Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: January 01, 2008, 10:27:54 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Dec. 27, 2007
Stratfor Today » December 27, 2007 | 2021 GMT
Organized Crime in Baja California
An unknown number of assailants attacked the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, on Dec. 18, killing one policeman and injuring at least one other. The attack happened at about 1 p.m. when approximately 10 vehicles pulled up to the building where Montero Alvarez and his bodyguards were getting out of their vehicles and the assailants opened fire with high-caliber weapons. The police repelled the attack, returning fire with AK-47 and R-15 rifles; Montero Alvarez was not hurt. Three vans spotted in the attack were later found abandoned nearby.
The attack followed a Dec. 17 announcement by Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the federal government would aid in a crackdown on organized crime with a deployment by the Mexican military to Playas de Rosarito. The attack was a definite signal of cartel displeasure; similar attacks have occurred elsewhere in connection with major anti-cartel operations. Following the announcement and the attack, an undisclosed number of soldiers arrived Dec. 19 to patrol the city, both tourist areas and high-crime residential areas.
Playas de Rosarito, which adjoins Tijuana in Baja California state, has experienced rising problems with organized crime. Extensive corruption among public officials, including law enforcement officers, has exacerbated this problem. The federal government launched Operation Tijuana in January, sending more than 3,000 troops to battle local drug gangs. The deployment to Playas de Rosarito marks the expansion of the federal mandate to combat organized crime in the Tijuana-San Diego border area.
Border Crossings in Arizona
Arrests of illegal border crossers near Yuma, Arizona, fell more than two-thirds during 2007, in part a result of a variety of new barriers covering a 48-mile stretch of the border. Ranging from simple road barriers to more extensive fencing installations, the Yuma Sector barriers do not form a solid wall along the border, but instead use barricades targeted to meet the needs of the landscape and adjusted as appropriate to the relative accessibility of each area. While the barriers alone have contributed greatly to the drop, other measures like an increased law enforcement presence on the border and threat of jail time for first-time illegal crossings by adults deserve credit, too.
The drop in arrests following the fence-building program in the Yuma Sector represents a significant success, as the sector had experienced a significant growth in arrests in previous years. Although overall arrests by the U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexican border fell from 1.4 million to 1.1 million from 1997 to 2006, crossings in the Yuma Sector skyrocketed from 30,000 to 119,000 during the same period. Despite this success, the crossings probably have shifted to other sectors as immigrants seek easier routes, a well-established phenomenon. For instance, although total arrests in the San Diego Sector have fallen by about 142,000 in the last nine years, the reduction has been counterbalanced by crossings elsewhere. Thus, aggregate numbers in the Tucson Sector rose by around 120,000 during the same period.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 that initiated and supports fencing projects like the one in the Yuma Sector underwent substantial changes Dec. 21, as the omnibus spending bill signed in to law by U.S. President George W. Bush contains language that makes fence building nonmandatory and leaves all barrier construction at the discretion of the Homeland Security secretary. The act originally mandated 700 miles of double fencing split among five different sectors. The mandate was modeled after the San Diego method of a two-fence barrier, which was shown to be 95 percent effective in reducing illegal border crossings along a 14-mile stretch of border dividing San Diego and Tijuana from 1992-2004.
Beheadings Spreading to Capital?
The headless bodies of five people have been found in Mexico City since Dec. 17, at least four of whom were customs agents from Mexico City International Airport. Two of the headless agents were discovered wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the trunk of a car in Tlaneplanta, a northern district of Mexico City, El Nuevo Diario reported Dec. 17. The victims’ heads and two severed fingers were left on the street. A finger was placed in one victims’ mouth, while the other was put in the ear of the second victim. Two other bodies were found in similar configurations. Another body had severed hands.
The precision of the beheadings indicate the men were assassinated by professionals, while the placement of the fingers indicates the men were suspected of informing to the police. Although the motive behind the killings remains unclear, they occurred the day after the seizure of half a ton of cocaine at Mexico City International Airport, leading the authorities to suspect the murders came in retaliation.
Beheadings by organized criminal elements are common in Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Michoacán states, where drug cartel operations are widespread. The gruesome tactic has not been used commonly in Mexico City, however. These incidents could be an ominous sign the tactic may be spreading to the heart of Mexico.
Two decapitated bodies of Mexico City International Airport customs agents were found in Mexico City.
The body of a 18 year-old man with a gunshot wound to the head was found floating in the Lerma River in Guanajuato state.
Two handcuffed bodies were found with evidence of torture in Cancún, Quintana Roo state.
The bullet-riddled bodies of two young men were found in Tijuana, Baja California state. One of the bodies was located inside a vehicle, while the other was found 900 feet away.
A man was killed after being stabbed 25 times in Mexico City. His wife was left alive, but was in critical condition after being stabbed twice by an unknown assailant.
The body of an unidentified man was found in Guerrero state. He had been shot at least 30 times with a variety of weapons that appear to include an AR-15, an AK-47 and at least one handgun.
Assailants traveling in 10 cars attacked Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Baja California state. Although Montero Alvarez was unharmed, one of his bodyguards was killed and at least one civilian was injured.
Suspected assassins shot and killed three off-duty soldiers and wounded another at a shopping mall in Torreón, Coahuila state, late Dec. 18. An air force member also was injured in the shooting.
A group used high-powered rifles to attack two men in Nuevo Leon state, injuring the pair.
Two people sitting in a car with foreign plates in Mocorito, Sinaloa, were executed with a .38-caliber gun.
The corpse of a 24-year-old man was discovered with evidence of blunt trauma and a bullet wound from a 9 mm weapon in Culiacán, Sinaloa.
The dead body of a man was found bound with adhesive tape; AK-47 rounds were found around the body.
The body of a farmer was found floating near a dam in the vicinity of the Tandhe community in Hidalgo state. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder.
The body of a young man who had been stabbed to death was found in Venta de Cruz, Mexico state. The man had been reported missing after he was taken into custody Dec. 9 by individuals who identified themselves as members of the Mexican Federal Agency of Investigations.
The body of a taxi driver who had been shot five times was found in Huasca, Hidalgo state, the fourth killing of a taxi driver in the past two months.
A taxi driver was found dead in Cuautepec de Hinojosa, Hidalgo state, buried under a pile of rocks. He had been reported missing Dec. 17.
The bodies of two men were found shot in the head in an automobile in Mexico state.
The bodies of a man and his son killed by several unknown assailants in Culiacán, Sinaloa state, were found. The attackers reportedly fired at least 20 rounds at the pair.
The body of an unidentified middle-aged man was found by authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state. The victim had been shot in the head and face and was tied with a plastic rope.
The bullet-riddled body of an unidentified young man was found in a parking lot in a commercial district in Tijuana, Baja California state. Although police reported to the scene rapidly, they failed to find the perpetrators.
The body of a teacher who had been shot to death was found on the side of a road near El Zapote bridge in Guerrero state. He had been carrying about $800 in pesos; a note was appended to his corpse.
The body of an unidentified man who had been strangled to death was found in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state. The state attorney general’s office initially erroneously identified the man as ex-policeman Alberto González Escobar of Ciudad Juárez, who has been reported missing.
The body of an unknown man was found shot in the head, naked and bound at the hands and feet in Guerrero state. Evidence indicates the corpse of the man, who had been dead for quite some time, was transported to the site where it was found.
Gunfire killed three people in two separate incidents in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
A gunfight between members of the Mexican army and presumed members of organized criminal groups in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in two injuries.
Four people died of gunshot wounds in separate incidents in Tijuana state in a 72-hour period. No suspects have been detained.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ's struggle for relevance
on: January 01, 2008, 10:07:16 PM
Al Qaeda in 2008: The Struggle for Relevance
December 19, 2007 | 1814 GMT
On Dec. 16, al Qaeda’s As-Sahab media branch released a 97-minute video message from al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the message, titled “A Review of Events,” al-Zawahiri readdressed a number of his favorite topics at length.
This video appeared just two days after As-Sahab released a 20-minute al-Zawahiri message titled “Annapolis — The Treason.” In that message, al-Zawahiri speaks on audio tape while a still photograph of him is displayed over a montage of photos from the peace conference in Annapolis, Md. As the title implies, al-Zawahiri criticizes the conference.
Although the Dec. 14 release appeared first, it obviously was recorded after the Dec. 16 video. Given the content of the Dec. 14 message, it most likely was recorded shortly after the Nov. 27 Annapolis conference and before the Dec. 11 twin bombings in Algeria. The two latest releases are interrelated, however, given that the still photo of al-Zawahiri used in the Dec. 14 message appears to have been captured from the video released two days later.
After having been subjected to two hours of al-Zawahiri opinions in just two days, we cannot help but wonder whether anyone else is listening to this guy — and, if so, why? This question is particularly appropriate now, as we come to the time of the year when we traditionally prepare our annual forecast on al Qaeda. As we look ahead to 2008, the core al Qaeda leadership clearly is struggling to remain relevant in the ideological realm, a daunting task for an organization that has been rendered geopolitically and strategically impotent on the physical battlefield.
The theme of our 2007 al Qaeda forecast was the continuation of the metamorphosis of al Qaeda from a smaller core group of professional operatives into an operational model that encourages independent “grassroots” jihadists to conduct attacks, or into a model in which al Qaeda provides the operational commanders who organize grassroots cells. We referred to this shift as devolution because it signified a return to al Qaeda’s pre-9/11 model.
We noted that the shift gave al Qaeda “the movement” a broader geographic and operational reach than al Qaeda “the group,” but we also said that this larger, dispersed group of actors lacked the operational depth and expertise of the core group and its well-trained terrorist cadre.
Looking back at the successful, attempted and thwarted attacks in 2007, this prediction was largely on-target. The high-profile attacks and thwarted attacks were plotted by grassroots groups such as the one responsible for the attacks in London and Glasgow, Scotland, or by regional affiliates such as al Qaeda’s franchise in Algeria, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The core al Qaeda group once again failed to conduct any attacks.
British authorities have indicated that the men responsible for the failed London and Glasgow attempts were linked in some way to al Qaeda in Iraq, though any such links must have been fairly inconsequential. The al Qaeda franchise in Iraq has conducted hundreds of successful bombings and has a considerable amount of experience in tradecraft and bombmaking, while the London and Glasgow attempts showed a decided lack of tradecraft and bombmaking skills.
The al Qaeda nodes in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula and Indonesia were all quiet this year. The Egyptian node has not carried out a successful attack since announcing its allegiance to al Qaeda in August 2006. Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s Indonesian franchise, has not conducted a successful attack since the October 2005 Bali bombing, and the Sinai node, Tawhid wa al-Jihad, did not conduct any attacks in 2007. Its last attack was in April 2006.
The Saudi franchise conducted only one successful operation in 2007, a small-arms attack against a group of French and Belgian nationals picnicking near Medina, which resulted in the deaths of four Frenchmen. This is a far cry from the peak of its operational activities during the summer of 2004. The Yemen node also conducted one attack, as it did in 2006, a July 2 suicide car bombing against a tourist convoy that resulted in the deaths of eight Spaniards. The Moroccan element of AQIM attempted to carry out attacks in March and April, though the group’s inept tactics and inadequate planning resulted in the deaths of more suicide bombers than victims.
These regional nodes largely have been brought under control by a series of successful campaigns against them. Police operations in Saudi Arabia, the Sinai and Indonesia have provided some evidence that the groups have been trying to regroup and refit. Therefore, the campaigns against these regional nodes will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future to ensure that these organizations do not reconstitute themselves and resume operations.
We noted in our 2007 forecast that AQIM had not yet proven itself. However, the series of attacks by AQIM this year demonstrated that the group is resourceful and resilient, even in the face of Algerian government operations and ideological divisions. In fact, AQIM was the most prolific and deadly group in 2007 outside of the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. With al Qaeda in Iraq facing serious problems, AQIM is in many ways carrying the torch for the jihadist movement. With other regional nodes seemingly under control, the U.S. and other governments now can pay more attention to AQIM. Throughout the coming year, the Algerian government likely will receive much more assistance from the United States and its allies in its efforts to dismantle the group. AQIM — the former Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) — has existed since the early 1990s and its dedicated cadre has survived many attempts to eliminate it — though it likely will be pressed hard over the next year.
In a Nov. 3 audio message, al-Zawahiri said the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to Osama bin Laden, and al Qaeda has a large number of Libyan cadre, including Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi and Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.) The LIFG-al Qaeda link became apparent in September 2001, when the U.S. government identified the LIFG as a specially designated terrorist entity (along with the GSPC and others.)
Although Libyans have played a large role in al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement, the LIFG itself has been unable to conduct any significant attacks. Historically, Libyan security forces have kept the LIFG in check to the point that most high-profile Libyan jihadists operate outside Libya — unlike the AQIM leadership, which operates within Algeria. It will be important to watch this new node to see whether it can ramp up its capabilities to conduct meaningful operations inside Libya, or even in other countries where the group has a presence — though we doubt it will be able to pose a serious threat to the Libyan regime.
Another relatively new jihadist presence appeared on the radar screen Feb. 13, when the Fatah al-Islam group bombed two buses in the Lebanese Christian enclave of Ain Alaq, killing three people. Following the Lebanese army’s efforts to arrest those group members believed responsible for the bombing, the group holed up in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where it endured a siege by the Lebanese army that began in March and lasted until early September. Shaker al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah al-Islam, is said to have links to former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Along with al-Zarqawi, al-Abssi was sentenced to death in Jordan for his suspected involvement in the 2002 killing of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman. He served a three-year jail sentence in Syria and then moved into Nahr el-Bared to establish Fatah al-Islam, which is believed to be controlled by Syrian intelligence. While Fatah al-Islam lost many of its fighters during the five-month siege, we have received intelligence reports suggesting that the Syrians are helping the group recover. The intelligence also suggests that the more the Syrians cooperate with U.S. objectives in Iraq, the more they will press the use of their jihadist proxies in Lebanon. In pursuing such a course, the Syrians are playing with fire, which may well come to haunt them, as it has the Saudis and Pakistanis.
Events in Iraq likely will have a significant impact on the global jihadist movement in the coming year. Since the death of al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda in Iraq’s operational ability steadily has declined. Furthermore, the organization appears to be losing its support among the Iraqi Sunnis and apparently has had problems getting foreign fighters into the country as of late. This could indicate that there will soon be an exodus of jihadists from the country. These jihadists, who have been winnowed and hardened by their combat against the U.S. military, might find the pastures greener in the countries they enter after leaving Iraq. Like the mujahideen who left Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal, they could go on to pose a real threat elsewhere.
Additionally, since 2003 Iraq has been a veritable jihadist magnet, drawing jihadists from all over the world. If there is no possibility of seeking “martyrdom” in Iraq, these men (and a few women) will have to find another place to embrace their doom. The coalition’s list of foreign jihadists killed in Iraq shows that most of the fighters have come to the country from places such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco, but jihadists also have come from many other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and European Union. Jihadists in these places might opt to follow the example of the July 2005 London bombers and martyr themselves in their countries of residence.
Jihadists in Iraq have had the luxury of having an extensive amount of military ordnance at their disposal. This ordnance has made it relatively simple to construct improvised explosive devices, including large truck bombs. This, in turn, has made it possible to engage hard targets — such as U.S. military bases and convoys. Jihadists without access to these types of weapons (and the type of training they received in Iraq) will be more likely to engage soft targets. In fact, the only group we saw with the expertise and ordnance to hit hard targets outside of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 was AQIM. As we forecast for 2006 and 2007, we anticipate that the trend toward attacking soft targets will continue in 2008.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
Despite U.S. and NATO forces’ repeated tactical victories on the battlefield, al Qaeda’s Afghan allies, the Taliban, continue to survive — the critical task for any guerrilla force engaged in an insurgent war. Following a pattern that has been repeated many times throughout Afghan history — most recently in the war following the Soviet invasion — the Taliban largely seek to avoid extended battles and instead seek to engage in hit-and-run guerrilla operations. This is because they realize that they cannot stand toe-to-toe with the superior armaments of the foreign invaders. Indeed, when they have tried to stand and fight, they have taken heavy losses. Therefore, they occasionally will occupy a town, such as Musa Qala, but will retreat in the face of overwhelming force and return when that superior force has been deployed elsewhere.
Due to the presence of foreign troops, the Taliban have no hope of taking control of Afghanistan at this juncture. However, unlike the foreign troops, the Taliban fighters and their commanders are not going anywhere. They have a patient philosophy and will bide their time until the tactical or political conditions change in their favor. Meanwhile, they are willing to continue their guerrilla campaign and sustain levels of casualties that would be politically untenable for their U.S. and NATO rivals. The Taliban have a very diffuse structure, and even the loss of senior leaders such as Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Obaidullah Akhund has not proven to be much of a hindrance.
Just over the border from Afghanistan, Pakistan has witnessed the rapid spread of Talibanization. As a result, Islamabad now is fighting a jihadist insurgency of its own in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North-West Frontier Province. The spread of this ideology beyond the border areas was perhaps best demonstrated by the July assault by the Pakistani army against militants barricaded inside the Red Mosque in Islamabad. Since the assault against the mosque, Pakistan has been wracked by a wave of suicide bombings.
Pakistan should be carefully watched because it could prove to be a significant flash point in the coming year. As the global headquarters for the al Qaeda leadership, Pakistan has long been a significant stronghold on the ideological battlefield. If the trend toward radicalization continues there, the country also could become the new center of gravity for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield. Pakistan will become especially important if the trend in Iraq continues to go against the jihadists and they are driven from Iraq.
The Year Ahead
Given the relative ease of getting an operative into the United States, the sheer number of soft targets across the vast country and the simplicity of conducting an attack, we remain surprised that no jihadist attack occurred on U.S. soil in 2007. However, we continue to believe that the United States, as well as Europe, remains vulnerable to tactical-level jihadist strikes — though we do not believe that the jihadists have the capability to launch a strategically significant attack, even if they were to employ chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
Jihadists have shown a historical fixation on using toxins and poisons. As Stratfor repeatedly has pointed out, however, chemical and biological weapons are expensive to produce, difficult to use and largely ineffective in real-world applications. Radiological weapons (dirty bombs) also are far less effective than many people have been led to believe. In fact, history clearly has demonstrated that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective at killing people than these more exotic weapons. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks has more recently underscored the problems associated with the use of improvised chemical weapons — the bombs killed far more people than the chlorine they were meant to disperse as a mass casualty weapon.
Al-Zawahiri’s messages over the past year clearly have reflected the pressure that the group is feeling. The repeated messages referencing Iraq and the need for unity among the jihadists there show that al-Zawahiri believes the momentum has shifted in Iraq and things are not going well for al Qaeda there. Tactically, al Qaeda’s Iraqi node still is killing people, but strategically the group’s hopes of establishing a caliphate there under the mantle of the Islamic State of Iraq have all but disappeared. These dashed hopes have caused the group to lash out against former allies, which has worsened al Qaeda’s position.
It also is clear that al Qaeda is feeling the weight of the ideological war against it — waged largely by Muslims. Al-Zawahiri repeatedly has lamented specific fatwas by Saudi clerics declaring that the jihad in Iraq is not obligatory and forbidding young Muslims from going to Iraq. In a message broadcast in July, al-Zawahiri said, “I would like to remind everyone that the most dangerous weapons in the Saudi-American system are not buying of loyalties, spying on behalf of the Americans or providing facilities to them. No, the most dangerous weapons of that system are those who outwardly profess advice, guidance and instruction …” In other words, al Qaeda fears fatwas more than weapons. Weapons can kill people — fatwas can kill the ideology that motivates people.
There are two battlegrounds in the war against jihadism: the physical and the ideological. Because of its operational security considerations, the al Qaeda core has been marginalized in the physical battle. This has caused it to abandon its position at the vanguard of the physical jihad and take up the mantle of leadership in the ideological battle. The core no longer poses a strategic threat to the United States in the physical world, but it is striving hard to remain relevant on the ideological battleground.
In many ways, the ideological battleground is more important than the physical war. It is far easier to kill people than it is to kill ideologies. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the ideological battleground to determine how that war is progressing. In the end, that is why it is important to listen to hours of al-Zawahiri statements. They contain clear signs regarding the status of the war against jihadism. The signs as of late indicate that the ideological war is not going so well for the jihadists, but they also point to potential hazards around the bend in places such as Pakistan and Lebanon.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Assessment part two
on: January 01, 2008, 09:46:54 PM
Pakistan obviously plays a role in this, since Afghanistan is to some extent an extension of Pakistan. The United States has an interest in a stable Pakistan, but it can live with a chaotic Pakistan provided its nuclear weapons are safeguarded and the chaos is contained within Pakistan. Given the situation in Afghanistan, this cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, American strategy must be to support Pakistan’s military in stabilizing the country, while paying lip service to democratic reform.
The United States has achieved its two major goals in the Islamic world. First, al Qaeda has been sufficiently disrupted that it has not mounted a successful operation in the United States for six years. Second, any possibility of an integrated Islamic multinational state — always an unlikely scenario — has been made even more unlikely by disruptive and destabilizing American strategies. In the end, the United States did not need to create a stable nation in Iraq, it simply had to use Iraq to disrupt the Islamic world. The United States did not need to win, it needed the Islamic world to lose. When you look at the Islamic world six years after 9/11, it is sufficient to say that it is no closer to unity than it was then, at the cost of a fraction of the American lives that were spent in Vietnam or Korea.
Thus, the United States at the moment is transitioning its foreign policy from an obsessive focus on the Islamic world to a primary focus on Russia. The Russians, in turn, are engaged in two actions. First, they are doing what they can to keep the Americans locked into the Islamic world by encouraging Iran while carefully trying not to provoke the United States excessively. Second, they are trying to form coalitions with other major powers — Europe and China — to block the United States. The Russians are facing an uphill battle because no one wants to alienate a major economic power like the United States. But the longer the Americans remain focused on the Islamic world, the more opportunities there are. Therefore, for Washington, reducing U.S. involvement in the Islamic world will be acceptable so long as it leaves the Muslims divided and in relative balance. The goal is reduction, not exit — and pursuing this goal explains the complexities of U.S. foreign policy at this point, as well as the high level of noise in the public arena, where passions run high.
Behind the noise, however, is this fact: The global situation for the United States has not changed since before 9/11. America remains in control of the world’s oceans. The jihadist strategic threat has not solidified, although the possibility of terrorism cannot be discounted. The emerging Russian challenge is not trivial, but the Russians have a long way to go before they would pose a significant threat to American interests. Another potential threat, China, is contained by its own economic interests, while lesser powers are not of immediate significance. American global pre-eminence remains intact and the jihadist threat has been disrupted for now. This leaves residual threats to the United States, but no strategic threats.
