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26801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 22, 2007, 06:37:01 AM
The long march to be a superpower

Aug 2nd 2007 | BEIJING AND TIANJIN
From The Economist print edition

The People's Liberation Army is investing heavily to give China the military muscle to match its economic power. But can it begin to rival America?

THE sight is as odd as its surroundings are bleak. Where a flat expanse of mud flats, salt pans and fish farms reaches the Bohai Gulf, a vast ship looms through the polluted haze. It is an aircraft-carrier, the Kiev, once the proud possession of the Soviet Union. Now it is a tourist attraction. Chinese visitors sit on the flight deck under Pepsi umbrellas, reflecting perhaps on a great power that was and another, theirs, that is fast in the making.

Inside the Kiev, the hangar bay is divided into two. On one side, bored-looking visitors watch an assortment of dance routines featuring performers in ethnic-minority costumes. On the other side is a full-size model of China's new J-10, a plane unveiled with great fanfare in January as the most advanced fighter built by the Chinese themselves (except for the Ukrainian or Russian turbofan engines—but officials prefer not to advertise this). A version of this, some military analysts believe, could one day be deployed on a Chinese ship.

The Pentagon is watching China's aircraft-carrier ambitions with bemused interest. Since the 1980s, China has bought four of them (three from the former Soviet Union and an Australian one whose construction began in Britain during the second world war). Like the Kiev, the Minsk (berthed near Hong Kong) has been turned into a tourist attraction having first been studied closely by Chinese naval engineers. Australia's carrier, the Melbourne, has been scrapped. The biggest and most modern one, the Varyag, is in the northern port city of Dalian, where it is being refurbished. Its destiny is uncertain. The Pentagon says it might be put into service, used for training carrier crews, or become yet another floating theme-park.

American global supremacy is not about to be challenged by China's tinkering with aircraft-carriers. Even if China were to commission one—which analysts think unlikely before at least 2015—it would be useless in the most probable area of potential conflict between China and America, the Taiwan Strait. China could far more easily launch its jets from shore. But it would be widely seen as a potent symbol of China's rise as a military power. Some Chinese officers want to fly the flag ever farther afield as a demonstration of China's rise. As China emerges as a trading giant (one increasingly dependent on imported oil), a few of its military analysts talk about the need to protect distant sea lanes in the Malacca Strait and beyond.

This week China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), as the armed forces are known, is celebrating the 80th year since it was born as a group of ragtag rebels against China's then rulers. Today it is vying to become one of the world's most capable forces: one that could, if necessary, keep even the Americans at bay. The PLA has little urge to confront America head-on, but plenty to deter it from protecting Taiwan.

The pace of China's military upgrading is causing concern in the Pentagon. Eric McVadon, a retired rear admiral, told a congressional commission in 2005 that China had achieved a “remarkable leap” in the modernisation of forces needed to overwhelm Taiwan and deter or confront any American intervention. And the pace of this, he said, was “urgently continuing”. By Pentagon standards, Admiral McVadon is doveish.

In its annual report to Congress on China's military strength, published in May, the Pentagon said China's “expanding military capabilities” were a “major factor” in altering military balances in East Asia. It said China's ability to project power over long distances remained limited. But it repeated its observation, made in 2006, that among “major and emerging powers” China had the “greatest potential to compete militarily” with America.

Since the mid-1990s China has become increasingly worried that Taiwan might cut its notional ties with the mainland. To instil fear into any Taiwanese leader so inclined, it has been deploying short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) on the coast facing the island as fast as it can produce them—about 100 a year. The Pentagon says there are now about 900 of these DF-11s (CSS-7) and DF-15s (CSS-6). They are getting more accurate. Salvoes of them might devastate Taiwan's military infrastructure so quickly that any war would be over before America could respond.

Much has changed since 1995 and 1996, when China's weakness in the face of American power was put on stunning display. In a fit of anger over America's decision in 1995 to allow Lee Teng-hui, then Taiwan's president, to make a high-profile trip to his alma mater, Cornell University, China fired ten unarmed DF-15s into waters off Taiwan. The Americans, confident that China would quickly back off, sent two aircraft-carrier battle groups to the region as a warning. The tactic worked. Today America would have to think twice. Douglas Paal, America's unofficial ambassador to Taiwan from 2002 to 2006, says the “cost of conflict has certainly gone up.”

The Chinese are now trying to make sure that American aircraft-carriers cannot get anywhere near. Admiral McVadon worries about their development of DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missiles. With their far higher re-entry velocities than the SRBMs, they would be much harder for Taiwan's missile defences to cope with. They could even be launched far beyond Taiwan into the Pacific to hit aircraft-carriers. This would be a big technical challenge. But Admiral McVadon says America “might have to worry” about such a possibility within a couple of years.

Once the missiles have done their job, China's armed forces could (so they hope) follow up with a panoply of advanced Russian weaponry—mostly amassed in the past decade. Last year the Pentagon said China had imported around $11 billion of weapons between 2000 and 2005, mainly from Russia.

China knows it has a lot of catching up to do. Many Americans may be unenthusiastic about America's military excursions in recent years, particularly about the war in Iraq. But Chinese military authors, in numerous books and articles, see much to be inspired by.

On paper at least, China's gains have been impressive. Even into the 1990s China had little more than a conscript army of ill-educated peasants using equipment based largely on obsolete Soviet designs of the 1950s and outdated cold-war (or even guerrilla-war) doctrine. Now the emphasis has shifted from ground troops to the navy and air force, which would spearhead any attack on Taiwan. China has bought 12 Russian Kilo-class diesel attack submarines. The newest of these are equipped with supersonic Sizzler cruise missiles that America's carriers, many analysts believe, would find hard to stop.

There are supersonic cruise missiles too aboard China's four new Sovremenny-class destroyers, made to order by the Russians and designed to attack aircraft-carriers and their escorts. And China's own shipbuilders have not been idle. In an exhibition marking the 80th anniversary, Beijing's Military Museum displays what Chinese official websites say is a model of a new nuclear-powered attack submarine, the Shang. These submarines would allow the navy to push deep into the Pacific, well beyond Taiwan, and, China hopes, help defeat American carriers long before they get close. Last year, much to America's embarrassment, a newly developed Chinese diesel submarine for shorter-range missions surfaced close to the American carrier Kitty Hawk near Okinawa without being detected beforehand.

American air superiority in the region is now challenged by more than 200 advanced Russian Su-27and Su-30 fighters China has acquired since the 1990s. Some of these have been made under licence in China itself. The Pentagon thinks China is also interested in buying Su-33s, which would be useful for deployment on an aircraft-carrier, if China decides to build one.

During the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995-96, America could be reasonably sure that, even if war did break out (few seriously thought it would), it could cope with any threat from China's nuclear arsenal. China's handful of strategic missiles capable of hitting mainland America were based in silos, whose positions the Americans most probably knew. Launch preparations would take so long that the Americans would have plenty of time to knock them out. China has been working hard to remedy this. It is deploying six road-mobile, solid-fuelled (which means quick to launch) intercontinental DF-31s and is believed to be developing DF-31As with a longer range that could hit anywhere in America (see map below), as well as submarine-launched (so more concealable) JL-2s that could threaten much of America too.

All dressed up and ready to fight?

But how much use is all this hardware? Not a great deal is known about the PLA's fighting capability. It is by far the most secretive of the world's big armies. One of the few tidbits it has been truly open about in the build-up to the celebrations is the introduction of new uniforms to mark the occasion: more body-hugging and, to howls of criticism from some users of popular Chinese internet sites, more American-looking.

As Chinese military analysts are well aware, America's military strength is not just about technology. It also involves training, co-ordination between different branches of the military (“jointness”, in the jargon), gathering and processing intelligence, experience, and morale. China is struggling to catch up in these areas too. But it has had next to no combat experience since a brief and undistinguished foray into Vietnam in 1979 and a huge deployment to crush pro-democracy unrest ten years later.

China is even coyer about its war-fighting capabilities than it is about its weaponry. It has not rehearsed deep-sea drills against aircraft-carriers. It does not want to create alarm in the region, nor to rile America. There is also a problem of making all this Russian equipment work. Some analysts say the Chinese have not been entirely pleased with their Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. Keeping them maintained and supplied with spare parts (from Russia) has not been easy. A Western diplomat says China is also struggling to keep its Russian destroyers and submarines in good working order. “We have to be cautious about saying ‘wow’,” he suggests of the new equipment.

China is making some progress in its efforts to wean itself off dependence on the Russians. After decades of effort, some analysts believe, China is finally beginning to use its own turbofan engines, an essential technology for advanced fighters. But self-sufficiency is still a long way off. The Russians are sometimes still reluctant to hand over their most sophisticated technologies. “The only trustworthy thing [the Chinese] have is missiles,” says Andrew Yang of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taiwan.

The Pentagon, for all its fretting, is trying to keep channels open to the Chinese. Military exchanges have been slowly reviving since their nadir of April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet hit an American spy plane close to China. Last year, for the first time, the two sides conducted joint exercises—search-and-rescue missions off the coasts of America and China. But these were simple manoeuvres and the Americans learned little from them. The Chinese remain reluctant to engage in anything more complex, perhaps for fear of revealing their weaknesses.

The Russians have gained deeper insights. Two years ago the PLA staged large-scale exercises with them, the first with a foreign army. Although not advertised as such, these were partly aimed at scaring the Taiwanese. The two countries practised blockades, capturing airfields and amphibious landings. The Russians showed off some of the weaponry they hope to sell to the big-spending Chinese.

Another large joint exercise is due to be held on August 9th-17th in the Urals (a few troops from other members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a six-nation group including Central Asian states, will also take part). But David Shambaugh of George Washington University says the Russians have not been very impressed by China's skills. After the joint exercise of 2005, Russians muttered about the PLA's lack of “jointness”, its poor communications, and the slowness of its tanks.

China has won much praise in the West for its increasing involvement in United Nations peacekeeping operations. But this engagement has revealed little of China's combat capability. Almost all of the 1,600 Chinese peacekeepers deployed (including in Lebanon, Congo, and Liberia) are engineers, transport troops, or medical staff.

A series of “white papers” published by the Chinese government since 1998 on its military developments have shed little light either, particularly on how much the PLA is spending and on what. By China's opaque calculations, the PLA enjoyed an average annual budget increase of more than 15% between 1990 and 2005 (nearly 10% in real terms). This year the budget was increased by nearly 18%. But this appears not to include arms imports, spending on strategic missile forces and research and development. The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London says the real level of spending in 2004 could have been about 1.7 times higher than the officially declared budget of 220 billion yuan ($26.5 billion at then exchange rates).

This estimate would make China's spending roughly the same as that of France in 2004. But the different purchasing power of the dollar in the two countries—as well as China's double-digit spending increases since then—push the Chinese total far higher. China is struggling hard to make its army more professional—keeping servicemen for longer and attracting better-educated recruits. This is tough at a time when the civilian economy is booming and wages are climbing. The PLA is having to spend much more on pay and conditions for its 2.3m people.

Keeping the army happy is a preoccupation of China's leaders, mindful of how the PLA saved the party from probable destruction during the unrest of 1989. In the 1990s they encouraged military units to run businesses to make more money for themselves. At the end of the decade, seeing that this was fuelling corruption, they ordered the PLA to hand over its business to civilian control. Bigger budgets are now helping the PLA to make up for some of those lost earnings.

The party still sees the army as a bulwark against the kind of upheaval that has toppled communist regimes elsewhere. Chinese leaders lash out at suggestions (believed to be supported by some officers) that the PLA should be put under the state's control instead of the party's. The PLA is riddled with party spies who monitor officers' loyalty. But the party also gives the army considerable leeway to manage its own affairs. It worries about military corruption but seldom moves against it, at least openly (in a rare exception to this, a deputy chief of the navy was dismissed last year for taking bribes and “loose morals”). The PLA's culture of secrecy allowed the unmonitored spread of SARS, an often fatal respiratory ailment, in the army's medical system in 2003.

Carrier trade

The PLA knows its weaknesses. It has few illusions that China can compete head-on with the Americans militarily. The Soviet Union's determination to do so is widely seen in China as the cause of its collapse. Instead China emphasizes weaponry and doctrine that could be used to defeat a far more powerful enemy using “asymmetric capabilities”.

The idea is to exploit America's perceived weak points such as its dependence on satellites and information networks. China's successful (if messy and diplomatically damaging) destruction in January of one of its own ageing satellites with a rocket was clearly intended as a demonstration of such power. Some analysts believe Chinese people with state backing have been trying to hack into Pentagon computers. Richard Lawless, a Pentagon official, recently said China had developed a “very sophisticated” ability to attack American computer and internet systems.

The Pentagon's fear is that military leaders enamored of new technology may underestimate the diplomatic consequences of trying it out. Some Chinese see a problem here too. The anti-satellite test has revived academic discussion in China of the need for setting up an American-style national security council that would help military planners co-ordinate more effectively with foreign-policy makers.

But the Americans find it difficult to tell China bluntly to stop doing what others are doing too (including India, which has aircraft-carriers and Russian fighter planes). In May Admiral Timothy Keating, the chief of America's Pacific Command, said China's interest in aircraft-carriers was “understandable”. He even said that if China chose to develop them, America would “help them to the degree that they seek and the degree that we're capable.” But, he noted, “it ain't as easy as it looks.”

