Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Grand Truths and Grand Caverns
on: May 06, 2008, 02:06:32 PM
From Grand Truths to Grand Caverns
by Alexander Green
Two summers ago, I toured Grand Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley.
It is a fabulous example of subterranean beauty. Awestruck, I walked from one room to the next, surrounded by shimmering red and yellow walls, giant stalagmites, and crystal-clear pools from underground streams. Near the end of the tour, I asked our guide – a girl of high-school age who was probably working a summer job – the approximate age of the caverns.
"Less than 6,000 years," she answered.
"6,000 years?" I said, incredulous. "But these caverns must be millions of years old."
"Well, I’m a Pentecostal," she explained. "And since we believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, the caverns can't be any older than that."
"What if you were Presbyterian," I asked with a wink. "How old would the caverns be then?"
She said she didn't understand the question. We left it at that.
I learned later that geologists estimate the caverns were formed more than 400 million years ago, during the Paleozoic era. (In case you were wondering.)
Ah, the age-old conflict between science and religion. Of all the religious wars, this one may be the battiest.
After all, science explains how the world is. Religion offers a vision of how it ought to be. Science tells us how the universe behaves. Religion suggests how we should.
Science has given us computers and vaccines, probed the recesses of the atom and the hinterlands of outer space. It is responsible for everything from anesthesia to supersonic travel to our understanding of quantum mechanics. New theories are tested experimentally every day. Some of them advance our knowledge. Those found wanting are rejected.
"If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong," says the Dalai Lama, "then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe Buddhism enriches its own worldview."
Talk about enlightenment…
I'm not suggesting that science is without shortcomings. You'll notice, for example, that while science can tell us how to build an atomic bomb, it doesn't address the somewhat significant matter of whether to drop it on someone.
Clearly, that's one reason why Einstein remarked that, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Similarly, the late Stephen Jay Gould, an Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and professor of geology at Harvard, argued that science and religion operate in entirely separate realms or, as he called them, "Non-Overlapping Magisteria."
"Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts," says Gould. "Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different realm of human purposes, meanings, and values – subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve… Science gets the age of rocks, and religion the rock of ages; science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven."
Some, however, would argue that science is uncovering so much about Nature that it is diminishing the majesty and mystery of life. And while it's true that science has revealed a lot about our natural history, it is safe to assume that it will never explain how everything could have sprung from nothing. That leaves plenty of room for science to co-exist with a genuine sense of spirituality.
After all, scientific principles don't contradict the universal spiritual values of everyday life. I have never heard a physicist or biologist argue against compassion… or forgiveness… or gratitude… or charity.
Moreover, many scientists and philosophers have written lucidly - even poetically - about the glories of creation.
The astronomer Carl Sagan said, "I would suggest that science is, at least in part, informed worship."
Eric Chaisson, author of "Cosmic Dawn," writes that, "Without life, galaxies would twirl and stars would shine, but no one would appreciate the grandeur of it all."
Michael Shermer of Scientific American writes that, "Spirituality is a way of being in the world, a sense of one's place in the cosmos, a relationship to that which extends beyond ourselves."
The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein proclaimed that, "The mystical is not how the world is, but that it is."
Einstein wrote, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
And the Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend declared that a worthwhile life is not one devoted to scientific achievement, but to love. In the first draft of his autobiography, completed just before he died in 1994, he said love is all that matters in life. Without it, he said, "Even the noblest achievements and the most fundamental principles remain pale, empty and dangerous."
Clearly, there is plenty of common ground here. If science and religion oppose one another, perhaps it is only as your thumb opposes your fingers. And together you can use them to grasp the truth about life.
As the German poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe wrote a few hundred years ago, "The highest happiness of man… is to have probed what is knowable and quietly to revere what is unknowable."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: May 06, 2008, 01:12:27 PM
If Hillary Clinton loses in North Carolina tonight, it will not have been for lack of effort to pander to her audiences.
First, came the accent. Often ridiculed for adopting a Southern twang when south of the Mason-Dixon line, Mrs. Clinton hauled out her best local pronunciation in her campaign stops. "It's time to quit wringin' our hands and start rollin' up our sleeves," she told a crowd at High Point this past weekend. The town's name rolled off her tongue sounding like "Hah Point."
China-bashing, always popular in a state that has lost many textile jobs, was a staple of her stump speech. She claimed China was no longer a trading partner and had become "our trading master." She said Beijing had cheated Americans out of jobs and "sends us back lead-based toys, contaminated pet food and polluted pharmaceuticals. This is going to end when I am president of the United States," she shouted.
Mr. Obama was implausibly portrayed as both out of touch and a tool of the oil companies. "Senator Obama wants you to pay the gas tax this summer instead of trying to get the oil companies to pay it out of their record profits," she told her listeners. She also criticized him for refusing to back her call for a freeze on home foreclosures, a step many economists say would be ruinous to the housing market. His failure, she said, just proved Mr. Obama's unwillingness to "take on the Wall Street bankers and mortgage companies that misled so many people into these sub-prime mortgages."
Team Obama is aghast at the audacity of the Clinton machine's tactics in the Tar Heel State. Buoyed by 92% support from African-American voters, they still expect to win. But if Mr. Obama loses, it will once again prove the potency of good, ol' fashioned demagoguery.
-- John Fund
Hillary and the Bush Voter
Can Hillary Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination on the back of Bush voters? Today in North Carolina, she may find out.
The Tar Heel State has become a key state for the former First Lady. With a large black population and sandwiched between two southern states Barack Obama has already won handily, her rival was once expected to win by a wide margin. If Mrs. Clinton can pull off an upset, it would transform the dynamics of the Democratic nomination race and immeasurably strengthen her appeal to the superdelegates. Though behind in overall fundraising, Mrs. Clinton has pulled out the stops and is outspending Mr. Obama in North Carolina. She also made the strategic decision to focus her time exclusively there in the campaign’s final days, rather than in Indiana, where Democrats also are voting today.
Any upset, however, would likely depend on mobilizing voters who pulled the lever for George W. Bush four years ago. Under Democratic Party rules, the bulk of the state's delegates will be handed out proportionally based on how the two candidates perform in 13 districts. Congressional Quarterly did a close analysis and found that the former First Lady is running strongest in districts that have a lot of Bush voters, such as the districts that include the Army's Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune. Based on polling, the magazine still expects Mr. Obama to walk away with a slight lead in delegates (40 to 37) -- partly because Democratic Party rules assign fewer delegates to districts that voted heavily for Republican presidential candidates.
But Mr. Obama tends to perform slightly better in polls than he does on Election Day. Another wild card is North Carolina's "open primary," in which the state's 21% of "unaffiliated" voters can vote in either party's primary. Today's outcome may well come down to whether Mrs. Clinton can convince enough conservative Southerners -- who have tended to vote Republican for national office, but who have also voted for Gov. Mike Easley (a Clinton endorser) and other Democrats at the state level -- to turn out for Hillary.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day
"[W]hen I hear people say let's bring the troops home and end the war, good God, it's not going to end the war. I think it's going to give you a war of significantly increased proportions. I remember how we reacted to Rwanda. How could we have let that happen? Why didn't we step in? Why didn't we get the international community engaged? Well, you know, what if you have a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq and it's not a question of why didn't we step in, it's we stepped out. How is that going to affect people?" -- Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
Next Stop, Hamas
Fresh from his presidential campaign and his splashy endorsement of Barack Obama, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has now been to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chávez and seek the release of three Americans held hostage by Colombian guerrillas.
Mr. Chávez clearly enjoyed the role he was asked to play as the magnanimous host, empathetic listener and potentially heroic intermediary. For his part, Mr. Richardson undoubtedly relished the chance to continue playing on a global stage, compared to which administering the state of New Mexico must seem unglamorous. Unfortunately, the only thing his trip accomplished was to clarify why the governor's bid for the U.S. presidency flopped.
For starters, Mr. Richardson came off looking ignorant about the realities of Venezuela. Intelligence agencies have long known that the FARC, which is holding the American hostages, makes a good part of its income by running illegal drugs through Venezuela. If Mr. Chávez wants to force the FARC to hand over the hostages, he needs only to threaten to cut off its transit routes.
He won't do that, of course, because he is ideologically, tactically and strategically wedded to the FARC. On his return to the U.S., Mr. Richardson only further advertised his ignorance by explaining to the media that negotiation was "difficult" because "you're dealing with a rebel group that's out in the jungle. You don't know where they are. You don't know what they want."
Huh? As the world knows, a captured laptop belonging to slain rebel leader Raul Reyes has already exposed not only the extent of Mr. Chávez's complicity with the Colombian rebels -- he obviously knows how to communicate with them -- but also what FARC is seeking in exchange for the hostages, namely a safe haven inside Venezuela where they can build bombs, store weapons and otherwise plan for attacks on civilians.
Mr. Richardson may want to position himself in U.S. politics as a cool Hispanic statesman with a sophisticated understanding of the region. But after this trip, he's looking like just one more naïve gringo.
-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops
on: May 06, 2008, 11:42:36 AM
May 5, 2008
As the Chairman of the Orange County Veterans Employment Committee (OCVEC), I would like to invite you and your organization to participate in the “Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet” 24th Annual Ultimate Career Fair. The OCVEC, in partnership with the Employment Development Department Veterans’ Program, sponsors this annual event.
We are thrilled once again to be working with the Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The goal of the “Honor a Hero, Hire a Vet” 24th Annual Ultimate Career Fair is to bring together job seekers and employers. We anticipate a substantial number of qualified job seekers of varying backgrounds will attend this well-established employment opportunity event.
The Fair will be held on Wednesday, May 21st 2008, 9am-1pm at the Anaheim Angel Stadium: 2000 East Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, California 92806. The Fair is open to the general public. We have accommodations for over 85 employers.
Attached is a registration form for you to complete and return before May 14th. The registration fee of two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00) is due upon registration. This fee includes: an 8’x 8’ curtained booth, 2 chairs, a 6 foot-table, booth signage, continental breakfast and a delicious sit down luncheon for two. If you have special requests, please make these known on the registration form.
The registration deadline is May 14th. Make your check payable to the OCVEC. We request that you fax a copy of the completed form to our office so that we can reserve a space for you.
The Orange County Veterans Employment Committee looks forward to having you participate in this annual career fair. Contact a Veterans Representative at (714) 241-4955, if you require additional information.
ADVISORY TO: EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT, STATE OF CALIFORNIA
2450 EAST LINCOLN AVENUE, SUITE 200, ANAHEIM, CA 92806-4272
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment
on: May 06, 2008, 11:29:49 AM
The Reformers Who Ruined Politics
May 6, 2008; Page A22
Nearly halfway to choosing the next President, voters are witnessing an amazing spectacle in addition to the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton scrum. All three of the contenders are avowed believers in ever more restrictive and convoluted campaign finance laws. They are also proving, with their every decision, why those laws have become a national farce.
With his fund raising headed for the stratosphere, Mr. Obama has transformed himself from earnest reformer to Senator Moneybags willing to renege on his pledge to accept public financing. Mrs. Clinton flirted initially with another donor scandal, and now her big givers are maxed out so even she has to scramble for cash for the later primaries. And John McCain, the caped crusader of reform for more than a decade, has taken to bending rules so he can remain competitive: His campaign pledged his eligibility for federal matching funds as collateral for a bank loan, then declined public funding and its spending limits for the primary season.
* * *
If you don't like how this looks, send your complaints to the three candidates. They were all proponents of fund-raising rules sold as a way to "cleanse" the system. Send your complaints as well to the good-government types who pledge allegiance to the idea that money is the root of political evil. They have had their way since the Watergate era, passing reform after reform.
Yet in 2008 the role of money is more important than ever, only by means less accountable and transparent. To run for President nowadays means devoting a large share of your time to creating a fund-raising "machine." Scores of good potential candidates won't run because they can't stomach the endless wheedling required to raise campaign cash in $2,300 chunks.
If the goal was to make campaigning cheaper, that didn't work either. In the early 1990s, a respectable presidential primary campaign needed $20 million. Mr. Obama had raised more than $230 million by the end of March. He's to be congratulated for raising record numbers of small donations over the Internet. But the truth is that small donations still make up a minority of all contributions – 34% – according to the Campaign Finance Institute at George Washington University.
Not that we agree that the virtue of a donation is inversely related to its size. The stakes of a presidential race are high, and those with money and a motive cannot be kept on the sidelines in a free society (if it's to remain a free society). Whether as individuals or through unions or other organized groups, citizens have a First Amendment right to support their candidate – and they will find a way to do so.
Increasingly, they are turning to 527s and other independent political groups not covered under McCain-Feingold's 2002 restrictions. Between 2002 and 2004, spending by 527s more than doubled to $653 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics. At least $177 million of that came from 52 individuals who donated more than $1 million each. Total spending by independent political groups is expected to approach $1 billion by the end of this election.
The King Canutes of reform are outraged. Their answer is to stack new regulations on top of the current malfunctioning regulations they said would solve everything. Fred Wertheimer at Democracy 21, the godfather of this mess going back to the 1970s, now denounces the 527s, which he says create "enormous inequities."
Maybe he's referring to George Soros, his billionaire ally and fellow supporter of McCain-Feingold. Today Mr. Soros and his friends conduct a fleet of liberal 527s so broad that it is nearly untrackable. The reforms that were sold in the name of minimizing the influence of "fat cats" has made one of America's richest men among the most powerful in politics. The very reforms championed by Mr. McCain could help Mr. Soros defeat the Arizonan this year.
Another unsavory result has been deterring nonprofessional candidates from giving political lifers a run for their money. No one can realistically contemplate running for office without a team of lawyers to navigate the campaign laws. This year, to complicate matters further for the benefit of incumbents and insiders, those insiders are politicizing the Federal Election Commission that is supposed to enforce all of these rules. The FEC has been left without a quorum indefinitely, thanks to a Democratic charade over one of President Bush's nominees.
Last year, Mr. Obama placed a hold on the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, on grounds that he had once supported a voter ID law in Georgia. Last week, a 6-to-3 Supreme Court majority agreed with Mr. von Spakovsky on voter ID. But don't expect that to sway Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who still refuses to confirm Mr. von Spakovsky as part of a traditional FEC nominee group of bipartisan pairs, or even to confirm two other FEC nominees without him. How convenient. Blocking an FEC quorum opens up maneuvering room for Democrats in a year when they have the financial advantage. They can count on their inventive campaign tactics receiving adjudication around, say, 2011.
* * *
The Founding Fathers would have had no trouble detecting the absurdity of having political actors determine what does or doesn't constitute free political speech. The First Amendment was written precisely to deny politicians such control. The Supreme Court has nonetheless upheld the idea of limiting campaign contributions on grounds that it would reduce "corruption." But after 30 years of contrary evidence, the Justices should revisit that fanciful notion. Money is required in modern America to amplify political speech. Attempting to limit or ban money merely gives the advantage to those best able to game the rules, or to the news media that can make nonfinancial "contributions" via endorsements.
If this campaign proves anything, it is that more reform on the post-Watergate model will only compound the McCain-Feingold-Clinton-Obama folly. The rules themselves are the scandal, empowering the powerful and making it harder for voters to judge the indebtedness of candidates to individuals or interest groups.
