Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whose Orders
on: June 23, 2007, 07:19:57 AM
By RICHARD J. EVANS
Published: June 24, 2007
In 1997, Saul Friedländer published “The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939,” the first of his projected two-volume history of “Nazi Germany and the Jews.” In the introduction to that volume, he announced his intention of “establishing a historical account of the Holocaust in which the policies of the perpetrators, the attitudes of surrounding society and the world of the victims could be addressed within an integrated framework.” Such a framework has indeed been missing from most historical accounts of this most difficult and challenging of subjects. They have focused either on the processes of decision-making and their implementation or on the world of suffering and death experienced by the victims. Friedländer’s first volume stood out from most other work in this field because it successfully combined both of these aspects. And his second volume does so as well. It now establishes itself as the standard historical work on Nazi Germany’s mass murder of Europe’s Jews.
Skip to next paragraph
Enlarge This Image
THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION
Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.
By Saul Friedländer.
870 pp. HarperCollins Publishers. $39.95.
And yet “The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945” is no ordinary academic book. True, Friedländer seems to have read virtually every printed source and secondary work on his vast subject in English, German and French. His judgments are scrupulous and levelheaded. And he treats the historical controversies that have raged around so many of the topics he covers with untiring fair-mindedness. He writes without a trace of polemic or of facile retrospective moralizing. The book meticulously satisfies every requirement of professional historical writing.
What raises “The Years of Extermination” to the level of literature, however, is the skilled interweaving of individual testimony with the broader depiction of events. Friedländer never lets the reader forget the human and personal meanings of the historical processes he is describing. By and large, he avoids the sometimes unreliable testimony of memoirs for the greater immediacy of contemporary diaries and letters, though he also makes good use of witness statements at postwar trials. The result is an account of unparalleled vividness and power that reads like a novel.
Friedländer’s witnesses run into scores if not hundreds, and range from well-known figures like Anne Frank and Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Jewish administration of the Warsaw Ghetto, to more obscure individuals like Mihail Sebastian, a Romanian writer in his 30s, who recorded the descent of his country into its own barbarous version of genocide, and Raymond-Raoul Lambert, an Alsatian veteran of the French Army in World War I. Their haunting words chronicle the horror and disbelief of European Jewry as it slid down through discrimination and persecution to deportation and death. “If my life ends,” the Warsaw religious teacher Chaim Kaplan wrote not long before he was taken away to perish in the gas chambers of Treblinka, “what will become of my diary?” Like many others cited in this book, it survived not least by chance, having been smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto into the hands of the Polish underground resistance movement, from where it eventually found its way to New York and publication in the 1960s. The writings of diarists like Kaplan, committed to paper in conditions of terrible adversity, provide much of the human dimension of this remarkable book: they did not write in vain.
These people were the victims, Friedländer argues, not of anonymous processes generated in the machinery of Nazi and SS administration, but of one man above all: Adolf Hitler. Friedländer is critical of the recent, voluminous literature, mainly by a younger generation of German historians, that attempts to depict the extermination program as the outcome of coldly rational processes of decision-making by administrators, “experts” and officials in the German-occupied areas of Eastern Europe, who decided that the Jews would have to be killed so that the limited food supplies available in the area could go to the Germans, or to make room for German settlers or Germans left homeless by Allied bombing raids.
Such arguments do not explain the manic obsessiveness with which Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the man in charge of implementing the extermination program, tracked down Jews to arrest and kill, even traveling to Germany’s ally Finland to try and persuade its government to surrender that country’s tiny Jewish population, which was of no objective economic or strategic importance to Germany at all. Nor do these arguments do justice to the virulent language of hatred used by the Nazi leaders, Hitler and Goebbels in particular, when they spoke, as they did almost unceasingly, of the Jews.
Page 2 of 2)
Friedländer devotes a good deal of space to quoting Hitler at length, showing clearly his personal obsession with the forces of international Jewry that, in his mind, lay behind the actions of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. It was the Jews, he believed, who had fomented the war launched (in reality by himself) in September 1939. As the United States committed itself ever more firmly to the Allied side in the summer and fall of 1941, Hitler delivered one tirade after another against the Jewish conspiracy he thought lay behind Roosevelt’s policy. It was at this point that he escalated his persecution of the Jews first to deportation to the East and then to mass murder and total extermination.
Skip to next paragraph
THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION
Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.
By Saul Friedländer.
870 pp. HarperCollins Publishers. $39.95.
The German defeat by the Red Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943, blamed by Hitler yet again on the Jews, raised his anti-Semitic fury to fresh heights. The Jews, he declared, were driven by their innate racial instinct to subvert civilization everywhere. “The modern peoples have no option left,” he said in May, as the genocide was reaching its height, “but to eliminate the Jews.” Millions of entirely innocent and largely unsuspecting people across Europe paid for such violent fantasies with their lives.
The diaries and letters cited in the book show graphically how even as the prospective Jewish victims began to fear the worst, they continued to hope for the best; only a small minority found their way into hiding or resistance. As for the mass of non-Jewish citizens in Germany and other parts of Europe, indifference was the commonest reaction. Police and other state officials in most occupied countries cooperated willingly in the roundups and deportations; in some parts of Europe, notably Poland, Romania and Croatia, native anti-Semitism made its own brutal contribution to the genocide.
Friedländer’s narrative sweeps across an entire continent, encompassing every country affected by the Nazi drive for domination. In Bulgaria and Slovakia, popular outrage at the genocide forced governments initially willing to collaborate to change their stance. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in a number of countries played a part in articulating such feelings, and individual priests in Germany and elsewhere sometimes paid for their courageous opposition with their lives. But Friedländer makes it equally clear that many clerics, particularly senior church leaders who feared that open criticism of the genocide would bring down the wrath of the Nazis on them, remained silent and inactive, except where Jewish converts to Christianity were concerned. In some areas — particularly Croatia — nationalist clergymen egged on the murder squads with their own brand of religiously inspired anti-Semitism. Pope Pius XII, the subject of an earlier book by Friedländer, does not come out well, but what strikes the reader yet again is the exemplary evenhandedness with which Friedländer weighs the arguments on both sides in an area that has become more controversial than most in recent years.
The book’s chapters are organized chronologically, each covering a period of several months. This has the disadvantage of breaking up many of the narratives, so that, for example, if one wants to follow what happened in the Netherlands, or in Romania, or even in Germany itself, one has to search through several different chapters to piece the story together. But for the reader who persists from beginning to end, this structure has the benefit of enabling one to see the connections between what was happening at any one time in different parts of the Continent, to link it to the state of play of military affairs during the war (which Friedländer usefully sketches in at various points) and to follow the slow development of Nazi policy and its implementation as it unfolded over time.
In a celebrated exchange with the German historian Martin Broszat many years ago, Friedländer argued that, faced with such events, no historian could or should remain neutral. Born in Prague into a Jewish family in 1932, Friedländer grew up in hiding in France during the war, and his personal history gives him an unusually strong identification with his subject. Broszat, who had spent much of his career compiling or overseeing expert witness reports in German war crimes prosecutions and had a vested interest in preserving the appearance of neutrality, disagreed.
The practical consequences of Friedländer’s stance are apparent: the personal testimonies of Hitler’s Jewish victims create an overwhelming impression of suffering and cast a lurid light on the policies and actions of the Nazis and their helpers. The downside of this is that the experiences of the perpetrators are presented perhaps less fully than they might have been. Their testimony is generally used to describe the conditions they created rather than (with the obvious exception of Hitler himself) to chart their personal beliefs, motives or impressions. The attitudes and behavior of the German people also remain unexplained, and are presented in a sweeping and undifferentiated way that does scant justice to the nuances and complexities that recent historical work has uncovered.
And the book’s focus on the sufferings of the Jews pushes the broader context of Nazi racial policy — which includes the mass murder of millions of Soviet prisoners of war, the systematic extermination of the Polish intelligentsia, the killing of about 200,000 mentally ill or handicapped Germans, the annihilation of a large part of Europe’s Gypsies — possibly too far into the background. For as a good deal of recent work has shown, the Third Reich’s genocidal policies toward the Jews have to be understood as part of a larger policy aimed at the ethnic reshaping of Europe. Comparisons with these other victims would have made it evident that the Jews occupied a special place in the exterminatory mentality of the Nazis; they were perceived not as a regional obstacle but as a global threat, not as inferior beings like insects but as powerful enemies, whose very existence anywhere was a terrible danger to the future of the German race.
Still, to have broadened the focus too much would have made this already very lengthy and complex book almost unmanageable. Friedländer succeeds in binding together the many different strands of his story with a sure touch. He has written a masterpiece that will endure.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: June 23, 2007, 06:57:20 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 22 — Pakistan is building a third plutonium production reactor at a major nuclear weapons center, a sign of plans to increase the nation’s nuclear arsenal significantly, a Washington group specializing in nuclear issues said Friday.
Based on satellite imagery of a reactor under construction at Khushab, about 100 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, it appeared that Pakistan would be able to build a new generation of lighter, more powerful weapons that could be more easily launched on missiles, said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
The new reactor, which had not been publicly known about, is a replica of a second heavy water reactor at Khushab, Mr. Albright said in a telephone interview.
“The other two reactors at Khushab are there for weapons, and this is a duplicate of the second,” Mr. Albright said. He said he was convinced that the new reactor was intended for plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons and not for a civilian energy program.
He added that it was possible that Pakistan was pushing forward with the new reactor because the military was not satisfied that the current nuclear warheads were of sufficient power.
The more powerful weapons, which use plutonium instead of highly enriched uranium — currently Pakistan’s principal nuclear explosive material — would do greater damage to the large cities of its rival, India, which also possesses nuclear arms, Mr. Albright said.
“The trouble with the third reactor is that it seems almost provocative, especially when Pakistan doesn’t say anything, and remains ambiguous,” Mr. Albright said.
Pakistan also recently tested a cruise missile on which it could put a smaller, more lethal nuclear warhead, Mr. Albright said.
A State Department deputy spokesman, Thomas H. Casey, said, “I am not in a position to speculate on the veracity of the information in this report or the intentions of the Pakistani government.” Washington continued to discourage expansion or modernization of such weapons programs in Pakistan, he said.
A spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Tasnim Aslam, did not confirm or deny that a new reactor was under construction.
“Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program, and we have nuclear facilities in Khushab,” she said. The site was “well known,” and “coordinates” were exchanged with India, she said.
“Regarding details of development of nuclear weapons facilities, we don’t comment on that,” Ms. Aslam said.
John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, met with the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, here last weekend during a visit that reaffirmed Washington’s backing of the military leader, who is now under increasing popular pressure to return Pakistan to civilian rule.
It was not clear whether Mr. Negroponte raised the issue of the construction of the new reactor with General Musharraf.
Critics of the Bush administration’s support of General Musharraf, who is viewed by the White House as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism, assert that Pakistan has been given too easy a ride on its nuclear weapons program.
“The expansion of the Pakistani nuclear program demonstrates that the Bush policy of giving Musharraf a pass on nonproliferation is accelerating the nuclear arms race in South Asia,” said Bruce Riedel, who directed Pakistan policy at the National Security Council under President Clinton and is now at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Pakistan’s facilities at Khushab are not subject to safeguard inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency because the nation has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The first reactor at the Khushab site came on line in 1998.
Maria Sultan, a Pakistan nuclear expert at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute in Britain, said that Pakistan had embarked on an ambitious program for civilian nuclear power that involved building new reactors by 2030. The new reactor could be for either military needs or civilian power requirements, she said.
Pakistan and India, which has also not signed the nonproliferation treaty, each have enough fissile material for more than 50 nuclear weapons, and possibly 100, Mr. Albright said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More Kelo
on: June 23, 2007, 06:44:58 AM
The 'Blight' Excuse
By CARLA T. MAIN
June 23, 2007; Page A11
In Brandon, Ore. there lives a one-armed man named Scott Cook who owns income-producing timberland. The state revoked his license to drive a truck on account of his having only one arm. Then the government decided it wasn't quite through with him: Now his land is being taken by the town by eminent domain, so his neighbor's golf resort can be expanded. The town likes the resort because it supplies jobs. Mr. Cook feels certain he will never get what his land is worth. He is outraged that his town would take land from one man to give to another.
This is called an "economic development" taking, and two years ago -- June 23, 2005 -- the nation was up in arms over this sort of thing. On that day the Supreme Court decided Kelo v. New London, and said that it is constitutional for the government to take your property and give it to someone else if doing so will rake in greater taxes for your town.
Americans were instantly united in bipartisan fury. The U.S. Congress swiftly passed a resolution condemning Kelo, and the House and Senate introduced a slew of bills, to curb what so many perceived as the power of eminent domain run amok. More than a hundred bills were introduced in state legislatures to accomplish the same end, and two states passed moratoriums on economic development takings. Pundits spilled ink declaring that the Founding Fathers were spinning in their graves. Spittle flew as politicians grabbed the nearest mike, rushing to condemn Kelo as the unquestioned death knell of American property rights.
But how is it we still have someone like the soon-to-be-timberless Mr. Cook? Well, a year went by and the moratoriums were lifted. Congress never did pass any of the bills. Reform was left to the states. Some states, such as Oregon (hence Mr. Cook's bad luck), California, New York and New Jersey passed no meaningful reforms. The latter three are among the most active in these kinds of takings.
Some 28 states have passed substantive eminent domain reform since Kelo. Many enacted laws that prohibited private-to-private transfers for purposes of economic development. Sounds grand, right? But there's a loophole: blight.
Armed with a blight exception, private property in nearly all of the loophole states may still be condemned and ultimately used for economic development. Put another way, once a finding of blight is made, it's anchors away to build whatever the city or a private developer fancies. This leaves property owners vulnerable to unholy alliances between municipalities and developers, with condemnation processes that can lack transparency and due process.
In 1954, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas unleashed municipalities with the ruling in Berman v. Parker: The liberal court at its apex unanimously agreed with the notion that the elimination of blight is a "public use" under the takings clause of the Constitution. But what is blight? A half-century of experience has demonstrated only that it is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps more to the point, in the eye of the power holder.
Blight standards are notoriously subjective; it just isn't that hard to find when one goes looking for it. And Congress conveniently passed statutes that rewarded municipalities with federal dough for slum clearance. Bingo! Cities found ever more blight to remove, often and not coincidentally in neighborhoods inhabited by blacks and Latinos.
Now, even in the backlash against Kelo, eliminating blight as a ground for eminent domain has proven to be close to impossible. The importance of this problem must not be underestimated if we are to understand why takings for economic development have been so hard to stop. Even when common sense would dictate that a project is economic in purpose, it can still be pursued under an urban renewal plan, i.e., to eliminate "blight." In our post-Kelo world, the vocabulary of economic development takings may have changed, but in many states the substance will not, especially as towns learn to teach to the test.
Only Utah and Florida passed statutes that eliminated the blight loophole -- stating plainly, no economic development takings, ever. The relief in Utah was short-lived. On March 20, 2007, Utah reversed course. Gov. Jon Huntsman signed a bill that restores blight to the table and allows the taking of private property for private development so long as 80% of one's neighbors concur -- a democratic scenario one homeowner called "mob rule."
Florida's law was passed under the white-hot intensity of the Riviera Beach controversy, a massive project that gained national media attention right after Kelo. This development was the brainchild of former Mayor Michael Brown, who wanted to "save" his mostly black city by ejecting some 1,000 homeowners from their modest seaside bungalows that sit on valuable land not far from Palm Beach. Then a great condo and yacht marina complex could be built on this formerly "blighted" land.
The post-Kelo media wave, with support from then Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, helped push Florida's reform bill through and oust the Riviera Beach council, thus killing the project. It remains to be seen how long condo and yacht club developers, big box retailers and the lawmakers they lobby will wait in the wings before obtaining changes in Florida's law.
