Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters on Bhutto
on: December 28, 2007, 03:51:02 PM
Wow. Ralph Peters did not think much of Bhutto.
THE BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: NOT WHAT SHE SEEMED TO BE
December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and
hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of
Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after
her death than she did in life.
We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists
behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and
utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and
"hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in
the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak
poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more
concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her
program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or
Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble
education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious
During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her
husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the
courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread
But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how
to package himself.
Military regimes are never appealing to Western sensibilities. Yet, there
are desperate hours when they provide the only, slim hope for a country
nearing collapse. Democracy is certainly preferable - but, unfortunately,
it's not always immediately possible. Like spoiled children, we have to have
it now - and damn the consequences.
In Pakistan, the military has its own forms of graft; nonetheless, it
remains the least corrupt institution in the country and the only force
holding an unnatural state together. In Pakistan back in the '90s, the only
people I met who cared a whit about the common man were military officers.
Americans don't like to hear that. But it's the truth.
Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan's political system, not its potential
salvation. Both she and her principal rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, failed to offer a practical vision for the future - their political
feuds were simply about who would divvy up the spoils.
From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by
personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy
government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military). When she
held the reins of government, Bhutto did nothing to steer in a new
direction - she merely sought to enhance her personal power.
Now she's dead. And she may finally render her country a genuine service (if
cynical party hacks don't try to blame Musharraf for their own benefit).
After the inevitable rioting subsides and the spectacular conspiracy
theories cool a bit, her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the
Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who
nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern.
As a victim of fanaticism, Bhutto may shine as a rallying symbol with a far
purer light than she cast while alive. The bitter joke is that, while she
was never serious about freedom, women's rights and fighting terrorism, the
terrorists took her rhetoric seriously - and killed her for her words, not
Nothing's going to make Pakistan's political crisis disappear - this crisis
may be permanent, subject only to intermittent amelioration. (Our State
Department's policy toward Islamabad amounts to a pocket full of platitudes,
nostalgia for the 20th century and a liberal version of the white man's
The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term -
clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old
personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country
needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to
grab what little remains of the national patrimony.
In killing Bhutto, the Islamists over-reached (possibly aided by rogue
elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, one of the murkiest
outfits on this earth). Just as al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand and
alienated that country's Sunni Arabs, this assassination may disillusion
Pakistanis who lent half an ear to Islamist rhetoric.
A creature of insatiable ambition, Bhutto will now become a martyr. In
death, she may pay back some of the enormous debt she owes her country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: December 27, 2007, 08:22:22 AM
At the close of the Revolutionary War in America, a perilous moment in the life of the fledgling American democracy occurred as officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances and consider a possible insurrection against the rule of Congress.
They were angry over the failure of Congress to honor its promises to the army regarding salary, bounties and life pensions. The officers had heard from Philadelphia that the American government was going broke and that they might not be compensated at all.
On March 10, 1783, an anonymous letter was circulated among the officers of General Washington's main camp at Newburgh. It addressed those complaints and called for an unauthorized meeting of officers to be held the next day to consider possible military solutions to the problems of the civilian government and its financial woes.
General Washington stopped that meeting from happening by forbidding the officers to meet at the unauthorized meeting. Instead, he suggested they meet a few days later, on March 15th, at the regular meeting of his officers.
Meanwhile, another anonymous letter was circulated, this time suggesting Washington himself was sympathetic to the claims of the malcontent officers.
And so on March 15, 1783, Washington's officers gathered in a church building in Newburgh, effectively holding the fate of democracy in America in their hands.
Unexpectedly, General Washington himself showed up. He was not entirely welcomed by his men, but nevertheless, personally addressed them...
By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide...
Thus much, gentlemen,
I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last - and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army. As my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests.
But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country, there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us. Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold, and nakedness? If peace takes place, never sheathe your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice; this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress or turning our arms against it (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance), has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe? Some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?
I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army; and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them? And, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe, for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.
For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice), a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost of my abilities.
While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.
By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings. And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, "Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining."
George Washington - March 15, 1783
This speech was not very well received by his men. Washington then took out a letter from a member of Congress explaining the financial difficulties of the government.
After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.
"Gentlemen," said Washington, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
In that moment of utter vulnerability, Washington's men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.
His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the young experiment of democracy in America continued.
Not only did Washington refuse absolute power, but he made the officers in the Army take an oath to refuse it themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_the_Cincinnati
The concept of the Society of the Cincinnati probably originated with Major General Henry Knox. The first meeting of the Society was held at a dinner in Fishkill (now Beacon, New York near Newburgh), in May of 1783, before the British withdrew from New York City. The meeting was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, and the participants agreed to stay in contact with each other after the war. Membership was generally limited to officers who had served at least three years in the Continental Army or Navy but included officers of the French Army and Navy above certain ranks. (Later, membership was passed down to the eldest son after the death of the original member; present-day hereditary members generally must be descended from an officer who served in the Continental Army or Navy for at least three years, from an officer who died or was killed in service, or from an officer serving at the close of the Revolution.)
The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm to accept a term as Roman Consul and then served as Magister Populi for a short time, thereby assuming lawful dictatorial control of Rome to meet a war emergency. When the battle was won, he returned power to the Senate and went back to plowing his fields. The Society's motto reflects that ethic of selfless service: Omnia relinquit servare rempublicam - He relinquished everything to serve the Republic. The Society has from the beginning had three objects, referred to as the "Immutable Principles":
To preserve the rights so dearly won;
To promote the continuing union of the states; and
To assist members in need, their widows, and their orphans.
Within twelve months of the founding, a constituent Society had been organized in each state and in France. Of about 5,500 men originally eligible for membership, 2,150 had joined within a year. King Louis XVI ordained the French Society of the Cincinnati, which was organized on July 4, 1784. Up to that time, the King of France had not allowed his officers to wear any foreign decorations; but he made an exception in favor of the badge of the Cincinnati, and membership in the Society was so eagerly sought that it soon became as coveted as membership of certain orders of knighthood in France.
George Washington was elected the first President General of the Society. He served from December, 1783, until his death in 1799. The second President General was Alexander Hamilton.
The Society of the Cincinnati is generally considered the premiere American hereditary society. Its members have included many of the most distinguished military leaders and civil servants in the history of the country, beginning with twenty-three of the fifty-four signers of the U.S. Constitution. The Cincinnati is the oldest military society in continuous existence in North America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: December 26, 2007, 07:29:19 PM
Fred finally seems to be finding his footing (including a very good serious tax rate cut proposal)-- but if he doesn't have a solid showing in Iowa he's probably done for. Although I like Huckabee for his Fair Tax, strong gun rights, and some other positions, there is quite a bit that is frankly straight disagreeable Democrat. Romney still strikes me as an insincere Ken doll and soft on gun rights, Rudy hostile to gun rights, dubious on immigration, McCain hostile to free speech and border control, blah blah. My sense of things, my hope is that if Fred survives this moment, the lack of passion for any of the others could result in a second chance for him-- if he survives Iowa. Long story short, if you like Fred, right now would be a good moment to express it financially. https://www.fred08.com:443/Contribute.aspx?CampaignID=redpickup
Here's this on Huckabee by the , , , unique Ann Coulter. Being Ann, as usual there are absurdities in the following, and, being Ann, there are also some pretty pertinent points made too:
All I want for Christmas is for Christians to listen to what Mike Huckabee says, rather than what the media say about him. The mainstream media keep flogging Huckabee for being a Christian, apparently unaware that this "God" fellow is testing through the roof in focus groups.
Huckabee is a "compassionate conservative" only in the sense that calling him a conservative is being compassionate.
He responded to my column last week -- pointing out that he is on record supporting the Supreme Court's sodomy-is-a-constitutional-right decision -- by saying that he was relying on the word of a caller to his radio show and didn't know the details of the case. Ironically, that's how most people feel about sodomy: They support it until they hear the details.Continued
First, I'd pay a lot of money to hear how a court opinion finding that sodomy is a constitutional right could be made to sound reasonable. But the caller had the right response when Huckabee asked him, "What's your favorite radio station?" So he seemed like a reliable source.
Second, Huckabee's statement that he agreed with the court's sodomy ruling was made one week after the decision. According to Nexis, in that one week, the sodomy decision had been the cover story on every newspaper in the country, including The New York Times. It was the talk of all the Sunday news programs. It had been denounced by every conservative and Christian group in America -- as well as other random groups of sane individuals having no conservative inclinations whatsoever.
The highest court in the land had found sodomy was a constitutional right! That sort of thing tends to make news. (I was going to say the sodomy ruling got publicity up the wazoo, but this is, after all, Christmas week.)
So this little stretch-marked cornpone is either lying, has a closed head injury, is a complete ignoramus -- or all of the above.
Huckabee opposes school choice, earning him the coveted endorsement of the National Education Association of New Hampshire, which is like the sheriff being endorsed by the local whorehouse.
He is, however, in favor of school choice for kids in Mexico: They have the choice of going to school there or here. Huckabee promoted giving in-state tuition in Arkansas to illegal immigrants from Mexico -- but not to U.S. citizens from Ohio. "I don't believe you punish the children," he said, "for the crime and sins of the parents."
Since when is not offering someone lavish taxpayer-funded benefits a form of punishment? That's almost as crazy as a governor pardoning a known sex offender so he can go out and rape and kill.
Huckabee claims he's against punishing children for the crimes of their fathers in the case of illegal immigrants. But in the case of slavery, he believes the children of the children's children should be routinely punished for the crimes of their fathers. Huckabee has said illegal immigration gives Americans a chance to make up for slavery. (I thought letting O.J. walk for murdering two people was payback for slavery.)
Just two years ago, Huckabee cheerfully announced to a meeting of the Hispanic advocacy group League of United Latin American Citizens that "Pretty soon, Southern white guys like me may be in the minority." Who's writing this guy's speeches -- Al Sharpton? (Actually, take out "Southern" and "white," and I agree with Huckabee's sentiment).
He said the transition from Arkansas' Southern traditions would "require extraordinary efforts on both sides of the border." But, curiously, most of the efforts Huckabee described would come entirely from this side of the border. Arkansas, he pledged, would celebrate diversity "in culture, in language and in population." He said America would have to "accommodate" those who come here.
All that he expected from those south of the border was that they have a desire to provide better opportunities for their families. Basically, we have to keep accommodating everyone but U.S. citizens.
For those of you keeping score at home, this puts Huckabee just a little to the left of Dennis Kucinich on illegal immigration and border control. The only difference is that Kucinich supports amnesty for aliens from south of the border and north of Saturn.
In a widely quoted remark, Huckabee denounced a Republican bill that would merely require proof of citizenship to vote and receive government benefits as "un-Christian, un-American, irresponsible and anti-life," according to the Arkansas News Bureau. Now, where have I heard this sort of thing before? Hmmm ... wait, now I remember: It was during the Democratic debates!
In his current attempt to pretend to be against illegal immigration, Huckabee makes a meaningless joke about how the federal government should track illegals the way Federal Express tracks packages. (Can a Mexican fit in one of those little envelopes?)
In other words, Huckabee is going to address the problem of illegal immigration by making jokes. It's called leadership, folks.
Huckabee confirms for liberal TV hosts their image of conservatives as dorks by bragging about how cool he is because he "likes music." What's he doing -- running for president or filling out his Facebook profile? Arkansas former fatty loves to make jokes and play the bass guitar. Remember what happened to the last former fatboy from Arkansas trying to be "cool" by liking music? I'll take "Stained Dresses" for $400, Alex.
According to Huckabee, most people think conservatives don't like music. Who on earth says conservatives don't like music -- other than liberals and Mike Huckabee? This desperate need to be liked by liberals has never led to anything but calamity.
Huckabee wants to get kids involved in music at an early age because he believes it leads to a more balanced and developed brain. You know, as we saw with the Jackson family. Maybe someone should tell him the Osmonds are voting for Romney.
He supports a nationwide smoking ban anyplace where people work, constitutional protection for sodomy, big government, higher taxes and government benefits for illegal aliens. According to my calculations, that puts him about three earmarks away from being Nancy Pelosi.
Liberals take a perverse pleasure in touting Huckabee because they know he will give them everything they want -- big government and a Christian they can roll.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy
on: December 26, 2007, 07:28:10 AM
This could easily have gone in the Poltical Economics thread, but given the profound importance of tax policy in its own right, I give it its own thread.
By LEO LINBECK
December 26, 2007; Page A10
Much has been written lately about the FairTax, the proposal to replace the current federal income tax with a national retail sales tax. Unfortunately, much of it is wrong.
This country needs a spirited and wide-ranging debate about fundamental tax reform. But that debate is not advanced by misimpressions and distortions of the FairTax. Let us then clear up a few.
One assertion about the FairTax is that it began as a project of the Church of Scientology at a time when it was seeking tax-exempt status. This is false. The FairTax actually comes to us from market research conducted more than a decade ago by a handful of business leaders. Their goal was to determine what type of tax system would be most acceptable to the American public. The studies they paid for cost millions of dollars, included hard economic research by respected scholars, and were subjected to critical peer review. The result is a proposal, since introduced as legislation in Congress, now known as the FairTax.
What emerged from this research is that a national retail sales tax is a preferred method of taxation among most Americans surveyed. Another is that the tax would have significant benefits for the nation's economy.
Why? Because it eliminates income taxes and payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare), which are costly to collect and end up as "embedded" in the price of everything we buy. Along with getting rid of the Internal Revenue Service and the complexities of the income tax code, the FairTax would eliminate the distorting effect that income and payroll taxes have on the economy.
Research on the price of consumer goods reveals that up to 20% of all prices today represent hidden income taxes and payroll taxes. Once these taxes are repealed and replaced with the FairTax, it is likely that market pressure would force retail prices to fall.
Eliminating embedded taxes will also do something else -- it will remove significant price disadvantages suffered by American producers competing with tax-free imports. Eliminating corporate income taxes and capital gains taxes, which the FairTax would do, would likely make the American economy the most desirable place in the world to do business.
Another benefit of the FairTax is that, unlike other sales taxes, it would not hit the poorest Americans the hardest. The FairTax proposal calls for sending every American a "prebate" check to offset the cost of the national sales taxes paid by those living in poverty. This feature would effectively exempt those living below the poverty line from paying taxes to the federal government, and provide all taxpayers with a reimbursement of a portion of taxes paid.
The FairTax rate is 23% on retail sales when calculated "inclusively," as are income tax rates. It will, in a fairer, more transparent and less-expensive way, raise the same amount of money the federal government now collects through the income and payroll taxes. Because it would be levied on consumption at the final point of sale, instead of on earnings, it would dramatically expand the tax base. The FairTax would collect revenue from the underground economy. Even illegal immigrants and the 40 million foreign tourists who visit the U.S. each year would pay it.
The distributional effects of the FairTax have been extensively studied, and although the proposal has distinct advantages for investors and wealth creation across the income spectrum, the greatest benefit of the FairTax is to low- and moderate-income Americans. The effect of eliminating regressive payroll taxes is commonly overlooked when analyzing the FairTax, but it would have a very significant impact, as these taxes represent the single largest tax burden on these income earners.
Significantly, the FairTax eliminates all loopholes, gimmicks, exemptions and deductions from the federal tax system. Under the FairTax, Congress would no longer be able to reward friends, punish enemies or manipulate behavior through the tax code. The FairTax would also eliminate the lucrative tax lobbying practices that represent more than 50% of all lobby dollars spent annually in Washington.
It's no surprise, then, to see that vested interests have argued against the FairTax and in favor of keeping the mortgage interest deduction. But wouldn't it be better for everyone to stop the IRS from withholding from paychecks; to see the price of new homes -- and all other goods -- drop by removing embedded costs; and to have interest rates fall as the savings rate increases? Is it really in everyone's interests to keep the income-tax system so that one-third of taxpayers can go on deducting a portion of their mortgage interest from their federal taxes?
There have been many tax reform proposals over the years, but most of them simply call for reforming around the margins of the existing tax system. The President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform was assembled by the Bush administration and concluded its work a few years ago. Instead of seriously looking at the FairTax, the panel looked at a very different type of consumption tax, riddled with exemptions, and then declared that it would be too expensive and that the rate would have to be far higher than the FairTax rate.
Politically, the FairTax will only become law once enough citizens demand that it be enacted, overcoming the self-interest that members of Congress and others have in holding onto the current system. It is debatable whether a modern, citizen-led tax revolution is possible. But the growing popularity (even among presidential candidates) of the FairTax suggests that another Boston Tea Party may be at hand.
Mr. Linbeck is CEO and cofounder of Americans for Fair Taxation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia never ours to lose/Putin's Cold War
on: December 26, 2007, 07:23:47 AM
Putin's Cold War
Confrontation with America satisfies a domestic agenda.
BY LEON ARON
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Last Saturday Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of Russia's General Staff, issued an ominous warning. Were the U.S. to launch a rocket from the missile defense system it plans to deploy in Poland to intercept Iranian rockets, it might accidentally trigger a retaliatory attack by Russian nuclear ballistic missiles.
This was only the most recent of a series of provocative and disturbing messages from Moscow. In fact, at no time since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 has the direction of Russian policy been as troubling as it is today.
What accounts for this change? And where will it lead?
Let's first discard simplistic clichés. The most common of them postulates that when the post-Soviet, proto-democratic, anti-communist, revolutionary Russia of the 1990s was poor, it was also meek and peaceable and willing to be a friend of the West. Now that the accursed "period of weakness" and "chaos" of the 1990s is behind it, the same explanation goes, Russia has "recovered," is "off its knees," and is "back." Back, that is, to spar and bicker with the West because . . . well, because this is what a prosperous and strong Russia does.
Nonsense. A country's behavior in the world, its choice of truculence or accommodation, is not decided by accountants who calculate what the country can or cannot afford. Rather it is determined by the regime's fears and hopes, and by the leaders' notions of what their countries should strive for.
As Germany and Japan recovered from the devastation of World War II and became many times richer than they were in 1945, they grew more, not less, peaceful. They also devoted puny shares of their national income to the military--and only after intense debate. Western Europe's equally spectacular economic resurgence has not brought back squabbling, jingoism and militarism--and neither did South Korea's, after communist aggression and decades of authoritarianism.
In the past seven years, the trajectory of Russian foreign policy under Vladimir Putin mirrored, and changed with, the domestic ideological and political order. It has morphed from the Gorbachev-Yeltsin search for the "path to the common European home" and integration into the world economy, to declaring that the end of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."
Soon the Kremlin's paid and unpaid propagandists were extolling "sovereign democracy"--a still rather "soft" authoritarianism, increasingly with nationalistic and isolationist overtones. Such exegeses, an independent Russian analyst noted, "would have been labeled as fascist, chauvinistic, anti-democratic or anti-Western during Yeltsin's term. Now such texts have become mainstream."
As the Kremlin's pronouncements grew darker and more fanciful--including warnings that foreign evildoers are plotting to break up Russia--Moscow's foreign policy, too, evolved: first to a cynical and omnivorous pragmatism, and then an assertive and pointedly anti-Western, especially anti-American, posture.
The formerly diverse bilateral U.S.-Russian agenda--energy security, nuclear nonproliferation, the global war on terrorism, the containment of a resurgent, authoritarian China, Russia's integration in the global economy--has been systematically whittled down by Moscow to where it was in the Soviet days and where the Kremlin now wants it: arms control. Suddenly pulled out of mothballs and imbued with the gravest concern for Russia's safety are all manner of the Cold War detritus.
Some of Moscow's concerns (for instance, NATO deployments increasingly close to Russia's borders) are legitimate. But the alarmist and uncompromising rhetoric, and the mode of its delivery--shrill, public and from the very top of the Russian power structure--have been utterly disproportionate to the rather trivial and easily resolved military essence of the issues.
The evolution of Moscow's Iran policy is particularly troubling. Until about a year ago, the Moscow-Tehran quid pro quo was straightforward. Russia defended Iran in the U.N.'s Security Council, while Iran refrained from fomenting fundamentalism and terrorism in Central Asia and the Russian North Caucasus, and spent billions of dollars on Russian nuclear energy technology and military hardware, including mobile air defense missiles, fighter jets and tanks. (At the request of the U.S., Boris Yeltsin suspended arms sales to Tehran in 1995.)
Then Russia's strategy changed from money-making, influence-peddling and diplomatic arbitrage to a far riskier brinksmanship in pursuit of a potentially enormous prize. The longer Moscow resists effective sanctions against an Iran that continues to enrich uranium--and thus to keep the bomb option open and available at the time of its choosing--the greater the likelihood of the situation's deteriorating, through a series of very probable miscalculations by both the U.S. and Iran, toward a full-blown crisis with a likely military solution.
As Iran's patron, Moscow would be indispensable to any settlement of such a conflict, as was the Soviet Union when it sponsored Egypt in the 1993 Yom Kippur war. And through that settlement it would get its prize.
