Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
March 03, 2015, 10:40:29 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
85140 Posts in 2266 Topics by 1068 Members
Latest Member: cdenny
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 532 533 [534] 535 536 ... 651
26651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Senate Races of 2008 on: February 15, 2008, 01:29:25 PM
Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican Senator from Rhode Island, has left the GOP and endorsed Barack Obama for president.

The move can only be considered a slap in the face to John McCain, who came to Rhode Island to assist Mr. Chafee in a hard-fought 2006 GOP primary against conservative Steve Laffey. Mr. Chafee won the primary narrowly, and then went on to lose the general election to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

Asked about how his sudden shift in loyalties will be perceived, Mr. Chafee told reporters: "I'm sure Sen. McCain will understand."

That's up to Mr. McCain, but somehow I doubt that all the donors to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which pumped over $2 million into Rhode Island to save Mr. Chafee in his primary, will understand.

Nachama Soloveichik, who served as press secretary for Mr. Laffey and now works at the Club for Growth, has published an open letter to Senator Elizabeth Dole, who ran the NRCC in 2006. She points out that Mr. Chafee's pending apostasy was already well in evidence in 2006: He had refused to vote for President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, voted against both Bush tax cuts, and cast the only Republican vote against the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court. To be sure, the NRSC's job was to save Senate seats for Republicans in 2006, but it proved abysmal at the task. Rather than invest in Senate races that wound up being lost to Democrats by a handful of votes -- Montana and Virginia come to mind -- Mrs. Dole wasted precious resources trying to save the unreliable Mr. Chafee from a Republican challenger.

"It's not about liberal or conservative. It's about protecting incumbents no matter what their views," is how Mrs. Dole defended her decision back in 2006. But this is precisely the attitude that has led Republican donors increasingly to sit on their wallets this election cycle.

Will John McCain pull a Bob Dole? Will he resign his Senate seat to devote full time to the presidential race, as Kansas Senator Bob Dole did in 1996 after he tied up the GOP nomination? The Washington rumor mill is abuzz with the possibility now that the Arizona media has raised speculation of a McCain Senate departure as early as this spring.

Mr. McCain's Senate office and campaign are remaining mute, saying only there are "no such plans." That's what Mr. Dole said up to the day of his surprise announcement.

If Senator McCain decides to step down, conservatives would have a number of prime choices to succeed him. Free market and anti-big spending champions John Shadegg and Jeff Flake in the House would be high on the list. A Flake spokesman says Mr. Flake would "certainly take a close look." Mr. Shadegg has already announced he's leaving the House, but a Senate race would be mighty attractive to him as well. Still another supply-sider who could get in the race would be former Governor Fyfe Symington.

Mr. McCain was already seen as likely to leave the Senate when his seat rotates up for reelection in 2010, but there are party advantages to leaving now. A big one is that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano is eyeing the seat for 2010, but she would be hard-pressed to run in 2008. Ms. Napolitano would pick an interim senator to serve until November and must appoint someone of the same party as the person vacating the office. An election would then be held in November to fill the seat through 2010. Whomever Ms. Napolitano appoints, especially if it's an apolitical weakling or moderate, wouldn't necessarily be a front-runner for the November election.

Says veteran conservative Senate watcher Dave Hoppe: "This would be a great opportunity to put a strong conservative in this seat." Messrs. Flake and Shadegg are both beloved by conservatives and seen as future stars of the party.

WSJ Political Diary
26652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / EZCH on: February 15, 2008, 01:26:56 PM

From the Gilder weekly letter:


The Week / EZ Reaction


LanOptics Announces 130% Revenue Growth in 2007: Yokneam, Israel, February 11, 2008 -- LanOptics Ltd. (NASDAQ: EZCH), a provider of network processors, today announced its results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2007. 

EZchip Corporate Presentation:

Gilder Telecosm Forum Member #1 (2/11/08): The only way to listen to the company's comments and be discouraged is if you are using the daily stock price as your primary source of research…

Any frustration is a function of our own expectations which have been formed off of an incomplete understanding of the development cycle. But we now have the window for the break-out narrowed down to a few months…

Gilder Telecosm Forum Member #2 (2/11/08): I too was struck by [CEO] Eli Fructer not ruling out a 1H08 Cisco move to production with NP-3c… Eli has always been conservative and understated.

George Gilder (2/11/08): The key to EZ is its role in the critical path of the next three generations of networking technology. It defines the system level products on the fiberspeed level. That means it is slow to get off the ground, but once aloft will fly high for a long time.


For me there was one major upside surprise. I would not have guessed that 20 percent of EZ's design wins were with the two first tier customers. That means a minimum of 10 design wins with both Juniper and Cisco. That strikes me as huge. EZ penetrated Cisco only a year or so ago….

26653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt part Two on: February 14, 2008, 02:48:07 PM

They didn’t say that at all. They said, “Gingrich must have cheated.” And their most partisan members just hated me. They filed 83 ethic charges and they did all sorts of things because they just couldn’t stand it. They knew they were supposed to be chairman. In fact, the first couple of weeks, people would come in and sit in the chairman’s seat and we would have to say to them, you know, you’re the ranking member now, and they were just beside themselves because they can’t have been wrong. <laughter> And frankly this is why they hate George W. Bush so much. The notion that we might have actually been elected under the rules in 2000, the notion that we might actually be doing the right thing, just drives the Left crazy. <Applause>

But it is a deeper problem. I had no real understanding of how decisively and deeply entrenched our opponents are from every level. From the Marxist tenure faculty member running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, achieving the impossible, the only man in America who could be to the left of Al Franken, and a vivid reminder of how much our University campuses are filled with people who hate the very country that provides them their salary, that provides them their tenure, and provides them their freedom. <Applause>

To a Detroit school bureaucracy which is crippling the children of Detroit, which graduates only 25% of its entering freshman on time, which is one of the highest paid and most expensive programs in the country, and which, when a successful millionaire offered to give $200 million dollars, to help create charter schools to save the children of Detroit, promptly attacked him as a racist because no white man had the right to step in and save black children, and in fact drove him out of Detroit, because he was such a threat, by insisting that teachers actually be competent, and that the purpose of schools was actually to teach. <Applause>

But we have seen the same thing right here. Any of youo who have listened to Ambassador John Bolton knows that we have a vast portion of the State Department deeply committed to defeating the policies of President Bush. We have a large proportion of the Intelligence community deeply committed to defeating the policies of President Bush. The fact that he is the elected Commander in Chief of the American people, the fact that the laws have been passed by the elected legislators of the American people, seems to be no matter to this bureaucratic elite, which arrogates to itself the right to do things that are stunningly destructive.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’état, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal. <Applause>

There is one other declaration of independence we need and this will startle some of you. And remember I say this from a background of having been active in the Georgia Republican Party since 1960. In a fundamental way, the conservative movement has to declare itself independent from the Republican Party. <Applause>

Let me make very clear what I'm saying here. I am not saying there should be a third party – I think a third party is a dumb idea, will not get anywhere, and in the end will achieve nothing. <Applause>

I actually believe that any reasonable conservative will, in the end, find that they have an absolute requirement to support the Republican nominee for president this fall. <Applause>

And let me remind you, I say that in the context of personally believing that the McCain-Feingold Act is unconstitutional and a threat to our civil liberties. <Applause>

And I say that in the context of believing that the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill was a disaster and was correctly stopped by the American people. <Applause>

But I would rather, as a citizen, and I say this with Callista and I have two wonderful grandchildren. Maggie who is 8 and Robert who is 6. We think about their future. As a citizen, I would rather have a President McCain that we fight with 20% of the time, than a President Clinton or a President Obama that we fight with 90% of the time. <Applause>

Let me, if I might, carry this a step further so that you understand where I am coming from. I believe the conservative movement has to think about reaching out to every American of every background.  I think we have to decide that in 2010, we are going to recruit and support conservative candidates in Democratic districts, because the right answer to gerrymandering is to beat them in the primary. <Applause>

Now all of you have a copy, I hope you got a copy, but if you didn't, you can get it later on outside of the Platform of the American People from American Solutions. And it’s also at the back of my new book Real Change. And you can also get it at And you can download it for free.

Let me tell you how we developed this. This is a work in progress and this is phase 1. We had a Solutions Day workshop last September with over 100,000 people participating across the country on the internet, in person, and on television. We had over 25,000 people in telephone and townhall meetings where we asked them to be involved and we listened to their questions and worked with them. We took six national surveys. And what we were looking for, and what’s in this Platform of the American People is issues which are tripartisan. They get a majority of Democrats, a majority of Republicans, and a majority of independents.

Now it turns out when you develop a tripartisan platform, it's a center-right platform because this is a center-right country. The fascinating thing will be watching Senator Obama who is for “Real Change” and has “change” on all his slogans, and I am for it. We wrote the book Real Change last summer and I want to thank the people at Regnery for going along with the title, it turns out this February that it was really a good title.<Laughter>
But it was also an obvious title.  But here’s the question:  Are you for the right change or the wrong change?

Let me give you a couple of examples from here.  And this isn’t the Gingrich Platform, this is the Platform of the American People.  And by the way, we’re going to want your help when you go back home reaching out to Democrats and Republicans, to get them at your county, at your district, at your state, in both parties to adopt this platform.  Everything in here has a majority Democrat support.  It doesn’t have a majority elite support, but I’m hoping you’ll go back home and I do want to introduce for one second Princella Smith who’s here somewhere.  Princella is the chief advocate of the Platform of the American People and she’d love to talk to you later on and be available to explain it and work on it.  

And here’s my point.  Let’s talk about the right change versus the wrong change.  85% of the American people believe we have an absolute obligation to defend America and her allies.  <Applause>

So if we need to strengthen our intelligence capabilities, and strengthen our interdiction and surveillance capabilities, and strengthen our ability to win wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere that would be the right change.  But if we want to have weakness, under funding, and crippling of our departments of security that would be the wrong change.  

Now let me give you a second example.  75% of the American people believe we have an obligation to defeat our enemies.  Pretty strong language.  Actually a higher number than I thought we’d get.  75% to 16%.  So if we knew how to be clear and articulate and explain it, if we knew how to communicate to every American what the Director of National Intelligence said last week about the depth and intensity of al-Qaeda and this was on public record it just wasn’t, people didn’t pay attention to it, the news media didn’t want to cover it.  The Director of National Intelligence said, let me tell you, al-Qaeda is working all day every day to find a way how to kill Americans.  And they’re recruiting Westerners to have more sophisticated people to come and kill Americans.  Now you would think if that was on then someone might say to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, okay if al-Qaeda wants to come here, would you like to stop them over there?  And if you want to stop them over there, how can you run back home to here if we’re trying to stop them over there? <Applause>

Just three more examples to show you the difference between right change and wrong change.  92% of the American people believe that for us to compete with China and India in an age of science and technology we have to dramatically improve math and science education.  Now, I am prepared to change every bureaucracy in America that is failing our children until we get them to actually succeed, and I think the change should start today, because we shouldn’t lose a single child to prison who ought to be in college if only they had a decent school to go to. <Applause>

And the question for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton is simple.  Are you prepared to put the children ahead of your union allies, and actually measure achievement rather than union dues as a primary success? <Applause>

Two last examples.  87% of the American people believe English should be the official language of government.  <Applause>

Now, 87% means an absolute majority of Democrats favor English as the official language of government.  An absolute majority of Republicans favor English as the official language of government.  An absolute majority of independents favor English as the official language of government.  An absolute majority of Hispanics favor English as the official language of government. <Applause>

Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton voted against 87% percent of the American people, but nobody knows it.  <Booing>

Well, it’s not their fault that nobody knows it, it’s our fault.  So I would think if you want an example of real change, I think the Senate Republicans should say you know we like this idea of working together, we like this idea of getting real change, we’re prepared to work with Senator Obama next week, and Senator Clinton next week, and then once a week I would give them a chance to vote up or down on making English the official language of government.  And let it just keep drawing it out. <Applause>

Because there’s a profound principle here.  If something is both historically right, and has 87% of the American people in favor of it, then leadership which is prepared to stand firm will in the end be successful in getting the right change, not the wrong change, for America’s future.

Lastly, 84% of the American people would like to have a one page tax form with an optional flat tax. <Applause>

 I know a number of you favor the Fair Tax, I’m just pointing out as an interim transition step, a one page flat tax wouldn’t be a bad interim step.  And here’s my point about real change.  If every Republican in the House and Senate were to send out a mailer to all of their constituents in March with literally the one page tax form, and an explanation on the back, and a little questionnaire that said, “Hi.  Would you like to just change the whole tax code and have the option, now you can keep the current code if you want.  If you like record keeping and you think you need your deductions, and you want to pay your CPA and your tax accountant or attorney, that’s fine.  But if you’d like simplicity, clarity, and certainty, you could have this.”  You would suddenly change the entire tax debate from finding a way to get more money for Washington, to finding a way to save an immense amount of time and clarity, and all of a sudden the Democrats would have to answer the question:  Would they like to have real change now, and would they like to have the right change now?<Applause & Laughter>

Those of you who have cell phones with you I’m going to give you a chance to do a text message if you want to know more about what we’re doing.  At American Solutions, we are dedicated to reaching out to everybody in the country.  And so if you’d like to text Newt, see they made as easy for you as they could, we’d love to find out how to stay in touch with you.

I believe the following.  And I say this having lived through the narrow defeat of 1960, the great convention victory of Goldwater followed by a disastrous defeat in ’64, the recovery in the ’66 off-year election, the very narrow election of Nixon in ’68, the stunning landslide over McGovern in ’72, the collapse of the Nixon administration, and the rise of Reagan, the loss to Jimmy Carter, the extraordinary victory of 1980.  

I believe we have two futures this year.  

I believe we can be for real change now.  We can put the Democrats on record every day from here on out.  We could use the House and Senate as opportunities to have the country focused on what’s the right change and what’s the wrong change.  We can take on the bureaucracies and decide that we don’t care who the nominal head is.  The permanent bureaucracy is permanently liberal, permanently obsolete, permanently incapable of doing its job, and we need fundamental deep change from school board to city council to county commission to the sheriff’s office to the state legislature to the governor to Washington, D.C., and we are the movement of real change by this summer I suspect we will win one of the most cataclysmic elections in American history.  Because the sad reality is that our friends on the Left are trapped by their allies, they’re trapped by the trial lawyers, they’re trapped by the unions, they’re trapped by the big city bureaucracies, they are trapped by their allies in tenured faculty, they are trapped by the Hollywood Left.  

And if there is a clear choice of which change, we will win.  But if we run a traditional consultant-dominated tactical Republican campaign, like we’ve seen in the last eight years, we will be defeated this fall, and we will be having a CPAC meeting next year talking about how we rebuild for the future with either President Obama or President Clinton in charge.  <Booing>  

I’m here as somebody who has spent his entire life practically, since I was fifteen years old, trying to find a way for us.  And we’ve had great successes.  We cut taxes dramatically, we re-launched the American economy in the 1980s, we eliminated the Soviet Union.  The fact is we won the Cold War.  People are freer. <Applause>

So we have had great successes.  But we can’t rest on them.  And so we need to go out dedicated to insist on real change now, on the right change now, and about making sure that every American, of every background, in every neighborhood, understands that their future, their children’s future, and their country’s future, rest on creating the kind of opportunities that we are building, and that that requires real change in the obsolete, expensive, and destructive bureaucracies we’ve inherited in the past.  

With your help, at every level, starting with adopting the Platform of the American People, and moving on to encouraging every elected official you know to be active in the reform movement, we have a chance I think to set the stage for a dramatically better American future.  Thank you, good luck, and God bless you.<Applause>
26654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: February 14, 2008, 02:46:13 PM
Transcript: A Declaration of Independence for the Conservative Movement
35th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference
Washington D.C.
February 9, 2008

Click here to view video of the full speech

Click here to listen to an audio-only version

PODCAST version here

(Transcript made from speech as delivered.)

Thank you all for that remarkable welcome.  I’m deeply, deeply grateful, and Callista and I are delighted to be back here once again at the most important single meeting of the conservative movement in a historic time.  <Applause> 

Many of you know that my background includes being a teacher, and I am going to try in the next few minutes to offer a little bit of a lesson.  My Dad was a career soldier, served 27 years in the infantry, and when I was very young, he convinced me that leadership and courage and a willingness to think deeply are vital to the survival of a free country. <Applause> 

Between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, when we were stationed first in Orleans, France, and then in Stuttgart, Germany, I concluded that what we are doing here today is really, really important.  It’s part of the dialogue by which a free people govern themselves.  My dad was reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, and in 1960, I was a volunteer as a high school student in the Nixon-Lodge campaign.  So I want to talk to you this afternoon from having spent what will be this August, fifty years studying and thinking about what it takes for America to survive.  In many ways, they’ve been remarkable years.  The Georgia I arrived at in 1960, was legally segregated and a one-party Democratic state.  Today it is legally integrated and a two-party state with a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and a Republican legislature.<Applause> 

When I decided at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school that I would study national security and I would try to understand how we acquire the power legitimately from the people in order to implement the policies we need, the Soviet Empire was a real and a direct threat to the survival of freedom on this planet.  Because of the courage persistence, clarity, and vision of one person, the Soviet Union does not exist today, and that person was Ronald Wilson Reagan.  <Applause>  Next month will be the 25th anniversary of two speeches: the speech in which he broke with the elite, morally neutral, real politik, accommodationist view, and described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, the beginning of the end of that evil…<Applause>  and 13 days later, the speech in which he outlined a proposal for a science-and-technology-based, entrepreneurial approach to national security to develop a strategic defense initiative which would in effect bankrupt the Soviet Union and lead to its collapse.  <Applause> 

Those two speeches could have been given by no other leader in the last fifty years.  He had the courage, he had the conviction, and from 1947 on, he had been systematically thinking about and studying communism and trying to find out how to defeat it.  Now, he made the first CPAC conference really important, because he came here at a time when we were in despair, when the Republican Party was crumbling under the weight of Watergate, when the Left was on offense, when the counterculture was in full steam, and he said in [March of 1975] that we must have a flag of bold colors, no pale pastels. [“Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?”—Ronald Reagan] <Applause> 

I tried in thinking through what I could say to you this afternoon to literally ask what would Ronald Reagan have said in this setting at this time, not to repeat what he said in other times, but to think about the clarity and the historic context.  I went back and looked at what Barry Goldwater said in 1960 when there was a conservative eruption because Nixon was going too far to the left, and Goldwater’s name was put a nomination for vice-president, and he withdrew it and said he would support the ticket. Compared to the other party, there was no choice.  I looked at what Ronald Reagan said in 1976, when having risen in rebellion against an incumbent Republican President and come within 70 votes of the nomination, he said that given a choice between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, there was no choice, because Jimmy Carter would be about as bad as he turned out to be.  <Laughter & Applause> 

So I want to say several things that are fairly complicated and I hope you will bare with me, because I think we are at a moment of historic choice for the conservative movement’s future.  I want to give you four sets of numbers, those of you who are truly interested in this may want to write them down, we gave you a copy of the Platform of the American People which I’ll talk about in a minute, but feel free to write on the back of it.  I think you’ll find this interesting as a lesson in history and as a thought process about where we are now.  The first is the number 9 million.  The second is two numbers: 1928 and 68.  The third is 0 to 6, and the fourth is 14.6 to 8.3.  I believe in these four sets of numbers, lies a diagnosis of where we are and where we must go. 

The first number, 9 million, is the number of additional votes who came out to vote in 1994, the largest one-party increase in an off-year election in the history of the United States, brought out by a proud, positive, clear, and very, very bold Contract with America.  <Applause>  I cite it to point out that when we stand clearly, simply, and directly for large-scale change, that year it was welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced federal budget, accountability for the Congress, stronger national defense and intelligence. The American people responded. 

The second set of numbers, 1928 and 68.  In 1928 was the last time a Republican Congress was reelected.  We had held the House from 1946 for two years, we held the House in 1952 for two years, and when I became Speaker I felt the greatest challenge I had was to ensure that we would in fact keep a majority in 1996 for the first time in 68 years.  Now, it was a doubly difficult problem because I had every expectation that President Clinton, as one of the smartest, most agile, and least inhibited by principle politicians in America, would flow magically to whatever he had to in order to get reelected.  So my assumption all along was that come the presidential campaign, we would have an uphill fight.  No Republican House had been reelected with a Democratic President winning.  And I want to share three keys with you that people don’t understand to this day in this city: 

The first key is, we kept our word on the Contract, and we voted on every single item in the first 93 days, and people began to believe we were serious.  <Applause>

The second, is something that the news media and the elites and the Republican consultants got exactly backwards.  We got into a struggle over balancing the budget with Bill Clinton and the federal government was closed.  Everyone says, “What a huge mistake,” and I keep trying to say to them, “We were the first reelected majority in 68 years and you think it was a mistake?”  If we had broken our word with fiscal conservatives, if we had rolled over and caved, if we had failed to fight, we would not have held the Congress in 1996.  In fact, it was precisely because people suddenly looked up and said, “Wait a second.  These guys actually believe it enough to lay their careers on the line and stand for something even when they’re being yelled at,” that led people to decide that we were real.<Applause> 

And third, we voluntarily committed that we would balance the federal budget.  We weren’t required to by the Contract.  The Contract said we’d vote on a balanced budget amendment.  But we said when the amendment passed the House and failed by one vote in the Senate, we would go ahead and behave as though it had passed.  And we said by definition if we were going to pass the amendment we thought we could balance the budget in seven years because that’s what to amendment said.  And so we held a meeting and I’ll never forget it.  Dick Armey, Bob Walker, Bob Livingston, Bill Archer, John Kasich, Tom Delay.  We all sat down and we looked at each other.  And I said, “We have a chance to decisively make history if we have the courage to make history.”  Now in order to do that, we had to reform Medicare in the middle of an election year with a liberal Democrat in the White House.  And we had to do so, so carefully, and with such training that all of our members could go home and explain what we were doing.  And we had to do so with such care that AARP would not attack us, because we couldn’t have withstood it if they had decided to tell every senior citizen that we were against them.  When we finished keeping our word on the Contract, standing firm even if it had involved a real fight, and moving towards a balanced budget with an effective reform of Medicare that people agreed was needed and correct, we kept the U.S. House for the first time in 68 years.  And there’s a big lesson there. 