Fellow legislators wonder too. Ohio conducted a year-long, post-Kelo dog-and-pony show of hearings by an eminent domain task force. It issued a lengthy report -- but the legislature has passed no laws. One member of the task force, unable to envision a world without eminent domain bulldozers, commented to me about Florida's law: "I don't know how they plan to renovate their barrios down there."
At the other end of the spectrum from Utah and Florida there is New Jersey, which has seemingly never met an eminent domain project it didn't like. Events in the Garden State are an object lesson in how post-Kelo politics can devolve. New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald Chen, appointed by Gov. John Corzine, has championed the cause of basic reforms such as giving homeowners notice before condemning their property, improving compensation, and putting the burden on powerful developers to justify a taking by showing that the property is blighted.
As a result, Mr. Chen has found himself mired in the down and dirty muck one finds at the intersection of real estate and money in New Jersey politics. State senators have publicly excoriated him in a legislative hearing for something as ordinary as daring to file amicus briefs in eminent domain cases.
Meanwhile, change has come at an excruciatingly slow pace. Reform bills have been introduced, but none has passed. Working class octogenarians in Long Branch continue their fight to keep their small oceanfront homes -- now valuable -- from the grasp of condo builders; trailer park residents in Lodi have to litigate to hold on in a town that wants to upgrade its residents. In Paulsboro, the taking of empty warehouses and vacant land was challenged; the New Jersey Supreme Court held it does not pass muster to say a property is blighted simply because it is "not fully productive."
The decision was hailed, though it did not invalidate the redevelopment law that spawns such takings. Still, it's a faint light in a very dark tunnel, and similar to a decision by Ohio's Supreme Court, Gamble v. Norwood, in which a working class neighborhood was slated for urban renewal, not because it was deteriorated, but because it was "deteriorating." The court struck the term down as unconstitutionally vague.
In the summer of 2005, even as impassioned speeches to protect private property rights were made to the media on state house steps around the country, resistance was brought to bear inside by interest groups. The result is a national landscape that continues to include barely fettered economic development takings under the blight umbrella.
With each Kelo anniversary, the politics will become more partisan as we forget our initial outrage. While the reforms can improve due process, such as those Mr. Chen recommends, many have aimed at narrowing -- but not eliminating -- blight exceptions. We need to take care. Developers will always look for eminent domain bargains, and towns for ways to raise revenue or rid themselves of undesirable populations. It is not hard to imagine a time when they will set their sights on the surest bets -- the poor and minorities -- resetting eminent domain on its most pernicious historical path.
Ms. Main is the author of the forthcoming "Bulldozed: 'Kelo,' Eminent Domain and the American Lust for Land" (Encounter Books).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sir Slaman Rushdie
on: June 23, 2007, 06:38:29 AM
Given that the response is world-wide I suppose that this post could go in any of a number of threads, but I decided to put it here.
Sir Salman Rushdie
By SADANAND DHUME
June 23, 2007; Page A10
Another Friday in Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi -- and as if on cue, the hoarse, bearded and pyromaniacal pour out of the mosques into the streets armed with Union Jacks and effigies of Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair and the newly knighted Sir Salman Rushdie.
Having protested Danish cartoons and popish detours into Byzantine history to the point of exhaustion, the proverbial Muslim street is once again seething. Pakistan's minister of religious affairs said Mr. Rushdie's award justified suicide bombings, while a group of traders in Islamabad banded together to place a $140,000 bounty on his head. Fathi Sorour, the speaker of Egypt's parliament, declared that, "Honoring someone who has offended the Muslim religion is a bigger error than the publication of caricatures attacking Prophet Muhammad." Malaysian protesters besieged the British high commission (embassy) in Kuala Lumpur chanting, "Destroy Britain" and "Crush Salman Rushdie." With the irony perhaps lost in translation, Iran, whose president thinks nothing of threatening to wipe Israel off the map, condemned the award and called it a clear sign of (that mysterious new ailment) "Islamophobia."
For many of us, however, her majesty's conferral is a welcome example of something that has grown exceedingly rare: British backbone. After years of kowtowing to every fundamentalist demand imaginable -- from accommodating the burqa in schools and colleges to re-orienting prison toilets to face away from Mecca -- the British seem to be saying enough is enough. Nobody expects Mr. Rushdie to be awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the Collar of the Nile or Iran's Islamic Republic Medal, but in Britain, as elsewhere in the civilized world, great novelists are honored for their work. A pinched view of the human condition or poorly imagined characters may harm your prospects. Blasphemy does not.
In the larger struggle against Islamism -- the ideology that demands that every aspect of human life be ordered by the seventh-century Arabian precepts enshrined in Shariah law -- the Rushdie affair carries totemic significance. In 1989 the late Ayatollah Khomeini declared a price on Mr. Rushdie's head for the crime of apostasy, after reading about his mockery of the prophet Mohammed in "The Satanic Verses." At the time, few could have predicted that this was merely the first act of a drama that's still unfolding.
Eighteen years after the ayatollah's fatwa, since lifted, but thanks to freelance fanaticism, never quite extinguished, the Bombay-born Mr. Rushdie has managed to lead a full life. He has turned out eight novels and essay collections, married twice (most recently the model and actress Padma Lakshmi), mentored a generation of young Indians writing in English, and spoken out against obscurantism and religious bigotry of every stripe. He has also witnessed -- mirrored in his own predicament -- the consequences of a Europe too paralyzed by deathwish multiculturalism and moral relativism to recognize the danger it faces. It has become a continent where an Islamist stabs a film director in broad daylight in Amsterdam, where bombs go off in Madrid commuter trains and London buses, where writers, directors and cartoonists suddenly find themselves bound by sensitivities imported not merely from alien lands but from another age altogether.
No Western country has done more to accommodate Islamists than Britain, and none better shows the folly of this course. Successive governments feted organizations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, and welcomed as refugees a stable of jihadist clerics, including the Syrian-born Omar Bakri Muhammad and the hook-handed Abu Hamza al-Masri. Rather than moderate Muslim passions, this climate of permissiveness gave us Richard Reid the shoe bomber, Daniel Pearl's murderer, Omar Saeed Sheikh, the quartet behind the 2005 London bombings and the plotters who ensured that we must now worry about carrying moisturizing lotion and baby formula each time we board an airplane. A recent poll by Policy Exchange, a London think tank, shows that 28% of British Muslims would rather live under Shariah than under British law.
But at last it looks like the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. Mr. Rushdie's elevation signals an intention to draw a line between respecting Islam and allowing a small minority of Islamists to impose their hairtrigger hysteria on secular Muslims and non-Muslims. It highlights two of the core values of Western civilization conspicuously absent in most of the Muslim world: freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. It squarely rejects the notion that the fossilized norms of Mecca and Mashhad hold sway over Manchester and Middlesex, and beyond them, over Malmo and Minneapolis. Above all, it honors a brave man who has come to symbolize our turbulent times. A little old-fashioned British spine has never been more welcome.
Mr. Dhume is a fellow at the Asia Society in Washington, D.C. "My Friend the Fanatic," his book about the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia, will be published next year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kelo's consequences
on: June 23, 2007, 06:32:01 AM
June 23, 2007; Page A10
Today marks the second anniversary of Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruling that gave governments the authority to seize property on behalf of private developers. Since the 5-4 ruling, many state governments have taken some sort of action to limit these "takings." But in areas that legislators have failed to protect -- which usually turn out to be where low-income minorities reside -- citizens are still exposed to eminent domain abuse.
A recent study by the Institute for Justice compared the demographic characteristics of 184 areas targeted by eminent domain to the surrounding communities. The report shows that eminent domain disproportionately affects poor, ethnic minorities with lower levels of education. Minorities comprised 58% of the population in areas targeted by eminent domain, compared to 45% in the surrounding communities. The median income of residents targeted by eminent domain is less than $19,000 per year, compared to more than $23,000 elsewhere. And 25% live at or below the poverty line, versus only 16% elsewhere.
New Jersey resident Jim Keelen doesn't need statistics to define eminent-domain abuse. His home and business, located one block away from the Atlantic Ocean, have been slated for seizure by local government officials. His business, J&M Keelen Transportation Co., runs special-education transportation for public schools in two local counties.
If the government is successful in seizing his property, Mr. Keelen and his 85 employees -- most of them low-income minorities -- will be forced to vacate their office, a restored historical building, so that private developers can tear it down and put up condominiums in its place. His home, located next door, would be torn down as well.
New Jersey is one of 41 states that have enacted some kind of eminent domain reform. Florida and a couple of other states have done the most to limit eminent domain for private development, but others, such as New Jersey, still allow a loophole based on the definition of "blight." In effect, these laws form a patchwork of property rights that can leave many Americans vulnerable to politicians and local officials allied with rich private developers. (See Carla Main's feature.)
Congress is full of proposals to enact federal protections against eminent domain abuse, but so far no measure has gained political traction. Public support for legislative reform remains strong, however, with an overwhelming majority of Americans favoring some kind of limits on government takings. Opposition comes from city and state governments.
If the consequences of Kelo seem surprising, they were anticipated. In her powerful dissent in the case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that "fallout from this decision will not be random." She predicted that "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more." Two years later, her predictions are coming true, and short of a Supreme Court reversal, more legislative protection for property rights is needed.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 23, 2007, 01:31:32 AM
Pretty Kitty tells me we haave 61 fighters!!! Doors will open at 1000. If you have been meaning to buy some of our products, this will be a good opportunity to do so without having to pay shipping and handling. Please bring cash!
I saw the layout today. Things seem to be coming together very nicely. More on this tomorrow.
Realize that with 61 fighters that the day will be longer than usual. In addition to conventional bleachers, some of the seating will be on scaffolding and there will be some choice positions available on the hood and roof of a rusty Plymouth Roadrunner (1965?)-- (this warehouse was the set of the TV show "Monster Garage" and many of the freaky vehicles built for the show were moved from the warehouse for our Gathering and for the moment sit in the parking lot.) and on top of a very large pickup truck bed, roof, and hood. Some of the seating will be on the floor. We really have no idea of how many people will be coming, but guesstimate that we will be able to handle 400 people without trouble (RAW was packed to the rafters) with 200.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: June 23, 2007, 01:16:55 AM
Gracias por tu "post" (?Como se dice "post"?). Lamento que con nuestro "Gathering" este fin de semana no tendre' tiempo para responder hasta la semana que viene.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: June 23, 2007, 01:15:11 AM
THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW
The famous novelist on politics, and how writing can change the course of history.
BY EMILY PARKER
Saturday, June 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
LIMA, Peru--"This is a story that often repeated itself," Mario Vargas Llosa says. "If a father was a businessman, he was a man who had to be complicit with the dictatorship. It was the only way to prosper, right? And what happens is that the son discovers it, the son is young, restless, idealistic, believes in justice and liberty, and he finds out that his vile father is serving a dictatorship that assassinates, incarcerates, censors and is corrupted to the bone."
Mr. Vargas Llosa could have plucked this scenario from his personal recollections of living under dictatorial rule in Peru. But he tells this story to make a more universal point: Dictatorships poison everything in their grasp, from political institutions right down to relationships between fathers and sons.
When I meet Mr. Vargas Llosa in his home in Lima, I am not surprised to find that the world-famous novelist is a natural storyteller. He speaks to me in Spanish, gripping his black-rimmed glasses in his hand and occasionally waving them around for emphasis.
Mr. Vargas Llosa's bold ideas and expressive language may make him one of Latin America's finest writers--"Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," "The Time of the Hero" and "Conversation in the Cathedral" are just a few of his classic works--but those same traits didn't necessarily serve him well at the polls. After running for president of Peru in 1990 and losing to Alberto Fujimori, Mr. Vargas Llosa decided to devote his full attention to writing. He now lives in Lima for about three months of the year, spending the rest of his time in Europe.
"I am not going to participate in professional politics again," he says. And he doesn't have to. Mr. Vargas Llosa has found an effective way to expose the destructive nature of dictatorships, while underscoring the importance of individual liberty and free will. He just picks up his pen. "Words are acts," he says, echoing Jean-Paul Sartre. "Through writing, one can change history."
During the 1990 presidential campaign Mr. Varga Llosa emphasized the need for a market economy, privatization, free trade, and above all, the dissemination of private property. He didn't exactly receive a welcome reception. "It was a very different era, because to speak of private property, private enterprise, the market--it was sacrilegious," he says. "I was fairly vulnerable in that campaign," he continues, "because I didn't lie. I said exactly what we were going to do. It was a question of principle and also . . . I thought it would be impossible to do liberal, radical reforms without having the mandate to do them."
Now, almost 20 years later, the landscape looks very different. Mr. Vargas Llosa explains that he was propelled into politics when then-president Alan García, at the time a socialist and a populist, attempted to nationalize the banks. Today he is running the country again, but "now, the same Alan García is the champion of capitalism in Peru!" Mr. Vargas Llosa laughs merrily. "It's funny, no?"
He is relatively upbeat about Latin America today: "I'm not as pessimistic as others who believe that Latin America has returned to the time of populism, leftism." The region has its problems, to be sure, one major one coming from Caracas in the form of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But according to Mr. Vargas Llosa, perhaps what is most remarkable is what Mr. Chávez has not been able to do.
"We have a big problem with Chávez," Mr. Vargas Llosa admits. "He's a demagogue and a 19th century socialist. He is a destabilizing force for democracy in Latin America, but what he thought would be so easy hasn't been so easy. There has been a lot of resistance."
One of Mr. Chávez's major errors was his refusal last month to renew the license of popular Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV. "International hostility was enormous," Mr. Vargas Llosa notes. "For me, most important was that the protests in Venezuela were very strong, in particular the sectors that were once very sympathetic to him, for example the students in the Central University of Venezuela, not only the students in the private universities."
It is such infringements of free speech that highlight why in places like Latin America, reading a good novel can be much more than just a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. "I think in countries where basic problems are still unresolved, where a society remains so traumatized by deep conflicts--as in Latin America or in Third World countries in general--the novel is not only a form of entertainment, but it substitutes for something that these societies are not accustomed to seeing--information, for example," Mr. Vargas Llosa says. "If you live in a country where there is nothing comparable to free information, often literature becomes the only way to be more or less informed about what's going on." Literature can also be a form of resistance, perhaps the only way to express discontent in the absence of political parties.
This all sounds true enough, but in a dictatorship, wouldn't literature be censored as well? "In undeveloped countries, censorship doesn't reach that point of subtlety, as it did in Spain for example," Mr. Vargas Llosa explains. "Because in undeveloped countries, the dictators are, well, functioning illiterates that don't think that literature can be dangerous."
To give one example, Mr. Vargas Llosa's first novel, "The Time of the Hero," about life at a military school in Lima, was burned publicly in Peru by a military dictatorship in the 1960s. But the authorities apparently didn't find the book enough of a political threat to ban it outright, and in the end it was Mr. Vargas Llosa who reaped the benefits of the public burning. "It became a best seller!" He exclaims, laughing.
There is another disturbing current in Mr. Vargas Llosa's work that is less often discussed--mistreatment of women, ranging from disrespect to outright violence. The abuses are particularly horrifying in "The Feast of the Goat," a novel based on the life of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who terrorized the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Mr. Vargas Llosa describes traveling to the Dominican Republic and being stunned to hear stories of peasants offering their own daughters as "gifts" to the lustful tyrant. Trujillo and his sons, he tells me, could abuse any woman of any social class with absolute impunity. The situation in the Dominican Republic, which he refers to as a "laboratory of horrors," may have tended toward the extreme, but it underscores a larger trend: "The woman is almost always the first victim of a dictatorship."