In one fell swoop, Russia could fulfill major strategic goals: to reoccupy the Soviet Union's position as a key player in the Middle East and the only viable counterbalance to the U.S in the region; to keep oil prices at today's astronomic levels for as long as possible by feeding the fears of a military strike against Iran (and see them go as far as $120-$130 a barrel and likely higher if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz and disrupts the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf); and to use the West to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran a few hundred miles from Russia's borders.
Especially frustrating for the White House is Russian foreign policy's intimate connection to the Kremlin's all-out effort to ensure a smooth transition of power, which, Dimitry Medvedev's appointment to the presidency notwithstanding, looks more and more like it will be from a presidency to a kind of Putin regency.
Creating a sense of a besieged fortress at a time of domestic political uncertainty or economic downturn to rally the people around the Kremlin and, more importantly, its current occupant, is part and parcel of the Soviet ideological tradition, which this regime seems increasingly to admire.
So between now and at least next spring, Russian foreign policy is likely to be almost entirely subservient to the Putin's regime's authoritarian, ambitious and dicey agenda. This will likely result in more nasty rhetoric from the Kremlin and further damage relations with the West, and the U.S. in particular.
Until the succession crisis is resolved (meaning, until Mr. Putin's effective leadership of the country is renewed and secured) no amount of importuning, begging or kowtowing--or emergency trips by Condoleezza Rice to Moscow and heart-to-heart chats in Kennebunkport--are likely to produce an ounce of good.
Let us, therefore, refrain from the ritual, silly hand-wringing and accusations on the subject of "losing" Russia. Russia is not (and never has been) ours to lose.
Back on "the never altered circuit of its fate," to borrow from one of Robert Graves's finest poems, Russia under Mr. Putin has been doing a fine job of losing itself on its own. Resuming the Gorbachev-Yeltsin heroic labor of dismantling this circuit, and thus altering Russia's relations with the West, could be Mr. Medvedev's job--if he wants it and is allowed to proceed.
Mr. Aron is resident scholar and director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006" (AEI Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington's Gift
on: December 26, 2007, 06:58:47 AM
"More permanent and genuine happiness is to be found in the
sequestered walks of connubial life than in the giddy rounds of
-- George Washington (letter to the Marquis de la Rourie, 10
Reference: Original Intent, Barton (300); original The Writings
of George Washington, Sparks, ed., vol. 9 (190)
Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.
BY THOMAS FLEMING
Tuesday, December 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington--his refusal to take absolute power--that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today's world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America's eight-year struggle for independence.
The story begins with Gen. Washington's arrival in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace--just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for Gen. Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress--without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.
Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers--especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him "The Great Illustrissimo"--a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.
Congressman Alexander Hamilton, once Washington's most gifted aide, had told him in a morose letter that there was a "principle of hostility to an army" loose in the country and too many congressmen shared it. Bitterly, Hamilton added that he had "an indifferent opinion of the honesty" of the United States of America.
Soon Hamilton was spreading an even lower opinion of Congress. Its members had fled Philadelphia when a few hundred unpaid soldiers in the city's garrison surrounded the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), demanding back pay. Congressman Hamilton called the affair "weak and disgusting to the last degree" and soon resigned his seat.
The rest of the country agreed. There were hoots of derision and contempt for Congress in newspapers from Boston to Savannah. The politicians took refuge in the village of Princeton, N.J., where they rejected Washington's advice to fund a small postwar regular army, then wandered to Annapolis.
In Amsterdam, where brokers were trying to sell shares in an American loan negotiated by John Adams, sales plummeted. Even America's best friend in Europe, the Marquis de Lafayette, wondered aloud if the United States was about to collapse. A deeply discouraged Washington admitted he saw "one head turning into thirteen."
Was there anyone who could rescue the situation? Many people thought only George Washington could work this miracle.
Earlier in the year he had been urged to summarily dismiss Congress and rule as an uncrowned king, under the title of president. He emphatically refused to consider the idea. Now many people wondered if he might have changed his mind. At the very least he might appear before Congress and issue a scathing denunciation of their cowardly flight from Philadelphia and their ingratitude to his soldiers. That act would destroy whatever shreds of legitimacy the politicians had left.
At noon on Dec. 23, Washington and two aides walked from their hotel to the Annapolis State House, where Congress was sitting. Barely 20 delegates had bothered to show up.
The general and his aides took designated seats in the assembly chamber. The president of Congress, Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania, began the proceedings: "Sir, the United States in Congress assembled are prepared to receive your communications."
Mifflin had been one of the generals who attempted to humiliate Washington into resigning during the grim winter at Valley Forge. He had smeared Washington as a puffed-up egotist, denigrated his military ability, and used his wealth to persuade not a few congressmen to agree with him. A few months later, Mifflin was forced to quit the army after being accused of stealing millions as quartermaster general.
Addressing this scandal-tarred enemy, Washington drew a speech from his coat pocket and unfolded it with trembling hands. "Mr. President," he began in a low, strained voice. "The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country."
Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them \[Congress\] to his holy keeping."
For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.
Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.
This was--is--the most important moment in American history.
The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
In Europe, Washington's resignation restored America's battered prestige. It was reported with awe and amazement in newspapers from London to Vienna. The Connecticut painter John Trumbull, studying in England, wrote that it had earned the "astonishment and admiration of this part of the world."
Washington shook hands with each member of Congress and not a few of the spectators. Meanwhile, his aides were bringing their horses and baggage wagons from their hotel. They had left orders for everything to be packed and ready for an immediate departure.
The next day, after an overnight stop at a tavern, they rode at a steady pace toward Mount Vernon. Finally, as twilight shrouded the winter sky, the house came into view beside the Potomac River. Past bare trees and wintry fields the three horsemen trotted toward the white-pillared porch and the green shuttered windows, aglow with candlelight. Waiting for them at the door was Martha Washington and two grandchildren. It was Christmas eve. Ex-Gen. Washington--and the United States of America--had survived the perils of both war and peace.
Mr. Fleming is the author, most recently, of "The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown" (Collins, 2007).
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: December 25, 2007, 05:38:50 PM
21 Diciembre 2007 2:24
Perú: Takanakuy, “Cuando la sangre hierve” Una tradición indígena que se celebra en Navidad
clasificado en: Actualidad.
Una tradición indígena de catarsis y justicia social que se celebra en fiestas de Navidad
Por Víctor Laime Mantilla
Los orígenes de la Wayliya se remontan a los resultados del gran movimiento cultural, religioso e ideológico “Taki Unquy” (1560) que con mayor esencia se dio en Ayacucho, Huancavelica y Apurímac. En el transcurso de los años aún supervive en la provincia de Chumbivilcas, obviamente con cambios, más de forma que de fondo, a los que ha tenido que ser sometida durante el Virreynato y épocas ulteriores.
El “Taki Unquy” como manifiesta el investigador Rafael Varón Gabai: “fue una respuesta violenta a la colonización europea del Perú, que tuvo como base la tradición indígena con dos vertientes, el taki o cantar histórico (ideológico) que sirvió como vínculo integrador de la comunidad con su pasado, y el otro, los rituales nativos, especialmente aquellos de las festividades orientadas a la prevención de males”.
En el Wayliya se ha perdido el ritual prehispánico con las características propias del movimiento. En cambio, tiene en esencia el takiy, el canto o el cantar, algunos con contenidos históricos y otros con contenidos actuales que endemonian, envenenan, transforman anímicamente y liberan al danzante.
La Wayliya fusionada al Takanakuy, como es visto y practicado por la comunidad, muy bien podrían ser el gran resurgimiento del movimiento “Nuevo Taki Unquy” que actualmente se viene expandiendo sutilmente por distintas comunidades de la provincia de Chumbivilcas y capitales de ciudades como Arequipa, Lima y Cusco.
La Wayliya es una forma de celebrar una fiesta de encuentro o Tupay de fuerzas duales en donde todos, unísonamente, exclaman “Wayliya, Waylihiya, Wayliya” y en algunas comunidades “Waylaya, Walayay, Waylaya, Waylaya” como una forma
de reflejar libertad, alegría o éxito.
El ritmo del marco musical y los pasos marciales de los disfrazados danzarines de la Wayliya marcan el compás o el tiempo con una sonaja hecha de un palo que se asemeja a la letra “y” que en quechua es el “Tanka”. Entre los dos extremos cruza un alambre en el que se encuentran insertadas varias hojas de lata que generan sonidos propios del metal. La sonaja es acompañada por el violín y el arpa que armonizan incesantemente durante la fiesta del cargo.
Un verso que de manera directa refleja el sentimiento indígena frente a la dominación y que se canta en el Takanakuy es el siguiente:
Original en quechua
Con el chileno o con el peruano
estaré siempre enfrentándome,
chaypaqsi mamay wachakuwasqa
para eso mi madre me trajo a este mundo
con pies y manos;
wayliya, waylihiya, wayliya.
wayliya, waylihiya, wayliya
Estas letras encarnan una posición neutra, ni de peruano ni de chileno; sino, una posición etnocentrista “indígena”, al margen de las formalidades y esquemas peruano - occidentales. En consecuencia, el campesino indígena actualmente no se siente identificado con el país. Al contrario, cree que pertenece a otro país o suyo.
En síntesis, la Guerra del 79 ha maltratado por igual al peruano y al chileno ya que son ellos los que la han sufrido y afrontado obligados, no sé si por defender algo que les pertenecía a ellos o a unos cuantos.
Takanakuy o Wayliya
El Takanakuy es una fiesta tradicional que se celebra en distintas fechas y meses dentro de la provincia de Chumbivilcas. Comienza el 26 de julio recordando a la virgen de Santa Ana en la comunidad campesina de Ccoyo. Continúa el 08 de diciembre en la comunidad de Mosco y Ccollpa. Luego llega al 25 de diciembre como la fiesta central, que concentra fuerzas y valores juveniles, en Santo Tomás, Llusco y Quiñota, seguido, en año nuevo en las distintas comunidades indígenas de Santo Tomás.
Takanakuy, se refiere al encuentro físico de cuerpo a cuerpo, a puño limpio, sin ninguna regla que impida el uso de atuendos de protección o atuendos de ataque, especialmente en el uso de zapatos. Pueden ser chuzos, botas de mineros con punta acerada u otros más contundentes. Lo único que se prohíbe es el uso de anillos en los dedos.
Motivos por los que se concurre al Takanakuy
Existen varios motivos por los que se concurre y se concretizan en el día del Takanakuy. Así tenemos:
1. Por deporte: Principalmente concurren aquellos jóvenes que quieren demostrar voluntariamente sus habilidades físicas o su valentía, para alcanzar el estatus de ser el “mejor peleador”.
2. Por haber adquirido compromiso antelado por amistad: Vienen a cumplir la promesa o la “palabra” empeñada.
3. Para ventilar públicamente conflictos familiares y/o personales: Asisten para solucionar públicamente conflictos interfamiliares o interpersonales que han sido provocados por dominio de tierras agrícolas, abigeato, discusiones, acontecimientos fortuitos en las borracheras, fiestas de corrida y otros abusos que se ocasionan en la comunidad. Es considerado por la población como una forma de auto-administración pública de justicia.
4. Para delimitar situaciones sentimentales: Quienes coinciden enamorándose de la misma joven lo definen en el Takanakuy de manera pública.
5. Por defender el apellido o al amigo: Estos danzantes salen al encuentro como coteja o sustituto (wiqch’upa) para defender a su pariente o amigo que ha sido vencido en la contienda.
Contenido social del Takanakuy, Maqanakuy, Navidad o Wayliya
En lo Psíquico: Para afrontar las realidades adversas de la vida local y como ser pensante e individuo responsable con la familia y la sociedad el participante hará respetar el honor y el apellido. Fundamentalmente como individuo elevará su nivel de autoestima dentro de la idiosincrasia y la cosmovisión local, adquiriendo un status y ascendencia en la sociedad. Como joven estará en condiciones de contraer matrimonio o tener pareja.
En lo Deportivo: Para el protagonista implica prepararse a diario mediante actividades deportivas y ejercicios físicos como levantar pesas (piedras, cargas, etc.). Como resultado, el participante estará en condiciones atléticas y corporales (salud) que le permitan afrontar al contrincante.
En lo Familiar: Es importante para la familia que el hijo varón desde pequeño se esté adiestrando, de tal manera hará que la familia y el apellido sean respetados y considerados como ejemplo. Si éste triunfa en la pelea será motivo de halago, celebraciones y sobretodo significará un acto de honor, lo que elevará el nivel de autoestima familiar. El ser qhari (hombre) significa que será ejemplo tanto en el aspecto productivo, social y político dentro del proceso organizativo de la comunidad.
En lo Grupal o Social: Para el grupo étnico o ayllu al que pertenece el participante será estimado como el hijo preferido, admirado e imitado por la población infantil y los adolescentes de la localidad. Será él que comande el orden local, siendo muchas veces el preferido para ocupar los cargos de rondero o de disciplina comunal en el manejo de conflictos territoriales o familiares.
En la parte sentimental, generalmente, será el más preferido por las mujeres jóvenes. Por la naturaleza de la zona una joven prefiere a un individuo que la haga respetar y sentir segura en su comunidad.
Como parte de la autoafirmación cultural del pueblo: Cada grupo que participa de la fiesta Takanakuy se viste con sus mejores atuendos. Incluso las mujeres y varones que regresan de las ciudades optan por auto-imponerse la vestimenta de la zona. En cambio, los danzarines optan por introducir, como parte de su disfraz en la cabeza, símbolos de animales precolombinos, como figuras disecadas de zorros, venados, águilas, halcones, pumas, wallatas, entre otros.
Como instancia pública de administración de justicia social: Desde el punto de vista consuetudinario son formas ancestrales de administrar justicia. Desde la llegada de los castellanos el hecho de recurrir ante una autoridad judicial “letrada”, Juez o un Subprefecto implica costos en tiempo y economía, generando esperanzas nada confiables en los resultados porque la justicia -en la Colonia, la República y actualmente- siempre ha sido administrada por los mistis. El Takanakuy, muchas veces, se inicia y termina entre abrazos. En suma, es aquello que se traslada de la justicia de leyes a la justicia social.
En el aspecto productivo: Generalmente participa el que quiere destacar en la producción agrícola y ganadera, en el trabajo independiente o cuando viaja temporalmente a trabajar a las minas. Se dedica mejor a la familia como productor concreto, trae la “estabilidad económica a la familia”, porque, de manera subjetiva está el ser “triunfador”, “hombre ejemplo “para los demás.
En el ser Triunfador: Estará siempre dispuesto a seguir triunfando en disputas futuras. A él lo llevarán a diferentes lugares del Takanakuy, muchas veces de wiqch’upa y será recibido con admiración entre los danzarines; pero mostrando siempre un perfil bajo, es decir, siempre mostrará su humildad. Pero, cuando haya algún desafío será el primero en saltar a la cancha, incluso, en algunos casos, será el que salga de voluntario “para cualquiera”, esto dependiendo del lugar, porque, puede haber también otros mejores que él.
En situación de Perdedor: Anímicamente nunca está perdido. Siempre tiene la mentalidad de triunfar al siguiente año.
Como catarsis colectiva: El público u observador es el que anima a uno y otro durante la pelea, disfruta y lo vive. El observador toma una posición de crítico, es el que dice: ¡Más puñete, más patada, con el derecho, con el izquierdo, de abajo, de arriba! etc. En otras palabras, es el experto momentáneo, como todo público de reyertas deportivas.
Durante la fiesta el populacho goza y es el momento de la catarsis social. Se olvidan de los problemas económicos de la casa, por el momento son libres de todo acto, se desfogan al escuchar el ritmo de la Wayliya, al ver a los tropeles de danzantes, se transforman en seres extravagantes al ver las peleas que intercambian patadas y puñetes al medio del ruedo.
El respeto a la “palabra” como persona: Para el campesino indígena, por encima de cualquier responsabilidad, está el empeño de la “palabra”. Es decir, si una persona compromete o queda en un “pacto” lo que está en juicio es la “palabra”. Por esto, muchos van al Takanakuy a cumplir su “palabra, su compromiso”. Obviamente, esto se da en diferentes niveles de la actividad comunal.
Para comunicarse con el autor o mayor información sobre el tema dirigirse al correo electrónico: email@example.com
Takanakuy, "Cuando la sangre hierve". Una catarsis violenta de la Navidad…
Una violenta tradición indígena de los Andes peruanos que tiene su culminación cada 25 de diciembre: "Takanakuy, se refiere al encuentro físico de cuerpo a cuerpo, a puño limpio, sin ninguna regla que impida el uso de atuendos de protección …
Trackbacks de meneame.net — 22 Diciembre 2007 @ 6:10
Importante tradición que concientemente cada profesional andino debe enfocar al mundo “moderno” o “globalización”, permite en ello impulsar la identidad cultural, la vida mismo de los pueblos que las instituciones estatales cada vez olvidan; no hay riqueza cultural, vida social y diversidad u otra que permita a los peruanos unirnos, que a través de la educación hagamos integración, valores ansestrales, y que estos formen un hombre de conciencia para ocuparse de manera real en resolver problemas internos de nuestro país, profesionales que dirijan insituciones que respondan a la necesidad de cada uno de los pueblos mas alejados de la capital, centralista y tranculturizador.
Aun el sector educación no responde a las demandas populares, los tecnicos la diseñan, proponen y los Directores la borran.
Es mi opinión: Lic. Victor Vilcabana Sánchez Docente EIB. Pullana yarpushunllapa.
Comentario de Victor Vilcabana Sánchez — 23 Diciembre 2007 @ 22:23
Fighting arena, fighters dancing, note the masks.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stojyc8C-eo&feature=related
Music for the event. Notice the masks & costumes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Warm message
on: December 25, 2007, 04:44:01 PM
Muslims send warm Christmas message
December 25, 2007
PARIS -- More than 100 Muslim scholars have addressed warm Christmas greetings to Christians around the world, a message notable both for what it says and the fact that it was sent at all.
The greeting, sent by a group of 138 Sunni, Shiite, Sufi and other scholars who recently proposed a dialogue with Christian leaders, called for peace on Earth and thanked church leaders who have responded positively to their invitation.
Islam is a decentralized faith, with no pope or archbishop who can speak for believers as a group. Individual Muslim clerics previously have exchanged holiday greetings with Christians, but nothing on this scale has been done before.
"Al-Salaamu Aleikum, Peace be upon you, Pax Vobiscum," the greetings began in Arabic, English and Latin. The letter's text is available on the group's website, acommonword.com.
It noted that Christmas came just after the Muslim hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, recalling how the prophet Abraham almost sacrificed his son.
"God's refusal to let Abraham sacrifice his son . . . is to this day a divine warrant and a most powerful social lesson for all followers of the Abrahamic faiths, to ever do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every human life and especially the lives of every single child," it said.
"May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all," it added. "May it be a year of humble repentance before God and mutual forgiveness within and between communities."
The group, linked to an Islamic research institute headed by Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed bin Talal, wants a serious dialogue between Christian and Muslim theologians to help bridge a gulf in understanding between the religions.http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-scholars25dec25,1,5275382.story?coll=la-headlines-world
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: December 24, 2007, 04:22:33 PM
"The deliberate union of so great and various a people in such a
place, is without all partiality or prejudice, if not the greatest
exertion of human understanding, the greatest single effort of
national deliberation that the world has ever seen."
-- John Adams (quoted in a letter from Rufus King to Theophilus
Parsons, 20 February 1788)
Reference: The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, King, vol. 1
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight
on: December 24, 2007, 02:09:02 PM
Well, IMHO the War by Islamic Fascism IS a very big problem and RP seems not to appreciate that there is a world wide fascist religious movement dedicated to asynchronous warfare against Western Civilization in general and the US in particular. The asynchronicity of the war presents fiendish problems in its waging. Rather than my writing a major work on all this I would like to suggest that you read the many threads on this forum which are dedicated to different facets of it-- or give me bite sized questions so I can give you bite sized answers.
As for the economic situation facing the US-- I agree thoroughly that the dollar is a major issue, although, having lived through the insanity of the Carter years when the dollar was in worse shape than now, I am less apocalyptic about it.
IMHO the dollar is already substantially undervalued on a purchasing power parity basis. If not inflation/money supply/etc driven, what is going on? As I understand it, capital flows dwarf trade flows i.e. the real issue is a matter of money seeking a greater return.
I am a big believer in both the importance of marginal tax rates (see e.g. Jude Wanniski's brilliant "The Way the World Works") and the fact that tax rates are pretty much overlooked by the chattering classes. Unnoticed by the chattering classes is that the Euros have been simplifying and flattening tax rates, as well as moving somewhat forward on unifying into one economy. On the margin these things mean that future growth prospects are better than they were-- and capital has been shifting there instead of here with the attendant effects on the exchange rates. This has set up a feedback loop wherein the zero sum gamesters of the markets have a multiplier effect on the movement of the various rates.
