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27501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Syria, Lebanon on: September 21, 2007, 11:28:58 AM
Showdown in Lebanon
September 21, 2007

BEIRUT -- On Wednesday Antoine Ghanem became the fourth anti-Syrian member of the Lebanese parliament to be assassinated in two years. He was the latest victim of a protracted political crisis in Lebanon that both preceded and was exacerbated by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.

Soon after that murder, international pressure and a mass uprising dubbed "the Cedar Revolution" put an end to Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon. But Syrian President Bashar Assad never reconciled himself to the forced departure. Now Syria is trying to use the upcoming Lebanese presidential election to reimpose its hegemony over its smaller neighbor.

A Lebanese inspector investigates the damaged car of the anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker Antoine Ghanem, Thursday Sept. 20, 2007.
Next week Lebanon will enter the constitutional period, during which its parliament must choose a new president. The election might allow the Lebanese to finally be rid of Syria's peon, President Emile Lahoud, whose mandate was forcibly extended by Damascus three years ago. However, there is a real danger that it will be the final nail in the coffin of the Cedar Revolution.

The outcome will also help determine whether Syria can win an important round in a regional struggle pitting its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas against a loose coalition of forces including the United States, the mainstream Sunni Arab regimes, and European states. Amid heightening polarization throughout the Middle East, a Syrian victory in Lebanon could also exacerbate simmering tensions elsewhere.

In fact, the election might conceivably not take place at all. Mr. Assad realizes that any successor to Mr. Lahoud who seeks to consolidate Lebanon's sovereignty would be a barrier to the revival of Syrian supremacy. Damascus's Lebanese allies, most significantly Hezbollah, agree.

Hezbollah, which presides over a semi-autonomous territory with a private army of its own, knows that only renewed Syrian sway over Lebanon would allow it to continue its struggle against Israel and the U.S. Iran backs Syria, both to keep alive Tehran's deterrence capability against Israel (thanks to the thousands of rockets it has supplied Hezbollah in south Lebanon), and because Syria is a vital partner in allowing Iran to expand its reach across the Middle East.

There are also opportunities in this election for Syria's adversaries. The anti-Syrian Lebanese parliamentary majority, as well as the Bush administration and its more reliable European allies, believe that any new president must secure the gains made in 2005, when Lebanon recovered its independence. Their priority is to prevent the election of someone who might turn back the clock. The problem is that this anti-Syrian majority sits with Syria's friends in the parliament, which elects the president. They must come to a mutually satisfactory agreement or Lebanon will find itself even more dangerously divided than it already is.

This election is not just about a president; it is also, for many of those involved, about existential issues. Hezbollah, a revolutionary, military party that feeds off conflict (or "resistance") to survive, has no place in a liberated, liberal, cosmopolitan country at peace with the world. Similarly, Syria's most prominent enemies -- the Sunni leader Saad Hariri, the Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt and the Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea -- all risk political and even physical elimination if Syria triumphs. Damascus, if it cannot impose its man or a cipher whose flimsiness would allow Syria to gain ground, will encourage its allies to create a political vacuum as leverage to subsequently push a favorite into office.

Syria is also waging an existential fight. The tribunal to convict those responsible for the assassination of Hariri has been approved under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and several weeks ago the Dutch government agreed to locate the court in the Netherlands (the exact location as yet undecided). For Mr. Assad, whose regime is a prime suspect in the Hariri murder, the signs are ominous. By again bringing Lebanon under his authority, the Syrian president doubtless feels he can hamper the court's proceedings, perhaps until more favorable circumstances allow him to negotiate a deal similar to the one that got Libya's top leadership off the hook for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, as well as that of a UTA French airliner in 1989.

In this context, diplomatic sources in Beirut note that the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, and some European states, including the Vatican, had sought to delay formation of the tribunal. However, the progress on situating the tribunal suggests this effort failed.

That is why Mr. Assad might, after all, be more interested in holding a presidential election now, so Syrian allies in Beirut can gum up the tribunal's machinery before it's too late. In this scenario, Damascus would want a weak consensus candidate who stands somewhere in the middle. However, the nub of Syria's strategy could be to ensure that its comrades in Beirut, in collaboration with the Christian politician Michel Aoun, gain veto power in the government that will be formed after the election. That veto power -- plus a limp president and Syria's control over parliamentary procedure through the pro-Syrian parliament speaker -- would give Damascus substantial influence in Beirut, including over administrative decisions relating to the tribunal and to the implementation of the U.N. resolutions to disarm Hezbollah and maintain tranquility in the southern border area.

If Syria does prefer a president to a vacuum, this vulnerability must be exploited in coming weeks by those who want Lebanon fully freed of Syrian domination. Mr. Assad will play hardball, but he faces some heat. An Israeli air raid against Syria earlier this month, though reported to be directed against some sort of nuclear facility, may conceivably have been interpreted by Syria as an effort to intimidate it before Lebanon's election. In recent weeks, moreover, Saudi-Syrian hostility has escalated to unheard-of levels. Both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt are fearful of Syria's close ties with Iran. For these two countries, a hegemonic, Islamist, Shiite Iran threatens their regional power and their Sunni-led regimes. This Sunni-Shiite rivalry happens to be playing itself out in Lebanon, where the results could have serious consequences for the Saudis and Egyptians.

The U.S. also knows the hazards of the Lebanese presidential election, and the Bush administration will not sign off on a president it regards as pro-Syrian. The difficult situation in Iraq, like Saudi-Syrian tensions, will probably make the administration tougher in opposing candidates it doesn't like. However, the European states -- France, Spain and Italy -- making up the bulk of the U.N. force in South Lebanon, worry that a void in Beirut might harm their soldiers. All have made it amply clear to Syria that it must change its ways in Lebanon, but they remain vulnerable on the ground, amid suspicion that Syria played a role, direct or indirect, in an attack last June that killed six troops of the Spanish U.N. contingent.

All sides, even Syria, would like to avoid a Lebanese vacuum at the end of November when Mr. Lahoud's time will be up -- if they can achieve their goals. The danger is that in the quest for compromise we might be heading toward a lowest common denominator on the presidency, thus giving Syria and its allies precisely what they want: a weak, ineffective president followed by a decisive advantage in any new government. That would only aggravate the current polarization in the country. Lebanon has the startling potential of becoming either the Middle East's salvation, or its nightmare. What happens here will have serious repercussions for what happens in the region as a whole.

Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

27502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 21, 2007, 09:38:40 AM
I don't know how reliable this website is, but I do know that the group being discussed here has crossed by radar screen previously:

Terrorists Training in Rural America? (A lot more info on these compounds including Pictures, articles,history etc. on our website - RED HOUSE, Va. - Islamic extremists in the United States have traditionally set up shop in big cities with large Muslim populations: places like New York City, Dearborn, Michigan and even Washington, DC. But one secretive group is doing just the opposite.

They call themselves Muslims of America. They’ve established compounds throughout the rural U.S. Members say they moved to the countryside to lead peaceful lives free of “Western decadence.” But others say that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Certainly, when you’re in a rural area it enables you to better escape from the prying eyes of law enforcement,” said CBN News consultant David Gartenstein-Ross.

He says Muslims of America has close ties to a violent Pakistani group named Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Both groups are led by the same extremist cleric: Sheikh Mubarak Gilani.
“Sheikh Gilani is an extremist figure known to be very much involved in the jihads against India, also known to be very much anti-Semitic,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

Gilani’s images and messages are all over the Muslims of America Web site.
He founded the group during a visit to Brooklyn in 1980. Shoe bomber Richard Reid and Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammed are said to have been among his followers.

Gilani encouraged his U.S. pupils-mostly African Americans-to move to rural areas and establish Muslim communes. The group now has dozens of these communes nationwide.

“Al Fuqra has compounds from coast-to-coast.and what this indicates is they’re going to areas where land is plentiful–where you can get land for relatively cheap prices,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

CBN News visited the group’s 45-acre site in Red House, Virginia - a town so small you can barely find it on a map. There are no traffic lights, and the only signs of industry are a pair of convenience stores. So when a street sign popped up named after a radical Pakistani sheikh-along with men and women dressed in traditional Islamic garb- the locals took notice.
Sheikh Gilani has been on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar for years. He’s currently under investigation for possible ties to al-Qaeda. He also trained jihadists to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
In addition, Gilani attended a 1993 jihadist conference in Sudan along with members of Hamas, Hezbollah and Osama bin Laden himself.

American journalist Daniel Pearl was on his way to interview Gilani in 2002 when he was murdered. The sheikh denies any involvement in Pearl’s killing.

CBN News spoke to a former member of Muslims of America who wishes to remain anonymous. ‘Mustafa’ says Gilani runs the group from Lahore, Pakistan.
“He’s the leader of the group. He’s a former member of the Pakistani military. His father was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. He has great connections to Pakistani intelligence, the ISI,” he said.
Mustafa says Muslims of America serves as a cash cow for Gilani and Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Each member is required to send 30 percent of their income to Gilani. The group even had a treasurer that checked members’ pay stubs.

“He said that the 30 percent is money that God has chosen to take from you. And if you spend that 30 percent you are stealing from God,” Mustafa’ said.
Group members hand deliver thousands of dollars in cash at a time to Gilani in Pakistan.

Mustafa said, “The money got to Pakistan through the elders who traveled to Pakistan. They carried cash with them or they sent it Western Union. Since there’s Americans under Gilani’s rule who live in Pakistan, it’s like from one American name to another American name and it’s never linked to Gilani at all.”

Sheikh Gilani uses these American dollars to help fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups, according to Mustafa.
Muslims of America compounds are filled with ex-cons from rough backgrounds. Many converted to Islam in prison. Mustafa says there’s at least one semi-automatic weapon in every home.

A local law enforcement official told us he’s had no problems with Muslims of America in Red House. But the group has a long track record of violent activity on U.S. soil.

During the 80s and 90s, members firebombed Hindu and Hare Krishna temples and assassinated two rival Muslim leaders. Federal raids on the group’s Colorado compound in the early 90s turned up bombs, automatic weapons, and plans for terrorist attacks. And at least three members have been arrested on weapons charges since 9/11.
Mustafa says the group raises money through a variety of criminal activities.

“A lot of the guys will do bootlegging–you know, it’s all illegal- videotapes, CDs, clothing,” he said.
In March, federal investigators broke up a multi-state counterfeit goods ring. Local residents tell CBN News that some of those arrested lived at the Red House compound.
Mustafa said, “The counterfeiting comes in with the bootlegging. It’s all counterfeit movies not sanctioned by Paramount or MGM or things like that — they’re not legitimate.”