Mr. Vargas Llosa discovered that this phenomenon was hardly limited to Latin America. "I went to Iraq after the invasion," he tells me. "When I heard stories about the sons of Saddam Hussein, it seemed like I was in the Dominican Republic, hearing stories about the sons of Trujillo! That women would be taken from the street, put in automobiles and simply presented like objects. . . . The phenomenon was very similar, even with such different cultures and religions." He concludes: "Brutality takes the same form in dictatorial regimes."
Did this mean that Mr. Vargas Llosa supported the invasion of Iraq? "I was against it at the beginning," he says. But then he went to Iraq and heard accounts of life under Saddam Hussein. "Because there has been so much opposition to the war, already one forgets that this was one of the most monstrous dictatorships that humanity has ever seen, comparable to that of Hitler, or Stalin." He changed his mind about the invasion: "Iraq is better without Saddam Hussein than with Saddam Hussein. Without a doubt."
Mr. Vargas Llosa's broad, visceral hatred of dictatorships in part stems from personal experience, in particular growing up in 1950s Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel Odría. "All the political parties were prohibited, there was strict censorship of radio and the press," he explains. "The university had many professors in exile and many student prisoners . . . this is the atmosphere in which a boy of my generation entered adulthood."
This period is the backdrop for "Conversation in the Cathedral," which Mr. Vargas Llosa said would be the work that he would rescue from a fire. The brilliant, four-volume novel rarely addresses Odría directly, rather zooming in on relationships between ordinary Peruvians from all levels of society. With unembellished prose, Mr. Vargas Llosa plunges you right into the heart of a nation without hope. "It's a novel in which I wanted to show what I lived through in through in those years, how the dictatorship didn't limit itself to censorship or prohibiting political life, no!" Mr. Vargas Llosa tells me. "The dictatorship created a system that impregnated every act of life."
And herein lies the power of Mr. Vargas Llosa's work: He finds that tyranny takes its toll in places we hadn't even thought to look. As for the value of freedom, perhaps he puts it best in "The Feast of the Goat": "It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans 31 years ago: free will."
We begin to wrap up our interview. We both drink red wine. A room nearby houses Mr. Vargas Llosa's private library--I notice that some of the volumes are bound in leather. He tells me that there are more than 18,000 books. His collection is clearly a point of pride, but it is also a tangible representation of his belief in the power of words. Or as he would say it: "I think that literature has the important effect of creating free, independent, critical citizens who cannot be manipulated."
Ms. Parker is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin
on: June 21, 2007, 08:41:25 PM
THE END IS NIFONG
by Ann Coulter
June 20, 2007
There is nothing so dangerous as a Southern liberal hoping to be invited to a Graydon Carter party.
As is now well-known, Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong falsely accused three white Duke lacrosse players of gang-raping a stripper, even as evidence piled up proving it never happened. In the weeks after an unstable stripper — or, since this is not a Hollywood movie, "a stripper" — accused the players of rape, Nifong stated on national TV: "I am convinced that there was a rape." He called the players "hooligans," contemptuously sneering that their "daddies could buy them expensive lawyers."
Envy is an emotion well-known for producing model behavior.
Revealing his own motives, Nifong said defense attorneys for the non-indicted players "were almost disappointed that their clients didn't get indicted so they could be a part of this spectacle here in Durham." Hello, Vanity Fair? Did you see where I talked about their "daddies"?
The Arianna Huffington of the legal profession might still have made his star turn at a Vanity Fair party, but for the fortuity of the defense lawyers discovering that he had tried to hide DNA evidence from the defendants, revealing that the stripper, Crystal Gail Mangum, had the DNA of four different men in or on her person, including the driver who took her to stripping gigs and enough other men to bring a class-action suit against her.
None of the DNA matched any Duke lacrosse players, who are starting to look like the only adult males in the Durham area who haven't had sex with Mangum.
Nifong has tried to portray himself as simply making "mistakes." This is absurd. Not even a half-wit like Nifong could have believed "something happened in that bathroom," as he said during his disbarment hearing last weekend. He was willing to send three innocent men to prison to improve his electoral viability in a heavily black district and to become a liberal hero in Manhattan salons.
Admittedly, Nifong studiously refused to take a peek at the evidence. On March 29, 2006, he told reporters he knew a rape had occurred based on — I quote — "my reading of the report of the emergency-room nurse." That report was not given to the police until April 5, 2006, making it the equivalent of the forged Nigerian letter Joe Wilson claims to have debunked eight months before it surfaced at the CIA.
But there were some facts even Nifong couldn't have missed.
He knew, for example, that the cab driver who picked up accused "rapist" Reade Seligmann had signed a sworn statement attesting to the fact that the accused was in his cab when the rape was allegedly taking place.
We know Nifong's office knew about the cab driver because the police soon picked him up on a 3-year-old shoplifting charge. The cabdriver claims that when the police came to arrest him, they asked "if I had anything new to say about the lacrosse case." When he said no, they arrested him. He was tried on the 3-year-old case and acquitted.
Nifong also knew that the second "exotic dancer" at the party called the rape allegation a "crock" and said she had been separated from Mangum for no more than five minutes all night. In other words, another stripper knew Mangum wasn't credible, but Nifong based his entire case on her — or rather on one version of her multiple stories.
We know Nifong knew about the second stripper's statement because his office was soon offering her favorable bail treatment for violating probation. She took the deal — and suddenly decided it was possible a rape had occurred.
Mangum had made similar accusations of gang rape 10 years earlier, but her own father denied it had happened and no charges were ever brought. We know Nifong knew about Mangum's prior false accusation because when he was asked about it, he responded: "All the facts are not yet known, and many of the so-called 'facts' that have been reported and commented on are simply wrong." As we now know, the only "wrong" facts circulating in the press were the ones Nifong had put there.
Nifong knew that Mangum made Tawana Brawley look like Billy Graham: She kept changing her story, altering the number of men who raped her, and was unable to identify her attackers.
Except one. Mangum confidently and repeatedly identified only one lacrosse player as one of her rapists: Brad Ross. Nifong knew this because Brad Ross promptly gave the police proof that he was at North Carolina State University with his girlfriend the night of the party.
This investigation wasn't a mistake — it was malice.
The media love to drone on about the explosive combination of "race and sex" — and they'll wait forever for a single non-hoax case to prove it! In fact, the truly explosive combination is "liberal" and "mediocrity."
Half-bright liberals think Hollywood fantasies are real life. And in Hollywood, conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are never fabulously rich and successful. Conservative Christians like Tom DeLay are never savvy, influential congressmen. And handsome boys from good families are never nice.
Nifong was supposed to look like Gregory Peck — not like Bob Wexler! But it's the lacrosse players who look like Gregory Peck.
Second-rate liberals who went to mediocre schools and married mediocre women are burning with jealousy from their nondescript, mediocre jobs. So they use their government jobs to attack their betters and sneer about the players' "daddies."
Like so much injustice in America, this whole sick spectacle was the revenge of the mediocre against the successful. Stupid and envious is a bad combo platter.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Maybe this explains it- part 2
on: June 21, 2007, 07:31:57 PM
A Defaulter using the nom de phreak Lucky225 steps up to the mike. With a phone tucked between his ear and shoulder and the keyboard under his fingers, he looks like a cross between a DJ and a telephone line repairman.
Lucky regales the audience with a tale about his favorite VoIP hack: He can make a VoIP phone display whatever caller ID number he chooses. To prove his point, he tells us he can impersonate "Jenny," the girl from the pop song by Tommy Tutone.
Earsplitting static issues from the speakers, and suddenly we hear a thunderous dial tone. Lucky has routed his VoIP phone through the sound system. He dials MCI's caller ID readback line, a service that identifies whatever number you're calling from. A robotic voice slowly intones Lucky's number: "eight-six-seven-five" - the crowd erupts, screams of laughter mingling with groans - "three-zero-nine."
Having demonstrated his power over caller ID, Lucky proceeds to tell the phreak-packed auditorium how he spoofed the number. Turns out the whole thing is a social hack. A few days before, he called his service provider, Vonage, and told them he wanted to port all his cell phone calls to the Internet phone connected to his computer. His cell number is 867 5309, he lied, and Vonage believed him. Now it's rerouting all calls made to Jenny on the Vonage network to Lucky.
Naturally, Vonage also set the caller ID on Lucky's VoIP phone to Jenny's number - so any time he dials out, it looks like he's calling from 867 5309. A lot of systems depend on receiving accurate caller ID - credit card-activation lines, voicemail systems, even 911. So being able to control what a called party sees after you dial can be a potent weapon. Armed with your caller ID, an identity thief could order a new ATM card, activate it over the phone, and use it to empty your bank account. And, given that many voicemail boxes will play their contents to any phone with the right caller ID, you could be opening up your private life to anyone with a Vonage phone.
After the show, I ask Lucky why he got into the phreak scene. "Well," Lucky deadpans, sketching out plans for a network of cans and rubber bands, "I wanted to start this elastic-based phone system " He's a prankster, but with a purpose - to make clear to the public that VoIP is a privacy nightmare. "Yup," he concludes, still pondering voice over elastic, "I think this tin can shit is really going to take off."
Steve Wozniak, the Apple computer pioneer whose phreak days began in the 1970s, says pranks are what it's all about. "Those of us who have the phreaker mentality see playing with the world as fun, but in these times it's hard for people to see us as harmless."
Maybe so, but Vonage doesn't seem too concerned. When I contact the company later to find out whether they know about Lucky's caller ID trick and what they are doing to stop it, executive VP Louis Holder admits they're not doing anything. "We allow people to do what he did," Holder says. "We give people a temporary phone number before we verify it with the phone company, and verification takes a couple of weeks. Somebody could pick the White House number and pretend to be the president."
Today's phreaks have the power to crash the phone system - but they also have the power to rebuild it. Lucky's joke about creating his own network out of tin cans and rubber bands isn't that far from the truth. Slestak, Da Beave, and GiD are the crew behind Florida-based Telephreak.org, a free VoIP service that they've built to run on a roll-your-own, open source private branch exchange (PBX) system called Asterisk.
Typically used by businesses, a PBX consists of computers that route calls between what amounts to a phone intranet and the public telephone system. A company using a PBX might pay for 100 lines that service 500 employees, linking callers to the outside world, voicemail, or conferences by dynamically connecting phone calls using whichever landlines are open. In the past, all these connections would be managed by the phone company or a proprietary, closed black box in the server room. But with Asterisk, there's no need for the phone company to manage your lines anymore. You can do it yourself.
The Telephreak crew has created its own private phone company for themselves and their friends - one that never sends a bill. Dial an access line to check voicemail, create conference calls, forward calls to other phones, even get a new number. And never pay a cent.
Currently, there are several hundred voicemail accounts, and the system can handle a hundred simultaneous calls. Although the Telephreak crew has to pay for connectivity to Ma Bell, the amount is so negligible that they're willing to eat the money. It's a small price to pay for freedom.
I'm talking to them on a Telephreak conference call, and the sound is a little fuzzy. Beave, identifiable by his slight southern twang, tells me he's working on ironing out the bugs. It's a little strange to know someone is manipulating your phone connection while talking to you. Suddenly, the sound is perfect. We've been rerouted. Slestak's voice comes in loud and clear: "My connection to you guys right now is going across a cordless phone with a box to the server, then to Telephreak. My dial tone is coming from the West Coast."
One of the best things about building your own PBX is that you can do what Slestak calls "chemistry experiments" with the phone system. Some PBX phreakers, like Telediablo, even provide a caller ID spoofing service: With it, there's no need to lie to Vonage - you simply call up Telediablo's PBX, plug in the number you want to use as your caller ID, then dial the party you want to trick. When I try out his little hack, I pick the number 666 6666. Next, I key in a nearby friend's number. It rings. My friend shows me his caller ID window: Now I feel like a phreak. Instead of displaying my number, his phone is displaying the devil's digits.
There are other PBX tricks - like caller ID unmasking, which can sometimes reveal the actual phone number of a caller, regardless of whether they've paid to have their number blocked. So if you think you're anonymous on the telephone system, think again.
Probably the most unsettling discovery made by whitehat phreakers is that VoIP providers and wireless companies are willing to peddle phones and services that they know perfectly well are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks. After several months of bad publicity in the UK, where Laurie and Whitehouse are based, the cell phone companies are responding. Nokia and Sony Ericsson have issued patches, and Motorola says that its security flaws have been fixed in the newer models. And upstart VoIP provider Skype is marketing built-in encryption. Meanwhile, the Bluetooth Consortium - a group of industry leaders, including Nokia and Sony Ericsson, whose products incorporate Bluetooth - focused explicitly on security at its UnPlugFest in Germany last month. At the meeting, security experts (including Laurie) rated each company's phones in terms of their resistance to common attacks. Still, nobody is tracking bluesnarf or bluebug attacks to measure the extent of the problem - nobody but the whitehat phreaks themselves.
Whitehouse has written a program he calls Sweet Tooth that can detect the signature radio signals sent by bluesnarfers. Modeled on honeypot programs that law enforcement and security analysts use to detect hackers on the Internet, Sweet Tooth could provide accurate statistics on how prevalent bluesnarf attacks really are. The program is ready for action, says Whitehouse. The question now is whether law enforcement and the phone companies will actually deploy it, however. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it better - especially because phone hacking is only going to get easier.
Bluetooth phreaking is just the beginning. The holes will get patched, but the problem won't go away, because all the tools that hackers have spent decades developing will now be repurposed to hijack your phone. Next-generation handsets will have three entry points for the blackhats: If a snarfer can't suck down your data with Bluetooth, he'll try your Wi-Fi port, and if that doesn't work, infrared.
"I guess that's the price you pay for convergence," Whitehouse says.
The Great Cell Phone Robbery
How security flaws in today's mobile phones could add up to tomorrow's perfect crime.
Step 1: Approach
A virus-spreader enters Heathrow Airport toting a briefcase with a laptop and an external antenna. The rig can sniff Bluetooth signals from up to 20 feet away - and with just a bit of hacking, it can be modified to send and receive signals over much greater distances.
Step 2: Discover
Using a program like bluesnarf, the laptop automatically finds Bluetooth phones with firmware vulnerable to remote takeover. This process is completed in less than 15 seconds.
Step 3: Take over
The laptop sends a program to all the vulnerable phones. Disguised as a game or a marketing promotion, the program is really a Trojan horse hiding a nasty virus. Once the user launches it, the virus hijacks the phone's operating system, taking over basic functions like dialing and messaging.
Step 4: Propagate
The target phone is now infected, and it reacts by broadcasting the virus to other vulnerable Bluetooth phones within 20 feet. Within minutes, thousands of phones can be infected.
Step 5: Steal
Commandeering the phones' SMS system, the virus uses a popular European micropayment system called reverse SMS to transfer 10 euros from each phone to a temporary account in Estonia. The virus requests the transfer and stays in control until it can confirm the order. The account is closed long before any user sees the charge reflected on the monthly bill.
Annalee Newitz (email@example.com
), a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote about dating optimizers in issue 12.06.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Maybe this explains it
on: June 21, 2007, 07:30:27 PM
I found this @ wired.comhttp://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/phreakers.html?pg=3&topic=phreakers&topic_set=
It is a 4 page article
They've Got Your Number …
… your text messages and address book, and a way to bug your calls. Why spam, scams, and viruses are coming soon to a phone near you.
It's a beautiful afternoon in Shepherd's Bush, a bustling neighborhood on the outskirts of London, and Adam Laurie is feeling peckish. Heading out of the office, he's about to pick up more than a sandwich. As he walks, he'll be probing every cell phone that comes within range of a hidden antenna he has connected to the laptop in his bag. We stroll past a park near the Tube station, then wander into a supermarket. Laurie contemplates which sort of crisps to buy while his laptop quietly scans the 2.4-GHz frequency range used by Bluetooth devices, probing the cell phones nestled in other shoppers' pockets and purses.
