has discussed this issue over twenty times and has received no response from you.”
The flustered Sheikh Qutb roared, “low-life people like that must be totally ignored!” and stormed off the set. He later returned, but refused to admit that Islam indeed permits sex-slaves, spending his time attacking Botros instead. When Basma said “Ninety percent of Muslims, including myself, do not understand the issue of concubinage in Islam and are having a hard time swallowing it,” the sheikh responded, “You don’t need to understand.” As for Muslims who watch and are influenced by Botros, he barked, “Too bad for them! If my son is sick and chooses to visit a mechanic, not a doctor — that’s his problem!”
But the ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: March 27, 2008, 01:52:45 AM
And here's this:http://www.newsmax.com/morris/Hillary_bosnia_morris/2008/03/25/83058.html
Hillary's Other Fabrication
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:15 PM
By: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann Article Font Size
Now that Hillary Clinton has been nailed in an outright fabrication of her role in Bosnia, it is time to remind ourselves of another, even more galling fantasy that Hillary tried to sell the voters.
After 9/11, Hillary had a problem. New Yorkers were desperately focused on their own needs for protection and they were saddled with a Senator who was not one of them -- an Arkansasn or was it a Chicagoan?
Interviewed on the "Today" show one week after 9/11, she spun an elaborate yarn. The kindest thing we could say was that it was a fantasy. Or a fabrication. She said that Chelsea was jogging around the World Trade Center on 9/11 and happened to duck into a coffee shop when the airplanes hit. She said that this move saved Chelsea's life. But Chelsea told Talk magazine that she was in a friend's apartment four miles from ground zero when the first plane hit. Her friend called her, waking her up, and told her to turn on the TV. On television, she saw the second plane hit, disproving Hillary's claim that "she heard the plane hit. She heard it. She did."
So why did Hillary make up the story about Chelsea? Most likely to was because her co-senator (and implicit rival for the voter's affection), a real New Yorker Chuck Schumer spoke of his daughter, who attended Stuyvesant High School (Dick's alma mater) located next to the TRade Center, being at real risk on 9/11. Hillary needed to make herself part of the scene.
She invented the entire story on national television, the "Today" show, and didn't blink an eye. Her fabrication on the "Today" show was no unique foray. It is her standard M.O.. It gives us pause in evaluating all of her stories and calls into question her entire credibility.
© 2008 Dick Morris & Eileen McGann
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taranto
on: March 26, 2008, 03:53:51 PM
Life in the Vast Lane
By JAMES TARANTO
March 26, 2008
A year ago, we noted that Hillary Clinton, then the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee, was reprising the theme of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," the specter of which she first raised in a "Today" show interview in January 1998, just after the Monica Lewinsky scandal became public. To quote from that interview:
This is--the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it--is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.
Politics make strange bedfellows, and no, we're not referring to that woman, Miss Lewinsky. National Review's Byron York notes that Mrs. Clinton was photographed yesterday with one of the key VRW conspirators:
Here is a photo from Hillary Clinton's visit . . . to the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In this picture, she is seen talking to none other than Richard Mellon Scaife, the owner of the paper and the man who once said that the death of Vincent Foster was the "Rosetta stone" of the Bill Clinton administration. (He also funded the so-called "Arkansas Project" at The American Spectator.)
Wait, it gets better. Get a load of this item, also from late yesterday, from Marc Ambinder, a blogger from The Atlantic:
The Clinton campaign is distributing an article in the American Spectator (!) about Obama foreign policy adviser Merrill McPeak and his penchant for.. well, the article accuses him of being an anti-Semite and a drunk.
Here we should disclose that we write regularly for the Spectator, that the Spectator is a member of the OpinionJournal Federation, and that we considered reprinting the article in question as a Federation Feature but decided it was too over the top.
The Atlantic's liberal bloggers are puffed up with outrage that Mrs. Clinton would "dignify" the Spectator, as James Fallows puts it:
If, as I assume is true based on Marc Ambinder's report, the Hillary Clinton campaign is circulating a hit job from the American Spectator, this is simply disgusting. . . .
That the Clinton family would dignify the American Spectator, of all publications, is astonishing to anyone who was alive in the 1990s. . . .
I can easily believe that the Spectator would publish such an article. That the Clinton team would circulate it I'm still trying to deal with.
Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, a self-described "Clinton hater" who seems to be in love with Barack Obama, piles on, quoting Atlantic blogger James Fallows as calling the Clinton campaign's distribution of the Spectator piece "simply disgusting." This is known as "blogrolling."
But it's more convoluted still. It turns out The Atlantic, whose bloggers are now ganging up on the Spectator, has a longtime rivalry with the latter magazine. In 2001 The Atlantic published an article titled "The Life and Death of The American Spectator." The online blurb reads, "The conservative magazine survived and prospered for twenty-five years before Bill Clinton came into its sights. Now the former President is rich and smiling, and the Spectator is dead."
Reports of the Spectator's death turned out to be exaggerated, but it is fair to say the magazine had fallen on hard times in 2001, in part as a result of a fruitless Clinton administration grand jury probe. The Atlantic article also attributed the Spectator's difficulties to the Arkansas Project:
Why couldn't [editor Bob] Tyrrell see that the project--which involved nonjournalists and a private detective funded by a third party--was an extraordinarily dangerous proposition for any journalistic enterprise? Perhaps because Tyrrell never saw the Spectator solely as a journalistic enterprise. Since the early days in Bloomington, Tyrrell had envisioned The Alternative as an adjunct to a political movement. They had their party, we had ours. They had their magazine, we had ours. Years later his letters to Ronald Reagan ("we shall continue the good fight with you") suggested that his views had not changed. Still more years later, as he began the Arkansas Project, he felt the same way.
Well, the Spectator is an opinion magazine. As is National Review, which now employs the author of the Atlantic article on the Spectator--Byron York, a former Spectator staffer.
So to sum up: On one side we have Barack Obama, The Atlantic, its bloggers and Byron York; on the other, Hillary Clinton, Dick Scaife and The American Spectator.
Key unanswered question: On which side does MediaMatters.org come down? That is the left-wing group headed by David Brock, who spent the early '90s investigating the Clintons for the Spectator, then contracted to write a biography of Mrs. Clinton, produced a surprisingly sympathetic account that sold poorly, jumped ship, and became a liberal Democrat.
After all this, we defy anyone to say with a straight face that Saddam Hussein would not have supported al Qaeda because he was secular.
Obama and the 'Ethnic Bomb'
Blogger Steve Gilbert uncovers another gem from the annals of the Trinity United Church of Christ. In its June 10, 2007, newsletter, the church, whose most famous member is Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama, published an "Open Letter to Oprah" (see pp. 8-11 of PDF) by one Ali Baghdadi, whose description alone ought to raise eyebrows:
Ali Baghdadi, an Arab-American activist, writer, columnist; worked with several African-American groups on civil and human rights issues since the mid sixties; acted as a Middle East advisor to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad the founder of the Nation of Islam, as well as Minister Louis Farrakhan; visited more than 80 countries throughout the world and met with many of their leaders, including Mandela, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Qathafi, Abdallah ibn Abdel-Aziz, Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Khamenei, among many others.
Baghdadi's "open letter" is an anti-Israel screed, in which he states, among other things, that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because . . . Jews should have learned from their tragic experience" (a sentiment he attributes to Arnold Toynbee) and that Israel and apartheid South Africa "both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs."
On the page immediately after Baghdadi's rant appears an article by Robert M. Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University, titled "Obama's Faith: A Civil and Social Gospel." Franklin anticipates and tries to defuse Obama's current difficulties:
Some media hounds have focused on Obama's home church of choice. Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side is one of the nation's most progressive African American mega-churches. Led for thirty-five years by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the church fuses into its core Christian identity a set of cultural strains that are vibrant in contemporary Black life, including liberation theology, Afrocentrism, and progressive politics.
The church has appealed especially to baby boomers who came of age during the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Dr. Wright has managed to bring together the disciples of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Black Nationalist disciples of Malcolm X, and to put them all in the service of promoting more equitable policies for the least advantaged members of our society. Indeed, he is often credited with making it possible for many disaffected Black separatists to return to the church and to seek change within the system.
Unfortunately, uninformed pundits (a deliberate oxymoron) from Fox TV recently weighed in on a congregation and a community about which they know very little. Their purpose is to embarrass Obama by insinuating that he is a closeted Black separatist or worse. But they fail to appreciate something distinctive about American religion and public life. The best of American political tradition permits--and perhaps requires--candidates both to acknowledge their ethnic and regional particularity, and to transcend that particularity in loyalty to the general human condition.
As an aside, it appears that the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University doesn't know what an oxymoron is.
More to the point, what exactly do the anti-Semitic ravings of Ali Baghdadi, who describes himself as a Palestinian Arab and a Muslim, have to do with Obama's "ethnic and religious particularity"? We're pretty sure Obama is neither Arab nor Muslim. Is there anything that is not excusable as a "black thing"?
Note, too, that Baghdadi in his bio boasts of having "met" with many "leaders" who were avowed enemies of the U.S. (along with Mandela and the Saudi King Abdullah), something that Obama has also promised to do if elected president.
Obama apologists will say that none of this matters, that there is no proof that Obama agrees with or countenances the views of Ali Baghdadi, that to even raise the matter is to engage in "guilt by association."
But a political campaign is not a criminal trial. Voters are free to judge Obama, and other candidates, by whatever criteria they see fit, including their dubious associations. One needn't reach a verdict of guilty to conclude that Obama seems less fit than his opponents to occupy the most powerful position in the world.
As long as Hillary Clinton is a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, let's defend her against Associated Press editorializing. Here's the lead sentence from a Washington dispatch:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, apparently trying to deflect the embarrassing fuss over her exaggerated account of a trip to Bosnia 12 years ago, told reporters at a Democratic presidential campaign stop that she would have left the church that rival Barack Obama attends over critical remarks his pastor made about America.
Now, maybe Mrs. Clinton is "trying to deflect the embarrassing fuss." But to whom exactly is this apparent? Isn't this a pretty blatant example of a reporter inserting his opinions into a news story?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2d PD/WSJ of the day
on: March 26, 2008, 03:45:32 PM
...And Ryan Seacrest Can Host
It's five long months till Democrats meet in Denver for their convention. The infighting between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton worries many in the party. "If we continue down the path we are on, we might as well hand the keys of the White House to John McCain," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri tells McClatchy Newspapers.
That's why many Democrats are discussing the idea of holding a June "mini-convention" in which the party's 800 superdelegates would congregate and put an end to the bruising nomination battle. "There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote," Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen recently suggested.
Significantly, neither Democratic candidate has poured ice water on the idea. Mr. Obama called the notion "interesting." Hillary Clinton did not reject the idea in a conversation with Governor Bredesen. But at least one superdelegate, Leila Medley of Missouri, is wary of a mini-convention. "I'm sure there are a number of us who would get beat up behind closed doors," she says. She has a better idea: "I think what we need to do is get the two of them [Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton] in a room and resolve this."
Now that encounter would indeed be an interesting "mini-convention."
-- John Fund
Meet Chris Cox
While the Democratic slugfest sucks up all the media attention, John McCain will have at least one big chance to move back to center-stage -- when he picks his veep nominee.
Mr. McCain needs to bolster his economic street cred, especially after admitting minimal expertise on the subject. He needs to rally pro-growth Republicans and calm the fears of ordinary voters amid the mortgage meltdown. Who to call? California Republican Chris Cox was on George W. Bush's shortlist eight years ago and didn't get the nod. Now his moment may have arrived, judging by a growing murmur among his GOP fans.
At 55, he's youthful and confidence-inspiring, with ample experience to serve as understudy to a well-traveled 72-year-old. He has a reputation as a serious and sober minded politician. He earned both a law and business degree from Harvard. He's fluent in Russian -- before entering politics he started a company that translated Soviet publications into English. He served a stint in the Reagan White House, then ran successfully for Congress from Orange County, serving nine terms and amassing a strong record as a fiscal conservative and tax cutter. He also led a bipartisan Congressional commission that wrote the book on Chinese technological espionage.
In 2005, he became chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he has walked a careful, and successful, line in eschewing over-regulation while expanding investor information on CEO pay and other governance hot buttons.
