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27101  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Medecina Privada on: March 13, 2008, 07:16:39 PM

"El chavismo parece estrechar su cerco sobre los profesionales que ejercen la medicina privada. A los insultos y ofensas que hoy les dedicó Hugo Chávez se une una disparatada noticia que publicó hoy el “Diario Vea” y que va en la misma dirección: “se van del país” y eso es inmoral … ¿Pasará a ser ilegal?

El presidente Chávez, en el acto de bienvenida a un grupo de estudiantes de Medicina Comunitaria celebrado este martes en Caracas, ha calificado de “apátridas” y de “personas que venden su alma al diablo” a los médicos venezolanos que prefieren trabajar en Europa antes que hacerlo en Venezuela.

Con un profundo desprecio hacia esa postura, el Presidente ha dicho que “aquí eso se puede hacer”, imaginamos que en una comparación referencial a Cuba donde no se puede hacer porque a los cubanos no se les permite salir del país.

Así pues, la decisión de un ser humano, en el ejercicio de su sagrada libertad en un mundo cada vez más globalizado, ha merecido los duros calificativos del Presidente hacia este grupo de ciudadanos.

No es sorpresa que el Presidente insulte, ofenda y desprecie y menos a los médicos que ejercen en el sector privado, quienes se han sufrido diversas arremetidas del Primer Mandatario.

El Diario Vea publicó también este martes un artículo sobre lo que llama “Fuga de Médicos”.

El disparatado artículo afirma que el Colegio de Médicos recibiría 3 millones de Euros por cada médico que va a trabajar a Europa, pero habla por sí mismo.

La pregunta que deja en el ambiente es si después de tachar la actividad de un médico de decidir trabajar en el exterior, se calificará, en el futuro, como ilegal."
27102  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights on: March 13, 2008, 06:49:25 PM
Trivia question:  In that pool hall scene, there is a moment where the camera gives us "Sticks" POV.  Who handles the double sticks representing Sticks's sticks?
27103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The wheel turns on: March 13, 2008, 05:32:27 PM
This article was sent to me by someone who has been to Afg. more than twice.  The piece does manage to leave out the little matter that after being helped by us against the Russians it hosted the preparations of a brutal terrorist attack upon us.

Afghanistan comes full circle as NATO seeks Russian help, Canada
Mon. Mar 10
ONE OF THE most ironic twists to the ongoing mission in Afghanistan emerged from the NATO meetings held in Brussels last week. With member countries either reluctant or unable to add military resources, NATO is now seeking assistance from Russia, its erstwhile Cold War enemy and one-time "evil occupier" of Afghanistan. In fact, the irony is so thick that we should first roll back decades’ worth of propaganda and start at the very beginning.

NATO was formed in 1949 as a collective self-defence alliance to prevent any encroachment of the Soviet Union into Western Europe. The Soviets responded to this by creating their own defensive coalition of Communist countries (the Warsaw Pact) to protect them from any eastward expansion of NATO’s influence. The nuclear arms race was at its zenith and even Europeans, still recovering from the massive destruction and carnage of the Second World War, understood the importance of maintaining large conventional armies. Troops and tanks were regarded as a preferable deterrent to an apocalyptic mushroom cloud.

The impasse that resulted in Europe did not prevent the U.S. and Soviets from waging war by proxy in non-aligned Third World countries around the world. Afghanistan, in fact, became a key battleground for the CIA and the KGB. Since it bordered the Soviet Union’s central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the U.S. knew that Moscow could not afford to ignore events in impoverished and underdeveloped Afghanistan.

Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Soviet engineers undertook several major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including the construction of the Salang tunnel through the Hindu Kush Mountains, which provided the first viable access between the country’s northern and southern provinces. A full-scale program was introduced to train Afghan army officers and a large number of economic aid packages were extended to Kabul’s Communist government.

The Americans decided things were going a little too smoothly for the Kremlin, so they decided to stir things up a little. By arming and funding Afghan Muslim extremists who were already resisting the social changes, the Americans sought to draw the Soviets into a full-scale military intervention. By 1979 events had escalated to the point where the instability, lawlessness and flourishing drug trade along their shared border could no longer be ignored by the Kremlin. Following a coup staged by the KGB in Kabul, the newly appointed Afghan Communist president invited Soviet troops to deploy a security assistance force to help him stabilize Afghanistan.

It would have been high-fives all around for the CIA planners watching the Soviet tank columns rolling south through the Salang tunnel. The Russian bear had taken the bait and put his paw squarely on the American trap. On the surface, the U.S. vehemently denounced the invasion of Afghanistan and in protest they pulled their athletes out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Behind the scenes, the U.S. ramped up military aid to the Afghan guerrillas and assisted in bringing in foreign mujahedeen fighters — such as a young Saudi Arabian zealot named Osama bin Laden — to bleed the Soviets white.

The stated objectives of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan were to provide a secure environment, equality for women, a centralized education and medical system, and the training of a self-sufficient Afghan army. While this may sound eerily similar to the current wish list for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, a friend of mine at the American embassy was quick to point out one fundamental difference: "The (Soviets) were Communists," he emphatically stated, as if that in itself made any further explanation unnecessary.

The U.S. plan worked like a charm and by the time the last of the Russian troops retreated out of Afghanistan in 1989, they had left behind 50,000 dead comrades, the Moscow treasury was bankrupt and the Soviet Union was in a state of dissolution. The U.S.-equipped Afghan warlords finally triumphed over the Communist regime in Kabul and then turned on each other in an orgy of destruction and bloodletting. Whatever Soviet-built infrastructure was still intact in Kabul in 1996 was destroyed when the Taliban movement forced the mujahedeen warlords north of the Hindu Kush.

In the wake of 9-11, the planners in the White House must have suffered from short-term memory loss as they rushed to throw their troops into the very same trap they had built to destroy the Soviets. After using military force to topple the Taliban, the Americans appointed Hamid Karzai as president. His first act as leader was to invite the U.S.-led coalition to deploy a security assistance force to prop up his regime.

Unlike the Soviets, the Americans didn’t need to deploy in support of this request — they were already on the ground.
Now into the seventh year of their occupation and with the American economy on the point of collapse, NATO is looking to Russia for help in transporting troops and equipment into Afghanistan. (Any source of this assertion?) With the skyrocketing oil prices boosting the Russian ruble to dizzy new heights and no one asking for their troops to fight and die in Afghanistan, it would seem that the wheel of fate has turned a full circle.

If you want to drive this point home, go out and rent an old copy of Rambo III. That’s the sequel wherein Sylvester Stallone fights alongside the guerrillas, and the final credits dedicate the movie to "the brave mujahedeen in Afghanistan."

I kid you not.

27104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Govt overstepping bounds on: March 13, 2008, 05:15:22 PM
"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its
authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people,
whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have
formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the
Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 33, 3 January 1788)
27105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Superbugs on: March 13, 2008, 05:11:01 PM

The War on Superbugs
Lots of bad news—so little good news
By G.W. (Bill) Riedel, Ph.D.
Special to the Epoch Times Mar 13, 2008

Bacteriophages are one answer to the superbug crisis. (Ada Fitzgerald-Cherry/The Epoch Times)
A report entitled: "The Epidemic of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections" published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2008:46, Jan. 15, page 155 starts as follows: "We are in the midst of an emerging crisis of antibiotic resistance for microbial pathogens in the United States and throughout the world."

As of the year 2000 an estimated 70,000 deaths due to nosocomially acquired [hospital acquired], drug-resistant infections occurred per year in hospitals throughout the United States. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus seriously sickened more than 94,000 Americans in 2005 and almost 19,000 died, more than the 17,000 Americans who died of AIDS-related causes. As more bacteria become resistant to the old antibiotics there are few new antibiotics being developed because most pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from research for new antibiotics, in part because developing new antibiotics is a slow and costly process.

In Canada the official body counters tell us that "an estimated 220,000 patients who walk through the doors of hospitals each year suffer the unintended and often devastating consequences of an infection," and they estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 Canadian patients die annually from such infections. That would mean that from January 1, 2000 to April 30, 2008 there will have been 100,000 Canadian victims of superbug infections.

Against so much bad news it would be logical that the news media would jump on any opportunity to publish any good news. So when the Bacteriophage 2008 meeting in Herefordshire was chosen for the release of initial Phase II clinical trail data of the first fully-regulated clinical trail to test whether phage therapy really works as a treatment option for superbug infections, one would have expected a media flurry, especially since the trail reported positive results.

To date only two such reports can be found when using Google-News with the string "phage therapy." The first report, which this author found was entitled: "Technology to defeat bacterial infections shows positive results" and was published by Disease/Infection News, 25-Feb-2008 at

In this trail the U.K. company Biocontrol Ltd. used bacteriophages against Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which are often resistant to traditional antibiotics. Over a 17-month period a double-blind Phase II trail took place at a specialist London hospital involving 24 patients with chronic ear infections that were not responding to antibiotic treatments. Significant improvements amounting to a mean 50 percent reduction in symptoms were noted as compared to a mean of only 20 percent in the control group who did not receive phages. The company now plans to perform Phase III trails for the ear treatment as soon as possible and is looking at the future possibility of treating patients with cystic fibrosis where lung infections with Pseudomonas aeruginosa are common and dangerous.

Dr. Riedel,, has a Ph.D. in Microbiology/Food Science. He has held various positions in research, industrial food science, and consumer product regulatory affairs in Canada.
27106  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mya 3-4: Guro Crafty Dog at Manassas VA on: March 13, 2008, 12:39:35 PM
Contact: Dino & Ashley
(703) 330-1113
27107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dershowitz on The Spitzer Affair on: March 13, 2008, 11:59:08 AM
The Entrapment of Eliot
March 13, 2008

The federal criminal investigation that has led to Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor of New York illustrates the great dangers all Americans face from vague and open-ended sex and money-transaction statutes.

Federal law, if read broadly, criminalizes virtually all sexual encounters for which something of value has been given. Federal money-laundering statutes criminalize many entirely legitimate and conventional banking transactions. Congress enacted these laws to give federal prosecutors wide discretion in deciding which "bad guys" to go after.

Generally, wise and intelligent prosecutors use their discretion properly -- to target organized crime, terrorism, financial predation, exploitation of children and the like. But the very existence of these selectively enforced statutes poses grave dangers of abuse. They lie around like loaded guns waiting to be used against the enemies of politically motivated investigators, prosecutors and politicians.

There is no hard evidence that Eliot Spitzer was targeted for investigation, but the story of how he was caught does not ring entirely true to many experienced former prosecutors and current criminal lawyers. The New York Times reported that the revelations began with a routine tax inquiry by revenue agents "conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks." This investigation allegedly found "several unusual movements of cash involving the Governor of New York." But the movement of the amounts of cash required to pay prostitutes, even high-priced prostitutes over a long period of time, does not commonly generate a full-scale investigation.

We are talking about thousands, not millions, of dollars. We are also talking about a man who is a multimillionaire with numerous investments and purchases. The idea that federal investigators would focus on a few transactions to corporations -- that were not themselves under investigation -- raises as many questions as answers.

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.

In this case, they wiretapped 5,000 phone conversations, intercepted 6,000 emails, used surveillance and undercover tactics that are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns. Unlike terrorism and other predatory crimes, prostitution is legal in many parts of the world and in some parts of the U.S. Even in places like New York, where it is technically illegal, johns are rarely prosecuted. Prostitution rings operate openly, advertising "massage" and "escort" services in the back pages of glossy magazines, local newspapers and television sex channels.

If the federal government really wanted to shut down these operations, they could easily do it without a single wiretap or email intercept. All they would have to do is get an undercover agent to answer the ads, arrange for the "escort" to go from New York to New Jersey and be arrested. But many in law enforcement would much rather reserve these statutes for selective use against predetermined targets.

In this case, if the serendipitous bank audit really led federal agents to Mr. Spitzer, and Mr. Spitzer led them to the Emperor's Club, and federal prosecutors really wanted to get the Club, they could easily have sent an undercover cop to pose as a john, instead of tapping phones and reading emails -- tactics designed to catch and embarrass Mr. Spitzer with his own recorded words, which could be, and were, leaked to the media. As this newspaper has reported: "It isn't clear why the FBI sought the wiretap warrant. Federal prostitution probes are exceedingly rare, lawyers say, except in cases involving organized-crime leaders or child abuse. Federal wiretaps are seldom used to make these cases . . ."

Lavrenti Beria, the head of Joseph Stalin's KGB, once quipped to his boss, "show me the man and I will find the crime." The Soviet Union was notorious for having accordion-like criminal laws that could be adjusted to fit almost any dissident target. The U.S. is a far cry from the Soviet Union, but our laws are dangerously overbroad.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted political adversaries over the years. The weapons of choice are almost always elastic criminal laws. And few laws are more elastic, and susceptible to abuse, than federal laws on money laundering and sex crimes. For the sake of all Americans, these laws should be narrowed and limited to predatory crimes with real victims.

Mr. Dershowitz teaches law at Harvard University and is the author of "Finding Jefferson" (Wiley, 2007).
27108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama on offense on: March 13, 2008, 11:45:40 AM
Obama on Offense
March 13, 2008

It came as a relief to hear, in the last few days, that both Democratic candidates were now about to go on the attack, though pundits agreed such low tactics had been forced on Barack Obama. There's something reassuring about the usual election season blather over negative campaigning. That relief is a response, mostly, to any whiff of normality promising to emerge in the current Democratic race.

Still, the prospects are thin, given the rapturous response Mr. Obama has enjoyed at the hands of a good part of the press -- attitudes so obvious that the usual stern media denials that their coverage was other than objective have been hard to find. Anyone who doubts this bias has only to look at the past week's charges that Hillary Clinton and company have been playing the race card -- the latest in a series of such accusations made by Obama surrogates, carried forward by the media.

Of those offenses, the most memorable, perhaps, concerned Bill Clinton's challenge to the record Sen. Obama claimed regarding his long opposition to the Iraq war, which Mr. Clinton called "a fairy tale." In short order, word was put out that the former president had insulted black Americans and their high hopes for this election, by use of this disparaging term, "fairy tale." Mr. Clinton, some charged, had denigrated Mr. Obama's entire candidacy as a fantasy.

There was, too, the Martin Luther King/Lyndon Johnson saga. Here Hillary Clinton's incontestably accurate comment -- that it had taken the action of a president, Lyndon Johnson, to pass the Civil Rights Act, and thus bring to fruition the goal to which Dr. King had devoted his life -- ignited storms of outrage, furious commentaries on how Sen. Clinton had played a sly race card, diminishing Dr. King's importance in comparison to that of the white president.

In all, the pattern of these charges may well suggest a race card in play, only it wasn't the Clintons who were playing it.

The latest charge arose from a "60 Minutes" interview a week ago, in which Mrs. Clinton was supposedly contriving a way to suggest that Mr. Obama is in fact a secret Muslim. In the stories carried elsewhere in the media, the case against her rests on five words.

The entire "60 Minutes" exchange -- showing her effort to answer interrogator Steve Kroft's persistent questions -- would have been more instructive. Because, as in so many interrogations, an emphatic no -- when the investigator is looking for another answer -- is never enough.

Mr. Kroft: "You don't believe that Sen. Obama is a Muslim?"

Mrs. Clinton: "Of course not. I mean, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. You know, there isn't any reason to doubt that."

Kroft: "You said you take Sen. Obama at his word that he's not. . . . You don't believe that he's. . . ."

Clinton: "No, no. There's nothing to base that on, as far as I know."

Kroft: "It's just scurrilous . . .?"

Clinton: "Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors that I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time."

The now famous five words, "as far as I know" come trailing a sentence showing an interviewee clearly trying to fill space -- babbling, as we all do, when there's nothing more to say and the persistent interrogator requires, nevertheless, more talk. Clearly, that "as far as I know" is chatter, without import, in the midst of emphatic declarations rejecting the notion that Mr. Obama is Muslim.

Without import except, of course, to the cadres prepared to find in those words material for the manufacture of another story of a Clinton outrage. To do so requires reporting only the sentence in which the phrase appears, while leaving out all that came before and after. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert did precisely that in a column on Saturday, charging that those five words represented "one of the sleaziest moments of the campaign to date."

Mr. Herbert is far from alone in this stunning assessment -- a measure of the fevers that have swept so many journalists away in the course of this campaign.

Mr. Obama, in the meantime, has now found occasion to try going on the attack against Mrs. Clinton as he has been urged -- though not without trepidation from supporters worried about the effect on his image as an inspirational leader and voice of a new politics. Could he even do such things? Yes he could.

As he showed in an angry speech this week, in which he lashed out at Mrs. Clinton for raising the possibility that he could serve as vice president, the worriers were right. The candidate will have to find, at the very least, an attack mode other than the preening and petulance on display Monday.

For all of Mr. Obama's celebrated speeches, his capacity to attract and arouse crowds, we know mostly his public persona -- a presence confident, forward-looking, thoughtful. Of his actual attitudes, social and political, his views about the nation he plans to lead, those lengthy speeches have revealed remarkably little, other than a belief that American hearts are filled to bursting with their yearning for change. We shall see.

His closest adviser, Michelle Obama, has left little doubt about her views of American society, and its people. These views have received relatively scant coverage, other than in the brief period that followed her observation on the campaign trail in Wisconsin a few weeks back, when the wife of the candidate told crowds that she was, for the first time in her life, "proud" of her country. It was an attention-getting pronouncement quickly amended and recast, once the uproar of amazement began to be heard.

Everyone can have an untoward moment under the pressures of campaigning. It was obvious, nonetheless, that this was no blip, no failure to express her real thought. She said exactly what she'd wanted to say. And for doing so Mrs. Obama expected no amazed response. The comment reflected her deeply held, grim view of American society, one she was accustomed to sharing with others who thought likewise. Why should it not have come tripping from the tongue?

It was, furthermore, just one of numerous such revelatory statements she has regularly made. In speeches on the campaign trail she has held forth on her view of America, which is, as she describes it, a country that is "downright mean" and "driven by fear." She recently waxed irate over the American attention to security interests, arguing that we should be "changing the conversation" and building diplomatic relations "instead of protecting ourselves against terrorists." A minor note, to be sure, though it's to be hoped that a President Obama will not turn to this closest adviser for her views on the national defense.

