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26851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / School issues on: July 28, 2008, 05:08:24 PM
The Greatest Scandal
July 28, 2008
The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation's greatest scandal. The differences between the two Presidential candidates on this could hardly be more stark. John McCain is calling for alternatives to the system; Barack Obama wants the kids to stay within that system. We think the facts support Senator McCain.

"Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent and diplomas that open doors of opportunity," said Mr. McCain in remarks recently to the NAACP. "When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children." Some parents may opt for a better public school or a charter school; others for a private school. The point, said the Senator, is that "no entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity."

Mr. McCain cited the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally financed school-choice program for disadvantaged kids signed into law by President Bush in 2004. Qualifying families in the District of Columbia receive up to $7,500 a year to attend private K-12 schools. To qualify, a child must live in a family with a household income below 185% of the poverty level. Some 1,900 children participate; 99% are black or Hispanic. Average annual income is just over $22,000 for a family of four.

A recent Department of Education report found nearly 90% of participants in the D.C. program have higher reading scores than peers who didn't receive a scholarship. There are five applicants for every opening.

Mr. McCain could have mentioned EdisonLearning, a private company that took over 20 of Philadelphia's 45 lowest performing district schools in 2002 to create a new management model for public schools. The most recent state test-score data show that student performance at Philadelphia public schools managed by Edison and other outside providers has improved by nearly twice the amount as the schools run by the district.

The number of students performing at grade level or higher in reading at the schools managed by private providers increased by 6.1% overall compared to 3.3% in district-managed schools. In math, the results for Edison and other outside managers was 4.6% and 6.0%, respectively, compared to 3.1% in the district-run schools.

The state of California just announced that one in three students in the Los Angeles public school system drops out before graduating. Among black and Latino students in L.A. district schools, the numbers are 42% and 30%. In the past five years, the number of dropouts has grown by more than 80%. The number of high school graduates has gone up only 9%.

The silver linings in these dismal clouds are L.A.'s charter high schools. Writing in the Los Angeles Daily News last week, Caprice Young, who heads the California Charter Schools Association, noted that "every charter high school in Los Angeles Unified last year reported a dropout rate significantly lower than not only the school district's average, but the state's as well."

On recent evidence, the Democrat Party's policy on these alternatives is simply massive opposition.

Congressional Democrats have refused to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program and are threatening to kill it. Last month, Philadelphia's school reform commission voted to seize six schools from outside managers, including four from Edison. In L.A., local school board members oppose the expansion of charters even though seven in 10 charters in the district outperform their neighborhood peers.

It's well known that the force calling the Democratic tune here is the teachers unions. Earlier this month, Senator Obama accepted the endorsement of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Speaking recently before the American Federation of Teachers, he described the alternative efforts as "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice."

Mr. Obama told an interviewer recently that he opposes school choice because, "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom." The Illinois Senator has it exactly backward. Those at the top don't need voucher programs and they already exercise school choice. They can afford exclusive private schools, or they can afford to live in a neighborhood with decent public schools. The point of providing educational options is to extend this freedom to the "kids at the bottom."

A visitor to Mr. Obama's Web site finds plenty of information about his plans to fix public education in this country. Everyone knows this is a long, hard slog, but Mr. Obama and his wife aren't waiting. Their daughters attend the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition ranges from $15,528 for kindergarten to $20,445 for high school.

When the day arrives that these two candidates face off, we hope Senator McCain comes prepared to press his opponent hard on change, hope and choice in the schools.

26852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Naval Upgrade on: July 28, 2008, 05:03:33 PM
Russia plans to upgrade its Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and eventually to build a small fleet of new aircraft carriers, the chief of the Russian navy said July 27. Russia has slowly been turning its military fortunes back from the decay and decline of the 1990s, and may now be reaching the point at which such plans, while ambitious, could be attainable.

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Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Russian navy.

Russia plans to begin upgrading its Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), starting with the next hull to be laid down, which will be the fourth, Russian senior naval officer Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said at the opening of the annual Navy Day parade July 27. Vysotsky also promised a new concept for Russia’s next generation of aircraft carrier groups, calling for half a dozen carriers to be constructed beginning in 2012.

Vysotsky’s statements in some ways smack of the ambitions of the Soviet old guard (among whom talk of a return to the glory days with large fleets of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers is common). His vision is more restrained and realistic in other important ways, however — he is, for example, calling not for 12 carriers, but for six. In his comments, he also focused on pointing out that a fundamental re-evaluation of the functions and composition of carrier task forces is under way and that questions of actual carrier design are further down the road.

Many scholars and military officers continue to dismiss the Russian military offhand, based on its decay in the 1990s and its decrepit state at the turn of the century. Russia’s armed forces after the fall of the Soviet Union suffered a comprehensive decline that is difficult to overstate — ranging from widespread inefficiency and bloating of the officers’ ranks, to poor maintenance and neglect of equipment, to a lack of proper training and deployment — culminating in the at-sea accident that led to the loss of the Kursk, the pride of the Russian Northern Fleet. Indeed, U.S. intelligence has said that in 2007, Russia’s ballistic missile submarines conducted only three strategic deterrent patrols, even fewer than the year before. But changes are afoot under the leadership of Prime Minister (and former President) Vladimir Putin.

To begin with, Russia has been working to replenish its fleet. Corruption and incompetence at Russian naval shipyards remain problems, but ones that are recognized and are being addressed. Managers are now being held responsible (and fired when appropriate), while new umbrella entities are being formed to consolidate the defense sector — such as the United Shipbuilding Corp., whose objective is to fashion a competent, efficient shipbuilding industry. Though it seems ambitious now, the goal of a Russian shipbuilding industry able to crank out ships at a reasonable rate — and of a passable quality — is not without precedent in Soviet times. The need to contain costs is another challenge, but recent construction of surface combatants has suggested a remarkable pragmatism in terms of focusing on obtainable and affordable designs.

This is not to say that a few new hulls will solve all of Russia’s problems. The navy’s deteriorating institutional knowledge — especially in areas like carrier operations and anti-submarine warfare — is a valuable commodity, and one that will be difficult and time-consuming to reconstitute. The first step in this direction is simply getting ships and sailors back to sea on a sustained basis, where they can hone their skills. Though this is hardly being done across the board (especially in the submarine corps), there has been some increase in deployments — and newer ships and submarines would at least facilitate this change.

Yet a crucial time for Russia is at hand. Putin, as a former intelligence officer, is well aware of the value of military might (though he has often favored economic and political means of coercion in his foreign policy). During his two terms as president, Putin worked to consolidate the Kremlin’s control over the military (along with most other strategic sectors). A key part of this process has consisted of reining in the military and preventing it from overreaching with too-ambitious plans and, at the same time, halting the decline of the 1990s. These dual imperatives for Putin have been compounded by the continued leadership of old-guard Soviet officers, stubbornly committed to a return to the glory of the Red Army — many of whom Putin has forced out.

Guiding the navy now is Vysotsky, who was personally appointed by Putin. He is as much the prime minister’s man as a military man can be. Under him, a focus on Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet will continue, and incremental upgrades are under way for ship and boat classes already under construction. Many obstacles still remain, but the potential foundation for a revitalized Russian navy is beginning to emerge.

As the Kremlin further solidifies its grip over the military, it will accelerate its reforms of both the military and the defense industry, expanding the recent moves toward professionalization, continuing to trim the fat (especially in the officer ranks) and quickening the pace of construction and delivery of new equipment to the armed forces. None of these moves are necessarily new, but their pace thus far has been halting and their effectiveness uneven. Now, however, they may be reaching a critical mass at which their effectiveness might begin to improve.

If these changes can be maintained, it appears likely that the next few years will see more hulls coming on line: new ships and submarines that have not suffered badly under the neglect and wear of the 1990s. Though Russian naval doctrine has not traditionally favored the comparatively high deployment pace of the U.S. Navy, Moscow will soon potentially have that option, should it choose to use it.

Significant challenges remain, but Putin’s careful and impressive reversal of fortunes for the Russian military cannot be denied. At the same time, there are no guarantees that it will last. In a larger geopolitical sense, Moscow now needs to consolidate its gains and begin to build a military that can demonstrate to the world that Russia remains a global power.

26853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: July 28, 2008, 04:54:06 PM
Significant Seizures

The Mexican government has made several large seizures of narcotics, materials and cash in recent weeks throughout Mexico. One of the biggest was the July 25 discovery of 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in a warehouse in Guadalajara, in Jalisco state. Some of the barrels contained ephedrine and others acetone, two key ingredients in the manufacturing of crystal methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine production is one of the more profitable enterprises in which Mexican drug cartels are involved, and the so-called Mexican “super labs” are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of the methamphetamine on the streets in the United States. It is important to note the growing importance of Mexican-made methamphetamine, the production of which has increased dramatically since 2005, when the United States began restricting the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. It is also important to recognize that one Mexican super lab is able to produce the same amount of the narcotic as hundreds of the small mom-and-pop meth labs common in the United States. The price of methamphetamine is comparable to that of powder cocaine in the United States, and with the cartels able to produce the synthetic narcotic themselves, they can keep a larger portion of the profits than when they act merely as middlemen transporting narcotics from South America.

In any case, someone in the methamphetamine business will not be pleased about the July 25 seizure, and some form of violent payback will likely occur in the coming weeks and months. This could be the attempted assassination of a high-profile law enforcement official with connections to the seizure, or even an attempt to reclaim the seized goods. In the past, the cartels have contracted with assassination gangs like El Nica, which is believed to have been involved in the May 1 murder of Roberto Velasco Bravo, director of investigations for the federal police’s sensitive investigations unit, and the May 8 murder of Edgar Millan Gomez, the acting head of the federal police. However, many of these gangs have been dismantled by the government. Therefore, the cartels will either contract with a new gang or send in cartel enforcers, in which case large amounts of firepower will likely be employed.

It is hard to say when an act of retaliation will occur. Millan was involved in a car chase that nearly captured Arturo Beltran Leyva outside of Cuernavaca, in Morelos state, and it was only a matter of hours before Milan was assassinated outside his home in the Guerrero colony of Mexico City. In an attempt to reclaim their “property” Los Zetas, who have diversified their interests to include human smuggling, are credited with the hijacking of a Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) bus carrying 33 undocumented Cubans in Chiapas state only a couple of days after they were detained by the INM in Cancun, Quintana Roo. The Cubans were later detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on the U.S. side of the border. In other cases, the time between seizures or arrests and retaliation has been weeks or even months. Although it is hard to predict the timing of a retaliatory strike, it is important to note that the cartels can act swiftly
when they see a need to.

Foreign Kidnappings
Reports began surfacing this past week of foreign nationals being kidnapped for ransom in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which shares a border with Texas and is home to the Gulf Cartel. On July 12, five South Korean nationals were kidnapped and held for a $30,000 ransom in the city of Reynosa. South Korean officials negotiated their release on July 22. South Korean officials refused to comment on whether the ransom was paid. It was later reveled that the five were planning to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to seek employment in the United States.

On July 21, a 19-year-old American citizen named Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued from room 226 of the Hotel California in the Mexican town of Miguel Aleman, in Tamaulipas state. The son of a New Mexico rancher, Rolando Ramirez lived in the Texas border town of Rio Grande City, where he was forced into a car and blindfolded after reportedly being tricked by a friend into stopping his truck. Rolando Ramirez was then taken to the Hotel California where he was told to call his father and ask for $200,000 to be wired to bank accounts in Mexico for his safe return. Rolando Ramirez’s father then alerted the state police, and they were able to rescue Ramirez and arrest his captors.

Cartels typically target only their enemies in kidnapping attempts, but with the security situation along the U.S.-Mexican border in a state of flux, the cartels may be looking for other ways to make money. It would not be surprising to see cartels engage in kidnapping for ransom to help finance their narcotics operations, which have been constrained on both sides of the border. The Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel) and the paramilitary group Los Zetas have both engaged in kidnapping for ransom when federal police and military operations severely hampered their drug trafficking activities. Also, it is important to note that human traffickers will sometimes hold their “cargo” hostage for additional funds. The illegal nature of human trafficking makes it difficult for awaiting family members to go to the proper authorities to report such situations.

(click to view map)

July 21
Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued after he was kidnapped July 17 in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state. Rolando Ramirez’s father alerted state police after his son phoned him for the ransom. Police were able to locate Rolando Ramirez in a hotel in Miguel Aleman and arrest the kidnappers.
Two men were killed with AK-47s outside of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Authorities say the assassins were traveling in a truck on a state highway when they opened fire on the two men.
July 22
Five South Korean nationals were set free after they were kidnapped by a gang and spent 10 days detained in an undisclosed location in Reynosa. A $30,000 ransom was demanded but South Korean officials declined to comment on whether or not it was paid.
Los Zetas were presumed to be responsible for the deaths of three state police agents in Campeche state. The three officers were leaving a restaurant around midday in Ciudad del Carmen when the gunmen opened fire.
July 23
Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes received two letters threatening his life from Gente Nueva, a paramilitary group last known to be associated with El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel. In one of the letters, the group accuses Reyes of siding with Carrillo Fuentes and the Juarez cartel and of “collaborating with the AFP.”
July 24
Twenty-one ministerial police officers resigned from departments in Culiacan, Mazatlan and Guasave, in Sinaloa state.
Salvador Barreno, director of the prison system in Juarez, Chihuahua state, was shot some 60 times by an armed group outside his home. He died at the scene.
July 25
Federal authorities seized four residences of Jesus Ernesto Sauceda Felix (aka El Chapo Sauceda), who is presumed to have been behind a drive-by shooting that killed eight innocent people, including a 15-yeqr-old girl, almost two weeks ago in Guamuchil, in Sinaloa state.
Federal police and elements of the Mexican military found 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in the basement of a warehouse in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of Pablo Aispuro Ramírez, a municipal police officer in Culiacan, was found hanging in a tree wearing a sombrero with a message pinned to his chest. He was reported kidnapped July 17.
July 26
Federal agents seized five large-caliber weapons, 17 magazines and 388 rounds of ammunition in a raid on a residence in Ejido, in Sonora state. Authorities say the residents of the home, members of the Sinaloa cartel, were planning an assault on rival groups.
July 27
A shooting in a prison 47 kilometers from Navolato, in Sinaloa state, left one prisoner dead and two others injured. A pistol was reportedly smuggled into the prison for the targeted assassination of Victoriano Araujo Payan, the brother of Gonzalo Araujo Payan, a former high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member who reportedly committed suicide in 2006.
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26854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: ISI fiasco on: July 28, 2008, 04:45:20 PM
The Pakistani government has been forced to reverse a move to place the country’s top intelligence service under civilian control. The incoherence of the various stakeholders in Islamabad, which Stratfor has been pointing out, is a key reason behind this fiasco. The ill-fated move underscores the immense difficulty of reforming the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which is a precondition for Islamabad to solve its jihadist problem and play its role as an ally in the U.S.-jihadist war.

Pakistan’s recently elected Pakistani People’s Party (PPP)-led government, under pressure from the military, had to take back its July 26 decision to place the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate — the country’s main intelligence service — under civilian control, Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn reported July 28.

According to the report, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas explained that the army chief and the top brass had not been taken into confidence on the issue. “Although there is an ongoing debate that there should be close coordination between all intelligence agencies, placing ISI under the direct control of the interior division was never discussed. When we realized that the decision had been taken, we discussed the issue with the government and are thankful that there was a realization of ground realities and our position was accepted,” the Director-General of the Inter-Services (DG-ISI) Public Relations was quoted as saying.

Related Links
Pakistan: The Struggle For The ISI
Stratfor’s initial analysis on this matter pointed out that it is extremely unlikely that the army would allow the ISI — a powerful arm of the military that plays a major role in domestic and foreign policy matters — to come under civilian control. We had also noted that, due to the civil-military imbalance in favor of the latter, the civilians are incapable of just assuming control of the directorate. Such a move requires a decision by the army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani in coordination with the top generals. It turns out that that is exactly what did not happen.

There were discussions between the civil and military leadership on how to improve the country’s intelligence operations — especially the ISI — in the wake of the international pressure on Islamabad because of the directorate’s complex relations with jihadists. In a mixture of miscommunication and the PPP government’s desire to increase its influence over the organization, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — who is currently in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials — likely overstepped the consensus (or the lack thereof) with the military. This would explain why PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that he did not know at what level the earlier decision was made, adding that he thought “a miscommunication had led to the mess.”