Not widely known is a chapter in his personal history. At age 25, Mr. Cox faced the possibility that he might never walk again when a Jeep he was riding in flipped over and pinned him to the ground. His spine was crushed. It took him six months and a steel brace that he wore around his chest before he regained the ability to walk. Today, he still suffers severe pain, especially if he sits for long periods of time, so he often uses a desk that allows him to work while standing up.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"The consequence [of Barack Obama's speech on race], which you can already feel, is an inchoate resentment among many white voters who are damned if they will be called bigots by a man who associates with Jeremiah Wright. So here we go with all that again. And this is the fresh, clean, new post-racial politics?" -- author Christopher Hitchens, writing at Slate.com on Barack Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright.
Quote of the Day II
"As a Philadelphian, I attended Central High School -- the same public school Jeremiah Wright attended from 1955 to 1959.... I attended Central a few years after Rev. Wright, so I did not know him personally. But I knew of him and I know where he used to live -- in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. This is a lovely neighborhood to this day. Moreover, Rev. Wright's father was a prominent pastor and his mother was a teacher and later vice-principal and disciplinarian of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, also a distinguished academic high school. Two of my acquaintances remember her as an intimidating and strict disciplinarian and excellent math teacher. In short, Rev. Wright had a comfortable upper-middle class upbringing. It was hardly the scene of poverty and indignity suggested by Senator Obama to explain what he calls Wright's anger and what I describe as his hatred" -- Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, writing in the New Republic.
Huckabee's Woes of the Pharisees
Mike Huckabee is as busy as ever since he ended his campaign for the GOP nomination. Invitations to speak and join the boards of various organizations are pouring in. But this week the former Arkansas governor took time to contemplate why he failed to best John McCain in this winter's primaries. His partial answer: his fellow Christian leaders.
"Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not," he told Ralph Hallow of the Washington Times. "Let's face it, if you're not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant."
Mr. Huckabee has a point. Pat Robertson of TV's "The 700 Club" was a surprise backer of Rudy Giuliani. Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer had kind words for Fred Thompson and Jay Sekulow, who heads the American Center for Law and Justice, backed Mitt Romney.
But what Mr. Huckabee fails to note is that the Christian leaders I spoke with all had passionate reasons for not backing the Baptist minister. Several singled out his critique of President Bush's foreign policy for being "arrogant," and several noted Mr. Huckabee's endorsement of a discredited "cap-and-trade" regulatory approach to global warming. "He's the leading exponent of Christian left principles in our party," one Christian leader told me. Paul Pressler, who led the successful ouster of the moderate leadership of the Southern Baptist convention in the 1980s, recalled Mr. Huckabee was on the other side in that dispute. For his part, Mr. Bauer says he "saw no evidence that [Huckabee] could bring together the three main parts of the Reagan electoral constituency -- defense, economic and social conservatives."
Mr. Huckabee does acknowledge the role of some critics in stopping his march to the nomination. He singles out the free-market Club for Growth for running damaging ads against him in South Carolina, where he narrowly lost the primary to John McCain.
"It was very frustrating to be presented as an economic liberal, because I have a very different record, as an economic conservative," Mr. Huckabee told the Washington Times. His big problem here is that so few of Mr. Huckabee's fellow Republicans in Arkansas agree with him. Only a handful of the state's 33 GOP state legislators endorsed him for president. Blant Hurt, a former owner of Arkansas Business magazine, was brutally candid on the reasons: "He's hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate."
Rather than blame shadowy "kingmakers" in the Republican Party, it's time Mr. Huckabee acknowledged that for all of his rhetorical gifts, he wasn't able to close the sale with conservative leaders -- both Christian and others -- who examined his record closely.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Birth
on: March 26, 2008, 12:11:42 PM
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for
one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected
them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature and
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation."
The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 26, 2008, 12:02:27 PM
The Lady's Not for Turning
Hillary Clinton has an answer for those who demand that she recognize the odds against her and give up a race that is dividing the Democratic Party. At a news conference yesterday in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, she pointed to recent polls showing her building a commanding lead in that state: "We have to wait and see what happens in the next three months. There's been a lot of talk about what if, what if, what if. Let's wait until we get some facts.... Over the next months, millions of people are going to vote. And we should wait and see the outcome of those votes."
While the Obama camp says Mrs. Clinton can't win the nomination, her strategist Harold Ickes dryly notes that none of the Democratic delegates elected on Obama slates are legally bound to their choice. He also notes that "many things" can happen in the next few weeks to change the dynamics of the race.
Who would argue with that after a year like the one we've had? It took this long for the Jeremiah Wright controversy to explode, and more surprise twists and turns may well be in store before the race reaches the convention.
-- John Fund
Radio show host and sometime Democratic Party activist Mario Solis-Marich reports this week that Democratic Chairman Howard Dean has been quietly meeting with Latino DNC members and asking them to step up and "make a call for Democratic unity to Latin voters."
The worry, Mr. Solis-Marich suspects, is that Latino Democrats, who favor Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin, "will prove hard to deliver should Obama take the nomination."
It's true that to remain competitive in Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and a few other states, the Democratic presidential nominee will need a large turnout of black voters. It's also true that to be competitive in Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and elsewhere, Democrats will need broad support from Hispanic voters. But there's one big difference: Disgruntled Hispanic voters are much more likely to take a serious look at the Republican candidate, John McCain, if disappointed or angry about the Democratic race. In the hard-math of electoral politics, an alienated Hispanic voter could be twice as damaging to the Democrats as an alienated black voter.
This isn't a discussion Democrats hoped to be having come spring and it certainly isn't one that will boost the party's chances of winning in November. But rest assured, it's an argument Mrs. Clinton's supporters will be using while she tries to claw her way to the nomination.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"Ninety days ago, everybody was talking in warm terms about both the candidates: 'Isn't it wonderful? Whoever's president is going to be great.' It has gotten vastly more polarized now, and that really concerns me.... The bottom line here is that we have a problem, and I think we need to take it off autopilot and try to find some way of resolving it. I don't know any way that is not going to generate some hard feeling and some divisions in the party. But if we do it early, we've got a chance to patch them up" -- Tennessee Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, quoted at Politico.com. on why Democratic superdelegates should get together and settle the presidential nomination sooner rather than later.
Quote of the Day II
"[Hillary Clinton] is being punished, not for one episode of 'mis-speaking' [about her Bosnian trip], but a whole record of dishonesty. In Bosnian terms it's more disgraceful than many remember. In 1992 Bill Clinton ran against George Bush Snr promising to help the Bosnians survive genocide -- then repeatedly went back on his word.... And I shall never forget meeting his Defense Secretary Les Aspin, who said he had wanted to land his plane under fire at Sarajevo airport to at least show some solidarity but was dissuaded by the White House. They told him it would distract from Hillary's healthcare initiative. Now Bosnia has had its small, belated revenge on her" -- columnist Christopher Hitchens, writing in Britain's Daily Mirror.
Democrats Look Into the Abyss
The first evidence that the bitterness of the Democratic nomination contest is eating into the party's chances in November is starting to show up in polls. The latest Gallup Poll finds that maverick John McCain may be just the kind of Republican who can attract disaffected supporters of whichever Democratic candidate loses the nomination fight in Denver.
As Gallup reports, only 59% of Democrats who back Hillary Clinton say they would vote for Mr. Obama against Mr. McCain; 28% of these Clinton supporters say they would cross the aisle to vote for Mr. McCain. Should Ms. Clinton be the nominee, 73% of Mr. Obama's supporters would back her in the fall while 19% would plump for Mr. McCain.
No one expects the number of defectors to be that large come November, after months of efforts by Democrats to restore party unity. In Gallup's historical final pre-election polls from 1992 to 2004, 10% or fewer of Republicans and Democrats typically vote for the other party's presidential nominee. However, as Gallup also reports: "When almost 3 out of 10 Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama, it suggests that divisions are running deep within the Democratic Party." Expect the Gallup result to be a major talking point for Team Clinton in its upcoming conversations with superdelegates.
No surprise, then, that many Democratic superdelegates are scrambling to find a way to cut short the nomination fight and informally anoint a winner after the final states hold their primaries in early June.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Islam and Free Speech
on: March 26, 2008, 10:16:39 AM
Islam and Free Speech
By PETER HOEKSTRA
March 26, 2008; Page A15
The Netherlands is bracing for a new round of violence at home and against its embassies in the Middle East. The storm would be caused by "Fitna," a short film that is scheduled to be released this week. The film, which reportedly includes images of a Quran being burned, was produced by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament and leader of the Freedom Party. Mr. Wilders has called for banning the Quran -- which he has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- from the Netherlands.
After concern about the film led Mr. Wilders's Internet service provider to take down his Web site, Mr. Wilders issued a statement this week that he will personally distribute DVDs "On the Dam" if he has to. That may not be necessary, as the Czech National Party has reportedly agreed to host the video on its Web site.
Marked for death: Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Reasonable men in free societies regard Geert Wilders's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and films like "Fitna," as disrespectful of the religious sensitivities of members of the Islamic faith. But free societies also hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental human right. We don't silence, jail or kill people with whom we disagree just because their ideas are offensive or disturbing. We believe that when such ideas are openly debated, they sink of their own weight and attract few followers.
Our country allows fringe groups like the American Nazi Party to demonstrate, as long as they are peaceful. Americans are permitted to burn the national flag. In 1989, when so-called artist Andres Serrano displayed his work "Piss Christ" -- a photo of a crucifix immersed in a bottle of urine -- Americans protested peacefully and moved to cut off the federal funding that supported Mr. Serrano. There were no bombings of museums. No one was killed over this work that was deeply offensive to Christians.
Criticism of Islam, however, has led to violence and murder world-wide. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie over his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." Although Mr. Rushdie has survived, two people associated with the book were stabbed, one fatally. The 2005 Danish editorial cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad led to numerous deaths. Dutch director Theodoor van Gogh was killed in 2004, several months after he made the film "Submission," which described violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who wrote the script for "Submission," received death threats over the film and fled the country for the United States.
The violence Dutch officials are anticipating now is part of a broad and determined effort by the radical jihadist movement to reject the basic values of modern civilization and replace them with an extreme form of Shariah. Shariah, the legal code of Islam, governed the Muslim world in medieval times and is used to varying degrees in many nations today, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Radical jihadists are prepared to use violence against individuals to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. In some countries, converting a Muslim to another faith is a crime punishable by death. While Muslim clerics are free to preach and proselytize in the West, some Muslim nations severely restrict or forbid other faiths to do so. In addition, moderate Muslims around the world have been deemed apostates and enemies by radical jihadists.
Radical jihadists believe representative government is un-Islamic, and urge Muslims who live in democracies not to exercise their right to vote. The reason is not hard to understand: When given a choice, most Muslims reject the extreme approach to Islam. This was recently demonstrated in Iraq's Anbar Province, which went from an al-Qaeda stronghold to an area supporting the U.S.-led coalition. This happened because the populace came to intensely dislike the fanatical ways of the radicals, which included cutting off fingers of anyone caught smoking a cigarette, 4 p.m. curfews, beatings and beheadings. There also were forced marriages between foreign-born al Qaeda fighters and local Sunni women.
There may be a direct relationship between the radical jihadists' opposition to democracy and their systematic abuse of women. Women have virtually no rights in this radical world: They must conceal themselves, cannot hold jobs, and have been subjected to honor killings. Would most women in Muslim countries vote for a candidate for public office who supported such oppressive rules?
Not all of these radicals are using violence to supplant democratic society with an extreme form of Shariah. Some in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are attempting to create parallel Islamic societies with separate courts for Muslims. According to recent press reports, British officials are investigating the cases of 30 British Muslim school-age girls who "disappeared" for probable forced marriages.
While efforts to create parallel Islamic societies have been mostly peaceful, they may actually be a jihadist "waiting game," based on the assumption that the Islamic populations of many European states will become the majority over the next 25-50 years due to higher Muslim birth rates and immigration.
What is particularly disturbing about these assaults against modern society is how the West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism. Last year PBS tried to suppress "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," a hard-hitting documentary that contained criticism of radical jihadists. Fortunately, Fox News agreed to air the film.
Even if the new Wilders film proves newsworthy, it is likely that few members of the Western media will air it, perhaps because they have been intimidated by radical jihadist threats. The only major U.S. newspaper to reprint any of the controversial 2005 Danish cartoons was Denver's Rocky Mountain News. You can be sure that if these cartoons had mocked Christianity or Judaism, major American newspapers would not have hesitated to print them.
European officials have been similarly cautious. A German court ruled last year that a German Muslim man had the right to beat his wife, as this was permitted under Shariah. Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, stated last month that the implementation of some measure of Shariah in Britain was "unavoidable" and British Muslims should have the choice to use Shariah in marital and financial matters.