Law enforcement sources say they’re keeping a close eye on Muslims of America compounds.
“One of the law enforcement sources that I spoke to was concerned that you could have a Waco-type situation,” Gartenstein-Ross said.
But a video on the group’s Web site calls into question just how seriously authorities understand the group’s beliefs and intentions. The clip shows the former head of South Carolina’s FBI branch speaking at a Muslims of America-sponsored event in 2004 that honored “diversity.”
Mustafa says such “outreach” efforts are a mistake. He continues to fear for his safety since leaving the compound. But he says he’s speaking out because he considers Muslims of America a dangerous group.
A lot more about the Muslims of America compounds including articles, Pictures , History Etc. on our website
copy and paste this link into your browser to View the video from CBN News.
mms:// Islamic Training Camp AM v2_000030p0000621p7.wmv
27503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: September 21, 2007, 09:34:24 AM
September 21, 2007

"Muhammad cat" cartoonist gets one month in jail; magazine banned

"Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression." But for how long?
An update on this story. "Bangladesh detains cartoonist for offending Islam," from IslamOnline (thanks to Paul):
A Bangladeshi cartoonist has been detained for drawing a caricature offensive to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Bangladesh witnessed mass protests after the publication of an anti-Islamic caricature by cartoonist Arifur Rahman.
The offensive cartoon, published in the 431st issue of Alpin, a weekly supplement of Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo, led to a one-month jail sentence to Rahman after the Bangladeshi Home Affairs Minister ruled that his drawings hurt Muslims’ feelings.

Islam was introduced to Bangladesh in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread the noble faith. Even though religion is practiced in a moderate manner in Bangladesh, the government bans any insult to Islam.

According to the BBC, the cartoon featured a conversation between a cleric and a child and ended with a joke about Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) name.

The head of clerics of Dhaka’s main mosques filed complaints against the cartoonist who was arrested from his residence last Tuesday and handed over to the Tejgaon police station.
Rahman violated Section 54 code of criminal procedure and under such emergency laws; the government has the authority to detain people without charge if they are deemed to threaten national security.

Meanwhile, Prothom Alo published an apology on its front page for the “unfortunate publication”, withdrew the copies of that issue from the market and fired the cartoonist.
However, many in Bangladesh did not view such measures as enough and demanded that the newspaper be shut down....
Muslims might be a little relieved that those who offend their religion get punished in some countries as this is not the first time that involves the publication of anti-Islamic cartoons....

Western media often claims that such offensive cartoons shouldn’t anger Muslims and that their publication do not violate the laws of “freedom of expression“.

Unfortunately, Muslims in the West must live with the local laws on freedom of expression, Ibrahim el-Zayat, of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, told the BBC....

"Magazine banned for 'Mohammad cat' cartoon," from Reuters (thanks to JE):
BANGLADESH has suspended publication of a magazine after a cartoon it published this week triggered protests by Muslims who said it was offensive to the devout.

The suspension of publication of the Alpin, the weekly satire magazine of leading Bengali daily Prothom Alo, was ordered as some Muslim groups called for a street protest after Friday noon prayers, and a march towards the Prophom Alo office.
The daily has apologised for the cartoon in which a small boy referred to his cat as "Mohammad cat".

The protesters said it was a deliberate attempt by the cartoonist to ridicule Islam's Prophet Mohammad....
Police said that to avert any violence over the cartoon they would strictly enforce emergency laws banning protests and rallies.

"We shall impose a tight watch around Dhaka's Baitul Mokarram mosque from where the protesters would likely start their march," said a police officer.

Police have also deployed outside the daily's office.
Prothom Alo published a third apology toay and appealed to all to take the printing of the cartoon as a mistake.

On Wednesday police broke up a street march by hundreds of Islamists in Dhaka, demanding "death to the Prothom Alo editor" and "hang the cartoonist".

A government statement on Thursday said: "The magazine in its 431st issue has hurt the sentiment of devoted Muslims" and risked upsetting law and order....

27504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:30:32 AM
One more on this.  Here's Brian Wesbury, who track record is amongst the very best in the land.  It was written just before Bernanke's big cut.

September 18, 2007
Keep Fingers Crossed For a Hard Money Fed
By Brian Wesbury

Tuesday's meeting at the Federal Reserve is the most important in at least several years, but not because of the reason most people think. The markets and most pundits are asking whether the Fed will give a 25 or 50 basis point rate cut. But, we still hold out hope the Fed will do the right thing, which is not cut rates at all. Cutting rates, when they are already too low, will "lock in" inflation, force more rate hikes later, and puts the Fed's credibility as an inflation fighter at risk.

After all, the economy looks good. Using the latest data on sales, inventories, trade, and production our "add-em-up" forecast of real GDP growth remains at 3% for Q3. High frequency data, like initial claims for unemployment insurance are also painting a robust and resilient picture.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said last week that the U.S. economy has proven before that it can rebound quickly from financial turbulence and that "the effects of these disruptions can turn out to be surprisingly small."

In addition, conditions in the commercial paper market are improving rapidly, a good piece of news because so many analysts focused on problems in this market as a reason for the Fed to cut rates. Never mind that there is no historical link between commercial paper and future economic growth, and that problems were mostly isolated in the asset-backed marketplace.

It is true that overly-aggressive mortgage borrowers, lenders, and investors have issues that will take a long time to be fully worked out. But there are few signs that these troubles are dragging down the rest of the economy.

Some try to make it seem that the entire economy is at risk of drowning if the Fed, like an alert lifeguard, doesn't throw out a life ring (rate cut) to the credit markets. But, cutting the federal funds would be more like turning an entire cruise ship around, risking everyone on board, just to save one person.

We understand this desire, but it's an emotional decision not a rational one. This is a job for the Coast Guard, or in monetary policy language - the Discount Window. The Window is a specific tool designed to help particular financial institutions that are really having trouble. It does not cause general inflationary pressures, and it does not lead to a further misallocation of resources.

Measures of "core" inflation have fallen of late, but these measures are not useful when food and energy prices have been volatile in only one direction - up. Gold prices are over $700/oz. and the dollar is at a 15-year low. In addition, China's consumer prices are up 6.5% versus a year ago, a 10-year high. This is important because China pegs its currency to the dollar, which means its inflation rates are largely determined by the Fed. The evidence seems very clear. Inflation is visible in many markets. Nonetheless, because the conventional wisdom assumes a slowdown ahead, it ignores this inflation and recent strong economic growth. This seems like risky behavior to us.

During the past few days the stars seem to be aligning to strengthen Chairman Bernanke's resolve if he decides to resist rate cuts. Former Chairman Alan Greenspan opined that the winding down of globalization will put upward pressure on inflation in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the heads of the European Central Bank and Bank of England have both refrained from cutting rates and have publicly defended their positions, noting that staying the course now will diminish the threat and severity of future crises.

Now the ball's in Bernanke's court: will he go with the consensus if others at the Fed want to cut or will he stand his ground and do the right thing?

Brian Wesbury is the Chief Economist for First Trust Advisors in Chicago, IL.
27505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: September 21, 2007, 09:24:51 AM
Columbia's Priorities
Next week Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's Holocaust-denying president, who has said that "Israel must be wiped off the map," will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session. As the titular leader of a U.N. member state, Ahmadinejad is entitled to visit the city for this reason. But he is not entitled to something else he received, namely an appearance to speak at Columbia University, where he will be introduced by none other than Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president.

Yesterday Bollinger put out a statement defending his decision to authorize the event, and it was filled with high-minded rhetoric:

Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas--to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious. We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason.

But there is one little problem here. As Bill Kristol points out:

As Columbia welcomes Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia students who want to serve their country cannot enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia. Columbia students who want to enroll in ROTC must travel to other universities to fulfill their obligations. ROTC has been banned from the Columbia campus since 1969. In 2003, a majority of polled Columbia students supported reinstating ROTC on campus. But in 2005, when the Columbia faculty senate debated the issue, President Bollinger joined the opponents in defeating the effort to invite ROTC back on campus.

The original decision to kick ROTC off campus was the product of 1960s anti-Americanism, but the ostensible reason the policy continues is objection to the law, signed by President Clinton, that prohibits open homosexuals from serving in the military. Apparently some ideas are so odious that they are unworthy of answering "through the powers of dialogue and reason."

So, what is Ahmadinejad's regime's policy on homosexuals in the military? We don't know, but according to Human Rights Watch, Iran is not a terribly friendly place for gay civilians:

On Sunday, November 13, the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung [sic] two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.

The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran's shari'a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.

If the U.S. military executed homosexuals instead of merely discharging them, perhaps Bollinger would welcome ROTC back to Columbia.
27506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 21, 2007, 09:22:31 AM

Schip of State
Can President Bush hold the line on spending?

Friday, September 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Congress will soon ship the White House a bill that throws huge amounts of new dollars at the government's health-insurance program for children. President Bush will veto it. What happens next will demonstrate whether the beleaguered Mr. Bush has any hope of getting his party to toe the fiscal line in upcoming spending battles, and by consequence whether Republicans have any hope of restoring their fiscal credibility with voters.

It's a big moment, all the more so because the battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or Schip, is a perfect first example of how Democrats intend to play their spending fights this fall. They're demanding at least $30 billion more than Mr. Bush's own generous $5 billion Schip increase. Any congressional Republican who votes against this hike will be accused of leaving "poor kids" to suffer without health care. The goal here, as it will be in all the big money fights to come--appropriations bills, a farm bill--will be to make it too politically hot for Republicans to stand by their spending principle.

So far, that strategy is working a treat. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner both understand that this fall is their big opportunity to make things right with the base, at least on spending, prior to next year's election. They've been exhorting--or perhaps better to say begging, pleading, beseeching--their members to think about the lost GOP brand, and to help President Bush snap shut the government wallet. At least in private, the members keep assuring their leaders that, yes, yes, they get it.

But as Schip shows, this resolve wafts away in the face of any Democratic press conference accusing Republicans of meanness toward children. It was none other than ranking Finance Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley who helped craft the $35 billion Senate Schip increase; the Iowan went so far as to suggest he was being a fiscal prude because his bill was cheaper than the blowout $50 billion expansion from House Democrats. That proved a good-enough excuse for more than a dozen other spend-happy Republicans to help give Democrats 68 votes for the bill in early August. For the record, that's one more vote than Sen. Harry Reid needs to override a presidential veto.

This bodes ill for big spending battles to come. Despite last year's pledges to restore budget discipline, Democrats have been so busy chasing phantom Justice Department corruption and paying back campaign contributors with symbolic votes that they've yet to finish a single spending bill. With just nine days left in the fiscal year, they'll have to pass a continuing resolution next week to allow the government to keep running.
It also means Democrats are all but assured to try to finish the budget by wrapping most or all of the spending bills into one giant omnibus provision. You can bet that jalopy will screech in at many billions of dollars higher than Mr. Bush's top line number. You can also bet that hanging from its sides will be special-interest booty galore--money for roads, bridges, Katrina victims, low-income seniors, homeless veterans and border security. All this will be designed to make it difficult for Republicans to vote it down. And if temptation isn't enough, Democrats will also claim that GOP members who sustain a presidential veto will be responsible for shutting down government.

Or take the farm bill, the House version of which has earned a veto threat because of its lack of reform, and because it is the first in decades to include a hefty tax increase to pay for all its handouts. Democrats will allege that farm-state Republicans who vote against it are traitors to their ag constituents, who stand to continue getting big subsidies.

Sitting between his party and a potential spending binge is, therefore, the president's veto pen. The fight over Schip has moved to the House, where most Republicans, to their credit, voted against the initial bill. But with House Democrats now promising to pare back the legislation to Senate size, and to remove its more offensive provisions, GOP opposition is crumbling. More than a few are thinking about next year's elections, and how nice it would be to avoid claims that they helped throw impoverished kiddies to the health-care wolves.

