Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Dollar and the Credit Crunch
on: March 31, 2008, 05:52:20 PM
A companion post to the preceding post:
The Dollar and the Credit Crunch
By RONALD MCKINNON
March 31, 2008; Page A19
We are all too familiar with the problem of mortgage credit associated with the slump in home prices. The great unresolved puzzle in today's financial crisis is why some other private credit markets are seizing up.
The financial press is full of stories about a shortage of the U.S. Treasury bonds necessary in the multitrillion-dollar interbank market as collateral for borrowing by illiquid banks. This shortage seems even stranger in the face of a large federal fiscal deficit ($237.5 billion in 2007) that continually increases the supply of new Treasurys.
This shortage of Treasurys, and the unexpected severity of the credit crunch, is linked to the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has hastily cut short-term interest rates to just 2.25% in March 2008 from 5.25% in July 2007. Unsurprisingly, private capital inflows for financing the huge U.S. trade deficit have dried up. Hot money has flowed out of the U.S. into those countries (of which China is the most prominent) with currencies that are most likely to appreciate.
Foreign central banks (apart from those in Europe) are then induced to intervene, sometimes massively, to buy dollars in order to slow their currencies' appreciations. In 2007, China had the biggest overall reserve buildup of $460 billion. Other central banks, from the Gulf oil-producing states to Russia, Brazil and some smaller Latin American and Asian countries, have also intervened to accumulate dollar reserves.
A substantial proportion of these official reserves is invested in U.S. Treasurys. The Federal Reserve's Flow of Funds data (March 2008) show that in 2007 foreign central banks accumulated about $209 billion of U.S. Treasurys. Somewhat inconsistently, the Treasury's own data show an accumulation of $250 billion.
Although acute in 2007 and more so going into 2008, this drain of Treasurys was also very large from 2003 to 2005. By early 2004, the federal funds rate had been cut to just 1%, which also triggered a flight from the dollar -- at that time more into yen than renminbi. This previous episode of easy money and unduly low interest rates greatly aggravated both the U.S. housing bubble and the more general overleveraging of the American financial system from 2003 to 2006.
In 2007-08, the crash in housing and the implosion of over-leveraged hedge funds, special investment vehicles and so on, has increased counterparty risk in most financial transacting. Illiquid financial institutions cannot effectively bid for funds by putting up suspect private bonds or loans as collateral. Unsurprisingly, there is a "flight to quality" that increases the private domestic demand for Treasurys. But this is happening at a time when the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges has greatly reduced their supply.
This increased demand coupled with a fall in supply helps explains why, in the midst of a U.S. credit squeeze with higher interest rates on private financial instruments, nominal interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds have fallen to surprisingly low levels. Despite substantial ongoing U.S. price inflation of 4.3% in the consumer price index and 6.4% in the producer price index, Treasury yields are less than 1% on a three-month bill, 1.32% on a two-year note, and 3.5% on the benchmark 10-year bonds. There are even reports of effectively negative nominal yields on certain very short-term Treasurys. The real yield on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities has turned negative. (See chart.)
So we have a paradox. Despite the financial turmoil in the U.S. and its government's not-so-strong fiscal position, with huge contingent liabilities for guaranteeing private and public pensions as well as bailing out failing banks, its credit standing has strengthened. The fact that the U.S. government can market Treasury bonds at insultingly low interest rates at least provides an argument for using fiscal stimuli -- such as the $160 billion tax rebate passed in February 2008 -- to prop up the sagging U.S. economy.
Beginning on March 27, the Fed offered to lend banks and bond dealers as much as $200 billion of Treasurys from its own portfolio for up to 28 days, in return for a variety of collateral. The Fed was responding to complaints from dealers of a shortage of Treasurys in the interbank markets, but without recognizing that the root cause was the flight from the dollar in the foreign exchanges.
In the 1970s under the dollar standard, episodes of a weak and depreciating dollar led to monetary explosions in foreign trading partners, with world-wide inflationary consequences. Now, the inflation threat to the U.S. could be aggravated if foreign central banks intervene to prevent their currencies from appreciating too fast and overly expand their money supplies.
Stabilizing the dollar in the foreign exchanges and encouraging the return of flight capital to the U.S. will require two things. The first is to convince the U.S. Federal Reserve that continually cutting interest rates and expanding the U.S. monetary base is not the appropriate response to today's credit crunch; rather it triggers a vicious cycle.
The Fed responds to the credit crunch by cutting interest rates, which would be the seemingly correct textbook strategy if the economy were closed and the foreign exchanges could be ignored. But the economy is open, and capital flies out of the country. Because of the unique position of the U.S. at the center of the world dollar standard, the drain of Treasurys -- the prime collateral in impacted credit markets -- exacerbates the credit crunch, and monetary expansion abroad worsens world-wide inflation. The Fed then further expands in response to the tightening of U.S. credit markets.
The second component of a strong dollar policy is more direct action on exchange rates. At the very least, China bashing as a means to force dollar depreciation against the renminbi should end. The U.S. government should also cooperate with central banks in Europe, Japan, Canada and elsewhere to stabilize the sinking dollar.
The best solution to the current crisis is to stop the flight from the dollar. This would be beneficial beyond relieving the drain of Treasurys and relaxing the crunch in American credit markets. Letting the dollar depreciate without any convincing action to secure its long-term value against other major currencies undermines confidence in the dollar's long-term purchasing power. It also lets the inflation genie out of the bottle, and makes a return to 1970s-style stagflation look imminent.
Mr. McKinnon is a professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institution for Economic Policy Research.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hillary's Bad History
on: March 31, 2008, 05:48:44 PM
Hillary's Bad History
March 31, 2008; Page A18
No, not sniper fire in Bosnia. We're referring to Hillary Clinton's lament last week that the U.S. is flirting with a 1990s Japan-style deflation. Perhaps it's a good time to remind everyone what really happened in Japan, so Mrs. Clinton and the rest of Washington don't make the same mistakes.
"I don't think we can work our way out of the problems we're in in the broad-based economy with monetary policy alone," Mrs. Clinton said in the interview with Journal reporters. "I think the Japanese tried that and tried and tried that." She added Japan should have relied more on fiscal stimulus spending and aid to banks and homeowners, which is what she wants Washington to try now.
The Senator needs a refresher in Japanese economic history. Far from easing monetary policy, the Bank of Japan kept money too tight for too long in the early 1990s. Japan's stock market slide began in early 1990, but its central bank raised interest rates through most of that year and didn't cut them until July 1991. While the Bank of Japan eventually chased interest rates down to zero, it was always too late to break the deflationary spiral.
There's little sign the U.S. is facing a similar danger today, given that the Federal Reserve has been dropping rates quickly as the economy has slowed. If anything, the problem is the opposite, with the Fed risking future inflation by putting rates into negative real territory and devaluing the dollar. (See Ronald McKinnon nearby.)
Japan also made the mistake of refusing to make banks pay for the mistakes they made during their global lending spree in the late 1980s. As the world economy fell into recession in 1990, so did Japan. But rather than letting banks take their losses, the Liberal Democratic Party kept bailing them out. This merely delayed the day of reckoning, as insolvent banks were allowed to exist as "zombies," alive in name but unable to lend.
The government also raised consumption taxes, burdening consumers at exactly the wrong time. Meanwhile, with encouragement from the Clinton Treasury, Tokyo launched a vast Keynesian spending program. Roads, bridges, trains -- you name it, Japan built it. The nearby chart shows the impact this spending had on overall Japanese government debt, which exploded over the decade. The nearly annual spending programs led to several false recoveries with growth blips, but they never changed incentives enough to revive domestic risk-taking.
Yet this is exactly the policy that Mrs. Clinton now wants the U.S. to emulate. Rather than let housing speculators and lenders take the hit for mispricing credit and allow the market to clear, she wants a 90-day freeze on foreclosures and a five-year freeze on mortgage resets. She also wants the feds to buy up mortgage-backed securities and guarantee troubled mortgages. Rather than let housing markets find a bottom where they can begin a recovery, she and her allies in both parties would prolong the agony. While some homeowners and banks would be saved from foreclosure or greater losses, the cost would be to lengthen the housing recession.
A better model is the one the late Al Casey put into practice during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1990s. As president of the Resolution Trust Corp., Mr. Casey sold almost $400 billion of bankrupt assets as rapidly as he could. Declaring that his purpose was to "put the RTC out of business," Mr. Casey let investors buy those assets even at "vulture" prices. The real estate market was able to find a bottom, and the recovery came so fast that Bill Clinton inherited an economy that grew by 3.3% in 1992.
The Beltway class also now wants to indulge in the same Keynesian "stimulus" that failed in Japan. Mrs. Clinton's "Rebuild America Plan" would invest $10 billion over 10 years in an "Emergency Repair Fund" -- a plan she claims would create 48,000 jobs for every billion dollars spent, or close to half a million jobs. She would build ports, railroads, airports, public transit, tunnels and roads. Senate Democrats are proposing more than $35 billion in new spending -- on top of their $168 billion in tax rebates. These may also lead to false recoveries, but they won't ignite a new round of risk-taking and investment.
Japan finally emerged from its funk earlier this decade after it realized its bank losses and caught the updraft from global monetary reflation. Still, its economic growth remains mediocre -- a level that wouldn't be tolerated in the U.S. and may not be enough even in Japan. Sluggish growth has already sunk one Prime Minister and could prove fatal to the current leader, Yasuo Fukuda, whose approval ratings are dropping fast.
The way to revive U.S. growth is by learning from Japan's mistakes, and doing the opposite. The U.S. needs monetary policy that maintains a stable price level, bank supervision that recognizes mortgage losses and lets markets clear, and marginal rate tax cuts that boost incentives to work and invest. In short, the American policies of the 1980s, not those of Japan's lost decade.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 31, 2008, 05:45:42 PM
Probably written before the preceding post:
March 31, 2008; Page A18
Among the worst mistakes of the Iraq war has been starting battles we weren't prepared to finish. Think Fallujah in 2004. We hope Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki absorbed that lesson before he began his campaign last week to defeat rogue militias in Basra.
Yesterday's political maneuvering amid a new cease-fire offer by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is hard to read from afar. "Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us," Mr. Sadr said. The government welcomed the offer while saying it would continue its Basra campaign, and it wasn't clear how many in the Mahdi Army and its offshoots would even heed Mr. Sadr. There were also conflicting reports of whether the militias would give up their weapons.
The worst outcome would be for Iraqis to conclude that Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi Security Forces are backing down amid more resistance than they expected. This would be a blow to the morale of the fledgling army just when it has been gaining confidence, and it would damage Mr. Maliki's own credibility with the Iraqi public. To adapt Napoleon's famous admonition, if you decide to take Basra -- take Basra.
It isn't clear why Mr. Maliki chose to act now against the militias, though he had to do so eventually. The presence of private militias makes political compromise that much harder to achieve, and it increases the prospect of greater violence after the U.S. departs. Iran is also assisting some elements of the Mahdi Army in order to expand Tehran's influence in the Shiite-dominated south and parts of Baghdad.
Naturally, the war's American critics are saying this is proof that General David Petraeus's "surge" has failed. Yet Basra is one part of Iraq where the surge has never been tried. British troops have been the coalition leaders in southern Iraq, and they long ago gave up any attempt at a Petraeus-like counterinsurgency. They mainly stay in their garrisons, much as U.S. troops did pre-surge, and much as the two Democratic Presidential candidates want U.S. troops to do now on their way out of the country.
This British strategy has allowed militias to fill the security vacuum, especially as Iraq forces have been preoccupied with holding territory in Baghdad and parts of the Sunni Triangle once they have been cleared of al Qaeda. It's a sign of how well those operations are going that Iraqi forces feel confident enough to take on the added challenge of Basra. This is precisely the kind of independent operation that U.S. training is supposed to make possible, and it is something the war's critics have said couldn't be achieved as long as American forces stay in Iraq. Apparently it is possible.
Mr. Maliki's decision is also a show of political independence. The Prime Minister is a Shiite from the Dawa party and has been criticized as beholden to Mr. Sadr because he became Prime Minister with his political support. But Mr. Maliki is now willing to use force against militias aligned with Mr. Sadr. The Basra offensive also gives the lie once again to the claim that a Shiite government in Baghdad will be purely sectarian. The battle for Basra is about a Shiite-led but multiethnic central government challenging rogue Shiite militias.
All of this won't mean much, however, unless Mr. Maliki's offensive ends in what Iraqis perceive to be a victory for their national forces. In the fog of journalism last week, it looked as if the Sadrists fought back harder than the government expected. Elements of the Mahdi Army opened counterattacks in Baghdad and elsewhere, seeming to catch Iraqi generals by surprise. U.S. air strikes and Army Stryker units had to be called in for support.
Battles rarely go as planned, and what matters in the end is who is seen to have emerged with a victory. Too many times since 2003, Iraqi and U.S. officials have fought Mr. Sadr's forces, only to let them slip away or give him a pass in some political compromise. A signal mistake in the war was failing to arrest and try him in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion. How to handle Mr. Sadr now is a decision for the Maliki government, but it cannot allow the Mahdi Army and especially its Iranian-backed "special groups" to operate with impunity.
Some Americans -- including more than a few in the U.S. military -- think the U.S. has little stake in the Basra fight. But President Bush clearly isn't one of them. "Any government that presumes to represent the majority of people must confront criminal elements or people who think they can live outside the law," Mr. Bush said at the White House on Friday. "And that's what's taking place in Basra and in other parts of Iraq. I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq."
Unlike Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has failed to suppress terrorist elements, Mr. Maliki understands that his government must establish a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Now he and his army have to win the battle they started.
See all of today's op-eds and editorials, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 31, 2008, 11:39:25 AM
Second post of the AM
The Conspiracy Conspiracy
Give Hillary Clinton credit for a willingness to confront her adversaries and often besting them. Take last week's memorable meeting between her and Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh billionaire who bankrolled much of the "vast right-wing conspiracy" that bedeviled her husband before the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
Mr. Scaife, owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, wrote a publisher's letter on Sunday in which he made clear his "very favorable" impressions of the former First Lady after she stopped by for an editorial board session prior to the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.
"It was so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do," she told the group. Mr. Scaife reports that "the room erupted in laughter. Her remark defused what could have been a confrontational meeting."
Mrs. Clinton spent 90 minutes at the paper and clearly scored points. "Walking into our conference room, not knowing what to expect, took courage and confidence," wrote Mr. Scaife. "Not many politicians have political or personal courage today.... I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today than before last Tuesday's meeting -- and it's a very favorable one indeed.... Her answers were thoughtful, well-stated, and often dead-on."
Mr. Scaife made it clear he wasn't endorsing Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary, but he left open that possibility after his paper's editorial board meets with Barack Obama. Should that stunning event happen, you can bet the vast left-wing blogging community will create new conspiracy theories to explain the Hillary-Scaife alliance of convenience.
-- John Fund
Rhymes with Vice President
Had Al Gore carried his home state, he would have been sworn in as the 43rd president irrespective of what happened in Florida. Maybe that's why Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is now getting a serious look as a possible Democratic vice presidential candidate.
To win in November, Democrats need to upend the electoral map and win in formerly Republican territory. Mr. Bredesen has several qualities that make him attractive, especially facing an opponent with the cross-over appeal of John McCain: Mr. Bredesen hails from outside the Beltway, has a fiscally conservative record and has shown a willingness to run against the party's left-wing orthodoxy. First elected in 2002, he made his political bones by trimming the state's health-care entitlement program -- TennCare -- which was then eating up a third of the state's budget. He was blasted by Sen. Ted Kennedy, but won plaudits from voters for not trying to solve the budget mess by introducing a state income tax, as his predecessor, Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, did.
Lately Mr. Bredesen has emerged on the national stage with a novel solution to his party's Presidential nomination impasse -- he wants the party's superdelegates to meet in June in a mini-convention to settle on either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Some political analysts -- Larry Sabato, for one -- discount the idea of Mr. Bredesen for veep. But if some version of Mr. Bredesen's idea is adopted and he spares the party a divisive national convention, the eventual nominee will have reason to thank him for his levelheaded intervention. Plus, there's always those 11 Tennessee electoral votes that would have put Al Gore in the White House.
-- Brendan Miniter
Predictably, Democrats exploded when EPA chief Stephen Johnson last week decided to open to public comment the question of how the agency should respond to a Supreme Court decision saying it must consider whether to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Said Nancy Pelosi's point-man on global warming, Ed Markey: "This is the latest quack from a lame-duck EPA intent on running out the clock on the entire Bush Presidency without doing a thing to combat global warming."
Mr. Markey's crocodile outrage is just a huge exercise in buck-passing. The Democrats haven't themselves pasted together a global-warming bill. It's much easier to blame the Bush Administration than to do the hard work of passing actual legislation -- and accepting the consequences. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has to decide if carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and if so, to regulate emissions. That process is underway. In refusing to act the imperial bureaucrat, Mr. Johnson deserves credit for not inventing a carbon regime out of whole cloth -- though it would have served Democrats in Congress right, since they would have been the first target for voters angry over rapid hikes in their energy bills.
Mr. Johnson's issuance of a so-called Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking may even prove a landmark in public education. The global-warming chorus has proceeded without any serious cost-benefit analysis. Whatever the truth about a human contribution to climate change, the costs of carbon controls would be vast, and the benefits to the American people or the global atmosphere would be negligible or non-existent -- usually a political non-starter when you get down to it.
-- Joseph Rago
Canada may now have a Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but you'd never know it from the programming on CBC, the country's national public broadcaster.
Last night Canadians had inflicted on them the first part of a two-part miniseries called "Trojan Horse." It's the story of how Canadians were bamboozled into voting by the slimmest of margins into surrendering their sovereignty and merging with the superpower to the south. The Maple Leaf flag is lowered, and the nation's ten proud provinces are dismembered and turned into six U.S. states.
Watching this in horror is former Canadian Prime Minister Tom McLaughlin (played by Tom Gross). Intent on revenge against the new U.S. Empire, he conspires with three European nations to run as an independent for President and restore Canada to its rightful place. Meanwhile, a British journalist (played by Greta Scacchi) is targeted for assassination by sinister intelligence agents after she uncovers a computer program designed to fix the vote in U.S. elections. She wonders if the vote to end Canada's independence was similarly manipulated. She joins forces with Mr. McLaughlin in hopes of uncovering the deep corruption at the heart of the administration of U.S. President Stanfield (Tom Skerritt), who plans to invade Saudi Arabia in order to cut off China's oil supply.