The better path is more simplicity and transparency, so office seekers can raise whatever amount they can from whomever they want so long as it is reported immediately on the Internet. It's time we reclaimed politics from the reformers who ruined it.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson; Franklin; Washington; Hamilton; and Rush
on: May 06, 2008, 10:49:06 AM
"In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest
employment is deemed honorable. I am myself a nail-maker."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Jean Nicolas Démeunier, 29 April
Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
"A fine genius in his own country is like gold in the mine."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, 1733)
Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, ed., Library of America
“May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.” —George Washington
"In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend.” —Alexander Hamilton
“Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.” —Benjamin Rush
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Intel on Iran's nukes?
on: May 05, 2008, 11:51:13 PM
UK paper: Breakthrough reached in intel on Iran
Mossad chief Meir Dagan is expected to brief Britain's MI6 head Sir John Scarlett, who is slated to visit Israel later this month, on an intelligence breakthrough regarding the Iranian nuclear program, London's Sunday Times reported.
Concern has been mounting in Israel that Iran's nuclear capability may be far more advanced than was recognized by the US National Intelligence Estimate last December, which reported that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 in response to international pressure.
A source quoted by the paper on Sunday claimed that the new information was on par with intelligence that led to the discovery and destruction of a partly constructed nuclear reactor in Syria last September.
Israeli officials believe the US will revise its analysis of Iran's program.
"We expect the Americans to amend their report soon," a high-ranking military officer said last week.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni briefed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Israel's findings during talks on the Middle East in London last week. Israeli intelligence officers, en route from Washington where they had been outlining their latest information to American officials, joined Livni for the briefing.
It is believed that if Israel were weighing military action against Iran, it would first seek diplomatic support in London and Washington because of the danger of triggering a wider Middle East conflict.
"We're doing a lot of things about Iran," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week. "We say we shouldn't rule out any option. Not ruling out options means action, but the worst thing to do at the moment is to talk [about it]."http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli...icle%2FPrinter
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: May 05, 2008, 07:47:49 AM
Uno mas en inlges:
Peru Takes the Other Path
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 5, 2008; Page A13
It's about 90 minutes flying time from Lima to this jungle metropolis of 400,000. But daily life here is light years away from what it is in the Peruvian capital.
After almost two decades of gradual reforms by the central government, Lima is today home to first-world services, globally competitive businesses, shopping malls and an emerging middle class. But here in the hub of the Peruvian Amazon, living standards are all too similar to what they were 30 years ago.
WSJ Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady says although the Peruvian economy is experiencing growth, it's not uniform throughout the country. She speaks with Kelsey Hubbard about the struggle between modernity and atavistic socialism. (May 2)
The differences between the two cities illustrate one of the biggest challenges for the government of President Alan García, who was once a renowned socialist but now says he embraces democratic capitalism.
Peru has been experiencing fast growth – better than 6% annually – for almost seven years, and it has largely occurred on the coast and in the capital city. But the mountain and jungle regions of the country have not kept up. They remain vulnerable to the siren song of left-wing populism.
This is what makes Peru ground zero in the continental struggle between modernity and atavistic socialism. Hugo Chávez is circling like a vulture in the poorer parts of the county, hoping to pick off a prized Andean nation to add to his collection of revolutionary allies in South America. Meanwhile, reformers are trying to push ahead with deeper liberalization.
The good news is that the white hats have the momentum. If it is true that remote locations like this city are vulnerable to ideological incursions from the authoritarian left, it is also true that much of the rest of the country is beginning to think and act more like Chilean entrepreneurs than Cuban apparatchiks. Understanding why is critical to further progress.
A fundamental change that has won converts to market reforms in the past two decades is price stability. In 1990, inflation reached 7,000%, but over the past six years it has averaged 2.3%. That means that even before any other changes in government policy, every Peruvian has enjoyed a tax cut and a boost to his savings power.
Yet price stability on its own would have left the country well below its potential. Far more impressive is the restructuring of the economy, which has led both to growth and to a more equal distribution of opportunity. While a boom in commodity prices has certainly fueled development of late, Peru is also sprouting entrepreneurs in a variety of nontraditional industries. And these innovators are making their way onto the global stage.
THE AMERICAS IN THE NEWS
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.The key reform that has made all this possible is the opening of the economy, which until 1990 had very high tariffs designed to protect local industries.
Peruvian journalist Jaime Althaus documents the effects of the opening in his 2007 book (Spanish only) titled "The Capitalist Revolution in Peru." Far from "deindustrializing" the country, Mr. Althaus argues, trade liberalization has strengthened Peruvian manufacturing. Under high tariffs, the industrial sector served mainly as an auto and electronics assembler, using inputs from abroad. But when protection ended, local manufacturing began to discover its comparative advantages.
There were plenty. High growth rates – averaging 11% a year from 1990-2002 – have occurred in sectors that make china, porcelain, knitted fabrics, plastic products and basic chemicals, to mention a few.
The story of the "cluster" of small metallurgical companies that has emerged in Lima is especially compelling. In recent years, these entrepreneurs have been competitive in bidding for work that was previously dominated by important international firms. They have also become exporting powerhouses.
The agricultural sector on the coast has also revived, in part because private-property rights there (though not in the interior) have replaced the collectivized system of the 1970s. As a result, investment has poured in. Modern farming has put the coast on the map as a global supplier of asparagus, grapes, sweet yellow onions, mangos and organic bananas. All of this has been supported by the deregulation and privatization of key sectors like telecom and banking. And the biggest beneficiaries of openness have been consumers.
So what's the matter with Iquitos? It is not, as you might think, the fact that it is so isolated. Mr. García told me that he believes the real problem is that its most valuable resources – mahogany and cedar – grow on land that has no property rights. There are some long-term concessions, but he says he would like to see many more so that those who harvest the wood have the proper incentives to care for the forests.
See what I mean about the change in thinking? Now if only the president will seize the day, the chavistas from Caracas might begin to look like no more than footnotes in Peruvian history.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: May 05, 2008, 07:27:50 AM
Obama's Health Care Record
By SCOTT GOTTLIEB
May 5, 2008; Page A15
Laughing gas can be useful during complicated dental procedures, but should every health plan be required to cover it and should health insurance cost more because of it?
Barack Obama thinks so. As a state senator in Illinois, he voted to require that dental anesthesia be covered by every health plan for difficult medical cases. Today, the requirement is one of 43 mandates imposed by Illinois on health insurance, according to the Illinois Division of Insurance. Other mandates require coverage of infertility treatments, drug rehab, "personal injuries" incurred while intoxicated, and other forms of care.
By my count, during Mr. Obama's tenure in the state Senate, 18 different laws came up for a vote and passed that imposed new mandates on private health insurance. Mr. Obama voted for all of them.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama says people lack health insurance because "they can't afford it." He's right. But he is also partly responsible for why health insurance is too expensive. A long list of studies show that mandates like the ones Mr. Obama has championed drive up the cost of insurance for the very people priced out of coverage.
A 2008 study by an insurance-industry supported research organization, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), estimates that mandates increase the cost of basic health coverage by 20% to 50%, depending on the state. Average policies in high-mandate New Jersey cost about $4,000 according to a 2004 insurance survey, much more than the $1,200 charged in low-mandate Wyoming.
CAHI estimates that there are 1,961 state-mandated benefits across the country. It's not just specific products and services that get mandated, but also whole categories of providers like chiropractors and psychologists. By one count, states have enacted about 500 laws mandating coverage for 25 different types of providers.
States also mandate new categories of eligibility that force small businesses to cover additional dependents. One popular measure is the "slacker mandate," which extends coverage to unmarried dependents under the age of 30.
Not all mandates are equally expensive. Drug rehab, for example, increases a plan's premiums by 9% on average, according to America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Coverage for psychologists adds 12% to premiums. But in total, in some states mandates increase the cost of insurance from 10% to 20%, according to AHIP.
These increased costs aren't shared equally among all who have health insurance. People who are covered through self-insured employers (usually large corporations) are shielded from state mandates because of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which prevents states from enacting controls on plans that cross state lines.
The burden of paying for state mandates is usually borne by individuals who buy their own insurance, small employers and others not covered by ERISA. In total, about half of the people who have insurance bear the brunt of the cost of state mandates. And, as it turns out, individuals who do not work for large corporations are much more likely to be uninsured. AHIP calculates that between 20%-25% of uninsured Americans can't afford coverage because of the increased cost of providing mandated care.
It doesn't have to be that way. If insurers were allowed to offer "bare-bones" plans – which would be cheaper because they would cover just essential care – many consumers who are priced out of health insurance now would likely buy these plans instead of living without insurance.
State mandates even hurt those who have insurance because they prompt insurers to cut back on coverage for catastrophic illnesses. This undermines the purpose of insurance by turning policies into prepaid health care rather than security from the economic consequences of serious medical problems. And because many mandates define the duration and scope of specific benefits, they lock in treatment standards that grow outdated as knowledge advances. That can diminish incentives to find more effective ways of delivering medical care.
Why, then, do we have mandates?
For the simple reason that each mandate has a powerful constituency – be it chiropractors, dentists or other groups – who benefit when their services are included on the list of mandated care. These groups pressure lawmakers to expand the list of mandates and, over time, the list grows to be very long and expensive. Often the care that is being mandated is for minor medical problems because small, routine ailments are suffered by more people and therefore have broader political constituencies.
One way to make insurance more affordable is to extend the benefits of the ERISA exemption to people who buy insurance on their own, putting them on a level playing field with those who get coverage through large employers by freeing them from expensive state insurance laws.
Most insurance plans would still cover important health-care items such as prenatal HIV testing or routine colon cancer screening or bone density tests – three additional mandates Mr. Obama helped enact in Illinois. But without government mandates, plans would also have the flexibility to offer lower-priced insurance options.
Better still, Congress could pass legislation that has long languished in the House allowing people to purchase health plans across state lines. People could choose which state regulations to buy into, creating a market for the insurance mandates. This would give states more incentives to fix local problems that have helped make health insurance expensive in the first place. It's a fair bet that there would be an exodus of policyholders from higher-cost, higher-mandate states like New Jersey and even Illinois (which has more expensive mandates than about half of the other states).
Mr. Obama says people need more options to purchase insurance outside the workplace. He also says he can draw on his experience as a state legislator to lead a reform of the kinds of special interests that pursue these mandated benefits. Right now Mr. Obama's health-care proposal, like Hillary Clinton's plan, does the opposite by adding federal regulations on top of state laws.
"My plan emphasizes lowering costs," Mr. Obama says. If that is really what he wants to do, he can start by freeing consumers from forced subsidization of the pricey state mandates. Given a choice between the lower costs he promises and subsidized dental anesthesia he has delivered, some would opt for the affordable health insurance and make do with some extra Novocain.
Dr. Gottlieb is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GM Cacoy Canete in Los Angeles
on: May 05, 2008, 07:05:46 AM
We are pleased to share word of a seminar here in LA with the legendary GM Cacoy Canete:
> Please email this flyer to all your email friends and students in
> California. Respectfully in the Martial Arts, Aloha RSBustillo
> International Martial arts Boxing, Inc.
> Grandmaster Cacoy Canete
> From time to time the IMB Academy takes pride in presenting
> prominent, internationally known martial artists from around the
> globe to share, teach, and demonstrate their martial art skills to us.
> We are proud to announce that on June 8th from 9 AM to 4 PM, the
> legendary Cacoy Canete of Cebu, Philippines will be conducting a
> five (5) hour hands-on seminar at the IMB Academy. The 88 year old
> Grandmaster's list of achievements would be far too numerous to
> list, so here are just a few:
> o Eskrima training since age 7 under older
> brother "Momoy"
> o Amateur boxer, Cebu City 1937/39
> o Wrestler, Philippine National Wrestling
> Association 1957
> o Black Belts: Shorin Karate 1969, Aikido 1984,
> Kodokan 1985
> o Presidential Champion Trophy, 1st National
> Masters Open, 3/24/79
> o Champion, 1st National Arnis Invitational,
> August 19, 1979
> o Ret. Lieutenant, Military Police, Philippine Army
> o Ret. Captain, Reserve Armed Forces of the
> o Cebu Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Philippines
> o Hall of Fame Inductee: Black Belt Magazine,
> Filipino Martial Arts and
> 2X United States Martial Arts, Martial Arts
> History Museum
> This seminar will cover hands-on training on the advance Doce Pares
> olisi (rattan), Eskrido & Pangamot, and short rattan (dagger) for
> self-defense. Bring your gym clothes, eskrima equipment and learn
> from a living legend for self-defense and martial arts' sport.
> Sunday - June 8, 2008, 9am to 4pm, 4 hrs @ $75.00 Members
> $85.00 if paid before June 1st (non-members)
> $95.00 if paid before May 14th (non-members)
> Tel (310) 787-8793 web site www.IMBACADEMY.com
Fax (310) 787-8795
> IMB Academy, Inc. 22109 So. Vermont Avenue, Torrance, CA
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Attention Women Fighters
on: May 04, 2008, 10:05:27 PM
I need to confirm with Linda "Bitch" Matsumi, but my understanding is that she is available for fighting with Ashley _____ of Manassas VA. Ashley is an excellent athlete and I look forward to some outstanding fights between the two of them.
I post here so that other women know that there are fights for them to be had at this Gathering.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / TV Show
on: May 04, 2008, 09:42:00 PM
New Reality Show
Now Picked up By a Major Network
A new Reality Show , featuring the Martial Arts is gearing up and looking for your
story. Have you ever been attacked , stalked, struck or mugged and were you able
to fight back using your martial arts training ? .
Like nothing you have seen before . This show will be based on experts and novices
alike , be part of a all empowering show , which will leave the audience smarter,
more prepared and wiser to the world we live in today.
Instructors we are looking for WOMEN ( for our first show ) that have used thier
martial arts in a attack.
1. Please send a small write up on the attack to our Email
2. Please note that person will have to be able to travel to Brooklyn NY During
the last weeks of May for 1 day , for filming.
The Producers : Fight Back Intelligently
Andrea Matzke & Alan Goldberg
Cast so far : David Toma , Christine Bannon Rodriquez , Alan Goldberg, Demitrius
Oak tree Edwards
Please Contact us at 4MartialArts@earthlink.net
Or 718 856-8070
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Albert Hoffman
on: May 03, 2008, 06:44:04 PM
Man who invented LSD and took first acid trip dead of a heart attack at 102
Article Launched: 04/29/2008 09:13:09 PM PDT
NEW YORK - Albert Hofmann, the father of the mind-altering drug LSD whose medical
discovery grew into a notorious "problem child," died Tuesday. He was 102.
Hofmann died of a heart attack at his home in Basel, Switzerland, according to Rick
Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, in a
statement posted on the association's Web site.
Hofmann's hallucinogen inspired - and arguably corrupted - millions in the 1960's
hippy generation. For decades after LSD was banned in the late 1960s, Hofmann
defended his invention. "I produced the substance as a medicine ... It's not my
fault if people abused it," he once said.