A senior Pentagon official later suggested Admiral Keating had been misunderstood. Building a carrier for the Chinese armed forces would be going a bit far. But the two sides are now talking about setting up a military hotline. The Americans want to stay cautiously friendly as the dragon grows stronger.
26802  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 21, 2007, 10:59:39 PM
Wow.  This could get very interesting.
26803  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Montana Mom on: September 21, 2007, 04:28:45 PM
http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/...f-montana.html

Out of Montana

What happens when a mother of three and small town municipal judge decides to take on the online Jidhad? Shannen Rossmiller tells the story of how she helped unmask a number of malefactors, including some who were seeking to acquire Stinger missiles and finally track down a renegade in the US National Guard. Viewed from one perspective, it is a fascinating case study of the private citizen warrior, embarked on what Rossmiller called her own "counterJihad".
Before 9-11, I had no experience with the Middle East or the Arabic language. I was a mother of three and a municipal judge in a small town in Montana. But the terrorist attacks affected me deeply. ... I began to read vociferously [voraciously] about Islam, terrorism, extremist groups, and Islamist ideology. ...


This housewife found she could fight her private war from a computer keyboard. Her first step was visit and learn all she could about Jihadi websites.
In November 2001, I saw a news report about how terrorists and their sympathizers communicated on websites and Internet message boards and how limited government agencies were in their ability to monitor these web communications. This news report showed me how extensively Al-Qaeda used the Internet to orchestrate 9-11 and how out of touch our intelligence agencies were regarding this Internet activity. Apparently, there were not procedures in place for tracking communications and activity on the Al-Qaeda websites and Internet forums at the time.


So she invented her own procedures. But as she ghosted through the websites and forums, she realized that any further progress required a knowledge of Arabic. Nothing daunted, Rosssmiller set out to learn Arabic. And she did. Over the Internet, from a Cairo language academy.

Early in January 2002, I began taking an Arabic language course online for eight weeks from the Cairo-based Arab Academy, which, that autumn, I supplemented with an intensive Arabic course at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As I learned more Arabic, the jihadi websites opened for me. Certain individuals stood out for either their radicalism or the information that they sent. I followed and tracked these individuals and kept notebooks detailing each website and person of interest.


Soon Rossmiller grew skilled enough to pick out the signature style of individuals and successfully impersonate a Jihadi. If on the Internet nobody knew if you were a dog, it might be equally possible for a mom of three to convince her quarry she was a terrorist looking to hook up.
I created my first terrorist cover identity on the Internet on March 13, 2002, to communicate and interact with these targets. In my first chat room sting, I convinced a Pakistani man that I was an Islamist arms dealer. When he offered to sell me stolen U.S. Stinger missiles to help the jihadists fighting the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, I used the Persian Gulf dialect of Arabic to ask him to provide me with information that I could use to confirm his claims, such as stock numbers. Within a couple of weeks, the missile identification numbers were in my computer inbox.
Stock numbers and the e-mail correspondence in hand, I intended to drive to the closest field office for the FBI here in Montana but was afraid that the FBI would not take me seriously. What were the chances of a Montana mom showing up at their door with information about an individual in Pakistan who was trying to sell Stinger missiles? Instead, I submitted the information to the FBI's online tips site.
A few days later, I received a telephone call from an FBI agent from New Jersey who proceeded to question me. It felt like an interrogation. Several days later, the same agent called to thank me and say that the stock number information for the Stingers did match some of the information that the government had about the missiles.
Encouraged by this success, I continued to communicate with these jihadis online and proceeded to gather more information. Using various Muslim personalities and theatrics for cover, I began monitoring the jihadist chat rooms into the early hours of the morning while my family slept. Plunging in, I started making headway into the world of counterterrorism.


Rossmiller went on to detect early warnings of a bombing attack against expatriates in Saudi Arabia and was even asked -- in 2003 -- to courier some money for Saddam's fedayeen in Jordan. But not all the homes burning the midnight oil in America belonged to individuals fighting for their country. Some of the nocturnal denizens haunting the Internet were bent on selling out their country for gain or out of hatred. At some point Rossmiller's path and theirs were bound to cross.
It was soon afterwards that I learned that I was not the only American surfing the chat rooms. In October 2004, while monitoring Arabic Islamist websites for threat-related information and activity, I saw a message posted in English by a man calling himself Amir Abdul Rashid. He said he was a Muslim convert who "was in a position to take things to the next level in the fight against our enemy (the U.S. government)." He further requested that someone from the mujahideen contact him for details. I was suspicious because Rashid posted his message in English on an Arabic website and was openly seeking contact from the mujahideen. I traced his IP address back to an area outside of Seattle, Washington. Over time, it also became apparent to me that he was a member of the U.S. military.


With the Montana mom aware of him the net slowly closed. Rashid turned out to be Spec. Ryan G. Anderson, whose National Guard unit was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Anderson was hawking the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the M1-AI and M1-A2 Abrams tanks as well as U.S. troop locations in Iraq. The price for this success was the end Rossmiller's anonymity. Called to testify at Anderson's trial, Rossmiller's modus operandi and identity were revealed in court records. Her cloak stripped away, the hunter soon became the hunted.
After the media picked up my identity at Anderson's Article 32 hearing in May 2004, I received numerous threats and, on December 5, 2004, someone stole my car out of my family's garage. It was later found wrecked two counties away from my home, riddled with bullet holes. As a result, I now have permanent security.


There's more. And if you want to know of her other exploits you should as they say, read the whole thing.
Ironically if Rossmiller had been engaged in important sleuthing such as uncovering whether Scooter Libby had talked about Valerie Plame before or after Richard Armitage instead of the trivial pursuit of hunting down terrorists intent on mass murder or traitors selling their country's secrets, her story might already be the subject of a blockbuster movie instead of the obscure pages of Middle East Forum. Rossmiller would be on the Good Morning America and Oprah shows, pulling in money instead of shelling it out for personal security.
Yet her saga is more than a cultural commentary on our times. It also illustrates the largely unrecorded exploits of individuals who are fighting the Jihad on their own time and dime. Wearing a wire for the FBI. Tracking down Jihadi training camps in rural America. Translating documents. Jamming terrorist sites. Raising the alarm. Baking cookies for the troops. It's a story of the gaps in the official warfighting apparatus and the enterprise that quietly fills them in. It is a perfectly 21st century story; a tale of networked counterinsurgency. But it is also a story from the past: of the 18th century idea of a nation in arms, not literally perhaps -- the keyboard is probably a more common weapon -- but of people's war, something that shocked the Continent when the French revolution brought it into European existence.
This perhaps, is Osama Bin Laden's saddest contribution to history. Not that he should make war upon the nations, but that he has raised the nations, right down to their living rooms and front porches, to make war upon him and his.
26804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 21, 2007, 11:44:53 AM
Jonah's Dilemma
By MICHAEL B. OREN and MARK GERSON
September 21, 2007

This year, as on every Yom Kippur, Jews throughout the world will recite the Book of Jonah, one of the Hebrew Bible's shortest and most enigmatic texts. Jonah is the only Israelite prophet to preach to Gentiles, and the only prophet who clearly hates his job. And yet Jews read the book on their holiest day of the year because of its message of atonement and forgiveness. But Jonah also conveys crucial lessons for all Americans as they grapple with crises in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and yearn for far-sighted leadership.

"Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it," God commands Jonah, explaining that the Assyrians must repent for their sins or face divinely-unleashed destruction. The task seems straightforward, yet Jonah balks. He tries to flee, first to sea and later to the desert. If Nineveh heeds his warnings and is spared, its citizens will later question whether the city was really ever in danger and assail Jonah for forcing them to make needless sacrifices. But if Nineveh ignores his exhortations and is destroyed, then Jonah has failed as a prophet. Either way he loses -- that's the paradox of prophecy. And so he bolts, only to discover that God will not let him out of that bind. Jonah must be swallowed by a big fish before begrudgingly accepting his mission.

 
Jonah's quandary is routinely encountered by national leaders, especially during crises. Winston Churchill, for example, prophetically warned of the Nazi threat in the 1930s, but if he had convinced his countrymen to strike Germany pre-emptively, would he have been hailed for preventing World War II or condemned for initiating an unnecessary conflict? As president in 1945, Harry Truman predicted that Japan would never surrender and that a quarter of a million GIs would be killed invading it. And so he obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only to be vilified by many future historians. But what if the atomic bombs were never dropped and the Battle for Japan claimed countless casualties -- would history have judged Truman more leniently?

Recent presidents, in particular, have struggled with such dilemmas while wrestling with the question of terror. Jimmy Carter failed to retaliate for the takeover the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. Marines out of Beirut in 1983 after Islamist bombers destroyed their headquarters, and Bill Clinton remained passive in the face of successive al Qaeda attacks. And yet, had these presidents gone to war, would Americans today credit them with averting a 9/11-type attack or would they have been denounced for overreacting? If American leaders had stood firmly earlier in Iran, Lebanon or Afghanistan, would U.S. troops today be battling in Iraq?

President Bush presents a striking example here. After 9/11, he cautioned that the United States would again be attacked unless it acted pre-emptively in Iraq. But while there is no way of knowing whether terrorists would have struck America if President Bush had refrained from invading Iraq, many Americans now denounce the president for initiating an avoidable, unwinnable war. This is the tragedy of leadership. Policy makers must decide between costly actions and inaction, the price of which, though potentially higher, will ultimately remain unknown -- a truly Jonah-like dilemma.

Unlike presidents, of course, Jonah knew the outcome of his decision: A penitent Nineveh would not be destroyed by God. And yet he so feared the paradox of prophecy that he risked his life to escape it. In the end, the citizens of Nineveh repented and were saved -- and the Book of Jonah was revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

America's leaders, by contrast, are unlikely to replicate Jonah's good fortune. They must decide whether to keep troops in Iraq, incurring untold losses of American lives and resources, or whether to withdraw and project an image of weakness to those who still seek to harm the U.S. If diplomatic efforts fail to deter Iran from enriching uranium, American policy makers will have to determine whether to stop the Islamic Republic by force or coexist with a highly unstable, nuclear-armed Middle East. They will be reproved for the actions they take to forestall catastrophe, but may receive no credit for averting cataclysms that never occur. For Mr. Bush and his successors, this will remain the tragic dilemma of leadership. It is an onus worth contemplating on this and every Yom Kippur.

Mr. Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center and author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present," is a visiting professor at Yale. Mr. Gerson is co-founder and chairman of the Gerson Lehman Group.


WSJ
26805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 11:37:23 AM
Yet more:  Ron Paul vs. Bernanke!
http://gold-market.org/
26806  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria, Lebanon on: September 21, 2007, 11:28:58 AM
Showdown in Lebanon
By MICHAEL YOUNG
September 21, 2007

BEIRUT -- On Wednesday Antoine Ghanem became the fourth anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese parliament to be assassinated in two years. He was the latest victim of a protracted political crisis in Lebanon that both preceded and was exacerbated by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.

Soon after that murder, international pressure and a mass uprising dubbed "the Cedar Revolution" put an end to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon. But Syrian President Bashar Assad never reconciled himself to the forced departure. Now Syria is trying to use the upcoming Lebanese presidential election to reimpose its hegemony over its smaller neighbor.

 
A Lebanese inspector investigates the damaged car of the anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker Antoine Ghanem, Thursday Sept. 20, 2007.
Next week Lebanon will enter the constitutional period, during which its parliament must choose a new president. The election might allow the Lebanese to finally be rid of Syria's peon, President Emile Lahoud, whose mandate was forcibly extended by Damascus three years ago. However, there is a real danger that it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Cedar Revolution.

The outcome will also help determine whether Syria can win an important round in a regional struggle pitting its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas against a loose coalition of forces including the United States, the mainstream Sunni Arab regimes, and European states. Amid heightening polarization throughout the Middle East, a Syrian victory in Lebanon could also exacerbate simmering tensions elsewhere.

In fact, the election might conceivably not take place at all. Mr. Assad realizes that any successor to Mr. Lahoud who seeks to consolidate Lebanon's sovereignty would be a barrier to the revival of Syrian supremacy. Damascus's Lebanese allies, most significantly Hezbollah, agree.

Hezbollah, which presides over a semi-autonomous territory with a private army of its own, knows that only renewed Syrian sway over Lebanon would allow it to continue its struggle against Israel and the U.S. Iran backs Syria, both to keep alive Tehran's deterrence capability against Israel (thanks to the thousands of rockets it has supplied Hezbollah in south Lebanon), and because Syria is a vital partner in allowing Iran to expand its reach across the Middle East.

There are also opportunities in this election for Syria's adversaries. The anti-Syrian Lebanese parliamentary majority, as well as the Bush administration and its more reliable European allies, believe that any new president must secure the gains made in 2005, when Lebanon recovered its independence. Their priority is to prevent the election of someone who might turn back the clock. The problem is that this anti-Syrian majority sits with Syria's friends in the parliament, which elects the president. They must come to a mutually satisfactory agreement or Lebanon will find itself even more dangerously divided than it already is.

This election is not just about a president; it is also, for many of those involved, about existential issues. Hezbollah, a revolutionary, military party that feeds off conflict (or "resistance") to survive, has no place in a liberated, liberal, cosmopolitan country at peace with the world. Similarly, Syria's most prominent enemies -- the Sunni leader Saad Hariri, the Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt and the Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea -- all risk political and even physical elimination if Syria triumphs. Damascus, if it cannot impose its man or a cipher whose flimsiness would allow Syria to gain ground, will encourage its allies to create a political vacuum as leverage to subsequently push a favorite into office.

Syria is also waging an existential fight. The tribunal to convict those responsible for the assassination of Hariri has been approved under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and several weeks ago the Dutch government agreed to locate the court in the Netherlands (the exact location as yet undecided). For Mr. Assad, whose regime is a prime suspect in the Hariri murder, the signs are ominous. By again bringing Lebanon under his authority, the Syrian president doubtless feels he can hamper the court's proceedings, perhaps until more favorable circumstances allow him to negotiate a deal similar to the one that got Libya's top leadership off the hook for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, as well as that of a UTA French airliner in 1989.

