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26751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shock and Awful on: March 25, 2008, 06:41:35 PM
New York Post
March 20, 2008

Shock And Awful

Iraq: Justifiable War, Plagued By DC Incompetence
By Ralph Peters

 ON the fifth anniversary of our campaign to remove Saddam Hussein's
monstrous regime from power, it's hard not to despair - not because of the
situation in Iraq, which has improved remarkably, but because so few
American politicians in either party appear to have drawn the right
lessons from our experience.

 For the record, I still believe that deposing Saddam was justified and
useful. He was a Hitler, and he was our enemy. But I'm still reeling from
the snotty incompetence with which the Bush administration acted. Above
all, I'm ashamed that I trusted President Bush and his circle to have a plan
for the day after Baghdad fell.

 All of our other failures in Iraq stemmed from this fundamental neglect
of a basic requirement: Our soldiers and Marines reached Baghdad without orders
or strategic guidance. We became the dog that caught the fire truck. The
tragedy is that it didn't have to be that way: One thing our military
knows how to do is plan.

 But the relevant staffs were prevented from doing so. Ideologues and
avaricious friends of the administration wanted the war for their own
reasons, and they didn't intend to alarm Congress with high cost
estimates. So they trusted the perfumed tales of a convicted criminal, Ahmad Chalabi,
rather than the professional views of the last honorable generals
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had not yet removed.

 Even on the purely military side, the White House put its faith in
hopeless gimmicks, such as "Shock and Awe," convincing itself that ground troops
were an afterthought. Of course, it was the old-fashioned grunts, tankers,
gunners and supply sergeants who had to get us to Baghdad.

 Iraq just didn't have to be this hard. We made it immeasurably more
difficult by trying to make war on the cheap, then turning the war's
aftermath into a looting orgy for well-connected contractors.

 The fundamental requirement to provide security for the population - a
troop-intensive endeavor - went ignored, while grandiose reconstruction
projects drained the pockets of American taxpayers, only to come to
nothing.  Our troops and their battlefield leaders did all they could under
Rumsfeld's yes-man generals, but every other branch of our government ducked. The
"interagency effort" was a joke.

 Back home, Congress indulged in cheap partisanship. The State Department
concentrated on building the world's largest and most-expensive embassy -
a project worthy of Saddam himself - and let the spectacularly incompetent
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer wreck what little hope of maintaining peace

 The administration's solution to worsening conditions was to send more
compliant generals, to continue listening to think-tank "experts" who had
never served in uniform, to keep cutting fat checks for contractors and to
let our troops bleed between photo ops.

 None of us should mistake the fundamental truth: The only reason our
efforts in Iraq have not failed completely has been the sustained valor and
commitment of those in uniform. Our military was the only government
entity that did its job. Its thanks have been betrayal by the political
opposition at home, a rash of movies portraying our troops as psychotics and
crocodile tears from protesters who secretly delight in US casualties.

 In 2007, after four bloody years of denial, a desperate administration
finally got serious about military requirements, sending the additional
troops (now weary) who should have been deployed in 2003. With the
wetched Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld headed out the door, the president
also permitted a serious soldier, Gen. David Petraeus, to take charge in Iraq.

 We got lucky, too. Our global enemies in al Qaeda alienated Iraq's Sunni
Arabs in record time, indulging in grotesque forms of oppression and
terror even Saddam and his sons had never dared to inflict. Those who recently
had sided with al Qaeda against us found that we were their only hope to be
rid of al Qaeda. The Sunni-Arab flip in Iraq has been a great strategic
victory that resounds throughout the Muslim world.

 The troop surge also had a powerful psychological effect, convincing
enemies, fence-sitters and local allies alike that we weren't quitting -
despite the results of the US midterm elections. And the Iraqi people were
just sick of the violence. By 2007, most had gotten the worst bile out of
their systems and wanted normal lives.

 Even the often chaotic, corruption-addled Iraqi legislature managed to
pass more major bills in 2007 than the US Congress sent to the president's

 The situation in Iraq is improving, as I've seen with my own eyes. Despite
our cavalcade of errors, there's hope (no audacity required) for a
reasonable outcome: an Iraq that treats its citizens decently and that
neither harbors terrorists nor menaces its neighbors.

 We'll need to sustain a longer commitment than would have been the case
had the administration's know-it-alls not regarded our best generals as fools
back in 2003. The administration's disgraceful treatment of then-Army
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was paradigmatic of its arrogance.

 Meanwhile, those who held power over our military and misused it so
disgracefully will never suffer as our military casualties and their
families will for the rest of their lives. At most, those privileged men
will experience disappointing sales of their self-serving memoirs. Cowards
sent heroes to die.

 I cannot help repeating the heartbreaking truth that it didn't have to be
this hard, this bloody, or this expensive. This is what happens when war
is made by amateurs. Has anyone in Washington learned that lesson?

 It's a lesson that the left, as well as the right, needs to take to heart.
While the Bush administration deserves every lash it gets, domestic
opponents of the war have been hypocritical, dishonest and destructive. As
this column long has maintained, had President Bill Clinton sent our
troops to depose Saddam Hussein, Democrats would have celebrated him as the
greatest liberator since Abraham Lincoln.

 The problem for the left wasn't really what was done, but who did it. And
hatred of Bush actually empowered him - the administration had no
incentive to reach out to those who wouldn't reach back, so it just did as it
pleased.  Today's "antiwar" left also contains plenty of politicians who backed
interventions in the Balkans and Somalia, who would be glad to send
American troops to Darfur today and who voted for war in Iraq.

 Both parties are quick to employ our military. It's the only
foreign-policy tool we have that works. Neither party is a peace party - each just wants
to pick its own wars. The hypocrisy in Washington is as astonishing as the
dishonesty about security needs.

 Through it all, amazingly, our young men and women in uniform continue to
serve honorably and skillfully, holding together not just Iraq but a
fractured world. We whine and bicker. They re-enlist and go back to Iraq
and Afghanistan. Where they're targets of scorn for our elitist media.

 Given all our mistakes and partisan agendas, it's amazing Iraq is going as
well as it is today. The improved conditions in Baghdad and most of the
provinces verge on the miraculous, given the situation a year ago. But
we've paid a needlessly high price.

 As for President Bush, let's face it: He's been our most-inept wartime
leader since James Madison fled the White House, leaving his wife behind
to save what she could before the British troops arrived with torches.

 That said, Bush has displayed one single worthy characteristic (one he
shares, oddly enough, with Madison): He won't surrender.

 As horribly as Bush performed for our first four years in Iraq, it's still
possible to do worse. Both of the Democratic Party's presidential
aspirants believe that the answer is to flee, handing the terrorists we've defeated
a strategic victory, inviting a genocidal civil war, further destabilizing
the Middle East, and sending the message to the world that Americans lack the
courage and staying power of our enemies.

 Declaring failure isn't the correct response to failure narrowly avoided.
Both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would kill a struggling
convalescent. Bush's shambles would become the next administration's
catastrophe. As president, Obama or Clinton would finish with far more
blood on his or her hands than President Bush has on his.

 Was deposing Saddam Hussein a good idea? Yes. I still believe that. It was
an act of vision and virtue. It's only a shame we didn't do it competently.
26752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lots of Jefferson on: March 25, 2008, 05:22:16 PM
A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
Thomas Jefferson

A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
Thomas Jefferson

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
Thomas Jefferson

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson

Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
Thomas Jefferson

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
Thomas Jefferson

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
Thomas Jefferson

Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.
Thomas Jefferson

An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.
Thomas Jefferson

An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.
Thomas Jefferson

An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.
Thomas Jefferson

As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.
Thomas Jefferson

Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
Thomas Jefferson

Be polite to all, but intimate with few.
Thomas Jefferson

Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.
Thomas Jefferson

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
Thomas Jefferson

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
Thomas Jefferson

Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.
Thomas Jefferson

Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
Thomas Jefferson

Delay is preferable to error.
Thomas Jefferson

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Thomas Jefferson

Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
Thomas Jefferson

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor - over each other.
Thomas Jefferson

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Thomas Jefferson

Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
Thomas Jefferson

Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.
Thomas Jefferson

Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Thomas Jefferson

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
Thomas Jefferson

Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Thomas Jefferson

Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.
Thomas Jefferson

Every generation needs a new revolution.
Thomas Jefferson

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.
Thomas Jefferson

Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
Thomas Jefferson

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
Thomas Jefferson

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
Thomas Jefferson

For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
Thomas Jefferson

Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
Thomas Jefferson

Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another?
Thomas Jefferson

Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
Thomas Jefferson

He who knows best knows how little he knows.
Thomas Jefferson

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
Thomas Jefferson

History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
Thomas Jefferson
26753  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Art in its Homeland on: March 25, 2008, 04:35:18 PM
Woof All:

Upon reading this article it occurs to me that we need this thread.


The truth about arnis, escrima and kali
Why there is a new respect for Filipino martial arts
By Perry Gil S. Mallari, Reporter
The Manila Times

Arnis, escrima and kali-by whatever name you call it-are recognized
the world over to possess the most effective knife fighting techniques
on earth. The special forces of various countries train here to learn
our deadly arts. But few Filipinos know about Filipino martial arts

There is no doubt that the deeply ingrained colonial mentality among
Filipinos is the foremost reason why arnis, escrima and kali
collectively known as the FMA are not enjoying the same popularity as
their foreign counterparts like tae kwon do, karate and wushu right in
their very own turf. In addition to our veneration of anything
foreign, there are other contributing factors that led to this

Historically practiced by the maharlikas or noble class, a sort of
lowbrow image became attached to the FMA in the modern times. In the
early part of the 20th century, the FMA were known as brutal arts
associated with plebian types like farmers and stevedores. The stick
fighting contests during those times were conducted full contact
without the aid of armor and often resulted to the permanent injury or
death of the participants. Such deadly matches continued in the
farmlands and waterfronts of the Philippines and among the Filipino
communities in Hawaii until the 1940s.

Another obstacle that stands in the way of the FMA gaining wide
acceptance is that it took sometime before a method to teach it en
masse was systematized. Originally, the art was taught one-on-one.
Though the very personal approach to teaching meant quality
instruction, this resulted to a small number of qualified instructors
to proliferate the art.

Fallacies about the art also pose a problem. One misconception that
hinders the attractiveness of the FMA is the notion that it will only
work with weapons. Contrary to this belief, arnis, escrima and kali
are complete fighting systems that encompass bladed weapons, impact
weapons and empty hand techniques. All the FMA principles are
transposable regardless if the practitioner is fighting armed or

It is a good thing to note that a change of view toward the FMA
continue to transpire in the past 36 years. The perception toward the
FMA began to change after the celebrated Filipino-American martial
artist Dan Inosanto showcased the art in Bruce Lee's last film The
Game of Death in 1972.  Known as Lee's protégé, Inosanto was
responsible in introducing the late founder of jeet kune do to
escrima-specifically the use of the nunchaku. With an international
superstar like Lee picking up the Filipino sticks, the FMA was
included in the world map of martial arts. The The Game of Death also
became instrumental for Hollywood to notice the cinematic potential of
the FMA. Among the most notable movies of recent years that featured
the FMA are: Out for Justice starring Steven Seagal in 1991; The
Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro in 2003; and The
Bourne Supremacy starring Matt Damon in 2004. And the trend continues.
It's now circulating in the grapevine that Golden Globe Best Actor
winner Forest Whitaker, an FMA practitioner in real life, will feature
his stick fighting ability in his upcoming movie Repossession.

Another element that contributed to the FMA gaining global respect is
the fact that it's techniques, particularly the knife work were used
by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. A good case
in point is Paul Vunak, a student of Inosanto who taught Filipino
knife techniques to the members of Navy Seal Team 6. Martial artists
from other styles also discovered the FMA as a good addition to their
base system. Besides the fact that FMA training will provide them
weaponry skills, working with weapons like sticks, swords and knives
were proven to turbo-blast the development of fighting attributes like
power, reflex, speed and coordination. Swinging the heavy fighting
stick for instance will develop punching power the same way as an
old-school boxers build wallop in their punches by chopping wood with
an axe.

In the Philippines, the rather boorish view of the FMA is starting to
wane as intellectuals and those belonging to the middle class
beginning to embrace and espouse the art. Professor Felipe Jocano Jr.,
a professor of anthropology in the University of the Philippines is an
arnis expert and also writes extensively on FMA history. Alvin
Aguilar, founder of the Ultimate Reality Combat Championships and
perhaps the most well rounded fighter to emerge from the Philippines
in recent years is also a proponent of the FMA. Aguilar even devoted a
section on the FMA in the martial arts reality TV show Real Pinoy
Fighter, which he produced and was aired over ABS-CBN two years ago.

Though much has changed on the public's outlook on the FMA, it is safe
to surmise that it will never attain the palatability that karate or
tae kwon do possesses. Arnis, escrima and kali are originally war
arts, hence it explains its emphasis on weaponry and its unique
progression of training that starts with weapons and ends with empty
hands. Its techniques were refined through the centuries not on the
mat or the ring but in actual battlefields. The use of the blade,
which is essentially the backbone of the FMA and often constitutes its
highest level of practice, needs lethal commitment. Few are those who
are willing to go that far.
26754  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Farc & the Democrats on: March 25, 2008, 10:17:47 AM
 FARC Fan's Notes
March 25, 2008; Page A22
A hard drive recovered from the computer of a killed Colombian guerrilla has offered more insights into the opposition of House Democrats to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

A military strike three weeks ago killed Raúl Reyes, No. 2 in command of the FARC, Colombia's most notorious terrorist group. The Reyes hard drive reveals an ardent effort to do business directly with the FARC by Congressman James McGovern (D., Mass.), a leading opponent of the free-trade deal. Mr. McGovern has been working with an American go-between, who has been offering the rebels help in undermining Colombia's elected and popular government.

Mr. McGovern's press office says the Congressman is merely working at the behest of families whose relatives are held as FARC kidnap hostages. However, his go-between's letters reveal more than routine intervention. The intervenor with the FARC is James C. Jones, who the Congressman's office says is a "development expert and a former consultant to the United Nations." Accounts of Mr. Jones's exchanges with the FARC appeared in Colombia's Semana magazine on March 15. This Mr. Jones should not be confused with the former Congressman and ambassador to Mexico of the same name from Oklahoma.

"Receive my warm greetings, as always, from Washington," Mr. Jones began in a letter to the rebels last fall. "The big news is that I spoke for several hours with the Democratic Congressman James McGovern. In the meeting we had the opportunity to exchange some ideas that will be, I believe, of interest to the FARC-EP [popular army]."

Mr. Jones added that "a fundamental problem is that the FARC does not have, strategically, a spokesman that can communicate directly with persons of influence in my country like Mr. McGovern." Semana reports that in the documents Mr. Jones "rules himself out as the spokesman but offers himself as a 'bridge' of communication between the FARC and the congressman." Semana says when it spoke with Mr. Jones, he verified the letter and explained that "he made the offer because the guerrillas need interlocutors if they want to achieve peace and that it is a mistake to isolate them."

But communications among FARC rebels suggest the goal was to isolate Colombia's government. A letter that Reyes wrote to top FARC commander Manuel Marulanda on October 26 reads: "According to [Jones's] viewpoint, [President Álvaro] Uribe is increasingly discredited in the U.S. . . He believes that the safe haven [for the rebels] in the counties can be had for reasons mentioned. Congressional Democrats have invited him to Washington to talk about the Colombian crisis in which the principal theme is the swap."

Semana reports that Mr. Jones made some proposals to the FARC, including a Caracas meeting with representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, the FARC, other South American countries, U.S. Congressmen and the Catholic Church. "It would be almost impossible for Uribe to reject such a meeting," Mr. Jones wrote, "without burning himself a lot, nationally and internationally. If he persists in being against it, I have understood that there are ways to pressure him from my country [the U.S.]."

In a letter to Semana, Mr. Jones said his words were taken out of context. He says he is not in favor of the "violent methods of the guerrilla" or "the military solutions" of the government. He had only a professional relationship with the FARC and had to address them as he did because he had to build trust. Mr. McGovern's office says it knew what Mr. Jones was doing and engaged with him because "we need to find an interlocutor who could discuss these things including the safe haven" for the guerrillas.

We think the documents reveal something else entirely: Some Democrats oppose the Colombia trade deal because they sympathize more with FARC's terrorists than with a U.S. antiterror ally.
26755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on Israel on: March 25, 2008, 08:32:06 AM
The Inkblot
March 24, 2008

On Friday we noted that Barack Obama's "spiritual mentor," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had reprinted a Hamas op-ed in his church bulletin. It turns out that Obama issued a quiet condemnation of Wright's editorial decision, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:

"I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn't in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin," Obama said in a statement emailed to JTA late Thursday, and referring to critics who noted that Obama had been in church when Wright had made controversial statements. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor."
That could hardly be clearer, could it? But a year-old article from suggests that Obama has, fairly recently, held views on the subject that are completely at variance with those he now espouses. The author, Ali Abunimah, is a co-founder of the site:

I first met Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama almost ten years ago when, as my representative in the Illinois state senate, he came to speak at the University of Chicago. He impressed me as progressive, intelligent and charismatic. I distinctly remember thinking "if only a man of this calibre could become president one day." . . .
Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The [sic] Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
Abunimah argued that Obama, in an effort "to woo wealthy pro-Israel campaign donors," had made an "about-face":

He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.
It is possible that Obama had a sincere change of heart--that he came to see the merits of the Israeli side of the argument. It is also possible that Obama has no sincere views on the subject--that when he was traveling in radical-chic Chicago circles, he told people like Abunimah what they wanted to hear, and now that he has gone national, he has switched to telling a more mainstream Democratic constituency what it wants to hear.