A New Yorker profile published last week quotes numerous stump speech pronouncements, among them Mrs. Obama's assertion that most Americans' lives have gotten worse since she was a girl. "So if you want to pretend like there was some point in the last couple of decades when your life was easy, I want to meet you."

In short, not only is existence in America a desperate proposition for most citizens -- anyone claiming to have led a satisfactory one not sunk in the hell that is American life is, quite simply, lying. America is, she has elsewhere informed audiences, a nation whose "souls are broken."

It is a vision striking for its consistent hostility to any notion that Americans have cause for optimism and pride in their country: striking, too, for the stark and obvious absence, in this graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, of any sense of the reasons Americans might revere their nation and consider themselves fortunate to be its citizens.

Doubtless we shall hear more about Mrs. Obama's views as the campaign goes on. In the meantime, we can only imagine how this will all play out in the event of an Obama presidency. First Lady Michelle Obama would certainly encounter foreign reporters who have attentively covered the campaign and who have questions to ask. One of them may well be, "Madame First Lady, would you care to tell us more about your oft-stated view of America as a nation whose soul is broken? And a word, if you would about the desperate lives lived by most Americans?"

The response would be interesting to hear.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
27109  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Liner lock issues on: March 13, 2008, 10:27:47 AM
27110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Spitzer Affair on: March 12, 2008, 11:27:57 AM

Eliot the 'Enforcer'
March 12, 2008; Page A21

As the political career of Eliot Spitzer melts down, many will lament that what the governor on Monday called his "progressive politics" fell victim to his personal foibles. If only he hadn't made mistakes in his private life, they will moan, New York could have been redeemed from its squalid, special-interest dominated stagnation.

That's nonsense. More is at issue here than a mere private mistake. The governor's frequent use of a prostitution ring was of public concern -- because, notes Henry Stern, head of the watchdog group New York Civic, "people could easily have blackmailed him, you can't have that if you're governor."

True enough, New York's dysfunctional and secretive state government desperately needs fumigation, with both political parties sharing in the blame. But Mr. Spitzer's head-butting approach to redemption -- involving the arbitrary use of power and bully-boy tactics -- was no improvement. As for reform, his first budget grew state spending at three times the rate of inflation, and is a major reason the state now faces a $4.5 billion deficit. When the governor tried to reform the state's bloated Medicaid program, the health-care workers' union ran a TV campaign against him, and he quickly caved.

Mr. Spitzer seemed to excel only in the zeal with which he would go after perceived adversaries. Last summer, his staff infamously used the state police to track the movements of Joe Bruno, the Republican president of the state senate, in an effort to destroy his career. Mr. Spitzer then ferociously fought investigators who wanted to examine his office's email traffic for evidence the governor himself may have been involved. His approval rating in New York, a strongly Democratic state, fell to 27%.

Despite that wakeup call, months after the Bruno incident Mr. Spitzer called up a close ally of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This source told me that the governor asked him to deliver what the ally considered a threatening and insulting message to the mayor. The Bloomberg confidant, who like many sources commenting on Mr. Spitzer refused to be named, advised the governor to reconsider if that was the message he really wanted to send, but the governor insisted.

No doubt more examples of Mr. Spitzer's dubious behavior will now find their way into the media. But his career as a prosecutor provided plenty of warning signs he was destined for trouble, and each of his political campaigns featured clear attempts to circumvent campaign-finance laws. For example, in 1998 Mr. Spitzer admitted to the New York Times that he had skirted state election laws by failing to disclose a last-minute infusion of cash into his 1994 campaign for attorney general from his wealthy father.

Such chicanery wasn't an auspicious launching pad for his own investigations of corporate misbehavior. He certainly did expose some malfeasance and shady dealing. But historian Fred Siegel notes that he quickly moved on to "less and less substantial" and appropriate targets in search of headlines. And he used New York's Martin Act, a uniquely harsh law allowing prosecutors to declare almost anything a "fraud," and no requirement on their part to prove criminal intent, to trample the due-process rights of anyone blocking his path to the TV cameras.

Companies almost always agreed to Mr. Spitzer's demands that they pay stiff fines and change the way they operated -- all without any trials or judicial determinations that they had done anything wrong. "It became a kind of blackmail," Mr. Siegel says, "in which he said to companies, if you don't put my friends in high positions in your company I'll drag you through the mud."

"He was the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner," says Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He notes that Mr. Spitzer would frequently settle with corporate higher-ups, who were wealthy enough to pay millions in fines, and then go after their lower-level employees. Those individuals were often found not guilty at trial -- but these courtroom defeats, as Mr. Spitzer learned from the experience of that other hyperactive prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani, would generate few headlines.

Mr. Spitzer cloaked his naked devaluation of the rule of law with gauzy rhetoric that was perfectly pitched to make many liberals ignore his strong-arm tactics. He harshly criticized advocates of judicial restraint such as Antonin Scalia as believing in "a dead piece of paper." In a Law Day ceremony, Mr. Spitzer was blunt: "I believe in an evolving Constitution. . . . A flexible Constitution allows us to consider not merely how the world was, but how it ought to be."

He was vague as to just what his Brave New World would look like. "One of the things that I enjoy about going to Washington is the opportunity of testifying, chapter after chapter, that self-regulation has failed," he said to reporters, adding, "What is it to be replaced with? I'm not sure."

Still, he was pretty sure of his blowtorch tactics. In 2005, Mr. Spitzer revealingly told TV host Stephen Colbert in all seriousness that as a kid he was the "enforcer" on his soccer team, the guy who "took people out."

An enduring lesson of the Spitzer meltdown should be that crusaders of all types who operate outside the rule books themselves merit a gimlet eye of scrutiny. An enduringly popular symbol in our culture is the man on the white horse who comes to clean up the town and purge it of its errant ways. But in the harsh reality of politics, for every selfless Lone Ranger who arrives on his trusty steed and does good, there are many more budding Napoleons who harshly impose their will -- and fall prey to vices they pledged to root out.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
27111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: March 12, 2008, 11:24:05 AM
Spitzer's Media Enablers
March 12, 2008; Page A21

The fall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer holds many lessons, and the press will surely be examining them in coming months. But don't expect the press corps to delve into the biggest lesson of all -- its own role as his enabler.

Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer's stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices.

Journalism has many functions, but perhaps the most important is keeping tabs on public officials. That duty is even more vital concerning government positions that are subject to few other checks and balances. Chief among those is the prosecutor, who can use his awesome state power to punish, even destroy, private citizens.

Yet from the start, the press corps acted as an adjunct of Spitzer power, rather than a skeptic of it. Many journalists get into this business because they want to see wrongs righted. Mr. Spitzer portrayed himself as the moral avenger. He was the slayer of the big guy, the fat cat, the Wall Street titan -- all allegedly on behalf of the little guy. The press ate it up, and came back for more.

Time magazine bestowed upon Mr. Spitzer the title "Crusader of the Year," and likened him to Moses. Fortune dubbed him the "Enforcer." A fawning article in the Atlantic Monthly in 2004 explained he was "a rock star," and "the Democratic Party's future." In an uncritical 2006 biography, then Washington Post reporter Brooke Masters compared the attorney general to no less than Teddy Roosevelt.

What the media never acknowledged is that somewhere along the line (say, his first day in public office) Mr. Spitzer became the big guy, the titan. He had the power to trample lives and bend the rules, while also burnishing his own political fortune. He was the one who deserved as much, if not more, scrutiny as onetime New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso or former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.

What makes this more embarrassing for any self-respecting journalist is that Mr. Spitzer knew all this, and played the media like a Stradivarius. He knew what sort of storyline they'd be sympathetic to, and spun it. He knew, too, that as financial journalism has become more competitive, breaking news can make a career. He doled out scoops to favored reporters, who repaid him with allegiance. News organizations that dared to criticize him were cut off. After a time, few criticized anymore.

Instead, reporters felt obligated to run with whatever he handed them. Consider the report in the wake of a 2005 op-ed in this newspaper by John Whitehead. A respected Wall Street figure, Mr. Whitehead dared to criticize Mr. Spitzer for his unscrupulously zealous pursuit of Mr. Greenberg. Mr. Spitzer later threatened Mr. Whitehead, telling him in a phone call that "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done." Some months later, after more Spitzer excesses, Mr. Whitehead had the temerity to write another op-ed describing what Mr. Spitzer had said.

Within a few days, the press was reporting (unsourced, of course) that Mr. Whitehead had defended Mr. Greenberg a few weeks after a Greenberg charity had given $25 million to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation -- a group Mr. Whitehead chaired. So Mr. Whitehead's on-the-record views were met with an unsourced smear implying bad faith. The press ran with it anyway.

In 2005, Mr. Spitzer went on national television to suggest that Mr. Greenberg had engaged in criminal activity. It was front-page news. About six months later, on the eve of a Thanksgiving weekend, Mr. Spitzer quietly disclosed that he lacked the evidence to press criminal charges. That news was buried inside the papers.

What makes this history all the more unfortunate is that the warning signs about Mr. Spitzer were many and manifest. In the final days of Mr. Spitzer's run for attorney general in 1998, the news broke that he'd twisted campaign-finance laws so that his father could fund his unsuccessful 1994 run. Mr. Spitzer won anyway, and the story was largely forgotten.

New York Stock Exchange caretaker CEO John Reed suggested Mr. Spitzer hadn't told the truth when he said that it was Mr. Reed who wanted him to investigate Mr. Grasso's pay. The press never investigated.

Mr. Spitzer's main offense as a prosecutor is that he violated the basic rules of fairness and due process: Innocent until proven guilty; the right to your day in court. The Spitzer method was to target public companies and officials, leak allegations and out-of-context emails to a compliant press, watch the stock price fall, threaten a corporate indictment (a death sentence), and then move in for a quick settlement kill. There was rarely a trial, fair or unfair, involved.

On the substance, his court record speaks for itself. Most of Mr. Spitzer's high-profile charges have gone up in smoke. A New York state judge threw out his case against tax firm H&R Block. He lost his prosecution against Bank of America broker Ted Sihpol (whom Mr. Spitzer threatened to arrest in front of his child and pregnant wife). Mr. Spitzer was stopped by a federal judge from prying confidential information out of mortgage companies. Another New York judge blocked the heart of his suit against Mr. Grasso. Mr. Greenberg continues to fight his civil charges. The press was foursquare behind Mr. Spitzer in all these cases, and in a better world they'd share some of his humiliation.

Instead, remarkably, they continue to defend him. Ms. Masters, his biographer, was on CNN the day Mr. Spitzer's prostitution news broke, reassuring viewers that the governor really was a "lovely" guy. Other news reporters were reporting what a "tragedy" it was that such a leading light in the Democratic Party could come to such an ignoble end.

There's little that's tragic about Mr. Spitzer, unless you consider his victims (which would appear to include his own family). The press would do well to meditate on that, and consider how many violations they winked at and validated over the years. Politicians don't exist to be idolized by the press, at least not by any press corps doing its job.

Ms. Strassel, who covered Eliot Spitzer's investigations, now writes the Journal's Potomac Watch column from Washington.

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

27112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: March 12, 2008, 11:20:26 AM
Hard to decide which thread for this piece-- here it is:

The Pentagon vs. Petraeus
March 12, 2008; Page A20
Yesterday's resignation of Admiral William Fallon as Centcom Commander is being portrayed as a dispute over Iran. Our own sense is that the admiral has made more than enough dissenting statements about Iraq, Iran and other things to warrant his dismissal as much as early retirement. But his departure will be especially good news if it means that President Bush is beginning to pay attention to the internal Pentagon dispute over Iraq.

A fateful debate is now taking place at the Pentagon that will determine the pace of U.S. military withdrawals for what remains of President Bush's term. Senior Pentagon officials -- including, we hear, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Army Chief of Staff George Casey and Admiral Fallon -- have been urging deeper troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five "surge" combat brigades already scheduled for redeployment this summer.

Adm. William Fallon, during testimony on Capitol Hill in May, 2007.
Last month Mr. Gates agreed to a pause in these withdrawals, so that General David Petraeus could assess whether the impressive security gains achieved by the surge can be maintained with fewer troops. But now the Pentagon seems to be pushing for a pause of no more than four to six weeks before the drawdowns resume.

It's possible the surge has so degraded the insurgency -- both of the al Qaeda and Shiite varieties -- that the U.S. can reduce its troop presence to some undetermined level without inviting precisely the conditions that led to the surge in the first place. The withdrawal of one combat brigade from Iraq in December hasn't affected the stunning declines in insurgent attacks and Iraqi civilian deaths over the past year.

Then again, a spate of recent attacks -- including a suicide bombing Monday that left five GIs dead in Baghdad and a roadside bombing yesterday that killed 16 Iraqis -- is a reminder that the insurgency remains capable of doing great damage. An overly hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces would give it more opportunities to do so. It could also demoralize Iraq forces just when they are gaining confidence and need our help to "hold" the areas gained by the "clear, hold and build" strategy of the surge.

This ought to be apparent to Pentagon generals. Yet their rationale for troop withdrawals seems to have less to do with conditions in Iraq and more with fear that the war is putting a strain on the military as an institution. These are valid concerns. Lengthy and repeated combat deployments have imposed extraordinary burdens on service members and their families. The war in Iraq has also diverted scarce funds to combat operations rather than investment -- much of it long overdue -- in military modernization.

But these concerns are best dealt with by enlarging the size of the Army and Marine Corps and increasing spending on defense to between 5% and 6% of gross domestic product from the current 4.5% -- about where it was at the end of the Cold War. By contrast, we can think of few things that would "break" the military more completely -- in readiness, morale and deterrent power -- than to leave Iraq in defeat, or in conditions that would soon lead to a replay of what happened in Vietnam.

This Pentagon pressure also does little to help General Petraeus. The general is supposed to be fighting a frontal war against Islamist militants, not a rearguard action with Pentagon officials. We understand there is a chain of command in the military, and General Petraeus is precisely the kind of team player who would respect it.

That's why as Commander in Chief, Mr. Bush has a particular obligation to engage in this Pentagon debate so that General Petraeus can make his troop recommendations based on the facts in Iraq, not on pressure from Washington. It was Mr. Bush's excessive deference to the Army's pecking order that put lackluster generals such as Ricardo Sanchez in charge when the insurgency was forming, and that prevented General Petraeus from assuming command in Iraq until it was nearly too late. Having successfully resisted pressure from Congressional Democrats for premature troop withdrawals, it would be strange indeed for Mr. Bush to cave in to identical pressure from his own bureaucracies.

As a political matter, an overly rapid drawdown would also only complicate the choices the next President will have to make about troop levels, whether that's John McCain or one of the Democratic contenders. Mr. Bush owes it to his successor to bequeath not only a stable Iraq, but also policy options that don't tempt disaster. Preserving a troop cushion that allows for future withdrawals without jeopardizing current gains would do just that.

That's a decision that rests with Mr. Bush alone, who in seven years as President has often proved more adept and determined in fighting enemies abroad than imposing discipline on his own, so often wayward, Administration.

27113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: March 11, 2008, 10:37:15 PM
From the freebie Friday letter:

Gilder Telecosm Forum Member (3/1/08): George, What has changed to make
you view NetLogic (NETL) as having better long-term prospects?

George Gilder, Gilder Telecosm Forum (3/1/08): Comparing NetLogic (NETL)
with Sigma (SIGM) and Cavium (CAVM), and I have come to the conclusion
that NetLogic will be needed for IPv6 and that IPv6 will prevail over the
next decade. EZchip (EZCH) and NetLogic can work together where multiple
fast lookups are required.

EZchip has an architecture that can accommodate 7 layers, but 7 layer
processing will not happen for several years and when it does, TCAMs
(ternary content addressable memories) and so called knowledge processors
will be complementary for the first phases....

Cavium is a proven company pioneering in the largest but also most
competitive markets. It is in the upper layer processor field that is also
contested by the new Cisco (CSCO) control plane devices, LSI Corp. (LSI),
Applied Micro Circuits (AMCC), other control plane processors, RMI and all
the multicore multiprocessor innovators out there, from Intel (INTC) and
AMD (AMD) to Tilera and dozens of others.
To read more of George Gilder's posts and those of the Gilder Telecosm
Forum members, visit and become a Forum member

@#$%@$^$%^&&^  angry angry angry  You'd think I'd have learned by now.
27114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 11, 2008, 10:19:39 PM
I don't have a URL for this, but it sure does capture something:

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world.  I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." -- Barack Obama
27115  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicle issues on: March 11, 2008, 07:53:29 PM
Great to see the participation on this.  The process of collective analysis helps us all.

A hearty amen on room to maneuver the car!  I believe I averted a carjacking one time precisely with this technique.

As far as using the car as a weapon, perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I am picturing the car already turned off when the excrement hits the fan and the driver's window down.  Who knows, perhaps the key was already removed from the ignition?  Question:  Under these circumstances with a vigorous assault coming in through the window, could you start your car up and get it in gear?

Also a hearty amen on the merits of a serious dog-- but not everyone wants or can have such an animal in his/her life.

I find it hard to second guess the woman getting out of the car.  Her man was under attack and behind the reactionary curve.  Is she just supposed to sit there and do nothing?

Backing into parking spaces is a traffic infraction here in LA-- apparently lots of arguments get going when someone wants to back into a space and the following car has pulled up too close for this to be possible. 

Tire iron?  Great tool-- are legal issues presented by keeping it in the cab of the truck?.  If stored in back in the spare tire well it probably is not accessible in timely manner.

In some 30 states, CCW is an option for those who take the time to go through the necessary process.
27116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 11, 2008, 07:31:57 PM
I liked Fairport Convention-- good memories.  Pentangle I liked even more.
27117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Book on John Adams on: March 11, 2008, 07:29:42 PM
A friend writes:

I'm halfway through the book John Adams, by David McCullough. This is the second time I've read it, I picked it back up when I heard HBO was doing a series based on the book. This book is a must read for anyone that wants to feel and breathe in the nature of the times of the American Revolution, as well as get inside the head of one of our Founding Fathers. It's hard to imagine the extremes of the times and the circumstances that shaped the mind, that shaped a nation. It received a very much deserved Pulitzer when it came out in 2001. You folks in Europe will be interested as well, Adams, spent much of the war in Europe trying to get assistance in supporting the effort to break from England.
27118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 11, 2008, 12:31:05 PM
Just What the Doctor Ordered

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel has been spending time in the hospital with the flu the last few days, but he is likely to have gotten a real morale booster yesterday with the news of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's meltdown.