Laurie, 42, the CSO of boutique security firm the Bunker, isn't going to mess with anyone's phone, although he could: With just a few tweaks to the scanning program his computer is running, Laurie could be crashing cell phones all around him, cutting a little swath of telecommunications destruction down the deli aisle. But today Laurie is just gathering data. We are counting how many phones he can hack using Bluetooth, a wireless protocol for syncing cell phones with headsets, computers, and other devices.
We review the results of the expedition in a nearby pub. In the 17 minutes we wandered around, Laurie's computer picked up signals from 39 phones. He peers at his monitor for a while. "It takes only 15 seconds to suck down somebody's address book, so we could have had a lot of those," he says at last. "And at least five of these phones were vulnerable to an attack."
The "attack" Laurie mentions so casually could mean almost anything - a person using another person's cell to make long distance calls or changing every phone number in his address book or even bugging his conversations. There are, he says, "a whole range of new powers" available to the intrepid phone marauder, including nasty viral attacks. A benign Bluetooth worm has already been discovered circulating in Singapore, and Laurie thinks future variants could be something really scary. Especially vulnerable are Europeans who use their mobile phone to make micropayments - small purchases that show up as charges on cell phone bills. A malicious virus maker bent on a get-rich-quick scheme could take advantage of this feature by issuing "reverse SMS" orders.
Bluetooth security has become a pressing issue in Europe, where the technology is ubiquitous. The problem will migrate to American shores as the protocol catches on here, too. But in the long run, Bluetooth vulnerabilities are manageable: Handset manufacturers can rewrite faulty implementations, and cell phone users will learn to be more careful. A far bigger security nightmare for the US is Internet telephony, which is fast being adopted for large corporations and is available to consumers through many broadband providers. Voice over IP is, by design, hacker-friendly. No enterprising criminals have dreamed up a million-dollar scam exploiting VoIP technology yet. But when they do, it likely won't be something a simple patch can fix.
Bluetooth hacking is technically very different from VoIP hacking, but they're both surging for the same basic reason. Increasingly, telephones have become indistinguishable from computers, which makes them more useful, but also more vulnerable. VoIP, which routes calls over the Internet, gives users the power to port their phone number anywhere, package voice messages into MP3s and receive them as emails, and make cheap international calls. Yet VoIP, like Bluetooth, exposes your telephone to the same ills that regularly befall a desktop box - worms, spam, crashes.
"It's not like we've fixed the vulnerabilities on computers," says security expert Bruce Schneier, author of Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World. "The phone network used to get its security from being closed, but VoIP phones will be just as bad as computers."
Many of today's hacks work because the traditional phone system was built on the premise that only large, monopolistic phone companies would be using it, and they would all play by the same rules. But the network isn't the telcos' private sandbox anymore; it can be manipulated and controlled by anybody who understands basic computer networking. The people who know this best are a new generation of phone hackers - aka phreakers - who aren't interested in following the rules. They're busy ripping apart the latest phones to discover what can make them turn against their owners. As the phone companies and handset makers lumber along, we can only hope that the phreaks in white hats figure out some fixes before the blackhats move in for the kill.
Laurie, whose laptop is now packed with information from vulnerable cell phones in the Shepherd's Bush, has become infamous in Britain for conducting a similar experiment in the House of Parliament, where he had the opportunity (which he didn't take) to copy the address books and calendars of several prominent politicians. That excursion resulted in a mandate that all Bluetooth devices be turned off in the House of Parliament.
As the inventor of "bluesnarfing," a hack that uses Bluetooth to peek at data stored on cell phones, Laurie is dedicated to publicizing the danger of a wide-open Bluetooth connection. A bluesnarf attack can identify an unprotected phone and copy its entire address book, calendar, photos, and any other information that happens to be inside. Using a bluesnarf program, a phreak can also crash any phone within range by using Bluetooth to broadcast what Laurie calls "a corrupted message."
Bluesnarf was born after Laurie scrutinized the code running some Bluetooth headsets his staff was using. He wasn't happy with what he found. "Gaping security holes," he says with a frown. Rebuffed by the cell phone companies to which he reported the problems, he conceived of bluesnarf as a publicity stunt, a tool that would dramatize the danger of owning these phones.
Compounding Bluetooth's technical vulnerabilities are problems with the way people use it. Most folks leave Bluetooth on all the time, often because they don't bother to learn how to turn it off. Even tech-savvy types tend to keep their connections open. "People have heard about 'toothing,' where strangers send each other flirtatious messages via Bluetooth," he says. Hoping to get toothed, they risk an entirely different kind of penetration.
The risk doesn't end with snarfing. Another way to use Bluetooth to hijack a phone completely is bluebugging, and Laurie gives me a quick demo. He runs the bluebug software on his laptop, and it quickly locates an Ericsson t610 phone he's set on the table between us (not all phones can be bluebugged, but this model can). His computer connects to the phone and takes it over, remotely. Tapping the keyboard, Laurie sends the t610 a command to ring up the phone on his belt. It bleeps. He answers. We've got a bluebug.
Invented by Austrian researcher Martin Herfurt earlier this year, bluebugging is the perfect weapon for corporate spies. Let's say you and I are competing for a big contract with an oil company. I want to hear everything that happens in your meeting with the VP of Massive Oil Inc., so I hire a blackhat phreak to take over your cell phone. Once he's bluebugged it, I tell him to have your mobile call mine. The phone that's sitting in your jacket pocket is now picking up everything you and the VP say during your conversation, and I can hear the prices you're quoting as clear as a bell on my own phone. "A cell phone is the ultimate well-engineered bugging device," Laurie says.
Unlike bluesnarfers, who need only some gear and know-how, the bluebugger first has to get your cell phone to pair with his computer, establishing a "trusted" data link. Laurie explains one crafty way to make this happen. "You just say, 'Gee, that's a cool phone, can I see it?'Punch a few buttons to establish the pairing, and hand it back." As soon as the pairing is complete, the bluebugger can commandeer every aspect of the phone. He can initiate calls, send SMS messages, even overwrite the address book and contacts list.
Laurie's revelation is disturbing, but the fact that phreakers need to approach and interact with their intended targets significantly cuts down on the number of victims. Yet British security consultant Ollie Whitehouse, whose Bluetooth-hunting program Redfang has made him a celebrity among phreakers, describes another a way to bluebug - a method that doesn't demand the eavesdropper come into physical contact with the target's phone. In this case, the trick is to sniff the data traffic traveling to and from a Bluetooth phone when it's pairing with another device, like a headset. Armed with this information, an attacker can bluebug the phone by pretending to be the trusted device with which it regularly networks.
Cell phone companies argue that bluesnarfing and bluebugging are minor threats because Bluetooth is designed to work only over short distances, 20 feet or less, requiring attackers to be close to their targets.
Enter the Bluetooth sniper rifle. Made from $200 worth of off-the-shelf parts, the sniper is a Bluetooth antenna optimized for long-distance use. It can send and receive faint signals at more than a thousand yards. With the sniper - or a wireless weapon like it - bluesnarfers and bluebuggers no longer have to be in the same room as their targets. "By smashing any notion that distance is an issue," says 24-year-old inventor Jon Hering, a student at the University of Southern California, "we showed that bluebugging is a real-world threat."
Surely the phone companies must be doing something to protect us from all this. Keith Nowak, a spokesperson at Nokia, suggests "just turning off Bluetooth - or switching into hidden mode."
Whitehouse laughs at that advice. Redfang, his signature phreak tool, is specifically designed to find Bluetooth devices in hidden mode. And given that so few people actually do turn off Bluetooth, their phones are susceptible to countless hacks - ones that Hering's sniper rifle could launch from half a mile away.
The Default Radio boys, rock stars in the phreak underground, are onstage at DefCon, the venerable hacker conference that's sort of a cross between the Ozzfest mosh pit and an after-hours party for NSA agents. Wearing baseball caps, T-shirts, and baggy jeans, the boys are doing a live version of their phreak-friendly streaming-audio talk show. The long table in front of them is covered with telephone equipment and computers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: June 21, 2007, 04:23:26 PM
PAKISTAN: Osama bin Laden has been awarded the Pakistani Ulema Council's highest honor as a reaction to the United Kingdom knighting Salman Rushdie The Pakistani Ulema Council, a leading group of Pakistani Islamic scholars with a purported membership of 2,000 Pakistanis, gave bin Laden the title of Saifullah, meaning "sword of God."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 21, 2007, 04:17:57 PM
Dog Corey: Dogzilla emailed his regrets about a week ago. Some family matters arose, etc. and will see us in September. I would have loved for him to be at this one in particular. He sounded to be in outstanding shape too!
Here is an email from Shocknife's president Jeff Quail in its entirety:
I haven't been able to sign on to the message board yet so I will send you
my replies for you to post on my behalf:
The answer to the first questions:
1) The suggestion of wearing no clothing to increase the shock sensation.
The opposite is actually true. If your participants wear long sleeve shirts
they will receive a greater shock sensation. The fabric should be thin and
dry for best results. The reason is that the clothing will create a gap
between the electrodes and the skin which will allow the capacitor to fill
up to a higher level before it discharges. The clothing will also ensure
that heavy sweat does not create a temporary short on the blade. The
clothing should not be to thick (like a jacket).
2) The Shocknives will not be damaged be incidental contact with the blades.
Extended contact can cause overheating of the internal electronics but
nothing during a knife on knife scenario should create a problem. The
voltage can not be increased by introducing more of the same voltage from an
alternative source. In otherwords if the electrodes touch they will not
double the voltage returning into the receiving electrode. For what you guys
are using it for there should be no problem.
3) In regards to the question about the fencing mask. Electricity will
always travel in the path of least resistance. If the material of the
fencing mask can conduct electricity the charge will flow through the
shortest path from electrode to electrode. If the mask was pushed up against
the face or eye at that point, the electricity could possible flow into the
body. IF ANY ELECTRICITY GETS IN THE EYE IT CAN CAUSE SEVERE DAMAGE. This is
why we ask that a fully enclosed impact resistant plastic googles are worn.
If the person is wearing a mask instead of googles, the mask should be
tested to ensure that the mesh can not be pushed up against the eye or face.
If it can, it should not be used.
Hope this helps Marc! If there are any more questions please let me know. I
appologize about not having the new knife for you but will get you one when
they are available. The blade will completely eliminate shorting from sweat.
Wish everyone luck!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Coming and going at the same time
on: June 21, 2007, 09:54:08 AM
06/21/2007 09:07 AM ID: 63161
Fornicating Couple Falls off Roof, Both Die
Two South Carolina residents in their early 20's are dead after what police believe may have been a sexual encounter gone horribly wrong. An unwitting cab driver came across the two nude, lifeless bodies at around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Police were summoned immediately, and an investigation began. The bodies were located next to a building, and police began to search the area. A check of the building's roof, some fifty feet off the ground below, revealed the couple's clothes.
Police are still looking into other possibilities, although there is currently no sign of foul play. "It's too early to rule out anything," said Columbia police Sgt. Florence McCants. Their identities have not yet been publicly released.
for the news clip.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 21, 2007, 05:45:23 AM
Poisonous and Treasonous
By Quin Hillyer
Published 6/20/2007 12:08:40 AM
For those of us out here who really do have a moderate position on
immigration, who really do seek a reasoned approach that in the long
run allows for some form of "guest workers," the immigration bill
being considered by the Senate is more and more of an affront the
more and more its details become clear. It is an affront because it
appears to have been written in bad faith, by illegitimate
procedures, with all sorts of smoke screens meant to snooker us into
believing the bill is moderate and balanced.
In fact, the bill is a radical and dangerous attempt to open the
It must be stopped.
That's the only conclusion one can reach after re-reading, closely,
the report called "20 Loopholes in the Senate Immigration Bill,"
released on June 4 by Alabama's Sen. Jeff Sessions. (Of the 20, only
one minor "loophole" has since been improved by amendment.)
For "Loophole 1," Sessions has identified the provision which, all
along, has been the single biggest stumbling block to people of good
will who wish to take this bill seriously. It is the now-infamous
allowance for "probationary benefits," which effectively makes every
other law-and-order provision in the bill utterly worthless. Allow me
to quote Sessions' entire paragraph:
Amnesty benefits do not wait for the "enforcement trigger." After
filing an application and waiting 24 hours, illegal aliens will
receive full "probationary benefits," complete with the ability to
legally live and work in the U.S., travel outside of the U.S. and
return, and their own social security card. Astonishingly, if the
trigger is never met and amnesty applications are therefore never
"approved," the probationary benefits granted to the illegal alien
population never expire, and the new social security cards issued to
the illegal alien population are not revoked. [See pp. 1, 290-291, &
Even worse is the combination of that loophole with "Loophole 5 --
Completion of Background Checks Not Required For Probationary Legal
Status." Again, I quote:
Legal status must be granted to illegal aliens 24 hours after they
file an application, even if the aliens have not yet "passed all
appropriate background checks." (Last year's bill gave DHS 90 days to
check an alien's background before any status was granted.)... [See
As Sessions then comments, on the contrary, "No legal status should
[my emphasis] be given to any illegal alien until all appropriate
background checks are complete."
As long as the probationary visa provisions remain in the bill, all
reasonable people ought to consider this bill poisonous. No matter
how one slices it, this is complete amnesty, pure and simple, with no
enforcement, no respect for the law, no guarantee of safety, no
requirement to learn English, no reliable insistence that businesses
hire only legal visitors, no protection against Social Security and
welfare fraud that could cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions
of dollars over the next several decades.
It is hard to see this as anything other than a deliberate attempt by
the bill's drafters to provide an end-run around everything else in
the bill, in effect to make everything else into window dressing.
What other reason could there be for cutting the background check
time period from 90 days to a single day? (!!!!!!!)
Collectively, all the other loopholes identified by Sessions are at
least equally scary. For instance, the trigger does not require full
implementation of the U.S. VISIT system, which is the biometric
border check-in/check-out program that already is two years overdue.
The trigger's requirements for detention capabilities for scofflaws
is off by about 50 percent, or more than 30 thousand beds, from what
a later part of the bill acknowledges is the desirable amount.
Also, "Aliens who broke into the country illegally a mere 5 months
ago are treated better than foreign nationals who legally applied to
come to the U.S. more than two years ago."
There are loopholes that fail to protect against certain child
molesters, fail to protect against certain people with terrorist
connections, fail against known gang members (who must merely
"renounce" their gang membership on their application), and fail
against absconders (people who already have been given deportation
orders but ignored them and remain in our country).
On and on goes Sessions' list, with the senator also identifying a
number of provisions that would make the bill financially costly to
American taxpayers. One of these provisions is so bad that it, too,
merits quoting Sessions' description in full:
Free legal counsel and the fees and expense of arbitrators will be
provided to aliens that have been working illegally in agriculture.
The U.S. taxpayer will fund the attorneys that help these individuals
fill out their amnesty applications. Additionally, if these
individuals have a dispute with their employer over whether they were
fired for "just cause," DHS will "pay the fee and expenses of the
arbitrator." [See p. 339:37-41, & p. 332: 37-38.]
In all, if passed in its current form, this might be one of the
single worst bills in the history of the United States, ranking right
up there with the Smoot-Hawley tariff that helped usher in the Great
Depression. It makes a mockery of law and order and public safety,
and it makes a mockery of the entire notion of American citizenship.
It is outrageously irresponsible.