The Swiss chemist discovered lysergic acid diethylamide-25 in 1938 while studying
the medicinal uses of a fungus found on wheat and other grains at the Sandoz
pharmaceuticals firm in Basel. He became the first human guinea pig of the drug when
a tiny amount of the substance seeped on to his finger during a repeat of the
laboratory experiment April 16, 1943.
"I had to leave work for home because I was suddenly hit by a sudden feeling of
unease and mild dizziness," he subsequently wrote in a memo to company bosses.
"Everything I saw was distorted as in a warped mirror," he said, describing his
bicycle ride home. "I had the impression I was rooted to the spot. But my assistant
told me we were actually going very fast."
Three days later, Hofmann experimented with a larger dose. The result was a horror
trip. "The substance which I wanted to experiment with took over me. I was filled
with an overwhelming fear that I would go crazy. I was transported to a different
world, a different time," Hofmann wrote.
There was no answer at Hofmann's home on Tuesday and a person who answered the phone
at Novartis, a former employer, said the company had no knowledge of his death.
Hofmann and his scientific colleagues hoped that LSD would make an important
contribution to psychiatric research. The drug exaggerated inner problems and
conflicts and thus it was hoped that it might be used to recognize and treat mental
illness like schizophrenia.
For a time, Sandoz sold LSD 25 under the name Delysid, encouraging doctors to try it
themselves. It was one of the strongest drugs in medicine - with just one gram
enough to drug an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people for 12 hours.
Hofmann discovered the drug had a similar chemical structure to psychedelic
mushrooms and herbs used in religious ceremonies by Mexican Indians.
LSD was elevated to international fame in the late 1950s and 1960s thanks to Harvard
professor Timothy Leary who embraced the drug under the slogan "turn on, tune in,
drop out." The film star Cary Grant and numerous rock musicians extolled its virtues
in achieving true self discovery and enlightenment.
But away from the psychedelic trips and flower children, horror stories emerged
about people going on murder sprees or jumping out of windows while hallucinating.
Heavy users suffered permanent psychological damage.
The U.S. government banned LSD in 1966 and other countries followed suit. Hofmann
maintained this was unfair, arguing that the drug was not addictive. He repeatedly
maintained the ban should be lifted to allow LSD to be used in medical research.
He himself took the drug - purportedly on an occasional basis and out of scientific
interest - for several decades. "LSD can help open your eyes," he once said. "But
there are other ways - meditation, dance, music, fasting." Even so, the self
described "father" of LSD readily agreed that the drug was dangerous if in the wrong
hands. This was reflected by the title of his 1979 book: "LSD - my problem child."
Hofmann retired from Sandoz in 1971. He devoted his time to travel, writing and
lectures - which often reflected his growing interest with philosophy and religious
He lived in a small picturesque village in the Swiss Jura mountains and remained
active until his early 90's.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Husband shoots wife's lover
on: May 03, 2008, 04:55:45 PM
Wife convicted after husband fatally shoots lover
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A Texas woman who caused her lover's shooting death by falsely crying rape was convicted Friday of involuntary manslaughter.
Tracy Denise Roberson, 37, cried a bit when the verdict was announced. The punishment phase was set for Monday, and she faces two to 20 years in prison.
In late 2006, Darrell Roberson came home from a late-night card game to find his scantily clad wife with another man in a pickup truck in the driveway. Tracy Roberson was with her lover but cried rape, and her husband fired four shots into the truck as Devin LaSalle drove off, killing him.
Darrell Roberson initially was arrested, but a murder charge was later dropped and a grand jury indicted Tracy Roberson instead.
During her three-day trial, defense attorneys called no witnesses but blamed LaSalle's death on Darrell Roberson's jealousy and rage.
But prosecutors placed all the blame on Tracy Roberson, showing evidence of the affair with LaSalle, 32, and a text message in which she invited him to her house that evening.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Negotiating with the Taliban
on: May 03, 2008, 04:53:02 PM
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: NEGOTIATING WITH THE TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN
Canadian troops in Afghanistan are looking for opportunities to carry out
tactical-level talks with Taliban insurgents, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail
reported on Thursday. The paper added that discussions are under way in Afghan
government circles regarding strategic negotiations with the Taliban, including some
controversial suggestions that Taliban leaders could receive political appointments
or provincial governing posts. Furthermore, international stakeholders in the Policy
Action Group reportedly are discussing "red lines" to set boundaries for what the
talks could include.
The West has come to the realization that "solving" Afghanistan is not something
that can be done militarily. The country, with its size and geographic complexity,
is -- at best -- an artificial state held together by nothing more than an occupying
force and neighbors who think that imposing direct control is more trouble than it
is worth. Put another way, if the Soviets -- with as many troops in Afghanistan as
the United States now has in Iraq and with the will to kill anyone, anywhere --
could not handle the country, NATO will certainly not be able to handle it with
Western rules of engagement.
Yet that is how the war has been fought since 2002. Note we say 2002, not 2001. In
2001, the war was a different creature: The operation entailed overthrowing the
then-Taliban government, and not imposing some flavor of stability. Overthrowing a
manpower-light, geographically dispersed military proved rather simple. But then
again, most of the Taliban chose not to stand still and let themselves be bombed
from 20,000 feet; they melted away into the countryside. They began their resurgence
in 2002 -- which, six years later, has taken the form of a full-fledged insurgency.
The state of war that has existed since the Taliban began their comeback is what has
defined the "country" for the past six years. And that war is what the U.S.
administration is now attempting to redefine. The first step in that process is the
installment of Gen. David Petraeus as chief of U.S. Central Command.
Petraeus' most impressive claim to fame so far was turning the Iraqi war of
occupation around. Instead of using military force to make Iraq look like a sandy
Wisconsin, he instead engaged select foes and turned them into allies, adding
American firepower to their own. This not only whittled down the number of militants
fighting U.S. forces, but it allowed those forces to concentrate their efforts on
the foes that they had to fight, instead of needing to patrol regions that -- with
the right deals cut -- could patrol themselves.
The war in Iraq is hardly "over," but Petraeus' strategy has proven sufficient to
make the task manageable. Perhaps there are lessons from Iraq that can be put to
work in Afghanistan such that the United States and its NATO allies can reach a
point where the chaos there can be managed as well. If re-Baathification worked and
the Americans are working with Islamist actors in Iraq (both Sunni and Shiite),
perhaps they can do the same in Afghanistan. In other words, if there is a need to
bring back the Taliban, then that has to be managed.
Petraeus has juggled a complex situation in Iraq, consisting of multiple groups
divided along ethno-sectarian, ideological, political and tribal lines. Dealing with
a much less complex militancy landscape involving (more or less) a singular trend --
that of the Taliban -- is therefore not an unreasonable expectation. That said,
there is one major difference: Unlike the Iraqi actors Washington has dealt with,
the Taliban could be the first jihadist group with which the United States engages
The operating assumption in any negotiations is that an armed nonstate actor is
willing to be pragmatic -- something very difficult for religious ideologues. What
this means is that initial talks will be about gaining a clear understanding of the
nebulous nature of the Taliban phenomenon such that pragmatic elements can be
identified among what appears to be a collection of armed Pashtun mullahs.
Separating those who are willing to do business from those who are engaged in a
zero-sum game could help transform the belligerents into a much more manageable
The West's goal in Iraq is to re-create a buffer state that can contain an Iran with
regional ambitions, whereas the objective in Afghanistan is far more modest. In
Afghanistan, the West is not even looking to create a state in the normal sense of
the word. An arrangement that can keep chaos within tolerable parameters would
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nanny vs. Coyote
on: May 03, 2008, 04:32:38 PM
Nanny Rips Baby Girl From Jaws of Coyote in California Sandbox
Saturday , May 03, 2008
CHINO HILLS, Calif. —
A nanny pulled a 2-year-old girl from the jaws of a coyote when the animal attacked the toddler and tried to carry her away in its mouth, officials said.
The girl was playing Friday in a sandbox at Alterra Park in Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Around 10:30 a.m., the caretaker heard screaming and saw a coyote trying to carry the child off in its mouth, officials said.
The babysitter grabbed the child and pulled her from the coyote's grasp, the sheriff's department said in a statement.
The coyote then ran off into nearby brush.
The child suffered wounds to her buttocks and was taken to Chino Valley Medical Center and was later released, director of nursing Anne Marie Robertson said. She was later transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center to receive the rabies vaccine.
San Bernardino County Animal Control and the State Department of Fish and Game were searching for the animal, Wiltshire said.
Miller said there was another attack in the area in October when a coyote bit a 3-year-old girl playing in a cul-de-sac. The girl needed treatment for puncture wounds to the head and thigh, Miller said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Windfall profits for dummies
on: May 03, 2008, 06:36:51 AM
Windfall Profits for Dummies
May 3, 2008; Page A10
This is one strange debate the candidates are having on energy policy. With gas prices close to $4 a gallon, Hillary Clinton and John McCain say they'll bring relief with a moratorium on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax. Barack Obama opposes that but prefers a 1970s-style windfall profits tax (as does Mrs. Clinton).
Mr. Obama is right to oppose the gas-tax gimmick, but his idea is even worse. Neither proposal addresses the problem of energy supply, especially the lack of domestic oil and gas thanks to decades of Congressional restrictions on U.S. production. Mr. Obama supports most of those "no drilling" rules, but that hasn't stopped him from denouncing high gas prices on the campaign trail. He is running TV ads in North Carolina that show him walking through a gas station and declaring that he'll slap a tax on the $40 billion in "excess profits" of Exxon Mobil.
The idea is catching on. Last week Pennsylvania Congressman Paul Kanjorski introduced a windfall profits tax as part of what he called the "Consumer Reasonable Energy Price Protection Act of 2008." So now we have Congress threatening to help itself to business profits even though Washington already takes 35% right off the top with the corporate income tax.
You may also be wondering how a higher tax on energy will lower gas prices. Normally, when you tax something, you get less of it, but Mr. Obama seems to think he can repeal the laws of economics. We tried this windfall profits scheme in 1980. It backfired. The Congressional Research Service found in a 1990 analysis that the tax reduced domestic oil production by 3% to 6% and increased oil imports from OPEC by 8% to 16%. Mr. Obama nonetheless pledges to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, which he says "costs America $800 million a day." Someone should tell him that oil imports would soar if his tax plan becomes law. The biggest beneficiaries would be OPEC oil ministers.
There's another policy contradiction here. Exxon is now under attack for buying back $2 billion of its own stock rather than adding to the more than $21 billion it is likely to invest in energy research and exploration this year. But hold on. If oil companies believe their earnings from exploring for new oil will be expropriated by government – and an excise tax on profits is pure expropriation – they will surely invest less, not more. A profits tax is a sure formula to keep the future price of gas higher.
Exxon's profits are soaring with the recent oil price spike, but the energy industry's earnings aren't as outsized as the politicians seem to think. Thomson Financial calculates that profits from the oil and natural gas industry over the past year were 8.3% of investment, while the all-industry average is 7.8%. And this was a boom year for oil. An analysis by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor finds that between 1970 and 2003 (which includes peak and valley years for earnings) the oil and gas business was "less profitable than the rest of the U.S. economy." These are hardly robber barons.
This tiff over gas and oil taxes only highlights the intellectual policy confusion – or perhaps we should say cynicism – of our politicians. They want lower prices but don't want more production to increase supply. They want oil "independence" but they've declared off limits most of the big sources of domestic oil that could replace foreign imports. They want Americans to use less oil to reduce greenhouse gases but they protest higher oil prices that reduce demand. They want more oil company investment but they want to confiscate the profits from that investment. And these folks want to be President?
Late this week, a group of Senate Republicans led by Pete Domenici of New Mexico introduced the "American Energy Production Act of 2008" to expand oil production off the U.S. coasts and in Alaska. It has the potential to increase domestic production enough to keep America running for five years with no foreign imports. With the world price of oil at $116 a barrel, if not now, when? No word yet if Senators Clinton and Obama will take time off from denouncing oil profits to vote for that.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: May 03, 2008, 06:31:05 AM
Peru's Born-Again Free Marketeer
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 3, 2008; Page A9
'Knock on the door," a solider standing guard in front of Peru's Government Palace says when I tell him I have an interview with President Alan García. I gaze up at the massive wooden portal – the perfect entry for the palace's 6-foot-5-inch resident or even someone twice that size – and do as I'm told.
A small wicket in the middle of the big door swings open and I give my name. I am admitted and escorted through the famous mirrored "golden salon," modeled on a room at Versailles. At 8:30 on a Saturday morning, the palace is silent. The click of my high-heels on the marble floor echoes under the vaulted ceiling. We reach another smaller chamber; coffee is served.
The Peruvian economy is doing well these days, but with the world's attention focused on an aspiring dictator in Venezuela, its success has gone relatively unnoticed outside the region. Thus I want to talk to Mr. García and he has agreed to talk to me: A clever and seasoned politician, legendary for his silver-tongued populism, he is now in the business of marketing his country to investors. And why not? With an average growth rate over the past six years of better than 6.2%, the story is a good one. And it is about much more than a boom in mining exports. Peru has blossomed because of competitiveness, something that could not have been imagined a decade ago.
Mr. García led Peru once before, from 1985-1990. That presidency ended in disaster. In July of his last year in office, when his successor Alberto Fujimori was sworn in, the monthly inflation rate was 63%.
Price controls had spawned long lines for food. The government had a fiscal deficit totaling a whopping 7.5% of GDP. The economy contracted 8.8% in 1988 and 12.2% in 1989. Meanwhile, Shining Path terrorists dominated the countryside, making life miserable for the peasant population, unattractive to foreign investors and impossible for tourism.
Mr. García left office in shame and, hounded by corruption charges, fled in 1992 to live in exile in Colombia. Upon his return nine years later, he lost a bid for the presidency against Alejandro Toledo.
In 2006, he ran again and won in a run-off against a hard-left populist who was promising to replicate Chávez-style government in Peru. His victory was owed in part to the many Peruvians who, despite bitter memories of his disastrous administration, held their noses and voted for him just to avoid the horror of chavismo. Then they braced themselves for life again under the man known as "crazy horse."
So far not only have their fears not materialized but something truly unexpected has happened instead: Mr. García now speaks the language of a born-again economic liberal and defends markets as a way to reduce poverty. Whether the conversion is authentic is a matter of much debate in Peru these days. What I can say for sure, after a 70-minute interview, is that he firmly grasps the principles behind the arguments he now professes to believe.
Peruvian growth is often assumed to be about the mining sector – copper, gold and the like. But Peruvians are discovering their comparative advantages in niche markets around the world in a host of other sectors, including manufacturing, apparel and agriculture. A visitor to Lima immediately appreciates vast improvements in services compared to even a half-decade ago.
How has all this come to pass? "I think the essential change is in the commercial economic model of Peru," he says. The country "has decided to insert itself in the global economy, open its borders to investment, lower tariffs [and] guarantee fiscal and monetary stability. I think this, sustained for more than 10 years now, is bearing fruit."