But what does Obama really believe--about the Middle East, about Wright's "black liberation theology" or about any other complicated and sensitive topic? The question is a Rorschach inkblot; the answer reveals more about one's emotional response to Obama than about Obama's intellectual response to the world.

If Obama makes you feel good about yourself, you will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his beliefs are similar to yours. See, for example, Obama enthusiast Marty Peretz expounding on Obama's sympathy for the Jewish state, or Douglas Kmiec, a judicial conservative and onetime Romney adviser, explaining that even though Obama has shown no sign of agreeing with him on "important fundamentals," he is "convinced based upon [Obama's] public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."
26756  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: March 25, 2008, 08:28:28 AM
Taser application
26757  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News on: March 25, 2008, 08:10:06 AM
Force Science News #94

In this issue:

1 officer's pain is others' gain, as her shooting becomes a catalyst for change

When a 52-year-old man-shirtless, coked up and bleeding from self-inflicted wounds-lunged at Shannon Brady and her partner with a "serious" folding knife in the cramped kitchen of a small adobe house in Santa Fe, she was prepared to react. She shot him dead.

What she hadn't anticipated or trained for was what happened after the smoke cleared.

Once she had a bitter taste of that, she had a mission. "I didn't want other officers to go through what I did," she says. "Changes needed to be made."

In the 18 months since her life-or-death encounter, post-shooting practices affecting the 140-plus officers on her department, Santa Fe PD, have seen some "major improvement," Police Ofcr. IV Mark Barnett, president of the Santa Fe Police Officers Assn., told Force Science News. "We didn't put our head in the sand and say everything went fine because it certainly didn't. We've tried to learn and make things better."

"This is a good example of how negatives that too often accompany officer-involved shootings can be turned into positives, with the right perspective and determination," says Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato. "Instead of lingering as a permanent source only of resentment and anger, this shooting has become a catalyst for the kind of changes that are needed in many departments across the country."

The call that hurled Brady into the first shooting of her career was dispatched as an "ambulance assist." A frantic woman, calling from one of Santa Fe's rough-and-tumble neighborhoods, blurted that a man had stabbed himself in the chest. Little more information seemed to be available.

It was Labor Day weekend, 2006, at the tail-dragging end of Brady's 2-to-midnight swing shift. Still on probationary status, she'd been on patrol with SFPD only about 9 months, having transferred there after 3 years with a sheriff's department near Albuquerque. The address of the call was not far from where she'd come close to shooting a teenager who'd pulled a gun on her during a tense showdown a few months earlier.

When she and Sgt. Troy Baker arrived, they found the crowded residence in an uproar, complete with a hysterical grandma, 3 girls under 14 ("all intoxicated"), the subject's girlfriend (drunk and bleeding profusely from stab wounds), and the subject himself, concealed somewhere in the place with a knife that had a 41/2-in. blade.

The 2 officers were in the kitchen, trying to tend to the girlfriend who was slumped in a chair with a pool of blood widening at her feet, when the suspect-"big guy, no shirt, with visible cuts or stab wounds"-suddenly popped out of hiding, just a few steps from them.

"He raised the knife above his head and started closing toward us," Brady recalls. "There was no place to retreat. All I could see was that blade. It looked huge."

She and Baker both screamed, "Knife!" and commanded the suspect to drop the weapon. "He kept coming," Brady says. Almost simultaneously, Baker discharged a Taser and Brady squeezed the trigger on her Glock-22.

She can't remember firing that round, a fact that still troubles her. The bullet tore through the suspect's belt buckle and exited his body near his rectum. She shot again. This time, "I could see the bullet peel his skin" as it punched in, center mass. I remember his breath against me, I felt his knuckles brush across my hand" as he fell. He was pronounced at the hospital.

Officer-involved shootings in Santa Fe are investigated by the New Mexico State Police, a precaution against accusations of bias. The insensitivities that came to earmark Brady's shooting began during the delay while SP investigators responded, and escalated exponentially.

Brady and Baker were kept at the scene for nearly 5 hours, much of that time outdoors where "I sat on an ice cold curb," she remembers. Her request for a jacket had to be cleared through the chain of command, apparently for fear that complying might "alter the shooting environment" from an evidence standpoint.

Once, she and Baker were driven to a substation about a mile away for a bathroom break. They were put in the caged back seat of a marked unit, "like we were criminals," Baker says). "All they didn't do was handcuff us. It was not an atmosphere where you could get your mind off what just happened and try to wind down."

After about 3 hours, Brady was told to surrender her pistol. "I was left with an empty holster in that dangerous neighborhood" during the time it took to scrounge up a replacement from the department armorer.

The shooting occurred about midnight. It was well after daylight before Brady finally got to her home, an hour away in Albuquerque. She was scheduled to be back in Santa Fe that afternoon for her formal interview in the SP's criminal investigation. "I tried to sleep, I really did, but I was too keyed up," she says.

Because of her probationary status, she was not automatically eligible for legal representation through the Officers Assn., but the union provided her with a seasoned police lawyer, Fred Mowrer, anyway. "He did an excellent job preparing me, and I felt so grateful," she says.

She was able to doze off for about 30 minutes at the SP station just before the interview. Aside from that, she says she had been awake for more than 46 hours before walking in to face 2 hours of interrogation for the most important statement of her career.

Two days later, Brady and Baker had their only contact with the city's contract psychologist. "She took us to a room where she said we'd 'blend in' with people who were testing to become motor transport inspectors," Baker remembers. Brady says, "We had to take an entry-level exam and were given the MMPI [the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a common mental health test]. We were interviewed briefly by the psychologist and declared fit for duty."

She says no inquiry was made regarding how they were feeling about the shooting, no explanation was given about possible critical incident stress symptoms or how to deal with them and no offer of counseling was extended. Through the union, it was arranged for them to talk briefly by phone with a volunteer firefighter who supposedly had training in stress debriefing, but neither felt he could even begin to identify with their situation.

Without further ceremony, they went back on the street. The city's annual Fiestas festival, marked by the bacchanalian burning of a marionette called Old Man Gloom, was at hand and maximum manpower was needed.

Brady's husband, a sergeant and officer-involved shooting investigator with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Dept. in Albuquerque, "put me in touch with a police psychologist who works with his people," Brady says, and as a personal favor he helped her cope with the shooting and its aftermath. "Otherwise, I would have been left in the cold."

Meanwhile, the dead suspect's girlfriend, recovered from her injuries, claimed through the media that the 2 officers had tackled her boyfriend and pinned him to the floor while Brady summarily executed him with her 2 rounds. In the absence of a thorough debriefing for all personnel, rumors flew through the department regarding the circumstances of the shooting and about Brady and Baker personally.

They were heartened when Chief Eric Johnson publicly declared his complete confidence in their actions. Johnson released 911 tapes of the event, which provided an audio documentation of what happened, down to the shots being fired. A captain sat with a reporter from the local newspaper and "went second by second over the recording," Brady says. The resulting article "was very favorable and saved my reputation."

Still, it was some 5 weeks after the shooting before a county grand jury finally exonerated the officers of any criminal wrongdoing. And only after that, Brady says, did IA investigators get around to interviewing her and eventually declaring her clear of any departmental violations, as well-an infuriating lag that seemed to unnecessarily prolong the stress of the ordeal, especially considering that an IA investigator had sat in on the SP interviews just hours after the shooting.

Brady, known to be as outspoken as she proved to be resilient, was not content to let her grievances drop once the dust settled and her emotional battering abated. Her husband, Sgt. Mark Kmatz, says: "Her perspective was 'I can't change what happened to me, but I want to make it better for other officers in the future.' That's where she has directed her efforts."

Mark Barnett, who became president of the Officers Assn. just a month before the shooting, and members of the union's board have become Brady's staunch allies, joining her in lobbying for more humane on-scene procedures and investigative practices, easier access to psychological counseling and debriefings, and better training in survival tactics and post-shooting coping skills. Brady supplied articles from Force Science News on proper post-shooting procedures to buttress the arguments for change.

A significant achievement, in Barnett's view, has been getting the cooperation of SFPD's command staff so that the union can remove involved officers from a shooting scene expeditiously. "As soon as reasonably possible," they're taken to "some neutral place where they can feel comfortable" and where they can be with a "buddy" of their choosing, protected from the media and from curious, uninvolved officers who may have intrusive questions and comments.

"They can call home, calm down and begin to collect their thoughts in a peaceful atmosphere," Barnett says. "Psychologists have told us this is one of the best things we can do."

Four months after Brady's incident, Sgt. Kyle Zuments, a 12-year SFPD veteran, shot a car-theft suspect after a wild pursuit during Santa Fe's evening rush hour. Zuments himself took a round to the vest ("friendly fire," as it turned out, from one of several officers involved in the chaotic confrontation). Even with a trip to the hospital for his blunt-trauma wound and a conference with the union attorney, Zuments says he was comfortably at home-"in my recliner with an ice pack on my stomach and eating a ham sandwich"-well before his shift normally would have ended.

"The difference between the handling of Shannon's shooting and mine was night and day," he says. Among other things, besides the immediate post-shooting expediency, he was allowed time to be fully rested before sitting down for the SP's official interview.... SFPD's command staff sanctioned and joined in a candid debriefing among all officers involved in the confrontation, which Zuments says "resolved lots of issues" and provided "great support."... He was given 10 days' administrative leave before having to return to work.... At his insistence, he says, the department agreed to pay for counseling for all the involved officers from the Albuquerque psychologist who had privately come to Brady's aid and a colleague. "All this was huge," Zuments says.

Establishing a permanent arrangement for mental health services from sources who understand law enforcement and are respected by officers is high on the union's list for additional improvements, Barnett says.

As part of that agenda, the Officers Assn. and the department have combined to send Sgt. Baker and the department chaplain to a nationally recognized training course on critical incident stress management, with an eye toward creating "a shooting response team that would include a support group of peers." The union also now offers a debriefing, with a psychologist facilitating, to all officers who were working on the day of a shooting, Barnett says, in acknowledgement that a life-threatening event impacts more personnel than just the officers immediately involved.

Barnett and Brady say they intend to continue pushing hard for other changes that "haven't quite happened yet." These include more timely IA investigations. Zuments points out that it took 1 year to the day after his shooting before he received an exoneration letter from Internal Affairs. When he complained during the long delay, he claims he was told, "We have cases that are a lot more high-priority than yours." He observes: "I discharged my weapon in traffic at a crowded intersection, a suspect was shot, a sergeant was shot, and this is not a priority?"

Brady acknowledges that improvements "are still a work in progress," but she's encouraged by the results so far. "The administration-the department as a whole, really-is definitely coming around to a better understanding of how a shooting impacts an officer," she says. "I know that a lot of the things that really bugged me will never happen again."

As this report was being researched, Santa Fe police were involved in another shooting. A middle-aged suspect was shot dead after he opened fire on officers and sheriff's deputies with a Tec-9 during a vehicle pursuit.

A few days later, we asked Mark Barnett how things were going with the aftermath of that incident. "Perfect," he said. "We really have learned a lot."


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26758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How AQ will perish on: March 25, 2008, 07:57:30 AM
How al Qaeda Will Perish
March 25, 2008; Page A22

Do minors require their parents' consent to become suicide bombers? Believe it or not, this is the subject of an illuminating and bitter debate among the leading theoreticians of global jihad, with consequences that could be far-reaching.

On March 6, Al-Sahab, the media arm of al Qaeda, released a 46-minute video statement titled "They Lied: Now Is the Time to Fight." The speaker is Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu-al-Yazid, 52, an Egyptian who runs al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan, and the speech is in most respects the usual mix of earthly grievances, heavenly promises and militant exhortations. It's also an urgent call for recruits.

"We call on the fathers and mothers not to become a barrier between their children and paradise," says Abu-Al-Yazid. "If they disagree who should first join the jihad to go to paradise, let them compete, meaning the fathers and the children. . . . Also, we say to the Muslim wives, do not be a barrier between your husbands and paradise." Elsewhere in the message, he makes a "special call to the scholars and students seeking knowledge. . . . The jihad arenas are in dire need of your knowledge and the doors are open before you to bring about the virtue of teaching and jihad."

These particular appeals are no accident. Last year, imprisoned Egyptian radical Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, a.k.a. "Dr. Fadl," published "The Document of Right Guidance for Jihad Activity in Egypt and the World." It is a systematic refutation of al Qaeda's theology and methods, which is all the more extraordinary considering the source. Sayyed Imam, 57, was the first "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, many of whose members (including his longtime associate Ayman al-Zawahiri) later merged with Osama bin Laden and his minions to become al Qaeda. His 1988 book, "Foundations of Preparation for Holy War," is widely considered the bible of Salafist jihadis.

Now he has recanted his former views. "The alternative" to violent jihadism, he says in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat (translated by Memri), "is not to kill civilians, foreigners and tourists, destroy property and commit aggression against the lives and property of those who are inviolable under the pretext of jihad. All of this is forbidden."

Sayyed Imam is emphatic on the subject of the moral obligations of the would-be jihadist. "One who lacks the resources [to fight jihad] is forbidden to acquire money through forbidden means, like [burglary]," he says, adding that "Allah does not accept martyrdom as atonement for a mujahid's debts." As for a child's obligations toward his parents, he adds that "it is not permitted to go out to fight jihad without the permission of both parents . . . because acting rightly with one's parents is an individual obligation, and they have rights over their sons."

"This has become pandemic in our times," he adds in a pointedly non-theological aside. "We find parents who only learn that their son has gone to fight jihad after his picture is published in the newspapers as a fatality or a prisoner."

These "Revisions," as Sayyed Imam's book is widely known in Arab intellectual circles, elicited a harsh and immediate response from unreconstructed jihadists. "What kind of guidance does the 'Document' offer?" asked al Qaeda commander Abu Yahyha Al-Libi in a March 9 Internet posting. "Is it guidance that tells the mujahadeen and the Muslims: 'Restrain yourselves and [allow] us [Arab regimes] to shed your blood'?"

Even more sarcastic was Zawahiri himself. "Do they now have fax machines in Egyptian jail cells?" he asked. "I wonder if they're connected to the same line as the electric-shock machines." Zawahiri then penned a 215-page rebuttal to Sayyed Imam, whom he accuses of serving "the interests of the Crusader-Zionist alliance with the Arab leaders."

The gravamen of the hardliners' case against Sayyed Imam is that he has capitulated (either through force or persuasion) to the demands of his captors, and has become, in effect, their stooge. The suspicion seems partly borne out by Sayyed Imam's conspicuous renunciation of any desire to overthrow the Egyptian regime. One Turkish commentator, Dogu Ergil, notes that "in prison many jihadist inmates were encouraged by the Interior Ministry and security apparatus to engage in religious dialogue with clerics from al-Azhar," a Sunni religious university overseen by the state. Mr. Ergil calls this part of a deliberate "counter-radicalization program" by the Egyptian government.

But whatever Sayyed Imam's motives, it is the neuralgic response by his erstwhile fellow travelers that matters most. There really is a broad rethink sweeping the Muslim world about the practical utility -- and moral defensibility -- of terrorism, particularly since al Qaeda began targeting fellow Sunni Muslims, as it did with the 2005 suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan. Al Qaeda knows this. Osama bin Laden is no longer quite the folk hero he was in 2001. Reports of al Qaeda's torture chambers in Iraq have also percolated through Arab consciousness, replacing, to some extent, the images of Abu Ghraib. Even among Saudis, a recent survey by Terror Free Tomorrow finds that "less than one in ten Saudis have a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda, and 88 percent approve the Saudi military and police pursuing Al Qaeda fighters."

No less significant is that the rejection of al Qaeda is not a liberal phenomenon, in the sense that it represents a more tolerant mindset or a better opinion of the U.S. On the contrary, this is a revolt of the elders, whether among the tribal chiefs of Anbar province or Islamist godfathers like Sayyed Imam. They have seen through (or punctured) the al Qaeda mythology of standing for an older, supposedly truer form of Islam. Rather, they have come to know al Qaeda as fundamentally a radical movement -- the antithesis of the traditional social order represented by the local sovereign, the religious establishment, the head of the clan and, not least, the father who expects to know the whereabouts of his children.

It would be a delightful irony if militant Islam were ultimately undone by a conservative, Thermidor-style reaction. That may not be the kind of progress most of us imagined or hoped for. But it is progress of a kind.