Mr. Rangel, who has represented Harlem in Congress for 38 years, is known to hold the prickly governor in minimal high regard. He has often snidely referred to Mr. Spitzer as "the smartest man in the world," a reference to the governor's well-known arrogance.

Should Mr. Spitzer resign, Mr. Rangel would also be in the catbird's seat. Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a former state senator from Harlem, is a longtime protege of Mr. Rangel and would likely grant his mentor wide influence over patronage and fiscal issues. "Rangel could have instant access to Paterson anytime of the day or night," is how one New York Democratic leader evaluates Mr. Rangel's likely importance in a Patterson administration.

So if Mr. Rangel makes an even swifter recovery from the flu than is expected, there will be good reasons for that new spring in his step and twinkle in his eye.

-- John Fund

Deus Ex Machine Politics

There is little chance that New York will be competitive in the presidential race this year, but the Spitzer scandal will breathe new life into New York's battered GOP. Poised to fill the governor's seat is Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat who has little name recognition and lacks the force of personality that animated Mr. Spitzer's political career. Mr. Paterson, an ally of Rep. Charlie Rangel, will likely be a seat-warmer while both parties prepare to battle for the governor's mansion in 2010. Democrat Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will likely now become the de facto leader of his party in the state.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno, a veteran political infighter, will take the lieutenant governor's seat, giving him a larger platform to use for Republican advantage. He could run for governor himself in two years. But it's more likely that he'll find someone else within his party to carry the Republican banner. If Rudy Giuliani wants to get back into the game, this is his chance. There's also a possibility that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be interested. And then there's John Spencer, the former mayor of Yonkers who ran against Hillary Clinton for senate in 2006. He has a fundraising base, knows what it takes to run a statewide campaign and has executive experience.

A little more than a year ago, Eliot Spitzer's gubernatorial landslide (69%) was the biggest the state had ever seen. New York seemed on a path to becoming a one-party state. Democrats tightened their grip on the state's General Assembly, won every state-wide elective office and even won in a few upstate congressional districts that traditionally favor Republicans. This year, led by Mr. Spitzer, Democrats looked likely to win control of the last vestige of Republican power in New York, the state Senate. How quickly things change. Republicans now see an opening to reverse their fortunes in New York, only helped if Mr. Spitzer tries to cling to office. It remains to be seen if the state and national GOPs are up to seizing the opportunity.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"In lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. On ABC, the only hints as to Spitzer's party were a few seconds of video of Spitzer beside Hillary Clinton as they walked down some steps and a (D) on screen by Spitzer's name over part of one soundbite. NBC didn't even do that. While ABC and NBC failed to cite Spitzer's political affiliation in the four minutes or so each network dedicated to the revelations, both managed to find time to applaud his reputation and effectiveness as the Empire State's Attorney General before becoming Governor" -- Brent Baker of the conservative Media Research Institute.

Follow the Money

 The fall of Eliot Spitzer, caught in the roll-up of a high-end prostitution ring, is bound to be an occasion for a great deal of dime-store psychoanalysis about what led to his self-destructive behavior.

But perhaps the most interesting detail isn’t the all-too-familiar tale of a politician imagining himself immune to the laws and standards he prescribes for others. The most interesting detail is how he got caught.

The New York Governor, who made his bones doggedly pursuing alleged financial crimes, was undone by his own bankers. The financial transactions by which he endeavored to conceal his payments to the Emperors Club were unusual enough that they prompted a referral by his bank to the IRS, which in turn brought in the FBI and ultimately the prosecutors. Based on the information currently available, Mr. Spitzer himself was the thread that began the unraveling of the Emperor's Club prostitution ring.

Prosecutors are supposed to know better. But in this case, Mr. Spitzer appears to have left behind precisely the kind of paper trail that he once used himself in pursuit of Wall Street malefactors, real or imagined. The latest burble from the TV talking heads this morning now suggests that Mr. Spitzer is delaying his resignation as leverage for a favorable plea bargain. If so, he apparently learned at least one thing from his years as a dictator of humiliating plea bargains to those caught up in his publicity-seeking investigations. All the more ironic, then, that the Sheriff of Wall Street gave himself away with his slippery financial dealings, rather than his sordid appetites, ending in his disgrace.

-- Brian M. Carney

27119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Split from Georgia? on: March 11, 2008, 12:08:22 PM
It appears that the blowback from Kosovo continues.


Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said March 11 that Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions will secede if Georgia becomes a member of NATO, Reuters reported. Rogozin said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia “do not intend to join NATO.”

27120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gilder not so hot on EZCH on: March 11, 2008, 11:45:02 AM
Apparently Gilder is no longer so gung ho on EZCH.  I'm guessing why the stock has declined some 40% in the last few weeks cry cry cry
27121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: March 11, 2008, 11:43:42 AM
Amid Water Shortage,
Australia Looks to the Sea
March 11, 2008; Page A1

PERTH, Australia -- As global water shortages loom, this remote city on Australia's parched western coast is giving desalination -- the arduous process of removing salt from sea water -- new clout.

Opened in late 2006, Perth's $360 million desalination plant sucks in roughly 50,000 gallons of the Indian Ocean every minute. It then runs that water through special filters that separate out the salt, yielding some 25,000 gallons of drinkable water -- enough to meet nearly a fifth of Perth's current demand.

Patrick Barta 
Perth is pushing desalination as a way to feed the city's water needs and keep parks -- including Kings Park, above -- green.
For decades, critics dismissed desalination as a costly boondoggle that burns colossal amounts of energy, including dirty fuels like coal. Technologically complex, it's also far more expensive than tapping other water sources. The few major desalination plants that did make it to fruition went up mainly in the Middle East, which had energy -- and money -- to burn.

Perth's facility squarely tackles both environmental and financial concerns. It gets around the issue of noxious emissions by harnessing power from a wind farm. By relying primarily on renewable energy -- a recent trend in desalination -- the plant releases fewer dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Upgraded systems remove salt more efficiently than past processes, making operating costs less daunting.

Despite higher water bills for consumers, officials here deem the project so successful that they plan to build a second, $875 million desalination plant. Once online, it will allow Perth to source as much as a third of its water from the ocean and significantly cut its dependence on rain-fed reserves.

Not long ago, "desalination was something you'd do only when you didn't have any other choice," says Jim Gill, chief executive of Water Corp., Perth's state-owned water supplier. Now, "there just aren't that many sources left."

Patrick Barta visits Perth for a look at how the city aims to cope with a growing water shortage through desalination of sea water.
Perth's plunge into desalination comes at a critical time, when water is emerging as the world's next major natural-resources challenge. Water use, like oil, is surging as economic growth takes off in China, India and elsewhere. According to the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, about a fifth of the world's population, or more than 1.2 billion people, already lives in areas with insufficient supply.

Due to changing rainfall patterns linked to climate change, many places -- including parts of Australia, the American Southwest, India and Western Europe -- are getting as much as 10% less rain than they used to. There's also a global push to expand agriculture, the world's biggest guzzler of water, to meet growing food and alternative energy demand.

As many as 75 major desalination projects are in various stages of development world-wide, including a $300 million facility north of San Diego. Although large-scale desalination is still unpopular in the U.S., local officials and private investors are pressing to build plants in other states such as Texas and Massachusetts.

Several Australian cities are adding massive desalination plants. The largest, near Melbourne, carries a price tag of more than $2.5 billion. Similar facilities are envisioned in Spain and India. And London is planning a $400 million plant along the River Thames.

Combined Impact

Environmentalists worry that the combined impact of these plants will be devastating, especially if they run on power generated by cheap coal. Big desalination plants can burn through enough electricity annually to power more than 35,000 homes a year.

Last June, WWF, the international conservation organization, released a major report challenging the desalination boom. It cited a potentially "major misdirection of public attention, policy and funds."

Yet WWF staffers acknowledge there could be a place for some desalination plants -- so long as certain criteria are met. First, however, they want cities to exhaust other options, such as water recycling. If plants are eventually called for, the WFF wants to see them built like the one in Perth.

"Perth is going to be the model for desalination in the developed world," says Tom Pankratz, an industry consultant in Houston. Although other facilities might not employ the same renewable sources for power, most of the newer ones are trying to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, says Mr. Pankratz, including the latest plants in London and Sydney. "Everyone is thinking that's going to be the way of the future."

Surrounded by desert, this remote Western Australia city is booming as a center for mining iron ore and other valuable commodities. By some estimates, Perth is attracting as many as 750 families a week, and now has a population in excess of 1.3 million.

But in recent years, water supplies have shrunk as rainfall levels declined -- possibly due to factors related to global warming. In the 1980s, annual inflows into reservoirs fell to less than 300 billion liters a year; by the late 1990s, the figure was down to fewer than 150 billion liters.

Leading the charge for desalination was Mr. Gill, 61 years old, a self-taught expert on climate change. A native Australian, he received a master's degree in public administration from Harvard and worked for many years at Western Australia's railway system before joining the Water Corp., the state-owned company, in the mid-1990s. His hobbies include trekking deep into the Australian Outback to see aboriginal rock paintings in their original setting.

He says he noticed the sharp drop-off in available water after studying historical charts at Water Corp. Then, in 2001, Perth had one of its worst droughts ever. Reservoirs were less than 25% full and officials worried the city would run out of water completely.

Water Corp. executives ordered residents to restrict garden sprinkler use to two days a week. One scuttled idea involved towing, and melting down, an iceberg from Antarctica.

Officials also mulled the case for desalination. Mr. Gill's engineers had studied it before as part of a long-term planning process, and had concluded the method was viable. But they didn't think it would be needed until 2020 at the earliest.

At first analysis, the cost seemed "horrifying," Mr. Gill recalls. According to David Lloyd Owen, a water expert at United Kingdom-based consulting firm Envisager, even the cheapest desalinated water can cost eight times more than traditional groundwater sources, which can be tapped for as little as five cents per cubic meter.

Mr. Gill changed his mind after desalination experts in Germany and elsewhere acquainted him with the latest technological improvements. He also saw that other water sources were becoming more expensive to exploit -- making desalination look more attractive.

Most modern facilities use a process known as reverse osmosis. This involves pushing water under high pressure through porous membranes that filter out the salt. Energy is needed to raise the pressure and then force the water through the membranes.

In recent years, engineers have developed better membranes that capture salt more effectively than before, and they've improved "pre-treatment" methods to remove large particles from water before it goes through the process. Newer facilities also use "energy recovery devices" that allow them to recycle as much as 90% of the energy that's expended.

Working to Convert

By 2003, Mr. Gill was working to convert a dubious public. Homeowners fretted over potentially higher water bills, which stood to rise by as much as 12%. Environmentalists warned that saline discharge would turn a nearby bay into a giant salt lake.

Perth's newspapers blasted the project in editorials and cartoons. Critics insisted the idea didn't address Perth's long-term water problems, which they say require more efforts to promote conservation.

Desalination "is exactly like taking an aspirin for a tumor," says Jorg Imberger, director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia in Perth. He believes people are simply using too much water. While the Perth plant was under consideration, he says, he phoned the state premier directly to voice his complaints.

Mr. Gill, meanwhile, responded to naysayers by warning that Water Corp. might impose a total sprinkler ban if water supplies didn't improve.

To counter environmental opposition, his team considered planting thousands of trees to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

But the real breakthrough came with a plan to use renewable power from a $165 million wind farm. The project's developers, which include private investors and a government-owned power company, had wanted to build the facility for years, but needed a big customer.

Making sure the desalination plant didn't burn fossil fuels was necessary to "defuse one of the key arguments against" it, Mr. Gill says. The eco-friendly design "also suited our values."

Mr. Gill cultivated unusual allies, including members of Perth's gardening industry. He also circulated charts and diagrams to the public showing the huge drop in water supply -- an effort that won over Geoff Gallop, then the state premier. Government officials approved the plant in late 2004.

"I wanted to make sure we had water security," says Mr. Gallop, now a professor at the University of Sydney.

The plant was up and running by late 2006. Situated in a bland industrial park 45 minutes south of the city, it includes a first-stage facility that removes silt and other impurities from water that's piped in from the adjacent, azure-blue sea. The water is then moved into a giant building the length of a football field where it is pressurized and sent through membranes in high-tech vessels.

The resulting water is treated with chlorine to meet health standards and piped into a reservoir that feeds into the local water supply. Leftover salt is flushed back into the ocean, where it disperses.

The facility even includes a tap where visitors can take a quick slurp. "Tastes better with whiskey," says project manager John Stansfield. When the process is finished, the water has a salt-free taste.

The Facility's Value

Some Perth residents still question the facility's value. Advocates for the poor say that lower-income citizens, including many Aboriginals, can't afford to pay more for water.

"Why are we building desalination plants to help wealthy people have gardens?" asks Irina Cattalini, director of social policy at the Western Australian Council of Social Service, an advocacy group.

Other desalination foes worry that Perth's success may be inspiring other cities to follow suit, but with lesser regard for any environmental toll.

At the Garden Affair, a small garden center in one of Perth's wealthier neighborhoods, some patrons indicated they have no intention of cutting back their water use -- even if the additional supply comes at a higher price.

"In the long run, we have to have the water, don't we?" said Lorraine Cook, a 65-year-old retiree who was shopping there one recent afternoon.

"I'd rather have a garden that uses more water" than have to give up azaleas, roses and other such plants, said Joanna Gage, a 45-year-old compliance manager at a financial-services company.

Even some of the country's biggest critics of desalination have warmed up to the Perth facility -- including, to a degree, Mr. Imberger of the University of Western Australia. Desalination "gives you security," he acknowledges. And he's pleased about the use of renewable energy.

Mr. Gill and others agree that desalination isn't perfect. "The price of water will probably go up over time, but it's scarce -- I think people realize that," says Mr. Gallop, the former state premier. "We're in a new world now."

Write to Patrick Barta at
27122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 11, 2008, 11:37:00 AM
Tijuana Lives up to Its Reputation
The violent city of Tijuana, Baja California state, more than lived up to its reputation for mayhem this past week thanks to a series of incidents that left more than a dozen people dead. In a March 3 incident that sparked a six-hour gunbattle, military forces responding to an anonymous tip arrived at a suspected safe-house only to be met with gunfire as they sought entry. The soldiers established a security cordon around the area and waited for army special forces. The military forces led the raid on the building, and detained several gunmen who had sheltered inside. Later in the week, a police patrol came under fire when it sought to stop a convoy of suspicious vehicles. In another incident, police reported the discovery of five kidnapping victims, including one teenager.

While these kinds of violent incidents have become routine for the city, organized criminal activity in Tijuana has become increasingly fractured over the years. Historically, the city’s criminal networks have been involved with the Arellano Felix crime family. Also known as the Tijuana cartel, the Arellano Felix organization at one time was among the most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico. Following the arrest of several top members in the 1990s, however, the cartel lost much of its power. As a result, many of the smaller gangs that once worked for the cartel lost their source of income, and began expanding their operations to other activities to make money.

An Arellano Felix Brother Returns
The return of one of the cartel’s former leaders could change the equation. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was released from a U.S. prison this past week and deported to Mexico, where he became a free man for the first time since 1993. The oldest brother in the family, Francisco Rafael at one time was responsible for organizing cocaine purchases from Colombian suppliers. He was arrested in 1993 by police in Tijuana on weapons charges, and was behind bars in Mexico until 2006, when he was extradited to the United States and sentenced to six years for selling cocaine to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1980. Given credit for time served in Mexico, however, he was released after just two years.

Although Francisco Rafael has been out of the picture for 15 years, it seems likely that he will eventually go back to the family business. It is difficult to determine what impact this change will have on the cartel’s operations, however, especially since his return might not be welcomed by other criminal organizations in the city. One important area to watch is whether the cartel becomes involved in the cocaine business. It has been several years since the Tijuana cartel has been involved in large-scale independent cocaine trafficking, but it is possible that Francisco Rafael’s previous experience in coordinating cocaine purchases could be put to use again. While significant changes to Tijuana’s dynamic will not happen overnight, potential ramifications of the former leader’s return must be watched closely.

Targeting Small Gangs in Monterrey
Police in Nuevo Leon state launched an effort this past week to crack down on several small gangs in the Monterrey area that officials believe are connected to the Gulf cartel. In a series of raids, authorities detained more than 500 people as they swept through areas where these gangs are believed to be operating and selling drugs. But the raids did not produce the results that authorities were looking for. For example, 381 people — including many drug addicts — were detained in one raid, but only one pistol, small quantities of drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized. While it would not be surprising to learn gangs in the Monterrey area are connected with the Gulf cartel, there is no evidence these particular organizations did more than sell drugs on the street.

These raids represent one of the challenges authorities in Mexico face as they battle the country’s drug problem. While drug-dealing gangs like those targeted in Monterrey represent a public safety issue that must be addressed, focusing on them requires diverting people and resources from the mission of hunting down the members of the large cartels that are the heart of the problem.

March 3
One person died and several were wounded during a six-hour firefight between security forces and suspected drug gang members in Tijuana, Baja California.

Five bodies were discovered in a makeshift grave used by a drug-trafficking group in Chihuahua state.
The bodies of two men were found in two separate incidents in Mexico state. One victim had been shot in the head at close range while the other had been shot several times.
Ten assailants killed a candidate for local office in a small town in Guerrero state.
March 4
A raid on an alleged Gulf cartel safe-house in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, resulted in the seizure of seven firearms, 23 fragmentation grenades, nine armored vehicles and body armor.
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, discovered the bodies of five people who had been abducted the day before. At least one of the victims was a minor.
The body of an unidentified man shot in the head at close range was found along a highway in Hidalgo state.
March 5
The bodies of three kidnapping victims were found in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The victims, one of whom was a minor, were abducted from their homes March 3.