Now the third number, which I think should have led to a vastly bigger discussion in the Republican Party, is 0 to 6.  That’s the track record of incumbent U.S. Senators in a close election in 2006.  Now if your party loses every single close incumbent election despite having raised an immense amount of money, maybe there’s something wrong.  I don’t want to be too bold, <Laughter> but I want to suggest that if I were a stockholder and we were 0 for 6, I would like to talk about what’s going on.  And yet we sleepwalk through 2007. 

Now, because we were sleepwalking through 2007, we get to the last set of numbers which should sober every person in this country who does not want to have a left wing president.  On Super Tuesday, there were 14.6 million Democratic votes, and 8.3 million Republican votes.  Now, I want to repeat this because I want it to sink it in here.  There were 14.6 million Democrats who thought the presidential nomination was worth voting for, and there were 8.3 million Republicans on Super Tuesday.  That is a warning of a catastrophic election.  I was in Idaho this last week, and Barack Obama on last Saturday had 16,000 people in Boise.  The idea that the most liberal Democratic Senator getting 16,000 people in Boise was inconceivable.  And every person who cares about the conservative movement and every person who cares about the Republican Party had better stop and say to themselves, “There is something big happening in this country.  We don’t understand it.  We’re not responding to it.  And we’re currently not competitive.  And if we want to get to be competitive, we had better change and we had better change now.”

Let me tell you flatly.  I said the week before Super Tuesday, actually a week before the Super Bowl, reporters asked me, I think it was on Hannity and Colmes, and they said, “What are the Republican chances this fall?”  And I said, “Well, I think they’re about as good as the New York Giants beating the Patriots.” <Laughter>

Now, and this next comment comes with a little pain because I’m a Green Bay fan, and I learned a lot about the Giants when they played in Green Bay recently, but here’s the point I was making.  People thought I was saying we didn’t have a chance to win.  I was saying, the game hasn’t started, and if we field the right team with the right issues in the right way, we have fully was much chance to win as the Giants did, but I’ll tell you, we are currently no where near being ready to do this.  This is not a comment–I want to make this clear for the news media–this is not a comment about any of the current candidates for president. 

This is a comment about the conservative movement, and it's a comment about the Republican Party, and all the candidates currently running fit within those two phrases. But it is about all of us. It is about our Congressman, our Senator, our governors, our county commissioners, our school board members.

And let me make this very clear, I believe we have to change or expect defeat.

And I believe that this is a time for the conservative movement, to issue a declaration of independence. And let me explain what I mean by issuing a declaration of independence.

First of all, I think we need to get independent from a Washington fixation. <Applause> There are 513,000 elected officials in the United States and the conservative movement should believe in a decentralized United States, where every elected official has real responsibility, and we should be developing a conservative action plan, at every level of this country, and not simply focused over and over again on arguments about the White House.

Second, I think we need to get independent from this leader fascination with the presidency. Remember Ronald Reagan rose in rebellion because Gerald Ford was negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty. I voted against two Reagan tax increases. I voted against George H. W. Bush’s 1990 tax increase. It is a totally honorable and legitimate thing to say I am going to support the candidate and oppose the policy. This idea [is] that I think we [did] President George W. Bush a grave disservice by not being dramatically more aggressive in criticizing when they were wrong, and being more open when they were making mistakes.

And I don’t think it helped them or the country.  <Applause>

I also think that we need to declare our independence from trying to protect and defend failed bureaucracies that magically become our’s as soon as we are in charge of them. We appoint solid conservatives to a department and within three weeks they are defending and protecting the very department that they would have been attacking before they got appointed. And this is a fundamental problem and I think it comes from some very great challenges. And I want to suggest to you, and I spent a lot of time since 1999 thinking about this. That’s the part of why I wrote the book Real Change, and why I have tried to lay out at American Solutions a fundamentally different approach to how we think about solving our problems. 

I think that there are two grave lessons for the conservative movement since 1980. The first, which we still haven’t come to grips with, is that governing is much harder than campaigning. Our consultants may be terrific at winning one election, they don’t know anything about governing. And unfortunately most of our candidates listen to our consultants. And so you end up with people who don’t understand briefing people who don’t know, and together they have no clue. <Laughter>

We win the election and then we lose the government. And this happens at every level. It happens in Sacramento, it happens in Tallahassee, it happens in Albany, it happens Trenton, and it happens in Washington D.C.

So the first lesson is that we are going to have to learn as a movement how to actually create conservative government, not just conservative politics. And that is a fundamentally harder thing. <Applause>

The second thing that I think has been a very sobering surprise to me, and it really started when we won in 1994, and I thought that the Democrats would stop and say “Wow we just lost power that we had for forty years, I guess maybe we did something wrong.”

26655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 14, 2008, 01:07:00 PM
The John Edwards Factor

Hillary Clinton still has fight left in her. She is pulling out all the stops to entice John Edwards to endorse her over Barack Obama, including a secret visit to his North Carolina home so she could make her pitch in person.

"There is a lot John and I have in common," Mrs. Clinton told reporters later. "I will be a fighter, and I intend to ask John Edwards to be a part of anything I do in the White House." Could that include his being her Attorney General?

ABC News reports that several of Mr. Edwards' advisers "likened his thought process to a heart-versus-head split with his heart favoring Sen. Barack Obama's strong message of change, and his head attracted to Clinton's tested nature and commitment to tough fights."

Mr. Edwards also must know that, if he were to endorse Mr. Obama now, he might seem merely to be joining the media bandwagon. Endorsing Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, would be the surprising move and might allow him to take personal credit for reenergizing her flagging campaign. Mr. Edwards won 40 delegates before ending his own race, and his powers of persuasion could put many of those now uncommitted votes into the New York senator's corner.

Should Mr. Edwards endorse Mrs. Clinton, speculation would be rife that he would get the top job at the Justice Department for helping her win the White House. That slot would keep him in the public eye, provide him with a platform for his anti-corporate views and leave open the chance he could run for president again.

-- John Fund

The Iraq Factor

A Strategic Vision poll in Wisconsin -- next week's big Democratic primary battle -- shows Barack Obama holding a 45% to 41% lead over Hillary Clinton. But the real news in the poll are its intriguing hints on just how sour the electorate in that critical swing state is over the war in Iraq.

Not surprisingly, 68% of the state's voters disapproved of President Bush's handling of Iraq, but a stunning 74% also disapproved of how Congress is conducting itself. The money question was: Do you believe that Democrats in Congress have a better plan to resolve the Iraq War than President Bush?

The answer in thoroughly dovish Wisconsin was 71% "no," 18% "yes" and 11% undecided. Small wonder that the war in Iraq has faded as a campaign issue, even in Democratic primaries. Voters simply don't believe claims by any candidate that they have a monopoly of wisdom on dealing with the situation in Iraq.

-- John Fund

Hillary Needs Debates, So MSNBC Is Forgiven

"Voters want more debates," Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told reporters yesterday, citing record-breaking viewership of previous televised encounters as proof of his claim.

Despite the fact Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have stood on stage together 18 times this year, the Clinton campaign is aggressively pushing Mr. Obama to commit to further one-on-one televised debates. Yesterday, the campaign launched a statewide television ad in Wisconsin slamming Mr. Obama for refusing to agree to debate before the state's primary next Tuesday. "Maybe he'd prefer to give speeches than have to answer questions," the ad says. Mr. Wolfson followed up yesterday by accusing Mr. Obama of "hiding" from voters in Wisconsin and displaying an "unwillingness" to discuss issues.

Also yesterday, Mrs. Clinton announced she would take part in a debate hosted by NBC in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 26. Mrs. Clinton had threatened to skip the debate after MSNBC's David Shuster suggested on a broadcast last week that the Clintons had "pimped out" 27-year old Chelsea Clinton on behalf of her mother's campaign. Mr. Shuster apologized and was suspended immediately, but the campaign cited previous derogatory statements about Mrs. Clinton by host Chris Matthews (who also apologized) as part of a pattern of behavior at the network that justified boycotting the debate.

In the end, however, the campaign's desire -- or need -- to engage with Mr. Obama won the day. "We have expressed concerns about that network," Mr. Wolfson said yesterday, "but we don't believe those concerns should stand in the way allowing the people of Ohio to see important distinctions between the candidates."

The only other debate currently on the calendar will take place on February 21 at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.

Reeling from Mr. Obama's win streak of eight straight contests over the past week, the Clinton campaign now sees one-on-one debates as among the precious few opportunities to change the narrative and regain positive momentum heading into make-or-break contests for Mrs. Clinton in Texas and Ohio on March 4. Mr. Obama has generally been outmatched by Mrs. Clinton in debate forums throughout the year, but with the status of frontrunner comes the luxury of choosing when and where he wants to meet his opponent.

-- Tom Bevan, executive editor of
Quote of the Day

"You know, when it comes down to a general election -- looks like it's going to be Obama versus McCain -- any number of ways of playing this, and one of them, I don't necessarily have to tout McCain, but I certainly will be critical of Obama. Once we get down to the general, you start examining what this guy's policies are. Right now [Obama is] saying nothing better than anybody has ever said it. At least in my lifetime. It's going have to get specific at some point" -- radio host Rush Limbaugh, in an interview with Time Magazine.

We Interrupt This Campaign...

Mike Huckabee is spurning suggestions that he drop out of the presidential race because he has no mathematical chance to win the GOP nomination. He is stubbornly staying in the race, holding fundraisers, attending rallies and giving interviews.

Except for this coming Saturday, when Mr. Huckabee will abandon the campaign trail to give a speech to a group of business leaders -- in the Cayman Islands. Huh? When did that British overseas territory start sending delegates to American political conventions?

It turns out he will be giving a paid speech in the offshore banking center. "I have to make a living," Mr. Huckabee told reporters in Wisconsin yesterday. "There will be a few other times when I go out and make sure I can pay my mortgage payment like everybody else has to."

There will be other detours in Mr. Huckabee's campaign schedule this month. On February 22 he will address a group of Colorado business leaders, a fine audience no doubt, but not one that will do his campaign much good. Colorado Republicans already selected their delegates to the GOP's national convention last week. But give him credit. In exploiting his newfound fame to troll not just for votes but personal income as well, Mr. Huckabee is clearly charting an unusual course.

26656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: February 14, 2008, 12:44:17 PM
International fury over Saudi Arabia's plans to behead woman accused of being a witch

The Saudi Arabian king today faced international outcry over the planned beheading of a woman accused of being a witch.

Fawza Falih turned two men impotent, a court heard in the ultra-religious state where performing supernatural occurrences is considered an offence against Islam.

Judges were also told she cast a spell to bring about the return of a divorced man's ex-wife.

But international charity Human Rights Watch said King Abdullah's religious police had forced a confession out of her.

And they claim the judges who tried her in the northern town of Quraiyat never gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence in the face of "absurd charges that have no basis in law."

The court also relied on the statements of witnesses who said she had "bewitched" them to convict her in April 2006, according to HRW.

Fawza later retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and said that as an illiterate woman, she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.

An appeals court ruled in September 2006 that Fawza could not be sentenced to death for witchcraft as a crime against God, because she had retracted her confession.

After that, the lower court judges re-sentenced her to death on the court's "discretionary" basis, for the benefit of "public interest" and to "protect the creed, souls and property of this country."

HRW's Joe Stork said: �The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like 'witchcraft' underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations.

"Fawza Falih's case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system.

"The judges' behavior in Fawza Falih's trial shows they were interested in anything but a quest for the truth," Mr Stork added.

"They completely disregarded legal guarantees that would have demonstrated how ill-founded this whole case was."

The statement did not mention Fawza's nationality but said she has relatives in Jordan. Also, Falih's age is unknown.

The case is one of several that have triggered criticism of the Saudi legal system, which does not have a written penal code that spells out the elements of a particular crime.  The Law of Criminal Procedure issued in 2002 grants defendants the right to be tried in person, to have a lawyer present during interrogation and trial and to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses.  But in practice, lawyers are often banned from courtrooms, rules of evidence are shaky and sentences often depend on the whim of judges. 

The most frequent - and recently, most high-profile - victims of such whimsical rulings are women, who already suffer severe restrictions in their daily life in Saudi Arabia.  Women there cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission. 1
26657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: February 14, 2008, 07:26:26 AM
26658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hanilton: The people on: February 14, 2008, 06:00:52 AM
"Here sir, the people govern."

-- Alexander Hamilton (speech in the New York ratifying convention,
17 June 1788)

Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 2
26659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: February 13, 2008, 04:26:09 PM
Complaint Filed Against Three Men of Columbia, Tennessee for Vandalizing Islamic Center

WASHINGTON, Feb 12, 2008
PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- A federal felony criminal complaint was filed in Nashville, Tenn., today against three men for their roles in burning down and vandalizing the Islamic Center of Columbia in Columbia, Tenn., announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Edward M. Yarbrough, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, James M. Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Division of the ATF, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI, and Barry Crotzner, Chief of the Columbia Police Department.

The complaint charges the three men, Eric Ian Baker, Michael Corey Golden, and Jonathan Edward Stone, all of Columbia, with unlawful possession of a destructive device.

According to the complaint, Baker, Golden and Stone had planned for approximately one week to burn down the Islamic Center. On Feb. 9, 2008, the defendants used gasoline, rags and empty beer bottles to fashion incendiary devices. They went to the Islamic Center, where Baker spray-painted three swastikas onto the walls of the building, along with the phrases "We run the world" and "White Power." Golden and Stone then broke into the building, ignited the incendiary devices and used them to ignite the Islamic Center. The Islamic Center was severely damaged by the fire.

"The Department of Justice takes hate crimes very seriously, and the U.S. Attorney's Office will prosecute such crimes vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law," said U.S. Attorney Yarbrough.

"Three individuals who are accused of fire bombing a place of worship face federal charges today. Today begins a court process to hold the individuals accountable for an act which destroyed religious property and shocked a community," said Special Agent Cavanaugh. "We are fortunate despite the loss of property and a sense of sadness, that no one was killed or injured from the incident."

If convicted, defendants Baker, Golden and Stone face a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

A federal felony criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

This case remains under investigation by the ATF, the FBI and the Columbia Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
26660  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Skateboarder on: February 13, 2008, 04:08:38 PM,2933,330501,00.html


And here is a real gem:  Man in wheelchair dumped on floor
26661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 13, 2008, 02:56:53 PM
Dongfan Chung, an engineer, was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday for economic espionage and serving as an unregistered foreign agent. According to the charges filed against him, Chung had been engaged in espionage since 1979, when he worked for Rockwell International, providing the Chinese with technical intelligence on the B-1 bomber. Rockwell later was taken over by Boeing, and Chung then began providing China with intelligence on the space shuttle, the C-17 transport aircraft and rocket engines. Chung, a naturalized American citizen, held security clearances and traveled to China several times between 1985 and 2003 to meet with his handlers and deliver information in person.

Although it is not clear when he joined the B-1 project, he is thought to have started providing the Chinese with intelligence in 1979. A heavy strategic bomber, the B-1 was optimized for low-altitude penetration and remains one of the most advanced designs in the world — short of the B-2 stealth in key technology, but still not trivial.

Clearly, the charges against Chung are only allegations at this point, but if we assume for now that the government’s evidence is rock solid, the case merits examination. We would be looking at Chung’s ability to infiltrate a highly classified program and provide information to his handlers — and then to shift to other classified programs. His ability to do this for 30 years without being detected, in spite of an apparent flow of information and several trips to China, seems even more interesting. Most important, it is not clear what he would have passed to the Chinese. It can’t be assumed that it was simply material to which he had access. A skilled agent would — over time — be able to access information throughout a facility or a program. Chung was an engineer operating near many classified projects; what else did he access?

The allegations raise an important question about Chung. Was he a trained Chinese intelligence officer assigned to penetrate the B-1 program, or was he simply recruited by Chinese intelligence after he went to work there? The difference is crucial. A trained intelligence officer dedicated enough to operate under deep cover for that long is going to be a tough nut to crack. Someone recruited for love or money is more likely to be prepared to talk in exchange for leniency.

Who Chung is matters. That he allegedly was able to operate in sensitive facilities for almost three decades matters just as much. It raises questions about exactly how the United States works to detect espionage. Obviously, background checks are done. But background checks are not particularly effective at screening out threats. The famous cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hannsen, both of whom were recruited by the Soviets from deep in the CIA and FBI, show the weakness not only of the background check but also of the polygraph, with which the intelligence community is so enamored.

Chung was born in China. But if the United States ruled out foreign-born engineers, it would not have enough engineers. And most foreign-born engineers have nothing to do with espionage. The issue is not what someone was — which is frequently unknowable — or what one’s blood flow is during a polygraph. Security is constant monitoring and testing of all personnel. That is costly, time consuming and difficult. It is easier to ask neighbors if he ever used drugs and do a polygraph.

Chinese intelligence did exactly what it was supposed to do — and did it well. If Chung was a Chinese intelligence officer, he served his country well. If he simply was bought, the agent who bought Chung did his job. One would hope that U.S. intelligence is returning the favor as we speak. But the Chung case raises two questions: First, how compromised was the B-1 project, and how do we know? Second, how many agents do the Chinese currently have deployed in sensitive positions, and how do we intend to find out?

Chung supposedly operated for almost 30 years. If true, either he was very good or U.S. counterintelligence was very bad — or both. In any case, this is a cautionary tale. How many out there are feeding information to China on projects so black that U.S. citizens may never hear of them?

26662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2008, 01:30:17 PM
If you are a billionaire, or a foreigner, and don't want it known that you are donating millions to a US presidential campaign, here's how (via Don Surber):
Secret Money Floods Campaigns
Big Count of Small Gifts Is Opaque to the Public
A torrent of secret money is flooding into the leading presidential campaigns, with more than $118 million, or one-quarter of the total raised in this cycle, banked without disclosure of who gave the funds or where the donations originated.

The money is coming from hundreds of thousands of donations of $200 or less, which have been widely praised for democratizing the system for funding White House bids. However, the surge in low-dollar gifts has come at the cost of transparency, since federal law only requires campaigns to itemize donations when a donor gives more than $200.

According to an analysis being released today by a Washington think tank, the Campaign Finance Institute, Senator Obama of Illinois led the pack with such small and secret donations, pulling in about $31 million during 2007. Rep. Ron Paul ran second in small gifts, raking in more than $17 million. At the end of the year, Senator Clinton and John EdwardsBusiness-Should-Not-Fear-Edwards Jan-08 , who has since dropped out, were essentially tied for third in unitemized, small contributions, with each candidate raising about $11 million.
However, one area of concern with the flood of donations, particularly those made online, is that foreigners could be weighing in illegally in an American election. Mr. Obama's Web site allows donors to choose an address in one of 227 possible countries or territories, including Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, and Yemen.
While it is a crime for most foreigners to donate to American campaigns at the federal level, those with so-called green card status can donate legally, as can Americans who live abroad.
And who's going to know if they aren't?
26663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 13, 2008, 12:50:42 PM
No Hurry, Mike

Why is Mike Huckabee staying in the Republican race even though it is now mathematically impossible to win the nomination?

The answer is: Why not? His base among evangelicals is such that he can do surprisingly well in states like Virginia, where he only lost to John McCain by nine points last night. He builds up more media credibility as a possible running mate for Mr. McCain, who might not want to risk alienating Mr. Huckabee's socially conservative followers. And the former Arkansas governor clearly enjoys campaigning.

Republicans would be wise not to pressure Mr. Huckabee to leave the race. "No one is entitled to tell you to drop out of the race except your spouse," is how former White House aide Karl Rove put it last night on Fox News.

Indeed, Dan Schnur, John McCain's communications director in 2000, says that a continued Huckabee candidacy gives the McCain campaign a chance to stay relevant in a news cycle that is now dominated by the knockdown Democratic fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. "As long as the Democrats keep fighting it out on the other side, [Huckabee] has got the luxury of time," Mr. Schnur told The Hill newspaper.

-- John Fund
Al Gore to the Rescue?

Democratic political operatives are beginning to think ahead in case the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama race ends in deadlock and Democrats arrive at their Denver convention in August without a nominee. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama remain in a virtual dead heat in the delegate count. Despite the Obama momentum and recent landslides in many states, if Hillary were to win Texas, where there is a very large Hispanic vote, she would have won the four big electorate-rich states: New York, California, Florida, and Texas. That would be a strong case for many undecided Democratic superdelegates to support her notwithstanding Mr. Obama's strong showing.

What happens in a deadlocked convention? If neither candidate throws in the towel and neither can get a majority of delegates, one option is a brokered convention, where both candidates step aside for a compromise candidate. That's the way smoke-filled, dealmaking conventions used to work. One name keeps resurfacing as the ideal brokered candidate: Al Gore. Many Democratic pundits still believe the Oscar and Nobel Peace Prize winner would have the best chances against the GOP in November. His record is not nearly as far left as Senator Clinton's or Senator Obama's and he may stand a better chance of winning independent voters than either of them.

But a problem with this scenario, as one Democratic insider tells me, is that Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are "mortal enemies." She would rather sleep on a bed of coals than hand the nomination to her husband's vice president, whom she constantly squabbled with in the White House.

Yet the vitriol between the Clinton and Obama camps is also very real and palpable. That means neither is likely to surrender delegates to the other, ruling out a deal in which, say, Mrs. Clinton would head the ticket and Mr. Obama would serve as running mate -- although it wouldn't be unprecedented for two political enemies to run together on the same ticket. It happened with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

By far the most likely scenario is that the Democrats settle on a candidate in the weeks ahead, but a stalemate isn't out of the question and don't be surprised if you start seeing Al Gore on TV more often in the meantime.

-- Stephen Moore
Maryland Sends a Message

A quarter of Maryland's Congressional delegation went down to defeat in last night's primary. The results demonstrate the increasing polarization of the House. Liberal voters ousted Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn partly for his 2002 vote to intervene in Iraq while conservative voters turned out GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in part for being one of only two House Republicans to vote for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The last time a Maryland congressman lost a party primary was in 1992.