26759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on slavery on: March 25, 2008, 07:42:48 AM

"[T]here is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do,
to see a plan adopted for the abolition of [slavery]."

-- George Washington (letter to Robert Morris, 12 April 1786)

Reference: Washington's Maxims, 157.
26760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Subscribe to Stratfor! on: March 25, 2008, 07:27:07 AM
I post generously here on this forum a tiny percentage of what I receive from Stratfor and feel morally obligated to help them out from time to time.  Here's this from :

Dear Friend of Stratfor:

What a tremendously gratifying couple of weeks!  Hundreds of you signed up for either new Memberships or extended your existing ones.  Your vote of confidence in the quality of our intelligence work is tremendously appreciated.   
Aaric S. Eisenstein, VP Publishing
Coming Soon - The Stratfor Bookshelf   

As a special thank-you, I've set things up so you can offer a friend - as many friends as you like actually - a completely free 30-day Stratfor Membership.  If you've ever sent a friend an especially good article or discussed a podcast you heard, you can now give your friends the entire Stratfor experience.

I am NOT looking to turn Stratfor into some goofy multi-level marketing scheme.   Your friends won't have to enter a credit card, or even their names, just an email address to receive intelligence.  I will send them exactly two emails during their free Membership with a nice offer to become a regular Member, but that's it.  If they decide 30 days is all they wanted, no problem at all and we wish them well.
If you're already a Stratfor Member, forward this email to a friend
If your friend sent you this opportunity, click here for a free 30-day Membership   
I'm doing this for two reasons.  In joining as a paying Member, you've made it (financially) explicit that Stratfor has real value for you.  I want to make it possible for you to give something of value to your associates.  I'm always interested personally in new ways that I can help out a friend.  Secondly, I'll make no bones that I'm looking to grow our business.  Every additional Member I add means more resources that we can invest in building out our intelligence network, expanding our maps/multimedia capabilities, and creating new features like the Stratfor Bookshelf.

Again, all of us at Stratfor look forward to continuing to provide the very best in geopolitical intelligence.  So stay tuned for more, new, and better!

All best wishes,

Aaric S. Eisenstein

VP Publishing
26761  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 4/20 Guro Crafty at Surf Dog's in Hemet, CA on: March 24, 2008, 07:15:23 PM
Woof All:

Lester/Surf Dog and I go back almost 25 years now.  He lives within a reasonable drive of me (Hemet) and I've done various one day seminars for him over the years.  Usually they were coordinated with the "King of the Cage" fights at which he judged so I got to sit with him while he judged the fights.  Very cool!  And when he had a student who was fighting, I got to be the substitute judge.  Tres cool!  (By the way, Surf Dog is now a regular judge at the UFC, on "Spike's The UItimate Fighter" and other events as well.)

Anyway, Surf Dog has a new school with a new location with plenty of space and has asked me to begin giving DBMA seminars there on a regular basis.  The seminar on Sunday April 20th is but the first of these.

Lester "Surf Dog" Griffin Martial Arts:
Dog Brothers seminar with Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny.

       1532 S. SANTA FE AVE. SAN JACINTO CA. 92583

CONTACT: LESTER GRIFFIN AT 951 492-8362 OR 951 654-0210
        E MAIL
26762  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mya 3-4: Guro Crafty Dog at Manassas VA on: March 24, 2008, 07:14:08 PM
Woof All:

This seminar is part of my ongoing relationship with Team Ruthless.  Guro Brian "Porn Star Dog" Jungwiwattnaporn has been working with a group led by Dino & Ashley (Dino and perhaps Ashley will be fighting at the August Gathering BTW).

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
26763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 24, 2008, 06:56:23 PM

By Joanna Chen | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Mar 21, 2008 | Updated: 6:11 p.m. ET Mar 21, 2008

In an audiotape released this week, Osama bin Laden urges Palestinians to shun negotiations with Israel in favor of armed resistance. In spite of such calls, however, pleas for talks are coming from unexpected players on both sides of the divide.

One of them, Shifa al-Qudsi, recently finished serving a six-year sentence in an Israeli prison for planning to carry out a suicide bombing. Back in 2002 the Palestinian had been fitted with an explosive belt by Fatah's Al Aqsa military brigade but was arrested shortly before carrying out her deadly mission. Since then al-Qudsi, now 30, has undergone a radical change of heart and today insists that a solution can be achieved only through dialogue.

NEWSWEEK's Joanna Chen met with al-Qudsi at her family home in the West Bank town of Tulkarem and heard why violence isn't an option and life is worth living after all. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What made you want to blow yourself and other people up six years ago?

I was motivated by all the suffering that was going on around me, and at the time it seemed the right thing to do. Palestinians were getting killed inside their own homes, farmers were unable to work on their own lands, innocent children were being oppressed. All of this created an atmosphere of violence.

What did those years in prison do to you?

It was very difficult for me. I sat there for a long time and came to the conclusion there must be an alternative to this path of death and violence. We have to find a better way to reach our objective.

Was there a certain moment when you realized that blowing people up might not be the right way?

I had the chance to read a lot while I was in jail. I read about Mahatma Gandhi and how he obtained his objective of peace without raising a weapon or throwing a stone. I tried to think of a way to do the same in my own country. I think words can express better the suffering of Palestinian prisoners and the wish for peace between two peoples. I don't need to blast my body to bits and kill other people. Today I believe that words are more powerful than weapons.

Even between enemies?

The reality has already been imposed on us. We can't start talking about getting back historical Palestine, and I'm resigned to the fact that there are two nations who can live on this land. There should be peace and quiet not just for the Israelis but for the Palestinians.

What would you say to people who still think that attacks are the way to go?

Many people before me carried out suicide attacks and others will continue to do so if the situation doesn't improve. However, I tell them now: enough. We have created a lot of problems and a lot of destruction on both sides, and the time has come for us to engage in dialogue.

Would you say that to your brother, who's serving 18 years in an Israeli jail for an attempted suicide bombing?

My youngest brother is in jail because he was caught inside Israel wearing a suicide belt. He was only 15 and a half. I consider this blackmail and exploitation of my brother. He was too young to have been able to make this decision on his own, and so I consider what happened to him a crime from our own side. He should never have been exploited this way. When I decided to blow myself up I was convinced this was right and I was old enough to make my own decision, but not my brother.

Your daughter was just seven when you were sent to prison. How did you explain your willingness for her to grow up without a mother?

We've talked about it a lot. She blamed me for leaving her, although I tried to explain to her that I had bigger issues to deal with. I don't want to say that I regret my former mission, but at the same time I know I should have thought of my daughter more and should have made her [my] priority. What will make an impact is not a suicide belt that I strap to myself but education. A bomb only creates casualties and more violence. If I can equip my daughter with education, that will make a change.

What do you tell your daughter today about Israelis?

The most important message for my daughter is that Israelis are not all carriers of weapons and not all of them want to kill Palestinians. There is a big sector that wants peace.

What are your plans for the future?

The day after I came out of prison I went to register [at] university. I feel like there's no time to waste, and my objective is to study and to be able to give my daughter and other children a better future through education.
Do you think that's going to be possible?

I say it in three languages: yes, ken and aywa. I want to talk, to tell people that I did time in an Israeli jail and learned Hebrew and communicated with a lot of Israelis. I want to continue this communication and also to carry the voice of 11,000 Palestinian prisoners to the world.

Do you think your change of heart reflects a change in the Palestinian people?

I think my position reflects the desire of the Palestinian people for peace. People are tired. They want to live. And they really want peace but are struggling in order to make the world understand.

If you could speak to the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, what would you say?

My message to both is peace. We need to engage in real dialogue. Everybody needs to come down from the tree and to enter into a solid, realistic negotiation. This is the only way.
26764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkmenistan on: March 24, 2008, 06:43:29 PM

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will become the first Turkmen leader to attend a NATO summit when he goes to the alliance’s upcoming heads-of-state meeting in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4. The move indicates that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between the West and Russia while both sides try to pull Turkmenistan off the fence.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will attend NATO’s April 2-4 heads-of-state summit in Bucharest, Romania. This will be the first time a Turkmen leader has attended a NATO summit and it indicates that Berdimukhammedov is not as afraid of the West as his predecessor was. Moreover, it shows that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between Russia and the West, even as both sides are tugging at Ashgabat.

In December 2006, the Turkmenbashi (Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov) died, leaving the country’s path unclear. Turkmenistan’s entire existence had hinged on the Turkmenbashi and his quirky but highly repressive means of running the country. Since his death, there has been a large battle among five forces — the United States, Europe, Russia, China and Iran — over who will dominate Turkmenistan’s wealth of energy supplies. Though each player has made small deals, none has really solidified an alliance with Ashgabat or Berdimukhammedov, who acts as if he is open to any of the powers’ investments.

Turkmenistan has remained neutral since the end of the Soviet Union. It is an unofficial observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Niyazov signed a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO in 1994.

Though Turkmenistan is an unofficial observer of the SCO, it has routinely attended almost all of the organization’s meetings, since most of Turkmenistan’s economic partners and regional countries are in the SCO. Ashgabat’s relationship with NATO, on the other hand, has been very precarious. Niyazov only signed the agreement with NATO to try to control the Mary Clan, the most powerful clan in Turkmenistan and the group that controls drug trafficking in the country.

Niyazov was also a supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan launched chiefly by the United States, though that support stemmed from his fear that Afghanistan’s instability would spill over into his controlled country. But the Iraq war deeply affected Niyazov and the rest of the Turkmen government, especially regarding their view of the United States. The 2003 Iraq war was, in Niyazov’s mind, about the United States going in to overthrow a very familiar-looking government. After Saddam Hussein was removed from power — and particularly after Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi reached a rapprochement with the United States — Niyazov became convinced that he was the next target on Washington’s to-smite list.

In addition, there was a wave of “color” and “velvet” revolutions that began in Serbia in 2000, swept Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, and finally reached the Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 2005. Not only was the Turkmenbashi terrified that the West — which was accused of sparking the revolutions — would attempt one in his country, but he knew that his country would be more vulnerable to such a revolution because it had a far more brittle power structure and weaker security services than the other countries.

This all led Niyazov to sign a rather comprehensive defense agreement with Moscow that abandoned Ashgabat’s previous policy of utter neutrality and placed Turkmenistan back under Moscow’s security umbrella.

However, Berdimukhammedov is a more level-headed leader and is making his own decisions.

The new leader has opened his country up to proposals from all sides over developing Turkmenistan’s large energy reserves. However, Berdimukhammedov has been very cautious and conservative in deciding which deals to take, with proposals from Europe, Russia and China all on the table. Berdimukhammedov has also been asserting his country’s place as a global energy supplier by confronting the countries to which it sends supplies. In December 2007, Turkmenistan announced that it was doubling the price of natural gas to Russia, and in January it cut natural gas supplies to Iran.

In security and military matters, Berdimukhammedov had been pushing his country toward Moscow. At the last SCO meeting, Berdimukhammedov discussed the possibility of becoming a recognized observer or even a member. Also, the leader has made a military upgrade one of his country’s top priorities. Turkmenistan currently has a slew of unused military bases left over from the Soviet era, and because Turkmenistan is next to Iran and Afghanistan, Moscow and Washington are fighting over those bases. But Ashgabat wants more than either side is currently offering and recently asked Moscow to help it carry out a military upgrade, primarily for its air force.

But Moscow has yet to decide whether it will arm a country that has been growing closer to the West, especially if Ashgabat is only going to give Moscow a harder time over energy prices while entertaining Western and Asian alternative proposals. And now Berdimukhammedov has raised the stakes by becoming the first leader of Turkmenistan to formally attend a NATO summit. The president is feeling out his options for security outside of Moscow — a break with the behavior typical of Turkmenistan during the past century.

Moscow will certainly take notice and make some sort of move, since the upcoming NATO summit is a pivotal benchmark for Russia’s geopolitical position as an international leader. NATO will be considering extending membership offers to several countries that are crucially important to Russia, including the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. The last thing Moscow needs is for Turkmenistan also to be cozying up to the rival alliance — and Ashgabat knows it
26765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dems super disaster on: March 24, 2008, 02:43:16 PM
Not exactly on point with the subject matter of this thread, but pertinent enough I think to merit its placement here.

The Democrats' Super Disaster
March 24, 2008; Page A15

Until recent weeks, one of the least understood aspects of the Democrats' primary contest was the role of superdelegates. These are Democratic Party insiders, members of Congress, and other officials who can cast ballots at the party's national convention this summer.

But now these unelected delegates are coming in for a close inspection, because neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can win their party's nomination without superdelegate support. The big Pennsylvania primary on April 22, for example, has only 158 delegates at stake (each of them will be pledged to support one of the candidates). By comparison, there are a total of 795 superdelegates, none of whom are required to honor the will of the voters of their state at the party's convention.

Sound undemocratic? It is. That the 2008 Democratic nominee for president will be chosen by individuals no one voted for in the primaries flew for too long under the commentariat's radar. This from the party that litigated to "make every vote count" in the 2000 Florida recount, reviled the institution of the Electoral College for letting the loser of the national popular election win the presidency, and has called the Bush administration illegitimate ever since.

Democratic Party reforms in 1982 gave super-delegates about 20% of convention votes -- so that party greybeards can stop a popular, but politically extreme, candidate from seizing the nomination. The Democrats deliberately rejiggered their party's rules to head off insurgent candidates, like a George McGovern or a Jimmy Carter, who might be crushed in the general election. Unelected delegates thus have more than twice the votes of the richest state prize, California.

So much for unfiltered democracy. In truth, the Democratic Party runs by rules that are the epitome of the smoke-filled room and ensure, in essence, that congressional incumbents exercise a veto power over the nomination.

This delegate dissonance wasn't anything the Framers of the U.S. Constitution dreamed up. They believed that letting Congress choose the president was a dreadful idea. Without direct election by the people, the Framers said that the executive would lose its independence and vigor and become a mere servant of the legislature. They had the record of revolutionary America to go on. All but one of America's first state constitutions gave state assemblies the power to choose the governor. James Madison commented that this structure allowed legislatures to turn governors into "little more than ciphers."

That's why, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Framers rejected early proposals to follow any such model. New York delegate Gouverneur Morris explained that if Congress picked the president, he "will not be independent of it; and if not independent, usurpation and tyranny on the part of the Legislature will be the consequence." Choosing the president would result from the "work of intrigue, of cabal, and of faction." After weeks of debate, the Framers vested the presidency with its own base of popular support by establishing a national election, saying that the president should represent the views of the entire people, not the wishes of Congress.

They kept the same rule when considering what should happen when the president ran for re-election. Alexander Hamilton wrote, while ratification of the Constitution was being debated, "that the executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all, but the people themselves," for otherwise, the president might "be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence."

The Framers were deeply concerned that a president chosen by Congress would keep his eye only on the happiness of legislators, turning our government into a parliamentary system like those which prevail in Europe today, in which the nation's leader is merely a prime minister.

Press reports indicate that the Framers were right to worry. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are now competing hard to win superdelegates. Members of Congress no doubt will cut deals for themselves and their constituents. A water project here, some pet legislation there -- surely such details are worth the nomination. Lose, and the candidate pays nothing. Win, and a presidency is gained. Like shareholders deciding whether to sell in a tender offer, superdelegates will bargain ferociously until the moment that the nominee secures a delegate majority. As we close in on the Democratic convention, the demand for superdelegates will escalate, with the choice of the nominee becoming increasingly the work of political intrigue, inside deals, and power struggles among special interest groups -- just as the Framers feared.

A nominee who survives this process will come to the presidency weighed down by dozens, if not hundreds, of commitments. Little hope there for a fresh start, or any break from a politics-as-usual Congress. Some may welcome such a development. Some students of American politics argue that the president and Congress should work more closely together. Critics of the Bush administration may well prefer a President Clinton or Obama who obeys congressional wishes.

But the historical record on this is not heartening. During the reign of the Jeffersonians, the progenitors of today's Democrats, the congressional caucus chose the party's nominee. It was a system that yielded mediocrity, even danger. Congressional hawks pushed James Madison into the War of 1812 by demanding ever more aggressive trade restrictions against Great Britain and ultimately declaring war -- all because they wanted to absorb Canada. It ended with a stalemate in the north, the torching of the U.S. capital, and Gen. Andrew Jackson winning a victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

"King Caucus" finally broke down when the system reached a peak of "cabal, intrigue, and faction." Jackson received the plurality of the popular vote in the election of 1824, but with no Electoral College majority the choice went to the House of Representatives. In what became known as the "corrupt bargain," House Speaker Henry Clay, who had come in fourth, threw his electors behind John Quincy Adams in exchange for being appointed Secretary of State. Jackson spent the next four years successfully attacking the legitimacy of the Adams administration and won his revenge in the election of 1828.