Mr. García also recognizes the fact that many of his neighbors are not courting investors, making his country a beneficiary of their bad attitudes. "Peru looks like the country [in the region] most favorable to modernization," generating a level of investment "that is extraordinary." The country has had "an important rate of growth in the past three years, from 6% annually to almost 8% and then 9%. We expect to maintain, this year, the highest growth rate and the lowest level of inflation in South America."
For a country defined by decades of poverty and violence, this borders on the miraculous. But what may be more amazing is that the region's most notorious left-wing populist of the 1980s now champions free enterprise. Even Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez never wrote such a surreal tale. I ask the president to explain his epiphany.
The question produces a burst of laughter that seems to contain at least a kernel of irritation, but if so it fades quickly. He immediately goes to the heart of the issue. "First, more than reading, one has to see the reality and this reality is what has changed." For the president, that reality is all about the birth of the microchip. "Twenty-five years ago the world was divided in two," he says "and what did not exist was the extraordinary revolution in communication and information, which is the basis of all the change in the world economy now and of the change in our ideas. The Internet, electronic money, the economic opening of trade without borders," this is what's driven the shift in thinking. "This new reality demands that we not oppose the wave of globalization but take advantage of it in favor of society."
More shocking for those who remember the old Alan García is his newly espoused faith in the private sector as an engine of human progress. "I have an enthusiastic and hopeful perspective that we are beginning a new economic phase of the economy, like in 1750 with the steam engine. We are beginning a totally different chapter in economics. The world is linked and there is a growing democratization through participation by consumers and producers.
"At the same time there is the process of individualization of decisions, communications that makes humanity more free. Just like when Cho En Lai was asked if he judged the French Revolution a success and he said, 'It's too early to tell,' I think we are in the first years of something that may take centuries to evaluate." Government's role, in Mr. García's opinion, is "to persuade the people – this is its role as a leader – to be open to all the possibilities of . . . investment and, with this, to decentralize economic activity and thereby create more employment."
Still, his critics in Lima say that he has yet to prove his mettle by pushing through the next phase of reforms. Businesses still toil under a massive regulatory and tax burden; and Peru particularly needs labor reform that will lower the cost of hiring and firing workers. This will require cuts in payroll taxes and in severance obligations of companies when workers are let go.
Mr. García agrees that labor regulation is a drag on businesses and has no trouble diagnosing the problem: "We no longer live in a closed economy with protection. It is an economy of competition and speed. And therefore the businesses are destined to be born, live and die because any company can enter a market and displace others. In this sense, businesses are condemned to instability. As a consequence we cannot continue with concepts that come from another time and another situation."
Instability, he says, is particularly a problem for services and low-tech manufacturing businesses that face stiff competition from around the globe. But he also notes that the problem makes life difficult for Peruvian workers. "We need a reform that formalizes the masses – some 70% of Peruvians workers – who work in the informal sector and have no rights, as well as the businesses which are not legal and don't pay taxes."
For decades politicians around the region have looked at different ways to reduce the size of the underground economy. Most see the answer as more law enforcement; Mr. García seems to favor incentives. Rather than hiring an army of tax and labor inspectors to force compliance, he recognizes that the rules of the game have to be changed. He says Peru has to lower the cost of being in the formal sector if it wants to "increase its internal saving capacity through the pension funds and increase its ability to offer health care to Peruvians." Without such changes, the country will be stuck with "informality," what the president calls "the slavery of the 21st century."
Opponents of labor reform, he says, include workers in the formal sector who want to protect their privileges enshrined in regulation, and businesses that dread the organizing power of legal workers. But Mr. García says that the 70% who don't have formal-sector jobs will be liberated from the slavery if the reform that he is working on is passed by the Peruvian Congress. It is a "pro-jobs" reform, he insists, more than a labor reform.
Meaningful labor reform would go a long way toward erasing his past sins, and maybe even secure his legacy. But much will depend on what happens to the inflation rate, which has been heading north of late. Poor Peruvians, particularly in the mountainous area of the country which favored his opponent in the run-off election, have been demonstrating in the streets against rising food prices. Mr. García blames this on rising global demand for rice, "the disastrous ethanol program" and the fact that the country grows no wheat and has to import it all from abroad.
Just to be provocative, I ponder aloud whether price controls wouldn't be a good way to help the poor. He snickers and then shoots back: "Price controls are my enemy." Instead, he says, the answer to rising prices is to increase the productive capacity of Peru. That's not a bad course of action, though it will take some time. What would be better is to let the "sol" appreciate. Regrettably, the central bank is loath to do that because it believes it will make exporters less competitive, a view that has led many a government into trouble.
President García wants the world to know that he is a born-again believer in the connection between liberty and human progress. And as a world-class orator, he has no trouble laying out the case. But Peruvians once bitten are thrice shy, and they are not so eager to bless his conversion. The key, it would seem, to ending the debate and rewriting the history books that will tell of his heroic leadership is to put his vision into action. No wonder all eyes are on this former populist's attempts to tackle the difficult issue of labor reform.
He certainly packs the optimism necessary for the job; he has no time for the doom-and-gloom set. "When they say that the world is threatened by immigration, poverty, destruction of the environment and concentration of monopolies, I laugh. I have complete faith in human intelligence and technology to overcome any obstacle, geographic or social."
Ms. O'Grady writes the Americas column for The Wall Street Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sit Rep
on: May 03, 2008, 06:26:16 AM
The Truth About Iraq's Casualty Count
By MAX BOOT
May 3, 2008; Page A11
The newspapers are predictably filled with articles about how 52 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq last month – the highest toll since September. Iraqi civilian casualties are also said to be at the highest level since August. These losses are being used to cast aspersions on claims of progress in Iraq.
Even one death is too many and 52 deaths is tragedy multiplied 52-fold. But let's keep some perspective. As the icasualties.org website makes clear, for better or worse, April was still one of the lighter-casualty months during the long war in Iraq.
More important, casualties cannot be looked at in a vacuum. A spike in casualties could be a sign that the enemy is gaining strength. Or it could be a sign that tough combat is under way that will lead to the enemy's defeat and the creation of a more peaceful environment in the future.
The latter was certainly the case with the casualty spike during the summer of 2007. (More than a hundred soldiers died each month in April, May and June.) Those losses were widely denounced as evidence that the surge wasn't working, but in fact they were proof of the opposite.
At the time, troops were engaged in hard fighting as part of Operation Phantom Thunder that eventually cleared most terrorists out of Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Babil and other provinces, leading to dramatic reductions in violence over the last year (more than 80% before the recent fighting).
The latest increase in casualties is the result of another coalition offensive: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to break the grip of militias in Basra. At first the results did not look promising: Iraqi troops were rushed in without adequate preparation, and shortly after the March 25 offensive began appeared stymied in their battles against the Mahdist Army. Mr. Maliki seemed to agree to an Iranian-brokered cease-fire with Moqtada al Sadr that left the Mahdists in control of much of the city. But as April progressed it became clear that the results of the initial clashes were more beneficial than most (including me) had initially suspected.
Iraqi security forces have not suspended their operations in Basra. In fact, since the "cease-fire," they have continued to increase their area of control. An April 25 article by a London Times correspondent who visited Basra finds: "Raids are continuing in a few remaining strongholds but the Iraqi commander in charge of the unprecedented operation is confident that his forces will soon achieve something that the British military could not – a city free from rogue gunmen."
The political repercussions in Baghdad have been just as positive and just as unexpected. First, by taking on Shiite militias, Mr. Maliki has gained new-found respect from Kurds and Sunnis who had viewed him as a hopeless Shiite sectarian. Not coincidentally, the main Sunni party has now announced plans to rejoin the cabinet.
Second, Mr. Maliki has managed to mobilize the other Shiite parties into an anti-Mahdist bloc, demanding that Moqtada al Sadr disarm his militia if his party expects to wield political power. Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, has backed that demand.
Mr. Sadr has so far refused to comply, but nor has he staged a major uprising across the country, probably because he knows it would not succeed. His plan to hold a "million man" anti-American protest in Baghdad on April 5 fizzled out at the last moment. Mr. Sadr appears increasingly isolated – as symbolized by the fact that he chooses to remain in Iran.
Finally, by exposing Iranian machinations in Basra, the recent offensive has sparked an anti-Iranian backlash even among Shiite politicians with longstanding links to Tehran. Thus a high-level Shiite delegation has gone to Iran to present the Iranian leadership with evidence of the nefarious activities of their Quds Force (as if they don't already know!) and to demand that they knock it off.
The Iranian answer, notwithstanding some soothing words about wanting stability in Iraq, is coming in the shelling and rocketing of the Green Zone and other Iraqi and American bases. The Iranians have been providing longer-range rockets to their allies in the Special Groups and the Mahdist Army.
U.S. and Iraqi troops have been forced to push deeper into Sadr City than they have previously gone in order to take away launching sites. The Mahdists have had years to prepare defenses, and the subsequent battles account for much of the increase in casualties among Americans (and Iraqis) that have so disturbed the press.
The ongoing operations could still fail. But if they succeed, the result would be greater fracturing of the Mahdist forces and more government control of Sadr City, an area of some two million people that has been effectively run by the Sadrists since 2003.
This would represent a major achievement, because, as al Qaeda in Iraq has lost strength in the past year (thanks in large part to the surge), the Shiite extremists have become the major remaining threat. Unfortunate as the latest deaths are, they are in all likelihood a sign of things getting worse before they get better.
Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author most recently of "War Made New: Weapons, Warriors, and the Making of the Modern World" (Gotham, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: May 03, 2008, 06:22:04 AM
Reliability of source unknown.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Gaubatz: Islamic Manual in Falls Church, Virginia Calls on Muslims to Attack Olympians, Kill Priests and Nuns, Wage War on All Christians
Dave Gaubatz has posted a very distrubing discovery regarding a Jihad manual being sold at the Halalco Supermarket in Falls Church, Virginia. As Dave explains it on his Kids&Terrorism Blog:
"On 29 April 2008, I shopped at Halalco to verify the book is still available. It is located in the "Jihad" section of the bookstore. The manager 'Tariq' can show you the book and it is available for $12.95.
Following are some of the quotes:
1. "It is, in short, time to identify the enemy and declare the Jihad. Identify the enemy. Declare the Jihad. define its parameters. Indicate its opening statements. Delineate its outcome and indicate its end".
2. "The enemy is not merely a personnel but a method, a deen, with its Temples, the banks; with its holy places, the Stock Exchanges of the world; and its false scriptures, the data banks of figures, these magical millions and billions that hold the world's poor to ransom for the sake of a small elite of kafir power brokers, their core jewish, their allies the lawless Christians. It is with these the war must be waged".
3. "He who equips a fighter in the way of Allah, or looks after a fighters family at home is as good as one who fought".
4. "Priests in their churches, unlike recluse worshipping monks, should, of course be killed without any exception. Nuns along with Monks, deserve killing even more".
5. "No one has yet contemplated the impact of one destroyed Stock Exchange or Central Bank Archive".
6. "Not taking the jews and Christians as friends, not following their deen, not submitting to bid'a, neither its holidays (National Days, etc), nor in habits, not entering their places of worship, nor participating in their festivals-all this is vital in the prelude to the attack of a new Jihad."
7. "Strike at the time least expected. It follows that one should also strike at the place not expected. By extension, in light of the current situation, one may strike at several centres all at the same time, thus causing havoc in the enemy and in their response".
8. "One thing is certain-if the kuffar accept us and approve of us and claim they can live alongside us, then we have lost our Islam. The whole body-worshipping mushrik cult of Olympic fire worshipping sport is something unacceptable"."
ACT for America
P.O. Box 6884
Virginia Beach, VA 23456 www.actforamerica.org
ACT for America is an issues advocacy organization dedicated to effectively organizing and mobilizing the most powerful grassroots citizen action network in America, a grassroots network committed to informed and coordinated civic action that will lead to public policies that promote America’s national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of radical Islam. We are only as strong as our supporters, and your volunteer and financial support is essential to our success. Thank you for helping us make America safer and more secure.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: consipiracy theory
on: May 02, 2008, 03:48:11 PM
Two woman involved with prostitution for the rich and powerful "committing suicide"? Helluva coincidence.
There were a lot of strange coincidences in the Vince Foster suicide too , , ,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: May 02, 2008, 06:32:16 AM
And while we await MM's specific citation of DE law, here is this on Texas law:
'Castle doctrine' likely will apply in fatal shooting
Web Posted: 04/29/2008 11:14 PM CDT
After his home was burglarized earlier this week, Thomas Thames decided to arm himself in case the intruder returned, police say.
The following night, he heard another noise at his home in the 5800 block of East Midcrown, so Thames, 39, walked downstairs. It was about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday when he once again saw a young man in his kitchen. The back door was open.
This time, Thames fired a gun at the man, who ran into the backyard, where Thames shot at him again, police said.
Ronnie Scarborough, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene.
San Antonio police spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino said the resident had pulled the man into his house and waited for police to arrive.
Police said the man killed at Thames’ Northeast Side home Tuesday matched the description of a burglary suspect the resident said he chased from the home the night before.
Police said Tuesday that Thames likely won’t be charged with a crime because Texas law gives homeowners latitude in protecting their property and themselves.
“A property owner, by Texas law, has the right to prevent the consequences of a burglary by utilizing deadly force if necessary,” Trevino said.
For many years, Texas law has permitted residents to use deadly force to protect themselves and their personal property. Last year, the Legislature broadened the law to include a “castle doctrine,” allowing a person to use deadly force in self-defense against an intruder without having to retreat into his home.
Many other states have adopted similar doctrines — sometimes called “Make My Day” laws — said Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University.
“The danger of empowering people to use deadly force is that they are not trained to recognize friend or foe in highly dangerous situations,” he said. “Oftentimes, a stranger in a house turns out to be a drunken neighbor or a relative.”
In San Antonio last year, a Northwest Side homeowner fatally shot an intoxicated college student who wandered into his home — in the same neighborhood where the student’s sister lived.
Raymond Lemes found 19-year-old Tracy Glass inside his house about 2:45 a.m. one Saturday last August. Believing Glass was an intruder, Lemes chased the young man outside, where he shot him in the neck, arm and chest.
Lemes wasn’t charged in the case.
Texas’ castle doctrine garnered national attention last year when a 61-year-old Pasadena man shot and killed two men who had broken into a neighbor’s home. The incident was recorded in a 911 phone call that the shooter, Joe Horn, made to police.
Horn was inside his house when he reported seeing two men break into a neighbor’s home. According to a recording of the emergency call, Horn told the dispatcher he intended to go outside and kill the men. The dispatcher told him that it wasn’t worth it to kill someone over property.
Still, Horn went outside and fatally shot the men, Pasadena police said. He told police they lunged at him on his property. Harris County prosecutors are scheduled to present the case to a grand jury next month.
Staff Writer Michelle Mondo contributed to this report.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: May 02, 2008, 06:29:29 AM
While I await Medicmatt's response to Jonobos post and its quite pertinent points, as I am on my way out the door for the day I toss in this little piece.http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080502/.../student_death
By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press WriterThu May 1, 11:50 PM ET
A college student apparently called 911 from her cell phone shortly before she was killed but a dispatcher hung up, failed to call back and never sent police to investigate, authorities said Thursday.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said it was too early to know whether a better response could have prevented the April 2 slaying of Wisconsin-Madison student Brittany Zimmermann or helped police capture her killer.