In this context, diplomatic sources in Beirut note that the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, and some European states, including the Vatican, had sought to delay formation of the tribunal. However, the progress on situating the tribunal suggests this effort failed.

That is why Mr. Assad might, after all, be more interested in holding a presidential election now, so Syrian allies in Beirut can gum up the tribunal's machinery before it's too late. In this scenario, Damascus would want a weak consensus candidate who stands somewhere in the middle. However, the nub of Syria's strategy could be to ensure that its comrades in Beirut, in collaboration with the Christian politician Michel Aoun, gain veto power in the government that will be formed after the election. That veto power -- plus a limp president and Syria's control over parliamentary procedure through the pro-Syrian parliament speaker -- would give Damascus substantial influence in Beirut, including over administrative decisions relating to the tribunal and to the implementation of the U.N. resolutions to disarm Hezbollah and maintain tranquility in the southern border area.

If Syria does prefer a president to a vacuum, this vulnerability must be exploited in coming weeks by those who want Lebanon fully freed of Syrian domination. Mr. Assad will play hardball, but he faces some heat. An Israeli air raid against Syria earlier this month, though reported to be directed against some sort of nuclear facility, may conceivably have been interpreted by Syria as an effort to intimidate it before Lebanon's election. In recent weeks, moreover, Saudi-Syrian hostility has escalated to unheard-of levels. Both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt are fearful of Syria's close ties with Iran. For these two countries, a hegemonic, Islamist, Shiite Iran threatens their regional power and their Sunni-led regimes. This Sunni-Shiite rivalry happens to be playing itself out in Lebanon, where the results could have serious consequences for the Saudis and Egyptians.

The U.S. also knows the hazards of the Lebanese presidential election, and the Bush administration will not sign off on a president it regards as pro-Syrian. The difficult situation in Iraq, like Saudi-Syrian tensions, will probably make the administration tougher in opposing candidates it doesn't like. However, the European states -- France, Spain and Italy -- making up the bulk of the U.N. force in South Lebanon, worry that a void in Beirut might harm their soldiers. All have made it amply clear to Syria that it must change its ways in Lebanon, but they remain vulnerable on the ground, amid suspicion that Syria played a role, direct or indirect, in an attack last June that killed six troops of the Spanish U.N. contingent.

All sides, even Syria, would like to avoid a Lebanese vacuum at the end of November when Mr. Lahoud's time will be up -- if they can achieve their goals. The danger is that in the quest for compromise we might be heading toward a lowest common denominator on the presidency, thus giving Syria and its allies precisely what they want: a weak, ineffective president followed by a decisive advantage in any new government. That would only aggravate the current polarization in the country. Lebanon has the startling potential of becoming either the Middle East's salvation, or its nightmare. What happens here will have serious repercussions for what happens in the region as a whole.

Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

RELATED ARTICLES AND BLOGS
26807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 21, 2007, 09:38:40 AM
I don't know how reliable this website is, but I do know that the group being discussed here has crossed by radar screen previously:

Terrorists Training in Rural America? (A lot more info on these compounds including Pictures, articles,history etc. on our website www.ChristianAction.org)


CBNNews.com - RED HOUSE, Va. - Islamic extremists in the United States have traditionally set up shop in big cities with large Muslim populations: places like New York City, Dearborn, Michigan and even Washington, DC. But one secretive group is doing just the opposite.

They call themselves Muslims of America. They’ve established compounds throughout the rural U.S. Members say they moved to the countryside to lead peaceful lives free of “Western decadence.” But others say that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Certainly, when you’re in a rural area it enables you to better escape from the prying eyes of law enforcement,” said CBN News consultant David Gartenstein-Ross.

He says Muslims of America has close ties to a violent Pakistani group named Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Both groups are led by the same extremist cleric: Sheikh Mubarak Gilani.
“Sheikh Gilani is an extremist figure known to be very much involved in the jihads against India, also known to be very much anti-Semitic,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

Gilani’s images and messages are all over the Muslims of America Web site.
He founded the group during a visit to Brooklyn in 1980. Shoe bomber Richard Reid and Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammed are said to have been among his followers.

Gilani encouraged his U.S. pupils-mostly African Americans-to move to rural areas and establish Muslim communes. The group now has dozens of these communes nationwide.

“Al Fuqra has compounds from coast-to-coast.and what this indicates is they’re going to areas where land is plentiful–where you can get land for relatively cheap prices,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

CBN News visited the group’s 45-acre site in Red House, Virginia - a town so small you can barely find it on a map. There are no traffic lights, and the only signs of industry are a pair of convenience stores. So when a street sign popped up named after a radical Pakistani sheikh-along with men and women dressed in traditional Islamic garb- the locals took notice.
Sheikh Gilani has been on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar for years. He’s currently under investigation for possible ties to al-Qaeda. He also trained jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In addition, Gilani attended a 1993 jihadist conference in Sudan along with members of Hamas, Hezbollah and Osama bin Laden himself.

American journalist Daniel Pearl was on his way to interview Gilani in 2002 when he was murdered. The sheikh denies any involvement in Pearl’s killing.

CBN News spoke to a former member of Muslims of America who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘Mustafa’ says Gilani runs the group from Lahore, Pakistan.
“He’s the leader of the group. He’s a former member of the Pakistani military. His father was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. He has great connections to Pakistani intelligence, the ISI,” he said.
Mustafa says Muslims of America serves as a cash cow for Gilani and Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Each member is required to send 30 percent of their income to Gilani. The group even had a treasurer that checked members’ pay stubs.

“He said that the 30 percent is money that God has chosen to take from you. And if you spend that 30 percent you are stealing from God,” Mustafa’ said.
Group members hand deliver thousands of dollars in cash at a time to Gilani in Pakistan.

Mustafa said, “The money got to Pakistan through the elders who traveled to Pakistan. They carried cash with them or they sent it Western Union. Since there’s Americans under Gilani’s rule who live in Pakistan, it’s like from one American name to another American name and it’s never linked to Gilani at all.”

Sheikh Gilani uses these American dollars to help fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to Mustafa.
Muslims of America compounds are filled with ex-cons from rough backgrounds. Many converted to Islam in prison. Mustafa says there’s at least one semi-automatic weapon in every home.

A local law enforcement official told us he’s had no problems with Muslims of America in Red House. But the group has a long track record of violent activity on U.S. soil.

During the 80s and 90s, members firebombed Hindu and Hare Krishna temples and assassinated two rival Muslim leaders. Federal raids on the group’s Colorado compound in the early 90s turned up bombs, automatic weapons, and plans for terrorist attacks. And at least three members have been arrested on weapons charges since 9/11.
Mustafa says the group raises money through a variety of criminal activities.

“A lot of the guys will do bootlegging–you know, it’s all illegal- videotapes, CDs, clothing,” he said.
In March, federal investigators broke up a multi-state counterfeit goods ring. Local residents tell CBN News that some of those arrested lived at the Red House compound.
Mustafa said, “The counterfeiting comes in with the bootlegging. It’s all counterfeit movies not sanctioned by Paramount or MGM or things like that — they’re not legitimate.”

Law enforcement sources say they’re keeping a close eye on Muslims of America compounds.
“One of the law enforcement sources that I spoke to was concerned that you could have a Waco-type situation,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
But a video on the group’s Web site calls into question just how seriously authorities understand the group’s beliefs and intentions. The clip shows the former head of South Carolina’s FBI branch speaking at a Muslims of America-sponsored event in 2004 that honored “diversity.”
Mustafa says such “outreach” efforts are a mistake. He continues to fear for his safety since leaving the compound. But he says he’s speaking out because he considers Muslims of America a dangerous group.
A lot more about the Muslims of America compounds including articles, Pictures , History Etc. on our website www.ChristianAction.org
copy and paste this link into your browser to View the video from CBN News.
mms://sm1.cbn.org/News/Archive/HighRes/EST30 Islamic Training Camp AM v2_000030p0000621p7.wmv
26808  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 21, 2007, 09:34:24 AM
September 21, 2007

"Muhammad cat" cartoonist gets one month in jail; magazine banned

"Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression." But for how long?
An update on this story. "Bangladesh detains cartoonist for offending Islam," from IslamOnline (thanks to Paul):
A Bangladeshi cartoonist has been detained for drawing a caricature offensive to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Bangladesh witnessed mass protests after the publication of an anti-Islamic caricature by cartoonist Arifur Rahman.
The offensive cartoon, published in the 431st issue of Alpin, a weekly supplement of Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo, led to a one-month jail sentence to Rahman after the Bangladeshi Home Affairs Minister ruled that his drawings hurt Muslims’ feelings.

Islam was introduced to Bangladesh in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread the noble faith. Even though religion is practiced in a moderate manner in Bangladesh, the government bans any insult to Islam.

According to the BBC, the cartoon featured a conversation between a cleric and a child and ended with a joke about Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) name.

The head of clerics of Dhaka’s main mosques filed complaints against the cartoonist who was arrested from his residence last Tuesday and handed over to the Tejgaon police station.
Rahman violated Section 54 code of criminal procedure and under such emergency laws; the government has the authority to detain people without charge if they are deemed to threaten national security.

Meanwhile, Prothom Alo published an apology on its front page for the “unfortunate publication”, withdrew the copies of that issue from the market and fired the cartoonist.
However, many in Bangladesh did not view such measures as enough and demanded that the newspaper be shut down....
Muslims might be a little relieved that those who offend their religion get punished in some countries as this is not the first time that involves the publication of anti-Islamic cartoons....

Western media often claims that such offensive cartoons shouldn’t anger Muslims and that their publication do not violate the laws of “freedom of expression“.

Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression, Ibrahim el-Zayat, of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, told the BBC....

"Magazine banned for 'Mohammad cat' cartoon," from Reuters (thanks to JE):
BANGLADESH has suspended publication of a magazine after a cartoon it published this week triggered protests by Muslims who said it was offensive to the devout.

The suspension of publication of the Alpin, the weekly satire magazine of leading Bengali daily Prothom Alo, was ordered as some Muslim groups called for a street protest after Friday noon prayers, and a march towards the Prophom Alo office.
The daily has apologised for the cartoon in which a small boy referred to his cat as "Mohammad cat".

The protesters said it was a deliberate attempt by the cartoonist to ridicule Islam's Prophet Mohammad....
Police said that to avert any violence over the cartoon they would strictly enforce emergency laws banning protests and rallies.

"We shall impose a tight watch around Dhaka's Baitul Mokarram mosque from where the protesters would likely start their march," said a police officer.

Police have also deployed outside the daily's office.
Prothom Alo published a third apology toay and appealed to all to take the printing of the cartoon as a mistake.

On Wednesday police broke up a street march by hundreds of Islamists in Dhaka, demanding "death to the Prothom Alo editor" and "hang the cartoonist".

A government statement on Thursday said: "The magazine in its 431st issue has hurt the sentiment of devoted Muslims" and risked upsetting law and order....

26809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:30:32 AM
One more on this.  Here's Brian Wesbury, who track record is amongst the very best in the land.  It was written just before Bernanke's big cut.
=================

September 18, 2007
Keep Fingers Crossed For a Hard Money Fed
By Brian Wesbury

Tuesday's meeting at the Federal Reserve is the most important in at least several years, but not because of the reason most people think. The markets and most pundits are asking whether the Fed will give a 25 or 50 basis point rate cut. But, we still hold out hope the Fed will do the right thing, which is not cut rates at all. Cutting rates, when they are already too low, will "lock in" inflation, force more rate hikes later, and puts the Fed's credibility as an inflation fighter at risk.

After all, the economy looks good. Using the latest data on sales, inventories, trade, and production our "add-em-up" forecast of real GDP growth remains at 3% for Q3. High frequency data, like initial claims for unemployment insurance are also painting a robust and resilient picture.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said last week that the U.S. economy has proven before that it can rebound quickly from financial turbulence and that "the effects of these disruptions can turn out to be surprisingly small."

In addition, conditions in the commercial paper market are improving rapidly, a good piece of news because so many analysts focused on problems in this market as a reason for the Fed to cut rates. Never mind that there is no historical link between commercial paper and future economic growth, and that problems were mostly isolated in the asset-backed marketplace.

It is true that overly-aggressive mortgage borrowers, lenders, and investors have issues that will take a long time to be fully worked out. But there are few signs that these troubles are dragging down the rest of the economy.

Some try to make it seem that the entire economy is at risk of drowning if the Fed, like an alert lifeguard, doesn't throw out a life ring (rate cut) to the credit markets. But, cutting the federal funds would be more like turning an entire cruise ship around, risking everyone on board, just to save one person.

We understand this desire, but it's an emotional decision not a rational one. This is a job for the Coast Guard, or in monetary policy language - the Discount Window. The Window is a specific tool designed to help particular financial institutions that are really having trouble. It does not cause general inflationary pressures, and it does not lead to a further misallocation of resources.

Measures of "core" inflation have fallen of late, but these measures are not useful when food and energy prices have been volatile in only one direction - up. Gold prices are over $700/oz. and the dollar is at a 15-year low. In addition, China's consumer prices are up 6.5% versus a year ago, a 10-year high. This is important because China pegs its currency to the dollar, which means its inflation rates are largely determined by the Fed. The evidence seems very clear. Inflation is visible in many markets. Nonetheless, because the conventional wisdom assumes a slowdown ahead, it ignores this inflation and recent strong economic growth. This seems like risky behavior to us.

During the past few days the stars seem to be aligning to strengthen Chairman Bernanke's resolve if he decides to resist rate cuts. Former Chairman Alan Greenspan opined that the winding down of globalization will put upward pressure on inflation in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the heads of the European Central Bank and Bank of England have both refrained from cutting rates and have publicly defended their positions, noting that staying the course now will diminish the threat and severity of future crises.