It is unlikely that a candidate today would trade a cabinet post for a superdelegate's vote. Sen. Harry Reid is unlikely to be the next Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But the election of 1824 ought to serve as a caution about what may happen again today, if we let Congress play a large role in choosing the next president. Our Framers designed the Constitution to prevent just this from happening. The Democrats have created an electoral system that echoes failed models from the American past, and threatens to sap the presidency of its independence and authority by turning it into the handmaiden of Congress instead of the choice of the American people.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03.
26766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: March 24, 2008, 02:35:29 PM
From Western Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq

Despite recent news reports, progress in Iraq continues.  The 5th year, the 4,000th death... these are sad truths.  Also true is that violence is down and al Qaeda loses ground day by day.  The biggest challenge now is national reconciliation.
Nevertheless, I've planted myself up here in Nineveh where al Qaeda is making a last stand.  They are putting up a good fight, but my gut instinct is that AQI will essentially be finished in Iraq by the end of this summer.  This does not imply that they will be completely exterminated or that attacks will cease, but, for all intents and purposes, al Qaeda will have suffered a devastating defeat in Iraq.
Al Qaeda Central seems to have finally realized that the United States and Great Britain are the wrong animals to kick.   They might prefer easier targets in Europe.  Whatever happens, it's clear that al Qaeda is devastated here.  What is left of al Qaeda here is being mulched, mostly up here in Nineveh, where I think there will be more fighting in the coming months.
Please read "Stake through their Hearts" to learn more about the fighting in Nineveh.
And please buy an advance copy of Moment of Truth in Iraq to help keep me on the battlefield.  Looks like I've got Nineveh mostly to myself, again.
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26767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 24, 2008, 01:59:45 PM
Clinton Campaign Touts
Value of Big-State Victories
Primary Argument
Overlooks Outcomes
In General Elections
March 24, 2008; Page A4

If a Democrat wins a primary in a Republican stronghold, is it really a win? That is the question Clinton supporters will be posing to superdelegates in the coming weeks.

With neither Democratic presidential candidate likely to reach the number of pledged delegates required to secure the nomination, the Clinton campaign is relying on its argument that victories in big states such as California and Ohio make Sen. Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

Clinton aides are highlighting that Sen. Barack Obama has won among affluent voters in caucuses and primaries in states with small populations of Democrats -- such as Idaho and Wyoming -- and among African Americans in Republican states unlikely to turn blue in November -- such as South Carolina and Georgia.

A Clinton campaign memo released early this month noted Sen. Obama has won 10 out of the 11 core Republican states that have held primaries or caucuses this year. Wyoming, for one, the campaign later noted, hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe has rejected the Clinton campaign's attempts to give greater importance to certain states and notes that Sen. Obama won Missouri and Illinois, two large swing states.

The Clinton campaign has been using the big-state argument on and off since Super Tuesday, when Sen. Clinton won big prizes including New York, California and New Jersey. The argument has been central to the campaign since her Ohio and Texas victories, and Clinton aides will be aggressively pushing the point in the weeks before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Pennsylvania represents another battleground state for the Democrats in November. A recent poll of likely voters conducted by SurveyUSA puts Sen. Clinton ahead in the Keystone State, with 55% favoring her compared with 36% favoring Sen. Obama. Other polls give her a narrower lead.

"I think it is significant that I have won Ohio and I won Florida and I've won the big states that serve as those anchors on the electoral map," Sen. Clinton told reporters on board the campaign plane in Scranton, Pa.

Monday in Philadelphia, Sen. Clinton is expected to deliver a speech addressing the housing crisis followed by an event to reach women voters.

The Clinton campaign also has been making an aggressive push for primaries in Michigan and Florida to be counted or redone. Both states were stripped of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention after staging contests earlier than party rules allowed. Last week, Michigan Democrats rejected the idea of a vote-by-mail presidential primary to replace the January vote and were unable to agree to a bill that would authorize a state-run, privately funded primary. Florida also has ruled out a revote.

Clinton adviser Harold Ickes says a revote would prove Sen. Clinton can win in the big, swing states that are important in a general election.

But even if Sen. Clinton won revotes in Michigan and Florida, she would probably still lag in the delegate count. Sen. Obama leads the delegate race with 1,620 to Sen. Clinton's 1,499, including superdelegates, according to the Associated Press; roughly 2,025 are needed to secure the nomination.

A Gallup tracking poll conducted last week shows Sen. Obama leading nationally with 48% of the vote compared with 45% for Sen. Clinton. Other polls show Sen. Clinton slightly ahead nationally.

Historians and political pundits caution that victories in a primary don't necessarily produce dividends in a general election.

"She can win every Democratic vote in the world [during the primary] and not win a general election," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He points to the small segment of more liberal Democrats who participate in a primary compared to the huge cross section of voters likely to turn out in a general election.

Sen. Clinton won Ohio, for example, with 54% of the vote, compared with 44% for Sen. Obama. But a recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters projected her losing Ohio to Sen. McCain in a general election, 46% to 40%. The poll showed Sen. McCain defeating Sen. Obama in the state by the same margin; 14% of respondents said they were undecided.

Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, says a candidate's primary showing has very little to do with the general-election result. "The argument holds no water at all, not even a thimbleful," Mr. Lichtman says. He points to the 1980 primary, when incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter carried most of the big swing states, and early polls predicted he would defeat Republican Ronald Reagan in the general election by as much as 25 percentage points. Instead, Mr. Reagan decisively captured the White House. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry racked up primary victories in key swing states in 1988 and 2004, respectively, only to then lose those states to Republicans.

The Clinton campaign says that just because Sen. Clinton has won in the big states in the primary doesn't mean Sen. Obama will lose those states in a general election. "Nobody is saying Barack Obama will definitely lose Pennsylvania in the fall," says that state's governor, Ed Rendell, a Clinton backer. "If Sen. Obama is the nominee, we will work our hearts out for him...but we are much more confident we would win with Sen. Clinton."

The campaign also argues that big states typically have primaries rather than caucuses, and that primaries are more reflective of the results of a general election.

Part of the reason Sen. Clinton has done well in larger states is strategy. The campaign chose to pour limited resources into advertisements and field offices in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, rather than make a big push in small caucus states where Sen. Obama was favored.

Sen. Clinton's wins also reflect her solid base of support among Catholics, working-class white voters and Hispanics, three important swing groups for the Democrats to capture in November.

Sen. Obama rejects the notion that he has failed to attract a broad coalition of voters important to the party. "In South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans," he said in a speech last week.

On Friday, Sen. Obama picked up the endorsement of former presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Gov. Richardson, a Mexican-American, could help Sen. Obama broaden his appeal among Hispanics.

Write to Amy Chozick at

26768  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ : Colombia " on: March 24, 2008, 11:06:58 AM
Bogotá Eyes the Irish Model
March 24, 2008; Page A14

When Colombia's trade minister visited the Journal's New York offices two weeks ago, the last thing I expected to come up in our conversation was Ireland. To my surprise, it was the first subject he raised.

No sooner had Luis Plata sat down then he started talking about the Irish economic transformation -- from impoverished ugly duckling to swanky swan of Europe in just two decades -- and why a similar growth model is just what Colombia needs.

Some of the necessary policy adjustments are already under way in Bogotá, he said, and with any success, the reforms can be deepened. But the big question mark is whether the U.S. Congress will approve the pending Free Trade Agreement. The FTA, Mr. Plata explained, is as important to Colombia's growth as European Union membership has been to Ireland's.

To think that Democrats might undermine Mr. Plata's visionary agenda is troubling. In 2006, U.S. official development assistance aimed at alleviating poverty around the globe was $23.5 billion and it was pretty much money down a rat hole. That's because development requires economic liberalization, and leaders of poor countries have little incentive to disturb the status quo of monopolies and protectionism that put them in power. Their incentives are even less when rich-country handouts are flowing.

Now along comes Colombia, with a leader -- President Álvaro Uribe -- who is willing to risk political capital to open domestic markets, cut taxes and spur competition in a bid to grow fast à la Ireland. All his government asks from Washington is two-way trade, but Democrats want to slam the door in his face.

Before Mr. Plata became trade minister last year, he headed a government export agency. "We starting going to Ireland several years ago, he says, "because we were looking at countries around the world that had been successful in attracting foreign direct investment. What we found was that Ireland had lowered its corporate tax rate from 40% to 12.5%," and as a result "was attracting investment, had lowered tax evasion and had increased tax collection. We went back to Colombia and said, 'why don't we just bring [our corporate rate] from 38% to 12.5%.'"

That wasn't a popular view with Colombia's treasury department. "It got me kicked out of their offices," Mr. Plata recalls.

No surprise there. Bean counters in every treasury in Latin America have tax-cut phobia in their DNA. It explains why they often get jobs at the International Monetary Fund in Washington after the collapse of the governments they've served back home. At the fund they can put into practice their deeply held convictions that the only responsible fiscal policy is one built on a static analysis to discover the "right" tax rate. Embracing the notion that production creates its own demand, and that government revenues expand under a low-tax regime, is considered high-risk behavior.

Mr. Plata is more sympathetic toward his treasury colleagues. He says that they have to balance the medium- and long-term benefits of tax cutting with the more immediate need to finance the government. Nevertheless, he was convinced that Ireland's experience could be applied to Colombia. Despite the initial reaction, his team "went to work" on the idea of attracting investment through tax cuts.

In a perfect world, he would have won a flat corporate rate. But he had to compromise and instead came up with the "single-enterprise free-trade zone." It expands the low-tax treatment that companies receive when they are located within a "free trade zone" -- normally an industrial park -- to any company that meets certain investment criteria. Businesses (excluding mining and oil) that qualify by meeting minimum investment amounts and employment targets now pay a 15% flat tax instead of 33%. They also import all raw materials with no tariffs and pay no value-added tax.

In addition to offering these tax advantages, the government is writing "stability contracts" to guarantee that the rules will not change when presidents do. It is also working to reduce the regulatory burden, since red tape is one of the most common complaints from foreign investors.

The "single-enterprise free-trade zone" was launched last May, and to date it has attracted about $864 million in foreign direct investment. That number would be higher under a pure flat tax, and if Colombia is to rival the Irish miracle, it will have to move in that direction. But to persuade the treasury to adopt a broad-based flat tax, Mr. Plata will have to show some results with his initial experiment.

That's why the FTA is so important. Companies investing in Colombia are looking beyond the domestic market and, as the minister notes, the recent dustup with Venezuela -- in which President Hugo Chávez threatened to close the border -- demonstrates the fragility of Colombia's export market. About half of Colombian exports now go to Venezuela and Ecuador. Access to the U.S. market and to duty-free imports from the U.S. are both crucial for producers.

All of this begs the question of why congressional Democrats want to reject the Colombian trade agreement. They say it's because Mr. Uribe hasn't done enough to quell violence against labor leaders in the country. But murders are down dramatically, and as Mr. Plata says, "you can't make the case that killing the FTA will make things better."

What will make things better is investment, which is fundamental to reducing poverty. Peru, Mexico and Central America all have FTAs with the U.S., which means that Colombia is automatically disadvantaged if it is denied one. And that could harm national security, which is so fragile. As Mr. Plata pointed out, "You don't win the peace with soldiers alone. You have to have a functioning economy." Surely Democrats can't be against that.
26769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: SH's terror links on: March 24, 2008, 11:02:41 AM
Saddam's Terror Links
March 24, 2008; Page A14
Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.

Naturally, it's getting little or no attention. Press accounts have been misleading or outright distortions, while the Bush Administration seems indifferent. Even John McCain has let the study's revelations float by. But that doesn't make the facts any less notable or true.

The redacted version of "Saddam and Terrorism" is the most definitive public assessment to date from the Harmony program, the trove of "exploitable" documents, audio and video records, and computer files captured in Iraq. On the basis of about 600,000 items, the report lays out Saddam's willingness to use terrorism against American and other international targets, as well as his larger state sponsorship of terror, which included harboring, training and equipping jihadis throughout the Middle East.

"The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' toolbox, not only cost effective but a formal instrument of state power," the authors conclude. Throughout the 1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) cooperated with Hamas; the Palestine Liberation Front, which maintained a Baghdad office; Force 17, Yasser Arafat's private army; and others. The IIS gave commando training for members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat and whose "emir" was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became Osama bin Laden's second-in-command when the group merged with al Qaeda in 1998.

At the very least the report should dispel the notion that outwardly "secular" Saddam would never consort with religious types like al Qaeda. A pan-Arab nationalist, Saddam viewed radical Islamists as potential allies, and they likewise. According to a 1993 memo, Saddam decided to "form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia," where al Qaeda was then working with warlords against U.S. humanitarian forces. Saddam also trained Sudanese fighters in Iraq.

The Pentagon report cites this as "a tactical example" of their cooperation. When Saddam "was ordering action in Somalia aimed at the American presence, Osama bin Laden was doing the same thing." Saddam took an interest in "far-flung terrorist groups . . . to locate any organization whose services he might use in the future." The Harmony documents "reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term version."

For 20 years, such "support" included using Fedayeen Saddam training camps to school terrorists, especially Palestinians but also non-Iraqis "directly associated" with al Qaeda, continuing up to the fall of Baghdad. Saddam also provided financial support and weapons, amounting to "a state-directed program of significant scale." In July 2001, the regime began patronizing a terror cartel in Bahrain calling itself the Army of Muhammad, which, according to an Iraqi memo, "is under the wings of bin Laden."

It's true that the Pentagon report found no "smoking gun," i.e., a direct connection on a joint Iraq-al Qaeda operation. Supposedly this vindicates the view that Iraq's liberation was launched on false premises. But the Administration was always cautious, with Colin Powell alleging merely a "sinister nexus" in his 2003 U.N. speech. If anything, sinister is an understatement. The main Iraq intelligence failure was over WMD, but the report indicates that the CIA also underestimated Saddam's ties to global terror cartels.

The Administration has always maintained that Iraq is just one front in the war on terror; and the report offers "evidence of logistical preparation for terrorist operations in other nations, including those in the West." In 2002, an IIS memo explained to Saddam that Iraqi embassies were stockpiling weapons, while many of the terrorists trained in Fedayeen camps were dispatched to London with counterfeit documents, where they circulated throughout Europe.

Around the same time, the IIS began to manufacture better improvised explosive devices "designed to be used in civilian areas," and the regime bureaucratized suicide operations, with local Baath Party leaders competing to provide recruits for Saddam as part of a "Martyrdom Project."

All of these are inconvenient facts for those who want to assert that somehow Saddam could have been easily contained and presented no threat to the U.S. The Harmony files buttress the case that the decision to oust Saddam was the right one -- which makes it all the more puzzling that the Bush Administration is mum. It isn't the first time the White House has ceded the Iraq debate to its opponents.
26770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pay raises needed on: March 24, 2008, 10:54:28 AM
“The denial of annual [pay] increases, [Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote, ‘has left federal trial judges—the backbone of our system of justice—earning about the same as (and in some cases less than) first-year lawyers at firms in major cities, where many of the judges are located.’ The cost of rectifying this would be less than 0.004% of the federal budget. The cost of not doing so will be a decrease in the quality of an increasingly important judiciary—and a change in its perspective. Fifty years ago, about 65 percent of the federal judiciary came from the private sector—from the practicing bar—and 35 percent from the public sector. Today 60 percent come from government jobs, less than 40 percent from private practice. This tends to produce a judiciary that is not only more important than ever but also is more of an extension of the bureaucracy than a check on it... The enlargement of the judiciary’s role by the regulatory state requires compensation of the judiciary commensurate with its ever-expanding importance. That importance, although regrettable, is a fact, and so is this: You get the quality—and the perspective—you pay for.” —George Will
26771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Religion; P. Henry: Life & Death on: March 24, 2008, 10:35:37 AM
"If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if
without it?"

-- Benjamin Franklin (to Thomas Paine, Date Unknown)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (297); original The Works of
Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 10 (281-282)

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” —Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775
26772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The NYTimes rationalizes on: March 24, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
The NYTimes tries to cover its *ss, but fails-- the truth is simple: the coverage is less because things are going much better.
The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?
comments (70)
Yahoo! Buzz

Published: March 24, 2008
Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.

Readers' Comments
"The fact that the economy and the election are now of major interest to the public is part of the reason for the war being put on the back burner."
Read Full Comment »
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Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The drop in coverage parallels — and may be explained by — a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq “very closely” in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall.

Experts offer many other explanations for the declining media focus, like the danger and expense in covering Iraq, and shrinking newsroom budgets. In the last year, a flagging economy and the most competitive presidential campaign in memory have diverted attention and resources.

“Vietnam held the media’s attention a lot better because it was a war with a draft that touched a lot more people; people were sent against their will, and many more Americans were killed,” said Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.

“In a conventional war, like World War II, there’s dramatic change, a moving front line, a compelling narrative,” he said. But after the triumphal first months, Iraq became a war of insurgents vs. counterinsurgents, harder to make sense of, “with more of the same grim news, day after day.”

The three broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at And by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending half as much time on Iraq as earlier in the year.