IMHO it is no coincidence that the otherwise implausible Rep candidate, Huckabee, is a big proponent of a dramatic quasi-revolutionary overhaul of the US tax code. Several other Rep candidates are also talking about various tax RATE cuts too.
Reagan cut tax RATES and the dollar's plunge under Carter was reversed. IMHO we are looking at another incarnation of the same dynamic now. Should the US return to a competitive status viz tax rates, IMHO the dollar problem will pretty much solve itself.
Does this start to answer your questions Skinny Devil?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions
on: December 23, 2007, 11:41:40 PM
Last updated December 21, 2007 11:23 p.m. PT
Scott Eklund / P-I
Jesse Toro watches his wife, Joelle, speak on his behalf before his sentencing Friday.
No jail for firing back at police
Plea deal brings lesser sentence
By LEVI PULKKINEN
Jesse James Toro II learned in a Seattle courtroom Friday that he will not face jail for his role in a rolling shootout with three undercover police officers.
Toro, 29, was behind the wheel of a Cadillac sedan in June when he got into an argument with three plainclothes members of the Seattle Police Department's vice squad. Stopped at a South Lake Union intersection, one of the officers shot Toro's car, and then the officers chased him north.
Having pulled away from the police -- the officers' civilian-style Ford SUV couldn't keep up with the more muscular Cadillac -- Toro stopped his car on a residential street in the Green Lake neighborhood. When the officers reappeared, Toro drew a pistol and shot out their vehicle's front tires.
Toro pleaded guilty earlier this month to two misdemeanor gun charges as part of a plea deal, a dramatic reduction from the felony assault charge originally levied against him.
"I wanted to go to trial with this, and I thought I could win," Toro told Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas before she handed him a suspended sentence of one year in jail. Toro said he didn't want to risk a felony conviction or a lengthy prison term away from his wife, Joelle, and 8-year-old daughter.
The state's case was complicated by the fact that Toro had no way of knowing that his pursuers were police, said Hugh Barber, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case.
"Fundamentally, this was an incident between a citizen and undercover officers in an undercover vehicle," Barber said. "We had to analyze it as if it was citizen on citizen."
Barber said the charges Toro pleaded guilty to -- unlawful display of a firearm and reckless endangerment -- held him accountable for brandishing a weapon during the initial altercation, which one of the three vice officers claimed Toro did. Toro has denied the allegation.
Key facts of the night remain in question. Officers initially said they fired only one shot at Toro's car, missing it and striking a wall. But a bullet hole found in the side of the Cadillac seemed to disprove that.
Speaking after he received his sentence Friday, Toro said he believes officers fired at him more than once during the initial altercation. He also believes they shot at him while racing after him on the Aurora Bridge.
"There was a point in the chase when I thought they were going to kill me," Toro said. "I had no idea it was the Seattle police."
Scott Eklund / P-I Jesse Toro is hugged by his stepmother, Theresa, after he received a suspended sentence for a shootout with Seattle police officers.
While he still thinks he was in the right, Toro said the incident has prompted him to make some changes.
He said he doesn't argue with other drivers anymore -- "I just keep my head forward now," he told Darvas -- and he has closed his specialty jewelry business. He traded his jeweler's loupe for a sledgehammer, going to work in construction.
"This has taken a toll on all of us," Joelle Toro said. "It's been a tough situation."
While Darvas abided by the sentencing recommendation agreed to by both attorneys, she did order Toro not to possess a firearm in the next four years.
"The only way that I'm going to have a comfort level in this case ... is that Mr. Toro not be allowed to possess firearms," she said. Toro also was ordered to surrender his concealed-pistol permit.
A Seattle police review board is expected to release its investigation into the case in coming weeks. Calls to the Seattle Police Officers' Guild were not returned Friday.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 23, 2007, 11:28:24 PM
“The Shovel and the Epee”: Striking in Boxing and MMA - 4/10/2007
by Sam Sheridan
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As Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) skyrockets in popularity, the resistance of mainstream media outlets (Sports Illustrated and ESPN) has historically probably been due to a fear of pro-wrestling combined with old-school boxing writers lack of understanding. Boxing writers love boxing; and they often feel, correctly, that MMA fighters usually aren’t the best boxers.
They may not realize that the guy in there who is boxing so badly is an Olympic wrestler and submission expert—but strict boxing fans mentally “turn-off” the moment the fight hits the ground, and so are unable to appreciate the skill and art of ground-fighting. “Ground-and-pound” is a rough art. But MMA fans who “get” the ground game will take as much joy from a ground war as they will a stand-up one.
There is more to the debate, however—MMA striking is fundamentally different than boxing, for a variety of reasons. Over years of observing the sport, I kept noticing pro boxers making the switch to MMA and getting ‘out-struck.’ When Jens Pulver fought Takanori Gomi in 2004 in Pride, Jens had been winning pro boxing fights and knocking people out; I thought there was no way in hell Gomi could stand with him, but Jens was outgunned by a bigger man and lost by TKO.
Yosuke Nishijima, a former NABO Cruiserweight Champion with a pro boxing record of 24-2-1 went 0-4 in Pride, a top MMA organization. He went into the clinch with Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and was throwing body shots while Cyborg threw knees—much heavier.
More recently, Drew Mcfedries with 5 MMA fights out-struck Alessio Sakara, who had won professional and amateur boxing titles in Italy. Drew is explosive and iron-chinned, but it was still an interesting result.
I recently had a long internet discussion with Carlo Rotella, a professor at Boston College who wrote “Cut Time,” a terrific book in which he established himself as one of the great thinkers and writers on boxing—I avidly pursued him with the intention of picking his brain. He isn’t an MMA fan, although he may be starting to come around. I tried to explain some of the differences that I noticed, and some of the reasons that pro boxers might get out-struck in MMA. The “stand-up” part of MMA isn’t boxing, or kick-boxing or Muay Thai—it’s its own thing.
First, the gloves: the 4 ounce gloves used in MMA cut very easily, and they give a lot more guys “a puncher’s chance.” Almost everyone is heavy-handed with those on, flash knock-downs happen all the time.
Just ask George St. Pierre—I doubt anyone had warned him about the devastatingly heavy-hands of Matt Serra before Serra upset St. Pierre by TKO last Saturday to win the UFC welterweight title. In boxing, a guy is a “puncher” or he’s not—but in MMA, almost everybody’s a “puncher.”
In boxing, defensive stylists like Winky Wright can catch punches on their gloves, but that won’t fly in MMA, not with the little gloves. Likewise James Toney’s defensive masterpieces, the shoulder roll and catching shots on the top of his head, won’t work.
Another friend, a boxer, had said that “boxers learn to roll with punches” which is true, and can mitigate a lot of the power when you get caught clean—but with the little gloves, I think rolling with punches is minimally effective. There’s not much to roll with.
The defensive techniques of masterful boxers like James Toney would have to be adjusted for MMA.
The more important difference between MMA and boxing is range, and the biggest modifier to range is the take-down. The biggest, most decisive single attack in MMA, the take-down and defending it are HUGELY important. You can’t stand in the pocket and shoulder-roll and bob and weave, because your opponent will drop (“change levels”) and take you down; and he’ll end up on top, a hugely advantageous position.
To avoid being taken down, you have to keep your distance and be ready to “sprawl” out, to keep your legs away from an opponent’s grasping hands. Beautiful, flowing, fluid combination punching leaves you in range to be taken down.
You can’t take a wide stance, or plant your feet without increasing the danger of your legs getting snatched out from under you. In fact, without boxing’s strict rules about the clinch, combination punching might never have evolved to the point it is at today.
Of course, kicking and kneeing also changes the range, and punching in MMA becomes a little more like jousting—you’ve got to come in with straight punches and get out. Chuck Liddell’s striking is pretty much unquestionably the best in MMA at 205 pounds, and boxers look at him and think he looks terrible. Floyd Mayweather recently commented during a media teleconference that “UFC ain't nothing but a f_king fad. Anybody can go out there and street fight. If they think (UFC light heavyweight champion) Chuck Liddell is so good, we should take Chuck Liddell and take a good heavyweight under Mayweather promotions….” And he even offered a million dollars of his own money. All the diatribe does is reveal Mayweather’s ignorance, because Chuck is emphatically not boxing.
I won’t pretend to understand Chuck’s striking, but some factors are an understanding of power and leverage, finding angles on his punches, taking excellent angles with his feet and body, and most importantly perhaps his accuracy and “pop.” He throws his winging shots, his looping punches, as hard as he can; and he’s a sniper.
He’s got a set of whiskers, he’s impossible to take down, and he comes with a barrage of hard accurate punches the moment he gets an opening. His form is loose and open because MMA striking is an open game.
Chuck is a good striker for MMA—he’s not the best striker in the world. But put Vitali Klitschko in there with a decent MMA heavyweight and see if he goes two minutes before he’s on his back being submitted.
Chuck’s a great striker, but he’s still an MMA fighter; put him in there with Floyd’s heavyweight and if he’s losing the stand-up he’ll take the boxer down and pound him out, or even (Heaven forbid) submit him.
There sometimes can be slowness to MMA striking match—the third Tim Sylvia vs. Andre Arlovski fight comes to mind, which was a very technical and interesting fight, despite the booing. First of all, you’ve got two heavyweights who have knocked each other out, so they’ve got to be careful.
In ‘old-time’ bare-fisted prize-fighting, fighters would throw 2-3 punches a minute, something that the modern 3-minute round system and gloves (in boxing) has completely changed . MMA, with the longer 5-minute round and the tiny gloves, has taken us a step back on that road.
The gloves are closer to bare-fisted, and cut much more readily. Mario Sperry, a legendary Brazilian fighter who trained under Carlson Gracie and founded Brazilian Top Team, reminisced to me about the old Vale Tudo (“anything goes” in Portuguese) fights without gloves, that they were “bloodbaths.” Sylvia and Arlovski played a very technical little game of range and motion, a game of fractions of an inch, for 5 five-minute rounds.
I’ve heard some trainers say that too much pure boxing is actually bad for MMA fighting—you get used to the close range, you get into the mentality that you can “take one to give one.”
When I raised these points with Professor Rotella, he responded, “that the gloves allow for a level of sophistication and development in striking--in both quantity of punches thrown and quality of the complexity of technique--that far exceeds the more direct and sometimes more lethal striking in MMA.
“It's sort of like a genius of the epee [a thin fencing sword] getting his clock cleaned by a guy with a shovel. The epee's great in a swordfight, but in a different kind of fight the shovel might be just the thing. Doesn't make the epee any less beautiful, nor does it make high-level fencing any less sophisticated, and a guy with a shovel isn't going to last long in a straight swordfight, but the fact that the lovely epee and all the richness of technique that has grown up around it might be the wrong tool for the job in certain circumstances is a testament to the variety of leverage, distance, and decisiveness in different fighting styles.”
I think this is very true (and well-written), boxing striking is more beautiful and elegant than MMA striking. It may have something to do with “use,” those boxers spend their whole lives working in that small arena, essentially toe-to-toe, trying to hit without getting hit. They become masterful at it, and move into the realm of “poetry-in-motion.”
Carlo’s comments reveal some of the old bias (c’mon, an epee versus a shovel?) but there are some interesting truths behind it. He talks about using the right tool for the job, and in MMA the right tool is quite different than the boxing tool.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe
on: December 23, 2007, 11:17:08 PM
After the holidays are over we will be getting together with our webmaster to update the Tribal listings-- on which we are quite behind at the moment.
For example, this gentle reminder just came in from Italy:
The Adventure continues,
Dear Crafty Dog,
We see on the site that it is possible to insert our name with our status on Dog Brothers’ site. Could you please update the list with us?
Ivan "Kuma Dog" Reboli
“Dog" Riccardo Bassani
"Dog" Roberto Cereda
"Dog" Michele Gemignani
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba
on: December 23, 2007, 11:12:52 PM
La pugna en Cuba es, para Carlos Alberto Montaner en su columna de
este domingo en “El Nuevo Herald“, entre los principistas, que son
sólo Fidel y un pequeño grupo, y los pragmáticos con Raúl a la cabeza.
Esta es su columna:
Apresuradamente, hace unos días, Fidel Castro envió una nota
enigmática a la Mesa Redonda, un programa de televisión que manejan
sus discípulos más fanáticos. La frase que desató el furor de la
prensa internacional podía interpretarse como su retiro definitivo:
“Mi deber fundamental no es aferrarme a cargos y mucho menos obstruir
el paso a personas más jóvenes sino aportar experiencias e ideas cuyo
modesto valor proviene de la época excepcional que me tocó vivir”.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times on Huckabee
on: December 22, 2007, 10:26:44 AM
NEW MAN IN CHARGE Mike Huckabee entered his new office in July 1996, shortly after succeeding Jim Guy Tucker as governor. Mr. Tucker resigned after his conviction on Whitewater-related charges.
Published: December 22, 2007
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In more than a decade of presiding over this state, Mike Huckabee produced a legacy like few other Republican governors in the South, surprising even liberal Democrats with his willingness to upend some of Arkansas’s more parochial traditions.
A NEW TERM Mr. Huckabee and his wife, Janet Huckabee, who lost her bid for secretary of state, at the Inaugural Ball in 2003.
A review of his record as governor shows that, beginning in 1996, he drove through a series of changes that transformed education and health insurance in Arkansas, achievements that were never tried by most of his predecessors, including Bill Clinton.
But he is also remembered in the state for a style of governing that tended to freeze out anyone of any party who disagreed with his plans. He did not, for example, seek Mr. Clinton’s conciliatory middle, or try to court skeptical state lawmakers. Though he was considered as persuasive a speechmaker as he had been a pastor, Mr. Huckabee largely kept his own counsel — in politics, ethics and a singular clemency policy that continues to haunt him.
Against the political advice of his party and his aides, he pardoned or commuted the sentences of hundreds of convicts, including murderers, sometimes over the heated objections of prosecutors and victims’ families. He was cited five times by the state ethics commission for financial improprieties, and unapologetically accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothes and other gifts while he was governor.
Republicans in Arkansas, a beleaguered minority, gleefully greeted his ascendancy but wound up embittered, in many cases, over a governor who “sided with liberal Democrats,” as one put it.
Mr. Huckabee is a son of small-town Arkansas, yet he deeply angered many in his rural constituency, touching the third rail of the state’s politics by shutting down money-draining, redundant school districts in the hinterlands. Protesters rallied at the state Capitol, fearful of losing schools, football teams, and age-old identities, but the governor insisted his way was the best and the schools were closed.
He proclaimed himself a fiscal conservative, but startled legislators with his proposals to raise taxes — for roads, in 1999, and for schools, prisons and other services three years later. He sought the electoral defeat of Republicans who opposed him, according to some in the party.
A constant throughout was his presence at the microphone, the former television preacher delivering his word from the pulpit though hardly mingling in the Capitol’s marble halls.
“He would go out and stump and do his shtick and tell his jokes and charm you,” said State Senator Jimmy Jeffress, a Democrat and critic of the former governor. “He has the gift of gab. He’s the only person I know, other than Bill Clinton, who can pick up a rock and give you a 10-minute talk on it.”
At the same time he was not known to buy pizza for the legislators, as Mr. Clinton had done.
“Huckabee didn’t build bridges,” said State Senator Jim Argue Jr., a Democrat and leader in the schools overhaul effort. “If you didn’t agree with him, he attacked you.”
Charmaine Yoest, a senior adviser to the Huckabee campaign, said it was important to keep in mind that Mr. Huckabee was a Republican governor in one of the most Democratic states in the country.
“Yet here’s a man who managed to fix the roads, improve education and actually govern with the Democrats,” Ms. Yoest said. “People say he was intolerant, but how does that square with him being able to build coalitions and be re-elected numerous times?”
Confounding the Capitol
Mr. Huckabee was derided by Democrats as the “accidental governor” when he took office in July 1996, stepping up from the lieutenant governor’s job when the incumbent governor, Jim Guy Tucker, was forced to resign after a conviction in the Whitewater affair. Mr. Huckabee had not sought the post, having trained his sights instead on the United States Senate, and several legislators recalled a fumbling start.
It was not helped by what Mr. Huckabee later recalled as a hostile reception to himself and his family, as Republicans of humble background, when they moved into the governor’s mansion in a prestigious neighborhood in Little Rock.
“Dozens of hate-filled letters,” he wrote in his memoir, “From Hope to Higher Ground” (Center Street, 2007), “proclaimed that we lacked the ‘class’ to live in such a fine and stately home.” Mr. Huckabee’s touchiness over perceived slights was to become a byword in succeeding years, as the governor spoke out angrily when reporters and others questioned the startling stream of gifts that flowed in from supporters and friends.
Still, the novice governor found the sea legs in 1997 to help enact, with overwhelming support in the heavily Democratic Legislature, a major expansion of health insurance for children of the working poor whose families did not qualify for Medicaid. It was one of the first such expansions in the nation, coming before the federal government authorized them, and it baffled some Republicans in the Legislature.
Page 2 of 4)
“None of us understood what he was trying to do,” said Peggy Jeffries, then a Republican state senator and now executive director of the Arkansas affiliate of the Eagle Forum, a national group of conservatives.
Skip to next paragraph
The Long Run
The Solitary Persuader
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.
Easily elected to a full term in 1998, Mr. Huckabee was emerging as something of an unquantifiable presence in the state capital, sometimes exerting leadership, other times not, and often floating above the details and minutia of governing.
But he confounded Republicans again when he pushed for a fuel tax increase to finance an ambitious road-building program, and eventually won support for what historians say was the largest highway bond program in Arkansas history.
Meanwhile, a style of leadership was developing that frustrated Republicans and Democrats alike.
Jake Files, a former Republican state representative, recalled that the governor would call lawmakers into his office and state his plans.
“Kind of like getting called to the principal’s office,” Mr. Files said. “If you don’t line up with him, Katie bar the door.”
Still, this style — equal parts persuasion and intimidation — would prove to be of great value when Mr. Huckabee took on the biggest fight of his tenure, school reform.
In November 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court presented the newly re-elected governor with the biggest challenge of his tenure, ruling that Arkansas’s system of financing public schools was inequitable. The court ordered change. More money had to be found, quickly.
Mr. Huckabee immediately adopted the path of greatest resistance, to the shock of many in the Legislature: he called for the closing of dozens of wasteful, tiny school districts. Some had fewer than 150 students. It was a volatile step, one that Mr. Clinton as governor had avoided, even though reformers had agreed for decades that it was an essential one.
“We certainly didn’t want to get too close to it,” recalled one of Mr. Clinton’s legislative aides in the 1980s, Bobby Roberts.
The governor’s plan aroused intense opposition all over the state, particularly as he proposed whittling down the 310 school districts by well over half.
“People don’t want to lose their schools,” said a veteran legislator, State Senator John Paul Capps, a Democrat. “They think it just ruins the community.”
Mr. Huckabee did not back down.
“The governor treated me as if I didn’t exist,” said Jimmy Cunningham, then president of the Arkansas Rural Education Association. “He had no compassion for me.”
The fight went on for over a year, and Mr. Huckabee’s staunchest allies proved to be the most liberal Democrats in the Legislature.
“He set a real high bar,” said Senator Argue, a Little Rock Democrat who describes himself as the preacher-governor’s “philosophical adversary,” but who joined forces with him on the issue. “I just give him credit for having the courage and determination to lead,” Mr. Argue said.
In the end, the Legislature whittled Mr. Huckabee’s school-district closing plan by nearly two-thirds. Disgusted, the governor refused to sign the bill, and it became law without him.
Clemency and Consequences
Nothing was more controversial about Mr. Huckabee’s governorship than his use of clemency to grant pardons and commute prison sentences. His clemency decisions produced the first big crisis of his administration, dogged him through a tough re-election campaign and provoked a series of bitter public protests, some still simmering on Jan. 9, 2007, the day he left office.
In all, Mr. Huckabee cut prison sentences or granted pardons for more than 1,000 criminals, far more than either his immediate predecessors or governors in neighboring states.
This did not happen by chance.
Driven by a religious belief in redemption and questions about the state’s legal system, Mr. Huckabee paid close attention to clemency petitions, former aides said. He insisted on reviewing every single application, though they came in by the hundreds most months.
(Page 3 of 4)
“He would take these files home with him to the governor’s mansion,” recalled Rex Nelson, Mr. Huckabee’s communications director for nine years. “He would read them, study them. He took it very seriously, the political consequences be damned.”
Most of Mr. Huckabee’s clemency decisions were unremarkable; in the vast majority of cases he simply followed the recommendation of the Arkansas Parole Board. But in a small though significant number of cases, he commuted prison sentences for murderers and other violent criminals over the pleas of victims’ families, prosecutors and judges. And as his reputation for granting clemency spread, applications surged.