I do not defend the right of Geert Wilders to air his film because I agree with it. I expect I will not. (I have not yet seen the film). I defend the right of Mr. Wilders and the media to air this film because free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by allowing them to set up parallel societies and separate legal systems, or by granting them special protection from criticism.
A central premise of the American experiment are these words from the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." There are similar statements in the U.S. Constitution, British Common Law, the Napoleonic Code and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, hundreds of millions in the U.S. and around the world enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and many other rights.
These liberties have been won through centuries of debate, conflict and bloodshed. Radical jihadists want to sacrifice all we have learned by returning to a primitive and intolerant world. While modern society invites such radicals to peacefully exercise their faith, we cannot and will not sacrifice our fundamental freedoms.
Mr. Hoekstra, who was born in the Netherlands, is ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Older Warrior at 93
on: March 25, 2008, 06:58:44 PM
By ANTHONY CORMIER
Published: March 25, 2008
MANATEE COUNTY - Prosecutors are moving ahead with a case against one of two 93-year-old men picked up during undercover prostitution stings.
In the case of Frank Milio, prosecutors have issued subpoenas and plan to take him to trial in April. Milio, according to police records, tried to pay $20 in November to an undercover officer on 14th Street West. Milio recently told the Herald-Tribune he was only flirting with the woman.
"I haven't had that in years," he said. "Ninety-three is kind of old."
Carlos Underhill, 93, will not be charged, although he does not deny stopping to chat with the "good-looking girl" who made eyes at him and turned out to be an undercover officer. Police say Underhill was willing to pay $30 for sex and that he promised to come back a few hours later to consummate the deal. Prosecutors say that they cannot move ahead with the criminal case because there is no way to prove Underhill planned to come back. Underhill was fined $150 for trying to pick up a prostitute in 1990, when he was 75. In the latest case, he says, he was not cruising Tamiami Trail for sex: He just wanted to chat with the buxom woman who smiled at him as he drove past.
"All I was going to do was talk," he said Monday. "It wasn't for sex. I am 93, you know."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shock and Awful
on: March 25, 2008, 06:41:35 PM
New York Post
March 20, 2008
Shock And Awful
Iraq: Justifiable War, Plagued By DC Incompetence
By Ralph Peters
ON the fifth anniversary of our campaign to remove Saddam Hussein's
monstrous regime from power, it's hard not to despair - not because of the
situation in Iraq, which has improved remarkably, but because so few
American politicians in either party appear to have drawn the right
lessons from our experience.
For the record, I still believe that deposing Saddam was justified and
useful. He was a Hitler, and he was our enemy. But I'm still reeling from
the snotty incompetence with which the Bush administration acted. Above
all, I'm ashamed that I trusted President Bush and his circle to have a plan
for the day after Baghdad fell.
All of our other failures in Iraq stemmed from this fundamental neglect
of a basic requirement: Our soldiers and Marines reached Baghdad without orders
or strategic guidance. We became the dog that caught the fire truck. The
tragedy is that it didn't have to be that way: One thing our military
knows how to do is plan.
But the relevant staffs were prevented from doing so. Ideologues and
avaricious friends of the administration wanted the war for their own
reasons, and they didn't intend to alarm Congress with high cost
estimates. So they trusted the perfumed tales of a convicted criminal, Ahmad Chalabi,
rather than the professional views of the last honorable generals
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had not yet removed.
Even on the purely military side, the White House put its faith in
hopeless gimmicks, such as "Shock and Awe," convincing itself that ground troops
were an afterthought. Of course, it was the old-fashioned grunts, tankers,
gunners and supply sergeants who had to get us to Baghdad.
Iraq just didn't have to be this hard. We made it immeasurably more
difficult by trying to make war on the cheap, then turning the war's
aftermath into a looting orgy for well-connected contractors.
The fundamental requirement to provide security for the population - a
troop-intensive endeavor - went ignored, while grandiose reconstruction
projects drained the pockets of American taxpayers, only to come to
nothing. Our troops and their battlefield leaders did all they could under
Rumsfeld's yes-man generals, but every other branch of our government ducked. The
"interagency effort" was a joke.
Back home, Congress indulged in cheap partisanship. The State Department
concentrated on building the world's largest and most-expensive embassy -
a project worthy of Saddam himself - and let the spectacularly incompetent
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer wreck what little hope of maintaining peace
The administration's solution to worsening conditions was to send more
compliant generals, to continue listening to think-tank "experts" who had
never served in uniform, to keep cutting fat checks for contractors and to
let our troops bleed between photo ops.
None of us should mistake the fundamental truth: The only reason our
efforts in Iraq have not failed completely has been the sustained valor and
commitment of those in uniform. Our military was the only government
entity that did its job. Its thanks have been betrayal by the political
opposition at home, a rash of movies portraying our troops as psychotics and
crocodile tears from protesters who secretly delight in US casualties.
In 2007, after four bloody years of denial, a desperate administration
finally got serious about military requirements, sending the additional
troops (now weary) who should have been deployed in 2003. With the
wetched Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld headed out the door, the president
also permitted a serious soldier, Gen. David Petraeus, to take charge in Iraq.
We got lucky, too. Our global enemies in al Qaeda alienated Iraq's Sunni
Arabs in record time, indulging in grotesque forms of oppression and
terror even Saddam and his sons had never dared to inflict. Those who recently
had sided with al Qaeda against us found that we were their only hope to be
rid of al Qaeda. The Sunni-Arab flip in Iraq has been a great strategic
victory that resounds throughout the Muslim world.
The troop surge also had a powerful psychological effect, convincing
enemies, fence-sitters and local allies alike that we weren't quitting -
despite the results of the US midterm elections. And the Iraqi people were
just sick of the violence. By 2007, most had gotten the worst bile out of
their systems and wanted normal lives.
Even the often chaotic, corruption-addled Iraqi legislature managed to
pass more major bills in 2007 than the US Congress sent to the president's
The situation in Iraq is improving, as I've seen with my own eyes. Despite
our cavalcade of errors, there's hope (no audacity required) for a
reasonable outcome: an Iraq that treats its citizens decently and that
neither harbors terrorists nor menaces its neighbors.
We'll need to sustain a longer commitment than would have been the case
had the administration's know-it-alls not regarded our best generals as fools
back in 2003. The administration's disgraceful treatment of then-Army
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was paradigmatic of its arrogance.
Meanwhile, those who held power over our military and misused it so
disgracefully will never suffer as our military casualties and their
families will for the rest of their lives. At most, those privileged men
will experience disappointing sales of their self-serving memoirs. Cowards
sent heroes to die.
I cannot help repeating the heartbreaking truth that it didn't have to be
this hard, this bloody, or this expensive. This is what happens when war
is made by amateurs. Has anyone in Washington learned that lesson?
It's a lesson that the left, as well as the right, needs to take to heart.
While the Bush administration deserves every lash it gets, domestic
opponents of the war have been hypocritical, dishonest and destructive. As
this column long has maintained, had President Bill Clinton sent our
troops to depose Saddam Hussein, Democrats would have celebrated him as the
greatest liberator since Abraham Lincoln.
The problem for the left wasn't really what was done, but who did it. And
hatred of Bush actually empowered him - the administration had no
incentive to reach out to those who wouldn't reach back, so it just did as it
pleased. Today's "antiwar" left also contains plenty of politicians who backed
interventions in the Balkans and Somalia, who would be glad to send
American troops to Darfur today and who voted for war in Iraq.
Both parties are quick to employ our military. It's the only
foreign-policy tool we have that works. Neither party is a peace party - each just wants
to pick its own wars. The hypocrisy in Washington is as astonishing as the
dishonesty about security needs.
Through it all, amazingly, our young men and women in uniform continue to
serve honorably and skillfully, holding together not just Iraq but a
fractured world. We whine and bicker. They re-enlist and go back to Iraq
and Afghanistan. Where they're targets of scorn for our elitist media.
Given all our mistakes and partisan agendas, it's amazing Iraq is going as
well as it is today. The improved conditions in Baghdad and most of the
provinces verge on the miraculous, given the situation a year ago. But
we've paid a needlessly high price.
As for President Bush, let's face it: He's been our most-inept wartime
leader since James Madison fled the White House, leaving his wife behind
to save what she could before the British troops arrived with torches.
That said, Bush has displayed one single worthy characteristic (one he
shares, oddly enough, with Madison): He won't surrender.
As horribly as Bush performed for our first four years in Iraq, it's still
possible to do worse. Both of the Democratic Party's presidential
aspirants believe that the answer is to flee, handing the terrorists we've defeated
a strategic victory, inviting a genocidal civil war, further destabilizing
the Middle East, and sending the message to the world that Americans lack the
courage and staying power of our enemies.
Declaring failure isn't the correct response to failure narrowly avoided.
Both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would kill a struggling
convalescent. Bush's shambles would become the next administration's
catastrophe. As president, Obama or Clinton would finish with far more
blood on his or her hands than President Bush has on his.
Was deposing Saddam Hussein a good idea? Yes. I still believe that. It was
an act of vision and virtue. It's only a shame we didn't do it competently.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lots of Jefferson
on: March 25, 2008, 05:22:16 PM
A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.
An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.
An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.
An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.
As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.
Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
Be polite to all, but intimate with few.
Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.
Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.
Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
Delay is preferable to error.
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor - over each other.
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.
Every generation needs a new revolution.
Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.
Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another?
Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
He who knows best knows how little he knows.
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Art in its Homeland
on: March 25, 2008, 04:35:18 PM
Upon reading this article it occurs to me that we need this thread.
The truth about arnis, escrima and kali
Why there is a new respect for Filipino martial arts
By Perry Gil S. Mallari, Reporter
The Manila Times
Arnis, escrima and kali-by whatever name you call it-are recognized
the world over to possess the most effective knife fighting techniques
on earth. The special forces of various countries train here to learn
our deadly arts. But few Filipinos know about Filipino martial arts
There is no doubt that the deeply ingrained colonial mentality among
Filipinos is the foremost reason why arnis, escrima and kali
collectively known as the FMA are not enjoying the same popularity as
their foreign counterparts like tae kwon do, karate and wushu right in
their very own turf. In addition to our veneration of anything
foreign, there are other contributing factors that led to this
Historically practiced by the maharlikas or noble class, a sort of
lowbrow image became attached to the FMA in the modern times. In the
early part of the 20th century, the FMA were known as brutal arts
associated with plebian types like farmers and stevedores. The stick
fighting contests during those times were conducted full contact
without the aid of armor and often resulted to the permanent injury or
death of the participants. Such deadly matches continued in the
farmlands and waterfronts of the Philippines and among the Filipino
communities in Hawaii until the 1940s.
Another obstacle that stands in the way of the FMA gaining wide
acceptance is that it took sometime before a method to teach it en
masse was systematized. Originally, the art was taught one-on-one.
Though the very personal approach to teaching meant quality
instruction, this resulted to a small number of qualified instructors
to proliferate the art.
Fallacies about the art also pose a problem. One misconception that
hinders the attractiveness of the FMA is the notion that it will only
work with weapons. Contrary to this belief, arnis, escrima and kali
are complete fighting systems that encompass bladed weapons, impact
weapons and empty hand techniques. All the FMA principles are
transposable regardless if the practitioner is fighting armed or
It is a good thing to note that a change of view toward the FMA
continue to transpire in the past 36 years. The perception toward the
FMA began to change after the celebrated Filipino-American martial
artist Dan Inosanto showcased the art in Bruce Lee's last film The
Game of Death in 1972. Known as Lee's protégé, Inosanto was
responsible in introducing the late founder of jeet kune do to
escrima-specifically the use of the nunchaku. With an international
superstar like Lee picking up the Filipino sticks, the FMA was
included in the world map of martial arts. The The Game of Death also
became instrumental for Hollywood to notice the cinematic potential of
the FMA. Among the most notable movies of recent years that featured
the FMA are: Out for Justice starring Steven Seagal in 1991; The
Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro in 2003; and The
Bourne Supremacy starring Matt Damon in 2004. And the trend continues.
It's now circulating in the grapevine that Golden Globe Best Actor
winner Forest Whitaker, an FMA practitioner in real life, will feature
his stick fighting ability in his upcoming movie Repossession.