Since the start of last year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of the nonprofit Pew Research Center, has tracked reporting by several dozen major newspapers, cable stations, broadcast television networks, Web sites and radio programs. Iraq accounted for 18 percent of their prominent news coverage in the first nine months of 2007, but only 9 percent in the following three months, and 3 percent so far this year.

The policy debate in Washington that dominated last year’s Iraq coverage has almost disappeared from the news. And reporting on events in Iraq has fallen by more than two-thirds from a year ago.

The drop accelerated with a sharp decline in violence in Iraq that began at the end of last summer. The last six months have been safer for American troops than any comparable period since the war began, with about 33 killed each month, compared with about 91 a month over the previous year.

“The available news hole got so much smaller because election and economic news took up so much of the space,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center.

There are no authoritative figures for most media coverage before 2007. But a check of several large and midsize newspapers’ archives shows a year-by-year decline in articles about Iraq, and an increase in the proportion supplied by wire services. Experts who follow the coverage say there is no doubt about the trend.

“I was getting on average three to five calls a day for interviews about the war” in the first years, said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow on national security at the Brookings Institution. “Now it’s less than one a day.”

He argued that Americans who support the war might not have wanted to follow the news when it was bad, and that Americans against the war are less interested now that the news is better. And the presidential candidates, he said, have shown “surprisingly little interest in discussing it in detail.”

Many news organizations have fewer people in Iraq than they once did, though no definitive numbers are available. Coalition officials have said that although there were several hundred reporters embedded with military units early in the war, the number has been measured in tens in recent months.

Violence against journalists makes reporting on Iraq costly and difficult; executives of The New York Times have said that the newspaper is spending more than $3 million a year to cover Iraq. The risks have forced news organizations to hire private security forces and Iraqi employees who can go places that Westerners cannot safely explore.

From the start of the war through 2005, journalists and their support workers were killed in Iraq at a rate of one every 12 days, according to tallies kept by the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2006 and 2007, the rate was one every eight days. Most of those killed have been Iraqis.

“Danger and the expense are gigantic factors,” Mr. Jones said. “The news media have to constantly revisit how much money and risk to expend.”
26773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Issues on: March 23, 2008, 08:18:08 PM

DNA database plans for children who 'could become criminals'

By Simon Johnson
Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 18/03/2008

Primary school children should be put on the national DNA database if their
behaviour suggests they will become criminals, a senior Scotland Yard
expert said yesterday.

Ed Balls plans 'baby Asbos' for 10-year olds

Gary Pugh, the director of forensic science and the new DNA spokesman
for the Association of Chief Police Officers, called for a debate on the
measures required to identify future offenders.

He said: "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they
offend, then in the long term the benefits of targeting younger people are
extremely large.

"We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to

But critics said this was a step towards a police state that would risk
stigmatising youngsters who had yet to commit a criminal act.

The details of more than 4.5 million people, including about 150,000
children under the age of 16, are held on the Government's database,
making it the largest system of its kind in the world.

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the
database after being arrested will have reached about 1.5 million this time
next year.

Police in England and Wales need parental consent to take a DNA sample
from children under 10, the age of criminal responsibility.

Children in Scotland can be charged with an offence at eight, but police
cannot take DNA if they are younger.

Julia Margo, from the Institute for Public Policy Research who wrote a
recent report on the issue, agreed that it was possible to identify risk
factors in children aged five to seven. But she said that placing young
children on a database risked stigmatising them.

Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said Mr
Pugh's suggestion could be viewed "as a step towards a police state."

He added: "It is condemning them at a very young age to something they
have not yet done. To label children at that stage and put them on a
register is going too far."
26774  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hair gel saves cabby on: March 23, 2008, 06:10:23 PM
After stiffing cabdriver, teen girl slashes his throat

He was trying to collect his fare when the girl attacked him. Hair gel saved him, he told police.

Roy Carlson Jr.KSTP

Roy Carlson Jr. needed 13 stitches for this neck wound.

By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune
Last update: March 20, 2008 - 12:02 AM

Roy Carlson Jr. says hair gel saved his life.
That was one of the first fleeting thoughts the St. Paul taxi driver had as he struggled with the 15-year-old girl who, seconds earlier, had slashed his throat and stabbed him repeatedly after a cab ride gone awry early Tuesday.

After the girl tried to stiff him on a $22 cab fare following a ride across St. Paul, the frustrated driver for Diamond Cab Co. was driving her to a St. Paul police precinct for violating curfew.
"All of the sudden I hear her scream in the background, 'I'm not going to jail!' and she pulled my hair back and started to cut my throat," he said Wednesday. "I had styling cream in my hair, and it slipped out of her hands."

Carlson is taking a week off to recover from a curve-shaped slash just below his chin held together with 13 stitches, additional cuts to his face, and stab wounds to his inner right leg and buttock.

St. Paul police say Carlson was an innocent victim attempting to collect his fare when the enraged girl cut him. The girl, whose name has not been released because she is a juvenile, remains in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center awaiting charges.

Carlson said he picked her up at a housing complex at 1511 Supornick Lane just after midnight. After taking her to an address on West Maynard Drive, the girl said she needed to collect money from her mother for the fare, so Carlson took her purse and cell phone as collateral while he waited for her to return. He was then told the mother did not have money.
"I'm kind of ticked off by now, and I said, 'Pick her up at juvenile hall, I'm gonna take her in for curfew,'" he said.

A knife cut into his neck.
That's typical protocol for getting stiffed, Carlson said, and it's easier than filing a police report, which he said generally doesn't result in recovered money, and takes additional time. Carlson said he had turned onto Edgcumbe from Montreal when he felt the kitchen knife cut into his neck. She jumped out of the cab immediately when he grabbed her. Both of them were covered in blood.

"I said, 'You know I'm bringing you in for a curfew violation. Do you realize you're looking at attempted murder now?' It was then that I think it hit her, and she started to cry."
He pinned the girl with his knee while he radioed for help. He was later treated at a local hospital.

St. Paul police said Carlson's story corroborates with what they believe happened in the cab. For the hundreds of rides given daily, attacks on drivers are relatively rare, police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
In Minnesota, there have been several instances of violence against cabbies.

In February, Blue & White/ABC driver Mohd Farahid, 51, was hospitalized after being beaten with a hatchet handle in north Minneapolis.
In February 2007, Green & White driver Jim Moody, 46, was shot to death during a botched robbery in Brooklyn Center; an Omaha man was convicted in his death. In August 2003, Red & White driver Mohamed Ahmed Salah, 28, was fatally shot in Minneapolis; Salvador Pacheco of Anoka was convicted in his death.
According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, more than 100 cabdrivers nationwide were assaulted in 2006.

Carlson, a four-year cabdriver who has also worked in the tow-truck business, said he is no stranger to assaults. This, however, is a first. And hopefully a last, he added.
"We do have a lot of young kids where the parents are gonna pay at the other end, and I don't want to leave a young kid stranded, not in the projects," he said. "But to expect a 15-year-old to come at you with a knife is unreal."
26775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 23, 2008, 06:05:13 PM
Register columnist

Comments 4 | Recommend 6
It was the sort of incident that never makes it into the official crime statistics – that is, an incident in which a crime may have been prevented by a firearm.
It happened earlier this month in Irvine. Police were looking for a man suspected of raping an 18-year-old woman in her home. As the cops searched, the fleeing suspect, a 27-year-old L.A. gang member, tried to hide by breaking into another home. Inside, the homeowner, a man who had recently undergone defensive firearms training, heard the commotion, grabbed a handgun and confronted the suspect.
The homeowner didn't shoot the alleged rapist, although legally he almost certainly could have. If someone breaks into your home, and you have a justifiable fear that he might kill or harm you or someone else, you have a right to defend yourself with lethal force.
But as I said, the homeowner – for security reasons, he declined to be interviewed or identified by name – didn't shoot. Instead, he shouted at the suspect to stop, at which point the guy ran out of the house. Shortly thereafter he was caught and arrested by the police.
"The homeowner took the appropriate safety steps," Irvine Police Lt. Rick Handfield told me. "And he had had some firearms training, which is an important part of gun ownership."
But did the homeowner's use of a gun prevent another crime from occurring – perhaps an assault on the homeowner or his family? Or would the suspect, who turned out to be unarmed, have fled when confronted by the homeowner, gun or no gun? The police can't definitively say.
So how will that incident be reflected in the crime statistics?
Yes, the rape will be added to the grim numbers of that despicable crime, and the successful arrest will appear in the Irvine Police Department's annual statistics. And ironically, if the homeowner had justifiably shot and killed the intruder it still would have been listed in the overall statistics as a gun-related homicide – the same statistics that anti-gun activists use to promote stricter so-called "gun control" laws to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
But police departments and other government agencies don't collect hard numbers on crimes that may have been prevented by armed citizens – because, as in the Irvine case, they're difficult and sometimes impossible to quantify.
And that's unfortunate. Because crimes prevented by firearms are as important in the debate over guns as crimes committed with firearms.
As you probably know, last week the U.S. Supreme Court took up the 2nd Amendment question. The case could finally decide whether the U.S. Constitution gives individuals the "right to keep and bear arms," as opposed to a collective right afforded only to organized state "militias" such as the National Guard.
(By the way, California law defines our state's "militia" as "all able-bodied male citizens … between the ages of eighteen and forty-five" – which, at age 57, I find somewhat insulting and discriminatory. And in any modern application I guess we would have to include the gals in the militia, too.)
Well, I don't have enough space to go into all the 2nd Amendment arguments. But to me it's obvious that a homeowner in Irvine – or any other law-abiding citizen – has a constitutional right to have a firearm.
Of course, whenever gun ownership rights are debated, anti-gun activists like to point out that about 30,000 people are killed by guns in America every year -- although they seldom note that about 60 percent of those deaths are suicides, or that the firearm murder rate has dropped by 40 percent in the past 15 years, or that far more people are killed by motor vehicles or medical malpractice every year than are killed by guns.
And they never mention how many crimes have been prevented by citizens bearing arms.
Once again, that's a hard thing to quantify. One U.S. government survey in the 1990s estimated that more than 80,000 Americans a year used guns in an effort to protect themselves or their property against crime. Other estimates put the number far higher, at more than 2 million crimes prevented each year by the presence of privately-owned firearms.
But those are estimates and extrapolations – which means we can argue about the numbers all day long.
Still, this much is clear. When faced with a violent criminal in his house in the middle of the night, it would be hard to argue that that homeowner in Irvine would have been better off without a gun.
714-796-7953 or
26776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: March 22, 2008, 10:48:47 PM
Mr. Constitution
March 22, 2008; Page A25

Clarence Thomas leaps from his chair. He retrieves a wire coat hanger from his closet for a demonstration -- the same demonstration he gives his law clerks. He bends it and says: "How do you compensate? So, you say well, deal with it. Bend this over here. Oh, wait a minute, bend it a little bit there. And you're saying that it throws everything out of whack. What do you do?"

He holds up a twisted wire, useless now for its original purpose and the point is made. "If you notice sometimes I will write just to point out that I think that we've gone down a track that's going to cause some distortion, then it's quite precisely because of that. I don't do things that I think are illegitimate in other areas, just to bend it back to compensate for what's already happened."

Terry Shoffner 
Interpreting the Constitution is the Supreme Court's most important and most difficult task. An even harder question is how to approach a Constitution that, in fact, is no longer in pristine form -- with the Framers' design having been warped over the years by waves of judicial mischief. There is an obvious temptation to redress the imbalance, which Associate Justice Thomas decisively rejects. Thus his coat hanger metaphor.

So is the most controversial Supreme Court justice an "originalist" when it comes to Constitutional interpretation? He says he doesn't like labels, though he does admit to being a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy.

Upon entering his spacious office overlooking the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C., the first thing to catch your eye is his Nebraska Cornhuskers screen saver. Mr. Thomas never attended the University of Nebraska, or even lived in the state. He's just a fan. His office is also decorated with pictures of the historical figures he admires, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Thomas More and Winston Churchill, and he speaks of them with knowledge and passion. Watching over all is a bust of his grandfather atop Mr. Thomas's bookcase -- its countenance as stern as a Roman consul. There is little doubt this man was the driving force in Mr. Thomas's life -- a fact he confirms, and which is reflected in the title of his recently published memoir, "My Grandfather's Son."

Mr. Thomas faced one of the most destructive and personally vicious Supreme Court confirmation hearings in American history -- described at the time by Mr. Thomas himself as a "high-tech lynching." Mr. Thomas's opponents smeared his character and integrity. To this day, disappointed and embittered, they feel entitled to insult his qualifications, intelligence and record.

In 2004, when Mr. Thomas's name was floated as a possible replacement for ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called him an "embarrassment" to the Court, and attacked his opinions as "poorly written."

In point of fact, Mr. Thomas's opinions are well-written, displaying a distinctive style -- a sure sign that the Justice and not his clerks does most of the writing.

As for his judicial philosophy, "I don't put myself in a category. Maybe I am labeled as an originalist or something, but it's not my constitution to play around with. Let's just start with that. We're citizens. It's our country, it's our constitution. I don't feel I have any particular right to put my gloss on your constitution. My job is simply to interpret it."

In that process, the first place to look is the document itself. "And when I can't find something in that document or in the tradition or history around that document, then I am getting on dangerous ground. Because that's when you drift so much more towards your own policy preferences."

It is the insertion of those policy preferences into the interpretive process that Mr. Thomas finds particularly illegitimate. "People can say you are an originalist, I just think that we should interpret the Constitution as it's drafted, not as we would have drafted it."

Mr. Thomas acknowledges that discerning a two-hundred-year-old document's meaning is not always easy. Mistakes are possible, if not inevitable, as advocates of a malleable "living constitution," subject to endless judicial revision, never tire of pointing out. "Of course it's flawed" agrees Mr. Thomas, "but all interpretive models are flawed."

Simply following your own preferences is both flawed and illegitimate, he says. "But if that is difficult, does that difficulty legitimate just simply watching your own preference?" By doing that "I haven't cleared up the problem, I've simply trumped it with my personal preferences."

Mr. Thomas has also been criticized for his supposed lack of respect for precedent. Even his fellow conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, was reported by a Thomas biographer to have claimed that Mr. Thomas just doesn't believe in "stare decisis." Latin for "let the decision stand," stare decisis is an important aspect of the Anglo-American system of precedent -- deciding new cases based on what the courts have done before and leaving long established rules in place.

Mr. Thomas, however, is less absolute here than his critics suggest. He understands the Supreme Court can't simply erase decades, or even centuries, of precedent -- "you can't do it."

At the same time, he views precedent with respect, not veneration. "You have people who will just constantly point out stare decisis, stare decisis, stare decisis . . . then it is one big ratchet. It is something that you wrestle with." History would seem to vindicate Mr. Thomas and his insistence on "getting it right" -- even if that does mean questioning precedent.

The perfect example is Brown v. Board of Education (1954), where the Supreme Court overruled the racist "separate but equal" rule of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which permitted legally enforced segregation and had been settled precedent for nearly 60 years.

It is the Plessy dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan to which Mr. Thomas points for an example of a Justice putting his personal predilections aside to keep faith with the Constitution. Harlan was a Kentucky aristocrat and former slaveowner, although he was also a Unionist who fought for the North during the Civil War. A man of his time, he believed in white superiority, if not supremacy, and wrote in Plessy that the "white race" would continue to be dominant in the United States "in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power . . . for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty."

"But," Harlan continued, "in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens."

That, for Mr. Thomas, is the "great 'But,'" where Harlan's intellectual honesty trumped his personal prejudice, causing Mr. Thomas to describe Harlan as his favorite justice and even a role model. For both of them, justice is truly blind to everything but the law.

More than anything else, this explains Mr. Thomas's own understanding of his job -- a determination to put "a firewall between my [PERSONAL\]view and the way that I interpret the Constitution," and to vindicate his oath "that I will administer justice without respect to person, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

This insistence by the Justice on judging based upon the law, and not on who the parties are, presents a stark contrast with today's liberal orthodoxy. The liberal approach -- which confuses law-driven judging with compassion-driven politics, enthused with a heavy distrust of the American political system's fairness -- was recently articulated by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who emphasized the need for judges with "heart" and "empathy" for the less fortunate, judges willing to favor the disempowered.

Born in rural Georgia in 1948, Mr. Thomas and his brother were mostly raised in Savannah by their maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Myers Anderson, believed in work, and that rights come with responsibilities. According to his book, Mr. Anderson told the seven-year-old Clarence that "the damn vacation is over" the morning he moved in.

Says Mr. Thomas: "Being willing to accept responsibility, that sort of dark side of freedom, first -- before you accept all the benefits. Being ready to be responsible for yourself -- you want to be independent. That was my grandfather." Anderson also taught his grandson to arrive at his conclusions honestly and not "to be bullied away from opinions that I think are legitimate. You know, not being unreasonable, but not being bullied away."

For a man who has been subjected to a great deal of vitriol, Mr. Thomas manifests remarkable serenity. He rejoices in life outside the Court, regaling us with stories about his travels throughout the U.S., his many encounters with ordinary Americans, and his love of sports -- especially the Cornhuskers, the Dallas Cowboys and Nascar.