This is not the first time that a PPP government has tried to expand its influence over the ISI. Assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 was able to remove Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul (a known jihadist sympathizer) as DG-ISI and replace him with a retired three-star general, Shamsur Rahman Kallu. Then-army chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg countered the move by having Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani — director-general of Military Intelligence (MI) at the time — handle both ISI and MI for some time. The tensions that emerged between the Bhutto government and army hierarchy played a key role in the dismissal of her government in 1990.

Now, the current PPP government is engaging in damage control, with de facto party leader and Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari giving a statement that the move was designed to shield the army from growing international criticism. PPP Information Minister Sherry Rehman was also quoted by state-owned news agency the Associated Press of Pakistan as saying that the ISI was already under civilian control because it reports to the prime minister.

Constitutionally, the prime minister has the authority to appoint the ISI chief. President Pervez Musharraf exercised that authority during his regime. But functionally, the ISI is a branch of the army and thus falls under the command of the army chief.

Thus, control over the directorate was already in many ways a contested matter, which this fiasco has exacerbated. While both the civilian and military leaders are trying to downplay the matter, the incident has likely irked sensibilities (to say the least) within the military-intelligence complex, already feeling threatened as the ongoing political strife and a raging jihadist insurgency weaken its hold over the state. The army will increase its oversight on the PPP government, which could lead to additional tensions.

All of this is happening as the United States — now more than ever — wants the Pakistanis to deal with the jihadist problem both at home and in neighboring Afghanistan. Gilani’s visit to Washington centers on this very issue; the ISI fiasco just made matters worse regarding his efforts to get the United States to limit its unilateral actions in the tribal areas. Even on July 28, a U.S. missile strike on a madrassa in South Waziristan killed six people.

Elsewhere, Pakistan’s Chairman of Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Tariq Majeed, in a meeting with acting U.S. CENTCOM chief Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey warned that U.S. operations on its Pakistani soil would lead to a deterioration of relations between Islamabad and Washington. Both the Gilani administration and the Pakistani army have been relaying to the Bush administration that the current setup in Islamabad is under the threat of destabilization in the wake of U.S. pressure, and the alternative could very likely be chaos that works to the jihadists’ advantage.

This is why the ISI fiasco is important: It has further exposed the internal contradictions within the Pakistani system. More importantly, however, it shows how very difficult it is to reform the directorate — a step that must be taken for Islamabad to defeat the jihadists threatening it at home and to act as an ally to Washington in the war against militant Islamists.

26855  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 28, 2008, 04:21:06 PM
Woof All:

Cindy and the kids are visiting her mom, so at the moment she is not in a position to post fighter names on the Registered Fighters List.  So until she gets home, I will be posting additional fighter names on this thread.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog

Dog Mat Booe
Mauricio Sanchez: Mexico City, Mexico
Jeff Hurbace:  Henderson, Nevada
26856  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 28, 2008, 02:13:53 PM
Eric Flesichman, who is our principal interface man with Powerhouse, tells me that the lockers/showers are quite nice.
26857  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Number One Export on: July 28, 2008, 02:03:58 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Pages: The No. 1 export of the Philippines
John Pages
Sun.Star Cebu

ON THE morning of April 27, 1521, our first national hero was
discovered. Named Lapu-Lapu, together with bare-chested warriors he
extinguished the Spanish armada led by the Portuguese, Ferdinand
Magellan. Using spears and the Moro weapon kampilan, they butchered
and knifed the enemies in the "Battle Of Mactan."

That was 487 long years ago.

Today, Lapu-Lapu's bravery continues....

Wearing the same brown skin as Lapu-Lapu, Filipinos faced Spaniards.
And worse, our countrymen were up against more invaders: the
Americans, British, Italians, Germans, Swiss, Koreans, the French-a
total of 23 other nations have landed in Cebu to conquer Cebu. This
time, the skirmish was named, "Battle at Ayala."

For four days ending yesterday at the Ayala Center Cebu, there stood
women, boys, men and girls who clashed during the 10th World Eskrima
Arnis Kali Championships.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I watched. I saw banners that hung from
the rafters. Video cameras recorded to document all angles. Security
guards paraded to cordon the Activity Center. A large screen loomed
onstage. The fights were plenty.

Imagine 24 countries battling under one city, one mall, one floor?
Many foreign visitors were muscular. Some were tall; others petite.
Plenty were long-haired with tattoos; some were bald. Many wore red;
some, blue; a few, white.

My best watch? Two fighters surrounded by two camps of screaming
teammates, one chanting "U! S! A! U! S! A!" the other hollering, "U!
K! U! K! U! K!" They were shouting in unison and, standing beside
Atty. Dionisio Cañete, the Supreme Grandmaster of Doce Pares, all I
could do was smile, clap and gaze amazed at the revelry.

Imagine, on RP soil, the US vs. the UK?

For here's my point: While Lapu-Lapu used sticks and swords to bloody
and kill Magellan; while Arnis and Eskrima are widely acknowledged to
have originated in the Philippines-this type of martial arts is not
popular here. Or, it's not as popular here as it is in other nations.
Plus, of course, we know it pales in comparison against taekwondo,
karatedo or aikido.

But here's the irony: this Filipino martial arts is popular outside
our archipelago.

Take the Americans. In all, they sent a 110-strong team. The British?
Dozens. Same with 23 other nations. And though we fielded a squad that
reached a hundred, you can see how popular stick-fighting has grown
outside RP soil. In all, about 100 who joined the event were Filipinos-
compared to 500 foreigners!

Which led former judo champion Nimrod Quiñones, the managing editor of
The Freeman, to conclude: "Arnis is RP's top export."

Well-said, Nim.

With this in mind, plenty is being done to counter this. To start
with, the recent 10th Wekaf world meet was a way to popularize the
sport. And the fact that the organizers-led by Grandmaster Diony and
Gerald and Michael Cañete-decided to hold it not at a far-flung
basketball gym but at the heart of Cebu, at Ayala Center, is a tactic
to entice Cebuanos to watch. And kudos to Ayala Center for their
support-led by Cebu Holdings, Inc. President Francis Monera and top
Ayala officials Joy Polloso and Bong Dy-for personally being there.

Senator Migz Zubiri, a former undefeated arnisador, I met last
Wednesday. He invigorated the crowd with his speech and, right after,
demonstrated his skill in an exhibition with Team Pinoy head coach
(and four-time world champ) Val Pableo. Best of all, while talking to
our group of sportswriters and together with his good friend and top
businessman Edwin Ortiz, he authored a bill in the Senate declaring
arnis as RP's National Sport-to be taught at all schools.

Good. Great. Because with the recent 10th Wekaf World Championships
success, I hope arnis gains more popularity. In RP. In Cebu. Among
26858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 28, 2008, 01:53:30 PM
The paragraph below about the fund raising advantage for Dems in the Congressional races scares the bejeezus out of me.  It looks like the Dems will have a veto/filibuster proof majority  shocked cry cry

Despite Barack Obama's moves to the center, the Democratic presidential nominee has planted his flag firmly with liberals when it comes to one issue: race and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting.

Over the weekend, Mr. Obama accused his Republican rival of flip-flopping after John McCain endorsed an initiative to ban preferential treatment pushed by former University of California regent Ward Connerly. Such proposals will be on ballots this fall in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"I do not believe in quotas," Mr. McCain said yesterday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos. "I have not seen the details of some of these proposals. But I've always opposed quotas." Mr. Obama was quick to point out that a decade ago Mr. McCain had told a Hispanic group that "rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide for every child in America to fulfill their expectations."

Mr. McCain has certainly been guilty of flip-flops during this campaign, but this is one case where the charge rings hollow. Mr. McCain also told the same group he opposed race-based hiring quotas. Like Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida, Mr. McCain is leery of ballot initiatives that would arouse strong passions and divide communities. Governor Bush worked with the Florida legislature to pass a ban on racial preferences rather than submit the idea directly to voters, something Mr. Connerly was unable to do in California, Michigan and Washington -- the three states where his initiative has passed to date. Yet Gov. Bush, like Mr. McCain, also always made clear that he opposed quotas.

But then Mr. Obama also claims to oppose quotas, saying he supports "affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination." Any such programs can't be "simply applied without looking at the whole person." In other words, he wants it both ways: He favors race preferences but they need to be packaged "individually."

Should the issue of racial preferences come up in the debates this fall, you can expect both candidates to try to engage in "nuance." But Mr. Obama will have the harder time. Even in Michigan, which hasn't voted Republican for president in 20 years, the initiative Mr. Obama campaigned against won easily with 58% of the vote.

-- John Fund

Men Bite Dogs, Challengers Outraise Incumbents

As Federal Election Commission reports streamed into Washington last week, political watchers in both parties focused on a number of promising challengers who are actually managing to raise more money than presumably entrenched incumbents. As each party narrows its target list before November, watch for well-funded challengers to be among their top priorities.

At least 16 Democrats running against incumbent Republicans outraised their rivals, while six Republicans outpaced Democratic incumbents (thanks to August primaries and tardy filings, not every report has been filed). To be sure, some challengers have managed to raise substantial sums and yet aren't deemed serious competitors. Democratic businesswoman Linda Ketner outraised South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown, but Mr. Brown is expected to win easily in a district that gave President Bush 61% in 2004. Likewise, Deborah Honeycutt, a physician from suburban Atlanta, probably won't beat Democratic Rep. David Scott, to whom she lost by a 69%-31% margin in 2006.

Among the rest, several promising recruits stand out as result of recent fund-raising success. For Democrats, bright spots include Nevada State Senator Dina Titus, former Alaska State Representative Ethan Berkowitz and businesswoman Darcy Burner, who is running for Congress in Washington State. For Republicans, Anne Northup, a former member of Congress who lost her Kentucky seat in 2006, has made an impressive financial start against Democrat John Yarmuth; and former Congressional aide Pete Olson in Texas and one-time Assembly Speaker John Gard in Wisconsin have both outraised Democratic incumbents in their districts.

Perhaps most indicative of long-term trends, Democrats have managed to field two high-profile recruits in what has been solid Republican territory. Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia, both Cuban American Democrats in Florida, are going up against GOP Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, brothers who represent districts near Miami that are each more than 60% Hispanic (mostly Cuban). Cubans have been a reliable voting bloc for the GOP for the past four decades, but a new generation could indicate a power shift towards Democrats. The incumbent Diaz-Balarts still have more cash on hand than their challengers, but Messrs. Martinez and Garcia outraised the incumbents last quarter and a recent poll for the Miami Herald showed them within striking distance.

Democrats, with an approximately six-to-one cash advantage over their House Republican opponents, have begun laying the foundation for an aggressive advertising campaign in 51 districts around the country, including seven where the Democratic candidate outraised the Republican incumbent. Of the $53 million earmarked for House races, Democrats are aiming $1.4 million at the Diaz-Balarts in Florida and a neighboring Republican-held district.

-- Reid Wilson,


A year ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was enjoying a honeymoon as a new prime minister, building on a decade of Labour Party dominance under Tony Blair. How things have changed. A poll yesterday for the Independent newspaper found nearly a quarter of Labour voters believe Conservative Party leader David Cameron would make a better prime minister than their own Mr. Brown. Among all voters, Mr. Cameron held an 18-point lead on that question.

That's why the Scotsman, the leading newspaper in Mr. Brown's native Scotland, is rattling political china with its report that Labour ministers are considering a "suicide election" to give the party a fresh start under a new leader. Under this scenario, Mr. Brown would be dumped either this fall or next spring, and the party would call an immediate election in which defeat would be the most likely outcome.

Labour ministers "believe such a move would be better than Brown clinging on to office until 2010 when, they fear, the party would face a wipe-out on the scale of that inflicted on the Tories by Labour in 1997," the Scotsman reported. To Labour's future advantage, Mr. Cameron's Conservatives as a result would be propelled into power "without having prepared enough for the tough economic times ahead."

Normally, such gloomy talk would be discounted as exaggerated, but panic has been the norm in Labour Party circles since it lost a special election for a vacant seat in Parliament last week. The defeat came in Glasgow East, deemed one of the safest Labour seats in the entire country. "If we aren't safe in Glasgow, we could lose everywhere," is how one Labour Party political analyst put it to me over the weekend.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"In Germany, it was all wunderbar. Addressing the throng [in Berlin] as a 'proud citizen of the United States,' but also 'a fellow citizen of the world,' Obama seemed to be giving Europeans a role and a voice in an election in which they have no vote. . . . Who can forget Operation Clark County? That was the campaign waged by British paper the Guardian that encouraged Brits to write to voters in a swing county in the swing state of Ohio to urge them to vote for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry -- because 'the result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it.' Well, they had their say, and Clark was the only county in Ohio to switch from supporting Gore in 2000 to Bush GOP in 2004"-- San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deborah Saunders, on the potential political impact of Barack Obama's overseas trip.

Jesus's Walkman

For a certain part of the electorate, the contents of Barack Obama's iPod are the most vital political issue of the day. That Mr. Obama also won a Grammy (albeit for the audio version of his memoir) doesn't hurt either.

Now the music blogosphere is abuzz with chatter of its own dream ticket -- Mr. Obama and Kanye West. Reports suggest that Mr. West indeed will lead an all-star rap music lineup at the Democratic Convention (or at least the surrounding parties), including Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D. All three are known Obama favorites, especially Mr. West who was raised in Chicago and gained a taste of political notoriety when he told a live national audience at a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Katrina that "George Bush doesn't like black people." Recently, he's been in a more ecumenical spotlight for rapping about religion with his hit single "Jesus Walks."

Mr. Obama, who has never failed to utter the appropriate sentiment on any subject, has said he is "troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism of rap lyrics." And Mr. Obama's iPod wouldn't be Mr. Obama's iPod if it didn't contain something for everybody, including Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. In the end, however, careful polling will likely decide exactly which rainbow of musicians will be seen fawning over the candidate at the convention.

-- Collin Levy

26859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McFarlane: Free Trade Solution to biofuels on: July 28, 2008, 11:28:38 AM
How Free Trade Can Help Solve the Energy Crisis
July 26, 2008; Page A9

The unprecedented escalation in oil and food prices is a clear and present danger to our economy and national security. The root cause of this crisis is our dependence on a single commodity, oil, for transportation -- we burn 145 billion gallons of gasoline a year. The only permanent solution is diversity in our fuel supply to ensure competition and choice in the marketplace.

While a number of alternatives to oil are being developed, we already have one strategic solution at our disposal: biofuels, both domestic and from Latin America.

Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel are cheaper than fossil fuels, and will become even cheaper if we eliminate the senseless tariff on ethanol imports from Brazil. Ethanol can be used safely as a 10% blend with gasoline in all existing cars, and as an 85% blend in the increasing number of flexible-fuel cars on our roads. That means a 10% to 85% potential drop in gasoline use and, hence, freedom from the oil stranglehold.

The public has been bombarded with lies and half-truths about biofuels, especially in the last six months. Americans should realize that biofuels are superior to fossil fuels. Biofuels are renewable, nontoxic and biodegradable. They are also beneficial to the automobile engine, the environment and the economy.

Biofuels are available today by the billions of gallons from a variety of sources: corn, sugarcane and soon from cellulosics. Cellulosic ethanol promises to dramatically boost domestic production in the near future. In the meantime, sugarcane ethanol already produced in Latin American sugar mills can become a key U.S. fuel supply.

Cellulosic biomass, in the form of existing agricultural and wood waste, is abundant (over a billion tons annually), inexpensive and requires no additional land. It has no food or feed value and therefore no effect on food availability and prices. A number of technologies are pursued for production of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, such as butanol and biodiesel. Most likely there will be no single technology winner. Rather, technologies will be adapted to the particular characteristics of local biofuel feedstocks.

Lower fuel prices will come only with an ample supply of alternative fuels. Cellulosic ethanol can extend corn ethanol's potential of 15 billion gallons per year, but it will not happen overnight. Resolving commercialization issues, building a large number of plants, and ramping up cellulosic ethanol production to billions of gallons will require a number of years.