Now the ball's in Bernanke's court: will he go with the consensus if others at the Fed want to cut or will he stand his ground and do the right thing?

Brian Wesbury is the Chief Economist for First Trust Advisors in Chicago, IL.
26810  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: September 21, 2007, 09:24:51 AM
Columbia's Priorities
Next week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's Holocaust-denying president, who has said that "Israel must be wiped off the map," will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session. As the titular leader of a U.N. member state, Ahmadinejad is entitled to visit the city for this reason. But he is not entitled to something else he received, namely an appearance to speak at Columbia University, where he will be introduced by none other than Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president.

Yesterday Bollinger put out a statement defending his decision to authorize the event, and it was filled with high-minded rhetoric:

Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas--to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason.

But there is one little problem here. As Bill Kristol points out:

As Columbia welcomes Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia students who want to serve their country cannot enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia. Columbia students who want to enroll in ROTC must travel to other universities to fulfill their obligations. ROTC has been banned from the Columbia campus since 1969. In 2003, a majority of polled Columbia students supported reinstating ROTC on campus. But in 2005, when the Columbia faculty senate debated the issue, President Bollinger joined the opponents in defeating the effort to invite ROTC back on campus.

The original decision to kick ROTC off campus was the product of 1960s anti-Americanism, but the ostensible reason the policy continues is objection to the law, signed by President Clinton, that prohibits open homosexuals from serving in the military. Apparently some ideas are so odious that they are unworthy of answering "through the powers of dialogue and reason."

So, what is Ahmadinejad's regime's policy on homosexuals in the military? We don't know, but according to Human Rights Watch, Iran is not a terribly friendly place for gay civilians:

On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung [sic] two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.

The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran's shari'a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.

If the U.S. military executed homosexuals instead of merely discharging them, perhaps Bollinger would welcome ROTC back to Columbia.
26811  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 21, 2007, 09:22:31 AM
WSJ

Schip of State
Can President Bush hold the line on spending?

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, September 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Congress will soon ship the White House a bill that throws huge amounts of new dollars at the government's health-insurance program for children. President Bush will veto it. What happens next will demonstrate whether the beleaguered Mr. Bush has any hope of getting his party to toe the fiscal line in upcoming spending battles, and by consequence whether Republicans have any hope of restoring their fiscal credibility with voters.

It's a big moment, all the more so because the battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or Schip, is a perfect first example of how Democrats intend to play their spending fights this fall. They're demanding at least $30 billion more than Mr. Bush's own generous $5 billion Schip increase. Any congressional Republican who votes against this hike will be accused of leaving "poor kids" to suffer without health care. The goal here, as it will be in all the big money fights to come--appropriations bills, a farm bill--will be to make it too politically hot for Republicans to stand by their spending principle.

So far, that strategy is working a treat. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner both understand that this fall is their big opportunity to make things right with the base, at least on spending, prior to next year's election. They've been exhorting--or perhaps better to say begging, pleading, beseeching--their members to think about the lost GOP brand, and to help President Bush snap shut the government wallet. At least in private, the members keep assuring their leaders that, yes, yes, they get it.

But as Schip shows, this resolve wafts away in the face of any Democratic press conference accusing Republicans of meanness toward children. It was none other than ranking Finance Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley who helped craft the $35 billion Senate Schip increase; the Iowan went so far as to suggest he was being a fiscal prude because his bill was cheaper than the blowout $50 billion expansion from House Democrats. That proved a good-enough excuse for more than a dozen other spend-happy Republicans to help give Democrats 68 votes for the bill in early August. For the record, that's one more vote than Sen. Harry Reid needs to override a presidential veto.





This bodes ill for big spending battles to come. Despite last year's pledges to restore budget discipline, Democrats have been so busy chasing phantom Justice Department corruption and paying back campaign contributors with symbolic votes that they've yet to finish a single spending bill. With just nine days left in the fiscal year, they'll have to pass a continuing resolution next week to allow the government to keep running.
It also means Democrats are all but assured to try to finish the budget by wrapping most or all of the spending bills into one giant omnibus provision. You can bet that jalopy will screech in at many billions of dollars higher than Mr. Bush's top line number. You can also bet that hanging from its sides will be special-interest booty galore--money for roads, bridges, Katrina victims, low-income seniors, homeless veterans and border security. All this will be designed to make it difficult for Republicans to vote it down. And if temptation isn't enough, Democrats will also claim that GOP members who sustain a presidential veto will be responsible for shutting down government.

Or take the farm bill, the House version of which has earned a veto threat because of its lack of reform, and because it is the first in decades to include a hefty tax increase to pay for all its handouts. Democrats will allege that farm-state Republicans who vote against it are traitors to their ag constituents, who stand to continue getting big subsidies.

Sitting between his party and a potential spending binge is, therefore, the president's veto pen. The fight over Schip has moved to the House, where most Republicans, to their credit, voted against the initial bill. But with House Democrats now promising to pare back the legislation to Senate size, and to remove its more offensive provisions, GOP opposition is crumbling. More than a few are thinking about next year's elections, and how nice it would be to avoid claims that they helped throw impoverished kiddies to the health-care wolves.





Many House Republicans in fact are working under the assumption that Mr. Bush will compromise, and give them cover for blowing through his initial Schip limit. They can't quite bring themselves to believe that the White House would put them in the very public and embarrassing position of having to override their own president on a question of fiscal responsibility.
And, to be fair, why should they? For six years the administration failed to pick a fight on spending when Republicans controlled Congress, instead letting every highway bill, farm giveaway and pork project rush through. The White House's newfound spending religion has unfortunately come at about the same time the president's poll numbers have gone in the tank. Don't think at least a few Republicans won't use that as an excuse to buck him now.

Yet it's precisely the position Mr. Bush is going to have to put his own Republicans in if he hopes to remain relevant in the ensuing spending fights. The big spenders on both sides of the aisle are sniffing for any sign of White House weakness, and will rightly view any slipping or sliding as license to break the piggy bank. If the president rolls on Schip, he'll be rolled on every spending question from now until he packs the china. Mr. Bush seems to understand the bigger stakes, and only yesterday gave a feisty speech outlining yet again why he intends to veto the current Schip legislation, and warning yet again that he won't back down.

Congressional Republicans would be wise to take him at his latest word, for their own sake. The recent GOP campaign over earmark disclosure is good politics and a start to recognizing voter anger over Washington's spending ways. But it's also a one-trick pony. Conservatives voters will see the bigger test of re-found fiscal responsibility in whether its Washington representatives are willing to say no to big new government spending. That begins with Schip.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.

26812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:08:18 AM
Woof:

Scott Grannis is IMHO an outstanding economist (supply side orientation).  I have followed his work for several years now and we correspond from time to time. 

I begin my effort to answer your question with his recent comments on the dollar (pre-half percent rate cut):

"I think it is only logical that the euro will be used more and more 
as  reserve currency, and the dollar less. The euro economy is 
already as large as the U.S. economy, so ultimately I would suspect 
that large institutions with reserve holdings will hold about as many 
euros as they will dollars. The dollar has been the currency of 
choice because it has been the currency of choice for the biggest 
economy in the world, but now that has changed. People have been slow 
to move to the euro because it is still a young currency and the ECB 
is still not fully tested. But given time that will change in the 
euro's favor. That said, I don't see why that necessarily means that 
the dollar has to fall further relative to the euro.

"Even when the dollar was THE reserve currency, it suffered huge 
fluctuations in its value against other currencies.

"In any event, "reserve currency" status is not the be all and end all 
for a currency. Central bank holdings of reserves amount to a handful 
of trillions of dollars (held in a mix of currencies). Compare that 
to the financial asset holdings of U.S. households which amount to 
over $40 trillion, and the $10 trillion of liquid dollar-denominated 
bonds. Compare also to the value of liquid, high-quality non-dollar 
bonds traded around the globe, which stands at roughly $15 trillion. 
Bottom line, central banks hold only a small fraction of the world's 
dollar-denominated bonds, so their preference for one currency's 
bonds over another are not all that important."

This was in response to my sending him this German article translated into English:

Greenspan: Euro Gains As Reserve Choice
Monday September 17, 8:07 am ET

Report: Former Fed Boss Says Euro Could Replace U.S. Dollar As 
Favored Reserve Currency

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan 
Greenspan said it is possible that the euro could replace the U.S. 
dollar as the reserve currency of choice.
According to an advance copy of an interview to be published in 
Thursday's edition of the German magazine Stern, Greenspan said that 
the dollar is still slightly ahead in its use as a reserve currency, 
but added that "it doesn't have all that much of an advantage" anymore.

The euro has been soaring against the U.S. currency in recent weeks, 
hitting all-time high of $1.3927 last week as the dollar has fallen 
on turbulent market conditions stemming from the ongoing U.S. 
subprime crisis. The Fed meets this week and is expected to lower its 
benchmark interest rate from the current 5.25 percent.

Greenspan said that at the end of 2006, some 25 percent of all 
currency reserves held by central banks were held in euros, compared 
to 66 percent for the U.S. dollar.

In terms of being used as a payment for cross-border transactions, 
the euro is trailing the dollar only slightly with 39 percent to 43 
percent.

Greenspan said the European Central Bank has become "a serious factor 
in the global economy."

He said the increased usage of the euro as a reserve currency has led 
to a lowering of interest rates in the euro zone, which has "without 
any doubt contributed to the current economic growth."

http://www.stern.de

As you can see Scott doesn't panic easily.  This brings us to his comments of yesterday:

"The most incredible thing is that those who are supposed to be the dollar's stewards (the Fed and Treasury) have had absolutely nothing to say on the subject of the dollar approaching all-time lows against most major currencies. Benign neglect to da max is not helping things at all. Watch for more dollar weakness, but this is a potentially volatile situation since it won't take much to turn things around."

The Adventure continues , , ,
Marc

PS:  From this morning:  Stocks are higher in early action as traders get a reprieve from a falling dollar as the greenback is showing some signs of life, and a rebound in Treasuries, which is lowering yields, helping spread optimism on Wall Street. Volatility and volume is relatively heavier amid quadruple witching as commodity and option contracts rollover. Crude oil traders are taking a breather, pushing prices lower following a recent bullish surge in the commodity prices
26813  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 21, 2007, 08:56:46 AM
1133 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAQ -- Iraq could offer significant incentives to Russian oil and gas firms to operate in Iraq and expects Russia to write off 80 percent of Baghdad's Soviet-era debt of $13 billion in return, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sept. 21 in Moscow. The incentives could be granted before Iraqi energy legislation is approved, Zebari said.

stratfor.com
26814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 21, 2007, 08:54:41 AM
Just a quick yip here to respond to SB Mig's question to me:

Part of the concern over habeas corpus I believe to be due to some comments made by recently departed AG Albert Gonzales which left even me looking like a Jewish Don King.  Sen. Spector's comments quoted by SB Mig IIRC were in response to AG AG's comments on HC.

IMHO there has been considerable smoke blown on the matter that is the subject of this thread.  The Bush team's approach I think could have been much better and has in some cases generated some of the concerns.  This I suspect to have been due in part to that portion of the opposition who simply loathes Bush, loathes the War, doesn't think there is a war or a danger to us, wants us to lose, etc.   IMO some of this opposition has gotten right up to the line of treason when it reveals military secrets concerning  funding Iraqi journalists, following enemy financial flows and the like.  In return the Bush people have simply figured WTF, nothing we explain will ever satisfy these people-- whom at the moment have been busy drawing the enemy's attention to the fact that many calls between countries other than the US are actually routed through the US and that we have been listening in.  I find it quite absurd to call this "spying on American citizens" or even to call listening to foreign enemy jihadis calling America "spying on American citizens".

One result of all this is to concern unecessarily good-hearted American people who quite properly wish to be vigilant about our freedoms-- we are in times where the inherent dynamic can easily lead us astray!  With so much smoke, surely there must be fire!  An example of unnecessary concerns would be SB Mig's concerns over circumstantial evidence-- an utter non-issue as so ably described by GM's post.

Overall I think GM is doing an outstanding job of presenting clear analysis of a most vexing problem. 

SB Mig's central question though does remain: "What safeguards prevent application of "non-habeas" to our own population?"

SB, what did you think of the two Mukasey articles which I posted above?
26815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Belarus, Poland, Russia on: September 21, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Belarus' Problem with Polish Priests

Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Kosinets said on Thursday that all foreign Catholic priests would be banned from the country, with the ban taking effect over the next few years. Of the roughly 350 Catholic priests in the country -- it is predominantly Russian Orthodox -- the majority are foreign and almost all of those are Polish. Belarus has been targeting foreign Catholics since last year, deporting all those without papers. Now the campaign is extended to all foreign Catholic priests, regardless of their legal status. Kosinets said "foreign priests cannot conduct religious activities in Belarus because they do not understand the mentality and traditions of the Belarusian people."

What makes this interesting is the strategic position of Belarus. Belarus is the buffer between Russia and Poland. Buffer overstates it. Though there recently have been some tensions between Russia and Belarus, Belarus is as close to an unreformed Soviet republic as still exists. More than any of the former Soviet republics, it would appear eager to welcome back the Soviet Union. In general Russia has, until recently, kept Belarus at arm's length precisely for this reason. Russian President Vladimir Putin had his own problems with Russians nostalgic for the "good old days" and did not need the addition of an unreconstructed Belarus added to the mix.

However, as we already have discussed, the Russians have recently become much more assertive, and the internal disposition of Belarus is less of a barrier to good relations. Indeed, in order for Russia to regain its sphere of influence, Belarus plays a critical strategic role. Russia must have Belarus in its camp if it is to use the window of opportunity available to it to redefine its relations with the Baltics. In particular, Russia has no border with Lithuania. For that, it needs Belarus.