While I have no doubt "Trojan Horse" is entertaining, maybe its airing helps explain why relations between the two countries are frostier than they used to be. Canada's media has been unrelentingly hostile towards U.S. administrations for most of the past three decades and now even its popular culture has been turned into a vehicle for paranoid fantasies that portray the U.S. as a new "evil empire."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post
on: March 31, 2008, 11:28:42 AM
THE FOUNDATION: CHARACTER
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide. Regard not the particular sect or denomination of the candidate - look to his character...” —Noah Webster
“What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can’t trace the line from ‘this moment’s difficulties’ to ‘my triumphant end.’ But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don’t lose. She can’t figure out how to win, and she can’t accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn’t know how he did it!) She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she’s doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder.” —Peggy Noonan
“Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near. Last week, an important Clinton adviser...[said] that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance. Five percent. Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism... We’ll have campaign aides blurting ‘blue dress’ and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt. For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound... And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance. When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.” —David Brooks
RE: THE LEFT
“Hillary is being ‘swiftboated’! She claimed that she came under sniper fire when she visited in Bosnia in 1996, but was contradicted by videotape showing her sauntering off the plane and stopping on the tarmac to listen to a little girl read her a poem. Similarly, John Kerry’s claim to heroism in Vietnam was contradicted by 264 Swift Boat Veterans who served with him. His claim to having been on a secret mission to Cambodia for President Nixon on Christmas 1968 was contradicted not only by all of his commanders—who said he would have been court-martialed if he had gone anywhere near Cambodia—but also the simple fact that Nixon wasn’t president on Christmas 1968. In Hillary’s defense, she probably deserves a Purple Heart about as much as Kerry did for his service in Vietnam. Also, unlike Kerry, Hillary acknowledged her error, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: ‘I was sleep-deprived, and I misspoke.’ (What if she’s sleep-deprived when she gets that call on the red phone at 3 a.m., imagines a Russian nuclear attack and responds with mutual assured destruction? Oops. ‘It proves I’m human.’)” —Ann Coulter
OPINION IN BRIEF
“It being a free country and all, no one has to have a ‘conversation’ he doesn’t want to have, a fact that explains our longstanding non-conversation on race: the one we’re going to continue not having, never mind the pundits and Barack Obama. A conversation has at least two participants. That’s one more than most American liberals desire. A liberal, black or white, doesn’t by and large want an exchange of viewpoints on racial questions of consequence. What he wants is a microphone and an audience—preferably white, but he’ll take what he can get. This audience he proposes to instruct as to the collective iniquity of white America in its dealings with non-white America. That isn’t all he wants. He wants utter silence from the audience. No back talk. You couldn’t characterize a one-sided lecture as ‘conversation,’ and yet it’s pretty much what we get every time the matter of race intrudes itself into public affairs.” —William Murchison
“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” —Booker T. Washington
“The spendthrifts who mangled America with the nightmare of double-digit inflation, record interest rates, unfair tax increases, too much regulation, credit controls, farm embargoes, gas lines, no-growth at home, weakness abroad, and phony excuses about ‘malaise’ are the last people who should be giving sermonettes about fairness and compassion... Believe me, you cannot create a desert, hand a person a cup of water, and call that compassion. You cannot pour billions of dollars into make-work jobs while destroying the economy that supports them and call that opportunity. And you cannot build up years of dependence on government and dare call that hope.” —Ronald Reagan
FOR THE RECORD
“Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published ‘Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.’ The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives. If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:—Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).—Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.—Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.—Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.—In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.—People who reject the idea that ‘government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality’ give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.” —George Will
“Two weeks ago, the story came from a town with a college that has been a leading force in the advancement of Christian civilization for 900 years: Oxford, England... It seems that authorities at the Oxford Central Mosque have requested permission to use loadspeakers to blast the call to prayer five times a day from atop their minaret across the town that has heard for the past 900 summers, falls, winters and springs only the bells of the local churches. Unsurprisingly, the Church of England’s bishop for Oxford, the Right Rev. John Pritchard, has announced his support, calling on his congregation to ‘enjoy community diversity.’ He would be a likely successor to the current archbishop of Canterbury, who called for Shariah law for England recently. Perhaps surprisingly, two Englishmen stepped forward to oppose the proposal: professor Allan Chapman, an Oxford University historian, and Charlie Cleverly, the rector of St. Aldates Church in the heart of Oxford. ‘I don’t have any problem with Islam, but don’t force it on the people. I’m a liberal; I want to be inclusive, but I don’t want to be walked over,’ stated the professor. The Anglican rector of St. Aldates was a bit more blunt: ‘It is common knowledge, though few will say it, that radical Islam has a program to take Europe, take England and take Oxford. In this strategy, some say the prayer call is like a bridgehead, spreading to other mosques in the city.’ As if to support this politically incorrect assertion, Inayat Bunglawala, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain rejected the complaint dismissively, asserting that the ‘call to prayer will be part of Britain and Europe in the future.’... England, in her tolerance, has admitted into her midst—and given succor—those who loathe her. But more loathsome yet are the natural born Englishmen—most in high places—who have forgotten the simple truth of [a] World War II song: ‘There’ll always be an England, And England shall be free, If England means as much to you, As England means to me’.” —Tony Blankley
“Freedom is not a natural state—otherwise more people would be free. Tyranny, oppression, dictatorship and the denial of human rights are the norm for much of the planet. Mankind’s lower nature dictates that far too many seek to reduce others to servitude in order to elevate themselves. President Bush has repeatedly said that freedom is a God-given right that resides in the heart of every human. Maybe, but sometimes one must fight to extract it from the hardened hearts of others who want it exclusively for themselves. Looking at the faces of those who have fallen and driving by Arlington National Cemetery, I am reminded of the cost of freedom. Those who died allow me to travel freely. Those who sacrificed everything invested in freedom for my family and yours so that we can all live our lives where we choose to live them and worship where, and however, we please. These are freedoms most of the world can only dream about.” —Cal Thomas
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“As a career military officer, I have no doubt that anti-war media rhetoric and ‘pollaganda’ have needlessly contributed to the deaths of soldiers and to the lessening of our nation’s defense. However, I am concerned about Mark Alexander’s claim in Democrats, more ‘aid and comfort’ to the enemy that General Giap attributed his victory in part Leftists influence on American public opinion. The web is full rumors run without checking, often becoming resurrected after a trip around the world. It would seem that Urban Legends refutes the Giap assertion.” —Houston, Texas
Publisher’s Reply: Most of the urban legends circulating refer to false claims about Giap’s “memoirs” and claims that he directly implicated that John Kerry’s cadre played a role in brining down the U.S. I did not make either claim. The facts are not derived from Internet e-mails propagating urban legends. We know that Giap knew full well the value the Kerry/Fonda cadres had in undermining U.S. war fighting resolve, and we also know that Giap, a faithful Communist, would not single out such efforts from fellow Socialists in this country, during a CBS interview. Additionally, in a 1996 CNN interview Giap stated, “And [after Tet] the Americans had to back down and come to the negotiating table, because the war was not only moving into the cities, to dozens of cities and towns in South Vietnam, but also to the living rooms of Americans back home for some time. And that’s why we could claim the achievement of the objective.” I do not have to tell you who was bringing defeatist propaganda “into the living rooms of Americans back home,” and which side of the war they were on.
More to the point, in a 1995 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Bui Tin, a communist contemporary of Giap and Ho Chi Minh, who was serving as an NVA colonel assigned to the general staff at the time Saigon fell, had this to say about the Leftmedia and Soviet puppets like “Hanoi” Jane Fonda: “[They were] essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” Bui stated further, “Those people represented the conscience of America. The conscience of America was part of its war-making capability, and we were turning that power in our favor...[T]hrough dissent and protest [America] lost the ability to mobilize a will to win.” Make no mistake, Giap and Bui know “aid and comfort” from those, ostensibly, on our side.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Wilson: Religion and Law
on: March 31, 2008, 11:12:13 AM
"Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin
sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences
run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and
the moral sense, forms an essential part of both."
-- James Wilson ()
Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., 125.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 31, 2008, 11:01:46 AM
March 31, 2008
Maverick Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday ordered his followers to end fighting with the country’s Shiite-dominated security forces. In a statement issued by his office in the Shiite holy city of An Najaf, al-Sadr explained that in the interest of peace and stability, “We have decided to withdraw from the streets of Basra and all other provinces,” and that his movement would “cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The move stems from an agreement with the government, under which Baghdad has promised to stop randomly arresting members of al-Sadr’s group. The agreement does not require al-Sadr’s movement to relinquish its weapons, though al-Sadr said, “Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”
There have been signs for several months now that the al-Sadrite militia, the Mehdi Army, is moving away from its original role as a renegade outfit. Sunday’s move by al-Sadr in the wake of the Iraqi military’s Basra operation, however, is the strongest indication to date that the al-Sadrite movement no longer will be challenging the writ of the Iraqi central government dominated by its Shiite rivals. The silencing of the al-Sadrite guns required Iranian acquiescence.
Two key Shiite parliament members — Hadi al-Amri from the Badr Organization (affiliated with the movement led by Iraq’s most powerful and most pro-Iranian politician Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim) and Ali al-Adeeb (deputy leader of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawah party) — traveled to Tehran to get the Iranians to pressure al-Sadr. It is quite interesting that al-Sadr’s announcement comes a little over a month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadineajd’s trip to Baghdad. There are reports that during that trip, in a secret meeting with U.S. officials, Ahmadinejad offered to finally help Washington stabilize Iraq in exchange for security guarantees for Tehran. It is unclear to what extent the Iranians and Americans agreed to cooperate on Iraqi security, but the Basra security operation did not emerge in a vacuum.
The Basra operation was a way for the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to extend its writ to one of the last remaining and critical outposts in the Shiite south — the oil-rich Basra region. While there are other Shiite factions and oil syndicates in the area targeted by the operation, the main target was the al-Sadrite militia. It also should be noted that the operation was not limited to Basra; it targeted other al-Sadrite strongholds in the Shiite south and Baghdad.
The Iranians have realized that they no longer can use the Shiite militia threat against the United States to force Washington’s hand on Iraq without jeopardizing their own interests. Thus far, Tehran had allowed intra-Shiite conflicts to persist in the hopes of using violence perpetrated by Shiite militants to pressure the United States into accepting Iranian terms for stabilizing Iraq. More recently, though, Iran had a rude awakening when the U.S. military began cultivating its own direct relations with members of al-Sadr’s movement. This demonstrated that Washington was not beholden to Iranian goodwill to stabilize Iraq and that all roads to Baghdad did not go through Tehran.
It was not just the threat of unilateral moves on the part of the Americans that forced the Iranians into a course correction. The Iranians were also terrified that the schisms within the Iraqi Shiite landscape have deteriorated so badly over the past five years that unless Tehran acted soon, any hope that its Shiite proxies would be able to dominate Iraq would evaporate into thin air. In other words, reining in the al-Sadrites was no longer something that was purely a U.S. interest; it was a necessity from the Iranian point of view.
Iran expects that al-Sadr’s backing down can help get the Iraqi Shiite house in order. After all, as long as the Shia (who, despite being the majority, have never ruled Iraq) are at war with themselves, they have no chance of standing up to the Sunnis, much less dominating Iraq. Iran, at a bare minimum, wants an Iraq that can never again threaten its national security, and it needs cohesion among the Shia for that purpose.
Just how much cohesion the Iraqi Shia are capable of will become apparent in the coming months.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cell phones = Brain Cancer?!?
on: March 30, 2008, 06:42:14 PM
Mobile phones 'more dangerous than smoking'
Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation
Young people are at particular risk from exposure to radiation
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Change font size: A | A | ABy Geoffrey Lean
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.
The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.
It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.
Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimise handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.
Professor Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.
He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that "there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours". He believes this will be "definitively proven" in the next decade.
Noting that malignant brain tumours represent "a life-ending diagnosis", he adds: "We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous situation." He fears that "unless the industry and governments take immediate and decisive steps", the incidence of malignant brain tumours and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.
"It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking," says Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke. Smoking kills some five million worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths in Britain as road accidents.
Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana's study as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual". It believes he "does not present a balanced analysis" of the published science, and "reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews".http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/mobile-phones-more-dangerous-than-smoking-or-asbestos-802602.html?r=RSS
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / NY Times: Files suggest Venz aid to FARC
on: March 30, 2008, 02:17:15 PM
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Files provided by Colombian officials from computers they say were captured in a cross-border raid in Ecuador this month appear to tie Venezuela’s government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia’s largest insurgency.
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Times Topics: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)Officials taking part in Colombia’s investigation of the computers provided The New York Times with copies of more than 20 files, some of which also showed contributions from the rebels to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa.
If verified, the files would offer rare insight into the cloak-and-dagger nature of Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla conflict, including what appeared to be the killing of a Colombian government spy with microchips implanted in her body, a crime apparently carried out by the rebels in their jungle redoubt.
The files would also potentially link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States says is a terrorist group and has fought to overthrow Colombia’s government for four decades.
Though it was impossible to authenticate the files independently, the Colombian officials said their government had invited Interpol to verify the files. The officials did not want to be identified while any Interpol inquiry was under way.
Both the United States and Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, have a strong interest in undercutting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has sought to counter United States influence by forming his own leftist bloc in the region. But the Colombian officials who provided the computer files adamantly vouched for them.
The files contained touches that suggested authenticity: they were filled with revolutionary jargon, passages in numerical code, missives about American policy in Latin America and even brief personal reflections like one by a senior rebel commander on the joy of becoming a grandfather.
Other senior Colombian officials said the files made public so far only scratched the surface of the captured archives, risking new friction with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom have dismissed the files as fakes.
Vice President Francisco Santos said Colombia’s stability was at risk if explicit support from its neighbors for the FARC, the country’s largest armed insurgency, was proved true. “The idea that using weapons to topple a democratic government has not been censured,” Mr. Santos said in an interview, “is not only stupid — it is frankly frightening.”
Colombia’s relations with its two Andean neighbors veered suddenly toward armed conflict after Colombian forces raided a FARC camp inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 26 people, including a top FARC commander, and capturing the computers, according to the Colombians.
Though tensions ebbed after a summit meeting of Latin American nations in the Dominican Republic this month, the matter of the computer files has threatened to reignite the diplomatic crisis caused by the raid.
Shortly after the crisis erupted, Colombian officials began releasing a small portion of the computer files, some of which they said showed efforts by Mr. Chavez’s government to provide financial support for the FARC.
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview that officials had obtained more than 16,000 files from three computers belonging to Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a commander known by his nom de guerre, Raúl Reyes, who was killed in the raid. Two other hard drives were also captured, he said.
“Everything has been accessed and everything is being validated by Interpol,” Mr. Santos said, adding that he expected the work on the validation to be completed by the end of April. “It is a great deal of information that is extremely valuable and important.”
Mr. Santos, who said the computers survived the raid because they were in metal casing, strongly defended Colombia’s military foray into Ecuador, which drew condemnation in other parts of Latin America as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.
“Personally I do not regret a thing, absolutely nothing, but I am a minister of a government that has agreed this type of action would not be repeated,” he said. “Of course, this depends on our neighbors collaborating on the fight against terrorism.”
For his part, Mr. Chávez, in a meeting with foreign journalists last week in Caracas, lashed out at Colombia’s government and mocked the files.
“The main weapon they have now is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” Mr. Chávez said. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”
The correspondence also pointed to warm relations between Venezuela’s government and the FARC.
Page 2 of 2)
One letter, dated Jan. 25, 2007, by Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat, discussed a meeting with a Venezuelan official called Carvajal. “Carvajal,” Mr. Márquez wrote, “left with the pledge of bringing an arms dealer from Panama.”
Times Topics: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)Officials here said they believed that the official in question was Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the director of military intelligence in Venezuela, a confidant of Mr. Chávez and perhaps Venezuela’s most powerful intelligence official.
In other correspondence from September 2004 after the killing by the FARC of six Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan engineer on Venezuelan soil that month, General Carvajal’s longstanding ties to the guerrillas also come into focus. In those letters, the guerrillas describe talks with General Carvajal, Mr. Chávez’s emissary to deal with the issue.
“Today I met with General Hugo Carvajal,” a FARC commander wrote in on letter dated Sept. 23, 2004. “He said he guarded the secret hope that what happened in Apure,” the rebel wrote in reference to the Venezuelan border state where the killings took place, “was the work of a force different from our own.”
Officials in General Carvajal’s office at the General Directorate of Military Intelligence in Caracas did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Chávez responded to a report earlier this year in Colombia claiming that General Carvajal provided logistical assistance to the FARC by calling it an “attack on the revolution” he has led in Venezuela.
Another file recovered from Mr. Devia’s computers, dated a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2007, described efforts by the FARC’s secretariat to secure Mr. Chávez’s assistance for buying arms and obtaining a $250 million loan, “to be paid when we take power.”
The FARC, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has persisted for four decades, finances itself largely through cocaine trafficking and kidnappings for ransom. But other files from the computers suggested that Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort, financed in large part by $600 million a year in aid from Washington, was making those activities less lucrative for the FARC, forcing it to consider options like selling Venezuelan gasoline at a profit in Colombia.
The release of the files comes at a delicate time when some lawmakers in Washington are pressing for Venezuela to be included on a list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. But with Venezuela remaining a leading supplier of oil to the United States, such a move is considered unlikely because of the limits on trade it would entail.
Moreover, interpretations of the files from Mr. Devia’s computers have already led to some mistakes.
For instance, El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading daily newspaper, issued an apology this month to Gustavo Larrea, Ecuador’s security minister, after publishing a photograph obtained from the computers in which the newspaper claimed Mr. Larrea was shown meeting with Mr. Devia at a FARC camp. In fact, the photograph was of Patricio Etchegaray, an official with the Communist Party in Argentina.
Still, the files from Mr. Devia’s computers are expected to haunt relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela for some time.
For instance, one piece of correspondence dated Nov. 21, 2006, and circulated among the FARC’s secretariat, describes a $100,000 donation to the campaign of Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president.
Of that amount, $50,000 came from the FARC’s “Eastern bloc,” a militarily strong faction that operates in eastern Colombia, and $20,000 from the group’s “Southern bloc,” according to the document.
President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia referred this month to files from Mr. Devia’s computers showing financing of Mr. Correa’s campaign by the FARC, but he stopped short of releasing them after tensions eased at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic.
“Any archive is not valid until it is verified,” said Pedro Artieda, a spokesman at the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment. “Therefore, the government cannot comment on something that is not confirmed.” Mr. Correa had previously disputed the campaign-finance claims based on the computers files, saying they lacked “technical and legal” validity.
Other files offer insight into the methods employed both by the FARC and Colombia’s government in their four-decade war. In one letter by Mr. Devia dated Jan. 5, 2007, to Manuel Marulanda, the most senior member of the FARC’s secretariat, he described a woman in their ranks who was discovered to be a government spy.
“The new thing here,” Mr. Devia wrote, “was that she had two microchips, one under her breast and the other beneath her jaw.”
Mr. Devia went on to describe the reaction to this discovery, explaining in the rebels’ slang that she was given “a course.”
“Yesterday they threw her into the hole after proving what she was,” he wrote, “and giving her the counsel of war.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: March 30, 2008, 01:51:27 PM
I enjoyed that fight quite a bit. Impressive to see CL challenge the MMA received wisdom about kicking. I thought his understanding of unmatched lead to be very high.
Thoughts on why FS did not go for clinch/ground with more determination?
I have not cared for FS's personality over the years, but thought he handled defeat well. Interesting to see what a man is made of in such a moment , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fitna pulled down by Liveleak
on: March 30, 2008, 01:40:24 PM
Score one for Islamo-fascism:
Breaking news: “FITNA” video removed following serious threats to hosting company staff
We learn this evening that Internet hosting operation, LiveLeak, have been forced to remove Dutch MP Geert Wilders “FITNA” video, following very serious threats to its staff. At the present time it is not known who is behind the threats or the nature of the threats. However, the cowardly ritualistic murder of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh, by an Islamic fanatic, does mean that all such threats have to be taken very seriously.
Unfortunately for those who would try to stifle our western democracy through naked fascism and criminality, many thousands of copies of the controversial video have been downloaded and it can only be a matter of time before they start appearing in “cyberspace”!
The fact that this has happened only goes to underline one of the themes of “FITNA” - that western democracy and freedom of speech are under attack by the enemies of freedom! Appeasement cannot be an option!
An explanatory message posted on the LiveLeak site reads:-
“Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.
"This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one. Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture. We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high.”
See the LiveLeak announcement here .http://www.bnp.org.uk/2008/03/28/breaking-news-fitna-video-removed-following-serious-threats-to-hosting-company-staff/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: March 30, 2008, 01:10:17 PM
Hillary Clinton goes to her doctor for a check-up, only to find out that she's pregnant. She is furious... Here she is in the middle of her first run for President as Senator for New York .... now this has happened to her. She calls home, gets Bill on the phone and immediately starts screaming:
'How could you have let this happen? With all that's going on right now, you go and get me pregnant! How could you? I can't believe this! I've just found out I'm five weeks pregnant and it's all your fault! Well, what have you got to say?'
There is nothing but silence on the phone. She screams again, 'Did you hear me?'
Finally she hears Bill's very, very quiet voice in a barely audible whisper, he asks: 'Who's speaking?'
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Justice for Iraq
on: March 29, 2008, 10:54:16 AM
Justice for Iraq
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and LEE A. CASEY
March 29, 2008; Page A8
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning whether U.S. officials in Iraq can turn over American nationals, held in that country by Coalition Forces, to the Iraqi government for trial and punishment.
The men involved, Shawqi Ahmad Omar (a dual U.S./Iraqi national) and Mohammad Munaf (a dual U.S./Jordanian national), traveled voluntarily to Iraq and are accused of criminal offenses there – kidnapping for ransom (Mr. Munaf) and assisting Iraqi insurgents, also in connection with a kidnapping for ransom scheme (Mr. Omar). Both men have demanded intervention by the U.S. federal courts – through habeas corpus petitions – and seek judicial orders forbidding their transfer to Iraqi officials and other forms of cooperation between the U.S. and Iraqi authorities. This judicial relief would manifest disdain for Iraqi sovereignty and violate settled law.
Every country has the legal right to punish criminal offenses that occur on its territory. This is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty, and is fully recognized by the U.N. Charter. When Americans go overseas, they are subject to this rule – as are foreign nationals who visit the U.S. Diplomats enjoy internationally recognized immunities from local jurisdiction, and military personnel are generally covered by status-of-forces agreements which regulate application the host country's laws.
These exceptions to the general rule are, in fact, broader under Iraqi law – exempting both non-Iraqi military personnel and certain civilian security professionals.
But neither Mr. Omar nor Mr. Munaf enjoy any of these immunities. They are private citizens who claim U.S. government protection, and access to the federal courts, based upon their detention in Coalition facilities maintained, in part at least, by American officials. The Supreme Court has made clear that Americans overseas – even when held formally in U.S. custody – can lawfully be transferred to local authorities for criminal trial. The leading case is Wilson v. Girard (1957), in which the Supreme Court rejected an American soldier's efforts to avoid transfer to Japanese officials to face criminal charges for recklessly causing the death of a Japanese woman.
A great deal is at stake here. Iraqis are proud and, despite all of the American blood and treasure spent in Iraq, many resent the legal immunity that has been accorded to U.S. personnel and contractors. They resent even more when this immunity is broadened to include individuals who arrive as private travelers and then engage in criminal conduct on Iraqi soil.
Add in such episodes as a December 2006 escape from the Green Zone by the former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ayham al Samarrai (who was awaiting sentencing on corruption charges and is now rumored to be living in the U.S.), and the repeated snubbing of Iraqi government delegations at various international gatherings, and Iraqis see a concerted campaign to diminish their sovereignty.