Not only that, but by concocting it via the alchemy of back-room deal-
making, without benefit of a single committee hearing, its drafters
contemptuously insult the American people by refusing to trust the
people with the ability to analyze and comment on the legislation the
drafters would impose upon them. Such shenanigans are utterly
destructive to all efforts to maintain within our populace what the
poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson called "some sense of duty, something of a
faith, some reverence for the laws ourselves have made."
There is no way, none whatsoever, that this bill can inculcate a
reverence for this nation's laws. Instead, it breeds only further
contempt: the contempt for our laws it will instill in the minds of
illegal immigrants, and the contempt for our system with which a
clear majority of Americans will greet such legislation if passed
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: June 21, 2007, 04:34:43 AM
Victory means achieving something like we set out to do. Some sort of representative government like millions of Iraqis have voted for at considerable personal risk to themselves three times and something which is opposed by Al Qaeda and its ilk-- who have succeeded in stirring up sectarian religious strife while engaging in considerable true torture and mass deliberate targetting of civilians as part of their standard operating procedure. This vision is also opposed by Saddamite Baathist elements who also have engaged in terrible deeds.
Coming on the heels of finding nothing wrong with revealing military secrets in time of war, to say that one "opposes" our victory is to deliberately choose to express oneself in a way that sounds quite like something unpatriotic and I find it a bit disingenuous to be surprised when GM took the bait.
"The way I see it, both we and the Iraqis win if we stop the war now and concentrate our energy on making Iraq a better place for Iraqis to live than it was under Saddam, which we have the power to do anytime we want."
This is either vacuous or , , , silly. It has been our mission from the beginning and continues being our mission under the most challenging of circumstances to "make Iraq a better place for Iraqis". Preventing this are AQ and its ilk (who have openly declared democracy to be against Islam) Saddamite Baathist elements, etc. The blame for the fighting belongs on those who violently and murderously oppose the three times democratically expressed will of the Iraqi people, not on the US. Sure the Bush people have made plenty of mistakes but to put the blame on the US equally with AQ, Baathist elements, etc is easily understood to go hand in hand with opposing our victory.
"The reasons we were given for getting into this war were complete BS, and there is simply no denying this."
This is tedious. Quite the contrary. There is plenty of denying this as I have with you for several years now, both on the Assn forum and here. I find the denial of what has been explained to you many times by others and by me to be yours.
Also tedious was this:
Hypothetical question: what would be your feelings about the subject titles below, on your political discussion forum or somebody else's?
Israel vs. Palestine
Zionism and Fascism
Judaism the religion
Jews in the US
Jews in the Media
Jews in Hollywood
Jews in Europe
Over-representation of Jews in the Bush Administration?
Invitation to dialog with Jews
Keep in mind that I haven't said anything about what would be posted in them. I'm just talking about opening the subjects for a truth-seeking discussion.
There is not a world-wide movment (India, Canada, Thailand, France, Afghanistan, England, Iran, Spain, Iraq, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Horn of Africa, Algeria and the rest of North Africa, Palestine, United States, Lebanon, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc) of jewish fascism of at least 100 million and maybe hundreds of million more jews looking to bring down western civilization by the sword, terror and treachery. You do not see world-wide demonstrations of jews killing and burning down embassies as we did in the events that started this thread with the world-side response to the Danish cartoons- although there are far nastier cartoons aplenty about Jews in the Arab and Iranian press quite regularly.
If there were such a movement doing such things, such questions would be quite appropriate. However there is not such a movement, which is why such questions are tediously in search of a non-existant moral parity.
Again, one may fairly think that our goals are not achievable and that therefore we should come home. To oppose the achievement of these goals is something else. Do you two oppose the achievement of these goals?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin
on: June 20, 2007, 09:02:20 PM
THEN AND NOW
Racial Role Reversal
What the Scottsboro Boys and the Duke lacrosse players have in common.
BY JOHN STEELE GORDON
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Imagine this: In a Southern town, a woman accuses several men of rape. Despite the woman's limited credibility and ever-shifting story, the community and its legal establishment immediately decide the men are guilty. Their protestations of innocence are dismissed out of hand, exculpatory evidence is ignored.
The Duke rape case, right? No, the Scottsboro case that began in 1931, in the darkest days of the Jim Crow South.
The two cases offer a remarkable insight into how very, very far this country has come in race relations, and alas, in some ways how little. For race is central to why both cases became notorious. In Scottsboro, Ala., of course, the accusers were white and the accused was black. In Durham, N.C., it was the other way around.
On March 25, 1931, a group of nine young black men got into a fight with a group of whites while riding a freight train near Paint Rock, Ala. All but one of the whites were forced to jump off the train. But when it reached Paint Rock, the blacks were arrested. Two white women, dressed in boys clothing, were found on the train as well, Victoria Price, 21, and Ruby Bates, 17. Unemployed mill workers, they both had worked as prostitutes in Huntsville. Apparently to avoid getting into trouble themselves, they told a tale of having been brutally gang raped by the nine blacks.
The blacks were taken to the jail in Scottsboro, the county seat. Because the circumstances of the women's story--black men attacking and raping white women--fit the prevailing racial paradigm of the local white population, guilt was assumed and the governor was forced to call out the National Guard to prevent a lynch mob from hanging the men on the spot. The nine were indicted on March 30 and, by the end of April, all had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death (except for the one who was 13 years old, who was sentenced to life in prison).
A year later, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions of those on death row, except for one who was determined to be a juvenile. By this time, however, the "Scottsboro Boys" had become a national and even international story, with rallies taking place in many cities in the North. Thousands of letters poured into the Alabama courts and the governor's office demanding justice.
The International Labor Defense, the legal arm of the Communist Party USA, provided competent legal help, and the convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court because the defendants had not received adequate counsel. Samuel Leibowitz, a highly successful New York trial lawyer (he would later serve on the state's highest court) was hired to defend the accused in a second trial, held in Decatur, Ala. This turned out to be a tactical error, as Leibowitz was perceived by the local jury pool--all of them white, of course--as an outsider, a Jew and a communist (which he was not). Even though Ruby Bates repudiated her earlier testimony and said no rape had taken place, the accused were again convicted, this time the jury believing that Ruby Bates had been bribed to perjure herself.
Again the sentences were overturned, and in 1937--six years after the case began--four of the defendants had the charges dropped. One pleaded guilty to having assaulted the sheriff (and was sentenced to 20 years) and the other four were found guilty, once again, of rape. Eventually, as Jim Crow began to yield to the civil rights movement, they were paroled or pardoned, except for one who had escaped from prison and fled to Michigan. When he was caught in the 1950s, the governor of Michigan refused to allow his extradition to Alabama.
It is now clear to everyone that the nine Scottsboro boys were guilty only of being black.
When the accuser in the Duke case charged rape, the district attorney--in the midst of a tough primary election--saw an opportunity to curry favor with Durham's black community and exploit the town-gown tension found in every college town. He ran with it, inflaming public opinion against the accused at every opportunity.
To be sure, there was no lynch mob, which happily is almost inconceivable today. But many Duke University students and faculty, and many members of the media (Nancy Grace of Court TV comes to mind), simply plugged the alleged circumstances into their racial paradigm--wealthy white college jocks partying and behaving badly with regard to a poor black woman--and pronounced the Duke boys guilty. Wanted posters went up on campus with pictures of the accused; 88 members of the faculty sponsored an ad in the college paper effectively supporting the posters; and the university president suspended two of the accused upon their indictment (the third had already graduated), cancelled the rest of the season for the lacrosse team, and forced the resignation of the team coach.
Here is where the real difference between the Scottsboro boys and the Duke boys kicked in: not race but money. The Scottsboro boys were destitute and spent years in jail, while the Duke boys were all from families who could afford first-class legal talent. Their lawyers quickly began blowing hole after hole in the case and releasing the facts to the media until it was obvious that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The three Duke boys were guilty only of being white and affluent.
The district attorney won his election. But when the case fell apart and his almost grotesque malfeasance was exposed, he first resigned his office and ultimately was disbarred from the practice of law. Duke University has just settled with the three students it treated so shamefully for an undisclosed, but given the university's legal exposure, undoubtedly substantial sum. Meanwhile, the 88 members of the faculty have yet to apologize for a rush to judgment that was racist at its heart.
The country has come a long, long way in regard to race relations since 1931. But we have not yet reached the promised land where race is irrelevant. Far too many people are still being judged according to the color of their skin, not the content of their character, let alone the evidence.
Mr. Gordon is the author of "An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power" (HarperCollins, 2004).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 20, 2007, 11:37:35 AM
WSJ's Political Journal:
Money Talks, Even If It Doesn't Run
In the end he may not run, but New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg certainly roiled political waters yesterday with his announcement he was leaving the Republican Party to register as an Independent.
For the next seven months you can expect a lot of teasing from Team Bloomberg as he evaluates whether or not to run. He will likely make up his mind after the Tsunami Tuesday primaries next Feb. 5, when both major party nominees are likely to be known.
"If John McCain gets beaten to the right -- which is possible in a conservative Republican primary -- and if Democrats elect someone through a primary who Democrats generally view as unelectable, there's a large segment of the American electorate that is looking for something different," Bloomberg strategist Kevin Sheekey told Politico.com last year, in a clear reference to Hillary Clinton as the "unelectable" Democrat. Mr. Sheekey is apparently convinced there are enough alienated voters to make up "36% of the vote in enough states to give you an electoral win." Money, of course, wouldn't be a problem -- Mr. Bloomberg has hinted to friends he could easily spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a presidential race.
In reality, winning a majority of the Electoral College is tricky for an independent under the best of circumstances, a consideration that ultimately may convince Mr. Bloomberg to keep his billions in his pocket. If he does run, whom does he hurt most?
The biggest ding would be to Democrats, who would suddenly find themselves having to defend safe blue territories such as New York and California (86 electoral votes between them). Other states that lean Democratic, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, would also be in play. For their part, Republicans would be forced to compete more intensely in a few states they usually carry, such as Florida (chock full of New York migrants). But it's unlikely Mr. Bloomberg would have much appeal in the South or Midwest GOP strongholds. "How much of a cultural fit can a five-foot, seven-inch culturally liberal Jew from New York City with a Boston accent be in Kansas City?" asks one GOP consultant.
That said, Mr. Bloomberg will no doubt enjoy the next seven months as the entire national press corps speculates on his possible moves and provides him with endless media coverage. Mr. Bloomberg may end up getting all the attention he wants without having to spend his fortune running for president.
-- John Fund
Et Tu, Bloomie?
Yesterday wasn't a good day for GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. First came word that President Bush was appointing former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle as his new budget director, replacing the retiring Rob Portman. Mr. Nussle had been the top strategist for Mr. Giuliani in the key Iowa caucuses but now will be sidelined from politics.
Then came word that Thomas Ravenel, South Carolina's state treasurer and the campaign chairman for Mr. Giuliani in that key early primary state, has been suspended from office and indicted by a federal grand jury on distribution of cocaine charges.
To top everything off, the surprise move to register as an Independent by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man Mr. Giuliani campaigned for in 2001, couldn't have been good news for Team Rudy. Should Mr. Bloomberg run for president, it is almost certain he would diminish Mr. Guiliani's contention that he could win the White House for the GOP by putting states such as New York into play.
A new Quinnipiac Poll makes it unclear just how much of a chance Mr. Giuliani would have in the state both he and Hillary Clinton call home. It shows Senator Clinton with a solid 52% to 37% lead against Mr. Giuliani in a two-way race. With Mr. Bloomberg thrown into the mix, Mrs. Clinton leads by 43% to 29% with 16% opting for Mr. Bloomberg as an independent. Most ominously, Mr. Bloomberg actually ties Mr. Giuliani among key independent voters -- each man gets 23%.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Journey into Islam
on: June 20, 2007, 10:38:54 AM
June 20, 2007
Journey into Islam
By Tony Blankley
I have just finished reading a deeply disheartening book by my friend
Professor Akbar Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner
to Britain and member of the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge,
current chair of Islamic Studies at American University -- and is in the
front ranks of what we Westerners call the moderate Muslims, who we are
counting on to win the hearts and minds of the others.
I first met Professor Ahmed shortly after Sept. 11. He, his friends and I
broke bread several times and discussed the condition of Islam and the West.
He graciously agreed to share a stage with me at the National Press Club to
debate with me the merits of my book, "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win
the Clash of Civilization?" As my book was very harshly received by many
Muslims around the world, I don't doubt that Dr. Ahmed shared that stage
with me at some risk at least to his reputation -- if not more.
We even considered doing a weekly cable TV show on the clash of civilization
from our different (but respectful) points of view -- although nothing came
of it. Dr. Ahmed is a worldly man of letters who profoundly believes that
collective good can be accomplished by individual acts of good conscience --
that each of us (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu) must connect with others and
live out our convictions for our common humanity in the face of tribalism,
religion and other dividing forces. Thus, his reach out to me, a fiery
American nationalist TV commentator and editor to find if not complete
common ground, at least common friendship.
His new book, "Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization," is thus
particularly heartbreaking for me. As a trained anthropologist, he took
three of his students on a six-month journey around the Muslim world to
investigate what Muslims are thinking.
His conclusion: Due to both misjudgments by the United States and
regrettable developments in Muslim attitudes, "The poisons are spreading so
rapidly that without immediate remedial action, no antidote may ever be
found." And Dr. Ahmed has always been an optimist.
He divides Muslim attitudes into three categories named after Indian Muslim
cities that have historically championed them: Ajmer, Aligarh and Deoband.
Ajmer represents peaceful Sufi mysticism, Aligarth represents the instinct
to modernize without corrupting Islam, Deoband represents non-fatalistic,
practical, action-oriented orthodox Islam. It traces to Ibn Taymiyya, a
14th-Century thinker who lived when Islam was reeling from the Mongol
invasions. He rejected Islam's prior easy, open acceptance of non-Muslims.
In short, Dr. Ahmed is an Aligarth. As a young man he was one of new
Pakistan's best and brightest, led by Pakistan's founding father and first
president, Dr. Jinnah. They hoped to build a modern democracy, overcome
tribalism and the more obscurantist aspects of Islam while still being "good
Muslims." The Deobands are the Bin Ladens and all the other Muslims we fear
Even one or two years ago, I think Dr. Ahmed was reasonably hopeful that his
views had a fighting chance around the Islamic world. So, my jaw dropped
when I got to page 192 of his new book and he described his thoughts while
in Pakistan last year on his investigative journey: "The progressive and
active Aligarth model had become enfeebled and in danger of being overtaken
by the Deoband model ... I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who
knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had
already lost the war."
He likewise reported from Indonesia -- invariably characterized as
practicing a more moderate form of Islam. There, too, his report was
crushingly negative. Meeting with people from presidents to cab drivers,
from elite professors to students from modest schools (Dr. Ahmed holds a
respected place in the Muslim firmament around the globe), reports that 50
percent want Shariah law, support the Bali terrorist bombing, oppose women
in politics, support stoning adulterers to death. Indonesia's secular legal
system and tolerant pluralist society is being "infiltrated by Deoband
thinking ... Dwindling moderates and growing extremists are a dangerous
Although I dissent from several of Dr. Ahmed's characterizations of the Bush
Administration, Washington policymakers and journalists should read this
book because it delivers a terrible message of warning both to those who say
things aren't as bad as Bush says, and we can rely on the moderate voices of
Islam -- with a little assist from the West -- winning; and for those who
argue for aggressive American action to show our strength to the Muslims
(because, in Bin Laden's words, they follow the strong horse).
To the first group he says that the "moderate" voice is in near hopeless
retreat across the Muslim world. Don't count on them. To the second group he
says, whatever Bush's intentions, our aggression only strengthens our
I think he knows his solution is forlorn: "Although the planet's societies
are running against time ... [we must] transcend race, tribe and religion
and cherish our common humanity, every individual must become the message."