Russia sees Poland as a critical problem. The Poles have been deeply involved in Ukraine before and after the Orange Revolution, and have been particularly vocal in their support of the Baltics against Russian pressure. In addition, the Poles have been eager to host the U.S. anti-missile shield.

Belarus and Russia both remember the role of the Catholic Church, working with the labor union Solidarity, in overthrowing the Polish communist government. For both countries, the disintegration of the Soviet empire started in Poland and was driven by the Catholic Church. The Vatican and Russia have had relatively good relations since the fall of the Soviet Union, but that does not mean much in this climate. Neither Minsk nor Moscow trusts the Catholic Church, or in particular, Polish priests.

Therefore, the decision to begin their expulsion -- even if only over the course of a few years -- is designed not only to get rid of what might be troublesome priests, but also to make certain the Polish population of Belarus, small though it might be, does not become a center of Polish nationalism in Belarus. Perhaps more important, it is a signal to Poland that it will be blocked if it tries to engage Belarus in any way. In addition, it plays to mutual Russian Orthodox sentiment, which ties together nationalists in both Belarus and Russia.

In and of itself, this is a small matter. But in the current context of relations in the region, small matters point to more serious issues. There is increasing tension between Poland and Russia. If Russia wants to regain its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union, it will have to deal with the Baltics, which are now part of NATO. It cannot do that without aligning with Belarus or without blocking Polish influence. Russia must intimidate Poland as well. The Poles have an element of comfort so long as Belarus is genuinely separate from Russia. It is their buffer zone on the northern European plain.

Therefore, any sign of tension between Poland and Belarus -- particularly coupled with closer alignment between Belarus and Russia -- matters. Normally, the expulsion of foreigners, priests or not, would not register. But now, the expulsion of Polish priests from Belarus does matter, particularly when the Russian Orthodox Church is involved. It points to closer collaboration with Russia and growing tension with Poland. And that can matter a great deal over the coming months.
26816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 21, 2007, 08:25:51 AM
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

-- Nathan Hale (before being hanged by the British, 22 September
1776)

Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (476);
original General William Hull, Campbell (37-38)
26817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 08:31:43 PM
Rudy takes on Hillary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L63Ff_mGzs
26818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 20, 2007, 04:54:42 PM
I hear that Iran's Ahmandinejad, freshly rejected from laying a wreath at Ground Zero of 911 in NYC, will be speaking at my alma mater , , , oy vey.
============


http://www.wcbs880.com/NYPD-Rejects-Iran-President-s-Viewing-Request/968136
 
 
 
NYPD Rejects Iran President's Viewing Request

 
NEW YORK (WCBS 880)  -- UPDATE: NYPD is rejecting the request from the President of Iran to visit Ground Zero.

NYPD is citing security reasons for the reason of rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit the old World Trade Center.

STATEMENT FROM NYPD:
A request earlier this month to permit a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero during the United Nations General Assembly was rejected in a meeting which included NYPD, Secret Service, and Port Authority officials. The site is closed to visitors because of construction there. That was the only request.  Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.
 
26819  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: September 20, 2007, 04:52:55 PM
MMA has a new fan:


http://www.theguyfromboston.com/playvideo2.asp?video=PuTYJg_SYwg
26820  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The New Race for the Arctic: on: September 20, 2007, 03:44:43 PM
A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia's continental shelf, government officials have said.
The August expedition planted the Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole and gathered soil samples.

Russia's Natural Resources Ministry said early test results on the soil samples showed Russia is geologically linked to the Lomonosov Ridge.

The Arctic is thought to be rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves.
"Results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's land mass," a statement from the ministry said.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic has been challenged by the other nations with territory bordering the ocean - including the US and Canada.

Competition for territorial and economic rights in the Arctic has heated up as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...pe/7005483.stm

26821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: September 20, 2007, 02:13:02 PM
The Moran Liability

Real friction is developing in Congress between one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenants and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. At issue are harshly critical comments made by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia about the alleged influence of Jewish-Americans in government. Congressional Quarterly reports that Mr. Hoyer "stopped just short of calling [Mr. Moran] an anti-Semite and urged him to recant."

Mr. Moran is an ethically-challenged bully boy who represents the Washington D.C. suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria. He's notorious for not keeping his mouth under control. Last November, he bluntly told fellow Democrats who opposed Jack Murtha for majority leader -- Ms. Pelosi's preferred candidate -- that punishment would come to those who failed to toe the line: "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do you do it." (House Democrats ignored the threat and backed Mr. Hoyer instead.)

Mr. Moran's latest verbal belly flop involves remarks to the Jewish magazine Tikkun in which Mr. Moran called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) "the most powerful lobby and has pushed this [Iraq] war from the beginning. I don't think they represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all, but because they are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful -- most of them are quite wealthy -- they have been able to exert power."

Mr. Hoyer wasted no time noting that such language adopted "a canard that is absolutely not true, that the Jewish community controls the press, media, government and other institutions. It has been used by those who are anti-Semitic for a very long period of time."

But this is not the first time Mr. Moran has expressed such views. Shortly after the war began, the congressman whipped up an anti-war rally by saying: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

When will Democrats finally discipline Mr. Moran, easily one of their most embarrassing members? Frankly, when will the news media abandon its obsession with Senator Larry Craig's bathroom footwork and report on Mr. Moran's record? It's not hard to find him, even when he's home. Just leave Washington, D.C., cross the Potomac River and take an extreme left for a few miles until you reach Alexandria.

Political Journal WSJ
26822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 02:11:55 PM
-- John Fund
London Puts Rudy in a Generous Mood

You can't get much more productive than Rudy Giuliani during his whirlwind tour of London this week. He met with the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, accepted an award from Margaret Thatcher and engaged in some Churchillian rhetoric indirectly slapping down Hillary Clinton.

The occasion was Mr. Giuliani's receipt of an award named after Mrs. Thatcher from the Atlantic Bridge think tank. In his acceptance speech, he ventured into foreign policy by calling for NATO membership to be enlarged beyond Europe, indeed "to any country who meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness, global responsibility." He specifically suggested membership for Australia, Israel, Singapore and Japan.

Given that NATO membership carries with it the right to expect U.S. military support in the event of an attack by any country, Mr. Giuliani's proposed sweeping expansion left even some Americans in his audience unsettled. "I'm not sure the speechwriters fully thought that one out," one American with experience on Capitol Hill told me.

Any such quibbles, however, were a small bump in the road on what was essentially a Giuliani lovefest in London. American expatriates who attended a Giuliani fundraiser were thrilled with remarks he made just before arriving in London criticizing what he called Hillary Clinton's attempts to portray herself as a new "Iron Lady." He said such attempts would fail because she had surrendered to her party's hard left on the Iraq war. "I don't think Margaret Thatcher would impugn the integrity of a commanding general in a time of war, as Hillary Clinton did, or require an army to give a schedule of their retreat to the enemy, as the Democrats are suggesting," Mr. Giuliani said.

"That's the kind of muscular rhetoric that's needed to win against the Clintons," Robert Jameson, an American businessman in London, told me. "If you don't take them on first, they will roll over you."
=========
-- John Fund
Senators Fret About Their 'Primary' Responsibility

Not only are presidential candidates flummoxed by the ever-changing, ever-earlier 2008 primary calendar, now Senators are getting into the act. At a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee yesterday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) testified on behalf of their bill to create a regional primary system and somehow exert control over the increasingly chaotic process.

The move comes after Michigan and Florida broke both parties' rules and moved their nominating contests to January 15 and January 29, respectively. Party rules say no state can hold its primary before February 5th, though Democrats granted special waivers to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The Senate bill would still allow Iowa and New Hampshire to cast the first ballots, though Mr. Lieberman, who famously bragged he had achieved a "three-way tie for third" after his fifth-place finish in the 2004 New Hampshire primary, said he was concerned about their "disproportionate impact" on the nominating calendar's outcome.

Some, though, have questioned whether any move by Congress to control the nominating process is constitutional. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution provides for the election of the executive branch, though nowhere does the document address primaries or nominating contests. A 2000 decision by the Supreme Court ruled that a law allowing primary voters in California to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, unconstitutionally violated a political party's First Amendment right to freedom of association. Similar so-called "blanket primaries" were struck down in Washington State and in Alaska.

After the Washington State primary was struck down, the Washington State Grange sponsored an initiative on the 2004 ballot providing for a "top-two" system, by which the top two finishers in the first round of balloting, regardless of party, would advance to a runoff. The measure passed with nearly 60% of the vote, yet the established political parties again claimed the system would unfairly preclude their right to select their own nominees. The Washington State Republican Party brought suit and the case is slated to be the first heard in the Supreme Court's new term, with arguments to be given on October 1st. The outcome could be vital in determining whether Sens. Lieberman, Klobuchar, Alexander and the rest of Congress will actually be Constitutionally able to intervene in the primary scheduling brouhaha.


Political Journal WSJ
26823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: September 20, 2007, 09:13:36 AM
The subject of this article is exactly the sort of thing where the NY Times often becomes the NY Slimes so caveat lector.

That said, I post it here precisely because it leaves me utterly flabbergasted.  Aren't we supposed to be killing enemy combatants?!?  Why on earth are these men on trial?!  angry angry angry


==========

Hearing in Killing of Afghan Puts Army War Effort on Trial
   
By PAUL VON ZIELBAUER
Published: September 20, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 19 — At the close of a two-day hearing on charges that Special Forces soldiers murdered an Afghan man near his home last October, it is increasingly evident that the Army is also examining itself and how it is fighting the war in Afghanistan.

A Special Forces colonel presiding over the hearing must determine whether sufficient evidence exists to recommend courts-martial for the two soldiers accused of killing the man, Nawab Buntangyar, who had been identified as an “enemy combatant,” while he walked unarmed outside his home near the Pakistan border.

But the focus of the hearing frequently shifted from the soldiers’ actions and toward the Army’s decision to bring charges against them. It also shifted to the effect on the Afghan people of Special Forces soldiers being allowed to kill some Afghan fighters more or less on sight.

From the beginning of the proceeding, Col. Kevin A. Christie, the presiding officer, seemed pressed to figure out why a military lawyer pursued murder charges after an Army investigation cleared the two soldiers of wrongdoing when they killed Mr. Buntangyar, who as a designated enemy combatant was subject to attack under the Special Forces’ classified rules of engagement.

In questions to several witnesses, Colonel Christie indicated that the Army was aware of the risks of trying to win the tactical battle in Afghanistan by aggressively pursuing the enemy in an unconventional war, as balanced against the potential expense of losing the larger strategic battle for the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

The decision by the general in charge of Special Forces to allow limited public access to the hearing was itself a sign of the Army’s desire to be seen as reflective and open to scrutiny, specialists in military justice said.

In an exchange that reflected the underlying issues of concern to the Special Forces command here, Colonel Christie asked Maj. Matthew McHale, the company commander in charge of the assault team that included the two accused soldiers, about the repercussions of how his men had killed Mr. Buntangyar.

Mr. Buntangyar was killed on Oct. 13, 2006, when Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, acting on orders from Capt. Dave Staffel, shot him in the face from a distance of about 100 feet. The order to shoot came after Afghan Border Police officers had surrounded Mr. Buntangyar’s home, exchanged a friendly greeting with him and asked him twice to confirm his identity. Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson were charged with premeditated murder in June, two months after an Army investigation determined Mr. Buntangyar’s “enemy combatant” status justified killing him.

“Would you tell your teams to do things that had limited tactical effects if they had potential strategic negative effects?” Colonel Christie asked Major McHale.

The major said assault teams continually weigh the two goals during missions.

The colonel asked if he thought the “strategic effect” of shooting a man whom the Afghan police had essentially lured out of his home “adds to the credibility of the police,” an institution that the American military is desperate to make independent and trustworthy in the eyes of local residents.

Major McHale conceded that the killing could undermine the public perception of the police. But, he added, they were unreliable and often sloppy. At the home, the police had to gesture to communicate with Special Forces soldiers because the police had accidentally locked their radios and car keys in their vehicles.
26824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: September 20, 2007, 09:02:11 AM


KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

At a symposium on female circumcision in Tanta, Egypt, a poster reads, "The Beginning of the End, No to Female Circumcision."
The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”

Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is customary is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

But now, quite suddenly, forces opposing genital cutting in Egypt are pressing back as never before. More than a century after the first efforts to curb this custom, the movement has broken through one of the main barriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo to discuss it in public. That shift seems to have coincided with a small but growing acceptance of talking about human sexuality on television and radio.

For the first time, opponents said, television news shows and newspapers have aggressively reported details of botched operations. This summer two young girls died, and it was front-page news in Al Masry al Yom, an independent and popular daily. Activists highlighted the deaths with public demonstrations, which generated even more coverage.

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.

 =========

Page 2 of 2)



Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

 World View With Michael Slackman (mp3)The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

And it will be a challenge to convince influential people like Osama Mohamed el-Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, the city near where the 13-year-old girl lived, and died. “This practice has been passed down generation after generation, so it is natural that every person circumcises his daughter,” he said. “When Ali Gomaa says it is haram, he is criticizing the practice of our fathers and forefathers.”

But the movement against genital cutting has matured and is increasingly prepared for these arguments. At first, Ms. Assaad and a group of intellectuals who together created a task force simply lectured their neighbors, essentially calling the practice barbaric.

“At the beginning we preached and said this is wrong,” she recalled. “It didn’t work. They said, ‘It was done to our mothers and grandmothers, and they are fine.’ ”

She and her colleagues sounded like out-of-touch urban intellectuals, she said. But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives.