Many House Republicans in fact are working under the assumption that Mr. Bush will compromise, and give them cover for blowing through his initial Schip limit. They can't quite bring themselves to believe that the White House would put them in the very public and embarrassing position of having to override their own president on a question of fiscal responsibility.
And, to be fair, why should they? For six years the administration failed to pick a fight on spending when Republicans controlled Congress, instead letting every highway bill, farm giveaway and pork project rush through. The White House's newfound spending religion has unfortunately come at about the same time the president's poll numbers have gone in the tank. Don't think at least a few Republicans won't use that as an excuse to buck him now.

Yet it's precisely the position Mr. Bush is going to have to put his own Republicans in if he hopes to remain relevant in the ensuing spending fights. The big spenders on both sides of the aisle are sniffing for any sign of White House weakness, and will rightly view any slipping or sliding as license to break the piggy bank. If the president rolls on Schip, he'll be rolled on every spending question from now until he packs the china. Mr. Bush seems to understand the bigger stakes, and only yesterday gave a feisty speech outlining yet again why he intends to veto the current Schip legislation, and warning yet again that he won't back down.

Congressional Republicans would be wise to take him at his latest word, for their own sake. The recent GOP campaign over earmark disclosure is good politics and a start to recognizing voter anger over Washington's spending ways. But it's also a one-trick pony. Conservatives voters will see the bigger test of re-found fiscal responsibility in whether its Washington representatives are willing to say no to big new government spending. That begins with Schip.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.

27507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Economic crisis over US dollar? on: September 21, 2007, 09:08:18 AM

Scott Grannis is IMHO an outstanding economist (supply side orientation).  I have followed his work for several years now and we correspond from time to time. 

I begin my effort to answer your question with his recent comments on the dollar (pre-half percent rate cut):

"I think it is only logical that the euro will be used more and more 
as  reserve currency, and the dollar less. The euro economy is 
already as large as the U.S. economy, so ultimately I would suspect 
that large institutions with reserve holdings will hold about as many 
euros as they will dollars. The dollar has been the currency of 
choice because it has been the currency of choice for the biggest 
economy in the world, but now that has changed. People have been slow 
to move to the euro because it is still a young currency and the ECB 
is still not fully tested. But given time that will change in the 
euro's favor. That said, I don't see why that necessarily means that 
the dollar has to fall further relative to the euro.

"Even when the dollar was THE reserve currency, it suffered huge 
fluctuations in its value against other currencies.

"In any event, "reserve currency" status is not the be all and end all 
for a currency. Central bank holdings of reserves amount to a handful 
of trillions of dollars (held in a mix of currencies). Compare that 
to the financial asset holdings of U.S. households which amount to 
over $40 trillion, and the $10 trillion of liquid dollar-denominated 
bonds. Compare also to the value of liquid, high-quality non-dollar 
bonds traded around the globe, which stands at roughly $15 trillion. 
Bottom line, central banks hold only a small fraction of the world's 
dollar-denominated bonds, so their preference for one currency's 
bonds over another are not all that important."

This was in response to my sending him this German article translated into English:

Greenspan: Euro Gains As Reserve Choice
Monday September 17, 8:07 am ET

Report: Former Fed Boss Says Euro Could Replace U.S. Dollar As 
Favored Reserve Currency

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan 
Greenspan said it is possible that the euro could replace the U.S. 
dollar as the reserve currency of choice.
According to an advance copy of an interview to be published in 
Thursday's edition of the German magazine Stern, Greenspan said that 
the dollar is still slightly ahead in its use as a reserve currency, 
but added that "it doesn't have all that much of an advantage" anymore.

The euro has been soaring against the U.S. currency in recent weeks, 
hitting all-time high of $1.3927 last week as the dollar has fallen 
on turbulent market conditions stemming from the ongoing U.S. 
subprime crisis. The Fed meets this week and is expected to lower its 
benchmark interest rate from the current 5.25 percent.

Greenspan said that at the end of 2006, some 25 percent of all 
currency reserves held by central banks were held in euros, compared 
to 66 percent for the U.S. dollar.

In terms of being used as a payment for cross-border transactions, 
the euro is trailing the dollar only slightly with 39 percent to 43 

Greenspan said the European Central Bank has become "a serious factor 
in the global economy."

He said the increased usage of the euro as a reserve currency has led 
to a lowering of interest rates in the euro zone, which has "without 
any doubt contributed to the current economic growth."

As you can see Scott doesn't panic easily.  This brings us to his comments of yesterday:

"The most incredible thing is that those who are supposed to be the dollar's stewards (the Fed and Treasury) have had absolutely nothing to say on the subject of the dollar approaching all-time lows against most major currencies. Benign neglect to da max is not helping things at all. Watch for more dollar weakness, but this is a potentially volatile situation since it won't take much to turn things around."

The Adventure continues , , ,

PS:  From this morning:  Stocks are higher in early action as traders get a reprieve from a falling dollar as the greenback is showing some signs of life, and a rebound in Treasuries, which is lowering yields, helping spread optimism on Wall Street. Volatility and volume is relatively heavier amid quadruple witching as commodity and option contracts rollover. Crude oil traders are taking a breather, pushing prices lower following a recent bullish surge in the commodity prices
27508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 21, 2007, 08:56:46 AM
1133 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAQ -- Iraq could offer significant incentives to Russian oil and gas firms to operate in Iraq and expects Russia to write off 80 percent of Baghdad's Soviet-era debt of $13 billion in return, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sept. 21 in Moscow. The incentives could be granted before Iraqi energy legislation is approved, Zebari said.
27509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 21, 2007, 08:54:41 AM
Just a quick yip here to respond to SB Mig's question to me:

Part of the concern over habeas corpus I believe to be due to some comments made by recently departed AG Albert Gonzales which left even me looking like a Jewish Don King.  Sen. Spector's comments quoted by SB Mig IIRC were in response to AG AG's comments on HC.

IMHO there has been considerable smoke blown on the matter that is the subject of this thread.  The Bush team's approach I think could have been much better and has in some cases generated some of the concerns.  This I suspect to have been due in part to that portion of the opposition who simply loathes Bush, loathes the War, doesn't think there is a war or a danger to us, wants us to lose, etc.   IMO some of this opposition has gotten right up to the line of treason when it reveals military secrets concerning  funding Iraqi journalists, following enemy financial flows and the like.  In return the Bush people have simply figured WTF, nothing we explain will ever satisfy these people-- whom at the moment have been busy drawing the enemy's attention to the fact that many calls between countries other than the US are actually routed through the US and that we have been listening in.  I find it quite absurd to call this "spying on American citizens" or even to call listening to foreign enemy jihadis calling America "spying on American citizens".

One result of all this is to concern unecessarily good-hearted American people who quite properly wish to be vigilant about our freedoms-- we are in times where the inherent dynamic can easily lead us astray!  With so much smoke, surely there must be fire!  An example of unnecessary concerns would be SB Mig's concerns over circumstantial evidence-- an utter non-issue as so ably described by GM's post.

Overall I think GM is doing an outstanding job of presenting clear analysis of a most vexing problem. 

SB Mig's central question though does remain: "What safeguards prevent application of "non-habeas" to our own population?"

SB, what did you think of the two Mukasey articles which I posted above?
27510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Belarus, Poland, Russia on: September 21, 2007, 08:30:00 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Belarus' Problem with Polish Priests

Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Kosinets said on Thursday that all foreign Catholic priests would be banned from the country, with the ban taking effect over the next few years. Of the roughly 350 Catholic priests in the country -- it is predominantly Russian Orthodox -- the majority are foreign and almost all of those are Polish. Belarus has been targeting foreign Catholics since last year, deporting all those without papers. Now the campaign is extended to all foreign Catholic priests, regardless of their legal status. Kosinets said "foreign priests cannot conduct religious activities in Belarus because they do not understand the mentality and traditions of the Belarusian people."

What makes this interesting is the strategic position of Belarus. Belarus is the buffer between Russia and Poland. Buffer overstates it. Though there recently have been some tensions between Russia and Belarus, Belarus is as close to an unreformed Soviet republic as still exists. More than any of the former Soviet republics, it would appear eager to welcome back the Soviet Union. In general Russia has, until recently, kept Belarus at arm's length precisely for this reason. Russian President Vladimir Putin had his own problems with Russians nostalgic for the "good old days" and did not need the addition of an unreconstructed Belarus added to the mix.

However, as we already have discussed, the Russians have recently become much more assertive, and the internal disposition of Belarus is less of a barrier to good relations. Indeed, in order for Russia to regain its sphere of influence, Belarus plays a critical strategic role. Russia must have Belarus in its camp if it is to use the window of opportunity available to it to redefine its relations with the Baltics. In particular, Russia has no border with Lithuania. For that, it needs Belarus.

Russia sees Poland as a critical problem. The Poles have been deeply involved in Ukraine before and after the Orange Revolution, and have been particularly vocal in their support of the Baltics against Russian pressure. In addition, the Poles have been eager to host the U.S. anti-missile shield.

Belarus and Russia both remember the role of the Catholic Church, working with the labor union Solidarity, in overthrowing the Polish communist government. For both countries, the disintegration of the Soviet empire started in Poland and was driven by the Catholic Church. The Vatican and Russia have had relatively good relations since the fall of the Soviet Union, but that does not mean much in this climate. Neither Minsk nor Moscow trusts the Catholic Church, or in particular, Polish priests.

Therefore, the decision to begin their expulsion -- even if only over the course of a few years -- is designed not only to get rid of what might be troublesome priests, but also to make certain the Polish population of Belarus, small though it might be, does not become a center of Polish nationalism in Belarus. Perhaps more important, it is a signal to Poland that it will be blocked if it tries to engage Belarus in any way. In addition, it plays to mutual Russian Orthodox sentiment, which ties together nationalists in both Belarus and Russia.

In and of itself, this is a small matter. But in the current context of relations in the region, small matters point to more serious issues. There is increasing tension between Poland and Russia. If Russia wants to regain its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union, it will have to deal with the Baltics, which are now part of NATO. It cannot do that without aligning with Belarus or without blocking Polish influence. Russia must intimidate Poland as well. The Poles have an element of comfort so long as Belarus is genuinely separate from Russia. It is their buffer zone on the northern European plain.

Therefore, any sign of tension between Poland and Belarus -- particularly coupled with closer alignment between Belarus and Russia -- matters. Normally, the expulsion of foreigners, priests or not, would not register. But now, the expulsion of Polish priests from Belarus does matter, particularly when the Russian Orthodox Church is involved. It points to closer collaboration with Russia and growing tension with Poland. And that can matter a great deal over the coming months.
27511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 21, 2007, 08:25:51 AM
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

-- Nathan Hale (before being hanged by the British, 22 September

Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (476);
original General William Hull, Campbell (37-38)
27512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 08:31:43 PM
Rudy takes on Hillary:
27513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 20, 2007, 04:54:42 PM
I hear that Iran's Ahmandinejad, freshly rejected from laying a wreath at Ground Zero of 911 in NYC, will be speaking at my alma mater , , , oy vey.
NYPD Rejects Iran President's Viewing Request

NEW YORK (WCBS 880)  -- UPDATE: NYPD is rejecting the request from the President of Iran to visit Ground Zero.