Capitalism requires business cycles and business cycles require recessions. During the culmination of a business cycle, when interest rates are low and excess cash is looking for opportunities to invest, substantial inefficiencies creep into the economy. As these inefficiencies and irrationalities become more pronounced, the cost of money rises, liquidity problems occur and irrationalities are destroyed. This is a painful process, but one without which capitalism could not succeed. When recessions are systematically avoided by political means, as happened in Japan and the rest of East Asia, and as is happening in China now, inefficiencies and irrationalities tend to pyramid. The longer the business cycle is delayed, the more explosive the outcome.
Historically, the business cycle in the United States has tended to average about six years in length. The United States last had a recession in 2000, seven years ago — so, by historical standards, it is time for another recession. But the 2000 recession occurred eight years after the previous one, so the time between recessions might be expanding. Six years or nine years makes little difference. There will be recessions because they discipline the economy and we are entering a period in which a recession is possible. When or how a recession happens matters little, so long as the markets on occasion have discipline forced back upon them.
In the most recent case, the irrationality that entered the system had to do with subprime mortgages. Put differently, money lenders gave loans to people who could not pay them back, and sold those loans to third parties who were so attracted by the long-term return that they failed to consider whether they would ever realize that return. Large pools of money thrown off by a booming economy had to find investment vehicles, and so investors bought the loans. Some of the more optimistic among these investors not only bought the loans but also borrowed against them to buy more loans. This is the oldest story in the book.
The loans were backed by real assets: houses. This is the good news and the bad news. The good news is that, in the long run, the bad loans are mitigated by the sale of these homes. The bad news is that as these houses are sold, housing prices will go down as supply increases. Home prices frequently go down. During the mid-1990s, for example, California home prices dropped sharply. However, there is an odd folk belief that housing prices always rise and that declining prices are unnatural and devastating. They hurt, of course, but California survived the declines in the 1990s and so will the United States today.
In an economy that annually produces in excess of $13 trillion in wealth, neither the subprime crisis nor a decline in housing prices represents a substantial threat. Nevertheless, given the culture of dread that we have discussed, there is a sense that this is simply the beginning of a meltdown in the American economy. It is certainly devastating major financial institutions, although not nearly as badly as the tech crash of 2000 or the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s devastated their sectors. It is having some effect on the financial system, although not nearly as much as one might think, given the level of angst expressed. And it is having a limited effect on the economy.
A liquidity crisis means a shortage of money, in which demand outstrips supply and the cost of money rises. There are, of course, those who are frozen out of the market — the same people to whom money should not have been lent in the first place, plus some businesses on shaky ground. This is simply the financial system rebalancing itself. But neither the equity nor the money markets are behaving as if we are on the verge of a recession any time soon.
Indeed — and here sentiment does matter, at least in the short run — it would appear that a recession is unlikely in the immediate future. Normally, recessions occur when sentiment is irrationally optimistic (recall the New Economy craziness in the late 1990s). What we are seeing now is economic growth, stable interest rates and equity markets, and profound anxiety over the future of the financial system. That is not how an economy looks six months or a year before a depression. Those who believe that major economic disaster is just around the corner have acted on that belief and the markets have already discounted that belief. It would certainly be reasonable for there to be a recession shortly, but we do not see the signs for it.
To the contrary, we see a major stabilizing force, the inflow of money into the American economy from what we might call the dollar bloc. During the period of European imperialism, one of the characteristics was politically enforced currency blocs (sterling, franc, etc.) that tied colonial economies to the mother country. We are now seeing, at least temporarily, a variation on that theme with a dollar bloc, which goes beyond the dollar’s role as a reserve currency.
For a decade, China has been running massive trade surpluses with the United States. Much of that surplus remained as cash reserves because the Chinese economy was unable to absorb it. Partly in order to stabilize currencies and partly to control their own economy, the Chinese have pegged their currency against the dollar, varying the theme a bit lately but staying well within that paradigm. The linking of the Chinese economy to the American led to the linking of the two currencies. It also created a pool of excess money that was most conservatively invested in the United States.
With the run up in the price of oil, another pool of surplus money that cannot be absorbed in native economies has emerged among the oil producers of the Arabian Peninsula. This reserve also is linked to the dollar, since oil prices are dollar-denominated. Given long-term oil contracts and the structure of markets, shifting away from the dollar would be complex and time consuming. It will not happen — particularly because the Arabs, already having lost on the dollar’s decline, might get hit twice if it rises. They are protected by remaining in the dollar bloc.
Those two massive pools of money, tightly linked to the dollar in a number of ways, are stabilizing the American financial system — and American financial institutions — by taking advantage of the weakness to buy assets. Historically (that is, before World War I), the United States was a creditor nation and a net importer of capital. That did not represent weakness. Rather, it represented the global market’s sense that the United States presented major economic opportunities. The structure of the dollar bloc would indicate a partial and probably temporary return to this model.
One must always remember the U.S. GDP — $13.2 trillion — in measuring any number. Both the annual debt and the total national debt must be viewed against this number, as well as the more troubling trade deficit. The $13.2 trillion can absorb damage and imbalances that smaller economies could not handle. We would expect a recession in the next couple of years simply based on the time since the last period of negative growth, but we tend to think that it is not quite here yet. But, even if it were, it would simply be a normal part of the business cycle, of no significant concern.
The operative term for the United States is “huge.” The size of its economy and the control of the world’s oceans are the two pillars of American power, and they are intimately connected. So long as the United States has more than 25 percent of the world’s GDP and dominates the oceans, what the world thinks of it, or what it thinks of itself, is of little consequence. Power is power and those two simple, obvious facts trump all sophisticated theorizing.
Nothing that has happened in the Middle East, or in Vietnam a generation ago or in Korea a generation before that, can change the objective foundations of American power. Indeed, on close examination, what appears to be irrational behavior by the United States makes a great deal of sense in this context. A nation this powerful can take extreme risks, suffer substantial failures, engage in irrational activity and get away with it. But, in fact, regardless of perception, American risks are calculated, the failures are more apparent than real and the irrational activity is more rational than it might appear. Presidents and pundits might not fully understand what they are doing or thinking, but in a nation of more than 300 million people, policy is shaped by impersonal forces more than by leaders or public opinion. Explaining how that works is for another time.
The magnitude of American power can only be seen by stepping back. Then the weaknesses are placed into context and diminish in significance. A net assessment is designed to do that. It is designed to consider the United States “on the whole.” And in considering the United States on the whole, we are struck by two facts: massive power and cultural bipolar disorder. But the essence of geopolitics is that culture follows power; as the United States matures, its cultural bipolarity will subside.
Some will say that this net assessment is an America-centric, chauvinistic evaluation of the United States, making it appear more powerful, more important and more clever than it is. But in our view, this is not an America-centric analysis. Rather, it is the recognition that the world itself is now, and has been since 1992, America-centric. The United States is, in fact, more powerful than it appears, more important to the international system than many appreciate and, if not clever, certainly not as stupid as some would think. It is not as powerful as some fantasize. Iraq has proved that. It is not nearly as weak as some would believe. Iraq has proved that as well.
The United States is a powerful, complex and in many ways tortured society. But it is the only global power — and, as such, it is the nation all others must reckon with.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Net Assessment
on: January 01, 2008, 09:45:48 PM
Net Assessment: United States
Stratfor Today » December 31, 2007 | 2343 GMT
Brendan Smialowski/Getty ImagesThere are those who say that perception is reality. Geopolitics teaches the exact opposite: There is a fundamental reality to national power, and the passing passions of the public have only a transitory effect on things. In order to see the permanent things, it is important to tune out the noise and focus on the reality. That is always hard, but nowhere more so than in the United States, where the noise is incredibly loud, quite insistent, and profoundly contradictory and changeable. Long dissertations can and should be written on the dynamics of public opinion in the United States. For Stratfor, the root of these contradictions is in the dynamism of the United States. You can look at the United States and be awed by its dynamic power, and terrified by it at the same time.
All nations have complex psyches, but the American is particularly complex, contradictory and divisive. It is torn between two poles: dread and hubris. They alternate and compete and tear at each other. Neither dominates. They are both just there, tied to each other. The dread comes from a feeling of impending doom, the hubris from constantly overcoming it.
Hubris is built into American history. The American republic was founded to be an exemplary regime, one that should be emulated. This sense of exceptionality was buttressed by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the idea that the United States in due course would dominate the continent. Americans pushed inward to discover verdant horizons filled with riches one after another, indelibly impressing upon them that life was supposed to get better and that setbacks were somehow unnatural. It is hard not to be an economic superpower when you effectively have an entire continent to yourself, and it is especially hard not to be a global economic hegemon once you’ve tamed that continent and use it as a base from which to push out. But the greatest driver for American hubris was the extraordinary economic success of the United States, and in particular its extraordinary technological achievements. There is a sense that there is nothing that the United States cannot achieve — and no limits to American power.
But underlying this extraordinary self-confidence is a sense of dread. To understand the dread, we have to understand the 1930s. The 1920s were a time of apparent peace and prosperity: World War I was over, and the United States was secure and prosperous. The market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, imprinted itself on the American psyche. There is a perpetual fear that underneath the apparent prosperity of our time, economic catastrophe lurks. It is a sense that well-being masks a deep economic sickness. Part of the American psyche is braced for disaster.
This dread also has roots in Pearl Harbor, and the belief that it and the war that followed for the United States was the result of complacency and inattentiveness. Some argued that the war was caused by America’s failure to join the League of Nations. Others claimed that the fault lay in the failure to act decisively to stop Hitler and Tojo before they accumulated too much power. In either case, the American psyche is filled with a dread of the world, that the smallest threat might blossom into world war, and that failure to act early and decisively will bring another catastrophe. At the same time, from Washington’s farewell address to failures in Vietnam or Iraq, there has been the fear that American entanglement with the world is not merely dangerous, but it is the path to catastrophe.
This fault line consistently polarizes American politics, dividing it between those who overestimate American power and those who underestimate it. In domestic politics, every boom brings claims that the United States has created a New Economy that has abolished the business cycle. Every shift in the business cycle brings out the faction that believes the collapse of the American economy is just over the horizon. Sometimes, the same people say both things within months of each other.
The purpose of a net assessment is not to measure such perceptions, but to try to benchmark military, economic and political reality, treating the United States as if it were a foreign country. We begin by “being stupid”: that is, by stating the obvious and building from it, rather than beginning with complex theories. In looking at the United States, two obvious facts come to light.
First, the United States controls all of the oceans in the world. No nation in human history has controlled the oceans so absolutely. That means the United States has the potential to control, if it wishes, the flow of goods through the world’s oceans — which is the majority of international trade. Since World War II, the United States has used this power selectively. In general, it has used its extraordinary naval superiority to guarantee free navigation, because international trade has been one of the foundations of American prosperity. But it has occasionally used its power as a tool to shape foreign affairs or to punish antagonistic powers. Control of the oceans also means that the United States can invade other countries, and that — unless Canada or Mexico became much more powerful than they are now — other countries cannot invade the United States.
Second, no economy in the world is as large as the American economy. In 2006, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States was about $13.2 trillion. That is 27.5 percent of all goods and services produced in the world for that year, and it is larger than the combined GDPs of the next four countries — Japan, Germany, China and the United Kingdom. In spite of de-industrialization, industrial production in the United States was $2.1 trillion, equal to Japan’s, China’s and Germany’s industrial production combined. You can argue with the numbers, and weight them any number of ways, but the fact is that the United States is economically huge, staggeringly so. Everything from trade deficits to subprime mortgage crises must be weighed against the sheer size of the American economy and the fact that it is and has been expanding.
If you begin by being stupid instead of sophisticated, you are immediately struck by the enormity of American military power, based particularly on its naval power and its economic power, which in turn is based on the size and relative balance of the economy. The United States is the 2,000-pound gorilla of the international system. That means blows that would demolish other nations are absorbed with relative ease by the United States, while at the same time drawing howls of anguish that would lead you to assume the United States is on the eve of destruction. That much military and economic power does not collapse very easily or quickly.
The United States has two simple strategic goals. The first is to protect itself physically from attack to ensure its economy continues to flourish. Attacks against the United States are unpleasant, but invasion by a foreign power is catastrophic. Therefore the second goal is to maintain control of the seas. So long as the oceans are controlled by the U.S. Navy — and barring nuclear attack — the physical protection of the United States is assured. Therefore the United States has two interests. The first is preventing other nations from challenging American naval hegemony. The second is preventing other nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, and intimidating those who already have them.
The best way to prevent a challenge by another fleet is to make certain the fleet is never built. The best way to do that is to prevent the rise of regional hegemons, particularly in Eurasia, that are secure enough to build navies. The American strategy in Eurasia is the same as Britain’s in Europe — maintain the balance of power so that no power or coalition of powers can rise up as a challenger. The United States, rhetoric aside, has no interest in Eurasia except for maintaining the balance of power — or failing that, creating chaos.
The United States intervenes periodically in Eurasia, and elsewhere. Its goals appear to be incoherent and its explanations make little sense, but its purpose is single-minded. The United States does not want to see any major, stable power emerge in Eurasia that could, in the long term, threaten American interests either by building a naval challenge or a nuclear one. As powers emerge, the United States follows a three-stage program. First, provide aid to weaker powers to contain and undermine emerging hegemons. Second, create more formal arrangements with these powers. Finally, if necessary, send relatively small numbers of U.S. troops to Eurasia to block major powers and destabilize regions.
The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives. Nevertheless, between constant American intrusions and constant attempts to contain American power, the world appears to be disorderly and dangerous. It might well be dangerous, but it has far more logic and order than it might appear.
U.S. Foreign Policy
The latest American foreign policy actions began after 9/11. Al Qaeda posed two challenges to the United States. The first was the threat of follow-on attacks, potentially including limited nuclear attacks. The second and more strategic threat was al Qaeda’s overall goal, which was to recreate an Islamic caliphate. Put in an American context, al Qaeda wanted to create a transnational “Islamic” state that, by definition, would in the long run be able to threaten U.S. power. The American response was complex. Its immediate goal was the destruction of al Qaeda. Its longer-term goal was the disruption of the Islamic world. The two missions overlapped but were not identical. The first involved a direct assault against al Qaeda’s command-and-control facilities: the invasion of Afghanistan. The second was an intrusion into the Islamic world designed to disrupt it without interfering with the flow of oil from the region.
U.S. grand strategy has historically operated by splitting enemy coalitions and partnering with the weaker partner. Thus, in World War II, the United States sided with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany after their alliance collapsed. During the Cold War, the United States sided with Communist China against the Soviet Union after the Sino-Soviet split. Following that basic strategy, the United States first sided with and then manipulated the Sunni-Shiite split. In all these cases the goal was to disrupt and prevent the formation of a coalition that could threaten the United States.
Looked at from 50,000 feet, that was the result of the invasion of Iraq. It set the Sunnis and Shia against each other. Whether this idea was subjectively in the minds of American planners at the time is not really relevant. That it played out the U.S. model in foreign policy is what matters. The invasion of Iraq resulted in chaos. About 3,000 American troops were killed, a small number compared to previous multiyear, multidivisional wars. Not only did the Islamic world fail to coalesce into a single entity, but its basic fault line, Sunnis versus Shia, erupted into a civil war in Iraq. That civil war disrupted the threats of coalition formation and of the emergence of regional hegemons. It did create chaos. That chaos provided a solution to American strategic problems, while U.S. intelligence dealt with the lesser issue of breaking up al Qaeda.
The U.S. interest in the Islamic world at the moment is to reduce military operations and use the existing internal tension among Muslims to achieve American military ends. The reason for reducing military operations is geopolitical, and it hinges on Russia.
The total number of U.S. casualties in Iraq is relatively small, but the level of effort, relative to available resources, has essentially consumed most of America’s ground capabilities. The United States has not substantially increased the size of its army since the invasion of Iraq. There were three reasons for this. First, the United States did not anticipate the level of resistance. Second, rhetoric aside, U.S. strategy was focused on disruption, not nation-building, and a larger force was not needed for that. Third, the global geopolitical situation did not appear to require U.S. forces elsewhere. Therefore, Washington chose not to pay the price for a larger force.
The geopolitical situation has changed. The U.S. absorption in the Islamic world has opened the door for a more assertive Russia, which is engaged in creating a regional sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. Following the American grand strategy of preventing the emergence of Eurasian regional powers, the United States must now put itself in a position to disrupt and/or contain Russia. With U.S. forces tied down in the Islamic world, there are no reserves for this mission. The United States is therefore engaged in a process of attempting to reduce its presence in the Islamic world, while repositioning to deal with the Russians.
The process of disengagement is enormously complex. Having allied with the Shia (including Iran) to disrupt al Qaeda, the United States now has shifted its stance toward the Sunnis and against the Shia, and particularly Iran. The U.S. interest is to re-create the balance of power that was disrupted with the invasion of Iraq. To do this, the United States must simultaneously create a balance in Iraq and induce Iran not to disrupt it, but without making Iran too powerful. This is delicate surgery and it makes the United States appear inconsistent. The recent contretemps over the National Intelligence Estimate — and the resulting inevitable public uproar — is part of the process of the U.S. rebalancing its policy in the region.
The Iraqi situation is now less threatening than the situation to the east. In Afghanistan, the United States and NATO have about 50,000 troops facing a resurgent Taliban. No military solution is possible given the correlation of forces. Therefore a political solution is needed in which an accommodation is reached with the Taliban, or with parts of the Taliban. There are recent indications, including the expulsion of EU and U.N. diplomats from Afghanistan for negotiating with the Taliban, that his process is under way. For the United States, there is no problem with a Taliban government, or with Taliban participation in a coalition government, so long as al Qaeda is not provided sanctuary for training and planning. The United States is trying to shape the situation in Afghanistan so those parts of the Taliban that participate in government will have a vested interest in opposing al Qaeda.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 01, 2008, 08:37:10 PM
Nice one GM
Here's a bit on how she treats the help and some other things:
WHAT A SWEET LADY
"Where is the G-dam f***ing flag? I want the G-dam f***ing flag up every f***ing morning at f***ing sunrise."
--From the book "Inside The White House" by Ronald Kessler, p. 244 - (Hillary to the staff at the Arkansas Governor's mansion on Labor Day, 1991)
"You sold out, you m***er-f***er! You sold out!"
-From the book "Inside" by Joseph Califano, p. 213 - (Hillary yelling at a Democrat lawyer.)
"F*** off! It's enough that I have to see you sh**-kickers every day, I'm not going to talk to you too!!
Just do your G*dam job and keep your mouth shut."
-From the book "American Evita" by Christopher Anderson, p. 90 - (Hillary to her State Trooper body-guards after one of them greeted her with "Good Morning.")
"You f** *ing idiot"
-From the book "Crossfire" p. 84 - (Hillary to a State Trooper who was driving her to an event.)
"If you want to remain on this detail, get your f***ing ass over here and grab those bags!"
--From the book "The First Partner" p. 259 - (Hillary to a Secret Service Agent who was reluctant to carry her luggage because he wanted to keep his hands free in case of an incident.)
"Get f***ed! Get the f*** out of my way!!! Get out of my face!!!"
--From the book "Hillary's Scheme" p. 89 - (Hillary's various comments to her Secret Service detail agents.)
"Stay the f*** back, stay the f*** away from me! Don't come within ten yards of me, or else!
Just f***ing do as I say, Okay!!!?"
-From the book "Unlimited Access", by Clinton FBI Agent in Charge, Gary Aldrige, p. 139 â€“
(Hillary screaming at her Secret Service detail)
"Where's the miserable c**k sucker?"
-From the book "The Truth About Hillary" by Edward Klein, p. 5 -
(Hillary shouting at a Secret Service officer)
"Put this on the ground! I left my sunglasses in the limo. I need those sunglasses.
We need to go back!"
-From the book "Dereliction of Duty" p. 71-72 - (Hillary to Marine One helicopter pilot to turn back while enroute to Air Force One.)
"Son of a bitch."
-From the book "American Evita" by Christopher Anderson, p. 259 -
(Hillary's opinion of President George W. Bush when she found out he secretly visited Iraq just days before her highly publicized trip to Iraq )
"What are you doing inviting these people into my home? These people are our enemies! They are trying to destroy us!"
-From the book "The Survivor" by John Harris, p. 99 - (Hillary screaming to an aide, when she found out that some Republicans had been invited to the Clinton White House)
"Come on Bill, put your d**k up! You can't f*** her here!!"
-From the book "Inside the White House" by Ronald Kessler, p. 243 -
(Hillary to Gov. Clinton when she spots him talking with an attractive female at an Arkansas political rally.)
"You know, I'm going to start thanking the woman who cleans the restroom in the building I work in. I'm going to start thinking of her as a human being"
--- Hillary Clinton -From the book "The Case against Hillary Clinton" by Peggy Noonan, p. 55
"We just can't trust the American people to make those types of c hoices.... Government has to make those choices for people "
-From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p. 20 - (Hillary to Rep. Dennis Hasert in 1993 discussing her expensive, disastrous taxpayer-funded health care plan.)
"I am a fan of the social policies that you find in Europe " ---Hillary in 1996"
-From the book "I've Always Been A Yankee Fan" by Thomas D. Kuiper, p.6
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DVD/Long Distance Training Questions
on: January 01, 2008, 05:35:47 PM
"For a short while I have studied the tapes on my own, but have been
somewhat leery of ingraining bad habits due to not having corrections and
was considering private lessons. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas and there
is little in the way of full time Kali Schools though there is a teacher
that gives private lessons at a fairly good rate. Would it be a good idea
to train on my own in the DBMA material and take private lessons for
correctional purposes? The teacher does not train in any sort of real
contact type training at all but i felt that he could still see mistakes
in technique if i stuck to the curriculum from the DVDs and eventually
tried to find training partners for the second series, etc."
We do our very best to have our DVDs have genuine merit for learning. Depending on the instructor, using him to complement your work with the DVDs could be a fine idea. OTOH if he lacks the fighter's understanding, or an understanding of what we are trying to communicate, you may find his input to be at cross purposes to what you are trying to accomplish. In short, you will have to use your best judgement , , ,
"As far as training the DBMA material, namely the first series of DVDs, is
there a certain way that you recommend training the different volumes? Do
you recommend training only one volume until you become proficient in it
or training the whole series in a sort of schedule/rotation? If you
recommend training thoroughly in one volume before moving to the next, is
there an amount of time that you would suggest one study each volume?"