Another element that contributed to the FMA gaining global respect is
the fact that it's techniques, particularly the knife work were used
by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. A good case
in point is Paul Vunak, a student of Inosanto who taught Filipino
knife techniques to the members of Navy Seal Team 6. Martial artists
from other styles also discovered the FMA as a good addition to their
base system. Besides the fact that FMA training will provide them
weaponry skills, working with weapons like sticks, swords and knives
were proven to turbo-blast the development of fighting attributes like
power, reflex, speed and coordination. Swinging the heavy fighting
stick for instance will develop punching power the same way as an
old-school boxers build wallop in their punches by chopping wood with
In the Philippines, the rather boorish view of the FMA is starting to
wane as intellectuals and those belonging to the middle class
beginning to embrace and espouse the art. Professor Felipe Jocano Jr.,
a professor of anthropology in the University of the Philippines is an
arnis expert and also writes extensively on FMA history. Alvin
Aguilar, founder of the Ultimate Reality Combat Championships and
perhaps the most well rounded fighter to emerge from the Philippines
in recent years is also a proponent of the FMA. Aguilar even devoted a
section on the FMA in the martial arts reality TV show Real Pinoy
Fighter, which he produced and was aired over ABS-CBN two years ago.
Though much has changed on the public's outlook on the FMA, it is safe
to surmise that it will never attain the palatability that karate or
tae kwon do possesses. Arnis, escrima and kali are originally war
arts, hence it explains its emphasis on weaponry and its unique
progression of training that starts with weapons and ends with empty
hands. Its techniques were refined through the centuries not on the
mat or the ring but in actual battlefields. The use of the blade,
which is essentially the backbone of the FMA and often constitutes its
highest level of practice, needs lethal commitment. Few are those who
are willing to go that far.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Farc & the Democrats
on: March 25, 2008, 10:17:47 AM
FARC Fan's Notes
March 25, 2008; Page A22
A hard drive recovered from the computer of a killed Colombian guerrilla has offered more insights into the opposition of House Democrats to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
A military strike three weeks ago killed Raúl Reyes, No. 2 in command of the FARC, Colombia's most notorious terrorist group. The Reyes hard drive reveals an ardent effort to do business directly with the FARC by Congressman James McGovern (D., Mass.), a leading opponent of the free-trade deal. Mr. McGovern has been working with an American go-between, who has been offering the rebels help in undermining Colombia's elected and popular government.
Mr. McGovern's press office says the Congressman is merely working at the behest of families whose relatives are held as FARC kidnap hostages. However, his go-between's letters reveal more than routine intervention. The intervenor with the FARC is James C. Jones, who the Congressman's office says is a "development expert and a former consultant to the United Nations." Accounts of Mr. Jones's exchanges with the FARC appeared in Colombia's Semana magazine on March 15. This Mr. Jones should not be confused with the former Congressman and ambassador to Mexico of the same name from Oklahoma.
"Receive my warm greetings, as always, from Washington," Mr. Jones began in a letter to the rebels last fall. "The big news is that I spoke for several hours with the Democratic Congressman James McGovern. In the meeting we had the opportunity to exchange some ideas that will be, I believe, of interest to the FARC-EP [popular army]."
Mr. Jones added that "a fundamental problem is that the FARC does not have, strategically, a spokesman that can communicate directly with persons of influence in my country like Mr. McGovern." Semana reports that in the documents Mr. Jones "rules himself out as the spokesman but offers himself as a 'bridge' of communication between the FARC and the congressman." Semana says when it spoke with Mr. Jones, he verified the letter and explained that "he made the offer because the guerrillas need interlocutors if they want to achieve peace and that it is a mistake to isolate them."
But communications among FARC rebels suggest the goal was to isolate Colombia's government. A letter that Reyes wrote to top FARC commander Manuel Marulanda on October 26 reads: "According to [Jones's] viewpoint, [President Álvaro] Uribe is increasingly discredited in the U.S. . . He believes that the safe haven [for the rebels] in the counties can be had for reasons mentioned. Congressional Democrats have invited him to Washington to talk about the Colombian crisis in which the principal theme is the swap."
Semana reports that Mr. Jones made some proposals to the FARC, including a Caracas meeting with representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, the FARC, other South American countries, U.S. Congressmen and the Catholic Church. "It would be almost impossible for Uribe to reject such a meeting," Mr. Jones wrote, "without burning himself a lot, nationally and internationally. If he persists in being against it, I have understood that there are ways to pressure him from my country [the U.S.]."
In a letter to Semana, Mr. Jones said his words were taken out of context. He says he is not in favor of the "violent methods of the guerrilla" or "the military solutions" of the government. He had only a professional relationship with the FARC and had to address them as he did because he had to build trust. Mr. McGovern's office says it knew what Mr. Jones was doing and engaged with him because "we need to find an interlocutor who could discuss these things including the safe haven" for the guerrillas.
We think the documents reveal something else entirely: Some Democrats oppose the Colombia trade deal because they sympathize more with FARC's terrorists than with a U.S. antiterror ally.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on Israel
on: March 25, 2008, 08:32:06 AM
By JAMES TARANTO
March 24, 2008
On Friday we noted that Barack Obama's "spiritual mentor," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had reprinted a Hamas op-ed in his church bulletin. It turns out that Obama issued a quiet condemnation of Wright's editorial decision, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
"I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn't in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin," Obama said in a statement emailed to JTA late Thursday, and referring to critics who noted that Obama had been in church when Wright had made controversial statements. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor."
That could hardly be clearer, could it? But a year-old article from ElectronicIntifada.com suggests that Obama has, fairly recently, held views on the subject that are completely at variance with those he now espouses. The author, Ali Abunimah, is a co-founder of the site:
I first met Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama almost ten years ago when, as my representative in the Illinois state senate, he came to speak at the University of Chicago. He impressed me as progressive, intelligent and charismatic. I distinctly remember thinking "if only a man of this calibre could become president one day." . . .
Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The [sic] Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
Abunimah argued that Obama, in an effort "to woo wealthy pro-Israel campaign donors," had made an "about-face":
He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.
It is possible that Obama had a sincere change of heart--that he came to see the merits of the Israeli side of the argument. It is also possible that Obama has no sincere views on the subject--that when he was traveling in radical-chic Chicago circles, he told people like Abunimah what they wanted to hear, and now that he has gone national, he has switched to telling a more mainstream Democratic constituency what it wants to hear.
But what does Obama really believe--about the Middle East, about Wright's "black liberation theology" or about any other complicated and sensitive topic? The question is a Rorschach inkblot; the answer reveals more about one's emotional response to Obama than about Obama's intellectual response to the world.
If Obama makes you feel good about yourself, you will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his beliefs are similar to yours. See, for example, Obama enthusiast Marty Peretz expounding on Obama's sympathy for the Jewish state, or Douglas Kmiec, a judicial conservative and onetime Romney adviser, explaining that even though Obama has shown no sign of agreeing with him on "important fundamentals," he is "convinced based upon [Obama's] public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News
on: March 25, 2008, 08:10:06 AM
Force Science News #94
In this issue:
1 officer's pain is others' gain, as her shooting becomes a catalyst for change
When a 52-year-old man-shirtless, coked up and bleeding from self-inflicted wounds-lunged at Shannon Brady and her partner with a "serious" folding knife in the cramped kitchen of a small adobe house in Santa Fe, she was prepared to react. She shot him dead.
What she hadn't anticipated or trained for was what happened after the smoke cleared.
Once she had a bitter taste of that, she had a mission. "I didn't want other officers to go through what I did," she says. "Changes needed to be made."
In the 18 months since her life-or-death encounter, post-shooting practices affecting the 140-plus officers on her department, Santa Fe PD, have seen some "major improvement," Police Ofcr. IV Mark Barnett, president of the Santa Fe Police Officers Assn., told Force Science News. "We didn't put our head in the sand and say everything went fine because it certainly didn't. We've tried to learn and make things better."
"This is a good example of how negatives that too often accompany officer-involved shootings can be turned into positives, with the right perspective and determination," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato. "Instead of lingering as a permanent source only of resentment and anger, this shooting has become a catalyst for the kind of changes that are needed in many departments across the country."
The call that hurled Brady into the first shooting of her career was dispatched as an "ambulance assist." A frantic woman, calling from one of Santa Fe's rough-and-tumble neighborhoods, blurted that a man had stabbed himself in the chest. Little more information seemed to be available.
It was Labor Day weekend, 2006, at the tail-dragging end of Brady's 2-to-midnight swing shift. Still on probationary status, she'd been on patrol with SFPD only about 9 months, having transferred there after 3 years with a sheriff's department near Albuquerque. The address of the call was not far from where she'd come close to shooting a teenager who'd pulled a gun on her during a tense showdown a few months earlier.
When she and Sgt. Troy Baker arrived, they found the crowded residence in an uproar, complete with a hysterical grandma, 3 girls under 14 ("all intoxicated"), the subject's girlfriend (drunk and bleeding profusely from stab wounds), and the subject himself, concealed somewhere in the place with a knife that had a 41/2-in. blade.
The 2 officers were in the kitchen, trying to tend to the girlfriend who was slumped in a chair with a pool of blood widening at her feet, when the suspect-"big guy, no shirt, with visible cuts or stab wounds"-suddenly popped out of hiding, just a few steps from them.
"He raised the knife above his head and started closing toward us," Brady recalls. "There was no place to retreat. All I could see was that blade. It looked huge."
She and Baker both screamed, "Knife!" and commanded the suspect to drop the weapon. "He kept coming," Brady says. Almost simultaneously, Baker discharged a Taser and Brady squeezed the trigger on her Glock-22.
She can't remember firing that round, a fact that still troubles her. The bullet tore through the suspect's belt buckle and exited his body near his rectum. She shot again. This time, "I could see the bullet peel his skin" as it punched in, center mass. I remember his breath against me, I felt his knuckles brush across my hand" as he fell. He was pronounced at the hospital.
Officer-involved shootings in Santa Fe are investigated by the New Mexico State Police, a precaution against accusations of bias. The insensitivities that came to earmark Brady's shooting began during the delay while SP investigators responded, and escalated exponentially.
Brady and Baker were kept at the scene for nearly 5 hours, much of that time outdoors where "I sat on an ice cold curb," she remembers. Her request for a jacket had to be cleared through the chain of command, apparently for fear that complying might "alter the shooting environment" from an evidence standpoint.
Once, she and Baker were driven to a substation about a mile away for a bathroom break. They were put in the caged back seat of a marked unit, "like we were criminals," Baker says). "All they didn't do was handcuff us. It was not an atmosphere where you could get your mind off what just happened and try to wind down."
After about 3 hours, Brady was told to surrender her pistol. "I was left with an empty holster in that dangerous neighborhood" during the time it took to scrounge up a replacement from the department armorer.
The shooting occurred about midnight. It was well after daylight before Brady finally got to her home, an hour away in Albuquerque. She was scheduled to be back in Santa Fe that afternoon for her formal interview in the SP's criminal investigation. "I tried to sleep, I really did, but I was too keyed up," she says.
Because of her probationary status, she was not automatically eligible for legal representation through the Officers Assn., but the union provided her with a seasoned police lawyer, Fred Mowrer, anyway. "He did an excellent job preparing me, and I felt so grateful," she says.
She was able to doze off for about 30 minutes at the SP station just before the interview. Aside from that, she says she had been awake for more than 46 hours before walking in to face 2 hours of interrogation for the most important statement of her career.
Two days later, Brady and Baker had their only contact with the city's contract psychologist. "She took us to a room where she said we'd 'blend in' with people who were testing to become motor transport inspectors," Baker remembers. Brady says, "We had to take an entry-level exam and were given the MMPI [the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a common mental health test]. We were interviewed briefly by the psychologist and declared fit for duty."
She says no inquiry was made regarding how they were feeling about the shooting, no explanation was given about possible critical incident stress symptoms or how to deal with them and no offer of counseling was extended. Through the union, it was arranged for them to talk briefly by phone with a volunteer firefighter who supposedly had training in stress debriefing, but neither felt he could even begin to identify with their situation.
Without further ceremony, they went back on the street. The city's annual Fiestas festival, marked by the bacchanalian burning of a marionette called Old Man Gloom, was at hand and maximum manpower was needed.
Brady's husband, a sergeant and officer-involved shooting investigator with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Dept. in Albuquerque, "put me in touch with a police psychologist who works with his people," Brady says, and as a personal favor he helped her cope with the shooting and its aftermath. "Otherwise, I would have been left in the cold."
Meanwhile, the dead suspect's girlfriend, recovered from her injuries, claimed through the media that the 2 officers had tackled her boyfriend and pinned him to the floor while Brady summarily executed him with her 2 rounds. In the absence of a thorough debriefing for all personnel, rumors flew through the department regarding the circumstances of the shooting and about Brady and Baker personally.
They were heartened when Chief Eric Johnson publicly declared his complete confidence in their actions. Johnson released 911 tapes of the event, which provided an audio documentation of what happened, down to the shots being fired. A captain sat with a reporter from the local newspaper and "went second by second over the recording," Brady says. The resulting article "was very favorable and saved my reputation."