To quickly boost its biofuel supply, the U.S. should partner with Latin America. Sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Central America should become an integral part of the U.S. energy strategy. An increase in Latin American cane ethanol capacity is the fastest, most cost-effective and lowest-risk strategy to secure abundant ethanol fuel. The U.S. needs Latin America for energy security, and Latin America needs the U.S. for capital and technology infusion. It's a classic win-win partnership -- provided U.S. trade barriers to sugarcane ethanol are eliminated.

Biofuel production is sustainable. The U.S. corn ethanol industry is investing in technology improvements to reduce land demand through higher productivity and to minimize its carbon footprint. Cellulosic ethanol will come from existing waste materials, not additional land.

Still, both corn and cellulosic ethanol can learn sustainable business lessons from Brazil. Its sugar mills have become biorefineries that co-produce sugar, ethanol and electricity in a renewable fashion, thus satisfying food, fuel and energy needs at the same time. The plants are self-powered by renewable energy derived from cane fiber and other biomass. As a result, Brazilian ethanol today is cost-competitive with oil at just $70 a barrel ($45 a barrel before the dollar weakened) without government subsidies -- a significant price advantage over gasoline.

The U.S. should immediately pursue a multifaceted biofuels strategy. First, while the corn industry improves productivity and sustainability, the U.S. should treat the commercialization of cellulosic technologies as a matter of national security -- a new Manhattan Project deserving all the necessary resources to accelerate deployment.

Second, the U.S. should pursue closer energy integration with Latin America though regulatory convergence and open biofuels trade, thus encouraging private investment in sugarcane ethanol production. This is the fastest and most efficient means to boost ethanol availability within three to four years, and displace gasoline use to an extent significant enough to cause oil demand and prices to drop.

Third, consumers should be educated and financially incentivized to switch to flexible-fuel vehicles, creating demand for mass production of such vehicles, which will dramatically cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Energy security can not be achieved with a silver bullet. It is not a competition between corn ethanol and sugarcane ethanol or between biofuels and plug-in hybrids. The sooner we realize that U.S. energy security needs all of the above, the sooner our country will be able to commit to a coherent long-term energy policy. U.S. and Latin American biofuels are the kick-start needed to break oil's unbearable monopoly in transportation fuels.

Mr. McFarlane served as President Ronald Reagan's national security advisor (1983-85). Mr. Philippidis is energy director at Florida International University in Miami.
26860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: July 28, 2008, 11:21:19 AM
Well, , , maybe , , , but to me it reads like Bush-Rice have drawn yet another line in the sand which will be disrespected as well.
Iran has become the main thoroughfare for jihadist traffic leaving Iraq for Pakistan’s tribal belt, a state-owned newspaper in Afghanistan said on Sunday. An editorial in the daily Anis described the Shiite Islamic republic as a “tunnel for terrorists” to Waziristan. “The people of Afghanistan can’t remain silent against such Iranian behaviors since this country sends those individuals to Afghanistan who kill and murder Afghans,” Anis said. The paper went on to say that “Iran under present conditions has become as the easiest entry for terrorists from the Middle East to Afghanistan and the [Afghan] government has to blockade this tunnel by whatever means.”

While most of the world’s attention is on the Pakistani factor in the Afghan jihadist insurgency, there is not much focus on Iran’s role in its eastern neighbor — even though the Iranians enjoy a considerable amount of influence (linguistic, ethnic, cultural, financial, etc.) in Afghanistan.

It should not be forgotten that Tehran provided significant cooperation to Washington in the latter’s move to overthrow the Taliban regime in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But even though it was working with the United States to oust the Taliban from power, Iran reportedly allowed al-Qaeda members fleeing the U.S. air assault on Afghanistan to enter Iran and remain in safe-houses maintained by the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Many of those said to be protected in Iran were senior al Qaeda leaders such as former al Qaeda military chief Seif al-Adel, its ex-spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Osama bin Laden’s son Saad bin Laden (all of whom are likely still in Iranian “custody”). The founder of the jihadist movement in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also reportedly entered Iraq from Iran, where he sought refuge after fleeing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

Iran has no love for the Taliban or al-Qaeda. On the contrary, they are bitter sectarian and ideological rivals. This rivalry notwithstanding, Tehran maintains complex relationships with these jihadist actors in order to advance its national security interests. Tehran hopes to be able to use them as bargaining chips in any final settlement with the United States.

But before it reaches that stage, Tehran is still routing and rerouting jihadist traffic to pressure the United States and become a player. In between the two regime changes of 2001 and 2003, it was in Iran’s interest to facilitate jihadist relocation into Iraq to force Washington’s hand. But circumstances have changed drastically since then.

The Iranians know that with the situation in Iraq moving toward a settlement of sorts, U.S. attention is returning to Afghanistan. Tehran thus wants to be able to play a major role there as well, especially at a time when the principal U.S. ally in the Afghan theater, Pakistan, is becoming increasingly unreliable. Therefore, Iran is likely facilitating the flow of jihadists in the opposite direction.

It should be noted that it was only a few days ago that Iranian Vice-President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh (also the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization), in reference to U.S.-Iranian talks on its controversial nuclear issue, said that if substantive negotiations start, “many important problems will be resolved: the problem of a stable Middle East, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and the problem of the high oil price.”

Washington and its wealthy Arab allies have created a bulwark to contain Tehran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East. But Iran takes comfort from the fact that it can still project power into its western and eastern neighbors. Iranian national security policy concerning Iraq is already in an advanced stage, which means the Persian state will be devoting more of its energies to enhance its standing in Afghanistan — at a time when very high-level back-channel meetings between the Bush administration and Iran’s clerical regime are under way.
26861  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 28, 2008, 11:18:22 AM
I am grateful for Maija Solderholm of Visayan Corto Eskrima coming down from the bay area for two days to exchange knowledge with me.  She has stimulated my thinking in several important ways.  Thank you Maija!
26862  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Current Events: Philippines on: July 28, 2008, 11:16:09 AM

(Updates with outcome of talks, fresh quotes)

By Jalil Hamid and Manny Mogato

KUALA LUMPUR/MANILA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and the government agreed on Sunday to ballot areas within 12 months on whether they wanted to join an existing autonomous Muslim homeland in the volatile south.

The compromise came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government resumed stalled talks in Malaysia.

While the deal was no guarantee that a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia's most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was seen as an important step towards ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

"A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain (homeland) in Kuala Lumpur tonight with the signing of a joint communique," said Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine president's peace adviser, who attended the talks.

"With this positive development and the negotiations, the signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set for early August," he said.

Under the deal, a referendum will be held in around 700 villages on whether they want to join the existing autonomous Muslim region.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks last week in the Malaysian capital ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address on Monday.

But the talks ended in deadlock on Friday after Manila tried to delay a referendum on enlarging the existing Muslim homeland until after a separate political agreement was reached.


The existing Muslim homeland has its own government, legislature and Muslim courts, but remains dependent on the central government for its budget, foreign, defence and monetary policy.

In the final political agreement still under negotiation, the rebels are pushing for the homeland to retain 75 percent of the taxes raised in that region.

A Malaysian government source close to the talks said the signing of the agreement on expanding the ancestral homeland would be held either on August 5 or 6.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF, and Arroyo's reliance on their support, mean Manila's negotiating strategy could easily be thrown off course.

Real progress in the talks appeared to have been made when Arroyo last week supported postponing Aug. 11 elections in the Muslim south, because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some Manila lawmakers opposed postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They complained Congress was not consulted on the issue.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Jon Boyle)
26863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: July 28, 2008, 11:09:59 AM
British soldier and his faithful friend die side-by-side in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Ken Rowe and his sniffer dog Sasha have been named as those killed in a Taliban ambush in Helmand. Sean Rayment met them days before they died.

By Sean Rayment
Last Updated: 12:04PM BST 27 Jul 2008

Lance Corporal Ken Rowe was waiting for the patrol to assemble close to the rear gate of Forward Operating Base Inkerman, high in the Upper Sangin Valley.

With him was Sasha, a yellow Labrador, with a friendly face and a tail that never stopped wagging.

The pair were accompanying a routine early morning patrol, with 4 platoon, B Company of the 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment (2Para) into the Green Zone, a notorious Taliban stronghold, which begins only a few hundred yards from the walls of the isolated base.

As part of a three-week embed with the British Army in Helmand, I joined the patrol last Monday morning just as dawn was breaking over the Helmand desert.

Like many of the 30 soldiers who formed up for the patrol, I was immediately drawn to Sasha. I let her smell my hand before patting her head and tickling her ear. Sasha looked up, her face almost smiling, enjoying the attention.

"Lovely dog", I said to L/Cpl Rowe, "She's the best", he said. We then chatted about the merits of "explosives search dogs" in Helmand.

"They're a major asset," said L/Cpl Rowe. "The soldiers love having them on patrol They can find explosives and weapons, even the presence of weapons, so out here they are a really useful tool and the soldiers like having them around as well - and the Taliban don't."

As we chatted, other soldiers went through the same ritual. Lots of pats and "hello girl" from the troops as they moved forward to load their weapons. It was as though the presence of a dog was a reminder of home, something familiar and unthreatening, in a hostile and violent world. It was imperceptible, but I could almost sense the soldiers' morale lifting as it became clear that L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha were joining the patrol.

Then, for a split second, all of those hours of obedience training gave way to instinct when Sasha caught sight of one of the many leopard-like feral cats that roam the base.
Sasha disappeared, without a sound in a cloud of dust, chasing the cat around the camp. We all laughed quietly. "Who'd be a dog handler?", L/Cpl Rowe said to himself, slightly embarrassed by his dog's momentary lapse of self-control.

Sasha came back, head bowed, knowing that she had erred. L/Cpl Rowe attached the lead and said "sit!". The dog obeyed, and then, in an act of affection, let her body rest against the side of her master's leg. "She's saying sorry", said L/Cpl Rowe.
The patrol took us through a local hamlet called Saregar, which the soldiers had dubbed the "Star Wars Village", and then into the Green Zone, where they began searching a series of compounds for Taliban weapons and explosives.

It is difficult and dangerous work, and the dog handlers, who are attached to units from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, share exactly the same risks.

The threat from Improvised Explosive Devices and so-called legacy mines from the Soviet occupation, is ever present, and rather than stand and fight, the Taliban now "shoot and scoot", according to the soldiers.

The dangers in this part of Helmand are now so great that the soldiers paraphrase the mantra used by the IRA during the 30 years of The Troubles.

"The Taliban only have to be lucky once but we have to be lucky all the time", Sergeant Wayne Sykes, told me as we patrolled through the Green Zone, waiting for the Taliban to attack.

Luck ran out for L/Cpl Rowe, 24, and Sasha last Thursday, when during another identical routine patrol through the Green Zone, both he and Sasha were killed instantly by automatic fire in a Taliban ambush. Six other soldiers were also injured.
L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha had died together as they had served together, side by side.

I was shocked when told of L/Cpl Rowe's death. Like many who knew him, my first instinct was that it must have been a mistake. Then the realisation dawned and it seemed almost impossible that someone you had been chatting to a few days earlier had now gone for ever.
26864  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 27, 2008, 11:57:55 AM
A) Sure.  Remember, only you are responsible for you.   grin 

b) $10
26865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reform efforts in Malaysia on: July 26, 2008, 10:01:10 AM
It's Déjà Vu for Malaysia's Opposition Leader
July 26, 2008; Page A7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"I was dumped into this high-security police lockup for, you see, these high-level criminals. . . . On the cement floor, without any mattresses. That explains why I have to be back on this." Anwar Ibrahim gingerly peels up his shirt to reveal a corset-like back brace. And then he bursts into laughter.

Ismael Roldan 
For a man released from a night in jail only a few days earlier, Mr. Anwar is an awfully jolly man. Malaysia's opposition leader has been accused of sodomy by a former aide -- a criminal offense in this Muslim-majority country that could send him to jail for up to two decades. It's a bizarre déjà vu for the bespectacled politician, who spent 1998-2004 behind bars on a trumped-up sodomy charge the last time he challenged for political power.

But he's pushing ahead: On Wednesday, Mr. Anwar vowed to run for parliament "imminently" in a by-election, with the aim of toppling the government by September. If he's successful, he could be the next prime minister of Malaysia.

None of this would matter much outside Southeast Asia were it not for the fact that Mr. Anwar's political coalition espouses something unusual in the Muslim world: the virtues of a secular, free-market democracy. More Muslims live in Asia -- Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh -- than in the Middle East.

Mr. Anwar is unusually suited to bridge East-West divides. A Muslim, "though never typically very religious," he chuckles, he is a good friend of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. alike -- a man who memorized "hundreds of Elvis Presley, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson tunes" in his youth, but also attended weekend religious classes and, in his 20s, founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. He has never been afraid to argue that democracy and Islam are compatible forces -- or to make that case to undemocratic Arab regimes.

In many ways, Malaysia -- though it sports big urban centers and modern wonders like the Petronas Towers -- seems stuck in a time warp. The media is largely state-controlled, and the executive branch still locks up political dissidents without trial under the British colonial-era Internal Security Act.

Mahathir Mohamad's 22-year rule, which ended in 2003, did bring economic development to Malaysia. But Mr. Anwar says only a "fringe few" would ignore the widespread corruption that also occurred. Mr. Anwar, who was Dr. Mahathir's deputy at the time, found himself accused of sodomy in 1998 when he started pushing for reform. His arrest and imprisonment brought thousands of people onto Kuala Lumpur's streets.

And the recent accusation against him? It is "unfortunate," Mr. Anwar said as we settled into conference room chairs at his People's Justice Party's new headquarters in a strip mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week. But it's a sign that "the system is crumbling."

"Malaysia was resilient -- at least in the late '80s and '90s -- primarily because it was able to attract foreign investment," Mr. Anwar says. "It has lost that. So we have to see why? Well," he answers his own question, "economic policies considered obsolete -- particularly the New Economic Policy." He's referring to the pervasive pro-Malay affirmative-action program that reaches deeply into almost every corner of the economy and the university system. "There's no rule of law, endemic corruption and general incompetence" in Malaysia, he adds.

Malaysia's current government is trying harder than any other Asian regime -- save the little kingdom of Brunei -- to push closer to the Middle East, luring investment and Arab tourists to its shores. Women shrouded from head to toe are common sights in Kuala Lumpur's upscale shopping district. The country is an emerging center for Islamic finance, and Saudi-backed mosques are popping up everywhere.

Mr. Anwar thinks there's another way forward: by incorporating conservative Muslims into the democratic fold, and enforcing a secular rule of law without exception. He also made this point in a chat we had at his home in Kuala Lumpur last month. "You need a free media and free and fair elections. Moderate democracies and parties don't accept radicalism. You must give them space. Muslims can't be made to feel that democracy can only be applied to certain groups. That's not healthy."

Mr. Anwar's party is largely Malay, and secular. But his three-party coalition also includes a Chinese party and a conservative Muslim party that advocates Islamic law. The latter, the Parti Islam se-Malaysia, has supported measures such as segregated grocery store lines for men and women, bans on lipstick and antifornication laws. Why does Mr. Anwar's multiethnic coalition include a party that embraces such a platform?

"We took some years to cement this relationship because I don't want it to be seen purely as a politically expedient exercise," he says. "We base it on a clear reform agenda. So what we did instead of using labels -- Islam, secularism, liberal -- we spell out what we want. So in the agenda, for example, we believe in 'democracy and freedom.' By this we mean freedom of religion, or worship, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience. Which means all laws to the contrary will have to be rejected."

Mr. Anwar returned to Malaysia in 2006 -- after teaching stints at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies -- to launch a political comeback. He utilized every tool at his disposal outside the state-run media -- "SMSes, blogs, Web sites" -- to get out his message of anticorruption, freedom and religious tolerance. His coalition romped home in March with more than one-third of the seats in the national Parliament, and the leadership of five of Malaysia's 13 states. The result stunned the ruling United Malays National Organization, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1957.

Mr. Anwar gets almost giddy when I query him about the result: "People on the ground, they couldn't care two hoots about this scurrilous attack on my character," he exclaims, referring to the latest sodomy accusation. "They want to hear me talk about change . . . I think the old system -- the center cannot hold. Remember that brilliant piece by Yeats?" Mr. Anwar is referring, aptly, to the poem, "The Second Coming."