The answer to these questions will vary according to the person asking them. The person who tends to flit from flower to flower in Life, probably will benefit from focusing and achieving some progress before moving on. In contrast, the person who tends to plod along past the point of diminishing returns will probably benefit from more emphasis on keeping things fresh. These points made, there tends to be a logic underlying the order in which we put things out, but we also understand that people do things for their reasons, not ours
and so seek to construct each DVD to be stand alone as well as part of a progression. My suggestion is to read the description of each DVD and watch the promo clip for it. We do our best to be accurate and candid as to the contents and to whom the DVD is directed. Most of our DVDs are genuinely for the full spectrum of people out there, but some are more at one end of the spectrum or the other. Also appreciate that it is our intention to make DVDs that continue to have value over time. That is, you may train it for a while and then move on to other thing for a time and then COME BACK TO IT. We continuously have people tell us that they see things the second, or third, or fourth time around that they did not appreciate the first time.
"I have also followed the postings on the Dog Brothers Public Forum in
order to get an idea of training empty-hand that is compatible with
DBMA, in one of the threads you mentioned that it was a bad idea to train in
boxing before learning Panantukan. I'm assuming this has to do with
training the body unilaterally and other habits relating to heavily
conditioning the body to use mainly clenched-fist striking? If so,would
that also make it a bad idea to train in Muay Thai before learning the
empty-handed FMA, or does more than enough of the same apply?"
I hope I didn't say that it was a "bad idea to train in boxing before learning Panantukan". What I hope I said was that if one could start with Panantukan, that in my opinion it would be best. My concern in all this is that people who start with boxing often have a hard time expanding to Panantukan later on. That said, as a general rule it is a good idea to make good use of your time wherever you are-- thus if boxing is the only option, then learn boxing.
The same point applies to Muay Thai-- however with MT you have the opportunity to work in Krabi Krabong, the military weaponry forerunner to MT, via our DVDs: specifically KK featuring Ajarn Salty Dog, the joint DVD "Cross-breeding Kali and KK" with me and Guro Lonely, and our blend of Kali and KK called "Los Triques" in the DVD of that name and in the soon to be released (estimate: 2 weeks) "The Dos Triques Formula".
"Your time and input is very much appreciated."
I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction, but if I have not, or if you wish to follow up with more, I will be glad to do so again.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 4 Elements query to Marc Denny
on: January 01, 2008, 05:13:42 PM
I'm thinking that the various contributions to the thread have fleshed out the point I was trying to make. Yes there are variations between the various approaches (you too Unstoppable
) that reference these things, but my intention in the piece in question was to underline the commonalities (and yes the particular example I used came from Steven Hayes).
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Karambit question
on: January 01, 2008, 05:07:24 PM
Although I can be seen in DLO 1 demonstrating a quick draw with a knock-off of the Emerson Kerambit waved folder, we don't really have any kerambit specific material in our curriculum, though the material for edge out reverse grip slashing is biomechanically relevant.
Concerning our knife curriculum, we have a distinct preference for knowing with whom we work. The material shown in DLO 1 & DLO 2 is counter-knife, and the knife attacks shown are thus commonly used by thugs and untrained people-- in other words, we seek to avoid helping the bad guys develop their game while at the same time helping good people understand what common bad guys attacks are really like.
Does this answer your question?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: January 01, 2008, 02:28:44 PM
Third post of the last 24 hours:
Ron Beats Rudy?
New Hampshire could surprise a lot of people.
BY ANDREW CLINE
Sunday, December 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
MANCHESTER, N.H.--For several hours last Sunday, more than a dozen Ron Paul volunteers stood in snowdrifts in the rain outside the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester waving at last-minute Christmas shoppers and handing out hundreds of yards signs.
The campaign doesn't know how many people participated because, as with so many Paul rallies, this one was organized entirely by fans not officially associated with the campaign.
"We told them to take Christmas Eve and Christmas off, and next thing we know they're doing a sign wave at the mall," said Jim Forsythe, a self-employed engineer and former Air Force pilot from Strafford, N.H., who independently organizes volunteer efforts for Ron Paul.
That spontaneous grassroots support is why Mr. Paul, an obstetrician from Lake Jackson, Texas, could pull off a stunner on Jan. 8 and place third in New Hampshire's Republican primary. If he does, he would embarrass Rudy Giuliani and steal media limelight from John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are battling for first place.
Many Republican operatives in New Hampshire, even those affiliated with other campaigns, think Mr. Paul is headed for an impressive, double-digit performance. That he has been polling in the high single digits for months is discounted, because the polls may be missing the depth of his support.
Why? For starters, he appears to be drawing new voters. Polls that screen for "likely" voters might screen out many Paul supporters who haven't voted often, or at all, before. Many of Mr. Paul's supporters appear to be first-time voters. They will be able to cast their ballots because New Hampshire allows them to register and vote on the day of an election.
Even Mr. Paul's New Hampshire spokesman, Kate Rick, is an unlikely political activist. She grew up in a political family in Washington, D.C. and says "I swore I would never work in politics." She changed her mind only after finding Mr. Paul, a candidate she says she can finally believe in. "Most people I know in the grass roots are like that," she said. "My closest friends have never voted before, and they're die-hard Paul people now."
There is another reason to discount the polls on Mr. Paul. The one thing that unites his supporters is a desire to be left alone, not only by government, but by irritating marketers and meddling pollsters, too. Mr. Paul's supporters might well be screening their calls and not-so-inadvertently screening out pollsters. Still, some observers of the primary race here downplay this support, noting that a lot of the activists who show up in news stories are not state residents and won't be voting.
It is true that Paul supporters from New York, New Jersey and even California are prominent at campaign rallies. But volunteers and campaign staffers say that, although out-of-state volunteers often are the most flamboyant and can attend daytime rallies while local supporters are at work, they do not outnumber the locals.
"Ninety percent [of his supporters] are from New Hampshire," says Jared Chicoine, Mr. Paul's New Hampshire coordinator. Keith Murphy, a former Democratic campaign worker from Maryland who owns Murphy's Taproom in Manchester, has held several Paul rallies at his restaurant, which has become a regular hangout for the Paul crowd. When the candidate shows up, about 75% of the activists at an event are from out of state, he said, but on other nights it's about 50-50.
Regardless of where they are from, organizing Mr. Paul's supporters is a challenge. "This is entirely grassroots oriented to the point that the official campaign structure seems almost lost, to the point that they don't know what to do with all these people," Mr. Murphy said.
On their own initiative, and at their own expense, Paul volunteers hold rallies, print and distribute brochures and even purchase ads. "I pick up the paper and say, wow, there's an ad and it's not my ad," Mr. Chicoine told me.
The buzz surrounding the Paul campaign is reminiscent of the grassroots campaign Democrat Carol Shea-Porter waged against Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley last year. Polls showed Mrs. Shea-Porter trailing by 19 points in October. With almost no money and no support from the Democratic establishment, she came from behind and beat the congressman 51% to 49%.
Many are wondering if the polls are similarly missing Mr. Paul's momentum. Mrs. Shea-Porter and Mr. Paul have very different ideas about how to use the power of government, but both strongly oppose the war in Iraq. And Mrs. Shea-Porter ran last year as a fiscal conservative, so it's possible Mr. Paul could win over many Republicans who voted for her last year.
Mr. Chicoine and other Paul supporters say that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most of Mr. Paul's backers are Republicans, not independents. But everyone agrees that Mr. Paul draws an unusual mix of libertarians, fiscally conservative Democrats, conservative Republicans, home-schoolers, vegans, gambling aficionados, anti-abortion activists and others who want the government to butt out of some aspect of their lives.
But will they get out to vote on primary day?
"I've never seen a group of people that are this energetic about a candidate," Mr. Murphy said. "It's something else."
That sentiment is shared by Republicans who have observed numerous New Hampshire primaries. The level of enthusiasm for Mr. Paul is remarkable, they say. It transcends the state's Libertarian base (about 4% of the electorate). And by many accounts, Mr. Paul's backers here are more energized and committed than are supporters of Mr. Giuliani, who may enjoy inflated poll numbers because of his celebrity status.
National attention is focused on the horse races between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and between Messrs. McCain and Romney. But the shy obstetrician from Texas could be the surprise story of the New Hampshire primary.
Mr. Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What problem?
on: January 01, 2008, 02:22:38 PM
Keeping Book on Immigration
December 31, 2007; Page A12
The Census Bureau informs us that when the clock strikes midnight, the U.S. population will exceed 303.1 million. That represents a one-year increase of 0.9% and a 22% increase since 1990, when our population stood at a mere 248.7 million souls. A lot of this growth is driven by immigration, a topic that has dominated the news for much of 2007.
Talk radio hosts, cable newscasters and Presidential hopefuls insist that foreign nationals drive crime rates, swell welfare rolls and steal jobs. But the data tell a very different story.
Between 1994 and 2005, the illegal immigrant population in the U.S. is estimated to have doubled to around 12 million. Yet according the Department of Justice, over that same period the violent crime rate in the U.S. declined by 34.2% and the property crime rate fell by 26.4%, reaching their lowest levels since 1973. Crime has fallen in cities with the largest immigrant populations -- such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami -- as well as border cities like San Diego and El Paso, Texas.
A recent paper by the Immigration Policy Center, an advocacy group, notes that "Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native born." Today, immigrants on balance are five times less likely to be in prison than someone born here.
It's not because law-abiding foreign professionals from India and China are compensating for criminally inclined low-skill Latinos. Immigrants from countries that comprise the bulk of our illegal alien population -- including Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans -- have lower incarceration rates than the native-born.
Another popular belief is that immigrants come here to go on the dole. The data show that welfare caseloads have fallen as illegal immigration has risen. As Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin report in the December issue of Commentary magazine, "Since the high-water mark in 1994, the national welfare caseload has declined by 60%. Virtually every state in the union has reduced its caseload by at least a third, and some have achieved reductions of over 90%."
Apparently immigrants don't drive welfare caseloads anymore than they drive the U.S. crime rate. The authors go on to note that, "Not only have the numbers of people on welfare plunged, but, in the wake of the 1996 welfare-reform bill, overall poverty, child poverty, black child poverty and child hunger have all decreased, while employment figures for single mothers have risen."
For all the talk about the "invasion" of million upon million of job-consuming immigrants, the unemployment rate stands at 4.7%, and job growth continues apace. Immigrants aren't stealing jobs but filling them. The economic activity they create as consumers and entrepreneurs contributes to the overall economic growth.
None of this is to argue that illegal immigration doesn't have costs, especially in border communities and states with large public benefits. In the post-9/11 environment, knowing who's in the country is more important than ever. That's an argument for better regulating cross-border labor flows, not ending them.
The best way to reduce pressure on the border is by providing legal ways for people to come and work. With the Bracero guest-worker program of the 1950s, illegal entries from Mexico declined to a trickle. A similar program today could have much the same effect, while serving our homeland security and economic interests. On balance, the evidence shows that immigrants are still an asset to the U.S.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Peggy Noonan in the WSJ
on: January 01, 2008, 12:56:43 PM
As Iowa sizes up the candidates, so do I.
Friday, December 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
By next week politically active Iowans will have met and tallied their votes. Their decision this year will have a huge impact on the 2008 election, and a decisive impact on various candidacies. Some will be done in. Some will be made. Some will land just right or wrong and wake up the next day to read raves or obits. A week after that, New Hampshire. The endless campaign is in fact nearing its climax.
But all eyes are on Iowa. Iowans bear a heck of a lot of responsibility this year, the first time since 1952 when there is no incumbent president or vice president in the race. All of it is wide open.
Iowa can make Obama real. It can make Hillary yesterday. It can make Huckabee a phenom and not a flash, McCain the future and not the past. Moments like this happen in history. They're the reason we get up in the morning. "What happened?" "Who won?"
This is my 2008 slogan: Reasonable Person for President. That is my hope, what I ask Iowa to produce, and I claim here to speak for thousands, millions. We are grown-ups, we know our country needs greatness, but we do not expect it and will settle at the moment for good. We just want a reasonable person. We would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane. We'd like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it.
Here are two reasonables: Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They have been United States senators for a combined 62 years. They've read a raw threat file or two. They have experience, sophistication, the long view. They know how it works. No one will have to explain it to them.
Mitt Romney? Yes. Characterological cheerfulness, personal stability and a good brain would be handy to have around. He hasn't made himself wealthy by seeing the world through a romantic mist. He has a sophisticated understanding of the challenges we face in the global economy. I personally am not made anxious by his flip-flopping on big issues because everyone in politics gets to change his mind once. That is, you can be pro-life and then pro-choice but you can't go back to pro-life again, because if you do you'll look like a flake. The positions Mr. Romney espouses now are the positions he will stick with. He has no choice.
John McCain? Yes. Remember when he was the wild man in 2000? For Republicans on the ground he was a little outré, if Republicans on the ground said "outré," as opposed to the more direct "nut job." George W. Bush, then, was the moderate, more even-toned candidate. Times change. Mr. McCain is an experienced, personally heroic, seasoned, blunt-eyed, irascible American character. He makes me proud. He makes everyone proud.
Barack Obama? Yes, I think so. He has earned the attention of the country with a classy campaign, with a disciplined and dignified staff, and with passionate supporters such as JFK hand Ted Sorensen, who has told me he sees in Obama's mind and temperament the kind of gifts Kennedy displayed during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. Obama is thoughtful, and it would be a pleasure to have a president who is highly literate and a writer of books.
Is he experienced enough? No. He's not old enough either. Men in their 40s love drama too much. Young politicians on fire over this issue or that tend to see politics as a stage on which they can act out their greatness. And we don't need more theatrics, more comedies or tragedies. But Mr. Obama doesn't seem on fire. He seems like a calm liberal with a certain moderating ambivalence. The great plus of his candidacy: More than anyone else he turns the page. If he rises he is something new in history, good or bad, and a new era begins.
Hillary Clinton? No, not reasonable. I concede her sturdy mind, deep sophistication, and seriousness of intent. I see her as a triangulator like her husband, not a radical but a maneuverer in the direction of a vague, half-forgotten but always remembered, leftism. It is also true that she has a command-and-control mentality, an urgent, insistent and grating sense of destiny, and she appears to believe that any act that benefits Clintons is a virtuous act, because Clintons are good and deserve to be benefited.
But this is not, actually, my central problem with her candidacy. My central problem is that the next American president will very likely face another big bad thing, a terrible day, or days, and in that time it will be crucial--crucial--that our nation be led by a man or woman who can be, at least for the moment and at least in general, trusted. Mrs. Clinton is the most dramatically polarizing, the most instinctively distrusted, political figure of my lifetime. Yes, I include Nixon. Would she be able to speak the nation through the trauma? I do not think so. And if I am right, that simple fact would do as much damage to America as the terrible thing itself.
Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson, and Bill Richardson are all reasonable--mature, accomplished, nonradical. Mike Huckabee gets enough demerits to fall into my not-reasonable column. John Edwards is not reasonable. All the Democrats would raise taxes as president, but Mr. Edwards's populism is the worst of both worlds, both intemperate and insincere. Also we can't have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can't.
I forgot Rudy Giuliani. That must say something. He is reasonable but not desirable. If he wins somewhere, I'll explain.
Because much of the drama is on the Democratic side, a thought on what might be said when they win or lose. If Mrs. Clinton wins, modesty is in order, with a graceful nod to Mr. Obama. If she loses--well, the Clintons haven't lost an election since 1980. For a quarter century she's known only victory at the polls. Does she know how to lose? However she acts, whatever face she shows, it will be revealing. Humility would be a good strategy. In politics you have to prove you can take a punch. I just took one. (On second thought that's a bad idea. She might morph at the podium into Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull" and ad-lib the taunt: You didn't knock me down Ray! I'm still standing!)
For Mr. Obama: a lot of America will be looking at him for the first time, and under the most favorable circumstances: as the winner of something. This is an opportunity to assert freshly what his victory means, and will mean, for America. This is a break with the past, a break with the tired old argument, a break with the idea of dynasty, the idea of the machine, the idea that there are forces in motion that cannot be resisted . . . But what is it besides a break from? What is it a step toward, an embrace of?
Good luck, Iowa. The eyes of the nation are upon you.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 01, 2008, 12:47:57 PM
Third post of the day:
In response to some questions from me, the following is from a friend who is a MD in India. Over the years informed by a far greater level of coverage than is the case here in the US, he has been a serious student of these matters and so I give weight to what he says.
Assuming an honest vote, I dont think Bhutto can win. I doubt, the average Pakistani is going to vote for Mr.10% her husband. My experience from India has been again and again that even the uneducated masses will choose an honest leader and kick out the corrupt. In this election there are three complicating factors. The importance of the sympathy vote, the role of Bilawal and the growing clout of AQ/Taliban.
Sympathy vote: This could be huge, but is mitigated by Mr.10%. Bilawal is only 19 and ineligible for Parliament. Any victory for Bhutto's party will leave Mr.10% as lead dog. This cannot be acceptable to many Pakistanis.
Bilawal: He will be a force to reckon with in the future...but not now. To rule on the asian sub-continent, you need to be a son of the soil...somebody who speaks the language, somebody who was bought up in the country, went to school in the country. Bilawal is an oxford educated elite...he would be an important voice in the future, akin to Sonia Gandhi...king maker but not king.
AQ/Taliban: I think they are the underdogs...soon to be lead dogs. Nawaz Sharif is on relatively good terms with them. From what I read the Taliban already control large areas of the NWFP, call themselves the Islamic Emirates or something to that effect.
For the present I think no party can win an absolute majority, but if Nawaz Sharif plays his cards right (gets the support of Taliban) and the Army he could have a future. I think Mush will have to go, but he may take a last stand.
Army: The Pak army is a professional force, While their leadership is likely not in nexus with the AQ/Taliban types, I read that there is sympathy for the Taliban in the lower ranks of the army. The army however has a vested interest to maintain power, for they have always done so. What many people dont realize is that the army elite are a ruling class, they have great perks and a lot of money is chanelled to them. I once read it is a significant portion of the national income (distinct from the weapons purchases). A purely civilian ruler may decide to cut back on the army's priviledges. So I dont see the army giving all this up. Any leader must have the support of the army.
ISI: The spy agencies are thoroughly infiltrated with AQ/Taliban sympathizers. The ISI is like our CIA...deep infiltration of the CIA could have severe consequences for national security.
Nukes: Time and again one reads that the US has some assets/means to monitor the nukes. Even if this is true, I doubt Pak would be stupid enough to give all control to the US, they likely have some assets hidden outside of US control. I suspect it is these which could get in the hands of the wrong guys. But we are not there yet, for this to happen AQ/Taliban needs to become stronger more influential. This may happen if Nawaz Sharif comes into power. With govt. support, a AQ can achieve a lot. Overall, its not a question of IF but WHEN AQ will be able to get their hands on the stuff.
I dont know enough about nukes to say if they can be destroyed, but certainly Pak's main nuclear reactors are well known. Bombing them would certainly over throw the govt...and like a nuclear reaction, the aftermath of that is unpredicatable.
Future of Pak: Atleast I am not very optimistic on the country, they have been dismembered once (Bangladesh), many areas of NWFP are outside govt control, others like Balochistan seek independence. To rule such a place, requires making unsavoury alliances, as well as selling your soul. This is the reason, one cannot find a honest candidate.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: January 01, 2008, 12:44:25 PM
Here's the WSJ's take:
Losing in the West, the jihadis hit Pakistan, with its nuclear prize.
Friday, December 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
"In Pakistan there are two fault lines. One is dictatorship versus democracy. And one is moderation versus extremism." Thus did Benazir Bhutto describe the politics of her country during an August visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices in New York. She was assassinated yesterday for standing courageously, perhaps fatalistically, on the right side of both lines.
We will learn more in coming days about the circumstances of Bhutto's death, apparently a combined shooting and suicide bombing at a political rally in Rawalpindi in which more than 20 others were also murdered. But there's little question the attack, which had every hallmark of an al Qaeda or Taliban operation, is an event with ramifications for the broader war on terror. With the jihadists losing in Iraq and having a hard time hitting the West, their strategy seems to be to make vulnerable Pakistan their principal target, and its nuclear arsenal their principal prize.
In this effort, murdering Bhutto was an essential step. Hers is the highest profile scalp the jihadists can claim since their assassination of Egypt's Anwar Sadat in 1981. She also uniquely combined broad public support with an anti-Islamist, pro-Western outlook and all the symbolism that came with being the most prominent female leader in the Muslim world. Her death throws into disarray the complex and fragile efforts to re-establish a functional, legitimate government following next month's parliamentary elections, which seemed set to hand her a third term as prime minister.
This is exactly the kind of uncertainty in which jihadists would thrive. No doubt, too, there are some in the Pakistani military who will want to use Bhutto's killing as an excuse to cancel the elections and reconsolidate their own diminished grip on power. In the immediate wake of the assassination, members of Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party have accused President Pervez Musharraf of being complicit in it. But whatever Mr. Musharraf's personal views of Bhutto--with whom he had an on-again, off-again political relationship--his own position has only been weakened by her death. It would be weakened beyond repair if he sought to capitalize on it by preventing the democratic process from taking its course.
That goes even if the immediate beneficiary of Bhutto's death is her onetime archrival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif, an Islamist politician with close ties to Saudi Arabia and a reputation for incompetence and corruption, said yesterday he would boycott next month's election even as he is seeking to assert himself as the man around whom all opponents of Mr. Musharraf can rally. We have no brief for Mr. Sharif, except to say that his claim to that position would be strengthened if the military indefinitely postpones or usurps the election.
Beyond the elections, Mr. Musharraf needs to move aggressively to confront the jihadists, and not the lawyers and civil-rights activists he has been jailing in recent months. Hundreds of Pakistanis have been murdered in recent months in terrorist acts perpetrated by fellow Muslims, and many of these perpetrators have, in different ways and at different times, been connected to the Pakistani government itself: as beneficiaries of the terrorist war Pakistan has supported over the years in Kashmir, or as beneficiaries of the support Pakistan gave to the Taliban until 9/11, or as beneficiaries of the ill-conceived "truce" Mr. Musharraf signed last year with Taliban- and al Qaeda-connected tribal chiefs in the Waziristan province. Worst of all has been the look-the-other-way approach successive Pakistani governments have taken to the radical, Saudi-funded madrassas throughout the country.