“We had tons of them,” said Cory Cox, who worked for several years as Mr. Huckabee’s aide in charge of clemency matters. “People, they’d call and say, ‘Please, let the governor look at this. We don’t know who the next governor is going to be.’ ”
By every account, Mr. Huckabee’s approach to clemency was heavily influenced by his religious beliefs. As John Wesley Hall, a Little Rock defense lawyer who filed numerous clemency petitions with the Huckabee administration, put it, “He’s a Baptist preacher who believes in redemption and second chances.”
But it also reflected Mr. Huckabee’s broader concerns about the criminal justice system in Arkansas, one of the few states where juries rather than judges impose sentences, which defense lawyers say can produce arbitrary results.
Dana Reece, another defense lawyer, told of one client who received a life sentence for selling six grams of crack cocaine. “He’d still be in prison today if it weren’t for Governor Huckabee,” Ms. Reece said. How many politicians, she asked, would stick their necks out for a crack dealer?
“This was a political hot potato, and he knew it,” Mr. Cox said of his former boss. “But he had a conviction that people could better themselves, and he was open-minded to the idea that a poor black man from east Arkansas convicted by an all-white jury just may have been a victim of injustice.”
Many Arkansans faulted him, however, for refusing to give public explanations for pardons and sentence commutations, and for responding harshly to those who criticized his choices.
“He just doesn’t want to talk to victims’ families,” Elaine Colclasure, co-leader of the Central Arkansas chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, a victims’ advocacy group, said in an interview last week. “He doesn’t want anyone questioning anything he does. And when you do, he bristles. His compassion is for the murderer and any criminal who says he has found Jesus.”
Dee McManus Engle, another member of the group, recalled accompanying a murder victim’s widow to a scheduled meeting at the governor’s office. “We stayed there half the day trying to talk with Huckabee,” Ms. Engle said, adding, “It was the most important thing in her life, and she was in tears because she could not get to the governor.”
Former aides said that while Mr. Huckabee rarely met with victims or their families, he was never dismissive of their concerns. “I can tell you we listened to victims,” Mr. Cox said. “I mean, it was a no-win situation. The victims, if you granted clemency, it didn’t matter how long you listened to them. It just tore them up.”
As for Mr. Huckabee’s refusal to detail his reasons for granting clemency, Mr. Cox said that was intended to prevent other petitioners from mimicking successful arguments.
Some Arkansas prosecutors argue that Mr. Huckabee’s clemency record reveals a dangerous gullibility about human nature, particularly when it comes to claims of religious conversion. It raises, they say, the basic question of judgment, the precise question one of Mr. Huckabee’s rivals for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, has raised anew in his Iowa campaign.
Exhibit A in this critique is the case of Wayne Dumond, a rapist who had been implicated in other violent crimes, including a murder and another rape, when Mr. Huckabee took office in 1996. Mr. Dumond said he found God in prison, and his case was championed by evangelicals and conservative opponents of Bill Clinton, who was a distant relative of one of the rape victims and who refused to grant clemency to Mr. Dumond.
Page 4 of 4)
Months after being sworn in, Mr. Huckabee announced his intention to cut Mr. Dumond’s prison sentence, prompting furious public protests from Mr. Dumond’s victim and from prosecutors around the state.
“We told the governor that Wayne Dumond had a history of rape and murder,” Henry Morgan, then president of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, recalled. “So the governor knew, or any reasonable person should have known, that releasing him was dangerous.”
Mr. Huckabee was not persuaded. “He thought the man should be released,” Mr. Nelson, his former communications director, recalled.
As it turned out, Mr. Huckabee did not grant clemency to Mr. Dumond; the state Parole Board released him instead, and several former members of the board have since told reporters that they acted under pressure from Mr. Huckabee, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
Even so, Mr. Nelson recalled the moment in 2001 when he and Mr. Huckabee first heard the news that the newly freed Mr. Dumond had been charged with raping and murdering a woman in Missouri. “Everybody realized at that point that that would be something used against him politically in the 2002 campaign,” he said — a prediction that turned out to be correct when the issue contributed to a tight re-election race.
There were several other cases of convicts who won clemency from Mr. Huckabee and then went on to commit more crimes, including Wade Stewart, whose life sentence for murder was commuted in 2004. Mr. Stewart was arrested this year, charged with carrying a concealed revolver. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found that nearly one in 10 who received clemency from Governor Huckabee were later sentenced to prison.
Mr. Huckabee eventually did bend, if slightly, to criticism and scrutiny. He proved less willing to grant clemency in his second term, especially for violent offenses. He also agreed to give slightly more information about his reasoning. Yet some prosecutors say that victims’ families are now skeptical about life sentences.
“They say, ‘You can’t guarantee that he’ll stay in prison for the rest of his life because the governor can let him out,’” said Larry Jegley, Little Rock’s longtime prosecuting attorney. “People are aware the governor has this power and it has been exercised to let murderers, rapists and home invaders loose, and that’s a problem.”
Gifts and Critics
Throughout his tenure, Mr. Huckabee reacted with outrage and scorn when questions arose over the stream of gifts that flowed his way. He pugnaciously fought back against state ethics commission investigations. The governor appeared to find no conflict between occupying the highest office in the state, and receiving tribute; critics, on the other hand, said the two were directly related, in a way that was unseemly at best.
Early in his first term, he was questioned, and eventually sued, for using a state fund meant to operate the governor’s mansion for personal family expenses like pantyhose and meals at Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The suit was eventually dropped, but spending out of the fund was curtailed.
Meanwhile, other methods emerged to supplement the governor’s salary, which was $68,448 in 1999. That year, he reported getting $112,366 in gifts, including thousands in clothing from Jennings Osborne, a wealthy businessman in Little Rock who befriended the family. Mr. Osborne also made regular gifts of pastries and flowers to the governor’s mansion. There were also gift certificates to department stores, ties and other items.
The gift-taking tailed off in subsequent years — there was $5,000 worth in 2003 — but Mr. Huckabee’s tangles with the state ethics commission fill a thick binder with documents spanning much of his time as governor. Mr. Nelson, the governor’s former aide, described these episodes as “penny ante,” and it is true that the commission did not uphold roughly two-thirds of the complaints against the governor. But it did find violations in five, including Mr. Huckabee’s acceptance of a $500 canoe from Coca-Cola and a $200 stadium blanket, though a court later threw out the finding on the canoe.
As the governor left office, new questions arose over wedding registries set up decades after his marriage began at department stores, including Target, so friends could help furnish the Huckabees’s new home in Little Rock. The governor attacked reporters for raising the issue — “I feel you’ve done a real disservice to the people of this state” — but others saw a pattern, in the gift-taking and the defensiveness. Both hark back to his past as a member of the clergy, critics said.
Throughout his tenure, allies and enemies alike were struck by a governor adept at giving the word, if not at receiving it. And in his writings, Mr. Huckabee attributes his moral compass to God, not to himself.
“If integrity and character are divorced from God, they don’t make sense,” he writes in his book, with John Perry, “Character Makes a Difference” (B&H Publishing Group, 2007). “Integrity, left to define itself, becomes evil because everyone ends up choosing his own standards.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DVD/Long Distance Training Questions
on: December 22, 2007, 09:59:19 AM
I just noticed that I inadvertently let your question fall off my radar screen
-- due in part to the fact that to answer it properly calls for a subtle well-written post.
At the moment I am busy with the merriments of the season and post only to bring this TTT so as to facilitate my remembering to answer you , , , soon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M-4 in dust test
on: December 22, 2007, 09:41:59 AM
Newer carbines outperform M4 in dust test
By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Dec 17, 2007 9:25:16 EST
The M4 carbine, the weapon soldiers depend on in combat, finished last in a recent “extreme dust test” to demonstrate the M4’s reliability compared to three newer carbines.
Weapons officials at the Army Test and Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., exposed Colt Defense LLC’s M4, along with the Heckler & Koch XM8, FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle and the H&K 416 to sandstorm conditions from late September to late November, firing 6,000 rounds through each test weapon.
When the test was completed, ATEC officials found that the M4 performed “significantly worse” than the other three weapons, sources told Army Times.
Officials tested 10 each of the four carbine models, firing a total of 60,000 rounds per model. Here’s how they ranked, according to the total number of times each model stopped firing:
• XM8: 127 stoppages.
• MK16 SCAR Light: 226 stoppages.
• 416: 233 stoppages.
• M4: 882 stoppages.
the results of the test were “a wake-up call,” but Army officials continue to stand by the current carbine, said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, the command that is responsible for equipping soldiers.
“We take the results of this test with a great deal of interest and seriousness,” Brown said, expressing his determination to outfit soldiers with the best equipment possible.
The test results did not sway the Army’s faith in the M4, he said.
“Everybody in the Army has high confidence in this weapon,” Brown said.
Lighter and more compact than the M16 rifle, the M4 is more effective for the close confines of urban combat. The Army began fielding the M4 in the mid-1990s.
Army weapons officials agreed to perform the test at the request of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in July. Coburn took up the issue following a Feb. 26 Army Times report on moves by elite Army combat forces to ditch the M4 in favor of carbines they consider more reliable. Coburn is questioning the Army’s plans to spend $375 million to purchase M4s through fiscal 2009.
Coburn raised concerns over the M4’s “long-standing reliability” problems in an April 12 letter and asked if the Army had considered newer, possibly better weapons available on the commercial market.
John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, who was traveling, said the senator was reviewing the test results and had yet to discuss it with the Army.
The M4, like its predecessor, the M16, uses a gas tube system, which relies on the gas created when a bullet is fired to cycle the weapon. Some weapons experts maintain the M4’s system of blowing gas directly into the firing mechanism of the weapon spews carbon residue that can lead to fouling and heat that dries up lubrication, causing excessive wear on parts.
The other contenders in the dust test — the XM8, SCAR and 416 — use a piston-style operating system, which relies on a gas-driven piston rod to cycle the weapon during firing. The gas is vented without funneling through the firing mechanism.
The Army’s Delta Force replaced its M4s with the H&K 416 in 2004 after tests revealed that the piston operating system significantly reduces malfunctions while increasing the life of parts. The elite unit collaborated with the German arms maker to develop the new carbine.
U.S. Special Operations Command has also revised its small-arms requirements. In November 2004, SOCom awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its new SCAR to replace its weapons from the M16 family.
And from 2002 to 2005, the Army developed the XM8 as a replacement for the Army’s M16 family. The program led to infighting within the service’s weapons community and eventually died after failing to win approval at the Defense Department level.
How they were tested
The recent Aberdeen dust test used 10 sample models of each weapon. Before going into the dust chamber, testers applied a heavy coat of lubrication to each weapon. Each weapon’s muzzle was capped and ejection port cover closed.
Testers exposed the weapons to a heavy dust environment for 30 minutes before firing 120 rounds from each.
The weapons were then put back in the dust chamber for another 30 minutes and fired another 120 rounds. This sequence was repeated until each weapon had fired 600 rounds.
Testers then wiped down each weapon and applied another heavy application of lubrication.
The weapons were put back through the same sequence of 30 minutes in the dust chamber followed by firing 120 rounds from each weapon until another 600 rounds were fired.
Testers then thoroughly cleaned each weapon, re-lubricated each, and began the dusting and fire sequencing again.
This process was repeated until testers fired 6,000 rounds through each weapon.
The dust test exposed the weapons to the same extreme dust and sand conditions that Army weapons officials subjected the M4 and M16 to during a “systems assessment” at Aberdeen last year and again this summer. The results of the second round of ATEC tests showed that the performance of the M4s dramatically improved when testers increased the amount of lubrication used.
Out of the 60,000 rounds fired in the tests earlier in the summer, the 10 M4s tested had 307 stoppages, test results show, far fewer than the 882 in the most recent test.
in the recent tests, the M4 suffered 643 weapon-related stoppages, such as failure to eject or failure to extract fired casings, and 239 magazine-related stoppages.
Colt officials had not seen the test report and would not comment for this story, said James Battaglini, executive vice president for Colt Defense LLC, on Dec. 14.
Army officials are concerned about the gap between the two tests becaus the “test conditions for test two and three were ostensibly the same,” Brown said.
There were, however, minor differences in the two tests because they were conducted at different times of the year with different test officials, Brown said. Test community officials are analyzing the data to try to explain why the M4 performed worse during this test.
Weapons officials pointed out that these tests were conducted in extreme conditions that did not address “reliability in typical operational conditions,” the test report states.
Despite the last-place showing, Army officials say there is no movement toward replacing the M4.
The Army wants its next soldier weapon to be a true leap ahead, rather than a series of small improvements, Brown said.
“That is what the intent is,” he said, “to give our soldiers the very best and we are not going to rest until we do that.”
Col. Robert Radcliffe, head of the Directorate of Combat Developments for the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., said the test results will be considered as the Army continues to search for ways to improve soldier weapons.
For now, he said the Army will stick with the M4, because soldier surveys from Iraq and Afghanistan continue to highlight the weapon’s popularity among troops in the combat zone.
“The M4 is performing for them in combat, and it does what they needed to do in combat,” Radcliffe said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: December 22, 2007, 09:31:11 AM
I am left wondering if PC cowardice accounts for this article's failure to mention the role of illegal aliens in overwhelming emergency departments. Notice how most/all of the examples given are from places like Tucscon AZ.
Seriously ill suffer as relationship between physician and hospital unravels
By Christopher Lee
The Washington Post
updated 12:39 a.m. MT, Fri., Dec. 21, 2007
Hospital emergency departments across the United States, already struggling with overcrowding and growing patient loads, are increasingly unable to find specialists to help treat seriously injured and ill patients, according to medical experts.
Crucial minutes, hours and even days can go by as patients suffering from trauma, strokes, broken bones and other maladies await evaluations by neurologists, orthopedic surgeons and other specialists because hospitals are having difficulty getting them to serve 24-hour emergency "on-call" shifts.
"It can mean death," said Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a practicing emergency department doctor in California. "Patients have died in transport, or waiting to find a neurosurgeon, or getting to a heart center for a cardiologist."
A nationwide survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2005, the most recent available, found that of the 1,328 emergency department directors who responded, 73 percent said they had a problem with inadequate on-call coverage by specialists, including neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and obstetrician/gynecologists. That was up from 67 percent in 2004.
Stretched to breaking point
The shortage comes at a time when emergency rooms at many hospitals are routinely stretched to the breaking point. The annual number of visits to emergency departments rose 18 percent, to 110 million, from 1994 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, the number of hospitals operating 24-hour emergency departments fell by 12 percent.
The shortage of specialists is the result of a fear of malpractice lawsuits, a reluctance to go without pay when seeing uninsured patients, and a growing intolerance for the disruption in their personal lives and private practices, the experts say. Many specialists are also decreasing their work for general hospitals.
Retiree Mary Jo McClure, 74, experienced the problem firsthand one Friday afternoon in January when she fell down some concrete steps, tearing large chunks of flesh from one leg. The plastic surgeon on call for Tucson Medical Center refused to leave her private-practice patients to come to the emergency department to treat McClure, who has health insurance. The doctor said instead she would see the injured woman in her office the next Monday.
But over the weekend, the specialist telephoned the family to say that she could not treat McClure after all because she performs only cosmetic procedures and is not trained to handle severe wounds, McClure said.
"What was she doing on the roster?" asked McClure, who searched for six days before finding a plastic surgeon at another hospital who would see her. "Do they expect you to walk in for a face-lift? . . . That was a very bad day, because you are hurt and you're in pain, and you always feel like the hospital will help you."
'A constant issue'
Judy Rich, the hospital's executive vice president and administrator, said the plastic surgeon later acknowledged that she should have seen McClure.
"It's a constant issue, our emergency room coverage," Rich said. "We count on the medical staff to come in when they are called. . . . There's too many patients and not enough specialists many times in communities, and Tucson, I think, is pretty typical of the kind of dilemma that we have."
In the Washington area, specialists are generally available, but emergency room patients sometimes must be transferred to get the expert care they need, said Eric Glasser, assistant chief of the emergency department at Georgetown University Hospital.
"At Georgetown, we take referrals from the whole region, because some hospitals can't find a neurosurgeon," said Glasser, president of the D.C. chapter of the emergency physicians' group. "They have to be transported long distances when minutes count. And that, in turn, impacts overcrowding in our hospitals."
For the most part, the dearth of specialists nationally arises not from a numerical shortage but from the growing unwillingness of many specialists to take on-call duty, said Ann S. O'Malley, a physician and senior researcher who co-authored a new study of the issue for the District-based Center for Studying Health System Change.
Traditionally, many specialists agreed to pull on-call duty in exchange for admitting privileges and use of a general hospital's facilities to perform operations and other procedures as part of their regular practice, O'Malley said. But the rise of physician-owned specialty hospitals and outpatient surgical centers over the past 15 years has reduced doctors' reliance on the general hospital.
"The historic relationship between physicians and hospitals is unraveling," O'Malley said.
Another factor is the rising number of the uninsured, with specialists complaining that they often do not get paid for treating patients they see in the emergency room. Moreover, rising malpractice insurance costs and the threat of lawsuits have made more physicians reluctant to see such patients, with whom they have no established professional relationship. Because taking on-call duty can require trips to the emergency department at any hour, it can disrupt doctors' personal lives and force them to reschedule appointments or elective surgeries for their regular, paying patients.
"It's our responsibility to take care of these patients, because that's what we do. That's part of our inherent fiber of being an orthopedic surgeon," said Leon S. Benson, a hand surgeon near Chicago who is active in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a professional association. "But there's no question that as the inconvenience and fatigue and poor compensation and difficulty in having appropriate resources to take care of patients build up, you get this perfect-storm effect where more and more people are thinking, 'Gee, I don't know if I want to do that anymore.' "
Benson, 47, an associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at Northwestern University, takes emergency department on-call duty every other day, but he acknowledged that he is the exception these days.
'System is being pressured'
"I can understand nationally why this is becoming a bigger issue, because the system is being pressured," he said. "More volume is getting through a pipe that's getting smaller in diameter. And then what you actually do while you're on call gets to be more and more painful."
Some hospitals have taken steps such as hiring specialists full time or on contract, covering professional fees for doctors who see uninsured patients, and paying physicians daily or monthly stipends for on-call duty, said O'Malley, the analyst. That helps, Benson said, but hospitals might impress physicians more by setting aside trauma rooms and teams of people to assist the on-call specialist in a timely, efficient way when an emergency arises.
The shortage of on-call specialists is so dire at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock, Tex., that the hospital sometimes has to haul out telemedicine equipment that enables neurologists in faraway cities such as San Antonio to evaluate possible stroke victims through a video link, said Juan Fitz, associate director of the emergency department.
Sarah Thompson, 29, an emergency medical technician at Covenant, said she had to be admitted to the hospital for six days in September before doctors could find an oral surgeon to evaluate a swelling in her jaw and neck. It turned out to be cat-scratch fever that caused swollen lymph nodes and a secondary infection, not an abscessed tooth, as doctors first suspected, she said.
"They had an oral surgeon on call, but he wouldn't come to see me," said Thompson, who was pregnant. "He was supposed to be taking call. And then they called him, and they said he was out of town. It was a big mess-up. . . . All of our doctors were very frustrated with the situation. They tried their best."
Lawrence, the president of the emergency physicians' group, said that legislation introduced this year on Capitol Hill -- but not yet considered in committee -- would create a bipartisan national commission to study challenges related to the provision of emergency medical services, including the on-call specialist problem.
"Something people don't understand is that even if you have insurance, if I don't have an on-call orthopedic surgeon, I can't help you," Lawrence said. "It's an issue that affects everybody, insured and uninsured. If there's no bed available, there's no bed available."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: December 22, 2007, 09:23:04 AM
Dec 20, 2007 23:58 | Updated Dec 21, 2007 1:18
Why the US hasn't seen smuggling tapes
By HERB KEINON AND YAAKOV KATZ
Despite efforts by the country's top security echelon to share with Congress videotapes of Egypt assisting Hamas in arms smuggling, the footage has been shown only to some administration officials and never made it to Congress, to avoid infuriating the Egyptians, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The videotapes included footage of Egyptian border policemen allegedly assisting a group of close to 80 Hamas terrorists crossing illegally into Gaza through a hole they had cut in the border fence.
Defense officials said there was also evidence that the Egyptians were assisting Hamas with smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip under the Philadelphi Corridor.
The decision to send the tapes to the Israeli Embassy in Washington was made by Israel's top defense echelon to influence the appropriations process in Congress ahead of a decision to withhold part of the foreign aid granted to Egypt.
That the tape was not shown to Congress reflects a desire by Israel's political and diplomatic echelon not to escalate tension with Cairo by becoming directly involved in lobbying against Egypt in Congress.
For months there has been a debate inside the government over how directly Israel should get involved in the issue inside Washington.
The perception that won the day this time was that over-involvement would be seen by Cairo as an infringement of certain diplomatic "rules" between the two countries and could lead to a major crisis.
The Bush administration is also opposed to pushing too far on the issue at the present time.
The defense establishment believes that showing the tapes can be an effective way of pressuring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak into clamping down on Hamas's smuggling activities.