Attorney Donna Edwards built on her 2006 Democratic primary showing against Mr. Wynn, when she lost by only three percentage points. She hammered him on Iraq and for his occasional votes with Republicans on economic issues. A phalanx of liberal groups poured money into the Washington D.C.-area district and Mr. Wynn lost badly. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the left-wing Web site, was exultant, claiming that Democrats are "once again on notice: If they continue to serve corporate interests rather than their constituents, if they insist on remaining aloof to the nation's popular sentiment, they'll get booted in a Democratic primary like Joe Lieberman in 2006."

Ms. Edwards's victory over an eight-term veteran like Mr. Wynn will certainly make it more difficult for Democrats to cross the aisle and seek bipartisan cooperation with Republicans. Meanwhile, conservatives are exulting in the loss of Mr. Gilchrest, who broke with his party more often than any other House Republican last year. State Senator Andy Harris, a former navy doctor, not only defeated the incumbent, but did so despite the presence of another challenger, State Senator E.J. Pipken, who threatened to split the conservative vote.

In the end, Mr. Pipken trailed badly despite his efforts to tie both Mr. Harris and Rep. Gilchrest to policies he claimed were soft on illegal aliens. He even put up an ad that linked his GOP opponents to Maryland's Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley, portraying the trio as "Three Amigos" in sombreros. Mr. Pipken wound up spending over $1 million of his own money to no avail.

"They told me nine months ago that you could never possibly take on an incumbent, it could never happen, don't even try it," the victorious Mr. Harris told his supporters last night. "They don't know me; they don't know my volunteers."

Environmental groups and unions wound up coming to Mr. Gilchrest's side when it became clear he was in trouble and that no Democrat would stand a chance in the fall election against the winner of the GOP primary. But the free-market Club for Growth helped assemble a stunning $500,000 in contributions for Mr. Harris, allowing him to remain financially competitive against the nine-term incumbent Mr. Gilchrest.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"The wonder, really, is that the nomination train wreck confronting the Democratic Party didn't happen years earlier. The stage was set for the current stalemate over five marathon days of negotiations in June 1988. In the fifth-floor conference room of a Washington law firm, representatives of Michael Dukakis, the party's nominee, and Jesse Jackson, his unsuccessful challenger, hashed out a new set of delegate selection rules. Jackson felt aggrieved that he had not amassed as many delegates as his popular vote total would have suggested. In the 1984 primary campaign, for instance, Jackson won 19 percent of the popular vote but received just 10 percent of the delegates. So Jackson's rules guru, Harold M. Ickes, insisted on adopting proportional representation rules that would award insurgent candidates a bigger share of delegates in future contests. Twenty years later, the rules Ickes advocated seem to be working against his current candidate, Hillary Clinton, reducing the impact of her wins in delegate-rich states such as California, New York and New Jersey" -- Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

Quote of the Day II

"There are fault lines -- of race, gender and generation -- in the Democratic party that have opened in the course of the campaign. An insurgency threatens an establishment. And if a battle over contested delegations goes clear to the convention, if the superdelegates anoint a nominee in a process and for a reason that isn't clear to all, then the fight in Denver, like the fight 40 years ago [at the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968], won't simply be over an issue or even a nomination. It could well be a furious battle among core Democratic constituencies for the future of the party. And the only winner of that fight would be John McCain" -- Harold Meyerson, editor of the liberal American Prospect magazine.

Hillary as Underdog

It wasn't the six debates she had demanded, but Hillary Clinton did finally get Barack Obama last week to agree to debate her again before the next big-state primaries. After her trouncing last night in the so-called Potomac races, Mrs. Clinton needs more than ever to find ways to undercut the Obama momentum.

For a supposed front-runner, Mrs. Clinton was in the unusual position of demanding that her challenger debate her once a week until the Democratic primaries effectively conclude in April. Mr. Obama, knowing that Mrs. Clinton is trying to draw him into forums where she can expose him as less substantive and detailed on issues, had resisted. But his advisers finally convinced him that ignoring her calls for further exchanges would hurt him with undecided voters and that she was just as likely to make a major stumble in a debate as he was.

The next debate will be held in Cleveland on February 26, just before the crucial Ohio primary. The sub-prime mortgage crisis, which has caused nearly 10% of Cleveland homes to slip into possible foreclosure, will certainly be a major topic -- and at the center of it will be Mrs. Clinton's bizarre notion that mortgage interest rates can be frozen for five years without drying up lending for new borrowers.

The second debate will be in Texas just before the state's March 4 primary. Both candidates will no doubt be asked about immigration issues, where Mrs. Clinton will likely bash Mr. Obama for his support of driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Mr. Obama hopes to use her position to point out her insensitivity to Hispanic concerns and undermine her strong reliance on the Hispanic vote.

-- John Fund

26664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Staredown with a Lion on: February 13, 2008, 11:03:57 AM
Staredown with a Lion

I am one day by foot from the New Mexico border into Arizona's remote Blue Range. A mountain lion is at the water hole. It is a male, well over 100 pounds, lapping water from the edge. It does not know that I am here. I come on it from behind, staring a beeline down its long tail, which is laid flat against the ground. An early-morning breeze moves in my direction, taking my scent behind. I let down a 60-pound pack without making a sound. I focus binoculars to get a good look.

The mountain lion has been in battle. A long, old scar follows its right side. The males are territory defenders. They will fight over land and come out with ragged ears and torn skin. It looks healthy, though—a strong, agile lion, hunched to the water so that its shoulder blades form shields around its back. When it stands, it makes a careful visual sweep. I am blending into my background, and its eyes swing by mine, not lingering on me at all. It is keyed to motion and scent, and nothing registers. I look like a rock, a stump, something simple and expected. Even so, a shiver pounces down my back.

In America's suburbs and parks, mountain lions can be aggressive around people. Attacks are up. In fact, it is the mountain lion that has become most likely to make a meal of a human in North America. Close encounters in the deep wilderness are a different category. Concerning humans, lions out here avidly and skillfully avoid them. This is their territory, and I feel safe enough. I am dealing with precepts I think I understand.

The lion at the water hole eventually walks away, into a mesh of junipers that leads into the ponderosa forests and the high desert beyond. I wait for several minutes, then walk to the water to get a good identification, to take measurements and write it all down. The wind has shifted a few times, distributing my scent all over. But if I know the mountain lion, it is half a mile away by now, getting well out of my range.

At the water are many tracks in the mud, like sentences overlapping. I move to get a close look. Before I am on the ground, I scan the perimeter. At first I see nothing.

Then it is there, behind me. It has circled to my back. Eyes are in the shadows of a couple of low junipers, 30 feet away.

I move slowly, deliberately. The lion is probably startled by me. It may be hiding, like a rabbit that is nearly stepped on before it leaps away. But its eyes are not frozen like a hiding rabbit's, and its body is not bunched, ready for a line drive in the opposite direction. I am being observed.

I watch the lion, taking advantage of my proximity to study its features. I am expecting it to bolt any second, to dive into the woods and vanish. Remember this, I think. You will never be this close again.

Instead of running, it stands. Without a pause for thought, it moves out from under the shadows so that both of us are in the same sunlight. We make clear, rigid eye contact. It begins walking straight toward me.

My heartbeat lodges into my throat. My adrenaline dumps. All of it. No dilemma in the lion's eyes; it stares me down as if I am prey backed against a water hole. Even with a slow, lucid gait, it is quickly in my world. It looks up at me from under its brow so that its head is down and its eyes are shelved by a shadow. A stalking stare. The distance is closed in seconds.

The cat is going to attack me. I pull a knife off my right hip. It has a 5-inch blade. One claw against eight claws; hesitation against instinct. The advantage is not mine.

Mountain lions are known to take down animals six, seven, and eight times their size. Their method: attack from behind, clamp onto the spine at the base of the prey's skull, snap the spine. The top few vertebrae are the target, housing respiratory and motor skills that cease instantly when the cord is cut.

Cats have attacked people who have been crouched, or small, or running the other way. Even in zoos they sometimes charge at the cage when children come by. Parents are often asked to hold their children close as they pass cages, to break up the image of fast little kids making random movements. Mountain lions have stalked people for miles. One woman survived an attack and escaped by foot on a road. The lion shortcut the road several miles farther and killed her from behind.

Bone is rarely ever broken. Rather, the teeth slide between vertebrae and open the spine surgically. Cat teeth are heavily laden with nerves so that the animal can actually feel its way around the spine and find the area for incision.

The mountain lion keeps walking straight at me. A powerful voice in me says, Run!
Find shelter! The voice wants the mountain lion magically gone, it wants me to flee to my pack and bunch into a tiny ball. The lion is pushing my button, scrambling the innards of my instinct. Never have I felt fight or flight like this. My only choice, the message going to the thick of the muscle in my legs, is to run. I've got to get out of here before it's too late.

What I do, instead, is not move. My eyes lock onto the mountain lion. I hold firm to my ground and do not even intimate that I will back off. If I run, it is certain. I will have a mountain lion all over me. If I give it my back, I will only briefly feel its weight on me against the ground. The canine teeth will open my vertebrae without breaking a single bone.

Some of the larger animals push their faces toward an attacking lion. It can't get anything at the face. It has got to have a clear shot at the neck, from behind or the sides. It tries to intimidate and push the panic button with this kind of doubtless approach so the prey will turn. When the prey runs, the kill is sealed.

The mountain lion begins to move to my left, and I turn, keeping my face on it, my knife at my right side. It paces to my right, trying to get around on my other side, to get behind me. I turn right, staring at it.

Earlier I would have raised my arms and barked at it, but the lion had come too fast. Now any motion could snap the space we have. My stare is about the only defense I have. People working alone in the mangrove jungles at the mouth of the Ganges River in India sometimes wear the mask of a face on the back of their head. John Seidensticker, who studied the social organization of mountain lions, suggests that humans began to stand upright in order to more vividly show their faces to aggressive cats and to appear less like four-legged prey.

Most of my body has stopped. All that is left are my eyes, my right hand with the knife, and my ability to turn. The lion comes left again. When I rotate, it stops walking. It has got me in a stationary, tight stare from 10 feet. Its nose is moist and pale. Eyes made of gray and green. And that is where I see all of the energy, bound up and ready to flush into the body for one quick jump.

If it jumps, the knife goes into the rib cage. All my energy will be in the thrust. The lion may reconsider after that. But what shape will I be in after the single blow its entire body is built to deliver? Fifty million years of evolution to make an animal designed to kill on the first move. It could be that I will get in a good knife jab, but what will its jaws do around my face and throat? What will its claws do? And mountain lions are known to come back. They do stalk. Will I be holding my skin together with hands and bandanas when it finds me again?

It is looking for the approach. It looks one way, just a couple of inches to one of my sides, and then it looks to the other side. I won't give it leeway, moving my head to keep its eyes on mine. There have been cases in which a lion cleared 20 feet in about a second when eye contact was broken.

It steps to my right, coming clear around, and I synchronize myself with it. It is not focused on my knife, my body, or even my eyes. It is moving intently at some point through me, inside of me, perhaps the single point where life itself is seated. It has happened so often that a mountain lion has launched straight at a hunter or a field biologist who has a sidearm leveled at its head. The mountain lion does not stop and is shot point-blank, dead. Why is that? A coyote or a bear will know when a person has a gun, and will often behave much differently. But the mountain lion is a creature with too great a nature to see a gun or a knife. It is so focused that the rest of the world goes silent.

The distance between us increases slightly. The lion walks toward the water hole. Until now I haven't had the room to take a good posture without triggering an attack. It is customary to throw up your arms and make noise when encountering an aggressive animal at a fair distance. Or to put your hands in your pockets and flare out your coat, making yourself look 100 pounds heavier. It is an old bluff trick. Usually works. Now that it is 15 feet away, I lift my hands in the air. All the way so that my knife is an arm's length over my head, looking like something too unusual and unknown for a mountain lion to bother with.

It doesn't work. The mountain lion swings back and comes straight at me again. My arms drop. Fast. Right to my sides. Ice comes down my back. The lion stops there, close again. I have never been watched like this.

It begins a long, winding route, still trying to come from behind. It covers a great deal of space, going back and forth. There is a seamless continuum from the surrounding world, through the lion's eyes, into its heart, and back to the world. I am somewhere in there, holding steady like a rock planted beside the water hole. It watches me closely as it leaves. It walks into the forest and I no longer see it.

I stand for a few minutes, staring at the forest.

I never saw the lion again. For the next week of hiking, though, I could see it all around me. I slept half awake. When I came to water, I gathered it quickly and retreated. I kept my eyes trained into the shadows, waiting, seeing a mountain lion wherever I looked.

From the book The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs. ©2007 by Craig Childs. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Co., New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
26665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mughniyah on: February 13, 2008, 10:36:26 AM
Multiple reliable Stratfor sources have confirmed that Israel’s Mossad was behind the Feb. 12 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, that killed Hezbollah’s operations chief Imad Mughniyah. Hezbollah has a number of ways to retaliate for Mughniyah’s death.

Multiple reliable Stratfor sources confirmed Feb. 13 that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the Feb. 12 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, that killed Hezbollah’s chief of operations Imad Mughniyah, also known as “The Wolf”. One source said Mughniyah was leaving a security meeting with Hamas personnel in a Syrian intelligence office when he was hit.

Mughniyah was a legendary Hezbollah leader and a highly valuable asset to the organization’s patrons in Iran and Syria. Iran, which has been steadily working to firm up its grip on Hezbollah over the past several months, had brought Mughniyah out of hiding to head up Hezbollah’s most daring operations, including training Shiite operatives from the Gulf Arab states to carry out retaliatory strikes against U.S. interests in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran.

The only reason Mughniyah has managed to dodge the CIA and Mossad for so long is his obsession with operational security. We are told that he primarily spent his time in recent months in Beirut’s southern suburbs — Hezbollah’s stronghold. However, he would on several occasions take trips to Syria to meet with members of Syrian and Iranian intelligence officers.

Hezbollah will retaliate for Mughniyah’s death, though the design of the group’s retaliatory campaign is still unclear. Hezbollah is unlikely to take any major overt action that could spin up another war with Israel, which could end up costing Hezbollah more in the end. However, Hezbollah, which has a long history of acting on motives of retribution and revenge, has a number of covert plans in the works that could be put into action. Ironically, Mughniyah was the Hezbollah strongman in charge of the group’s foreign operations.

Once Hezbollah dusts off its contingency plans for occasions such as this, it will take the group at least several days to update surveillance before the strike, putting the group’s operatives at higher risk of getting caught. Hezbollah’s foreign operations network is vast, with the United States, Western Europe and South America on the list of potential targets. African countries with strong ties to Israel, such as South Africa and Kenya, could be vulnerable to an attack.

Stratfor has also learned that Hezbollah has been preparing for kidnappings targeting Westerners in Beirut. The organization has already compiled a thorough dossier on U.S. citizens in Lebanon and has mapped U.S. targets in the country. Though such a high-profile move carries considerable risks for the Shiite militant movement, Mughniyah’s death could very well be the trigger to put this plan into action.

26666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 13, 2008, 10:29:22 AM
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
February 6, 2008 | 1616 GMT
By Kamran Bokhari

The increasing crisis of governance in Pakistan over the past several months has triggered many queries from Stratfor readers, most wanting to know how events will ultimately play out. Would a collapse of the Musharraf regime lead to a jihadist takeover? How safe are the country’s nuclear weapons? What are the security implications for Afghanistan? Topmost among the questions is whether Pakistan will remain a viable state.

Globally, there are fears that the collapse of the current regime could lead to an implosion of the state itself, with grave repercussions on regional and international security. Pakistanis themselves are very much concerned about a disaster of national proportions, particularly if the Feb. 18 elections go awry.

Although there are conflicting theories on what will happen in and to Pakistan, most have one thing in common. They focus on the end result, seeing the unfolding events as moving in a straight line from Point A to Point B. They deem Point B — the collapse of Pakistan — to be an unavoidable outcome of the prevailing conditions in the country. Such predictions, however, do not account for the many arrestors and other variables that will influence the chain of events.

Though there are many, many reasons for concern in Pakistan, state breakdown is not one of them. Such an extreme outcome would require the fracturing of the military and/or the army’s loss of control over the core of the country — neither of which is about to happen. That said, the periphery of the country, especially the northwestern border regions, could become an increasing challenge to the writ of the state.

We have said on many occasions that Islamabad is unlikely to restore stability and security any time soon, largely because of structural issues. In other words, the existing situation is likely to persist for some time — and could even deteriorate further. This raises the question: How bad can things get?

The answer lies in the institutional cohesiveness of Pakistan’s military establishment and the geographical structure of the country.

The Army
Stratfor recently pointed out that the army — rather than any particular military general — is the force that holds the state together. Therefore, the collapse of the state would come about only if the military establishment were to fracture. For several reasons, this is extremely unlikely.

Pakistan’s army is a highly disciplined organization made up of roughly half a million personnel. This force usually is led by at least two four-star generals — the chief of the army staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The leadership also consists of nine corps commanders and several other principal staff officers — all three-star generals. Beneath these approximately 30 lieutenant generals are about 150 two-star generals and some 450 one-star generals.

Moreover, and unlike in the Arab world, the Pakistani army has largely remained free of coups from within. The generals know their personal well-being is only as good as their collective ability to function as a unified and disciplined force — one that can guarantee the security of the state. The generals, particularly the top commanders, form a very cohesive body bound together by individual, corporate and national interests.

It is extremely rare for an ideologue, especially one with Islamist leanings, to make it into the senior ranks. In contrast with its Turkish counterpart, the Pakistani military sees itself as the protector of the state’s Islamic identity, which leaves very little room for the officer corps to be attracted to radical Islamist prescriptions. Thus, it is extremely unlikely that jihadism — despite the presence of jihadist sympathizers within the junior and mid-level ranks — will cause fissures within the army.

In the absence of strong civilian institutions, the army also sees itself as the guardian of the republic. Because of the imbalance in civil-military relations — there is virtually no civilian oversight over the military — the army exercises nearly complete control over the nation’s treasury. Having directly ruled Pakistan for some 33 years of the country’s 60-year existence, the army has become a huge corporation with massive financial holdings.

While these interests are a reason for the army’s historical opposition to democratic forces, they also play a major role in ensuring the cohesiveness of the institution. Consequently, there is no danger of the state collapsing. By extension, it is highly unlikely that the country’s nuclear assets (which are under the control of the military through an elaborate multilayered institutional mechanism) would fall into the wrong hands.

Although a collapse of the state is unlikely, the military is having a hard time running the country. This is not simply because of political instability, which is hardwired into Pakistan’s hybrid political system, but rather because of the unprecedented jihadist insurgency.

While civilian forces (political parties, civil society groups, the media and the legal community) are pushing for democratic rule, jihadists are staging guerrilla-style attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the rural Pashtun districts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Moreover, they are mounting a campaign of suicide bombings in major urban centers. The military does not have the bandwidth to deal with political unrest and militancy simultaneously — a situation that is being fully exploited by the jihadists. The likely outcome of this trend is the state’s relative loss of control over the areas in the northwestern periphery.

Geography and Demography
From a strictly geopolitical point of view, Pakistan’s core is the area around the Indus River, which runs from the Karakoram/Western Himalayan/Pamir/Hindu Kush mountain ranges in the North to the Arabian Sea in the South. Most areas of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh lie east of the Indus. The bulk of the population is in this area, as is the country’s agricultural and industrial base — not to mention most of the transportation infrastructure. The fact that seven of the army’s nine corps are stationed in the region (six of them in Punjab) speaks volumes about its status as the core of the country.

In contrast, the vast majority of the areas in the NWFP, FATA, Balochistan province, the Federally Administered Northern Areas and Pakistani-administered Kashmir are sparsely populated mountainous regions — and clearly the country’s periphery. Moreover, their rough terrain has rendered them natural buffers, shielding the core of the country.

In our 2008 Annual Forecast for South Asia, we said the country’s Pashtun areas could become ungovernable this year, and there already are signs that the process is under way. Pakistani Taliban supported by al Qaeda have seized control of many parts of the FATA and are asserting themselves in the districts of NWFP adjacent to the tribal areas.

While Islamism and jihadism can be found across the country, the bulk of this phenomenon is limited to the Pashtun areas — the tribal areas, the eastern districts of NWFP and the northwestern corridor of Balochistan province. Unlike the vast majority of Pakistanis, the Pashtuns are disproportionately an ultra-conservative lot (both religiously and culturally), and hence are disproportionately more susceptible to radical Islamist and jihadist impulses. It is quite telling that in the last elections, in 2002, this is roughly the same area in which the Islamist alliance, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), won the bulk of its seats in the national legislature. In addition to maintaining a large parliamentary bloc, the MMA ran the provincial government in NWFP and was the main partner with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League in the coalition government in Balochistan.

Social structures and local culture, therefore, allow these areas to become the natural habitat of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Because of the local support base, the jihadists have been able not only to operate in these parts, but to take them over — and even to project themselves into the more settled areas of the NWFP. In addition to this advantage by default, security operations, which are viewed by many within the country as being done at the behest of the United States, have increasingly alienated the local population.

Given the local culture of retribution, the Pashtun militants have responded to civilian deaths during counterinsurgency operations by increasingly adopting suicide bombings as a means of fighting back. (It was not too long ago that the phenomenon of suicide bombings was alien to the local culture). The war in Afghanistan and its spillover effect on the border regions of Pakistan have created conditions in the area that have given al Qaeda and the Taliban a new lease on life.

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
Resentment first toward Islamabad’s pro-U.S. policies and then the security crackdown that began in early 2004 to root out foreign fighters has developed into a general uprising of sorts. A younger, far more militant generation of Pashtuns enamored of al Qaeda and the Taliban has usurped power from the old tribal maliks. Not only has the government failed to achieve its objective of driving a wedge between foreign fighters and their local hosts, it has strengthened the militants’ hand.

One of the problems is the government’s haphazard approach of alternating military operations with peace deals. Moreover, when the government has conducted security operations, it not only has failed to weaken the militancy, it has caused civilian casualties and/or forced local people to flee their homes, leading to a disruption of life. When peace agreements are made, they have not secured local cooperation against Taliban and al Qaeda elements. The lack of a coherent policy on how to deal with the jihadists has caused the ground situation to go from bad to worse. At the same time, on the external front, Islamabad has come under even more U.S. pressure to act against the militants, the effects of which further complicate matters on the ground.