He thinks political change in Malaysia could reverberate outside the country's borders, setting a "crucial" example for the rest of the Muslim world. But is the rest of the Muslim world ready to hear his message? What about Iran?

"I respect Iran as a nation, with such a great civilization, with great potential," Mr. Anwar says, evading the question with a grin. But "they know my views on democracy. They know my engagement with the West and with the Americans."

Being pro-American isn't popular in Malaysia, and Mr. Anwar is careful to stress his distance from Washington. "For example, the occupation of American forces in Iraq. I disagree, I totally disagree. But I don't treat America as my enemy. And I believe that we would gain immensely by maintaining very good diplomatic and economic relations, trade relations, with America. But it doesn't mean we must agree with them on many issues, or most issues."

It also doesn't mean that Mr. Anwar agrees with other Islamic powers, either. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, he met government officials and heard them talk of their modern education system. "I said I was impressed," but "quality education" needs "a liberal democratic space" and "creativity."

Could Malaysia serve as an example for the rest of the Islamic world, as a tolerant, Muslim-majority and multiethnic democracy? "Right now, it's certainly a very poor example," he says, laughing out loud. "But it has this enormous potential in terms of gender equality. Although you know, my wife wouldn't agree with that term. She says it's not that equal for now. . . . You should say, moving toward gender equality." Mr. Anwar's wife and one of his daughters are members of Parliament.

The sodomy accusation is meant not just to discredit Mr. Anwar, but to rip apart his nascent coalition. It was levied a few days before Mr. Anwar was scheduled to announce his candidacy for parliament. Fearing the worst, he fled to the Turkish embassy -- another moderate Muslim democracy -- for refuge. Since then, photos purportedly showing his accuser meeting with high-level government officials began to circulate. The government denies any involvement.

"To allow for some segment or sector, groups, within the system to resort to these dirty machinations is pathetic," he says, then pauses. "To them, it may be necessary to pre-empt our next move, my contesting the by-election."

Malaysia's most prominent mufti, or religious scholar, Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, has backed Mr. Anwar's cause. Around 2,000 supporters flocked to the police station last week when word got out that Mr. Anwar was spending the night there. "I've advised my supporters to remain calm," he says. "Don't overreact, don't be provoked. Because that's exactly what they want. In any authoritarian system, what they want to present is a near chaos so they can declare a state of emergency."

Why not pack it all in and retire with his wife and six children? "You come in with a clear conviction, that you believe in freedom, you believe in democracy," Mr. Anwar replies. "And you have so much affection for the people. You love your country. You want the country to succeed. And this is one, unique, multiracial, multireligious country with a Muslim majority that should prove to the world that we can co-exist and succeed with a vibrant economy. Now, there's a lot of intimidation, a lot of efforts to derail this. If I choose to surrender, keep quiet, then it would adversely affect the process."

He asks a rhetorical question: "If I, in my position, with my experience, have no courage, just because I was beaten up before, humiliated, then what do you expect from the people? What sort of leadership do you provide?"

Mr. Anwar's aides are gesticulating to him at the window outside his office -- he's late for his next appointment. "It's going to be tough," he says. "But this time, I am certain -- as we say, inshallah, God willing, we are going to make it." He laughs, and walks away, still smiling.

Ms. Kissel is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page.
26866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:53:21 AM
Plausible I suppose, but in that it has not been done here in the US or Europe, do you think the Chinese Muslim Fascists have the ability to go nuke?  My sense of things is that they are at a lower level.

My sense of things is that playing up the Isalmo-fascist issue becomes  a way for China to neutralize the usual US complaints and bleatings when they are their usual oppressive totalitarian selves.
26867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Initiatives on: July 26, 2008, 09:43:18 AM

The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy
July 26, 2008; Page A9

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

David G. Klein 
The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City, a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the "deceptive" petition "could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse."

Mr. Connerly says that it's ironic that those who claim to believe in "people power" want to keep people from voting on his proposal: "Their tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system."

He's not alone. Liberal columnist Anne Denogean of the Tucson Citizen opposes the Connerly initiative, but last month she wrote that BAMN "is showing a disgusting lack of respect for the democratic process and the right of all Arizonans to participate in it." She detailed how members of this organization harass petitioners and film people who sign the petition, while telling them they are backing a racist measure.

The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. "BAMN's tactics," she concluded, "resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics."

But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. "If you give me your signatures, we'll leave you alone," says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who's earning money by circulating several different petitions.

What about voters' rights to sign ACRI's petitions? BAMN organizer Monica Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being educated that ACRI is "trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them know it's up on the KKK's Web site." Mr. Connerly has repudiated any support from racists.

Other opponents of Mr. Connerly deplore the blocking and name-calling. Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told me that initiatives have been used to pass ideas such as campaign finance and redistricting reform often opposed by entrenched legislators. "People have a right to sign a petition, hear the arguments and then vote," she says. Ms. Sinema thinks Arizonans can be persuaded to vote down ACRI's measure, much as they voted down a ban on gay marriage in 2006.

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 22% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another "voter educator" hired by the state's Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.

Ever since voters in virtually every state with direct democracy passed term limits in the 1990s, state legislators have been hostile to the process. Now Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado have all passed legislation to prohibit people from out-of-state from circulating a petition, and also to ban payment to circulators on a per-signature basis.

To his credit, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed such curbs. In March, a Sixth Circuit federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled that an Ohio law barring per-signature payment violated the First Amendment. Similarly, a Ninth Circuit panel just voted unanimously to strike down Arizona's residency law for circulators.

Some judges think the "blocking" of signature gatherers has gone too far. In 2006, Nevada Judge Sally Loehrers decreed a "civility zone" that barred opposing sides from coming within arms' length of each other at petition signing sites. "The blockers were off the streets within two days," says Paul Jacob, the head of Citizens in Charge, which promotes the initiative process.

Last year, Mr. Jacob was charged with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma in a bizarre prosecution that claimed he brought in out-of-state signature gatherers in violation of the state's residency requirement. Yet local public sector unions opposed to Mr. Jacob hired out-of-state outfits such as the Voter Education Project, an AFL-CIO offshoot that specializes in harassing signature drives.

Representative government will remain the enduring feature of American democracy, but the initiative process is a valuable safety valve. So long as elected officials gerrymander their districts and otherwise make it nearly impossible for voters to oust them, direct lawmaking will be popular. That's why attempts to arbitrarily curb the initiative, or to intimidate people from exercising their right to participate, must be resisted. It's a civil liberties issue that should unite people of good will on both the right and left.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
26868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:28:22 AM
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for China’s Islamic Party of East Turkistan militant group — has claimed responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan and several other incidents around the country. The group has also said militants are trained and deployed to attack critical targets in major Chinese cities during the Olympics. The claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, but the threat TIP poses cannot be ignored.

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkistan (ETIM) — has issued a video claiming responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan as well as several other incidents across China in recent months. The spokesman for the TIP, who refers to himself as Commander Seyfullah, also warned that TIP militants were trained and deployed to hit at critical targets in central cities during the Olympics. While the claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, the potential threat to transportation infrastructure, particularly in cities other than Beijing, cannot be brushed aside.

Over the past year, TIP has expanded its presence on the Internet, issuing videos calling for a jihad by Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang province and highlighting training exercises. One video showed the execution of at least three ethnic Chinese. In addition, TIP has profiled extensively both the history of the movement (which at times has been called ETIM — a name the Chinese use when talking about most militant actions in Xinjiang and a group the United States added to its list of foreign terrorist organizations) and the former leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, who was killed in Pakistan in 2003.

Following Mahsum’s death, ETIM fractured, its members moving into hiding, primarily in Afghanistan. Since that time, a successor movement has been pulling together, linked to Uzbek and other foreign militants operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. More recently, the TIP has begun issuing videos — some dedicated to Mahsum, others showing training operations — and, in an April video, the group began issuing warnings to China that they would attack the Olympics. This most recent video follows up on that, saying that China has effectively run out of time, and that the group’s leader, Abdul Haq, has ordered militants to begin striking in central China. Haq was one of the key members of the early ETIM group, working with Mahsum in Afghanistan in training Uighur militants in 2001.

China has long warned that ETIM posed a critical threat to the Olympics. The recent uptick in incidents in China — from the March airline incident to the recent bus fire in Shanghai and the double bus bombing in Yunnan — has raised concerns if not about a coordinated effort to target the Chinese state, at least about China’s transportation infrastructure.

ETIM has a history of transportation infrastructure attacks (as does the broader al Qaeda movement), and there have been quiet rumors from China — particularly in Shanghai — in recent months that suspicious Central and South Asians (including Kazakhs) were seen monitoring infrastructure in Chinese cities, the implication being that they were carrying out pre-operational surveillance for potential attacks. Chinese authorities have also reported that they found plans for attacks against Olympic athletes, tourists and various military and civilian infrastructure during raids of alleged ETIM camps in western China earlier this year.

The claims in the latest TIP video seem a bit exaggerated — a common tactic for militants seeking to increase attention and embellish their own image. There is some suspicion that the videos are part of a psychological operation, by either the Chinese government to further justify security sweeps or by foreign agents to raise additional fears in Beijing. Chinese authorities also recently said they had wrapped up a threat in Shanghai to the Olympics. However, the government has yet to offer an explanation for the bus attack in Shanghai (and a hoax bomb-call for a major market at around the same time), and the local government in Yunnan has already tripled the initial reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprits behind the bus bombings in Kunming. Yunnan borders Southeast Asia, and the mountain paths offer a relatively easy route for discreet entry into and out of China should the militants have come from outside.

While Seyfullah’s claims appear greater than reality, they cannot be entirely dismissed, nor can the potential for further transportation infrastructure attacks against China. As Stratfor has cautioned previously, attacks against buses, trains and even airlines are not unlikely, particularly outside of Beijing. Shanghai in particular has seen a lot of unusual activity in recent months that may be a signal that operations are being planned or scoped out in the city. While TIP/ETIM does not pose a strategic threat to the Chinese state, such transportation attacks are well within its scope of capabilities.

26869  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Emergency Rooms on: July 26, 2008, 09:13:04 AM
You may think of a hospital as a place of refuge and healing, but so do wounded gang members. And wounded predators can be dangerous.
July 23, 2008

Have you ever thought about this one?

One night you are one of the police units in your city responding to a gang fight call. The first units arriving broadcast that a gang shooting has just occurred with several wounded gunshot victims. But you are diverted to respond to the local hospital because an anonymous source called claiming that gang members are rushing their critically wounded to the emergency room.

On your way to the hospital, you see several vehicles ahead of you speeding through the streets, running stop signs, and finally pulling into the hospital emergency room parking lot. Your one-man-unit approaches the vehicle closest to the emergency room doors as several very emotional gang members are dragging an obviously dead homeboy out of the car.

Suddenly you hear shouting from another car behind you. These gangsters are also getting out of their cars, and they also have a wounded homeboy. The air is charged with tension and taunts, threats, and challenges are exchanged.

You are now in the middle of a kill zone between two rival and highly agitated gangs. You watch in slow motion as they drop their wounded and draw their guns. It is as though they cannot even see you or recognize your uniform or police vehicle. You are not the intended target, but you could easily be collateral damage.

This scenario is taken from an incident that actually occurred at the Los Angeles County General Hospital and resulted in an officer-involved shooting in the emergency parking lot. The officer was a member of the Los Angeles County Police Department, the agency that works the county hospitals.

As a gang detective, I once responded to another local hospital trauma center to get a statement from a gunshot victim. He had just barely survived a gunshot wound and an emergency room procedure and was in the Intensive Care Unit.

The hospital security guard led me to ICU, and we both were startled to see my “victim” rolling around on his hospital bed dragging his I.V. bottle and electronic monitoring wires, jousting with another patient in a similar bed with similar lines trying to pull the tubes and wires from each other.

When we separated them, we learned that they were suspect/victim and members of rival gangs. This problem continued to grow for the hospital over the next few days because both patients’ homeboys and homegirls began coming to the hospital to visit their own wounded, and would run into members of the other gang. Eventually hospital security had to be assigned and stationed in front of each of their rooms.

On another occasion, a gang member was brought to the Martin Luther King emergency room under the influence of phencyclidine (PCP) by his homeboys. Officers of the Los Angeles County Police searched the gang member and then strapped him to a gurney in the very busy emergency room. There were, in fact, several PCP overdoses and wounded gang members in the emergency room and hall ways on this night.

This particular gang member was not my charge; I was there with a different gang member who was being cleared for booking by hospital staff. Another Deputy from the Special Enforcement Unit, Steve Nelson, was having another arrested gang member checked out when we both heard screams coming from the emergency room.

The gang member who was under the influence of PCP and strapped to the gurney by the County Police had a pocket knife and had somehow cut himself free from his leather restraints. He had already stabbed the attending emergency room physician and jumped off the gurney to slash a second staff member.

Dep. Nelson and I gave chase in the crowded emergency room. The suspect swung the knife at anyone he passed near enough to reach. We drew our pistols but had no chance of a clear shot in the emergency room and hallway. We ran through the corridors and hallways out to the very crowded lobby.

As the suspect ran outside to the parking lot, we split up, chasing him around several large metal CONEX-style boxes. The suspect charged Nelson with the knife, and Nelson put a very quick but controlled three rounds into his center mass just below the ribs and right of center line.

To Nelson’s and my amazement, the very same emergency room staff that this violent gang member had attacked came out to the parking lot to his life.

Despite the friendly staff with good attitudes, hospitals are not usually happy places. Domestic violence, child abuse, rape, attempted suicides, gang assaults, and drug overdoses are just a few of the problems encountered in the average day in a busy hospital. If you expect to frequent such a place, do not let your guard down.

Find out if the hospital has a police force or private security officers. Introduce yourself to them and learn their hospital procedures before an emergency occurs. Don’t disrespect them, even if you think that they are only private security guards. Remember you are in their house. If you get into trouble, it will most likely be them coming to your aid as first responders.

Many modern hospitals are equipped with metal detectors and X-ray systems to scan bags and purses. In addition some hospitals require everyone to be stopped, searched, and wanded with a handheld metal detector before entering the building. This is accomplished under implied consent laws and hospital regulations.

However, some hospitals exclude doctors and staff from this requirement. Make yourself aware of the procedures at this checkpoint because it will be one of the possible points where trouble will occur.

When you get to the emergency room, study how it is laid out. Where is the trouble likely to come from? Where are the phones? What code system is the staff using? For example, Code Blue = cardiac arrest.

Talk to the regular emergency room staff on all shifts, especially the Doctors and the floor nurse. Ask them to clue you in when they sense possible trouble. Offer to let them ride along with you one day if they will run you through their emergency room procedures.

Talk to the hospital security personnel about the local gangs. If you have any in your town, I will bet you can find gang graffiti on the hospital grounds. Photograph and identify the gang graffiti for the security people. Point out gang tattoos. Make it a kind of game with the security staff to identify possible gang affiliations and separate them on intake.

Suggest they establish an isolation room for possible problem patients. Talk to them about the use of handcuffs and restraints. Note: some inexperienced doctors and staff members will object to any use of restraints on a person being examined and treated in the emergency room, even a potentially dangerous gang member. Try to convince them that such a precaution is best for everyone. 

When you are in the field and responding to a gang fight or shooting, try to roll the wounded to separate hospitals if possible. Talk to the paramedics about this because sometimes the victim’s wounds will determine the trauma center he should be sent to.

Have the desk notify the hospital security that victims associated with this gang are on their way or roll the assisting unit with the victims to prevent clashes with the rival victims or suspects. Have the assisting unit drive through the hospital parking lot looking for the rival gang members who might be spying to find out if they made a kill or just wounded the victim.