Let us pray.
But for those of us who don't expect the milk of human kindness to suddenly
start flowing, it behooves us to read Professor Ahmed's honest assessment of
the real state of Muslim world attitudes and coldly re-assess our various
policy prescriptions in its light.
These are grim times, but we must resist indulging ourselves in hopeful
fantasies. Every piece of our national security calculations must be
realistically assessed against the available facts. What is working, what
isn't, what to do?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: June 20, 2007, 10:33:55 AM
Not a knife, but it is an item that cuts, so I post it here.
A study in "the Three Ss":
Bar fight charge is attempted murder
Man is “critical” after incident early Sunday.
By Jeff Wiehe email@example.com
Stapleton: Was reportedly in fight at another bar
Allen County prosecutors say a Fort Wayne man used a broken beer bottle to attack Charles A. Minnix early Sunday morning, stabbing the 42-year-old in the neck, arm, chest and hand during a fight outside Country Spirits bar on Arcola Road.
After medics airlifted the critically injured South Whitley man to a local hospital, doctors put him on a ventilator. He had emergency surgery to repair his punctured lung and stop arterial bleeding.
David Lee Stapleton, 45, of the 5300 block of Stonehedge Boulevard, was arrested at his apartment shortly after the attack and charged with aggravated battery. Thursday, the charge was raised to attempted murder, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Stapleton posted $10,000 bond after his intial arrest Sunday morning, but was rearrested during a court appearance the next day and given $25,000 bond. He posted that, too, and as of this morning he had not been arrested for the attempted murder warrant, according to lockup records.
The fight apparently began when Minnix began to ask bar patrons for money to put into the jukebox, according to an Allen County Sheriff’s Department report. He and Stapleton began to argue sometime before 2:45 a.m., and a bartender told police she heard Stapleton say to Minnix, “You want a piece of me?”
Stapleton — who witnesses said in the report had been in an altercation earlier that night at another bar — apparently wanted to use a pool cue against Minnix, but bar patrons wrestled it away from him and got the two to go outside. There, Stapleton broke a beer bottle and began jabbing at Minnix and another man trying to break up the fight.
According to a probable-cause affidavit, Stapleton stabbed Minnix in the arm before bystanders separated them. Then Stapleton somehow got to Minnix again and stabbed him in the throat. He also cut another man who was trying to break the two apart, the sheriff’s report said. That man suffered only a minor laceration to his arm.
Witnesses dragged Minnix back into the bar. They locked Stapleton out, and an affidavit said he tried to get back in, yelling and swearing. Several witnesses said he threatened to kill Minnix.
Stapleton left with a woman, according to the sheriff’s report.
Police arrived at the bar to find large amounts of blood outside the door and on the front wall, as well as a blood trail to where Stapleton’s car had been parked, the sheriff’s report said. Officers also found a broken beer bottle covered in blood in a trash barrel outside the bar.
Officers waited for Stapleton at his apartment, where he arrived about 45 minutes after the fight. When police arrested him, he had blood on his hands. He was treated at St. Joseph Hospital before police took him to Lockup.http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/fortwayne/news/local/17374237.htm
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bolivia
on: June 20, 2007, 10:24:53 AM
BOLIVIA: A group of university students with torches, sticks, rocks and dynamite demonstrated in Sucre, Bolivia, late June 19. Police used tear gas to prevent the students from reaching the Constitutional Assembly. The students were protesting a proposed article in the assembly that would grant government control over universities -- a measure that ruling Movement Toward Socialism party already has said it will no longer support.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: June 20, 2007, 09:18:58 AM
That's pretty funny Buzz.
Changing subjects, Nature Conservancy is a fine group, which seeks market oriented solutions. As I read this editorial I am reminded that I need to renew my membership:
Published: June 20, 2007
The steady march of major timber companies to new locations in the southern United States and overseas has exposed millions of acres to development, ratcheting up the already fierce pressures on the nation’s dwindling supply of open space. With most federal open-space programs cut to the bone, the task of preserving these lands for future generations has fallen increasingly to private groups.
Given their relatively limited resources, any victory they achieve is cause for cheers. And cheer we do this week for the Nature Conservancy’s purchase — with financing from the Open Space Institute and other groups — from a paper company of 161,000 acres of hardwood forests, mountain peaks, lakes and streams in New York’s Adirondacks.
The deal secures for posterity the last big piece of privately owned timberland in the Adirondacks. It caps a series of transactions stretching back to the early 1990s that altogether have protected hundreds of thousands of Adirondack backcountry acres that might otherwise have been lost to second homes. The transaction is also significant because it will allow selective logging to continue for 20 years, helping to preserve jobs at a local paper mill.
To cover the $110 million price, the Nature Conservancy is going to need more than just cheering. Some of the money could come from private fund-raising, and some by selling part of the timberland back to a company that would harvest the land sustainably but keep out residential development.
We also urge Gov. Eliot Spitzer to step forward, as his predecessor George Pataki did on similar occasions in the past. The state could buy some of the land outright, adding it to the New York State Forest Preserve. It could also buy the development rights from the Nature Conservancy through a conservation easement — rights, of course, it would never use.
From Maine to California, groups like the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land are engaged in a continuing, and financially creative, battle to keep the developers at bay and keep large ecosystems intact. This week’s deal gives them, and all of us, heart.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 20, 2007, 09:06:46 AM
Published: June 20, 2007
McALLEN, Tex., June 15 — Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president and professor of anthropology at the University of Texas branch in Brownsville, saw a slight problem in the route of a border fence that federal officials displayed at a community meeting earlier this month.
Dr Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president of the University of Texas branch in Brownsville, at the site of the planned fence, which would split the university. “Would the students need to show a passport?” he asked.
“Part of our university,” Dr. Zavaleta said, “would be on the Mexican side of the fence.”
What about traffic between classes, he wondered. “Would the students need to show a passport?”
He was not the only one who was startled. Local leaders throughout South Texas have been voicing puzzlement and alarm at the implications of the barrier, which Congress has authorized the Department of Homeland Security to construct along 370 miles of the United States-Mexico border, including 153 miles in Texas, by December 2008.
Some of the gravest concern involves the effect on wildlife in the 90,000 acres of national refuges in South Texas, where bumper stickers read “No Border Wall” and a group of naturalists, Los Caminos del Rio, has been staging ecotourism forays into a long-closed sanctuary to draw attention to endangered habitats.
Customs and Border Protection officials say that the path of the fence is far from settled and that they are discussing it with local officials.
But maps like the one shown in Brownsville on June 4 by Chief David Aguilar of the Border Patrol put the route along a levee built inland to hold back flooding on the Rio Grande. That location, some here say, would in effect cede to Mexico the land on the other side of the fence up to the official international border, the middle of the Rio Grande.
In Brownsville, Dr. Zavaleta said, that path would cut off not only the International Technology, Education and Commerce campus of the University of Texas and Texas Southmost College, which is in a former shopping center about a mile from the main campus, but also its golf course and a national historic site, Fort Brown, where an upright cannon marks an opening skirmish of the Mexican War.
Even the heavily trafficked bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, would be on the Mexican side of the fence, Dr. Zavaleta said.
He said Chief Aguilar had seemed taken aback by the observations and agreed to review the route.
“Nothing has been finalized yet,” said Xavier Rios, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. “To say something will be cut off is way premature.”
Mr. Rios added that the fence would have many access points to allow monitored passage.
But in Laredo, where Mayor Raul G. Salinas, a former officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has complained of being bypassed, a city spokeswoman, Xochitl Mora Garcia, said that after promising to consult with local officials, federal authorities recently invited contract proposals for construction of the fence.
“What they’re saying and doing are two different things,” Ms. Garcia said.
In Brownsville, the district clerk, Aurora De La Garza, and a county commissioner, Sofia Benavides — who emerged from a hurricane-planning visit to the Mexican consulate at the university campus that would be isolated — derided officials in Washington as not understanding family ties across the border.
“This is a relationship that cannot be broken by a fence,” Ms. Benavides said.
Representative Henry Cuellar, the South Texas Democrat who has been organizing local forums to air grievances, said the Homeland Security Department had become more responsive.
“They may have started off on the wrong foot,” Mr. Cuellar said, “but they’re trying to work with the locals now.”
On Friday, the House passed a bill, now before the Senate, appropriating $37 billion for the Homeland Security Department with a provision, insisted on by Mr. Cuellar and others, requiring federal officials to consult with local communities about the fence, which could cost $2 billion to $49 billion.
Supporters say a fence is crucial to shoring up the nation’s southern border. Critics say that a 10-foot-high wall in San Diego is already being scaled by illegal immigrants using ladders, and that technology alone — a virtual fence — could provide much of the same security.
Furthermore, congested areas like Laredo, where development extends to the Rio Grande amid tightly intertwined commercial and social ties to its sister city across the border, Nuevo Laredo, do not lend themselves to a fence.
In an unusual step in the booming border crossroads city of McAllen, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has taken a role in the debate, providing a rare permit to Los Caminos del Rio (Ways of the River), to run scheduled biking and kayaking outings into the long-restricted Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Members have to announce their visits ahead of time to tip off the Border Patrol and assure protection from the human smugglers who infest the refuge — like, for example, the three jumpy fellows who had just crossed the river from Mexico the other evening to stash a bag of dry clothes for nightfall.
“Don’t mess with us or we’ll both get messed up,” warned one (or words to that effect).
Eric Ellman, executive director of the 17-year-old Los Caminos group, said the strategy was akin to that devised in New York City at the height of the 1970s crime wave.
“Legal activity will displace illegal activity,” Mr. Ellman said, maintaining that the presence of ecotourists would make the refuge less appealing to illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.
Bryan R. Wynton, the refuge manager, said he was concerned that a fence could prove ruinous to wildlife relying on the river. “It pretty much destroys 20 years of efforts,” he said.
But Mr. Wynton added, “I’m smart enough to know national security is going to trump fish and wildlife management any day, but that doesn’t mean I need to throw in the towel.”
A morning spent biking and kayaking the refuge with about a dozen members of Los Caminos showcased the diversity of the wildlife. As Lori Humphreys, executive secretary of the group, led the group with an S.U.V. full of gear, and Mel Piñeda, a consultant, followed in a pickup loaded with kayaks, a herd of javelinas bolted into the mesquite. A turkey buzzard circled overhead along with menacing-looking tarantula wasps that lay their eggs inside tarantulas also in evidence from a dried carcass at the side of the road.
Sue Thompson, a local farmer and a member of the North American Butterfly Association, with its own reserve nearby, said she had seen smugglers in the refuge driving up to unload boxes of drugs ferried across the Rio Grande.
Just the evening before, on a run-through of the next morning’s nature tour, Mr. Piñeda stumbled across the three men huddling on the shore of the river waiting for dark with their bag of dry clothes.
On the Mexican side, families frolicked in the water, and Mr. Piñeda shouted across, asking what they thought of the wall. “It’s an insult,” one man shouted back, adding, “We’ll make tunnels.”
As nightfall came, Napoleon Garza, an armed local caretaker who was patrolling the reserve against feral hogs, warned the visitors to leave.
“There’s a lot of dope being run across here,” he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Shadow goes
on: June 20, 2007, 09:01:37 AM
The Shadow Goes
By MARGARET WERTHEIM
Published: June 20, 2007
ON Thursday, on the summer solstice, the Sun will celebrate the year’s lazy months by resting on the horizon. The word solstice derives from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). The day marks the sun’s highest point in the sky, the moment when our shadows shrink to their shortest length of the year. How strange to think that these mundane friends, our ever-present familiars, can actually go faster than the sun’s rays.
I remarked on this recently to my husband as we sat on the porch with our shadows pooling by our chairs. Nothing can go faster than light, he insisted, expressing what is surely the most widely known law of physics, ingrained into us by a thousand “Nova” programs.
That is the point, I explained: Nothing can go faster than light. A shadow isn’t a thing. It’s a non-thing. It’s the absence of light.
Special relativity dictates that we cannot move anything more quickly than the particles of light known as photons, but no law says you can’t do nothing faster than light. Physicists have known this for a long time, even if they generally do not mention it on PBS documentaries.
My husband looked troubled, as did my sister and some friends I regaled with the story that evening. Like the warp drive on “Star Trek,” faster-than-light travel is supposed to be a science-fiction fantasy. Isn’t it?
They are right about the travel: According to relativity, no physical substance can exceed the speed of light because it would take infinite energy to accelerate anything to such a velocity.
Yet the laws of physics pertain only to that which is. That which isn’t is not bound by relativity’s restraint. From the point of view of relativity, a shadow (having no mass) is a non-thing, an existential void.
It’s quite easy to conjure up a faster-than-light shadow, at least in theory. Build a great klieg light, a superstrong version of the ones set up at the Academy Awards. Now paste a piece of black paper onto the klieg’s glass so there is a shadow in the middle of the beam, like the signal used to summon Batman. And we are going to mount our light in space and broadcast the Bat-call to the cosmos.
The key to our trick is to rotate the klieg. As the light turns, the bat shadow sweeps across the sky. Round and round it goes, projecting into the void. Just as the rim of a bicycle wheel moves faster than its hub, so too, away from the source our bat shadow will fly faster and faster, a consequence of the geometry that guarantees the rim of a really big wheel moves faster than a co-rotating small wheel.
At a great enough distance from the source, our shadow bat will go so fast it will exceed the speed of light. This does not violate relativity because a shadow carries no energy. Literally nothing is transferred. Our shadow bat can go 10 times the speed of light or 100 times faster without breaking any of physics’ sacred rules.
My sister leapt to the heart of this apparent paradox: Why isn’t the light itself traveling faster than the speed of light? Isn’t it also rotating in space? Actually, no. The bulbs that produce the light are spinning, but the light particles leave the source at 186,000 miles a second, the vaunted “speed of light.” Once emitted, the photons continue to travel at this speed directly away from the source. Only the shadow revolves around the great circle. The critical point is that no object, no substance, defies light.
My husband was right to object that you’d need one spectacular klieg to produce a detectable shadow thousands of miles out in space. Still, the theory is sound.
The anthropologist Mary Douglas noted that all systems of categorizing break down somewhere, unable to incorporate certain forms. By standing beyond relativity’s injunction, shadows suggest the limits of all classification schemes, a tension that even modern science cannot completely resolve.
In the terms recognized by relativity, shadows are non-things. Yet before the invention of clocks, shadows were the most important means for telling time. Weightless and without energy, shadows can nonetheless convey information — though they cannot, despite our giant klieg, be used for faster-than-light communication. That’s because the shadow’s location cannot be detected until the light, moving at its ponderous relativistic pace, arrives.
“Here there be monsters,” said the medieval maps, signaling the limits of reason’s reach. As a map of being, physics is flanked by the monsters of non-being whose outlines we glimpse in the paradoxes of quantum mechanics and in the zooming arc of a shadow bat going faster than light.
In Christian theology we are told, “God is that which nothing is greater than.” The scientific corollary might be, “Light is that which nothing is faster than” — a statement true both in spirit and fact.
Margaret Wertheim, the director of the Institute for Figuring, a science and mathematics education organization, is writing a book on physics and the imagination.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 20, 2007, 08:59:45 AM
Jeff sent us an additional pair of S-knives for the explicit purpose of our using them at this Gathering.
Also, I'd like to remind people to think in terms of 2x2 knife fights, stick vs. knife, etc. Who will be fighting double stick? Haven't seen any mention of staff fights , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: June 19, 2007, 09:36:29 PM
Major offensive in al Qaeda's so-called capital of the Islamic State of Iraq
The Diyala Campaign is underway. As part of major offensive operations throughout the belts regions of Baghdad, Iraqi and U.S. forces have launched a large scale operation in the city of Baqubah, the provincial capital of Diyala. Dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the offensive is massive. This is a division sized operation of "approximately 10,000 Soldiers, with a full complement of attack helicopters, close air support, Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles."