On a tactical level, while the Pakistani army has a history of supporting insurgencies, it is ill-equipped to fight them. Even worse, despite the deployment of some 100,000 soldiers in the region, the bulk of security operations have involved paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps, which is mostly made up of locals who have little incentive to fight their brethren. Furthermore, Pakistan’s intelligence capabilities already are compromised because of militant penetration of the agencies.

In addition to these structural problems, the Musharraf government’s battle for political survival over the past year has further prevented the government from focusing on the jihadist problem. The only time it acted with any semblance of resolve is when it sent the army to regain control of the Red Mosque in the summer of 2007. However, that action was tantamount to pouring more fuel on the militant fire.

President Pervez Musharraf, by stepping down as army chief and becoming a civilian president, did not resolve his survival issues. In fact, it has led to a bifurcation of power, with Musharraf sharing authority with his successor in the militaryGen. Ashfaq Kayani. While Musharraf remains preoccupied with making it through the coming election, Kayani is increasingly taking charge of the fight against jihadism. The assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto further complicated the regime’s struggle to remain in power, leaving very little bandwidth for dealing with the jihadists.

What Lies Ahead
With the army’s successful retaking of the district of Swat from militants loyal to Mullah Fazlullah, Kayani has demonstrated his abilities as a military leader. Despite this tactical victory, however, the situation is far from stable. From a strategic point of view, Kayani’s plans to deal with the insurgency depend heavily on the outcome of the Feb. 18 elections (if indeed they are held). The hope is that the political turmoil can be brought back within acceptable parameters so the army can focus on fighting jihadists.

That would be an ideal situation for the army, because the prevailing view is that the military needs public support in order to be successful in combating religious extremism and terrorism. Such public support can only be secured when an elected government comprising the various political stakeholders is in charge. The assumption is that the policies of such a government would be easier to implement and that if the army has to use a combination of force and negotiations with the militants, it will have the public’s backing instead of criticism.

But the problem is that there is an utter lack of national consensus on what needs to be done to defeat the forces of jihadism, beyond the simplistic view that the emphasis should be on dialogue and force should be used sparingly. Most people believe the situation has deteriorated because the Musharraf regime was more concerned with meeting U.S. demands than with finding solutions that took into consideration the realities on the ground. Islamabad knows it cannot avoid the use of force in dealing with the militants, but because of public opposition to such action, it fears that doing so could make the situation even worse.

Moreover, regardless of the election outcome (assuming the process is not derailed over cries of foul play), the prospects for a national policy on dealing with the Islamist militancy are slim. Circumstances will require that the new government be a coalition — thus it will be inherently weak. This, along with the deteriorating ground reality, will leave the army with no choice but to adopt a tough approach — one it has been avoiding for the most part.

Having led the country’s premier intelligence directorate, Inter-Services Intelligence, Kayani is all too aware of the need to overhaul the country’s intelligence system and root out militant sympathizers. This is the principal way to reduce the jihadists’ ability to stage attacks in the core areas of the country, where they have limited support structure. While this lengthy process continues, the army will try to contain the jihadist phenomenon on the western periphery along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani government also needs to address the problems it has created for itself by distinguishing between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” Taliban. Islamabad continues to support the Taliban in Afghanistan while it is at war with the Pakistani Taliban. Given the strong ties between the two militant groups, Islamabad cannot hope to work with those on the other side of the border while it confronts those in its own territory.

Further complicating matters for Islamabad is the U.S. move to engage in overt military action on Pakistani soil in an effort to root out transnational jihadist elements. The Pakistanis need U.S. assistance in fighting the jihadist menace, but such assistance comes at a high political cost on the domestic front. The ambiguity in the Pakistani position could allow the Taliban and al Qaeda to thrive.

What this ultimately means is that the Pashtun areas could experience a long-term insurgency, resulting in some of these areas being placed under direct military rule. With the militants already trying to create their own “Islamic” emirate in the tribal areas, the insurgency has the potential to transform into a separatist struggle. Historically, the Pakistani army tried to defeat Pashtun ethnic nationalism by promoting Islamism — a policy that obviously has backfired miserably.

The Bottom Line
The good news for the Pakistanis — and others interested in maintaining the status quo — is that the ongoing jihadist insurgency and the political turmoil are unlikely to lead to the collapse of the state. The structure of the state and the nature of Pakistani society is such that radical Islamists, though a significant force, are unlikely to take over the country.

On the other hand, until the army successfully cleans up its intelligence system, suicide bombings are likely to continue across the country. Much more significant, the Pashtun areas along the Afghan border will be ungovernable. Pashtun jihadists and their transnational allies on both sides of the Durand Line will continue to provide mutual benefit until Pakistan and NATO can meaningfully coordinate their efforts.

Imposing a military solution is not an option for the Pakistanis or for the West. Negotiations with the Taliban in the short term are not a viable alternative either. Therefore, a long-term insurgency, which is confined to the Pashtun areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, is perhaps the best outcome that can be expected at this time.
26667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now that's the spirit! on: February 13, 2008, 09:20:30 AM

Danish newspapers have reprinted one of several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad which sparked violent protests across the Muslim world two years ago.

They say they wanted to show their commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists behind the drawings.

Three suspects were held in Denmark on Tuesday "to prevent a murder linked to terrorism", officials said.

The cartoons were originally published by Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

Danish embassies were attacked around the world and dozens died in riots that followed.


Jyllands-Posten and several other leading newspapers - including Politiken and Berlingske Tidende - reprinted the caricature in their Wednesday editions.

I have turned fear into anger and resentment
Kurt Westergaard

The cartoon depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.

"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," Berlingske Tidende said.

One Danish tabloid published all 12 drawings, the Associated Press news agency reported.

On Tuesday, the head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Pet), Jakob Sharf, said its operatives had carried out pre-dawn raids in the Aarhus region.

The three suspects - two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin - had been detained "after lengthy surveillance", he added.

The Danish citizen will be released pending further investigation, while the Tunisians will be held until they are expelled from the country.

The Pet did not identify the target of the alleged plot, but the online edition of Jyllands-Posten said its cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, was the focus.

The newspaper, based in Aarhus, said Mr Westergaard, 73, and his 66-year-old wife, Gitte, had been under police protection for the past three months.

In a statement on Jyllands-Posten's website, Mr Westergaard said: "Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me.

"But I have turned fear into anger and resentment."

The editor of Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, said he and his staff had been "deeply shaken" by the news.

"We'd become more or less used to death threats and bomb threats since the cartoons, but it's the first time that we've heard about actual murder plans - that's new," he said.

Muslim anger

The BBC's Thomas Buch-Andersen in Copenhagen says the arrests have stunned people in Denmark, where the furore over the cartoons was thought to have passed.

Mr Westergaard was one of 12 artists behind the drawings but he was responsible for what was considered the most controversial of the pictures.

The cartoons were later reprinted by more than 50 newspapers, triggering a wave of protests in parts of the Muslim world.

The demonstrations culminated a year ago with the torching of Danish diplomatic offices in Damascus and Beirut and dozens of deaths in Nigeria, Libya and Pakistan.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/02/13 10:20:06 GMT
26668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: February 13, 2008, 08:46:32 AM
Akitas at the AKC
26669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: legitimate powers of government on: February 13, 2008, 08:15:34 AM
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only
as are injurious to others.  But it does me no injury for my
neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.  It neither
picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 17,

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
26670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2008, 08:13:38 AM
FWIW I think Mitt was disliked by the others because of his silver spoon.

FWIW I think Mitt failed to catch on until too late because he did not seem genuine.  My impression of him was of a Ken doll.  He seemed lacking in depth in the early debates e.g. when asked a question about what he would first do in the event of another attack on the US (or something like that) he said something about asking the lawyers what he could do.  I remember the answer left me rolling my eyes.

Although he sometimes showed more substance in 1 on 1 interviews, for me it was not until his concession speech that I felt like the man expressed his vision and his passion.  The communication of "That vision thing" was missing until that moment-- and its why he "went negative"-- which often was only a fair pointing out of genuine differences, but seemed negative for the lack of the positive-- "the vision thing".

I think if he had shown that man that gave his concession speech from the beginning things might have gone differently.

26671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: February 13, 2008, 08:03:15 AM
If I have it right, the new campaign manager was the one who was involved with spiriting files out of Vince Foster's office the night he died/was killed.
26672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Iranian Negotiations on: February 12, 2008, 09:15:07 PM
The U.S.-Iranian Negotiations: Beyond the Rhetoric
February 12, 2008 | 1943 GMT
By George Friedman

Tehran has announced that Iran and the United States will hold a new round of talks on the future of Iraq at some point next week. The Iranians said that the “structure of the discussions have been finalized but the level of participation has not yet been agreed.” Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to visit Iraq before March 20, the Iranian New Year. The United States has not denied either of these reports. There thus appears to be some public movement occurring in the U.S.-Iranian talks over Iraq.

These talks are not new. This would be the fourth in a series of meetings; the most recent meeting happened last August. These meetings have been scheduled and canceled before, and because who will attend this go-round remains unsettled, these talks may never get off the ground. More significant, no Iranian president has visited Iraq since the Khomeini revolution. If this visit took place, it would represent a substantial evolution. It also is not something that would happen unopposed if the United States did not want it to; by contrast, the Iraqi government lacks much of a say in the matter because it does not have that much room for maneuver. So we can say this much: Nothing has happened yet, but the Iranians have repositioned themselves as favoring some sort of diplomatic initiative from their side and the Americans so far have not done anything to discourage them.

U.S.-Iranian negotiations are always opaque because they are ideologically difficult to justify by both sides. For Iran, the United States is the Great Satan. For the United States, Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. It is difficult for Iran to talk to the devil or for the United States to negotiate with evil. Therefore, U.S.-Iranian discussions always take place in a strange way. The public rhetoric between the countries is always poisonous. If you simply looked at what each country says about the other, you would assume that no discussions are possible. But if you treat the public rhetoric as simply designed to manage domestic public opinion, and then note the shifts in policy outside of the rhetorical context, a more complex picture emerges. Public and private talks have taken place, and more are planned. If you go beyond the talks to actions, things become even more interesting.

We have discussed this before, but it is important to understand the strategic interests of the two countries at this point to understand what is going on. Ever since the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq has been the buffer between the Iranians and the Arabian Peninsula. The United States expected to create a viable pro-American government quickly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore expected that Iraq would continue to serve as a buffer. That did not happen for a number of reasons, and therefore the strategic situation has evolved.

The primary American interest in Iraq at this point is a negative one — namely, that Iraq not become an Iranian satellite. If that were to happen and Iranian forces entered Iraq, the entire balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula would collapse. Whatever the future of Iraq, U.S. policy since the surge and before has been to prevent a vacuum into which Iran can move. The primary Iranian interest in Iraq also is negative. Tehran must make sure that no Iraqi government is formed that is dominated by Sunnis, as happened under the Baathists, and that the Iraqi military never becomes powerful enough to represent an offensive threat to Iran. In other words, above all else, Iran’s interest is to avoid a repeat of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Obviously, each side has positive goals. The United States would love to see a powerful, pro-American Iraqi government that could threaten Iran on its own. The Iranians would love to see a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Neither side is in a position to achieve these goals. The United States cannot create a pro-U.S. government because the Iranians, through their influence in the Shiite community, can create sufficient chaos to make that impossible. Through the surge, the United States has demonstrated to the Iranians that it is not withdrawing from Iraq, and the Iranians do not have the ability to force an American withdrawal. So long as the Americans are there and moving closer to the Sunnis, the Iranians cannot achieve their positive goals and also must harbor concerns about the long-term future of Iraq. Each side has blocked the other’s strategic positive goal. Each side now wants to nail down its respective negative goal: avoiding the thing it fears the most.

Ever since the 2006 U.S. congressional midterm elections, when President George W. Bush confounded Iranian expectations by actually increasing forces in Iraq rather than beginning a phased withdrawal, the two countries have been going through a complex process of talks and negotiations designed to achieve their negative ends: the creation of an Iraq that cannot threaten Iran but can be a buffer against Iranian expansion. Neither side trusts the other, and each would love to take advantage of the situation to achieve its own more ambitious goals. But the reality on the ground is that each side would be happy if it avoided the worst-case scenario.

Again, ignoring the rhetoric, there has been a fairly clear sequence of events. Casualties in Iraq have declined — not only U.S. military casualties but also civilian casualties. The civil war between Sunni and Shia has declined dramatically, although it did not disappear. Sunnis and Shia both were able to actively project force into more distant areas, so the decline did not simply take place because neighborhoods became more homogeneous, nor did it take place because of the addition of 30,000 troops. Though the United States created a psychological shift, even if it uses its troops more effectively, Washington cannot impose its will on the population. A change in tactics or an increase of troops to 150,000 cannot control a country of 25 million bent on civil war.

The decline in intracommunal violence is attributable to two facts. The first is the alliance between the United States and Sunni leaders against al Qaeda, which limited the jihadists’ ability to strike at the Shia. The second is the decision by the Iranians to control the actions of Iranian-dominated militias. The return of Muqtada al-Sadr — the most radical of the Shiite leaders — to ayatollah school and his decision to order his followers to cease fire dramatically reduced Shiite-on-Sunni violence. That would not, and could not, have happened without Iranian concurrence. If the Iranians had wanted the civil war to continue unabated, it would have. The Iranians cannot eliminate all violence, nor do they want to. They want the Americans to understand that they can resume the violence at will. Nevertheless, without the Iranian decision to limit the violence, the surge would not have worked.

If the prime Iranian threat against the United States was civil war in Iraq, the prime American threat against Iran was an air campaign against Iranian infrastructure. Such a campaign was publicly justified by the U.S. claim that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. With the Iranians having removed the threat of overwhelming civil war in Iraq, the United States responded by removing the threat of an air campaign. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran does not have a nuclear program at present effectively signaled the Iranians that there would be no campaign.

There was intense speculation that the NIE was a “coup” by the intelligence community against the president. Though an interesting theory, not a single author of the NIE has been fired, none of the intelligence community leaders has been removed, and the president has very comfortably lived with the report’s findings. He has lowered the threat of war against Iran while holding open the possibility — as the NIE suggests — that the Iranians might still be a threat, and that a new NIE might require airstrikes.

The Iranians reduced Shiite violence. The United States reduced the threat of airstrikes. At various points, each side has tested and signaled to the other. The Iranians have encouraged small-scale attacks by Shia in recent weeks, but nothing like what was going on a year or two ago. During Bush’s trip to the region, the United States triggered a crisis in the Strait of Hormuz to signal the Iranians that the United States retains its options. The rhetoric remains apocalyptic, but the reality is that, without admitting it, each side has moved to lower the temperature.

Clearly, secret negotiations are under way. The announcement that an agreement was reached on the structure and subject of a public meeting this week by definition means that unpublicized conversations have been taking place. Similarly, the announcement that Ahmadinejad will be visiting Iraq could not have come without extensive back-channel discussions. We would suspect that these discussions actually have been quite substantial.

The Iranians have made clear what they want in these negotiations. Mottaki was quoted in the Iranian media as saying, “We did express our readiness for entering into negotiations with the U.S. when the talks were held by the five Security Council permanent members plus Germany over Iran’s nuclear program.” He also said that, “Revising its policies toward Iran, the U.S. can pave the way for us to consider the circumstances needed for such talks to be held.” Since talks are being held, it must indicate some movement on the American part.

It all comes down to this: The United States, at the very least, wants a coalition government in Iraq not controlled by Iran, which can govern Iraq and allow the United States to draw down its forces. The Iranians want an Iraqi government not controlled by the United States or the Sunnis, which can control Iraq but not be strong enough to threaten Iran. Iran also wants the United States to end sanctions against Iran, while the United States wants Iran to end all aspects of its nuclear program.

Ending sanctions is politically difficult for the United States. Ending all aspects of the nuclear program is difficult for Iran. The United States can finesse the sanctions issue by turning a blind eye to third powers trading with Iran and allowing U.S. companies to set up foreign subsidiaries to conduct trade with Iran. The Iranians can finesse the nuclear issue, maintaining limited aspects of the program but not pursuing all the technologies needed to build a weapon.

Rhetoric aside, we are therefore in a phase where there are ways for each side to get what it wants. Obviously, the political process is under way in both countries, with Iranian parliamentary elections on March 14 and the U.S. presidential race in full swing. Much domestic opposition is building up against Ahmadinejad, and an intensifying power struggle in Iran could be a fairly large distraction for the country in the short term. The Iranians also could wait a bit more to see how the U.S. presidential campaign shapes up before making any major decisions.

But then, a political process is always under way. That means the rhetoric will remain torrid; the public meetings few and low-key; the private discussions ongoing; and actions by each side sometimes inexplicable, keyed as they are to private discussions.

But it is clear from this week’s announcements by the Iranians that there is movement under way. If the Iranian president does visit Iraq and the United States makes no effort to block him, that will be the signal that some sort of accommodation has been reached. The United States and Iran will not recognize each other and will continue to condemn and even threaten each other. But this is truly a case where their rhetoric does not begin to reflect the reality.

26673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SA bans Valentine's Day on: February 12, 2008, 09:09:41 PM
Saudi Arabia bans all things red ahead of Valentine's Day

Story Highlights
Saudi Arabia has banned red gift items like red roses until after Valentine's Day
Islamic conservatives consider the celebration of such a holiday a sin
Celebration seen as encouraging immoral relations between the unmarried
(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has asked florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine's Day, calling the celebration of such a holiday a sin, local media reported Monday.
"As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, " Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, a scholar in Islamic studies, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper.
Every year, officials with the conservative Muslim kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice clamp down on shops a few days before February 14, instructing them to remove red roses, red wrapping paper, gift boxes and teddy bears. On the eve of the holiday, they raid stores and seize symbols of love.
The virtue and vice squad is a police force of several thousand charged with, among other things, enforcing dress codes and segregating the sexes. Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism, punishes unrelated women and men who mingle in public.
Ahmed Al-Omran, a university student in Riyadh, told CNN that the government decision will give the international media another reason to make fun of the Saudis "but I think that we got used to that by now."
"I think what they are doing is ridiculous," said Al-Omran, who maintains the blog 'Saudi Jeans.' "What the conservatives in this country need to learn is something called 'tolerance.' If they don't see the permissibility of celebrating such an occasion, then fine -- they should not celebrate it. But they have to know they have no right to impose their point of view on others."
Because of the ban on red roses, a black market has flowered ahead of Valentine's Day. Roses that normally go for five Saudi riyal ($1.30) fetch up to 30 riyal ($8) on February 14, the Saudi Gazette said.
"Sometimes we deliver the bouquets in the middle of the night or early morning, to avoid suspicion," one florist told the paper.
Saudi Arabia has often come under criticism for its treatment of women, most recently in a United Nations report that blasted the kingdom for widespread discrimination. Under Saudi law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including a prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man's permission to travel or have surgery.
A businesswoman told the Times of London this month that she was detained and strip-searched by the religious police for holding a meeting in a coffee shop with male colleagues.
Two years ago, a teenager was raped by seven men who found her alone with a man unrelated to her. The government sentenced the 19-year-old woman to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being in the company of a man who wasn't a family member or her husband. She was later pardoned. The seven rapists were sentenced to two to nine years in prison.
CNN's Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report
All AboutSaudi Arabia
26674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 12, 2008, 06:33:37 PM
And here's another strand of BO support:
26675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 12, 2008, 06:17:11 PM
Washington Post

Obama's Farrakhan Test
 Resize Text
 Save/Share + DiggNewsvinedel.icio.usStumble It!RedditFacebookPrint This E-mail This
COMMENT readers have posted 823 comments about this item.
View All Comments »
No comments have been posted about this item.

Comments are closed for this item.
 Discussion PolicyDiscussion Policy CLOSEComments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

Who's Blogging» Links to this article 
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; Page A13

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrakhan.

Maybe for Wright and some others, Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." For most Americans, though, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, particularly in the form of anti-Semitism. Over the years, he has compiled an awesome record of offensive statements, even denigrating the Holocaust by falsely attributing it to Jewish cooperation with Hitler -- "They helped him get the Third Reich on the road." His history is a rancid stew of lies.

It's important to state right off that nothing in Obama's record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama's top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances.

Fine. But where I differ with Axelrod and, I assume, Obama is that praise for an anti-Semitic demagogue is not a minor difference or an intrachurch issue. The Obama camp takes the view that its candidate, now that he has been told about the award, is under no obligation to speak out on the Farrakhan matter. It was not Obama's church that made the award but a magazine. This is a distinction without much of a difference. And given who the parishioner is, the obligation to speak out is all the greater. He could be the next American president. Where is his sense of outrage?

Any praise of Farrakhan heightens the prestige of the leader of the Nation of Islam. For good reasons and bad, he is already admired in portions of the black community, sometimes for his efforts to rehabilitate criminals. His anti-Semitism is either not considered relevant or is shared, particularly his false insistence that Jews have played an inordinate role in victimizing African Americans.

In this, Farrakhan stands history on its head. It was Jews who disproportionately marched for civil rights and, in Mississippi, died for that cause. Farrakhan and, in effect, Wright, despoil the graves of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and, of course, their black colleague James Chaney.

I can even see how someone, maybe even Obama, could dismiss Farrakhan as a pest, a silly man pushing a silly cause that poses no real threat to the Jewish community. Still, history tells us that anti-Semitism is not to be trifled with. It is a botulism of the mind.

The Obama and Clinton campaigns are involved in a tasteless tussle over the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. What is clear from rereading King's celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech of Aug. 28, 1963, is how inclusive that dream was -- "all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!' "

This, though, is not Farrakhan's dream. He has vilified whites and singled out Jews to blame for crimes large and small, either committed by others as well or not at all. (A dominant role in the slave trade, for instance.) He has talked of Jewish conspiracies to set a media line for the whole nation. He has reviled Jews in a manner that brings Hitler to mind.

And yet Wright heaped praise on Farrakhan. According to Trumpet, he applauded his "depth of analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation." He praised "his integrity and honesty." He called him "an unforgettable force, a catalyst for change and a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose." These are the words of a man who prayed with Obama just before the Illinois senator announced his run for the presidency. Will he pray with him just before his inaugural?