Authorities refused to release the content of the phone call, but Wray said it should have been enough for the Dane County 911 Center to take it seriously.
"It would be accurate to state that there is evidence contained in the call, which should have resulted in a Madison police officer being dispatched," Wray said at a news conference. "The 911 center did not call back to the telephone number, Madison police were not notified and no officer was sent."
Zimmermann, 21, was found slain in her apartment in an apparently random crime. Police believe someone broke into her apartment before killing her. They have not identified a suspect but have ruled out her fiance, who found her body in the apartment they shared.
Dane County Public Safety Communications Director Joseph Norwick said the dispatcher who received the call from Zimmermann's cell phone inquired several times to determine whether an emergency existed. The dispatcher hung up after receiving no answer and then answered another 911 call that was waiting, he said.
The dispatcher failed to call the number back as required under the department's policy, Norwick said.
Norwick said he was investigating the incident and reviewing whether policies should be changed and employees should be disciplined. But he also said, "I don't think there's anything to apologize for at this time."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: May 01, 2008, 09:41:49 PM
The Wright Stuff
A new Fox News poll may provide some evidence that the Rev. Wright affair is
damaging the campaign of Barack Obama.
The poll shows that Mr. Obama's favorable ratings have declined among Democrats to a
point where Hillary Clinton now has higher net positive ratings. Mr. Obama is viewed
favorably by 63% of Democrats and negatively by 27%. Mrs. Clinton has a 73%
favorable rating and is viewed negatively by 22% of Democrats. Specifically on Rev.
Wright, 36% of Democrats say they would be disinclined to vote for Mr. Obama because
of his ties to his former pastor.
Perhaps this explains why Travis Childers, the Democratic frontrunner in a special
House election this month in Mississippi, has now gone out of his way to combat GOP
attempts to associate him with the Illinois Senator. In a new TV ad, Mr. Childers
appears to be running away from Mr. Obama's endorsement of him, protesting "the lies
and attacks linking me to politicians I don't know, and have never even met."
He is only one candidate, and in a deeply conservative district. But should Mr.
Childers, who came within an eyelash of winning the seat outright in the first round
of voting for the special election, lose in the May 13 runoff, you can bet the
Wright fracas will be blamed.
-- John Fund
Gas Tax Burlesque: Two Down, One to Go
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania by feeling the pain of blue-collar
voters. Now she's trying for a repeat here in Indiana, playing on voter frustration
over high gas prices.
Mrs. Clinton spent part of Tuesday addressing factory workers at this city's Miller
Veneers plant, which produces hardwood veneers. She railed against high pump prices
and the "record" profits of oil companies, then introduced her latest five-point
plan, which consists of equal parts fulminating at Big Oil and OPEC and waiving the
federal gas tax for the summer while possibly releasing oil from the strategic
Somehow, the New York Senator kept mum on her separate plans for a cap-and-trade
climate program that would raise energy costs further.
Yet her gas-tax proposal did have the immediate effect of making Barack Obama the
odd-man-out in a presidential race now focused on "doing something" about gasoline
prices. John McCain was the first to float the tax-holiday gimmick, and received
backing from President Bush this week. Mr. Obama has refused to go along, correctly
noting a gas-tax holiday won't do much. His stand has prompted pats on the head from
pundits but misses the point, which is to identify with Middle America's gas pains.
He may yet have to find a way to join the gas-tax holiday party.
-- Kim Strassel
In what could be coined the "Basketball Primaries," Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton
will face off Tuesday in two states rich in basketball tradition. North Carolina and
Indiana have produced such all-time greats as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird,
respectively, and include powerhouse college basketball programs at Indiana
University, Duke and the University of North Carolina. Mr. Obama is well aware of
He starred on the basketball court during his high school days in Hawaii, and his
skills don't appear to have eroded much over the past 30 years. Last week, he played
a three-on-three game with high school students in Kokomo, Ind., and this week took
on members of the U.N.C. team in Chapel Hill, including national collegiate player
of the year Tyler Hansbrough. Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams was quoted telling
his players: "You guys are leaving the next president of the United States wide
If Mr. Obama wins both states on Tuesday, his basketball skills probably won't be
the deciding factor. However, presidential candidates look for every opportunity to
connect with voters on a personal level and prove they are down to earth (see the
two Democrats' exploits in several Pennsylvania bars). In North Carolina and
Indiana, the ability to play basketball -- and play it well -- is as a good a way to
do so as any. It's also a great way to appear genuine, since an effective jump shot
is hard to fake.
-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com
Big Shoulders Revisionism
His father was a stern, law-and-order man whose 21-year tenure as Chicago mayor will
forever be associated with the 1968 Democratic convention protests over the Vietnam
But his son, current Mayor Richard M. Daley, has a much more conciliatory view about
that history than you might expect. In an interview with the Financial Times, he
declared off-limits attempts to make political capital out of links between two of
his constituents -- Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, a former leader of the Weather
Underground radical group that bombed the U.S. Capitol and other targets in the
1970s. Mr. Obama has declared that he and Mr. Ayers have a "friendly" relationship
and served together on a foundation board. Mr. Ayers has become controversial again
because, in a newspaper interview that happened to be published on 9/11, he declared
not only that he didn't regret setting bombs but that he and his colleagues "didn't
Today's Mayor Daley says that both Mr. Ayers and the Vietnam War era have to be seen
in context: "Vietnam tore up families. It was a very difficult, challenging time for
the country. But this is 2008. Over the years I've got to know Bill Ayers. He's been
very active in school reform and education and a very active person in the
Indeed, in a case of turning the other cheek, Mr. Daley says he rejects the notion
that the Weathermen who rampaged through the city's streets in the infamous protests
known as the "Days of Rage" had much against his father. "They were more targeted at
[President Lyndon] Johnson and the federal government. The 'Days of Rage' was more
against the Vietnam War. And the Weathermen, they were all over the country -- in
San Francisco, New York, other places. So it wasn't against my father. There were
never any threats."
But that's not how John Murtagh, now a city council member in Yonkers, N.Y.,
remembers the Weathermen. Writing in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal
yesterday, he recalled that the Weathermen did more than threaten his own father, a
New York State Supreme Court justice presiding over a Black Panther trial. "They
tried to kill us," Mr. Murtagh writes, noting that the Weathermen exploded three
gasoline-filled firebombs at his home in 1970, when he was nine years old. "For the
next 18 months, I went to school in an unmarked police car," he writes. The bombs
were later linked to Mr. Ayers' New York-based contingent of the Weather
Part of the job of mayor is to be a conciliator, but Mr. Daley has taken that notion
to an extreme. Perhaps his attitude has something to do with the fact that Mr. Obama
has been a strong supporter of his own political career and, in turn, Mr. Daley has
lent his own top strategist, David Axelrod, to serve in the same role in the Obama
campaign. After all, it's been a long time since the Daley machine has had a taste
of real influence at the presidential level. If that end requires making sure that
the political fires swirling around the Obama-Ayers relationship are tamped down, so
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / MA 1780 Bill of Rights on Freedom of Religion
on: May 01, 2008, 09:36:04 PM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily
"It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society,
publicly and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the
great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall
be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty, or estate,
for worshipping God in the manner and season most agreeable to the
dictates of his own conscience; or for his religion profession
of sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace,
or obstruct others in their religious worship...."
Massachusetts Bill of Rights, Part the First, 1780
Reference: Documents of American History, Commager, ed., vol. 1
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria-Israel peace deal moving forward?
on: May 01, 2008, 09:33:28 PM
GEOPOLITICAL DIARY: SYRIAN-ISRAELI PEACE DEAL IN PERSPECTIVE
Stratfor has received an unconfirmed report that the U.S. administration is
currently reviewing a peace agreement drafted by Syria and Israel. Some of the terms
of the alleged deal involve Syria regaining its military, political and economic
influence in Lebanon in exchange for suppressing its militant proxies -- Hezbollah,
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Syria and Israel also reportedly came up
with a system to create a demilitarized zone along the Israeli-Syrian border in
which Syria would pull back four miles for every one mile that Israel pulls back its
forces. The Golan Heights would be returned to Syria, though Israel would likely
retain full rights to the key water source in the territory.
If this information is true, it would indicate the ongoing peace negotiations
between Israel have reached a critical phase. Our first clue that these were not
simply talks for the sake of talks came when the negotiations broke into the public
sphere a little more than a week ago. The lack of denials followed by a public
acknowledgment by both the Israeli and Syrian leaderships demonstrated that
something serious was going on. The deal could evaporate given the complexities
surrounding the issue, but if the two sides have actually crafted a peace agreement
that is now being debated among U.S. officials in Washington, then the political map
of the Middle East could undergo some major changes in the near future.
Over the years, Syria has carved out a place for itself as the regional pariah. It
is a minority Alawite regime in a majority Sunni country. It openly harbors
Palestinian militant leaders. It supports Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is the only Arab
state allied with Iran. And it has directly supported the jihadist insurgency in
Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Taken together, these charges make behavior
modification in Syria sound nearly impossible.
But it must be remembered that Syria's core geopolitical interest is in Lebanon --
its primary gateway to the Mediterranean basin. Without Lebanon, Syria is
politically, economically and militarily hamstrung. For Syria to regain its regional
footing, it must finagle its way into a peace agreement in which the Arab world and
the West will recognize a Syrian hegemonic role in its western neighbor. The
opportunity has come through Israel, and it makes sense for the Syrians to pursue
Tactically speaking, however, this will be a messy peace agreement to implement.
Perhaps the messiest part of it all is that Syria will have to demonstrate that it
will incur the risk and trouble of containing Hezbollah. A few Hezbollah heads would
need to roll for Syria to pull this off, and the process may have even already
started. The February assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah on Syrian
soil, though still extremely murky, came at a critical point in these negotiations.
We also cannot help but notice Syria's unusual silence on its investigation of the
assassination. If Syria were not engaged in serious peace talks with Israel, it
would waste no time in playing the blame game to clear suspicion of its own
involvement in the hit.
Meanwhile, a rumor is circulating that Syria has instructed its Shiite ally Nabih
Berri, speaker of the Lebanese House of Parliament and leader of the Amal Movement,
to set a new date -- May 13 -- to elect a new president for Lebanon. If Syria has
indeed gotten the guarantees it wants on Lebanon, it would make sense to see some
moves in the coming weeks that would pull Lebanon out of political stagnation with
the election of a Syria-friendly president in Beirut.
These signs of progress are all hinting that a peace deal may indeed be just around
the corner, but there are enough spoilers on the table that this peace bubble could
burst. It is questionable whether the current Israeli government has the political
muscle to override domestic dissent in seeing through a peace treaty with Syria.
Though it appears Saudi Arabia and France are backing the deal, it is far less
assured that the United States is on the same page as Israel in pursuing peace with
Syria. The Iranians, already pursuing complex negotiations with the United States
over Iraq, are certainly not going to be happy if their Shiite extension in the
Levant is hived off. And the groups with the most to worry about -- Hezbollah, Hamas
and PIJ -- are highly unlikely to take their death sentence lying down.
In other words, though we are seeing some movement, we'll need to see more before we
believe that a solid deal can be cut.
Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: May 01, 2008, 09:27:53 PM
Welcome to ‘Lawfare’ - A New Type of Jihad
The Islamist movement has two wings – one violent and one lawful, which can operate apart but often reinforce each other. While the violent arm attempts to silence speech by burning cars when cartoons of Mohammed are published in Denmark, the lawful arm is skillfully maneuvering within Western legal systems, both here and abroad.
Islamists with financial means have launched a “legal Jihad,” filing frivolous and malicious lawsuits with the aim of abolishing public discourse critical of Islam and with the goal of establishing principles of Sharia law (strict Islamic law dating back to the 9th Century) as the governing political and legal authority in the West.
Islamist Lawfare is often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, and undertaken as a means to intimidate, demoralize and bankrupt defendants. The lawsuits range in their claims from defamation to workplace harassment and they have resulted in books being pulped and meritorious articles going unpublished.
Forum shopping, whereby Plaintiffs bring actions in jurisdictions most likely to rule in their favor, has enabled a wave of “libel tourism.” At the time of her death in 2006, noted Italian author Orianna Fallaci was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland and other jurisdictions by groups dedicated to preventing the dissemination of her work.
Libel Tourism has also resulted in foreign judgments against American authors mandating the regulation of their speech and behavior. The litany of American anti-Islamist researchers, authors, activists, publishers, congressman, newspapers, television news stations, think tanks, NGOs, reporters, student journals and others targeted for censorship is long and merits brief mentioning here.
One of the earliest cases in the US dates back to 1937, where in Birmington, Alabama, an Arab Sheik sued the Birmington Post for libel over an article entitled “Arabian Sheik Asks Friend Here to Buy him an American Girl for Harem.” The Post reported that Sheik Fareed Iman, “who is 29 years old and fears he may reach 30 before he obtains a chief-wife for his four-wife harem, is ready to purchase a suitable girl from her parents. The lucky girl”, the article continued, “will benefit from the traditional Arabian protective treatment of women but she can’t be seen by those who are not members of the household.”
The article read more like a parody of a personal ad in the dating section of a magazine and listed a telephone number should anyone reading be interested. Nevertheless, the Alabama court of appeals refused to dismiss the suit and judged the article libelous per se, or defamatory on its face, and remanded it for jury trial, where eventually the Plaintiff lost for his failure to state a cause of action.
Within the last ten years, however, we have seen a steady increase in cases pursued by Islamic organizations and Muslim individuals attempting to use Western courts to stop the flow of certain information. They are achieving a degree of success in Europe because the judicial systems in England, France and elsewhere don’t afford their citizens, or American citizens for that matter, the same free speech protections granted in America under the U.S. Constitution. The cumulative effect of the suits abroad, and of the suits here at home even if they are not successful, and the looming threat of future suits is creating a detrimental chilling effect on dialogue concerning important matters of public concern because, naturally, people want to avoid costly litigation.
I want to mention briefly a few cases that have occurred here within the last ten years against American anti-Islamist authors and activists. It is imperative that our judicial system continue to enforce the authors’ and activists’ rights to free speech and free assembly against all parties attempting to stifle them here and abroad.
In 1998, America Online (AOL) permitted chat rooms in which voluntary participants could post comments and talk to one another about issues involving the Koran and tenants of Islam. One Muslim visitor to the chat room named Saad Noah considered posts by other visitors blasphemous and defamatory against Islam. Noah then sued AOL for libel, attempting a class action on behalf of all Muslim chat room participants and claiming that AOL wrongfully refused to prevent participants from posting anti-Islamic comments. The court properly dismissed the case against AOL, for failure to state a cause of action.
In 2003 the Council on American Islamic Relations (i.e., CAIR) sued U.S. Congressman Cass Ballenger after an interview with the Congressman was published in the Charlotte Observer wherein Ballenger exclaimed how living in Washington across the street from CAIR headquarters no longer appealed to him because CAIR was, “a fundraising arm for Hezbollah,” and that the Congressman had reported such to the FBI and the CIA. Fortunately, the judge ruled that Ballenger’s statements were made in the scope of his public duties and were therefore protected speech in the interest of public concern.