Mr. Thomas isn't much bothered by his critics. "I can't answer the cynics and the negative people. I can't answer them because they can always be cynical about something."

Mr. Thomas speaks movingly about the Court as an institution, and about his colleagues, both past and present. He sees them all, despite their differences, as honorable, each possessing a distinctive voice, and trying to do right as they see it. Our job, he concludes, is "to do it right. It's no more than that. We can talk about methodology. It's merely a methodology. It's not a religion. It is in the approach to doing the job right. And at bottom what it comes to, is to choose to interpret this document as carefully and as accurately and as legitimately as I can, versus inflicting my personal opinion or imposing my personal opinion on the rest of the country."

And why doesn't he ask questions at oral argument, a question oft-posed by critics insinuating that he is intellectually lazy or worse? Mr. Thomas chuckles wryly and observes that oral advocacy was much more important in the Court's early days. Today, cases are thoroughly briefed by the time they reach the Supreme Court, and there is just too little time to have a meaningful conversation with the lawyers. "This is my 17th term and I haven't found it necessary to ask a bunch of questions. I would be doing it to satisfy other people, not to do my job. Most of the answers are in the briefs. This isn't Perry Mason."

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.
26777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 22, 2008, 06:54:43 PM
I find myself riffing in my head on this little episode on BO's ability to deal with extremism in his own church as a parable for his probably approach to dealing with Muslim extremism.
26778  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 22, 2008, 06:27:30 PM
Not only that, but that bit about MH seeing himself like Ester was a tad bizarre I thought, and generally I did not care for his coaching personality at all.  I also did not like the way the show made the guys from Serra's team have to go over to Hughes's team or the way MH belittled them for their feeling weird about it.
26779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Certifying Parents on: March 22, 2008, 12:45:56 PM
Certifying Parents
March 22, 2008; Page A24
In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter. A California court ruled this month that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching. Parents "do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote California appellate Justice Walter Croskey.

The 166,000 families in the state that now choose to educate their children at home must be stunned. But at least one political lobby likes the ruling. "We're happy," the California Teachers Association's Lloyd Porter told the San Francisco Chronicle. He says the union believes all students should be taught only by "credentialed" teachers, who will in due course belong to unions.

California law requires children between six and 18 to attend a full-time day school. Failure to comply means falling afoul of the state's truancy laws, which say kids can't play hooky without an excuse. But kids who are taught at home are less likely to be truants. Their parents choose to spend their time teaching English, math and science precisely because they don't think the public schools do a good enough job.

The case was initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after a home-schooled child reportedly complained of physical abuse by his father. A lawyer assigned to two of the family's eight children invoked the truancy law to get the children enrolled in a public school and away from their parents. So a single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids. If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel.

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure -- namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, the rate of home-schooling increased by 29%.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT -- and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide. But what they can't accomplish legislatively, unions are now trying to achieve by diktat from the courts.

If John McCain wants an issue to endear him to cultural conservatives, this would be it. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rarely stray from the preferences of the teachers unions, but we'd like to know whether they really favor the certification of parents who dare to believe they know best how to teach their children.
26780  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 22, 2008, 12:44:10 PM
I enjoyed Serra's coaching persona on TUF.
26781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 22, 2008, 12:31:25 PM
Its showing as "no longer available".
26782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ted Kennedy on: March 22, 2008, 10:22:09 AM

After numerous rounds of "We don't know if Osama is still alive," Osama himself decided to send Ted Kennedy a note in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game.

Kennedy opened the note, which appeared to contain a single line of coded message: 370HSSV-0773H.

Kennedy was baffled, so he E-mailed it to John Kerry. Kerry and his aides had no clue either, so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it at the FBI, so it went to the CIA, then to the NSA. With no clue as to its meaning, the FBI finally asked Marine Corps Intelligence for help.

Within a few seconds, the Marines cabled back with this reply: "Tell Kennedy he is holding the message upside down."

26783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: With extreme prejudice (Kerry still an idiot) on: March 22, 2008, 12:21:24 AM
With Extreme Prejudice
March 21, 2008

Remember John Kerry? He was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, lauded by his supporters for his intellect and his nuance, as compared with the simpleminded George W. Bush. Having lost the election, he decided to sit out the 2008 contest. He recently endorsed Barack Obama, and earlier this week he sat down with the editorial board of the Standard-Times (New Bedford, Mass.) to make the case for his candidate.

It's a real jaw-dropper. ABC News's Jake Tapper sums it up:

Kerry said that a President Obama would help the US, in relations with Muslim countries, "in some cases go around their dictator leaders to the people and inspire the people in ways that we can't otherwise."
"He has the ability to help us bridge the divide of religious extremism," Kerry said. "To maybe even give power to moderate Islam to be able to stand up against this radical misinterpretation of a legitimate religion."
Kerry was asked what gives Obama that credibility.
"Because he's African-American. Because he's a black man. Who has come from a place of oppression and repression through the years in our own country."
An African-American president would be "a symbol of empowerment" for those who have been disenfranchised around the world, Kerry said, "an important lesson for America to show Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other places in the world where disenfranchised people don't get anything."
One obvious question: What do the events of this week, involving Obama's own church, tell us about his ability to "stand up against" a "radical misinterpretation of a legitimate religion"? Nothing very encouraging in this columnist's view, but many observers view Obama much more charitably in this regard than we do.

What is really striking about Kerry's case for Obama, though, is that it rests on what may be the crudest stereotyping we have ever observed. Commentary's Abe Greenwald has a chuckle over Kerry's racial stereotyping of Obama:

Where is this "place of oppression and repression" in which Obama has suffered "through the years"? Hawaii? Harvard? The Senate? We should find out immediately and do something about this horrific crisis.
But Kerry isn't just stereotyping blacks. He is stereotyping Muslims too. And he is drawing an equivalence between American blacks, a racial minority in one country, and Middle Eastern Muslims, a religious majority in a whole region.

Never mind that, as Greenwald points out, "Arab Muslims [are] none too happy with their black countrymen in northern Africa." Never mind that in some African countries, notably Sudan and Mauritania, Arab Muslims still enslave blacks.

To Kerry, it seems, all "oppressed peoples" look alike. The man has all the intellectual subtlety of a third-rate ethnic studies professor.
26784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Heller on: March 22, 2008, 12:17:45 AM
Guns and Legal Ammo
March 22, 2008
As shoot-outs go, the Supreme Court had a famous one Tuesday during oral arguments over the constitutionality of Washington D.C.'s handgun ban. The smoke won't clear until the High Court issues its decision, but the debate this week augurs well for a conclusion that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.

District of Columbia v. Heller has become the test case for a question that has animated legal scholars, politicians and lower courts for much of our modern history: Is the Second Amendment guarantee a collective right, which is to say it is reserved only for state militias, or is it an individual right?

Judge Laurence Silberman's landmark opinion last year for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down D.C.'s ban on handguns, rejecting the militia argument and scouring the historical and legal record to show that the Founders clearly intended to protect an individual's right to defend himself and family. The District appealed, and so the Supremes will issue the most important Second Amendment ruling in decades.

Judging by Tuesday argument, the High Court has a majority in support of the circuit court opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Framers included the word "people" if the Amendment only applied to militias. Justice Antonin Scalia discussed the importance the Framers attached to providing citizens the means to protect against tyrannical government. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the Court's swing vote, informed all in attendance that "In my view, there's a general right to bear arms quite without reference to the militia either way."

The debate also focused on what restrictions, if any, government could impose on such an individual right. Several Justices had particular fun with Solicitor General Paul Clement, who was charged with defending his (and thus the Bush Administration's) odd split-the-baby amicus brief arguing that while the Second Amendment is an individual right, the D.C. Circuit opinion would bar governments from banning even such heavy weapons as machine guns.

In fact, that opinion leaves ample room for a government to regulate machine guns, bazookas and the like -- much as even the First Amendment protects speech as an individual right but not as a right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. We hope the Supreme Court agrees with Judge Silberman that the Second Amendment does protect the right to own pistols, rifles and other guns of the kind the American Founders believed were needed to protect liberty.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
26785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Act: ulterior motives? on: March 21, 2008, 10:14:25 PM
Still think the 'Patriot Act' is about terrorism?


When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. The odd connection between the antiterror law and Spitzer's trysts with call girls illustrates how laws enacted for one purpose often end up being used very differently once they're on the books.

The Patriot Act gave the FBI new powers to snoop on suspected terrorists. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. Congress wanted to help the Feds identify terrorist money launderers. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers—on a scale of zero to 100—based on complex formulas that included the credit rating, assets and profession of the account holder.

Another element of the formulas: whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person." At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption.

The new scrutiny resulted in an explosion of SARs, from 204,915 in 2001 to 1.23 million last year. The data, stored in an IRS computer in Detroit, are accessible by law-enforcement agencies nationwide. "Terrorism has virtually nothing to do with it," says Peter Djinis, a former top Treasury lawyer. "The vast majority of SARs filed today involve garden-variety forms of white-collar crime." Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads.

One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made, say law-enforcement and industry sources who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the probe. One of the sources tells NEWSWEEK that Spitzer wasn't flagged because of his public position. Instead, the governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. (A North Fork spokesperson says the bank does not discuss its customers.) The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.
26786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 21, 2008, 10:22:54 AM
There is much I disagree with here, but I always consider what Peggy Noonan has to say-- especially so in this case; after all she was an outstanding speechwriter for Ronald Reagan-- which is why I suspect she is so soft on BO.


A Thinking Man's Speech
March 21, 2008
I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important. Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to. It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare.

It seemed to me as honest a speech as one in his position could give within the limits imposed by politics. As such it was a contribution. We'll see if it was a success. The blowhard guild, proud member since 2000, praised it, and, in the biggest compliment, cable news shows came out of the speech not with jokes or jaded insiderism, but with thought. They started talking, pundits left and right, black and white, about what they'd experienced of race in America. It was kind of wonderful. I thought, Go, America, go, go.

You know what Mr. Obama said. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was wrong. His sermons were "incendiary," and they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." Mr. Obama admitted that if all he knew of Mr. Wright were what he saw on the "endless loop . . . of YouTube," he wouldn't like him either. But he's known him 20 years as a man who taught him Christian faith, helped the poor, served as a Marine, and leads a community helping the homeless, needy and sick. "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me." He would not renounce their friendship.

Most significantly, Mr. Obama asserted that race in America has become a generational story. The original sin of slavery is a fact, but the progress we have lived through the past 50 years means each generation experiences race differently. Older blacks, like Mr. Wright, remember Jim Crow and were left misshapen by it. Some rose anyway, some did not; of the latter, a "legacy of defeat" went on to misshape another generation. The result: destructive anger that is at times "exploited by politicians" and that can keep African-Americans "from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition." But "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community." He speaks of working- and middle-class whites whose "experience is the immigrant experience," who started with nothing. "As far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they've built it from scratch." "So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town," when they hear of someone receiving preferences they never received, and "when they're told their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced," they feel anger too.

This is all, simply, true. And we are not used to political figures being frank, in this way, in public. For this Mr. Obama deserves deep credit. It is also true the particular whites Obama chose to paint -- ethnic, middle class -- are precisely the voters he needs to draw in Pennsylvania. It was strategically clever. But as one who witnessed busing in Boston first hand, and whose memories of those days can still bring tears, I was glad for his admission that busing was experienced as an injustice by the white working class. Next step: admitting it was an injustice, period.

* * *

The primary rhetorical virtue of the speech can be found in two words, endemic and Faulkner. Endemic is the kind of word political consultants don't let politicians use because 72% of Americans don't understand it. This lowest-common-denominator thinking, based on dizzy polling, has long degraded American discourse. When Obama said Mr. Wright wrongly encouraged "a view that sees white racism as endemic," everyone understood. Because they're not, actually, stupid. As for Faulkner -- well, this was an American politician quoting William Faulkner: "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." This is a thought, an interesting one, which means most current politicians would never share it.

The speech assumed the audience was intelligent. This was a compliment, and I suspect was received as a gift. It also assumed many in the audience were educated. I was grateful for this, as the educated are not much addressed in American politics.

Here I point out an aspect of the speech that may have a beneficial impact on current rhetoric. It is assumed now that a candidate must say a silly, boring line -- "And families in Michigan matter!" or "What I stand for is affordable quality health care!" -- and the audience will clap. The line and the applause make, together, the eight-second soundbite that will be used tonight on the news, and seen by the people. This has been standard politico-journalistic procedure for 20 years.

Mr. Obama subverted this in his speech. He didn't have applause lines. He didn't give you eight seconds of a line followed by clapping. He spoke in full and longish paragraphs that didn't summon applause. This left TV producers having to use longer-than-usual soundbites in order to capture his meaning. And so the cuts of the speech you heard on the news were more substantial and interesting than usual, which made the coverage of the speech better. People who didn't hear it but only saw parts on the news got a real sense of what he'd said.

If Hillary or John McCain said something interesting, they'd get more than an eight-second cut too. But it works only if you don't write an applause-line speech. It works only if you write a thinking speech.

They should try it.

* * *

Here's what didn't work. Near the end of the speech, Mr. Obama painted an America that didn't summon thoughts of Faulkner but of William Blake. The bankruptcies, the dark satanic mills, the job loss and corporate corruptions. There is of course some truth in his portrait, but why do appeals to the Democratic base have to be so unrelievedly, so unrealistically, bleak?

This connected in my mind to the persistent feeling one has -- the fear one has, actually -- that the Obamas, he and she, may not actually know all that much about America. They are bright, accomplished, decent, they know all about the yuppie experience, the buppie experience, Ivy League ways, networking. But they bring along with all this -- perhaps defensively, to keep their ideological views from being refuted by the evidence of their own lives, or so as not to be embarrassed about how nice fame, success, and power are -- habitual reversions to how tough it is to be in America, and to be black in America, and how everyone since the Reagan days has been dying of nothing to eat, and of exploding untreated diseases. America is always coming to them on crutches.

But most people didn't experience the past 25 years that way. Because it wasn't that way. Do the Obamas know it?

This is a lot of baggage to bring into the Executive Mansion.

Still, it was a good speech, and a serious one. I don't know if it will help him. We're in uncharted territory. We've never had a major-party presidential front-runner who is black, or rather black and white, who has given such an address. We don't know if more voters will be alienated by Mr. Wright than will be impressed by the speech about Mr. Wright. We don't know if voters will welcome a meditation on race. My sense: The speech will be labeled by history as the speech that saved a candidacy or the speech that helped do it in. I hope the former.
26787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation on: March 21, 2008, 09:57:11 AM
"May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness,
upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful
here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy. "

-- George Washington (letter to the  Hebrew Congregation in
Newport, August  1790)

Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (548)
26788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 21, 2008, 09:39:01 AM
Elderly Man Shoots, Kills Near-Naked Intruder
POSTED: 5:41 pm EDT March 20, 2008
UPDATED: 6:33 pm EDT March 20, 2008

TUCKER, Ga. -- An 81-year-old man who shot and killed an intruder said Thursday he would do it again if he's ever faced with the same situation. Robert Jenkins is recovering from injuries he suffered during a struggle with a man who had broken into his DeKalb County home Tuesday about 11 p.m.

Jenkins and his wife said they were in bed when they heard noises in the house. "I said 'Bob they're in the house, how did they get in the house?' and with that Bob hopped out of the bed went to the closet, got his gun,'" said Peggy Jenkins.

When Jenkins got to the kitchen he found Jynad Marshall, 25, stripped down to his underwear. "He said 'give me that gun' and started at me, so I put a round in him right then,'" Jenkins told WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Eric Philips.

Meanwhile he wife was dialing 911. "I heard pow, and I told the operator and she said 'stay on the line', and I said 'no, I can't stay on the line,'" Peggy Jenkins explained. "Then I heard another pow."

The 6 foot 225 pound Marshall fell on top of Jenkins. Marshall continued attacking Jenkins until he died. "I don't feel good about killing anybody, but I'm glad I did because it was us or him," said Jenkins.

Police said Jenkins won't face charges since the shooting was self-defense.
26789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And then, there is this on: March 21, 2008, 03:37:20 AM
Words fail , , ,
26790  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Foot Fist Way Trailer on: March 21, 2008, 03:09:47 AM
26791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: March 21, 2008, 02:52:58 AM
Stratfor, as usual, seeks the deep view:

Geopolitical Diary: The Start of Cold War II?
March 21, 2008
Legislators in the Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia signed a statement on Thursday accusing Georgia of aggression and warning of the possibility of war in the Caucasus. In Moscow, the Russian parliament urged the government to send additional peacekeepers to both Abkhazia and Georgia’s other breakaway republic, South Ossetia. Elsewhere, the Kremlin’s NATO envoy said Russia wants an emergency meeting with the Western military alliance to discuss the March 19 move by U.S. President George W. Bush to establish Kosovar eligibility for military assistance from the United States.