I don't for a moment think that Obama shares Wright's views on Farrakhan. But the rap on Obama is that he is a fog of a man. We know little about him, and, for all my admiration of him, I wonder about his mettle. The New York Times recently reported on Obama's penchant while serving in the Illinois legislature for merely voting "present" when faced with some tough issues. Farrakhan, in a strictly political sense, may be a tough issue for him. This time, though, "present" will not do.
26676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: February 12, 2008, 12:50:44 PM
Putin's Torture Colonies
February 12, 2008; Page A16
"The protest began after OMON [riot police] had been brought to correctional colony No. 5 (Amur Oblast, Skovorodino Rayon, village Takhtamygda) and started massive beatings of the prisoners. People in camouflage and masks were beating with batons inmates taken outside undressed in the freezing cold. . . . As a protest, 39 prisoners immediately cut their veins open.

"Next day, on 17 January, the 'special operation' was repeated in an even more humiliating and massive form. At that time, about 700 inmates cut their veins open. . . ."

The description here comes from a report received by the Moscow-based Foundation for Defense of Rights of Prisoners. The time reference is to 2008 -- that is, last month. This is not Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Russia. It's Vladimir Putin's. And correctional colony No. 5, located not far from the Manchurian border, does not even make the list of the worst penal colonies in the country.

That distinction belongs to the newly revived institution of Pytochnye kolonii, or torture colonies. After all but disappearing in the 1990s under the liberal regime of Boris Yeltsin, there are now about 50 pytochnye kolonii among the roughly 700 colonies that house the bulk of Russia's convict population, according to FDRP cofounder Lev Ponomarev. And while they cannot be compared to the Soviet Gulag in terms of scope or the percentage of prisoners who are innocent of any real crime, they are fast approaching it in terms of sheer cruelty.

The cruelty to prisoners often begins prior to their actual sentencing. "When people are transported from prisons to courts to attend their hearings, they are jammed in a tiny room where they can barely stand. There's no toilet; if they have to relieve themselves, it has to be right there," says Mr. Ponomarev. "Then they are put on trucks. It's extremely cold in winter, extremely hot in summer, no ventilation, no heating. These are basically metal containers. They have to be there for hours. Healthy people are held together with people with tuberculosis, creating a breeding ground for the disease."


To see footage taken from inside a pytochnye kolonii, click here.
And for a list of known torture colonies in Russia, click here.Once sentenced, prisoners are transported in packed train wagons to distant correctional colonies that, under Russian law, range from relatively lax "general regime" colonies to "strict," "special," and (most terrifying of all) "medical" colonies. Arrival in the camps is particularly harrowing. According to prisoner testimonies collected by Mr. Ponomarev, in the winter of 2005 convicts from one torture colony in Karelia, near the Finnish border, were shipped to the IK-1 torture colony near the village of Yagul, in the Udmurt Republic, about 500 miles east of Moscow.

"The receipt of convicts 'through the corridor' takes place in the following manner," Mr. Ponomarev reports. "From the [truck] in which a newly arrived stage [of prisoners] is brought... employees of the colony line up, equipped with special means -- rubber truncheons and dog handlers with work dogs. . . . During the time of the run, each employee hits the prisoner running by with a truncheon. . . . The convicts run with luggage, which significantly complicates the run. At those [places] where employees with dogs are found, the run of the convict is slowed by a dog lunging from the leash."

The prison gantlet is just the welcome mat. At IK-1, a prisoner with a broken leg named Zurab Baroyan made the mistake of testifying to conditions at the colony to a staff representative of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation. "After this," Mr. Baroyan reported, the commandant of the colony "threatened to rot me in the dungeon. They did not complete treating me in the hospital. The leg festers [and] pus runs from the bandage. . . The festering has crossed over to the second leg."

Not surprisingly, suicide attempts at these colonies are common. One convict, named Mishchikin, sought to commit suicide by swallowing "a wire and nails tied together crosswise." As punishment, he was denied medical assistance for 12 days. Another convict, named Fargiyev, was held in handcuffs for 52 days after stabbing himself; he never fully recovered motor function in his hands.

Even the smallest of prisoner infractions can be met with savage reprisals. In one case, authorities noticed the smell of cigarette smoke in a so-called "penalty isolator" cell where seven convicts were being held. "A fire engine was called in. . . . The entire cell, including the convicts and their personal things, was flooded with cold water." The convicts were left in wet clothes in 50 degree Fahrenheit temperatures for a week.

As a legal matter, the torture colonies don't even exist, and Mr. Ponomarev doubts there has ever been an explicit directive from Mr. Putin ordering the kind of treatment they mete. Rather, for the most part the standards of punishment are determined at the whim of colony commandants, often in areas where the traditions of the Gulag never went away.

That doesn't excuse the Kremlin, however. Under Yeltsin, the prison system had operated under a sunshine policy, as part of a larger effort to distance Russia from its Soviet past. "But when Putin came to power, a new tone was set," Mr. Ponomarev says. "The sadists who had previously been 'behaving' simply stopped behaving."

Now reports of torture are systematically ignored or suppressed while regional governments refuse to act on evidence of abuse. Commandants at "general regime" colonies can always threaten misbehaving convicts with transfer to a torture colony -- a useful way of keeping them in line. The Kremlin, too, benefits from the implied threat. "The correct word for this is Gulag, even if it's on a smaller scale," warns Mr. Ponomarev. "This is the reappearance of totalitarianism in the state. Unless we eradicate it, it will spread throughout the entire country."

Readers interested in a closer look at what is described above may do a YouTube search for "Yekaterinaburg Prison Camp." The short video, apparently filmed by a prison guard and delivered anonymously to Mr. Ponomarev's organization, is a modern-day version of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." It isn't easy to watch. But it is an invaluable window on what Russia has become in the Age of Putin, Person of the Year.

Write to
26677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 12, 2008, 12:05:28 PM
Survival of the Wettest

One of the most liberal House Republicans faces a serious primary challenge today, and may survive only because he has more than one opponent running against him.

Maryland GOP Congressman Wayne Gilchrest has charted an increasingly liberal record in Washington over his 18 years in the House. He turned away conservative primary opponents in his Eastern Shore district in 2002 and 2004, but now faces two serious opponents. Former GOP Governor Bob Ehrlich has endorsed State Senator Andy Harris, a former Navy doctor. Meanwhile, State Senator E.J. Pipkin has pumped nearly $1 million of his own money into the race. Private polls show Mr. Gilchrest with one-third of the vote, Mr. Harris with about the same and Mr. Pipkin trailing with about half of their support.

Traditionally incumbents only lose when they face a single opponent. Their superior name ID and ability to deliver constituent services make it difficult to bring them much below 50% in a primary. This has led many people to speculate that Mr. Pipkin, who entered the race at the last minute, is actually in the contest to divert votes from Mr. Harris and ensure a Gilchrest victory. The theory goes that Mr. Pipkin would then get the incumbent's support whenever Mr. Gilchrest decides to retire.

Mr. Pipkin vehemently denies any such motivation, but his candidacy is likely to have the perverse effect of keeping Mr. Gilchrest in office for another term. Mr. Gilchrest makes an odd fit for the conservative district. He often casts liberal votes that are out of step with his voters, such as supporting statehood for the District of Columbia and voting against compensating landowners for the cost of wetlands regulations. If he wins, it will be yet another example of how conservatives lose when they divide their forces.

-- John Fund
The Too-Right Stuff

Rep. Al Wynn has so angered the left-wing base of the Democratic Party that he is in danger of being turfed out of office today by his Maryland constituents.

Mr. Wynn's troubles with the left began in 2002, after he voted for President Bush's Iraq war resolution. He then followed that up with votes against various parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulation, a vote to repeal the estate tax and a vote to make it harder for people to file for bankruptcy.

In 2006, that record led attorney Donna Edwards to challenge him in a race that Mr. Wynn survived by only 3% of the vote. She's now back with a slew of liberal groups supporting her. Although she has attacked Mr. Wynn for receiving backing from "special interests," some 86% of her own money has been raised outside Maryland.

Mr. Wynn can point to a solid 85% liberal voting record as measured by the Americans for Democratic Action. He says he opposed the ban on soft money donations in McCain-Feingold because "I argued for balance. That's been interpreted as being opposed to campaign finance [reform]; therefore, I'm not a progressive. It's a simplistic analysis, and it's unfortunate."

The distinct that Mr. Wynn and Ms. Edwards are fighting over is 57% African-American and made up of the fairly affluent suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C. Should Mr. Wynn lose today, his defeat will send shock waves through the ranks of Democratic House members who stray occasionally from their party's line. The message to Democrats: No apostasy is forgotten or forgiven. Any who defect from the litmus tests of the liberal bloggers can expect a serious primary challenge from the same left-wing groups that cost Senator Joe Lieberman his 2006 Democratic primary in Connecticut, forcing him to seek re-election as an independent.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"Mr. Obama's supporters are the latte liberals. These are the people for whom Starbucks, with its $5 cups of coffee and fancy bakeries, is not just a consumer choice but a lifestyle. They not only have the money. They share the values.... Mrs. Clinton is the candidate of what might be called Dunkin' Donut Democrats. They do not have money to waste on multiple-hyphenated coffee drinks -- double-top, no-foam, non-fat lattes and the like. Not for them the bran muffins or the biscotti. They are the 75-cent coffee and doughnut crowd. For them caffeine choice doesn't correlate with their values but simply represents a means of keeping them going through their challenging day" -- columnist Gerard Baker of the Times of London.

Quote of the Day II

"It is not 'the politics of fear' to remind Obama's legions of the blissful that, while they are watching Scarlett Johansson sway to the beat, somewhere deep inside a quasi independent territory we might call Islamistan people are making plans to blow them to bits. (Yes, they can.) One of the striking features of Obama's victory speeches is the absence from these exultations of any lasting allusion to the darker dimensions of our strategic predicament" -- Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic.

Raising Kaine

Barack Obama told radio listeners in Richmond yesterday that Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine is "somebody who is on my short list to have a role in my administration." As voters head to the polls today in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Mr. Obama is expected to sweep all three contests, but the race in Virginia is the one that bears watching. Mr. Obama hopes to demonstrate with a big victory and stellar turnout that he's the candidate who can put Virginia in play in November.

A central theme of Mr. Obama's campaign is that he, not Hillary, can win "red" states in the general election. A record turnout in his favor today would underline that argument, showing not only that he can outdraw Mrs. Clinton among Democrats, but bring enough new voters to the polls to offset a local GOP advantage.

In the 1990s, Republicans ran the tables in the Virginia, winning back-to-back governor's elections and capturing control of the state legislature for the first time in more than 100 years. George W. Bush carried the state in 2000 and 2004. But with the election of Mark Warner as governor in 2001, Democrats have been on the comeback trail, building a base of support not only in northern Virginia, where many northern transplants live, but in rural counties past Richmond along the coast and into the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west.

Mr. Obama hopes Virginia can be a model for broadening the national Democratic coalition to include more conservative states. Hence the unusually bold tactic of flaunting Mr. Kaine -- Mr. Warner's popular successor as governor -- as a possible running mate. As for Mr. Warner himself, he's already in a race of his own, for the retiring John Warner's (no relation) Senate seat. He's expected to win easily, which would only further his own prominence as a future Democratic presidential contender. For Mr. Obama, establishing credibility as a big-time vote-getter in Virginia is important not just today -- but also for 2012, when he could face Mr. Warner in a Democratic presidential primary.
26678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: February 12, 2008, 11:29:17 AM
This thread is for the matters concerning the long, sordid and frequently criminal history of the Hillbillary Clintons:
The Clintons' Terror Pardons
February 12, 2008; Page A17

It was nearly 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 1982. Two officers on New York Police Department's elite bomb squad rushed to headquarters at One Police Plaza, where minutes earlier an explosion had destroyed the entrance to the building. Lying amid the carnage was Police Officer Rocco Pascarella, his lower leg blasted off.

"He was ripped up like someone took a box cutter and shredded his face," remembered Detective Anthony Senft, one of the bomb-squad officers who answered the call 25 years ago. "We really didn't even know that he was a uniformed man until we found his weapon, that's how badly he was injured."

About 20 minutes later, Mr. Senft and his partner, Richard Pastorella, were blown 15 feet in the air as they knelt in protective gear to defuse another bomb. Detective Senft was blinded in one eye, his facial bones shattered, his hip severely fractured. Mr. Pastorella was blinded in both eyes and lost all the fingers of his right hand. A total of four bombs exploded in a single hour on that night, including at FBI headquarters in Manhattan and the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The perpetrators were members of Armed Forces of National Liberation, FALN (the Spanish acronym), a clandestine terrorist group devoted to bringing about independence for Puerto Rico through violent means. Its members waged war on America with bombings, arson, kidnappings, prison escapes, threats and intimidation. The most gruesome attack was the 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing in Lower Manhattan. Timed to go off during the lunch-hour rush, the explosion decapitated one of the four people killed and injured another 60.

FALN bragged about the bloodbath, calling the victims "reactionary corporate executives" and threatening: "You have unleashed a storm from which you comfortable Yankees can't escape." By 1996, the FBI had linked FALN to 146 bombings and a string of armed robberies -- a reign of terror that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims.

On Aug. 7, 1999, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. African embassy bombings that killed 257 people and injured 5,000, President Bill Clinton reaffirmed his commitment to the victims of terrorism, vowing that he "will not rest until justice is done." Four days later, while Congress was on summer recess, the White House quietly issued a press release announcing that the president was granting clemency to 16 imprisoned members of FALN. What began as a simple paragraph on the AP wire exploded into a major controversy.

Mr. Clinton justified the clemencies by asserting that the sentences were disproportionate to the crimes. None of the petitioners, he stated, had been directly involved in crimes that caused bodily harm to anyone. "For me," the president concluded, "the question, therefore, was whether their continuing incarceration served any meaningful purpose."

His comments, including the astonishing claim that the FALN prisoners were being unfairly punished because of "guilt by association," were widely condemned as a concession to terrorists. Further, they were seen as an outrageous slap in the face of the victims and a bitter betrayal of the cops and federal law enforcement officers who had put their lives on the line to protect the public and who had invested years of their careers to put these people behind bars. The U.S. Sentencing Commission affirmed a pre-existing Justice Department assessment that the sentences, ranging from 30 to 90 years, were "in line with sentences imposed in other cases for similar terrorist activity."

The prisoners were convicted on a variety of charges that included conspiracy, sedition, violation of the Hobbes Act (extortion by force, violence or fear), armed robbery and illegal possession of weapons and explosives -- including large quantities of C-4 plastic explosive, dynamite and huge caches of ammunition. Mr. Clinton's action was opposed by the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. attorney offices that prosecuted the cases and the victims whose lives had been shattered. In contravention of standard procedures, none of these agencies, victims or families of victims were consulted or notified prior to the president's announcement.

"I know the chilling evidence that convicted the petitioners," wrote Deborah Devaney, one of the federal prosecutors who spent years on the cases. "The conspirators made every effort to murder and maim. . . . A few dedicated federal agents are the only people who stood in their way."

Observed Judge George Layton, who sentenced four FALN defendants for their conspiracy to use military-grade explosives to break an FALN leader from Ft. Leavenworth Penitentiary and detonate bombs at other public buildings, "[T]his case . . . represents one of the finest examples of preventive law enforcement that has ever come to this court's attention in the 20-odd years it has been a judge and in the 20 years before that as a practicing lawyer in criminal cases."

The FBI cracked the cases with the discovery of an FALN safe house and bomb factory. Video surveillance showed two of those on the clemency list firing weapons and building bombs intended for an imminent attack at a U.S. military installation. FBI agents obtained a warrant and entered the premises, surreptitiously disarming the bombs whose components bore the unmistakable FALN signature. They found 24 pounds of dynamite, 24 blasting caps, weapons, disguises, false IDs and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

A total of six safe houses were ultimately uncovered. Seven hundred hours of surveillance video were recorded, resulting in a mountain of evidence connecting the 16 prisoners to multiple FALN operations past and present.

Federal law enforcement agencies considered these individuals so dangerous, extraordinary security precautions were taken at their numerous trials. Courthouse elevators were restricted and no one, including the court officers, was permitted to carry a firearm in the courtroom.

Given all this, why would Bill Clinton, who had ignored the 3,226 clemency petitions that had piled up on his desk over the years, suddenly reach into the stack and pluck out these 16 meritless cases? (The New York Times ran a column with the headline, "Bill's Little Gift.")

Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.

Initial reports stated that Mrs. Clinton supported the clemencies, but when public reaction went negative she changed course, issuing a short statement three weeks after the clemencies were announced. The prisoners' delay in refusing to renounce violence "speaks volumes," she said.

The Clintons were caught in an awkward predicament of their own making. The president had ignored federal guidelines for commutation of sentences, including the most fundamental: The prisoners hadn't actually asked for clemency.

To push the deal through, signed statements renouncing violence and expressing remorse were required by the Justice Department. The FALN prisoners, surely relishing the embarrassment and discomfiture they were causing the president and his wife, had previously declined to accept these conditions. Committed and unrepentant militants who did not accept the authority of the United States, they refused to apologize for activities they were proud of in order to obtain a clemency they never requested.

So desperate was the White House to get the deal finalized and out of the news, an unprecedented 16-way conference call was set up for the "petitioners" who were locked up in 11 different federal facilities so that they could strategize a response to the president's offer. Two eventually refused to renounce their cause, preferring to serve out their lengthy sentences rather than follow the White House script.

Mr. Clinton's fecklessness in the handling of these cases was demonstrated by the fact that none of the prisoners were required, as a standard condition of release, to cooperate in ongoing investigations of countless unsolved FALN bombing cases and other crimes. Mrs. Clinton's so-called disagreement with her husband on the matter made no mention of that fact. The risk of demanding such a requirement, of course, was that the prisoners might have proudly implicated themselves, causing the entire enterprise to implode, with maximum damage to the president and potentially sinking Hillary Clinton's Senate chances.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians in New York who'd been crowing to their constituents about the impending release of these "freedom fighters" were enraged and insulted at Hillary Clinton's withdrawal of support. "It was a horrible blunder," said State Sen. Olga A. Mendez. "She needs to learn the rules."

The first lady called her failure to consult the Puerto Rican political establishment before assessing the entire issue a mistake "that will never happen again" -- even as the cops who had been maimed and disfigured by FALN operations continued to be ignored. Tom and Joe Connor, two brothers who were little boys when their 33-year-old father, Frank, was killed in the Fraunces Tavern attack, were dumbstruck to learn that White House staffers referred to the FALN militants as "political prisoners" and were planning a meeting with their children to humanize their plight.

Members of Congress viewed the clemencies as a dangerous abuse of presidential power that could not go unchallenged. Resolutions condemning the president's action were passed with a vote of 95-2 in the Senate, 311-41 in the House. It was the most they could do; the president's pardon power, conferred by the Constitution, is absolute. The House launched an investigation, subpoenaing records from the White House and Justice in an effort to determine whether proper procedure had been followed. President Clinton promptly invoked executive privilege, putting Justice Department lawyers in the impossible position of admitting that they had sent the White House a recommendation on the issue, but barred from disclosing what it was.

Twenty-four hours before a scheduled Senate committee hearing, the DOJ withheld the FBI's written statement about the history of the FALN and an assessment of its current terrorist capability. "They pulled the plug on us," said an unnamed FBI official in a news report, referring to the Justice Department decision to prevent FBI testimony.

The investigation revealed that the White House was driving the effort to release the prisoners, rather than the other way around. White House aides created talking points and strategies for a public campaign on the prisoners' behalf included asking prominent individuals for letters supporting clemency.

Jeffrey Farrow, a key adviser on the White House Interagency Working Group for Puerto Rico recommended meetings with the president and the three leading members of Congressional Hispanic Caucus who were pushing the effort, stating in a March 6, 1999 email, "This is Gutierrez's [sic] top priority as well as of high constituent importance to Serrano and Velazquez." The next day, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste sent an email to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, who was handling the clemency issue, supporting Mr. Farrow's view, saying, "Chuck -- Jeff's right about this -- very hot issue." Another adviser in the Working Group, Mayra Martinez-Fernandez, noted that releasing the prisoners would be "fairly easy to accomplish and will have a positive impact among strategic communities in the U.S. (read, voters)."

And there you have it. Votes.

While the pardon scandals that marked Bill and Hillary Clinton's final days in office are remembered as transactions involving cronies, criminals and campaign contributors, the FALN clemencies of 1999 should be remembered in the context of the increasing threat of domestic and transnational terrorism that was ramping up during the Clinton years of alleged peace and prosperity. To wit, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Tokyo subway Sarin attack, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1995 "Bojinka" conspiracy to hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing, Osama bin Laden's 1996 and 1998 "Declarations of War" on America, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 USS Sullivans bombing attempt, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the 2000 Millennium bombing plot.

It was within that context that the FBI gave its position on the FALN clemencies -- which the White House succeeded in keeping out of news coverage but ultimately failed to suppress -- stating that "the release of these individuals will psychologically and operationally enhance the ongoing violent and criminal activities of terrorist groups, not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world." The White House spun the clemencies as a sign of the president's universal commitment to "peace and reconciliation" just one year after Osama bin Laden told his followers that the United States is a "paper tiger" that can be attacked with impunity.

It would be a mistake to dismiss as "old news" the story of how and why these terrorists were released in light of the fact that it took place during the precise period when Bill Clinton now claims he was avidly engaged, even "obsessed," with efforts to protect the public from clandestine terrorist attacks. If Bill and Hillary Clinton were willing to pander to the demands of local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights activists defending bomb-makers convicted of seditious conspiracy, how might they stand up to pressure from other interest groups working in less obvious ways against U.S. interests in a post-9/11 world?

Radical Islamists are a sophisticated and determined enemy who understand that violence alone will not achieve their goals. Islamist front groups, representing themselves as rights organizations, are attempting to get a foothold here as they have already in parts of Western Europe by deftly exploiting ethnic and racial politics, agitating under the banner of civil liberties even as they are clamoring for the imposition of special Shariah law privileges in the public domain. They believe that the road to America's ultimate defeat is through the back door of policy and law and they are aggressively using money, influence and retail politics to achieve their goal.

On the campaign trail, the Clintons like to say that Bill is merely supportive and enthusiastic, "just like all the other candidates' spouses." Nothing could be further from the truth. Returning Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House would present the country with the unprecedented situation of a former and current president simultaneously occupying the White House, the practical implications of which have yet to be fully explored.