The California Penal Code covers the crime of “Resisting public peace officers or medical technicians in the discharge of their duties,” under 148 P.C. The law was designed to protect policemen and paramedics in the field, but it could be applied to emergency room situations too. Look up your state’s codes on interfering, resisting, or obstructing police and medical technicians in emergency situations and see if you can use them against gangs in the emergency room.

author: Richard Valdemar | posted @ Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:57 AM

26870  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Minimum Skills for h2h on: July 26, 2008, 01:01:30 AM
Here's a slap in action:
26871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Holy Child on: July 26, 2008, 12:52:07 AM
July 25, 2008

He ventured forth to bring light to the world
The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers
Gerard Baker
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

Obama fears the Blair effect as tour continues
The Europhiles are not the future, Mr Obama
The Bugle - Barack Obama is coming to Europe!
Our leaders go after some Obama magic
And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”
26872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia into Cuba again? on: July 26, 2008, 12:33:05 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Cuba and a Return to the Russian-U.S. Tug-of-War
July 25, 2008
For the past week, a series of stories and denials have been published in the Russian media surrounding a possible plan for Russia to relocate a refueling base in Cuba and resume flights of Russia’s Tu-160 “Blackjack” and Tu-95 “Bear” nuclear-capable strategic bombers back into the Western Hemisphere. All the noise reached a crescendo when another piece of information — true or not — was leaked to the Russian press that a crew of the Russian bombers had gone to Cuba on Thursday to conduct preliminary surveys.

Thus far, there is no confirmation that Russia is indeed returning militarily to Cuba. It is, however, a signal of what could happen if the United Stated does not heed Russian demands for Washington to back off from Moscow’s turf. This would be, in Moscow’s eyes, an equal response to the United States’ signing ballistic missile defense system treaties with the Czech Republic and Poland — right on Russia’s doorstep — as well as discussing NATO membership with the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia did, in fact, respond to the West’s encroachment: cutting energy supplies to Europe and sending more military into Georgia’s secessionist regions. But the problem was that Moscow simply hadn’t gotten Washington’s attention.

Washington has been too wrapped up in other issues — such as the upcoming presidential election, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, negotiations with Iran and simply not believing Russia had any real tools with which to threaten it –- that it airily dismissed all of Moscow’s provocations. This has made Russia’s reprisals Europe’s problem at a time when Moscow wants to prove it once again is a global power and can stand up against its traditional foe: the United States. So Russia sent a signal of something that the United States simply cannot ignore — the moving of the Russian-U.S. tug-of-war from Russia’s doorstep to the U.S. doorstep. This is a serious threat and one with which Washington is quite familiar.

The Cuba option would be a powerful move against the United States — just as it was during the 1950s and 1960s — because it directly penetrates the United States’ immediate periphery. Combine the Cuba rumors with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s trip to Moscow this past week — which held its own flurry of rumored deals over Russian bases and defense deals — and Moscow is reminding the Americans of a prior miscalculation. In the 1950s, Washington assumed that it could threaten the Soviet Union along its borders in Europe, South Asia and East Asia. And the United States believed it could not be threatened in its homeland, in the Western Hemisphere — America assumed no foreign power would dare violate the Monroe Doctrine. Washington bet that Moscow did not have an equivalent threat, and it was wrong.

The Soviet Union’s move into Cuba back then changed the entire dynamic of the Cold War. The Soviet presence threatened the sea lanes out of the Gulf of Mexico, major facilities in Florida, all of the Caribbean airspace and some of the Eastern Seaboard. It forced the U.S. Navy and Air Force to shift resources and account for Soviet units there. It diverted the CIA into Latin America, forcing the conflicts in Central American and Grenada. Despite its inherent military vulnerability, Cuba was one of the most strategic Soviet assets. Nothing was the same after Cuba.

The Russians are reminding the Americans of their prior miscalculations on how Russians respond to perceived threats. The United States has shifted its focus from its periphery and once again moved to responding to threats that could never truly physically hit the homeland — such as an Iranian missile threat. In the nearly 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has returned to and enjoyed a world where any potential military threat is an ocean and half a world away.

For now, this is just a signal and no real movement on the ground has been made. Russia is serious, however, about its ability to follow through if the United States does not release the pressure elsewhere. The moves over Cuba are not an indicator of the Russians’ global intentions, but are meant to signal an increase in Moscow’s assertiveness. It is a gutsy and interesting move by the Russians. We have yet to see whether the Americans have really noticed (or want to admit that they noticed) and can divert attention from the Middle East and domestic politics to address the Russian threat — either by backing down or by escalating the situation, which would bring back a Cold War standoff.

Of course, if Washington and Moscow do get serious about things such as Cuba, then the U.S. escalation would go far beyond what Russia currently feels threatened over.
26873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mish Shedlock: Banking System Unsound on: July 25, 2008, 11:19:24 PM

You Know The Banking System Is Unsound When...
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Jul 24, 2008

1. Paulson appears on Face The Nation and says "Our banking system is a safe and a sound one." If the banking system was safe and sound, everyone would know it (or at least think it). There would be no need to say it.

2. Paulson says the list of troubled banks "is a very manageable situation". The reality is there are 90 banks on the list of problem banks. Indymac was not one of them until a month before it collapsed. How many other banks will magically appear on the list a month before they collapse?

3. In a Northern Rock moment, depositors at Indymac pull out their cash. Police had to be called in to ensure order.

4. Washington Mutual (WM), another troubled bank, refused to honor Indymac cashier's checks. The irony is it makes no sense for customers to pull insured deposits out of Indymac after it went into receivership. The second irony is the last place one would want to put those funds would be Washington Mutual. Eventually Washington Mutual decided it would take those checks but with an 8 week hold. Will Washington Mutual even be around 8 weeks from now?

5. Paulson asked for "Congressional authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE)" just days after he said "Financial Institutions Must Be Allowed To Fail". Obviously Paulson is reporting from the 5th dimension. In some alternate universe, his statements just might make sense.

6. Former Fed Governor William Poole says "Fannie Mae, Freddie Losses Makes Them Insolvent".

7. Paulson says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "essential" because they represent the only "functioning" part of the home loan market. The firms own or guarantee about half of the $12 trillion in U.S. mortgages. Is it possible to have a sound banking system when the only "functioning" part of the mortgage market is insolvent?

8. Bernanke testified before Congress on monetary policy but did not comment on either money supply or interest rates. The word "money" did not appear at all in his testimony. The only time "interest rate" appeared in his testimony was in relation to consumer credit card rates. How can you have any reasonable economic policy when the Fed chairman is scared half to death to discuss interest rates and money supply?

9. The SEC issued a protective order to protect those most responsible for naked short selling. As long as the investment banks and brokers were making money engaging in naked shorting of stocks, there was no problem. However, when the bears began using the tactic against the big financials, it became time to selectively enforce the existing regulation.

10. The Fed takes emergency actions twice during options expirations week in regards to the discount window and rate cuts.

11. The SEC takes emergency action during options expirations week regarding short sales.

12. The Fed has implemented an alphabet soup of pawn shop lending facilities whereby the Fed accepts garbage as collateral in exchange for treasuries. Those new Fed lending facilities are called the Term Auction Facility (TAF), the Term Security Lending Facility (TSLF), and the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF).

13. Citigroup (C), Lehman (LEH), Morgan Stanley(MS), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Merrill Lynch (MER) all have a huge percentage of level 3 assets. Level 3 assets are commonly known as "marked to fantasy" assets. In other words, the value of those assets is significantly if not ridiculously overvalued in comparison to what those assets would fetch on the open market. It is debatable if any of the above firms survive in their present form. Some may not survive in any form.

14. Bernanke openly solicits private equity firms to invest in banks. Is this even close to a remotely normal action for Fed chairman to take?

15. Bear Stearns was taken over by JPMorgan (JPM) days after insuring investors it had plenty of capital. Fears are high that Lehman will suffer the same fate. Worse yet, the Fed had to guarantee the shotgun marriage between Bear Stearns and JP Morgan by providing as much as $30 billion in capital. JPMorgan is responsible for only the first 1/2 billion. Taxpayers are on the hook for all the rest. Was this a legal action for the Fed to take? Does the Fed care?

16. Citigroup needed a cash injection from Abu Dhabi and a second one elsewhere. Then after announcing it would not need more capital is raising still more. The latest news is Citigroup will sell $500 billion in assets. To who? At what price?

17. Merrill Lynch raised $6.6 billion in capital from Kuwait Mizuho, announced it did not need to raise more capital, then raised more capital a few week later.

18. Morgan Stanley sold a 9.9% equity stake to China International Corp. CEO John Mack compensated by not taking his bonus. How generous. Morgan Stanley fell from $72 to $37. Did CEO John Mack deserve a paycheck at all?

19. Bank of America (BAC) agreed to take over Countywide Financial (CFC) and twice announced Countrywide will add profits to B of A. Inquiring minds were asking "How the hell can Countrywide add to Bank of America earnings?" Here's how. Bank of America just announced it will not guarantee $38.1 billion in Countrywide debt. Questions over "Fraudulent Conveyance" are now surfacing.

20. Washington Mutual agreed to a death spiral cash infusion of $7 billion accepting an offer at $8.75 when the stock was over $13 at the time. Washington Mutual has since fallen in waterfall fashion from $40 and is now trading near $5.00 after a huge rally.

21. Shares of Ambac (ABK) fell from $90 to $2.50. Shares of MBIA (MBI) fell from $70 to $5. Sadly, the top three rating agencies kept their rating on the pair at AAA nearly all the way down. No one can believe anything the government sponsored rating agencies say.

22. In a panic set of moves, the Fed slashed interest rates from 5.25% to 2%. This was the fastest, steepest drop on record. Ironically, the Fed chairman spoke of inflation concerns the entire drop down. Bernanke clearly cannot tell the truth. He does not have to. Actions speak louder than words.

23. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the FDIC is looking for ways to shore up its depleted deposit fund, including charging higher premiums on riskier brokered deposits.

24. There is roughly $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. $2.60 Trillion of that is uninsured. There is only $53 billion in FDIC insurance to cover $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. Indymac will eat up roughly $8 billion of that.

25. Of the $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits, the total cash on hand at banks is a mere $273.7 Billion. Where is the rest of the loot? The answer is in off balance sheet SIVs, imploding commercial real estate deals, Alt-A liar loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, toggle bonds where debt is amazingly paid back with more debt, and all sorts of other silly (and arguably fraudulent) financial wizardry schemes that have bank and brokerage firms leveraged at 30-1 or more. Those loans cannot be paid back.

What cannot be paid back will be defaulted on. If you did not know it before, you do now. The entire US banking system is insolvent.

Mike Shedlock / Mish
email: Mish

321gold Ltd
26874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 11:15:54 PM
Very gracious.  Forward!  GM?


You make very good points, but as best as I can tell still do not reach my central doubt about your hypothesis-- can Islamic Fascism really become a big enough threat to internal Chinese control to the piont wherein it will suit Chinese govt purposes to cease and desist the activities you so well describe in order to ally with the US against Islamic Fascism?  Just what is it that we can offer them?

I'm thinking the solution will include (in no particular order)

a)  strengthening the dollar; higher interest rates, lower corporate tax rate
b)  price stability, reducing govt meddling in the economy
c) allow the market to do its work in responding to higher energy prices
d) eliminating/reducing taxes on alternative forms of energy
f)  drilling for oil
g) I know some like nuclear, but ever since the "experts" here in CA tried building a reactor on an earth quake fault I have a hard time trusting them
h) cultural sedition  grin

26875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mystery Explosion on: July 25, 2008, 11:00:45 PM
Mystery explosions point to Iran's secret arms shipments to terrorists

For an organisation that prides itself on being a well-run administrative machine, the leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is having a rather testing time. It’s not just last Saturday’s mysterious explosion in a suburb of Tehran that killed 15 people that is causing the leadership sleepless nights, although the nationwide news black-out imposed immediately afterwards does suggest the Revolutionary Guards, the storm troops of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, are rattled.

Details are only now starting to reach the outside world, and it looks increasingly like sabotage was responsible for devastating a military convoy as it travelled through Khavarshahar. The company responsible for moving the equipment, LTK, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards and is suspected of being involved in shipping arms to Lebanon’s Hizbollah Shia Muslim militia, which is trained and funded by Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guards’ arms shipments to Lebanon and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are usually shrouded in such secrecy that only a few senior members of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government are briefed in advance. As the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme deepens, the Revolutionary Guards have intensified their efforts to supply regional allies with military hardware so that, in the event of Tehran becoming involved in an armed confrontation with the West, Iran can respond by opening a number of fronts in the Middle East and beyond.

The need to keep the arms build-up secret would explain the Revolutionary Guards’ decision to ban the Iranian media from reporting the explosion, even though it was heard throughout the capital. But what really concerns Iran’s leadership is that the incident is the latest in a long line of unexplained explosions.

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran’s latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards’ leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

Having contended with Iran’s attempts to undermine the Iraqi government over the past five years, British and American military commanders are more than happy to undertake covert operations in Iran, and there have been unconfirmed reports that special forces are operating undercover in the country.

Western diplomats and nuclear inspectors who frequently travel to Tehran as part of the international effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium enrichment activities report that a sense of paranoia appears to have gripped the regime in recent months.
“There has certainly been a change of mood since the start of the year,” a Vienna-based official told me this week. “In the past they always appeared very self-confident and sure-footed in their dealings with foreign officials. Now they come across as very suspicious, and watch our every move.”

Tehran’s changed political atmosphere might be explained by the fact that President Ahmadinejad and his senior officials realise they are running out of time in their negotiations with the West. After more than four years of painstaking talks with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at its underground facility at Natanz, a clear breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even senior officials at the agency, who have gone out of their way to accommodate the Iranians’ concerns, have little confidence that the Iranians have any intention of reaching a compromise. “All they seem interested in is extending the talks as long as possible while all the time they continue with their uranium enrichment programme,” said an official close to the talks. “Their entire strategy appears to be based on playing for time.”

Iran has just another week to respond to the latest proposal put forward by the West at last weekend’s meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva, in which Iran was offered economic reconstruction in return for halting the enrichment programme.

Iran is intensifying efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in preparation for a possible attack on Israel. Revolutionary Guards are keen to strengthen its leadership following the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh, Hizbollah’s head of security, in the Syrian capital by Israeli agents last February.

Mugniyeh, the terrorist behind suicide truck bomb attacks on American and French troops in the 1980s, played a key role in building up Hizbollah’s military strength, which proved to be highly effective during its 2006 attack against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Tehran wants to appoint one of its commanders as a replacement, but has received unexpected resistance from Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general. Nasrallah insists Mugniyeh’s replacement must come from within Hizbollah’s ranks. Suddenly nothing seems to be going the Revolutionary Guards’ way.
26876  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 07:05:11 PM

That's an excellent idea-- is this something you can track down for us?

26877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: July 25, 2008, 06:26:08 PM

Am I correct in reading
to be a part of/connected to the ACLU?

If so, ugh.  Speaking as a former member, the ACLU has negative credibiity for me.
26878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 06:21:08 PM
1.  I supect our military plans for victory too.
2/3.  Agreed.  Note that we too sold to the pre-Taliban to bleed the Russians.  The Chinese govt can be more ruthless in these things because it is a totalitarian state.
4/5.  Again, because it is a totalitarian state, it can be more ruthless.  Does it really need to fear the Chinese Muslims to the point of giving up the joy and "benefit" of helping world-wide Islamic Fascism bleed us? 

FWIW I see the Chinese as having some very weak links in their chain:
1) its' banking system is a tremendous house of cards,
2) due to the one child policy, its demographics are quite unusual.  The few will be supporting the many.
3) it has turned itself into a toxic dump with utterly unsustainable environmental policies
4) apparently there are tremendous social pressures

26879  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 03:23:33 PM
26880  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 01:44:39 PM
Woof All:

This thread is for matters concerning the risks of catching cooties while training.


Downey High wrestler with staph infection dies
The 17-year-old was hospitalized for 20 days. Illness can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, dirty towels.
By Mary Engel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 25, 2008
A Downey High School wrestler has died after being hospitalized for 20 days with pneumonia and other complications of a staph infection.

Noah Armendariz, 17, died Sunday at Children's Hospital of Orange County, said his mother, Cynthia Magaña.
The infection was caused by methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, or MSSA, Magaña said.

Another form of S. aureus, known as MRSA for "methicillin-resistant," tends to get more publicity because it has grown resistant to methicillin and some other antibiotics. But infectious disease specialists say that both forms can be deadly if they move from the skin, where they normally reside, into the bloodstream and organs.

"The key is invasive," said Dr. Adam Hersh, a pediatric infectious disease fellow at UC San Francisco. "Only a small number of staph infections among children and adolescents become invasive, but both MRSA and MSSA can be very serious infections when they do."