A man in Tijuana, Baja California state, died after being shot twice in the head while walking.
A Durango state police officer died outside his home when he was shot at least 70 times by gunmen traveling in two vehicles.
A police commander in Nuevo Leon escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt by three men who pursued him as he left work.
A firefight in Torreon, Coahuila state, between military forces and suspected gang members left one gang member dead and another wounded.
Gunmen fired on a group of police officers assigned to a congressman’s protective detail in Oaxaca state. Three officers were wounded; the congressman was not in the city at the time of the attack.
Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, exchanged gunfire with armed assailants traveling in three vehicles.
March 6
The bodies of three unidentified victims were found outside the office of the attorney general in Oaxaca state.
March 7
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, announced the arrest of three men in possession of nearly 100 firearms, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, 23 grenades, and half a ton of marijuana.
Authorities in the port city of Manzanillo, Colima state, seized more than $11 million in $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills in a shipping container aboard a freight ship. The seizure took place after a routine inspection of the ship — which was headed to Panama — revealed irregularities in the container’s paperwork.
A police commander in Oaxaca state was shot dead while sitting in a park cleaning his shoes.
March 8
One soldier and six gunmen were reported dead after a firefight in Chihuahua state.
Two police officers in Jalisco state died when assailants fired on them with automatic weapons.
March 9
A taxi driver in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, was shot dead by a group of gunmen traveling in a vehicle.
27123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NSA Domestic Spying Grows on: March 11, 2008, 10:38:18 AM
NSA's Domestic Spying Grows
As Agency Sweeps Up Data
Terror Fight Blurs
Line Over Domain;
Tracking Email
March 10, 2008; Page A1

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency's mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

It isn't clear how many of the different kinds of data are combined and analyzed together in one database by the NSA. An intelligence official said the agency's work links to about a dozen antiterror programs in all.

A number of NSA employees have expressed concerns that the agency may be overstepping its authority by veering into domestic surveillance. And the constitutional question of whether the government can examine such a large array of information without violating an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy "has never really been resolved," said Suzanne Spaulding, a national-security lawyer who has worked for both parties on Capitol Hill.

NSA officials say the agency's own investigations remain focused only on foreign threats, but it's increasingly difficult to distinguish between domestic and international communications in a digital era, so they need to sweep up more information.

The Fourth Amendment

In response to the Sept. 11 attacks, then NSA-chief Gen. Michael Hayden has said he used his authority to expand the NSA's capabilities under a 1981 executive order governing the agency. Another presidential order issued shortly after the attacks, the text of which is classified, opened the door for the NSA to incorporate more domestic data in its searches, one senior intelligence official said.

The NSA "strictly follows laws and regulations designed to preserve every American's privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," agency spokeswoman Judith Emmel said in a statement, referring to the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA in conjunction with the Pentagon, added in a statement that intelligence agencies operate "within an extensive legal and policy framework" and inform Congress of their activities "as required by the law." It pointed out that the 9/11 Commission recommended in 2004 that intelligence agencies analyze "all relevant sources of information" and share their databases.

Two former officials familiar with the data-sifting efforts said they work by starting with some sort of lead, like a phone number or Internet address. In partnership with the FBI, the systems then can track all domestic and foreign transactions of people associated with that item -- and then the people who associated with them, and so on, casting a gradually wider net. An intelligence official described more of a rapid-response effect: If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city -- for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans -- the government's spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

The haul can include records of phone calls, email headers and destinations, data on financial transactions and records of Internet browsing. The system also would collect information about other people, including those in the U.S., who communicated with people in Detroit.

The information doesn't generally include the contents of conversations or emails. But it can give such transactional information as a cellphone's location, whom a person is calling, and what Web sites he or she is visiting. For an email, the data haul can include the identities of the sender and recipient and the subject line, but not the content of the message.

Intelligence agencies have used administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI -- which don't need a judge's signature -- to collect and analyze such data, current and former intelligence officials said. If that data provided "reasonable suspicion" that a person, whether foreign or from the U.S., was linked to al Qaeda, intelligence officers could eavesdrop under the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The White House wants to give companies that assist government surveillance immunity from lawsuits alleging an invasion of privacy, but Democrats in Congress have been blocking it. The Terrorist Surveillance Program has spurred 38 lawsuits against companies. Current and former intelligence officials say telecom companies' concern comes chiefly because they are giving the government unlimited access to a copy of the flow of communications, through a network of switches at U.S. telecommunications hubs that duplicate all the data running through it. It isn't clear whether the government or telecom companies control the switches, but companies process some of the data for the NSA, the current and former officials say.
27124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NY Times: By products of Bio-fuel on: March 11, 2008, 08:58:11 AM
Published: March 11, 2008
MOUNDVILLE, Ala. — After residents of the Riverbend Farms subdivision noticed that an oily, fetid substance had begun fouling the Black Warrior River, which runs through their backyards, Mark Storey, a retired petroleum plant worker, hopped into his boat to follow it upstream to its source.

Skip to next paragraph
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Dana Mixer for The New York Times
Nelson Brooke, the executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, walked along an area of the river near Moundville, Ala.

Enlarge This Image
Nelson Brooke
Oil and grease from a biodiesel plant had been released.
It turned out to be an old chemical factory that had been converted into Alabama’s first biodiesel plant, a refinery that intended to turn soybean oil into earth-friendly fuel.

“I’m all for the plant,” Mr. Storey said. “But I was really amazed that a plant like that would produce anything that could get into the river without taking the necessary precautions.”

But the oily sheen on the water returned again and again, and a laboratory analysis of a sample taken in March 2007 revealed that the ribbon of oil and grease being released by the plant — it resembled Italian salad dressing — was 450 times higher than permit levels typically allow, and that it had drifted at least two miles downstream.

The spills, at the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant outside this city about 17 miles from Tuscaloosa, are similar to others that have come from biofuel plants in the Midwest. The discharges, which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” said Barbara Lynch, who supervises environmental compliance inspectors for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “This is big business. There’s a lot of money involved.”

Iowa leads the nation in biofuel production, with 42 ethanol and biodiesel refineries in production and 18 more plants under construction, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. In the summer of 2006, a Cargill biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls improperly disposed of 135,000 gallons of liquid oil and grease, which ran into a stream killing hundreds of fish.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group, biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable and suitable for sensitive environments, but scientists say that position understates its potential environmental impact.

“They’re really considered nontoxic, as you would expect,” said Bruce P. Hollebone, a researcher with Environment Canada in Ottawa and one of the world’s leading experts on the environmental impact of vegetable oil and glycerin spills.

“You can eat the stuff, after all,” Mr. Hollebone said. “But as with most organic materials, oil and glycerin deplete the oxygen content of water very quickly, and that will suffocate fish and other organisms. And for birds, a vegetable oil spill is just as deadly as a crude oil spill.”

Other states have also felt the impact.

Leanne Tippett Mosby, a deputy division director of environmental quality for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said she was warned a year ago by colleagues in other states that biodiesel producers were dumping glycerin, the main byproduct of biodiesel production, contaminated with methanol, another waste product that is classified as hazardous.

Glycerin, an alcohol that is normally nontoxic, can be sold for secondary uses, but it must be cleaned first, a process that is expensive and complicated. Expanded production of biodiesel has flooded the market with excess glycerin, making it less cost-effective to clean and sell.

Ms. Tippett Mosby did not have to wait long to see the problem. In October, an anonymous caller reported that a tanker truck was dumping milky white goop into Belle Fountain Ditch, one of the many man-made channels that drain Missouri’s Bootheel region. That substance turned out to be glycerin from a biodiesel plant.

In January, a grand jury indicted a Missouri businessman in the discharge, which killed at least 25,000 fish and wiped out the population of fat pocketbook mussels, an endangered species.

Back in Alabama, Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Black Warrior River and its tributaries, received a report in September 2006 of a fish kill that stretched 20 miles downstream from Moundville. Even though Mr. Brooke said he found oil in the water around the dead fish, the state Department of Environmental Management determined that natural, seasonal changes in oxygen levels in the water could have been the culprit. The agency did not charge Alabama Biodiesel.

In August, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, in a complaint filed in Federal District Court, documented at least 24 occasions when oil was spotted in the water near the plant.

Page 2 of 2)

Richard Campo, vice president of Alabama Biodiesel, did not respond to requests for an interview, but Clay A. Tindal, a Tuscaloosa lawyer representing the refinery, called the suit’s claims “sheer speculation, conjecture, and unsupported bald allegations.” Mr. Tindal said that “for various reasons,” the plant was not now producing fuel.

The company has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it has entered into a settlement agreement with state officials that requires it to pay a $12,370 fine and to obtain proper discharge permits.

Don Scott, an engineer for the National Biodiesel Board, acknowledges that some producers have had problems complying with environmental rules but says those violations have been infrequent in an industry that nearly doubled in size in one year, to 160 plants in the United States at the end of 2007 from 90 plants at the end of 2006.

Mr. Scott said that the board had been working with state and environmental agencies to educate member companies and that the troubles were “growing pains.”

Ms. Lynch said some of the violations were the result of an industry that was inexperienced in the manufacturing process and its wastes. But in other instances, she said, companies are skirting the permit process to get their plants up and running faster.

“Our fines are only so high,” Ms. Lynch said. “It’s build first, permit second.”

In October 2005, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management informed Alabama Biodiesel that it would need an individual pollution discharge permit to operate, but the company never applied for one. The company operated for more than a year without a permit and without facing any penalties from state regulators, though inspectors documented unpermitted discharges on two occasions.

For some, the troubles of the industry seem to outweigh its benefits.

“They’re environmental Jimmy Swaggarts, in my opinion,” said Representative Brian P. Bilbray, Republican of California, who spoke out against the $18 billion energy package recently passed by Congress that provides tax credits for biofuels. “What is being sold as green fuel just doesn’t pencil out.”
27125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Hutchison on: March 11, 2008, 08:52:31 AM
Pakistan's Progress
March 11, 2008; Page A20

A democratic transition of power is taking shape in Pakistan. Last month, the country held parliamentary elections that were a resounding defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. This week the country's two main political parties worked out a power-sharing agreement. A new prime minister could be named within days.

This is encouraging, but it fuels a debate in Washington over whether the United States should prop up Mr. Musharraf. My view is that we have a better chance of finding a strong ally in the war on terror in Pakistan if a legitimate democratic government takes root.

And make no mistake, we need a strong ally against al Qaeda in Pakistan. The country is fighting terrorism at every level of its society, but its ability to carry on this fight is weakened by the fragility of its constitutional order and the impotence of its governing institutions. Terrorists thrive when a nation can't control its own territory, and when the government is seen as illegitimate by its people -- two conditions that have existed in Pakistan for years as it has exported both terrorism and black-market nuclear technology.

Unfortunately, all of Pakistan's leaders are flawed. Mr. Musharraf took power in 1999 in a military coup. Ali Zardari, head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), spent time in prison on corruption charges, which he claimed were politically motivated (some have recently been dismissed). Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who is head of the Muslim League, has a tendency toward anti-Americanism.

However, there are redeeming qualities in all of these men. Mr. Musharraf loosened his grip on power, took off his military uniform, and allowed fair parliamentary elections. He also conceded defeat on election day. He has been a partner in the war on terror. He believes that, above all else, Islamist extremists must be defeated. He is willing to defer to the new parliamentary majority and possibly to step down or slip into a ceremonial and advisory role.

Mr. Zardari succeeded his wife, Benazir Bhutto, as head of the Pakistan People's Party after she was killed in a terrorist attack in December. He has publicly pledged to fight the war on terror and echoes his late wife's calls for a strong democracy, a parliament that represents the people, and improved education and economic conditions.

Mr. Sharif often seems hostile to America. In the 1990s, he supported Shariah law and tended to interfere with the judiciary. When asked who might replace Mr. Musharraf as president, Mr. Sharif once responded with the name of A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and the chief proliferator of nuclear technology. But even Mr. Sharif now champions the rule of law and an independent judiciary, and defends Pakistan's constitution.

Regardless of who becomes the next prime minister, the issue of how he comes to power is now vitally important. Mr. Musharraf must be allowed enough room to peacefully transition to a strong democracy, and to figure out how to exit the stage with the grace of a leader who recognizes the will of the people.

There is talk of hastening him out the door with impeachment proceedings. The U.S. should caution Pakistani leaders to consider the consequences carefully. Impeachment could destabilize Pakistan and postpone work that must be done to establish an independent judiciary, crack down on terrorists, and jump-start development.

The new coalition has suggested that it might de-emphasize military operations against terrorists along the western frontier provinces where al Qaeda made its stronghold after the fall of Afghanistan. The leaders have suggested dialogue, economic development, and political enfranchisement as the key tools for pacifying Pakistan's frontier. These comments concern many of us who take this as a sign that Pakistani efforts against the terrorists might further flag. But the emphasis on providing services to the population -- from security to running water -- in order to win their participation in the political life of the state is fundamental to starving extremists of popular support. The Islamist parties' dismal showing in the recent election suggests that this strategy may already be working.

As long as Pakistan's leaders support democracy and practice it, we will be their enthusiastic partner. Our security depends on helping them improve internal security and the rule of law, which are prerequisites of popular legitimacy for any government and essential for foreign investment. As support for a secular and democratic government grows, our ongoing efforts to help turn the Pakistani army into an effective counter-terrorism force will start paying enormous dividends. If that happens, Pakistan will emerge as a more effective and reliable partner in the war against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Ms. Hutchison, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.
27126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Spitzer Affair on: March 11, 2008, 08:44:06 AM
I hope Spitzer goes down hard, not because I believe in the criminalization of the behavior in question, but because , , , well, read this from the WSJ:


Spitzer's Rise and Fall
March 11, 2008; Page A20
One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer's fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined.

Mr. Spitzer's brief statement yesterday about a "private matter" surely involves what are widely reported to be his activities with an expensive prostitution ring discovered by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Those who believe Eliot Spitzer is getting his just deserts may be entitled to that view, but it misses the greater lesson for our politics.

Eliot Spitzer
Mr. Spitzer coasted into the Governorship on the wings of a reputation as a "tough" public prosecutor. Mr. Spitzer, though, was no emperor. He had not merely arrogated to himself the powers he held and used with such aggression. He was elected.

In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of "illegal" behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.


Read a selection of Journal editorials and op-eds about New York's Governor, including coverage of Mr. Spitzer's tenure as the state's chief law enforcement officerIn perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer's lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. "I will be coming after you," Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead's account. "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done."

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone -- embroiled in Mr. Spitzer's investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso -- that the AG would "put a spike through Langone's heart." New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that "the attorney general acted like a thug."

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats -- some rhetorical, some acted upon -- by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

Eliot Spitzer's self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff's enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state's Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. On any level, it was nuts. Somehow, Team Spitzer thought they could get by with it. In the wake of that abusive fiasco, his public approval rating plunged.

Mr. Spitzer's dramatic fall yesterday began in the early afternoon with a posting on the Web site of the New York Times about the alleged link to prostitutes. The details in the criminal complaint about "Client-9," who is reported to be Mr. Spitzer, will now be played for titters by the press corps. But one may ask: Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official.

There really is nothing very satisfying about the rough justice being meted out to Eliot Spitzer. He came to embody a system that revels in the entertainment value of roguish figures who rise to power by destroying the careers of others, many of them innocent. Better still, when the targets are as presumably unsympathetic as Wall Street bankers and brokers.

Acts of crime deserve prosecution by the state. The people, in turn, deserve prosecutors and officials who understand the difference between the needs of the public good and the needs of unrestrained personalities who are given the honor of high office.

27127  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: March 11, 2008, 08:42:06 AM
Travis is very good.  I did Sayoc training with him.  He also offers CSW MMA trainiing.
27128  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicle issues on: March 11, 2008, 08:39:50 AM

Terrible.  Folks, lets turn this into a case study.  What did the assaulted family do well, and what could be improved?

1) The man getting punched through the window:  What are the options here?  Rolling up the window may put the teen in prime striking range.  Drive the car backwards out of the parking spot?  If the car was turned off, could you start your car and get it in gear?  How useful is it to point the left elbow in an effort to spike/defang the attacking fist?  What options are there for preparing one's driver area with weapons for just such a scenario?  What are the legal issues of doing so?

2) What about the woman/wife&mother? getting out of the car?  Yes the general rule is stay in the car, but it appears her man was in trouble-- can this action be faulted?

3) One sees the terrible process of escalation.  The teen's mother, having beat up the wife/mother, then sics her husband on the wife mother with brutal consequences and the haole husband, having gotten out the car to defend his woman gets dropped very hard.  How to fight a Samoan when unarmed?  What are the legal issues in Hawaii/our respective states in bringing weapons into play?  Would a folder be enough?  If that is the option at hand and one believes deadly force to be appropriate, what is the best way to go about it?

27129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams: Laws of Nature and the Creator on: March 11, 2008, 08:19:42 AM

"In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound
by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of
the Creator."

-- Samuel Adams (letter to the Legislature of Massachusetts,
17 January 1794)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (224); original The Writings
of Samuel Adams, Cushing, ed., vol. 4 (356)
27130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gulf States and the Shiite Conundrum on: March 11, 2008, 08:12:26 AM

Geopolitical Diary: The Gulf States and the Shiite Conundrum
March 10, 2008
Kuwait has experienced an unusual series of Shiite protests. The protests in the usually controlled society were sparked by the arrests of Shiite mourners and government members who organized a rally after the killing of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. The Kuwaiti Shia — who comprise roughly 30 percent of the emirate’s population — rarely organize, let alone rally or protest. The recent unrest has served to remind the government of previous Shiite incidents, such as when militants hijacked two airliners in the 1980s.

The incidents have put the Kuwaiti government in a difficult position. It can’t ignore pro-Hezbollah sentiments among some of its Shiite citizens. But it cannot adopt a tough stance against them either without risking inflaming Shia throughout Persian Gulf Arab states. The Kuwaiti Shia themselves probably will not let things spin out of control, but even so, unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, where 20 percent and 70 percent of the population, respectively, is Shia.