NYPD is citing security reasons for the reason of rejecting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit the old World Trade Center.

A request earlier this month to permit a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Ground Zero during the United Nations General Assembly was rejected in a meeting which included NYPD, Secret Service, and Port Authority officials. The site is closed to visitors because of construction there. That was the only request.  Requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.
27514  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: September 20, 2007, 04:52:55 PM
MMA has a new fan:
27515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The New Race for the Arctic: on: September 20, 2007, 03:44:43 PM
A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia's continental shelf, government officials have said.
The August expedition planted the Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole and gathered soil samples.

Russia's Natural Resources Ministry said early test results on the soil samples showed Russia is geologically linked to the Lomonosov Ridge.

The Arctic is thought to be rich in oil, gas and mineral reserves.
"Results of an analysis of the Earth's crust show that the structure of the underwater Lomonosov mountain chain is similar to the world's other continental shelves, and the ridge is therefore part of Russia's land mass," a statement from the ministry said.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic has been challenged by the other nations with territory bordering the ocean - including the US and Canada.

Competition for territorial and economic rights in the Arctic has heated up as melting polar ice caps have opened up the possibility of exploiting the previously inaccessible seabed.

Story from BBC NEWS:

27516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: September 20, 2007, 02:13:02 PM
The Moran Liability

Real friction is developing in Congress between one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's top lieutenants and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. At issue are harshly critical comments made by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia about the alleged influence of Jewish-Americans in government. Congressional Quarterly reports that Mr. Hoyer "stopped just short of calling [Mr. Moran] an anti-Semite and urged him to recant."

Mr. Moran is an ethically-challenged bully boy who represents the Washington D.C. suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria. He's notorious for not keeping his mouth under control. Last November, he bluntly told fellow Democrats who opposed Jack Murtha for majority leader -- Ms. Pelosi's preferred candidate -- that punishment would come to those who failed to toe the line: "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do you do it." (House Democrats ignored the threat and backed Mr. Hoyer instead.)

Mr. Moran's latest verbal belly flop involves remarks to the Jewish magazine Tikkun in which Mr. Moran called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) "the most powerful lobby and has pushed this [Iraq] war from the beginning. I don't think they represent the mainstream of American Jewish thinking at all, but because they are so well-organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful -- most of them are quite wealthy -- they have been able to exert power."

Mr. Hoyer wasted no time noting that such language adopted "a canard that is absolutely not true, that the Jewish community controls the press, media, government and other institutions. It has been used by those who are anti-Semitic for a very long period of time."

But this is not the first time Mr. Moran has expressed such views. Shortly after the war began, the congressman whipped up an anti-war rally by saying: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

When will Democrats finally discipline Mr. Moran, easily one of their most embarrassing members? Frankly, when will the news media abandon its obsession with Senator Larry Craig's bathroom footwork and report on Mr. Moran's record? It's not hard to find him, even when he's home. Just leave Washington, D.C., cross the Potomac River and take an extreme left for a few miles until you reach Alexandria.

Political Journal WSJ
27517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 20, 2007, 02:11:55 PM
-- John Fund
London Puts Rudy in a Generous Mood

You can't get much more productive than Rudy Giuliani during his whirlwind tour of London this week. He met with the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, accepted an award from Margaret Thatcher and engaged in some Churchillian rhetoric indirectly slapping down Hillary Clinton.

The occasion was Mr. Giuliani's receipt of an award named after Mrs. Thatcher from the Atlantic Bridge think tank. In his acceptance speech, he ventured into foreign policy by calling for NATO membership to be enlarged beyond Europe, indeed "to any country who meets basic standards of good governance, military readiness, global responsibility." He specifically suggested membership for Australia, Israel, Singapore and Japan.

Given that NATO membership carries with it the right to expect U.S. military support in the event of an attack by any country, Mr. Giuliani's proposed sweeping expansion left even some Americans in his audience unsettled. "I'm not sure the speechwriters fully thought that one out," one American with experience on Capitol Hill told me.

Any such quibbles, however, were a small bump in the road on what was essentially a Giuliani lovefest in London. American expatriates who attended a Giuliani fundraiser were thrilled with remarks he made just before arriving in London criticizing what he called Hillary Clinton's attempts to portray herself as a new "Iron Lady." He said such attempts would fail because she had surrendered to her party's hard left on the Iraq war. "I don't think Margaret Thatcher would impugn the integrity of a commanding general in a time of war, as Hillary Clinton did, or require an army to give a schedule of their retreat to the enemy, as the Democrats are suggesting," Mr. Giuliani said.

"That's the kind of muscular rhetoric that's needed to win against the Clintons," Robert Jameson, an American businessman in London, told me. "If you don't take them on first, they will roll over you."
-- John Fund
Senators Fret About Their 'Primary' Responsibility

Not only are presidential candidates flummoxed by the ever-changing, ever-earlier 2008 primary calendar, now Senators are getting into the act. At a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee yesterday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) testified on behalf of their bill to create a regional primary system and somehow exert control over the increasingly chaotic process.

The move comes after Michigan and Florida broke both parties' rules and moved their nominating contests to January 15 and January 29, respectively. Party rules say no state can hold its primary before February 5th, though Democrats granted special waivers to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The Senate bill would still allow Iowa and New Hampshire to cast the first ballots, though Mr. Lieberman, who famously bragged he had achieved a "three-way tie for third" after his fifth-place finish in the 2004 New Hampshire primary, said he was concerned about their "disproportionate impact" on the nominating calendar's outcome.

Some, though, have questioned whether any move by Congress to control the nominating process is constitutional. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution provides for the election of the executive branch, though nowhere does the document address primaries or nominating contests. A 2000 decision by the Supreme Court ruled that a law allowing primary voters in California to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, unconstitutionally violated a political party's First Amendment right to freedom of association. Similar so-called "blanket primaries" were struck down in Washington State and in Alaska.

After the Washington State primary was struck down, the Washington State Grange sponsored an initiative on the 2004 ballot providing for a "top-two" system, by which the top two finishers in the first round of balloting, regardless of party, would advance to a runoff. The measure passed with nearly 60% of the vote, yet the established political parties again claimed the system would unfairly preclude their right to select their own nominees. The Washington State Republican Party brought suit and the case is slated to be the first heard in the Supreme Court's new term, with arguments to be given on October 1st. The outcome could be vital in determining whether Sens. Lieberman, Klobuchar, Alexander and the rest of Congress will actually be Constitutionally able to intervene in the primary scheduling brouhaha.

Political Journal WSJ
27518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: September 20, 2007, 09:13:36 AM
The subject of this article is exactly the sort of thing where the NY Times often becomes the NY Slimes so caveat lector.

That said, I post it here precisely because it leaves me utterly flabbergasted.  Aren't we supposed to be killing enemy combatants?!?  Why on earth are these men on trial?!  angry angry angry


Hearing in Killing of Afghan Puts Army War Effort on Trial
Published: September 20, 2007

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sept. 19 — At the close of a two-day hearing on charges that Special Forces soldiers murdered an Afghan man near his home last October, it is increasingly evident that the Army is also examining itself and how it is fighting the war in Afghanistan.

A Special Forces colonel presiding over the hearing must determine whether sufficient evidence exists to recommend courts-martial for the two soldiers accused of killing the man, Nawab Buntangyar, who had been identified as an “enemy combatant,” while he walked unarmed outside his home near the Pakistan border.

But the focus of the hearing frequently shifted from the soldiers’ actions and toward the Army’s decision to bring charges against them. It also shifted to the effect on the Afghan people of Special Forces soldiers being allowed to kill some Afghan fighters more or less on sight.

From the beginning of the proceeding, Col. Kevin A. Christie, the presiding officer, seemed pressed to figure out why a military lawyer pursued murder charges after an Army investigation cleared the two soldiers of wrongdoing when they killed Mr. Buntangyar, who as a designated enemy combatant was subject to attack under the Special Forces’ classified rules of engagement.

In questions to several witnesses, Colonel Christie indicated that the Army was aware of the risks of trying to win the tactical battle in Afghanistan by aggressively pursuing the enemy in an unconventional war, as balanced against the potential expense of losing the larger strategic battle for the hearts and minds of Afghan civilians.

The decision by the general in charge of Special Forces to allow limited public access to the hearing was itself a sign of the Army’s desire to be seen as reflective and open to scrutiny, specialists in military justice said.

In an exchange that reflected the underlying issues of concern to the Special Forces command here, Colonel Christie asked Maj. Matthew McHale, the company commander in charge of the assault team that included the two accused soldiers, about the repercussions of how his men had killed Mr. Buntangyar.

Mr. Buntangyar was killed on Oct. 13, 2006, when Master Sgt. Troy Anderson, acting on orders from Capt. Dave Staffel, shot him in the face from a distance of about 100 feet. The order to shoot came after Afghan Border Police officers had surrounded Mr. Buntangyar’s home, exchanged a friendly greeting with him and asked him twice to confirm his identity. Captain Staffel and Sergeant Anderson were charged with premeditated murder in June, two months after an Army investigation determined Mr. Buntangyar’s “enemy combatant” status justified killing him.

“Would you tell your teams to do things that had limited tactical effects if they had potential strategic negative effects?” Colonel Christie asked Major McHale.

The major said assault teams continually weigh the two goals during missions.

The colonel asked if he thought the “strategic effect” of shooting a man whom the Afghan police had essentially lured out of his home “adds to the credibility of the police,” an institution that the American military is desperate to make independent and trustworthy in the eyes of local residents.

Major McHale conceded that the killing could undermine the public perception of the police. But, he added, they were unreliable and often sloppy. At the home, the police had to gesture to communicate with Special Forces soldiers because the police had accidentally locked their radios and car keys in their vehicles.
27519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: September 20, 2007, 09:02:11 AM

KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

At a symposium on female circumcision in Tanta, Egypt, a poster reads, "The Beginning of the End, No to Female Circumcision."
The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”

Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is customary is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

But now, quite suddenly, forces opposing genital cutting in Egypt are pressing back as never before. More than a century after the first efforts to curb this custom, the movement has broken through one of the main barriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo to discuss it in public. That shift seems to have coincided with a small but growing acceptance of talking about human sexuality on television and radio.

For the first time, opponents said, television news shows and newspapers have aggressively reported details of botched operations. This summer two young girls died, and it was front-page news in Al Masry al Yom, an independent and popular daily. Activists highlighted the deaths with public demonstrations, which generated even more coverage.

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.


Page 2 of 2)

Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

 World View With Michael Slackman (mp3)The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

And it will be a challenge to convince influential people like Osama Mohamed el-Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, the city near where the 13-year-old girl lived, and died. “This practice has been passed down generation after generation, so it is natural that every person circumcises his daughter,” he said. “When Ali Gomaa says it is haram, he is criticizing the practice of our fathers and forefathers.”