That will require a more radical reshaping of Pakistan's politics than Mr. Musharraf has so far been able, or willing, to undertake. But if Bhutto's assassination has any silver lining, it may be to show that there is no real alternative.
During her meeting with us last summer, Bhutto warned that while the jihadist movement would never have the popular support to win an election in its own right, they had sufficient means at their disposal to "unleash against the population, to rig an election, to kill the army and therefore to make it possible to take over the state." Today those words seem grimly prophetic. And while she was in many ways a flawed figure, her answer to that challenge--a real fight against terrorism that would give jihadists no rest; and a real democracy that would give them no fake grievance--looks to be the only formula by which Pakistan may yet be saved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: December 31, 2007, 11:34:55 PM
We finish the year on a happy note:
Gun-packing man, 65, fights off 5 thugs
WKMG LOCAL 6 NEWS
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Central Florida man who collects cash for parking at a church fought off five armed men who had ambushed him and demanded cash. The 65-year-old victim, who did not want to be identified, said he was collecting cash in the Parramore area before an Orlando Magic basketball game when someone put a gun to his head. He noticed that that he was surrounded by four other men as well. The man said he pretended to reach into his jacket for cash but instead pulled out his hidden gun and opened fire. The men fled during the shooting and it was not known if any of them were hit by bullets. The victim said he had a permit for the concealed weapon.
He said he has been a victim of crime before.
"A couple of years ago, eight teens attacked me with a pipe trying to rob me," the man said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam and Democracy
on: December 31, 2007, 09:37:00 PM
Interesting theological exegis , , ,
Is Voting Permitted in Islam Every year in England, we the Muslims are split on the issue of: “whether it is permissible or not to vote for man made laws” I ask this question as to whether it is permissible to vote for other then Allah’s laws, and does this lead to taghoot or shirk?
Are we only allowed to follow the shariah? The main argument is weather or not we are allowed to participate in this voting process?
Question # q-17034644Date Posted:04/03/2004 In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The process of voting in non-Muslim democratic countries is not based on religious ideologies neither are elections won and lost on the basis of religion. As such, a candidate that stands up in an election does not promise to implement the laws of Islam or any other religion for that matter.
Normally a candidate promises the public better services and facilities. These services may also be connected to a particular religion, like promising Muslims financial assistance for the construction of Masjids, and so on.
Therefore, to vote a particular candidate or party in non-Muslim countries will be permissible and not considered a sin or Kufr. When one votes for a party, it does not necessarily mean that one agrees completely with their beliefs and ideologies, rather the intention is that the candidate (or party) will be of help to the whole community.
In light of the above, it becomes clear that to vote in itself is not something that is impermissible. However, the following should be kept in mind.
Voting in a way is giving a testimony in favour of the person/party whom one is voting. The way false testimony is a major sin, to vote in favour of a candidate that one knows is not worthy will also be unlawful and a major sin.
Allah Most High says:
“Allah commands you to render back your trusts to those whom they are due.” (Surah al-Nisa, 58)
He also says:
“When you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned.” (al-An’am, 152)
“And shun the word that is false.” (al-Hajj, 30)
Bearing false testimony has been considered one of the major sins. Imam Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) included bearing false testimony in his famous book al-Kaba’ir, and then related the following Hadith:
“Shall I not inform you of the greatest sins (akbar al-kaba’ir): Associating partners with Allah (shirk), disobedience to parents, bearing false witness and speaking falsehood.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
When one is giving his vote, he is actually giving testimony on the fact that the candidate (or party) is trustworthy in his beliefs and actions, and better than the other candidates.
In a situation where there is no worthy candidate (as in non-Muslim countries, where at least the ideologies and beliefs of the relevant parties are contrary to the teachings of Islam), then the vote should be given to the one who is the better and more trustworthy than the other candidates.
Therefore, to give a vote on the purely basis of personal connections, family relationship, and the like (when one is aware that the one given the vote is not worthy) will be considered impermissible.
Vote should be given to the candidate that one believes will give people their rights, prevent oppression, and so on.
At times, voting becomes necessary. Sayyiduna Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:
“If people see an oppressor and don’t prevent him, then it is very likely that Allah will include all of them in the punishment.” (Sunan Tirmidhi & Sunan Abu Dawud)
Therefore, if you see open oppression and transgression, and despite having the capability of preventing this oppression by giving your vote, you don’t do so, then in the light of this Hadith you will be sinful.
In another Hadith it is stated:
“If a believer is being humiliated in front of a individual, and he despite having the capability of preventing this humiliation, abstains from doing so, Allah will him humiliate him (on the day of resurrection) in the presence of all the creation.” (Jam al-Fawa’id, 2/51)
In conclusion, voting is not something that is impermissible. If it is thought that a particular candidate or party will be of benefit to the general public in their day-to-day affairs, then the vote should be given to him. And by voting a particular party, it will not be considered that one agrees with all their ideologies and beliefs.
And Allah knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UKhttp://www.daruliftaa.com/question.a...nID=q-17034644
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 31, 2007, 07:20:37 PM
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2007
The Musharraf Problem: Full Text from WSJ
With the permission of the Wall Street Journal, I reproduce below my whole article of yesterday on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
I drafted this article in the first few hours after Bhutto's death before any public attribution of responsibility. Since then, as partly reflected in the final version, the Government of Pakistan has claimed it has evidence or the responsibility of Baitullah Mahsud, Amir of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan (Tahrik-i Taliban-i Pakistan), and Mahsud has denied involvement through his spokesman, Mawlawi Umar.
As Juan Cole reports today, signs of a cover-up are increasing. Please note that the hypotheses of a plot by al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban on the one hand and of involvement by the Pakistani military and government (including in a cover-up) on the other hand are not mutually exclusive.
The Musharraf Problem
Barnett R. Rubin
Reprinted with permission from the Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2007
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was probably a strategic attack by al Qaeda and its local allies—the Pakistani Taliban—aimed at achieving Osama bin Laden's and Ayman al-Zawahiri's most pressing political objective: destabilizing the government of Pakistan, the nuclear-armed country where al Qaeda has re-established the safe haven it lost in Afghanistan.
Many in Pakistan nevertheless will blame their own military, which has failed to stop the suicide bombings over the past five years, including that of Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi in October. Pakistani intelligence now claims to have intercepted a phone call from Baitullah Mahsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, offering congratulations for the operation. It may be true. But the skepticism with which this announcement was greeted in Pakistan shows that the Bush administration's strategy of trying to shore up the power of President (former general) Pervez Musharraf cannot work. Even if it is innocent of involvement in this assassination, the Pakistan military under Mr. Musharraf has no intention of ceding power to civilians.
Pakistani newspapers have already published what they claim are the planned results of the rigged elections. Nothing short of a genuine transition to democracy that replaces rather than complements military rule has a chance of establishing a government with the capacity to regain control of the country's territory and marginalize the militants.
The murder of Bhutto was not just an attempt to derail Pakistani democracy, or prevent an enlightened Muslim woman from taking power. It was a counterattack, apparently by the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda, against a U.S.-backed transition from direct to indirect military rule in Pakistan by brokering a forced marriage of "moderates."
According to last July's National Intelligence Estimate on the al Qaeda threat, bin Laden has re-established his sanctuary in the Pakistani tribal agencies. According to a report by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, the suicide bombers for Pakistan and Afghanistan are trained in these agencies.
Most global terrorist plots since 9/11 can be traced back to these areas. And Pakistan's military regime, not Iran, has been the main source of rogue nuclear proliferation. It is therefore the U.S. partnership with military rulers in Pakistan that has been and is the problem, not the solution.
Last September, bin Laden released a video declaring jihad on the Pakistani government. When Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile on Oct. 18—as part of a U.S.-backed strategy to shore up Musharraf's power through elections—her motorcade was bombed as it passed by several military bases in Karachi, killing over 100.
In October and November, groups allied with the Pakistani Taliban captured several districts in Swat, in the Northwest Frontier Province, not in the tribal agencies. When I was in Pakistan in early November, I was told that this offensive was part of a larger effort by the Pakistani Taliban to surround Peshawar, capital of NWFP, and put increasing pressure on nearby Islamabad, the capital. The next key step, I was told on Nov. 5, would be an attack on Charsadda, northeast of Peshawar, on the Muslim feast of 'Id al-Adha.
Sure enough, on Dec. 21 a suicide bomber killed 56 people during 'Id worship in Charsadda. This suicide attack followed by a week the announcement that leaders of various Taliban groups had agreed to establish a common organization—the Taliban Movement of Pakistan—under the command of Baitullah Mahsud, the Taliban commander in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency, where the meeting took place.
But if bin Laden declared jihad against Mr. Musharraf, Pakistan's leader saw greater threats elsewhere. When he declared an emergency on Nov. 3, he was responding mainly to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was about to rule that his standing for president while a serving general violated the constitution. Mr. Musharraf continued the longstanding policy of the Pakistani military of putting its own power, justified by the Indian threat, ahead of all other concerns.
Mr. Musharraf dissolved the Supreme Court and arrested thousands of democratic opponents before sending the army to recapture portions of Swat. His priorities—seeing unarmed civilian opponents as the main threat to the country—helps explain why many Pakistanis believe that the military is behind Bhutto's assassination.
These priorities are consistent with the message that Mr. Musharraf has been sending for years. On Sept. 19, 2001, he told the Pakistani public that he would support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan in order to "save Afghanistan and Taliban, ensure that they suffer minimum losses." He presented Pakistan's support for U.S. efforts against the Taliban as reluctant compliance, required to assure the security of Pakistan from India.
Bhutto, however, had started to present a different message: that the people of Pakistan want a government and a state that serves them, not a state that serves the military's pursuit of a failed strategic mission. She spoke of the Pakistani Taliban and their al Qaeda backers as the greatest threat to the country. She and other parties proposed to extend civil authority over the tribal agencies, ending their role as a platform for covert actions.
An interim of emergency rule and the postponement of national elections may now be inevitable. But if the military re-imposes martial law, further guts Pakistan's judiciary and legal system, and blocks democratization, Pakistan's people will resist.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, respect for the military as an institution has plummeted. The vacuum of authority and legitimacy created by military rule will provide the Taliban and al Qaeda the opportunity they seek.
The Bush administration's nightmare scenario—the convergence of terrorism and nuclear weapons—is happening right now, and in Pakistan, not in Iraq or Iran. Yet as recently as Dec. 11, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, hardly mentioned Pakistan, and characterized Afghanistan as second in priority to Iraq.
It is critical that the Bush administration put Pakistan and Afghanistan where they should have been for the past six years: at the top of this country's security agenda. The most fitting memorial to Bhutto would be to recognize that the battle for a democratic Pakistan is the centerpiece of the global fight against terrorism.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 31, 2007, 06:20:49 PM
You need to start hanging out somewhere with a higher IQ about these things
For example, here
Anyone who thinks that fight was fixed is so far into the realm of double digit IQ that he is in sight of single digit IQ
I had not seen many of VS's Pride fights and knew him more by reputationI was surprised by VS's lack of tactics/technique for closing. The footage I saw of his fight prep sparring had him with someone his own height-- CL is about 3" taller than VS and is unusually good at hitting with power while moving, even while moving backwards on angles. I had no sense that VS had thought about this or prepared for it.
OTOH I thought Matt Hughes came in with a sound strategy for closing: shift to right lead to nullify GSP's formidable left inside leg kicks (something which few people can do without getting counter-rushed) and go for the ankle pick or single leg. With this he could have come down in side control and perhaps done very well. In short, an intelligent and valid strategy. The problem though was that GSP's footwork and intelligence in his footwork was simply too awesome-- as was everything else. Truly outstanding performance by GSP, who also impresses as a class act to boot. MH, whom I don't care for from his performance as a coach on TUF, I thought handled his defeat well and graciously.
BTW Original Dog Brother Sled Dog helped train GSP.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fred
on: December 31, 2007, 12:31:51 PM
Fred has a strong pitch clip on his site at http://www.fred08.com:80/Virtual/FDTIowaSpeech.aspx
Here's the WSJ's Political Diary on it:
Thompson's Pitch: Let's Save the Democratic Party from the Democrats!
It wasn't an attack ad, and it didn't feature a "floating cross" in the background. In fact, Fred Thompson's closing appeal to Iowa voters is playing mostly on his Web site and YouTube because his campaign can't afford to buy TV time for the 17-minute message. Call it Thompson's Hail Mary pass.
That doesn't make the pitch any less worth watching. Harking back to Ronald Reagan's 1976 televised speech before the North Carolina primary -- which helped produce the Gipper's upset victory over President Gerald Ford -- Mr. Thompson's message is grounded in the substance and clarity he told supporters he would bring to the race, but which only became clearly visible in recent weeks.
Peter Robinson, a former speechwriter for President Reagan who is now at the Hoover Institution, notes that Mr. Thompson is trying something no other GOP candidate this year has done: appeal to Democrats. His key passage begins: "You know, when I'm asked which of the current group of Democratic candidates I prefer to run against, I always say it really doesn't matter. These days all those candidates, all the Democratic leaders, are one and the same. They're all NEA-MoveOn.org-ACLU-Michael Moore Democrats. They've allowed these radicals to take control of their party and dictate their course.... This election is important to salvage a once-great political party from the grip of extremism and shake it back to its senses. It's time to give not just Republicans but independents, and, yes, good Democrats a chance to call a halt to the leftward lurch of the once-proud party of working people."
Certainly the other GOP candidates might argue with Mr. Thompson's claim that his track record and approach make him the best candidate to win Democratic votes in the general election. Rudy Giuliani would be expected to put blue states such as New Jersey and Connecticut in play, and John McCain has proven support among some independent voters. But Mr. Robinson gives Mr. Thompson credit for trying to change the tone of the last days of the Iowa caucuses to something more substantive: "We have here a serious man, making a serious case -- and doing so in the context of a campaign that has otherwise descended into mere caterwauling."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: December 31, 2007, 09:59:46 AM
Who says God is without a sense of humor?
Richmond police have found the car that was carjacked at gunpoint from State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata in North Oakland, authorities said today.
The red 2006 Dodge Charger was found near the corner of Wiswall and Colette drives near the Hilltop Mall in Richmond at about 11 p.m. Saturday, nine hours after the carjacking, police said. The car will be processed for evidence.
Told about the recovery of the car, Perata, 62, said today that he was heartened that no one was hurt. "The car is immaterial to me," said the Oakland Democrat, whose home was guarded by the California Highway Patrol and police overnight.
He joked, "At least it was found in my district."
Perata was unharmed after he was accosted by a gunman at 51st Street and Shattuck Avenue in North Oakland at about 1:45 p.m. Saturday.
Perata said he was waiting for the light to change when, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a man walking up to him. The senator, who has campaigned against assault weapons and crime, said he mistook the man for a panhandler or window washer at first.
But then the man began pulling a mask over his nose and pointed an automatic handgun at him "gangster style" - holding it sideways - before tapping it on his window and bellowing at him, "Get out of the m- car."
Perata said he told the man, "I'm outta here" and jumped out of the car, which police say may have been targeted for its 22-inch rims. The man got inside and took off in the car, which also had Perata's cell phone in it. The carjacker was followed by an accomplice in a gold 2000 Chevrolet Camaro that was stolen in San Leandro on Friday in an incident in which shots were fired, authorities said.
Oakland police Lt. Lawrence Green said police do not believe the assailants had recognized Perata on Saturday. The senator told officers that he believed he saw the men at a Union 76 gas station minutes earlier on Broadway Terrace, so it was possible that they followed him to 51st and Shattuck before carjacking him, Green said.
Perata said he was preparing to get onto the freeway when he was carjacked while he was the third car waiting at the red light. The gunman was no more than 3 feet away, and at one point, Perata said, he feared that if the assailant panicked and fired a round while fumbling to get his mask over his face, "that would have been the end of me."
Perata said today that he no longer carries a concealed-weapons permit and there was no gun in his state car.
Perata said he never had the permit renewed when it expired two years ago because he "just never had the opportunity to re-qualify" at a gun range. Perata obtained the permit out of security concerns stemming from his work regulating firearms.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives for good
on: December 31, 2007, 07:29:56 AM
The designer of this knife is a friend, known on the internet by his nomme de plume of "Southnark" -- due to his line of work, he prefers his name remains unknown. SN is one of the top RBSD instructors in the country and I recommend anything he is involved with highly. Amongst his martial arts training SN was a student of Pekiti Tirsia guro Doug Marcaida. PT includes edge-in ice pick as one of its methods. He also has silat and if I am not mistaken, trained for a time at Sifu Francis Fong's academy in Atlanta GA. At http://shivworks.com/
you can order his DVDs explaining and showing the logic of edge-in ice pick grip and how he envisions the application of this method.
For simple purposes here and now, appreciate that edge in generates powerful ripping motions e.g. a blocked caveman strike completes by filetting (sp?) the inside of the forearm.
Also worth noting is that Ray Floro uses edge-in. His gift to me of such a knife after we worked out together is greatly valued.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: December 31, 2007, 07:14:42 AM
British Government Reports: Playing with toy weapons helps the development of boys
Why boys should be allowed to play with toy guns
By LAURA CLARK AND SARAH HARRIS
Playing with toy weapons helps the development of young boys, according to new Government advice to nurseries and playgroups.
Staff have been told they must resist their "natural instinct" to stop boys using pretend weapons such as guns or light sabres in games with other toddlers.
Fantasy play involving weapons and superheroes allows healthy and safe risk-taking and can also make learning more appealing, says the guidance.
It conflicts with years of "political correctness" in nurseries and playgroups which has led to the banning of toy guns, action hero games and children pretending to fire "guns" using their fingers or Lego bricks.
But teachers' leaders insisted last night that guns "symbolise aggression" and said many nurseries and playgroups would ignore the change.
The guidance, called Confident, Capable and Creative: Supporting Boys' Achievements, is issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
It says some members of staff "find the chosen play of boys more difficult to understand and value than that of girls." This is mainly because they tend to choose activities with more action, often based outdoors.
"Images and ideas gleaned from the media are common starting points in boys' play and may involve characters with special powers or weapons.
"Adults can find this particularly challenging and have a natural instinct to stop it.
"This is not necessary as long as practitioners help the boys to understand and respect the rights of other children and to take responsibility for the resources and environment."
The report says: "Creating situations so that boys' interests in these forms of play can be fostered through healthy and safe risk-taking will enhance every aspect of their learning and development."
It cites a North London children's centre which helped boys create a "Spiderman House" and print pictures of the superhero from the internet.
This led to improvements in their communication, ability to develop storylines in their play and skills in drawing, reading and writing.
The guidance is aimed at boosting boys' achievement. They often fall behind girls even before starting school and the trend can continue throughout their academic careers.
Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said: "The guidance simply takes a commonsense approach to the fact that many young children and perhaps particularly many boys, like boisterous, physical activity."
"Although noisy for adults such imaginary games are good for their development as well as good fun."
But Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The real problem with weapons is that they symbolise aggression.
"The reason teachers often intervene when kids have toy guns is that the boy is usually being very aggressive. We do need to ensure, whether the playing is rumbustious or not, that there is a respect for your peers, however young they are."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) union said: "Many parents take the decision that their children won't have toy weapons."
Research by Penny Holland, academic leader for early childhood at London Metropolitan University, has also concluded that boys should be allowed to play gun games.
She found boys became dispirited and withdrawn when they are told such play-fighting is wrong.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In prison in Morocco
on: December 31, 2007, 07:05:19 AM
By MICHAEL MOSS and SOUAD MEKHENNET
Published: December 31, 2007
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Ahmed Rafiki sprawled on the makeshift couch in his cell, a fresh red henna dye in his long hair and beard.
Known to other militants as the father of Moroccan jihadists, he was convicted in 2003 of leading young men to fight Americans in Afghanistan. But here in Oukacha Prison, Mr. Rafiki, an Islamist cleric, is serving the final months of his sentence in style.
His kitchen and larder are stocked three times a week by his two wives. His curtained doorway leads to a private garden and bath. He has two radios and a television, a reading stand for his Koran and a wardrobe of crisply ironed Islamic attire.
“In my case,” he said with a smile, “the people treat me well.”
Hardly a scene of harsh interrogation and detention for which Moroccan prisons are known, Mr. Rafiki’s plush prison life is evidence of an awkward balancing act between the crackdown on militants in many countries and the power those militants can hold over the authorities.
Through hunger strikes and protests, Mr. Rafiki and Oukacha’s 65 other militant inmates have won perks — including exclusive use of the conjugal rooms — that make them the envy of the prison’s 7,600 other inmates.
One recent morning, a prisoner advocate handed the warden a long list of inmates not linked to terrorism cases who were demanding equal time with their wives.
“‘Why do they get much more rights than we get here?’” the advocate, Assia El Ouadie, said the other prisoners constantly asked her. “‘Do you want us to become terrorism prisoners, and then we will get those rights?’”
Even as more and more militants are imprisoned around the world — often by governments with records of conducting extreme interrogations — the prisoners are managing to gain a kind of crude leverage over security officials who are struggling to figure out how to handle them.
Draconian, or even strict, treatment of radical inmates can lead to prison unrest and public condemnation, particularly in countries with sizable Muslim populations. At the same time, officials fear that militants given free rein are more likely to turn prisons into prime grounds for radicalization and recruiting.
“More than any time in the modern history of terrorism, the prisons have become a key front in the war on terror,” Dennis Pluchinsky, a former senior intelligence analyst at the State Department, wrote in a report for the United States government earlier this year.
He estimated that there were 5,000 jihadi inmates and detainees worldwide, not counting those held in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that only 15 percent had received life sentences or the death penalty, meaning the rest would eventually be set free.
Here in Morocco, across the Arab world and in European countries like Spain and France, there is a growing realization that catching and convicting militants is hardly the end of the problem. Many are getting sentences of only a few years, and Arab governments continue to release hundreds every year through mass pardons aimed at quelling fundamentalist Islamic movements.
Last April, a meeting in Morocco on radicalization of Islamic prisoners drew representatives of 21 countries. “There is some confusion as to how, in overcrowded and underfinanced prison systems, you deal with these special case prisoners,” said a British official who helped run the meeting, who spoke anonymously, citing normal diplomatic strictures. British officials acknowledge that they erred in the early 1980s when they gave Irish Republican Army prisoners their own cellblock, only to see them carry out fatal hunger strikes that won public support. But the authorities say militant Islamic inmates are even more sophisticated.