Thus far, Shia in all three Gulf Arab states have not been openly pro-Iranian or Pan-Shia. But simmering Shiite unrest could boil over, given tensions arising over Iraq and Lebanon combined with perceptions of unfairness at home. The Sunni Arab states fervently don’t want this to come to pass, and so far they don’t have a serious problem on their hands. But their fears could prompt action that might produce the very outcome they are trying to avoid.

The present concerns of the Gulf states — which for the most part are all U.S. allies — are dredging up fears from decades past of a potential Shiite fifth column with an Iranian sponsor. Tehran already is causing regional tensions with its support of the Shia in Iraq and of Hezbollah in Lebanon. These tensions could become a conflagration if the Shiite populations in the Sunni states of the Gulf catch fire.

For its part, Iran is delighted at the timing of the pro-Hezbollah sympathies in the Gulf states. Tehran is coming off of an embarrassing week after Washington snubbed the Iranians when they turned up in Iraq for another set of negotiations. The Iranians have since been using excuses such as “scheduling issues” as reasons the Americans didn’t show up. In reality, the United States doesn’t feel it needs to be at the table with Iran at the moment. Instead, Washington is waiting things out with the Iranians, preferring for the moment to make Tehran sweat over a potential showdown between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This means the Iranians need a lever in their negotiations with the United States. Selecting the Gulf Shia is a great option that scares many of Iran’s opponents in the game, from Sunni Arab states to the United States. But Iran may not proceed too far down this path, since if it does not score a knockout punch with its Sunni Arab neighbors, it will have created new implacable foes for itself. And Iran doesn’t need any more of those just now.

27131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Press ignore terrorist stopped by armed student on: March 11, 2008, 08:09:37 AM
Press 'ignore' terrorist stopped by armed student
'Yitzak Dadon's apparently well-placed bullets interrupted a rampage'

Posted: March 07, 2008
9:33 pm Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A gun rights organization in the United States is accusing
the media of trying to conceal the fact that a gunman who
attacked students at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav seminary
was stopped by an armed student at the school.
Authorities report that Ytizhak Dadon, 40, was a "private
citizen who had a gun license and was able to shoot the
gunman with his pistol," according to a statement released
today by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
In its earlier reporting on the tragedy, WND confirmed, "One
terrorist reportedly was shot to death by a student who was
However, the gun rights organization said "the American press
is downplaying his heroism because it proves that armed
students can stop campus gunmen."
"Yitzhak Dadon is a hero," said Alan Gottlieb, the chairman of
CCRKBA, "and he is living proof that armed students have a
place on college campuses. Thankfully, his quick action was
reported by the international press … so unlike incidents here in
the United States where the press was able to completely ignore
the actions of armed students or teachers, the truth about this
incident will not be suppressed."
He continued, "Mr. Dadon is not going to become a victim of this
conspiracy of silence. Elitist American college administrators, the
national press, nor anti-gun politicians can sweep this incident
under their rug."
The gun rights group said international reports credit Dadon, who
studies at the school, had his pistol available when the shooting
erupted. "When the gunman emerged from a library, Dadon reportedly
shot him twice in the head. The gunman was subsequently shot by
the off-duty soldier," the group said.
"Yitzhak Dadon's apparently well-placed bullets interrupted a rampage,"
Gottlieb said. "What a pity that someone like Mr. Dadon was not in
class last April at Virginia Tech. What a tragedy that anti-gun extremism
would keep him from attending class at Northern Illinois University. He
would never be allowed to teach at Columbine High School, hold a job
at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, or go shopping at Omaha's Westroads Mall.
"America's acquiescence to anti-gun hysteria has led to one tragedy
after another," Gottlieb stated. "This disastrous policy has given us nothing
but broken hearts and body counts, and it's got to end. The heroism of an
armed Israeli seminary student halfway across the world sends a message
that we needn't submit to murder in victim disarmament zones. That's why
his actions are getting such short shrift from America's press. It's a story they
are loathe to report because it affirms a philosophy of self-reliance that they despise."
The organization boasts more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide,
and is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected
officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local
communities throughout the United States.
WND had reported just days earlier on plans in Arizona, where lawmakers are
considering a way to stem the wave of unarmed students killed in campus
slayings by allowing adults to carry firearms onto the grounds of state universities.
"The police got to both the Virginia Tech murder scene and the New Life Church
[in Colorado] in about six minutes," noted Larry Pratt, the chief of Gun Owners of America.
"At Virginia Tech, 30 people died. At New Life, two died in the parking lot and once
the bad guy got inside the building he was engaged by (armed) security team
volunteers and nobody else died. In fact, he was finished in about 30 seconds."
Pratt noted the circumstances of the two attacks. After killing two people at a Christian
training center in Arvada, Colo., last December, 24-year-old Matthew Murray went to
Colorado Springs intending more murder and mayhem.
Murray shot and killed two girls in the New Life Church's parking lot, then headed inside
the building where thousands of worshippers were concluding a service.
A volunteer security guard, Jeanne Assam, confronted him almost immediately and
fired at him. He fell, and an autopsy later said he had shot himself.
But at Virginia Tech, Cho Seung-Hui, 23, armed himself and went to a classroom
building on a campus where guns were banned. He fatally shot a total of 32.
The latest attack on unarmed teachers and students happened on Valentine's Day,
when Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, walked into a Northern Illinois University auditorium
and shot and killed five people, and wounded 16 others.
The gunman then shot himself.
In Jerusalem, reports said one or possibly two gunmen infiltrated the Mercaz Harav
Yeshiva, located near the entrance to Jerusalem, and fired hundreds of rounds of bullets
at students. One terrorist, who may have been armed with an explosive device, made
his way to the yeshiva's main study room, where about 80 students were reportedly gathered.
Israeli police said eight were killed and nearly a dozen were wounded, some seriously.
27132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 10, 2008, 10:14:21 PM

A minister, a priest and a rabbi went for a hike one day. It was very hot. They were sweating and exhausted when they came upon a small lake. Since it was fairly secluded, they took off all their clothes and jumped in the water. Feeling refreshed, the trio decided to pick a few berries while enjoying their "freedom." As they were crossing an open area, who should come along but a group of ladies from town.

Unable to get to their clothes in time, the minister and the priest covered their privates and the rabbi covered his face while they ran for cover.

After the ladies had left and the men got their clothes back on, the minister and the priest asked the rabbi why he covered his face rather than his privates.

The rabbi replied, "I don't know about you, but in MY congregation, it's my face they would recognize."
27133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 10, 2008, 10:09:07 PM
BO may win the Dem nomination with stuff like this, but I think/hope? he loses the general election with it.  If the American people decide that this in C in Chief material truly we are done for.
27134  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: March 10, 2008, 10:05:04 PM
Michael Ritz and Greg Moody - Apprentice Instructor
Practical Defense Systems
Chula Vista, CA

James Stacy: Personal Trainer
1250 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Suite H
Vista, CA 92084
phone#  760-758-8500
27135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al-Sadr dying? on: March 10, 2008, 01:55:22 PM
Iraq: The Long-Term al-Sadrite Threat
Stratfor Today » March 10, 2008 | 1848 GMT

Iraqi Shia carry a poster of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during a rallySummary
Rumors surfaced over the weekend of March 8-9 that radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is comatose in an Iranian hospital. While the sources for this information are dubious and the rumors have not been verified, the announcement comes as al-Sadr’s movement is under pressure to demonstrate its cohesion. If al-Sadr were to die, the repercussions for his movement — and for the United States — would be tremendous.

Rumors surfaced over the weekend of March 8-9 that radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is in a coma in an Iranian hospital after consuming poisoned food. The sources for this information are dubious and Stratfor has not yet found any evidence to support these claims. Meanwhile, there have been a number of mainstream media reports citing top al-Sadr aides as saying that the maverick Shite leader is still very much in charge of his movement despite a sabbatical in Iran, where he is trying to shore up his religious credentials, and an acknowledgement that many of his erstwhile followers had gone rogue.

Clearly, al-Sadr’s movement is under immense pressure to demonstrate that it is very much a cohesive force despite the massive internal problems in the past couple of years. Al-Sadr has seen many commanders and fighters from within his militia, the Mehdi Army, go rogue and many political figures from within his al-Sadrite bloc also break orbit in the wake of U.S. and Iranian attempts to control the movement. Indeed, since the rise of the al-Sadrite movement after the regime change in Baghdad in 2003, both Washington and Tehran have also encouraged factionalization within the movement, in keeping with their respective objectives.

At the same time, the group needs to compete with rival Shiite groups — especially Iran’s principal proxy, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawah party; and al-Fadhila, an al-Sadrite offshoot. Its opponents have always tried to marginalize the al-Sadrite movement, calling it politically and religiously amateurish. Considering how rival Iraqi Shiite groups accuse one another of being Iranian agents, al-Sadr’s spending a disproportionate amount of time in Iran is hurting the credibility of his group, which has actually tried to promote itself as an Iraqi/Arab nationalist movement to differentiate itself from most of its rivals, who spent a great deal of time in Iran after Iraq’s Baathist regime fell.

More recently, the United States showered praise on al-Sadr and his group in exchange for his commitment to ending violence. While this gives the group much-needed recognition, it also hurts the al-Sadrites’ credibility. The move to transform his group from a rejectionist group to a mainstream political movement in order to better compete with the ISCI and its Badr Brigades has further weakened al-Sadr. Therefore, al-Sadr’s movement and the Iraqi Shiite community are the intended audience for the recent statements attributed to al-Sadr and those from his key associates that counter perceptions that al-Sadr has surrendered his movement to a U.S.-Iranian arrangement.

Regardless of the al-Sadrites’ current condition, the far more important matter is that of the future of the movement in case of al-Sadr’s death. About a year ago Stratfor discussed how the al-Sadrite movement is in the process of imploding in spite of al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership. However, should al-Sadr die of either natural or malicious causes, the geopolitical and security implications — for Iraq, the United States and Iran — would be massive.

The al-Sadrite group is a family/clan-based movement, and al-Sadr is the only surviving male member of the clan of any worth. His exit from the scene could aggravate the ongoing internal schism within the group and lead to its disintegration. Rival factions would try to take advantage of the vacuum, which would lead to infighting and then to a major shake-up of the Iraqi Shiite political landscape.

Of course, it would be a very important opportunity for al-Hakim’s ISCI to seize upon in order to realize its objective of establishing a virtual monopoly over the Iraqi Shia. But the fragmentation of the al-Sadrite movement would also create security problems and lead to intra-Shia and even Shia-Sunni violence. The Iranians — like their proxy in Iraq — could exploit a fragmented al-Sadrite movement and use it against the United States, but they would have their hands full in trying to maintain control.

For the United States, the repercussions would be the most severe, considering how long and hard Washington has been trying to stabilize Iraq. An al-Sadrite movement without an al-Sadr at the helm could reverse the gains Washington has made during the past year, which has seen significant drops in violence. Given its size, its capability to engage in violence and the fragile nature of its leadership, the al-Sadrite movement is a ticking bomb.

27136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / microbes= methane? on: March 10, 2008, 01:50:34 PM
Fuel Technology: Geopolitically Significant Microbes?
Stratfor Today » March 10, 2008 | 1109 GMT

Michael Nagle/Getty Images
Genomics pioneer Craig Venter at the American Museum of Natural History on March 12, 2006Summary
A new alternative fuel technology backed by oil supermajor BP would use microscopic organisms to produce methane from carbon dioxide. If the technology proves successful, it could have consequences for countries like Russia, which have large natural gas deposits and thus are massively influential in the current global energy market.

A new alternative fuel technology, backed by oil supermajor BP, could begin to make a dent in the world’s dependence on traditionally sourced natural gas. Most importantly, it could affect the geopolitical dominance of countries like Russia, which have large deposits of natural gas and therefore a major foothold in the current global energy market. The technology is not a sure bet; more work needs to be done to make it commercially viable. Still, it is instructive to look at the geopolitical effects such a technology could have.

The new alternative fuel technology would produce methane (also known as natural gas) from carbon dioxide (CO2) using microscopic organisms, or microbes, that eat CO2 and produce methane as waste. The technology is based on advancements in both genomics and microbiology and is being propelled by U.S. geneticist Craig Venter, most noted for his work on sequencing the human genome. Venter claims that in 18 months his research company, Synthetic Genomics, will be able to produce this nontraditional source of natural gas, but only time will tell how cost-effective this new technology will be in comparison to traditionally sourced natural gas.

The implications of this technological advancement are vast. For one thing, it would provide a new alternative to drilling for natural gas deposits in the ground. Natural gas pockets are finite in number and costly to find — not to mention the cost of extracting and transporting the natural gas to consumers. With the new technology, microbes would be able to produce methane from CO2 in specific quantities wherever it was needed.

From an environmental and policy standpoint, this means that a cleaner-burning fuel could be made by harnessing a greenhouse gas. Furthermore, the explosive hazards associated with pipelines or the shipping of natural gas in liquefied form — which are large inhibitors of natural gas expansion in places like the United States — could largely be abated.

From a geopolitical standpoint, the technology could begin to change the global geopolitical energy balance. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter. As recent events in Ukraine and Europe have shown, Russia takes this power seriously and often uses it as a political lever to ensure Moscow gets what it wants. Europe is already beginning to diversify its natural gas imports — including building new pipelines to places such as Libya and building new import terminals so Europe can accept more liquefied natural gas. Imagine if European countries began to produce their own natural gas and slowly end their tumultuous reliance on Russian energy sources. The new technology could also begin to affect other natural gas exporting states such as Qatar, Algeria, and Indonesia, thus beginning to change the balance of power in those regions.

This energy advancement is not the rogue project of a single mad scientist. BP backs Venter’s firm, and Venter is not the only geneticist using genetic manipulation with the aim of creating organisms that will produce fuel. Nonetheless, there are many steps between here and there, leaving plenty of room for other researchers and corporate backers to compete. These steps include:

Capturing CO2 in a large enough quantity to produce usable amounts of methane;
Producing the microbes;
Scaling the technology; and
Identifying the infrastructure needed to distribute the methane.
The latter step is the most interesting to analyze. Any new technology faces a barrier to entry and a series of trade-offs regarding the benefits of adopting the technology versus the adaptations required for its use. Therefore, applications of new technologies that do not require much change to existing infrastructure are often the fastest to get to market.

In the Western world, the quickest application of the microbial fuel technology could be at the power plant. Microbial fuel could be used as a supplement to traditionally sourced natural gas used at natural gas power plants, or it could run alongside a coal-fired power plant if carbon capture technology gets off the ground, producing methane as a byproduct. Under this scenario, microbial fuel could feed back into a natural gas power plant or transit down the same natural gas distribution lines already in place to reach businesses and homes.

In developing countries, where existing energy infrastructure is minimal, microbial fuel technology could begin to feed a new decentralized electric power system — one that relies on distributed power generators (small generators providing electricity for only a small number of consumers).

Outside of power generation, microbial fuel could be used in vehicles, but this scenario first has a large infrastructure hurdle to surmount. Typically, natural gas vehicles are primarily used as fleet vehicles — buses, heavy-duty trucks and government vehicles — because fleet owners can install their own natural gas fueling stations. However, some automobile manufacturers are beginning to offer natural gas-fueled personal cars that often have the ability to switch from gasoline to natural gas depending on fuel availability. This likely would be the first use of microbial natural gas directly in vehicles, as it would require less change to vehicle fueling infrastructure in the short to medium term. Another avenue for vehicle fuels is gas-to-liquid technology: Through a chemical reaction, microbial gas could be turned into a liquid, which could then be refined into a product similar to gasoline. This avenue would not require much change in fueling infrastructure or in automobile design. If microbial fuel goes down the personal car fuel track, it could not only change the natural gas landscape but also begin to make a dent in global oil demand, because transportation is a large percentage of that demand.

This new technology still has a long way to go until it can actually begin to affect demand at natural gas behemoths such as Russia’s Gazprom; in fact, it might not even be possible. However, the idea that a country can begin making its own natural gas without being naturally endowed with geologic natural gas deposits begins to shift geopolitics in a way that does not happen very often. For instance, Japan is a top natural gas importer, and as such is always concerned about future energy security and global price fluctuations. And Turkmenistan’s economy, for example, is heavily dependent on its natural gas export revenue. In this respect, technological advancements — especially those linked to energy — become an important factor in monitoring the world’s geopolitical balance.

27137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 10, 2008, 01:43:59 PM
The stunning loss of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's Illinois seat in a special election has Republicans wondering what went wrong. Certainly, national trends and the prickly nature of defeated GOP nominee Jim Oberweis played a role.

But Illinois Republicans, who have not won a major statewide race in a decade, should look in the mirror. Support for Republican candidates in the "collar" counties around Chicago has been declining for a generation. Not helping has been a rash of Republicans caught up in the corruption that seems to be endemic to Illinois politics. Certainly, Democrats bear the bulk of the blame for the state's "corruption tax" (estimated by some at $1 billion in padded contracts and ghost employees). But Republicans lost a great deal of credibility when George Ryan, the last GOP governor, went to prison for accepting bribes. Several GOP figures are also participants in the Rezko scandal, in which Barack Obama's top fundraiser is currently standing trial over a political shakedown scheme. No wonder, as one conservative activist put it, "the hapless and hopeless GOP cannot get traction."

Republicans haven't given up on taking the Hastert seat back this fall, given the district's conservative leaning (President Bush won 55% of its votes in 2004). But the campaign of Mr. Oberweis, who will again carry the GOP banner in November against now-incumbent Democrat Bill Foster, will have to be retooled. Mr. Oberweis needlessly created enemies with the slashing campaign he waged to win the GOP nomination for the special election, earning a condemnation from the Chicago Tribune for a campaign style the paper called "consistently nasty, smug, condescending and dishonest."

Look for Mr. Oberweis to get a makeover as former Speaker Hastert urges him to become more soft-spoken with voters and less confrontational with his fellow Republicans. Even so, Republicans will have an uphill fight taking back the seat this fall, especially if Illinois native Barack Obama is heading the Democratic presidential ticket.