Over 30 al Qaeda operatives have been killed since the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division kicked off the operation with a "quick-strike nighttime air assault."
Elements of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, are operating in Baqubah, along with the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division. American forces are in the lead of the assault, with the Iraqi Army in support. The 2-5 Iraqi Army Brigade killed four al Qaeda after receiving sniper fire, and captured 2 others.
The New York Times, which incorrectly reported the operation as consisting of 2,000 U.S. troops, reported that the western portion of the city of Baqubah has been sealed off with ground and air units as troops pursue the 300 to 500 Qaeda believed to be operating in the area.
The 1920 Revolution Brigades, which turned on al Qaeda in Diyala and cleared the city of Buhriz with U.S. assistance, is actively working along side Iraqi Army units in Baqubah. "The Iraqi forces were joined by some members of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade, a Sunni Arab group with units that have recently repudiated a longstanding alliance with Al Qaeda, and witnesses said the two groups were welcomed by the residents," note the Times.
Map of southern Diyala. Click map to view.
Back in May, we noted Diyala has become the main hub of al Qaeda's operations. Al Qaeda in Iraq made Baqubah the capital of its rump Islamic State of Iraq last year. Since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February, the security situation, which was deteriorating after U.S. forces pulled back last fall, has markedly worsened. Al Qaeda has prepared fighting positions, supply bases, IED traps, bomb rigged buildings, and training camps in the province.
Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informed us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah's military structure in Lebanon. Al Qaeda attacks in the region proved this, as a series of assaults along the Iranian border and elsewhere in the province bore the hallmark of a well led, well trained fighting unit.
The fighting in Diyala will be hard. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cow the local population.
The Diyala Campaign has been a long time coming. The 10,000 U.S. troops and supporting Iraqi units won't sit pat in Baqubah, but will reach out to strike at other al Qaeda bases in the troubled province. These areas include Khalis, Muqdadiyah and a host of small towns up and down the Diyala River Valley and along the Iranian border where al Qaeda has established bases, training camps and logistical nodes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: June 19, 2007, 07:59:18 PM
Iraq: A New Offensive in Diyala
In one of the largest operations since the Iraq war began in 2003, the U.S. military led some 10,000 coalition troops into Diyala province June 19 as part of an offensive against al Qaeda. Building on successes in Anbar province, the United States is attempting to take the fight to the jihadists. But, like the U.S. troop surge, this offensive will not be short-lived, and success is far from assured.
Operation Arrowhead Ripper, led by the U.S. Army's third Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, began early June 19 in Diyala province. Some 10,000 coalition troops are involved in the offensive against al Qaeda, other foreign jihadist groups and their local supporters. The focus of the operation is the city of Baqubah, where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006, and which is home to all the major sectarian groups in Iraq. The operation will attempt to shut down jihadist operations there and establish some semblance of security. But the United States still cannot impose a military solution in Iraq; it can only attempt to make the security landscape conducive to political negotiations on the litany of Iraq's intractable issues.
During the last six months, many militant elements have been driven into Diyala, and U.S. fatalities in the province have seen a very distinct increase since January. Coalition efforts to talk with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province -- the traditional support base of al Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni jihadist elements -- have seen recent success. Sunni tribal militias' opposition to al Qaeda has been building for some time, but struggles within the larger Sunni camp and pressure from security operations in Baghdad proper have gradually pushed the jihadists from Anbar province into Diyala. Coalition troops have simply followed the jihadists; a U.S. Stryker battalion has been operating in eastern Baqubah for several months, and more than 2,000 Kurdish peshmerga fighters were deployed to Baqubah the week of June 10 to assist with U.S. security operations already under way.
Though the coalition met with some success in working with Anbar's Sunni tribal leaders against jihadists, Diyala's population -- 40 percent Sunni Arab, 35 percent Shiite Arab and 20 percent Kurdish -- is much more diverse than Anbar's. Diyala is one of three provinces that will be heavily contested in the Kirkuk referendum, which -- according to Iraq's constitution -- is to take place before the end of 2007. However, volatile resistance from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions likely will scupper the timeline. In the midst of these delicate sectarian tensions, however, last week's peshmerga deployment was particularly unsettling for Diyala's Arab population, since it gives the Kurds more armed influence in the province just as the United States attempts to deal with Shiite extremism within the leadership of Diyala's Iraqi National Police units (a move that was key to successes in Anbar province and Tal Afar). But given the influence of both Kurds and Shia in Diyala right now, the province's Sunni factions will be more difficult to split from their well-armed al Qaeda allies than the Sunnis in Anbar.
However, the U.S. ability to shift 10,000 coalition soldiers into a major operation outside Baghdad in the midst of a major security crackdown is the mark of significant operational flexibility. This flexibility will allow the United States to keep pressure on the jihadists and thus (it is hoped) impede their ability to plan complex operations and maintain the supply lines necessary to build explosives, such as those used in the recent spate of bridge bombings. Thus far, neither the recent bridge bombings nor jihadists' attempts to supplement their bombs with chlorine gas have proven particularly effective. However, the latest bombing of the revered Shiite al-Askariyah shrine June 13 and the June 19 bombing of the Khillani mosque in Baghdad serve as reminders that al Qaeda is still capable of stoking the fire of sectarian tension in Iraq.
In Diyala, however, both the foreign jihadists and their domestic allies are beginning to feel cornered, with few places left to hide. They face hostile Kurdish majorities to the north in As Sulaymaniyah, Iranian and Iraqi Shiite majorities to the east and south (especially in Wasit, where they have been unable to establish a long-term presence), growing Sunni nationalist and tribal hostility to the west in Salah ad Din and Anbar and a strong-handed security operation in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the coalition is turning up the heat elsewhere; elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division began sweeping through other Sunni strongholds south of Baghdad in Babil province the weekend of June 16-17.
Of course, the jihadists in Iraq are not going to simply go away. They have proven to be a resilient and innovative opponent for Iraq's government and the U.S. military, and some will escape the latest coalition operation. The United States will attempt to impede the most destabilizing and violent jihadist attacks. Meanwhile, Washington's negotiations with Tehran will continue, and Iraq will remain fragile.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Watch Egypt
on: June 19, 2007, 05:33:47 PM
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
The Geopolitics of the Palestinians
By George Friedman
Last week, an important thing happened in the Middle East. Hamas, a radical Islamist political group, forcibly seized control of Gaza from rival Fatah, an essentially secular Palestinian group. The West Bank, meanwhile, remains more or less under the control of Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian National Authority in that region. Therefore, for the first time, the two distinct Palestinian territories -- the Gaza Strip and the West Bank -- no longer are under a single Palestinian authority.
Hamas has been increasing its influence among the Palestinians for years, and it got a major boost by winning the most recent election. It now has claimed exclusive control over Gaza, its historical stronghold and power base. It is not clear whether Hamas will try to take control of the West Bank as well, or whether it would succeed if it did make such a play. The West Bank is a different region with a very different dynamic. What is certain, for the moment at least, is that these regions are divided under two factions, and therefore have the potential to become two different Palestinian states.
In a way, this makes more sense than the previous arrangement. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are physically separated from one another by Israel. Travel from one part of the Palestinian territories to the other relies on Israel's willingness to permit it -- which is not always forthcoming. As a result, the Palestinian territories are divided into two areas that have limited contact.
The war between the Philistines and the Hebrews is described in the books of Samuel. The Philistines controlled the coastal lowlands of the Levant, the east coast of the Mediterranean. They had advanced technologies, such as the ability to smelt bronze, and they conducted international trade up and down the Levant and within the eastern Mediterranean. The Hebrews, unable to engage the Philistines in direct combat, retreated into the hills to the east of the coast, in Judea, the area now called the West Bank.
The Philistines were part of a geographical entity that ran from Gaza north to Turkey. The Hebrews were part of the interior that connected north to Syria, south into the Arabian deserts and east across the Jordan. The Philistines were unable to pursue the Hebrews in the interior, and the Hebrews -- until David -- were unable to dislodge the Philistines from the coast. Two distinct entities existed.
Today, Gaza is tied to the coastal system, which Israel and Lebanon now occupy. Gaza is the link between the Levantine coast and Egypt. The West Bank is not a coastal entity but a region whose ties are to the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan and Syria. The point is that Gaza and the West Bank are very distinct geographical entities that see the world in very different ways.
Gaza, its links to the north cut by the Israelis, historically has been oriented toward the Egyptians, who occupied the region until 1967. The Egyptians influenced the region by creating the Palestine Liberation Organization, while Egypt's dissident Muslim Brotherhood helped influence the creation of Hamas in 1987. The West Bank, part of Jordan until 1967, is larger and more complex in its social organization, and it really represented the center of gravity of Palestinian nationalism under Fatah. Gaza and the West Bank were always separate entities, and the recent action by Hamas has driven home that point.
Hamas' victory in Gaza means much more to the Palestinians and Egyptians than it does to the Israelis -- at least in the shorter term. The fear in Israel now is that Gaza, under Hamas, will become more aggressive in carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel. Hamas certainly has an ideology that argues for this, and it is altogether possible that the group will become more antagonistic. However, it appears to us that Hamas already was capable of carrying out as many attacks as it wished before taking complete control. Moreover, by increasing attacks now, Hamas -- which always has been able to deny responsibility for these incidents -- would lose the element of deniability. Having taken control of Gaza, regardless of whether it carries out attacks, it would have failed to prevent them. Hamas' leadership is more vulnerable now than ever before.
Let's consider the strategic position of the Palestinians. Their primary weapon against Israel remains what it always has been: random attacks against civilian targets designed to destabilize Israel. The problem with this strategy is obvious. Using terrorism against Americans in Iraq is potentially effective as a strategy. If the Americans cannot stand the level of casualties being imposed, they have the option of leaving Iraq. Although leaving might pose serious problems to U.S. regional and global interests, it would not affect the continued existence of the United States. Therefore, the insurgents potentially could find a threshold that would force the United States to fold.
The Israelis cannot leave Israel. Assume for the moment that the Palestinians could impose 1,000 civilian casualties a year. There are about 5 million Jews in Israel. That would be about 0.02 percent casualties. The Israelis are not going to leave Israel at that casualty rate, or at a rate a thousand times greater. Unlike the Americans, for whom Iraq is a subsidiary interest, Israel is Israel's central interest. Israel is not going to capitulate to the Palestinians over terrorism attacks.
The Israelis could be convinced to make political concessions in shaping a Palestinian state. For example, they might concede more land or more autonomy in order to stop the attacks. That might have been attractive to Fatah, but Hamas explicitly rejects the existence of Israel and therefore gives the Israelis no reason to make concessions. That means that while attacks might be psychologically satisfying to Hamas, they would be substantially less effective than the attacks that were carried out while Fatah was driving the negotiations. Bargaining with Hamas gets Israel nothing.
One of the uses of terrorism is to trigger an Israeli response, which in turn can be used to drive a wedge between Israel and the West. Fatah has been historically skillful at using the cycle of violence to its political advantage. Hamas, however, is handicapped in two ways: First, its position on Israel is perceived as much less reasonable than Fatah's. Second, Hamas is increasingly being viewed as a jihadist movement, and, as such, its strength threatens European and U.S. interests.
Although Israel does not want terrorist attacks, such attacks do not represent a threat to the survival of the state. To be cold-blooded, they are an irritant, not a strategic threat. The only thing that could threaten the survival of Israel, apart from a nuclear barrage, would be a shift in position of neighboring states. Right now, Israel has peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan, and an adequately working relationship with Syria. With Egypt and Jordan out of the game, Syria does not represent a threat. Israel is strategically secure.
The single most important neighbor Israel has is Egypt. When energized, it is the center of gravity of the Arab world. Under former President Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt drove Arab hostility to Israel. Once Anwar Sadat reversed Nasser's strategy on Israel, the Jewish state was basically secure. Other Arab nations could not threaten it unless Egypt was part of the equation. And for nearly 30 years, Egypt has not been part of the equation. But if Egypt were to reverse its position, Israel would, over time, find itself much less comfortable. Though Saudi Arabia has recently overshadowed Egypt's role in the Arab world, the Egyptians can always opt back into a strong leadership position and use their strength to threaten Israel. This becomes especially important as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's health fails and questions are raised about whether his successors will be able to maintain control of the country while the Muslim Brotherhood spearheads a campaign to demand political reform.
As we have said, Gaza is part of the Mediterranean coastal system. Egypt controlled Gaza until 1967 and retained influence there afterward, but not in the West Bank. Hamas also was influenced by Egypt, but not by Mubarak's government. Hamas was an outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which the Mubarak regime has done a fairly good job of containing, primarily through force. But there also is a significant paradox in Hamas' relations with Egypt. The Mubarak regime, particularly through its intelligence chief (and prospective Mubarak successor) Omar Suleiman, has good working relations with Hamas, despite being tough on the Muslim Brotherhood.
This is the threat to Israel. Hamas has ties to Egypt and resonates with Egyptians, as well as with Saudis. Its members are religious Sunnis. If the creation of an Islamist Palestinian state in Gaza succeeds, the most important blowback might be in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood -- which is currently lying very low -- could be rekindled. Mubarak is growing old, and he hopes to be succeeded by his son. The credibility of the regime is limited, to say the least.
Hamas is unlikely to take over the West Bank -- and, even if it did, it still would make no strategic difference. Increased terrorist attacks against Israel's population would achieve less than the attacks that occurred while Fatah was negotiating. They could happen, but they would lead nowhere. Hamas' long-term strategy -- indeed, the only hope of the Palestinians who not prepared to accept a compromise with Israel -- is for Egypt to change its tune toward Israel, which could very well involve energizing Islamist forces in Egypt and bringing about the fall of the Mubarak regime. That is the key to any solution for Hamas.
Although many are focusing on the rise of Iran's influence in Gaza, putting aside the rhetoric, Iran is a minor player in the Israeli-Palestinian equation. Even Syria, despite hosting Hamas' exiled leadership, carries little weight when it comes to posing a strategic threat to Israel. But Egypt carries enormous weight. If an Islamist rising occurred in Egypt and a regime was installed that could energize the Egyptian public against Israel, then that would reflect a strategic threat to the survival of the Israeli state. It would not be an immediate threat -- it would take a generation to turn Egypt into a military power -- but it would ultimately represent a threat.
Only a disciplined and hostile Egypt could serve as the cornerstone of an anti-Israel coalition. Hamas, by asserting itself in Gaza -- especially if it can resist the Israeli army -- could strike the chord in Egypt that Fatah has been unable to strike for almost 30 years.
That is the importance of the creation of a separate Gaza entity; it complicates Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and probably makes them impossible. And this in and of itself works in Israel's favor, since it has no need to even entertain negotiations with the Palestinians as long as the Palestinians continue dividing themselves. If Hamas were to make significant inroads in the West Bank, it would make things more difficult for Israel, as well as for Jordan. But with or without the West Bank, Hamas has the potential -- not the certainty, just the potential -- to reach west along the Mediterranean coast and influence events in Egypt. And that is the key for Hamas.
There are probably a dozen reasons why Hamas made the move it did, most of them trivial and limited to local problems. But the strategic consequence of an independent, Islamist Gaza is that it can act both as a symbol and as a catalyst for change in Egypt, something that was difficult as long as Hamas was entangled with the West Bank. This probably was not planned, but it is certainly the most important consequence -- intended or not -- of the Gaza affair.
Two things must be monitored: first, whether there is reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank and, if so, on what sort of terms; second, what the Egyptian Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood do now that Hamas, their own creation, has taken control of Gaza, a region once controlled by the Egyptians.