These developments follow a series of similar events in the past few weeks, underscoring an escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia in the wake of Kosovo’s Feb. 17 declaration of independence. The flurry of activity includes moves to expand NATO, violent reactions from Kosovar Serbs, the U.S. attempt to construct ballistic missile defense installations in Eastern Europe, and Russia’s apprehension of Western spies in Moscow. All these events clearly underscore that the Cold War is back.

Cold War II is different than the original Cold War, which was a Soviet-U.S. confrontation that lasted from the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nuclear-armed ideological rivals Washington and Moscow competed for global influence, and a divided Europe was a key theater in which this war played out. Cold War II is being waged by a far more powerful United States and a vastly weakened Russia — an emasculated successor to the Soviet Union. 

Another key difference between the new and old Cold War is that Europe no longer is just a theater in which the Americans and Russians are playing geopolitical chess. The Europeans are playing major roles as independent actors in this new Cold War. This time around, Europe as a continent is not exactly occupied and has recovered from both World War II and the first Cold War. But the European Union is an increasingly incoherent entity, with the three principal state actors –- Germany, France and the United Kingdom –- not interested in confronting Russia. 

Berlin made this very clear when it expressed a lack of interest in NATO expansion, the independence of Kosovo and the Ukraine gas issue. This is not surprising, given that the Germans are dependent upon Moscow for energy. Beyond energy, Germany’s wider economic relationship with and its proximity to Russia inform its lack of appetite for confrontation with the Kremlin. But this does not mean that Berlin won’t take on Moscow when it deems necessary. Germany is re-emerging on its own to again become an international power player.

France is even further removed from the new Cold War dynamics. Paris has its own ideas about how it wishes to advance itself as an international player, which has very little to do with West vs. Russia competition. Geographically far more insulated, it wants no part in this new Cold War. 

As for the British, they have enough domestic political issues to sort out, which is why they also are out of the game. That said, given London’s historic role as a major U.S. ally, the United Kingdom cannot avoid the issues that the United States is dealing with. Therefore, at best the British will maintain a low-key role in the U.S. moves to continue its geopolitical push against Russia. 

The United States — considering that it has the luxury of waging a geopolitical assault against Russia from afar — is not bothered by the lack of European involvement. But the European position is not tenable in the long run. Europe’s geography — and the fact that, unlike during the original Cold War, there isn’t an iron curtain in place — will force the Europeans to jump in or at least choose sides.
26792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gorbachev admits he is a Christian on: March 20, 2008, 08:15:09 PM
Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian

By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 3:04am GMT 19/03/2008

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.

Accompanied by his daughter Irina, Mr Gorbachev spent half an hour on his knees in silent prayer at the tomb.

His arrival in Assisi was described as "spiritual perestroika" by La Stampa, the Italian newspaper.

"St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ," said Mr Gorbachev. "His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life," he added.

Mr Gorbachev's surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light.

Mr Gorbachev, 77, was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church and his parents were Christians.

In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their home.

Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a "closet believer".

Mr Reagan held deep religious convictions himself. However, until now Mr Gorbachev has allowed himself to express only pantheistic views, saying in one interview "nature is my god".

After his prayers, Mr Gorbachev toured the Basilica of St Francis and asked in particular to be shown an icon of St Francis portraying his "dream at Spoleto".

St Francis, who lived in the 12th century, was a troubadour and a poet before the spiritual vision caused him to return to Assisi and contemplate a religious life.

Even in his early days, St Francis helped the poor, once giving all of his money to a beggar. As well as spending time in the wilderness, he also nursed lepers and eventually became a priest.

"It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb," said Mr Gorbachev.

"I feel very emotional to be here at such an important place not only for the Catholic faith, but for all humanity."

He also asked the monks for theological books to help him understand St Francis's life.

Father Miroslavo Anuskevic, who accompanied the former Soviet leader, said: "He was not recognised by any of the worshippers in the church, and silently meditated at the tomb for a while. He seemed a man deeply inspired by charity, and told me that he was involved in a project to help children with cancer.

"He talked a lot about Russia and said that even though the transition to democracy had been very important

for the world, it was very painful for Russia. He said it was a country which has a great history, and also a great spirituality."
26793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 20, 2008, 02:51:03 PM
Will the Last Republican in New York Turn Out the Lights?

How does House Minority Leader John Boehner know he has an unusually challenging election year on his hands? When even the most recent chairman of the House Republican campaign committee joins the avalanche of GOP House Members who are retiring this year.

Rep. Tom Reynolds, who represents an upstate New York district wedged between Buffalo and Rochester, will announce he's leaving office after a decade of service. He becomes the 29th House Republican to decide the party is unlikely to win back a House majority this year and thus is heading for the exits. Only six Democrats so far have announced they are leaving the House.

Mr. Reynolds only won with 52% of the vote last time, and since then he has endured an ongoing scandal involving the National Republican Campaign Committee he headed until 2006. The committee's treasurer during his time is alleged to have embezzled nearly $1 million because of lax supervision.

Republicans hold only six out of the Empire State's 29 House seats. Now they will have to defend two because of retirements. The seat held by departing Rep. James Walsh is truly marginal, but Republicans believe they should be able to hold the Reynolds seat. It gave President Bush a solid 55% of the vote in 2004, normally sign of a safe GOP seat. But Democrats have found a candidate they think perfectly suited for the district: John Powers, a schoolteacher who happens to be an Iraq War veteran.

-- John Fund

Manna for Document Nerds

What will the bloodhounds be pawing for now that the National Archives has bequeathed its first major document dump related to Hillary Clinton's time as First Lady?

The press for the immediate moment will be zeroing in on titillating details, such as where Mrs. Clinton was on that fateful day when hubby Bill introduced Monica Lewinsky to the Oval Office. But that's shooting fish in a barrel. Investigative reporters also will be looking for promising leads about, say, Mrs. Clinton's contact with the now deceased Vince Foster or her possible meetings with former Democratic fundraiser (and now convicted felon) Johnny Chung.

Meanwhile, those focused on the current presidential race will be trawling for info that would either buttress or dismantle Mrs. Clinton's claims that she was an instrumental policy player in the Clinton White House. Britain's Guardian newspaper was already reporting yesterday that "Mrs. Clinton was a long way from the White House at key foreign policy moments," such as NATO air strikes against Serbia, or the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

Finally expect a brouhaha (which has already begun) over some 4,746 schedule items that have been redacted. The National Archives says this was done to protect the privacy of third parties, but what isn't yet clear is whether the redactions were imposed by Clinton representative Bruce Lindsey, who was allowed to vet the documents before their release. Christopher Farrell of Judicial Watch -- a conservative organization that sued to get the information -- says he doesn't expect to find any "smoking gun," since Mr. Lindsey had "enormous discretion" to redact potentially damaging material.

Naturally, the release has spurred a new round of "Who's More Transparent?" bickering between the Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns. Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson says Mrs. Clinton's public record now reflects "11,000 more documents than the Obama campaign has released up until this point relating to any part of his service especially as state Senator." The Obama campaign, meanwhile, continues to ask why Mrs. Clinton has yet to photocopy and release recent tax records.

-- Kim Strassel

Back In The Game

Oregon is ecstatic right now. For the first time in 60 years the state may hold a meaningful presidential primary.

Stymied in its attempts at relevancy in 1992 and 1996, Oregon in 2000 decided to move its presidential primary back to its traditional placement in May, having found that a March primary was still overshadowed by bigger states. Now, two months before Oregon voters get to decide between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in one of the most competitive primary seasons ever, the state's late slot on the primary calendar has suddenly turned into a virtue.

Mr. Obama, anticipating the importance of Oregon's 52 pledged delegates, already plans to hold rallies Friday in Portland and Eugene -- two of the state's three largest cities. In any other presidential year, Oregonians would likely have known the candidates only from seeing them on TV.

The state's last significant presidential primary came in 1948, when New York Gov. Thomas Dewey squeaked past former Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen with 52% of the vote, essentially ending Stassen's presidential hopes. Leading up to that primary, between 40 million and 80 million people heard the two Republican candidates debate from a Portland radio station studio on whether the U.S. should outlaw the Communist Party. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, this was the first and last time a presidential debate was ever limited to one issue.

-- Kyle Trygstad,

Alaska's Changing of the Guard, with Prejudice

Rep. Don Young of Alaska has been cheerfully hauling back pork to his native state for years. But in 2005, he and fellow Republican Senator Ted Stevens were caught promoting the "Bridge to Nowhere," which became an instant symbol for bloated federal earmarks. Then last year, both men came under federal investigation over their cozy ties to companies that often sought earmarks. Mr. Young has spent $845,000 on legal fees related to the investigation, but refuses to answer any questions on the subject.

Senator Stevens has already drawn a primary opponent in his re-election race, and now Mr. Young faces a top-flight challenger: Sean Parnell, Alaska's lieutenant governor. Mr. Parnell hopes to replicate the success of his boss, Governor Sarah Palin, who in 2006 defeated then-Gov. Frank Murkowski in a GOP primary by playing up the corruption surrounding his political machine. Mr. Parnell certainly will benefit from the popular Republican governor's backing. Ms. Palin personally accompanied her deputy to the state election office when he filed to enter the primary.

Rep. Young isn't giving up, but polls show he has only a 40% approval rating and many voters realize that as an ethically challenged member of the minority party his best pork-salting days are probably over.

-- John Fund

Whiz Wit English

A small blow for sanity was struck yesterday when a local regulatory body in Philadelphia ruled that a famous cheesesteak restaurant did not violate anyone's human rights by posting a small sign: "This is America: WHEN ORDERING PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH."

Joe Vento, owner of Geno's Steaks, says he never in fact refused service to anyone who didn't speak English and only put up the sign out of concern that so many in the neighborhood were lapsing into their native tongues when they could have used basic English.

By a 2 to 1 vote, the city's Commission on Human Relations ruled that Mr. Vento's sign did not convey any message that business will be "refused, withheld or denied." The ruling was a surprise because just last year the commission had found probable cause to charge Mr. Vento with violation of anti-discrimination laws. The same panel later decided to charge him only with posting an "offensive" sign.

The ruling comes just days after the U.S. Senate voted 54 to 44 to approve a common-sense amendment barring federal employment regulators from suing small businesses that require employees to speak English on the job.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a sponsor of the amendment, says his goal is to end "frivolous lawsuits" such as one filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Salvation Army and 125 other organizations for requiring English in the workplace except during breaks and lunch periods. Mr. Alexander's amendment would direct the EEOC to spend the money being used to finance the lawsuits to support programs to teach adults English instead.

Senator Alexander is under no illusions that his amendment will now pass the House. Last November, a previous version was approved by both House and Senate, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi cancelled a conference committee scheduled to finalize the bill under pressure from liberal groups. The legislation then died, but not before House Democrats came under withering criticism for undermining the use of English as America's common language.

26794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: America and Iraq on: March 20, 2008, 02:43:50 PM
America and Iraq
March 20, 2008; Page A18
Five years after U.S. and coalition forces began rolling into Iraq on their way to Baghdad, it's easy to lament the war's mistakes.

The Bush Administration underestimated the war's cost -- in treasure, and most painfully in lives. The CIA and every other Western intelligence agency was wrong about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. failed to anticipate the insurgency and was almost fatally late in implementing a counterinsurgency. It allowed the U.N. to design a system of proportional electoral representation that has encouraged its sectarian political divisions. And so on.

These columns have often discussed these and other blunders. But we have always done so while supporting the larger war effort and with a goal of victory that would be worthy of the sacrifice. Five years on, and thanks to the troop "surge" and strategy change of the last year, many of the goals that motivated the original invasion are once again within reach if we see the effort through.

* * *
No one should forget that the invasion toppled a dictator who had already terrorized the region and would sooner or later have threatened American interests. This by itself was no small achievement. Saddam's trial was a teaching moment for that part of the Arab world that used to cheer him; his hanging, however crudely carried out, was a warning to dictators everywhere.

Iraq may not have had WMD, but Saddam admitted to American interrogators that he planned to reconstitute his WMD effort once U.N. sanctions collapsed. The capture of Saddam persuaded Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to abandon his nuclear program and seek a reconciliation with the U.S. This in turn led to the rolling up of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's proliferation network, whose arms extended to Iran and North Korea.

Strategically, Iraq has gone from being one of America's two principal enemies (with Iran) in the region to one of its two principal allies (with Israel). Iraq's government, for all of its shortcomings, demonstrates that a Shiite-led government need not be a theocracy. The invasion did prompt thousands of jihadis to emerge from places like Saudi Arabia and Morocco to fight the "crusaders and infidels." Thousands of them are now dead or in prison, however, and the radical corners of the Arab world have learned that America cannot be defeated by a strategy of car bombs and assassination.

The strategic case for toppling Saddam also rested in part on the idea that a free Iraq would provide a strategic counterweight to Iran and Syria, as well as an ideological counterexample for a region where autocracy is the norm. The potency of that combination has been demonstrated by Sunni Arab hostility to the new Iraqi government; by Iran, Syria and al Qaeda efforts to destabilize it; and by those in the West who have sought to denigrate the effort as a way to diminish U.S. power.

Today, those efforts have largely failed. A new generation of European leaders has no interest in humiliating the U.S. and understands the danger of a chaotic Iraq. Al Qaeda has been nearly destroyed as a fighting force in Iraq and has lost support in the Arab Street with its brutality against Iraq's Sunni Arabs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Sunni states are belatedly coming to terms with the new Iraq as they conclude that the U.S. won't leave in defeat.

The Iraqi government is also at last beginning to meet its most important political commitments. Yesterday, Iraq's presidency council agreed to a law on provincial elections to go forward after a month's delay. The central government has passed a budget, approved a detainee amnesty, enlisted 425,000 men in its security forces and increased oil production to 2.4 million barrels a day while funneling $100 million a year to its provinces. This is happening while the number of daily insurgent attacks has been cut by about two-thirds, with commensurate declines in civilian and military casualties.

Where do we go from here? Iraq's transition to self-government remains fragile enough that U.S. forces will need to remain there in some numbers for years to come. The two countries will have to strike a long-term U.S.-Iraq military agreement, which would serve the interests of both countries. For Iraq, it would show America's continuing commitment in a rough neighborhood. And for the U.S., it would make the job of containing Iran easier. President Bush can best serve his Presidential successor by leaving enough troops on the ground to give him or her some strategic flexibility.

It is therefore unfortunate, and dangerous, that both Democratic candidates have backed themselves into a corner by endorsing rapid withdrawal from Iraq. In a speech yesterday in North Carolina, Barack Obama called for an almost complete U.S. withdrawal in 16 months. He continues to endorse the illusion that defeat in Iraq will help us prevail in Afghanistan; the opposite is closer to the truth. We will never maintain the support, either at home or abroad, to prevail in Afghanistan if we show we can be driven from the more vital strategic prize of Iraq.

* * *
In our March 18, 2003 editorial on the eve of Iraq's liberation, we supported the war while noting that "toppling Saddam is a long-term undertaking" and "the U.S. has never been good at nation-building." We wish we had been wrong on both counts, but our view has always been that nations shouldn't begin wars they don't intend to win. And newspapers don't endorse wars only to walk away when the fighting gets difficult. The U.S. sacrifice in Iraq has been honorable, our soldiers have fought superbly, and the best way -- the only way -- to honor both is to leave Iraq in victory.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

26795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: March 20, 2008, 10:25:49 AM
"If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain
our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the
path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those
who can now barely hold us in check."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to William Duane, 1811)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
26796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Outrage at Cartoons still tests the Danes on: March 20, 2008, 10:15:19 AM
AARHUS, Denmark — “I think this is safe house No. 5,” Kurt Westergaard said the other day, and it was clear that he genuinely had lost track.

Last month the Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent on charges of plotting to kill Mr. Westergaard, one of the 12 cartoonists whose pictures of Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked protests, some of them violent, by Muslims around the world in 2006 and put bounties on the heads of Mr. Westergaard and his editor, Flemming Rose. Mr. Westergaard (he drew Muhammad with a bomb in his turban) has been in hiding ever since.

Americans, for whom the presidential election seems to have become a delirious, unending sport, preoccupying their attention, turn out not to be the only ones who preferred to forget about the cartoons. So had many Danes and fellow Europeans. They were shocked by the arrests.

In the days shortly after, 17 Danish newspapers, having declined to publish the offending cartoons two years ago, declared solidarity with Mr. Westergaard and printed them. This, naturally, provoked a fresh round of protests from Gaza to Indonesia.

In Egypt the speaker of the Parliament claimed Danes had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which seemed a little rich coming just a few weeks after the European Parliament, which itself complained about the cartoons’ re-publication, condemned Egypt for the sorry state of its human rights.

Meanwhile demands in Afghanistan for the instant withdrawal of Danish troops under NATO’s command and the severing of all diplomatic ties with Denmark caused Denmark’s foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, to reply that it was becoming difficult for him “to put Danish soldiers’ lives in danger” to support a country “where one is at risk to be condemned to death for values that we believe to be an inseparable part of democracy and the modern world.”