-- John Fund
Reverend Al Enters the Fray

When a leading Democrat starts talking about filing lawsuits over a disputed election in Florida, other Democrats have a right to get nervous. They have too many bad memories of the nightmare of Florida's 2000 Bush v. Gore election fiasco.

That's exactly the feeling that the Reverend Al Sharpton caused this weekend when he began threatening to sue the Democratic National Committee if it counts Florida's rogue primary results for purposes of allocating delegates in the presidential race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The New York Sun reports that Mr. Sharpton is heading to Florida to collect lists of people willing to claim they didn't vote in that state's January primary because they believed the DNC when it said (because of the Florida primary's illicit scheduling) their votes wouldn't count. Mr. Sharpton says millions of Florida voters will have been disenfranchised if delegates selected in an illicit primary (the majority of whom back Hillary Clinton) now are seated at the national convention.

Mr. Sharpton is widely seen as a stalking horse for Barack Obama, who doesn't want the disputed delegates from either Florida or Michigan seated. Mr. Sharpton told Fox News that if Mr. Obama loses the nomination because of "back-room deals" made by superdelegates, "you not only would see people like me demonstrating, you may see us talking about whether or not we can support that [Democratic] ticket."

Democrats are deep in discussions about how to seat delegations from Florida and Michigan without triggering a backlash from a rabble-rouser such as Mr. Sharpton. Over the weekend, a possible solution emerged when two governors who back Hillary Clinton, Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, said they were willing to privately raise half the $30 million it would take to run new primaries in both states.

Whatever the solution, it had better come quickly. The Florida and Michigan dispute is threatening to raise the rancor among Democrats to unacceptable levels. The last thing the party needs is to have its own Rube Goldberg primary rules dominate political news coverage.


-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"She has no idea how many times I defended her. How many right-leaning friends and relatives I battled with. How many times I played down her shady business deals and penchant for scandals.... She has no idea how frequently I dismissed her husband's serial adultery as an unfortunate trait of an otherwise brilliant man. For sixteen years, I was a proud soldier in the legion of 'Clinton apologists'.... And then she ran for president. She's proven that she cares more about 'Hillary' than 'unity.' More about defeating Obama than defeating the Republicans. She's become a political suicide-bomber, happy to blow herself to bits -- as long as she takes everyone else with her. On Friday, one of Barack Obama's foreign policy advisors, Samantha Power, resigned after calling Senator Clinton 'a monster' during an off-the-record exchange. It was an unfortunate slip, but one that echoed the sentiments of many Clinton apologists like me -- who've watched Hillary's descent into pettiness and fear-mongering with the heartbreak of a child who grows up to realize that his beloved mother has been a terrible person all along. Are the conservatives right about the Clintons? Will they do and say anything to get elected? I don't know. All I know is... I'm through apologizing" -- Seth Grahame-Smith, author of "Letters of Apology for Eight Years of George W. Bush," writing about Hillary Clinton at

Heather Wilson's War

Republican Sen. Pete Domenici is retiring after more than three decades in office and all three of the state's congressmen are running to replace him. Rep. Tom Udall, a Democrat, is virtually assured of winning his party's nomination and is sitting on nearly $2 million in campaign funds. On the right, however, there is a real horse race developing between Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Steve Pearce. The latter is a conservative Republican who represents a large swath of rural New Mexico, while Ms. Wilson is a moderate with a more suburban base, as well as strong support from military hawks because of her service in the Air Force and as a defense and intelligence expert.

Ms. Wilson had a near-death experience two years ago when she was challenged by popular Democratic State Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who charged that Ms. Wilson, as a member of the House intelligence committee, should have stopped the invasion of Iraq. With polls showing her trailing by four points, Ms. Wilson pulled off an 800-vote win in an Albuquerque district that boasts more Democrats than Republicans and that went for John Kerry in 2004.

It was an impressive victory under the circumstances, and running statewide plays even more to her strengths. Pollster Brian Sanderoff tells us that the national security vote is especially important because New Mexico is home to the Los Alamos Labs, numerous military bases and a large number of Energy Department employees (many whom handle nuclear-weapons issues). Her GOP rival Mr. Pearce didn't help himself any this month when he carelessly suggested at a campaign stop that England "exports more radical Islamic terrorists today than any country in the Middle East." He couldn't back up the statement and Ms. Wilson quickly pounced, calling it an irresponsible comment that could alienate a key ally in the war on terror and was unbecoming of a would-be senator.

Either Republican would face a steep climb in the fall. Polls show Mr. Udall, who benefits from massive name recognition thanks to his family's heritage in New Mexico politics, leading by 20 points. That should tighten, however, once a GOP nominee is picked and the public gets up to speed on personalities, ideology and issues. And either Republican would also benefit from Hillary Clinton being the Democratic nominee. Recent match-up polls show her lead in New Mexico over John McCain much narrower than Barack Obama's.


-- Brendan Miniter

27138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syrian rockets, missiles put all of Israel in reach on: March 10, 2008, 11:35:20 AM

Rockets, missiles place all of Israel within firing zone

By Aaron Klein


JERUSALEM – Syria is in the midst of "intensely" arming itself, placing into position rockets and missiles capable of striking the entire Jewish state, according to an assessment presented to the Knesset today by multiple Israeli security agencies.
The announcement follows a WND exclusive report last month quoting security officials stating Syria, aided by Russia and Iran, has been furiously acquiring rockets and missiles, including projectiles capable of hitting any point in Israel. The officials listed anti-tank, anti-aircraft and ballistic missiles as some of the arms procured by Syria.
Yesterday, Israel's Mossad and Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence chiefs presented an annual security report to the Knesset warning of Syria's armament program.
The chiefs also warned of a possible flare-up at Israel's northern border with the Hezbollah terror group and said in their assessment Iran could cross the technological threshold enabling it to assemble a nuclear bomb by the end of next year.
The assessment came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced last week negotiations between the Jewish state and Syria should be seriously considered it if would bring an end to Syrian-sponsored terrorism and Damascus' "involvement in the axis of evil."
The negotiations would aim for some sort of Israeli evacuation from the Golan Heights strategic, mountainous territory looking down on Israeli and Syrian population centers twice used by Damascus to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.

Syria openly provides refuge to Palestinian terror leaders, including the chiefs of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and has been accused of shipping weapons to Hezbollah. Damascus is also accused of supporting the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq.

'Furious frenzy' to get Russian missiles

Olmert's announcement of Israel's willingness to negotiate followed a WND report in which Israeli and Jordanian security officials outlined Syria's recent armament.

A Jordanian security official said one of the main reasons Damascus did not retaliate after Israel carried out its Sept. 6 air strike inside Syria – which allegedly targeted a nascent nuclear facility – was because Syria's rocket infrastructure was not yet complete.

The official said that after the Israeli air strike, Syria picked up the pace of acquiring rockets and missiles, largely from Russia with Iranian backing, with the goal of completing its missile and rocket arsenal by the end of the year. The Jordanian official said Syria is aiming to possess the capacity to fire more than 100 rockets into Israel per hour for a sustained period of time.

"The Syrians have three main goals: to maximize their anti-tank, anti-aircraft and ballistic missile and rocket capabilities," explained the Jordanian official.

According to Israeli and Jordanian officials, Syria recently quietly struck a deal with Russia that allows Moscow to station submarines and war boats off Syrian ports. In exchange, Russia is supplying Syria with weaponry at lower costs, with some of the missiles and rockets being financed by Iran.

"The Iranians opened an extended credit line with Russia for Syria with the purpose of arming Syria," said one Jordanian security official.

"Russia's involvement and strategic positioning is almost like a return to its Cold War stance," the official said.

Both the Israeli and Jordanian officials told WND large quantities of Syrian rockets and missiles are being stockpiled at the major Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus.

Syria's new acquisitions include Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missile defense shield, which is similar to the U.S.-funded, Israeli-engineered Arrow anti-missile system currently deployed in Israel. The S-300 system is being run not by Syria but by Russian naval technicians who work from Syria's ports, security officials said.

New ballistic missiles and rockets include Alexander rockets and a massive quantity of various Scud surface-to-surface missiles, including Scud B and Scud D missiles.

Israeli security officials noted Syria recently test-fired two Scud D surface-to-surface missiles, which have a range of about 250 miles, covering most Israeli territory. The officials said the Syrian missile test was coordinated with Iran and is believed to have been successful. It is not known what type of warhead the missiles had.

In addition to longer-range Scuds, Syria is in possession of shorter-range missiles such as 220 millimeter and 305 millimeter rockets, some of which have been passed on to the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah.

Israel has information Syria recently acquired and deployed Chinese-made C-802 missiles, which were successfully used against the Israeli navy during Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006. The missiles were passed to Syria by Iran, Israeli security officials told WND.

Russia recently sold to Syria advanced anti-tank missiles similar to the projectiles that devastated Israeli tanks during the last Lebanon war, causing the highest number of Israeli troop casualties during the 34 days of military confrontations. Syria and Russia are negotiating the sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles.
27139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: March 10, 2008, 11:31:07 AM
The FARC Files
March 10, 2008; Page A14

Colombia's precision air strike 10 days ago, on a guerrilla camp across the border in Ecuador, killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes. That was big. But the capture of his computer may turn out to be a far more important development in Colombia's struggle to preserve its democracy.

Reyes was the No. 2 leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government for more than four decades. His violent demise is a fitting end to a life devoted to masterminding atrocities against civilians. But the computer records expose new details of the terrorist strategy to bring down the government of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, including a far greater degree of collaboration between the FARC and four Latin heads of government than had been previously known. In addition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, they are President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

A face-to-face encounter between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe at last week's Rio Group Summit.
Mr. Chávez is said to have been visibly distressed when told of the death of Reyes, a man he clearly admired. He also may have realized that he played a role in his hero's death, since it was later reported that the Colombian military had located the camp by intercepting a phone call to Reyes from the Venezuelan president.

Mr. Chávez rapidly ordered 10 battalions to the Colombian border. Should the Colombian military cross into Venezuela in search of FARC, he warned, it would mean war. That may have seemed like an unnecessary act of machismo. But the Colombia military has long claimed that the FARC uses both Ecuador and Venezuela as safe havens. Now it had shown that it wasn't afraid to act on that information.

There is a third explanation for Mr. Chávez's panic when he learned of the strike: He was alarmed about the possibility that his links with Reyes would be exposed. Sure enough, when the Colombian national police retrieved Reyes's body from Ecuador, it also brought back several computers from the camp. Documents on those laptops show that Mr. Chávez and Reyes were not only ideological comrades, but also business partners and political allies in the effort to wrest power from Mr. Uribe.

The tactical discussions found in the documents are hair-raising enough. They show that the FARC busies itself with securing arms and explosives, selling cocaine, and otherwise financing its terrorism operations through crime. In a memo last month, for example, a rebel leader discussed the FARC's efforts to secure 50 kilos of uranium, which it hoped to sell to generate income. In the same note, there is a reference to "a man who supplies me material for the explosive we are preparing, his name is Belisario and he lives in Bogotá . . ."

Though it is far from clear, Colombian national police speculated from this that a dirty bomb could be in the making. An April 2007 letter to the FARC secretariat lays out the terrorists' effort to acquire missiles from Lebanon. When Viktor Bout, allegedly one of the world's most notorious arms traffickers, was arrested in Thailand on Thursday, the Spanish-language press reported that he was located thanks to the Reyes computer files.

The maneuvers of thugs seeking power are no surprise. The more significant revelation is the relationship between the FARC and Mr. Chávez, Mr. Correa, Mr. Morales and Mr. Ortega. All four, it turns out, support FARC violence and treachery against Mr. Uribe.

According to the documents, Mr. Chávez's friendship with the FARC dates back at least as far as 1992, when he was in jail for an attempted coup d'etat in Venezuela and the FARC sent him $150,000. Now he is returning the favor, by financing the terrorist group with perhaps as much as $300 million. But money is the least important of the Chávez gifts. He is also using his presidential credentials on behalf of the FARC.

The FARC puts a lot of effort toward discrediting Mr. Uribe in the court of world opinion. A September letter from a rebel commander to "secretariat comrades" reads: "As to the manifesto, I suggest adding the border policy and making it public by all means possible to see if we can stop all the world from supporting uribismo [the agenda of Mr. Uribe] in the October elections." He then proposes a "clandestine" meeting between one rebel and Mr. Chávez in Caracas to discuss "our political-military project." Mr. Chávez, the rebels say in a later document, suggested that the FARC videotape any Colombian military strikes in the jungle for propaganda purposes.

In January, FARC leader Manuel Marulanda (aka "Sureshot") wrote to Mr. Chávez: "You can imagine the happiness that you have awoken in all the leaders, guerrillas, the Bolivarian Movement of New Colombia [and] the Clandestine Communist Party with the plan you put forth . . . to ask for the analysis and approval of recognizing the FARC as a belligerent [therefore legitimate] force."

The documents also show why it was a good idea for Colombia not to ask Ecuador for permission before moving against the FARC camp -- even though in the past it had done so when tangling with the rebels at the border. A January memo reports on a FARC meeting with the Ecuadorean minister of security, who said that Mr. Correa is "interested in official relations with the FARC" and has decided not to aid Colombia against the rebels. "For [Ecuador] the FARC is an insurgent organization of the people, with social and political proposals that it understands," the memo reads.

It also says Mr. Correa plans to increase commercial and political relations with North Korea, and that he requests that one of the FARC's hostages be released to him next time, so as to "boost his political efforts." A Feb. 28 letter from Reyes summarizes a meeting with an emissary of Mr. Correa: "He explained the proposal of Plan Ecuador, which seeks to counteract the damaging effects of Plan Colombia [the joint U.S.-Colombian effort against terrorism]."

Where do Bolivia and Nicaragua fit into this collaborative effort? An Oct. 4 letter from a rebel to FARC leader Marulanda reports that a Venezuelan minister has agreed that if there is a FARC summit, "Chávez would come with Ortega, Evo and Correa." All three, the letter said, are with Chávez to the death.
27140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, Reagan on: March 10, 2008, 11:26:37 AM
f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.” —James Madison

"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as
a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be
bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the
new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a
NATIONAL constitution."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39, 1788)

Reference: The Federalist

“How can limited government and fiscal restraint be equated with lack of compassion for the poor? How can a tax break that puts a little more money in the weekly paychecks of working people be seen as an attack on the needy? Since when do we in America believe that our society is made up of two diametrically opposed classes—one rich, one poor—both in a permanent state of conflict and neither able to get ahead except at the expense of the other? Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?” —Ronald Reagan

27141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 10, 2008, 11:19:03 AM
It’s over By Dick Morris Posted: 03/06/08 06:02 PM [ET] The real message of Tuesday’s primaries is not that Hillary won. It’s that she didn’t win by enough.

The race is over.

The results are already clear. Obama will go to the Democratic Convention with a lead of between 100 and 200 elected delegates. The remaining question is: What will the superdelegates do then? But is that really a question? Will the leaders of the Democratic Party be complicit in its destruction? Will they really kindle a civil war by denying the nomination to the man who won the most elected delegates? No way. They well understand that to do so would be to throw away the party’s chances of victory and to stigmatize it among African-Americans and young people for the rest of their lives. The Democratic Party took 20 years to recover from the traumas of 1968 and it is not about to trigger a similar bloodletting this year.

John McCain’s nomination guarantees that the superdelegates wouldn’t dare. A perfectly acceptable alternative for most Democrats, McCain would harvest so large a proportion of Obama’s votes if Hillary steals the nomination that he would probably win. Even putting Obama on the ticket would not allay the anger of his supporters; it would just make him complicit in the robbery.

Will Hillary win Pennsylvania? Who cares? Even if she were to sweep the remaining primaries and caucuses by 10 points, she would move just 60 votes closer to Obama’s total of elected delegates. And she won’t sweep them all. Even if Hillary wins Pennsylvania, the largest prize up for grabs, Obama will probably win North Carolina, which is almost as large. He’s likely to win Mississippi and Wyoming and has a good shot in Oregon and Indiana. The most likely result of these coming contests is that Obama will be roughly where he is now, about 140 elected delegates ahead of Hillary.

Suppose that Hillary will carry those states by enough to offset Obama’s delegate lead. The proportional representation system makes a knockout impossible and so mutes relatively narrow victories as to make them almost inconsequential. Little Vermont, with 600,000 people, gave Obama a net gain of four delegates, half of what Hillary won from the Texas primary, a state with 20 million residents. Even after Hillary won big-state victories in Ohio and Texas, she drew only 20 closer to Obama’s total of elected delegates.

Hillary won’t withdraw. That much is for sure. The tantalizing notion that 800 insiders can offset a season of primaries and caucuses will drive both Clintons to ever-escalating rhetoric. Will their attacks hurt Obama? Likely all they will achieve is to give him needed experience in the cut and thrust of media politics.

Left out of the entire equation is poor John McCain. Unable to get a word in edgewise and unsure of which Democrat to attack, he will have to watch from the sidelines as Hillary and Obama hog the headlines. If the superdelegates deliver the nomination to Hillary in the dead of night without leaving fingerprints at the crime scene, McCain’s nomination will be worth having. If Obama prevails, it won’t be worth the paper on which it is written. The giant killer, Obama will have soared to new heights of popularity and McCain won’t be able to bring him back to Earth in the nine weeks that will remain.

Suggestion for Obama:

The next time Hillary uses the recycled red phone ad, counter with one of your own. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, have a woman’s voice, with a flat Midwestern accent, answer it and say, “Hold on” into the receiver. Then she should shout, “Bill! It’s for you!”

Because with Hillary’s complete lack of any meaningful experience in foreign affairs, and her lack of the “testing” that she boldly claims, she’ll be yelling for Bill.
27142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: World Bank Confidential on: March 10, 2008, 11:12:56 AM
World Bank Confidential
March 10, 2008; Page A14

In January, we reported on a $569 million corruption scandal involving five World Bank health projects in India. Bank President Robert Zoellick called the corruption "unacceptable" and said "the Government of India and the World Bank are committed to getting to the bottom of this." We're now getting a clearer picture of whether the bank is serious, and the early evidence isn't encouraging.

Tomorrow, the bank's governing board will be briefed on the bank's "action plan" to redress the problems. As in past corruption cases, the plan contains promises of better oversight, strengthened safeguards, "smart project design," seminars on fighting corruption and so on. (Read the World Bank report and accompanying Powerpoint presentation.)