But the movement against genital cutting has matured and is increasingly prepared for these arguments. At first, Ms. Assaad and a group of intellectuals who together created a task force simply lectured their neighbors, essentially calling the practice barbaric.

“At the beginning we preached and said this is wrong,” she recalled. “It didn’t work. They said, ‘It was done to our mothers and grandmothers, and they are fine.’ ”

She and her colleagues sounded like out-of-touch urban intellectuals, she said. But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives.

“Circumcision is a very old custom and has absolutely no benefits,” Vivian Fouad, who helps staff the national hot line, said to a caller wondering what to do with her own daughter. She continued: “If you want to protect your daughter, then you have to raise her well. How you raise your child is the main factor in everything, not mutilating your daughter.”

Egypt is a patriarchal society, but women can be a powerful force. So Ms. Assaad helped persuade two important women, elite and privileged, who like herself could not believe the practice was as widespread as it was, to join her battle.

The first was Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a political force in her own right. The second was an ally of Mrs. Mubarak, Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency that helps set national health and social policies.

Mrs. Khattab has become a force in pressing the agenda. Her council now has a full-time staff working on the issue and runs the hot line. She toured the Nile Delta region, three cities in one day, promoting the message, blunt and outraged that genital cutting had not stopped.

“The Koran is a newcomer to tradition in this manner,” she said. “As a male society, the men took parts of religion that satisfied men and inflated it. The parts of the Koran that helped women, they ignored.”

It is an unusual swipe at the Islamists who have promoted the practice as in keeping with religion, especially since the government generally tries to avoid taking on conservative religious leaders. It tries to position itself as the guardian of Islamic values, aiming to enhance its own wilted legitimacy and undercut support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but popular opposition movement.

But the religious discourse concerning genital cutting has changed, and that is credited to Ms. Assaad’s strategy of reaching up to people like Mrs. Mubarak and out to young women like Fatma Ibrahim, 24. When Ms. Ibrahim was 11 years old, she said, her parents told her she was going for a blood test. The doctor, a relative, put her to sleep and when she woke, she said she could not walk.

The memory haunts her now, and though she says that her parents “will kill” her if they find out, she has become a volunteer in the movement against genital cutting, hoping to spare other women what she endured.

“I am looking to talk to the young, the ones who will be parents in 10 years,” she said. “This is my target group. I talk to the young. When I get married, inshallah, I will never, ever circumcise my daughter.”

27520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 20, 2007, 08:55:08 AM
Big Terror Trial Shaped Views of Justice Pick
Published: September 20, 2007
On Jan. 17, 1996, after a nine-month terrorism trial and a rambling 100-minute lecture from a blind sheik found guilty of conspiring to wage war against the United States, Judge Michael B. Mukasey had had enough.

With a few terse, stern and prescient remarks, he sentenced the sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, to life in prison. Judge Mukasey said he feared the plot could have produced devastation on “a scale unknown in this country since the Civil War” that would make the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which had left six people dead, “almost insignificant by comparison.”

Long before most Americans had given deep consideration to the terrorist threat from radical Islam or to whether the criminal justice system is the right forum for trying people accused of terrorism, Judge Mukasey received an intensive education on those topics.

The vivid lessons Judge Mukasey took away from the trial — notably that the urgency of the threat requires tilting toward protecting national security even at some cost to civil liberties — have echoed through his speeches and writings. Now, as President Bush’s choice for attorney general, he is poised to put those lessons into practice.

Mr. Abdel Rahman and nine other men were convicted of plotting a “day of terror” that would have included blowing up the United Nations Building, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels.

The trial, which remains the longest and most complex international terrorism case ever presented in a United States court, involved almost the entire array of national security issues that Judge Mukasey would face if confirmed as the Bush administration’s third attorney general. Those issues include the proper balance between security and liberty, between intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution, and between government secrecy and accountability.

In his writings, Judge Mukasey has made clear that, although the issues are difficult ones, he is inclined to favor security, intelligence and secrecy over the competing values.

Rules applicable in ordinary criminal cases, Judge Mukasey wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, “do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means.”

Although Judge Mukasey’s handling of the trial received praise from the appeals court and from some — but hardly all — of the lawyers involved, his writings and public remarks show that the case left him shaken and deeply skeptical about the ability of civilian courts to try people accused of terrorism without compromising national security.

Mary Jo White, the United States attorney in Manhattan at the time, said the trial was a master class for all concerned.

“I’m certain that his views were influenced by what he learned in that trial, both substantively and procedurally,” Ms. White said, referring to the detailed information presented about the nation’s enemies and the difficulty of addressing the threat in a criminal prosecution.

Ronald L. Kuby, a defense lawyer in the case, said he did not know if the trial shaped Judge Mukasey’s thinking. But he said it certainly illuminated the judge’s approach.

“He was violating the rights of Arabs before it was popular,” Mr. Kuby said. “It was very much like trying a case with two prosecutors, one of whom was wearing a black robe and who was considerably more intelligent than the one hired for the job.”

Judge Mukasey removed Mr. Kuby from the case over what the judge said were conflicts of interest. Other defense lawyers generally praised Judge Mukasey’s handling of the case.

“He ran the tightest ship you ever saw,” said Roger L. Stavis, another defense lawyer. “He’s a very kind, generous man, but also a tough law-and-order guy.”

But Mr. Stavis also wondered about whether a conventional trial was capable of addressing the charges in the case. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. “You cannot get at the problem in a discrete trial in an American courtroom.”

The case was unusual from the start. It relied, for instance, on a Civil War-era seditious conspiracy statute that made it a crime to plot to levy war on the United States.

“The tools we had to charge terrorism were appallingly bad,” said Andrew C. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor. Partly by happenstance, then, the case brought the metaphor of terrorism as a war into an American courtroom.

Judge Mukasey was concerned throughout about balancing the defendants’ rights against national security. He ordered an array of potential evidence to be disclosed to the defense, for instance, but drew the line at information he said would needlessly compromise intelligence operations.

In his Wall Street Journal article, he wrote that terrorism prosecutions “risk disclosure to our enemies of methods and sources of intelligence that can then be neutralized.”

The risk, he wrote, is not theoretical. A list of unindicted co-conspirators provided to the defense in the 1995 trial, including Osama bin Laden, reached Mr. bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, within 10 days, Judge Mukasey wrote, “letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.”

Judge Mukasey has complained bitterly about the porous nature of criminal proceedings in other settings, too.

When Mr. Kuby, the defense lawyer, applied for a security clearance for a later trial, Judge Mukasey met with a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to argue against the idea, saying he was convinced that Mr. Kuby had leaked sealed documents to Newsday and The New York Times.

(Page 2 of 2)

“Mukasey stated that he could not imagine anyone who would be less trustworthy with sensitive information than Kuby,” a special agent’s summary of the interview said. Mr. Kuby, who did not receive the clearance and denied leaking the documents, obtained the summary through a freedom of information request.

Mr. McCarthy, the prosecutor, said the problem of unauthorized disclosures was widespread and pernicious. “The F.B.I. was leaking, too,” he said.

In remarks at the Brooklyn Law School in 2000, Judge Mukasey was also critical of the news organizations for contacting former jurors after the nine-month trial. For the jurors’ security, Judge Mukasey had allowed them to serve anonymously. “The court tries at all costs to keep that information secret,” he said.

The case also gave Judge Mukasey early exposure to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that required warrants from a secret court to monitor international communications involving people in the United States.

The 1995 trial involved surveillance of four defendants based on six warrants from the secret court. Judge Mukasey ordered that the surveillance tapes be disclosed, though he denied a defense request for documents related to the warrant applications.

“Disclosure of the conversations,” the judge reasoned in a 1994 decision, “does not disclose the strategies, capabilities and techniques of those who gather information.”

As if anticipating a debate that would arise after 9/11, he added that it should be perfectly permissible to use foreign intelligence information in criminal investigations and prosecutions. “There is no contradiction, indeed there is probably often a congruence, between foreign intelligence information and evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” Judge Mukasey wrote in 1994.

His understanding of the law, at least in 2000, was imperfect. “If warrants are granted,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published in The Journal of Law & Policy, “an appeal can be taken to an ad hoc court.”

But F.I.S.A. litigation is a one-sided affair. When applications are granted, the government has won and would have no reason to appeal. The proceedings are kept secret from the subjects of surveillance, who do not participate and have no way to appeal. Indeed, the F.I.S.A. appeals court said in 2002 that it was hearing its first appeal — filed by the government, after a government loss. It is not known to have heard any appeals since.

Mr. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor in the 1995 trial, said the lawyers, the jury and the judge had all emerged from it transformed.

Going in, he said, “there was a great impulse, certainly in the Justice Department but also in the courts, that we had best show to the world that we can take our own worst enemies and give them due process.”

That view, Mr. McCarthy said, has turned out to be naïve, and he has proposed the creation of a new national security court to address the problem. In his Wall Street Journal article last month, Judge Mukasey said Mr. McCarthy’s proposal and similar ones “deserve careful scrutiny.”

27521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 20, 2007, 08:37:06 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Increasingly Mysterious Israeli-Syrian Encounter

Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday on Israeli TV that Israel launched an operation into Syria a couple of weeks ago. He shed little light on it; what was most interesting was that Netanyahu went out of his way not only to support the mission but also to praise Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for carrying it out.

That there was an Israeli mission Sept. 6 is not new news. That Netanyahu would be the one to confirm it is curious, and that he would praise Olmert -- a political opponent -- is intriguing. But what is fascinating is the ongoing silence about the purpose of the mission. What were the Israelis attacking?

Normally, we would expect secrecy, but in this case it is exceedingly odd. Having admitted Israel carried out an operation in Syria (he did not admit it was an airstrike), Netanyahu already has opened Israel up to what little political fallout there might be. Why not also identify the target? The Syrians certainly know what the target was, and by now so does any country with space reconnaissance capabilities -- not to mention its allies. Admittedly, we don't like being left out, but the desire to keep the nature of the mission secret from the public while admitting that it took place is by far the most arresting aspect of the story. What could the Israelis have hit that they don't want to talk about -- and that, frankly, the Syrians won't discuss either?

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in the region, and the Israelis have started talking about improved relations with Syria. Israeli President Shimon Peres recently said tensions between Israel and Syria are over, and that Israel is ready to negotiate a peace settlement -- a statement as mysterious in its own way as Netanyahu's discussion of the mission. When did Israeli-Syrian tensions end? Add to this that Rice said the United States will not stand in the way of peace between Syria and Israel and the confusion is complete. She was in the region to move the peace process forward, after all. The only ones making any sense are the Syrians, who rejected all overtures and said Israel is being insincere. At least some things remain true to form.

Most intriguing are the reports we have received from Lebanon claiming that a serious division has opened up in the leadership of Hezbollah over the prospect of Syria working out a peace agreement with Israel. To even hear of a division within Hezbollah over the subject is startling, let alone the fact that the group is taking the possibility of a peace treaty seriously.

Israel periodically raises the possibility of a peace settlement with Syria, usually not all that sincerely, so Peres' comment is not completely strange. The report on Hezbollah taking this seriously is more interesting, but remember that rumors always flow in Lebanon, and this one may not be true -- or Hezbollah is simply getting itself bent out of shape.