The following year, CAIR sued Andrew Whitehead, an American activist and blogger, for $1.3 million for maintaining the website Anti-CAIR.net.org, on which Whitehead lists CAIR as an Islamist organization with ties to terrorist groups. Ironically, after CAIR refused Whitehead’s discovery requests, seemingly afraid of what internal documents the legal process it had initiated would reveal, CAIR withdrew its claims against Whitehead, the two parties came to a settlement – the terms of which have not been publicly disclosed – and the case was dismissed by the court with prejudice. Whitehead’s Anti-CAIR website, however, is still up and running along with the articles that were at issue.
Last year, When Joe Kaufman, an American activist and chairman of Americans Against Hate, traveled to Texas to lead a peaceful ten-person protest against the Islamic Circle of North America outside an event the group was sponsoring at a Six Flags theme park, he was served with a temporary restraining order and sued for defamation and harassment. What is particularly troubling about Kaufman’s case is that the suit was filed against him, not by ICNA, but by seven Dallas area plaintiffs who had never previously been mentioned by Kaufman, nor had they been present at the theme park. This suit currently is being litigated.
Another case that is ongoing is that of Bruce Tefft. Tefft is a former CIA official and worked as a counter-terrorism consultant for the NYPD. After sending out emails to a voluntary list of police officer recipients in which he cut and pasted articles about terrorism – complemented with Tefft’s own commentary – Tefft, along with the NYPD, was sued by a Muslim John Doe Police Officer alleging workplace harassment.
Often the mere threat of suit is enough to intimidate publishers into silence, regardless of the merit of their author’s works. In 2007, when wealthy Saudi Arabian businessman, Khalid bin Mahfouz, threatened to sue Cambridge University Press for publishing the book Alms for Jihad, by American authors Robert Collins and J Millard Burr, Cambridge Press immediately capitulated, offered a public apology to Mahfouz, took the book out of print and ordered the destruction of all unsold copies and the removal of the book from the shelves of libraries – a directive certain libraries refused to follow.
Sometimes defendants targeted are able to take advantage of Anti-SLAPP statutes. Anti-SLAPP statutes have been enacted in several, but not all, states and are aimed at preventing such lawsuits designed to hinder legitimate public participation.
In the book Hamas, author Matthew Levitt describes KinderUSA as a charitable front for terror financing. When Levitt, along with Yale Press who published his book, were sued by KinderUSA, he instituted a counter-claim against the plaintiff based on California’s Anti-SLAPP statute. Shortly afterwards, KinderUSA dropped their lawsuit claiming it found the suit too costly to pursue.
Most disturbing, parties sued for reporting on U.S. government investigations into terrorist activities, or for formally appealing government authorities to conduct investigations, include The New York Times which, in 2001, reported on the US Government investigation of the Global Relief Foundation; The Wall Street Journal which, in 2002, reported on the monitoring of the Saudi bank accounts; and ADL which, in 2002, called for the investigation of a public school superintendent, Khadja Ghafur, based on indications that schools under his supervision were teaching religion.
Legal Jihad is gaining momentum with a ripple effect, and we must expect that Islamists will engage in future legal efforts along these lines. Indeed, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) have both stated publicly that they are considering filing defamation lawsuits against their critics. The Muslim World League has called for the establishment of a commission to take legal action against those who abuse Islam and its prophet Mohammed. During the recent two-day summit in Dakar, taking legal action against those who defame Islam was a key issue debated at length by Muslim leaders.
For its part, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has announced an ambitious fundraising goal of $1 million, in part to “defend against defamatory attacks on Muslims and Islam.” One of its staffers, Rabiah Ahmed, has stated that lawsuits are increasingly an ‘instrument’ for it to use.” Moreover, CAIR’s chairman, Parvez Ahmed, has stated that “People who make statements connecting CAIR to terrorism should understand the legal consequences of their attempted slander and defamation.”
This is not a Left or Right issue.
The Islamist Lawfare challenge presents a direct and real threat to our constitutional rights and national security. Left unabated, this phenomenon has the potential to seriously hinder public debate on the threat of radical Islam. The United States was founded on the premise of freedom of worship, but also on the principle that one should have the freedom to criticize religion.
Should the voices of concerned Americans be intimidated into silence, a real possibility exists that the criticism of radical Islam will be stifled, and Sharia law will begin to creep into our system as we are seeing it do in the financial markets with Sharia banking.
Daniel Pipes, who founded and heads the Middle East Forum, recognized the seriousness of this threat and last spring established the Legal Project (LP) to counter it. The LP has been working to recruit and establish a network of attorneys who are willing to work as pro bono counsel for the defendants in these cases; it has also embarked on fundraising efforts to assist with the cost of litigation and is working to raise public awareness of this phenomenon. Moreover, the LP is capable of positioning itself on the offensive and has recently succeeded in causing The Muslim Weekly publication, a UK-based lslamist magazine, to issue an apology and retraction of an article in which one Tariq Ramadan made false and defamatory statements about Dr. Pipes.
Those parties who recklessly and wrongfully defame our counter-terrorism researchers should beware.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Brooke Goldstein, a practicing attorney, is the Director of The Legal Project at the Middle East Forum, Director of the Children's Rights Institute, an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute and the 2007 recipient of the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for Outstanding Public Advocacy. Goldstein has been invited to the White House and State Department to brief government officials on issues of counter-terrorism and has appeared on Fox News, CNN and in other media as an expert commentator.
If you are a reporter or producer who is interested in receiving more information about this writer or this article, please email your request to email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kurds provide safe haven for Christians
on: May 01, 2008, 09:24:32 PM
Kurds Provide Safe Haven for Christians
Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:03 AM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman Article Font Size
The Kurdish regional government in Northern Iraq is providing a safe haven to several thousand Iraqi Christians who have fled persecution in other parts of the country, government officials and local pastors told Newsmax.
Unlike refugee camps set up for some 100,000 Shia Muslims fleeing attacks from Sunnis, which are closely monitored by Kurdish security forces, Christians have been encouraged to live anywhere.
“Christians in Iraq need special attention, because they’ve been suffering because they are Christians,” Deputy Prime Minister Omar Fattah told Newsmax in an exclusive interview in Erbil. “Maybe we give some instructions to others where they can go, but to Christians, never, because we are not afraid they will be terrorists.”
Some have been given government land and building materials to construct a house. Others have rented homes from friends, or are being put up in temporary shelters thanks to local churches and international donors.
“Those people are our citizens, and when they are coming to Kurdistan they are most welcome, and we will provide them with all possible assistance,” the Kurdish deputy premier said.
Since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003, around 2,000 Christian families have moved into Ainkawa, a historic Christian town on the outskirts of the Kurdish capital, Erbil.
“Most people came when the terrorists told them they must pay the jizya or they will be killed,” Ainkawa mayor, Fahmi Mehti Soltaqi, told Newsmax, referring to a "protection tax" levied on non-Muslims according to Shari'a law.
Scores of refugees interviewed by Newsmax here and in Amman, Jordan, told harrowing stories of receiving death threats from al-Qaida thugs delivered to their homes in Baghdad.
The terrorists told them that as Christians, they had no right to remain in a Muslim land without submitting to Muslim rule. To escape the jizya, some Christian refugees said they were told they must marry one of their daughters to a Muslim. Instead, when they could, they fled.
Tragedy lurks just beneath the surface, even in this peaceful part of Iraq.
Mayor Soltaqi’s new office assistant, Eghraa Ramzi, is an example. She fled with her daughter from her home in the Karrada district of Baghdad in June 2007, after Islamic terrorists said they would kill them if they didn’t pay the jizya. Now she handles computer services for the municipality.
Rita Yuel is another. If you met her on the street, you would think she was just an attractive 23-year-old university student. But when you talk to her and learn her story, unmistakeable sadness emerges.
Rita used to live in Daura, a Christian neighborhood of Baghdad, until the Muslim terrorists drove her and her sisters and others to flee in August 2006. “The terrorists were torturing people in the house next door,” she said.
Her father stayed behind to work and guard the house. Last April, he promised to join his family in the north for the Easter holidays, but he never arrived.
Rita and her mother learned later that he and two other Christians had been abducted at gunpoint by masked men at a roadside teahouse on the outskirts of Baiji, midway between Baghdad and the north. “He was kidnapped one year and eight days ago, and we don’t know where he is or if he is still alive. We hope that he will return,” she said.
The governor of Irbil Province, Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, recalls the heady days just after the liberation of Iraq in 2003, when Iraqis from all ethnic backgrounds were suddenly free from decades of darkness.
“The terrorists destroyed the dream of the Iraqi people,” Governor Mawlood told Newsmax. “Christians had no militia to protect themselves. They were easy targets,” he explained. “Today, for them, Kurdistan is an option.”
His government has opened special schools to meet the needs of Christian refugees who speak Arabic and not Kurdish, the official language here. “We have done everything we can to integrate Christians into Kurdish society,” he said.
“We are not going to refuse them. They are Iraqi. We know what they are running from.”
On Sundays, the many Christian churches in Ainkawa — some of them dating from the 9th century — are packed with worshippers. Families walk the streets without fear. Restaurants and shops are open. Even more importantly, it is the only place in Iraq where Muslims can adopt the Christian faith without fear, pastors and government officials tell Newsmax.
“All Iraq should be like Ainkawa,” said William Warda, the president of the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights, an Iraqi group advocating for Christian political rights. But even in this safe haven, once darkness falls, metal barriers block the streets, guards with AK-47s emerge to protect the churches, and Kurdish security police control traffic trying to enter the area.
Asked about this, Deputy Prime Minister Fattah was resigned. “We are afraid of the terrorists, too.”
Terrorist groups are constantly probing the layered security of the Kurdish region to find weak points, he explained. “If they see a church in a Christian area, they see that it is a peaceful area and perhaps they will attack.”
One former Royal Marine, Dan F., who manages a local security company that caters to expatriates visiting or working in the area, lives in a heavily guarded compound in Ainkawa.
Jersey barriers, gates, barbed wire, and armed guards posted at regular intervals impede access to his compound. And yet, despite the precautions, Dan wears a Glock 9 millimeter at all times and refuses to walk the streets. "If you want to walk around, wait a few weeks then go home, and you’ll have a 100 percent chance of nothing happening to you,” he says.
For all the problems and the tenuous security situation, no one here in the Kurdish north has any regrets about the U.S.-led invasion. “I’ve never been to paradise,” said Fattah, “but the difference between today and Saddam’s time is heaven and hell.”
Fattah’s only fear is that American troops will leave too early, before the work is done. “Mr. Bush has not only helped Iraq, he has helped the American people as well,” he said. “He took the fight against terrorism from inside America, to outside the country. If he hadn’t done that, terrorist attacks would have continued inside America.”
U.S. troops must stay in Iraq until they reach the goal of helping Iraqis achieve a democratic federal state. “We believe Iraq can become a base for democracy in the region,” he said.
In Washington and in much of the U.S. media, such dreams are derided as the fantasies of neo-conservatives.
But here on the ground in Kurdistan, which even today commemorates the 21st anniversary of a chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein that massacred thousands of Kurds, this hope remains alive.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain
on: April 30, 2008, 10:18:48 PM
Getting to Know John McCain
By KARL ROVE
April 30, 2008; Page A17
It came to me while I was having dinner with Doris Day. No, not that Doris Day. The Doris Day who is married to Col. Bud Day, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, fighter pilot, Vietnam POW and roommate of John McCain at the Hanoi Hilton.
As we ate near the Days' home in Florida recently, I heard things about Sen. McCain that were deeply moving and politically troubling. Moving because they told me things about him the American people need to know. And troubling because it is clear that Mr. McCain is one of the most private individuals to run for president in history.
Col. (Ret.) Bud Day with John McCain at a campaign stop in Pensacola, Fla., in January.
When it comes to choosing a president, the American people want to know more about a candidate than policy positions. They want to know about character, the values ingrained in his heart. For Mr. McCain, that means they will want to know more about him personally than he has been willing to reveal.
Mr. Day relayed to me one of the stories Americans should hear. It involves what happened to him after escaping from a North Vietnamese prison during the war. When he was recaptured, a Vietnamese captor broke his arm and said, "I told you I would make you a cripple."
The break was designed to shatter Mr. Day's will. He had survived in prison on the hope that one day he would return to the United States and be able to fly again. To kill that hope, the Vietnamese left part of a bone sticking out of his arm, and put him in a misshapen cast. This was done so that the arm would heal at "a goofy angle," as Mr. Day explained. Had it done so, he never would have flown again.
But it didn't heal that way because of John McCain. Risking severe punishment, Messrs. McCain and Day collected pieces of bamboo in the prison courtyard to use as a splint. Mr. McCain put Mr. Day on the floor of their cell and, using his foot, jerked the broken bone into place. Then, using strips from the bandage on his own wounded leg and the bamboo, he put Mr. Day's splint in place.
Years later, Air Force surgeons examined Mr. Day and complimented the treatment he'd gotten from his captors. Mr. Day corrected them. It was Dr. McCain who deserved the credit. Mr. Day went on to fly again.
Another story I heard over dinner with the Days involved Mr. McCain serving as one of the three chaplains for his fellow prisoners. At one point, after being shuttled among different prisons, Mr. Day had found himself as the most senior officer at the Hanoi Hilton. So he tapped Mr. McCain to help administer religious services to the other prisoners.
Today, Mr. Day, a very active 83, still vividly recalls Mr. McCain's sermons. "He remembered the Episcopal liturgy," Mr. Day says, "and sounded like a bona fide preacher." One of Mr. McCain's first sermons took as its text Luke 20:25 and Matthew 22:21, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Mr. McCain said he and his fellow prisoners shouldn't ask God to free them, but to help them become the best people they could be while serving as POWs. It was Caesar who put them in prison and Caesar who would get them out. Their task was to act with honor.
Another McCain story, somewhat better known, is about the Vietnamese practice of torturing him by tying his head between his ankles with his arms behind him, and then leaving him for hours. The torture so badly busted up his shoulders that to this day Mr. McCain can't raise his arms over his head.
One night, a Vietnamese guard loosened his bonds, returning at the end of his watch to tighten them again so no one would notice. Shortly after, on Christmas Day, the same guard stood beside Mr. McCain in the prison yard and drew a cross in the sand before erasing it. Mr. McCain later said that when he returned to Vietnam for the first time after the war, the only person he really wanted to meet was that guard.
Mr. Day recalls with pride Mr. McCain stubbornly refusing to accept special treatment or curry favor to be released early, even when gravely ill. Mr. McCain knew the Vietnamese wanted the propaganda victory of the son and grandson of Navy admirals accepting special treatment. "He wasn't corruptible then," Mr. Day says, "and he's not corruptible today."
The stories told to me by the Days involve more than wartime valor.
For example, in 1991 Cindy McCain was visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage in Bangladesh when a dying infant was thrust into her hands. The orphanage could not provide the medical care needed to save her life, so Mrs. McCain brought the child home to America with her. She was met at the airport by her husband, who asked what all this was about.