"If key congressmen and senators see this, then it will provide a clear picture of the situation and ensure that the money is withheld," a senior official said. "When this happens, Mubarak will feel that he has no choice but to stop the smuggling."
Congress on Wednesday sent a foreign aid bill to US President George W. Bush that for the first time conditions some Egyptian military aid on its efforts to crack down on smuggling into Gaza and improving its human rights record.
According to the legislation, $100 million of the $1.3 billion in Egyptian military aid has been set aside until the secretary of state certifies that Egypt has met these obligations, though the secretary can waive the requirements if she feels holding back the $100m. would harm American national security interests.
An earlier version of the bill would have held back $200m. and not have given the secretary of state a waiver, but it was watered down throughout the process.
Still, critics of Egypt's activities feel that the move sends a strong message that Congress is watching the country and is willing to take some moves that might anger what the administration feels is a key US ally.
Also, according to Washington sources, part of the rationale of continuing with the military aid - begun as part of the Camp David Accords - is that some of it will be used to combat smuggling.
Bush is expected to sign the bill soon. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1196847396429&pagename=JPost%2FJPArt
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We will outfcuk you say Khamenei spokesman
on: December 21, 2007, 07:30:51 PM
Iran: Europe will become a Muslim continent, says Khamenei's spokesman
Tehran, 21 Dec. (AKI) - Europe will eventually become a Muslim continent, according to a representative of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
"In a dozen years, Europe will be an Islamic continent," said Rasul Jalilzadeh on Friday as he was speaking to the basiji, a voluntary organisation in the capital Tehran.
"The Islamisation of the European continent is imminent and this step favours the arrival of the Mahdi," he said, referring to the 12th imam of Shiite Islam.
Shiites believe that the Imam Mahdi, who disppeared as an adolescent, will return to bring an end to chaos and bring universal justice.
Rasul Jalilzadeh believes that "the Islamisation of Europe is one of the consequences of the Islamic revolution in Iran" in that "the messages and values that this revolution has transmitted to the Europeans, to convince them "to abandon their current faiths and convert to Shiite Islam." http://www.adnkronos.com/AKI/English...1.0.1696552901
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: December 21, 2007, 04:37:16 PM
DEMOCRATS SUE PENCIL MANUFACTURERS
For the past thirty years America's public schools have been producing students who are increasingly less educated. Democratic politicians across the country feel that pencil manufacturers are the ones responsible for creating this education crisis and are filing lawsuits against them.
One of the cities suing the pencil industry is Oakland, California. Said one Democratic City Councilwoman in Oakland, "It is an undisputed fact that 99% of all American public school students use pencils on a daily basis. These pencils are faulty because they allow students to spell words incorrectly, as well as commit grammatical and mathematical errors. It is time that pencil manufacturers be held accountable for their role in producing inferior students."
The City of Atlanta is also suing pencil manufacturers. The Mayor of Atlanta told BNN, "The pencil makers currently have technology available to put 'Student Safety Devices' on their products. But they refuse to do it. These 'Student Safety Devices' would prevent students from committing academic errors and help them to be better pupils . Our lawsuit is designed to send a message to pencil producers that we will no longer allow them to victimize the children in our school district."
Pencil manufacturers, however, claim that their products do not cause students to commit academic errors. Said Lawrence McDowell of the Sanford Pencil Company, "A pencil is an inanimate object. It is a tool which a student uses at his or her ability level. In the hands of an intelligent and educated student it can be used for producing excellent academic work. In the hands of a lazy student, who watches nine hours of television a day, a pencil is used to produce inferior academic work. The pencil is not responsible for creating either the excellent work or the inferior work."
The Mayor of Atlanta disagrees with McDowell. Said the Mayor, "That defense is straight out of the National Pencil Association (NPA) handbook. We are trying to do something that will help our students perform better in school. But it is obvious that all they care about is their profit margin."
While the lawsuits against the pencil manufacturers move forward, Democrats on Capital Hill are planning to introduce 'Pencil Control Legislation' that would require every pencil to have a 'Student Safety Device' installed. Republicans, who have traditionally sided with the National Pencil Association are showing signs that they may cave to public pressure and vote with Democrats on this bill.
More on this story as it unfolds.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: December 21, 2007, 04:22:25 PM
On a PPP basis, the dollar is now dramatically undervalued. The explanation lies I think in the fact that much of Europe has cut and simplified taxes and investment capital, which if I understand correctly dwarfs trade, flows to Europe instead of us.
Anyway, here's an interesting URL:http://www.currencytrading.net/2007/50-places-to-discover-financial-news-before-it-goes-mainstream/
Seems like a good list of places to go for intel ahead of the herd.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Perils of Zero Sum
on: December 21, 2007, 01:50:32 PM
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy
By Martin Wolf
Published: December 19 2007 02:00 | Last updated: December 19 2007 02:00
We live in a positive-sum world economy and have done so for about two centuries. This, I believe, is why democracy has become a political norm, empires have largely vanished, legal slavery and serfdom have disappeared and measures of well-being have risen almost everywhere. What then do I mean by a positive-sum economy? It is one in which everybody can become better off. It is one in which real incomes per head are able to rise indefinitely.
How long might such a world last, and what might happen if it ends? The debate on the connected issues of climate change and energy security raises these absolutely central questions. As I argued in a previous column ("Welcome to a world of runaway energy demand", November 14, 2007), fossilised sunlight and ideas have been the twin drivers of the world economy. So nothing less is at stake than the world we inhabit, by which I mean its political and economic, as well as physical, nature.
According to Angus Maddison, the economic historian, humanity's average real income per head has risen 10-fold since 1820.* Increases have also occurred almost everywhere, albeit to hugely divergent extents: US incomes per head have risen 23-fold and those of Africa merely four-fold. Moreover, huge improvements have happened, despite a more than six-fold increase in the world's population.
It is an astonishing story with hugely desirable consequences. Clever use of commercial energy has immeasurably increased the range of goods and services available. It has also substantially reduced both our own drudgery and our dependence on that of others. Serfs and slaves need no longer satisfy the appetites of narrow elites. Women need no longer devote their lives to the demands of domesticity. Consistent rises in real incomes per head have transformed our economic lives.
What is less widely understood is that they have also transformed politics. A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad. In traditional agrarian societies the surpluses extracted from the vast majority of peasants supported the relatively luxurious lifestyles of military, bureaucratic and noble elites. The only way to increase the prosperity of an entire people was to steal from another one. Some peoples made almost a business out of such plunder: the Roman republic was one example; the nomads of the Eurasian steppes, who reached their apogee of success under Genghis Khan and his successors, were another. The European conquerors of the 16th to 18th centuries were, arguably, a third. In a world of stagnant living standards the gains of one group came at the expense of equal, if not still bigger, losses for others. This, then, was a world of savage repression and brutal predation.
The move to the positive-sum economy transformed all this fundamentally, albeit far more slowly than it might have done. It just took time for people to realise how much had changed. Democratic politics became increasingly workable because it was feasible for everybody to become steadily better off. People fight to keep what they have more fiercely than to obtain what they do not have. This is the "endowment effect". So, in the new positive-sum world, elites were willing to tolerate the enfranchisement of the masses. The fact that they no longer depended on forced labour made this shift easier still. Consensual politics, and so democracy, became the political norm.
Equally, a positive-sum global economy ought to end the permanent state of war that characterised the pre-modern world. In such an economy, internal development and external commerce offer better prospects for virtually everybody than does international conflict. While trade always offered the possibility of positive-sum exchange, as Adam Smith argued, the gains were small compared with what is offered today by the combination of peaceful internal development and expanding international trade. Unfortunately, it took almost two centuries after the "industrial revolution" for states to realise that neither war nor empire was a "game" worth playing.
Nuclear weapons and the rise of the developmental state have made war among great powers obsolete. It is no accident then that most of the conflicts on the planet have been civil wars in poor countries that had failed to build the domestic foundations of the positive-sum economy. But China and India have now achieved just that. Perhaps the most important single fact about the world we live in is that the leaderships of these two countries have staked their political legitimacy on domestic economic development and peaceful international commerce.
The age of the plunderer is past. Or is it? The biggest point about debates on climate change and energy supply is that they bring back the question of limits. If, for example, the entire planet emitted CO 2 at the rate the US does today, global emissions would be almost five times greater. The same, roughly speaking, is true of energy use per head. This is why climate change and energy security are such geopolitically significant issues. For if there are limits to emissions, there may also be limits to growth. But if there are indeed limits to growth, the political underpinnings of our world fall apart. Intense distributional conflicts must then re-emerge - indeed, they are already emerging - within and among countries.
The response of many, notably environmentalists and people with socialist leanings, is to welcome such conflicts. These, they believe, are the birth-pangs of a just global society. I strongly disagree. It is far more likely to be a step towards a world characterised by catastrophic conflict and brutal repression. This is why I sympathise with the hostile response of classical liberals and libertarians to the very notion of such limits, since they view them as the death-knell of any hopes for domestic freedom and peaceful foreign relations.
The optimists believe that economic growth can and will continue. The pessimists believe either that it will not do so or that it must not if we are to avoid the destruction of the environment. I think we have to try to marry what makes sense in these opposing visions. It is vital for hopes of peace and freedom that we sustain the positive-sum world economy. But it is no less vital to tackle the environmental and resource challenges the economy has thrown up. This is going to be hard. The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity. Without it, dark days will come. That has never been truer than it is today.
*Contours of the World Economy, 1-2030 AD, Oxford University Press firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Diary of the WSJ
on: December 21, 2007, 01:27:39 PM
Bush on the Comeback Trail
Just as Newt Gingrich was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton, so Nancy Pelosi has become a great political asset to George W. Bush. Mr. Bush is on a roll legislatively and even his poll numbers are inching up while Congress's have sunk into the teens. There's nothing like having a foil in Congress to rehabilitate a president. Just ask Harry Truman.
This time last year it would have been inconceivable that Mr. Bush would have a successful 2007, or that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress would have fewer than one-in-four voters approving their performance. I've made a list of Mr. Bush's policy victories over the Democrats:
1) S-CHIP -- Mr. Bush vetoed the Democrats' bill expanding middle-class health care subsidies and Democrats were unable to override that veto.
2) Alternative Minimum Tax -- Democrats passed AMT reform without the offsetting tax hikes they had threatened.
3) Energy bill -- What was a monster at the beginning of the year is now just a fairly harmless CAFE standards bill. Environmentalists are fuming.
4) Hate Crimes Legislation -- Mr. Bush blocked it. The Congressional Black Caucus is furious.
5) War funding -- Mr. Bush prevailed without any pull-out date. At the start of the year this looked impossible.
6) The Budget -- Mr. Bush mostly prevailed on domestic spending totals.
7) No new taxes -- all of the Democratic tax proposals were killed, including tobacco taxes, hedge fund taxes and energy company taxes.
It pretty much looks like the White House ran the table. Merry Christmas, Madam Speaker.
-- Stephen Moore
POTUS vs. Pork
President Bush signaled during his news conference yesterday that he just might have had it with earmarks, those special-interest pork projects that are often dropped into spending bills without proper hearings or oversight.
After expressing disappointment at the thousands of earmarks stuffed into the foot-tall Omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, Mr. Bush told reporters: "I am instructing the budget director to review options for dealing with the wasteful spending in the omnibus bill."
The president gave no details, but South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a vocal critic of earmarks, has an idea what the president may have in mind. He has long cited a Congressional Research Service opinion that 90% of earmarks are suspect because they were slipped into committee reports and not written into law. "These non-legislated earmarks are not legally binding," Mr. DeMint says. "President Bush could ignore them. He doesn't need a line-item veto." The Club for Growth reports that Mr. Bush might be planning an executive order that would tell federal agencies simply to ignore Congress' earmarks if they aren't written into law and spend the money on higher priorities.
Such a bold move would result in a dramatic boost in President Bush's credibility on the budget. The federal government is now an astounding 185 times as big in real terms as it was a century ago. A general sense that Republicans have forgotten why they were sent to Washington is a big reason why the GOP lost control of Congress last year. The road to redemption has to include a crackdown on earmarks, which Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn calls "the gateway drug to higher spending in many other areas."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huckabee
on: December 21, 2007, 11:16:49 AM
The question you ask is a large one, larger than I have had time to answer in the hurry of holiday affairs-- and it belongs on a different thread. IIRC there is a "Why we fight?" thread-- would you repost your question there?
Anyway, here's this on Huckabee.
Leap of Faith
December 21, 2007; Page A18
As pigs in pokes go, the Democratic Party bought itself a big one in 1988. Michael Dukakis was relatively unknown, but he was also the last man standing. Only too late did his party, along with the rest of the country, realize Mr. Dukakis was a typecast liberal -- a furlougher of felons, and a guy who looked mighty awkward in a tank.
This is what happens when a party takes a flyer, and it could be Republicans' turn with Mike Huckabee. The former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas is surging in Iowa, and is tied with Rudy Giuliani in national polls. He's selling his party on a simple message: He's not those other guys, with their flip-flops and different faiths, and dicey social positions. As to what Mr. Huckabee is -- that's as unknown to most voters as the Almighty himself.
Mr. Huckabee is starting to get a look-see by the press, though whether the nation will have time to absorb the findings before the primaries is just as unknown. The small amount that has been unearthed so far ought to have primary voters nervous. It isn't just that Mr. Huckabee is far from a traditional conservative; he's a potential ethical time bomb.
On policy, Mr. Huckabee's tenure in Arkansas has shown him to be ambivalent about tax increases, variously supporting sales tax hikes, cigarette and gasoline taxes and Internet taxes. Spending increased 65% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation.
He's so lackluster on education reform that he recently received an endorsement from the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association -- the first ever of a GOP candidate. The union cited Mr. Huckabee's opposition to school vouchers. Mr. Huckabee is a fan of greater subsidies for farmers and "clean energy." He's proven himself a political neophyte on foreign policy, joining Democrats to skewer President Bush and glorify the "diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy" line.
Most of this is out there, thoroughly documented, and even now slowly filtering its way to voters. Of more concern is what has not yet been discovered about Mr. Huckabee's time as Arkansas lieutenant governor and governor, in particular on ethical issues. There are signs that Mr. Huckabee's background -- borne of the same Arkansas establishment that produced Bill Clinton -- is ripe to provide the sort of pop-up political scandal that could derail a general election campaign.
In Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee was investigated by the state ethics committee at least 14 times. Most of the complaints centered on what appears to be a serial disregard for government rules about gifts and outside financial compensation. He reported $112,000 worth of gifts in one year alone, nearly double his $67,000 salary.
Five of the 14 investigations resulted in admonishments: Two for failing to report gifts (one was later overturned), the other three for some $80,000 that Mr. Huckabee and his wife received but failed to initially report. One of these admonishments involved a $23,500 payment to Mr. Huckabee from an opaque organization called Action America that he helped found in 1994 while lieutenant governor, and that was designed to coordinate his speeches and supplement his income.
Mr. Huckabee caused an uproar when he used a $60,000 account intended to maintain the governor's mansion for personal expenses, including restaurant meals, dry cleaning and boat supplies. He also faced a lawsuit over his assertion that $70,000 worth of furniture donated to the mansion was his to keep. Sprinkled among all this are complaints about the misuse of state planes and campaign funds, mistakes on financial disclosure forms, and fights over documents related to ethics investigations.
Any one of these episodes individually may appear penny ante, but they add up to a disturbing pattern. People I've spoken with who worked with Mr. Huckabee in Arkansas dispute the idea that he is "corrupt." They instead ascribe his ethical mishaps to a "blind spot" rooted in his beginnings as a Baptist minister and a Southern culture of gift-giving; they suggest he never made the mental transition to public office.
Some will also argue Mr. Huckabee is no more ethically challenged than Mr. Giuliani, who is getting pounded with questions about Judith Nathan's security detail and Giuliani Partner clients. The difference is that Hizzoner is a celebrity whose past bones were long ago picked clean by the media crows. Even the Nathan flap is an extension of news that made the rounds five years ago.
The obscure governor from Arkansas is, in contrast, a deep sea for media diving. Most recent have been stories about his pardons and commutations, as well as the news that R.J. Reynolds contributed to Action America. Mr. Huckabee -- who now wants a national smoking ban in public places -- responded that he never knew he accepted tobacco money, which has inspired a former adviser to claim Mr. Huckabee is being "less than truthful." What's next?
The GOP is still reeling from its financial scandals, which helped Democrats tag the party with a "culture of corruption" in last year's congressional races. A Huckabee nomination would also neutralize one of the biggest weapons against nominee Hillary Clinton -- her own ethically tortured past. If the subject came up at all, it would be a race to the Arkansas bottom. A matchup with Barack Obama could be worse, since the "politics of hope" senator has so far avoided scandal and could bludgeon Mr. Huckabee on his past.
Democrats know it. Here's an interesting statistic: Since the beginning of 2007, the Democratic National Committee has released 102 direct attacks on Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani has warranted 78; John McCain 68; Fred Thompson 21. Mike Huckabee? Four. The most recent of these landed back in March. GOP voters may not have examined Mr. Huckabee's record, but the left has -- and they love what they see.
So far, GOP voters do, too. Most appear attracted to Mr. Huckabee's image as a "sincere" and "genuine" guy. The former governor may be both of those, but he's also got a past. Voters are going to want to look before they leap.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: December 21, 2007, 11:02:05 AM
Our Friends in Baghdad
Can't Mrs. Clinton move beyond Bush-bashing on America's interests in the Middle East?
BY FREDERICK W. KAGAN
Friday, December 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Will the United States remain committed to supporting its friends and opposing its enemies in the Muslim world?
This question has been asked for decades by people from Indonesia to Morocco and throughout the Middle East. And there is no clear answer. American engagement in the Muslim world has been fitful and incoherent, leaving our friends and our opponents believing that we are at best unreliable. In the past, supporting our friends has been taken to mean Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. In the case of the last three, it has meant helping more or less authoritarian governments retain power in exchange for their help in stabilizing the region.
But today, new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq--democracies the U.S. made possible--struggle to survive against attacks from our common enemies. Both are reaching out to the U.S. and asking for a commitment of our support.
This is an epochal moment: The U.S. has a chance to break away from failed policies of the past and throw itself behind two new constitutional democracies that occupy critical geostrategic positions in the most dangerous part of the world. Will we seize this moment or let it pass?
In Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be seizing it. Recently, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a joint communiqué in which the U.S. committed to helping Iraq defend its government against internal and external threats. In response, the Maliki government asked for a one year renewal of the current United Nation's Security Council Resolution that governs U.S. forces operating in Iraq. Mr. Maliki is also committed to working out bilateral relations with the U.S. to govern future American operations in his country.
The joint American-Iraqi communiqué marks the beginning of the normalization of relations between allies in a common fight against al Qaeda, and against Iranian efforts to dominate the Middle East. It doesn't commit the U.S. to specific force levels and it allows future governments in Washington and Baghdad to decide the role the U.S. will play in the coming years in Iraq. It is, however, an important statement of America's resolve. Even more important, it is a statement of Iraq's desire to align itself with us.
The U.S. hasn't charted as wise a course in Afghanistan. Since the establishment of Hamid Karzai's government in 2004, the Afghans have sought a bilateral agreement committing the U.S. to protect Afghanistan against foreign and domestic threats. The speaker of Afghanistan's parliament, Younos Qanuni, reiterated that desire within the past month.
But, despite a 2005 joint communiqué similar to the recent Bush-Maliki exchange, the Bush administration has deflected Kabul's request for a bilateral relationship into a much more nebulous and less effective relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. A relationship with NATO is not what the Afghans want or need.
The transition of the Afghan security and reconstruction missions from U.S. to NATO control was undertaken more with an eye on what is good for NATO than for what is good for Afghanistan, and the Afghans have not benefited from it. They still want an American commitment. Given their centrality in the fight against al Qaeda and their determination in the face of our common enemies, they deserve it.
Unfortunately, opposition to the war in Iraq and partisan politics prevent a reasoned discussion of America's interests in the Muslim world. Sen. Hillary Clinton, a leader of the liberal internationalist wing of the Democratic Party (whose husband wisely committed American forces to the Balkans in the 1990s to stop genocide and establish constitutional government there), immediately attacked the Bush-Maliki communiqué.
She joined the unthinking chorus of war opponents who saw it simply as another way of institutionalizing "George Bush's endless war." Rather than pressing the administration to offer similar guarantees to another key ally at the heart of the fight against terrorism, liberal internationalists instead attacked the administration.
What sort of strategy is this? Shall we refuse our help to democratic states we helped bring into existence when they are attacked by our common foes? Shall we make a statement that we will not support our friends or that we prefer to support authoritarian regimes?
Mrs. Clinton has said that she expects U.S. troops to be in Iraq until the end of her administration, and quite rightly. But under what terms will they be there, if we do not establish a bilateral relationship with an Iraqi state eager to assert its own sovereignty, and therefore unwilling to continue in the sort of international receivership to which the Security Council subjects it?