But the thing we just can't get away from is Netanyahu admitting that there was a mission, praising Olmert, implying that it was significant and not even hinting at the target -- even though it's not a secret. We know this: The airstrike took place in Northern Syria, along the Turkish border. Both the Turks and Syrians have said so. The Israelis don't care a bit what the Syrians think, but they do care what the Turks might think. Could the target have been something entering Syria from Turkey that the Israelis didn't want arriving? That would be a reason for the secrecy about the target from both the Israelis and Syrians. Neither want to alienate Turkey, even if Turkey -- or some Turks -- were smuggling something into Syria. The Syrians wouldn't want to admit the route and the Israelis wouldn't want to embarrass the Turks.

The Turks have wanted the Israelis and Syrians to negotiate with each other. Perhaps having put the Turks in an unpleasant position, the Israelis launched a peace offensive toward Syria to satisfy Turkish sensibilities, and Washington accepted the concept of negotiations with Syria because it had no choice -- and it was confident the Syrians would sink them anyway. In the meantime, Hezbollah panicked at the thought that the Syrians might not.

This is, as they say, thin. But ever since the Sept. 6 attack, we have been drawn to the mystery of it. Every few days, the mystery deepens. As more information comes out, it is less and less understandable. Meanwhile, more uncertainties swirl around Israeli-Syrian relations. Whatever happened on Sept. 6 simply seems to grow more and more important.
27522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 20, 2007, 08:26:32 AM
"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the
objects of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means,
by which those objects can be best attained."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 206
27523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 19, 2007, 11:24:20 PM

That point about rendition beginning under Clinton is very interesting.  I didn't know that.

27524  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: September 19, 2007, 10:01:22 PM
Spoke to Thom Beers over at OP today and he is good with our using their warehouse again, but needs to discuss it with the VP of Biz Affairs before confirming.
27525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 19, 2007, 12:16:28 PM
Harold Stassen Reincarnated

Alan Keyes had a distinguished career in the State Department before becoming a conservative activist and gadfly. He's obviously a smart man, which is why it's so distressing to see him act as if voters have no memory as he starts a third effort to run for the GOP presidential nomination. We last heard from Mr. Keyes when he parachuted into the Illinois Senate race in 2004, ultimately losing to Barack Obama by 43 points. You'd think that he would have viewed that as a signal from the political marketplace.

Mr. Keyes explained the rationale for his candidacy Monday by saying the GOP race was so wide open, it clearly had a place for him: "There isn't a standout. I'm like a lot of folks, who have just looked at it and been unmoved."

It's more likely that what is moving Mr. Keyes is that he scents another fund-raising opportunity. In 1999, he raised an impressive $4.3 million in just six months even before Iowa or New Hampshire voted. But the cash hasn't come without controversy. In his previous campaigns, Mr. Keyes was caught paying his personal living expenses out of campaign donations -- a legal but highly controversial practice. In addition, his 2000 presidential race was fined $23.000 by the Federal Election Commission for various violations involving the public financing he had accepted from the government.

No doubt the fiery Mr. Keyes would liven up the remaining Republican debates, but will someone please explain to me why debate organizers should even invite a "candidate" with zero standing in the polls and who appears to be interested in harvesting dollars at least as much as he is interested in getting votes?

political journal/WSJ
27526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2007, 11:14:50 AM
Good thing I had a tight stop on the incremental purchase of LNOP!
27527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: September 19, 2007, 11:07:21 AM
Amazing Mahavishnu Orchestra concert for free at
27528  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Brain damage in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: September 19, 2007, 11:02:53 AM


Sep 18, 4:22 PM EDT

Armless Man Delivers Fatal Head-Butt

Associated Press Writer

SNELLVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- Police are investigating the death of a man who collapsed after he was head-butted by an armless man in a fight over a woman. Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said the two men, Charles Keith Teer and William Russell Redfern, scuffled Monday afternoon in the driveway of a suburban Atlanta home.

Police say Redfern, who was born with no right arm and only a short stump for his left arm, kicked Teer and Teer hit Redfern during the fight, which was due to long-standing bad blood over a woman who once dated Teer and now dates Redfern.

After bystanders separated them, Redfern "came back and head-butted (Teer) one time," Whitehead said.

Teer complained of feeling dizzy, collapsed, and died, Whitehead said.

After the fight, Redfern and the woman got into his truck and drove to the Snellville police station, Whitehead said. He said the couple had called 911 to report the dispute, then told the operator they needed an ambulance after Teer collapsed.

A woman who answered the telephone at Redfern's home, in suburban Tucker, Ga., said he had no comment. She declined to identify herself.

Police are awaiting autopsy results before deciding whether Redfern should be charged.

Known by the nickname "Rusty," Redfern made a name for himself in the late 1980s for pen and ink drawings he does using his foot.

According to the web site for VSA Arts - an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes and showcases artists with disabilities - Redfern's drawings take one to six months to complete.

He was one of six Georgians selected to represent the state at the 1989 International Arts Festival in Washington, D.C., and was commissioned by Georgia's then-Secretary of State Max Cleland for a series of illustrations depicting the state capitol.

According to the site, he started Redfern Originals, Inc. in 1987, producing Christmas cards, stationary and limited-edition prints.
27529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2007, 08:21:15 AM
Took advantage of yesterday's drop due to a secondary offering to fatten my position in LNOP a bit.
27530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 19, 2007, 08:19:23 AM
The Fed and Character
September 19, 2007; Page A20
The Federal Reserve pulled no punches yesterday with its decision to cut the fed funds rate by 50 basis points to 4.75%. The unanimous statement from the Fed's Open Market Committee was equally as definitive, leaning clearly on the side of those willing to risk more inflation in order to protect the economy from recent disruptions in the credit markets.

The equity markets rejoiced, posting their biggest daily gain of the year. Inflation-sensitive indicators were less thrilled, with the yield on the long (30-year) bond rising 26/32s to 4.75%, oil climbing above $82 a barrel, and gold reaching new heights at $733 an ounce. In the optimistic case, the Fed's move will ease the credit crisis, increase the demand for money by reviving economic confidence, and help avoid a recession without triggering more inflation. We can only hope it does.

The point we'd like to stress today concerns the Fed and its credibility -- or to put it more tartly, its character. It is easy for a central bank to cut rates and ease money. At least in the short term everybody loves a good time, as yesterday's equity euphoria showed. The harder task is being willing to tighten money amid the business and political criticism that inevitably follows. That's the true test of a central banker's mettle.

We've argued that the Fed hasn't shown that character in many years, which is a major reason it found itself this week having to choose between the risk of higher inflation and a potential recession. A central bank that stresses preserving the value of the currency when it isn't popular will have more credibility to ease money when it really needs to.

This is the abiding lesson of the Paul Volcker era at the Fed, in contrast to the current decade. As Chairman Ben Bernanke looks beyond today's crisis to what he wants his own legacy to be, we hope he'll make a restoration of the Fed's character his main priority.

27531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 19, 2007, 08:08:33 AM
HillaryCare's New Clothes
Different means but the same political destination.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Hillary Clinton has been blasted for months by her Democratic Presidential rivals because, until Monday, she hadn't delivered her formal campaign promises for "universal" health care. But John Edwards and Barack Obama were unfair. She beat them to the punch by at least 13 years.

The former first lady's 1993-94 health-care overhaul ended disastrously. Still, it poured the philosophical and policy foundations of the current health-care debate. As she unveils HillaryCare II, Mrs. Clinton likes to joke that it's "deja vu all over again"--and it is, unfortunately. Her new plan is called "Health Choices" and mentions "choice" so many times that it sounds like a Freudian slip. And sure enough, "choice" for Mrs. Clinton means using different means that will arrive at the same end: an expensive, bureaucratic, government-run system that restricts choice.

Begin with the "individual mandate." The latest fad after Mitt Romney's Massachusetts miracle, it compels everyone to have insurance, either through their employers or the government. Not only would this element of HillaryCare require a huge new enforcement bureaucracy, it is twinned with a "pay or play" tax on businesses that don't, or can't afford to, provide health insurance to their employees.
The plan also creates a new public insurance option, modeled after Medicare, and open to everyone, regardless of income. To keep insurance "affordable," HillaryCare II offers a refundable tax credit that limits cost to a certain percentage of income. Yet the program works at cross-purposes, because coverage mandates always drive up the price of insurance. And if the "pay or play" tax is lower than a company's current health insurance costs, a company will have every incentive to dump its employee plan and pay the tax.

Meanwhile, the private insurance industry would be restructured with far more stringent regulations. Mrs. Clinton would require nationally "guaranteed issue," which means insurers have to offer policies to all applicants. She would also command "community rating," which prohibits premium differences based on health status.

Both of these have raised costs enormously in the states that require them (such as New York), but Mrs. Clinton says they are necessary nationwide to prevent "discrimination" that infringes "on the central purposes of insurance, which is to share risk." Not quite. The central purpose of insurance is to price, and hedge against, reasonably predictable risks. It does not require socializing every last expense and redistributing wealth.

No liberal reform would be complete without repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003; Mrs. Clinton would foot the bill for her plan with this tax increase. The rest of the estimated $110 billion per year in new government spending would be achieved by "modernizing" health-care delivery and "promoting wellness," though this $35 billion in savings is speculative, if not fanciful. Further tax hikes would be required: That $110 billion is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and Team Hillary is keeping the specifics in its pocket.

Given how poorly "universal" policies fared the last time around, who can blame them? Mrs. Clinton and Ira Magaziner headed a health-care task force with more than 500 members that eventually produced 1,342 numbing pages of proposals. It's hardly surprising this boondoggle died without so much as a Congressional vote.
Yet Mrs. Clinton insisted that the public had been spooked by Rush Limbaugh, an article in a marginal political journal and advertising campaigns such as "Harry and Louise." In other words, the lessons she learned were political, not substantive. She thought she had overreached with too-sweeping changes. So she and her husband began to slice their universal health-care ambitions into smaller initiatives like the 1997 State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip).

This is her strategy now. HillaryCare II is designed to cause minimal disruptions to current private insurance coverage in the short run, while dressing up the old agenda with slightly different mechanisms and rhetoric. Rather than fight small business, this time she is trying to seduce it with tax credits for small companies that provide insurance. Only later when costs rise will the credits shrink or other taxes rise. To court large manufacturers, like the auto and steel industries, she'll offer another, "temporary" tax credit to subsidize their health-care liabilities. Her plan, in short, is HillaryCare I in better clothes--a transitional platform to shift people to the default option, which is government insurance.

What's striking about all this is how little new thinking there is. Like the other Democratic proposals, HillaryCare II would mark another major government intrusion into health care. It would keep all of the system's current problems, most of them created by government policies, and entrench and expand them. The creativity is all in the political repackaging.

27532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: "You go to war with the citizens you have, not the citizens you want." on: September 19, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Even though I strongly agree with the underlying proposition, as I finished reading that I had a sense of "Where's the punch line?" -- or having read an advertisement , , ,
27533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 19, 2007, 07:58:24 AM

I forget where I read it, (but I have it mentally filed under "reliable source") but my understanding is that the known facts strongly suggest that BW was in the right in this case.  My readings over time resonate with what Strat says about contractors frequently being reviled as mercenaries and that there may be stories of some getting carried away or trigger happy.  Given the circs in which they operate this may as understandable as predictable that rumors can and will get things badly distorted.  Add in that the enemy will foment these rumors with lies and we have situation where you and I really are in a poor position to assess.