Still, it was some 5 weeks after the shooting before a county grand jury finally exonerated the officers of any criminal wrongdoing. And only after that, Brady says, did IA investigators get around to interviewing her and eventually declaring her clear of any departmental violations, as well-an infuriating lag that seemed to unnecessarily prolong the stress of the ordeal, especially considering that an IA investigator had sat in on the SP interviews just hours after the shooting.
Brady, known to be as outspoken as she proved to be resilient, was not content to let her grievances drop once the dust settled and her emotional battering abated. Her husband, Sgt. Mark Kmatz, says: "Her perspective was 'I can't change what happened to me, but I want to make it better for other officers in the future.' That's where she has directed her efforts."
Mark Barnett, who became president of the Officers Assn. just a month before the shooting, and members of the union's board have become Brady's staunch allies, joining her in lobbying for more humane on-scene procedures and investigative practices, easier access to psychological counseling and debriefings, and better training in survival tactics and post-shooting coping skills. Brady supplied articles from Force Science News on proper post-shooting procedures to buttress the arguments for change.
A significant achievement, in Barnett's view, has been getting the cooperation of SFPD's command staff so that the union can remove involved officers from a shooting scene expeditiously. "As soon as reasonably possible," they're taken to "some neutral place where they can feel comfortable" and where they can be with a "buddy" of their choosing, protected from the media and from curious, uninvolved officers who may have intrusive questions and comments.
"They can call home, calm down and begin to collect their thoughts in a peaceful atmosphere," Barnett says. "Psychologists have told us this is one of the best things we can do."
Four months after Brady's incident, Sgt. Kyle Zuments, a 12-year SFPD veteran, shot a car-theft suspect after a wild pursuit during Santa Fe's evening rush hour. Zuments himself took a round to the vest ("friendly fire," as it turned out, from one of several officers involved in the chaotic confrontation). Even with a trip to the hospital for his blunt-trauma wound and a conference with the union attorney, Zuments says he was comfortably at home-"in my recliner with an ice pack on my stomach and eating a ham sandwich"-well before his shift normally would have ended.
"The difference between the handling of Shannon's shooting and mine was night and day," he says. Among other things, besides the immediate post-shooting expediency, he was allowed time to be fully rested before sitting down for the SP's official interview.... SFPD's command staff sanctioned and joined in a candid debriefing among all officers involved in the confrontation, which Zuments says "resolved lots of issues" and provided "great support."... He was given 10 days' administrative leave before having to return to work.... At his insistence, he says, the department agreed to pay for counseling for all the involved officers from the Albuquerque psychologist who had privately come to Brady's aid and a colleague. "All this was huge," Zuments says.
Establishing a permanent arrangement for mental health services from sources who understand law enforcement and are respected by officers is high on the union's list for additional improvements, Barnett says.
As part of that agenda, the Officers Assn. and the department have combined to send Sgt. Baker and the department chaplain to a nationally recognized training course on critical incident stress management, with an eye toward creating "a shooting response team that would include a support group of peers." The union also now offers a debriefing, with a psychologist facilitating, to all officers who were working on the day of a shooting, Barnett says, in acknowledgement that a life-threatening event impacts more personnel than just the officers immediately involved.
Barnett and Brady say they intend to continue pushing hard for other changes that "haven't quite happened yet." These include more timely IA investigations. Zuments points out that it took 1 year to the day after his shooting before he received an exoneration letter from Internal Affairs. When he complained during the long delay, he claims he was told, "We have cases that are a lot more high-priority than yours." He observes: "I discharged my weapon in traffic at a crowded intersection, a suspect was shot, a sergeant was shot, and this is not a priority?"
Brady acknowledges that improvements "are still a work in progress," but she's encouraged by the results so far. "The administration-the department as a whole, really-is definitely coming around to a better understanding of how a shooting impacts an officer," she says. "I know that a lot of the things that really bugged me will never happen again."
As this report was being researched, Santa Fe police were involved in another shooting. A middle-aged suspect was shot dead after he opened fire on officers and sheriff's deputies with a Tec-9 during a vehicle pursuit.
A few days later, we asked Mark Barnett how things were going with the aftermath of that incident. "Perfect," he said. "We really have learned a lot."
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How AQ will perish
on: March 25, 2008, 07:57:30 AM
How al Qaeda Will Perish
March 25, 2008; Page A22
Do minors require their parents' consent to become suicide bombers? Believe it or not, this is the subject of an illuminating and bitter debate among the leading theoreticians of global jihad, with consequences that could be far-reaching.
On March 6, Al-Sahab, the media arm of al Qaeda, released a 46-minute video statement titled "They Lied: Now Is the Time to Fight." The speaker is Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu-al-Yazid, 52, an Egyptian who runs al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan, and the speech is in most respects the usual mix of earthly grievances, heavenly promises and militant exhortations. It's also an urgent call for recruits.
"We call on the fathers and mothers not to become a barrier between their children and paradise," says Abu-Al-Yazid. "If they disagree who should first join the jihad to go to paradise, let them compete, meaning the fathers and the children. . . . Also, we say to the Muslim wives, do not be a barrier between your husbands and paradise." Elsewhere in the message, he makes a "special call to the scholars and students seeking knowledge. . . . The jihad arenas are in dire need of your knowledge and the doors are open before you to bring about the virtue of teaching and jihad."
These particular appeals are no accident. Last year, imprisoned Egyptian radical Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, a.k.a. "Dr. Fadl," published "The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World." It is a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods, which is all the more extraordinary considering the source. Sayyed Imam, 57, was the first "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, many of whose members (including his longtime associate Ayman al-Zawahiri) later merged with Osama bin Laden and his minions to become al Qaeda. His 1988 book, "Foundations of Preparation for Holy War," is widely considered the bible of Salafist jihadis.
Now he has recanted his former views. "The alternative" to violent jihadism, he says in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat (translated by Memri), "is not to kill civilians, foreigners and tourists, destroy property and commit aggression against the lives and property of those who are inviolable under the pretext of jihad. All of this is forbidden."
Sayyed Imam is emphatic on the subject of the moral obligations of the would-be jihadist. "One who lacks the resources [to fight jihad] is forbidden to acquire money through forbidden means, like [burglary]," he says, adding that "Allah does not accept martyrdom as atonement for a mujahid's debts." As for a child's obligations toward his parents, he adds that "it is not permitted to go out to fight jihad without the permission of both parents . . . because acting rightly with one's parents is an individual obligation, and they have rights over their sons."
"This has become pandemic in our times," he adds in a pointedly non-theological aside. "We find parents who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspapers as a fatality or a prisoner."
These "Revisions," as Sayyed Imam's book is widely known in Arab intellectual circles, elicited a harsh and immediate response from unreconstructed jihadists. "What kind of guidance does the 'Document' offer?" asked al Qaeda commander Abu Yahyha Al-Libi in a March 9 Internet posting. "Is it guidance that tells the mujahadeen and the Muslims: 'Restrain yourselves and [allow] us [Arab regimes] to shed your blood'?"
Even more sarcastic was Zawahiri himself. "Do they now have fax machines in Egyptian jail cells?" he asked. "I wonder if they're connected to the same line as the electric-shock machines." Zawahiri then penned a 215-page rebuttal to Sayyed Imam, whom he accuses of serving "the interests of the Crusader-Zionist alliance with the Arab leaders."
The gravamen of the hardliners' case against Sayyed Imam is that he has capitulated (either through force or persuasion) to the demands of his captors, and has become, in effect, their stooge. The suspicion seems partly borne out by Sayyed Imam's conspicuous renunciation of any desire to overthrow the Egyptian regime. One Turkish commentator, Dogu Ergil, notes that "in prison many jihadist inmates were encouraged by the Interior Ministry and security apparatus to engage in religious dialogue with clerics from al-Azhar," a Sunni religious university overseen by the state. Mr. Ergil calls this part of a deliberate "counter-radicalization program" by the Egyptian government.
But whatever Sayyed Imam's motives, it is the neuralgic response by his erstwhile fellow travelers that matters most. There really is a broad rethink sweeping the Muslim world about the practical utility -- and moral defensibility -- of terrorism, particularly since al Qaeda began targeting fellow Sunni Muslims, as it did with the 2005 suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan. Al Qaeda knows this. Osama bin Laden is no longer quite the folk hero he was in 2001. Reports of al Qaeda's torture chambers in Iraq have also percolated through Arab consciousness, replacing, to some extent, the images of Abu Ghraib. Even among Saudis, a recent survey by Terror Free Tomorrow finds that "less than one in ten Saudis have a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda, and 88 percent approve the Saudi military and police pursuing Al Qaeda fighters."
No less significant is that the rejection of al Qaeda is not a liberal phenomenon, in the sense that it represents a more tolerant mindset or a better opinion of the U.S. On the contrary, this is a revolt of the elders, whether among the tribal chiefs of Anbar province or Islamist godfathers like Sayyed Imam. They have seen through (or punctured) the al Qaeda mythology of standing for an older, supposedly truer form of Islam. Rather, they have come to know al Qaeda as fundamentally a radical movement -- the antithesis of the traditional social order represented by the local sovereign, the religious establishment, the head of the clan and, not least, the father who expects to know the whereabouts of his children.
It would be a delightful irony if militant Islam were ultimately undone by a conservative, Thermidor-style reaction. That may not be the kind of progress most of us imagined or hoped for. But it is progress of a kind.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on slavery
on: March 25, 2008, 07:42:48 AM
"[T]here is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do,
to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery]."
-- George Washington (letter to Robert Morris, 12 April 1786)
Reference: Washington's Maxims, 157.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Subscribe to Stratfor!
on: March 25, 2008, 07:27:07 AM
I post generously here on this forum a tiny percentage of what I receive from Stratfor and feel morally obligated to help them out from time to time. Here's this from www.Stratfor.com
Dear Friend of Stratfor:
What a tremendously gratifying couple of weeks! Hundreds of you signed up for either new Memberships or extended your existing ones. Your vote of confidence in the quality of our intelligence work is tremendously appreciated.
Aaric S. Eisenstein, VP Publishing
Coming Soon - The Stratfor Bookshelf
As a special thank-you, I've set things up so you can offer a friend - as many friends as you like actually - a completely free 30-day Stratfor Membership. If you've ever sent a friend an especially good article or discussed a podcast you heard, you can now give your friends the entire Stratfor experience.
I am NOT looking to turn Stratfor into some goofy multi-level marketing scheme. Your friends won't have to enter a credit card, or even their names, just an email address to receive intelligence. I will send them exactly two emails during their free Membership with a nice offer to become a regular Member, but that's it. If they decide 30 days is all they wanted, no problem at all and we wish them well.
If you're already a Stratfor Member, forward this email to a friend
If your friend sent you this opportunity, click here for a free 30-day Membership
I'm doing this for two reasons. In joining as a paying Member, you've made it (financially) explicit that Stratfor has real value for you. I want to make it possible for you to give something of value to your associates. I'm always interested personally in new ways that I can help out a friend. Secondly, I'll make no bones that I'm looking to grow our business. Every additional Member I add means more resources that we can invest in building out our intelligence network, expanding our maps/multimedia capabilities, and creating new features like the Stratfor Bookshelf.
Again, all of us at Stratfor look forward to continuing to provide the very best in geopolitical intelligence. So stay tuned for more, new, and better!
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 4/20 Guro Crafty at Surf Dog's in Hemet, CA
on: March 24, 2008, 07:15:23 PM
Lester/Surf Dog and I go back almost 25 years now. He lives within a reasonable drive of me (Hemet) and I've done various one day seminars for him over the years. Usually they were coordinated with the "King of the Cage" fights at which he judged so I got to sit with him while he judged the fights. Very cool! And when he had a student who was fighting, I got to be the substitute judge. Tres cool! (By the way, Surf Dog is now a regular judge at the UFC, on "Spike's The UItimate Fighter" and other events as well.)
Anyway, Surf Dog has a new school with a new location with plenty of space and has asked me to begin giving DBMA seminars there on a regular basis. The seminar on Sunday April 20th is but the first of these.
Lester "Surf Dog" Griffin Martial Arts:
Dog Brothers seminar with Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny.
WHEN: SUN. APRIL 20TH 2008
WHERE: MMA UNLIMITED/ GRIFFIN FIGHTING SYSTEMS
1532 S. SANTA FE AVE. SAN JACINTO CA. 92583
TIME: 11:00AM TO 4:00 PM WITH ONE HOUR LUNCH BREAK @ 1:00PM
COST: $80.00 AT THE DOOR $60.00 IF YOU PAY BY APRIL 2ND AND $70.00 IF YOU PAY BY APRIL 12TH . THERE IS ONLY ROOM FOR 20 TO 30 PEOPLE. SO RESERVE YOUR PLACE TODAY.