Egypt is the place to watch.
© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That'll teach ya
on: June 19, 2007, 02:31:30 PM
Interesting facts in that case Argyll, thanks.
Here's one to make the blood boil a bit:
'You're fired,' man hears after saving a woman's life
The 24-year-old grabbed a gun before going to help his neighbor who had been shot.
By Jim Schoettler, The Times-Union
When a neighbor screamed she'd been shot, Colin Bruley grabbed his shotgun, found the victim and began treating her bloodied right le contextual_ad_head g.
Tonnetta Lee survived Tuesday's pre-dawn shooting at her Jacksonville apartment, and her sister and a neighbor praised Bruley's actions. But his employers, the same people who own the Arlington complex where Bruley lives, reacted differently. They fired him.
Bruley, a leasing agent at the Oaks at Mill Creek, said he lost his job after being told that brandishing the weapon was a workplace violation, as was failing to notify supervisors after the incident occurred. He'd worked at the Monument Road complex since December and for the owner, Village Green Cos., since 2005.
Bruley said he was too shaken to call his supervisor immediately after the incident, which occurred just before 2 a.m., but planned to eventually do so. He also said he was acting as a citizen, not an employee, and shouldn't have been punished for trying to protect himself and others. He never fired the shotgun.
"I was expecting work to give me some kind of commendation," said Bruley, 24. "I was totally blown back. It was a crisis that most people don't go through."
Andrea Roebker, the company's director of public relations, said "We're not in a position to discuss any employment issues outside of [with] the employee.
She declined to comment further, citing confidentiality rules.
A complaint Bruley said was given to him by his supervisor Tuesday said he violated several company policies found in an employee handbook. Those procedures were also explained in a recent meeting and an e-mail, the complaint said. One policy prohibits any type of weapons being used in the workplace. The complaint cited him for "gross misconduct."
"Colin demonstrated extremely poor judgment in responding to this situation," the complaint said. "Colin's failure to immediately report this incident ... could have serious ramifications to the property, its associates and residents."
A police report said the shooting followed a domestic quarrel involving Lee, 24, and her boyfriend. Bruley said he was dozing off in his apartment when he heard Lee's screams. He said he then grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun he uses for protection and hunting.
Bruley said he found the woman bleeding heavily. He handed the shotgun to a neighbor, tied a tourniquet around her right leg and waited for police and rescue to arrive.
"I was kind of in a state of shock. I had blood all over my body," Bruley said.
After emergency officials took Lee to the hospital, Bruley returned to his apartment and tried to settle down, eventually falling asleep. He said he could have called his supervisor but didn't think she could do anything at the time. He said he was called into the office about 9:30 a.m., gave his account and then left. He said he was called back that afternoon and told he was fired.
Neighbor Kevin Courson joined Bruley at the crime scene when he saw Bruley had a gun for protection. Courson said he is incensed by the dismissal.
"Here was a guy trying to do a good deed. He wasn't trying to hurt nobody," said Courson, 31.
Erica Jenkins, Lee's sister, said Bruley should still have a job. Lee couldn't be reached to comment despite several messages left with her sister and mother.
"If it wasn't for him ... she could have lost her leg or died," said Jenkins, 19. "He put his life in jeopardy for someone else."
Bruley said he is considering contacting a lawyer about his dismissal, but will first look for another job and possibly another home. He promises he won't shy away from aiding others in need.
"If I'd lose my job again for helping some girl's life ... I'd do it over and over," Bruley firstname.lastname@example.org
, (904) 359-4385
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Conservative case against Ron Paul
on: June 19, 2007, 09:36:10 AM
That page is not opening for me GM. Nonetheless, this is big news.
A friend sent me this:
Someone went through the trouble of summarizing some of Ron Paul
positions. I find it to be an interesting quick read, whether one agrees with the
author or not.
The Conservative Case Against Ron Paul
By John Hawkins
Friday, June 15, 2007
Even though he's not one of the top tier contenders, I thought it might be
worthwhile to go ahead and write a short, but sweet primer that will
explain why so many Republicans have a big problem with Ron Paul. Enjoy!
#1) Ron Paul is a libertarian, not a conservative: I have nothing against
libertarians. To the contrary, I like them and welcome them into the
Republican Party. But, conservatives have even less interest in seeing a
libertarian as the GOP's standard bearer than seeing a moderate as our
party's nominee. In Paul's case, his voting record shows that he is the
least conservative member of Congress running for President on the GOP
side. So, although he is a small government guy, he very poorly represents
conservative opinion on a wide variety of other important issues.
#2) Ron Paul is one of the people spreading the North American Union
conspiracy: If you're so inclined, you can click here for just one example
of Paul talking up a mythical Bush administration merger of the U.S.,
Canada, and Mexico, but you're not missing much if you don't. Reputable
conservatives shouldn't be spreading these crazy conspiracy theories and
the last thing the GOP needs is a conspiracy crank as our nominee in 2008.
#3) Ron Paul encourages "truther" conspiracy nuts: Even though Ron Paul
admits that he does not believe in a 9/11 government conspiracy, he has
been flirting with the wackjobs in the "truther movement," like Alex Jones and
the "Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth." Republican politicians should
either ignore people like them or set them straight, not lend credence to their
bizarre conspiracy theories by acting as if they may have some merit,
which is what Ron Paul has done.
#4) Ron Paul's racial views: From the Houston Chronicle, Texas
congressional candidate Ron Paul's 1992 political newsletter highlighted portrayals of
blacks as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about top political
Under the headline of "Terrorist Update," for instance, Paul reported on
gang crime in Los Angeles and commented, "If you have ever been robbed by
a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be."
Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes
racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context
of "current events and statistical reports of the time."
..."Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal
justice system,' I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black
males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal," Paul said.
...He added, "We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a
man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have
been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big,
strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."
Paul also asserted that "complex embezzling" is conducted exclusively by
non-blacks. "What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that
it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing
so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100
percent white and Asian?" he wrote."
Ron Paul has since claimed that although these comments were in his
newsletter, under his name, he didn't write them. Is he telling the truth?
Who knows? Either way, those comments don't say much for Paul.
#5) A lot of Ron Paul's supporters are incredibly irritating: There are,
without question, plenty of decent folks who support Ron Paul. However,
for whatever reason, his supporters as a group are far more annoying than
those of all the other candidates put together. It's like every spammer,
truther, troll, and flake on the net got together under one banner to spam polls
and try to annoy everyone into voting for Ron Paul (which is, I must admit, a
#6) Ron Paul is an isolationist: The last time the United States retreated
to isolationism was after WW1 and the result was WW2. Since then, the
world has become even more interconnected which makes Ron Paul's strategy of
retreating behind the walls of Fortress America even more unworkable than
it was back in the thirties.
#7) Ron Paul wants to immediately cut and run in Iraq: Even if you're an
isolationist like Ron Paul, the reality is that our foreign policy isn't
currently one of isolationism and certain allowances should be made to
deal with that reality. Yet, Paul believes we should immediately retreat from
Al-Qaeda in Iraq and let that entire nation collapse into genocide and
civil war as a result. Maybe, just maybe, Paul's motives are better than those
of liberals like Murtha and Kerry, who want to see us lose a war for
political gain, but the catastrophic results would be exactly the same.
#8) In the single most repulsive moment of the entire Presidential race so
far, Ron Paul excused Al-Qaeda's attack on America with this comment about
9/11: "They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for
In other words, America deserved to be attacked by Al-Qaeda.
This is the sort of facile comment you'd expect to hear from an
America-hating left winger like Michael Moore or Noam Chomsky, not from a
Republican running for President -- or from any Republican in office for
that matter. If you want to truly realize how foolish that sort of
thinking is, imagine what the reaction would be if we had bombed Egyptian or
Indonesian civilians after 9/11 and then justified it by saying "We
attacked them because those Muslims have been over here."
#9) Ron Paul is the single, least electable major candidate running for
the presidency in either party: Libertarianism simply is not considered to be
a mainstream political philosophy in the United States by most Americans.
That's why the Libertarian candidate in 2004, Michael Badnarik, only
pulled .3% of the vote. Even more notably, Ron Paul only pulled .47% of the vote
when he ran at the top of the Libertarian ticket in 1988. Granted, Paul
would do considerably better than that if he ran at the top of the
Republican Party ticket, but it's hard to imagine his winning more than,
say 35%, of the national vote and a state or two -- even if he were very
In other words, having Ron Paul as the GOP nominee would absolutely
guarantee the Democratic nominee a Reaganesque sweep in the election.
Summary: Is Ron Paul serious about small government, enforcing the
Constitution, and enforcing the borders? Yes, and those are all admirable
qualities. However, he also has a host of enormous flaws that makes him
unqualified to be President and undesirable, even as a Republican
Mr. Hawkins is a professional blogger who runs Conservative Grapevine and
Right Wing News. He also writes a weekly column for Townhall.com and
consults for the Duncan Hunter campaign.http://townhall.com/columnists/JohnHawkins/2007/06/15/the_conservative_case_against_ron_paul
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Red Belt
on: June 19, 2007, 08:29:54 AM
HOLLYWOOD is so behind the curve on cultural trends that most fads are over before the movie biz can figure out how to exploit them. So I guess I shouldn't have been shocked to discover that someone is only now -- after Ultimate Fighting Championship has become a huge ratings champ on Spike TV, made the cover of Sports Illustrated and, most important in terms of zeitgeist cred, been mocked by both the Onion and "The Daily Show" -- making a film about the wild 'n' woolly sport that has gained a chokehold on the elusive 18-to-34 male demographic.
The picture, called "Redbelt," is shooting here in Los Angeles through the end of the month, with much of the filming at the Pyramid in Long Beach. After visiting the set last week, I asked industry-ites to guess the identity of the filmmaker who'd beaten everyone else to the punch, so to speak. An action impresario like Michael Bay? A guy's guy like Michael Mann? A sports-aholic like Mike Tollin?
Wrong, wrong and wrong again. The filmmaker who's plunged headfirst into the brutal world of ultimate fighting is ... David Mamet.
A celebrated playwright, opinionated essayist and fiercely independent filmmaker, Mamet was introduced to the sport several years ago by several enthusiasts, notably Mordecai Finley, Mamet's rabbi and a longtime jujitsu practitioner who has a part in the film as one of the undercard fighters. Fascinated by the sport, which blends the brawn of boxing and agility of kick-boxing with the art of jujitsu and the head-banging of wrestling, Mamet wrote a story that revolves around many of his favorite themes -- honor, deception and betrayal -- set in the world of mixed martial arts.
"Like everyone, I grew up with boxing, but everyone seems sick to death of it -- it's all about whether Mike Tyson was going to bite someone's ear off or not," Mamet said during a break between scenes last week. "I'm interested in going backstage into this new world, especially since everyone loves backstage movies. You could say that the story is a lot like a story about Hollywood -- it's all about honor and corruption."
Mamet grins. "In a lot of ways, it's an American samurai film. I think it's a script Kurosawa would've liked."
Mamet's script focuses on a jujitsu master, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Children of Men"), who after years of refusing to fight must sacrifice his purity by going into the ring to protect his honor. The film is populated with top fighters, including Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Randy Couture, Enson Inoue and Ray Mancini, as well as John Machado, who runs a Brazilian jujitsu training school in L.A. But it also features such acting talent as Emily Mortimer and Tim Allen, as well as Mamet regulars Joe Mantegna and Ricky Jay, who plays a fight promoter who delivers such Mamet gems as "Everything in life -- the money's in the rematch."
Mamet pitched the story all over town. To his surprise, everyone passed. "I was a little dumbfounded," he admits. "I told them, 'Crunch the numbers. Look at the UFC's pay-TV ratings. See how big Randy Couture and some of the UFC stars are.' God willing, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at how well this will do."
Looking for a buyer, Mamet went to Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, the heads of Sony Pictures Classics, the art-house specialists best known for championing foreign films from the likes of Pedro Almodóvar and Zhang Yimou. "With them, at least you're talking to the two guys who can say yes," Mamet explains. "They didn't even ask to see the script. They said, 'We'll see you at the opening.' "
Still, that's quite a culture clash, a mixed-martial arts film being financed by the guys whose business model usually involves winning Oscars with exotic foreign films. But from Sony Classic's point of view, the movie is a good bet. For $7 million, they not only get a classic Mamet drama but also one rooted in a pop culture phenomenon.
Created in the early 1990s, Ultimate Fighting Championship events were initially more sordid brawling than sport, famously dismissed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona in 1996 as "human cockfighting." The UFC was purchased in 2001 by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta with the aid of Dana White, an ex-gym owner who is now the sport's colorful impresario. With a host of new rules and the creation of weight classes, the UFC took off, thanks in part to a weekly Spike TV reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter," which often attracts a bigger young male audience than the NBA or Major League Baseball.
The UFC is represented by the Endeavor Talent Agency, which has helped the UFC put together TV deals with HBO and ESPN. But Hollywood has been a tougher nut to crack. Initially wary of the sport because of its extreme violence, the studios have only just begun to notice the sport's passionate following among men, just as the studios have been painfully slow to react to other pop subcultures, including hip-hop, skateboarding and street racing.
White spoke derisively about Hollywood's risk-averse attitude toward ultimate fighting, saying, "They are the last in line when anything new comes along." He got early interest from several prominent producers. "But we kind of pulled back. They wanted to use the brand, and we never came to a deal. If we do a movie, we want it done right."
The UFC at one point commissioned a script itself, hiring "15 Minutes" writer-director John Herzfeld for a project that would've been released by Lionsgate. White says, "We got cold feet and pulled out" over control issues. Studio executives say they've seen a number of spec scripts, but none that captured the world in an inspired way, the way "8 Mile" did with hip-hop. "Too much of what we've seen have been 'Rocky'-style stories, which felt too clichéd," says Moritz.
Studio execs who heard Mamet's pitch said they shied away because they still felt they were getting a Mamet movie, for them a product with limited box-office appeal. Only now, with the sport booming, are projects taking shape. Universal is developing a film while New Line is close to a deal with director Gavin O'Connor ("Miracle") for a script about two friends pursuing a mixed martial-arts title fight.
"For me, there's a great story that could put a microscope on the fighters' lives and capture their humanity as well as the brutality of the sport," says O'Connor, who produced an HBO documentary, "The Smashing Machine," that chronicled the struggles of fighter Mark Kerr. "But Hollywood has been very cautious. They're never ahead of the curve. They only jump on the bandwagon when something is already successful."
An ultimate fighting movie will never work if it airbrushes away the rough edges of the sport. Mamet's "Redbelt" script certainly doesn't. As Ricky Jay's fight promoter puts it: "Any two guys fighting for money. No way the fight is fair."
What seems to especially interest Mamet is the eternal conflict between art and business. In "Redbelt," the artist is Ejiofor's character, a loner who trains off-duty cops and bouncers in the art of self-defense but refuses to fight himself. As one of his friends puts it: "He can't stand the sight of money."
This is hardly the way of the new world of sport-tainment, where athleticism is often overshadowed by performance enhancement drugs and endorsement deals. Watching Mamet direct a scene one day, John Machado -- whose uncle was the founder of Brazilian jujitsu -- pondered the movie's themes, which hit especially close to home for him since he has chosen to teach instead of to fight.
"This movie could have a big impact, because it shows the love you must have for the art," he says. "My character is a businessman, so I'm part of the conflict in the movie -- and in real life. How much do you do to sell yourself without selling out?"
Perhaps that's why the studios are so late to the party with ultimate fighting. How to sell yourself without selling out is one of those questions Hollywood has never figured out how to answer.
"The Big Picture" runs every Tuesday in Calendar. E-mail questions or criticism to email@example.com