All of this might do some good. But as is often the case with the World Bank, the remedial efforts focus on improving systems rather than insisting on accountability. Though the bank promises a "corporate review," none of the bank officials directly responsible for supervising the five corrupted projects has been fired or had his career adversely affected.

Some have gone on to bigger things at the bank. For example, the bank's anticorruption unit (INT) found "a high percentage of procurements showing indicators of collusion, fraud or corruption" in a $125 million "Tuberculosis Control Project." Yet the team leader who oversaw that project is now responsible for the bank's more ambitious $360 million "Reproductive and Child Health II" project.

Most remarkable, Praful Patel, since 2003 the bank's vice president for operations in South Asia, is now the point man organizing the bank's response to the corruption that happened on his watch. This is akin to sending Michael Brown, the FEMA head during Hurricane Katrina, to supervise emergency management reforms.

Meanwhile, the bank says it has "joined forces" with the Indian government to "stamp out corruption." One problem, however, is that the Indian government categorically denies many of the findings in its official response to the INT report. In a conclusion on page four of its response, India even attacks the bank's corruption fighters for "erroneously creating an impression that the health sector delivery system in India is beset with fraud and corruption."

This suggests that whatever mechanisms the bank puts in place to address corruption could founder on India's resistance. On that point, an email from an assistant to Mr. Zoellick says that the bank chief privately agrees with Indian assertions that unspecified "mistakes had been made" in the INT report. To his credit, the email adds that Mr. Zoellick does not want those "mistakes" to divert from the "serious problems" that were exposed.

A World Bank spokesman declined comment on the documents but added that the bank is "committed to addressing its own shortcomings and will take disciplinary action against any staff members found responsible for wrongdoing." Yet so far in the wake of the India report, the only relevant people to leave the bank have been INT Director Suzanne Rich Folsom and her two senior deputies, who had been relentlessly hounded by the bank's bureaucracy.

We're happy to see Paul Volcker's name on the search committee to find a replacement for Ms. Folsom, but otherwise the committee is stacked with bureaucrats who represent the bank status quo. They include Jeff Gutman, who oversaw the Cambodia portfolio while some of its projects were exposed as corrupt; Makhtar Diop, who did the same in Kenya; and Alison Cave, a former bank staff association chair who led the staff coup against former President Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr. Zoellick has faced a difficult management task trying to mend fences after the uproar over Mr. Wolfowitz. But as president of an institution that depends on U.S. tax dollars, he has a larger obligation to ensure that corruption findings have real consequences. We hope the bank's directors demand more accountability tomorrow.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
27143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Latin America on: March 10, 2008, 11:05:11 AM
Woof All:

Although the Spanish language forum has various threads for politics and economics in Latin America, this forum has only a thread specificallty on Mexico-US and one on Venezuela.  Latin America was my region of specialization for my International Relations major in college, and I have retained my interest in the region, particularly Mexico.   So, with this thread we begin a catch all thread for anything in the region wihich is not Mexico or Venezuela: 



The Chávez Democrats
March 10, 2008; Page A14
What is it about Democrats and Hugo Chávez? Even as the Venezuelan strongman was threatening war last week against Colombia, Congress was threatening to hand him a huge strategic victory by spurning Colombia's free trade overtures to the U.S.

This isn't the first time Democrats have come to Mr. Chávez's aid, but it would be the most destructive. The Venezuelan is engaged in a high-stakes competition over the political and economic direction of Latin America. He wants the region to follow his path of ever greater state control of the economy, while assisting U.S. enemies wherever he can. He's already won converts in Bolivia and Ecuador, and he came far too close for American comfort in Mexico's election last year.

Meanwhile, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is embracing greater economic and political freedom. He has bravely assisted the U.S fight against narco-traffickers, and he now wants to link his country more closely to America with a free-trade accord. As a strategic matter, to reject Colombia's offer now would tell everyone in Latin America that it is far more dangerous to trust America than it is to trash it.

Yet Democrats on Capitol Hill are doing their best to help Mr. Chávez prevail against Mr. Uribe. Even as Mr. Chávez was doing his war dance, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus was warning the White House not to send the Colombia deal to the Hill for a vote without the permission of Democratic leaders. He was seconded by Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, who told Congress Daily that "they don't have the votes for it, it's not going to come on the floor," adding that "what they [the White House] don't understand it's not the facts on the ground, it's the politics that's in the air."

Mr. Rangel is right about the politics. No matter what U.S. strategic interests may be in Colombia, this is an election year in America. And Democrats don't want to upset their union and anti-trade allies. The problem is that the time available to pass anything this year is growing short. The closer the election gets, the more leverage protectionists have to run out the clock on the Bush Presidency. The deal has the support of a bipartisan majority in the Senate, and probably also in the House. Sooner or later the White House will have to force the issue.

Our guess is that Messrs. Baucus and Rangel understand the stakes and privately favor the accord. The bottleneck is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is refusing to allow a vote under pressure from her left-wing Members. These Democrats deride any link between Hugo Chávez and trade as a "scare tactic," as if greater economic prosperity had no political consequences. "President Bush's recent fear-mongering on trade shows just how desperate he is to deliver one final victory for multinational corporations," declared Illinois Democrat Phil Hare, who is one of Ms. Pelosi's main trade policy deputies.

These are the same Democrats who preach the virtues of "soft power" and diplomacy, while deriding Mr. Bush for being too quick to use military force. But trade is a classic form of soft power that would expand U.S. and Latin ties in a web of commercial interests. More than 8,000 U.S. companies currently export to Colombia, nearly 85% of which are small and medium-sized firms. Colombia is already the largest South American market for U.S. farm products, and the pact would open Colombia to new competition and entrepreneurship.

Which brings us back to Mr. Chávez and his many Democratic friends. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd's early support helped the strongman consolidate his power. Former President Jimmy Carter blessed Mr. Chávez's August 2004 recall victory, despite evidence of fraud. And then there are the many House Democrats, current and former, who have accepted discount oil from Venezuela and then distributed it in the U.S. to boost their own political fortunes. Joseph P. Kennedy II and Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt have been especially cozy with Venezuela's oil company. If Democrats spurn free trade with Colombia, these Democratic ties with Mr. Chávez will deserve more political scrutiny.

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both competing for union support. But if they wanted to demonstrate their own Presidential qualities, they'd be privately telling Ms. Pelosi to pass the Colombia pact while Mr. Bush is still in office. That would spare either one of them from having to spend political capital to pass it next year.

Instead, both say they oppose the deal on grounds that Mr. Uribe has not done more to protect "trade unionists." In fact, Mr. Uribe has done more to reduce violence in Colombia than any modern leader in Bogotá. The real question for Democrats is whether they're going to choose Colombia -- or Hugo Chávez.

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

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
27144  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: March 10, 2008, 10:48:33 AM
C-Guide Dog includes DBMA amongst his credentials.

Also representing DBMA is Lester "Surf Dog" Griffin who has a school in Hemet.
27145  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Vehicle issues on: March 10, 2008, 10:43:20 AM
Woof All:

This thread is for issues having to due with cars, driving etc. 
This could be dealing with a criminal attack while you are in your car where you can't drive away, where you can drive away, and so forth.

If you have no particular knowledge or experience of driving skills beyond having watched a couple of episodes of "Cops", I have seen this suggested as a good experience to get a sense of what you can do with your car:

27146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Legal Challenge to Campaign Finance Law on: March 09, 2008, 10:14:43 AM
Conservative Group Challenges
Portions of Finance Law
March 8, 2008; Page A4

A new conservative group has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn some of the most basic parts of campaign-finance law.

The challenge, from a group calling itself, is the latest in a series of attempts to weaken the campaign finance system as money floods into politics in this campaign year.

The suit challenges laws that date back to the 1970s but also fits a pattern of blowback from the restrictions in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. "McCain-Feingold was kind of the last straw for a lot of people," said founder David Keating, a long-time advocate for conservative causes. "No one understands what the law is anymore."

First Amendment Focus

The challenge, which was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., zeroes in on a requirement that if two or more individuals work together to push for -- or against -- a candidate for federal office, they must submit paperwork to become a political committee and abide by contribution limits. The Supreme Court has said the requirement doesn't apply to individuals acting alone because preventing a person from purchasing airtime to express an opinion about candidates would violate free-speech protections. is charging that the restrictions on forming groups violate First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. The group's detractors say the contribution limits prevent corruption, but even some liberals are finding the case hard to discount completely.

"It's a significant constitutional challenge," said Bob Bauer, who heads the political law group for Perkins Coie LLP and a lawyer for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. "Especially with the courts we have now, the chances of success shouldn't be discounted."

In June, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision set aside federal restrictions on corporate- and union-funded broadcast ads that mentioned specific candidates in the weeks before an election. The Bush-appointed chief justice, John Roberts, gave heart to conservatives by saying that "enough is enough" and that the court "must give the benefit of any doubt to protecting rather than stifling speech."

Mr. Keating, who is moonlighting for while holding down a job as the director of the antitax advocacy group the Club for Growth, quickly found support for his new group from like-minded conservative Ed Crane, founder of the libertarian Cato Institute, and several rich donors.

One donor has even pledged more than $100,000 to, but the group hasn't been able to accept any donations beyond $1,000, the law's threshold for registering as a political committee.

With free legal help from two law organizations, the group is seeking an injunction in district court that would allow it to operate in the 2008 election.

A staff opinion of the Federal Election Commission said the group's plans were illegal under current law, and Wednesday, commission lawyers responded to the request for an injunction by writing that it wasn't warranted because the individuals could act independently.

If granted, the injunction would allow to produce and air attack advertisements against Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican and Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana. The scripts for the ads challenge them for supporting increased campaign-finance restrictions.

"Politicians like Mary Landrieu don't like free speech," a script reads. As a jail cell slams shut on screen, an announcer adds that the McCain-Feingold law can imprison violators. "Hey, Mary Landrieu. This is America, not Russia."

A Landrieu campaign spokesman said the senator voted with 59 others "because she believes power should be situated with voters like ordinary Louisianans instead of with millionaires and billionaires."

The Supreme Court has previously upheld contribution limits with the goal of preventing "corruption or the appearance of corruption."

An individual can spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for or against candidates because the court has said it is a violation of free speech to restrict expenditures for ads or other communications. But once two or more people get together and raise more than $1,000, they can each contribute only as much as $5,000 annually to their group.

In its case, contends that there is no way large donations to it could lead to corruption because the group can't give to, or coordinate with, candidates.

Fred Wertheimer, the president of a group that advocates for restrictions on money in politics, thinks that publicly disclosed donations could corrupt politicians because they would know who had helped them. Also, political-advocacy groups often share officers who come in and out of campaigns and the government, making it easy for politicians to reward people for their support.

"The contribution limits are constitutional," Mr. Wertheimer said, adding that most independent groups are funded by people who used to give to the political parties until those contributions were banned by a law that was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Wertheimer's group, Democracy 21, filed a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this week saying shouldn't be permitted to operate. In rejecting's request to prevent Democracy 21's filing, the court Thursday said that the free-speech group's brief to restrict opposition was filed "apparently without any sense of irony."
27147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 09, 2008, 09:57:00 AM
OK, lets pair that NY Times fluff piece with this:

If you boil Obama's appeal down to its essential core, most of his supporters seem to like him because he's a relatively young, charismatic, black man who talks a lot about "change," "unity," and the "audacity of hope."
But, what does that tell you about how Obama would behave if he gets into office? Very, very little. After all, pretty much anybody, from Napoleon, to Fidel Castro, to Mickey Mouse could run on a platform of "hope," "change," and "unity" because it's so broad and meaningless.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Barack doesn't have an agenda. He most certainly does have one, but it's just an agenda that he tries to avoid talking about because the better Americans get to know him, the less appealing he's going to be.
So, with that in mind, let me take you through a short tour of some of Barack Obama's radical beliefs. In all fairness, I should note that he has flip-flopped on some of these issues after his Barney the Dinosaur style "I Love You, You Love Me" campaign for the presidency got into full swing. But, experience has taught us that you can put a lot more stock into what a politician says before he starts trying to desperately convince middle America to vote him into the White House, than after.
#1) Weakening America's Military: Barack Obama has pledged, among other things, to make defense cuts during war time, to cut spending on national missile defense, that he won't weaponize space, to slow development of future combat systems, and to seek a "world without nuclear weapons." Is this a man who can be trusted as Commander-In-Chief?
#2) Losing the War in Iraq: Obama is promising to throw away the hard earned gains our troops have made in Iraq by immediately removing combat brigades each month, regardless of the situation on the ground, and by having all of our "combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly warned Barack and, for that matter, Hillary that they could create a "chaotic situation" with their policy that could take the "gains we have achieved and struggled to achieve and turn them around overnight." Come on, Admiral, don't you know that Obama isn't going to listen to what the military has to say about a war when there's an election to be won?
#3) Gay Marriage: Although Barack Obama claims to oppose gay marriage, in 2004 he said that he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the only thing keeping the courts from imposing gay marriage on the whole country. If you want to see gay marriage become the law of the land in your state, no matter what the voters think, vote for Obama.
#4) Pro-Partial Birth Abortion: It's never a surprise to find a Democrat who's a big fan of abortion, but Obama goes above and beyond the call of duty. He had a perfect rating of 100% from NARAL in 2005, 2006, and 2007, opposes "notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions," and he even opposed banning partial birth abortions. If you want to see as many women as humanly possible in this country putting their own children to death via abortion, vote Obama.
#5) Legalizing Marijuana: Obama, a former (we hope) druggie, who has admitted to using marijuana and cocaine, has said that he favors "decriminalizing marijuana." Perhaps you can't blame him for wanting to make it easier for people to get drugs since, after all, he used them and look how he turned out. If Barack gets into the White House, one day mothers all over America can tell their children that they'll never be anything in life if they use hard drugs and those children can reply, "Well, at least I can be President!"
#6) Handing 845 billion dollars of your money to other nations: Obama's Global Poverty Act would commit the United States to spending, over the next 13 years, 845 billion dollars more than what we already do on global poverty. Obama followed that up with a release that said in part, "It must be a priority of American foreign policy to commit to eliminating extreme poverty..." If Obama actually believes that not only is the United States capable of "eliminating extreme poverty," but that we should actually make that utopian dream a "priority," then he's far too naive to be in the White House.
#7) If you think George Bush is a big spender, you haven't met Obama: Even though the United States is already running a deficit, Obama is planning to push a whole host of new big government programs including a "10-year, $150 billion program to establish a green energy sector," a "$60 billion National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank," and a "nearly universal health care plan (whose annual price tag he low-balls at $50 to $65 billion)." If you're all for tax and spend liberalism and watching the deficit spiral even further out of control, there's no one you should want in the White House more than Obama.
#8) Amnesty and your tax dollars for illegal aliens: Believe it or not, John McCain, the Republican who is most closely associated with catering to illegal aliens, is actually well to Barack Obama's right on the issue.
Obama favors drivers licenses for illegals, wants to give illegals welfare and Medicaid, wants to let them participate in Social Security, opposes making English our national language, and he favors a comprehensive approach to illegal immigration, AKA amnesty, that even John McCain now claims to oppose.
#9) Gun Control: Obama is a perfect example of the stereotypical, liberal gun grabber. Obama has pledged to "Ban the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons," has "opined unequivocally that D.C.'s ban was 'constitutional'," and in 1996, Obama, in a survey, "supported banning the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns." If you're an opponent of the 2nd Amendment, who believes law abiding citizens shouldn't be allowed to defend themselves, Obama is your man.

John Hawkins is a professional blogger who runs Conservative Grapevine and Right Wing News.
27148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: March 09, 2008, 09:23:13 AM
The subject of masks came up on WT forum.  I haven't checked these for myself, but post them here to have the URLs for reference:


Most of the information I've read suggests than N95 masks are adequate for bird flu.

There's a lot of information on the subject available here;

I'd suggest spending some time studying the available information to determine what level of protection you're comfortable with.


There is a single study that has cast some doubt on the efficacy of N-95 masks in a pandemic influenza situation.

This link is from the IAFF, whose leadership I personally feel are no-talent @ssclowns, but worth reading:

Having masks are a valid tactic for pandemic influenza, but betting your life on them is foolhardy at best. During the SARS outbreak, there is strong circumstantial evidence that universal precautions failed in more than one case of direct transmission to healthcare workers.

A surgical mask will beat nothing, a N-95 is better than a surgical mask and not being exposed to airborne particulate is the best solution.

With N-95's, be aware that moisture will likely degrade their effectiveness, so sweating, heavy breathing and high humidity will burn through.
27149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times fluff piece on: March 09, 2008, 09:18:48 AM
The NY Times really digs deep ono this one  rolleyes

Senator Barack Obama stood before Washington’s elite at the spring dinner of the storied Gridiron Club. In self-parody, he ticked off his accomplishments, little more than a year after arriving in town.

Skip to next paragraph
The Long Run
A Measured Start
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

Robert A. Reeder/Washington Post
Mr. Obama poked fun at himself at the Gridiron Club in 2006 with, left, his current chief strategist, David Axelrod, and his communications director, Robert Gibbs.
“I’ve been very blessed,” Mr. Obama told the crowd assembled in March 2006. “Keynote speaker at the Democratic convention. The cover of Newsweek. My book made the best-seller list. I just won a Grammy for reading it on tape.

“Really, what else is there to do?” he said, his smile now broad. “Well, I guess I could pass a law or something.”

They were the two competing elements in Mr. Obama’s time in the Senate: his megawatt celebrity and the realities of the job he was elected to do.

He went to the Senate intent on learning the ways of the institution, telling reporters he would be “looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work.” But frustrated by his lack of influence and what he called the “glacial pace,” he soon opted to exploit his star power. He was running for president even as he was still getting lost in the Capitol’s corridors.

Outside Washington, Mr. Obama was a multimedia sensation — people offered free tickets to his book readings for $125 on eBay and contributed thousands of dollars each to his political action committee to watch him on stage questioning policy experts.