The government has sought to convince the Court that it does not have jurisdiction even to consider the habeas petitions filed by Messrs. Omar and Munaf, arguing that they are held under the Coalition's, and not American, authority. A number of Justices posed questions this week evincing skepticism about this distinction. But they also appeared skeptical of the petitioners' claims that they would be entitled to more than simple release from custody – the normal relief granted in a successful habeas corpus action – and that the U.S. should be required to protect them from Iraqi government officials.
Messrs. Omar and Munaf argue that the Iraqi judicial system is fundamentally flawed and that they are likely to be tortured if recaptured by local officials. But the only alternative to release would require the U.S. to grant them "asylum" from Iraqi justice on Iraqi soil or to spirit them out of the country. Both courses of action would clearly violate Iraq's sovereignty and would risk a confrontation between the U.S. and the Iraqi government.
In addition, such orders would exceed the proper, constitutional bounds of judicial authority by directing the president how to manage American-Iraqi relations at a time and place where the U.S. military operates alongside the Iraqi forces in an ongoing armed conflict.
The choice before the Court is clear. It should respect international law and recognize Iraq's sovereign right to try and punish criminal defendants within its own territory. The U.S. has chosen not to seek (as a diplomatic matter) special treatment for these individuals because of their American citizenship, a decision properly within the executive branch's discretion. Even if the Court concludes that it has jurisdiction to consider the habeas petitions, it should reject them and let Messrs. Munaf and Omar have their day in the Iraqi courts.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Sunni-Shia Terror Network
on: March 29, 2008, 10:51:40 AM
This post could have gone in various threads, but I wound up putting it here because this is a point that is important to understand in developing our abiilty to communicate effectivley with the Muslim world.
The Sunni-Shiite Terror Network
By AMIR TAHERI
March 29, 2008; Page A9
The American presidential election campaign took a bizarre theological turn recently when Barack Obama accused John McCain of not being able to distinguish Sunnis from Shiites.
The exchange started when Sen. McCain suggested that the Islamic Republic in Iran, a Shiite power, may be helping al Qaeda, a Sunni outfit, in its murderous campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. Basing its position on received wisdom, the Obama camp implied that Sunnis and Shiites, divided as they are by deep doctrinal differences, could not come together to fight the United States and its allies.
The truth is that Sunni and Shiite extremists have always been united in their hatred of the U.S., and in their desire to "bring it to destruction," in the words of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
The majority of Muslims does not share that hatred and have no particular problem with the U.S. It is the country most visited by Muslim tourists and it attracts the largest number of Muslim students studying abroad.
But to understand the problem with extremists, it is important to set aside the Sunni-Shiite divide and focus on their common hatred of America. Theology is useless here. What we are dealing with is politics.
For Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, the slogan "Death to America" was as important as the traditional device of Islam "Allah Is The Greatest" – hence his insistence that it be chanted at all public meetings and repeated after each session of the daily prayers. And to that end, Khomeinists have worked with anyone, including brother-enemy Sunnis or even Marxist atheists.
The suicide attacks that claimed the lives of over 300 Americans, including 241 Marines, in Lebanon in 1983, were joint operations of the Khomeinist Hezbollah and the Marxist Arab Socialist Party, which was linked to the Syrian intelligence services. The Syrian regime is Iran's closest ally, despite the fact that Iranian mullahs regard the Alawite minority that dominates it as heretics or worse. Today in Lebanon, Tehran's surrogate, Hezbollah, is in league with a Maronite Christian faction, led by ex-Gen. Michel Aoun, in opposition to a majority bloc that favors close ties with the U.S.
For more than a quarter century, Tehran has been host to the offices of more than three dozen terrorists organizations, from the Colombian FARC to the Palestinian Hamas and passing by half a dozen Trotskyite and Leninist outfits. It also finances many anti-American groups and parties of both extreme right and extreme left in Europe and the Americas. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has bestowed the Muslim title of "brother" on Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Communist North Korea is the only country with which the Islamic Republic maintains close military-industrial ties and holds joint annual staff sessions.
George Ibrahim Abdallah, the Lebanese maverick who led a campaign of terror in Paris in the 1980s on behalf of Tehran, was a Christian. So was Anis Naqqache, who led several hit-teams sent to kill Iranian exile opposition leaders. For years, and until a recent change of policy, Tehran financed and offered shelter to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Marxist movement fighting to overthrow the Turkish Republic. Why? Tehran's displeasure with Turkish membership of NATO and friendship with the U.S.
Yes, Mr. Obama might ask, but what about Sunni-Shiite cooperation?
The Islamic Republic has financed and armed the Afghan Sunni Hizb Islami (Islamic Party) since the 1990s. It's also financed the Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS), a Sunni political-terrorist outfit in Algeria between 1992 and 2005.
In 1993, a senior Iranian delegation, led by the then Islamic Parliament Speaker Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi, attended the Arab-Muslim Popular Congress organized by Hassan al-Turabi, nicknamed "The Pope of Islamist Terror," in Khartoum. At the end of this anti-American jamboree a nine-man "Coordinating Committee" was announced. Karrubi was a member, along with such Sunni eminences as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. Turabi and the Algerian Abdallah Jaballah. The fact that Karrubi was a Shiite mullah did not prevent him from sitting alongside Sunni sheikhs.
In 1996, a suicide attack claimed the lives of 19 American servicemen in Al Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia. The operation was carried out by the Hezbollah in Hejaz, an Iranian-financed outfit, with the help of the Sunni militant group "Sword of the Peninsula."
In 2000, Sunni groups linked to al Qaeda killed 17 U.S. servicemen in a suicide attack on USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. This time, a Shiite militant group led by Sheikh al-Houti, Tehran's man in Yemen, played second fiddle in the operation.
In Central Asia's Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Tehran has for years supported two Sunni movements, the Rastakhiz Islami (Islamic Awakening) and Hizb Tahrir Islami (Islamic Liberation Party). In Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, Tehran supports the Sunni Taleshi groups against the Azeri Shiite majority. The reason? The Taleshi Sunnis are pro-Russian and anti-American, while the Shiite Azeris are pro-American and anti-Russian.
There are no Palestinian Shiites, yet Tehran has become the principal source of funding for radical Palestinian Sunni groups, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad and half a dozen leftist-atheist minigroups. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh refuses to pray alongside his Iranian hosts during his visits to Tehran. But when it comes to joining Khomeinist crowds in shouting "Death to America" he is in the forefront.
With Arab oil kingdoms no longer as generous as before, Iran has emerged as the chief source of funding for Hamas. The new Iranian budget, coming into effect on March 21, allocates over $2 billion to the promotion of "revolutionary causes." Much of the money will go to Hamas and the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah.
In Pakistan, the Iran-financed Shiite Tehrik Jaafari joined a coalition of Sunni parties to govern the Northwest Frontier Province, until they all suffered a crushing defeat at last month's parliamentary elections.
The fact that the Sunnis and Shiites in other provinces of Pakistan continued to kill each other did not prevent them from developing a joint, anti-U.S. strategy that included the revival of the Afghan Taliban and protection for the remnants of al Qaeda. Almost all self-styled "holy warriors" who go to Iraq on a mission of murder and mayhem are Sunnis. And, yet most pass through Syria, a country that, as already noted, is dominated by a sect with a militant anti-Sunni religious doctrine.
Next month, Tehran will host what is billed as "The Islamic Convergence Conference," bringing together hundreds of Shiite and Sunni militants from all over the world. The man in charge, Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Taskhiri, has described the goal of the gathering to be delivering "a punch in the face of the American Great Satan."
Still, Mr. Obama might ask: what about al Qaeda and Iran?
The 9/11 Commission report states that Tehran was in contact with al Qaeda at various levels before the 2001 attacks. Tehran has admitted the presence of al Qaeda figures in Iran on a number of occasions, and has arranged for the repatriation of at least 13 Saudi members in the past five years. The Bin Laden family tells us that at least one of Osama's sons, Sa'ad, has lived in Iran since 2002.
Reports from Iran claim that scores of Taliban leaders and several al Qaeda figures spend part of the year in a compound-style housing estate near the village of Dost Muhammad on the Iranian frontier with Afghanistan. One way to verify these claims is to allow the world media access to the area. But Tehran has declared large segments of eastern Iran a "no-go" area, even for its own state-owned media.
In short, the claim that al Qaeda and the Khomeinists, not to mention other terrorist groups operating in the name of Islam, would not work together simply because they have theological differences is both naive and dangerous.
Messrs. McCain and Obama do not need to know about doctrinal differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The problem they face is not theological but political. All they need to know is that there are deadly and determined groups dedicated to destruction of the U.S. in the name of a perverted version of Islam, and that they need to be resisted, fought and ultimately defeated.
Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran and the Khomeinist Revolution," will be published later this year by Encounter Books.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DEA Agents losing guns faster than every
on: March 29, 2008, 10:37:48 AM
Is That a Gun in Your Wastebasket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
DEA Agents Lose Their Weapons Faster Than Ever, According to a New DOJ Report
BY JUSTIN ROOD
March 28, 2008
How do Drug Enforcement Administration special agents lose their guns?
Faster than ever, according to a new report from the Department of Justice inspector general. From 2002 to 2007, DEA lost 91 weapons, the audit found. The DEA isn't always reporting the losses of weapons or laptop computers to the proper authorities, and when it does, it often comes weeks -- even years -- after the fact.
But just how do the guns disappear? Let us count the ways.
"Special agent left weapon on roof of car and drove off," reads one incident description. In his report released today, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine included descriptions of how each weapon was said to have been lost.
"May have fallen into trash basket at work," read another. "Left weapon in supermarket." "Left weapon on airplane." One report sounded like it was filed by an agent on Larry Craig patrol, "Left weapon in airport restroom."
The thieves were often brazen. "Stolen from hotel room -- Special Agent out on balcony," one report stated. "Weapon stolen [from] purse while at social function at bar in Jamaica." "It was believed a carpet installer stole it." At least once, the alleged culprit was a family member, "Weapon stolen by Special Agent's son."
But the most common incident, by far, were guns stolen from agents' official or personal vehicles while they were otherwise engaged -- despite DEA regulations which prohibit leaving weapons unattended in autos.
"Stolen from an official government vehicle parked at restaurant while Special Agent had lunch." "Stolen from official government vehicle while agent was exercising." Stolen "while agent was shopping," from a car parked "at a summer rental house," "from official government vehicle parked at convenience store while Special Agent was buying coffee." One was even reportedly stolen from an agent's car while he was at a middle school football game.
Asked about the reported losses, DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said the investigations would have been handled by DEA itself. "Any of those instances would be referred to our internal investigating arm," Courtney said. "We would take the appropriate actions to make sure the agents are educated on how to handle their weapons appropriately."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics
on: March 29, 2008, 10:14:23 AM
Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More
More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.
None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.
Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.
The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.
But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.
The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.
According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.
Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?
In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.
James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.
“There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.
“Scientifically, we’re not hiding away,” he said.
But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. “They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”
In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”
Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.
“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.
This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a “quark-gluon plasma,” has been operating without incident since 2000.
Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.
Mr. Sancho, who describes himself as an author and researcher on time theory, lives in Spain, probably in Barcelona, Mr. Wagner said.
Doomsday fears have a long, if not distinguished, pedigree in the history of physics. At Los Alamos before the first nuclear bomb was tested, Emil Konopinski was given the job of calculating whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere on fire.
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.
The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?
According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.
As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.
But William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia, whose paper exploring the limits of Dr. Hawking’s radiation process was referenced on Mr. Wagner’s Web site, said they had missed his point. “Maybe physics really is so weird as to not have black holes evaporate,” he said. “But it would really, really have to be weird.”
Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist whose work helped fuel the speculation about black holes at the collider, pointed out in a paper last year that black holes would probably not be produced at the collider after all, although other effects of so-called quantum gravity might appear.
As part of the safety assessment report, Dr. Mangano and Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been working intensely for the last few months on a paper exploring all the possibilities of these fearsome black holes. They think there are no problems but are reluctant to talk about their findings until they have been peer reviewed, Dr. Mangano said.
Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's investments
on: March 28, 2008, 05:30:25 PM
Where Does Obama Invest His Money?
March 27, 2008 10:26 p.m.
Barack Obama gave a major economic speech Thursday in New York, where the financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks, to put it mildly. That makes it all the more curious that Mr. Obama's tax returns, which he released this week, apparently show that he and his wife Michelle have next to no stake in the investor class.
Ryan Ellis of the American Shareholders Association has examined the Obama returns for calendar years 2001 to 2006 and found that, in all of those years, the couple reported a mere $1,188 in dividends in 2006 and another $2,754 in dividends in 2005. In the previous years, they reported no dividends of any kind.
Indeed, even though Michelle Obama had income from the University of Chicago's Hospital System that exceeded $1 million during the period the tax returns were filed, she appears to have neither a 401(k) plan nor an IRA for retirement contributions. In another sign the Obama household wasn't into building a nest egg, the couple cashed out $6,260 from a pension or 401(k) plan in 2000.
Given all this, Mr. Ellis asks why the Senator is so "hell-bent on pursuing punitive taxes on capital that would wreck America's retirement savings?" His answer: Perhaps it's "because, by and large, he doesn't have any skin in the game."
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: March 28, 2008, 02:59:29 PM
50 Ways to Beat the Reaper
It's simple: Employ these scientific strategies now and add years of good living to your future
By: Denny Watkins & Alison Granell & Heather Loeb
We've been told that the only sure things are death and taxes. But just as creative accountants have helped many men triumph over their 1040s, we can help you outrun the reaper. Maybe it's a game you can't ultimately win. But by following these 50 tips, you sure as hell can send it into overtime.
1. Drink at Least Five 8-ounce Glasses of Water a Day
Scientists at Loma Linda University found that men who drank this amount of H2O were 54 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those who drank two glasses or less every day.
2. Take a Laugh Break
Watching 15 minutes of funny video can improve bloodflow to your heart by 50 percent, report researchers at the University of Maryland. "This may reduce blood-clot formation, cholesterol deposition, and inflammation," says study author Michael Miller, M.D. For your daily dose, click on the "hilarious" video link at ebaumsworld.com.
3. Don't Go to Work Sick
Over a 3-year period, men who clocked in despite feeling under the weather had double the heart-attack risk of guys who stayed in bed, according to a U.K. study.
4. Put Out the Fire in Your Chest
Untreated heartburn can lead to a heart attack, according to a study in the International Journal of Cardiology. Scientists discovered that as acid levels in the esophagus rise, the incidence of blocked bloodflow to the heart also rises by 20 percent. A natural remedy: Analyze your diet. Don't make a habit of drinking wine, juice, or carbonated beverages, all of which are highly acidic and may trigger heartburn, say South Carolina researchers.
5. Indulge Your Chocolate Craving
In a 15-year study, Dutch scientists determined that men who ate just 4 grams of cocoa a day had half the risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate less. That's the equivalent of two 25-calorie Hershey's Kisses -- an amount that can fit into any diet.
6. Say No to Froot Loops
In a review of 53 studies, Australian researchers found that regularly eating cereal made from refined grains raises insulin and C-reactive protein, and lowers good cholesterol -- all factors that boost your odds of developing heart disease. A better choice for your morning bowl: Post Shredded Wheat cereal, which is made from 100 percent whole grains and contains no sugar.
7. Take a Magnesium Supplement
Over an 18-year period, French researchers determined that men with the highest blood levels of magnesium are 40 percent less likely to die of any cause than those with the lowest levels. Magnesium can make multivitamins too bulky, so add a 250 milligram (mg) pill from iherb.com or GNC to your daily regimen.
8. Burn 1,100 Calories a Week
Duke University scientists discovered that this amount of exercise prevents the accumulation of visceral adipose tissue -- the dangerous belly fat that causes arterial inflammation and hypertension. Falling short? Join a league: A recent British Medical Journal study reported that people who exercised in groups boosted their average calorie burn by 500 a week.
9. Take a Daily Multivitamin
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered that this helps prevent the DNA damage that causes cancer. We like Centrum Silver.
10. Hit the Weights
University of Michigan scientists found that men who completed three total-body weight workouts a week for 2 months lowered their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That's enough to reduce the risk of stroke by 40 percent and heart attack by 15 percent.
11. Set a Three-Drink Limit
Harvard researchers determined that downing more than three drinks in a 24-hour period increases your risk of atrial fibrillation, a condition that may boost your odds of a stroke fivefold during that time. An important note: When the average man pours himself a glass of wine, it's typically twice the size of a standard drink (4 ounces), report researchers at Duke University.
IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK...
12. Plop an Alka-Seltzer
It contains 325 milligrams of aspirin, the same as a regular aspirin, and begins fighting blood clots almost 3 minutes faster than a pill, according to a study in Thrombosis Research.
13...and Call a Ride
Walk-in patients wait almost twice as long in the E.R. as those who arrive by ambulance, according to a University of New Mexico study.
14. Treat a Killer Bee Sting
You may not know if you're allergic to the venom of a bee, wasp, or hornet until you've already been stung. But if you start to experience the symptoms of a life-threatening reaction--hives, wheezing, abdominal cramping--you can save yourself in 3 steps:
Step 1. Call 911.
Step 2. Take a Benadryl.
Step 3. Lie on your back and elevate your legs while you wait for help, says Steven Kernerman, D.O., an allergist at the Spokane Allergy and Asthma Clinic. An allergic reaction can constrict your blood vessels, and our three-step strategy counteracts that by improving bloodflow to your heart.
15. Eat Produce at Every Meal
If you consume more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you have a 26 percent lower risk of stroke than people who eat fewer than three servings, according to a recent U.K. study.
16. Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Johns Hopkins University researchers recently determined that people with the highest blood-sugar levels have twice the risk of heart disease as those with the lowest. A warning sign: fasting blood sugar that's greater than 100 mg per deciliter.
17. Think Positive
Purdue scientists discovered that constant worrying shortens your life span by 16 years.
18. Keep Your Cool
Men who frequently express anger outwardly are more than twice as likely to have a stroke than guys who control their tempers, according to the journal Stroke. If you have anger-management issues, try fish oil. National Institutes of Health scientists found that hostile, aggressive men often have low blood levels of DHA--one of the main omega-3 fats found in the oil. We like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega ($27 for 60 1,000-milligram (mg) softgels; nordicnaturals.com). Take 1,000 to 2,000 mg every day.
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T END UP AS FISH FOOD.
Most shark attacks occur at dawn and dusk, when sharks feed, says Alan Henningsen, a marine biologist and shark researcher at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. You can watch the sky for clues to their location: Seabirds eat the same fish as sharks. Here are three more ways to avoid a grisly death.
19. Dive with a Partner
This cuts the chance of a shark attack by 50 percent, say Australian scientists.
20. If You're Attacked, Hit the Shark in Its Eyes or Gills
These are its most sensitive areas. The snout might work as a target, but this tactic often results in a bitten arm, according to a University of Maryland study.
21. For God's Sake, Don't Pee in the Ocean
Bodily Fluids attract sharks
22. Try a Natural Remedy
According to Israeli scientists, eating one red grapefruit a day lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 20 percent, even in people who don't respond to statins.
23. Have Breakfast within 90 Minutes of Waking
A University of Massachusetts study found that men who waited longer than that were 50 percent more likely to become obese. And U.K. researchers determined that increases in body mass were directly proportionate to the likelihood of dying of gut cancers -- specifically rectal, bladder, colon, and liver.
24. Vacuum for 30 Minutes
Doing 150 calories' worth of chores a day can lower high blood pressure by 13 points, according to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The reduction lasts only 8 hours, but make it a daily habit and you can lower your BP in the long term. (Helping out more with housework may improve your sex life, too.)
25. Eat Berries
The antioxidants in cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have been shown to offer protection from a stroke, keep you mentally sharp as you age, and ward off cancer.
26. Drownproof Yourself
If you're dumped in the water without a life preserver, the key to survival is staying warm and conserving energy. Use the method taught to U.S. Navy pilots: Float facedown in the water with your knees tucked against your chest in the fetal position. (This slows the drop in body temperature.) Exhale bubbles slowly, turning your head to one side only to inhale deeply. Repeat until help arrives.
27. Sleep on Your Side
This can halve the number of sleep-apnea-related wakeups you experience during the night. Such interruptions make you up to six times more likely to be involved in an auto accident, due to residual fatigue, according to researchers at University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland. To keep from rolling over onto your back as you sleep, stuff a small, firm neck pillow down the back of your T-shirt before dozing off.
28. Light a Jasmine-Scented Candle
Men who did this for just 1 minute before bed fell asleep faster, tossed and turned less, and felt more refreshed in the morning than those who didn't inhale the aroma, report scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University. That's important, because insufficient sleep boosts your risk of diabetes, and restless sleep increases your odds of a stroke.
29. Live Life in a Smoke-free Zone
Secondhand smoke, besides boosting your risk of lung cancer, raises your diabetes risk by 40 percent -- nearly the same as smoking does.
30. Dodge a Deadly Lightning Bolt
Stay off the toilet during severe thunderstorms. If lightning hits within even 60 feet of your house, it can not only jump through phone and electrical lines but also run through plumbing, according to the National Weather Service.
31. Put Your iPod on a Mount
Reaching for an unsecured object as you drive makes you eight times more likely to swerve into a road barrier, according to the Mayo Clinic.