As U.S. forces move into former insurgent strongholds in Iraq, the local people, both Sunni and Shiite, ask our soldiers not "When are you leaving?" but "Will you stay this time?" The rise of Iran's power has frightened many Gulf Arab states so much that they now ask the same question: Will the U.S. stand by them this time?
The notion that attacks on America result from the American presence in the Muslim world is nonsensical. America and its allies have been attacked when we had troops in the Middle East and when we did not; when we intervened in regional crises and when we ignored them. But our policies over the past few decades have resulted in the worst of both worlds--we have generated whatever irritant our presence in the region creates without giving our friends (and enemies) the assurance that we will actively pursue our interests and those of our allies.
It was one thing to debate how much support to offer authoritarian regimes providing questionable support to our efforts. Refusing now to defend states trying to establish constitutional and democratic government will be quite another. The immorality of such a decision is apparent. It would also be strategic stupidity.
It is time to move beyond reflexive Bush-bashing and antiwar sloganeering and consider our real interests in the Muslim world and how to secure them. It starts by declaring that we will stand by our friends in defense of common goals and against common enemies.
Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "No Middle Way: The Challenge of Exit Strategies from Iraq" (AEI Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mormons
on: December 21, 2007, 10:50:44 AM
Interesting, and coincidentally enough this from today's WSJ:
The Mormons still haven't settled their race problem.
BY JASON L. RILEY
Friday, December 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
In an "Official Declaration" issued on June 8, 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints extended "priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church." The church announced that a "revelation had been received" by its then-president Spencer Kimball. Until then, Mormonism was a defiantly apartheid faith that denied blacks full participation based on doctrinal beliefs that whites are "pure" and "delightsome," while black-skinned people are "unrighteous," "despised" and "loathsome" descendants of the biblical Cain, who was cursed for killing Abel.
By 1978, the U.S. was more than a century removed from a civil war over the status of blacks; W.E.B Du Bois and Henry Moskowitz had co-founded the NAACP; and President Truman had integrated the military three decades before.
By 1978, Plessy v. Ferguson had been overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, and Thurgood Marshall was a Supreme Court justice.
By 1978, Jackie Robinson had not only retired from the Brooklyn Dodgers but was fielding grounders in the hereafter.
By 1978, Martin Luther King Jr. had given his "I Have a Dream" speech, and Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
By 1978, the universities of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama had been integrated.
By 1978, Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 calling for "segregation of the races," had endorsed integration and hired black staffers.
Which is to say that in a decades-long march toward civil rights that eventually included even the likes of former Dixiecrats, the LDS church was still bringing up the rear.
It's true that, in the late 1970s, other religious denominations in the U.S. still tended to be largely segregated by race out of choice or custom. But according to journalists Richard and Joan Ostling's "Mormon America," only the Mormons "had instituted such a sharp racial preference or placed it at the level of divine revelation."
Armand Mauss, a leading scholar on Mormons and race, and a Mormon himself, has noted that "much of the conventional 'explanation' for the priesthood restriction was simply borrowed from the racist heritage of nineteenth-century Europe and America, especially from the justifications for slavery used in the ante-bellum South."
The priesthood proscription, which operated under a "one-drop rule," wasn't in place simply to keep blacks out of leadership posts. Ultimately, the ban was a manifestation of a central belief that blacks are unfit to be full members of the church on Earth, or to exist alongside whites in heaven.
In the Mormon system, "the priesthood is everything," write the Ostlings, and boys normally enter the first stage at age 12. "Without priesthood, many routine forms of church participation are beyond reach, such as distribution of the sacrament," write the authors. "Priesthood is the necessary condition for men receiving temple endowments and eternal sealings of marriage that admit its holders to the highest tier in heaven and potential godhood."
Mormon leaders were applauded for finally ending the prohibition. But according to Mr. Mauss, the church has never repudiated the teachings that supported the policy. In 2004, he wrote, "ironically, the doctrinal folklore that many of us thought had been discredited, or at least made moot, through the 1978 revelation, continued to appear . . . [in church literature] written well after 1978 and continues to be taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders in the church to this very day." And "Mormon America," which was just re-released, notes plainly that "Mormon teaching against race-mixing remains in force."
In 1978, Mitt Romney was a 31-year-old vice president at Bain & Co. and a lifelong devout Mormon. Throughout his current campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney has declined to distance himself from the repugnant racial teachings of his church.
On "Meet the Press" last Sunday, the candidate was asked by Tim Russert if "it was wrong for your faith to exclude [blacks] as long as it did." Mr. Romney dodged the question, instead stating: "I told you where I stand. My view is that there--there's, there's no discrimination in the eyes of God, and I could not have been more pleased to see the change that occurred."
In his ballyhooed speech earlier this month, Mr. Romney said he wouldn't renounce any of Mormonism's precepts. He also implied that questions like Mr. Russert's come too close to a "religious test" for public office that the Constitution explicitly forbids. But in a country with America's racial past, Mr. Russert's question isn't a religious test. It's due diligence. And for all his claims to the contrary, Mr. Romney has, in fact, been willing to distance himself from past teachings of the church--just not those having to do with its treatment of black people.
"Look, the polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me," he told "60 Minutes" in May. "I must admit, I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy." Gee, I can.
Mr. Riley is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Liberty
on: December 21, 2007, 10:33:28 AM
"The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Richard Rush, 20 October 1820)
Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 15:283.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Madison: Property Rights
on: December 20, 2007, 11:57:59 PM
"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort;
as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as
that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end
of government, that alone is a just government which impartially
secures to every man whatever is his own."
-- James Madison (Essay on Property, 29 March 1792)
Reference: Madison: Writings, Rakove, ed., Library of America (515)
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: December 20, 2007, 11:54:04 PM
I. "Canadian Response" technique brings quick restraint of combative, super-strong subjects, FSRC advisor tells excited delirium conference
[View this article with photos on PoliceOne.com]
A technique for "working smarter rather than harder" to restrain unusually strong, combative subjects was described by an advisor to the Force Science Research Center at a recent international conference on in-custody deaths that featured presentations by nearly 20 of the world's leading authorities on excited delirium (ED).
The technique, which requires a coordinated effort by several officers, involves "humanely misaligning" a struggling suspect's muscles and joints to control his movements and reduce his capability of resisting while restraint devices are applied, explains Chris Lawrence, who outlined the tactic at the 2nd annual symposium of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths last month [11/07] in Las Vegas.
"A resisting subject can generate significant power with his arms, legs, and shoulders," Lawrence says. "If you take these out of their natural power alignment, the individual can be controlled with less effort and with greater safety."
Initially conceived as a response tool for ED confrontations, the procedure can be used effectively in managing a wide variety of strong, combative subjects, from drunks to the violently enraged and drug-fueled, says Lawrence, a prominent Canadian defensive tactics trainer and a technical advisor to FSRC at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
The technique was devised, tested, and refined by a cadre of Canadian police trainers led by Lawrence, in consultation with street officers, DT instructors, and ED medical experts scattered through North America. Lawrence, a columnist for FSRC's strategic partner PoliceOne.com, has researched and reported on ED developments to LE audiences for about 9 years.
BENEFITS. "Often when officers try to control a resistant person who's exerting tremendous strength, as in excited delirium, they end up trying to out-muscle him," Lawrence told Force Science News. "This requires significant exertion, and unless the officers' efforts are greater than the suspect's, they won't prevail. Even if they succeed, there's a risk of injury to the officers, the subject, sometimes even to innocent bystanders.
"Rather than work harder, the suggestion is to work smarter," with the coordinated application of leverage and body mechanics. With this method, which Lawrence informally calls the Canadian Response, "even officers whose size and strength can't begin to match that of the suspect should still quickly prevail, with a greater margin of safety for everyone involved."
In training sessions, Lawrence selects "the biggest guy in the class" to role-play the subject and "5 other big people" to try to control him. The officers are told to "use any technique you want to get the subject into a prone, controlled position," while the subject is instructed to "do anything you want to get out."
Typically, Lawrence claims, "within 4 to 5 seconds, the subject has been able to rise up at least to his hands and knees."
After instruction in the Canadian Response, 5 of the smallest people in class take on the biggest one. "I stand there ordering him to get up, but he can't. The usual reaction is, 'I can't believe this.'"
"The Canadian Response shares the key component of all good physical control techniques," notes FSRC's executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski. "It allows officers to maximize their biomechanical advantages and diminishes the biomechanical advantages of the subject. When done well, it should literally rob the subject of his power, regardless of his size, strength, and physical and emotional intensity."
Maximizing speed and minimizing exertion in achieving effective restraint is especially important when dealing with ED subjects who are not compliant with verbal persuasion, Lawrence explains.
"There's nothing a police officer with a first-aid certificate can do to help the subject at the side of the road. Experts agree that getting these people to a medical facility as promptly as possible without unnecessarily intensifying their agitated, overstressed state with a prolonged struggle appears to increase their chances of surviving what can be a fatal episode. Unless they are physically controlled, however, ambulance crews won't transport them, so restraint, when necessary, becomes imperative as a first step in receiving medical care."
GROUND POSITIONING. The Canadian Response works best with 4-5 officers concentrating on a subject who's on the ground, front side down. (Lawrence does not specifically address how he gets there, but the presumption is that he's tackled, Tasered, tripped, or otherwise brought down and maneuvered to a prone position; pain compliance will not reliably do the job because the subject may well be impervious to pain.)
"The ground provides a consistent , reliable platform that works to the officers' mechanical advantage," Lawrence says, "and getting the subject proned out actually results in lesser force being necessary than if he were on his back. So long as the subject is face down, you're in less danger from his natural weapons," his limbs.
ARM CONTROL. Experimentation showed that even highly muscled individuals display the least strength in weight-lifting when their arms are straight out at their sides, Lawrence says, so this is the position the first 2 officers want to get the proned subject's arms into-extended out at an angle of 90 degrees or slightly higher from the ribcage.
If the officers sit facing away from the subject, they can each grab an arm, fully extend it, clamp it with the crook of their elbow, and lock it in against their side and across their thigh-a seated variation of the arm-bar maneuver. With one hand controlling the subject's wrist, they turn his palm up, then use their upper-body weight to lean against and apply pressure to the back of his deltoid (shoulder) muscle, pushing toward the ground.
"This pins him, without causing injury," Lawrence says. "By keeping his arms locked out and anchored, his wrists turned and off the ground, and his shoulders down, you misalign his muscles and joints. His arms are less effective in offering resistance, but his ability to breathe remains uncompromised."
In some cases, Lawrence points out, subjects may go prone with their arms tucked under them, hands clasped tight against their chest-what Lawrence calls a powerful "turtle position." To avoid a strenuous struggle to gets the arms free, you are often best off to use a baton as a leverage tool and pry them out.
LEG CONTROL. The next 2 officers secure the subject's legs. "Again, the principle is misalignment of the muscles to reduce the subject's ability to generate power," Lawrence says.
These officers each capture a foot and get on the ground between the subject's legs to move the heels as far apart as possible. Pushing against each other back-to-back can help gain leverage in parting and extending the legs.
Continuing to face away from each other, each officer then wraps his/her body around an ankle, turning the toes out and bringing his/her weight to bear against the end of the long leg bones to hold the limbs down securely.
"This positioning substantially reduces the subject's ability to raise his legs and exert himself with the most powerful parts of his body," Lawrence says.
5th OFFICER. If an additional officer is present, he or she can be plugged in where needed most.
If more control is necessary, this officer, kneeling at the subject's head, can apply pressure through his/her hands to the subject's shoulders, roughly where the rotator cuffs are (not on the spine). "This tends to be more effective than holding the subject's head," Lawrence explains, "because a head hold leaves more possibility for the subject to torque his shoulders, move his upper trunk substantially, and try to get up or buck to a more powerful position."
If the subject seems well-controlled, the 5th officer "can also work as a quarterback, overseeing the process and scanning for threats." Or he/she can move in to begin the handcuffing process.
HANDCUFFING. The Canadian Response involves the use of multiple pairs of handcuffs, not only for easier initial application but also because this allows the subject to be transported by ambulance in a more desirable position for monitoring.
If an extra officer is not available, the arm-control officers must handle the cuffing on their own. If they have trouble reaching their cuffs, a leg officer may be able to hand up a set to get the process started. "This is very flexible," Lawrence says.
One arm-control officer goes first, transitioning from the pin position by raising the subject's wrist high, turning the arm, and bending the elbow so the arm folds behind the subject's back in a cuffing position. The officer turns to face the subject's spine as he/she brings the arm around. The subject's upper arm is held firmly between the officer's knees, one of which is placed over the subject's scapula, the other on the ground. Once a cuff is on that wrist, the other officer repeats the process with the other arm.
Now the unused portions of the 2 handcuff sets can be hooked together. Or, with large subjects, they can be connected to a third set of cuffs interposed between them. "The idea is to create enough separation between the subject's hands that he can lie flat, without riding on his cuffed wrists, once he is turned over on his back for ambulance transport," Lawrence says.
He warns, however, that a subject who must be transported by patrol car rather than by ambulance should not be handcuffed with extended space between his wrists.
Important: The subject should not be turned onto his back until his legs are firmly restrained.
LEG RESTRAINT. Once the subject is handcuffed, his legs are then brought together, under control, and are securely strapped together. Once the strap is cinched snug, the loose end can be stood on to keep the subject from moving his legs. Note: This is a hobble restraint, not hog-tying.
TRANSPORT. After the legs are strapped, the subject can be rolled to his side. When he's transferred to a gurney for transport to a medical facility, the strap can be tied to the end of the stretcher to keep the subject from raising or thrashing his legs. EMS personnel will apply additional restraints of their own, but at least one officer should still ride in the ambulance for added security.
"With the daisy chain of handcuffs, the subject should be able to lie on his back with his hands beside his hips so that the paramedics or EMTs can better monitor him," Lawrence says. "With him supine [face up], they're better able to watch his breathing, use a stethoscope to check his heart, apply a blood pressure cuff, start an IV, and so on.
"The usual gurney strapping will prevent him from sliding the cuffs below his butt and attempting escape."
Lawrence cautions that use of this control procedure is by no means an iron-clad guarantee against injury to officers or subjects. Nor can it assure that a subject beset by ED won't still die suddenly and unexpectedly, despite the best efforts of police and medical personnel. "There is still a great deal that's unknown about this complicated phenomenon," he says, "including exactly why the ED experience culminates in death for some of these subjects. Plus, no tactic is guaranteed to work on a particular subject, and every control technique has some element of risk.
"But based on what we know so far, the Canadian Response seems to provide hope for safely handing an afflicted subject off to medical personnel. It requires no new equipment for officers to buy or to carry on their belts or in their car, and it incorporates the kind of simple DT movements that they are already familiar with."
Obviously, performing smoothly as a team requires practice. "But officers who've trained in the technique are amazed at how successful it can be," Lawrence says.
He plans to demonstrate the technique at the ILEETA (International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Assn.) 2008 training conference, Apr. 1-5 in Wheeling, IL, a suburb of Chicago.
Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[For previous articles on challenges and recommendations related to controlling ED subjects, search the Force Science News archives at www.forcesciencenews.com
. Our thanks to PoliceOne trainer Gary Klugiewicz, a member of FSRC's national advisory board, for tipping us to Lawrence's Las Vegas presentation.]
II. FSRC to bring reality to English Parliament
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center, will make a presentation this month [12/07] before a committee of Parliament in London, England, regarding FSRC's latest findings on use-of-force dynamics, decision-making, perceptions, and memory.
Parliament's House Affairs Committee on Human Rights is looking into issues regarding Taser use, the nature of law enforcement-related violence, civil rights, and other concerns related to police interaction with British citizenry.
"I expect lively dialogue with members of the committee after presenting our research," Lewinski says, "and I hope to emphasize what science reveals about police use of force."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 1 out of 16 in Germany
on: December 20, 2007, 08:02:18 PM
Interior Ministry Warns of Radicalization of Muslims
A new study commissioned by Germany's Interior Ministry warns of a growing threat from the radicalization of Muslims in the country. Six percent of Muslims in Germany support violence in the name of Islam, the authors write.
Muslims protest in Dusseldorf against the Danish Muhammad cartoons in this Feb. 2006 photo. The Interior Ministry has warned that exclusion of Muslims from mainstream German society is leading to radicalization.
A new study released by Germany's Interior Ministry has added new fuel to the debate about integration of Muslims in Germany, with the report warning about the danger of radicalization of Muslims.
According to the study, which was published Tuesday, around 40 percent of Muslims surveyed had a "fundamentalist orientation," which the authors defined as a strongly religious worldview and moral values.
However, the authors concluded that the vast majority of Muslims in Germany reject religiously motivated terrorism and violence: Some 92 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that terrorist acts in the name of Islam were a serious sin and an insult to Allah.
But the authors saw a potential threat in a small minority with Islamist leanings: Around 6 percent of those surveyed were classified as having "violent tendencies," while 14 percent of respondents had "anti-democratic" tendencies.
Around 12 percent of the Muslims in Germany identified with a religious-moral critique of the West and supported corporal punishment and the death penalty. The report also concluded that religious beliefs are becoming increasingly important for young people.
The study, which was carried out by Katrin Brettfeld and Peter Wetzels from the Institute for Criminology at the University of Hamburg, was commissioned by the Interior Ministry in an attempt to finding out the extent to which the Muslim community in Germany provides a breeding ground for extremist groups and potential terrorists. The authors interviewed 1,750 Muslims living in Germany for the study. Of that number, around 40 percent had German citizenship.
'Fundamental Religious Orientation'
In the introduction to the report, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble writes that the study leads to the "worrying conclusion that a serious potential for Islamist radicalization has developed in Germany." According to Schäuble, the lack of integration of immigrants into German society is leading to a "fundamental religious orientation."
The survey found that more than half of the respondents felt themselves excluded from German society and felt they were treated as foreigners. Around 20 percent had experienced some form of racism within the last 12 months.
Reacting to the study, Christine Haderthauer, general secretary of the conservative Bavarian party the Christian Social Union, said that her party "has always warned against the dangers of parallel societies. Our fears have been confirmed in a shocking manner." She said that Germany needs "an offensive to promote religious tolerance among young Muslims."
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However social anthropologist Werner Schiffauer urged caution when interpreting the results. He told the daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau that "anti-democratic attitudes were equally common among Muslims and Germans (sic)," adding that it could not be concluded that Islam encourages anti-democratic tendencies. Leaders of groups representing the Turkish community and Muslims in Germany also urged caution in interpreting the results.
In concluding that 6 percent of Muslims in Germany have violent tendencies, the study appears to contradict to some extent the findings of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors Islamist activity in the country. According to its 2006 report, there are currently around 32,000 Islamists in Germany who pose a potential security threat. That figure represents slightly more than 1 percent of the around 3 million Muslims who live in the country.
The Interior Ministry under Schäuble has sparked a series of controversies in recent months. Schäuble was the subject of heated criticism in July of this year when he appeared to suggest in a SPIEGEL interview (more...) that the targeted killing of terrorists might have to be considered. Schäuble's opponents have condemned him for attempting to constantly stretch the limits of what is acceptable under Germany's constitution in the fight against terror.
Other controversial positions Schäuble has promoted recently include taking terrorists into preventive custody, deploying the German army in domestic operations and searching suspects' computers online without their knowledge.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wear Hijab or die!
on: December 20, 2007, 02:38:26 PM
Tehran, 19 Dec. (AKI) - A top Muslim cleric in Iran, Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hassani said on Wednesday that women in Iran who do not wear the hijab or Muslim headscarf, should die.
"Women who do not respect the hijab and their husbands deserve to die," said Hassani, who leads Friday prayers in the city of Urumieh, in Iranian Azerbaijan.
"I do not understand how these women who do not respect the hijab, 28 years after the birth of the Islamic Republic, are still alive," he said.
"These women and their husbands and their fathers must die," said Hassani, who is the representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in eastern Azerbaijan.
Hassani's statements came after two Kurdish feminists in Iran were accused of being members of an armed rebel group and of carrying out subversive activities threatening the security of the state.
It is believed that his statements and the arrests could spark a fresh crackdown on women who do not repect the Islamic dress code in Iran.
Thousands of women in Iran have already been warned this year for their "un-Islamic dress" such as wearing tight, short coats and skimpy headscarves.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: December 20, 2007, 09:57:01 AM
Stand By Steyn
by Robert Spencer
The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal have begun proceedings against Mark Steyn, author of America Alone. They are responding to complaints from the Canadian Islamic Congress about an excerpt from the book that was published in the Canadian journal Maclean’s. “The article,” the CIC claims, “subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt,” and was “flagrantly Islamophobic.”
To be sure, the article was pretty strong stuff. Here’s a bit of it: “There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests. The fifty million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades.” Even worse, it goes on to say: “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.”