CONTACT: LESTER GRIFFIN AT 951 492-8362 OR 951 654-0210
E MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: March 24, 2008, 06:56:23 PM
By Joanna Chen | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Mar 21, 2008 | Updated: 6:11 p.m. ET Mar 21, 2008
In an audiotape released this week, Osama bin Laden urges Palestinians to shun negotiations with Israel in favor of armed resistance. In spite of such calls, however, pleas for talks are coming from unexpected players on both sides of the divide.
One of them, Shifa al-Qudsi, recently finished serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison for planning to carry out a suicide bombing. Back in 2002 the Palestinian had been fitted with an explosive belt by Fatah's Al Aqsa military brigade but was arrested shortly before carrying out her deadly mission. Since then al-Qudsi, now 30, has undergone a radical change of heart and today insists that a solution can be achieved only through dialogue.
NEWSWEEK's Joanna Chen met with al-Qudsi at her family home in the West Bank town of Tulkarem and heard why violence isn't an option and life is worth living after all. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What made you want to blow yourself and other people up six years ago?
I was motivated by all the suffering that was going on around me, and at the time it seemed the right thing to do. Palestinians were getting killed inside their own homes, farmers were unable to work on their own lands, innocent children were being oppressed. All of this created an atmosphere of violence.
What did those years in prison do to you?
It was very difficult for me. I sat there for a long time and came to the conclusion there must be an alternative to this path of death and violence. We have to find a better way to reach our objective.
Was there a certain moment when you realized that blowing people up might not be the right way?
I had the chance to read a lot while I was in jail. I read about Mahatma Gandhi and how he obtained his objective of peace without raising a weapon or throwing a stone. I tried to think of a way to do the same in my own country. I think words can express better the suffering of Palestinian prisoners and the wish for peace between two peoples. I don't need to blast my body to bits and kill other people. Today I believe that words are more powerful than weapons.
Even between enemies?
The reality has already been imposed on us. We can't start talking about getting back historical Palestine, and I'm resigned to the fact that there are two nations who can live on this land. There should be peace and quiet not just for the Israelis but for the Palestinians.
What would you say to people who still think that attacks are the way to go?
Many people before me carried out suicide attacks and others will continue to do so if the situation doesn't improve. However, I tell them now: enough. We have created a lot of problems and a lot of destruction on both sides, and the time has come for us to engage in dialogue.
Would you say that to your brother, who's serving 18 years in an Israeli jail for an attempted suicide bombing?
My youngest brother is in jail because he was caught inside Israel wearing a suicide belt. He was only 15 and a half. I consider this blackmail and exploitation of my brother. He was too young to have been able to make this decision on his own, and so I consider what happened to him a crime from our own side. He should never have been exploited this way. When I decided to blow myself up I was convinced this was right and I was old enough to make my own decision, but not my brother.
Your daughter was just seven when you were sent to prison. How did you explain your willingness for her to grow up without a mother?
We've talked about it a lot. She blamed me for leaving her, although I tried to explain to her that I had bigger issues to deal with. I don't want to say that I regret my former mission, but at the same time I know I should have thought of my daughter more and should have made her [my] priority. What will make an impact is not a suicide belt that I strap to myself but education. A bomb only creates casualties and more violence. If I can equip my daughter with education, that will make a change.
What do you tell your daughter today about Israelis?
The most important message for my daughter is that Israelis are not all carriers of weapons and not all of them want to kill Palestinians. There is a big sector that wants peace.
What are your plans for the future?
The day after I came out of prison I went to register [at] university. I feel like there's no time to waste, and my objective is to study and to be able to give my daughter and other children a better future through education.
Do you think that's going to be possible?
I say it in three languages: yes, ken and aywa. I want to talk, to tell people that I did time in an Israeli jail and learned Hebrew and communicated with a lot of Israelis. I want to continue this communication and also to carry the voice of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners to the world.
Do you think your change of heart reflects a change in the Palestinian people?
I think my position reflects the desire of the Palestinian people for peace. People are tired. They want to live. And they really want peace but are struggling in order to make the world understand.
If you could speak to the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, what would you say?
My message to both is peace. We need to engage in real dialogue. Everybody needs to come down from the tree and to enter into a solid, realistic negotiation. This is the only way.http://www.newsweek.com/id/124569?GT1=43002
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkmenistan
on: March 24, 2008, 06:43:29 PM
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will become the first Turkmen leader to attend a NATO summit when he goes to the alliance’s upcoming heads-of-state meeting in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4. The move indicates that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between the West and Russia while both sides try to pull Turkmenistan off the fence.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will attend NATO’s April 2-4 heads-of-state summit in Bucharest, Romania. This will be the first time a Turkmen leader has attended a NATO summit and it indicates that Berdimukhammedov is not as afraid of the West as his predecessor was. Moreover, it shows that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between Russia and the West, even as both sides are tugging at Ashgabat.
In December 2006, the Turkmenbashi (Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov) died, leaving the country’s path unclear. Turkmenistan’s entire existence had hinged on the Turkmenbashi and his quirky but highly repressive means of running the country. Since his death, there has been a large battle among five forces — the United States, Europe, Russia, China and Iran — over who will dominate Turkmenistan’s wealth of energy supplies. Though each player has made small deals, none has really solidified an alliance with Ashgabat or Berdimukhammedov, who acts as if he is open to any of the powers’ investments.
Turkmenistan has remained neutral since the end of the Soviet Union. It is an unofficial observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Niyazov signed a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO in 1994.
Though Turkmenistan is an unofficial observer of the SCO, it has routinely attended almost all of the organization’s meetings, since most of Turkmenistan’s economic partners and regional countries are in the SCO. Ashgabat’s relationship with NATO, on the other hand, has been very precarious. Niyazov only signed the agreement with NATO to try to control the Mary Clan, the most powerful clan in Turkmenistan and the group that controls drug trafficking in the country.
Niyazov was also a supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan launched chiefly by the United States, though that support stemmed from his fear that Afghanistan’s instability would spill over into his controlled country. But the Iraq war deeply affected Niyazov and the rest of the Turkmen government, especially regarding their view of the United States. The 2003 Iraq war was, in Niyazov’s mind, about the United States going in to overthrow a very familiar-looking government. After Saddam Hussein was removed from power — and particularly after Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi reached a rapprochement with the United States — Niyazov became convinced that he was the next target on Washington’s to-smite list.
In addition, there was a wave of “color” and “velvet” revolutions that began in Serbia in 2000, swept Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, and finally reached the Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 2005. Not only was the Turkmenbashi terrified that the West — which was accused of sparking the revolutions — would attempt one in his country, but he knew that his country would be more vulnerable to such a revolution because it had a far more brittle power structure and weaker security services than the other countries.
This all led Niyazov to sign a rather comprehensive defense agreement with Moscow that abandoned Ashgabat’s previous policy of utter neutrality and placed Turkmenistan back under Moscow’s security umbrella.
However, Berdimukhammedov is a more level-headed leader and is making his own decisions.
The new leader has opened his country up to proposals from all sides over developing Turkmenistan’s large energy reserves. However, Berdimukhammedov has been very cautious and conservative in deciding which deals to take, with proposals from Europe, Russia and China all on the table. Berdimukhammedov has also been asserting his country’s place as a global energy supplier by confronting the countries to which it sends supplies. In December 2007, Turkmenistan announced that it was doubling the price of natural gas to Russia, and in January it cut natural gas supplies to Iran.
In security and military matters, Berdimukhammedov had been pushing his country toward Moscow. At the last SCO meeting, Berdimukhammedov discussed the possibility of becoming a recognized observer or even a member. Also, the leader has made a military upgrade one of his country’s top priorities. Turkmenistan currently has a slew of unused military bases left over from the Soviet era, and because Turkmenistan is next to Iran and Afghanistan, Moscow and Washington are fighting over those bases. But Ashgabat wants more than either side is currently offering and recently asked Moscow to help it carry out a military upgrade, primarily for its air force.
But Moscow has yet to decide whether it will arm a country that has been growing closer to the West, especially if Ashgabat is only going to give Moscow a harder time over energy prices while entertaining Western and Asian alternative proposals. And now Berdimukhammedov has raised the stakes by becoming the first leader of Turkmenistan to formally attend a NATO summit. The president is feeling out his options for security outside of Moscow — a break with the behavior typical of Turkmenistan during the past century.
Moscow will certainly take notice and make some sort of move, since the upcoming NATO summit is a pivotal benchmark for Russia’s geopolitical position as an international leader. NATO will be considering extending membership offers to several countries that are crucially important to Russia, including the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. The last thing Moscow needs is for Turkmenistan also to be cozying up to the rival alliance — and Ashgabat knows it
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dems super disaster
on: March 24, 2008, 02:43:16 PM
Not exactly on point with the subject matter of this thread, but pertinent enough I think to merit its placement here.
The Democrats' Super Disaster
By JOHN YOO
March 24, 2008; Page A15
Until recent weeks, one of the least understood aspects of the Democrats' primary contest was the role of superdelegates. These are Democratic Party insiders, members of Congress, and other officials who can cast ballots at the party's national convention this summer.
But now these unelected delegates are coming in for a close inspection, because neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can win their party's nomination without superdelegate support. The big Pennsylvania primary on April 22, for example, has only 158 delegates at stake (each of them will be pledged to support one of the candidates). By comparison, there are a total of 795 superdelegates, none of whom are required to honor the will of the voters of their state at the party's convention.
Sound undemocratic? It is. That the 2008 Democratic nominee for president will be chosen by individuals no one voted for in the primaries flew for too long under the commentariat's radar. This from the party that litigated to "make every vote count" in the 2000 Florida recount, reviled the institution of the Electoral College for letting the loser of the national popular election win the presidency, and has called the Bush administration illegitimate ever since.
Democratic Party reforms in 1982 gave super-delegates about 20% of convention votes -- so that party greybeards can stop a popular, but politically extreme, candidate from seizing the nomination. The Democrats deliberately rejiggered their party's rules to head off insurgent candidates, like a George McGovern or a Jimmy Carter, who might be crushed in the general election. Unelected delegates thus have more than twice the votes of the richest state prize, California.
So much for unfiltered democracy. In truth, the Democratic Party runs by rules that are the epitome of the smoke-filled room and ensure, in essence, that congressional incumbents exercise a veto power over the nomination.
This delegate dissonance wasn't anything the Framers of the U.S. Constitution dreamed up. They believed that letting Congress choose the president was a dreadful idea. Without direct election by the people, the Framers said that the executive would lose its independence and vigor and become a mere servant of the legislature. They had the record of revolutionary America to go on. All but one of America's first state constitutions gave state assemblies the power to choose the governor. James Madison commented that this structure allowed legislatures to turn governors into "little more than ciphers."
That's why, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Framers rejected early proposals to follow any such model. New York delegate Gouverneur Morris explained that if Congress picked the president, he "will not be independent of it; and if not independent, usurpation and tyranny on the part of the Legislature will be the consequence." Choosing the president would result from the "work of intrigue, of cabal, and of faction." After weeks of debate, the Framers vested the presidency with its own base of popular support by establishing a national election, saying that the president should represent the views of the entire people, not the wishes of Congress.
They kept the same rule when considering what should happen when the president ran for re-election. Alexander Hamilton wrote, while ratification of the Constitution was being debated, "that the executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all, but the people themselves," for otherwise, the president might "be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence."
The Framers were deeply concerned that a president chosen by Congress would keep his eye only on the happiness of legislators, turning our government into a parliamentary system like those which prevail in Europe today, in which the nation's leader is merely a prime minister.
Press reports indicate that the Framers were right to worry. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are now competing hard to win superdelegates. Members of Congress no doubt will cut deals for themselves and their constituents. A water project here, some pet legislation there -- surely such details are worth the nomination. Lose, and the candidate pays nothing. Win, and a presidency is gained. Like shareholders deciding whether to sell in a tender offer, superdelegates will bargain ferociously until the moment that the nominee secures a delegate majority. As we close in on the Democratic convention, the demand for superdelegates will escalate, with the choice of the nominee becoming increasingly the work of political intrigue, inside deals, and power struggles among special interest groups -- just as the Framers feared.