The FALN clemencies provide a disturbing example of how the abuse or misuse of presidential prerogative, under the guise of policy, can be put in service of the personal and private activities of the president's spouse -- and beyond the reach of meaningful congressional oversight.

Ms. Burlingame, a former attorney and a director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, is the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
26679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: February 12, 2008, 11:20:41 AM
By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Feb 12, 7:49 AM ET

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Danish police said Tuesday they have arrested three people suspected of plotting to kill one of the 12 cartoonists behind the Prophet Muhammad drawings that sparked a deadly uproar in the Muslim world two years ago.

Two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin were arrested in pre-dawn raids in western Denmark, the police intelligence agency said.  The Dane was suspected of violating Danish terror laws but likely would be released after questioning as the investigation continues, said Jakob Scharf, the head of the PET intelligence service. The two Tunisians would be expelled from Denmark, he said.

The agency did it mention which cartoonist was targeted. However, according to Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the drawings on Sept. 30, 2005, the suspects were planning to kill its cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

"There were very concrete murder plans against Kurt Westergaard," said Carsten Juste, the paper's editor-in-chief.

The cartoons were later reprinted by a range of Western publications, and they sparked deadly protests in parts of the Muslim world.  Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

Westergaard, 73, and his wife Gitte, 66, had been living under police protection, Jyllands-Posten reported.

"Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me. But I have turned fear into anger and resentment," Westergaard said in a statement published on Jyllands-Posten's Web site.

PET, the police intelligence service, called the action "preventive," saying it decided to strike "at an early phase to stop the planning and the carrying out of the murder."

In the uproar that followed the publishing of the cartoons, Danes watched in disbelief as angry mobs burned the Danish flag and attacked the country's embassies in Muslim countries including Syria, Iran and Lebanon.  Jyllands-Posten was evacuated several times because of threats and posted security guards at its office outside Aarhus and in Copenhagen.  The paper initially refused to apologize for the cartoons, which it said were published in reaction to a perceived self-censorship among artists dealing with Islamic issues, but later said it regretted that the cartoons had offended Muslims.

The Danish government also expressed regrets to Muslims, but noted that it could not interfere with the freedom of the press. 

Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Copenhagen-based Islamic Faith Community, a network of Muslim groups that spearheaded protests against the cartoons in Denmark, said he hoped Tuesday's arrests would not rekindle the uproar.

"We urge Muslims to take it calmly," he told the TV2 News network.

The rage over the caricatures resonated beyond Denmark. In Germany, two men were accused of planting bombs aboard a pair of German commuter trains in 2006 that failed to explode.  One of the men, Youssef Mohammed el-Hajdib, a Lebanese citizen, is on trial in Duesseldorf. The second man, Jihad Hamad, was convicted in December in Lebanon and sentenced to 12 years in prison. El-Hajdib told the court last week that Hamad planned the attacks as revenge after some German newspapers reprinted the Muhammad caricatures.

Hamad, however, testified at his trial in Lebanon that el-Hajdib was the initiator of the failed plot. He said el-Hajdib brainwashed him and exposed him to extremist videos and propaganda.
26680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 12, 2008, 11:11:57 AM
Interesting thoughts about BO's VP choice.

The Caucus Men
February 11, 2008

Years ago, before the Web was World Wide, we used to post our football picks to a Usenet newsgroup. Every Tuesday morning, we'd make predictions on which team would cover the spread in each of the past weekend's games. Other readers would make fun of us for posting predictions after the games had already been played, but they were just jealous because our picks were so uncannily accurate.

We think we're going to adopt that approach to political predictions, or at least to the Democratic nomination race, which has seen so many twists and turns. But if you listen to those who are still making predictions, everything's coming up Obama. The Politico's Ben Smith:

Obama's landslide victories in three mid-sized states Saturday suggest that he has the opportunity to build a significant lead over Hillary Rodham Clinton among the locked-in "pledged" delegates before the candidates face off in the big battlegrounds of Ohio and Texas on March 4.
The results in Washington and Nebraska vindicated Obama's strategy of preparing expensive efforts to organize votes after the Feb. 5 contests that many expected--wrongly--effectively to decide the race. Clinton's campaign, meanwhile, played down its own efforts in the states, though she did air television ads in both Washington and Nebraska.
Obama also won in Louisiana, buoyed by taking nearly 90 percent of the support of  black voters, according to exit polls.
All three of these states are in regions where Obama has already shown strength, so his victories aren't surprising. The margins, however, are impressive: 57% to 36% in the Louisiana primary, 68% to 32% in the Nebraska caucus and 68% to 31% in the Washington caucus. Then on Sunday, Obama won the Maine caucus, 59% to 40%. Mrs. Clinton was supposed to have a pretty good shot in Maine, having won primaries in nearby New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

But here's an interesting pattern: Whereas Obama and Mrs. Clinton are almost even in the number of primaries they've won (she has an advantage in the larger states), Obama has won virtually every caucus or other nonprimary nominating contest.

By our count, Mrs. Clinton has won 11 primaries: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. (Under current Democratic Party rules the Florida and Michigan primaries are meaningless.)

Obama has won 9 primaries: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah. Mrs. Clinton so far has had an advantage in the biggest states, which is why she is looking ahead hopefully to Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

But Obama has won 10 caucuses or nominating conventions: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Washington. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has won but a single caucus: in Nevada. She also has a slight lead in New Mexico's Feb. 5 caucus, in which provisional ballots are still being counted.

Blogger Kevin Drum offers some explanations for Obama's caucus advantage:

Caucuses require organization and Obama was better organized. They require enthusiasm and he has more enthusiastic supporters. They require time, and his demographic has more free time. They're mostly in small states, and Obama targeted small states. They're dominated by activists, and activists tend to support Obama.
To put it another way, caucuses require that a candidate's support be deep, while primaries require that it be broad.

It turns out that on the Republican side there is a primary/caucus gap too. John McCain has won 12 primaries: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina.

Mitt Romney won only 3 primaries, all in states where he had some personal connection: Michigan, where his father was governor; Massachusetts, where Romney himself was; and heavily Mormon Utah, where he ran the Olympics. And Mike Huckabee has won 5, all in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee.

But Romney had considerable success in caucus or convention states, winning 8 of them: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Wyoming. Huckabee has won 3: Iowa, Kansas and West Virginia. As for front-runner McCain, he has won only one caucus, in Washington state, and Huckabee is disputing the outcome there.

Winning a general election is largely a matter of getting more votes than the other guy. Having an enthusiastic base helps, but as President Goldwater and President McGovern can attest, it's not enough. If Obama faces McCain in November, the big question will be whether he can extend his appeal beyond the Democratic base. His reasonably strong showing in primaries suggests he may be able to do so.

As for our prediction, stay tuned: We'll have it for you on Nov. 5.
26681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turk PM opposes assimilation in Germany on: February 12, 2008, 11:09:57 AM
(ANSAmed) - BERLIN, FEBRUARY 11 - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added yesterday fuel to the fire of the polemics recently sparked off in Germany on the integration of the Turkish immigrants in the country, warning the German Turkish community against an excessive adaptation to the national culture. "Assimilation is a crime against humanity", Erdogan said in Cologne, during his visit in Germany, in front of an audience of 16,000 people, the majority of whom Turkish immigrants. Erdogan's proposal to open schools of Turkish language in Germany also to favour the integration of the Turkish immigrants in the country was strongly criticised recently by the German political world. Leader of conservative party CSU, Erwin Huber, said that if the proposal were launched, it would be a poison for integration and would lead to the creation of ghettos, as well as to the establishment of a mini-Turkey in Germany. Yesterday Erdogan said that it is important to learn German, however he underlined that the Turkish language could not be neglected, in order to protect the Turkish students from the challenge to maintain their identity and their culture. (ANSAmed).
26682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson; debt and taxes on: February 12, 2008, 10:47:00 AM
"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government
disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain
the use of it within the limits of its faculties, "never to
borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for
paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given
term; and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on
the public faith.""

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813)
26683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: McCain can win on: February 11, 2008, 02:57:34 PM
Getting to 270
Can John McCain win in November?
February 11, 2008
The conventional wisdom is that Republicans start at a serious disadvantage in trying to hold the White House. A still-unpopular war and a softening economy certainly represent challenges. So far, most of the enthusiasm in the primaries has been on the Democratic side, with some 13 million voters casting Democratic ballots and fewer than 9 million picking a GOP one.

But despite these obstacles, John McCain will now begin to assemble his fall election team with surprisingly good poll results. The average of all the recent national polls summarized by show the Arizona senator leading Hillary Clinton by 47% to 45% and trailing Barack Obama by only 44% to 47%. Both results are within the statistical margin of error for national polls, so it's fair to say Mr. McCain starts out with an even chance of winning.

How could that be? The answer is that the same maverick streak and occasional departures from conservative orthodoxy that make conservatives queasy have the opposite effect on independents and even some Democrats. Mr. McCain's favorable numbers with independents exceed those of Barack Obama, who has emphasized his desire to work across party lines.

* * *

All of this plays out in the Electoral College map that is the key to victory in November. One candidate or the other must win at least 270 electoral votes. The assumption has been that Democrats have an advantage because they can supposedly win every state John Kerry took in 2004 plus Ohio, which has fallen on hard economic times and seen its state Republican Party discredited. That would give the Democratic nominee at least 272 electoral votes.

But Mr. McCain's rise to the GOP nomination throws that calculation out the window. He is the only potential GOP candidate who is clearly positioned to keep the basic red-blue template of how each state voted in 2004 intact and then be able to move into blue territory.

Let's assume that Ohio goes to either Mr. Obama or Ms. Clinton. It's at least as likely that Mr. McCain could carry New Hampshire. The Granite State went only narrowly to Mr. Kerry, a senator from a neighboring state, and Mr. McCain has unique advantages there. New Hampshire elections are determined by how that state's fiercely independent voters go, and Mr. McCain has won over many of them in both the 2000 and 2008 GOP primaries. He spent 47 days in New Hampshire before this year's primary and is well-known in the state. If Mr. McCain lost Ohio but carried New Hampshire and all the other states Mr. Bush took in 2004, he would win, 270-268.

It's true that Democrats will make a play for states other than Ohio that Mr. Bush won. Iowa is a perennially competitive state that could go either way this fall. Arkansas polls show that Hillary Clinton might well be able to carry the state where she served as First Lady for over a decade.

But Mr. McCain's roots in the Rocky Mountain West complicate Democratic efforts to take states in that region. His fierce individualism and support for property rights play well in Nevada and Colorado, which were close in 2004. New Mexico, next door to Mr. McCain's Arizona, gave Mr. Bush a very narrow 49.6% to 49% victory in 2004. But Mr. McCain's nuanced position on immigration marks him as the GOP candidate who is most likely to hold the Hispanic voters who are the key to carrying New Mexico.

Mr. McCain also puts several Midwest battleground states in play. Should he pick Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his vice presidential choice, he might have a leg up on carrying both Minnesota and Wisconsin, which went narrowly for Mr. Kerry in 2004.

"The media markets in western Wisconsin get Minneapolis television and are oriented to their news--Pawlenty would be a plus there," says Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican. "McCain's independent stands would play well in that region--which is exactly where GOP presidential candidates have done poorly enough so that they lost statewide by 12,000 votes or so in both 2004 and 2000."

Mr. McCain can be competitive in other blue states. Michigan went Democratic in 2004 by only 3.4% of the total vote, and Oregon by just over 4%. The latest Field Poll in California puts Mr. McCain and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie. If Democrats have to spend valuable time and resources holding down California, it will make it more difficult for them to take states they lost in 2000 and 2004.

Mr. McCain could even make a foray into the Northeast, where his support from Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party's 2000 vice presidential candidate, could put Connecticut in contention. Ditto New Jersey, which Mr. Bush lost by only 53% to 46% in 2004.

Then there is Pennsylvania, which John Kerry carried by only 2.5% points in 2004. Michael Smerconish, the most popular talk-show host in Philadelphia, believes Mr. McCain has a real chance to carry the state. While Mr. Smerconish is a conservative who didn't support Mr. McCain, he thinks "the conservative blasting of McCain is good publicity around here." His independence and maverick status are exactly the qualities that could help him carry the tightly contested Philadelphia suburbs that voted to re-elect GOP senator Arlen Specter, a moderate, in 2004 but rejected conservative Rick Santorum in 2006.

* * *

In some ways Mr. McCain resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the French conservative who won last year's presidential election even though the retiring president, Jacques Chirac, was unpopular and a member of his own party. "Like Sarko, who was of Chirac's party but not of Chirac, America's swing voters have intuited over the years that there is little love lost between McCain and George Bush," says the blog Race42008.

Mr. Sarkozy was able to convince a majority of French voters that he represented real change that would improve conditions, while his socialist rival, Segolene Royal, represented risky change that could make matters worse. That is precisely the challenge Mr. McCain faces this year against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

When you hear that the demise of the Republicans is a foregone conclusion, remember that when the campaign is joined this fall and voters will have to make real choices about the direction of the country, the result is likely to be close. Recall that pundits were ready to crown Michael Dukakis the winner of the 1988 election after he opened up a 17-point edge over George H.W. Bush. In 2000, they declared the race over around Labor Day after Al Gore opened up a clear lead over George W. Bush.

Given that polls show Mr. McCain is currently in a dead heat against either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, it would be wise for the pundits to show a little humility this year. The Democratic strategists I talk to believe the race will be hard-fought and close, regardless of the direction the economy or the war in Iraq takes.
26684  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 8 year olds fighting MMA?!? on: February 11, 2008, 02:16:36 PM
26685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK kow tows to China on: February 11, 2008, 02:10:49 PM
Britain kow tows to China as athletes are forced to sign no criticism contracts



Paula Radcliffe

Gagged: Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe is likely to be one of those affected by the ban
British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China's appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing.

The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest.

The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes' contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.  It is contained in a 32-page document that will be presented to all those who reach the qualifying standard and are chosen for the team.  From the moment they sign up, the competitors – likely to include the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips and world record holder Paula Radcliffe – will be effectively gagged from commenting on China's politics, human rights abuses or illegal occupation of Tibet. 

Prince Charles has already let it be known that he will not be going to China, even if he is invited by Games organisers.  His views on the Communist dictatorship are well known, after this newspaper revealed how he described China's leaders as “appalling old waxworks” in a journal written after he attended the handover of Hong Kong. The Prince is also a long-time supporter of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan leader.

Yesterday the British Olympic Association (BOA) confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that any athlete who refuses to sign the agreements will not be allowed to travel to Beijing.

* Shameful picture of England squad giving Nazi salute still haunts British sport. Why, 70 years later, do we still suck up to dictators?

Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China, they will be put on the next plane home. 
The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: “[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.”
It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which “provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

Zara Phillips and Toytown

Contention: the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips stands to be among the athletes who will be forced to sign the gagging order

The BOA took the decision even though other countries – including the United States, Canada, Finland, and Australia – have pledged that their athletes would be free to speak about any issue concerning China.  To date, only New Zealand and Belgium have banned their athletes from giving political opinions while competing at the Games.

Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, said: “There are all sorts of organisations who would like athletes to use the Olympic Games as a vehicle to publicise their causes.  I don't believe that is in the interest of the team performance.  As a team we are ambassadors of the country and we have to conform to an appropriate code of conduct.”

However, human rights campaigner Lord David Alton condemned the move as “making a mockery” of the right to free speech.

The controversial decision to award the Olympics to Beijing means this year's Games have the potential to be the most politically charged since 1936.  Adolf Hitler used the Munich Games that year to glorify his Nazi regime, although his claims of Aryan superiority were undermined by black American athlete Jesse Owens winning four gold medals.

More recently, there was a mass boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

But Colin Moynihan – now BOA chairman Lord Moynihan – defied Margaret Thatcher's calls for British athletes to stay at home and won a silver medal as cox of the men's eight rowing team.  Former Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent has already criticised the Chinese authorities over the training methods used on children, which he regarded as tantamount to abuse.

Past shame: The England team give Nazi salutes at the 1938 Berlin Olympics, a memory which critics do not want to see recalled in China

Young gymnasts told him they were repeatedly beaten during training sessions.
Source Drudge

Mr Clegg confirmed that such criticisms would be banned under the team's code of conduct, which will be in force from when athletes are selected in July, until the end of the Games on August 24.

Mr Clegg said: “During the period of the contract, that sort of action would be in dispute with the team-member agreement.

“There are all sorts of sanctions that I can apply. I had to send a team member home in Sydney because they breached our sponsorship agreement and that is the first time it happened.  I have to act in the interest of the whole British team, not one individual. No athlete is above being part of the team.  There is a requirement on team members to sign the agreement. If athletes step out of line, action will have to be taken.”

Darren Campbell, Olympic relay gold winner at the 2004 Games in Athens, said the BOA's move would “heap extra pressure on athletes”. But he added: “We are there to represent our country in sporting terms, just as our Army do when they go off to war. It is not supposed to be about politics.”

The BOA is taking a far more stringent stance than authorities in other countries. Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said: “What we will be saying to the athletes is that it's best to concentrate on your competitions.

“But they're entitled to have their opinions and express them. They're free to speak.”

Jouko Purontakanen, secretary general of the Finnish Olympic Committee, said: “We will not be issuing instructions on the matter. The freedom of expression is a basic right that cannot be limited.

“But the starting point is that we will go to Beijing to compete, not to talk politics.”

Political gestures have been made at previous Olympics, most famously in Mexico City in 1968 when black American 200m champion Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute.

Both were suspended from the US Olympic team and barred from the Olympic village.

Forty years on, British athletes face similar sanctions if they highlight the abuse of human rights in China.

Last night Edward McMillan-Scott, Conservative MEP and the European Parliament vice-president, predicted a public outcry over the BOA's move.

He said: “Foreign Secretary David Miliband is off to China soon. But before he gets on the plane, he and the rest of the Government should tell the BOA to take this clause out of the agreement.”

Potentially the contract means that a British athlete who witnesses someone being mistreated on the way to a stadium is forbidden from even speaking to their colleagues about it.

Competitors emailing home or writing blogs will also have to exercise self-censorship – or face having their Olympic dreams ruined.

Lord Alton said: “It is extraordinary to bar athletes from expressing an opinion about China's human-rights record. About the only justification for participating in the Beijing Games is that it offers an opportunity to encourage more awareness about human rights.  Imposing compulsory vows of silence is an affront to our athletes, and in China it will be viewed as acquiescence.  Each year 8,000 executions take place in China, political and religious opinion is repressed, journalists are jailed and the internet and overseas broadcasts are heavily censored.  For our athletes to be told that they may not make any comment makes a mockery of our own country's belief in free speech.”
26686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Head Scarves in Turkey on: February 11, 2008, 01:49:12 PM

Head Scarves and Liberty
February 11, 2008; Page A18
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited us in New York a few years ago, he said his daughters chose to study in the U.S. in part because it was illegal to wear head scarves at Turkish universities. Saturday, Turkey's Parliament voted to lift that ban.

There's probably no more contentious issue in Turkish public life, and thousands of secularists took to the streets in protest. The debate goes back to the founding of modern Turkey, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned the fez, veil and head scarf in many public places. When the military outlawed head scarves at public universities after a 1980 coup, it said the move was necessary to push back against Islamists.

Our own view is that lifting the ban is a sign of Turkey's democratic maturity. Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has Islamic roots, rightly argued that the restriction violated freedom of religion. The vote to amend the constitution and permit head scarves on campus passed by 411 to 103, and included support from the big secular MHP party. The ban on face-covering veils remains.

Mr. Erdogan would nonetheless be foolish to ignore the concerns of secular democrats. The head scarf is not always merely an expression of female piety. It can also be a symbol of subjugation to political Islam. The challenge is to make sure that the freedom to wear one doesn't evolve into social compulsion to cover up. Some professors say the ban has protected secular students from peer pressure to cover their hair. The trend goes in the other direction, however. According to the European Stability Initiative, a research institute, the number of Turkish women appearing uncovered in public rose to 37% in 2006 from 27% in 1999.

The AKP, in power since 2002, has already demonstrated that a government with Islamist roots can coexist with democracy and free markets. Our hope is that lifting the ban on head scarves is another move toward a modern Muslim state.
26687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 11, 2008, 01:42:20 PM
Who is Maggie Williams?

At first glance, Maggie Williams is a curious choice to be Hillary Clinton's new campaign manager. Though she ran the First Lady's staff during the Clinton years and served as Hillary's chief gatekeeper, she has never run a political campaign.

But what she lacks in experience, she makes up in fierce loyalty to the Clintons. During the 1993 investigation into the death of White House aide Vince Foster, a Secret Service agent swore under oath that he believed she had obstructed the investigation when he saw her carrying files from Foster's office into the family quarters of the White House on the night of his death. Ms. Williams denied the charge.

Three years later, Ms. Williams accepted a $50,000 political donation in her White House office from Johnny Chung, a fundraiser who was later found to have ties to Chinese intelligence agencies. Mr. Chung later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, one of 23 people to do so after the 1996 Clinton fund-raising scandals.

Ms. Williams will certainly play a major role in the Clinton campaign, no doubt because she isn't afraid to "crack heads" as one Democratic strategist told the New York Daily News. She also served for a time as head of former President Clinton's personal and foundation staff. So the real news behind her appointment is that Bill Clinton is now likely to take a more active day-to-day role in campaign strategy. Just as Hillary Clinton came to his rescue during the impeachment fight of 1998, it may now be his turn to see if he can rescue his wife's struggling campaign.

-- John Fund
The Presumptive Stalking Horse

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have wasted no time trying to convince Democratic voters that each of them is best-equipped to defeat John McCain.

Mr. Obama emphasized the freshness of his message at campaign stops, noting that John McCain has "embraced the failed policies of George Bush's Washington" and defended the war in Iraq.

Mrs. Clinton countered by telling an audience in Maine over the weekend: "I can go toe-to-toe with John McCain every single day," emphasizing that she is battle-tested after nearly two decades of Republican criticism.

"Sen. Obama has never had, I don't think, a single negative ad ever run against him," Mrs. Clinton told CBS News. "He's never had to face this. I am much better prepared and ready to . . . withstand whatever comes my way." Many political observers took her comments to mean Mr. Obama should quickly prepare himself for some negative ads -- from the Clinton campaign.