Both can be passed by skin-to-skin contact or by sharing dirty towels, making them common among wrestlers, football players and others who play contact sports. Armendariz developed a rash shortly after returning from a wrestling camp at a Lake Arrowhead high school in June, Magaña said. A few days after that, he ran a fever and felt pains in his legs.

But he also had dislocated a shoulder, and the doctors she took him to initially focused on that, she said.

On July 1, he felt chest pains, and Magaña took him to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Bellflower.

He was admitted to the intensive care unit and stayed there until he was stable enough to be transferred to Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach, Magaña said. He was later transferred to the hospital in Orange County.

Public health experts recommend hand-washing, showering, laundering towels and uniforms in hot water and disinfecting gym equipment to prevent transmission.  They also recommend keeping an eye on rashes and other bumps, especially if they are accompanied by fevers and chills.

26881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: July 25, 2008, 01:29:44 PM
Not sure why this is in this thread, but OTOH not sure what other thread it should go in  cheesy

A lot of these numbers are quite at variance with what I understand to be the case.   Do you have a URL for this?
26882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 25, 2008, 01:22:48 PM
The Real Revelation: Not All Pressies Are Skinflints

John McCain used to be famous for his fawning coverage by Big Media and his friendships with Bigfoot reporters. No longer. Media types have fallen hard for Barack Obama and their donation records show just how much. Writing at the blog American Thinker, former journalist William Tate has documented that employees of big media companies are donating to Democrats over Republicans by more than 10 to 1.

Federal Election Commission records show, for instance, that Democrats collected 15 times as much money from those who described themselves as journalists as Republicans did. A total of 235 "journalists" donated some $225,563 to Democrats, while 20 gave $16,298 Republicans. A database search of other newsroom categories (reporter, correspondent, news editor, anchor, newspaper editor and publisher) found a total of 311 donors to Democrats and only 30 to Republicans.

When one adds up all contributions listed by the FEC as coming from employees of major media organizations, the totals are $315,533 to Democrats and a mere $22,656 for Republicans. And most of the money donated to Republicans went to Rep. Ron Paul, a maverick libertarian who supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and decriminalization of drugs, not exactly traditional conservative positions.

Most large media organizations have policies against news employees donating to political campaigns, so the numbers unearthed from the FEC certainly aren't definitive. But the overwhelming tilt of non-newsroom employees combined with those reporters who violated such bans or described themselves as "self-employed" certainly provide a clear signpost as to where the media's political leanings are. Is it at all surprising that Barack Obama is receiving such laudatory coverage?

-- John Fund

Great Lakes of Indecision

"Just as we thought, it's going to be a close race in Michigan."

That was the verdict of Dave Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University in the Detroit suburbs, after the Detroit News produced a new poll showing Barack Obama with the narrowest of leads in the battleground state. Mr. Obama is ahead of John McCain by 43% to 41%, with 12% of voters undecided and 5% supporting either Libertarian Bob Barr or consumer activist Ralph Nader.

In a memo to Michigan Republicans, Mr. McCain's regional campaign manager Jennifer Hallowell said seven regional campaign offices are now open in the state and several more will be up and running in coming weeks. They will be staffed by "paid staff and several thousand volunteer leaders," said Ms. Hallowell. Commenting on the new poll, she added: "For Senator Obama to be polling in the low 40's in this Democrat-leaning state despite his 100% name identification is almost unprecedented."

In 2005, John Kerry beat out George W. Bush for Michigan's 13 Electoral College votes after a close race, propelled by strong support from women voters and independents. Michigan has gone blue in the last four presidential elections, but usually by narrow margins. This year, however, the double whammy of high gas prices and the subprime meltdown has hit Michigan and its autoworkers hard -- and when voters are hurting, they are more susceptible to rethinking their allegiances. Team McCain is airing a new television ad blaming Mr. Obama for high gas prices and Mitt Romney, whose father was once governor of Michigan, has risen again to the top of Mr. McCain's murmured Veep list. Would Mr. Romney really be much help in Michigan? We may soon find out. Today's Washington Post revives the idea that Mr. McCain may speed up announcement of his vice presidential choice in hopes of reclaiming media attention from Mr. Obama and the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

-- Robert Costa

A Stonewall Crumbles

Eliot Spitzer got a pass yesterday when New York's Public Integrity Commission charged four of his aides with ethics violations in the infamous Troopergate scandal. Three members of the governor's former staff plus his former state police commissioner will be taking the rap -- at least for now.

A year ago Troopergate seemed that rarest of beasts -- a successful coverup. At its heart was a plot allegedly hatched in Mr. Spitzer's office to use the State Police to smear a political rival, GOP Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, suggesting he used state aircraft to attend political fundraisers. Unearthed by investigators was a complete set of talking points from Mr. Spitzer's office that closely mirrored the original story attacking Mr. Bruno in the Albany Times-Union. Once the plot unraveled, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued an "investigation" clearing Mr. Spitzer. Indeed, it's depressing to consider that Mr. Spitzer's stonewalling likely would have worked if he hadn't gotten caught with his, um, pants down in a different context.

He may not have been charged yesterday, but the investigation isn't over and the commission leaves open the possibility of additional developments. Mr. Spitzer, meanwhile, has rendered himself invisible since his resignation from office over his dalliance with a prostitute. A period of invisibility is the standard prescription before launching a rehabilitation campaign. Of course, such a campaign would be much harder if, in addition to a personal failing, he now had to answer in court for abuse of power and ethics violations during his short stint as governor.

-- Brian M. Carney

Quote of the Day

"Barack Obama always was a larger-than-life candidate with a healthy ego. Now he's turning into the A-Rod of politics. It's all about him. He's giving his opponent something other than issues to attack him on: narcissism. A convention hall isn't good enough for the presumptive Democratic nominee. He plans to deliver his acceptance speech in the 75,000-seat stadium where the Denver Broncos play. Before a vote is cast, he's embarking on a foreign-policy tour that will use cheering Europeans -- and America's top news anchors -- as extras in his campaign. . . . There's no such thing as a humble politician. But when Obama looks into the mirror, he doesn't just see a president; he sees JFK" -- Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi.

A Perk Too Far

Barack Obama may have ridiculed John McCain's call for a gasoline tax holiday this summer, but the committee hosting the Democratic National Convention -- until this week -- was enjoying its own vacation from state and federal fuel taxes. The Rocky Mountain News blew the scheme sky-high by reporting that the host committee, responsible for raising money to put on the convention, was using the City of Denver's municipal gas pumps to fill up vehicles driven by its members, avoiding some 40 cents per gallon in state and federal fuel taxes.

Chris Lopez, a spokesman for the committee, claimed the practice was adopted "for safety and security reasons." He explained that by using city pumps "we know the gas is not tainted."

After first defending the practice by incorrectly claiming that Minneapolis, host city for the Republican convention, was doing the same thing, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper slammed on the brakes this week after suggestions from the state attorney general that the practice might be illegal. He ordered that convention committee members pay full retail for gas.

-- John Fund

26883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: July 25, 2008, 09:26:43 AM
Not sure why this is in the Libertarian thread-- I'd have placed it in the Politically (In)correct thread  cheesy

In my lifetime I have seen the PC word for blacks go from "negro" to "black" to "African-american".  I have been the only white member of a 9 man band and heard them use the N-word amongst themselves.  What of it?

For me the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot. 

PS:  I met Chuck once through the Machado Brothers.  He seemed very humble and genuine-- which is his reputation.
26884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 09:19:21 AM

How much credence do you put in the statements of the Chinese govt?
26885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bailout is a scandal on: July 25, 2008, 07:52:29 AM
The Fan/Fred Bailout Is a Scandal
July 25, 2008; Page A15

Americans who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules can't seem to get fair representation in Washington, D.C., these days. In the current debate over a government bailout of speculators, irresponsible banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the responsible majority has once again been pushed aside in a legislative rush to "do something."

This should have been a perfect opportunity for Republicans, struggling to regain some standing with the American people, to rise united and demand real accountability and reform.

Remember how Democrats put the collapse of Enron and the subsequent losses to shareholders at the feet of the Bush White House? Freddie and Fannie are like Enron on steroids. There's a well-documented history of accounting corruption to benefit senior management; hundreds of millions of dollars spent lobbying against oversight and reform; and myriad connections to both Democratic committee chairmen and subprime lender Countrywide Financial.

Actions by Fannie and Freddie management and their regulators this year precipitated the current crisis. Under pressure from the Democrat-controlled Congress, the Bush administration lifted Fannie and Freddie's portfolio caps in February and reduced their capital reserve requirements in March. In this year's stimulus bill, Congress went further and nearly doubled the size of the loans that Fannie and Freddie can purchase or guarantee.

As a result of this reckless expansion, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) now touch nearly 70% of all new mortgages. At the same time, they are insolvent by most measures. The ostensible purpose of Fannie and Freddie is to provide liquidity to America's housing markets. In practice, they are the source of systemic risk and instability in a time of need.

What is needed now is an orderly restructuring that protects taxpayers from such financial exposure in the future, such as the plan proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas). Mr. Hensarling's legislation would phase out the charter of either GSE over a five-year period if they access credit lines from the Federal Reserve or Treasury. It also provides a receivership option if the GSEs continue to stumble. Instead, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson offered the beleaguered GSEs and their patrons in Congress a blank check signed by the taxpayers, promising potentially unlimited funds to backstop the lenders. Not surprisingly, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd accepted.

Just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted last week, President Bush withdrew his previous veto threats against the overall legislative package on Wednesday, having gotten virtually nothing in return. The emboldened Democrats have simply attached the Paulson proposal to their housing bailout legislation. Having repeatedly called for Fannie and Freddie restructuring in the past, Mr. Paulson now fights to defend them in their current form.

An explicit government guarantee for Fannie and Freddie could ultimately end up costing taxpayers more than $1 trillion, according to an analysis by Standard & Poor's in April.

The entire spectacle reinforces a persistent public prejudice that the GOP routinely defends the interests of their big business and Wall Street cronies at the expense of the little guy. Messrs. Dodd and Frank won't likely wear this political albatross. Republicans who go along with this GSE bailout certainly will.

So what will congressional Republicans do? Ironically, a veto-sustaining majority of House Republicans -- led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, Financial Services ranking minority member Spencer Bachus, and Republican Study Committee Chairman Hensarling -- voted against the bill on the very same day that the Bush administration caved. "I'm deeply disappointed the White House will sign this bill in its current form," said Mr. Boehner in a statement. "We must take responsible steps to ensure our financial and housing markets are sound, but the Democrats' bill represents a multibillion dollar bailout for scam artists and speculative lenders at the expense of American taxpayers."

The final Senate floor battle on the proposed housing bailout could prove to be a definitive one for Republicans. Will they be the party defending taxpayers that play by the rules, or will they continue to indulge the Beltway crony capitalism advanced by this bill? Will they be a compliant minority browbeaten into "doing something," or will they stand for accountability and fiscal responsibility?

When Mr. Paulson appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, only Jim Bunning (R., Ky.) directly challenged his proposed blank check. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) is still fighting to offer an amendment that would prohibit Fan and Fred from lobbying while on the federal dole. That's a great first step. Expect these two brave senators to force a full and rigorous debate.

The American public is way ahead of the Beltway intelligentsia on this issue. Multiple polls show that majorities oppose a federal mortgage bailout by a two-to-one margin. For Republican senators, a "nay" vote on the mortgage bailout is both good policy and good politics.

Mr. Armey, House majority leader from 1995 to 2002, is chairman of FreedomWorks.
26886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cellphones; Fructose on: July 25, 2008, 07:36:55 AM
WELL; Experts Revive Debate Over Cellphones and Cancer

Published: June 3, 2008
What do brain surgeons know about cellphone safety that the rest of us don't?

Last week, three prominent neurosurgeons told the CNN interviewer Larry King that they did not hold cellphones next to their ears. ''I think the safe practice,'' said Dr. Keith Black, a surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, ''is to use an earpiece so you keep the microwave antenna away from your brain.''

Dr. Vini Khurana, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Australian National University who is an outspoken critic of cellphones, said: ''I use it on the speaker-phone mode. I do not hold it to my ear.'' And CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital, said that like Dr. Black he used an earpiece.

Along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy's recent diagnosis of a glioma, a type of tumor that critics have long associated with cellphone use, the doctors' remarks have helped reignite a long-simmering debate about cellphones and cancer.

That supposed link has been largely dismissed by many experts, including the American Cancer Society. The theory that cellphones cause brain tumors ''defies credulity,'' said Dr. Eugene Flamm, chairman of neurosurgery at Montefiore Medical Center.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, three large epidemiology studies since 2000 have shown no harmful effects. CTIA -- the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group, said in a statement, ''The overwhelming majority of studies that have been published in scientific journals around the globe show that wireless phones do not pose a health risk.''

The F.D.A. notes, however, that the average period of phone use in the studies it cites was about three years, so the research doesn't answer questions about long-term exposures. Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they do not distinguish between casual and heavy use.

Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer. There is no known biological mechanism to explain how non-ionizing radiation might lead to cancer.

But researchers who have raised concerns say that just because science can't explain the mechanism doesn't mean one doesn't exist. Concerns have focused on the heat generated by cellphones and the fact that the radio frequencies are absorbed mostly by the head and neck. In recent studies that suggest a risk, the tumors tend to occur on the same side of the head where the patient typically holds the phone.

Like most research on the subject, the studies are observational, showing only an association between cellphone use and cancer, not a causal relationship. The most important of these studies is called Interphone, a vast research effort in 13 countries, including Canada, Israel and several in Europe.

Some of the research suggests a link between cellphone use and three types of tumors: glioma; cancer of the parotid, a salivary gland near the ear; and acoustic neuroma, a tumor that essentially occurs where the ear meets the brain. All these cancers are rare, so even if cellphone use does increase risk, the risk is still very low.

Last year, The American Journal of Epidemiology published data from Israel finding a 58 percent higher risk of parotid gland tumors among heavy cellphone users. Also last year, a Swedish analysis of 16 studies in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed a doubling of risk for acoustic neuroma and glioma after 10 years of heavy cellphone use.

''What we're seeing is suggestions in epidemiological studies that have looked at people using phones for 10 or more years,'' says Louis Slesin, editor of Microwave News, an industry publication that tracks the research. ''There are some very disconcerting findings that suggest a problem, although it's much too early to reach a conclusive view.''



Published: June 3, 2008
Some doctors say the real concern is not older cellphone users, who began using phones as adults, but children who are beginning to use phones today and face a lifetime of exposure.

''More and more kids are using cellphones,'' said Dr. Paul J. Rosch, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College. ''They may be much more affected. Their brains are growing rapidly, and their skulls are thinner.''

For people who are concerned about any possible risk, a simple solution is to use a headset. Of course, that option isn't always convenient, and some critics have raised worries about wireless devices like the Bluetooth that essentially place a transmitter in the ear.

The fear is that even if the individual risk of using a cellphone is low, with three billion users worldwide, even a minuscule risk would translate into a major public health concern.

''We cannot say with any certainty that cellphones are either safe or not safe,'' Dr. Black said on CNN. ''My concern is that with the widespread use of cellphones, the worst scenario would be that we get the definitive study 10 years from now, and we find out there is a correlation.''

Does Fructose Make You Fatter?
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener used in many processed foods ranging from sodas to baked goods. While the ingredient is cheaper and sweeter than regular sugar, new research suggests that it can also make you fatter.
In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with “surprising speed,'’ said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.
In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like “a traffic cop” who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.
But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.
“It’s basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence,” Dr. Parks said. “It’s a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.”
For the study, six people were given three different drinks. In one test, the breakfast drink was 100 percent glucose. In the second test, they drank half glucose and half fructose; and in the third, they drank 25 percent glucose and 75 percent fructose. The drinks were given at random, and neither the study subjects nor the evaluators were aware who was drinking what. The subjects ate a regular lunch about four hours later.
The researchers found that lipogenesis, the process by which sugars are turned into body fat, increased significantly when the study subjects drank the drinks with fructose. When fructose was given at breakfast, the body was more likely to store the fats eaten at lunch.
Dr. Parks noted that the study likely underestimates the fat-building effect of fructose because the study subjects were lean and healthy. In overweight people, the effect may be amplified.
Although fruit contains fructose, it also contains many beneficial nutrients, so dieters shouldn’t eliminate fruit from their diets. But limiting processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as curbing calories is a good idea, Dr. Parks said.
“There are lots of people out there who want to demonize fructose as the cause of the obesity epidemic,” she said. “I think it may be a contributor, but it’s not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein and we’re overeating all sugars.”