A nominee who survives this process will come to the presidency weighed down by dozens, if not hundreds, of commitments. Little hope there for a fresh start, or any break from a politics-as-usual Congress. Some may welcome such a development. Some students of American politics argue that the president and Congress should work more closely together. Critics of the Bush administration may well prefer a President Clinton or Obama who obeys congressional wishes.
But the historical record on this is not heartening. During the reign of the Jeffersonians, the progenitors of today's Democrats, the congressional caucus chose the party's nominee. It was a system that yielded mediocrity, even danger. Congressional hawks pushed James Madison into the War of 1812 by demanding ever more aggressive trade restrictions against Great Britain and ultimately declaring war -- all because they wanted to absorb Canada. It ended with a stalemate in the north, the torching of the U.S. capital, and Gen. Andrew Jackson winning a victory at the Battle of New Orleans.
"King Caucus" finally broke down when the system reached a peak of "cabal, intrigue, and faction." Jackson received the plurality of the popular vote in the election of 1824, but with no Electoral College majority the choice went to the House of Representatives. In what became known as the "corrupt bargain," House Speaker Henry Clay, who had come in fourth, threw his electors behind John Quincy Adams in exchange for being appointed Secretary of State. Jackson spent the next four years successfully attacking the legitimacy of the Adams administration and won his revenge in the election of 1828.
It is unlikely that a candidate today would trade a cabinet post for a superdelegate's vote. Sen. Harry Reid is unlikely to be the next Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But the election of 1824 ought to serve as a caution about what may happen again today, if we let Congress play a large role in choosing the next president. Our Framers designed the Constitution to prevent just this from happening. The Democrats have created an electoral system that echoes failed models from the American past, and threatens to sap the presidency of its independence and authority by turning it into the handmaiden of Congress instead of the choice of the American people.
Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: March 24, 2008, 02:35:29 PM
From Western Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq
Despite recent news reports, progress in Iraq continues. The 5th year, the 4,000th death... these are sad truths. Also true is that violence is down and al Qaeda loses ground day by day. The biggest challenge now is national reconciliation.
Nevertheless, I've planted myself up here in Nineveh where al Qaeda is making a last stand. They are putting up a good fight, but my gut instinct is that AQI will essentially be finished in Iraq by the end of this summer. This does not imply that they will be completely exterminated or that attacks will cease, but, for all intents and purposes, al Qaeda will have suffered a devastating defeat in Iraq.
Al Qaeda Central seems to have finally realized that the United States and Great Britain are the wrong animals to kick. They might prefer easier targets in Europe. Whatever happens, it's clear that al Qaeda is devastated here. What is left of al Qaeda here is being mulched, mostly up here in Nineveh, where I think there will be more fighting in the coming months.
Please read "Stake through their Hearts" to learn more about the fighting in Nineveh.
And please buy an advance copy of Moment of Truth in Iraq to help keep me on the battlefield. Looks like I've got Nineveh mostly to myself, again.
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If you want to forward this message to a friend, click here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 24, 2008, 01:59:45 PM
Clinton Campaign Touts
Value of Big-State Victories
In General Elections
By AMY CHOZICK
March 24, 2008; Page A4
If a Democrat wins a primary in a Republican stronghold, is it really a win? That is the question Clinton supporters will be posing to superdelegates in the coming weeks.
With neither Democratic presidential candidate likely to reach the number of pledged delegates required to secure the nomination, the Clinton campaign is relying on its argument that victories in big states such as California and Ohio make Sen. Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.
Clinton aides are highlighting that Sen. Barack Obama has won among affluent voters in caucuses and primaries in states with small populations of Democrats -- such as Idaho and Wyoming -- and among African Americans in Republican states unlikely to turn blue in November -- such as South Carolina and Georgia.
A Clinton campaign memo released early this month noted Sen. Obama has won 10 out of the 11 core Republican states that have held primaries or caucuses this year. Wyoming, for one, the campaign later noted, hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe has rejected the Clinton campaign's attempts to give greater importance to certain states and notes that Sen. Obama won Missouri and Illinois, two large swing states.
The Clinton campaign has been using the big-state argument on and off since Super Tuesday, when Sen. Clinton won big prizes including New York, California and New Jersey. The argument has been central to the campaign since her Ohio and Texas victories, and Clinton aides will be aggressively pushing the point in the weeks before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.
Pennsylvania represents another battleground state for the Democrats in November. A recent poll of likely voters conducted by SurveyUSA puts Sen. Clinton ahead in the Keystone State, with 55% favoring her compared with 36% favoring Sen. Obama. Other polls give her a narrower lead.
"I think it is significant that I have won Ohio and I won Florida and I've won the big states that serve as those anchors on the electoral map," Sen. Clinton told reporters on board the campaign plane in Scranton, Pa.
Monday in Philadelphia, Sen. Clinton is expected to deliver a speech addressing the housing crisis followed by an event to reach women voters.
The Clinton campaign also has been making an aggressive push for primaries in Michigan and Florida to be counted or redone. Both states were stripped of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention after staging contests earlier than party rules allowed. Last week, Michigan Democrats rejected the idea of a vote-by-mail presidential primary to replace the January vote and were unable to agree to a bill that would authorize a state-run, privately funded primary. Florida also has ruled out a revote.
Clinton adviser Harold Ickes says a revote would prove Sen. Clinton can win in the big, swing states that are important in a general election.
But even if Sen. Clinton won revotes in Michigan and Florida, she would probably still lag in the delegate count. Sen. Obama leads the delegate race with 1,620 to Sen. Clinton's 1,499, including superdelegates, according to the Associated Press; roughly 2,025 are needed to secure the nomination.
A Gallup tracking poll conducted last week shows Sen. Obama leading nationally with 48% of the vote compared with 45% for Sen. Clinton. Other polls show Sen. Clinton slightly ahead nationally.
Historians and political pundits caution that victories in a primary don't necessarily produce dividends in a general election.
"She can win every Democratic vote in the world [during the primary] and not win a general election," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He points to the small segment of more liberal Democrats who participate in a primary compared to the huge cross section of voters likely to turn out in a general election.
Sen. Clinton won Ohio, for example, with 54% of the vote, compared with 44% for Sen. Obama. But a recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters projected her losing Ohio to Sen. McCain in a general election, 46% to 40%. The poll showed Sen. McCain defeating Sen. Obama in the state by the same margin; 14% of respondents said they were undecided.
Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, says a candidate's primary showing has very little to do with the general-election result. "The argument holds no water at all, not even a thimbleful," Mr. Lichtman says. He points to the 1980 primary, when incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter carried most of the big swing states, and early polls predicted he would defeat Republican Ronald Reagan in the general election by as much as 25 percentage points. Instead, Mr. Reagan decisively captured the White House. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry racked up primary victories in key swing states in 1988 and 2004, respectively, only to then lose those states to Republicans.
The Clinton campaign says that just because Sen. Clinton has won in the big states in the primary doesn't mean Sen. Obama will lose those states in a general election. "Nobody is saying Barack Obama will definitely lose Pennsylvania in the fall," says that state's governor, Ed Rendell, a Clinton backer. "If Sen. Obama is the nominee, we will work our hearts out for him...but we are much more confident we would win with Sen. Clinton."
The campaign also argues that big states typically have primaries rather than caucuses, and that primaries are more reflective of the results of a general election.
Part of the reason Sen. Clinton has done well in larger states is strategy. The campaign chose to pour limited resources into advertisements and field offices in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, rather than make a big push in small caucus states where Sen. Obama was favored.
Sen. Clinton's wins also reflect her solid base of support among Catholics, working-class white voters and Hispanics, three important swing groups for the Democrats to capture in November.
Sen. Obama rejects the notion that he has failed to attract a broad coalition of voters important to the party. "In South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans," he said in a speech last week.
On Friday, Sen. Obama picked up the endorsement of former presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Gov. Richardson, a Mexican-American, could help Sen. Obama broaden his appeal among Hispanics.
Write to Amy Chozick at email@example.com
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ : Colombia "
on: March 24, 2008, 11:06:58 AM
Bogotá Eyes the Irish Model
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
March 24, 2008; Page A14
When Colombia's trade minister visited the Journal's New York offices two weeks ago, the last thing I expected to come up in our conversation was Ireland. To my surprise, it was the first subject he raised.
No sooner had Luis Plata sat down then he started talking about the Irish economic transformation -- from impoverished ugly duckling to swanky swan of Europe in just two decades -- and why a similar growth model is just what Colombia needs.
Some of the necessary policy adjustments are already under way in Bogotá, he said, and with any success, the reforms can be deepened. But the big question mark is whether the U.S. Congress will approve the pending Free Trade Agreement. The FTA, Mr. Plata explained, is as important to Colombia's growth as European Union membership has been to Ireland's.
To think that Democrats might undermine Mr. Plata's visionary agenda is troubling. In 2006, U.S. official development assistance aimed at alleviating poverty around the globe was $23.5 billion and it was pretty much money down a rat hole. That's because development requires economic liberalization, and leaders of poor countries have little incentive to disturb the status quo of monopolies and protectionism that put them in power. Their incentives are even less when rich-country handouts are flowing.
Now along comes Colombia, with a leader -- President Álvaro Uribe -- who is willing to risk political capital to open domestic markets, cut taxes and spur competition in a bid to grow fast à la Ireland. All his government asks from Washington is two-way trade, but Democrats want to slam the door in his face.
Before Mr. Plata became trade minister last year, he headed a government export agency. "We starting going to Ireland several years ago, he says, "because we were looking at countries around the world that had been successful in attracting foreign direct investment. What we found was that Ireland had lowered its corporate tax rate from 40% to 12.5%," and as a result "was attracting investment, had lowered tax evasion and had increased tax collection. We went back to Colombia and said, 'why don't we just bring [our corporate rate] from 38% to 12.5%.'"
That wasn't a popular view with Colombia's treasury department. "It got me kicked out of their offices," Mr. Plata recalls.
No surprise there. Bean counters in every treasury in Latin America have tax-cut phobia in their DNA. It explains why they often get jobs at the International Monetary Fund in Washington after the collapse of the governments they've served back home. At the fund they can put into practice their deeply held convictions that the only responsible fiscal policy is one built on a static analysis to discover the "right" tax rate. Embracing the notion that production creates its own demand, and that government revenues expand under a low-tax regime, is considered high-risk behavior.
Mr. Plata is more sympathetic toward his treasury colleagues. He says that they have to balance the medium- and long-term benefits of tax cutting with the more immediate need to finance the government. Nevertheless, he was convinced that Ireland's experience could be applied to Colombia. Despite the initial reaction, his team "went to work" on the idea of attracting investment through tax cuts.
In a perfect world, he would have won a flat corporate rate. But he had to compromise and instead came up with the "single-enterprise free-trade zone." It expands the low-tax treatment that companies receive when they are located within a "free trade zone" -- normally an industrial park -- to any company that meets certain investment criteria. Businesses (excluding mining and oil) that qualify by meeting minimum investment amounts and employment targets now pay a 15% flat tax instead of 33%. They also import all raw materials with no tariffs and pay no value-added tax.
In addition to offering these tax advantages, the government is writing "stability contracts" to guarantee that the rules will not change when presidents do. It is also working to reduce the regulatory burden, since red tape is one of the most common complaints from foreign investors.
The "single-enterprise free-trade zone" was launched last May, and to date it has attracted about $864 million in foreign direct investment. That number would be higher under a pure flat tax, and if Colombia is to rival the Irish miracle, it will have to move in that direction. But to persuade the treasury to adopt a broad-based flat tax, Mr. Plata will have to show some results with his initial experiment.
That's why the FTA is so important. Companies investing in Colombia are looking beyond the domestic market and, as the minister notes, the recent dustup with Venezuela -- in which President Hugo Chávez threatened to close the border -- demonstrates the fragility of Colombia's export market. About half of Colombian exports now go to Venezuela and Ecuador. Access to the U.S. market and to duty-free imports from the U.S. are both crucial for producers.
All of this begs the question of why congressional Democrats want to reject the Colombian trade agreement. They say it's because Mr. Uribe hasn't done enough to quell violence against labor leaders in the country. But murders are down dramatically, and as Mr. Plata says, "you can't make the case that killing the FTA will make things better."
What will make things better is investment, which is fundamental to reducing poverty. Peru, Mexico and Central America all have FTAs with the U.S., which means that Colombia is automatically disadvantaged if it is denied one. And that could harm national security, which is so fragile. As Mr. Plata pointed out, "You don't win the peace with soldiers alone. You have to have a functioning economy." Surely Democrats can't be against that.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: SH's terror links
on: March 24, 2008, 11:02:41 AM
Saddam's Terror Links
March 24, 2008; Page A14
Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.