“A Muslim continent”! “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes”! No wonder the CIC was upset. And not just the CIC: writer Jim Henley, whose articles have appeared in The New Republic and The American Spectator Online, quoted the “mosquitoes” line and called Steyn a “racist.” There were just two problems: The “Muslim continent” statement is not only factual, it’s stated in words no one can characterize as inflammatory. (Also, it’s been said by Libya’s strongman Muammar Qaddafi). Second, “The number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes” was not Steyn’s phrase. He was quoting Mullah Krekar, a jihadist who currently resides in Norway, although officials have been trying for years to get him out of the country..
And that sums up the problem with the Canadian human rights commissions’ action against Steyn: he was simply reporting on contemporary European reality. It was not Mark Steyn, but Algerian leader Houari Boumédienne who said at the United Nations in 1974: “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” Those who want to silence Steyn want to suppress facts and limit free speech.
It was not Steyn who said that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor,” and that “the conquest this time will not be by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” That was Al-Jazeera’s Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, who is widely hailed as a moderate reformer in the West. Did Steyn say that Muslims “will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it”? Nope. That one comes from a Saudi Sheikh, Muhammad bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-‘Arifi, imam of the mosque of King Fahd Defense Academy.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is putting itself in the peculiar position of penalizing those non-Muslims who report on such statements, as if it is somehow an act encouraging “hatred and contempt” to reveal the unpleasant reality that comprises mainstream Islamic rhetoric today. There is no indication that the CHRC has done a thing to investigate the possibility that some Muslims in Canada might hold the views of Mullah Krekar, Qaddafi, Boumédienne, Qaradhawi and Sheikh Muhammad. When the CIC’s President Mohamed Elmasry said in 2004 that all Israelis over age eighteen were legitimate targets, the CHRC took no action. But Elmasry, you see, is part of a protected victim class.
Actions like the one against Steyn threaten the foundation of free society. Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination, once you declare that these people -- whoever they may be -- must at all costs not be offended, then you have destroyed one of the essential elements of free speech and political debate. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to force their neighbor to be silent if his opinions offend them. If offensive speech had been prohibited in the 1770s, there would be no United States of America, and that is one of the reasons for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Of course, Canada is a different case -- but wherever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. That is no less so in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=24033&s=rcme
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: December 20, 2007, 09:43:43 AM
Muslims call ham sandwich hate crime
April 24, 2007
As they are "highly offensive" to Muslims, it appears that our politically correct leftist-run middle school system will soon no longer allow any pork products on school property. At Lewiston, ME Middle School, placing pork in the mere presence of Muslims is currently being called a hate crime. Note: Jews also believe pork is unclean but, there has never been any effort by the public school system to remove pork, in order to honor their religious beliefs. That is reserved solely for Muslims. For that matter, celebrations of Christian holidays are being summarily removed from the public school system, while Muslim holidays are commemorated — and Muslim foot washing basins and prayer rooms are being built. All manner of Islamic demands, no matter what the complaint, are being met and Islam is quickly and clearly being established as the "superior" religion in the USA — now in the public school systems and, no doubt, soon in the entire country.
The latest incident of "Muslim outrage" involves a middle-school student purportedly placing a ham sandwich wrapped in a baggie on a lunch table where Somali Muslim students sit. One 14 year-old unnamed Somali student is reported to have said: "At the school the next day, I didn't feel safe. I felt like everybody was against me. Before I felt like I fit in, and everything was normal." The ham-placing "offending student" has been suspended, the Maine middle school is calling the placing of the ham sandwich a "hate crime" and the local police are investigating the child. More charges against the child may be forthcoming. School Superintendent Leon Levesque said: "The school incident is being treated seriously as a hate incident!" Then, in the true and remarkable spirit of the Kumbaya-for-Islam set, Levesque added: "We've got some work to do to turn this around and bring the school community back together again." Note: Again, 'presenting pork' is only an offense and "hate crime" if it involves Muslims.
Even the Portland, ME based Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence has become involved. Its Executive Director Stephen Wessler immediately went off the deep end and commented: "It's extraordinarily hurtful and degrading to Muslims, whose religion prohibits them from being around ham. It's important to respond swiftly." Huh? Respond swiftly to an evil ham sandwich? Wessler then added warningly: "Incidents like this that involve degrading language or conduct are often said by the perpetrator as a joke. I know that conduct is never static. It's part of a process of escalation!" Is Wessler actually saying: "Today it's a ham sandwich, tomorrow it's the world!"? What has happened to the alleged minds of our supposedly educated adults, when a non-threatening childish prank is raised to the level of a hate crime? Oh — I forgot. To Muslims we are now being led to believe that everything is potentially threatening. However, real threats from real Islamic terrorists are increasingly discounted by our PC society. 9/11 is a fading memory in all too many minds and Islamic Imams can not only threaten passengers on planes but, then turn around and sue said passengers for complaining about them!
Now, not only do we have Congressional leaders working to appease each and every aspect of Islam that has vowed to destroy us but, we have the US public school system bowing to all complaints — or even potential complaints — from Muslim students and their parents. Of course, any and all complaints from Christian and Jewish students are ignored. Special privileges are progressively being given to Muslims and even facilities are being built, with tax payer dollars, for them on US campuses. No such privileges or construction projects are being afforded to or for any other religious group. And too many are continuing to remain silent. In this case, as in others, silence equates to acceptance. Islam is taking over the USA from both without and within — apparently with the consent of the new 'silent majority.' It's a tragedy that SCOTUS did not include mosques in its ruling on the separation of church and state. It has not only come back to haunt and bite us but, will soon render we-the-people and our country as only so much dust in the wind. If we do not now speak up loudly at these injustices and inequities, soon we won't be allowed to speak at all.http://www.wcsh6.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=58204http://proteinwisdom.com/index.php?/weblog/entry/22914/#260316http://www.aim.org/guest_column/5317_0_6_0_C/http://www.aina.org/news/20070418103800.htmhttp://www.familysecuritymatters.org/challenges.php?id=903490http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state
Sher Zieve is an author, political commentator, and staff writer for The New Media Alliance (www.thenma.org
). Zieve's op-ed columns are widely carried by multiple internet journals and sites, and she also writes hard news. Her columns have also appeared in The Oregon Herald, Dallas Times, Boston Star, Massachusetts Sun, Sacramento Sun, in international news publications, and on multiple university websites. Ms. Zieve is currently working on her first political book: "The Liberal's Guide To Conservatives."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics
on: December 19, 2007, 10:26:01 AM
Laws of Nature, Source Unknown
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Published: December 18, 2007
“Gravity,” goes the slogan on posters and bumper stickers. “It isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.”
And what a law. Unlike, say, traffic or drug laws, you don’t have a choice about obeying gravity or any of the other laws of physics. Jump and you will come back down. Faith or good intentions have nothing to do with it.
Existence didn’t have to be that way, as Einstein reminded us when he said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” Against all the odds, we can send e-mail to Sri Lanka, thread spacecraft through the rings of Saturn, take a pill to chase the inky tendrils of depression, bake a turkey or a soufflé and bury a jump shot from the corner.
Yes, it’s a lawful universe. But what kind of laws are these, anyway, that might be inscribed on a T-shirt but apparently not on any stone tablet that we have ever been able to find?
Are they merely fancy bookkeeping, a way of organizing facts about the world? Do they govern nature or just describe it? And does it matter that we don’t know and that most scientists don’t seem to know or care where they come from?
Apparently it does matter, judging from the reaction to a recent article by Paul Davies, a cosmologist at Arizona State University and author of popular science books, on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.
Dr. Davies asserted in the article that science, not unlike religion, rested on faith, not in God but in the idea of an orderly universe. Without that presumption a scientist could not function. His argument provoked an avalanche of blog commentary, articles on Edge.org and letters to The Times, pointing out that the order we perceive in nature has been explored and tested for more than 2,000 years by observation and experimentation. That order is precisely the hypothesis that the scientific enterprise is engaged in testing.
David J. Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, told me in an e-mail message, “I have more confidence in the methods of science, based on the amazing record of science and its ability over the centuries to answer unanswerable questions, than I do in the methods of faith (what are they?).”
Reached by e-mail, Dr. Davies acknowledged that his mailbox was “overflowing with vitriol,” but said he had been misunderstood. What he had wanted to challenge, he said, was not the existence of laws, but the conventional thinking about their source.
There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which “came” first — the laws or the universe?
If the laws of physics are to have any sticking power at all, to be real laws, one could argue, they have to be good anywhere and at any time, including the Big Bang, the putative Creation. Which gives them a kind of transcendent status outside of space and time.
On the other hand, many thinkers — all the way back to Augustine — suspect that space and time, being attributes of this existence, came into being along with the universe — in the Big Bang, in modern vernacular. So why not the laws themselves?
Dr. Davies complains that the traditional view of transcendent laws is just 17th-century monotheism without God. “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,” he said in his e-mail message.
But the idea of rationality in the cosmos has long existed without monotheism. As far back as the fifth century B.C. the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers proclaimed that nature was numbers. Plato envisioned a higher realm of ideal forms, of perfect chairs, circles or galaxies, of which the phenomena of the sensible world were just flawed reflections. Plato set a transcendent tone that has been popular, especially with mathematicians and theoretical physicists, ever since.
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas, Austin, described himself in an e-mail message as “pretty Platonist,” saying he thinks the laws of nature are as real as “the rocks in the field.” The laws seem to persist, he wrote, “whatever the circumstance of how I look at them, and they are things about which it is possible to be wrong, as when I stub my toe on a rock I had not noticed.”
The ultimate Platonist these days is Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In talks and papers recently he has speculated that mathematics does not describe the universe — it is the universe.
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Dr. Tegmark maintains that we are part of a mathematical structure, albeit one gorgeously more complicated than a hexagon, a multiplication table or even the multidimensional symmetries that describe modern particle physics. Other mathematical structures, he predicts, exist as their own universes in a sort of cosmic Pythagorean democracy, although not all of them would necessarily prove to be as rich as our own.
“Everything in our world is purely mathematical — including you,” he wrote in New Scientist.
This would explain why math works so well in describing the cosmos. It also suggests an answer to the question that Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist, asked in his book, “A Brief History of Time”: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Mathematics itself is on fire.
Not every physicist pledges allegiance to Plato. Pressed, these scientists will describe the laws more pragmatically as a kind of shorthand for nature’s regularity. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, put it this way: “A law of physics is a pattern that nature obeys without exception.”
Plato and the whole idea of an independent reality, moreover, took a shot to the mouth in the 1920s with the advent of quantum mechanics. According to that weird theory, which, among other things, explains why our computers turn on every morning, there is an irreducible randomness at the microscopic heart of reality that leaves an elementary particle, an electron, say, in a sort of fog of being everywhere or anywhere, or being a wave or a particle, until some measurement fixes it in place.
In that case, according to the standard interpretation of the subject, physics is not about the world at all, but about only the outcomes of experiments, of our clumsy interactions with that world. But 75 years later, those are still fighting words. Einstein grumbled about God not playing dice.
Steven Weinstein, a philosopher of science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, termed the phrase “law of nature” as “a kind of honorific” bestowed on principles that seem suitably general, useful and deep. How general and deep the laws really are, he said, is partly up to nature and partly up to us, since we are the ones who have to use them.
But perhaps, as Dr. Davies complains, Plato is really dead and there are no timeless laws or truths. A handful of poet-physicists harkening for more contingent nonabsolutist laws not engraved in stone have tried to come up with prescriptions for what John Wheeler, a physicist from Princeton and the University of Texas in Austin, called “law without law.”
As one example, Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, has invented a theory in which the laws of nature change with time. It envisions universes nested like Russian dolls inside black holes, which are spawned with slightly different characteristics each time around. But his theory lacks a meta law that would prescribe how and why the laws change from generation to generation.
Holger Bech Nielsen, a Danish physicist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and one of the early pioneers of string theory, has for a long time pursued a project he calls Random Dynamics, which tries to show how the laws of physics could evolve naturally from a more general notion he calls “world machinery.”
On his Web site, Random Dynamics, he writes, “The ambition of Random Dynamics is to ‘derive’ all the known physical laws as an almost unavoidable consequence of a random fundamental ‘world machinery.’”
Dr. Wheeler has suggested that the laws of nature could emerge “higgledy-piggledy” from primordial chaos, perhaps as a result of quantum uncertainty. It’s a notion known as “it from bit.” Following that logic, some physicists have suggested we should be looking not so much for the ultimate law as for the ultimate program..
Anton Zeilinger, a physicist and quantum trickster at the University of Vienna, and a fan of Dr. Wheeler’s idea, has speculated that reality is ultimately composed of information. He said recently that he suspected the universe was fundamentally unpredictable.
I love this idea of intrinsic randomness much for the same reason that I love the idea of natural selection in biology, because it and only it ensures that every possibility will be tried, every circumstance tested, every niche inhabited, every escape hatch explored. It’s a prescription for novelty, and what more could you ask for if you want to hatch a fecund universe?
Page 3 of 3)
But too much fecundity can be a problem. Einstein hoped that the universe was unique: given a few deep principles, there would be only one consistent theory. So far Einstein’s dream has not been fulfilled.Cosmologists and physicists have recently found themselves confronted by the idea of the multiverse, with zillions of universes, each with different laws, occupying a vast realm known in the trade as the landscape.
In this case there is meta law — one law or equation, perhaps printable on a T-shirt — to rule them all. This prospective lord of the laws would be string theory, the alleged theory of everything, which apparently has 10500 solutions. Call it Einstein’s nightmare.
But it is soon for any Einsteinian to throw in his or her hand. Since cosmologists don’t know how the universe came into being, or even have a convincing theory, they have no way of addressing the conundrum of where the laws of nature come from or whether those laws are unique and inevitable or flaky as a leaf in the wind.
These kinds of speculation are fun, but they are not science, yet. “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds,” goes the saying attributed to Richard Feynman, the late Caltech Nobelist, and repeated by Dr. Weinberg.
Maybe both alternatives — Plato’s eternal stone tablet and Dr. Wheeler’s higgledy-piggledy process — will somehow turn out to be true. The dichotomy between forever and emergent might turn out to be as false eventually as the dichotomy between waves and particles as a description of light. Who knows?
The law of no law, of course, is still a law.
When I was young and still had all my brain cells I was a bridge fan, and one hand I once read about in the newspaper bridge column has stuck with me as a good metaphor for the plight of the scientist, or of the citizen cosmologist. The winning bidder had overbid his hand. When the dummy cards were laid, he realized that his only chance of making his contract was if his opponents’ cards were distributed just so.
He could have played defensively, to minimize his losses. Instead he played as if the cards were where they had to be. And he won.
We don’t know, and might never know, if science has overbid its hand. When in doubt, confronted with the complexities of the world, scientists have no choice but to play their cards as if they can win, as if the universe is indeed comprehensible. That is what they have been doing for more than 2,000 years, and they are still winning.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: December 19, 2007, 10:20:32 AM
“Time magazine hasn’t announced its pick for ‘man of the year’ yet, but we certainly know ours: Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq and architect of the surge strategy that is turning the tide in the war. Petraeus formulated a brilliant counterinsurgency plan. He executed it with care and diligence. And when much of the country didn’t want to notice the security gains that the surge had wrought, he took the national media spotlight to defend his strategy and his honor. In all this, he was nothing less than masterly. When Petraues testified on Capitol Hill in early September, much of the media and the Left simply refused to believe that violence in Iraq was down... And the day Petraeus’s testimony began, MoveOn.org ran its infamous ‘General Petraeus or General Betray Us?’ ad. It said that ‘every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed’; that Petraeus ‘is constantly at war with the facts’; and that the general ‘is cooking the books for the White House.’... Hillary Rodham Clinton stopped just short of calling him a liar, saying that to believe his report required ‘a willing suspension of disbelief.’ Less than a month later, however, Petraeus’s critics had been effectively silenced... That the surge has worked is no longer up for debate. On a trip to Iraq the week after Thanksgiving, even John Murtha stated flatly, ‘I think the surge is working.’... That Petraeus has achieved so much in such a short time despite the frustrations of Iraqi politics is a testament to his skill as a strategist and a leader of men. For making victory in Iraq look possible again, and for pulling a nation back from the brink of civil war, Petraeus deserves the praise and thanks of all Americans. With or without a Time cover, he is the man of the year.” —National Review
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions
on: December 19, 2007, 08:55:12 AM
IMHO our misguided War on Drugs has many costs-- one of which is a logic of kicking in people's doors on no-knock warrants lest the drugs be flushed. In a free (hence armed) society, the potential for tragedy and clusterfcuk is obvious.
MINNEAPOLIS — With her six kids and husband tucked into bed, Yee Moua was watching TV in her living room just after midnight when she heard voices — faint at first, then louder. Then came the sound of a window shattering.
Moua bolted upstairs, where her husband, Vang Khang, grabbed his shotgun from a closet, knelt and fired a warning shot through his doorway as he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. He let loose with two more blasts. Twenty-two bullets were fired back at him, by the family's count.
Then things suddenly became clear.
"It's the police! Police!" his sons yelled.
Khang, a Hmong immigrant with shaky command of English, set down his gun, raised his hands and was soon on the ground, an officer's boot on his neck.
The gunmen, it turned out, were members of a police SWAT team that had raided the wrong address because of bad information from an informant — a mistake that some critics say happens all too frequently around the country and gets innocent people killed.
"I have six kids, and only one mistake almost took my kids' life," said Moua, 29. "We will never forget this." /**/
No one was hurt in the raid Sunday, conducted by a task force that fights drugs and gangs, though two police officers were hit by the shotgun blasts and narrowly escaped injury because they were wearing bulletproof vests.
Police apologized to the family and placed the seven officers on leave while it investigates what went wrong.
Such mistakes are a fact of police work, some experts said.
"Does going to the wrong address happen from time to time? Yes," said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association in Doylestown, Pa. "Do you corroborate as best you can the information the informant gives you? Absolutely. But still from time to time mistakes are made."
One of the biggest botched raids in recent years happened in Atlanta in 2006, when police killed a 92-year-old woman in a hail of nearly 40 bullets after she fired a shot at what she thought were intruders. Police had gone to her house on a drug raid, but no drugs were found.
Prosecutors said that in obtaining a search warrant, Atlanta police falsely told a judge that an informant had confirmed drug dealing there. The scandal led to a shake-up in the department, two officers pleaded guilty to manslaughter and civil rights charges, and the city faces at least two lawsuits.
Reliable figures on the frequency of erroneous raids are hard to come by. Federal agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, said they do not keep track.
A study last year by the libertarian Cato Institute said: "Because of shoddy police work, over-reliance on informants, and other problems, each year hundreds of raids are conducted on the wrong addresses, bringing unnecessary terror and frightening confrontation to people never suspected of a crime."
Gnagey disputed the reliability of the research behind those figures, and said it is impossible to know whether they are too high or too low. He said no dependable estimates exist.
"Going to the wrong home is an extreme rarity," said Mark Robbins, a law enforcement professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. "It's just unfortunate that when it does, it often ends up in violent and even tragic incidents."
In the Minneapolis case, the nature of the tip and precisely what police were looking for were not disclosed; they have not released the search warrant. And it was not clear how far off the mark the informant was in supplying the address.
No charges were brought against Khang, a laid-off machine operator who lives in crime-ridden north Minneapolis. Khang used the shotgun for hunting, said his brother, Dao Khang. In Minnesota, no license is required to own a shotgun.
Khang, who speaks some English but used an interpreter during an interview, said he does not remember hearing any calls of "Police!" until his sons shouted. He said he would never knowingly shoot at officers.
"That's why I reacted the way I did, to protect my family and two sons," said Khang, 34, whose children are ages 3 to 15.
Lt. Amelia Huffman, a police spokeswoman, said the information in the search warrant came from a source who had been reliable in the past.
Huffman said officers who routinely work on drug and gang cases are trained to try to corroborate their information. As for why the process didn't work this time, "that's one of the things the internal investigation will go through in exhaustive detail," she said.
The Hmong are hill people from Laos who aided the CIA during the Vietnam War by fighting the Viet Cong. Hmong refugees began arriving in Minnesota in the late 1970s, and there are perhaps 60,000 Hmong in Minnesota today.
The Khang family is living with relatives until the house gets cleaned up. The raid left six windows broken and walls and ceilings pocked with pellet and bullet holes.
"The whole family is badly shaken and still trying to understand what happened," Moua said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues
on: December 19, 2007, 08:31:32 AM
This Is Not Your Land Anymore
An outrageous story of eminent-domain abuse.
BY JONATHAN V. LAST
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
The legal phrase "eminent domain" has become all too familiar to nonlawyers in recent years as the U.S. Supreme Court has gradually expanded the power of municipalities to condemn private property and seize it for "public" use--even if they just end up handing property over to another private party. The court's now infamous Kelo decision (2005) no doubt pleased the city fathers of New London, Conn., who had taken possession of some residential neighborhoods for the sake of private developers. But it outraged nearly everyone else, not least Susette Kelo, the plaintiff whose home was coveted.