“Circumcision is a very old custom and has absolutely no benefits,” Vivian Fouad, who helps staff the national hot line, said to a caller wondering what to do with her own daughter. She continued: “If you want to protect your daughter, then you have to raise her well. How you raise your child is the main factor in everything, not mutilating your daughter.”

Egypt is a patriarchal society, but women can be a powerful force. So Ms. Assaad helped persuade two important women, elite and privileged, who like herself could not believe the practice was as widespread as it was, to join her battle.

The first was Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a political force in her own right. The second was an ally of Mrs. Mubarak, Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency that helps set national health and social policies.

Mrs. Khattab has become a force in pressing the agenda. Her council now has a full-time staff working on the issue and runs the hot line. She toured the Nile Delta region, three cities in one day, promoting the message, blunt and outraged that genital cutting had not stopped.

“The Koran is a newcomer to tradition in this manner,” she said. “As a male society, the men took parts of religion that satisfied men and inflated it. The parts of the Koran that helped women, they ignored.”

It is an unusual swipe at the Islamists who have promoted the practice as in keeping with religion, especially since the government generally tries to avoid taking on conservative religious leaders. It tries to position itself as the guardian of Islamic values, aiming to enhance its own wilted legitimacy and undercut support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but popular opposition movement.

But the religious discourse concerning genital cutting has changed, and that is credited to Ms. Assaad’s strategy of reaching up to people like Mrs. Mubarak and out to young women like Fatma Ibrahim, 24. When Ms. Ibrahim was 11 years old, she said, her parents told her she was going for a blood test. The doctor, a relative, put her to sleep and when she woke, she said she could not walk.

The memory haunts her now, and though she says that her parents “will kill” her if they find out, she has become a volunteer in the movement against genital cutting, hoping to spare other women what she endured.

“I am looking to talk to the young, the ones who will be parents in 10 years,” she said. “This is my target group. I talk to the young. When I get married, inshallah, I will never, ever circumcise my daughter.”

26825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 20, 2007, 08:55:08 AM
Big Terror Trial Shaped Views of Justice Pick
 
 
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: September 20, 2007
On Jan. 17, 1996, after a nine-month terrorism trial and a rambling 100-minute lecture from a blind sheik found guilty of conspiring to wage war against the United States, Judge Michael B. Mukasey had had enough.

With a few terse, stern and prescient remarks, he sentenced the sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, to life in prison. Judge Mukasey said he feared the plot could have produced devastation on “a scale unknown in this country since the Civil War” that would make the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which had left six people dead, “almost insignificant by comparison.”

Long before most Americans had given deep consideration to the terrorist threat from radical Islam or to whether the criminal justice system is the right forum for trying people accused of terrorism, Judge Mukasey received an intensive education on those topics.

The vivid lessons Judge Mukasey took away from the trial — notably that the urgency of the threat requires tilting toward protecting national security even at some cost to civil liberties — have echoed through his speeches and writings. Now, as President Bush’s choice for attorney general, he is poised to put those lessons into practice.

Mr. Abdel Rahman and nine other men were convicted of plotting a “day of terror” that would have included blowing up the United Nations Building, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

The trial, which remains the longest and most complex international terrorism case ever presented in a United States court, involved almost the entire array of national security issues that Judge Mukasey would face if confirmed as the Bush administration’s third attorney general. Those issues include the proper balance between security and liberty, between intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution, and between government secrecy and accountability.

In his writings, Judge Mukasey has made clear that, although the issues are difficult ones, he is inclined to favor security, intelligence and secrecy over the competing values.

Rules applicable in ordinary criminal cases, Judge Mukasey wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, “do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means.”

Although Judge Mukasey’s handling of the trial received praise from the appeals court and from some — but hardly all — of the lawyers involved, his writings and public remarks show that the case left him shaken and deeply skeptical about the ability of civilian courts to try people accused of terrorism without compromising national security.

Mary Jo White, the United States attorney in Manhattan at the time, said the trial was a master class for all concerned.

“I’m certain that his views were influenced by what he learned in that trial, both substantively and procedurally,” Ms. White said, referring to the detailed information presented about the nation’s enemies and the difficulty of addressing the threat in a criminal prosecution.

Ronald L. Kuby, a defense lawyer in the case, said he did not know if the trial shaped Judge Mukasey’s thinking. But he said it certainly illuminated the judge’s approach.

“He was violating the rights of Arabs before it was popular,” Mr. Kuby said. “It was very much like trying a case with two prosecutors, one of whom was wearing a black robe and who was considerably more intelligent than the one hired for the job.”

Judge Mukasey removed Mr. Kuby from the case over what the judge said were conflicts of interest. Other defense lawyers generally praised Judge Mukasey’s handling of the case.

“He ran the tightest ship you ever saw,” said Roger L. Stavis, another defense lawyer. “He’s a very kind, generous man, but also a tough law-and-order guy.”

But Mr. Stavis also wondered about whether a conventional trial was capable of addressing the charges in the case. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. “You cannot get at the problem in a discrete trial in an American courtroom.”

The case was unusual from the start. It relied, for instance, on a Civil War-era seditious conspiracy statute that made it a crime to plot to levy war on the United States.

“The tools we had to charge terrorism were appallingly bad,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor. Partly by happenstance, then, the case brought the metaphor of terrorism as a war into an American courtroom.

Judge Mukasey was concerned throughout about balancing the defendants’ rights against national security. He ordered an array of potential evidence to be disclosed to the defense, for instance, but drew the line at information he said would needlessly compromise intelligence operations.

In his Wall Street Journal article, he wrote that terrorism prosecutions “risk disclosure to our enemies of methods and sources of intelligence that can then be neutralized.”

The risk, he wrote, is not theoretical. A list of unindicted co-conspirators provided to the defense in the 1995 trial, including Osama bin Laden, reached Mr. bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, within 10 days, Judge Mukasey wrote, “letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.”

Judge Mukasey has complained bitterly about the porous nature of criminal proceedings in other settings, too.

When Mr. Kuby, the defense lawyer, applied for a security clearance for a later trial, Judge Mukasey met with a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to argue against the idea, saying he was convinced that Mr. Kuby had leaked sealed documents to Newsday and The New York Times.
=====

(Page 2 of 2)

“Mukasey stated that he could not imagine anyone who would be less trustworthy with sensitive information than Kuby,” a special agent’s summary of the interview said. Mr. Kuby, who did not receive the clearance and denied leaking the documents, obtained the summary through a freedom of information request.

Mr. McCarthy, the prosecutor, said the problem of unauthorized disclosures was widespread and pernicious. “The F.B.I. was leaking, too,” he said.

In remarks at the Brooklyn Law School in 2000, Judge Mukasey was also critical of the news organizations for contacting former jurors after the nine-month trial. For the jurors’ security, Judge Mukasey had allowed them to serve anonymously. “The court tries at all costs to keep that information secret,” he said.

The case also gave Judge Mukasey early exposure to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that required warrants from a secret court to monitor international communications involving people in the United States.

The 1995 trial involved surveillance of four defendants based on six warrants from the secret court. Judge Mukasey ordered that the surveillance tapes be disclosed, though he denied a defense request for documents related to the warrant applications.

“Disclosure of the conversations,” the judge reasoned in a 1994 decision, “does not disclose the strategies, capabilities and techniques of those who gather information.”

As if anticipating a debate that would arise after 9/11, he added that it should be perfectly permissible to use foreign intelligence information in criminal investigations and prosecutions. “There is no contradiction, indeed there is probably often a congruence, between foreign intelligence information and evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” Judge Mukasey wrote in 1994.

His understanding of the law, at least in 2000, was imperfect. “If warrants are granted,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published in The Journal of Law & Policy, “an appeal can be taken to an ad hoc court.”

But F.I.S.A. litigation is a one-sided affair. When applications are granted, the government has won and would have no reason to appeal. The proceedings are kept secret from the subjects of surveillance, who do not participate and have no way to appeal. Indeed, the F.I.S.A. appeals court said in 2002 that it was hearing its first appeal — filed by the government, after a government loss. It is not known to have heard any appeals since.

Mr. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor in the 1995 trial, said the lawyers, the jury and the judge had all emerged from it transformed.

Going in, he said, “there was a great impulse, certainly in the Justice Department but also in the courts, that we had best show to the world that we can take our own worst enemies and give them due process.”

That view, Mr. McCarthy said, has turned out to be naïve, and he has proposed the creation of a new national security court to address the problem. In his Wall Street Journal article last month, Judge Mukasey said Mr. McCarthy’s proposal and similar ones “deserve careful scrutiny.”

26826  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 20, 2007, 08:37:06 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Increasingly Mysterious Israeli-Syrian Encounter

Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on Israeli TV that Israel launched an operation into Syria a couple of weeks ago. He shed little light on it; what was most interesting was that Netanyahu went out of his way not only to support the mission but also to praise Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for carrying it out.

That there was an Israeli mission Sept. 6 is not new news. That Netanyahu would be the one to confirm it is curious, and that he would praise Olmert -- a political opponent -- is intriguing. But what is fascinating is the ongoing silence about the purpose of the mission. What were the Israelis attacking?

Normally, we would expect secrecy, but in this case it is exceedingly odd. Having admitted Israel carried out an operation in Syria (he did not admit it was an airstrike), Netanyahu already has opened Israel up to what little political fallout there might be. Why not also identify the target? The Syrians certainly know what the target was, and by now so does any country with space reconnaissance capabilities -- not to mention its allies. Admittedly, we don't like being left out, but the desire to keep the nature of the mission secret from the public while admitting that it took place is by far the most arresting aspect of the story. What could the Israelis have hit that they don't want to talk about -- and that, frankly, the Syrians won't discuss either?

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region, and the Israelis have started talking about improved relations with Syria. Israeli President Shimon Peres recently said tensions between Israel and Syria are over, and that Israel is ready to negotiate a peace settlement -- a statement as mysterious in its own way as Netanyahu's discussion of the mission. When did Israeli-Syrian tensions end? Add to this that Rice said the United States will not stand in the way of peace between Syria and Israel and the confusion is complete. She was in the region to move the peace process forward, after all. The only ones making any sense are the Syrians, who rejected all overtures and said Israel is being insincere. At least some things remain true to form.

Most intriguing are the reports we have received from Lebanon claiming that a serious division has opened up in the leadership of Hezbollah over the prospect of Syria working out a peace agreement with Israel. To even hear of a division within Hezbollah over the subject is startling, let alone the fact that the group is taking the possibility of a peace treaty seriously.

Israel periodically raises the possibility of a peace settlement with Syria, usually not all that sincerely, so Peres' comment is not completely strange. The report on Hezbollah taking this seriously is more interesting, but remember that rumors always flow in Lebanon, and this one may not be true -- or Hezbollah is simply getting itself bent out of shape.

But the thing we just can't get away from is Netanyahu admitting that there was a mission, praising Olmert, implying that it was significant and not even hinting at the target -- even though it's not a secret. We know this: The airstrike took place in Northern Syria, along the Turkish border. Both the Turks and Syrians have said so. The Israelis don't care a bit what the Syrians think, but they do care what the Turks might think. Could the target have been something entering Syria from Turkey that the Israelis didn't want arriving? That would be a reason for the secrecy about the target from both the Israelis and Syrians. Neither want to alienate Turkey, even if Turkey -- or some Turks -- were smuggling something into Syria. The Syrians wouldn't want to admit the route and the Israelis wouldn't want to embarrass the Turks.

The Turks have wanted the Israelis and Syrians to negotiate with each other. Perhaps having put the Turks in an unpleasant position, the Israelis launched a peace offensive toward Syria to satisfy Turkish sensibilities, and Washington accepted the concept of negotiations with Syria because it had no choice -- and it was confident the Syrians would sink them anyway. In the meantime, Hezbollah panicked at the thought that the Syrians might not.

This is, as they say, thin. But ever since the Sept. 6 attack, we have been drawn to the mystery of it. Every few days, the mystery deepens. As more information comes out, it is less and less understandable. Meanwhile, more uncertainties swirl around Israeli-Syrian relations. Whatever happened on Sept. 6 simply seems to grow more and more important.

stratfor.com
26827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 20, 2007, 08:26:32 AM
"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the
objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means,
by which those objects can be best attained."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 206
26828  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 19, 2007, 11:24:20 PM
GM:

That point about rendition beginning under Clinton is very interesting.  I didn't know that.

Marc
26829  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: September 19, 2007, 10:01:22 PM
Spoke to Thom Beers over at OP today and he is good with our using their warehouse again, but needs to discuss it with the VP of Biz Affairs before confirming.
26830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 19, 2007, 12:16:28 PM
Harold Stassen Reincarnated

Alan Keyes had a distinguished career in the State Department before becoming a conservative activist and gadfly. He's obviously a smart man, which is why it's so distressing to see him act as if voters have no memory as he starts a third effort to run for the GOP presidential nomination. We last heard from Mr. Keyes when he parachuted into the Illinois Senate race in 2004, ultimately losing to Barack Obama by 43 points. You'd think that he would have viewed that as a signal from the political marketplace.

Mr. Keyes explained the rationale for his candidacy Monday by saying the GOP race was so wide open, it clearly had a place for him: "There isn't a standout. I'm like a lot of folks, who have just looked at it and been unmoved."

It's more likely that what is moving Mr. Keyes is that he scents another fund-raising opportunity. In 1999, he raised an impressive $4.3 million in just six months even before Iowa or New Hampshire voted. But the cash hasn't come without controversy. In his previous campaigns, Mr. Keyes was caught paying his personal living expenses out of campaign donations -- a legal but highly controversial practice. In addition, his 2000 presidential race was fined $23.000 by the Federal Election Commission for various violations involving the public financing he had accepted from the government.