32. Check Your Smoke Alarms
The most likely reason a house fire ends in a fatality: no early warning. While just about every U.S. residence has smoke alarms, a Morehouse School of Medicine study revealed that the devices were nonfunctioning in one-third of homes due to dead or absent batteries. If you've ever let the juice in any of your detectors dwindle -- or removed the battery simply to disable the low-power beep -- consider installing at least one DuPont self-charging smoke alarm ($26; target.com). It screws into a ceiling light socket and feeds off your home's electricity.
33. Sip on Mint Tea
It contains the powerful antioxidant hesperidin, which reduces the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with diabetes by 52 percent, according to a study at the University of Buffalo. And despite its lack of caffeine, mint tea also increases alertness.
34. Don't Jaywalk
This is particularly good advice if you've had too much to drink, because 77 percent of pedestrians killed while crossing the road aren't at intersections. And 53 percent of those killed at night had blood-alcohol concentrations at or above .08 percent, the legal limit in all 50 states.
35. Don't Get Blown to Bits
Keep bleach, paint stripper, fabric softener, glue, and sidewalk salt away from gas appliances. The chlorine or fluorine in these products breaks down into ionized gas, which can eat holes in the pipes that deliver the fuel for your furnace, range, or dryer. Think you smell fumes? Don't call for help from inside your house; using your phone could create an electric spark and set off an explosion.
IMPROVE YOUR OUTLOOK, SAVE YOUR LIFE
Scandinavian researchers have observed that deep depression (and its spinoff, suicide) is often caused by job stress. Here's how to lower stress, boost your mood, and simultaneously improve your overall health.
36. Find Time to Exercise...
People who exercise at any intensity for 2 hours a week--an average of about 17 minutes a day--are 61 percent less likely to feel highly stressed than their sedentary counterparts, according to researchers in Denmark.
37...Then Take it Outside
British researchers found that people who exercised outdoors reduced their depression by 71 percent, while indoor exercisers' depression decreased by only 45 percent after their workouts.
38. Cut Out the Sweet Stuff
Tufts University researchers found that men on low-sugar diets had lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who consumed all types of carbs. The happier people also limited their total carb intake to 40 percent of total calories.
39. Douse Your Salad with Oil and Vinegar
European scientists determined that unheated olive oil reduces cancer risk. As for vinegar, eating it prior to a high-carbohydrate meal (like pasta) slows the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream. This prevents the spikes in blood sugar and insulin that signal your body to store fat.
40. Add Curry to Vegetables
Rutgers University scientists discovered that a combination of turmeric (found in curry powder) and phenethyl isothiocyanate (a compound in broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower) helps fight prostate cancer. The researchers believe that dusting your vegetables just once a week will provide protection.
41. Be a Career Coach
A man married to a woman who is upset by her work is 2.7 times more likely to develop heart disease. If your wife won't find a new job, help her practice her negotiating skills. A Harvard study found that due to anxiety, women don't initiate money talks at work as often as men do, especially when the boss is male.
42. Stash a Cinnamon Air Freshener in your car
The strong, spicy smell can help you stay alert as you drive. Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University found that a whiff increases alertness by 25 percent. Sucking on an Altoid may work, too.
43. Test Yourself for HIV
A recent British study confirms that early detection is the key to extending your life. You can order a take-home HIV test online ($44, homeaccess.com), mail in your blood sample, and receive your results in the mail just 7 days later.
44. Fall on Your Butt
If you feel yourself losing balance on the stairs, crouch so that your butt hits first, says Robert Nirschl, M.D., a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Don't be afraid to bounce down a few steps -- it'll make a fatal blow less likely.
45. Design a Colorful Menu
Colorado State University scientists discovered that men who eat the widest variety of fruits and vegetables gain greater cancer-fighting benefits than those who eat more total servings but choose from a smaller assortment. That's because the plant chemicals that protect against disease vary between botanical families. Mix it up by choosing one serving from five different color groups: blues and purples, greens, whites, reds, and yellows and oranges.
46. Take a Noontime Nap
Breaking up your day with a 30-minute snooze can reduce coronary mortality by 37 percent, report Greek researchers. Why? It reduces stress that can damage your heart. Even a short nap once or twice a week was found to decrease the risk of early death.
47. Steep Your Tea for at Least 3 Minutes
Any less than that lowers the number of disease-fighting antioxidants.
48. Use Watercress in Your Salad
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that eating 3 ounces of watercress every day increases levels of the cancer-fighting anti-oxidants lutein and beta-carotene by 100 and 33 percent, respectively.
49. Enjoy Your Joe
Brooklyn College researchers recently discovered that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day lowers your risk of dying of heart disease by 53 percent. If you like Starbucks, choose a Caffè Americano: A grande counts as 4 cups and contains just 15 calories.
50. Ask for the Heel
Bread crust has up to eight times more pronyl lysine -- an antioxidant that fights cancer -- than what's in the center. Similarly, the skin of produce is loaded with healthy nutrients, too. http://www.menshealth.com/cda/article.do
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anatomy part two
on: March 28, 2008, 02:50:21 PM
By then, the leadership of the newly triumphant Democrats on Capitol Hill had already determined that the war was irretrievably lost and that the only responsible course was to get out as quickly as possible. Signaling the emphasis the Democrats meant to place on ending our involvement in Iraq quickly, Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, sought to make Jack Murtha her principal deputy.
As for the president's new strategy, the Democrats labeled it "an escalation"--no doubt because polls and focus groups showed that this would make it seem least palatable to the American public. The administration countered with the proposition that we were sending "reinforcements." The media settled on "surge." Each of these labels had the unfortunate side-effect of obscuring the many other changes contained in the new strategy and focusing attention exclusively on the increase in military troops--certainly the gutsiest element in terms of our domestic politics but by no means the only important one.
Week after week, the Democrats attempted to use their control of Congress to suffocate the surge in its cradle. Various proposals were advanced to hobble Gen. Petraeus and render implementation impossible. In April, just as the 30,000 new surge troops were entering the country, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared peremptorily: "This war is lost, and this surge is not accomplishing anything."
Mr. Reid was wrong. While the political standoff in Washington worsened, the situation in Iraq began to improve. Not right away or all at once, of course. In fact, to judge by the measures of greatest salience to the American media, the situation only eroded in the first half of 2007. Attacks rose in number, as did American fatalities. But Gen. Petraeus was steadily refining and adapting the new strategy, and his efforts became especially productive after the full complement of new forces was on the ground and the "surge in operations" could begin in earnest by the beginning of June.
By September 2007, when Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker gave their first report to Congress, the trend line toward success was discernible. Still, the matter remained debatable--to the point where Sen. Clinton felt confident enough to inform Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker on national television that "the reports you provided to us require the willing suspension of disbelief" and to characterize the two men as "the de facto spokesmen of what many of us consider to be a failed policy."
A few months after that showdown, however, the progress was all but indisputable. By now, indeed, we can see that the surge has bought precious time for the United States and the nascent Iraqi state to progress meaningfully toward five specific objectives.
First is extirpating the inciters of sectarian violence: al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunnis and the rogue militias among the Shiites. Second is building up a larger, more capable, and more integrated Iraqi Security Force than existed in 2006.
At the same time, Iraqis are being given the opportunity to create the means of political accommodation locally and from the "bottom up," in ways that reflect the realities of life inside the highly complex mosaic of their country. The achievement of this third goal is the precursor to the fourth, which is to make the central, "top down" government in Baghdad more responsive to the nation's 18 provinces by opening its pocketbook for projects that will improve the economic and living conditions of the country's citizenry at large.
The final goal is, perhaps, the trickiest: pushing Iraqi politicians to pass legislation on a number of important measures, including the sharing of oil revenues, the funding of infrastructure projects, the reform of de-Baathification laws, and the like. These are the notorious "benchmarks" mentioned by the president in his January 2007 speech and subjected to much derision by skeptics.
A year after Mr. Bush first announced the new strategy, progress on the first three objectives has exceeded everyone's expectations, even those who helped design the surge. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been gravely wounded. The rogue elements within the Shiite militias are being pruned away. The Iraq Security Force is growing in size and reliability. And, following the decision of Sunni tribes to turn on al Qaeda and throw in their lot with the United States and the new Iraq, local political accommodation is proceeding at a remarkable pace.
There has also been some movement toward linking the Iraqi Parliament's spending to the needs of localities, but so far this is less impressive. As for the benchmarks on political reconciliation from the top down, it is useful to recall that we once thought such political change should precede everything else. That approach did not work. Our new strategy was based on the contrary assumption that security came first, and that parliamentary progress would lag significantly behind other elements. Of course, this has hardly prevented the president's critics from seizing on the failure of the Iraqi government to have completed all of it benchmarks as putative evidence of the surge's overall failure. Even here, however, there has been a measure of progress on the ground: in February, for example, the Iraqi Parliament passed legislation addressing several key benchmarks, notably including de-Baathification reform and the facilitation of provincial elections as well as of better relations between the provinces and the central government.
* * *
The Petraeus-Crocker report to Congress will no doubt offer further evidence that the new approach is working but is far from having completed its assigned task. No fair-minded observer could conclude otherwise. Gen. Petraeus has already indicated that the central military element of the surge--the increase of 30,000 troops--will end by summer 2008. At that point, U.S. forces in Iraq are set to decline to pre-surge levels, roughly 130,000. The question Gen. Petraeus will now have to answer is: how long will troop levels need to stay there, and when can they start moving down?
What Gen. Petraeus must have uppermost in his mind is the record compiled by his predecessors in trying to produce results with just enough troops to come close but not enough to succeed. A premature drawdown would, by definition, cause the forfeiture of his hard-won gains. And the political reality is that once those troops left Iraq, they would not be coming back.
In a slide presentation that accompanied his September 2007 testimony to Congress, Gen. Petraeus gave a picture of what he considered an appropriate drawdown. In his reckoning, after remaining at 130,000 for some time, American troops could decline in number to approximately 115,000, then by slow and measured steps to around 100,000, then perhaps to 85,000, and so onward. The closer the troop levels came to 100,000 (or fewer) the more manageable the deployment would be militarily. At those levels, our ground forces would be able to return to a peacetime rotation schedule, which would put far less strain on the all-volunteer force.
In other words, a substantial American presence in Iraq is sustainable militarily over the long term. The great unknown is whether such a commitment would be sustainable politically here at home.
The evidence of the past 16 months is that the American people are likely to support, or at least tolerate, a reduction in American numbers gradual enough to preserve the gains of the surge. A President McCain, for example, would probably have no trouble taking advantage of this sustainable strategy and bringing our mission in Iraq to the most successful end achievable.
What of a President Barack Obama or a President Hillary Clinton? If one were to attempt an answer to this question from the two candidates' words and conduct during the long primary season, one would have reason to conclude that both, in promising a rapid "end" to the war with an equally rapid withdrawal of American forces, are bound and determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of at least partial victory.
But it is not impossible to imagine that these vital matters would appear differently to a Democratic president considering Iraq's and America's future from a seat at the desk in the Oval Office rather than from the stage of a college gymnasium filled with delirious Democratic primary voters. One might even permit oneself to hope that, while continuing to speak derogatorily of George Bush's years as the shepherd of our Iraq policy, such a president would come to know, privately and in time, that he or she had been bequeathed something very different from a fiasco: the promise of a better outcome for Iraq, for the Middle East, and for the American people.
Mr. Feaver is the Alexander F. Hehmeyer professor of political science and public policy at Duke University and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. He is a co-author of "Getting the Best Out of College," to be published by Ten Speed Press in June. This article appears in the April issue of Commentary.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feaver: Anatomy of the Surge
on: March 28, 2008, 02:49:14 PM
Anatomy of the Surge
By PETER D. FEAVER
March 26, 2008
Over the past 16 months, the United States has altered its trajectory in Iraq. We are no longer headed toward a catastrophic defeat and may be on the path to a remarkable victory. As a result, the next president, Democrat or Republican, may well find it easier to adopt the broad contours of this administration's current strategy than to jeopardize progress by changing course abruptly.
That would be an ironic, but satisfying, outcome to the tortuous journey on which the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq, and this nation's views of Iraq, have been traveling over the past three years.
The administration's description of the long-term American goal--a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, govern itself and sustain itself, and will be an ally in the war on terror--has remained consistent from the time the war was launched in 2003 until now. What has shifted, due to sobering experience, is its sense of how long it might take to achieve this goal: a time frame that has stretched from months, to years, and even to decades.
I witnessed the shift firsthand. For two years, from June 2005 to July 2007, I left my teaching position at Duke to join the National Security Council staff as a special adviser for strategic planning, and in that capacity I worked closely on Iraq policy. By the middle of 2005, it was painfully obvious to everyone involved that the only decisive outcome that could be achieved during President Bush's tenure was the triumph of our enemies, America's withdrawal, and Iraq's descent into a hellish chaos as yet undreamed of.
The challenge, therefore, was to develop and implement a workable strategy that could be handed over to Mr. Bush's successor. Although important progress could be made on that strategy during Mr. Bush's watch, ultimately it would be carried through by the next president. This was the reality behind the course followed by the administration in 2005-06, and it remains the reality behind the new and different course the administration has been following since 2007.
This new and different strategy, now called the "surge" but at one point called by insiders the "bridge," emerged out of a growing recognition over 2006 that our critics were right about one thing: Our Iraq policy was not working. At the same time, however, and whether knowingly or ignorantly, many of those same critics were insisting that the answer lay in pursuing precisely the same strategy we already had in place. That is, they were telling us that we needed (a) to push Iraqi government officials to come together politically and (b) to train Iraqi troops so that they could take over from American forces. We had been doing exactly these things for a year, and we had been driven to the brink.
This was no solution at all. The results on the ground in Iraq made it clear that without a dramatic change, the president would be leaving his successor with an untenable mess, if not the prospect of a catastrophic American rout. A review of administration policy was therefore launched that led to the dramatic course revision we have seen unfolding over the past year-and-a-half.
Next month, the military leader of the surge, Gen. David Petraeus, and America's chief diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, will present their second report to Congress on the surge and its effects. Prudent and circumspect men, they will surely not advance bold claims on behalf of the policy the United States has been following under their leadership. But I expect they will speak more optimistically about the future than many thought possible eighteen months ago. Their testimony will demonstrate that, at last, the United States has a sustainable strategy for Iraq with a reasonable chance of success, and one that George W. Bush will be able to turn over with confidence to the next incumbent of the White House.
How we got here is a story in itself.
* * *
In the summer of 2005, Gen. George Casey, the theater commander in Iraq, was pressing a military campaign whose primary goal was the training and maturing of Iraqi security forces. At the same time, Iraqis had designed a national constitution that would be the subject of a countrywide referendum in October, to be followed (assuming the constitution's ratification) by national elections in December.
Here at home, administration policy was inundated by criticisms on every front. Much of it was reckless, but not all of it. From "skeptical supporters" of the war like Sen. John McCain and the military analyst Fred Kagan came the charge that the number of American "boots on the ground" was far from sufficient to accomplish the mission. Although our military commanders in Iraq kept assuring the White House that this was not the case, the criticism flitted like Banquo's ghost in the background of every internal discussion about the war.
Some Democrats in the "loyal opposition"--i.e., those who were not simply advocating an irresponsible strategy of defeat and withdrawal--made the same point, but more often they took a different tack. Charging that the administration had no strategy beyond "staying the course," they proposed instead that the United States pressure the Iraqis to bring the sullen and disaffected Sunni minority into the political sphere. This would siphon support from the insurgency. In addition, the Pentagon needed to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces to handle more of the load against the enemies of the new Iraq. And the State Department had to lean on Iraq's neighbors to do more to help.
This counsel seemed maddeningly sensible to us. It was, to the letter, the administration's strategy at that very moment. Still, exasperating though it may have been to be told that we should do what we were actually doing, this line of criticism also seemed to contain potentially good news. Perhaps, we thought, we could find common ground with these Democratic critics--their number included Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Carl Levin--and forge a consensus on how to move forward.
That was the background to a decision in the fall of 2005 to release an unclassified version of Gen. Casey's campaign plan, along with a document explaining how all elements of American power were being mobilized to assist in its realization. The full document was called the National Strategy for Supporting Iraq, the name of which changed somewhere along the way to the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, or NSVI. There was nothing new here. The release of the NSVI, bolstered by a series of frank presidential addresses, was simply an attempt to make public a number of details about our approach and offer a reasonable response to our reasonable critics.
The effort was doomed. It was overtaken by political events or, rather, by one specific event: a press conference, on Nov. 17, 2005, by John Murtha, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.
Mr. Murtha was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a hawk on defense spending--someone generally thought to be at home with the old "Scoop" Jackson wing of the Democratic party. When it came to Iraq, he turned out to be something else. "Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty," Mr. Murtha summarily declared at his press conference, and now it was time to bring the troops home--as soon as possible, but no later than in six months.
Mr. Murtha was not calling for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. To the contrary, he was advocating the wholesale abandonment of Iraq. As he well knew, moreover, six months would be the fastest possible withdrawal under the most optimistic timetable, with our forces working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to pull out all of the equipment and matériel we had brought in over the previous three years. This was not a brief for haste but rather a recipe for panic.
Unlike those critics who lambasted our policy and then commended it to our attention, Mr. Murtha was presenting an unambiguous alternative. The left wing of the Democratic :arty and its supporters in MoveOn.org had finally found a spokesman with credentials on national security to make the most extreme case for the war's end.
The media lauded the Murtha plan, but they did not examine it closely. I spent hours with reporters in a futile effort to persuade them to show Mr. Murtha the respect of subjecting his scheme--including his bizarre notion of redeploying troops 5,000 miles away on the island of Okinawa in the Sea of Japan--to the same level of scrutiny they lavished upon administration policy. One key reporter told me, "We don't scrutinize Murtha's plan because none of us takes it seriously."
Inside the White House, we joked bitterly that the only way we could get people to see the flaws in Murtha's proposal would be to offer it as our own.
* * *
In the end, however, even if we had managed to secure some kind of bipartisan support for our strategy, it would have made little difference. Over the course of 2006, the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq collapsed.
We had assumed that steady political movement would drain Sunni support for the insurgency by giving Sunnis a stake in the new Iraq--and that such political progress could be completed before the safety of the Iraqi population had been secured. Alas, the stunningly successful constitutional referendum of October 2005 and the national election two months later were followed by a dreadful stalemate. It took Sunnis nearly six weeks to acknowledge that the vote had been free and fair, and then squabbling within the Shiite community paralyzed its politicians in turn. Month after month, the nascent Iraqi political class found itself unable to form and seat a government. Almost a half-year of political momentum was forgone.
No less worrisome was the discovery that the Iraqi security forces were not yet in any condition to shoulder an increasing portion of the burden--to "stand up" so that coalition forces could "stand down." At the same time, the security challenge became far grimmer. In February, al Qaeda terrorists blew up the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest Shiite shrines in Iraq. Shiite militia groups responded just as the terrorists had hoped, launching retaliatory strikes against Sunni citizens. A bloody pattern--sectarian atrocity, sectarian reprisal, sectarian counter-reprisal--took hold. Each week, attack levels reached new heights. Since even the vastly more capable U.S. forces seemed unable to tamp down the violence, there was no chance that fledgling Iraqi security forces might do so any time soon.
With the situation deteriorating throughout the spring, the administration might have begun the full-fledged reconsideration of the National Strategy for Victory that it would conduct later in the year. But suddenly the existing strategy appeared to receive a boost. After months of wrangling, the Iraqis finally installed a unity government under the leadership of the little-known Nouri al-Maliki. And U.S. special forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the charismatic leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind behind its strategy of fomenting civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Hope rekindled that the chaos could be brought under control.
But the boost proved illusory. Gen. Casey launched a new effort to regain control of the capital, but within weeks it foundered when several of the Iraqi units on which it depended simply failed to show up for the fight. A revised version of the Casey plan likewise came a cropper when the new Maliki government interfered with efforts to go after rogue Shiite militias that were now rivaling al Qaeda in Iraq in wreaking havoc.
Over the summer, doubts began to grow among White House officials working on Iraq; by September the NSC staff initiated a quiet but thorough review of strategy with an eye to developing a new way forward. The review, which soon expanded beyond the confines of the National Security Council, became a matter of public knowledge after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's departure in November, the day after the landslide Democratic victory in the midterm elections. The election underscored the fact that, at a minimum, the administration would have to reposition the Iraq mission in the minds of the American people. Our review confirmed that it would take more than a change of face to rescue the possibility of victory--it would take an entirely new strategy.
The idea was for our proposed change in course to be completed in time to take advantage of the release of another document. This was the much-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. Inside the White House, we hoped that the report's recommendations would be palatable enough to blend with whatever new approach the president decided to adopt. The long-sought holy grail--a bipartisan consensus on the way forward in Iraq--seemed again within reach.
* * *
It was not to be. While sharply criticizing the lack of progress thus far, the Baker-Hamilton commission essentially recommended back to us an accelerated version of the strategy envisioned by the NSVI: stand them up so we can stand down. While there was still some support inside the administration for continuing on that path, the interagency team on which I served was of a different mind. The situation in Iraq had eroded beyond the point envisioned by the Baker-Hamilton report; under the horrific conditions now at play, we concluded, Iraq's security forces were far more likely to crack under the strain than to "stand up." And those forces were the essential glue of a stable, unified future. If they went the way of Humpty Dumpty, neither they nor the new Iraq could ever be put back together again.