But for now the two Democrats are focusing on undermining Mr. McCain. Both made veiled references to Mr. McCain's age, which is 71. Mr. Obama saluted the former POW's "half century of service" to the country. For her part, Mrs. Clinton referred to the Arizona senator's "legendary, long background" as a war hero. That's called praising someone while at the same time skillfully inserting a needle into them.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"Congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.... The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House.... [W]e might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame" -- columnist Matt Tiabbi, writing in the February edition of Rolling Stone magazine.

Quote of the Day II

"In a time when online news supposedly has all the momentum, the vintage mass medium is enjoying a little renaissance. Last week's Democratic debate on CNN was the most watched primary debate in the history of cable news, drawing more than 8 million viewers. All of the major cable-news channels recorded large ratings increases in January versus both the previous month and a year ago. The broadcast networks have experienced the same phenomenon and have responded with their own expanded campaign coverage. ABC, for instance, scrapped its original plans for one hour of Super Tuesday coverage, expanding to a multihour broadcast (the writer's strike also helped -- the networks are desperate for good content)" -- National Journal columnist William Powers.

Judge Not

Senator John McCain's biggest challenge remains proving himself to conservatives on core issues like judges. That's why at last week's CPAC speech, he was at pains to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, whom he said would appoint federal judges "intent on achieving political changes that the American people cannot be convinced to accept through the election of their representatives."

He echoed those sentiments in a recent manifesto for a Federalist Society symposium -- and none too soon. Conservative critics, led by Rush Limbaugh, have turned their attention on former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman, who endorsed Mr. McCain and served as co-chair of his 2000 campaign. Senator Rudman was a chief sponsor in 1990 of David Souter, now part of the Supreme Court's reliable left flank and a "disaster" for conservatives, according to Mr. Limbaugh. "Rudman... the guy who misled us all on David Souter happens to be a top honcho on McCain's campaign," the radio host told listeners last Tuesday.

As it happens, Mr. Rudman is not a "top honcho" in the campaign this year, but as recently as the Florida debate, Mr. McCain did name him as an important adviser in the "the circle that I have developed over many years." Not helping matters is a remark Mr. McCain reportedly made questioning Bush Justice Sam Alito because he "wore his conservatism on his sleeve." Mr. McCain now says he doesn't recall making the statement.

Voters like to know what they are voting for, and Mr. McCain has gradually come around to making clear, specific promises to appoint "proven" conservative judges. His biggest credibility challenge, however, may be his authorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Whatever Candidate McCain says now, the only way a President McCain would likely be able to preserve his handwork is by appointing more liberal Justices to the Supreme Court.

-- Collin Levy

Political Diary: WSJ
26688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson; Reagan on: February 11, 2008, 11:23:49 AM
"Experience having long taught me the reasonableness of mutual
sacrifices of opinion among those who are to act together for
any common object, and the expediency of doing what good we can;
when we cannot do all we would wish."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Randolph, 1 December 1803)
“[A] wise and frugal government... shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” —Thomas Jefferson


“We must remove government’s smothering hand from where it does harm; we must seek to revitalize the proper functions of government. We do these things to set loose again the energy and the ingenuity of the American people. We do these things to reinvigorate those social and economic institutions which serve as a buffer and a bridge between the individual and the state—and which remain the real source of our progress as a people.” —Ronald Reagan
26689  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Hello from SA on: February 10, 2008, 10:24:18 PM
Woof Kevin:

Welcome aboard.

I have heard some very interesting things about stickfighting methods in South Africa, and also about knife.  Please feel free to share about these.

I have also heard that the street crime situation in SA can be very bad.  Again, please feel free to contribute in this regard as well.

Crafty Dog
26690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: February 10, 2008, 10:19:10 AM


South Baghdad has truly quieted down.  There is still some violence reminding us this is not over, but I walked down the street of one neighborhood the other day wearing no body armor or helmet.

I mentioned back in December that I expected US casualties likely would rise in January and February, and unfortunately this is occurring.  The same is likely to happen in March.  This masks the reality that much progress is being made and Iraq as a whole appears to be settling down, because it is easy to cherry pick facts that make it appear worse than it is.  I believe that JAM is cooperating more than is being reported in the news.

The increased US causalities are to be expected due to the rapidly diminishing habitat for al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda continues to get hammered south of Baghdad, out in Diyala, up in Salah ad Dinh, Nineveh, and other places, but of course some of them always squirt and escape.

Many al Qaeda have "escaped" to  (or are being trapped in? ) Mosul.  There are reports that al Qaeda has learned from their mistakes and are treating the people in Mosul better than they have treated people elsewhere; this could make it tougher to root them out of Mosul.  But these reports are ambiguous: AQI typically treats people mostly well when they first move in, but the pattern is clear: eventually they go Helter Skelter and start cutting off kids' heads and so forth.

 I expect fierce fighting to unfold in Mosul, and I should be there in a few days.

 On Monday, I'll talk on the Dennis Miller show, and Tuesday on NPR. Please click here for more information, and to see three "Photos of the Year" (almost), that I shot in Iraq.

Michael Yon
26691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 09, 2008, 06:21:35 PM
Like Will Rogers said some 80 years ago "I am not a member of an organized political party.  I am a Democrat."
26692  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Father sodomizes stepson in revenge for rape of daughter on: February 09, 2008, 06:14:08 PM

Dallas rape suspect beaten, shot in melee
04:26 PM CST on Saturday, February 9, 2008, By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News

[ Shows a pic of an apartment door, with the caption: "People at the apartment complex are refusing to talk about the incident." ]

A mob turned the tables on a man accused of raping a mother at knifepoint in her Red Bird-area apartment with her children present, authorities said.

The 26-year-old man, who had not been identified, was undergoing surgery Friday afternoon after being beaten with a baseball bat and shot at least twice, apparently once in the head.

"I would have to say this is unusual," Lt. Sally Lannom, commander of the assaults unit for the Dallas police, said of the melee. "It is outside the norm."

The mother, who didn't know her attacker, was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Her condition was unknown.

At the apartment complex, only one woman was willing to talk about what happened.

"He got what he deserved," Sharon Ivy said. "You don't go into [a] house ... do things to [a] momma and think it's all right. That was just a community watch."

According to police, the man forced his way into the 22-year-old woman's unlocked apartment in the 1400 block of West Wheatland Road around noon. Five children, some of whom belonged to the woman, were in the apartment at the time, police said.

"The suspect forced her into the bedroom and started tearing her clothes off," Lt. Lannom said. He then sexually assaulted her, police said.

Some of the children fled the apartment as the assault was going on, police said. When the man laid down the knife and began getting dressed, the woman ran out of her apartment to tell her boyfriend, who was in the parking lot with several friends, police said.

"She told him what was going on," Lt. Lannom said. He and his friends confronted the suspect in the apartment and a fight ensued, she said.

Police said the fight spilled out into the parking lot, with an unknown number of people taking part in the melee.  The suspect eventually broke free and ran into another apartment, where he was shot. He did not live in that apartment, but it may belong to a relative, police said.

The melee that followed the assault was under investigation, and it was unclear Friday whether charges would be filed.

26693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stryker; Mil-supplier scum on: February 09, 2008, 08:29:29 AM
New Stryker Faring Poorly in Field  |  By Christian Lowe  |  January 30, 2008
BAQUBAH, Iraq - The newest version of the Army’s popular Stryker combat vehicle is garnering poor reviews here from Soldiers assigned to man its tank-like hull.

The General Dynamics Corp.-built Mobile Gun System looks like a typical eight-wheeled Stryker, except for a massive 105mm gun mounted on its roof. The gun fires three different types of projectiles, including explosive rounds, tank-busters and a "canister round" that ejects hundreds of steel pellets similar to a shotgun shell.

But while the system looks good on paper and the Army’s all for it, Soldiers with the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment -- one of the first units to receive the new vehicle for their deployment to Iraq -- don’t have a lot of good things to say about it.

More news from our man in Iraq .

"I wish [the enemy] would just blow mine up so I could be done with it," said Spec. Kyle Handrahan, 22, of Anaheim, Calif., a tanker assigned to Alpha Company, 4/9’s MGS platoon.

"It’s a piece," another MGS platoon member chimed in. "Nothing works on it."

The gripes stem from a litany of problems, including a computer system that constantly locks up, extremely high heat in the crew compartment and a shortage of spare parts. In one case, a key part was held up in customs on its way to Iraq, a problem one Soldier recognizes is a result of a new system being pushed into service before it’s ready.

"The concept is good, but they still have a lot of issues to work out on it," said Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Teimeier, Alpha, 4/9’s MGS platoon sergeant and a tanker by trade.

According to a Jan. 28 report by Bloomberg News, the 2008 Pentagon Authorization bill included language limiting funds for the MGS pending an Army report on fixes to the vehicle’s growing list of problems. The Pentagon’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in his annual report the vehicle was "not operationally effective," Bloomberg reported.

Soldiers here say the searing heat in the vehicles -- especially during Iraq’s blazing summer -- forces them to wear a complicated cooling suit that circulates cold water through tubing under their armor. Ironically, Soldiers often complain the suit makes them cold, Teimeier said, adding to their vehicular woes.

Despite the poor review from DoD auditors, the Army is standing by its vehicle, Bloomberg reported.

"The Army has determined that the MGS is suitable and operationally effective," Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin Downie, told the financial news service.

Where there is no debate is in the lethality of the vehicle’s firepower.

But Soldiers in the middle of a tough counterinsurgency fight here in Diyala province say commanders are reluctant to use the vehicle’s lethal gun on enemy strongholds out of concern of killing or wounding civilians. As a result, many of the dozens of MGS vehicles go unused while precision air strikes have become increasingly prevalent -- along with the usual Soldier-driven raids.

That’s got MGS drivers here frustrated. Not only do they have to deal with a complex system that gives them fits, but when it is working, they’re not allowed to employ the vehicle in combat.

"You can kick down doors and risk losing our guys," Handrahan said. "Or I can just knock down the building from a [kilometer] away and call it a day."

DoD Cover-Up Alleged Over Helmet Fine
New York Post  |  February 04, 2008
Two whistleblowers claim that a $1.9 million fine leveled against their former bosses - who allegedly underweighted the bulletproof material in combat helmets to save money - is too measly and part of a Pentagon cover-up.

Jeff Kenner and Tamara Elshaug, who worked at the Sioux Manufacturing Corp. in North Dakota, had charged that their company was involved in the "underweaving" of the bulletproof fabric in more than 2 million "P.A.S.G.T." helmets handed out to National Guardsmen, Army Soldiers and Navy Sailors across the country.

With the help of Long Island lawyer Andrew Campanelli, the pair sued on behalf of the government, and each received $200,000.  The company - which has denied the allegations and said no U.S. Soldier was ever injured or killed as a result of the alleged underweaving - also was fined $1.9 million.

"The Department of Justice really did a good job, but I feel the Department of Defense is trying to cover up things," Kenner said, charging that the $1.9 million fine was less than the company had saved on shorting the Kevlar bulletproofing material in the helmets.

"Any time there's less Kevlar, there's less protection. The American people should know about this. It's just greedy people - it's all about money to them [the company]," Kenner said.

Despite the problems with shorting the lifesaving material, the Pentagon awarded a new $16 million to $72 million Kevlar helmet contract to the same firm, before the lawsuit was settled, said an incredulous Campanelli. Campanelli said that, before the settlement last month, someone fired three bullets into Elshaug's mobile home. One bullet pierced her stall shower but no one was injured. No arrest was made.

"It has the earmarks of a cover-up," the lawyer said of the shooting.

U.S. Attorney David Peterson said, "The matter was looked into, and a settlement was ultimately reached."

He declined to comment further.

26694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: February 09, 2008, 07:46:22 AM

"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their
attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim
them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the
public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, Judges,
and Governors, shall all become wolves."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787)

Reference: The Learning of Liberty, Prangle, 111.
26695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 09, 2008, 07:30:31 AM
NY Times: Caveat Lector
MADRASA kojast?” Where is the religious school?
Leaving my hotel on the tree-shaded boulevard of Chahar Bagh Abbasi in Esfahan, Iran, I had ducked down a small lane just south of Takhti Junction, made a couple of turns, and gotten lost. I was trying to follow a seven-mile walking route recorded in my Lonely Planet guidebook — and nowhere else, it seemed, not on signs or on any local map — and wandered into a maze of alleys flanked by tawny walls.

A man repairing a motorcycle in a small garage smiled and gave me directions. “Madrasa,” he said, pointing to the right.

If you’re going to get lost, Esfahan (also spelled Isfahan), a city of 1.3 million about 200 miles south of Tehran in central Iran, is an extraordinary place to do it. There’s a centuries-old saying that Esfahan is “half the world,” meaning it contains fully half of the earth’s wonders.

Jean Chardin, a 17th-century French traveler, wrote that Esfahan “was expressly made for the delights of love”; in the 1930s, the British travel writer Robert Byron rated it “among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity.”

I had arrived in Iran two weeks earlier, last May, considerably less venturesome and more anxious. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I sputtered in phrase book Farsi to the first person I met — a bearded soldier.

I knew only the news-report version of Iran: renegade developer of nuclear technology, member of the Axis of Evil, and mortal enemy of the Great Satan, the United States. I was hoping to learn what the country was actually like; I wanted to know how it would feel to be an American in Iran.

“Where are you from?” a German tourist asked on my first day in Tehran.

When I said, “The United States,” her eyes bulged. “Ssssh, I won’t tell,” she said.

Tehran didn’t dispel negative stereotypes, at least not at first. Braving streets jammed with pollution-spewing motorcycles and Paykan sedans, I walked under the watchful eye of my Iranian guide, who said that it would be dangerous for me to leave his sight. We passed a billboard showing the glaring visage of the Ayatollah Khomeini and reached the former United States Embassy. Site of C.I.A. plotting — including for the 1953 coup that installed the Shah — and of the 1979-81 hostage crisis, the compound is now a museum and historical site known as the Den of U.S. Espionage.

I walked past a painted slogan in rough English — “United States of America Ghods Occupier Regime Is the Most Hated State Before Our Nation”— and another that read “Down With USA.” A young man stood smiling in front of it. I snapped a photo; discreetly, or so I thought, but he ran down the sidewalk after me.

“I don’t hate America,” he said plaintively. “I love America.”

Nearly three decades after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is undergoing a quieter transformation, this one in tourism. Last July, a government official announced a worldwide campaign to boost tourism, with new tourist offices to be opened in 20 countries.

This closely followed the news that Iran would offer cash bonuses to travel agents who can attract certain categories of tourists, especially those from Europe and America. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, probably hoping to convey peaceful intentions, has even announced that foreign tourists will soon be able to visit the country’s controversial nuclear sites.

This charm offensive hasn’t translated yet to an easy process for Americans hoping to visit. Independent travel is all but impossible — you need a host, typically a commercial outfitter — and the wait for a visa often lasts several months. I traveled with the photographer Greg Von Doersten, and despite the fact that he made arrangements well in advance with a company called Iranian Mountain Guides, he was forced to travel to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, which handles Iranian interests in America, on the morning of our flight to pick up our visas. He barely made it back to New York in time for our evening departure.

Iran has sprawling pre-Islamic ruins, mosques glittering with kaleidoscopic mosaics of tile, and cities that present both a stern theocratic face and a glitzier Western one set to a ring-tone soundtrack. Its deserts are vaster than those of the American Southwest, its mountains higher than the Rockies.

Our itinerary would take us from Tehran to the highest summit in the Middle East, 18,606-foot Mount Damavand, to Persepolis, the 2,500-year-old masterpiece of the Achaemenids, the first Persian Empire. The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the long walk I took in Esfahan.

After following the motorcycle mechanic’s directions, I stood before a set of hulking wooden doors with peeling paint and dangling chains. This was the entrance to the Madrasa-ye Nimurvand, a small school known for being friendly to foreign visitors.

Robed students with books under their arms crossed the leafy interior courtyard; there was a low murmuring of voices and pleasant chirping of birds. A mullah, his beard flecked with gray and his head wrapped in a white turban, walked by, and we wound up in an hourlong discussion through a translator.

The mullah, Abdullah Dehshan, didn’t shy away from asking meaty questions: Do you think Islam is violent? If you could have one wish for the world what would it be? Do you believe in God? Maybe, I said, but people often get in the way.


Page 2 of 3)

Do we need priests, rabbis, mullahs? I asked him. Mullah Dehshan smiled at this theological softball. If you want to go to Shiraz, he said, you would need a car, a road and a map. It is difficult to reach a far-off destination without help. “And so it is with God,” he said.

Skip to next paragraph
Leaving the madrasa, I followed an alley to the northeastern edge of the Grand Bazaar Bazaar, one of the country’s largest. Built primarily in the 16th century, with some parts dating back to A.D. 700, the covered passages extended for miles and presented a maze even more convoluted than the alleyways that had preceded it.
The ceiling was high and vaulted. Star-shaped portals admitted spears of sunlight that cut through dusty air. Vendors and their wares were crammed into tiny stalls, selling spices, jeans, toiletries, soft-serve ice cream and cheap plastic toys. The atmosphere was souk meets 99-cent store.

Many booths, however, sold the very sort of handmade crafts that one would hope to find: ornate Persian carpets, many woven by nomadic peoples like the Turkmen and Lors; finely painted miniatures depicting hunting trips and polo matches; lacquered vases and bowls; and copper, silver and gold platters.

The passage ahead grew brighter. I passed through the Qeysarieh Portal, a faded but still colorful fresco overhead showing Shah Abbas I battling the Uzbeks. Esfahan owes much of its greatness to Abbas, who, after driving the Ottoman Turks out of Persia in the 16th century, began an architectural campaign to glorify his new capital city. Abbas’s verdant gardens, glittering palaces, grand ceremonial square, arched bridges and resplendent mosques still stand and are easily connected on a walking tour — one from a guidebook or, even better, one of your own invention.

I emerged from the portal onto a grand plaza under brilliant sunshine. Measuring 1,680 feet long by 535 feet wide — over 20 acres —Iman Square is one of the largest plazas in the world, and holds what is possibly the most stunning assemblage of Islamic architecture. A procession of arched bays enclosed a grassy esplanade and long reflecting pool.

At the far south end, twin minarets guarded the towering alcove entryway to Imam Mosque, which was capped by onion-shaped domes. To the right was Ali Qapu Palace. Six stories high, it had thin wooden columns supporting a roof over the elevated terrace, the royal vantage point for watching the polo matches that were played below hundreds of years ago. To the left was the broad, colorful cupola of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque, dedicated to Abbas’s father-in-law.

Trotting horses towed carriages. Families picnicked on the grass. If a traveler had any lingering doubts about the hospitality of Iranians toward Americans, this was the place to dispel them. Making a new friend required no more effort than standing still for 30 seconds.

I was approached first by a trio of giggling girls in black chadors. Next came an older man who invited me to have tea with three of his friends. Everyone wanted to know why I had come to Iran, and wondered what people back home thought of this undertaking. They had a pretty good idea about the answer.

“People think that we are all religious extremists with nuclear weapons and beards down to our stomachs,” said a carpet vendor named Vahid Mousavifard. “But Iran is actually very safe for tourists.”

Many people wanted to talk politics, though this, I knew, was to be done with caution. Members of the secret police are known to circulate in crowds, I was told by a guide; visitors have been detained for saying the wrong thing.

The people I met, as one might expect, weren’t big fans of President Bush. “You have troops in Afghanistan and troops in Iraq,” one young man said. “How long before you invade Iran?”

But I also heard comments that could have been scripted by Karl Rove.

“In Iran we have no wine, no music, no dancing, no disco, no loving,” said a ranting middle-age neuroscientist. “We want your government. We want your freedom.”

The Imam Mosque is the larger of the two at Imam Square; Sheik Lotfollah is the more beautiful. Its tiled dome was covered by twirling black-and-white vines and turquoise flowers, a design with the precision more of fine china than of monumental architecture. A high, honeycombed arch known as an aivan, decorated with Koranic inscriptions and complex arabesques, capped the entryway.

Inside, a cool, dim passage led to a prayer sanctuary beneath the dome. Light filtered in through screened windows, revealing glass and tile mosaics even more colorful and elaborate than those outside.

Iranians are proud of these 17th-century monuments, as they are of much of Persia’s history over the millennia. In the course of my travels, people complained more frequently and vigorously about the American movie “300,” which was perceived to portray ancient Persia in an unflattering light, than about any contemporary political issue.


In Shiraz, 225 miles south of Esfahan, I had met a young Iranian tour guide, Maziar Rahimi, who had just spent the day at Persepolis. “When I went there I saw how big we were back then and how small we are now,” he said.

He believed that there was great dissatisfaction with the current state of the country and that it was time to live up to the glories of the past.
“You see it everywhere,” he said. “The young women are wearing their scarves far back and more makeup. Change is coming.”

LATE one afternoon in Esfafahan, I strolled from Imam Square down to the Zayandeh River, which snakes through the heart of the city. Yet more of the legacy of Shah Abbas and his successors is on view there, a series of stunning old bridges spanning the broad, calm waterway. Following a path along the bank, I saw people spread out on blankets for picnic dinners, groups of laughing girls, even some couples boldly holding hands.

I reached the Si-o-Seh Bridge, the Bridge of 33 Arches. The sun was setting, and lights came on to fill each of the alcoves with a golden glow. Silhouetted figures gazed out from the portals.

Farther east, near the base of the Chubi Bridge, stood a small teahouse. The inside was packed with men sitting shoulder to shoulder smoking qalyans, or water pipes. Spotting the visitor, they squeezed even tighter to make room. A waiter brought tea, sugar and a qalyan. The smoke was sweet and rich; there was so much in the air that the people across the room were hazy.

The man on my right asked where I was from. “America,” I said.

The room got quieter. Everyone seemed to be looking my way. Then the man clapped my shoulder and smiled.

“Our governments are bad,” he said. “But the people are good.”
26696  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Deadly Force Study on: February 09, 2008, 06:57:51 AM
Force Science News #91
Part 1 of a 2-part series
The story is a frequent staple of the evening news. An officer shoots and kills a minority subject who turns out to be...unarmed. Protests explode, and the familiar litany is again asserted: racial bias by the cops underlies many of these inflammatory events.