But inside the Senate, Mr. Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was 99th in seniority and in the minority party his first two years. In committee hearings, he had to wait his turn until every other senator had asked questions. He once telephoned reporters himself to draw attention to his amendments. And some senior colleagues were cool to the newcomer, whom they considered naïve.

Determined to be viewed as substantive, Mr. Obama kept his head down, declining Sunday talk show invitations for his first year, and consulted Senate elders for advice. He was cautious — even on the Iraq war, which he had opposed as a Senate candidate. He voted against the withdrawal of troops and proposed legislation calling for a drawdown only after he was running for president and polls showed voters favoring it.

And while he rightly takes credit for steering through an ethics overhaul that reformers called a “gold standard,” like most freshmen he did not play a significant role in passing much other legislation and disappointed some Democrats for not becoming a more prominent voice in other important debates.

Yet Mr. Obama was planning for the future. He spent much of his time raising money for other Democrats, which helped him build chits and lists of potential voters. He tended to his image, even upbraiding a reporter for writing that he had smoked a cigarette (a habit he later said he gave up for his presidential bid).

Early on in his tenure in Washington, he concluded that it would be hard to have much of an impact inside the Senate, where partisan conflict increasingly provoked filibuster threats, nomination fights and near gridlock even on routine spending bills.

“I think it’s very possible to have a Senate career here that is not particularly useful,” he said in an interview, reflecting on his first year. And it would be better for his political prospects not to become a Senate insider, which could saddle him with the kind of voting record that has tripped up so many senators who would be president.

“It’s sort of logic turned on its head, but it really is true,” said Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the former senator and Democratic leader who has been a close adviser to Mr. Obama.

“Two things develop the more time you spend here,” Mr. Daschle said. “One is a mind-set that we did it this way before, we should do it this way again, and I think that’s a real burden. More importantly — and Hillary and McCain are the perfect examples of this — the longer you are here, you take on enemies. And these enemies don’t forget.”

Rising to Stardom

If freshman senators arrive as celebrities, it is usually because they are “dragon slayers,” having ousted big-name incumbents. Mr. Obama was not one of those; two serious opponents in Illinois self-destructed, smoothing his path to election in November 2004.

He had been anointed his party’s rising star after delivering a soaring speech at the Democratic National Convention the previous July. His fresh face that fall cheered Democrats demoralized by their failure to win the White House and the defeat of Mr. Daschle, the party’s Senate leader.


Page 2 of 3)

But Mr. Obama knew the Senate scorns a showboat. He had waited to crack open “Master of the Senate,” Robert A. Caro’s book about the legendary legislative career of Lyndon B. Johnson, until after he was elected, wary that he would be photographed — and seen as presumptuous — reading it during his campaign. After he was on the cover of Newsweek the same week President Bush appeared as Time’s Man of the Year, his fellow Democratic senators gently ribbed him at their first weekly luncheon of the new Congress.

He met with nearly one-third of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, including his future rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, to learn about the institution and solicit advice on how to succeed. That shaped a strategy: work hard, tend to your constituents, and, above all, get along with others. He spent many weekends traveling across Illinois for town-hall-style meetings.

Mr. Obama’s advisers referred to it as “the Hillary model,” patterned after Mrs. Clinton’s approach when she joined the Senate in 2001. But while Mr. Obama expressed admiration for her at the time, he dissuaded reporters from making too close a comparison.

“I wasn’t the first lady, and I didn’t have some of the political baggage of eight years of hand-to-hand combat between the White House and the Republican Congress,” he said soon after he first arrived. “In that sense, she had a harder task.”

Knowing he needed insider help, Mr. Obama cajoled Mr. Daschle’s former chief of staff, Pete Rouse, to lead his office. Mr. Rouse advised Mr. Obama about managing relationships on the Hill and helped engineer hefty assignments, including a Foreign Relations Committee seat. He sought out senior colleagues, traveling to Russia with Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, an advocate of nuclear disarmament. (Later, they passed legislation to reduce stockpiles of conventional weapons.) Mr. Obama also sought tutorials from Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, considered the Democrats’ master legislator.

Some colleagues found Mr. Obama remarkably well prepared, even more so than longtime staff members, in discussions. And his role as the good student earned him the affection of some fellow lawmakers. “I don’t think you can be around him and not come to the conclusion that this is a person of rare quality,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota.

Mr. Obama had visited Washington only a handful of times before taking office, and he was fresh enough to its ways that he bubbled over about his first trip on Air Force One in June 2005. He fretted about getting lost on his first trip to the White House, for a reception the day he was sworn in, and later marveled that there were flat-screen televisions in the Lincoln Bedroom.

But he remained ambivalent about the city and its institutions. Unlike many senators with young children, he did not move his family to the capital. He rarely spent more than three nights in Washington — aides would reserve tickets on several flights to make sure he got home to Chicago after the final Senate vote of the week.

Mr. Obama found the Hill a difficult place to fit in, and it was not always clear that he wanted to. He was 43 when he arrived, younger than most of his colleagues — whose average age was 60 — and even many senior staff members. Unlike senators who come up through the House, he did not have an existing network of friends, and while some members of Congress bunk with others, he lived by himself in one of the nondescript new boxes along Massachusetts Avenue. On the nights he was in town, he typically went alone to a Chinatown athletic club — not the Senate gym — or attended events on the Hill.

And for all his efforts to play down his celebrity, Mr. Obama was exceptional, and it was hard for him or anyone to ignore the aura and sense of history around him. He was only the third black senator elected since Reconstruction. His memoir was on The New York Times’s best-seller list for 54 weeks. And Washington society was eager to embrace him — a Capitol Hill newspaper ranked him as No. 2 on its list of most beautiful people.

Etching a Path

Mr. Obama was also pulling in big money. He created a political action committee, the Hopefund, to increase his visibility and help other Democrats. It raised $1.8 million the first year.

In the Senate, meanwhile, he was discovering the realities of being a senator — that not every bill is perfect (or perfectly unacceptable) and that most votes required balancing the good and bad. Mr. Obama wanted to vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court, for example — he thought the president deserved latitude when it came to appointments — but Mr. Rouse advised against it, pointing out that Mr. Obama would be reminded of the vote every time the court made a conservative ruling that he found objectionable.

Mr. Obama took few bold stands and diverted little from the liberal orthodoxy he had embraced in the Illinois Senate. His voting record in his first year in Washington, according to the annual rankings by National Journal, was more liberal than 82.5 percent of the Senate (compared with, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s 79.8 percent that year).

He worked with Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and one of the most conservative in the chamber, to establish a public database to examine government spending after Hurricane Katrina.

But for the most part, he stuck to party lines; there were few examples of the kind of bipartisan work he advocates in his current campaign.

He disappointed some Democrats by not taking a more prominent role opposing the war — he voted against a troop withdrawal proposal by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin in June 2006, arguing that a firm date for withdrawal would hamstring diplomats and military commanders in the field.
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His most important accomplishment was his push for ethics reform. Party leaders named him their point person in 2006, and when the Democrats assumed the majority in Congress in January 2007, Mr. Obama and Mr. Feingold, a longtime Democratic proponent of ethics reform, proposed curtailing meals and gifts from lobbyists, restricting the use of corporate planes and requiring lobbyists who bundle donations to disclose individual donors.

Mr. Obama’s determination not to back down, Mr. Feingold said, “struck me as an example of someone showing real guts.”

Of course, he added, “He was not any freshman. He was Barack Obama.”

To others, though, the mismatch between Mr. Obama’s outside profile and his inside accomplishments wore thin. While some senators spent hours in closed-door meetings over immigration reform in early 2007, he dropped in only occasionally, prompting complaints that he was something of a dilettante.

He joined a bipartisan group, which included Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and Mr. Kennedy, that agreed to stick to a final compromise bill even though it was sure to face challenges from interest groups on both sides. Yet when the measure reached the floor, Mr. Obama distanced himself from the compromise, advocating changes sought by labor groups. The bill collapsed.

To some in the bipartisan coalition, Mr. Obama’s move showed an unwillingness to take a tough stand.

“He folded like a cheap suit,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a close ally of Mr. McCain. “What it showed me is you are not an agent of change. Because to really change things in this place you have to get beat up now and then.”

Laying the Groundwork

Early on in his tenure in Washington, Mr. Obama began meeting every few months over late-night pizza with a handful of classmates from Harvard Law School and a couple of senior advisers to discuss his future. Being a 2008 presidential candidate, participants said, never came up. The only race mentioned was for Illinois governor in 2010 — the year Mr. Obama’s Senate term ended — but the group decided to put off considering the idea until at least his fourth year in the Senate.

Mr. Obama chose Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 to step into a more prominent role, speaking to his party’s caucus about the importance of using the disaster to focus the party’s efforts toward ending poverty.

The next February, he appeared on several Sunday shows in a row. “People are getting tired of me already,” he said in an interview.

In fact, outside Washington, people were clamoring for more. He was received like a returning hero in Africa in August 2006. On a book tour two months later, crowds mobbed him, and people urged him to run for president.

During the midterm elections that year, Mr. Obama was his party’s most sought-after campaigner — he helped raised nearly $1 million online in a matter of days that spring for Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the institution’s senior member.

His appearances on the trail helped lay the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign. He earned the good will of some Democrats who have now endorsed him. And most campaign events required tickets, so his staff members collected names and addresses of potential supporters.

Finally, Mr. Obama did what he had done when he first arrived in the Senate, quietly consulting those who knew the institution well — Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Daschle — for advice on whether to run.

They told him that these chances come along rarely. His celebrity was undeniable. And yes, he was green, but that also meant he did not have the burden of a long record.

“For somebody to come in with none of that history is a real advantage,” Mr. Daschle said. “I told him that he has a window to do this. He should never count on that window staying open.”
27150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 09, 2008, 08:12:29 AM
Written with a NY Times agenda, but still worth the reading.

After a Fight to Survive, One to Succeed
They came to New York as “displaced persons” in the early 1950s, Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust. Today, in film and story, such survivors are treated with a kind of awe, and their arrival in America is considered a happy ending. But a very different picture, with an oddly contemporary twist, emerges from the yellowing pages of social service records now being rescued from oblivion at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan.

The files, from a major Jewish resettlement agency that handled tens of thousands of cases, show that many of these refugees walked a gantlet of resistance and distrust: disapproval of their lack of English and need for health care, threats of deportation, and agency rules shaped by a suspicion of freeloading.

An unschooled 19-year-old hoping for an education was scolded for dreaming and sent to work in a factory. A newlywed couple who arrived with four pieces of baggage, “mostly books,” were soon forced to choose whether the husband would keep his job or keep the Jewish Sabbath. An ailing, jobless father of three, facing immigration laws that called for deportation of those who sought public aid, told his caseworker, as her notes put it, that “he was more concerned and more disturbed now than he had ever been in the Warsaw Ghetto.”

Between the lines of these and other case files, chosen at random from the first boxes to arrive at the center for archival preservation, the stubborn resilience of many refugees shines through. Today we know that as a group, over time, they did exceptionally well in America. But in the files, the uncertainty of each case resonates across six decades, and poses a haunting question: What became of these people?

Tracking down the answer can provide more than a bittersweet coda to dusty documents. It can suddenly allow the past to speak to the present.

Take that 19-year-old, whose name was Hersch Wanderer, later Americanized to Harry. He was sent to work in a buckle factory and had to drop out of night school. But reached recently at his winter home in Boca Raton, Fla., Mr. Wanderer, 77, said he had done well enough in business to start two scholarships in New York, “for young people to have the chance that no one gave me.”

It will take two to three years for center archivists to process the hundreds of thousands of records being retrieved from scattered warehouses of the resettlement agency, the New York Association for New Americans, including documentation that spans later refugee migrations. Carl J. Rheins, executive director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, a partner of the center, called the trove one of the most significant additions to the archives in 30 years, and said he was eager to make it available to researchers, students and family members.

“This is an important chapter in American immigration history,” he said. “It’s got to figure in the dialogue about immigration, about keeping the doors of this country open.”

The doors were virtually shut in the 1920s, with highly restrictive quotas that held firm through World War II despite appeals for people fleeing fascism. At the war’s end, polls showed that as many as 72 percent of Americans disapproved of President Harry S. Truman’s proposal to allow more European refugees to come to the United States, largely based on fears of unemployment.

Patchwork legislation eventually allowed for admission of almost half a million displaced persons, as they were called, by 1951. But a cold-war climate also led to increasingly severe measures to exclude, deport and even revoke the citizenship of those who fell short of desired self-sufficiency, morality or political orthodoxy, according to Aristide R. Zolberg, a leading historian of immigration policy.

The files reflect that mood. In one, caseworkers worried that an unmarried young woman whose family had perished in the death camps could be excluded for “moral turpitude.” She was arriving with a 3-year-old child, the son of an American serviceman who had abandoned her when she was six months pregnant.

In another case, a young family was cut off from agency assistance two months after their arrival, for failing to disclose a “secret bank account” containing $138 in loans from friends. The wife, a survivor of three years in a German concentration camp and four years of exile in Russia, had found it hard to live within the agency’s $47 monthly allowance, the file said, because she “never accepts the fact that she just can’t buy as much food as she wants to give to her child.”

Many of the files reflect the families’ fear of deportation if they had to seek public aid or health care. The father of three who had survived day to day in the Warsaw Ghetto, for example, was distraught when the agency cut off aid and told him to apply for welfare in May 1952, a year after the family arrived. Even the agency was uncertain how welfare might affect their future under a pending immigration bill.

“In leaving me today he was quite disturbed and fearful,” the caseworker wrote of the father, a 46-year-old former printer with a dislocated arm, who had been studying English, taking a course in making picture frames, and hunting for night work.

His wife, 10 years younger, worked as a dressmaker at first, but had to stop because of an unplanned pregnancy and complications. The couple had even considered placing the baby for adoption, but could not bear to do it, the caseworker reported.

“He felt that the family needed money immediately,” but that in applying for welfare “he would be besmirching his children’s names,” the file said. “As he talked about this, he moved quickly to a feeling of desperation and wondered whether he would ever be able to be successful.”

An effort to trace that family for this article failed, and under the rules of access to the records, their names cannot be published without their permission. But a file about the family of Lajosh and Alice Pauker, who entered the United States in 1960, led to their two children. Mr. Pauker sought the agency’s help in November 1961, when his wife, an Auschwitz survivor from Hungary, broke down at her factory job in Brooklyn and was taken to a hospital psychiatric ward.

“He had been told to take his wife out of Kings County Hospital immediately, as otherwise she would be deported,” wrote the agency caseworker, unable to deny or confirm what Mr. Pauker had heard from friends. “He firmly believes that her ‘nervous condition’ is the result of her concentration camp experience.”

Instead of asking about that experience, however, the caseworker focused on documenting every penny of the family’s finances. The only help the agency provided was paying for the mother’s psychotherapy and tranquilizers. The father, an itinerant repairman of soda-water chargers, was later chided for not reporting the few dollars that his young son earned fixing bicycles after school. And when his daughter graduated from high school with honors, she had to give up on college to help support the family.

“I’m grateful for what they did, but basically, they were not looking at the overall picture,” said the son, Peter Pauker, now 59, an advertising consultant in Manhattan.

Atina Grossman, a historian at Cooper Union who has written about the displaced-persons camps of postwar Germany, said attitudes reflected in the case files were widespread at the time, shaped in part by pre-Depression ideas about pauperism, and by a mix of pity and contempt for the “D.P.’s,” as they were widely known.

“Nobody is thinking, ‘Oh, amazing, survivors,’ ” Professor Grossman said. “At worst they are human debris, quote-unquote; at best they are unfortunate victims who have to be resocialized. There’s this big concern on the part of the social workers that they are creating a dependent class.”

Walter Ruby, a spokesman for the resettlement agency, said the social workers showed the refugees compassion within the limits of the system. “ ‘America doesn’t take care of you’ — that was what they were telling these people,” he said.

The paradox, Professor Grossman said, was that as a group, displaced persons were very self-reliant.

The newlywed couple offer a striking example. In January 1954, a caseworker suggested they “readjust their thinking” about observing Sabbath at sundown on Fridays if the husband, an engineer, wanted to stay in his profession. The husband wanted to respect the strong religious feeling of his young bride, the file noted, but his boss would not permit a change in work schedule.

The couple, now 80 and 77 and living in Manhattan, have not forgotten the choice they confronted in a new marriage and a new land. But considering what they had overcome, they said it hardly fazed them.

The husband, Mark Kanal, started work at age 11, and was the only one in his family to survive Auschwitz. When he tried to return to his hometown after the liberation, he said, he narrowly escaped lynching by Polish anti-Semites.

So, like many others, he crossed borders illegally to get to American-occupied Germany. Determined to go to college, he used his cigarette allotment from a United Nations refugee organization to pay for tutoring from unemployed professors, and made it into the polytechnic institute in Munich. There he met his wife, Rachel, who had spent the war in Siberia.

“To come to a democratic country like America and not be able to practice your religion there the way you feel you should didn’t feel right to me,” Mrs. Kanal said. Her husband agreed. So he gave up his first American engineering job — and went on to a career as an aerospace engineer, eventually working on NASA’s moon and space shuttle programs.

“This is the real America,” he said recently, recalling how Sputnik ended the gentlemen’s agreements that in his experience had kept Jews out of high technology. “You want to do it, you know you can do it — go, see what you can do.”

Today’s immigration debate often contrasts the achievements of such legal immigrants with the burdens imposed by illegal border-crossers. But that distinction does not seem so clear to people like Harry Wanderer and his older sister, Helen.

In 1951, a caseworker dismissed Harry’s interest in a yeshiva education as “unreal,” and told him “he was expecting the agency to operate as an affluent parent on whom he could lean for support.” She did not know that he was a young child when the Nazis invaded his hometown in Poland, that he had dug potatoes in Siberia to help his family survive, cleaned toilets in a Czech prisoner of war camp for two cigarettes a day that he could trade for bread, and smuggled himself across several borders to reach a D.P. camp — the portal to emigration.

“We were all smuggled across borders,” said his sister, who was 26 when they arrived in New York, and is now a retired Hebrew teacher of 83. “We had to go someplace. America seemed good. And they let us in!”
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