26887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Time on: July 25, 2008, 07:12:48 AM
"Remember, that Time is Money."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Advice to a Young Tradesman, 1748)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (1198)
26888  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 25, 2008, 01:05:06 AM
Today I am grateful for all the back emails I got around to (there's plenty to go) and for a great alignment session at the gym.
26889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 25, 2008, 12:53:49 AM
My prediction:  He's going to lose. 

He realizes what won him the primaries will lose him the election and as he jettisons previously held positions while denying having done so, he loses credibility.  His speech yesterday sounded in part like "Bush Lite".  When he gets specific (e.g. Germans, you should send more troops to Afg.) it falls flat.

Here's an example from this morning's chattering class at the NY Times:


Playing Innocent Abroad
Yahoo! Buzz

Published: July 25, 2008
Radical optimism is America’s contribution to the world. The early settlers thought America’s founding would bring God’s kingdom to earth. John Adams thought America would emancipate “the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” Woodrow Wilson and George W. Bush preached their own gospels of world democracy.

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David Brooks

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The Conversation
Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss the 2008 presidential race.

All Conversations » Barack Obama is certainly a true American. In the first major foreign policy speech of his campaign, delivered in Chicago last year, he vowed a comprehensive initiative to “ensure that every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy.” America, he said, must promote dignity across the world, not just democracy. It must “lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.”

In Berlin on Thursday, it was more of the same. Speaking before a vast throng (and a surprising number of Yankees hats), he vowed to help “remake the world.” He offered hope that a history-drenched European continent could “choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday.” He envisioned “a new dawn in the Middle East.”

Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down.

The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”

When I first heard this sort of radically optimistic speech in Iowa, I have to confess my American soul was stirred. It seemed like the overture for a new yet quintessentially American campaign.

But now it is more than half a year on, and the post-partisanship of Iowa has given way to the post-nationalism of Berlin, and it turns out that the vague overture is the entire symphony. The golden rhetoric impresses less, the evasion of hard choices strikes one more.

When John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan went to Berlin, their rhetoric soared, but their optimism was grounded in the reality of politics, conflict and hard choices. Kennedy didn’t dream of the universal brotherhood of man. He drew lines that reflected hard realities: “There are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” Reagan didn’t call for a kumbaya moment. He cited tough policies that sparked harsh political disagreements — the deployment of U.S. missiles in response to the Soviet SS-20s — but still worked.

In Berlin, Obama made exactly one point with which it was possible to disagree. In the best paragraph of the speech, Obama called on Germans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The argument will probably fall on deaf ears. The vast majority of Germans oppose that policy. But at least Obama made an argument.

Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won’t develop nukes. Or as Obama put it: “The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”

The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.

Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama’s lofty peroration.

The odd thing is that Obama doesn’t really think this way. When he gets down to specific cases, he can be hard-headed. Last year, he spoke about his affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr, and their shared awareness that history is tragic and ironic and every political choice is tainted in some way.

But he has grown accustomed to putting on this sort of saccharine show for the rock concert masses, and in Berlin his act jumped the shark. His words drift far from reality, and not only when talking about the Senate Banking Committee. His Berlin Victory Column treacle would have made Niebuhr sick to his stomach.

Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.

Paul Krugman is off today.
26890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 12:50:39 AM

Not sure why you question the sincerity of my search for Truth.  What facts or logic have proven me wrong?

If you want to discuss Guantanamo, may I suggest FIRST READING and then posting in the "Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism" thread?

Abu Graib:  Where on earth do you get that I approve?!?  huh What is the basis for questioning my decency?!?  huh  I simply pointed out that it was the Army's internal procedures that picked up on it and brought it to the light of day-- which seems relevant to me.  Did you even know this?  Do you ask yourself why you did not?  What does the fact that you did not know tell you about the sources of info that you use?

Iraq and collateral damage:  My point is that in a very difficult battle space we commit quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears to there being as little collateral damage as possible-- yet you seem to be unaware of this and make "the perfect the enemy of the good".  May I ask how often you get to have extended conversation with those who have served there about these things?

On the Japanese HS girl article:  I see the point you are making and will have to reread the article in question.  What thread is it in?

As for America going to war without an ulterior motive-- that would be the Clinton administration. cheesy

Concerning you and GM:  Name calling such as "average child" and "eight year old" really are out of place here-- particularly when I took the time to explain to you how in the culture of this forum that the pasted article ofen IS the response.  I'm thought I was clear and you seem like a bright fellow-- may I ask you to reread what I posted?

As for the go-round on whether GM would be happy at the death of thousands of innocents:  IMHO perhaps GM could have been more lawyerly in how he expressed his point originally, but FWIW what communicates to me is that you are in something of a "gotcha" mode looking for something that to my eye is not really there-- perhaps this explains the testiness of GM's response?  I'd like to suggest that the two of you take three deep breaths each and start fresh.

As for this:

"I guess if you want this "forum to serve as a tremendous resouce for people who want to read about a subject/theme" it should offer different perspectives on the question/subject, don't you think?  And I think commentary
is important; yes it takes more time and thought, but anyone, even an eight year old can cut and paste ad nauseam."

Once again, the articles posted here can either BE the conversation and/or simply be a sharing of analysis and intel.  IMHO the standards around here are-- no brag, just fact-- well above average.  I have no problem realizing that there are people writing about these things who know more than me and think deeper about them than me, or who express what I want to say better than I do.  I have no problem with using such articles as a form of communication. 

In short sometimes we do comment directly-- for example in my unsuccessful comments to you-- and sometimes we paste.  This is how we do it around here.   I regret you don't care for it.

The Adventure continues,
26891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 24, 2008, 11:53:29 PM
That's what the 12 gage and related tools are for. evil
26892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 24, 2008, 06:44:06 PM
A Brit from the chattering class gets it right:
26893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 24, 2008, 06:42:31 PM
"please don't forget the military is not above the law. Guantanamo, Abu Graib, and killing innocent Iraq civilians and raping Japanese High School girls and Philippine girls (the U.S. troops in Japan seem to run amok) is wrong and the individual soldier(s) should be severely punished, not slapped on the wrist."

Guantanamo?  As reported in the Media Matters thread, the MSM often reports accusations as fact.  Careful now.


Iraq?  Given the kind of war that it has been, I for one am quite proud of the tremendous job our troops have done in minimizing the casualties of the innocent.  There was an article the other day in the NY Times I think it was on the same subject in the context of Afg front of the war.  Perhaps you can find it and have a better sense of this subject , , ,

Raping Japanese HS girls?  I almost posted on this forum the other day an article that pointed out that our troops in Japan overall have an outstanding record of being law-abiding, but did not because I thought the point was so obvious as to not need being made , , ,  Why do you smear so many with the actions of one?

As for the Philippines, educated man that you obviously are I am sure you know that when we had bases there that they were surrounded with whore houses and that whore houses and soldiers are a surefire combination for trouble and that discerning the facts can often be highly problematic.  I lack the experience  wink to discuss the whole subject of prostitution and military bases meaningfully, and would hope that you do too  cheesy

Jason, of course we civilians are in charge.  That does not mean that when it comes to fighting or knowing WTF is going on in the field that we should not listen carefully to those who so selflessly (yes this is a dig at your comment the other day about what America is willing to give  wink ) put their butts on the line.  I'd rather hear Gen. Petraeus's take on Iraq than BO's.

If I may offer in closing-- be careful of MSM and assuming what it says is true and be careful of projecting one case on the many.
26894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: July 24, 2008, 06:25:06 PM

Report warns vehicles could be stuffed with explosives for suicide attacks

 Publishing Date: 22.07.08 11:08
By Gordon Thomas

LONDON -- Members of Britain's MI5 intelligence service have warned the nation's cash-strapped National Health Services that dozens of ambulances -- along with old police cars and fire engines -- are being snapped up by al-Qaida operatives in the United Kingdom to mount suicide bomb attacks.

So serious is the problem that counter-terrorism officials at the Home Office have written to eBay, the Internet auctioneer, asking them to stop selling emergency service vehicles, equipment and uniforms.  But eBay has insisted it can only halt the sales if a new law is passed by Parliament. That could take many months.  The use of ambulances is of particular concern to Britain's anti-terror chiefs. They say the tactic has already been used in Iraq with devastating effects.

A report by Lord Carlisle -- the government terrorist czar who last month warned about the possibility of private planes being used for an attack on London -- has been issued to all of Britain's 48 police forces warning of the danger of selling off emergency service vehicles.  Lord Carlisle, who works closely with the Terrorism Analysis Centre in London set up since the 9/11 attacks, said ambulances were the ideal weapon of choice for terrorists.

"It is almost rare that police will stop such vehicles on suspicious grounds. An ambulance rigged with high explosives could drive into any ultra-sensitive target like a nuclear power station or even Whitehall," said a senior MI5 source.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has warned that the risk could be "highly significant" if the law is not tightened.  Every year dozens of police cars, ambulances and even fire engines are sold on eBay for as little as $3,000. Many are still in working order. Those that need repair can be fixed to pass as genuine emergency service vehicles.

"An ambulance could carry half a ton of explosives. A rigged police car could carry half that amount. So could a fire engine," states the MI5 report.

MI5 counter-terrorism officers say such attacks have been successfully carried out in Iraq and Israel. The report reveals that an al-Qaida attack in Baghdad last February involved a stolen ambulance driven by a suicide bomber into an Iraqi police station.

The report states: "Terrorists have been using ambulances to transport bombs in Israel since at least 2002. The Israelis have told us that Hamas are using ambulances to ferry men and rocket launchers around Gaza."

A national security committee has been set up in London with MI5 and police chiefs drawing up plans to deal with the threat. Chairman of the committee, Steve Watts, said: "There is a need of urgent legislation becoming available to the police which adequately addresses the threat of pseudo-emergency service vehicles being used by terrorists."

Lord Carlisle has suggested all service vehicles to be sold must be clearly decommissioned so they cannot be used to imitate emergency services. Manufacturers of all such vehicles are being asked to urgently inspect vehicles taken out of service to see how this can be done.

Gordon Thomas is the author of a new edition of Gideon’s Spies: The Inside Story of Israel’s Legendary Secret Service The Mossad, by JR Books of London and available on Amazon Books.
26895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survialist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 24, 2008, 06:10:31 PM

Thursday, July 24, 2008


A Wall Street Journal columnist has advised people to "start stockpiling food" and an ABC News Report says "there are worrying signs appearing in the United States where some … locals are beginning to hoard supplies." Now there's concern that the U.S. government may be competing with consumers for stocks of storable food.

"We're told that the feds bought the entire container of canned butter when it hit the California docks. (Something's up!)," said officials at Best Prices Storable Foods in an advisory to customers.

Spokesman Bruce Hopkins told WND he also has had trouble obtaining No. 10 cans of various products from one of the world's larger suppliers of food stores, Oregon Freeze Dry.

He said a company official told him on the telephone when he discussed the status of his order that it was because the government had purchased massive quantities of products, leaving none for other customers.

That, however, was denied by Oregon Freeze Dry. In a website statement, the company confirmed it cannot assure supplying some items to customers.

"We regret to inform you Oregon Freeze Dry cannot satisfy all Mountain House #10 can orders and we have removed #10 cans from our website temporarily," the company tells frustrated customers. "The reason for this is sales of #10 cans have continued to increase. OFD is allocating as much production capacity as possible to this market segment, but we must maintain capacity for our other market segments as well."

The company statement continues, "We want to clarify inaccurate information we’ve seen on the Internet. This situation is not due to sales to the government domestically or in Iraq. We do sell products to this market, but we also sell other market segments … The reason for this decision is solely due to an unprecedented sales spike in #10 cans sales.

"We expect this situation to be necessary for several months although this isn’t a guarantee. We will update this information as soon as we know more. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your patience. We sincerely hope you will continue to be Mountain House customers in the future," the company statement said.

But Hopkins wasn't backing away from his concerns.

"The government just came in and said they're buying it. They did pay for it," he told WND about the summertime shipment of long-term storage butter. "They took it and no one else could have it.

"We don't know why. The feds then went to freeze dried companies, and bought most of their canned stock," he said.

A spokeswoman for Oregon Freeze Dry, sales manager Melanie Cornutt, told WND that the increasing demand for food that can be stored has been on the rise since Hurricane Katrina devastated large sections of the Gulf Coast, cutting off ordinary supply routes.

"We are currently out of stock on our cans. We are not selling any of our cans," she confirmed.

She then raised the issue of government purchases herself.

"We do sell to the government [but] it is not the reason [for company sales limits]," she said.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency told WND whatever government agency is buying in a surge it isn't them. They reported a stockpile of about six million meals which has not changed significantly in an extended period.

But Hopkins said it was his opinion the government is purchasing huge quantities of food for stockpiles, and Americans will have to surmise why.

"We don't have shelters that [are being] stocked with food. We're not doing this for the public. My only conclusion is that they're stocking up for themselves," he said of government officials.

Blogger Holly Deyo issued an alert this week announcing, "Unprecedented demand cleans out major storable food supplier through 2009."

"It came to our attention today, that the world's largest producer of storable foods, Mountain House, is currently out of stock of ALL #10 cans of freeze dried foods, not just the Turkey Tetrazzini. They will NOT have product now through 2009," she said.

"This information was learned by a Mountain House dealer who shared it with me this morning. In personally talking with the company immediately after, Mountain House verified the information is true. Customer service stated, 'I'm surprised they don't have this posted on the website yet.' She said they have such a backlog of orders, Mountain House will not be taking any #10 can food requests through the remainder of this year and all of the next.

"Mountain House claims this situation is due to a backlog of orders, which may very well be true, but who is purchasing all of their food? This is a massive global corporation.

"One idea: the military. Tensions are ramping up with Iran and news segments debate whether or not we will implement a preemptive strike in conjunction with Israel," she wrote.

Hopkins raised some of the same concerns, suggesting a military conflict could cause oil supplies to plummet, triggering a huge increase in the cost of food – when it would be available – because of the transportation issues.

The ABC report from just a few weeks ago quoted Jim Rawles, a former U.S. intelligence officer who runs a survival blog, saying food shortages soon could become a matter of survival in the U.S.

"I think that families should be prepared for times of crisis, whether it's a man-made disaster or a natural disaster, and I think it's wise and prudent to stock up on food," he told ABC.

"If you get into a situation where fuel supplies are disrupted or even if the power grid were to go down for short periods of time, people can work around that," he said. "But you can't work around a lack of food – people starve, people panic and you end up with chaos in the streets."

At his California ranch, the location of which is kept secret, he said, "We have more than a three-year supply of food here."

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Brett Arends warned, "Maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

"No, this is not a drill," he wrote.

His concern was about various food shortages around the globe, and the fact that in a global market, prices in the U.S. reflect difficulties in other parts of the world quickly.

Professor Lawrence F. Roberge, a biologist who has worked with a number of universities and has taught online courses, told WND he's been following the growing concern over food supplies.

He also confirmed to WND reports of the government purchasing vast quantities of long-term storable foods.

He said that naturally would be kept secret to avoid panicking the public, such as when word leaks out to customers that a bank may be insolvent, and depositors frantically try to retrieve their cash.

"[These] circumstances certainly raise red flags," he said.

26896  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Minimum Skills for h2h on: July 24, 2008, 05:25:59 PM
Experience operating in the adrenal state.
26897  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Inmate kills woman guard on: July 24, 2008, 05:18:42 PM
Guard Stabbed, Killed Inside Federal Penitentiary

ATWATER (AP) ― Authorities say a federal prison guard has been stabbed
to death by inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater.

Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin says 22-year-old Jose Rivera was taken
to Mercy Medical Center with stab wounds at about 3:30 Friday afternoon
and was declared dead at 4:15 p.m.

A brief statement released by the prison says the officer was stabbed
by two inmates with homemade weapons.