The Baker-Hamilton report did offer theoretical support for a short-term surge of military forces--something the president and the interagency team were also looking at very closely--but this was mentioned only in a brief passage and was far from the document's central thrust. The White House never succeeded in shifting the conventional wisdom in Washington that Baker-Hamilton provided an alternative to current policy. Nor, unfortunately, were we ready with our own genuine alternative when the Baker-Hamilton report was released on Dec. 6, 2006. That put paid to the idea that we could use the occasion as a means of securing bipartisan support for a new approach. By the time the president announced the surge in January, the climate had turned frostier still.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 02:18:54 PM
Second post of the day:
Geopolitical Diary: Ukraine, The Main Battlefield of Cold War II
March 28, 2008
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said on Thursday that no NATO bases would be deployed in his country in the event that Kiev became a member of that organization. Citing Ukraine’s Constitution, which forbids the establishment of foreign military bases in the country, Yushchenko said, “Some people are spreading the fable that there will be a NATO military base in Sevastopol. There will be no base.” This statement comes within three weeks of Kiev saying it had abandoned its bid for membership in the Western military alliance.
This is not the first time Ukraine has done such a flip-flop. On the contrary, this oscillation between aligning with the West and placating Russian concerns has been the hallmark of the country’s behavior for some years now — if not historically. Structurally, Ukraine is divided between the people in the western part of the country, who want to align with the United States and Europe, and the people in the eastern part, who are looking eastward toward Moscow.
The ill-fated Orange Revolution of late 2004/early 2005 — which failed to bring the country under Western influence –- complicated things. It exacerbated the divisions within the country, creating a stalemate between the two sides. Ukraine’s geopolitical position has failed to allow the country to break its dependence on and past with Russia. As a result, on a larger geopolitical scale, the United States and Russia are locked in a long-term tug-of-war over Ukraine.
In fact, Ukraine represents the major arena in which Cold War II is being played out between Washington and Moscow. Ukraine is of critical importance to both sides. For the United States, a successful extraction of the country from the influence of Moscow — not to mention NATO’s arrival on Moscow’s doorstep — means relegating Russia to the status of a declining regional power. Conversely, and more importantly, for Russia, it is not just about its efforts to revive the bipolar world, but it is an issue of survival.
The loss of Ukraine could critically weaken the Kremlin. It is not merely a buffer separating Russia from the West; it is integrated into the Russian industrial and agricultural base. This is why Moscow has been using the tool of natural gas cutoffs and coercion by the FSB to keep Ukraine’s leadership in check. Moreover, Moscow has laid out the consequences of Kiev teaming up with NATO, saying it will point missiles at its neighbor if it were part of the alliance.
Moscow, however, can take comfort from the fact that there is no consensus within the West regarding Ukraine’s entry into NATO. The Europeans, particularly Germany, do not share Washington’s level of enthusiasm for Kiev’s assimilation into NATO. Uninterrupted supply of Russian gas via Ukraine is of far greater value to the Central and Eastern Europeans than any grandiose plans to secure the downfall of Russia. It isn’t that Germany is against Ukraine joining the West, but that it would rather pick that fight another day — preferably when Europe wasn’t so dependent on Russia for energy.
But it is Ukraine that is being tugged and pushed from all sides, leaving it to balance precariously between surviving with a very aggressive Russia to its east, ambivalence to its west and a Washington eager to use Kiev as its pawn to stick it to Moscow. For the next week, Ukraine will toe the line — not accepting or rejecting the other and waiting for the United States and Russia to decide how far this battle will go.
In short, Ukraine is not just the premier battlefield of Cold War II, but a more-or-less permanent standoff arena –- unless, of course, one side decides to back off, which isn’t about to happen anytime soon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Natural Aristocracy
on: March 28, 2008, 02:17:21 PM
"For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy
among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813)
Reference: Jefferson Writings, Lemay, ed., 1305.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 28, 2008, 02:11:12 PM
Are Democrats overrating the political appeal of a federal housing bailout?
Rep. Tom Feeney, from Florida of all places, called us this week to slam House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank's draft mortgage bill. Although Mr. Feeney represents more than 70 miles of coastline in a state that is ground zero in the housing downturn, he calls a taxpayer-financed rescue a "terrible idea." During the Easter recess, Mr. Feeney has been strolling along Daytona Beach talking to voters. His findings are bracing. "My constituents for the most part have no sympathy for the lenders, and they are not terribly sympathetic with borrowers who made bad decisions," he says. In fact, relief for borrowers is not even at the top of the list of housing concerns. He hears more complaints about high property taxes based on bubble-era assessments.
Mr. Feeney says his constituents realize that most of the pending plans to help strapped borrowers will benefit a relative few, while raising costs for all borrowers. Mr. Feeney says of a specific plan to let bankruptcy judges knock down the loan amount due on a house: "The percentage of people who will benefit is minuscule. The other 99.5% of Americans will pay for it."
-- James Freeman
Reading the Matchup Tea Leaves
The argument rages over whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would do better against John McCain in the fall. Nationally, the two fare about the same, with the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mr. Obama leading Mr. McCain by 2 points, and Mr. McCain slightly ahead of Mrs. Clinton, results that are all within the margin of error.
But the results vary dramatically from state to state. In Pennsylvania, Mr. McCain picks up a lot of the old Reagan Democrats in a matchup with Mr. Obama, putting that state in play even though it hasn't voted for a Republican for president in 20 years. The latest Susquehanna Poll finds Mr. McCain leads Mr. Obama by four points, but trails Hillary Clinton in a fall matchup by three points.
In Connecticut, the results are dramatically different. Mr. McCain has a fighting chance against Mrs. Clinton, trailing her by only 45% to 42%. Against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain certainly benefits from an endorsement by independent Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat. But it's a different story when the Arizonan is paired up against Mr. Obama -- he loses by a whopping 52% to 35%. The reason? Mr. Obama is phenomenally popular with voters under age 35 -- he gets almost three quarters of their votes.
But a big caveat for Mr. Obama is the past pattern of younger enthusiasts drifting off before Election Day and failing to vote. Should Mr. Obama be the Democratic nominee, he will need to make sure his young supporters don't exhaust the "audacity of hope."
-- John Fund
A letter of protest from some of Hillary Clinton's big donors to Nancy Pelosi has stirred up the "She can't win, why is she running?" caucus in the media one more time.
But the premise is false. Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Barack Obama can win on pledged delegates, and party rules prescribe that the deciding votes fall to the superdelegates. Mrs. Clinton's donors, led by New York financier Steven Rattner and media mogul Robert Johnson, yesterday wrote to the House Speaker and rightly demanded that she stop trying to fix the outcome by insisting superdelegates must follow the popular vote in their states or districts and vote (in effect) for Barack Obama.
That's not what party rules say, specifically empowering superdelegates to make up their own minds. One who is ironically unimpressed by Ms. Pelosi's reasoning is Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., possessed of one of the most powerful Democratic names in the state. He plans to endorse Mr. Obama today despite polls showing Mrs. Clinton leading by double digits in Pennsylvania.
Of course, the pro-Clinton letter writers weren't about to highlight the real problem. The most influential superdelegates, such as Ms. Pelosi and Al Gore, should simply stop being so coy and throw their lot behind a candidate, while urging their fellow superdelegates to do the same. They could settle this race now if they are so concerned about it dragging out. The likely result would be to put Mr. Obama over the top, but at least rank-and-file voters in the coming primaries would know where the superdelegates stand.
Then again, don't discount the possibility that Mr. Gore and Ms. Pelosi don't want the stalemate to end. Each would play a starring role at the most dramatic convention in decades. In a total breakdown, they might even end up being drafted for a party unity ticket.
-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.
Mugabe's Election Farce
Independent surveys show Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with only 20% support as the country heads toward a March 29 election in the midst of an economic nightmare in which 80% of the population lacks a regular job.
But no one expects Mr. Mugabe to lose. He has gerrymandered districts to ensure his rural supporters carry much more weight in the election. Then there's the vote fraud he is actively promoting. Tendai Biti, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says leaked documents from the government's security printers show nine million ballots have been ordered for the 5.9 million people registered to vote on Saturday. Under amended laws, police will also be allowed to go into polling booths to "assist" illiterate people in voting -- a clear violation of Mr. Mugabe's previous pledges not to have police moonlight as election officials.
Then there are the voter rolls themselves, which are stuffed with the names of the dead or nonexistent. The London Times reports one electoral register included people born in 1900 and 1901, along with a former minister of justice who died a quarter-century ago. Mugabe opponents say these "ghost voters" will give the government a ready means of stuffing ballot boxes.
Before the last election, Mugabe critics were able to obtain voter rolls for 12 districts. An independent analysis found that 45% of the named individuals didn't exist. This year, the government has kept the voter rolls under lock and key.
It's true Mr. Mugabe only won 54% of the vote in the last rigged election, and strongmen ranging from Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Chavez have in the past miscalculated the amount of fraud necessary to steal an election. But few in Zimbabwe doubt that the wily 84-year-old Mr. Mugabe will stop at nothing in order to maintain his grip on power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: March 28, 2008, 10:12:56 AM
NATO Expansion Should Continue
By DONALD RUMSFELD
March 28, 2008; Page A13
Next week Romania's capital of Bucharest will host representatives from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 26 member nations. There the alliance will make critical choices about its mission in Afghanistan and expanding to several former Soviet-bloc nations. These decisions need not and should not be further delayed for yet more "meetings" and "consultations" in capitals across Europe.
Today NATO needs clarity of purpose. A display of timidity in Bucharest could derail its recent progress in adjusting to the demands of the still new 21st century. Moving decisively beyond NATO's traditional mindset is a strategic imperative if the alliance is to remain relevant to the challenges it is likely to face.
There is no better way for NATO to move forward than by extending full membership invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and by beginning the process to bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance in the future through membership action plans (MAPs). At a time when European commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan are being questioned, the determination of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to contribute to tough missions is clear. Collectively, the three Balkan nations have more than 650 troops currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the moment Croatia has more than 200 troops training the Afghan National Army and serving in Provincial Reconstruction Teams. A company of Macedonian troops leads the mission of defending NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. In addition to its continuous troop presence in Afghanistan since 2002, Albania was among the first nations to deploy to Iraq in 2003. Five years later, Albania intends to be among the last to leave. As the Albanian military commander in Mosul, Iraq, recently said, "We'll be here as long as the Americans are."
As was the case with NATO invitations to other former Soviet-bloc nations in 1999 and 2004, this year's expansion would consolidate democratic and economic gains in Southeast Europe. The region's trajectory toward free political institutions and free markets is unmistakable.
For the past several years under membership action plans, the governments of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have been preparing to join the ranks of NATO. They now meet the necessary criteria for membership. They have shown their commitment to human rights and regional stability by protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. They have allocated a greater percentage of their GDP to defense expenditures than most NATO countries in Western Europe, and they have built sound defense capabilities in intelligence, medical support, and special operations.
Perhaps most important in light of NATO's demonstrated shortcomings, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia have made use of those capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq by taking on the tough missions that several current NATO members have been unwilling to carry out. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are certainly not large geographically, but the operational -- and attitudinal -- contributions they bring to NATO will far outstrip their size.
With respect to Georgia and Ukraine, both nations are democratic, politically mature, relatively stable and committed to the international community after the Orange and Rose revolutions in 2003 and 2004. Neighboring Russia recently suggested it might turn its nuclear arsenal on Ukraine or incite civil disorder in Georgia if either takes steps to join NATO. Undeterred, the Georgian and Ukrainian governments have expressed their clear desire to initiate membership action plan proceedings.
Silence on the issue of Georgia and Ukraine in Bucharest -- including postponement of MAPs, as some Western European governments seem to be suggesting -- would amount to a rejection of Georgia's and Ukraine's international aspirations. It would prove disillusioning to their people, and it would serve as a green light to Russia to continue the tired rhetoric of the Cold War.
The administration, bipartisan majorities in Congress, and most members of NATO have expressed support for extending membership to nations in Southeastern Europe and for partnerships with those nations beyond. Why then the hold up? Aside from Russia's opposition, Greece has threatened to issue a sole veto over Macedonia's entry because Macedonia refuses to change its country name. The future of the trans-Atlantic alliance -- and its credibility as the pre-eminent political and military instrument of the world's democracies -- are too important to be constrained by narrow disputes over semantics or to intimidation tactics more befitting the last century.
A larger, reinvigorated alliance, with three new members and two potential members, would augment NATO with countries that have a proven track record of not only recognizing today's challenges but also of consistently contributing to the alliance's efforts to promote and protect its interests. Expansion would bring operational expertise and a spirit of cooperation to an alliance in need of both. All five nations would also bring to NATO an appreciation for the vigilance required to defend liberty. With their peoples' first hand experience of Communist occupation, they see in Islamic extremism the dangers of an all too familiar totalitarian ideology.
NATO's mission in Afghanistan, thousands of miles from the European continent, has been an historic step toward transforming NATO to meet new challenges of the 21st century. But its work there has laid bare some hard truths about the state of the alliance.
Restrictive national caveats imposed by some member nations currently prevent their contingents from engaging in combat, causing other NATO and non-NATO members of the coalition -- such as those being considered for membership currently -- to carry a disproportionate burden of the alliance's work and sacrifice. Outdated rules of engagement, uneven national commitments, and a lack of sufficient urgency among several of its members are indisputable facts. And so too are the possibilities of failure and creeping irrelevance if NATO does not act wisely in Bucharest.
Expanding NATO to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and building closer partnerships with Georgia and Ukraine would help to assuage any concerns that the alliance no longer has the collective grit for the tough work necessary to overcome the challenges in Afghanistan. All five non-NATO nations currently under consideration -- in contrast with several full NATO members -- have demonstrated willingness to accept NATO responsibilities.
Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are today ready to accept those responsibilities. Georgia and Ukraine will likely be ready to accept NATO responsibilities in the coming years if issued membership action plans next week. The Bucharest summit presents an opportunity to advance the interests of all 26 member nations by expanding the NATO alliance. Now is not a time for self-doubt. It is a time for U.S. and European leadership.
Mr. Rumsfeld was U.S. ambassador to NATO from 1973 to 1974 and was the 13th and 21st U.S. secretary of Defense.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others.
on: March 28, 2008, 10:03:25 AM
Police: Teen makes mistake of trying to rob former U.S. Marine
Bay City News Service
Article Launched: 03/27/2008 10:39:20 AM PDT
SANTA ROSA - A boy in his mid-teens learned Wednesday afternoon that it is not a good idea to try to rob a former U.S. Marine at knifepoint, even if the former Marine is 84 years old, police said today. Santa Rosa police Sgt. Steve Bair said that's what happened around 2 p.m. in the 1600 block of Fourth Street. The elderly man was walking with a grocery bag in each arm when the boy approached him with a large knife, Bair said.
The boy said, "Old man, give me your wallet or I'll cut you," Bair said. The man told the boy he was a former Marine who fought in three wars and had been threatened with knives and bayonets, Bair said.
The man then put his bags on the ground and told the boy that if he stepped closer he would be sorry. When the boy stepped closer, the man kicked him in the groin, knocking him to the sidewalk, Bair said. The ex-Marine picked up his grocery bags and walked home, leaving the boy doubled over, Bair said.
The man reported the attempted robbery to police 45 minutes later.
Bair said the teen is described only as 15 or 16 years old. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan
on: March 28, 2008, 09:22:46 AM
Getting Mrs. Clinton
March 28, 2008
I think we've reached a signal point in the campaign. This is the point where, with Hillary Clinton, either you get it or you don't. There's no dodging now. You either understand the problem with her candidacy, or you don't. You either understand who she is, or not. And if you don't, after 16 years of watching Clintonian dramas, you probably never will.
That's what the Bosnia story was about. Her fictions about dodging bullets on the tarmac -- and we have to hope they were lies, because if they weren't, if she thought what she was saying was true, we are in worse trouble than we thought -- either confirmed what you already knew (she lies as a matter of strategy, or, as William Safire said in 1996, by nature) or revealed in an unforgettable way (videotape! Smiling girl in pigtails offering flowers!) what you feared (that she lies more than is humanly usual, even politically usual).
But either you get it now or you never will. That's the importance of the Bosnia tape.
Many in the press get it, to their dismay, and it makes them uncomfortable, for it sours life to have a person whose character you feel you cannot admire play such a large daily role in your work. But I think it's fair to say of the establishment media at this point that it is well populated by people who feel such a lack of faith in Mrs. Clinton's words and ways that it amounts to an aversion. They are offended by how she and her staff operate. They try hard to be fair. They constantly have to police themselves.
Not that her staff isn't policing them too. Mrs. Clinton's people are heavy-handed in that area, letting producers and correspondents know they're watching, weighing, may have to take this higher. There's too much of this in politics, but Hillary's campaign takes it to a new level.
It's not only the press. It's what I get as I walk around New York, which used to be thick with her people. I went to a Hillary fund-raiser at Hunter College about a month ago, paying for a seat in the balcony and being ushered up to fill the more expensive section on the floor, so frantic were they to fill seats.
I sat next to a woman, a New York Democrat who'd been for Hillary from the beginning and still was. She was here. But, she said, "It doesn't seem to be working." She shrugged, not like a brokenhearted person but a practical person who'd missed all the signs of something coming. She wasn't mad at the voters. But she was no longer so taken by the woman who soon took the stage and enacted joy.
The other day a bookseller told me he'd been reading the opinion pages of the papers and noting the anti-Hillary feeling. Two weeks ago he realized he wasn't for her anymore. It wasn't one incident, just an accumulation of things. His experience tracks this week's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showing Mrs. Clinton's disapproval numbers have risen to the highest level ever in the campaign, her highest in fact in seven years.
* * *
You'd think she'd pivot back to showing a likable side, chatting with women, weeping, wearing the bright yellows and reds that are thought to appeal to her core following, older women. Well, she's doing that. Yet at the same time, her campaign reveals new levels of thuggishness, though that's the wrong word, for thugs are often effective. This is mere heavy-handedness.
On Wednesday a group of Mrs. Clinton's top donors sent a letter to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, warning her in language that they no doubt thought subtle but that reflected a kind of incompetent menace, that her statements on the presidential campaign may result in less money for Democratic candidates for the House. Ms. Pelosi had said that in her view the superdelegates should support the presidential candidate who wins the most pledged delegates in state contests. The letter urged her to "clarify" her position, which is "clearly untenable" and "runs counter" to the superdelegates' right to make "an informed, individual decision" about "who would be the party's strongest nominee." The signers, noting their past and huge financial support, suggested that Ms. Pelosi "reflect" on her comments and amend them to reflect "a more open view."
Barack Obama's campaign called it inappropriate and said Mrs. Clinton should "reject the insinuation." But why would she? All she has now is bluster. Her supporters put their threat in a letter, not in a private meeting. By threatening Ms. Pelosi publicly, they robbed her of room to maneuver. She has to defy them or back down. She has always struck me as rather grittier than her chic suits, high heels and unhidden enthusiasm may suggest. We'll see.
What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)
She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.
* * *
What struck me as the best commentary on the Bosnia story came from a poster called GI Joe who wrote in to a news blog: "Actually Mrs. Clinton was too modest. I was there and saw it all. When Mrs. Clinton got off the plane the tarmac came under mortar and machine gun fire. I was blown off my tank and exposed to enemy fire. Mrs. Clinton without regard to her own safety dragged me to safety, jumped on the tank and opened fire, killing 50 of the enemy." Soon a suicide bomber appeared, but Mrs. Clinton stopped the guards from opening fire. "She talked to the man in his own language and got him [to] surrender. She found that he had suffered terribly as a result of policies of George Bush. She defused the bomb vest herself." Then she turned to his wounds. "She stopped my bleeding and saved my life. Chelsea donated the blood."
Made me laugh. It was like the voice of the people answering back. This guy knows that what Mrs. Clinton said is sort of crazy. He seems to know her reputation for untruths. He seemed to be saying, "I get it."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another CAIR official indicted
on: March 28, 2008, 09:06:30 AM
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
003/08 March 26, 2008
CAIR: The Treason from Within; Another CAIR Official Indicted
On Wednesday, 26 March, a Grand Jury indictment against Muthanna Al-Hanooti was unsealed in Michigan. The indictment accuses Al-Hanooti of violations of 18 and 50 United States Code. The specifics include allegations that Al-Hanooti provided information on members of the congress who were of interest to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), acted under direction of the IIS, accepted payments in oil (two million barrels) from the Iraqi government for acting as its agent, and provided a written brief to the Iraqi government outlining methods that could be used to lift the sanctions then in place against Iraq.
The indictment may be read here (PDF): http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/112.pdf
Al-Hanooti was the executive director of CAIR’s then-new regional office in Michigan at the time he committed the alleged crimes. Once again, we see the dirty black hand of CAIR connected to yet another arguably traitorous individual who apparently sold out “his” country for 30 pieces of silver.
For over a decade, we Americans have allowed CAIR to dictate to us how we should behave, believe, and react to Islam in our country. We have kow-towed to CAIR’s demands for special rights based on Islam; watched our law enforcement genuflect at the feet of radical Islamists; observed our president and other elected leaders contort our language to comport with CAIR’s demands, and we have, for the most part, remained silent.