Manuals from Al Qaeda instruct prisoners on how to resist interrogations, wage hunger strikes and use prison time to strengthen religious convictions. This month, Australian officials said a group of 40 Muslim inmates, not previously considered extremists, were found using guidance from a manual to organize themselves and stage protests at a prison near Sydney. Officials responded by scattering them among other prisons.
But that is hardly a fail-safe strategy. When members of the Qaeda-inspired group Fatah al Islam, which fought the Lebanese Army for three months this year, were locked up in Roumieh Prison near Beirut, Lebanese authorities found they had been using smuggled cellphones to contact other jailed militants and their families outside.
Page 2 of 3)
Some Middle Eastern and European countries are using moderate imams in prisons in hopes of quelling the extremist fervor. “You have to fight their ideology with Islam and against their wrong interpretation of Islam,” said a top Syrian security official.
The biggest concern is that militants will return to the fight once released, despite having been imprisoned, or perhaps because of it.
That is what Mohammed Mazouz did after he was freed in 2004 from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was picked up last fall in Morocco as he was preparing to leave for Iraq to fight American troops. “I can’t forget what they did with me,” he said of his American captors, during an interview in a Moroccan prison. “I can’t forget all my life. I hate it.”
He was released two days later.
Rise of Fundamentalism
Morocco had few Islamic militants in its prisons during the 1990s, when leftists, angered by the country’s poverty and official corruption, posed more of a threat to the monarchy. King Mohammed VI began a series of liberalizations after assuming the throne in 1999. Yet a new challenge was rising, as the Islamic fundamentalism sweeping the Arab world gathered public support in Morocco. While the most popular Muslim leaders professed nonviolence, radicals began planning terrorist attacks.
In May 2003, eight weeks after the United States invaded Iraq, Morocco was hit by its worst terrorist attack ever. A dozen suicide bombers struck a cafe, a hotel and Jewish establishments in Casablanca, killing more than 30 people. The struggle between the militants and the government landed in Morocco’s prisons.
Hundreds of suspects were detained. In prison interviews with The New York Times, five men said they had been tortured during interrogations, subjected to a method of anal rape known as “the bottle treatment.”
In all, more than 1,400 men were convicted of terrorism-related charges and imprisoned. In May 2005, the militants started a 28-day hunger strike, using contraband cellphones to rally compatriots throughout the prison system.
A militant former convict, Abderahim Mohtad, started a prisoner advocacy group and stirred public support for the strikers. “Their strength comes from their belief in God,” he said in his storefront office, where one wall is covered with pictures of militant inmates. “You tortured him, you didn’t get anything from him. You arrested him and you didn’t get anything from him. You judged them, and some of them had been judged with death, and they are still laughing.”
While the Casablanca bombings had dampened public sympathy for terrorist groups, animosity toward the United States ran strong. The jailed militants were seen as motivated by the war in Iraq and by Morocco’s role in America’s campaign against terrorism.
Morocco has participated in a Sahara-wide counterterrorism effort financed by the United States, by helping to gather and share intelligence and by detaining terrorism suspects.
Many inmates protested that they had no role in the bombings, and Moroccan authorities acknowledged in recent interviews that many had been arrested simply for embracing an extreme ideology.
When the strike ended, courts reduced the sentences of some militants, and the king pardoned several hundred more. Those who remained in prison began to get special privileges.
“They started with hunger strikes and problems,” said Abdelati Belghazi, director of Zaki Prison, north of the capital, Rabat. “The media and organizations started to get involved, and because we wanted them to stop, we had to give them some of the things that they have requested. And then they started to feel much stronger because they saw that they received what they wanted. They requested more and more.”
More Space in Cells
At Zaki, one of two prisons where The Times interviewed militant inmates and prison officials, the 309 prisoners held as terrorists have much more space — averaging 3 men in each cell, compared with 22 per cell for the prison’s 3,500 regular inmates, a prison official said.
They also have a system for lodging complaints, a fact that at times irritates Ms. Ouadie, the prisoner advocate appointed by the king to mediate disputes.
Page 3 of 3)
“The guards threw a Koran on the ground,” a militant representative in Zaki, Yassine Aliouine, complained. Since the guards are Muslims, too, Ms. Ouadie said, it is more likely that the book simply fell.
“Yes, but they saw it and didn’t pick it up,” Mr. Aliouine replied.
When Ms. Ouadie raised the issue with the prison director, Mr. Belghazi, he played a videotape of the search where the Koran was said to have been abused, and a startlingly different scene emerged.
The video showed the guards collecting a bucketful of contraband electronics, including cellphones. They found a poster that listed militant groups and their leaders. They discovered a jackknife baked in a loaf of bread, and the warden dumped a dozen more blades on a table that he said the militants had tossed out of their windows.
Despite such periodic seizures, militant inmates in several Moroccan prisons were able to call Times reporters, both before and after the visits.
Oukacha, in Casablanca, is arguably the best address for jailed militants. Even the director, El Maati Boubiza, said he was amazed when he took the job last year. “Their cell doors were open 24 hours,” he said. “Only they could use the conjugal rooms, and they were using them starting at 6 a.m.”
Cellblock 5, where many of the militants live, functions like a small village. The inmates hold boxing matches. Sheep are slaughtered for the holidays. In one of the two kitchens, a cook proudly displayed his cutlery and an array of containers that held fresh deliveries from inmates’ families.
Down the hall, Hassan Kettani, a Islamic theorist renowned in global jihad circles, declined to be interviewed on videotape — until he changed out of his everyday clothes.
A few minutes later, he sauntered down to the lobby, unescorted, and posed in a white robe and golden headdress. “We were in very bad shape when we were captured,” he said of the days before the first hunger strike. “It was hard.”
The militants have also sought to draw public support by writing letters to local newspapers and jihadist Web sites, alternately complaining about their incarceration and presenting it as a duty gladly fulfilled.
“In our religion, we believe in destiny, and I believe that God has written this to me and I have to go through that,” said Mr. Rifiki, the militant cleric, whose group, Salafia Jihadia — or Fight of Ancestors — is considered a terrorist organization that reaches from North Africa to Europe.
Moderating the views of the hardest militants may be an impossibility, but Ms. Ouadie said prison authorities could help stop the cycle of radicalization by separating moderate Islamist prisoners from the more extreme ones. “I would arrange Islamic teachings and also treat them in a humane way,” she said.
Still, the terrorist attacks continue in Morocco and, despite the concessions to militant inmates, so do harsh interrogations by the police and intelligence agents, according to interviews with inmates.
Allegations of Torture
While Moroccan officials declined to comment on the allegations of torture, the accusers include a former investigations officer with the national security service, Abderahim Tarik, who was arrested last year on suspicion of ties to a militant group, which he denies.
Mr. Tarik said that for six days at a police station named Temara, he was beaten with sticks, stripped naked, doused with cold water and shocked with an electric prod on his feet and anus. “They started to tell me we will bring your wife tomorrow and rape her directly in front of you,” he said.
Abdelfattah Raydi exemplifies the cycle of arrests, incarceration and attacks.
Mr. Raydi, arrested in 2003 as a militant sympathizer, said in a letter he wrote in Oukacha to a human rights group, obtained by The Times, that he underwent both physical and psychological torture. “He beat me until I fainted,” he wrote of one of his questioners. Abdelfatif Amarin and two other cellmates of Mr. Raydi’s said that Mr. Raydi told them that he had been given the “bottle treatment.”
“I remember that he had nightmares and cried during his sleep,” said one inmate, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisal by prison officials. “He told me several times, ‘I swear to God, if I would have known that they would do this to me, I would have killed myself before.’”
In prison, Mr. Raydi spent time with a militant leader named Hassan al-Khattab, according to inmates, and they were both released in the king’s mass pardon in 2005. Mr. Raydi married, found work and moved away from the shantytown where he was raised with six brothers in a one-room shack, friends and relatives said.
Then last year, according to the authorities, he joined Mr. Khattab in a disrupted terrorist plot. Mr. Khattab was tried and awaits sentencing. But Mr. Raydi evaded capture, and was being sought by the authorities when he walked into an Internet cafe this March and blew himself up when the owner grew suspicious and called the police.
Chased by the authorities, Mr. Raydi’s brother and four other men wearing suicide vests blew themselves up in the following weeks, and the manhunt has produced dozens of new arrests.
On Nov. 8, 51 suspects, including one woman and two of Mr. Raydi’s brothers, made their first appearance in court. Among them was the son of a man arrested in the 2003 sweeps. “Do they treat you well, Hamid?” his grandmother asked after the hearing, pressing her hand to the glass partition. “How is your health?”
“All is good, grandmother,” he replied. “Are you coming to visit me later?”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Republic defined
on: December 31, 2007, 06:25:07 AM
"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on
which different forms of government are established, we may
define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on,
a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly
from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons
holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period,
or during good behavior."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 39)
Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 39 (241)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Minority Rights
on: December 29, 2007, 10:53:46 AM
Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801 said, "Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable;...the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression".
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The creeping dhimmitude
on: December 28, 2007, 05:21:34 PM
Islam vs. Free Speech
by Jed Babbin
Under assault by Muslims and multiculturalists, free speech and freedom of the press are dead in Britain. The same sorts of people who killed them in Britain are killing them in Canada. They and their allies are using the British and Canadian courts and tribunals to bury our First Amendment rights in America.
Muslims -- individually and in pressure groups -- are using British libel laws and Canadian “human rights” laws to limit what is said about Islam, terrorists and the people in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are funding groups such as al-Queda. The cases of Rachel Ehrenfeld and Mark Steyn prove the point.
Dr. Ehrenfeld is a scholar and author of the book, “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed, and How to Stop it.” In that book, Khalid Salim bin Mahfouz -- a Saudi who is former head of the Saudi National Commercial Bank -- and some of his family are described as having funded terrorism directly and indirectly.
Ehrenfeld is American, her book was written and published in America and she has no business or other ties to Britain. Under American law, the Brit courts would have no jurisdiction over her. But about two-dozen copies of her book were sold there through the internet. Bin Mahfouz sued her for libel in the Brit courts where the burden of proof is the opposite of what it is in US courts: the author has to prove that what is written is true, rather than the supposedly defamed person proving it is false.
Think about that for a moment. Under the US Constitution political writing -- free speech -- is almost unlimited. To gain a libel judgment a politician -- or someone suspected of terrorist ties -- would have to prove that the story or book was false. If that person were a public figure such as Mahfouz, in order to get a libel judgment he’d not only have to prove that what was written was false, he’d also have to prove it was published maliciously.
Those American laws and standards of proof protect political speech. The First Amendment is intended to protect political speech that people find objectionable. In the landmark 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court overturned an Ohio statute which would have outlawed hate speech by the Ku Klux Klan. That’s why Mahfouz sued in Britain, not here.
Ehrenfeld refused to fight the case, saying the Brit courts have no jurisdiction over her. Mahfouz got a default judgment against her for ₤10,000 (for himself, and in equal amounts for his sons). The judgment also requires that there be no further “defamatory” statements published in England and Wales.
In a letter published in the Spectator on November 21, bin Mahfouz’s lawyers gloated over their victory against Ehrenfeld: “Rather than check her facts, defend her statements in open court, or acknowledge her mistakes, Ehrenfeld hides behind a claim to free speech. Thank goodness, the legal lights remain on in Britain to expose such harmful journalism.”
“Harmful journalism” is what tyrants and despots call free speech, especially political speech that condemns their affronts to freedom. The “legal lights” Mahfouz’s lawyers see is the bonfire they made of the Magna Carta. Thanks to Mahfouz and his ilk, the light of free speech is extinguished in Britain. Consider the fate of the book, “Alms for Jihad.”
In 2006 Cambridge University press published “Alms for Jihad.” It’s a highly detailed and apparently well-researched book that documents Saudi funding of terrorist groups (as well as other funding and the network of Islamic “charities” that contribute to terrorism). “Alms for Jihad” -- like Ehrenfeld’s book -- documents bin Mahfouz’s funding ties to terrorism, including to Usama bin Laden. But “Alms”-- in settlement of a libel suit by bin Mahfouz in the Brit courts -- was withdrawn from stores and libraries and unsold copies destroyed. The Saudi book burners won.
Mahfouz’s case against Ehrenfeld has already done enormous harm in the US. Ehrenfeld told me she’s unable to get book publishers to contract for another book. She said all of the major US publishing houses have turned down a book on the Muslim Brotherhood -- thought to have substantial terrorist ties -- and the Saudis’ involvement in funding it.
If what Ehrenfeld writes about the Brotherhood offends Mahfouz or someone else whose ties to terrorism ought to be exposed, sales could be banned not only in Britain but in the entire European Union and the publisher -- and the author -- made liable for damages. Mahfouz -- using British courts that have no jurisdiction over American authors -- has apparently precluded Ehrenfeld from writing another book. Steyn’s case is another instance of Muslims trying to silence “harmful journalism.”
Mark Steyn’s superb book, “America Alone”, makes two important points: first, that the Muslim baby boom around the world will likely result in Christian nations becoming Muslim by weight of demographics; and second that Islam is a political system, not just a religion:
So it’s not merely that there’s a global jihad lurking within this religion, but that the religion itself is a political project and, in fact, an imperial project in a way that modern Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are not. Furthermore, this particular religion is historically a somewhat bloodthirsty faith in which whatever’s your bag violence-wise can almost certainly be justified.
Steyn’s stance -- written by him and paralleled by other writers in the Canadian magazine, “Macleans” -- is the subject of a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission brought by three Muslim law students in Canada, with the apparent support of the Canadian Islamic Conference. That group is similar to the CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a multiculti kangaroo court. The complaint against Macleans will be adjudicated next year, and findings entered against the magazine. (Steyn told me that the CHRC has granted 100% of the petitions brought to it so far.) What then?
Fines and other sanctions will be entered against Macleans along with probable injunctions against further “harmful journalism” that offends Muslims. A case may be brought against Steyn himself later. Which means that he could be subjected to fines or other penalties in Canada for exercising his First Amendment rights in the US. And -- because American publishers look to Canada for about 10% of their sales -- Steyn may, like Ehrenfeld, find publishers unwilling to publish his work.
What has happened to Ehrenfeld and may happen to Steyn is in contravention of their First Amendment rights. No American court would or could do that. No foreign court or commission should be able to. US courts, and each of us who believes in free speech, must stand with both authors. US courts should make it clear that foreign libel judgments or “human rights” decisions that conflict with our First Amendment cannot be enforced.
Each and every presidential candidate should speak -- loudly and clearly -- against this encroachment of foreign law on the First Amendment. Anyone who doesn’t stand forthrightly against these foreign infringements on Americans’ Constitutional rights should receive neither our confidence nor our votes.
What Muslims such as Mahfouz and those complaining against Steyn are doing to destroy free speech overseas has been commenced here by groups such as CAIR. A few weeks ago, CAIR announced its media guide, which is purportedly corrects “misperceptions” about Islam and “…educate(s) the media and disabuse(s) journalists of misinformation.” But the other aspect -- which I and others suspect -- is that it’s not so much a guide as a set of rules against “harmful journalism.” And those who write about terrorism, Saudi Arabia and Islam will be accused of intolerance and racism should they violate them.
We don’t yet know what the CAIR guide says. I requested a copy of it from CAIR by e-mail, as they specified. I have neither received a copy nor received any response. I suspect CAIR wants to hide it from people who would scrutinize it. Having to operate under our Constitution, they will take a more indirect path than Mahfouz and the Canadian law students to preclude what they believe is “harmful journalism.”
Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events. He served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004). E-mail him at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters on Bhutto
on: December 28, 2007, 03:51:02 PM
Wow. Ralph Peters did not think much of Bhutto.
THE BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: NOT WHAT SHE SEEMED TO BE
December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and
hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of
Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after
her death than she did in life.
We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists
behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and
utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and
"hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in
the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak
poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more
concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her
program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or
Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble
education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious
During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her
husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the
courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread
But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how
to package himself.
Military regimes are never appealing to Western sensibilities. Yet, there
are desperate hours when they provide the only, slim hope for a country
nearing collapse. Democracy is certainly preferable - but, unfortunately,
it's not always immediately possible. Like spoiled children, we have to have
it now - and damn the consequences.
In Pakistan, the military has its own forms of graft; nonetheless, it
remains the least corrupt institution in the country and the only force
holding an unnatural state together. In Pakistan back in the '90s, the only
people I met who cared a whit about the common man were military officers.
Americans don't like to hear that. But it's the truth.
Bhutto embodied the flaws in Pakistan's political system, not its potential
salvation. Both she and her principal rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, failed to offer a practical vision for the future - their political
feuds were simply about who would divvy up the spoils.
From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by
personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy
government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military). When she
held the reins of government, Bhutto did nothing to steer in a new
direction - she merely sought to enhance her personal power.
Now she's dead. And she may finally render her country a genuine service (if
cynical party hacks don't try to blame Musharraf for their own benefit).
After the inevitable rioting subsides and the spectacular conspiracy
theories cool a bit, her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the
Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who
nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern.
As a victim of fanaticism, Bhutto may shine as a rallying symbol with a far
purer light than she cast while alive. The bitter joke is that, while she
was never serious about freedom, women's rights and fighting terrorism, the
terrorists took her rhetoric seriously - and killed her for her words, not
Nothing's going to make Pakistan's political crisis disappear - this crisis
may be permanent, subject only to intermittent amelioration. (Our State
Department's policy toward Islamabad amounts to a pocket full of platitudes,
nostalgia for the 20th century and a liberal version of the white man's
The one slim hope is that this savage murder will - in the long term -
clarify their lot for Pakistan's citizens. The old ways, the old
personalities and old parties have failed them catastrophically. The country
needs new leaders - who don't think an election victory entitles them to
grab what little remains of the national patrimony.
In killing Bhutto, the Islamists over-reached (possibly aided by rogue
elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, one of the murkiest
outfits on this earth). Just as al Qaeda in Iraq overplayed its hand and
alienated that country's Sunni Arabs, this assassination may disillusion
Pakistanis who lent half an ear to Islamist rhetoric.
A creature of insatiable ambition, Bhutto will now become a martyr. In
death, she may pay back some of the enormous debt she owes her country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: December 27, 2007, 08:22:22 AM
At the close of the Revolutionary War in America, a perilous moment in the life of the fledgling American democracy occurred as officers of the Continental Army met in Newburgh, New York, to discuss grievances and consider a possible insurrection against the rule of Congress.
They were angry over the failure of Congress to honor its promises to the army regarding salary, bounties and life pensions. The officers had heard from Philadelphia that the American government was going broke and that they might not be compensated at all.
On March 10, 1783, an anonymous letter was circulated among the officers of General Washington's main camp at Newburgh. It addressed those complaints and called for an unauthorized meeting of officers to be held the next day to consider possible military solutions to the problems of the civilian government and its financial woes.
General Washington stopped that meeting from happening by forbidding the officers to meet at the unauthorized meeting. Instead, he suggested they meet a few days later, on March 15th, at the regular meeting of his officers.
Meanwhile, another anonymous letter was circulated, this time suggesting Washington himself was sympathetic to the claims of the malcontent officers.
And so on March 15, 1783, Washington's officers gathered in a church building in Newburgh, effectively holding the fate of democracy in America in their hands.
Unexpectedly, General Washington himself showed up. He was not entirely welcomed by his men, but nevertheless, personally addressed them...
By an anonymous summons, an attempt has been made to convene you together; how inconsistent with the rules of propriety, how unmilitary, and how subversive of all order and discipline, let the good sense of the army decide...
Thus much, gentlemen,
I have thought it incumbent on me to observe to you, to show upon what principles I opposed the irregular and hasty meeting which was proposed to have been held on Tuesday last - and not because I wanted a disposition to give you every opportunity consistent with your own honor, and the dignity of the army, to make known your grievances. If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army. As my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests.
But how are they to be promoted? The way is plain, says the anonymous addresser. If war continues, remove into the unsettled country, there establish yourselves, and leave an ungrateful country to defend itself. But who are they to defend? Our wives, our children, our farms, and other property which we leave behind us. Or, in this state of hostile separation, are we to take the two first (the latter cannot be removed) to perish in a wilderness, with hunger, cold, and nakedness? If peace takes place, never sheathe your swords, says he, until you have obtained full and ample justice; this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our country in the extremest hour of her distress or turning our arms against it (which is the apparent object, unless Congress can be compelled into instant compliance), has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts at the idea. My God! What can this writer have in view, by recommending such measures? Can he be a friend to the army? Can he be a friend to this country? Rather, is he not an insidious foe? Some emissary, perhaps, from New York, plotting the ruin of both, by sowing the seeds of discord and separation between the civil and military powers of the continent? And what a compliment does he pay to our understandings when he recommends measures in either alternative, impracticable in their nature?
I cannot, in justice to my own belief, and what I have great reason to conceive is the intention of Congress, conclude this address, without giving it as my decided opinion, that that honorable body entertain exalted sentiments of the services of the army; and, from a full conviction of its merits and sufferings, will do it complete justice. That their endeavors to discover and establish funds for this purpose have been unwearied, and will not cease till they have succeeded, I have not a doubt. But, like all other large bodies, where there is a variety of different interests to reconcile, their deliberations are slow. Why, then, should we distrust them? And, in consequence of that distrust, adopt measures which may cast a shade over that glory which has been so justly acquired; and tarnish the reputation of an army which is celebrated through all Europe, for its fortitude and patriotism? And for what is this done? To bring the object we seek nearer? No! most certainly, in my opinion, it will cast it at a greater distance.
For myself (and I take no merit in giving the assurance, being induced to it from principles of gratitude, veracity, and justice), a grateful sense of the confidence you have ever placed in me, a recollection of the cheerful assistance and prompt obedience I have experienced from you, under every vicissitude of fortune, and the sincere affection I feel for an army I have so long had the honor to command will oblige me to declare, in this public and solemn manner, that, in the attainment of complete justice for all your toils and dangers, and in the gratification of every wish, so far as may be done consistently with the great duty I owe my country and those powers we are bound to respect, you may freely command my services to the utmost of my abilities.
While I give you these assurances, and pledge myself in the most unequivocal manner to exert whatever ability I am possessed of in your favor, let me entreat you, gentlemen, on your part, not to take any measures which, viewed in the calm light of reason, will lessen the dignity and sully the glory you have hitherto maintained; let me request you to rely on the plighted faith of your country, and place a full confidence in the purity of the intentions of Congress; that, previous to your dissolution as an army, they will cause all your accounts to be fairly liquidated, as directed in their resolutions, which were published to you two days ago, and that they will adopt the most effectual measures in their power to render ample justice to you, for your faithful and meritorious services. And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.