No doubt the fiery Mr. Keyes would liven up the remaining Republican debates, but will someone please explain to me why debate organizers should even invite a "candidate" with zero standing in the polls and who appears to be interested in harvesting dollars at least as much as he is interested in getting votes?

political journal/WSJ
26831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2007, 11:14:50 AM
Good thing I had a tight stop on the incremental purchase of LNOP!
26832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: September 19, 2007, 11:07:21 AM
Amazing Mahavishnu Orchestra concert for free at
http://concerts.wolfgangsvault.com:80/ConcertDetail.aspx?id=20052898%7C4363&utm_source=NL&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=070919
26833  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Brain damage in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: September 19, 2007, 11:02:53 AM

SOURCE = http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/H/HEAD_BUTTING_DEATH?SITE=WFAA&TEMPLATE=STRANGEHEADS .html&SECTION=HOME

Sep 18, 4:22 PM EDT

Armless Man Delivers Fatal Head-Butt

By DOUG GROSS
Associated Press Writer

SNELLVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- Police are investigating the death of a man who collapsed after he was head-butted by an armless man in a fight over a woman. Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said the two men, Charles Keith Teer and William Russell Redfern, scuffled Monday afternoon in the driveway of a suburban Atlanta home.

Police say Redfern, who was born with no right arm and only a short stump for his left arm, kicked Teer and Teer hit Redfern during the fight, which was due to long-standing bad blood over a woman who once dated Teer and now dates Redfern.

After bystanders separated them, Redfern "came back and head-butted (Teer) one time," Whitehead said.

Teer complained of feeling dizzy, collapsed, and died, Whitehead said.

After the fight, Redfern and the woman got into his truck and drove to the Snellville police station, Whitehead said. He said the couple had called 911 to report the dispute, then told the operator they needed an ambulance after Teer collapsed.

A woman who answered the telephone at Redfern's home, in suburban Tucker, Ga., said he had no comment. She declined to identify herself.

Police are awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether Redfern should be charged.

Known by the nickname "Rusty," Redfern made a name for himself in the late 1980s for pen and ink drawings he does using his foot.

According to the web site for VSA Arts - an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes and showcases artists with disabilities - Redfern's drawings take one to six months to complete.

He was one of six Georgians selected to represent the state at the 1989 International Arts Festival in Washington, D.C., and was commissioned by Georgia's then-Secretary of State Max Cleland for a series of illustrations depicting the state capitol.

According to the site, he started Redfern Originals, Inc. in 1987, producing Christmas cards, stationary and limited-edition prints.
---------------
26834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2007, 08:21:15 AM
Took advantage of yesterday's drop due to a secondary offering to fatten my position in LNOP a bit.
26835  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 19, 2007, 08:19:23 AM
The Fed and Character
September 19, 2007; Page A20
The Federal Reserve pulled no punches yesterday with its decision to cut the fed funds rate by 50 basis points to 4.75%. The unanimous statement from the Fed's Open Market Committee was equally as definitive, leaning clearly on the side of those willing to risk more inflation in order to protect the economy from recent disruptions in the credit markets.

The equity markets rejoiced, posting their biggest daily gain of the year. Inflation-sensitive indicators were less thrilled, with the yield on the long (30-year) bond rising 26/32s to 4.75%, oil climbing above $82 a barrel, and gold reaching new heights at $733 an ounce. In the optimistic case, the Fed's move will ease the credit crisis, increase the demand for money by reviving economic confidence, and help avoid a recession without triggering more inflation. We can only hope it does.

The point we'd like to stress today concerns the Fed and its credibility -- or to put it more tartly, its character. It is easy for a central bank to cut rates and ease money. At least in the short term everybody loves a good time, as yesterday's equity euphoria showed. The harder task is being willing to tighten money amid the business and political criticism that inevitably follows. That's the true test of a central banker's mettle.

We've argued that the Fed hasn't shown that character in many years, which is a major reason it found itself this week having to choose between the risk of higher inflation and a potential recession. A central bank that stresses preserving the value of the currency when it isn't popular will have more credibility to ease money when it really needs to.

This is the abiding lesson of the Paul Volcker era at the Fed, in contrast to the current decade. As Chairman Ben Bernanke looks beyond today's crisis to what he wants his own legacy to be, we hope he'll make a restoration of the Fed's character his main priority.

WSJ
26836  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 19, 2007, 08:08:33 AM
HillaryCare's New Clothes
Different means but the same political destination.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Hillary Clinton has been blasted for months by her Democratic Presidential rivals because, until Monday, she hadn't delivered her formal campaign promises for "universal" health care. But John Edwards and Barack Obama were unfair. She beat them to the punch by at least 13 years.

The former first lady's 1993-94 health-care overhaul ended disastrously. Still, it poured the philosophical and policy foundations of the current health-care debate. As she unveils HillaryCare II, Mrs. Clinton likes to joke that it's "deja vu all over again"--and it is, unfortunately. Her new plan is called "Health Choices" and mentions "choice" so many times that it sounds like a Freudian slip. And sure enough, "choice" for Mrs. Clinton means using different means that will arrive at the same end: an expensive, bureaucratic, government-run system that restricts choice.





Begin with the "individual mandate." The latest fad after Mitt Romney's Massachusetts miracle, it compels everyone to have insurance, either through their employers or the government. Not only would this element of HillaryCare require a huge new enforcement bureaucracy, it is twinned with a "pay or play" tax on businesses that don't, or can't afford to, provide health insurance to their employees.
The plan also creates a new public insurance option, modeled after Medicare, and open to everyone, regardless of income. To keep insurance "affordable," HillaryCare II offers a refundable tax credit that limits cost to a certain percentage of income. Yet the program works at cross-purposes, because coverage mandates always drive up the price of insurance. And if the "pay or play" tax is lower than a company's current health insurance costs, a company will have every incentive to dump its employee plan and pay the tax.

Meanwhile, the private insurance industry would be restructured with far more stringent regulations. Mrs. Clinton would require nationally "guaranteed issue," which means insurers have to offer policies to all applicants. She would also command "community rating," which prohibits premium differences based on health status.

Both of these have raised costs enormously in the states that require them (such as New York), but Mrs. Clinton says they are necessary nationwide to prevent "discrimination" that infringes "on the central purposes of insurance, which is to share risk." Not quite. The central purpose of insurance is to price, and hedge against, reasonably predictable risks. It does not require socializing every last expense and redistributing wealth.

No liberal reform would be complete without repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003; Mrs. Clinton would foot the bill for her plan with this tax increase. The rest of the estimated $110 billion per year in new government spending would be achieved by "modernizing" health-care delivery and "promoting wellness," though this $35 billion in savings is speculative, if not fanciful. Further tax hikes would be required: That $110 billion is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and Team Hillary is keeping the specifics in its pocket.





Given how poorly "universal" policies fared the last time around, who can blame them? Mrs. Clinton and Ira Magaziner headed a health-care task force with more than 500 members that eventually produced 1,342 numbing pages of proposals. It's hardly surprising this boondoggle died without so much as a Congressional vote.
Yet Mrs. Clinton insisted that the public had been spooked by Rush Limbaugh, an article in a marginal political journal and advertising campaigns such as "Harry and Louise." In other words, the lessons she learned were political, not substantive. She thought she had overreached with too-sweeping changes. So she and her husband began to slice their universal health-care ambitions into smaller initiatives like the 1997 State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip).

This is her strategy now. HillaryCare II is designed to cause minimal disruptions to current private insurance coverage in the short run, while dressing up the old agenda with slightly different mechanisms and rhetoric. Rather than fight small business, this time she is trying to seduce it with tax credits for small companies that provide insurance. Only later when costs rise will the credits shrink or other taxes rise. To court large manufacturers, like the auto and steel industries, she'll offer another, "temporary" tax credit to subsidize their health-care liabilities. Her plan, in short, is HillaryCare I in better clothes--a transitional platform to shift people to the default option, which is government insurance.

What's striking about all this is how little new thinking there is. Like the other Democratic proposals, HillaryCare II would mark another major government intrusion into health care. It would keep all of the system's current problems, most of them created by government policies, and entrench and expand them. The creativity is all in the political repackaging.

WSJ
26837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: "You go to war with the citizens you have, not the citizens you want." on: September 19, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Even though I strongly agree with the underlying proposition, as I finished reading that I had a sense of "Where's the punch line?" -- or having read an advertisement , , ,
26838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 19, 2007, 07:58:24 AM
Tom:

I forget where I read it, (but I have it mentally filed under "reliable source") but my understanding is that the known facts strongly suggest that BW was in the right in this case.  My readings over time resonate with what Strat says about contractors frequently being reviled as mercenaries and that there may be stories of some getting carried away or trigger happy.  Given the circs in which they operate this may as understandable as predictable that rumors can and will get things badly distorted.  Add in that the enemy will foment these rumors with lies and we have situation where you and I really are in a poor position to assess.

I also think that Maliki's response can be explained by political criteria and so can our government's response.

Bottom line:  I read the story with interest, but lack the basis for an opinion.
26839  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 19, 2007, 07:29:06 AM
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we
may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to
disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate
and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the
great body of our country.  Unequivocal in principle, reasonable
in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to
the cause of freedom & harmony."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Elbridge Gerry, 29 March 1801)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
(1090)
---------

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” —Thomas Jefferson

26840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 10:40:36 PM
Tom:

I am still confused.  Post #339 is from me and is directed specfically to you.  Have you read it?
26841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 09:37:56 PM
Tom:

"C'mon guys...."We seek truth" and I had to go back 3 pages of posts to find anything on Iraq and my Yahoo home page has this story on its front page"

WTF?  Is there an inference here?

BTW did you not notice my post #339 in this thread?   huh  It was directed to you personally , , ,

26842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2007, 06:05:35 PM
Dozens died in Syrian-Iranian chemical weapons experiment'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By JPOST.COM STAFF

Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Magazine report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas and VX gas.

The factory was created specifically for the purposes of altering ballistic missiles to carry chemical payloads, the magazine report claimed.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time, however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrains at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

According to Global Security.org, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kippur War. Global Security.org cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East.

SourceDrudge http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411428847&pagename=JPost%2FJPArt icle%2FShowFull
26843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 18, 2007, 12:53:03 PM
There was quite a media firestorm ignited when security at USC's library tasered a late night Iranian who refused to ID himself and/or leave.

Why did this not receive similar coverage?

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=657_1190085332
26844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 18, 2007, 12:21:19 PM
Chattels of the Nanny State

The Democratic battle of health plans has begun in earnest now that Hillary Clinton has promised "universal" coverage. Meeting with Iowans a few weeks ago, John Edwards probably told voters more than they wanted to hear about what it means when government controls your health care: Under his proposed scheme, Americans could be punished for not going to the doctor for preventive care.

Mr. Edwards made clear that a government big enough to give you health care is big enough to take it away. "You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK," he said. For example, women would be required to have regular mammograms or presumably lose their right to coverage.

Mr. Edwards could almost be channeling David Cameron, leader of Britain's opposition Tory party, who recently came up with his own scheme to deny free National Health Service treatment to those who fail to follow a healthy lifestyle. "Heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as hip replacements until they cleaned up their act," reports the London Standard.

Small wonder that Michael Ancram, a former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, has taken Mr. Cameron to task in a manifesto calling for a return to the party's core principles of lower taxation, skepticism about the European Union and tough anti-crime measures. He urged the party leadership to stop "trashing" the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and downplay its trendy embrace of gay unions and draconian economic curbs on carbon emissions.

Would that some brave Democrat might step forward to criticize Mr. Edwards for going further than almost anyone has in the U.S. to link government's provision of health services with the direct policing of personal behavior. In a free health-care market, personal responsibility and healthy habits would be encouraged through lower insurance premiums and other incentives. It's when the government pays the bill and controls the entire system that you can expect the heavy hand of the state to directly control your lifestyle.

-- John Fund

26845  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 18, 2007, 11:21:58 AM
From Berlin to Baghdad
By GABOR STEINGART
September 18, 2007; Page A14

When I was born the war was already over. The mission was accomplished, as we would say today. But the aggression was still alive. The interior of my hometown was divided into four sectors, and there were occasionally clashes at the borders between the sectors, resulting in injuries and even loss of life. Sometimes as a child I heard the rattling of machine-gun fire. My bedroom was less then 2,000 feet from one of the checkpoints.

Whenever my father and I came within earshot of a border post, he would always remind me of the iron rule of the early days after this war: Keep your mouth shut! A wrong word or even a silly grin was enough to cause big trouble for an entire family.

The situation worsened year after year of what was called "peace." There was no "progress on the ground," as we would say today. The rival groups in my city were absolutely irreconcilable, which is why the men with the Kalashnikovs ended up building a massive wall down the middle of our street. They tore down the houses behind the wall to make room for watchtowers and automatic shooting devices.

The city where I was born is called Berlin, not Baghdad. Thanks to the perseverance and patience of American soldiers and their commander in chief, Berlin is one city today, a free city truly at peace. But if pollsters, focus groups and other "strategic advisers" who don't answer to the electorate had existed at the time, freedom probably wouldn't have stood a chance in my city. The operative terms in those days were not "withdrawal" and "timetable," but "solidarity" and "strength." The most important word was "freedom" -- not "benchmark" or "exit-strategy."

If the supreme commander of the U.S. Army in Berlin had been subject to the same requirements Gen. David Petraeus is subject to today, the Americans would have had to turn the city over to the Soviets. Baghdad today and Berlin in those days are more similar than some would like to believe. The general contention is that the Iraqis, unlike the Germans, never had a democratic culture. Once you break the palace, by ousting the dictator, the elevator goes straight to the mosque, these people argue. There is nothing in between -- no civil society, no real labor unions, no real parliament or press.