And then, while it still seemed just a Danish problem, trouble spread. A gallery in Berlin was shut because an exhibition of satirical art by a Danish group called Surrend, which has previously produced works mocking neo-Nazis, caused several angry Muslim visitors to threaten violence unless a poster depicting the Kaaba, the shrine in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, was removed.

Two years earlier, in the wake of the original cartoon imbroglio, a Berlin opera company canceled performances of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” when police warned the company that a scene with the severed head of Muhammad, among other religious figures, posed “incalculable risk” to the performers and audience. Cries of self-censorship erupted across Europe.

This time around Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, a politician who has been conspicuous in working to improve relations with Muslims in Germany, was reported to have urged other newspapers in Europe to reprint the cartoons, a remark he strongly denied making, which made no difference to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

“The German minister is required to immediately withdraw his statement,” Al-Watan demanded. Racism, not freedom of speech, was obviously behind Germany policy, the newspaper added. After all, Germans aren’t free to “discuss the Jewish Holocaust.”

And everybody knew what that meant.

Now many Europeans seem fed up. Over dinner in Copenhagen recently, Mr. Rose, who has made something of a second career out of the cartoon fallout, said it all came late but was inevitable.

“At the time, in 2006, there were good journalistic reasons for other newspapers to publish the cartoons because few people had seen them then, so they were news,” he said. “Now the journalistic justification is almost nonexistent because everyone knows what they look like, so it’s more about solidarity than about news.”

Unlike Mr. Westergaard, Mr. Rose doesn’t live in safe houses, although he long ago removed his name from the local telephone directory and has learned that a different Flemming Rose (there are apparently several in Denmark) decided to change his name.

“It was not about mocking a minority but a religious figure, the Prophet, so it was blasphemy, not racism,” Mr. Rose said of the cartoons. “The idea of challenging religious authority led to liberal democracy, whereas the singling out of minorities, as minorities, led to Nazism and the persecution of the bourgeoisie in Russia. So this distinction is crucial to understand.”


Page 2 of 2)

Years spent as a student and a newspaper correspondent in the Soviet Union shaped Mr. Rose’s philosophy. There he saw how “the concept of universal values was crucial to the dissident culture, and I saw what censorship meant,” he said. “I saw that values were not relative between Western society and the Soviets.”

Flemming Rose, Kurt Westergaard's editor. Recently, 17 papers reprinted the cartoons.

The Soviets, he noted, had a law in their penal code outlawing defamation of the Soviet way of life. Blasphemy laws in Muslim countries today “have the same purpose of silencing dissident voices,” he said. “Free speech does not extend to libel, invasion of privacy and incitement to violence.” But “a distinction must be made between words and deeds,” he insisted. “Images are open to interpretation, they’re different from words.”

Mr. Westergaard put it differently: “Cartoons always concentrate and simplify an idea and allow a quick impression that arouses some strong feeling.”

He recalled a cartoon he did years ago to complement an article defending Palestinians against Israelis, “not because this was my belief but because my job was to illustrate the views in this article, and I showed a Palestinian wearing a yellow star with ‘Arab’ on it.” He continued: “Many people called to protest. One man said I had abused a Jewish symbol. We talked for a long time and finally accepted each other’ s viewpoint.” It was the talking, he said, that mattered.

Did he go too far that time?

“Looking back,” he said, “perhaps I should have made a cartoon that did not use the yellow star.”

But then why Muhammad and not a star?

“Because millions of Jews died in camps wearing that star.”

Which is obviously the wrong answer for those who have put a price on his head. “I have always been an atheist, and I dare say these events have only intensified my atheism,” he said. “But the same clash would eventually have occurred over some book or a play. It was waiting to happen.”

He brought a cartoon that he had recently revised. In it Jesus, wearing a suit and tie, strides from the cross on which a sign hangs: “Service hours, Sunday, 10-11, 2-3.” Mr. Westergaard recently added an imam watching Jesus walk away.

He agreed to meet at Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper, from which he’s now semi-retired. Tall, broad-shouldered, with a salt-and-pepper beard, at 72 he’s like a Scandinavian sailor out of central casting but dressed, as usual, in fire-engine red pants, a patterned red scarf and a Sgt. Pepper black coat — clearly an act of sartorial defiance. When asked about Mr. Westergaard’s general approach to the last two years, Mr. Rose, with awe, said, “Calm.”

As it happens, most of the dozen cartoonists are older and, like Mr. Westergaard, closer to the generational ethos of 1968 than to the cultural relativism of later generations. A Social Democrat, Mr. Westergaard ran a school for severely disabled children before he became a cartoonist. He likes to point out that Himmerland, the region of Denmark where he was born, was home to a race of warriors: “There were also Danes among the Crusaders.”

He knows it’s a loaded reference. “Is this another Crusade now, or what is it?” he asked.

Then he answered himself: “In Denmark there is a culture of radicalism, a skepticism toward authority and religion. It’s part of our national character.” Years of relativism, during which Danes felt they “had no right to ask anyone else to live like us,” ended with the cartoons, he said. But he’s less sure than Mr. Rose about the degree of progress, conceding that recent gains by Denmark’s anti-immigrant party “are an unfortunate setback due to all this.”

Now he’s accustomed to being (and maybe, who is to say, even slightly enjoys his status as) an accidental celebrity with a soapbox. “Disagreement is an essential part of democracy,” he said. “I want to explain my sense of this clash between two cultures because I have grandchildren who will grow up in this multicultural society. The Danes are tolerant people. They don’t deserve to be treated like racists.”

He added: “This will go on for the rest of my lifetime, I am sure. I will never get out of this. But I feel more anger than fear. I’m angry because my life is threatened, and I know I have done nothing wrong, just done my job.”

“Anger,” he said, smiling, “is the best therapy.”
26797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghanistan's New Deal on: March 20, 2008, 10:06:04 AM
Appearing in the NY Times, our embassador to the UN makes a proposal

Published: March 20, 2008
BAN KI-MOON, secretary general of the United Nations, has appointed a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, Kai Eide, as his special representative to Afghanistan. Mr. Eide’s success will depend not only on his skills, but also on the friends of Afghanistan at the United Nations providing him with the proper mission, mandate and resources.

The most important task for the new special representative is to form a trusting, collaborative relationship with President Hamid Karzai, enabling them to agree on Afghanistan’s key challenges and on how aid money and military assistance can best be used. Today in New York, the Security Council is scheduled to extend the mandate of the United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for another year — the perfect chance to provide a clear set of priorities.

This resolution rightly gives Mr. Eide the powers to directly coordinate all of the support provided by international donors. As things stand, more than 30 national embassies and bilateral development agencies, several United Nations agencies, four development banks and international financial institutions, and about 2,000 nongovernmental organizations and contractors are involved in rebuilding in Afghanistan.

However, because of a lack of coordination among these donors, reconstruction resources often fail to arrive in a timely way after areas have been cleared of the enemy. Hundreds of projects are undertaken by allies and nongovernmental groups without coordination with the Afghan government, leading to cases of “ghost” schools or health clinics that are built but sit idle because they cannot be staffed or equipped.

Ministries are often hamstrung by having to comply with the varying procurement and accounting rules of dozens of foreign agencies, many of which are not consistent with Afghan law. This puts the international community at cross purposes with our goal of helping Afghanistan build coherent national systems for education, health and other services.

There is only one way to end the confusion: the United Nations must take on the primary coordination role, and donors must show a willingness to be coordinated. The new resolution allows this to happen in a number of ways.

First, Mr. Eide will need to oversee the coordination of civilian assistance with military efforts of the two military organizations operating in Afghanistan, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force. While it’s promising that those two organizations are meeting in Bucharest, Romania, next month to discuss better integrating their efforts, success against the insurgency will require efforts to ensure that military actions to secure areas from the enemy are coordinated with civilian efforts to establish good governance and economic development.

Second, Mr. Eide must coordinate the efforts of the international community to support the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year plan agreed upon in 2006 by the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and the international community that requires Afghan leaders to take steps in reform and institution-building in exchange for commitments of sustained support. The United Nations must have a stronger role in overseeing the increasing capacity of Afghan ministries and their anti-corruption efforts.

Third, the new United Nations special representative should help the leaders and people of key donor countries understand achievements and challenges. This is the only way that the friends of Afghanistan can fully appreciate the return on their investments.

Last, Mr. Eide will have a mandate to engage Afghanistan’s neighbors to help stabilize the country. In the aftermath of 9/11, regional powers came together to support the so-called Bonn agreement, which enabled Afghans to freely choose their own government. Reclaiming the spirit of Bonn must be a priority.

The United States is fully behind the United Nations in the mission. Afghanistan is important not only because it was the origin of the attacks of 9/11 but also because it is the keystone of the geopolitical stability of Central and South Asia. Moreover, success in Afghanistan will be a major step in helping to create security, stability and progress in the broader Middle East, which is the defining challenge of our time.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the United States permanent representative to the United Nations.

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26798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: March 20, 2008, 10:00:42 AM
Stratfor I think has had good insight in its assessment of what Russia is up to geopolitically, and continues to have it here.  That said, I would quibble with the final sentence.  The Russians have been fcuking with us by helping Iran and now we are showing them that there are costs to that.  That certainly does not make us the confrontational one in my book.

Geopolitical Diary: U.S. Puts Russia On Notice
March 20, 2008
U.S. President George W. Bush, fresh from meetings with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday, announced American support for Georgia’s NATO bid. Specifically, Bush announced that he would lobby the NATO allies to grant Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP), the first step toward joining the alliance. Bush’s statement contained sufficient equivocation that MAP is hardly a foregone conclusion and formal membership is anything but imminent, but Russia has nonetheless been put on notice. NATO is preparing to march east yet again.

For the past month the West and Russia have been at a crossroads. After 10 years of heavy investment of political capital by the Kremlin into supporting its Balkan ally, Serbia, the West ran roughshod over Russian concerns by recognizing the independence of Kosovo, a renegade Serbian province. That decision blew a hole through the image of Russian power. In the midst of an internal transition of power and reeling from the Kosovo defeat, Moscow needs a means of striking back at the West to demonstrate its potency. To flex its muscles, Russia can encourage separatism in U.S. allies, complicate the United States’ Middle East policy with selective weapons sales and technology transfers, and manipulate European energy supplies.

But Russia also knows that if it makes any missteps, Western influence could threaten its position on more fronts than the country can defend. Even with high energy prices bolstering its bottom line and a strong president holding the system together, the Kremlin knows Russia is but a shadow of its Cold War self. Meanwhile, it is not that the West is without vulnerabilities — weaknesses are available for exploitation from Finland to Turkey — but that during the last 18 years, Western institutions have only strengthened in absolute terms.

The West has the advantage of political, economic and military superiority, along with the flexibility to dabble anywhere along the Russian periphery, and with a little elbow grease and luck, even within the Russian Federation itself. Remember, it is Russia — not the United States — that is riddled with potential secessionist regions. And it is the United States — not Russia — that sits safely on the other side of an ocean from its potential competitors.

In short, there is no doubt in either Moscow or Washington that the two share the ability to swap blows in areas of critical importance. Efforts undertaken March 17 and March 18 saw a final attempt to head off a post-Kosovo confrontation when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Moscow to determine whether the Russians and Americans could agree to disagree.

In the American mind, a Russia that agrees to sit on its hands while the United States sews up Iraq is preferable. And yes, we realize that “sew up” is a gross simplification even in the best of circumstances. Moscow’s position in the talks was more nuanced than Washington’s: Moscow offered to hold off on seeking retaliation for its defeat in Kosovo should the United States agree to hold off on pushing its NATO agenda deeper into the former Soviet Union. Ultimately, the two sides proved unable to hammer out a deal, and Bush’s statement is the proof that, for the Americans at least, confrontation is the order of the day.
26799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 19, 2008, 03:35:31 PM
My friend responds:

He said it was from the John McCain website,  I don't have the time to find its exact location, sorry.
26800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 19, 2008, 03:32:07 PM
Barack Obama's speech on race in America was a tour de force in many ways, but one section made me cringe and deserves some rebuke. There is an expression about ambitious politicians who would "walk over their grandmothers" in pursuit of their goals. Mr. Obama almost did that yesterday.

In explaining why he would not repudiate his extremist pastor, Mr. Obama said, "I can no more disown [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Now Mr. Obama’s campaign has made clear that his 84-year old grandmother, who has asked to be left alone, should be considered off-limits to political reporters. But yesterday, it was Mr. Obama who didn't leave her alone when he used her for one of the central themes of his speech. His behavior recalls the time when Bill Clinton regularly trashed his stepfather as a violent drunk as part of his 1992 campaign. The idea of talking about his stepfather's human frailties to advance himself politically struck many people then as a selfish act and a gross distortion of the loyalty family members owe to each other.

-- John Fund

Quick-Draw Dellinger, He's Not

Talk out being outgunned. Former Clinton Solicitor General Walter Dellinger apparently had a bulls-eye on him when he faced the Supreme Court yesterday to defend the crime-ridden District of Columbia's handgun ban.

Mr. Dellinger didn't do himself any favors by taking the most extreme view -- that the Constitution's right to bear arms applies only to members of a militia, none of which exist anymore. He was barely a few sentences into his argument before the Court's conservative majority opened fire. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Second Amendment mentions "the people" if it didn't mean... the people? Justice Antonin Scalia followed up with a sermon on the eminent 18th-century English legal authority William Blackstone, who placed a high value on a right to self-defense that likely animated the Founding Fathers too.

But what really had observers buzzing was the intervention of Anthony Kennedy, seen as a swing vote on this case. He quizzed Mr. Dellinger about whether the right of self-defense wasn't at the heart of the Framer's deliberations, given their natural concern for a "remote settler" who needed "to defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that."

Anything can happen behind the Court's closed doors, but yesterday's oral argument strongly indicates that the District's comprehensive ban on private handgun ownership may be headed for history's ash-heap. Gun controllers will be outraged, but leading Democrats, who have all but abandoned the gun-control issue in their pursuit of national majority status, are likely to find some other subject to get worked up about when the Court's decision comes down.

-- Kim Strassel

Grudge Match

Democratic debates are coming back! While some voters might be exhausted from the two dozen that were held earlier this year, others of us welcome their return because the pitched battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has finally gotten interesting.

The next championship bouts look to be on April 16 in Philadelphia, hosted by ABC, and on April 19 in North Carolina, hosted by CBS. Mrs. Clinton hasn't accepted the North Carolina debate yet, but that's likely a formality. The CBS debate would feature Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer, two veteran journalists who so far haven't had a star turn as debate moderators.

As for whether the debates will be worth watching, just consider how contentious the last few weeks of campaigning between the two candidates have been. Given the stakes, that intensity is likely to keep building until they confront each other in Philadelphia. The debate should be an interesting one, but don't expect to see much "brotherly love" present.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"How is it possible that a campaign apparatus that sniffed out Geraldine Ferraro's offensive statement to a local California newspaper (the Daily Breeze, 12th paragraph) did not know that Wright's statements condemning America were all over the Internet and had been cited March 6 by the (reputable) anti-Obama columnist Ronald Kessler? The sermon was also available on YouTube. In other words, how is it possible that a man who has made judgment the centerpiece of his presidential campaign has shown so little of it in this matter? One possible answer to these questions is that Obama has learned to rely on a sycophantic media that hears any criticism of him as either (1) racist, (2) vaguely racist or (3) doing the bidding of Hillary and Bill Clinton" -- Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.

He Saw the Future More Clearly Than the Present

The last member of the great science fiction-writing trio of the 20th century has left us with the death of British writer Arthur C. Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka. The other members were Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

Although Mr. Clarke wrote, co-wrote or edited some 100 books, he is perhaps best known as the author of "2001: A Space Odyssey," which was turned into an iconic 1960s film by Stanley Kubrick. But Mr. Clarke's other books were a treasure trove of predictions in which he anticipated, with remarkable accuracy, everything from communications satellites to the Internet and cloning.

Mr. Clarke had pithy notions about social and technological change. "Every revolutionary idea," he once said, "evokes three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) it's completely impossible; (2) it's possible but it's not worth doing; (3) I said it was a good idea all along." Mr. Clarke also sagely noted that the short-term impact of any new technology tends to be overestimated, while its long-term impact is underestimated.

But when it came to politics, Mr. Clarke was often frightfully wooly-headed. He called President Reagan's missile-defense plans "technological obscenities" and testified against them before Congress. He failed to foresee how Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative would contribute to the Soviet Union's peaceful downfall. He also ignored the lesson of his own novel, "The Trigger," in which a physicist invents a machine that can safely detonate any explosive, rendering weapons obsolete.

In 2000, Mr. Clarke also signed onto the so-called Human Manifesto, which one British newspaper sniffed was "a messy ideological goulash -- a conflicting mess of hard-core individualism, fettered capitalism, left-over socialism, dreamy one-worldism and goofy Al Gore environmentalism."

Still, despite such lapses Mr. Clarke leaves us at age 90 with a body of work that will inspire readers for hundreds of years with the potential of human accomplishment.

-- John Fund

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