By thus determining and thus acting, you will pursue the plain and direct road to the attainment of your wishes. You will defeat the insidious designs of our enemies, who are compelled to resort from open force to secret artifice. You will give one more distinguished proof of unexampled patriotism and patient virtue, rising superior to the pressure of the most complicated sufferings. And you will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to mankind, "Had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining."
George Washington - March 15, 1783
This speech was not very well received by his men. Washington then took out a letter from a member of Congress explaining the financial difficulties of the government.
After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.
"Gentlemen," said Washington, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
In that moment of utter vulnerability, Washington's men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.
His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the young experiment of democracy in America continued.
Not only did Washington refuse absolute power, but he made the officers in the Army take an oath to refuse it themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_the_Cincinnati
The concept of the Society of the Cincinnati probably originated with Major General Henry Knox. The first meeting of the Society was held at a dinner in Fishkill (now Beacon, New York near Newburgh), in May of 1783, before the British withdrew from New York City. The meeting was chaired by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, and the participants agreed to stay in contact with each other after the war. Membership was generally limited to officers who had served at least three years in the Continental Army or Navy but included officers of the French Army and Navy above certain ranks. (Later, membership was passed down to the eldest son after the death of the original member; present-day hereditary members generally must be descended from an officer who served in the Continental Army or Navy for at least three years, from an officer who died or was killed in service, or from an officer serving at the close of the Revolution.)
The Society is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who left his farm to accept a term as Roman Consul and then served as Magister Populi for a short time, thereby assuming lawful dictatorial control of Rome to meet a war emergency. When the battle was won, he returned power to the Senate and went back to plowing his fields. The Society's motto reflects that ethic of selfless service: Omnia relinquit servare rempublicam - He relinquished everything to serve the Republic. The Society has from the beginning had three objects, referred to as the "Immutable Principles":
To preserve the rights so dearly won;
To promote the continuing union of the states; and
To assist members in need, their widows, and their orphans.
Within twelve months of the founding, a constituent Society had been organized in each state and in France. Of about 5,500 men originally eligible for membership, 2,150 had joined within a year. King Louis XVI ordained the French Society of the Cincinnati, which was organized on July 4, 1784. Up to that time, the King of France had not allowed his officers to wear any foreign decorations; but he made an exception in favor of the badge of the Cincinnati, and membership in the Society was so eagerly sought that it soon became as coveted as membership of certain orders of knighthood in France.
George Washington was elected the first President General of the Society. He served from December, 1783, until his death in 1799. The second President General was Alexander Hamilton.
The Society of the Cincinnati is generally considered the premiere American hereditary society. Its members have included many of the most distinguished military leaders and civil servants in the history of the country, beginning with twenty-three of the fifty-four signers of the U.S. Constitution. The Cincinnati is the oldest military society in continuous existence in North America
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: December 26, 2007, 07:29:19 PM
Fred finally seems to be finding his footing (including a very good serious tax rate cut proposal)-- but if he doesn't have a solid showing in Iowa he's probably done for. Although I like Huckabee for his Fair Tax, strong gun rights, and some other positions, there is quite a bit that is frankly straight disagreeable Democrat. Romney still strikes me as an insincere Ken doll and soft on gun rights, Rudy hostile to gun rights, dubious on immigration, McCain hostile to free speech and border control, blah blah. My sense of things, my hope is that if Fred survives this moment, the lack of passion for any of the others could result in a second chance for him-- if he survives Iowa. Long story short, if you like Fred, right now would be a good moment to express it financially. https://www.fred08.com:443/Contribute.aspx?CampaignID=redpickup
Here's this on Huckabee by the , , , unique Ann Coulter. Being Ann, as usual there are absurdities in the following, and, being Ann, there are also some pretty pertinent points made too:
All I want for Christmas is for Christians to listen to what Mike Huckabee says, rather than what the media say about him. The mainstream media keep flogging Huckabee for being a Christian, apparently unaware that this "God" fellow is testing through the roof in focus groups.
Huckabee is a "compassionate conservative" only in the sense that calling him a conservative is being compassionate.
He responded to my column last week -- pointing out that he is on record supporting the Supreme Court's sodomy-is-a-constitutional-right decision -- by saying that he was relying on the word of a caller to his radio show and didn't know the details of the case. Ironically, that's how most people feel about sodomy: They support it until they hear the details.Continued
First, I'd pay a lot of money to hear how a court opinion finding that sodomy is a constitutional right could be made to sound reasonable. But the caller had the right response when Huckabee asked him, "What's your favorite radio station?" So he seemed like a reliable source.
Second, Huckabee's statement that he agreed with the court's sodomy ruling was made one week after the decision. According to Nexis, in that one week, the sodomy decision had been the cover story on every newspaper in the country, including The New York Times. It was the talk of all the Sunday news programs. It had been denounced by every conservative and Christian group in America -- as well as other random groups of sane individuals having no conservative inclinations whatsoever.
The highest court in the land had found sodomy was a constitutional right! That sort of thing tends to make news. (I was going to say the sodomy ruling got publicity up the wazoo, but this is, after all, Christmas week.)
So this little stretch-marked cornpone is either lying, has a closed head injury, is a complete ignoramus -- or all of the above.
Huckabee opposes school choice, earning him the coveted endorsement of the National Education Association of New Hampshire, which is like the sheriff being endorsed by the local whorehouse.
He is, however, in favor of school choice for kids in Mexico: They have the choice of going to school there or here. Huckabee promoted giving in-state tuition in Arkansas to illegal immigrants from Mexico -- but not to U.S. citizens from Ohio. "I don't believe you punish the children," he said, "for the crime and sins of the parents."
Since when is not offering someone lavish taxpayer-funded benefits a form of punishment? That's almost as crazy as a governor pardoning a known sex offender so he can go out and rape and kill.
Huckabee claims he's against punishing children for the crimes of their fathers in the case of illegal immigrants. But in the case of slavery, he believes the children of the children's children should be routinely punished for the crimes of their fathers. Huckabee has said illegal immigration gives Americans a chance to make up for slavery. (I thought letting O.J. walk for murdering two people was payback for slavery.)
Just two years ago, Huckabee cheerfully announced to a meeting of the Hispanic advocacy group League of United Latin American Citizens that "Pretty soon, Southern white guys like me may be in the minority." Who's writing this guy's speeches -- Al Sharpton? (Actually, take out "Southern" and "white," and I agree with Huckabee's sentiment).
He said the transition from Arkansas' Southern traditions would "require extraordinary efforts on both sides of the border." But, curiously, most of the efforts Huckabee described would come entirely from this side of the border. Arkansas, he pledged, would celebrate diversity "in culture, in language and in population." He said America would have to "accommodate" those who come here.
All that he expected from those south of the border was that they have a desire to provide better opportunities for their families. Basically, we have to keep accommodating everyone but U.S. citizens.
For those of you keeping score at home, this puts Huckabee just a little to the left of Dennis Kucinich on illegal immigration and border control. The only difference is that Kucinich supports amnesty for aliens from south of the border and north of Saturn.
In a widely quoted remark, Huckabee denounced a Republican bill that would merely require proof of citizenship to vote and receive government benefits as "un-Christian, un-American, irresponsible and anti-life," according to the Arkansas News Bureau. Now, where have I heard this sort of thing before? Hmmm ... wait, now I remember: It was during the Democratic debates!
In his current attempt to pretend to be against illegal immigration, Huckabee makes a meaningless joke about how the federal government should track illegals the way Federal Express tracks packages. (Can a Mexican fit in one of those little envelopes?)
In other words, Huckabee is going to address the problem of illegal immigration by making jokes. It's called leadership, folks.
Huckabee confirms for liberal TV hosts their image of conservatives as dorks by bragging about how cool he is because he "likes music." What's he doing -- running for president or filling out his Facebook profile? Arkansas former fatty loves to make jokes and play the bass guitar. Remember what happened to the last former fatboy from Arkansas trying to be "cool" by liking music? I'll take "Stained Dresses" for $400, Alex.
According to Huckabee, most people think conservatives don't like music. Who on earth says conservatives don't like music -- other than liberals and Mike Huckabee? This desperate need to be liked by liberals has never led to anything but calamity.
Huckabee wants to get kids involved in music at an early age because he believes it leads to a more balanced and developed brain. You know, as we saw with the Jackson family. Maybe someone should tell him the Osmonds are voting for Romney.
He supports a nationwide smoking ban anyplace where people work, constitutional protection for sodomy, big government, higher taxes and government benefits for illegal aliens. According to my calculations, that puts him about three earmarks away from being Nancy Pelosi.
Liberals take a perverse pleasure in touting Huckabee because they know he will give them everything they want -- big government and a Christian they can roll.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy
on: December 26, 2007, 07:28:10 AM
This could easily have gone in the Poltical Economics thread, but given the profound importance of tax policy in its own right, I give it its own thread.
By LEO LINBECK
December 26, 2007; Page A10
Much has been written lately about the FairTax, the proposal to replace the current federal income tax with a national retail sales tax. Unfortunately, much of it is wrong.
This country needs a spirited and wide-ranging debate about fundamental tax reform. But that debate is not advanced by misimpressions and distortions of the FairTax. Let us then clear up a few.
One assertion about the FairTax is that it began as a project of the Church of Scientology at a time when it was seeking tax-exempt status. This is false. The FairTax actually comes to us from market research conducted more than a decade ago by a handful of business leaders. Their goal was to determine what type of tax system would be most acceptable to the American public. The studies they paid for cost millions of dollars, included hard economic research by respected scholars, and were subjected to critical peer review. The result is a proposal, since introduced as legislation in Congress, now known as the FairTax.
What emerged from this research is that a national retail sales tax is a preferred method of taxation among most Americans surveyed. Another is that the tax would have significant benefits for the nation's economy.
Why? Because it eliminates income taxes and payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare), which are costly to collect and end up as "embedded" in the price of everything we buy. Along with getting rid of the Internal Revenue Service and the complexities of the income tax code, the FairTax would eliminate the distorting effect that income and payroll taxes have on the economy.
Research on the price of consumer goods reveals that up to 20% of all prices today represent hidden income taxes and payroll taxes. Once these taxes are repealed and replaced with the FairTax, it is likely that market pressure would force retail prices to fall.
Eliminating embedded taxes will also do something else -- it will remove significant price disadvantages suffered by American producers competing with tax-free imports. Eliminating corporate income taxes and capital gains taxes, which the FairTax would do, would likely make the American economy the most desirable place in the world to do business.
Another benefit of the FairTax is that, unlike other sales taxes, it would not hit the poorest Americans the hardest. The FairTax proposal calls for sending every American a "prebate" check to offset the cost of the national sales taxes paid by those living in poverty. This feature would effectively exempt those living below the poverty line from paying taxes to the federal government, and provide all taxpayers with a reimbursement of a portion of taxes paid.
The FairTax rate is 23% on retail sales when calculated "inclusively," as are income tax rates. It will, in a fairer, more transparent and less-expensive way, raise the same amount of money the federal government now collects through the income and payroll taxes. Because it would be levied on consumption at the final point of sale, instead of on earnings, it would dramatically expand the tax base. The FairTax would collect revenue from the underground economy. Even illegal immigrants and the 40 million foreign tourists who visit the U.S. each year would pay it.
The distributional effects of the FairTax have been extensively studied, and although the proposal has distinct advantages for investors and wealth creation across the income spectrum, the greatest benefit of the FairTax is to low- and moderate-income Americans. The effect of eliminating regressive payroll taxes is commonly overlooked when analyzing the FairTax, but it would have a very significant impact, as these taxes represent the single largest tax burden on these income earners.
Significantly, the FairTax eliminates all loopholes, gimmicks, exemptions and deductions from the federal tax system. Under the FairTax, Congress would no longer be able to reward friends, punish enemies or manipulate behavior through the tax code. The FairTax would also eliminate the lucrative tax lobbying practices that represent more than 50% of all lobby dollars spent annually in Washington.
It's no surprise, then, to see that vested interests have argued against the FairTax and in favor of keeping the mortgage interest deduction. But wouldn't it be better for everyone to stop the IRS from withholding from paychecks; to see the price of new homes -- and all other goods -- drop by removing embedded costs; and to have interest rates fall as the savings rate increases? Is it really in everyone's interests to keep the income-tax system so that one-third of taxpayers can go on deducting a portion of their mortgage interest from their federal taxes?
There have been many tax reform proposals over the years, but most of them simply call for reforming around the margins of the existing tax system. The President's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform was assembled by the Bush administration and concluded its work a few years ago. Instead of seriously looking at the FairTax, the panel looked at a very different type of consumption tax, riddled with exemptions, and then declared that it would be too expensive and that the rate would have to be far higher than the FairTax rate.
Politically, the FairTax will only become law once enough citizens demand that it be enacted, overcoming the self-interest that members of Congress and others have in holding onto the current system. It is debatable whether a modern, citizen-led tax revolution is possible. But the growing popularity (even among presidential candidates) of the FairTax suggests that another Boston Tea Party may be at hand.
Mr. Linbeck is CEO and cofounder of Americans for Fair Taxation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia never ours to lose/Putin's Cold War
on: December 26, 2007, 07:23:47 AM
Putin's Cold War
Confrontation with America satisfies a domestic agenda.
BY LEON ARON
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Last Saturday Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, chief of Russia's General Staff, issued an ominous warning. Were the U.S. to launch a rocket from the missile defense system it plans to deploy in Poland to intercept Iranian rockets, it might accidentally trigger a retaliatory attack by Russian nuclear ballistic missiles.
This was only the most recent of a series of provocative and disturbing messages from Moscow. In fact, at no time since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 has the direction of Russian policy been as troubling as it is today.
What accounts for this change? And where will it lead?
Let's first discard simplistic clichés. The most common of them postulates that when the post-Soviet, proto-democratic, anti-communist, revolutionary Russia of the 1990s was poor, it was also meek and peaceable and willing to be a friend of the West. Now that the accursed "period of weakness" and "chaos" of the 1990s is behind it, the same explanation goes, Russia has "recovered," is "off its knees," and is "back." Back, that is, to spar and bicker with the West because . . . well, because this is what a prosperous and strong Russia does.
Nonsense. A country's behavior in the world, its choice of truculence or accommodation, is not decided by accountants who calculate what the country can or cannot afford. Rather it is determined by the regime's fears and hopes, and by the leaders' notions of what their countries should strive for.
As Germany and Japan recovered from the devastation of World War II and became many times richer than they were in 1945, they grew more, not less, peaceful. They also devoted puny shares of their national income to the military--and only after intense debate. Western Europe's equally spectacular economic resurgence has not brought back squabbling, jingoism and militarism--and neither did South Korea's, after communist aggression and decades of authoritarianism.
In the past seven years, the trajectory of Russian foreign policy under Vladimir Putin mirrored, and changed with, the domestic ideological and political order. It has morphed from the Gorbachev-Yeltsin search for the "path to the common European home" and integration into the world economy, to declaring that the end of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."
Soon the Kremlin's paid and unpaid propagandists were extolling "sovereign democracy"--a still rather "soft" authoritarianism, increasingly with nationalistic and isolationist overtones. Such exegeses, an independent Russian analyst noted, "would have been labeled as fascist, chauvinistic, anti-democratic or anti-Western during Yeltsin's term. Now such texts have become mainstream."
As the Kremlin's pronouncements grew darker and more fanciful--including warnings that foreign evildoers are plotting to break up Russia--Moscow's foreign policy, too, evolved: first to a cynical and omnivorous pragmatism, and then an assertive and pointedly anti-Western, especially anti-American, posture.
The formerly diverse bilateral U.S.-Russian agenda--energy security, nuclear nonproliferation, the global war on terrorism, the containment of a resurgent, authoritarian China, Russia's integration in the global economy--has been systematically whittled down by Moscow to where it was in the Soviet days and where the Kremlin now wants it: arms control. Suddenly pulled out of mothballs and imbued with the gravest concern for Russia's safety are all manner of the Cold War detritus.
Some of Moscow's concerns (for instance, NATO deployments increasingly close to Russia's borders) are legitimate. But the alarmist and uncompromising rhetoric, and the mode of its delivery--shrill, public and from the very top of the Russian power structure--have been utterly disproportionate to the rather trivial and easily resolved military essence of the issues.
The evolution of Moscow's Iran policy is particularly troubling. Until about a year ago, the Moscow-Tehran quid pro quo was straightforward. Russia defended Iran in the U.N.'s Security Council, while Iran refrained from fomenting fundamentalism and terrorism in Central Asia and the Russian North Caucasus, and spent billions of dollars on Russian nuclear energy technology and military hardware, including mobile air defense missiles, fighter jets and tanks. (At the request of the U.S., Boris Yeltsin suspended arms sales to Tehran in 1995.)
Then Russia's strategy changed from money-making, influence-peddling and diplomatic arbitrage to a far riskier brinksmanship in pursuit of a potentially enormous prize. The longer Moscow resists effective sanctions against an Iran that continues to enrich uranium--and thus to keep the bomb option open and available at the time of its choosing--the greater the likelihood of the situation's deteriorating, through a series of very probable miscalculations by both the U.S. and Iran, toward a full-blown crisis with a likely military solution.
As Iran's patron, Moscow would be indispensable to any settlement of such a conflict, as was the Soviet Union when it sponsored Egypt in the 1993 Yom Kippur war. And through that settlement it would get its prize.
In one fell swoop, Russia could fulfill major strategic goals: to reoccupy the Soviet Union's position as a key player in the Middle East and the only viable counterbalance to the U.S in the region; to keep oil prices at today's astronomic levels for as long as possible by feeding the fears of a military strike against Iran (and see them go as far as $120-$130 a barrel and likely higher if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz and disrupts the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf); and to use the West to prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran a few hundred miles from Russia's borders.
Especially frustrating for the White House is Russian foreign policy's intimate connection to the Kremlin's all-out effort to ensure a smooth transition of power, which, Dimitry Medvedev's appointment to the presidency notwithstanding, looks more and more like it will be from a presidency to a kind of Putin regency.
Creating a sense of a besieged fortress at a time of domestic political uncertainty or economic downturn to rally the people around the Kremlin and, more importantly, its current occupant, is part and parcel of the Soviet ideological tradition, which this regime seems increasingly to admire.
So between now and at least next spring, Russian foreign policy is likely to be almost entirely subservient to the Putin's regime's authoritarian, ambitious and dicey agenda. This will likely result in more nasty rhetoric from the Kremlin and further damage relations with the West, and the U.S. in particular.
Until the succession crisis is resolved (meaning, until Mr. Putin's effective leadership of the country is renewed and secured) no amount of importuning, begging or kowtowing--or emergency trips by Condoleezza Rice to Moscow and heart-to-heart chats in Kennebunkport--are likely to produce an ounce of good.
Let us, therefore, refrain from the ritual, silly hand-wringing and accusations on the subject of "losing" Russia. Russia is not (and never has been) ours to lose.
Back on "the never altered circuit of its fate," to borrow from one of Robert Graves's finest poems, Russia under Mr. Putin has been doing a fine job of losing itself on its own. Resuming the Gorbachev-Yeltsin heroic labor of dismantling this circuit, and thus altering Russia's relations with the West, could be Mr. Medvedev's job--if he wants it and is allowed to proceed.
Mr. Aron is resident scholar and director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006" (AEI Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington's Gift
on: December 26, 2007, 06:58:47 AM
"More permanent and genuine happiness is to be found in the
sequestered walks of connubial life than in the giddy rounds of
-- George Washington (letter to the Marquis de la Rourie, 10
Reference: Original Intent, Barton (300); original The Writings
of George Washington, Sparks, ed., vol. 9 (190)
Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.
BY THOMAS FLEMING
Tuesday, December 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington--his refusal to take absolute power--that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today's world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America's eight-year struggle for independence.
The story begins with Gen. Washington's arrival in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace--just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for Gen. Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress--without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.
Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers--especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him "The Great Illustrissimo"--a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.
Congressman Alexander Hamilton, once Washington's most gifted aide, had told him in a morose letter that there was a "principle of hostility to an army" loose in the country and too many congressmen shared it. Bitterly, Hamilton added that he had "an indifferent opinion of the honesty" of the United States of America.
Soon Hamilton was spreading an even lower opinion of Congress. Its members had fled Philadelphia when a few hundred unpaid soldiers in the city's garrison surrounded the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), demanding back pay. Congressman Hamilton called the affair "weak and disgusting to the last degree" and soon resigned his seat.
The rest of the country agreed. There were hoots of derision and contempt for Congress in newspapers from Boston to Savannah. The politicians took refuge in the village of Princeton, N.J., where they rejected Washington's advice to fund a small postwar regular army, then wandered to Annapolis.
In Amsterdam, where brokers were trying to sell shares in an American loan negotiated by John Adams, sales plummeted. Even America's best friend in Europe, the Marquis de Lafayette, wondered aloud if the United States was about to collapse. A deeply discouraged Washington admitted he saw "one head turning into thirteen."
Was there anyone who could rescue the situation? Many people thought only George Washington could work this miracle.
Earlier in the year he had been urged to summarily dismiss Congress and rule as an uncrowned king, under the title of president. He emphatically refused to consider the idea. Now many people wondered if he might have changed his mind. At the very least he might appear before Congress and issue a scathing denunciation of their cowardly flight from Philadelphia and their ingratitude to his soldiers. That act would destroy whatever shreds of legitimacy the politicians had left.
At noon on Dec. 23, Washington and two aides walked from their hotel to the Annapolis State House, where Congress was sitting. Barely 20 delegates had bothered to show up.
The general and his aides took designated seats in the assembly chamber. The president of Congress, Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania, began the proceedings: "Sir, the United States in Congress assembled are prepared to receive your communications."
Mifflin had been one of the generals who attempted to humiliate Washington into resigning during the grim winter at Valley Forge. He had smeared Washington as a puffed-up egotist, denigrated his military ability, and used his wealth to persuade not a few congressmen to agree with him. A few months later, Mifflin was forced to quit the army after being accused of stealing millions as quartermaster general.
Addressing this scandal-tarred enemy, Washington drew a speech from his coat pocket and unfolded it with trembling hands. "Mr. President," he began in a low, strained voice. "The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country."
Washington went on to express his gratitude for the support of "my countrymen" and the "army in general." This reference to his soldiers ignited feelings so intense, he had to grip the speech with both hands to keep it steady. He continued: "I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God and those who have the superintendence of them \[Congress\] to his holy keeping."