That's the situation in Iraq, but that was also the situation in postwar Germany. There was no flourishing democratic tradition in my country before the Allies marched in. Adolf Hitler came to power, not by overthrowing a government, but through elections, because the Germans were poorly equipped to handle their young, fickle democracy. A majority considered discipline and order to be more valuable than parliamentary representation. Germany was a republic without republicans.

Iraq, so the argument goes, is a wild, mixed bag of ethnic groups and religious communities. Speaking strictly off the record, critics say that fanaticism is practically part of the human genetic code in this part of the world. What a contradiction! If there were ever a hotbed of fanaticism, it would be somewhere between Berlin and Munich. The Baath Party and its leaders couldn't hold a candle to the Führer in Berlin and his followers. Millions marched through the streets chanting: "Führer command, we will follow!"

American soldiers are attacked daily in Baghdad. There was none of that in postwar Berlin. Objection! Didn't the Germans exact a far greater toll on the Americans? Here are the official U.S. battle casualties in the European theater: killed: 116,991; wounded: 386,356; captured: 73,759; missing: 14,528. Hitler's offensive in the Ardennes, an attack that was launched despite the fact that defeat was imminent, was nothing less than a giant suicide bombing. More than 100,00 people died, more Germans than Americans.

There are many differences between Berlin in those days and Baghdad today. Comparing the two doesn't mean equating them. But the most important difference can be found in Washington. The Americans at the beginning of the Cold War were much more patient. When the situation became especially threatening, the president made a trip to Berlin. But instead of barricading himself into an army barracks, he stood on the balcony at the city hall (in our sector) and called out "I am a Berliner." His name was John F. Kennedy, which sends us one clear message: You don't have to be a "neocon" to fight for freedom.

Republicans and Democrats should do what their predecessors did to address the Berlin challenge: grit their teeth, persevere, be patient and most importantly resist the temptation to take political advantage of short-term strategic setbacks. The greatest enemy of freedom today is strategic impatience. The presidential candidates can run, but they can't hide: Their Berlin is called Baghdad.

Mr. Steingart, Der Spiegel's Berlin bureau chief from 2000 to 2007, is now a senior correspondent in Washington.

WSJ
26846  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 18, 2007, 11:09:09 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy
that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's
life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every
one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination
of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers
of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the
capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."

-- John Adams (An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 29 August 1763)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (338); original The Papers of
John Adams, Taylor, ed., vol. 1 (83)
26847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: September 18, 2007, 11:06:37 AM
Antibiotic Runoff
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Published: September 18, 2007
One of the persistent problems of industrial agriculture is the inappropriate use of antibiotics. It’s one thing to give antibiotics to individual animals, case by case, the way we treat humans. But it’s a common practice in the confinement hog industry to give antibiotics to the whole herd, to enhance growth and to fight off the risk of disease, which is increased by keeping so many animals in such close quarters. This is an ideal way to create organisms resistant to the drugs. That poses a risk to us all.

A recent study by the University of Illinois makes the risk even more apparent. Studying the groundwater around two confinement hog farms, scientists have identified the presence of several transferable genes that confer antibiotic resistance, specifically to tetracycline. There is the very real chance that in such a rich bacterial soup these genes might move from organism to organism, carrying the ability to resist tetracycline with them. And because the resistant genes were found in groundwater, they are already at large in the environment.

There are two interdependent solutions to this problem, and hog producers should embrace them both. The first solution — the least likely to be acceptable in the hog industry — is to ban the wholesale, herdwide use of antibiotics. The second solution is to continue to tighten the regulations and the monitoring of manure containment systems. The trouble, of course, is that there is no such thing as perfect containment.

The consumer has the choice to buy pork that doesn’t come from factory farms. The justification for that kind of farming has always been efficiency, and yet, as so often happens in agriculture, the argument breaks down once you look at all the side effects. The trouble with factory farms is that they are raising more than pigs. They are raising drug-resistant bugs as well.
NY Times
26848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 11:01:17 AM
After Talk of War, Cooler Words in France on Iran
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By KATRIN BENNHOLD and ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: September 18, 2007
MOSCOW, Sept. 17 — France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

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Stephane Ruet, via Associated Press
Bernard Kouchner said Sunday that it was “necessary to prepare” for war with Iran.
Attacked verbally by Iran and quietly criticized within his own government, Mr. Kouchner shifted the focus away from the threat of war and back to a call for hard negotiations as the way to force Iran to abandon key nuclear activities.

“The worst situation would be war,” Mr. Kouchner told journalists en route to Moscow. “And to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and work with our European friends on credible sanctions.”

On Sunday, Mr. Kouchner, a Socialist known for his blunt talk, said in an interview broadcast on RTL radio and LCI television: “We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves.”

Asked what he meant in referring to preparation, he replied, “It is necessary to prepare for the worst,” adding, “The worst, it’s war, sir.”

Asked again to explain himself, Mr. Kouchner announced that France was doing military contingency planning for an eventual war, saying, “We are preparing by trying first of all to put together plans that are the unique prerogative of the chiefs of staff, but that — it’s not for tomorrow.”

Lost in the off-the-cuff and freewheeling remarks about war planning was his other, less alarmist message: that France is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran, that no military action is planned and that he did not believe there would be an American military intervention while President Bush was in office.

But his remarks fueled speculation that France was moving closer to the Bush administration position that all options — including war — are on the table.

On Monday, Prime Minister François Fillon, a former labor and education minister, appeared to support Mr. Kouchner, adding to the sense that France’s stance had hardened.

Asked during a visit to an army base at Angoulême about Mr. Kouchner’s mention of war against Iran, Mr. Fillon replied, “The foreign affairs minister is right because everybody can see that the situation in the Near East is extremely tense and that it’s getting worse.”

Like Mr. Kouchner, he stressed that all steps must be taken to avoid war.

Adding to the confusion, the Foreign Ministry seemed to distance itself somewhat from Mr. Kouchner’s remarks. A deputy spokesman, Denis Simonneau, referred journalists on Monday to a speech President Nicolas Sarkozy made last month in which he also said Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not curb its nuclear program, but that such an outcome would be a disaster. He gave no indication that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.

The Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomatic missions around the world to use the same, more cautious, formulation, ministry officials said.

Mr. Kouchner’s reference to war on Sunday infuriated Iran, which accused France of moving closer to Washington.

“The use of such words creates tensions and is contrary to the cultural history and civilization of France,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Muhammad Ali Hosseini, in a statement on Monday.

An editorial in the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday said, “The new occupants of the Élysée want to copy the White House.”

In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called for calm. “I would not talk about any use of force,” he said.

Stressing that only the Security Council could authorize the use of force, he urged the world to remember the lesson of Iraq before considering military action against Iran. “We need to be cool,” he said.

Certainly, France under President Sarkozy has toughened its policy toward Iran. Mindful that a third round of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council is unlikely for at least several months, France has begun to push an initiative for separate European sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, also took a hard line against Iran’s nuclear program but was much less inclined to use sanctions, because, as he often said, he did not believe they were effective.

France’s foreign intelligence service has a shorter timeline for Iran’s prospects for producing a nuclear weapon than that of American intelligence, according to senior French officials. American intelligence analysts put that date between 2010 and 2015.

In Paris before heading to Moscow for bilateral talks on Iran and other issues, Mr. Kouchner said European countries should prepare their own sanctions outside of the United Nations.

“These would be European sanctions that each country, individually, must put in place with its own banking, commercial and industrial system,” he said. “The English and the Germans are interested in talking about this.”

While some officials inside the French government felt that Mr. Kouchner had done no harm with his mention of war, others said he should have been more disciplined in his choice of words.

“In an ideal world he wouldn’t have answered the questions in the way he did,” said one French official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on diplomatic issues. “His words were not completely thought out and scripted. It doesn’t mean there is a change of policy.”

Katrin Bennhold reported from Moscow, and Elaine Sciolino from Paris. Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Nicola Clark from Paris.
NYTimes
26849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 10:50:31 AM
Iran Warns German Banks: If You Leave, Don’t Come Back
August 23, 2007 | From theTrumpet.com
Financial broadsides between Berlin and Tehran could presage more dangerous exchanges in the future.

European financial institutions appear to be bowing to U.S. pressure to pull out of Iran. The Islamic Republic has responded by threatening to bar these entities from ever doing business in Iran again. The episode reveals mounting tensions between Iran and Europe that could grow much worse with time.

Breitbart.com reported the Financial Times Deutschland as saying “that European financial institutions feared losing out on lucrative business with the United States if they remained active in Iran, after U.S. officials threatened the banks’ boards with consequences.”
msnbc said the U.S. Treasury had conducted a “vigorous lobbying campaign” with banks worldwide to restrict their business with Iran.

Several European financial institutions have begun paring down their activities with Iranian customers as a result. On July 30, Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, said it will conclude its business in Iran this September.

Though the bank cited a lack of financial return on its investments there, observers noted that it made its decision shortly after receiving a visit from the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Now Iran has fired its first shot back. Tehran says any bank that withdraws from Iran won’t be welcome back.

“We’re not happy with [Deutsche Bank’s] decision,” said the vice governor of Iran’s central bank to Financial Times Deutschland. “There is no guarantee that one can return when the good times are here again.” He said competitors throughout the region and in Asia and Russia would fill the void left by Germany.
The German banks dismissively say they lose virtually nothing by pulling away from Iran.

Worth noting is that although Germany is heavily dependent upon oil imports, it appears to have weaned itself off Iranian oil this year.

Link:http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php?q=4159.2347.0.0
26850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: September 18, 2007, 10:46:12 AM
Muslim Brotherhood's papers detail plan to seize U.S.


Group's takeover plot emerges in Holy Land case
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...d.35ce2b6.html

07:37 AM CDT on Monday, September 17, 2007


By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News
jtrahan@dallasnews.com

Amid the mountain of evidence released in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, the most provocative has turned out to be a handful of previously classified evidence detailing Islamist extremists' ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover. A knot of terrorism researchers say the memos and audiotapes, many translated from Arabic and containing detailed strategies by the international Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, are proof that extremists have long sought to replace the Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law.
But some academics and Muslim leaders say that the ideals contained in the documents were written by disgruntled foreign dissidents representing a tiny radical fringe. The documents also pre-date the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the 80-year-old Muslim Brotherhood is now either inactive or largely underground in America.

Hardly.
The documents – introduced in recent weeks as part of the prosecution's case in the trial of the now defunct Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers – lay out the Brotherhood's plans in chillingly stark terms. A 1991 strategy paper for the Brotherhood, often referred to as the Ikhwan in Arabic, found in the Virginia home of an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, describes the group's U.S. goals, referred to as a "civilization-jihadist process."
"The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions," it states. This process requires a "mastery of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.' "
Success in the U.S. "in establishing an observant Islamic base with power and effectiveness will be the best support and aid to the global movement," it states.
A transcript of a Brotherhood orientation meeting recorded in the early 1980s includes discussions of the need for "securing the group" from infiltration by "Zionism, Masonry ... the CIA, FBI, etc. so that we find out if they are monitoring us" and "how can we get rid of them." Discussions later turn to "weapons training at the Ikhwan's camps" in Oklahoma and Missouri.
[...]
Esam Omeish, president of the Virginia-based Muslim American Society, or MAS, says the documents introduced in the Holy Land trial are full of "abhorrent statements and are in direct conflict of the very principles of our Islam."
"The Muslim community in America wishes to contribute positively to the continued success and greatness of our civilization," Dr. Omeish said. "The ethics of tolerance and inclusion are the very tenets that MAS was based on from its inception."
His group, formed in 1993, is thought by many to be the Brotherhood's current incarnation in the U.S., although he and other MAS leaders say their group formed as an alternative to radicalism.
"MAS is not the Muslim Brotherhood," Dr. Omeish said. The society "grew out of a history of Islamic activism in the U.S. when the Muslim Brotherhood once existed but has a different intellectual paradigm and outlook."
[...]
Mahdi Bray, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, which promotes Muslim civil rights, called the Holy Land documents "a throwback." He has attended portions of the Holy Land trial.
"If those documents talk about the establishing of Shariah law in America, I'm saying that's a lot of hype: wishful thinking from an immigrant perspective. ... It doesn't reflect genuine American perspective in terms of where we're heading," Mr. Bray said.
He said members of MAS decided in 1993, when the organization was founded, that they would pursue political and nonviolent tactics.
"I wouldn't be candid if I didn't say there weren't some old-timers who want to hold onto the old way, who say that this is the way the Ikhwan did it, this should be our model," he said. "We said 'So what? It doesn't work here.' We've been very adamant about that."
Mr. Bray, an Islamic convert, has been criticized by some as being an apologist for terrorists, particularly for his condemnation of Israel's 2004 missile strike in the Palestinian Gaza Strip that killed Hamas' spiritual founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Mr. Bray says that although his politics are controversial, he's not anti-American.
"Those on the right and many of those who I would classify as Islamophobes, many of them have failed to realize that there is an authentic American Muslim organization here and movement in America that wants to integrate," he said. "We believe the ballot is an appropriate place to be."
He said that he "liked the Bill of Rights" and didn't want to see the Constitution replaced with Islamic law.
"There's a maturation that's taken place in the American Muslim community that's either not understood, or understood but viewed as a threat to other interest groups in this country."
[...]
There are those in the U.S. government who believe that the Brotherhood is the Bush administration's best chance for reaching out to moderate Islamists internationally.
The Brotherhood "works to dissuade the Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities," said Robert S. Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Program at The Nixon Center in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.
While he has not studied the Holy Land documents, Dr. Leiken said that the U.S. discussion on Islamic thought tends to be polarized and that what passes for scholarship is often more selective than rigorous.
"The more you study it, the more distinctions and differences should emerge," he said. "And scholars should see these distinctions. In Europe, these things are understood better, but in the U.S., they often get brushed aside in the heat of the debate."
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