Silent, no more!
How many CAIR connected radical Muslims will we tolerate before we DEMAND of our President that he close down CAIR as he did the Holy Land Foundation? How many treasonous acts are too many? What is the tipping point for CAIR-connected crimes against our country? How many of our brave warriors must die in the war on terror before we close down what is arguably the Embassy for Hamas in North America - CAIR?
The day has finally come when we Americans can no longer say about CAIR that “we didn’t know”.
CAIR has told us, numerous times, that they are here to defend radical Islam, that they want the United States to become an Islamic dictatorship, and that they approve of the actions of many Islamist terrorist groups and individuals; including those that terror-murder on an almost daily basis women and children.
Why aren’t we listening...?
Additional Links:http://www.investigativeproject.org/article/626 http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/NEWS03/80326063 http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/METRO/803260441/1361 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/06/17/MNGJ477FCK1.DTL
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's last hope
on: March 27, 2008, 04:49:03 PM
Hillary's Last Hope
By LAWRENCE B. LINDSEY
March 27, 2008; Page A15
I'm a numbers guy, especially if they have to do with politics or economics. So even though I am a Republican, analyzing the Democratic primary results has become a great pastime. This is especially true when it comes to the Democrats' dilemma about how to handle Florida and Michigan -- two states that broke party rules by holding their primaries before the allowed date, but which probably hold the key to the Democratic presidential nomination. To this numbers guy, the solution is pretty obvious from the data.
But the Democrats appear to be a party of lawyers. Only lawyers could have invented delegate selection rules as complicated and opaque as the ones the Democrats are struggling under. It also looks like only lawyers have a chance at the Democratic nomination. Harvard Law (Obama) and Yale Law (Clinton) candidates have survived, while University of North Carolina Law (Edwards), Syracuse Law (Biden), and the University of Louisville Law (Dodd) have been eliminated. And lawyers at the DNC Rules Committee will decide what happens next.
Still, sometimes lawyers call in numbers guys as expert witnesses.
The first question is whether Florida and Michigan voters acted like these primaries mattered, even though they knew the delegates they chose were not recognized by the national party. This can be discerned from turnout, and in the case of Florida the answer is yes.
Florida had a closed primary in which only registered Democrats could vote; turnout amounted to 46.7% of John Kerry's 2004 popular vote. The primary turnout relative to Kerry's 2004 vote in other closed primaries ranged from 39.8% in New York and 40.8% in Connecticut to 48% in Delaware, 49% in Arizona to 58.5% in Maryland. In other words, Florida Democrats acted as if their primary mattered just as much as other Democrats. By contrast, turnout in Michigan was only 23.7% of Kerry's 2004 vote, and it is an open primary. Michigan Democrats did not act like their primary mattered.
The second question is whether the two states' primary votes were skewed because of their timing, or whether they looked like what would have occurred had they happened on some "legal" day like Super Tuesday. A survey of exit polls from the primaries held so far shows patterns of voting by factors like age, gender, racial and ethnic identification, income, education and religion. This allows us to test whether the Florida and Michigan results looked the way they "should," based on how the voting occurred in other states.
Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by 17 points in Florida. If one takes the voting by age in large Super Tuesday states like California and New Jersey and applies it to the demographics of Florida, a predicted margin of 16 points emerges.
The similarities don't end there. For example, Jewish voters made up 9% of the Democratic electorate in Florida and New Jersey. Mrs. Clinton won this group by 32 points in Florida and 26 points in New Jersey. This is not surprising, since many Jewish residents of Florida emigrated from up north, and thus voted the same way their cousins, nieces, nephews and children did.
The statistical evidence strongly suggests that the outcome in Florida reflected what would have occurred had the state voted on Super Tuesday rather than one week earlier.
The voting in Michigan reflects many similarities to other states, but is far less conclusive. Sen. Obama's name was of course not on the Michigan ballot. Yet voters had the option of voting "uncommitted" -- and the demographic evidence suggests they understood that voting "uncommitted" was a vote for Mr. Obama, or at least against Mrs. Clinton. California and New Jersey votes by age, where Mr. Obama was on the ballot, were almost exactly the same as in Michigan, where "uncommitted" was the alternative to Mrs. Clinton. A difference does emerge in the over-60 group, which gave Mrs. Clinton a 37-point margin in Michigan compared with 21 in California, 25 in Missouri and 28 in New Jersey. The average of those would have reduced her 15-point overall margin in Michigan to 12 points.
That difference in margin is virtually identical to the key difference between Michigan and other states: less of a racial gap. Among the 23% of Michigan Democrats who identified themselves as black, "uncommitted" beat Clinton by 38 points. Remember that Michigan voted four days before South Carolina, when the racial issue moved to the forefront. In South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, Mr. Obama beat Mrs. Clinton by margins between 50 and 60 points. Had this happened in Michigan, Clinton's victory margin would have been 11 points instead of 15. Although unprovable without access to the actual polling questionnaires, the likelihood is that older black voters trended decisively to Mr. Obama after Michigan and South Carolina. That same conclusion also appears to be consistent with national polling.
In sum, the Michigan vote was flawed in ways the Florida vote was not. The most statistically valid conclusion would be that changes in voter attitudes in the second half of January would have produced a much narrower win for Mrs. Clinton of 10-12 points (not 15) had the state voted on Super Tuesday instead of Jan. 15. Still, Mrs. Clinton would almost certainly have won.
The behavior of Mrs. Clinton, who went to Michigan to lobby for a revote, and that of the Obama campaign, which worked to thwart a Michigan revote, indicate that both camps know this would be the outcome. Demographically Michigan looks almost identical to Ohio, which gave Clinton a 10-point victory.
Discussion among Democrats on how to deal with Florida and Michigan centers on three options. The first is not to seat them at all. Legally appropriate, but it would doubtless hurt the Democrats in both states in November -- which may be why Republicans in the state legislatures found themselves as allies of Mr. Obama in working against a revote.
The second option would be to seat delegations that were evenly split between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. This would make the votes of 2.3 million Democrats irrelevant, while creating artificial representation for the states. It is very much like the 72 bonus delegates selected by party leaders to "represent" women, ethnic minorities, the gay and lesbian communities and the handicapped.
The third option would be to let the early primary votes stand, and select delegates according to the outcome. On a statistical basis, this is clearly the right result for Florida. The easiest solution for Michigan is to simply award the 45% of the vote uncommitted or for another candidate to Mr. Obama. This appears to be the intent of those voters, as well as the likely result of a rematch. It would reduce Mr. Obama's current edge in pledged delegates to 115 from 167. It would also reduce the adjusted popular-vote margin, that converts caucus votes to primary votes, to an edge for Mr. Obama of 466,000. If Mrs. Clinton wins Pennsylvania by the margin polls now suggest, the two candidates would be essentially tied in popular votes, with an Obama edge in delegates of about 80. That would leave the remaining primaries and the superdelegates to decide the outcome of an essentially tied race.
Democrats are clearly going to have to rewrite their delegate selection rules after this contest, like they did after similar fiascos in 1968 and 1988. Until then, it's up to the lawyers, and may the cleverest lawyer win. My money is on Mr. Obama blocking the statistically based solution described above. After all, as a product of Harvard myself, I know perfectly well that Harvard produces cleverer lawyers than Yale, regardless of what the numbers might say.
Mr. Lindsey is president and CEO of the Lindsey Group, and author of "What a President Should Know . . . But Most Learn too Late" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A PM's perspective
on: March 27, 2008, 04:45:13 PM
NATO's Balkan Destiny
By ANTONIO MILOSOSKI
March 27, 2008
The NATO summit in Bucharest is less than a week away. Yet Macedonia's bid to join the trans-Atlantic alliance hangs in the balance. Strangely, the problem is the name of my country, which Greece doesn't recognize, and not our record on civil and military reforms, which Macedonia has been diligently pursuing.
Seven years ago, Macedonia was a net security consumer. We're now a net provider with 3.5% of our troops engaged in security missions abroad -- mainly in Afghanistan. Ninety percent of our citizens support NATO membership, a rarity in this region. Support for the alliance unites the multiethnic Macedonian society and cuts across ethnic, party and social lines.
Our close cooperation with NATO goes back to its 1999 intervention against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. Macedonia was the key country in the region in assisting the alliance, providing infrastructure and logistics for NATO combat operations. We also opened our doors to 380,000 Kosovo refugees who found a shelter in Macedonia. Some stayed on to make their lives in Macedonia.
Kosovo remains a pressing security issue today, and Macedonia is honoring its end of the bargain. We are the host country of the logistics headquarters for KFOR, the Kosovo stabilization force. It is operated by the Macedonian army and financed through our budget.
Kosovo's independence last month changed the security and political outlook for the Balkans. We still don't know what the end game will look like. Much progress was made in the recent years in the Western Balkans in terms of keeping stability and expanding our economies. This has been achieved in no small part thanks to the positive roles played by the EU and the U.S. in our region in the last decade.
But there are numerous potential sources of instability. Political structures in Kosovo are underdeveloped. Political cohesion in the region is weak. From a security perspective, NATO is still needed, particularly in and around Kosovo to help administer borders and keep a close watch on trafficking and organized crime.
Positive messages from the EU and the U.S. on integration into NATO and the EU are vitally important. NATO membership is a staple of progress in our region. To this extent, progress, stability and prosperity will be enhanced in the Balkans if Albania, Croatia and Macedonia are invited to join NATO next week in Bucharest.
The more states from the Balkans we have joining NATO, the less NATO we will need in the Balkans. The alliance would then be freed up to cope with challenges further a field
Considering what's at stake, Macedonia's NATO membership shouldn't be held hostage to a bilateral dispute with Greece over my country's name. But that's just what has happened in recent months.
Our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with the Greek, Americans, the Dutch, and others. No one minds the label "Macedonia" on their uniforms. Macedonia was asked to fulfill the Membership Action Plan (or MAP) criteria to be considered for NATO membership. This we did.
Our issue with Greece is a bilateral one. We are prepared to settle it together with our Greek friends. We are ready to compromise. But we won't be pushed into accepting a solution concerning our name as a condition of getting into NATO.
My country remains committed to the 1995 Interim Accord where we agreed -- with the UN serving as the guarantor -- that neither Macedonia nor Greece will block the other's membership in international organizations.
NATO membership and the start of the accession talks with the EU are the two bottom-line priorities for Macedonia -- no matter who's in power. But Macedonia will not yield to pressure.
NATO isn't where the name issue should be decided. Let's keep the alliance focused on security. With that in mind, it should be clear that excluding Macedonia from the club will do nothing to boost security in the Balkan region. It may even bring about the opposite result.
Mr. Milososki is foreign minister of Macedonia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More from Morris
on: March 27, 2008, 02:58:51 PM
More from Morris:
Hillary's List of Lies
Thursday, March 27, 2008 7:40 AM
By: Dick Morris & Eileen McGann Article Font Size
The USA Today/Gallup survey clearly explains why Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is losing. Asked whether the candidates were “honest and trustworthy,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won with 67 percent, with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right behind him at 63. Hillary scored only 44 percent, the lowest rating for any candidate for any attribute in the poll.
Hillary simply cannot tell the truth. Here's her scorecard:
Chelsea was jogging around the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (She was in bed watching it on TV.)
Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. (She admitted she was wrong. He climbed Mt. Everest five years after her birth.)
She was under sniper fire in Bosnia. (A girl presented her with flowers at the foot of the ramp.)
She learned in The Wall Street Journal how to make a killing in the futures market. (It didn't cover the market back then.)
Whoppers She Won't Admit
She didn't know about the FALN pardons.
She didn't know that her brothers were being paid to get pardons that Clinton granted.
Taking the White House gifts was a clerical error.
She didn't know that her staff would fire the travel office staff after she told them to do so.
She didn't know that the Peter Paul fundraiser in Hollywood in 2000 cost $700,000 more than she reported it had.
She opposed NAFTA at the time.
She was instrumental in the Irish peace process.
She urged Bill to intervene in Rwanda.
She played a role in the '90s economic recovery.
The billing records showed up on their own.
She thought Bill was innocent when the Monica scandal broke.
She was always a Yankees fan.
She had nothing to do with the New Square Hasidic pardons (after they voted for her 1,400-12 and she attended a meeting at the White House about the pardons).
She negotiated for the release of refugees in Macedonia (who were released the day before she got there).
With a record like that, is it any wonder that we suspect her of being less than honest and straightforward?
Why has McCain jumped out to a nine-point lead over Obama and a seven-point lead over Hillary in the latest Rasmussen poll?
OK, Obama has had the Rev. Wright mess on his hands. And Hillary has come in for her share of negatives, like the Richardson endorsement of Obama and the denouement of her latest lie — that she endured sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. But why has McCain gained so much in so short a period of time? Most polls had the general election tied two weeks ago.
McCain's virtues require a contrast in order to stand out. His strength, integrity, solidity and dependability all are essentially passive virtues, which shine only by contrast with others.
Now that Obama and Hillary are offering images that are much weaker, less honest, and less solid and dependable, good old John McCain looks that much better as he tours Iraq and Israel while the Democrats rip one another apart.
It took Nixon for us to appreciate Jimmy Carter's simple honesty. It took Clinton and Monica for us to value George W. Bush's personal character. And it takes the unseemly battle among the Democrats for us to give John McCain his due.
When Obama faces McCain in the general election (not if but when) the legacy of the Wright scandal will not be to question Obama's patriotism or love of America. It will be to ask if he has the right stuff (pardon the pun).
The largest gap between McCain and Obama in the most recent USA Today/Gallup Poll was on the trait of leadership. Asked if each man was a “strong, decisive leader,” 69 percent felt that the description fit McCain while only 56 percent thought it would apply to Obama, and 61 percent said it of Hillary. Obama has looked weak handling the Wright controversy.
His labored explanation of why he attacks the sin but loves the sinner comes across as elegant but, at the same time, feeble. Obama's reluctance to trade punches with his opponents makes us wonder if he could trade them with bin Laden or Ahmadinejad.
We have no doubt that McCain would gladly come to blows and would represent us well, but about Obama we are not so sure.
© 2008 Dick Morris & Eileen McGann
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: People can be fooled
on: March 27, 2008, 10:49:31 AM
"It is an unquestionable truth, that the body of the people in
every country desire sincerely its prosperity. But it is equally
unquestionable that they do not possess the discernment and
stability necessary for systematic government. To deny that they
are frequently led into the grossest of errors, by misinformation
and passion, would be a flattery which their own good sense
-- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the Ratifying Convention of New
York, June 1788)
Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed., II, 42.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: March 27, 2008, 09:56:19 AM
Islam’s ‘Public Enemy #1’
Coptic priest Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire.
By Raymond Ibrahim
Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.
Botros is an unusual figure onscreen: robed, with a huge cross around his neck, he sits with both the Koran and the Bible in easy reach. Egypt’s Copts — members of one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East — have in many respects come to personify the demeaning Islamic institution of “dhimmitude” (which demands submissiveness from non-Muslims, in accordance with Koran 9:29). But the fiery Botros does not submit, and minces no words. He has famously made of Islam “ten demands,” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.
The result? Mass conversions to Christianity — if clandestine ones. The very public conversion of high-profile Italian journalist Magdi Allam — who was baptized by Pope Benedict in Rome on Saturday — is only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV a while back that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, manyof them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry. More recently, al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world. Several factors account for the Botros phenomenon.
First, the new media — particularly satellite TV and the Internet (the main conduits for Life TV) — have made it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal. It is unprecedented to hear Muslims from around the Islamic world — even from Saudi Arabia, where imported Bibles are confiscated and burned — call into the show to argue with Botros and his colleagues, and sometimes, to accept Christ.
Secondly, Botros’s broadcasts are in Arabic — the language of some 200 million people, most of them Muslim. While several Western writers have published persuasive critiques of Islam, their arguments go largely unnoticed in the Islamic world. Botros’s mastery of classical Arabic not only allows him to reach a broader audience, it enables him to delve deeply into the voluminous Arabic literature — much of it untapped by Western writers who rely on translations — and so report to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.
A third reason for Botros’s success is that his polemical technique has provenirrefutable. Each of his episodes has a theme — from the pressing to the esoteric — often expressed as a question (e.g., “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?”). To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes — always careful to give sources and reference numbers — from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present — the illustrious ulema.
Typically, Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is sufficiently detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. Yet, however convincing his proofs, Botros does not flatly conclude that, say, universal jihad or female inferiority are basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains — not shout-downs or sophistry.
More often than not, the response from the ulema is deafening silence — which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim viewers. The ulema who have publicly addressed Botros’s conclusions often find themselves forced to agree with him — which has led to some amusing (and embarrassing) moments on live Arabic TV.
Botros spent three years bringing to broad public attention a scandalous — and authentic — hadith stating that women should “breastfeed” strange men with whom they must spend any amount of time. A leading hadith scholar, Abd al-Muhdi, was confronted with this issue on the live talk show of popular Arabic host Hala Sirhan. Opting to be truthful, al-Muhdi confirmed that going through the motions of breastfeeding adult males is, according to sharia, a legitimate way of making married women “forbidden” to the men with whom they are forced into contact — the logic being that, by being “breastfed,” the men become like “sons” to the women and therefore can no longer have sexual designs on them.
To make matters worse, Ezzat Atiyya, head of the Hadith department at al-Azhar University — Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institution — went so far as to issue a fatwa legitimatizing “Rida’ al-Kibir” (sharia’s term for “breastfeeding the adult”), which prompted such outrage in the Islamic world that it was subsequently recanted.
Botros played the key role in exposing this obscure and embarrassing issue and forcing the ulema to respond. Another guest on Hala Sirhan’s show, Abd al-Fatah, slyly indicated that the entire controversy was instigated by Botros: “I know you all [fellow panelists] watch that channel and that priest and that none of you [pointing at Abd al-Muhdi] can ever respond to him, since he always documents his sources!”
Incapable of rebutting Botros, the only strategy left to the ulema (aside from a rumored $5-million bounty on his head) is to ignore him. When his name is brought up, they dismiss him as a troublemaking liar who is backed by — who else? — international “Jewry.” They could easily refute his points, they insist, but will not deign to do so. That strategy may satisfy some Muslims, but others are demanding straightforward responses from the ulema.
The most dramatic example of this occurred on another famous show on the international station, Iqra. The host, Basma — a conservative Muslim woman in full hijab — asked two prominent ulema, including Sheikh Gamal Qutb, one-time grand mufti of al-Azhar University, to explain the legality of the Koranic verse (4:24) that permits men to freely copulate with captive women. She repeatedly asked: “According to sharia, is slave-sex still applicable?” The two ulema would give no clear answer — dissembling here, going off on tangents there. Basma remained adamant: Muslim youth were confused, and needed a response, since “there is a certain channel and a certain man who has discussed this issue over twenty times and has received no response from you.”
The flustered Sheikh Qutb roared, “low-life people like that must be totally ignored!” and stormed off the set. He later returned, but refused to admit that Islam indeed permits sex-slaves, spending his time attacking Botros instead. When Basma said “Ninety percent of Muslims, including myself, do not understand the issue of concubinage in Islam and are having a hard time swallowing it,” the sheikh responded, “You don’t need to understand.” As for Muslims who watch and are influenced by Botros, he barked, “Too bad for them! If my son is sick and chooses to visit a mechanic, not a doctor — that’s his problem!”
But the ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history
on: March 27, 2008, 01:52:45 AM
And here's this:http://www.newsmax.com/morris/Hillary_bosnia_morris/2008/03/25/83058.html
Hillary's Other Fabrication
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:15 PM
By: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann Article Font Size
Now that Hillary Clinton has been nailed in an outright fabrication of her role in Bosnia, it is time to remind ourselves of another, even more galling fantasy that Hillary tried to sell the voters.
After 9/11, Hillary had a problem. New Yorkers were desperately focused on their own needs for protection and they were saddled with a Senator who was not one of them -- an Arkansasn or was it a Chicagoan?
Interviewed on the "Today" show one week after 9/11, she spun an elaborate yarn. The kindest thing we could say was that it was a fantasy. Or a fabrication. She said that Chelsea was jogging around the World Trade Center on 9/11 and happened to duck into a coffee shop when the airplanes hit. She said that this move saved Chelsea's life. But Chelsea told Talk magazine that she was in a friend's apartment four miles from ground zero when the first plane hit. Her friend called her, waking her up, and told her to turn on the TV. On television, she saw the second plane hit, disproving Hillary's claim that "she heard the plane hit. She heard it. She did."
So why did Hillary make up the story about Chelsea? Most likely to was because her co-senator (and implicit rival for the voter's affection), a real New Yorker Chuck Schumer spoke of his daughter, who attended Stuyvesant High School (Dick's alma mater) located next to the TRade Center, being at real risk on 9/11. Hillary needed to make herself part of the scene.
She invented the entire story on national television, the "Today" show, and didn't blink an eye. Her fabrication on the "Today" show was no unique foray. It is her standard M.O.. It gives us pause in evaluating all of her stories and calls into question her entire credibility.