Mrs. McCain replied that the child desperately needed surgery and years of rehabilitation. "I hope she can stay with us," she told her husband. Mr. McCain agreed. Today that child is their teenage daughter Bridget.
I was aware of this story. What I did not know, and what I learned from Doris, is that there was a second infant Mrs. McCain brought back. She ended up being adopted by a young McCain aide and his wife.
"We were called at midnight by Cindy," Wes Gullett remembers, and "five days later we met our new daughter Nicki at the L.A. airport wearing the only clothing Cindy could find on the trip back, a 7-Up T-shirt she bought in the Bangkok airport." Today, Nicki is a high school sophomore. Mr. Gullett told me, "I never saw a hospital bill" for her care.
A few, but not many, of the stories told to me by the Days have been written about, such as in Robert Timberg's 1996 book "A Nightingale's Song." But Mr. McCain rarely refers to them on the campaign trail. There is something admirable in his reticence, but he needs to overcome it.
Private people like Mr. McCain are rare in politics for a reason. Candidates who are uncomfortable sharing their interior lives limit their appeal. But if Mr. McCain is to win the election this fall, he has to open up.
Americans need to know about his vision for the nation's future, especially his policy positions and domestic reforms. They also need to learn about the moments in his life that shaped him. Mr. McCain cannot make this a biography-only campaign – but he can't afford to make it a biography-free campaign either. Unless he opens up more, many voters will never know the experiences of his life that show his character, integrity and essential decency.
These qualities mattered in America's first president and will matter as Americans decide on their 44th president.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A friend in need is a friend indeed
on: April 30, 2008, 10:12:11 PM
Where Were Obama's Friends?
May 1, 2008
It's tough being Everyman.
Way back when, before the angry and antic prophet Jeremiah rose to smite him, Barack Obama appeared before us as an open presidential vessel, into which many poured their political dreams.
Foremost were black Americans. Bill Clinton famously diminished the Obama candidacy during the South Carolina primary as just one more Jesse Jackson fling. But across the black community, support for this candidate clearly had deeper roots. Head to head against Hillary, he has been getting huge majorities of the black vote. This was their moment.
Wonder Land columnist Dan Henninger notes that no prominent Democrats stood with Barack Obama during the candidate's recent dark hour. (May 1)
Upscale white voters signed on and were belittled as liberals exorcising white guilt. Maybe, but for many Obama was also the un-Bush and un-Hillary.
Independents worn down by 16 years of Red-Blue trench warfare bought the "change" promise. Obama sounded like he could pull it off. Indies like to dream.
Brand-name Democrats, such as various members of the Kennedy aristocracy, went over, calculating it might be easier to push the party forward with Obama's lightness of being than the Clintons' boxcars of baggage.
The periodic ideals of young America we know about.
Even as they watched Barack win, pundits and reporters were agog that a one-term, black-American senator from Illinois could have such an effect. This pickup-team coalition of idealists and pols, led by a virtual Luke Skywalker, was on the brink of pushing the Clinton empire over the cliff. It made the Clintons crazy.
This week we learned the limit of a dream in American politics. At Barack Obama's darkest hour, not one prominent ally came forward to support him. Everyone abandoned Everyman.
No prominent black clergyman came forth to make even the simple point that Jeremiah Wright's notion of the "black church" is but one point on a spectrum of faith. Rev. Wright, now written off as a virtual nut case, got more support from black clergymen than did Obama.
Barack Obama was bleeding by Monday and needed cover. Where, when he could have used them, were Obama's oh-so-famous endorsers: Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Oprah, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, Tom Daschle, Amy Klobuchar, Claire McCaskill, Jay Rockefeller, John Lewis, Toni Morrison, Roger Wilkins, Eric Holder, Robert Reich, Ted Sorenson, Alice Walker, David Wilhelm, Cornel West, Clifford Alexander, Donald McHenry, Patricia Wald, Newton Minow?
Where were all the big-city mayors who went over to the Obama camp: Chicago's Richard Daley, Cleveland's Frank Reynolds, Atlanta's Shirley Franklin, Washington's Adrian Fenty, Newark's Cory Booker, Baltimore's Sheila Dixon?
It isn't hard for big names to get on talk TV to make a point. Any major op-ed page would have stopped the presses to print a statement of support from Ted Kennedy or such for the senator. None appeared. Call it profiles in gopher-holing.
Blogs and Web sites are overflowing with how this meltdown is largely of Barack Obama's own making. What difference does that make? He is not running for class president; he's running for the presidency of the United States. Even at the crudest level of political calculation and cowardice, there's a point in a presidential race when a candidate's supporters are all in. We passed that point weeks ago. It's him or her.
Analysts and historians will spend years sorting through the lessons of this most bizarre of all presidential campaigns. The Obama desertion points in a few directions.
The nature of modern media coverage and the length of the campaign (two years!) has made these presidential candidates truly larger than life; indeed, they've become almost cartoon-like. Their personas dwarf and overwhelm the parties to which they nominally belong.
As entities, the parties continue to recede. The Democratic superdelegates, created to represent the party's interests, look like deer frozen in the headlights of the two candidates' roaring tractor trailers.
As for the supersized candidates, what strikes one most about them is their "aloneness." They look so solitary. Indeed, it is possible that the old and honorable notion of "standing with" a candidate like Obama simply didn't occur to his famous supporters this week. Everyone has become used to watching celebrity stars and athletes take it in the neck on their own. Even someone running for the nation's presidency looks like just another personal crack-up.
What about the voters – the average Joes and Janes showing up in record numbers in formerly obscure primary states? It's wonderful to learn so much about the politics of Rhode Island, eastern Indiana or swaths of central Pennsylvania, and the candidates themselves are pressing more retail political flesh than ever. The result, though, is pretty clinical – data flowing into exit-poll categories whose fluctuating post-primary percentages are somehow more exciting than, well, real people.
The list is long this week of supporters who let Barack Obama hang out to dry. More than a few were last seen running out on Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the solution here is for the two soloists to meet, flip a coin, and spend the next six months as a pair running against John McCain. It looks like they're the only friends they've got.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / UK vs. US
on: April 30, 2008, 09:32:44 PM
Foreign Law and the First Amendment
By FLOYD ABRAMS
April 30, 2008
Late in 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion which, for the first time in our history, starkly distinguished American protection of speech from that of England.
Two union members had been convicted of assaulting nonunion truck drivers. The day before they were to be sentenced, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial urging the trial judge not to grant probation, but to punish the transgressors severely: "This community," the editorial asserted, "needs the example of their assignment to the jute mill."
Contempt of court proceedings were brought against the newspaper. California law at the time, like that of other states, was rooted in English law, under which such commentary, aimed at a judge during a trial, constituted contempt. Under English law, both then and today, such speech is punishable by massive fines or even imprisonment.
In reversing the ruling of the California courts holding the newspaper in contempt, the Supreme Court set this country on a different course. "No purpose in ratifying the Bill of Rights was clearer," Justice Hugo Black wrote, "than of securing for the people of the United States much greater freedom of . . . expression . . . than the people of Great Britain had ever enjoyed."
Today, there are sharp distinctions between U.S. and English law. One difference is that under the First Amendment we provide far more protection for speech that is claimed to be libelous.
There is no need for democratic nations to agree upon such matters. The values of free speech and individual reputation are both significant, and it is not surprising that different nations would place different emphasis on each.
But a serious problem has surfaced. In recent years, English libel law has come to have a disturbing impact on the right of Americans to speak out.
England has become a choice venue for libel plaintiffs from around the world, including those who seek to intimidate critics whose works would be protected in the U.S. but might not in that country. That English libel law has increasingly been used to stifle speech about the subject of international terrorism raises the stakes still more.
The case against Rachel Ehrenfeld in England by Saudi banker Khalid Bin Mahfouz is illustrative. Her 2003 book "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Funded and How to Stop It" dealt at length with one of the most significant (and difficult and dangerous to research) topics – the funding of terrorism. The conduct of Mr. Bin Mahfouz as a possible funder of terrorism was one of the subjects discussed in the book, which was published in New York.
Twenty-three copies of the book were sold in England. On that slim basis, Mr. Bin Mahfouz sued there, claiming that his reputation had been gravely harmed.
Ms. Ehrenfeld (on the advice of English counsel) refused to appear before the English courts, and a judgment against her was entered in the amount of $225,000. At any time, Mr. Bin Mahfouz could seek to enforce that judgment. Whether or not he does, the harm to Ms. Enhrenfeld's reputation remains real.
She sought a declaratory judgment in New York determining that the English judgment was not enforceable here, and that her work was protected under American law. But the New York Court of Appeals determined that her suit could not be heard under state law. Any change in that law, the court concluded, was up to the New York legislature.
To the surprise of those who denigrate the ability of the New York legislature to act decisively, both the Assembly and its Senate have unanimously passed a bill that would give Ms. Ehrenfeld and other citizens who are sued for libel abroad the right to obtain a declaration here that their works are protected under American law.
Gov. David Paterson has until the end of today to decide whether or not he will sign the bill. Meanwhile, the Ehrenfeld saga has led Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) to propose federal legislation which would provide similar relief.
The need for such legislation has become very real – all the more so since English libel law is increasingly being used to limit public debate about terrorism. Mr. Bin Mahfouz has personally commenced or threatened to commence at least 30 law suits in England. This tactic has served him well in obtaining libel judgments that would be unthinkable as well as unconstitutional here. The danger is that other American writers and publishers will shy away from this crucial subject, out of fear of being sued far from home.
This is a reasonable concern as a good deal of litigation related to reporting on terrorism has been threatened or started in England by individuals who have limited contact with that nation, but who find its libel law congenial.
England should be free to choose its own libel law. But so should we. It is not too much to ask that American law should protect our people when they speak in precisely the "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" manner that the First Amendment was drafted to protect.
Mr. Abrams is a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and the author of "Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment" (Viking, 2005).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MLK and the Jews
on: April 30, 2008, 09:26:45 PM
King and the Jews
By CLARENCE B. JONES
April 30, 2008
Earlier this month, at a Los Angeles event for the national African-American fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, the keynote speaker launched into an anti-Semitic tirade – directed at the fraternity's guest of honor. The shocking episode shows just how far we've strayed from the original vision of the civil rights movement – and how far we have yet to travel to realize that vision.
The guest of honor, Daphna Ziman, an Israeli-American woman, had just received the Tom Bradley Award for generous philanthropy and public service. But instead of praise, the Rev. Eric Lee berated her. "The Jews," he claimed, "have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us." (Mr. Lee would later apologize to Ms. Ziman.)
It was bad enough that the event took place on April 4, the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Even more galling, Mr. Lee is the president-CEO of the L.A. branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation – the very civil-rights organization co-founded by the slain civil-rights leader.
Martin would have been repelled by Mr. Lee's remarks. I was his lawyer and one of his closest advisers, and I can say with absolute certainty that Martin abhorred anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism. "There isn't anyone in this country more likely to understand our struggle than Jews," Martin told me. "Whatever progress we've made so far as a people, their support has been essential."
Martin was disheartened that so many blacks could be swayed by Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam and other black separatists, rejecting his message of nonviolence, and grumbling about "Jew landlords" and "Jew interlopers" – even "Jew slave traders." The resentment and anger displayed toward people who offered so much support for civil rights was then nascent. But it has only festered and grown over four decades. Today, black-Jewish relations have arguably grown worse, not better.
For that, Martin would place fault principally on the shoulders of black leaders such as Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson – either for making anti-Semitic statements, inciting anti-Semitism (including violence), or failing to condemn overt anti-Semitism within the black community.
When American cities were burning in the summers before he died, Martin listened to any number of young blacks holding matches blame Jewish landlords or Jewish store-owners in the inner city – no matter that Jews were a minority of landlords and store owners. He asked them, Who else might have bought the buildings that we lived in and rented us apartments? Who else was willing to come in and open stores and sell us the things we needed? Where were these Negroes with money who'd abandoned their communities? And if blacks had bought those businesses and buildings, would they have charged less for rent and bread?
As Martin wrote in 1967, "Negroes nurture a persistent myth that the Jews of America attained social mobility and status solely because they had money. It is unwise to ignore the error for many reasons. In a negative sense it encourages anti-Semitism and overestimates money as a value. In a positive sense, the full truth reveals a useful lesson.
"Jews progressed because they possessed a tradition of education combined with social and political action. The Jewish family enthroned education and sacrificed to get it. The result was far more than abstract learning. Uniting social action with educational competence, Jews became enormously effective in political life."
To Martin, who believed the pursuit of excellence would trump adversity, Jewish success should, and could, be used as a blueprint and inspiration for blacks' own success rather than as an incitement to bitterness.
Any blacks who subscribe to the views represented in Mr. Lee's speech would do well to heed the words and deeds of the man whose name and legacy they claim to represent.
Mr. Jones was Martin Luther King's personal attorney and close adviser. He is the co-author, with Joel Engel, of "What Would Martin Say" (Harper, 2008), from which this was adapted.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Daniel Pipes
on: April 29, 2008, 10:17:45 PM
Barack Obama's Muslim Childhood By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, April 29, 2008
As Barack Obama's candidacy comes under increasing scrutiny, his account of his religious upbringing deserves careful attention for what it tells us about the candidate's integrity.
Obama asserted in December, "I've always been a Christian," and he has adamantly denied ever having been a Muslim. "The only connection I've had to Islam is that my grandfather on my father's side came from that country [Kenya]. But I've never practiced Islam." In February, he claimed: "I have never been a Muslim. … other than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for 4 years when I was a child [Indonesia, 1967-71] I have very little connection to the Islamic religion."
"Always" and "never" leave little room for equivocation. But many biographical facts, culled mainly from the American press, suggest that, when growing up, the Democratic candidate for president both saw himself and was seen as a Muslim.
Obama's Kenyan birth father: In Islam, religion passes from the father to the child. Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. (1936–1982) was a Muslim who named his boy Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Only Muslim children are named "Hussein".
Obama's Indonesian family: His stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was also a Muslim. In fact, as Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng explained to Jodi Kantor of the New York Times: "My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim." An Indonesian publication, the Banjarmasin Post reports a former classmate, Rony Amir, recalling that "All the relatives of Barry's father were very devout Muslims."
Barack Obama's Catholic school in Jakarta.
The Catholic school: Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press reports that "documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim" while at a Catholic school during first through third grades. Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune confirms that Obama was "listed as a Muslim on the registration form for the Catholic school." A blogger who goes by "An American Expat in Southeast Asia" found that "Barack Hussein Obama was registered under the name ‘Barry Soetoro' serial number 203 and entered the Franciscan Asisi Primary School on 1 January 1968 and sat in class 1B. … Barry's religion was listed as Islam."
The public school: Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times learned from Indonesians familiar with Obama when he lived in Jakarta that he "was registered by his family as a Muslim at both schools he attended." Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star visited the Jakarta public school Obama attended and found that "Three of his teachers have said he was enrolled as a Muslim." Although Siddiqui cautions that "With the school records missing, eaten by bugs, one has to rely on people's shifting memories," he cites only one retired teacher, Tine Hahiyari, retracting her earlier certainty about Obama's being registered as a Muslim.