Pazin, who is also the County Coroner, says his department will conduct
an autopsy while the FBI investigates the incident.

The prison is in the San Joaquin Valley about 64 miles northwest of


Inmate Charged With Slaying Of Tomoka Guard

Fitzgerald, 50, Worked At Correctional Facility For 15 Years

POSTED: 11:53 pm EDT June 25, 2008
UPDATED: 8:10 am EDT June 27, 2008

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- An inmate at the Tomoka Correctional Institution
was quickly transferred to the Florida State Prison on Thursday after
officials said he killed a prison guard. Authorities identified the
inmate as Enoch Hall, 39, who was sentenced to life in prison for sexual
battery with a weapon and kidnapping charges in 1993. He had been at the
facility since 1994.

The officer, Donna Fitzgerald, 50, was a veteran guard, who had worked
at Tomoka Correctional Institution for 15 years.

Hall hid in a welding shed adjacent to the Pride workshop area with a
knife made out of a piece of sheet metal, police said. Pride is a
vocational training facility located at the prison.

Officials at the prison said Fitzgerald entered the shed around 7:30
p.m. Wednesday looking for Hall. 

When she discovered him hiding, Fitzgerald confronted Hall and was
stabbed multiple times, police said. Fitzgerald was armed only with an
alarm and mace; there are no guns at the facility.

Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil said that there is
usually more than one officer involved in moving an inmate, but he
insisted that protocol was followed.

"Words cannot express the sorrow I feel over the loss of our
correctional officer," McNeil said. "The entire department grieves the
murder of one of our finest officers, and we pray for the victim's
family during this difficult time."

Authorities said they found the knife Hall had made stashed in a
concrete wall.

McNeil said death or injury within a violent population is always a

"Yet, when it happens, like we all are across our department today, it
is still very shocking and heart wrenching," McNeil said.

Hall has been charged with first-degree murder. He went before a judge
Thursday afternoon.

It is unclear if the protocol of more than one guard being involved in
moving an inmate was followed.  Sources said that Fitzgerald was
alone, at least at one point, while locking up the work area and
moving inmates back into the dormitory.  The affidavit states that
Fitzgerald was apparently alone while looking for Hall when she was
murdered. The facility was not under lockdown while the search
was under way.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating
the incident.

The prison is located off U.S. Highway 92 on the outskirts of Daytona
Beach. It was established in 1981 and houses adult male inmates. There
is also a work camp and work release center at the facility. The prison
can hold a maximum of 1,263 inmates.

Fitzgerald is the second woman in Florida to die while working as a
guard. In 2003 during an escape attempt, inmates killed Darla
Lathrem at the Charlotte Correctional Institution – a
maximum-security facility.

A total of 13 guards, including Fitzgerald, have died in the line of
duty in Florida prisons since 1928, when records first began being

To comment on this story, send an e-mail to Craig Lucie.

Hall Has History Of Criminal Behavior

Enoch Hall was serving a life sentence for a rape in the '90s. Hall, 39, is a career criminal.
He first showed up in the system in June 1988. That year it was burglary plus a stolen car.
In 1990, the charge was battery on a law enforcement officer two days before Christmas.
In 1992, he moved on to sexual battery. Then in April 1993, in Pensacola, Hall raped a
woman again. This time the charge was sexual battery with a deadly weapon and
kidnapping.  For those two offenses, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Hall has spent nearly all of his 14 years in prison at Tomoka.

Jim Baiardi with the Florida Police Benevelont Association represents
the officers who work in the prison. He's spoken with a number of
guards working on Donna Fitzgerald's shift at the time of this incident.

"They're very upset. You know when you lose somebody you work with, in
this line of work we're brothers and sisters because at any moment our
lives could be taken," Baiardi said.

Hall is currently at the Florida State Prison in Stark.

Copyright 2008 by WESH.COM. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
26898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 24, 2008, 12:43:24 PM
Hosted by Dieter and His Monkey

Barack Obama's rally in Berlin today will be different in many ways from the ones he's held in America.

Unlike his U.S. rallies, which normally require attendees to get tickets, Obama in Berlin will be open to everyone who wishes to come -- providing exactly the kind of chaotic cheering crowd scenes suitable for TV commercials. The campaign acknowledges it may hire a film crew to shoot footage, providing potential raw material for a commercial highlighting a campaign theme that America's standing in the world would improve under a President Obama.

Nonetheless, Team Obama insists the speech will not be a campaign rally. "It is not going to be a political speech," a senior Obama foreign policy adviser told reporters in Jordan this week. "When the president of the United States goes and gives a speech, it is not a political speech or a political rally."

"But [Mr. Obama] is not president of the United States," a reporter gently reminded the adviser. After all, this is the campaign that sometimes has to be told the inconvenient truth that the election remains to be held.

-- John Fund

Republicans in Love

The Obamacans -- past or present Republicans who are backing Barack Obama for president -- are about to go public.

The Hill newspaper reports that Team Obama has held a conference call with a small group of GOP apostates to plot strategy and see how they can be utilized in the fall.

The most prominent Obamacan is former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who served with Mr. Obama from 2005 to 2007 until the Rhode Islander was defeated by a Democrat. Since then, Mr. Chafee has become an independent. He said he "hadn't thought about" whether he would address the Democratic convention, providing a counterpoint to Senator Joe Lieberman from next-door Connecticut, who is expected to address the GOP convention. Mr. Lieberman has broken ranks with Democrats by endorsing John McCain.

Douglas Kmiec, a professor at the Pepperdine University School of Law, says the Obamacan effort is just getting started, but he expects there will eventually be a Web site, print ads and a surrogate speakers program.

Another prominent Obama supporter is Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower and a lifelong Republican. She told me at a recent Aspen Institute meeting that she hasn't decided what role she might play in campaigning for Mr. Obama. I asked her what she would do if Mr. Obama were to lose. "I'd probably become an independent," she told me. "I'm certainly not a Democrat, but the Republican Party has lost me the last few years."

-- John Fund

The GOP Needs Governors

In 2006, Colorado Democrat Bill Ritter captured his state's governorship with a hard-fought, pricey campaign. Two years earlier, New Hampshire Democrat John Lynch unseated incumbent Republican Craig Benson in a very tight race. Now, according to Congressional Quarterly, both states feature Senate races that "lean Democratic." That's a change from just a few weeks ago, when both Senate races seemed to be toss-ups.

As Democrats seek to build on their congressional gains from two years ago, one overlooked ingredient has been their success in gradually shaking off the "liberal" label thanks to strong governors or gubernatorial candidates who've helped redefine their state parties as more conservative than the party's national Democratic leadership. This is true in Colorado, where Rep. Mark Udall, is running strong in his bid for the Senate despite his opposition to increased drilling for oil and natural gas. And it's true in New Hampshire where former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is putting the screws to incumbent Sen. John Sununu.

But it's also paying off in Pennsylvania, where Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell probably did more than any state official across the country to nail down congressional majorities for his party. Democrats picked up House seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia and a Senate seat in 2006 by picking off Republican Sen. Rick Santorum. That seat now represents the balance of power in the Senate. A similar dynamic is also paying off in Montana. Democrat Gov. Brian Schweitzer has helped redefine his party's image in the state, setting the stage for Jon Tester to knock off incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns two years ago. It's also working in Ohio. Democrats didn't control much there in 2006. But they were able to win both the governor's mansion and a Senate seat thanks to Republican scandals and strong campaigns by Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown.

In presidential politics, governors can't always deliver their states for their party's candidate. Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina are three states where Democrats have held governorships in recent years while Republicans won solid presidential victories. Another state that comes to mind is West Virginia, where George W. Bush prevailed in 2004 even as Democrats held onto the governor's mansion in electing Joe Manchin. But if Republicans want to find their way out of the congressional wilderness and start picking up seats in the House and Senate, they might want try winning a few governor's races in competitive states.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"[Barack] Obama will visit Germany, France and England this week. It just happens that those Western European nations have turned to right-of-center coalitions to remedy corrosive welfare systems, never-ending entitlements, unchecked union power and overregulation of industry. In England mere months ago, the left-of-center Labor Party lost more than 400 seats in local elections, including finishing off the reign of London Mayor Ken 'The Red' Livingstone. In France, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy swept into power in 2007, promising to cut back welfare rolls and revitalize the floundering French economy. In Germany, Angela Merkel vowed free-market reforms to undo theoretical social 'safety nets' that have led to 'terrifyingly high unemployment.' Then, Silvio Berlusconi unexpectedly won Italy's election this year, in part on the pledge to unknot the tangle of economic regulations hampering that nation. Those are the top four economic powers in Europe. That's officially a trend" -- Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi.

The Buck Stops . . . Where?

In the better-late-than-never department, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson finally came out on Tuesday with a statement in favor of a strong U.S. dollar. If he decides to spend the last five months of his tenure working on bailing out the currency rather than bailing out more financial institutions, his legacy may not turn out a complete disaster for GOP election prospects after all.

Without a doubt, John McCain's campaign has been harmed by the public's shrinking purchasing power, an impoverishment blamed on George W. Bush because it happened on his watch. Gasoline prices are through the roof. Food prices are up. Costco, where millions of Americans shop, warned yesterday that inflationary forces are getting the upper hand. History shows over and over that a rising cost of living equals a voting public that believes the country is "on the wrong track" and needs "change" at the top.

Speaking at the New York Public Library Mr. Paulson said that a strong dollar is "really very important." Coming from an administration that has otherwise been largely agnostic about the value of the U.S. currency, this seemingly pro-forma statement was greeted by the market as an unqualified endorsement. Stocks rallied, oil sank further and the dollar moved up against the yen and euro.

Admittedly, Mr. Paulson had some help when Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser raised his already hawkish profile on Tuesday by saying the Fed will need to begin raising rates soon rather than later. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been the chief proponent of the easy money policy that has fueled the dollar's decline. With Congress passing a housing bill and bank stocks rallying, he may now have more political room to begin raising rates. If so, the move is overdue and may help take the wind out of energy and grain prices.
26899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nuke Bombers to Cuba?!? on: July 24, 2008, 11:28:24 AM
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said there is no need for explanations or apologies over reports that Russia might send nuclear bombers to Cuba, Bloomberg reported July 24, citing a statement from Castro posted to the Internet on July 23. Cuba has the “nerves of steel” needed in current “times of genocide,” and the United States knows it, the statement says.

26900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Escalating Internal Crisis on: July 24, 2008, 10:47:51 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Escalating Internal Crisis of a Changing China
July 23, 2008
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, noted a recent rise in “incidents” in China as the “dissatisfaction of people in China” turned against authorities. Machimura added that he hoped such incidents would not “become obstacles to a smooth holding of the Beijing Olympics,” and expressed some understanding as Japan faced similar “social turmoil” during its period of rapid economic expansion.

While Machimura may have been using his comments to make a subtle jab at his neighbor’s insecurities regarding image and the Olympics, his comments hit directly at the major crisis facing the government in Beijing: managing the social and security consequences of a changing China.

Beijing is well aware of the “contradictions,” as the Chinese Communist Party would call them, littering China’s economic, social and political landscape. Highlighting this point, the Politburo is holding a special session this week to discuss the state of the Chinese economy, particularly in the coastal growth engines, and security and stability during the upcoming Olympics. For Beijing, the Olympics have been both a blessing and a curse, bringing about impetus for economic and social developments, media openings and a sense of national pride spreading far beyond the mainland, yet also stirring up new and old security issues, providing opportunity for critics of the government at home and abroad, and ultimately exacerbating policy differences among the top leadership.

This year alone, Beijing has been faced with numerous crises. Some of these were natural disasters (though perhaps compounded by human factors), such as heavy snow and floods early in the year hitting the southern croplands followed by the Sichuan earthquake in May; others were security related, such as the attempted downing of a Chinese airliner by suspected Xinjiang Islamist militants, the Tibetan uprising, and bus bombings in Shanghai and Kunming; some were diplomatic, including criticism of support for Sudan, a deferred arms shipment to Zimbabwe, and territorial spats with Vietnam and Japan; and still others, such as numerous public demonstrations, riots, and attacks on government buildings and security forces over economic issues, reflected rising social tensions. Perhaps all of these have been exacerbated by the more open media environment inside China in recent years related both to the pre-Olympic “opening” and to changes in Beijing’s image and information management.

There have been similar occurrences in China in any given year over the past several decades. Natural disasters of one form or another aren’t exactly infrequent and security concerns with Tibet, Xinjiang, or other ethnic, religious, political or social movements spring up fairly often. Balancing its international image is a constant challenge and China admits each year to thousands of security incidents and social instabilities. But in recent years, such things have appeared more intense, more concentrated and more frequent. Whether this is a reflection of an actual intensification, as Machimura noted, or of increased media openness in China is unclear, but that these issues are troubling to Beijing is obvious.

But while these sorts of troubles rise and fall in China, Beijing faces added pressure this year, first from the Olympics (pressure it has brought on itself) and second — and perhaps more significant in the long run — from the rapid rise in global commodity prices and the simultaneous slowing of global economies. With the former, China tried to use the Olympics to highlight its self-proclaimed role as one of the “big” powers, opening up various restrictions at home to divert criticism from abroad while at the same time tightening the screws in other areas to prevent “embarrassing” situations from arising in full sight of the increased international scrutiny.

This is a very difficult balance in the best of times, but when the second factor — the commodity crisis — struck, it became nearly unmanageable as economic strains destabilized some of the carefully balanced contradictions Beijing had set in place. (China’s yuan policy and its simultaneous attempts to drive businesses to the interior and keep the money flowing in from the coast are just two obvious examples.) When social stresses exceeded the expected Olympic patriotism, the newfound openness let information about the troubles inside China spread rapidly, with or without Beijing’s consent, limiting the management options for the leadership. The system has been stressed by this short-term event, but it comes at a critical time in the longer-term view of Chinese national control and management.

Throughout history, China has run through cycles of strong centralized leadership, a devolution of power to a large bureaucracy designed to maintain control over the sheer size of the Chinese nation and population, and the eventual loss of central control over the regional and local leaders and economic elite — which in turn triggers an attempt at re-centralization of power frequently accompanied by social and political upheaval before the re-establishment of a strong center. When Deng Xiaoping talked about black cats and white cats both catching mice and opened up the coasts and ultimately the rest of China to economic growth and its attendant social changes, he was in a sense devolving power out to the local bureaucracies. While this led to the meteoric rise of China economically (though not without its social consequences throughout, including Tiananmen Square, a resurgent Uighur uprising in the mid 1990s, the Falun Gong stand-off and the recent Tibetan rising), it also weakened the central leadership’s ability to change course if necessary.

Like the rest of Asia, China’s economic miracle was not so much a reflection of some profound but long overlooked new way of doing business; rather it was the tried and true Asian method of economic growth — one with much less concern for profits, sustainability or efficiency than for… well… growth. In 1992, when the rest of the world was scrambling to learn Japanese and seeing the United States as a waning economic power in the face of Japan’s rising, Tokyo suddenly realized the consequences of the Asian growth model. It was followed half a decade later by the other Asian tigers, as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea all stumbled in the Asian economic crisis. China avoided both, but like its neighbors, China’s time is coming, and while they may not want to admit it publicly, it seems China’s leaders have recognized this as well.

The government has been working for several years, slowly at first but now with more vigor, to reclaim centralized control over the economy, to stave off a major economic crisis, or at least reclaim central control to manage the consequences. President Hu Jintao has repeatedly called for a shift from a raw economic growth focus to the creation of a “harmonious society;” a pleasant way of saying the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Add to that the raft of new security regulations and policies put in place in the lead up to the Olympics, which may well serve to secure the venues for a few weeks in August and to batten down the hatches as a social storm swells. We may well be entering the crunch time in China’s historical cycle, and the confluence of the openness of the Olympics and the crisis of commodities at this critical moment of re-centralization may well be more than Beijing can manage.

If August passes, and September and October, and the new security, social and economic regulations put in place in the past few months don’t revert to their pre-Olympic status, it will be clear that Beijing sees a crisis coming. But seeing the hurricane bearing down on you doesn’t necessarily mean you can avoid it or weather it. China is reaching a critical moment, and as Machimura noted in classic understatement, “I suppose that overcoming such incidents will be a major theme for Chinese society in the future.”
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