© 2008 Dick Morris & Eileen McGann
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taranto
on: March 26, 2008, 03:53:51 PM
Life in the Vast Lane
By JAMES TARANTO
March 26, 2008
A year ago, we noted that Hillary Clinton, then the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee, was reprising the theme of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," the specter of which she first raised in a "Today" show interview in January 1998, just after the Monica Lewinsky scandal became public. To quote from that interview:
This is--the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it--is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.
Politics make strange bedfellows, and no, we're not referring to that woman, Miss Lewinsky. National Review's Byron York notes that Mrs. Clinton was photographed yesterday with one of the key VRW conspirators:
Here is a photo from Hillary Clinton's visit . . . to the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In this picture, she is seen talking to none other than Richard Mellon Scaife, the owner of the paper and the man who once said that the death of Vincent Foster was the "Rosetta stone" of the Bill Clinton administration. (He also funded the so-called "Arkansas Project" at The American Spectator.)
Wait, it gets better. Get a load of this item, also from late yesterday, from Marc Ambinder, a blogger from The Atlantic:
The Clinton campaign is distributing an article in the American Spectator (!) about Obama foreign policy adviser Merrill McPeak and his penchant for.. well, the article accuses him of being an anti-Semite and a drunk.
Here we should disclose that we write regularly for the Spectator, that the Spectator is a member of the OpinionJournal Federation, and that we considered reprinting the article in question as a Federation Feature but decided it was too over the top.
The Atlantic's liberal bloggers are puffed up with outrage that Mrs. Clinton would "dignify" the Spectator, as James Fallows puts it:
If, as I assume is true based on Marc Ambinder's report, the Hillary Clinton campaign is circulating a hit job from the American Spectator, this is simply disgusting. . . .
That the Clinton family would dignify the American Spectator, of all publications, is astonishing to anyone who was alive in the 1990s. . . .
I can easily believe that the Spectator would publish such an article. That the Clinton team would circulate it I'm still trying to deal with.
Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, a self-described "Clinton hater" who seems to be in love with Barack Obama, piles on, quoting Atlantic blogger James Fallows as calling the Clinton campaign's distribution of the Spectator piece "simply disgusting." This is known as "blogrolling."
But it's more convoluted still. It turns out The Atlantic, whose bloggers are now ganging up on the Spectator, has a longtime rivalry with the latter magazine. In 2001 The Atlantic published an article titled "The Life and Death of The American Spectator." The online blurb reads, "The conservative magazine survived and prospered for twenty-five years before Bill Clinton came into its sights. Now the former President is rich and smiling, and the Spectator is dead."
Reports of the Spectator's death turned out to be exaggerated, but it is fair to say the magazine had fallen on hard times in 2001, in part as a result of a fruitless Clinton administration grand jury probe. The Atlantic article also attributed the Spectator's difficulties to the Arkansas Project:
Why couldn't [editor Bob] Tyrrell see that the project--which involved nonjournalists and a private detective funded by a third party--was an extraordinarily dangerous proposition for any journalistic enterprise? Perhaps because Tyrrell never saw the Spectator solely as a journalistic enterprise. Since the early days in Bloomington, Tyrrell had envisioned The Alternative as an adjunct to a political movement. They had their party, we had ours. They had their magazine, we had ours. Years later his letters to Ronald Reagan ("we shall continue the good fight with you") suggested that his views had not changed. Still more years later, as he began the Arkansas Project, he felt the same way.
Well, the Spectator is an opinion magazine. As is National Review, which now employs the author of the Atlantic article on the Spectator--Byron York, a former Spectator staffer.
So to sum up: On one side we have Barack Obama, The Atlantic, its bloggers and Byron York; on the other, Hillary Clinton, Dick Scaife and The American Spectator.
Key unanswered question: On which side does MediaMatters.org come down? That is the left-wing group headed by David Brock, who spent the early '90s investigating the Clintons for the Spectator, then contracted to write a biography of Mrs. Clinton, produced a surprisingly sympathetic account that sold poorly, jumped ship, and became a liberal Democrat.
After all this, we defy anyone to say with a straight face that Saddam Hussein would not have supported al Qaeda because he was secular.
Obama and the 'Ethnic Bomb'
Blogger Steve Gilbert uncovers another gem from the annals of the Trinity United Church of Christ. In its June 10, 2007, newsletter, the church, whose most famous member is Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama, published an "Open Letter to Oprah" (see pp. 8-11 of PDF) by one Ali Baghdadi, whose description alone ought to raise eyebrows:
Ali Baghdadi, an Arab-American activist, writer, columnist; worked with several African-American groups on civil and human rights issues since the mid sixties; acted as a Middle East advisor to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad the founder of the Nation of Islam, as well as Minister Louis Farrakhan; visited more than 80 countries throughout the world and met with many of their leaders, including Mandela, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad, Qathafi, Abdallah ibn Abdel-Aziz, Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Khamenei, among many others.
Baghdadi's "open letter" is an anti-Israel screed, in which he states, among other things, that "what the Zionist Jews did to the Palestinians is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, because . . . Jews should have learned from their tragic experience" (a sentiment he attributes to Arnold Toynbee) and that Israel and apartheid South Africa "both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs."
On the page immediately after Baghdadi's rant appears an article by Robert M. Franklin, Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University, titled "Obama's Faith: A Civil and Social Gospel." Franklin anticipates and tries to defuse Obama's current difficulties:
Some media hounds have focused on Obama's home church of choice. Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side is one of the nation's most progressive African American mega-churches. Led for thirty-five years by the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the church fuses into its core Christian identity a set of cultural strains that are vibrant in contemporary Black life, including liberation theology, Afrocentrism, and progressive politics.
The church has appealed especially to baby boomers who came of age during the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Dr. Wright has managed to bring together the disciples of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Black Nationalist disciples of Malcolm X, and to put them all in the service of promoting more equitable policies for the least advantaged members of our society. Indeed, he is often credited with making it possible for many disaffected Black separatists to return to the church and to seek change within the system.
Unfortunately, uninformed pundits (a deliberate oxymoron) from Fox TV recently weighed in on a congregation and a community about which they know very little. Their purpose is to embarrass Obama by insinuating that he is a closeted Black separatist or worse. But they fail to appreciate something distinctive about American religion and public life. The best of American political tradition permits--and perhaps requires--candidates both to acknowledge their ethnic and regional particularity, and to transcend that particularity in loyalty to the general human condition.
As an aside, it appears that the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University doesn't know what an oxymoron is.
More to the point, what exactly do the anti-Semitic ravings of Ali Baghdadi, who describes himself as a Palestinian Arab and a Muslim, have to do with Obama's "ethnic and religious particularity"? We're pretty sure Obama is neither Arab nor Muslim. Is there anything that is not excusable as a "black thing"?
Note, too, that Baghdadi in his bio boasts of having "met" with many "leaders" who were avowed enemies of the U.S. (along with Mandela and the Saudi King Abdullah), something that Obama has also promised to do if elected president.
Obama apologists will say that none of this matters, that there is no proof that Obama agrees with or countenances the views of Ali Baghdadi, that to even raise the matter is to engage in "guilt by association."
But a political campaign is not a criminal trial. Voters are free to judge Obama, and other candidates, by whatever criteria they see fit, including their dubious associations. One needn't reach a verdict of guilty to conclude that Obama seems less fit than his opponents to occupy the most powerful position in the world.
As long as Hillary Clinton is a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy, let's defend her against Associated Press editorializing. Here's the lead sentence from a Washington dispatch:
Hillary Rodham Clinton, apparently trying to deflect the embarrassing fuss over her exaggerated account of a trip to Bosnia 12 years ago, told reporters at a Democratic presidential campaign stop that she would have left the church that rival Barack Obama attends over critical remarks his pastor made about America.
Now, maybe Mrs. Clinton is "trying to deflect the embarrassing fuss." But to whom exactly is this apparent? Isn't this a pretty blatant example of a reporter inserting his opinions into a news story?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2d PD/WSJ of the day
on: March 26, 2008, 03:45:32 PM
...And Ryan Seacrest Can Host
It's five long months till Democrats meet in Denver for their convention. The infighting between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton worries many in the party. "If we continue down the path we are on, we might as well hand the keys of the White House to John McCain," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri tells McClatchy Newspapers.
That's why many Democrats are discussing the idea of holding a June "mini-convention" in which the party's 800 superdelegates would congregate and put an end to the bruising nomination battle. "There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote," Tennessee Gov. Philip Bredesen recently suggested.
Significantly, neither Democratic candidate has poured ice water on the idea. Mr. Obama called the notion "interesting." Hillary Clinton did not reject the idea in a conversation with Governor Bredesen. But at least one superdelegate, Leila Medley of Missouri, is wary of a mini-convention. "I'm sure there are a number of us who would get beat up behind closed doors," she says. She has a better idea: "I think what we need to do is get the two of them [Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton] in a room and resolve this."
Now that encounter would indeed be an interesting "mini-convention."
-- John Fund
Meet Chris Cox
While the Democratic slugfest sucks up all the media attention, John McCain will have at least one big chance to move back to center-stage -- when he picks his veep nominee.
Mr. McCain needs to bolster his economic street cred, especially after admitting minimal expertise on the subject. He needs to rally pro-growth Republicans and calm the fears of ordinary voters amid the mortgage meltdown. Who to call? California Republican Chris Cox was on George W. Bush's shortlist eight years ago and didn't get the nod. Now his moment may have arrived, judging by a growing murmur among his GOP fans.
At 55, he's youthful and confidence-inspiring, with ample experience to serve as understudy to a well-traveled 72-year-old. He has a reputation as a serious and sober minded politician. He earned both a law and business degree from Harvard. He's fluent in Russian -- before entering politics he started a company that translated Soviet publications into English. He served a stint in the Reagan White House, then ran successfully for Congress from Orange County, serving nine terms and amassing a strong record as a fiscal conservative and tax cutter. He also led a bipartisan Congressional commission that wrote the book on Chinese technological espionage.
In 2005, he became chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he has walked a careful, and successful, line in eschewing over-regulation while expanding investor information on CEO pay and other governance hot buttons.
Not widely known is a chapter in his personal history. At age 25, Mr. Cox faced the possibility that he might never walk again when a Jeep he was riding in flipped over and pinned him to the ground. His spine was crushed. It took him six months and a steel brace that he wore around his chest before he regained the ability to walk. Today, he still suffers severe pain, especially if he sits for long periods of time, so he often uses a desk that allows him to work while standing up.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"The consequence [of Barack Obama's speech on race], which you can already feel, is an inchoate resentment among many white voters who are damned if they will be called bigots by a man who associates with Jeremiah Wright. So here we go with all that again. And this is the fresh, clean, new post-racial politics?" -- author Christopher Hitchens, writing at Slate.com on Barack Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright.
Quote of the Day II
"As a Philadelphian, I attended Central High School -- the same public school Jeremiah Wright attended from 1955 to 1959.... I attended Central a few years after Rev. Wright, so I did not know him personally. But I knew of him and I know where he used to live -- in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. This is a lovely neighborhood to this day. Moreover, Rev. Wright's father was a prominent pastor and his mother was a teacher and later vice-principal and disciplinarian of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, also a distinguished academic high school. Two of my acquaintances remember her as an intimidating and strict disciplinarian and excellent math teacher. In short, Rev. Wright had a comfortable upper-middle class upbringing. It was hardly the scene of poverty and indignity suggested by Senator Obama to explain what he calls Wright's anger and what I describe as his hatred" -- Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, writing in the New Republic.
Huckabee's Woes of the Pharisees
Mike Huckabee is as busy as ever since he ended his campaign for the GOP nomination. Invitations to speak and join the boards of various organizations are pouring in. But this week the former Arkansas governor took time to contemplate why he failed to best John McCain in this winter's primaries. His partial answer: his fellow Christian leaders.
"Rank-and-file evangelicals supported me strongly, but a lot of the leadership did not," he told Ralph Hallow of the Washington Times. "Let's face it, if you're not going to be king, the next best thing is to be the kingmaker. And if the person gets there without you, you become less relevant."
Mr. Huckabee has a point. Pat Robertson of TV's "The 700 Club" was a surprise backer of Rudy Giuliani. Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer had kind words for Fred Thompson and Jay Sekulow, who heads the American Center for Law and Justice, backed Mitt Romney.
But what Mr. Huckabee fails to note is that the Christian leaders I spoke with all had passionate reasons for not backing the Baptist minister. Several singled out his critique of President Bush's foreign policy for being "arrogant," and several noted Mr. Huckabee's endorsement of a discredited "cap-and-trade" regulatory approach to global warming. "He's the leading exponent of Christian left principles in our party," one Christian leader told me. Paul Pressler, who led the successful ouster of the moderate leadership of the Southern Baptist convention in the 1980s, recalled Mr. Huckabee was on the other side in that dispute. For his part, Mr. Bauer says he "saw no evidence that [Huckabee] could bring together the three main parts of the Reagan electoral constituency -- defense, economic and social conservatives."
Mr. Huckabee does acknowledge the role of some critics in stopping his march to the nomination. He singles out the free-market Club for Growth for running damaging ads against him in South Carolina, where he narrowly lost the primary to John McCain.
"It was very frustrating to be presented as an economic liberal, because I have a very different record, as an economic conservative," Mr. Huckabee told the Washington Times. His big problem here is that so few of Mr. Huckabee's fellow Republicans in Arkansas agree with him. Only a handful of the state's 33 GOP state legislators endorsed him for president. Blant Hurt, a former owner of Arkansas Business magazine, was brutally candid on the reasons: "He's hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate."
Rather than blame shadowy "kingmakers" in the Republican Party, it's time Mr. Huckabee acknowledged that for all of his rhetorical gifts, he wasn't able to close the sale with conservative leaders -- both Christian and others -- who examined his record closely.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Birth
on: March 26, 2008, 12:11:42 PM
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for
one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected
them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature and
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation."
The Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ
on: March 26, 2008, 12:02:27 PM
The Lady's Not for Turning
Hillary Clinton has an answer for those who demand that she recognize the odds against her and give up a race that is dividing the Democratic Party. At a news conference yesterday in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, she pointed to recent polls showing her building a commanding lead in that state: "We have to wait and see what happens in the next three months. There's been a lot of talk about what if, what if, what if. Let's wait until we get some facts.... Over the next months, millions of people are going to vote. And we should wait and see the outcome of those votes."
While the Obama camp says Mrs. Clinton can't win the nomination, her strategist Harold Ickes dryly notes that none of the Democratic delegates elected on Obama slates are legally bound to their choice. He also notes that "many things" can happen in the next few weeks to change the dynamics of the race.
Who would argue with that after a year like the one we've had? It took this long for the Jeremiah Wright controversy to explode, and more surprise twists and turns may well be in store before the race reaches the convention.
-- John Fund
Radio show host and sometime Democratic Party activist Mario Solis-Marich reports this week that Democratic Chairman Howard Dean has been quietly meeting with Latino DNC members and asking them to step up and "make a call for Democratic unity to Latin voters."
The worry, Mr. Solis-Marich suspects, is that Latino Democrats, who favor Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin, "will prove hard to deliver should Obama take the nomination."
It's true that to remain competitive in Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and a few other states, the Democratic presidential nominee will need a large turnout of black voters. It's also true that to be competitive in Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and elsewhere, Democrats will need broad support from Hispanic voters. But there's one big difference: Disgruntled Hispanic voters are much more likely to take a serious look at the Republican candidate, John McCain, if disappointed or angry about the Democratic race. In the hard-math of electoral politics, an alienated Hispanic voter could be twice as damaging to the Democrats as an alienated black voter.
This isn't a discussion Democrats hoped to be having come spring and it certainly isn't one that will boost the party's chances of winning in November. But rest assured, it's an argument Mrs. Clinton's supporters will be using while she tries to claw her way to the nomination.
-- Brendan Miniter
Quote of the Day I
"Ninety days ago, everybody was talking in warm terms about both the candidates: 'Isn't it wonderful? Whoever's president is going to be great.' It has gotten vastly more polarized now, and that really concerns me.... The bottom line here is that we have a problem, and I think we need to take it off autopilot and try to find some way of resolving it. I don't know any way that is not going to generate some hard feeling and some divisions in the party. But if we do it early, we've got a chance to patch them up" -- Tennessee Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, quoted at Politico.com. on why Democratic superdelegates should get together and settle the presidential nomination sooner rather than later.
Quote of the Day II
"[Hillary Clinton] is being punished, not for one episode of 'mis-speaking' [about her Bosnian trip], but a whole record of dishonesty. In Bosnian terms it's more disgraceful than many remember. In 1992 Bill Clinton ran against George Bush Snr promising to help the Bosnians survive genocide -- then repeatedly went back on his word.... And I shall never forget meeting his Defense Secretary Les Aspin, who said he had wanted to land his plane under fire at Sarajevo airport to at least show some solidarity but was dissuaded by the White House. They told him it would distract from Hillary's healthcare initiative. Now Bosnia has had its small, belated revenge on her" -- columnist Christopher Hitchens, writing in Britain's Daily Mirror.
Democrats Look Into the Abyss
The first evidence that the bitterness of the Democratic nomination contest is eating into the party's chances in November is starting to show up in polls. The latest Gallup Poll finds that maverick John McCain may be just the kind of Republican who can attract disaffected supporters of whichever Democratic candidate loses the nomination fight in Denver.
As Gallup reports, only 59% of Democrats who back Hillary Clinton say they would vote for Mr. Obama against Mr. McCain; 28% of these Clinton supporters say they would cross the aisle to vote for Mr. McCain. Should Ms. Clinton be the nominee, 73% of Mr. Obama's supporters would back her in the fall while 19% would plump for Mr. McCain.
No one expects the number of defectors to be that large come November, after months of efforts by Democrats to restore party unity. In Gallup's historical final pre-election polls from 1992 to 2004, 10% or fewer of Republicans and Democrats typically vote for the other party's presidential nominee. However, as Gallup also reports: "When almost 3 out of 10 Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama, it suggests that divisions are running deep within the Democratic Party." Expect the Gallup result to be a major talking point for Team Clinton in its upcoming conversations with superdelegates.
No surprise, then, that many Democratic superdelegates are scrambling to find a way to cut short the nomination fight and informally anoint a winner after the final states hold their primaries in early June.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Islam and Free Speech
on: March 26, 2008, 10:16:39 AM
Islam and Free Speech
By PETER HOEKSTRA
March 26, 2008; Page A15
The Netherlands is bracing for a new round of violence at home and against its embassies in the Middle East. The storm would be caused by "Fitna," a short film that is scheduled to be released this week. The film, which reportedly includes images of a Quran being burned, was produced by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament and leader of the Freedom Party. Mr. Wilders has called for banning the Quran -- which he has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- from the Netherlands.
After concern about the film led Mr. Wilders's Internet service provider to take down his Web site, Mr. Wilders issued a statement this week that he will personally distribute DVDs "On the Dam" if he has to. That may not be necessary, as the Czech National Party has reportedly agreed to host the video on its Web site.
Marked for death: Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Reasonable men in free societies regard Geert Wilders's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and films like "Fitna," as disrespectful of the religious sensitivities of members of the Islamic faith. But free societies also hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental human right. We don't silence, jail or kill people with whom we disagree just because their ideas are offensive or disturbing. We believe that when such ideas are openly debated, they sink of their own weight and attract few followers.
Our country allows fringe groups like the American Nazi Party to demonstrate, as long as they are peaceful. Americans are permitted to burn the national flag. In 1989, when so-called artist Andres Serrano displayed his work "Piss Christ" -- a photo of a crucifix immersed in a bottle of urine -- Americans protested peacefully and moved to cut off the federal funding that supported Mr. Serrano. There were no bombings of museums. No one was killed over this work that was deeply offensive to Christians.
Criticism of Islam, however, has led to violence and murder world-wide. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie over his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." Although Mr. Rushdie has survived, two people associated with the book were stabbed, one fatally. The 2005 Danish editorial cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad led to numerous deaths. Dutch director Theodoor van Gogh was killed in 2004, several months after he made the film "Submission," which described violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who wrote the script for "Submission," received death threats over the film and fled the country for the United States.
The violence Dutch officials are anticipating now is part of a broad and determined effort by the radical jihadist movement to reject the basic values of modern civilization and replace them with an extreme form of Shariah. Shariah, the legal code of Islam, governed the Muslim world in medieval times and is used to varying degrees in many nations today, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Radical jihadists are prepared to use violence against individuals to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. In some countries, converting a Muslim to another faith is a crime punishable by death. While Muslim clerics are free to preach and proselytize in the West, some Muslim nations severely restrict or forbid other faiths to do so. In addition, moderate Muslims around the world have been deemed apostates and enemies by radical jihadists.
Radical jihadists believe representative government is un-Islamic, and urge Muslims who live in democracies not to exercise their right to vote. The reason is not hard to understand: When given a choice, most Muslims reject the extreme approach to Islam. This was recently demonstrated in Iraq's Anbar Province, which went from an al-Qaeda stronghold to an area supporting the U.S.-led coalition. This happened because the populace came to intensely dislike the fanatical ways of the radicals, which included cutting off fingers of anyone caught smoking a cigarette, 4 p.m. curfews, beatings and beheadings. There also were forced marriages between foreign-born al Qaeda fighters and local Sunni women.