For a long moment, Washington could not say another word. Tears streamed down his cheeks. The words touched a vein of religious faith in his inmost soul, born of battlefield experiences that had convinced him of the existence of a caring God who had protected him and his country again and again during the war. Without this faith he might never have been able to endure the frustrations and rage he had experienced in the previous eight months.
Washington then drew from his coat a parchment copy of his appointment as commander in chief. "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theater of action and bidding farewell to this august body under whom I have long acted, I here offer my commission and take leave of all the employments of public life." Stepping forward, he handed the document to Mifflin.
This was--is--the most important moment in American history.
The man who could have dispersed this feckless Congress and obtained for himself and his soldiers rewards worthy of their courage was renouncing absolute power. By this visible, incontrovertible act, Washington did more to affirm America's government of the people than a thousand declarations by legislatures and treatises by philosophers.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the greatest of these declarations, witnessed this drama as a delegate from Virginia. Intuitively, he understood its historic dimension. "The moderation. . . . of a single character," he later wrote, "probably prevented this revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish."
In Europe, Washington's resignation restored America's battered prestige. It was reported with awe and amazement in newspapers from London to Vienna. The Connecticut painter John Trumbull, studying in England, wrote that it had earned the "astonishment and admiration of this part of the world."
Washington shook hands with each member of Congress and not a few of the spectators. Meanwhile, his aides were bringing their horses and baggage wagons from their hotel. They had left orders for everything to be packed and ready for an immediate departure.
The next day, after an overnight stop at a tavern, they rode at a steady pace toward Mount Vernon. Finally, as twilight shrouded the winter sky, the house came into view beside the Potomac River. Past bare trees and wintry fields the three horsemen trotted toward the white-pillared porch and the green shuttered windows, aglow with candlelight. Waiting for them at the door was Martha Washington and two grandchildren. It was Christmas eve. Ex-Gen. Washington--and the United States of America--had survived the perils of both war and peace.
Mr. Fleming is the author, most recently, of "The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown" (Collins, 2007).
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: December 25, 2007, 05:38:50 PM
21 Diciembre 2007 2:24
Perú: Takanakuy, “Cuando la sangre hierve” Una tradición indígena que se celebra en Navidad
clasificado en: Actualidad.
Una tradición indígena de catarsis y justicia social que se celebra en fiestas de Navidad
Por Víctor Laime Mantilla
Los orígenes de la Wayliya se remontan a los resultados del gran movimiento cultural, religioso e ideológico “Taki Unquy” (1560) que con mayor esencia se dio en Ayacucho, Huancavelica y Apurímac. En el transcurso de los años aún supervive en la provincia de Chumbivilcas, obviamente con cambios, más de forma que de fondo, a los que ha tenido que ser sometida durante el Virreynato y épocas ulteriores.
El “Taki Unquy” como manifiesta el investigador Rafael Varón Gabai: “fue una respuesta violenta a la colonización europea del Perú, que tuvo como base la tradición indígena con dos vertientes, el taki o cantar histórico (ideológico) que sirvió como vínculo integrador de la comunidad con su pasado, y el otro, los rituales nativos, especialmente aquellos de las festividades orientadas a la prevención de males”.
En el Wayliya se ha perdido el ritual prehispánico con las características propias del movimiento. En cambio, tiene en esencia el takiy, el canto o el cantar, algunos con contenidos históricos y otros con contenidos actuales que endemonian, envenenan, transforman anímicamente y liberan al danzante.
La Wayliya fusionada al Takanakuy, como es visto y practicado por la comunidad, muy bien podrían ser el gran resurgimiento del movimiento “Nuevo Taki Unquy” que actualmente se viene expandiendo sutilmente por distintas comunidades de la provincia de Chumbivilcas y capitales de ciudades como Arequipa, Lima y Cusco.
La Wayliya es una forma de celebrar una fiesta de encuentro o Tupay de fuerzas duales en donde todos, unísonamente, exclaman “Wayliya, Waylihiya, Wayliya” y en algunas comunidades “Waylaya, Walayay, Waylaya, Waylaya” como una forma
de reflejar libertad, alegría o éxito.
El ritmo del marco musical y los pasos marciales de los disfrazados danzarines de la Wayliya marcan el compás o el tiempo con una sonaja hecha de un palo que se asemeja a la letra “y” que en quechua es el “Tanka”. Entre los dos extremos cruza un alambre en el que se encuentran insertadas varias hojas de lata que generan sonidos propios del metal. La sonaja es acompañada por el violín y el arpa que armonizan incesantemente durante la fiesta del cargo.
Un verso que de manera directa refleja el sentimiento indígena frente a la dominación y que se canta en el Takanakuy es el siguiente:
Original en quechua
Con el chileno o con el peruano
estaré siempre enfrentándome,
chaypaqsi mamay wachakuwasqa
para eso mi madre me trajo a este mundo
con pies y manos;
wayliya, waylihiya, wayliya.
wayliya, waylihiya, wayliya
Estas letras encarnan una posición neutra, ni de peruano ni de chileno; sino, una posición etnocentrista “indígena”, al margen de las formalidades y esquemas peruano - occidentales. En consecuencia, el campesino indígena actualmente no se siente identificado con el país. Al contrario, cree que pertenece a otro país o suyo.
En síntesis, la Guerra del 79 ha maltratado por igual al peruano y al chileno ya que son ellos los que la han sufrido y afrontado obligados, no sé si por defender algo que les pertenecía a ellos o a unos cuantos.
Takanakuy o Wayliya
El Takanakuy es una fiesta tradicional que se celebra en distintas fechas y meses dentro de la provincia de Chumbivilcas. Comienza el 26 de julio recordando a la virgen de Santa Ana en la comunidad campesina de Ccoyo. Continúa el 08 de diciembre en la comunidad de Mosco y Ccollpa. Luego llega al 25 de diciembre como la fiesta central, que concentra fuerzas y valores juveniles, en Santo Tomás, Llusco y Quiñota, seguido, en año nuevo en las distintas comunidades indígenas de Santo Tomás.
Takanakuy, se refiere al encuentro físico de cuerpo a cuerpo, a puño limpio, sin ninguna regla que impida el uso de atuendos de protección o atuendos de ataque, especialmente en el uso de zapatos. Pueden ser chuzos, botas de mineros con punta acerada u otros más contundentes. Lo único que se prohíbe es el uso de anillos en los dedos.
Motivos por los que se concurre al Takanakuy
Existen varios motivos por los que se concurre y se concretizan en el día del Takanakuy. Así tenemos:
1. Por deporte: Principalmente concurren aquellos jóvenes que quieren demostrar voluntariamente sus habilidades físicas o su valentía, para alcanzar el estatus de ser el “mejor peleador”.
2. Por haber adquirido compromiso antelado por amistad: Vienen a cumplir la promesa o la “palabra” empeñada.
3. Para ventilar públicamente conflictos familiares y/o personales: Asisten para solucionar públicamente conflictos interfamiliares o interpersonales que han sido provocados por dominio de tierras agrícolas, abigeato, discusiones, acontecimientos fortuitos en las borracheras, fiestas de corrida y otros abusos que se ocasionan en la comunidad. Es considerado por la población como una forma de auto-administración pública de justicia.
4. Para delimitar situaciones sentimentales: Quienes coinciden enamorándose de la misma joven lo definen en el Takanakuy de manera pública.
5. Por defender el apellido o al amigo: Estos danzantes salen al encuentro como coteja o sustituto (wiqch’upa) para defender a su pariente o amigo que ha sido vencido en la contienda.
Contenido social del Takanakuy, Maqanakuy, Navidad o Wayliya
En lo Psíquico: Para afrontar las realidades adversas de la vida local y como ser pensante e individuo responsable con la familia y la sociedad el participante hará respetar el honor y el apellido. Fundamentalmente como individuo elevará su nivel de autoestima dentro de la idiosincrasia y la cosmovisión local, adquiriendo un status y ascendencia en la sociedad. Como joven estará en condiciones de contraer matrimonio o tener pareja.
En lo Deportivo: Para el protagonista implica prepararse a diario mediante actividades deportivas y ejercicios físicos como levantar pesas (piedras, cargas, etc.). Como resultado, el participante estará en condiciones atléticas y corporales (salud) que le permitan afrontar al contrincante.
En lo Familiar: Es importante para la familia que el hijo varón desde pequeño se esté adiestrando, de tal manera hará que la familia y el apellido sean respetados y considerados como ejemplo. Si éste triunfa en la pelea será motivo de halago, celebraciones y sobretodo significará un acto de honor, lo que elevará el nivel de autoestima familiar. El ser qhari (hombre) significa que será ejemplo tanto en el aspecto productivo, social y político dentro del proceso organizativo de la comunidad.
En lo Grupal o Social: Para el grupo étnico o ayllu al que pertenece el participante será estimado como el hijo preferido, admirado e imitado por la población infantil y los adolescentes de la localidad. Será él que comande el orden local, siendo muchas veces el preferido para ocupar los cargos de rondero o de disciplina comunal en el manejo de conflictos territoriales o familiares.
En la parte sentimental, generalmente, será el más preferido por las mujeres jóvenes. Por la naturaleza de la zona una joven prefiere a un individuo que la haga respetar y sentir segura en su comunidad.
Como parte de la autoafirmación cultural del pueblo: Cada grupo que participa de la fiesta Takanakuy se viste con sus mejores atuendos. Incluso las mujeres y varones que regresan de las ciudades optan por auto-imponerse la vestimenta de la zona. En cambio, los danzarines optan por introducir, como parte de su disfraz en la cabeza, símbolos de animales precolombinos, como figuras disecadas de zorros, venados, águilas, halcones, pumas, wallatas, entre otros.
Como instancia pública de administración de justicia social: Desde el punto de vista consuetudinario son formas ancestrales de administrar justicia. Desde la llegada de los castellanos el hecho de recurrir ante una autoridad judicial “letrada”, Juez o un Subprefecto implica costos en tiempo y economía, generando esperanzas nada confiables en los resultados porque la justicia -en la Colonia, la República y actualmente- siempre ha sido administrada por los mistis. El Takanakuy, muchas veces, se inicia y termina entre abrazos. En suma, es aquello que se traslada de la justicia de leyes a la justicia social.
En el aspecto productivo: Generalmente participa el que quiere destacar en la producción agrícola y ganadera, en el trabajo independiente o cuando viaja temporalmente a trabajar a las minas. Se dedica mejor a la familia como productor concreto, trae la “estabilidad económica a la familia”, porque, de manera subjetiva está el ser “triunfador”, “hombre ejemplo “para los demás.
En el ser Triunfador: Estará siempre dispuesto a seguir triunfando en disputas futuras. A él lo llevarán a diferentes lugares del Takanakuy, muchas veces de wiqch’upa y será recibido con admiración entre los danzarines; pero mostrando siempre un perfil bajo, es decir, siempre mostrará su humildad. Pero, cuando haya algún desafío será el primero en saltar a la cancha, incluso, en algunos casos, será el que salga de voluntario “para cualquiera”, esto dependiendo del lugar, porque, puede haber también otros mejores que él.
En situación de Perdedor: Anímicamente nunca está perdido. Siempre tiene la mentalidad de triunfar al siguiente año.
Como catarsis colectiva: El público u observador es el que anima a uno y otro durante la pelea, disfruta y lo vive. El observador toma una posición de crítico, es el que dice: ¡Más puñete, más patada, con el derecho, con el izquierdo, de abajo, de arriba! etc. En otras palabras, es el experto momentáneo, como todo público de reyertas deportivas.
Durante la fiesta el populacho goza y es el momento de la catarsis social. Se olvidan de los problemas económicos de la casa, por el momento son libres de todo acto, se desfogan al escuchar el ritmo de la Wayliya, al ver a los tropeles de danzantes, se transforman en seres extravagantes al ver las peleas que intercambian patadas y puñetes al medio del ruedo.
El respeto a la “palabra” como persona: Para el campesino indígena, por encima de cualquier responsabilidad, está el empeño de la “palabra”. Es decir, si una persona compromete o queda en un “pacto” lo que está en juicio es la “palabra”. Por esto, muchos van al Takanakuy a cumplir su “palabra, su compromiso”. Obviamente, esto se da en diferentes niveles de la actividad comunal.
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Takanakuy, "Cuando la sangre hierve". Una catarsis violenta de la Navidad…
Una violenta tradición indígena de los Andes peruanos que tiene su culminación cada 25 de diciembre: "Takanakuy, se refiere al encuentro físico de cuerpo a cuerpo, a puño limpio, sin ninguna regla que impida el uso de atuendos de protección …
Trackbacks de meneame.net — 22 Diciembre 2007 @ 6:10
Importante tradición que concientemente cada profesional andino debe enfocar al mundo “moderno” o “globalización”, permite en ello impulsar la identidad cultural, la vida mismo de los pueblos que las instituciones estatales cada vez olvidan; no hay riqueza cultural, vida social y diversidad u otra que permita a los peruanos unirnos, que a través de la educación hagamos integración, valores ansestrales, y que estos formen un hombre de conciencia para ocuparse de manera real en resolver problemas internos de nuestro país, profesionales que dirijan insituciones que respondan a la necesidad de cada uno de los pueblos mas alejados de la capital, centralista y tranculturizador.
Aun el sector educación no responde a las demandas populares, los tecnicos la diseñan, proponen y los Directores la borran.
Es mi opinión: Lic. Victor Vilcabana Sánchez Docente EIB. Pullana yarpushunllapa.
Comentario de Victor Vilcabana Sánchez — 23 Diciembre 2007 @ 22:23
Fighting arena, fighters dancing, note the masks.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stojyc8C-eo&feature=related
Music for the event. Notice the masks & costumes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Warm message
on: December 25, 2007, 04:44:01 PM
Muslims send warm Christmas message
December 25, 2007
PARIS -- More than 100 Muslim scholars have addressed warm Christmas greetings to Christians around the world, a message notable both for what it says and the fact that it was sent at all.
The greeting, sent by a group of 138 Sunni, Shiite, Sufi and other scholars who recently proposed a dialogue with Christian leaders, called for peace on Earth and thanked church leaders who have responded positively to their invitation.
Islam is a decentralized faith, with no pope or archbishop who can speak for believers as a group. Individual Muslim clerics previously have exchanged holiday greetings with Christians, but nothing on this scale has been done before.
"Al-Salaamu Aleikum, Peace be upon you, Pax Vobiscum," the greetings began in Arabic, English and Latin. The letter's text is available on the group's website, acommonword.com.
It noted that Christmas came just after the Muslim hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, recalling how the prophet Abraham almost sacrificed his son.
"God's refusal to let Abraham sacrifice his son . . . is to this day a divine warrant and a most powerful social lesson for all followers of the Abrahamic faiths, to ever do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every human life and especially the lives of every single child," it said.
"May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all," it added. "May it be a year of humble repentance before God and mutual forgiveness within and between communities."
The group, linked to an Islamic research institute headed by Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed bin Talal, wants a serious dialogue between Christian and Muslim theologians to help bridge a gulf in understanding between the religions.http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-scholars25dec25,1,5275382.story?coll=la-headlines-world
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: December 24, 2007, 04:22:33 PM
"The deliberate union of so great and various a people in such a
place, is without all partiality or prejudice, if not the greatest
exertion of human understanding, the greatest single effort of
national deliberation that the world has ever seen."
-- John Adams (quoted in a letter from Rufus King to Theophilus
Parsons, 20 February 1788)
Reference: The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, King, vol. 1
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight
on: December 24, 2007, 02:09:02 PM
Well, IMHO the War by Islamic Fascism IS a very big problem and RP seems not to appreciate that there is a world wide fascist religious movement dedicated to asynchronous warfare against Western Civilization in general and the US in particular. The asynchronicity of the war presents fiendish problems in its waging. Rather than my writing a major work on all this I would like to suggest that you read the many threads on this forum which are dedicated to different facets of it-- or give me bite sized questions so I can give you bite sized answers.
As for the economic situation facing the US-- I agree thoroughly that the dollar is a major issue, although, having lived through the insanity of the Carter years when the dollar was in worse shape than now, I am less apocalyptic about it.
IMHO the dollar is already substantially undervalued on a purchasing power parity basis. If not inflation/money supply/etc driven, what is going on? As I understand it, capital flows dwarf trade flows i.e. the real issue is a matter of money seeking a greater return.
I am a big believer in both the importance of marginal tax rates (see e.g. Jude Wanniski's brilliant "The Way the World Works") and the fact that tax rates are pretty much overlooked by the chattering classes. Unnoticed by the chattering classes is that the Euros have been simplifying and flattening tax rates, as well as moving somewhat forward on unifying into one economy. On the margin these things mean that future growth prospects are better than they were-- and capital has been shifting there instead of here with the attendant effects on the exchange rates. This has set up a feedback loop wherein the zero sum gamesters of the markets have a multiplier effect on the movement of the various rates.
IMHO it is no coincidence that the otherwise implausible Rep candidate, Huckabee, is a big proponent of a dramatic quasi-revolutionary overhaul of the US tax code. Several other Rep candidates are also talking about various tax RATE cuts too.
Reagan cut tax RATES and the dollar's plunge under Carter was reversed. IMHO we are looking at another incarnation of the same dynamic now. Should the US return to a competitive status viz tax rates, IMHO the dollar problem will pretty much solve itself.
Does this start to answer your questions Skinny Devil?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions
on: December 23, 2007, 11:41:40 PM
Last updated December 21, 2007 11:23 p.m. PT
Scott Eklund / P-I
Jesse Toro watches his wife, Joelle, speak on his behalf before his sentencing Friday.
No jail for firing back at police
Plea deal brings lesser sentence
By LEVI PULKKINEN
Jesse James Toro II learned in a Seattle courtroom Friday that he will not face jail for his role in a rolling shootout with three undercover police officers.
Toro, 29, was behind the wheel of a Cadillac sedan in June when he got into an argument with three plainclothes members of the Seattle Police Department's vice squad. Stopped at a South Lake Union intersection, one of the officers shot Toro's car, and then the officers chased him north.
Having pulled away from the police -- the officers' civilian-style Ford SUV couldn't keep up with the more muscular Cadillac -- Toro stopped his car on a residential street in the Green Lake neighborhood. When the officers reappeared, Toro drew a pistol and shot out their vehicle's front tires.
Toro pleaded guilty earlier this month to two misdemeanor gun charges as part of a plea deal, a dramatic reduction from the felony assault charge originally levied against him.
"I wanted to go to trial with this, and I thought I could win," Toro told Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas before she handed him a suspended sentence of one year in jail. Toro said he didn't want to risk a felony conviction or a lengthy prison term away from his wife, Joelle, and 8-year-old daughter.
The state's case was complicated by the fact that Toro had no way of knowing that his pursuers were police, said Hugh Barber, the deputy prosecutor who handled the case.
"Fundamentally, this was an incident between a citizen and undercover officers in an undercover vehicle," Barber said. "We had to analyze it as if it was citizen on citizen."
Barber said the charges Toro pleaded guilty to -- unlawful display of a firearm and reckless endangerment -- held him accountable for brandishing a weapon during the initial altercation, which one of the three vice officers claimed Toro did. Toro has denied the allegation.
Key facts of the night remain in question. Officers initially said they fired only one shot at Toro's car, missing it and striking a wall. But a bullet hole found in the side of the Cadillac seemed to disprove that.
Speaking after he received his sentence Friday, Toro said he believes officers fired at him more than once during the initial altercation. He also believes they shot at him while racing after him on the Aurora Bridge.
"There was a point in the chase when I thought they were going to kill me," Toro said. "I had no idea it was the Seattle police."
Scott Eklund / P-I Jesse Toro is hugged by his stepmother, Theresa, after he received a suspended sentence for a shootout with Seattle police officers.
While he still thinks he was in the right, Toro said the incident has prompted him to make some changes.
He said he doesn't argue with other drivers anymore -- "I just keep my head forward now," he told Darvas -- and he has closed his specialty jewelry business. He traded his jeweler's loupe for a sledgehammer, going to work in construction.
"This has taken a toll on all of us," Joelle Toro said. "It's been a tough situation."
While Darvas abided by the sentencing recommendation agreed to by both attorneys, she did order Toro not to possess a firearm in the next four years.
"The only way that I'm going to have a comfort level in this case ... is that Mr. Toro not be allowed to possess firearms," she said. Toro also was ordered to surrender his concealed-pistol permit.
A Seattle police review board is expected to release its investigation into the case in coming weeks. Calls to the Seattle Police Officers' Guild were not returned Friday.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 23, 2007, 11:28:24 PM
“The Shovel and the Epee”: Striking in Boxing and MMA - 4/10/2007
by Sam Sheridan
Prefer Full Page Format? Click Here
As Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) skyrockets in popularity, the resistance of mainstream media outlets (Sports Illustrated and ESPN) has historically probably been due to a fear of pro-wrestling combined with old-school boxing writers lack of understanding. Boxing writers love boxing; and they often feel, correctly, that MMA fighters usually aren’t the best boxers.
They may not realize that the guy in there who is boxing so badly is an Olympic wrestler and submission expert—but strict boxing fans mentally “turn-off” the moment the fight hits the ground, and so are unable to appreciate the skill and art of ground-fighting. “Ground-and-pound” is a rough art. But MMA fans who “get” the ground game will take as much joy from a ground war as they will a stand-up one.
There is more to the debate, however—MMA striking is fundamentally different than boxing, for a variety of reasons. Over years of observing the sport, I kept noticing pro boxers making the switch to MMA and getting ‘out-struck.’ When Jens Pulver fought Takanori Gomi in 2004 in Pride, Jens had been winning pro boxing fights and knocking people out; I thought there was no way in hell Gomi could stand with him, but Jens was outgunned by a bigger man and lost by TKO.
Yosuke Nishijima, a former NABO Cruiserweight Champion with a pro boxing record of 24-2-1 went 0-4 in Pride, a top MMA organization. He went into the clinch with Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and was throwing body shots while Cyborg threw knees—much heavier.
More recently, Drew Mcfedries with 5 MMA fights out-struck Alessio Sakara, who had won professional and amateur boxing titles in Italy. Drew is explosive and iron-chinned, but it was still an interesting result.
I recently had a long internet discussion with Carlo Rotella, a professor at Boston College who wrote “Cut Time,” a terrific book in which he established himself as one of the great thinkers and writers on boxing—I avidly pursued him with the intention of picking his brain. He isn’t an MMA fan, although he may be starting to come around. I tried to explain some of the differences that I noticed, and some of the reasons that pro boxers might get out-struck in MMA. The “stand-up” part of MMA isn’t boxing, or kick-boxing or Muay Thai—it’s its own thing.