Now a new study by a member of the Force Science Research Center's national advisory board confirms what law enforcement officials have argued all along: Such controversial shootings aren't about race. What really prompts an officer to pull the trigger in circumstances that are rapidly evolving and uncertain is the suspect's behavior.

"That's the bottom-line finding," researcher Tom Aveni told Force Science News. "If you confront a police officer in what appears to be a felonious context, it's the way you act that will get you shot-not your race. And that's true regardless of the officer's sex, age, experience, or type of duty location."

In fact, Aveni was able to pinpoint specific body-language that tends to be associated with the decision to shoot.

Moreover, among less important factors that also influence decision-making, even a suspect's clothing and age are likely to be more compelling than his or her ethnicity in determining officers' reactions.

Aveni's conclusions come from his detailed analysis of the reactions of 307 officers who engaged armed and unarmed suspects in simulated confrontations designed to accurately reflect conditions under which officer-involved shootings often occur. Founder of the consulting and training organization The Police Policy Studies Council in addition to serving on FSRC's board, Aveni funded the project largely from his own pocket. He also received some financial aid and substantial logistical assistance from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, an insurer of law enforcement agencies.

The full report of his findings, titled "A Critical Analysis of Police Shootings Under Ambiguous Circumstances," can be found at:

"This is a very significant, first-of-its-kind investigation," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of FSRC at Minnesota State University-Mankato. "Tom Aveni has measured critical variables in shooting situations that other researchers have ignored completely. As a result, his findings are far more realistic and meaningful in identifying the factors that truly drive deadly force decision-making."

Aveni himself believes the study potentially will "radically alter the way police use of deadly force is examined in the future."

PROJECT ORIGIN. Something of a dual motivation propelled him into the study, which was "years in the making," Aveni says. For one thing, he was intrigued by an assertion made by the ACLU some years ago that 25% of all suspects shot by police are "unarmed and not-assaultive." And he was also curious about research concerning the "disproportionate" use of deadly force by officers against racial minorities.

"Race has been explored extensively as a factor" in police shootings, Aveni says, particularly in those where no suspect weapon is found after the smoke clears. "The implication has been that the police are racist" and that negative stereotyping causes them to overreact with excessive force in circumstances where, in fact, no lethal threat exists.

As Aveni reviewed existing research, he found that studies on the subject seemed invariably to explore the matter "without meaningful context." They merely reported gross numbers without "delving deeply into the generally overlooked critical micro-behavioral components that are the very essence of the police decision-making process."

Consequently, if minorities indeed are disproportionately targeted in "ambiguous" shootings where a deadly threat is not clearly confirmed before an officer fires, "one is left to wonder why."

With the cooperation of 6 law enforcement agencies in Michigan-3 municipal police departments and 3 sheriff's departments, representing urban, suburban, and rural jurisdictions-Aveni set about to "better understand the behavior of officers forced to make critical, split-second decisions that may result in the taking of a life."

TESTING FORMAT. A troupe of actors from a local theater, representing a diversity of races, sexes, ages, and attire, were videotaped depicting subjects at a furniture store location. They performed specifically prescribed reactions as if interrupted by an officer responding to a purported robbery-in-progress, a burglar alarm activation, or a possible mugging-in-progress.

Using a mix of players, clothing, and reactions, 80 different scenarios were taped. These were then projected in random order on a laser-based IES Interactive Training MILO system. Participating officers, also diverse as to race, gender, age, experience, agency affiliation, and assignment, then were randomly exposed, one at a time, to 3 different scenarios with 3 different outcomes: a suspect who intends to surrender empty-handed, a suspect who intends to surrender with a non-weapon object (cell phone, flashlight, police ID wallet) in hand, and a subject determined to shoot.

All scenarios were taped in low-light conditions, to "inject more ambiguity into the situations" and to reflect the fact that more than 70% of police shootings of unarmed subjects occur in settings with unfavorable illumination.

"Realistic uncertainties like officers regularly encounter on the street were built into all the scenarios," Aveni explains. Officers were told that the robbery-in-progress report, for example, had come via a 911 hang-up; no further details available, including no description of the offender and no information on whether a weapon is involved. When the participating officer "arrives" at the scene, viewing things from the camera's perspective, an unidentified subject bursts out of the front door and starts to run away.

When an officer responds to the burglar alarm, he or she spots a subject trying to crowbar a side door. The subject drops the bar, eliminating the only potential weapon-that's visible, at least.

In the possible mugging scenario, officers were told only that they are doing business checks in an industrial park at 0100 hours. Yelling that suggests a "verbal altercation" is heard. The camera leads the participating officer around a visual obstruction, where he or she then sees one individual pushing another against a wall; again, no explanation immediately available.

Officers stood about 15 feet away from the action. They were told to react to what they saw on the screen as they would on the street. Most immediately issued loud verbal commands: "Police! Don't move!" or "Show me your hands!" or both. In each scenario, the subject "responded" by standing with back to the officer, hands out of sight at waist level. "This added to the 'threat ambiguity' of each situation," Aveni says.

Each subject had been coached to look back over his or her shoulder at least once during the encounter, as if taking a "target glance" at the participating officer. Then, unexpectedly, the subject abruptly turned to the left, toward the officer. Hands were kept at waist level at least through the first half-turn, and then they moved up somewhat as the turn was completed.

Subjects who were armed (1/3 of the scenarios) fired a .38 Special S&W M640 revolver, loaded with full-flash Hollywood blanks. The participating LEOs were warned that if someone on screen shot at them first, a modified paintball apparatus beside the simulator screen would also begin firing foam-rubber balls at them. "This factor was injected into the study in the hope that it might diminish participant apathy or complacency," Aveni explains.

The scenarios lasted, at maximum, about 30 seconds apiece. All the "confrontations" were videotaped to allow minute analysis later.

RESULTS. Aveni found that of the 307 LEOs participating, 38%-nearly 4 in every 10-shot unarmed subjects depicted in the scenarios (in all, 117 such subjects got shot). Some officers shot more than one suspect who turned out not to have a weapon. Carefully tabulating and analyzing details of the officers' actions to illuminate the percentage, he reached several important conclusions:

What didn't matter. "No significant correlation existed between the officers' actions and the suspects' race," Aveni says. "Likewise, there was no significant correlation between what the officers did and their own gender, age, experience, or type of jurisdiction in which they worked-urban, suburban, or rural.

"Statistically, there was a significant correlation in black officers shooting unarmed subjects. But with only 9 African-American LEOs participating in the study, that number may be too small to warrant firm conclusions."

What did matter. The strongest correlation was found between the subjects' actions and the officers' decision to shoot. Also significant, though of somewhat lesser influence, was the type of crime believed to be involved in the scenario and 2 attributes of the subject-age and attire.

Aveni explains: "Officers were more likely to shoot in the robbery scenario than in the possible mugging and more likely to shoot in the mugging scenario than in the apparent burglary-in-progress."

The nature of the crime involved, he says, clearly affected the officers' "vigilance and situational readiness." Responding to the reported robbery, they were more likely to have their sidearm drawn quickly and pointed at the suspect when verbal commands were issued, compared to the spontaneously discovered possible mugging and the alarm activation call (a frequent false run in police work) where their readiness was "measurably worse."

Also, officers were "more likely to shoot when the subject was young and also when the subject was wearing scruffy 'punk' clothing rather than 'business' attire."

Predictably, officers overwhelmingly shot at suspects when suspects shot at them. But many also fired "preemptively," before a weapon could actually be discerned, resulting in rounds being delivered to unarmed subjects. "The major influence here was how the subject behaved," Aveni says. Particularly involved was what he calls "the acting quotient."

Acting quotient. All suspects in the scenarios followed the same choreographed pattern of movement: With their back to the participating officer, they initially kept their hands at waist level, glanced over their shoulder, then turned without warning to face the officer, concealing their hands until well into the turn.

Aveni had not anticipated that the actors would perform with different levels of energy and conviction. Yet some performed more "convincingly" than others, and that proved to be a key component of the research.

"The subjects most likely to get shot," Aveni says, "displayed a high-level 'acting quotient.' They performed with unchoreographed nuances. That is, they made their moves with vigorous intensity and speed, versus tepidly. They kept their hands low, rather than high. They tended to crouch partially or fully as they turned instead of remaining upright, and they fully or partially clenched their hands, rather than keeping them open."

Such energetic movement in a setting where a serious crime appears to be involved "is much less likely to be viewed as innocuous," Aveni says. "A suspect's intensity had much to do with whether an officer felt compelled to pull the trigger before the circumstances became manifest. It became one of the most reliable predictors of whether a person got shot."

Time pressure. For their own safety, officers had little time to react. Even with "tepid" movements, the suspects' hands came around "almost always too fast to determine" the true nature of any object being held or whether the hands were, in fact, empty, Aveni says.

As the hands typically swung through an arc of 4-5 feet, the officers' eye movement inevitably lagged behind, so that the action was perceived "as a blur or a smear of motion. Judgment about what, if anything, the suspects held could not be made with certainty until the hand movement stopped. When a suspect had a gun, that was too late."

With an officer behind the reactionary curve, Aveni says, "the lag time can allow the suspect to fire one or more shots before the officer can shoot back." Indeed, in the study armed suspects were able to shoot first 61% of the time.

From a critical juncture in a scenario, an officer typically had "1/3 of a second or less" to decide whether to use deadly force or risk being shot, Aveni claims.

"Those officers who managed to shoot armed suspects before the suspect was able to fire seemed to have elected to use deadly force before it could be clearly determined that the suspect did, in fact, have a handgun. The officers decided to fire either before the suspect started to turn or at the earliest possible moment turning was perceived.

"This tends to explain why a significant percentage of unarmed subjects, who intended to surrender with or without innocuous objects in hand, also were shot."

All unarmed role players in the scenarios were told to culminate their movements in the "surrender" position: hands held at sternum height or above, palms facing forward, fingers pointed "mostly upward."

Aveni reports that "92% of the unarmed subjects who were shot during the study were in the 'surrender position' " at the time the officers' shots reached them.

Lewinski offers some pertinent observations. First, he says, "time pressure is notorious for significantly increasing errors in judgment. That's true not just in officer-involved shootings but also in activities that are not life-threatening, such as fingerprint analysis. As time tightens, the incidence of false-positive and false-negative decisions expands."

Time plays into these situations in another critical way, too, Lewinski explains. "A passage of time necessarily occurs between the instant an officer makes a decision to shoot and the instant his rounds impact. Force Science research has clearly established that if a suspect is moving, his position will be different when a bullet strikes than it was when the decision was made to shoot.

"This can account for subjects being shot in the surrender posture. They weren't necessarily in those 'no-shoot' postures when the officer's shooting decision was made."

Aveni's study further revealed "a common tendency" for officers to continue shooting once they started. Aveni offers 2 explanations: 1) "it takes time to 'apply the brakes' of a neuromuscular response" like firing a gun. Studies by FSRC have shown that officers, on average, fire 2 or more shots after they've received a visual cue that shooting should end; 2) the scenarios Aveni used did not have a branching capability, so the suspects did not fall when "hit." Thus, "any officer trained to 'fire until your foe falls' would likely continue shooting."

Lewinski elaborates. "In the midst of shooting to save their lives, officers often can't see where their bullets are striking. They rely on highly detectable visual cues that the subject has ceased being a threat, such as the suspect dramatically thrusting his or her arms overhead or collapsing.

"Even then, officers often will continue to shoot because of the perception-reaction lag time, resulting in bullets hitting the body as the suspect falls."

Agency differences. Marked differences in performance were evident among the 6 departments that participated in Aveni's study. At the "highest-frequency" end of the scale, nearly half the officers from one agency shot unarmed suspects. The lowest frequency was compiled by an agency whose participating officers shot unarmed suspects 24% of the time. The rest ranged from 39% to 44%.

"The question will undoubtedly arise: 'What noted differences were there between the agency with the lowest frequency of mistake-of-fact shootings and the agency with the highest frequency?' " Aveni observes, noting that both these agencies patrol urban jurisdictions.

"The answer, simply put: 'It was a difference in training.' "

[In Part 2 of our report, we'll explore what that difference is, as well as other implications that Aveni's findings have for officer survival, training, investigations, policy-making, and courtroom defenses.]
26697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 09, 2008, 06:01:05 AM
Sharia law row: Archbishop is in shock as he faces demands to quit

The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing demands to quit last night as the row over sharia law intensified. Leading bishops publicly contradicted Dr Rowan Williams's call for Islamic law to be brought into the British legal system.  With the Church of England plunged into crisis, senior figures were said to be discussing the archbishop's future.

One member of the church's "Cabinet", the Archbishop's Council, was reported as saying: "There have been a lot of calls for him to resign. I don't suppose he will take any notice, but, yes, he should resign."

Officials at Lambeth Palace told the BBC Dr Williams was in a "state of shock" and "completely overwhelmed" by the scale of the row.  It was said that he could not believe the fury of the reaction. The most damaging attack came from the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali.  He said it would be "simply impossible" to bring sharia law into British law "without fundamentally affecting its integrity".  Sharia "would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence. This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy."

The church's second most senior leader, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, refused to discuss the matter. But he has said sharia law "would never happen" in Britain.  Politicians joined the chorus of condemnation, with Downing Street saying British law should be based on British values. Tory and LibDem leaders also voiced strong criticism.

Even prominent Muslims were rounding on Dr Williams. Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, said: "I haven't experienced any clamour or fervent desire for sharia law in this country. "If there are people who prefer sharia law there are always countries where they could go and live." Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, rejected the idea that British law forces Muslims to choose between their religion and their society. He said: "This will alienate people from other communities because they will think it is what Muslims want - and it is not."

The Muslim Council of Britain came to Dr Williams's aid, however, describing his comments in a lecture to lawyers and a BBC interview as "thoughtful".

But Oxford University Islamic scholar Professor Tariq Ramadan admitted: "These kinds of statements just feed the fears of fellow citizens. I really think we, as Muslims, need to come up with something that we abide by the common law and within these latitudes there are possibilities for us to be faithful to Islamic principles."

The archbishop is likely to come under heavy fire next week at a meeting of the Church's General Synod.  Liberal and feminist critics have been appalled by the thought of sharia law while evangelical opponents believe Dr Williams has failed to defend Christianity.

The archbishop was already battling intractable difficulties within the church over gay rights, a row which began nearly five years ago and has brought him criticism from all sides. Later this year he has to face a conference of hundreds of bishops from around the world which threatens further bitter division.  Dr Williams's opponents on the conservative evangelical wing - who resent his liberal beliefs on issues such as gay rights - were suggesting last night that the archbishop is finished.

The Reverend Paul Dawson of the Reform group of around 500 clergy said: "We are very sad that he does not seem to be able to articulate a clear Christian vision for Britain. It is true to say that there is a lot of dissatisfaction."

Dr Williams defended himself in a Lambeth Palace statement saying he had been trying to "tease out" the issue.  The archbishop had said it could help build a better and more cohesive society if Muslims were able to choose to have marital disputes or financial matters, for example, dealt with in a sharia court. The adoption of some elements of sharia law "seems unavoidable".

But the statement insisted: "The archbishop made no proposals for sharia, and certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law." 

Even fellow bishops, however, think this is precisely what Dr Williams did say.

Bishop of Southwark Tom Butler, a liberal who would normally be expected to defend Dr Williams, said the archbishop had been entering a minefield and added: "It will take a great deal of thought and work before I think it is a good idea."

He was more blunt in a circular to clergy in his diocese, saying he had yet to be convinced of the feasibility of incorporating any non-Christian religious law into the English legal system.
26698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: February 08, 2008, 10:20:32 PM
Wafa Sultan lets rip:
26699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK Sharia on: February 08, 2008, 06:51:07 PM
Last updated at 16:32pm on 8th February 2008  Comments (16)
Sharia law "courts" are already dealing with crime on the streets of London, it emerged today.

The revelation came after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, called for an "accommodation" with parts of the Islamic legal code in a speech which attracted widespread condemnation.

The Archbishop said parts of civil law could be dealt with under the sharia system but already some communities have gone much further - and it was revealed today that a teenage stabbing case among the Somali community in Woolwich had been dealt with by a sharia "trial".
Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths were arrested by police on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager.

The victim's family told officers the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.
A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate the victim.

"All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing."

An Islamic Council in Leyton also revealed that it had dealt with more than 7,000 divorces while sharia courts in the capital have settled hundreds of financial disputes.

Today's revelations came as controversy raged over Dr Williams's call for parts of sharia law to be adopted in Britain.

His comments were condemned by Downing Street, the Tories and the chairman of the Government's Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
They were described as a "recipe for chaos" by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

Along with the Islamic Council in Leyton, there are reports of at least two other sharia courts sitting in London.
There are also courts in a number of other areas of the country with high Muslim populations, including Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Most are understood to concentrate on divorce cases - although such judgments are not recognised in British law - as well as financial disputes. Suhaib Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, which was set up in 1982, said that he and his colleagues dealt with more than 200 cases a year, ranging from inheritance to marriage and divorce.

"From the beginning, people have wanted our services. More and more come back to us. Each month we deal with 20 cases," he said.

On its website, the Islamic Sharia Council warns those who use its services that the divorces it grants cannot invalidate a union under British civil law and advises that a separate civil divorce should be obtained. As well as giving advice on legal matters, such as inheritance, the website also gives general guidance on Muslim practices including the need for beards and the need for women to cover themselves in public.

It also covers issues such as whether women should train as doctors. It supports this as a "lesser evil", but suggests that training should take place at an all-female college and that future treatment should be given to "women only".
26700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan on BO vs. the Hillbillary Clintons on: February 08, 2008, 06:39:54 PM
Can Mrs. Clinton Lose?
February 8, 2008

If Hillary Clinton loses, does she know how to lose? What will that be, if she loses? Will she just say, "I concede" and go on vacation at a friend's house on an island, and then go back to the Senate and wait?

Is it possible she could be so normal? Politicians lose battles, it's part of what they do, win and lose. But she does not know how to lose. Can she lose with grace? But she does grace the way George W. Bush does nuance.

She often talks about how tough she is. She has fought "the Republican attack machine" that has tried to "stop" her, "end" her, and she knows "how to fight them." She is preoccupied to an unusual degree with toughness. A man so preoccupied would seem weak. But a woman obsessed with how tough she is just may be lethal.

Does her sense of toughness mean that every battle in which she engages must be fought tooth and claw, door to door? Can she recognize the line between burly combat and destructive, never-say-die warfare? I wonder if she is thinking: What will it mean if I win ugly? What if I lose ugly? What will be the implications for my future, the party's future? What will black America, having seen what we did in South Carolina, think forever of me and the party if I do low things to stop this guy on the way to victory? Can I stop, see the lay of the land, imitate grace, withdraw, wait, come back with a roar down the road? Life is long. I am not old. Or is that a reverie she could never have? What does it mean if she could never have it?

We know she is smart. Is she wise? If it comes to it, down the road, can she give a nice speech, thank her supporters, wish Barack Obama well, and vow to campaign for him?

It either gets very ugly now, or we will see unanticipated--and I suspect professionally saving--grace.

I ruminate in this way because something is happening. Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she's funding her campaign with her own wealth, her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down, and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn't have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he's played a tough and knowing inside/outside game.

The day she admitted she'd written herself a check for $5 million, Obama's people crowed they'd just raised $3 million. But then his staff is happy. They're all getting paid.

Political professionals are leery of saying, publicly, that she is losing, because they said it before New Hampshire and turned out to be wrong. Some of them signaled their personal weariness with Clintonism at that time, and fear now, as they report, to look as if they are carrying an agenda. One part of the Clinton mystique maintains: Deep down journalists think she's a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he'd tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary.

And that is a grim and over-the-top analogy, which I must withdraw. What I really mean is they see her as the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction": "I won't be ignored, Dan!"

* * *

Mr. Obama's achievement on Super Tuesday was solid and reinforced trend lines. The popular vote was a draw, the delegate count a rough draw, but he won 13 states, and when you look at the map he captured the middle of the country from Illinois straight across to Idaho, with a second band, in the northern Midwest, of Minnesota and North Dakota. He won Missouri and Connecticut, in Mrs. Clinton's backyard. He won the Democrats of the red states.

On the wires Wednesday her staff was all but conceding she is not going to win the next primaries. Her superdelegates are coming under pressure that is about to become unrelenting. It was easy for party hacks to cleave to Mrs Clinton when she was inevitable. Now Mr. Obama's people are reportedly calling them saying, Your state voted for me and so did your congressional district. Are you going to jeopardize your career and buck the wishes of the people back home?

Mrs. Clinton is stoking the idea that Mr. Obama is too soft to withstand the dread Republican attack machine. (I nod in tribute to all Democrats who have succeeded in removing the phrase "Republican and Democratic attack machines" from the political lexicon. Both parties have them.) But Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. He will be hard to get at, hard to address. There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them. No one, no candidate, no party, no heavy-breathing consultant, will want to cross any line--lines that have never been drawn, that are sure to be shifting and not always visible--in approaching the first major-party African-American nominee for president of the United States.

* * *

He is the brilliant young black man as American dream. No consultant, no matter how opportunistic and hungry, will think it easy--or professionally desirable--to take him down in a low manner. If anything, they've learned from the Clintons in South Carolina what that gets you. (I add that yes, there are always freelance mental cases, who exist on both sides and are empowered by modern technology. They'll make their YouTubes. But the mad are ever with us, and this year their work will likely stay subterranean.)

With Mr. Obama the campaign will be about issues. "He'll raise your taxes." He will, and I suspect Americans may vote for him anyway. But the race won't go low.

Mrs. Clinton would be easier for Republicans. With her cavalcade of scandals, they'd be delighted to go at her. They'd get medals for it. Consultants would get rich on it.

The Democrats have it exactly wrong. Hillary is the easier candidate, Mr. Obama the tougher. Hillary brings negative; it's fair to hit her back with negative. Mr. Obama brings hope, and speaks of a better way. He's not Bambi, he's bulletproof.

The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented--"He's too young, he's never run anything, he's not fully baked"--the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.

The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.
Pages: 1 ... 532 533 [534] 535 536 ... 651
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!