There may be a direct relationship between the radical jihadists' opposition to democracy and their systematic abuse of women. Women have virtually no rights in this radical world: They must conceal themselves, cannot hold jobs, and have been subjected to honor killings. Would most women in Muslim countries vote for a candidate for public office who supported such oppressive rules?
Not all of these radicals are using violence to supplant democratic society with an extreme form of Shariah. Some in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are attempting to create parallel Islamic societies with separate courts for Muslims. According to recent press reports, British officials are investigating the cases of 30 British Muslim school-age girls who "disappeared" for probable forced marriages.
While efforts to create parallel Islamic societies have been mostly peaceful, they may actually be a jihadist "waiting game," based on the assumption that the Islamic populations of many European states will become the majority over the next 25-50 years due to higher Muslim birth rates and immigration.
What is particularly disturbing about these assaults against modern society is how the West has reacted with appeasement, willful ignorance, and a lack of journalistic criticism. Last year PBS tried to suppress "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," a hard-hitting documentary that contained criticism of radical jihadists. Fortunately, Fox News agreed to air the film.
Even if the new Wilders film proves newsworthy, it is likely that few members of the Western media will air it, perhaps because they have been intimidated by radical jihadist threats. The only major U.S. newspaper to reprint any of the controversial 2005 Danish cartoons was Denver's Rocky Mountain News. You can be sure that if these cartoons had mocked Christianity or Judaism, major American newspapers would not have hesitated to print them.
European officials have been similarly cautious. A German court ruled last year that a German Muslim man had the right to beat his wife, as this was permitted under Shariah. Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, stated last month that the implementation of some measure of Shariah in Britain was "unavoidable" and British Muslims should have the choice to use Shariah in marital and financial matters.
I do not defend the right of Geert Wilders to air his film because I agree with it. I expect I will not. (I have not yet seen the film). I defend the right of Mr. Wilders and the media to air this film because free speech is a fundamental right that is the foundation of modern society. Western governments and media outlets cannot allow themselves to be bullied into giving up this precious right due to threats of violence. We must not fool ourselves into believing that we can appease the radical jihadist movement by allowing them to set up parallel societies and separate legal systems, or by granting them special protection from criticism.
A central premise of the American experiment are these words from the Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." There are similar statements in the U.S. Constitution, British Common Law, the Napoleonic Code and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, hundreds of millions in the U.S. and around the world enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and many other rights.
These liberties have been won through centuries of debate, conflict and bloodshed. Radical jihadists want to sacrifice all we have learned by returning to a primitive and intolerant world. While modern society invites such radicals to peacefully exercise their faith, we cannot and will not sacrifice our fundamental freedoms.
Mr. Hoekstra, who was born in the Netherlands, is ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Older Warrior at 93
on: March 25, 2008, 06:58:44 PM
By ANTHONY CORMIER
Published: March 25, 2008
MANATEE COUNTY - Prosecutors are moving ahead with a case against one of two 93-year-old men picked up during undercover prostitution stings.
In the case of Frank Milio, prosecutors have issued subpoenas and plan to take him to trial in April. Milio, according to police records, tried to pay $20 in November to an undercover officer on 14th Street West. Milio recently told the Herald-Tribune he was only flirting with the woman.
"I haven't had that in years," he said. "Ninety-three is kind of old."
Carlos Underhill, 93, will not be charged, although he does not deny stopping to chat with the "good-looking girl" who made eyes at him and turned out to be an undercover officer. Police say Underhill was willing to pay $30 for sex and that he promised to come back a few hours later to consummate the deal. Prosecutors say that they cannot move ahead with the criminal case because there is no way to prove Underhill planned to come back. Underhill was fined $150 for trying to pick up a prostitute in 1990, when he was 75. In the latest case, he says, he was not cruising Tamiami Trail for sex: He just wanted to chat with the buxom woman who smiled at him as he drove past.
"All I was going to do was talk," he said Monday. "It wasn't for sex. I am 93, you know."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shock and Awful
on: March 25, 2008, 06:41:35 PM
New York Post
March 20, 2008
Shock And Awful
Iraq: Justifiable War, Plagued By DC Incompetence
By Ralph Peters
ON the fifth anniversary of our campaign to remove Saddam Hussein's
monstrous regime from power, it's hard not to despair - not because of the
situation in Iraq, which has improved remarkably, but because so few
American politicians in either party appear to have drawn the right
lessons from our experience.
For the record, I still believe that deposing Saddam was justified and
useful. He was a Hitler, and he was our enemy. But I'm still reeling from
the snotty incompetence with which the Bush administration acted. Above
all, I'm ashamed that I trusted President Bush and his circle to have a plan
for the day after Baghdad fell.
All of our other failures in Iraq stemmed from this fundamental neglect
of a basic requirement: Our soldiers and Marines reached Baghdad without orders
or strategic guidance. We became the dog that caught the fire truck. The
tragedy is that it didn't have to be that way: One thing our military
knows how to do is plan.
But the relevant staffs were prevented from doing so. Ideologues and
avaricious friends of the administration wanted the war for their own
reasons, and they didn't intend to alarm Congress with high cost
estimates. So they trusted the perfumed tales of a convicted criminal, Ahmad Chalabi,
rather than the professional views of the last honorable generals
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had not yet removed.
Even on the purely military side, the White House put its faith in
hopeless gimmicks, such as "Shock and Awe," convincing itself that ground troops
were an afterthought. Of course, it was the old-fashioned grunts, tankers,
gunners and supply sergeants who had to get us to Baghdad.
Iraq just didn't have to be this hard. We made it immeasurably more
difficult by trying to make war on the cheap, then turning the war's
aftermath into a looting orgy for well-connected contractors.
The fundamental requirement to provide security for the population - a
troop-intensive endeavor - went ignored, while grandiose reconstruction
projects drained the pockets of American taxpayers, only to come to
nothing. Our troops and their battlefield leaders did all they could under
Rumsfeld's yes-man generals, but every other branch of our government ducked. The
"interagency effort" was a joke.
Back home, Congress indulged in cheap partisanship. The State Department
concentrated on building the world's largest and most-expensive embassy -
a project worthy of Saddam himself - and let the spectacularly incompetent
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer wreck what little hope of maintaining peace
The administration's solution to worsening conditions was to send more
compliant generals, to continue listening to think-tank "experts" who had
never served in uniform, to keep cutting fat checks for contractors and to
let our troops bleed between photo ops.
None of us should mistake the fundamental truth: The only reason our
efforts in Iraq have not failed completely has been the sustained valor and
commitment of those in uniform. Our military was the only government
entity that did its job. Its thanks have been betrayal by the political
opposition at home, a rash of movies portraying our troops as psychotics and
crocodile tears from protesters who secretly delight in US casualties.
In 2007, after four bloody years of denial, a desperate administration
finally got serious about military requirements, sending the additional
troops (now weary) who should have been deployed in 2003. With the
wetched Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld headed out the door, the president
also permitted a serious soldier, Gen. David Petraeus, to take charge in Iraq.
We got lucky, too. Our global enemies in al Qaeda alienated Iraq's Sunni
Arabs in record time, indulging in grotesque forms of oppression and
terror even Saddam and his sons had never dared to inflict. Those who recently
had sided with al Qaeda against us found that we were their only hope to be
rid of al Qaeda. The Sunni-Arab flip in Iraq has been a great strategic
victory that resounds throughout the Muslim world.
The troop surge also had a powerful psychological effect, convincing
enemies, fence-sitters and local allies alike that we weren't quitting -
despite the results of the US midterm elections. And the Iraqi people were
just sick of the violence. By 2007, most had gotten the worst bile out of
their systems and wanted normal lives.
Even the often chaotic, corruption-addled Iraqi legislature managed to
pass more major bills in 2007 than the US Congress sent to the president's
The situation in Iraq is improving, as I've seen with my own eyes. Despite
our cavalcade of errors, there's hope (no audacity required) for a
reasonable outcome: an Iraq that treats its citizens decently and that
neither harbors terrorists nor menaces its neighbors.
We'll need to sustain a longer commitment than would have been the case
had the administration's know-it-alls not regarded our best generals as fools
back in 2003. The administration's disgraceful treatment of then-Army
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was paradigmatic of its arrogance.
Meanwhile, those who held power over our military and misused it so
disgracefully will never suffer as our military casualties and their
families will for the rest of their lives. At most, those privileged men
will experience disappointing sales of their self-serving memoirs. Cowards
sent heroes to die.
I cannot help repeating the heartbreaking truth that it didn't have to be
this hard, this bloody, or this expensive. This is what happens when war
is made by amateurs. Has anyone in Washington learned that lesson?
It's a lesson that the left, as well as the right, needs to take to heart.
While the Bush administration deserves every lash it gets, domestic
opponents of the war have been hypocritical, dishonest and destructive. As
this column long has maintained, had President Bill Clinton sent our
troops to depose Saddam Hussein, Democrats would have celebrated him as the
greatest liberator since Abraham Lincoln.
The problem for the left wasn't really what was done, but who did it. And
hatred of Bush actually empowered him - the administration had no
incentive to reach out to those who wouldn't reach back, so it just did as it
pleased. Today's "antiwar" left also contains plenty of politicians who backed
interventions in the Balkans and Somalia, who would be glad to send
American troops to Darfur today and who voted for war in Iraq.
Both parties are quick to employ our military. It's the only
foreign-policy tool we have that works. Neither party is a peace party - each just wants
to pick its own wars. The hypocrisy in Washington is as astonishing as the
dishonesty about security needs.
Through it all, amazingly, our young men and women in uniform continue to
serve honorably and skillfully, holding together not just Iraq but a
fractured world. We whine and bicker. They re-enlist and go back to Iraq
and Afghanistan. Where they're targets of scorn for our elitist media.
Given all our mistakes and partisan agendas, it's amazing Iraq is going as
well as it is today. The improved conditions in Baghdad and most of the
provinces verge on the miraculous, given the situation a year ago. But
we've paid a needlessly high price.
As for President Bush, let's face it: He's been our most-inept wartime
leader since James Madison fled the White House, leaving his wife behind
to save what she could before the British troops arrived with torches.
That said, Bush has displayed one single worthy characteristic (one he
shares, oddly enough, with Madison): He won't surrender.
As horribly as Bush performed for our first four years in Iraq, it's still
possible to do worse. Both of the Democratic Party's presidential
aspirants believe that the answer is to flee, handing the terrorists we've defeated
a strategic victory, inviting a genocidal civil war, further destabilizing
the Middle East, and sending the message to the world that Americans lack the
courage and staying power of our enemies.
Declaring failure isn't the correct response to failure narrowly avoided.
Both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would kill a struggling
convalescent. Bush's shambles would become the next administration's
catastrophe. As president, Obama or Clinton would finish with far more
blood on his or her hands than President Bush has on his.
Was deposing Saddam Hussein a good idea? Yes. I still believe that. It was
an act of vision and virtue. It's only a shame we didn't do it competently.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lots of Jefferson
on: March 25, 2008, 05:22:16 PM
A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.
Always take hold of things by the smooth handle.
An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.
An enemy generally says and believes what he wishes.
An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.
As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.
Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.
Be polite to all, but intimate with few.
Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.
Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
Commerce with all nations, alliance with none, should be our motto.
Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
Delay is preferable to error.
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.
Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor - over each other.
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
Don't talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.
Every generation needs a new revolution.
Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.
Experience demands that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.
Friendship is but another name for an alliance with the follies and the misfortunes of others. Our own share of miseries is sufficient: why enter then as volunteers into those of another?
Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.
He who knows best knows how little he knows.
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Art in its Homeland
on: March 25, 2008, 04:35:18 PM
Upon reading this article it occurs to me that we need this thread.
The truth about arnis, escrima and kali
Why there is a new respect for Filipino martial arts
By Perry Gil S. Mallari, Reporter
The Manila Times
Arnis, escrima and kali-by whatever name you call it-are recognized
the world over to possess the most effective knife fighting techniques
on earth. The special forces of various countries train here to learn
our deadly arts. But few Filipinos know about Filipino martial arts
There is no doubt that the deeply ingrained colonial mentality among
Filipinos is the foremost reason why arnis, escrima and kali
collectively known as the FMA are not enjoying the same popularity as
their foreign counterparts like tae kwon do, karate and wushu right in
their very own turf. In addition to our veneration of anything
foreign, there are other contributing factors that led to this
Historically practiced by the maharlikas or noble class, a sort of
lowbrow image became attached to the FMA in the modern times. In the
early part of the 20th century, the FMA were known as brutal arts
associated with plebian types like farmers and stevedores. The stick
fighting contests during those times were conducted full contact
without the aid of armor and often resulted to the permanent injury or
death of the participants. Such deadly matches continued in the
farmlands and waterfronts of the Philippines and among the Filipino
communities in Hawaii until the 1940s.
Another obstacle that stands in the way of the FMA gaining wide
acceptance is that it took sometime before a method to teach it en
masse was systematized. Originally, the art was taught one-on-one.
Though the very personal approach to teaching meant quality
instruction, this resulted to a small number of qualified instructors
to proliferate the art.
Fallacies about the art also pose a problem. One misconception that
hinders the attractiveness of the FMA is the notion that it will only
work with weapons. Contrary to this belief, arnis, escrima and kali
are complete fighting systems that encompass bladed weapons, impact
weapons and empty hand techniques. All the FMA principles are
transposable regardless if the practitioner is fighting armed or
It is a good thing to note that a change of view toward the FMA
continue to transpire in the past 36 years. The perception toward the
FMA began to change after the celebrated Filipino-American martial
artist Dan Inosanto showcased the art in Bruce Lee's last film The
Game of Death in 1972. Known as Lee's protégé, Inosanto was
responsible in introducing the late founder of jeet kune do to
escrima-specifically the use of the nunchaku. With an international
superstar like Lee picking up the Filipino sticks, the FMA was
included in the world map of martial arts. The The Game of Death also
became instrumental for Hollywood to notice the cinematic potential of
the FMA. Among the most notable movies of recent years that featured
the FMA are: Out for Justice starring Steven Seagal in 1991; The
Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro in 2003; and The
Bourne Supremacy starring Matt Damon in 2004. And the trend continues.
It's now circulating in the grapevine that Golden Globe Best Actor
winner Forest Whitaker, an FMA practitioner in real life, will feature
his stick fighting ability in his upcoming movie Repossession.
Another element that contributed to the FMA gaining global respect is
the fact that it's techniques, particularly the knife work were used
by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. A good case
in point is Paul Vunak, a student of Inosanto who taught Filipino
knife techniques to the members of Navy Seal Team 6. Martial artists
from other styles also discovered the FMA as a good addition to their
base system. Besides the fact that FMA training will provide them
weaponry skills, working with weapons like sticks, swords and knives
were proven to turbo-blast the development of fighting attributes like
power, reflex, speed and coordination. Swinging the heavy fighting
stick for instance will develop punching power the same way as an
old-school boxers build wallop in their punches by chopping wood with
In the Philippines, the rather boorish view of the FMA is starting to
wane as intellectuals and those belonging to the middle class
beginning to embrace and espouse the art. Professor Felipe Jocano Jr.,
a professor of anthropology in the University of the Philippines is an
arnis expert and also writes extensively on FMA history. Alvin
Aguilar, founder of the Ultimate Reality Combat Championships and
perhaps the most well rounded fighter to emerge from the Philippines
in recent years is also a proponent of the FMA. Aguilar even devoted a
section on the FMA in the martial arts reality TV show Real Pinoy
Fighter, which he produced and was aired over ABS-CBN two years ago.
Though much has changed on the public's outlook on the FMA, it is safe
to surmise that it will never attain the palatability that karate or
tae kwon do possesses. Arnis, escrima and kali are originally war
arts, hence it explains its emphasis on weaponry and its unique
progression of training that starts with weapons and ends with empty
hands. Its techniques were refined through the centuries not on the
mat or the ring but in actual battlefields. The use of the blade,
which is essentially the backbone of the FMA and often constitutes its
highest level of practice, needs lethal commitment. Few are those who
are willing to go that far.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Farc & the Democrats
on: March 25, 2008, 10:17:47 AM
FARC Fan's Notes
March 25, 2008; Page A22
A hard drive recovered from the computer of a killed Colombian guerrilla has offered more insights into the opposition of House Democrats to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
A military strike three weeks ago killed Raúl Reyes, No. 2 in command of the FARC, Colombia's most notorious terrorist group. The Reyes hard drive reveals an ardent effort to do business directly with the FARC by Congressman James McGovern (D., Mass.), a leading opponent of the free-trade deal. Mr. McGovern has been working with an American go-between, who has been offering the rebels help in undermining Colombia's elected and popular government.
Mr. McGovern's press office says the Congressman is merely working at the behest of families whose relatives are held as FARC kidnap hostages. However, his go-between's letters reveal more than routine intervention. The intervenor with the FARC is James C. Jones, who the Congressman's office says is a "development expert and a former consultant to the United Nations." Accounts of Mr. Jones's exchanges with the FARC appeared in Colombia's Semana magazine on March 15. This Mr. Jones should not be confused with the former Congressman and ambassador to Mexico of the same name from Oklahoma.
"Receive my warm greetings, as always, from Washington," Mr. Jones began in a letter to the rebels last fall. "The big news is that I spoke for several hours with the Democratic Congressman James McGovern. In the meeting we had the opportunity to exchange some ideas that will be, I believe, of interest to the FARC-EP [popular army]."
Mr. Jones added that "a fundamental problem is that the FARC does not have, strategically, a spokesman that can communicate directly with persons of influence in my country like Mr. McGovern." Semana reports that in the documents Mr. Jones "rules himself out as the spokesman but offers himself as a 'bridge' of communication between the FARC and the congressman." Semana says when it spoke with Mr. Jones, he verified the letter and explained that "he made the offer because the guerrillas need interlocutors if they want to achieve peace and that it is a mistake to isolate them."
But communications among FARC rebels suggest the goal was to isolate Colombia's government. A letter that Reyes wrote to top FARC commander Manuel Marulanda on October 26 reads: "According to [Jones's] viewpoint, [President Álvaro] Uribe is increasingly discredited in the U.S. . . He believes that the safe haven [for the rebels] in the counties can be had for reasons mentioned. Congressional Democrats have invited him to Washington to talk about the Colombian crisis in which the principal theme is the swap."
Semana reports that Mr. Jones made some proposals to the FARC, including a Caracas meeting with representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, the FARC, other South American countries, U.S. Congressmen and the Catholic Church. "It would be almost impossible for Uribe to reject such a meeting," Mr. Jones wrote, "without burning himself a lot, nationally and internationally. If he persists in being against it, I have understood that there are ways to pressure him from my country [the U.S.]."
In a letter to Semana, Mr. Jones said his words were taken out of context. He says he is not in favor of the "violent methods of the guerrilla" or "the military solutions" of the government. He had only a professional relationship with the FARC and had to address them as he did because he had to build trust. Mr. McGovern's office says it knew what Mr. Jones was doing and engaged with him because "we need to find an interlocutor who could discuss these things including the safe haven" for the guerrillas.
We think the documents reveal something else entirely: Some Democrats oppose the Colombia trade deal because they sympathize more with FARC's terrorists than with a U.S. antiterror ally.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on Israel
on: March 25, 2008, 08:32:06 AM
By JAMES TARANTO
March 24, 2008
On Friday we noted that Barack Obama's "spiritual mentor," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, had reprinted a Hamas op-ed in his church bulletin. It turns out that Obama issued a quiet condemnation of Wright's editorial decision, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
"I have already condemned my former pastor's views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn't in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin," Obama said in a statement emailed to JTA late Thursday, and referring to critics who noted that Obama had been in church when Wright had made controversial statements. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction, as evidenced by their bombarding of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community's conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding by past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor."
That could hardly be clearer, could it? But a year-old article from ElectronicIntifada.com suggests that Obama has, fairly recently, held views on the subject that are completely at variance with those he now espouses. The author, Ali Abunimah, is a co-founder of the site:
I first met Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Barack Obama almost ten years ago when, as my representative in the Illinois state senate, he came to speak at the University of Chicago. He impressed me as progressive, intelligent and charismatic. I distinctly remember thinking "if only a man of this calibre could become president one day." . . .
Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The [sic] Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
Abunimah argued that Obama, in an effort "to woo wealthy pro-Israel campaign donors," had made an "about-face":
He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.
It is possible that Obama had a sincere change of heart--that he came to see the merits of the Israeli side of the argument. It is also possible that Obama has no sincere views on the subject--that when he was traveling in radical-chic Chicago circles, he told people like Abunimah what they wanted to hear, and now that he has gone national, he has switched to telling a more mainstream Democratic constituency what it wants to hear.
But what does Obama really believe--about the Middle East, about Wright's "black liberation theology" or about any other complicated and sensitive topic? The question is a Rorschach inkblot; the answer reveals more about one's emotional response to Obama than about Obama's intellectual response to the world.
If Obama makes you feel good about yourself, you will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that his beliefs are similar to yours. See, for example, Obama enthusiast Marty Peretz expounding on Obama's sympathy for the Jewish state, or Douglas Kmiec, a judicial conservative and onetime Romney adviser, explaining that even though Obama has shown no sign of agreeing with him on "important fundamentals," he is "convinced based upon [Obama's] public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them."