Naturally, it's getting little or no attention. Press accounts have been misleading or outright distortions, while the Bush Administration seems indifferent. Even John McCain has let the study's revelations float by. But that doesn't make the facts any less notable or true.
The redacted version of "Saddam and Terrorism" is the most definitive public assessment to date from the Harmony program, the trove of "exploitable" documents, audio and video records, and computer files captured in Iraq. On the basis of about 600,000 items, the report lays out Saddam's willingness to use terrorism against American and other international targets, as well as his larger state sponsorship of terror, which included harboring, training and equipping jihadis throughout the Middle East.
"The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' toolbox, not only cost effective but a formal instrument of state power," the authors conclude. Throughout the 1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) cooperated with Hamas; the Palestine Liberation Front, which maintained a Baghdad office; Force 17, Yasser Arafat's private army; and others. The IIS gave commando training for members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat and whose "emir" was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became Osama bin Laden's second-in-command when the group merged with al Qaeda in 1998.
At the very least the report should dispel the notion that outwardly "secular" Saddam would never consort with religious types like al Qaeda. A pan-Arab nationalist, Saddam viewed radical Islamists as potential allies, and they likewise. According to a 1993 memo, Saddam decided to "form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia," where al Qaeda was then working with warlords against U.S. humanitarian forces. Saddam also trained Sudanese fighters in Iraq.
The Pentagon report cites this as "a tactical example" of their cooperation. When Saddam "was ordering action in Somalia aimed at the American presence, Osama bin Laden was doing the same thing." Saddam took an interest in "far-flung terrorist groups . . . to locate any organization whose services he might use in the future." The Harmony documents "reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term version."
For 20 years, such "support" included using Fedayeen Saddam training camps to school terrorists, especially Palestinians but also non-Iraqis "directly associated" with al Qaeda, continuing up to the fall of Baghdad. Saddam also provided financial support and weapons, amounting to "a state-directed program of significant scale." In July 2001, the regime began patronizing a terror cartel in Bahrain calling itself the Army of Muhammad, which, according to an Iraqi memo, "is under the wings of bin Laden."
It's true that the Pentagon report found no "smoking gun," i.e., a direct connection on a joint Iraq-al Qaeda operation. Supposedly this vindicates the view that Iraq's liberation was launched on false premises. But the Administration was always cautious, with Colin Powell alleging merely a "sinister nexus" in his 2003 U.N. speech. If anything, sinister is an understatement. The main Iraq intelligence failure was over WMD, but the report indicates that the CIA also underestimated Saddam's ties to global terror cartels.
The Administration has always maintained that Iraq is just one front in the war on terror; and the report offers "evidence of logistical preparation for terrorist operations in other nations, including those in the West." In 2002, an IIS memo explained to Saddam that Iraqi embassies were stockpiling weapons, while many of the terrorists trained in Fedayeen camps were dispatched to London with counterfeit documents, where they circulated throughout Europe.
Around the same time, the IIS began to manufacture better improvised explosive devices "designed to be used in civilian areas," and the regime bureaucratized suicide operations, with local Baath Party leaders competing to provide recruits for Saddam as part of a "Martyrdom Project."
All of these are inconvenient facts for those who want to assert that somehow Saddam could have been easily contained and presented no threat to the U.S. The Harmony files buttress the case that the decision to oust Saddam was the right one -- which makes it all the more puzzling that the Bush Administration is mum. It isn't the first time the White House has ceded the Iraq debate to its opponents.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pay raises needed
on: March 24, 2008, 10:54:28 AM
“The denial of annual [pay] increases, [Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote, ‘has left federal trial judges—the backbone of our system of justice—earning about the same as (and in some cases less than) first-year lawyers at firms in major cities, where many of the judges are located.’ The cost of rectifying this would be less than 0.004% of the federal budget. The cost of not doing so will be a decrease in the quality of an increasingly important judiciary—and a change in its perspective. Fifty years ago, about 65 percent of the federal judiciary came from the private sector—from the practicing bar—and 35 percent from the public sector. Today 60 percent come from government jobs, less than 40 percent from private practice. This tends to produce a judiciary that is not only more important than ever but also is more of an extension of the bureaucracy than a check on it... The enlargement of the judiciary’s role by the regulatory state requires compensation of the judiciary commensurate with its ever-expanding importance. That importance, although regrettable, is a fact, and so is this: You get the quality—and the perspective—you pay for.” —George Will
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Religion; P. Henry: Life & Death
on: March 24, 2008, 10:35:37 AM
"If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if
-- Benjamin Franklin (to Thomas Paine, Date Unknown)
Reference: Original Intent, Barton (297); original The Works of
Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 10 (281-282)
“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” —Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The NYTimes rationalizes
on: March 24, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
The NYTimes tries to cover its *ss, but fails-- the truth is simple: the coverage is less because things are going much better.
The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: March 24, 2008
Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.
"The fact that the economy and the election are now of major interest to the public is part of the reason for the war being put on the back burner."
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Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The drop in coverage parallels — and may be explained by — a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq “very closely” in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall.
Experts offer many other explanations for the declining media focus, like the danger and expense in covering Iraq, and shrinking newsroom budgets. In the last year, a flagging economy and the most competitive presidential campaign in memory have diverted attention and resources.
“Vietnam held the media’s attention a lot better because it was a war with a draft that touched a lot more people; people were sent against their will, and many more Americans were killed,” said Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.
“In a conventional war, like World War II, there’s dramatic change, a moving front line, a compelling narrative,” he said. But after the triumphal first months, Iraq became a war of insurgents vs. counterinsurgents, harder to make sense of, “with more of the same grim news, day after day.”
The three broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at tyndallreport.com. And by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending half as much time on Iraq as earlier in the year.
Since the start of last year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of the nonprofit Pew Research Center, has tracked reporting by several dozen major newspapers, cable stations, broadcast television networks, Web sites and radio programs. Iraq accounted for 18 percent of their prominent news coverage in the first nine months of 2007, but only 9 percent in the following three months, and 3 percent so far this year.
The policy debate in Washington that dominated last year’s Iraq coverage has almost disappeared from the news. And reporting on events in Iraq has fallen by more than two-thirds from a year ago.
The drop accelerated with a sharp decline in violence in Iraq that began at the end of last summer. The last six months have been safer for American troops than any comparable period since the war began, with about 33 killed each month, compared with about 91 a month over the previous year.
“The available news hole got so much smaller because election and economic news took up so much of the space,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center.
There are no authoritative figures for most media coverage before 2007. But a check of several large and midsize newspapers’ archives shows a year-by-year decline in articles about Iraq, and an increase in the proportion supplied by wire services. Experts who follow the coverage say there is no doubt about the trend.
“I was getting on average three to five calls a day for interviews about the war” in the first years, said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow on national security at the Brookings Institution. “Now it’s less than one a day.”
He argued that Americans who support the war might not have wanted to follow the news when it was bad, and that Americans against the war are less interested now that the news is better. And the presidential candidates, he said, have shown “surprisingly little interest in discussing it in detail.”
Many news organizations have fewer people in Iraq than they once did, though no definitive numbers are available. Coalition officials have said that although there were several hundred reporters embedded with military units early in the war, the number has been measured in tens in recent months.
Violence against journalists makes reporting on Iraq costly and difficult; executives of The New York Times have said that the newspaper is spending more than $3 million a year to cover Iraq. The risks have forced news organizations to hire private security forces and Iraqi employees who can go places that Westerners cannot safely explore.
From the start of the war through 2005, journalists and their support workers were killed in Iraq at a rate of one every 12 days, according to tallies kept by the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2006 and 2007, the rate was one every eight days. Most of those killed have been Iraqis.
“Danger and the expense are gigantic factors,” Mr. Jones said. “The news media have to constantly revisit how much money and risk to expend.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Issues
on: March 23, 2008, 08:18:08 PM
DNA database plans for children who 'could become criminals'
By Simon Johnson
Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 18/03/2008
Primary school children should be put on the national DNA database if their
behaviour suggests they will become criminals, a senior Scotland Yard
expert said yesterday.
Ed Balls plans 'baby Asbos' for 10-year olds
Gary Pugh, the director of forensic science and the new DNA spokesman
for the Association of Chief Police Officers, called for a debate on the
measures required to identify future offenders.
He said: "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they
offend, then in the long term the benefits of targeting younger people are
"We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to
But critics said this was a step towards a police state that would risk
stigmatising youngsters who had yet to commit a criminal act.
The details of more than 4.5 million people, including about 150,000
children under the age of 16, are held on the Government's database,
making it the largest system of its kind in the world.
Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the
database after being arrested will have reached about 1.5 million this time
Police in England and Wales need parental consent to take a DNA sample
from children under 10, the age of criminal responsibility.
Children in Scotland can be charged with an offence at eight, but police
cannot take DNA if they are younger.
Julia Margo, from the Institute for Public Policy Research who wrote a
recent report on the issue, agreed that it was possible to identify risk
factors in children aged five to seven. But she said that placing young
children on a database risked stigmatising them.
Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said Mr
Pugh's suggestion could be viewed "as a step towards a police state."
He added: "It is condemning them at a very young age to something they
have not yet done. To label children at that stage and put them on a
register is going too far."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hair gel saves cabby
on: March 23, 2008, 06:10:23 PM
After stiffing cabdriver, teen girl slashes his throat
He was trying to collect his fare when the girl attacked him. Hair gel saved him, he told police.
Roy Carlson Jr.KSTP
Roy Carlson Jr. needed 13 stitches for this neck wound.
By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune
Last update: March 20, 2008 - 12:02 AM
Roy Carlson Jr. says hair gel saved his life.
That was one of the first fleeting thoughts the St. Paul taxi driver had as he struggled with the 15-year-old girl who, seconds earlier, had slashed his throat and stabbed him repeatedly after a cab ride gone awry early Tuesday.
After the girl tried to stiff him on a $22 cab fare following a ride across St. Paul, the frustrated driver for Diamond Cab Co. was driving her to a St. Paul police precinct for violating curfew.
"All of the sudden I hear her scream in the background, 'I'm not going to jail!' and she pulled my hair back and started to cut my throat," he said Wednesday. "I had styling cream in my hair, and it slipped out of her hands."
Carlson is taking a week off to recover from a curve-shaped slash just below his chin held together with 13 stitches, additional cuts to his face, and stab wounds to his inner right leg and buttock.
St. Paul police say Carlson was an innocent victim attempting to collect his fare when the enraged girl cut him. The girl, whose name has not been released because she is a juvenile, remains in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center awaiting charges.
Carlson said he picked her up at a housing complex at 1511 Supornick Lane just after midnight. After taking her to an address on West Maynard Drive, the girl said she needed to collect money from her mother for the fare, so Carlson took her purse and cell phone as collateral while he waited for her to return. He was then told the mother did not have money.
"I'm kind of ticked off by now, and I said, 'Pick her up at juvenile hall, I'm gonna take her in for curfew,'" he said.
A knife cut into his neck.
That's typical protocol for getting stiffed, Carlson said, and it's easier than filing a police report, which he said generally doesn't result in recovered money, and takes additional time. Carlson said he had turned onto Edgcumbe from Montreal when he felt the kitchen knife cut into his neck. She jumped out of the cab immediately when he grabbed her. Both of them were covered in blood.
"I said, 'You know I'm bringing you in for a curfew violation. Do you realize you're looking at attempted murder now?' It was then that I think it hit her, and she started to cry."
He pinned the girl with his knee while he radioed for help. He was later treated at a local hospital.
St. Paul police said Carlson's story corroborates with what they believe happened in the cab. For the hundreds of rides given daily, attacks on drivers are relatively rare, police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
In Minnesota, there have been several instances of violence against cabbies.
In February, Blue & White/ABC driver Mohd Farahid, 51, was hospitalized after being beaten with a hatchet handle in north Minneapolis.
In February 2007, Green & White driver Jim Moody, 46, was shot to death during a botched robbery in Brooklyn Center; an Omaha man was convicted in his death. In August 2003, Red & White driver Mohamed Ahmed Salah, 28, was fatally shot in Minneapolis; Salvador Pacheco of Anoka was convicted in his death.
According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, more than 100 cabdrivers nationwide were assaulted in 2006.
Carlson, a four-year cabdriver who has also worked in the tow-truck business, said he is no stranger to assaults. This, however, is a first. And hopefully a last, he added.
"We do have a lot of young kids where the parents are gonna pay at the other end, and I don't want to leave a young kid stranded, not in the projects," he said. "But to expect a 15-year-old to come at you with a knife is unreal."