Barack Obama's public school in Jakarta.
Koran class: In his autobiography, Dreams of My Father, Obama relates how he got into trouble for making faces during Koranic studies, thereby revealing he was a Muslim, for Indonesian students in his day attended religious classes according to their faith. Indeed, Obama still retains knowledge from that class: Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times, reports that Obama "recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them [to Kristof] with a first-rate accent."
Mosque attendance: Obama's half-sister recalled that the family attended the mosque "for big communal events." Watson learned from childhood friends that "Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque." Barker found that "Obama occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers." One Indonesia friend, Zulfin Adi, states that Obama "was Muslim. He went to the mosque. I remember him wearing a sarong" (a garment associated with Muslims).
Piety: Obama himself says that while living in Indonesia, a Muslim country, he "didn't practice [Islam]," implicitly acknowledging a Muslim identity. Indonesians differ in their memories of him. One, Rony Amir, describes Obama as "previously quite religious in Islam."
Obama's having been born and raised a Muslim and having left the faith to become a Christian make him neither more nor less qualified to become president of the United States. But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org
), director of the Middle East Forum, is the Taube/Diller distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © All rights reserved by Daniel Pipes.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: April 29, 2008, 10:00:38 PM
"The general presence of a person does not automatically create a threat."
Now we are getting closer to the essence here. I submit that someone in my home at 0200 without permission really starts looking like a threat as a general rule--perhaps not an absolute rule-- but a general rule. If someone has been woken from his sleep, especially if his family is there, I'm thinking even a no-castle doctrine state is going to tend to be hestitant to go after him.
A related point: I am aware of states with a duty to retreat until the back is to the wall, but I am not aware of states that require people to flee from their homes in the middle of the night. I certainly could be wrong about this though; do you have any citations to this effect from your state of Delaware from your days as a LEO?
Turning now to your separate point about shooting in the back: I submit that though certainly this is one factor amongst the totality of circumstances, that properly presented it is not dispositive. It could simply have been a moment wherein the BG flinched away.
I remember a training exercise at one of the Warrior Talk Symposiums in Memphis TE that I participated in as one of the instructors there. Working from memory, with a simunition gun in holster and suitable safety gear, we told each participant that he was entering his home (actually the gun range) at night. Upon entering, each participant saw a trainer with a simunition gun in his hand going through the items on a shelf. The gun was pointed at the ground. What we were studying is what people would do. If I remember correctly EVERY person people engaged in conversation with the BG. When everyone was done, Southnark (a very highly regarded police trainer and undercover LEO) called everyone in. The simunition guns were all put away. Then SN stood there as the BG with his index finger pointing at the ground representing his gun and had various people come up one at a time and point their index finger at him. "Say Bang! if I do something threatening." he said. Again and again he "shot" them a split second before or at the same time as each person "shot" him.
The point is this-- the nature of the reactionary gap gives a lot of weight to he who acts first. So if you come upon someone in your house at 0200, probably you are in the dark and it will be very hard to tell whether he is armed or not-- and if you ask him, you will be running one heck of a risk because he can whirl and shoot at you before you can drop him with certainty.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: April 29, 2008, 06:08:56 PM
A partial correction to post #167:
Not exactly true (the Thunderbird part):
Apr 27, 2008 (12 hours ago)
Too Good to Be True
from In From the Cold by Spook86
SU-25 attack jets on the ramp at Sunchon AB, North Korea. Sunchon is one of the few NK airbases where fighters are stored above ground (Google Earth photo via Flickr)
The U.K. Sunday Times reports that North Korea is completing a 6000-foot, underground runway that would protect fighter jets from attack until they take off, through the mouth of a tunnel.
As the Times' Michael Sheridan reports:
The 6,000ft runway is a few minutes’ flying time from the tense front line where the Korean People’s Army faces soldiers from the United States and South Korea.
The project was identified by an air force defector from North Korea and captured on a satellite image by Google Earth, according to reports in the South Korean press last week.
It is one of three underground fighter bases among an elaborate subterranean military infrastructure built to withstand a “shock and awe” assault in the first moments of a war, the defector said.
The runway, reminiscent of the Thunderbirds television series, highlights the strange and secretive nature of the regime that provided the expertise for a partially built nuclear reactor in Syria, film of which was released by the CIA last week.
The paper's account provides no additional details on the underground base, which it compared to the subterranean facility in Thunderbirds, the classic, 1960s British sci-fi TV series. But there's only one problem with the "runway-inside-a-mountain" that supposedly exists in North Korea; the story simply isn't true.
Tales of a massive, underground jet base in the DPRK have been making the rounds for years, and like many myths, they contain elements of truth. For example, virtually all North Korean Air Force (NKAF) bases have underground facilities (UGFs), but they're--typically--a combination parking area and maintenance hangar, carved inside a mountain.
Many of the UGFs are quite large; at many bases they can accomodate a full aircraft regiment, as many as 45 jets. The underground shelters offer hardened protection from enemy air attack and allow North Korean technicians to service and load their jets without being detected. But to launch, aircraft must depart the UGF, using one of adits that lead to the outside taxiway and runway. Each of the portals has a massive blast door, providing more protection against enemy airstrikes or missile attacks.
Pyongyang's UGF project has been underway for decades. In fact, it's something of a rarity to find a NKAF base where underground facilities aren't used, or simply don't exist. One of the installations that fall in that category is Sunchon AB, near Pyongyang. Sunchon is home to the newest aircraft in the North Korean inventory, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the SU-25 Frogfoot.
Fighters at the base are stored in above-ground aircraft shelters, similar to those at airfields in Europe and the Middle East. Construction of the shelters at Sunchon was prompted by an important discovery; the moisture and humidity in UGFs created havoc with the jets' avionics. Older North Korean fighters with tube-based electronics (MiG-15/17/19/21s) are less affected by high moisture levels, and are usually stored in underground bunkers.
Underground facilities are also found at bases supporting other aircraft, including the three mentioned in the Times' story. Incidentally, those installations have been around for years, and they serve (primarily) as forward bases for AN-2 Colt biplanes, used as an insertion platform for North Korea's massive special operations forces. Prior to an attack against the south, the AN-2s would arrive at the forward airfields, allowing local SOF units to deploy on the aircraft.
As for the underground runway, it's impractical for a number of reasons. First, creating the airstrip, an "overhead" area and adjacent parking and maintenance chambers would require a huge excavation job, producing massive piles of rock and dirt (known as spoil in the imagery intelligence business). Those piles would have appeared long before their recent detection by "Google Earth."
Then, there's the actual business of taking off from an underground runway. Needless to say, there is no margin for error; the slightest mistake could lead to a conflagration that would wipe out scores of aircraft. Additionally, the large tunnel opening (the departure point for the fighters) would be more difficult to camouflage and conceal. Targeting the exit point would make it easy to shutdown the runway, destroying more equipment--and personnel--inside the UGF.
In fairness, the Times' account isn't completely false. Much of the information about WMD cooperation between Syria and North Korea is factual and timely. But on the subject of that mythical, underground fighter base, the British paper is far off the mark.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: April 29, 2008, 05:41:32 PM
Please forgive my relentlessness on this point, but
"The resident proceeds to shoot the intruder in the back as he tried to jump over the hedges in the front yard. This case when (sic) from perfectly fine to manslaughter."
is quite different from saying that you and your family must run from your home or it will be manslaughter. Not only is this is outside of the home, but as you correctly note "The issue is that the threat was gone."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 6/22 Guro Crafty seminar at Surf Dog's in Hemet
on: April 29, 2008, 05:32:06 PM
Woof Guide Dog:
I am in Virginia for a week of teaching at the moment. I left a message with Surf Dog before I left about the conflict with Father's Day and offered a couple of alternative dates but did not hear back from him before I left.
With regard to your other questions, all that is up to Surf Dog. Maybe he will be checking in here.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / On the road
on: April 29, 2008, 12:30:22 AM
I will be leaving tomorrow (Tuesday) for Manassas VA for one week. My posting will probably be less than usual during that time.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: April 29, 2008, 12:26:58 AM
April 29, 2008
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said that while much remains to be achieved before any peace agreement between Israel and Syria, Ankara would continue to act as a go-between to encourage the two sides to restart direct negotiations, Haaretz reported Monday. The Israeli daily quoted Babacan as saying, “when the issue is a little more mature, then I hope that the sides will meet each other. It is a very promising development,” and that “There has been diplomatic traffic for the past year, which has intensified in the past few months.” The paper added that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan probably will be sending his foreign policy adviser, Ahmet Davutoglu, to Israel to brief Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on recent talks between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan in Damascus, Syria.
At a time when it is difficult to determine the status of the Israeli-Syrian back-channel communications, information coming from the Turks is perhaps the best gauge on progress (or the lack thereof) in these talks. Meanwhile, the two principal actors — Israel and Syria — will continue to send out confusing signals. But the bottom line is that the public rhetoric matters very little, if at all; what does matter is that a negotiating process of sorts has taken off.
This is not to say that process will lead to an Israeli-Syrian agreement, however. Many bilateral and multilateral issues could complicate the talks, and possibly even derail the process. At this stage, it is very difficult to say with any degree of certainty what will happen, hence the need to watch the process play out.
That said, the Turkish role as the mediator between the Israelis and the Syrians is quite interesting to say the least. The key question is why are the Turks so keen on seeing a peace agreement between the two sides? How does such an agreement or working toward such an agreement serve Ankara’s geopolitical interests?
We have discussed Turkey’s bid to assert itself on the global stage by inserting itself into the various regions that it straddles, namely, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Faced with resistance in its efforts to gain an anchor in Central Asia and Europe, Ankara under the Erdogan government has sought to assert itself in the Middle East, where there are no barriers to entry — and more important, ample opportunities for Turkey to advance its international status.
Mediating between Israel and Syria allows Turkey to insert itself between various players, including the United States, Israel, certain Arab countries and Iran. Turkey is unique in that it has significant influence with all sides. This allows it to deal with both sides in the various conflicts brewing in the region, namely, in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
And this role comes at virtually no cost to Turkey. Ankara has nothing to lose should the talks lead nowhere. If the negotiations succeed, however, a peace agreement between Israel and Syria possibly could create the conditions for a Turkish role in the Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli dynamics. More important, it could lead to a more comprehensive arrangement between the United States and Iran.
From the Turkish point of view, the U.S. move to effect regime change in Iraq in 2003 created chaos in Turkey’s backyard. Not only did it greatly enhance the Kurdish separatist threat to Turkish interests, U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq empowered Iran. Tehran thus emerged as a potential competitor to Ankara for top spot in the region, upsetting the latter’s regional calculus. Turkey thus needs to find a way to ensure that it has the upper hand in the region — and mediating a peace deal between Israel and Syria could go a long way in this regard.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: April 28, 2008, 11:49:11 PM
Unless I am missing something, you went a good bit further than not shooting someone over property.
"In other words, if someone comes into your house at 2 AM and goes through your crap, and you had the ability to get yourself and family out without conflict but you shoot the guy instead. You just got hit with manslaughter."
1) How does one determine an intruder's intent at 0200?
2) If you are wrong that the intruder's intent is simply limited to property, your family pays the price. How on earth would you know? What's the standard? Probable cause? Reasonable doubt? Strict Liability , , , his?
Or is it "One story, end of story"?
3) What do you teach your children if you drag them out of bed at 0200 to flee your home? What does it tell your wife about you?
4) Concerning "manslaughter", wouldn't that depend on the laws of the jurisdication in question? In what state(s) were you an LEO?
Concerning property, do we not have the right to defend our property-- ESPECIALLY in our homes? And if our defense of the property is attacked, do we not have the right to defend ourselves?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Left-handed Lapu Lapu Kills Magellan
on: April 28, 2008, 08:01:16 PM
Left-handed Lapu-Lapu kills Magellan
Sun Star Cebu
"I bow to no King; I owe my allegiance only to my people."
These words, originally uttered in 1521, immortalized the chieftain of
Mactan island, giving world fame to Filipino gallantry and heroism,
and his victory over Spanish invader Ferdinand Magel-lan.
Yesterday, boxing icon Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao portrayed Lapu-Lapu,
while movie actor Dennis Trillo donned the armor of Magellan, in the
annual reliving of the historic encounter.
The one-hour "Kadau-gan sa Mactan" earned many praises for being
distinct and more historically emphatic than previous reenactments.
But for its founder, former customs district collector David Odilao,
both the defending and invading warriors lacked practice.
"Crowd control was almost perfect, but the fight scene kulang sa
(lacked) realism," he said.
Odilao said that in the reenactments he named "Bahug-Bahug sa Mactan"
in 1979 to 1981, he had 150 people from eight different Cebu
universities and colleges, including 30 warriors for each warring
group who underwent rigid training with world Arnis master Ciriaco
Even before the two main protagonists, Pacquiao as Datu Lapu-Lapu and
Trillo as Magellan, arrived at the Liberty Shrine, over 20 women and
children in native dresses portrayed the old Filipino way of life,
spear-fishing and finding shells during low tide.
The male children were playing naked on the shore to make the pre-
battle scenario more realistic.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Phlippine Reclamation Authority
(PRA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Domingo, Cebu
City north district Rep. Raul del Mar, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7
Director Ronald Roderos, and China Consul General in Cebu He Shijing
graced the affair.
In a speech, Mayor Arturo Radaza said the wisdom of Lapu-Lapu's words
to Magellan still resonate today because the city is facing many and
new challenges on its way to success and progress.
"The city has weathered so many obstacles since the time of Datu Lapu-
Lapu until the present, but what make us triumph against evil is our
resilience and bravery to tackle these challenges," he said.
He did not mention the controversies, including the Asean lamppost
issue, he is currently involved in.
A ten-minute native dance preceded the meeting between Magellan's
messenger and one of Lapu-Lapu's war advisers discussing the
chieftain's unconditional surrender.
After a deadlock in negotiations, three loud explosions were heard and
two of three stilt houses burned down, dramatizing the effects of the
Spaniard's cannons and starting the memorable battle led by the first
When they clashed, Pacquiao only had a short sword, which was half
shorter than Trillo's, and had no shield.
Most of the time, he had to dodge away from the actor, who wielded a
huge shield and a long sword.
But in the end, history was literally repeated, with a triumphant Lapu-
Lapu yelling at the top of his voice after killing Magellan in a three-
"Natagalan nga akong magpatay ni (It took me some time to kill)
Magellan," Pacquiao told reporters afterwards, admitting he only
rehearsed for his role the evening before the play.
As the things unfold, the dignitaries and the city officials were
positioned on three separate makeshift stages for a better view. Below
them were plastic chairs reserved for foreign tourists.
"It was very exciting because it was about the history. The play was
accurate as I know, and that is the very reason why most of the
Chinese like more to visit this city because of this place's
historical value," He said.
He is on his seventh month as China's consul general in Cebu and it
was his first time to witness the reenactment.
Loud applause from hundreds of people who packed the Liberty Shrine
met Pacquiao as he alighted from a van with wife Jinky, who played
Lapu-Lapu's wife Bulakna; boxing aficionado Wakee Salud; and Radaza.