Outrage, appropriately, is the sustained effect of Carla Main's "Bulldozed," the case study of another instance of eminent-domain abuse, this time in the working-class town of Freeport, Texas (pop. 13,500), on the Gulf coast. Six years ago, after decades of decline, Freeport decided to revitalize itself by building a private marina on the Old Brazos River, which runs through the center of town. City leaders hoped that the development would attract hotels, restaurants, art galleries and tourists. But to make it all happen, they needed the land of a local family business. "Bulldozed" tells the story of a fight over domain, eminent and otherwise.
Ms. Main begins with the members of the Gore family, whose shrimping business has operated in Freeport since the 1940s. They own 330 feet of riverfront land, where shrimp boats dock and unload, and a state-of-the-art processing plant nearby. The family's company, called Western Seafood, employs more than 50 people and pays Freeport nearly $20,000 in taxes every year. Not that such good citizenry was enough to shield the company from the hazards of municipal overreach.
In March 2002, a group of private investors, led by a man named H. Walker Royall, formed a company called Freeport Waterfront Properties. Six months later, consultants hired by the city released a redevelopment plan--and, amazingly, it recommended a private marina, just what Mr. Royall's investors had hoped for. The city did not open the marina project to competition; it just handed it over to Freeport Waterfront. Conveniently, Mr. Royall sat on the board of Sun Resorts, another company that the city selected, also without competition, this time to manage the marina once it was built.
The cozy arrangements didn't stop there. Freeport agreed to give the private investors $6 million in the form of a no-recourse loan. (The city's annual budget was $13 million.) It promised to cover their cost overruns with a loan of up to $400,000. It gave them a tax abatement. And it limited the investors' financial liability to $250,000 in cash, leaving the city on the hook for other cost overruns.
The only obstacle to this sweetheart deal was Western Seafood. It owned the land where Mr. Royall and his friends wanted to build. The city came up with a clever way around this problem. Claiming eminent domain, it proposed to take only part of the company's land--paying the Gores $260,000 in compensation. But the part the city officially wanted was riverfront land. Without it, Western Seafood wouldn't have access to its shrimpboats, and the "problem" of the rest of Western Seafood's land--expensive property, crowded with buildings and industrial equipment--would take care of itself. The city would get it virtually without paying for it.
The tale gets worse. Freeport was in a position to consider building a marina in the first place only because a "guillotine gate" in the river--insulating boats from hurricanes and storm surges--made Freeport a safe harbor. When the guillotine gate needed modernization several years ago, Ms. Main reports, the city didn't have the money for the $300,000 job. So the Gores gave the city a gift of $150,000. If they hadn't been so generous, the city never would have tried to take their land.
Ms. Main's legal background and reporting skills serve her well as she navigates the Gores' messy, twisting fight against city hall. Her tone is usually judicious, though not always. (Recounting one insincere proposal from the city to create a tiny buffer between Western Seafood and the marina, she exclaims: "Buffer, my ass!") From time to time, she steps away from Freeport to give a primer on eminent domain and the legal arguments surrounding the claims of municipalities on private land.
But "Bulldozed" is at heart a story about trouble in a small town, a sort of eminent-domain version of "In Cold Blood," although it lacks a satisfying conclusion. In 2003, the Gores and Freeport took one another to court and fought a long, rancorous battle. After a series of defeats, the family was seemingly victorious. Freeport abandoned its plan for a private marina--only to unveil a plan for a public marina that would also need much of the Gores' land. As "Bulldozed" closes, the two sides are heading back to the courthouse once more.
Mr. Last is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard. You can buy "Bulldozed" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin
on: December 19, 2007, 08:10:35 AM
"Strangers are welcome because there is room enough for them
all, and therefore the old Inhabitants are not jealous of them;
the Laws protect them sufficiently so that they have no need of
the Patronage of great Men; and every one will enjoy securely the
Profits of his Industry. But if he does not bring a Fortune with
him, he must work and be industrious to live."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Those Who Would Remove to America,
Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 977.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 19, 2007, 12:22:42 AM
Shogun and Ninja leave Chute Boxe
Team makes statement regarding fighters' departure
Shortly after GRACIEMAG.com published, first hand, the news regarding Murilo Ninja’s departure from Chute Boxe, the team from Curitiba released a briefing on its official site announcing that Mauricio Shogun to would be leaving the team.
“We regret very much the departure of Murilo and Mauricio Rua, they are fighters brought up in the team and left to start their own team in the USA. We’d like to remind them that the doors to Chute Boxe shall always be open for both of them and we wish them luck and success in their new endeavors,” stated Rudimar Fedrigo, who leads Chuteboxe along with Rafael Cordeiro.
Check out the bulletin first published early this afternoon on GRACIEMAG.com:
After Wanderlei Silva and Andre Dida’s departure, Chute Boxe loses another one of its big stars. As ascertained by GRACIEMAG.com, Murilo Ninja, who submitted the Frenchman Xavier Foupa-Pokan at Cage Rage 24, on the first of the month, has called it quits with the team from Curitiba.
Ninja, along with his brother Mauricio Shogun, was a symbol of Chute Boxe for many years at Pride, when they displayed for the world aggressive muay thai, enchanting the Japanese and making the academy popular. Ninja will be back in the cage in March for EliteXC, the event in which he will fight for four more times, aside from disputing the Cage Rage belt this coming July.
“I left the academy. I’m putting together my own team, in Massachusetts, USA. I spoke with Rudimar (Fedrigo) on Friday, it was a friendly departure, no worries. It was better for me, my career is short and I don’t earn big purses, so I have to look out for what is best for me and my future. Next week I’ll take a better look at the details regarding my new team: Name, structure, those things. I don’t know about my brother, what I know is that I left,” said Ninja in finishing.http://www.graciemag.com/news/144/ARTICLE/8944/2007-12-18.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: December 19, 2007, 12:13:42 AM
Iran: Wielding its Regained Nuclear Leverage
While the United States tries to downplay Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility, Iran is brimming with confidence and making announcements about domestic uranium enrichment activity and the construction of a second nuclear power plant. Tehran has regained -- and is keeping a firm grip on -- its nuclear bargaining chip to use in negotiations with Washington, but the Bush administration's patience could be wearing thin.
Iran has been oozing with confidence ever since Russia's Dec. 17 announcement that nuclear fuel had been delivered to Iran's Bushehr nuclear facility. After years of politically motivated delays, the Iranians finally got their hands on the key to making Bushehr operational -- and thus regained their nuclear leverage in negotiations with Washington after the recent National Intelligence Estimate essentially obliterated an Iranian nuclear weapons threat. The regained leverage lies in the unstated fact that an operational Bushehr can theoretically produce enough plutonium to make a small, crude plutonium bomb on a weekly basis if the Iranians decide to kick out inspectors and tinker with the reactor output.
Washington is doing everything in its power to downplay this latest development in Iran's nuclear saga, saying that since Russia has provided fuel (with appropriate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards), Tehran has no reason to continue enrichment for civilian nuclear power. But the Iranians are milking the Bushehr fuel delivery for all it is worth, and in a flurry of statements Tehran is dramatically inflating the threat of its nuclear program for its own political gain.
Immediately following the Bushehr fuel delivery announcement, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran chief and Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh announced on state television that the Bushehr development would not stop Iran's uranium enrichment process, and that enrichment would continue at the Natanz plant in central Iran to provide enough nuclear fuel for local power plants. He went on to say that the 3,000 centrifuges allegedly operating at Natanz would be increased to 50,000. The next day, Iran announced that it had done an aerial survey of "generous amounts" of uranium deposits in central and southern Iran (although how one can spot uranium deposits from the air is a mystery).
Aghazadeh also announced Dec. 17 that Iran was building a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in Darkhovein, south of the city of Ahvaz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan. Iran is claiming all components of this plant would be made by Iranian engineers. But while the Iranians have no doubt carefully watched Russian construction at Bushehr (and diligently taken notes), the construction of a large power generation reactor is a technically challenging undertaking that realistically requires a bit more engineering experience than looking over someone's shoulder. Even India -- a country far more advanced both in terms of an engineering base in general and nuclear experience in particular -- is still looking to Russia to build nuclear power generation facilities in its country. The Russians also strategically did not give the Iranians the benefit of learning how the reactor vessel for Bushehr was built. That crucial component was built near St. Petersburg and then shipped to Bushehr in November 2001, leaving Iran with the limited knowledge of how to insert an already-built vessel into the reactor design.
Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly had to import much of its hardware for uranium enrichment -- and that hardware, whether of domestic or foreign manufacture, does not yet appear to be of particularly high quality. That said, the reactors do not require as much fine machining precision as uranium enrichment does. The Russian light water VVER-1000 power unit design (a Russian acronym for water-cooled, water-moderated and with a roughly 1,000 megawatt capacity) now in place in Bushehr is a late Soviet design thought to be more forgiving than comparable Western designs in terms of functionality -- but without the full suite of safety features. Even if Iran lacks the capability to build this plant completely on its own, it can break ground and begin constructing the facilities whenever it wants and attempt to extract political benefits from that construction for years without making substantial forward progress with the actual reactor vessel design.
With the nuclear card back in its hand, Iran can afford to push the nuclear envelope with the United States to bolster its position in the Iraq negotiations. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Iranians seem to be dragging their feet in the talks and were likely the main impetus behind postponement of a meeting with U.S. officials in Baghdad that was scheduled to take place Dec. 18. While U.S. President George W. Bush's administration is exercising patience in dealing with Iran's nuclear stunts, that patience could soon wear thin, spelling trouble for a future settlement on Iraq.
The definition of a nuclear weapons program is highly subjective, as illustrated by the divergence in views between Israel and the United States over whether the production of fissile material represents a weapons program. The United States could easily manipulate the subjectivity of this nuclear debate for political purposes if Washington wanted to revitalize the threat of military action against the Islamic republic. A shift in the U.S. position on Iran's nuclear ambitions does not appear imminent, but it is certainly possible.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Naval Power
on: December 18, 2007, 04:23:03 PM
Why TR Claimed the Seas
December 18, 2007; Page A20
On Dec. 16, 1907, the 16 battleships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet sailed from Hampton Roads, Va., on a 43,000-mile journey around the world. The occasion was immediately understood as Teddy Roosevelt's way of declaring that the United States, already an economic superpower, was also a military one. Unnoticed by most Americans, this past Sunday marked its centennial.
There is an enduring, bipartisan strain in American politics (think Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) that wishes to forgo the military role. As wonderfully recounted by Jim Rasenberger in "America 1908," the voyage of the Great White Fleet, as it was popularly known, was energetically opposed by members of Congress, who sought to cut off its funding when it was halfway around the world. Sound familiar? Mark Twain considered the venture as further evidence that TR was "clearly insane . . . and insanest upon war and its supreme glories."
Teddy Roosevelt addresses sailors of the Great White Fleet, February 1909.
In fact, Roosevelt had sound strategic reasons for putting the fleet to sea. A year earlier, the British had commissioned their revolutionary Dreadnought battleship, setting off an arms race with Germany that helped set Europe on a course to World War I. Labor riots against Japanese immigrants in California had strained relations with Japan, whose dramatic naval victory over Russia at the battle of Tsushima had made the rest of the world keenly aware of this rising Asian power.
"Nearly every day fresh bulletins of sinister Japanese maneuvers appeared in the European and American press," writes Mr. Rasenberger, including rumors of thousands of Japanese troops disguised as Mexican peasants, "preparing to attack America." Roosevelt himself later explained that he had "become uncomfortably conscious of a very, very slight undertone of veiled truculence" from the Japanese. "It was time for a show down."
The voyage itself was fraught with risk. By shifting the bulk of America's naval might to the Pacific, Roosevelt left the Eastern seaboard largely undefended. Slight miscalculations on the first leg of the journey nearly left the fleet without enough coal to reach South America. The transit through the Straits of Magellan (the Panama Canal would not open until 1914) could have crippled any one of the ships and sunk the entire enterprise. There were serious worries the Japanese would sink the fleet at anchor in Yokohama. The fear was compounded by the discovery that the armor belt of the battleships, fully laden with men and stores, dropped several inches below the waterline.
The fears turned out to be misplaced. Journalists embedded in the fleet used primitive wireless devices to report rapturous public receptions everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Sydney to Marseilles. The fleet crowned itself in further glory when it provided disaster relief in Messina, Sicily, after a devastating earthquake. The tradition would live on in U.S. Navy relief operations, most recently in Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Perhaps the greatest surprise were the supposedly hostile Japanese, who greeted the visiting fleet with an honor guard of 16 companion battleships and crowds of Japanese waving American flags. "The Japanese nation," the mayor of Tokyo told Rear Adm. Charles Sperry, "asks you to convey the message that the Japanese believe that war between Japan and America would be a crime against the past, present and future of the two countries."
From the perspective of a half-century, the mayor's assurances may have seemed bitterly hollow, but the arrival of the American fleet was followed four years later by Japan's first real experience of democracy and two years after that with Japan's entry into World War I on the Allied side. Plainly, no similar impression was made by the fleet on the Europeans, and one wonders what might have been if Germany, which so consistently underrated American power, had had a closer look at it. A prewar "entangling alliance" between the U.S., Britain and France might also have dissuaded Berlin from marching toward the Marne.
Yet if there was a lesson here, it was lost to the U.S. during the interwar period. Just 13 years after the Great White Fleet returned to the U.S., it was physically scrapped under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, which set strict limits on the number and size of battleships the major powers could build and deploy. Only after Pearl Harbor and World War II did Americans really seem to learn the lesson that their position as a maritime power could not be wished away, and that their maritime interests could only be defended by a powerful Navy.
That remains no less true today, even as the Navy goes through something of an identity crisis. America's wars have become up-country affairs, and the big ships of our blue-water Navy are not quite adapted to brown-green waters where today's conflicts are likely to take place. John McCain, whose grandfather sailed with the fleet (and was among the officers pictured here listening to Roosevelt), recently complained to The Wall Street Journal about the huge cost overruns in the development of a new generation of so-called Littoral Combat Ships.
Whatever the procurement problems or tactical issues, a supremely powerful Navy is not a luxury the U.S. can safely dispense with. In September, ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy made their first-ever port calls in Germany, France, Britain and Italy, and Chinese admirals are frequent guests on American warships. "The Chinese Great White Fleet is not too far off on the horizon," says a senior Navy official in a recent conversation.
China's current rise, like America's a century ago, is not something anyone can stop. It can be steered. Making sure our vision for the Navy stays true to Teddy Roosevelt's is one way of ensuring the Chinese don't make the mistake of steering it our way.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey
on: December 18, 2007, 04:16:32 PM
Turkey's Terror Problem Is Ours
By MICHAEL RUBIN
December 18, 2007; Page A21
It's been nearly two months since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) sparked an international crisis with a major attack inside Turkey, and more than six weeks since President Bush promised Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would aid Turkey's fight against terrorism. Heady talk of intelligence sharing and cooperation followed and, indeed, may have been a factor in this weekend's Turkish air strikes on PKK targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Yet at the same time the Bush administration -- more precisely its increasingly assertive State Department -- has embraced an ill-advised diplomatic strategy toward the PKK that will likely backfire on our long-standing NATO ally, and could serve to undermine what is left of President Bush's "global war on terrorism."
Rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, near the Turkish border in the remote village of Lewzhe, in northern Iraq, July 2007.
With 100,000 Turkish troops amassed alongside the Iraqi frontier, it is understandable that U.S. diplomats want to avert a military crisis. But, rather than take a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism, the State Department is counseling Turkey to offer political concessions. On Dec. 13, for example, State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Dell Dailey said, "We have not looked at a military solution as the solution to the PKK. Our preference is a political solution," both inside Iraqi Kurdistan and inside Turkey.
The desired political solution seems to be Iraqi Kurdish action to close down the safe haven on Iraqi soil in exchange for a general amnesty law in Turkey to forgive most PKK members and perhaps other Kurdish-language broadcasting and constitutional reforms as well.
Such a deal at this time would be cockeyed. Turkey has a legitimate grievance against both the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. During its Oct. 21 attack on Turkish troops, PKK tactics mirrored those taught by U.S. Special Forces to Mr. Barzani's peshmerga fighters, suggesting its complicity in training terrorists. A diplomatic solution should not reward such behavior.
This needn't mean solely a military solution either. Rather, U.S. officials should threaten isolation and a cessation of all financial assistance until Mr. Barzani ceases his safe haven. Confronted with such demands since 2003, Mr. Barzani has always begged for more time, only to let his promises lag when the diplomatic spotlight passed.
It is trendy to seek "root causes" of terror and to discount terrorist ideology. For State Department officials who believe the PKK is just an outgrowth of inequality and discrimination in Turkey, a deal may seem logical. The group's ideology should negate such a compromise. The PKK has its roots in the revolutionary turmoil of the 1970s. Its leader, a university drop-out named Abdullah Öcalan, immersed himself in the Marxism and Maoism fashionable among intellectuals of the day and became a committed revolutionary. Cloaking himself in Kurdish nationalism, Öcalan's first target was not the Turkish military, but rather nonviolent Kurdish civil rights groups.
In August 1984, the PKK launched an insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Like Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, it targeted the educated and modern. PKK terrorists executed school teachers for being public servants. PKK gangs burned medical clinics and murdered their staff. Health care collapsed. As al Qaeda would do two decades later in Iraq, the PKK destroyed critical infrastructure to drive a wedge between the state and the local population. Before ending in 1997, the PKK campaign claimed 30,000 lives, the majority ethnic Kurds killed by the PKK itself.
The terror campaign ended not with political concession, but coercion: Turkey threatened to expand its military campaign to Syria, which sheltered the PKK. As the Turkish military mobilized along Syria's frontier, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad blinked and order the PKK out. Öcalan sought Greek protection. Rather than try to negotiate compromise with a terrorist, U.S. forces took a no-nonsense approach. U.S. (and Israeli) intelligence tipped Ankara off to Öcalan's whereabouts. On Feb. 16, 1999, Turkish Special Forces captured the PKK leader outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Today, Öcalan serves his life sentence time on the prison island of Imrali, but controls his organization through trusted lieutenants.
Every time the PKK finds a safe haven, it renews violence. Iran briefly sheltered PKK fighters after their expulsion from Syria. No sooner had the PKK established camps than it restarted its terrorism. Turkey responded by bombing both PKK targets and Iranian Revolutionary Guards posts around the Iranian town of Piranshahr. While Tehran seldom takes diplomatic demarches or deals seriously, faced with a military red-line, the ayatollahs, too, backed down. No U.S. official, obviously, counseled that Turkey should compromise.
And yet, in the name of diplomacy, the Bush administration now does. The White House validates Mr. Barzani's decision to play the terror card. For the State Department to accept Mr. Barzani's excuse -- that Kurdish solidarity prohibits a crackdown upon the PKK -- is naïve. Kurdish solidarity is an oxymoron. Throughout the 1990s, Mr. Barzani fought the group he now protects. His change of heart came after the Turkish parliament's 2003 decision not to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overestimating the chill in U.S.-Turkish relations, he took a hard line against Ankara. As Turkey at the time offered amnesty to those rank-and-file PKK members without blood on their hands, Mr. Barzani welcomed the PKK leaders he once fought. Turkish authorities say they have photographs of senior PKK commanders receiving medical treatment in Erbil hospitals and meeting with Barzani associates in nearby restaurants. Last spring, Mr. Barzani threatened in an al-Arabiya television interview to unleash insurgency inside Turkey.
So as Mr. Barzani denies complicity in terrorism, he nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain. To link demands for Mr. Barzani to crack down with any Turkish political concession suggests that President Bush has learned nothing from his predecessors' failures. The Bush administration's strategy today mirrors the Clinton administration's approach to late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat, in which the State Department matched every empty Arafat promise with demands for good-faith concessions from Israel, the democracy he victimized. While Kurdish officials tell credulous diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions, the opposite is true: Concessions fuel terror.
Any Turkish compromise prior to a complete disarmament and expulsion of PKK terrorists from northern Iraq could encourage Syria and its Lebanese proxies to demand concessions in exchange for insincere promises to cease terror support. Pakistan, too, may once again leverage its support and safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership into demands upon both Washington and Kabul.
Turkey has been a poor ally in recent years, but fighting terror requires alliances to trump politics. Every country has the right to defend its citizens from terrorism. Mr. Barzani may give silk carpets to diplomats, provide lavish spreads during their visits, and have his praises sung by high-powered Beltway lobbyists, but so long as he provides the PKK a safe haven, he is a terror enabler. Forcing Turkey to negotiate with the PKK or its intermediaries would only justify its terrorism, and would be no wiser than counseling compromise with Hezbollah, Hamas, or al Qaeda.
Mr. Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.