First, the gloves: the 4 ounce gloves used in MMA cut very easily, and they give a lot more guys “a puncher’s chance.” Almost everyone is heavy-handed with those on, flash knock-downs happen all the time.
Just ask George St. Pierre—I doubt anyone had warned him about the devastatingly heavy-hands of Matt Serra before Serra upset St. Pierre by TKO last Saturday to win the UFC welterweight title. In boxing, a guy is a “puncher” or he’s not—but in MMA, almost everybody’s a “puncher.”
In boxing, defensive stylists like Winky Wright can catch punches on their gloves, but that won’t fly in MMA, not with the little gloves. Likewise James Toney’s defensive masterpieces, the shoulder roll and catching shots on the top of his head, won’t work.
Another friend, a boxer, had said that “boxers learn to roll with punches” which is true, and can mitigate a lot of the power when you get caught clean—but with the little gloves, I think rolling with punches is minimally effective. There’s not much to roll with.
The defensive techniques of masterful boxers like James Toney would have to be adjusted for MMA.
The more important difference between MMA and boxing is range, and the biggest modifier to range is the take-down. The biggest, most decisive single attack in MMA, the take-down and defending it are HUGELY important. You can’t stand in the pocket and shoulder-roll and bob and weave, because your opponent will drop (“change levels”) and take you down; and he’ll end up on top, a hugely advantageous position.
To avoid being taken down, you have to keep your distance and be ready to “sprawl” out, to keep your legs away from an opponent’s grasping hands. Beautiful, flowing, fluid combination punching leaves you in range to be taken down.
You can’t take a wide stance, or plant your feet without increasing the danger of your legs getting snatched out from under you. In fact, without boxing’s strict rules about the clinch, combination punching might never have evolved to the point it is at today.
Of course, kicking and kneeing also changes the range, and punching in MMA becomes a little more like jousting—you’ve got to come in with straight punches and get out. Chuck Liddell’s striking is pretty much unquestionably the best in MMA at 205 pounds, and boxers look at him and think he looks terrible. Floyd Mayweather recently commented during a media teleconference that “UFC ain't nothing but a f_king fad. Anybody can go out there and street fight. If they think (UFC light heavyweight champion) Chuck Liddell is so good, we should take Chuck Liddell and take a good heavyweight under Mayweather promotions….” And he even offered a million dollars of his own money. All the diatribe does is reveal Mayweather’s ignorance, because Chuck is emphatically not boxing.
I won’t pretend to understand Chuck’s striking, but some factors are an understanding of power and leverage, finding angles on his punches, taking excellent angles with his feet and body, and most importantly perhaps his accuracy and “pop.” He throws his winging shots, his looping punches, as hard as he can; and he’s a sniper.
He’s got a set of whiskers, he’s impossible to take down, and he comes with a barrage of hard accurate punches the moment he gets an opening. His form is loose and open because MMA striking is an open game.
Chuck is a good striker for MMA—he’s not the best striker in the world. But put Vitali Klitschko in there with a decent MMA heavyweight and see if he goes two minutes before he’s on his back being submitted.
Chuck’s a great striker, but he’s still an MMA fighter; put him in there with Floyd’s heavyweight and if he’s losing the stand-up he’ll take the boxer down and pound him out, or even (Heaven forbid) submit him.
There sometimes can be slowness to MMA striking match—the third Tim Sylvia vs. Andre Arlovski fight comes to mind, which was a very technical and interesting fight, despite the booing. First of all, you’ve got two heavyweights who have knocked each other out, so they’ve got to be careful.
In ‘old-time’ bare-fisted prize-fighting, fighters would throw 2-3 punches a minute, something that the modern 3-minute round system and gloves (in boxing) has completely changed . MMA, with the longer 5-minute round and the tiny gloves, has taken us a step back on that road.
The gloves are closer to bare-fisted, and cut much more readily. Mario Sperry, a legendary Brazilian fighter who trained under Carlson Gracie and founded Brazilian Top Team, reminisced to me about the old Vale Tudo (“anything goes” in Portuguese) fights without gloves, that they were “bloodbaths.” Sylvia and Arlovski played a very technical little game of range and motion, a game of fractions of an inch, for 5 five-minute rounds.
I’ve heard some trainers say that too much pure boxing is actually bad for MMA fighting—you get used to the close range, you get into the mentality that you can “take one to give one.”
When I raised these points with Professor Rotella, he responded, “that the gloves allow for a level of sophistication and development in striking--in both quantity of punches thrown and quality of the complexity of technique--that far exceeds the more direct and sometimes more lethal striking in MMA.
“It's sort of like a genius of the epee [a thin fencing sword] getting his clock cleaned by a guy with a shovel. The epee's great in a swordfight, but in a different kind of fight the shovel might be just the thing. Doesn't make the epee any less beautiful, nor does it make high-level fencing any less sophisticated, and a guy with a shovel isn't going to last long in a straight swordfight, but the fact that the lovely epee and all the richness of technique that has grown up around it might be the wrong tool for the job in certain circumstances is a testament to the variety of leverage, distance, and decisiveness in different fighting styles.”
I think this is very true (and well-written), boxing striking is more beautiful and elegant than MMA striking. It may have something to do with “use,” those boxers spend their whole lives working in that small arena, essentially toe-to-toe, trying to hit without getting hit. They become masterful at it, and move into the realm of “poetry-in-motion.”
Carlo’s comments reveal some of the old bias (c’mon, an epee versus a shovel?) but there are some interesting truths behind it. He talks about using the right tool for the job, and in MMA the right tool is quite different than the boxing tool.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe
on: December 23, 2007, 11:17:08 PM
After the holidays are over we will be getting together with our webmaster to update the Tribal listings-- on which we are quite behind at the moment.
For example, this gentle reminder just came in from Italy:
The Adventure continues,
Dear Crafty Dog,
We see on the site that it is possible to insert our name with our status on Dog Brothers’ site. Could you please update the list with us?
Ivan "Kuma Dog" Reboli
“Dog" Riccardo Bassani
"Dog" Roberto Cereda
"Dog" Michele Gemignani
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba
on: December 23, 2007, 11:12:52 PM
La pugna en Cuba es, para Carlos Alberto Montaner en su columna de
este domingo en “El Nuevo Herald“, entre los principistas, que son
sólo Fidel y un pequeño grupo, y los pragmáticos con Raúl a la cabeza.
Esta es su columna:
Apresuradamente, hace unos días, Fidel Castro envió una nota
enigmática a la Mesa Redonda, un programa de televisión que manejan
sus discípulos más fanáticos. La frase que desató el furor de la
prensa internacional podía interpretarse como su retiro definitivo:
“Mi deber fundamental no es aferrarme a cargos y mucho menos obstruir
el paso a personas más jóvenes sino aportar experiencias e ideas cuyo
modesto valor proviene de la época excepcional que me tocó vivir”.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times on Huckabee
on: December 22, 2007, 10:26:44 AM
NEW MAN IN CHARGE Mike Huckabee entered his new office in July 1996, shortly after succeeding Jim Guy Tucker as governor. Mr. Tucker resigned after his conviction on Whitewater-related charges.
Published: December 22, 2007
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In more than a decade of presiding over this state, Mike Huckabee produced a legacy like few other Republican governors in the South, surprising even liberal Democrats with his willingness to upend some of Arkansas’s more parochial traditions.
A NEW TERM Mr. Huckabee and his wife, Janet Huckabee, who lost her bid for secretary of state, at the Inaugural Ball in 2003.
A review of his record as governor shows that, beginning in 1996, he drove through a series of changes that transformed education and health insurance in Arkansas, achievements that were never tried by most of his predecessors, including Bill Clinton.
But he is also remembered in the state for a style of governing that tended to freeze out anyone of any party who disagreed with his plans. He did not, for example, seek Mr. Clinton’s conciliatory middle, or try to court skeptical state lawmakers. Though he was considered as persuasive a speechmaker as he had been a pastor, Mr. Huckabee largely kept his own counsel — in politics, ethics and a singular clemency policy that continues to haunt him.
Against the political advice of his party and his aides, he pardoned or commuted the sentences of hundreds of convicts, including murderers, sometimes over the heated objections of prosecutors and victims’ families. He was cited five times by the state ethics commission for financial improprieties, and unapologetically accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothes and other gifts while he was governor.
Republicans in Arkansas, a beleaguered minority, gleefully greeted his ascendancy but wound up embittered, in many cases, over a governor who “sided with liberal Democrats,” as one put it.
Mr. Huckabee is a son of small-town Arkansas, yet he deeply angered many in his rural constituency, touching the third rail of the state’s politics by shutting down money-draining, redundant school districts in the hinterlands. Protesters rallied at the state Capitol, fearful of losing schools, football teams, and age-old identities, but the governor insisted his way was the best and the schools were closed.
He proclaimed himself a fiscal conservative, but startled legislators with his proposals to raise taxes — for roads, in 1999, and for schools, prisons and other services three years later. He sought the electoral defeat of Republicans who opposed him, according to some in the party.
A constant throughout was his presence at the microphone, the former television preacher delivering his word from the pulpit though hardly mingling in the Capitol’s marble halls.
“He would go out and stump and do his shtick and tell his jokes and charm you,” said State Senator Jimmy Jeffress, a Democrat and critic of the former governor. “He has the gift of gab. He’s the only person I know, other than Bill Clinton, who can pick up a rock and give you a 10-minute talk on it.”
At the same time he was not known to buy pizza for the legislators, as Mr. Clinton had done.
“Huckabee didn’t build bridges,” said State Senator Jim Argue Jr., a Democrat and leader in the schools overhaul effort. “If you didn’t agree with him, he attacked you.”
Charmaine Yoest, a senior adviser to the Huckabee campaign, said it was important to keep in mind that Mr. Huckabee was a Republican governor in one of the most Democratic states in the country.
“Yet here’s a man who managed to fix the roads, improve education and actually govern with the Democrats,” Ms. Yoest said. “People say he was intolerant, but how does that square with him being able to build coalitions and be re-elected numerous times?”
Confounding the Capitol
Mr. Huckabee was derided by Democrats as the “accidental governor” when he took office in July 1996, stepping up from the lieutenant governor’s job when the incumbent governor, Jim Guy Tucker, was forced to resign after a conviction in the Whitewater affair. Mr. Huckabee had not sought the post, having trained his sights instead on the United States Senate, and several legislators recalled a fumbling start.
It was not helped by what Mr. Huckabee later recalled as a hostile reception to himself and his family, as Republicans of humble background, when they moved into the governor’s mansion in a prestigious neighborhood in Little Rock.
“Dozens of hate-filled letters,” he wrote in his memoir, “From Hope to Higher Ground” (Center Street, 2007), “proclaimed that we lacked the ‘class’ to live in such a fine and stately home.” Mr. Huckabee’s touchiness over perceived slights was to become a byword in succeeding years, as the governor spoke out angrily when reporters and others questioned the startling stream of gifts that flowed in from supporters and friends.
Still, the novice governor found the sea legs in 1997 to help enact, with overwhelming support in the heavily Democratic Legislature, a major expansion of health insurance for children of the working poor whose families did not qualify for Medicaid. It was one of the first such expansions in the nation, coming before the federal government authorized them, and it baffled some Republicans in the Legislature.
Page 2 of 4)
“None of us understood what he was trying to do,” said Peggy Jeffries, then a Republican state senator and now executive director of the Arkansas affiliate of the Eagle Forum, a national group of conservatives.
Skip to next paragraph
The Long Run
The Solitary Persuader
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.
Easily elected to a full term in 1998, Mr. Huckabee was emerging as something of an unquantifiable presence in the state capital, sometimes exerting leadership, other times not, and often floating above the details and minutia of governing.
But he confounded Republicans again when he pushed for a fuel tax increase to finance an ambitious road-building program, and eventually won support for what historians say was the largest highway bond program in Arkansas history.
Meanwhile, a style of leadership was developing that frustrated Republicans and Democrats alike.
Jake Files, a former Republican state representative, recalled that the governor would call lawmakers into his office and state his plans.
“Kind of like getting called to the principal’s office,” Mr. Files said. “If you don’t line up with him, Katie bar the door.”
Still, this style — equal parts persuasion and intimidation — would prove to be of great value when Mr. Huckabee took on the biggest fight of his tenure, school reform.
In November 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court presented the newly re-elected governor with the biggest challenge of his tenure, ruling that Arkansas’s system of financing public schools was inequitable. The court ordered change. More money had to be found, quickly.
Mr. Huckabee immediately adopted the path of greatest resistance, to the shock of many in the Legislature: he called for the closing of dozens of wasteful, tiny school districts. Some had fewer than 150 students. It was a volatile step, one that Mr. Clinton as governor had avoided, even though reformers had agreed for decades that it was an essential one.
“We certainly didn’t want to get too close to it,” recalled one of Mr. Clinton’s legislative aides in the 1980s, Bobby Roberts.
The governor’s plan aroused intense opposition all over the state, particularly as he proposed whittling down the 310 school districts by well over half.
“People don’t want to lose their schools,” said a veteran legislator, State Senator John Paul Capps, a Democrat. “They think it just ruins the community.”
Mr. Huckabee did not back down.
“The governor treated me as if I didn’t exist,” said Jimmy Cunningham, then president of the Arkansas Rural Education Association. “He had no compassion for me.”
The fight went on for over a year, and Mr. Huckabee’s staunchest allies proved to be the most liberal Democrats in the Legislature.
“He set a real high bar,” said Senator Argue, a Little Rock Democrat who describes himself as the preacher-governor’s “philosophical adversary,” but who joined forces with him on the issue. “I just give him credit for having the courage and determination to lead,” Mr. Argue said.
In the end, the Legislature whittled Mr. Huckabee’s school-district closing plan by nearly two-thirds. Disgusted, the governor refused to sign the bill, and it became law without him.
Clemency and Consequences
Nothing was more controversial about Mr. Huckabee’s governorship than his use of clemency to grant pardons and commute prison sentences. His clemency decisions produced the first big crisis of his administration, dogged him through a tough re-election campaign and provoked a series of bitter public protests, some still simmering on Jan. 9, 2007, the day he left office.
In all, Mr. Huckabee cut prison sentences or granted pardons for more than 1,000 criminals, far more than either his immediate predecessors or governors in neighboring states.
This did not happen by chance.
Driven by a religious belief in redemption and questions about the state’s legal system, Mr. Huckabee paid close attention to clemency petitions, former aides said. He insisted on reviewing every single application, though they came in by the hundreds most months.
(Page 3 of 4)
“He would take these files home with him to the governor’s mansion,” recalled Rex Nelson, Mr. Huckabee’s communications director for nine years. “He would read them, study them. He took it very seriously, the political consequences be damned.”
Most of Mr. Huckabee’s clemency decisions were unremarkable; in the vast majority of cases he simply followed the recommendation of the Arkansas Parole Board. But in a small though significant number of cases, he commuted prison sentences for murderers and other violent criminals over the pleas of victims’ families, prosecutors and judges. And as his reputation for granting clemency spread, applications surged.
“We had tons of them,” said Cory Cox, who worked for several years as Mr. Huckabee’s aide in charge of clemency matters. “People, they’d call and say, ‘Please, let the governor look at this. We don’t know who the next governor is going to be.’ ”
By every account, Mr. Huckabee’s approach to clemency was heavily influenced by his religious beliefs. As John Wesley Hall, a Little Rock defense lawyer who filed numerous clemency petitions with the Huckabee administration, put it, “He’s a Baptist preacher who believes in redemption and second chances.”
But it also reflected Mr. Huckabee’s broader concerns about the criminal justice system in Arkansas, one of the few states where juries rather than judges impose sentences, which defense lawyers say can produce arbitrary results.
Dana Reece, another defense lawyer, told of one client who received a life sentence for selling six grams of crack cocaine. “He’d still be in prison today if it weren’t for Governor Huckabee,” Ms. Reece said. How many politicians, she asked, would stick their necks out for a crack dealer?
“This was a political hot potato, and he knew it,” Mr. Cox said of his former boss. “But he had a conviction that people could better themselves, and he was open-minded to the idea that a poor black man from east Arkansas convicted by an all-white jury just may have been a victim of injustice.”
Many Arkansans faulted him, however, for refusing to give public explanations for pardons and sentence commutations, and for responding harshly to those who criticized his choices.
“He just doesn’t want to talk to victims’ families,” Elaine Colclasure, co-leader of the Central Arkansas chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, a victims’ advocacy group, said in an interview last week. “He doesn’t want anyone questioning anything he does. And when you do, he bristles. His compassion is for the murderer and any criminal who says he has found Jesus.”
Dee McManus Engle, another member of the group, recalled accompanying a murder victim’s widow to a scheduled meeting at the governor’s office. “We stayed there half the day trying to talk with Huckabee,” Ms. Engle said, adding, “It was the most important thing in her life, and she was in tears because she could not get to the governor.”
Former aides said that while Mr. Huckabee rarely met with victims or their families, he was never dismissive of their concerns. “I can tell you we listened to victims,” Mr. Cox said. “I mean, it was a no-win situation. The victims, if you granted clemency, it didn’t matter how long you listened to them. It just tore them up.”
As for Mr. Huckabee’s refusal to detail his reasons for granting clemency, Mr. Cox said that was intended to prevent other petitioners from mimicking successful arguments.
Some Arkansas prosecutors argue that Mr. Huckabee’s clemency record reveals a dangerous gullibility about human nature, particularly when it comes to claims of religious conversion. It raises, they say, the basic question of judgment, the precise question one of Mr. Huckabee’s rivals for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, has raised anew in his Iowa campaign.
Exhibit A in this critique is the case of Wayne Dumond, a rapist who had been implicated in other violent crimes, including a murder and another rape, when Mr. Huckabee took office in 1996. Mr. Dumond said he found God in prison, and his case was championed by evangelicals and conservative opponents of Bill Clinton, who was a distant relative of one of the rape victims and who refused to grant clemency to Mr. Dumond.
Page 4 of 4)
Months after being sworn in, Mr. Huckabee announced his intention to cut Mr. Dumond’s prison sentence, prompting furious public protests from Mr. Dumond’s victim and from prosecutors around the state.
“We told the governor that Wayne Dumond had a history of rape and murder,” Henry Morgan, then president of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association, recalled. “So the governor knew, or any reasonable person should have known, that releasing him was dangerous.”
Mr. Huckabee was not persuaded. “He thought the man should be released,” Mr. Nelson, his former communications director, recalled.
As it turned out, Mr. Huckabee did not grant clemency to Mr. Dumond; the state Parole Board released him instead, and several former members of the board have since told reporters that they acted under pressure from Mr. Huckabee, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
Even so, Mr. Nelson recalled the moment in 2001 when he and Mr. Huckabee first heard the news that the newly freed Mr. Dumond had been charged with raping and murdering a woman in Missouri. “Everybody realized at that point that that would be something used against him politically in the 2002 campaign,” he said — a prediction that turned out to be correct when the issue contributed to a tight re-election race.
There were several other cases of convicts who won clemency from Mr. Huckabee and then went on to commit more crimes, including Wade Stewart, whose life sentence for murder was commuted in 2004. Mr. Stewart was arrested this year, charged with carrying a concealed revolver. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found that nearly one in 10 who received clemency from Governor Huckabee were later sentenced to prison.
Mr. Huckabee eventually did bend, if slightly, to criticism and scrutiny. He proved less willing to grant clemency in his second term, especially for violent offenses. He also agreed to give slightly more information about his reasoning. Yet some prosecutors say that victims’ families are now skeptical about life sentences.
“They say, ‘You can’t guarantee that he’ll stay in prison for the rest of his life because the governor can let him out,’” said Larry Jegley, Little Rock’s longtime prosecuting attorney. “People are aware the governor has this power and it has been exercised to let murderers, rapists and home invaders loose, and that’s a problem.”
Gifts and Critics
Throughout his tenure, Mr. Huckabee reacted with outrage and scorn when questions arose over the stream of gifts that flowed his way. He pugnaciously fought back against state ethics commission investigations. The governor appeared to find no conflict between occupying the highest office in the state, and receiving tribute; critics, on the other hand, said the two were directly related, in a way that was unseemly at best.
Early in his first term, he was questioned, and eventually sued, for using a state fund meant to operate the governor’s mansion for personal family expenses like pantyhose and meals at Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The suit was eventually dropped, but spending out of the fund was curtailed.
Meanwhile, other methods emerged to supplement the governor’s salary, which was $68,448 in 1999. That year, he reported getting $112,366 in gifts, including thousands in clothing from Jennings Osborne, a wealthy businessman in Little Rock who befriended the family. Mr. Osborne also made regular gifts of pastries and flowers to the governor’s mansion. There were also gift certificates to department stores, ties and other items.
The gift-taking tailed off in subsequent years — there was $5,000 worth in 2003 — but Mr. Huckabee’s tangles with the state ethics commission fill a thick binder with documents spanning much of his time as governor. Mr. Nelson, the governor’s former aide, described these episodes as “penny ante,” and it is true that the commission did not uphold roughly two-thirds of the complaints against the governor. But it did find violations in five, including Mr. Huckabee’s acceptance of a $500 canoe from Coca-Cola and a $200 stadium blanket, though a court later threw out the finding on the canoe.
As the governor left office, new questions arose over wedding registries set up decades after his marriage began at department stores, including Target, so friends could help furnish the Huckabees’s new home in Little Rock. The governor attacked reporters for raising the issue — “I feel you’ve done a real disservice to the people of this state” — but others saw a pattern, in the gift-taking and the defensiveness. Both hark back to his past as a member of the clergy, critics said.
Throughout his tenure, allies and enemies alike were struck by a governor adept at giving the word, if not at receiving it. And in his writings, Mr. Huckabee attributes his moral compass to God, not to himself.
“If integrity and character are divorced from God, they don’t make sense,” he writes in his book, with John Perry, “Character Makes a Difference” (B&H Publishing Group, 2007). “Integrity, left to define itself, becomes evil because everyone ends up choosing his own standards.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DVD/Long Distance Training Questions
on: December 22, 2007, 09:59:19 AM
I just noticed that I inadvertently let your question fall off my radar screen
-- due in part to the fact that to answer it properly calls for a subtle well-written post.
At the moment I am busy with the merriments of the season and post only to bring this TTT so as to facilitate my remembering to answer you , , , soon.