I also think that Maliki's response can be explained by political criteria and so can our government's response.

Bottom line:  I read the story with interest, but lack the basis for an opinion.
27534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 19, 2007, 07:29:06 AM
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we
may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to
disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate
and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the
great body of our country.  Unequivocal in principle, reasonable
in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to
the cause of freedom & harmony."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Elbridge Gerry, 29 March 1801)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America

“I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition.” —Thomas Jefferson

27535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 10:40:36 PM

I am still confused.  Post #339 is from me and is directed specfically to you.  Have you read it?
27536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 09:37:56 PM

"C'mon guys...."We seek truth" and I had to go back 3 pages of posts to find anything on Iraq and my Yahoo home page has this story on its front page"

WTF?  Is there an inference here?

BTW did you not notice my post #339 in this thread?   huh  It was directed to you personally , , ,

27537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2007, 06:05:35 PM
Dozens died in Syrian-Iranian chemical weapons experiment'



Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Magazine report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas and VX gas.

The factory was created specifically for the purposes of altering ballistic missiles to carry chemical payloads, the magazine report claimed.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time, however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrains at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

According to Global, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kippur War. Global cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East.

SourceDrudge /servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411428847&pagename=JPost%2FJPArt icle%2FShowFull
27538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 18, 2007, 12:53:03 PM
There was quite a media firestorm ignited when security at USC's library tasered a late night Iranian who refused to ID himself and/or leave.

Why did this not receive similar coverage?
27539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 18, 2007, 12:21:19 PM
Chattels of the Nanny State

The Democratic battle of health plans has begun in earnest now that Hillary Clinton has promised "universal" coverage. Meeting with Iowans a few weeks ago, John Edwards probably told voters more than they wanted to hear about what it means when government controls your health care: Under his proposed scheme, Americans could be punished for not going to the doctor for preventive care.

Mr. Edwards made clear that a government big enough to give you health care is big enough to take it away. "You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK," he said. For example, women would be required to have regular mammograms or presumably lose their right to coverage.

Mr. Edwards could almost be channeling David Cameron, leader of Britain's opposition Tory party, who recently came up with his own scheme to deny free National Health Service treatment to those who fail to follow a healthy lifestyle. "Heavy smokers, the obese and binge drinkers who were a drain on the NHS could be denied some routine treatments such as hip replacements until they cleaned up their act," reports the London Standard.

Small wonder that Michael Ancram, a former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, has taken Mr. Cameron to task in a manifesto calling for a return to the party's core principles of lower taxation, skepticism about the European Union and tough anti-crime measures. He urged the party leadership to stop "trashing" the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and downplay its trendy embrace of gay unions and draconian economic curbs on carbon emissions.

Would that some brave Democrat might step forward to criticize Mr. Edwards for going further than almost anyone has in the U.S. to link government's provision of health services with the direct policing of personal behavior. In a free health-care market, personal responsibility and healthy habits would be encouraged through lower insurance premiums and other incentives. It's when the government pays the bill and controls the entire system that you can expect the heavy hand of the state to directly control your lifestyle.

-- John Fund

27540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 18, 2007, 11:21:58 AM
From Berlin to Baghdad
September 18, 2007; Page A14

When I was born the war was already over. The mission was accomplished, as we would say today. But the aggression was still alive. The interior of my hometown was divided into four sectors, and there were occasionally clashes at the borders between the sectors, resulting in injuries and even loss of life. Sometimes as a child I heard the rattling of machine-gun fire. My bedroom was less then 2,000 feet from one of the checkpoints.

Whenever my father and I came within earshot of a border post, he would always remind me of the iron rule of the early days after this war: Keep your mouth shut! A wrong word or even a silly grin was enough to cause big trouble for an entire family.

The situation worsened year after year of what was called "peace." There was no "progress on the ground," as we would say today. The rival groups in my city were absolutely irreconcilable, which is why the men with the Kalashnikovs ended up building a massive wall down the middle of our street. They tore down the houses behind the wall to make room for watchtowers and automatic shooting devices.

The city where I was born is called Berlin, not Baghdad. Thanks to the perseverance and patience of American soldiers and their commander in chief, Berlin is one city today, a free city truly at peace. But if pollsters, focus groups and other "strategic advisers" who don't answer to the electorate had existed at the time, freedom probably wouldn't have stood a chance in my city. The operative terms in those days were not "withdrawal" and "timetable," but "solidarity" and "strength." The most important word was "freedom" -- not "benchmark" or "exit-strategy."

If the supreme commander of the U.S. Army in Berlin had been subject to the same requirements Gen. David Petraeus is subject to today, the Americans would have had to turn the city over to the Soviets. Baghdad today and Berlin in those days are more similar than some would like to believe. The general contention is that the Iraqis, unlike the Germans, never had a democratic culture. Once you break the palace, by ousting the dictator, the elevator goes straight to the mosque, these people argue. There is nothing in between -- no civil society, no real labor unions, no real parliament or press.

That's the situation in Iraq, but that was also the situation in postwar Germany. There was no flourishing democratic tradition in my country before the Allies marched in. Adolf Hitler came to power, not by overthrowing a government, but through elections, because the Germans were poorly equipped to handle their young, fickle democracy. A majority considered discipline and order to be more valuable than parliamentary representation. Germany was a republic without republicans.

Iraq, so the argument goes, is a wild, mixed bag of ethnic groups and religious communities. Speaking strictly off the record, critics say that fanaticism is practically part of the human genetic code in this part of the world. What a contradiction! If there were ever a hotbed of fanaticism, it would be somewhere between Berlin and Munich. The Baath Party and its leaders couldn't hold a candle to the Führer in Berlin and his followers. Millions marched through the streets chanting: "Führer command, we will follow!"

American soldiers are attacked daily in Baghdad. There was none of that in postwar Berlin. Objection! Didn't the Germans exact a far greater toll on the Americans? Here are the official U.S. battle casualties in the European theater: killed: 116,991; wounded: 386,356; captured: 73,759; missing: 14,528. Hitler's offensive in the Ardennes, an attack that was launched despite the fact that defeat was imminent, was nothing less than a giant suicide bombing. More than 100,00 people died, more Germans than Americans.

There are many differences between Berlin in those days and Baghdad today. Comparing the two doesn't mean equating them. But the most important difference can be found in Washington. The Americans at the beginning of the Cold War were much more patient. When the situation became especially threatening, the president made a trip to Berlin. But instead of barricading himself into an army barracks, he stood on the balcony at the city hall (in our sector) and called out "I am a Berliner." His name was John F. Kennedy, which sends us one clear message: You don't have to be a "neocon" to fight for freedom.

Republicans and Democrats should do what their predecessors did to address the Berlin challenge: grit their teeth, persevere, be patient and most importantly resist the temptation to take political advantage of short-term strategic setbacks. The greatest enemy of freedom today is strategic impatience. The presidential candidates can run, but they can't hide: Their Berlin is called Baghdad.

Mr. Steingart, Der Spiegel's Berlin bureau chief from 2000 to 2007, is now a senior correspondent in Washington.

27541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 18, 2007, 11:09:09 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy
that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's
life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every
one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination
of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers
of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the
capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."

-- John Adams (An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 29 August 1763)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (338); original The Papers of
John Adams, Taylor, ed., vol. 1 (83)
27542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: September 18, 2007, 11:06:37 AM
Antibiotic Runoff
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Published: September 18, 2007
One of the persistent problems of industrial agriculture is the inappropriate use of antibiotics. It’s one thing to give antibiotics to individual animals, case by case, the way we treat humans. But it’s a common practice in the confinement hog industry to give antibiotics to the whole herd, to enhance growth and to fight off the risk of disease, which is increased by keeping so many animals in such close quarters. This is an ideal way to create organisms resistant to the drugs. That poses a risk to us all.

A recent study by the University of Illinois makes the risk even more apparent. Studying the groundwater around two confinement hog farms, scientists have identified the presence of several transferable genes that confer antibiotic resistance, specifically to tetracycline. There is the very real chance that in such a rich bacterial soup these genes might move from organism to organism, carrying the ability to resist tetracycline with them. And because the resistant genes were found in groundwater, they are already at large in the environment.

There are two interdependent solutions to this problem, and hog producers should embrace them both. The first solution — the least likely to be acceptable in the hog industry — is to ban the wholesale, herdwide use of antibiotics. The second solution is to continue to tighten the regulations and the monitoring of manure containment systems. The trouble, of course, is that there is no such thing as perfect containment.

The consumer has the choice to buy pork that doesn’t come from factory farms. The justification for that kind of farming has always been efficiency, and yet, as so often happens in agriculture, the argument breaks down once you look at all the side effects. The trouble with factory farms is that they are raising more than pigs. They are raising drug-resistant bugs as well.
NY Times
27543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 11:01:17 AM
After Talk of War, Cooler Words in France on Iran
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Published: September 18, 2007
MOSCOW, Sept. 17 — France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

Skip to next paragraph
Stephane Ruet, via Associated Press
Bernard Kouchner said Sunday that it was “necessary to prepare” for war with Iran.
Attacked verbally by Iran and quietly criticized within his own government, Mr. Kouchner shifted the focus away from the threat of war and back to a call for hard negotiations as the way to force Iran to abandon key nuclear activities.

“The worst situation would be war,” Mr. Kouchner told journalists en route to Moscow. “And to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and work with our European friends on credible sanctions.”

On Sunday, Mr. Kouchner, a Socialist known for his blunt talk, said in an interview broadcast on RTL radio and LCI television: “We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves.”

Asked what he meant in referring to preparation, he replied, “It is necessary to prepare for the worst,” adding, “The worst, it’s war, sir.”

Asked again to explain himself, Mr. Kouchner announced that France was doing military contingency planning for an eventual war, saying, “We are preparing by trying first of all to put together plans that are the unique prerogative of the chiefs of staff, but that — it’s not for tomorrow.”

Lost in the off-the-cuff and freewheeling remarks about war planning was his other, less alarmist message: that France is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran, that no military action is planned and that he did not believe there would be an American military intervention while President Bush was in office.

But his remarks fueled speculation that France was moving closer to the Bush administration position that all options — including war — are on the table.

On Monday, Prime Minister François Fillon, a former labor and education minister, appeared to support Mr. Kouchner, adding to the sense that France’s stance had hardened.

Asked during a visit to an army base at Angoulême about Mr. Kouchner’s mention of war against Iran, Mr. Fillon replied, “The foreign affairs minister is right because everybody can see that the situation in the Near East is extremely tense and that it’s getting worse.”

Like Mr. Kouchner, he stressed that all steps must be taken to avoid war.

Adding to the confusion, the Foreign Ministry seemed to distance itself somewhat from Mr. Kouchner’s remarks. A deputy spokesman, Denis Simonneau, referred journalists on Monday to a speech President Nicolas Sarkozy made last month in which he also said Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not curb its nuclear program, but that such an outcome would be a disaster. He gave no indication that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.

The Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomatic missions around the world to use the same, more cautious, formulation, ministry officials said.

Mr. Kouchner’s reference to war on Sunday infuriated Iran, which accused France of moving closer to Washington.

“The use of such words creates tensions and is contrary to the cultural history and civilization of France,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Muhammad Ali Hosseini, in a statement on Monday.

An editorial in the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday said, “The new occupants of the Élysée want to copy the White House.”

In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called for calm. “I would not talk about any use of force,” he said.

Stressing that only the Security Council could authorize the use of force, he urged the world to remember the lesson of Iraq before considering military action against Iran. “We need to be cool,” he said.

Certainly, France under President Sarkozy has toughened its policy toward Iran. Mindful that a third round of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council is unlikely for at least several months, France has begun to push an initiative for separate European sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, also took a hard line against Iran’s nuclear program but was much less inclined to use sanctions, because, as he often said, he did not believe they were effective.

France’s foreign intelligence service has a shorter timeline for Iran’s prospects for producing a nuclear weapon than that of American intelligence, according to senior French officials. American intelligence analysts put that date between 2010 and 2015.

In Paris before heading to Moscow for bilateral talks on Iran and other issues, Mr. Kouchner said European countries should prepare their own sanctions outside of the United Nations.

“These would be European sanctions that each country, individually, must put in place with its own banking, commercial and industrial system,” he said. “The English and the Germans are interested in talking about this.”

While some officials inside the French government felt that Mr. Kouchner had done no harm with his mention of war, others said he should have been more disciplined in his choice of words.

“In an ideal world he wouldn’t have answered the questions in the way he did,” said one French official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on diplomatic issues. “His words were not completely thought out and scripted. It doesn’t mean there is a change of policy.”

Katrin Bennhold reported from Moscow, and Elaine Sciolino from Paris. Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Nicola Clark from Paris.
27544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 10:50:31 AM
Iran Warns German Banks: If You Leave, Don’t Come Back
August 23, 2007 | From
Financial broadsides between Berlin and Tehran could presage more dangerous exchanges in the future.

European financial institutions appear to be bowing to U.S. pressure to pull out of Iran. The Islamic Republic has responded by threatening to bar these entities from ever doing business in Iran again. The episode reveals mounting tensions between Iran and Europe that could grow much worse with time. reported the Financial Times Deutschland as saying “that European financial institutions feared losing out on lucrative business with the United States if they remained active in Iran, after U.S. officials threatened the banks’ boards with consequences.”
msnbc said the U.S. Treasury had conducted a “vigorous lobbying campaign” with banks worldwide to restrict their business with Iran.

Several European financial institutions have begun paring down their activities with Iranian customers as a result. On July 30, Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, said it will conclude its business in Iran this September.

Though the bank cited a lack of financial return on its investments there, observers noted that it made its decision shortly after receiving a visit from the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Now Iran has fired its first shot back. Tehran says any bank that withdraws from Iran won’t be welcome back.

“We’re not happy with [Deutsche Bank’s] decision,” said the vice governor of Iran’s central bank to Financial Times Deutschland. “There is no guarantee that one can return when the good times are here again.” He said competitors throughout the region and in Asia and Russia would fill the void left by Germany.
The German banks dismissively say they lose virtually nothing by pulling away from Iran.

Worth noting is that although Germany is heavily dependent upon oil imports, it appears to have weaned itself off Iranian oil this year.

27545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: September 18, 2007, 10:46:12 AM
Muslim Brotherhood's papers detail plan to seize U.S.

Group's takeover plot emerges in Holy Land case

07:37 AM CDT on Monday, September 17, 2007

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News

Amid the mountain of evidence released in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, the most provocative has turned out to be a handful of previously classified evidence detailing Islamist extremists' ambitious plans for a U.S. takeover. A knot of terrorism researchers say the memos and audiotapes, many translated from Arabic and containing detailed strategies by the international Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood, are proof that extremists have long sought to replace the Constitution with Shariah, or Islamic law.
But some academics and Muslim leaders say that the ideals contained in the documents were written by disgruntled foreign dissidents representing a tiny radical fringe. The documents also pre-date the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the 80-year-old Muslim Brotherhood is now either inactive or largely underground in America.

The documents – introduced in recent weeks as part of the prosecution's case in the trial of the now defunct Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers – lay out the Brotherhood's plans in chillingly stark terms. A 1991 strategy paper for the Brotherhood, often referred to as the Ikhwan in Arabic, found in the Virginia home of an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, describes the group's U.S. goals, referred to as a "civilization-jihadist process."
"The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions," it states. This process requires a "mastery of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.' "
Success in the U.S. "in establishing an observant Islamic base with power and effectiveness will be the best support and aid to the global movement," it states.
A transcript of a Brotherhood orientation meeting recorded in the early 1980s includes discussions of the need for "securing the group" from infiltration by "Zionism, Masonry ... the CIA, FBI, etc. so that we find out if they are monitoring us" and "how can we get rid of them." Discussions later turn to "weapons training at the Ikhwan's camps" in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Esam Omeish, president of the Virginia-based Muslim American Society, or MAS, says the documents introduced in the Holy Land trial are full of "abhorrent statements and are in direct conflict of the very principles of our Islam."
"The Muslim community in America wishes to contribute positively to the continued success and greatness of our civilization," Dr. Omeish said. "The ethics of tolerance and inclusion are the very tenets that MAS was based on from its inception."
His group, formed in 1993, is thought by many to be the Brotherhood's current incarnation in the U.S., although he and other MAS leaders say their group formed as an alternative to radicalism.
"MAS is not the Muslim Brotherhood," Dr. Omeish said. The society "grew out of a history of Islamic activism in the U.S. when the Muslim Brotherhood once existed but has a different intellectual paradigm and outlook."
Mahdi Bray, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, which promotes Muslim civil rights, called the Holy Land documents "a throwback." He has attended portions of the Holy Land trial.
"If those documents talk about the establishing of Shariah law in America, I'm saying that's a lot of hype: wishful thinking from an immigrant perspective. ... It doesn't reflect genuine American perspective in terms of where we're heading," Mr. Bray said.
He said members of MAS decided in 1993, when the organization was founded, that they would pursue political and nonviolent tactics.
"I wouldn't be candid if I didn't say there weren't some old-timers who want to hold onto the old way, who say that this is the way the Ikhwan did it, this should be our model," he said. "We said 'So what? It doesn't work here.' We've been very adamant about that."
Mr. Bray, an Islamic convert, has been criticized by some as being an apologist for terrorists, particularly for his condemnation of Israel's 2004 missile strike in the Palestinian Gaza Strip that killed Hamas' spiritual founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Mr. Bray says that although his politics are controversial, he's not anti-American.
"Those on the right and many of those who I would classify as Islamophobes, many of them have failed to realize that there is an authentic American Muslim organization here and movement in America that wants to integrate," he said. "We believe the ballot is an appropriate place to be."
He said that he "liked the Bill of Rights" and didn't want to see the Constitution replaced with Islamic law.
"There's a maturation that's taken place in the American Muslim community that's either not understood, or understood but viewed as a threat to other interest groups in this country."
There are those in the U.S. government who believe that the Brotherhood is the Bush administration's best chance for reaching out to moderate Islamists internationally.
The Brotherhood "works to dissuade the Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities," said Robert S. Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Program at The Nixon Center in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.
While he has not studied the Holy Land documents, Dr. Leiken said that the U.S. discussion on Islamic thought tends to be polarized and that what passes for scholarship is often more selective than rigorous.
"The more you study it, the more distinctions and differences should emerge," he said. "And scholars should see these distinctions. In Europe, these things are understood better, but in the U.S., they often get brushed aside in the heat of the debate."
27546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: September 18, 2007, 10:39:27 AM
Sent to me by a friend. 

Baghdad, IRQ
 Clear, 109°
·          Tuesday
 121° /  95°
·          Wednesday
 120° / 90°
·          Thursday
 115° /  88°
·          Friday, Saturday, Sunday
 114° / 87°
According to the weather reports, it is my understanding that it is 115 degrees in Iraq right now - and the low will be 90!   Our troops need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety. If it be God's will, give these men and women the strength they need to prevail.

I am sorry but I am not breaking this one.....Let us pray.

Prayer chain for our Military...please don't break it... Please send this on after a short prayer.

 Pray for our soldiers... 
"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.
Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their  families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. 
I ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen."

Prayer Request: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.
27547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 18, 2007, 09:33:23 AM
The Mukasey Nomination
Earth to Washington: Mukasey fits the job. Don't screw up this one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

If the legal issues that have most preoccupied Washington the past six years are suggestive, then President Bush has found the right man to be Attorney General in Michael Mukasey.

From the moment the White House proposed and Congress passed the Patriot Act after September 11, Washington has struggled to create a set of policies for the war on terror that weighs the role of civil liberties with the need to fight a determined and mortal enemy. Mr. Mukasey's professional life stood at the center of these tough legal issues six years before September 11.

As a federal judge in the southern district of New York, Judge Mukasey presided over the 1995 trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheikh," whom the government charged with a plot to blow up the United Nations building, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. After a nine-month trial and conviction, Judge Mukasey sentenced Abdel Rahman to life in prison.

In rejecting an appeal of that conviction, the Circuit Court said of Judge Mukasey's handling of the blind-sheikh case that he "presided with extraordinary skill and patience, assuring fairness to the prosecution and to each defendant and helpfulness to the jury. His was an outstanding achievement in the face of challenges far beyond those normally endured by a trial judge." Afterward, along with Judge Kevin Duffy who handled a related case, Judge Mukasey for years received protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, in response to credible threats against him.

That is to say, Judge Mukasey as well as any lawyer in the U.S., understands what is normal and what is not normal about the war on terror. As such he has more than adequate standing to discuss these matters with Congress, in good faith, and then preside over the Justice Department's administration of them.

It remains to discover whether Senate Democrats will be willing to engage Judge Mukasey at this level of seriousness, or whether their primary target remains the Bush Presidency itself. After Ted Olson's name was floated for the job last week, Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy put out a statement that the AG nominee must be willing to "act as an independent check on this administration's expansive claims of virtually unlimited executive power." We thought Senator Leahy's party had to win the Presidency before writing Justice Department policy.
In the past Judge Mukasey has shown he can push back hard against arid accusations. In 1994, William Kunstler argued that Mr. Mukasey's Judaism demanded recusal in the trial of an accused Muslim terrorist. Citing similar attempts against black judges and even Mormons, Judge Mukasey wrote: "The objection here is not based on race or sex or the Mormon religion, but the motion in this case is in all relevant ways the same as the motions in those cases. It is the same rancid wine in a different bottle."

Judge Mukasey has written op-ed articles for The Wall Street Journal defending the Patriot Act and describing the limitations of existing legal institutions and statutes to handle terrorist cases. On the latter, Judge Mukasey wrote that shaping an adjudicatory framework suitable for handling this special class of terror defendants is Congress's job. Congress, he said, needs to "fix a strained and mismatched legal system before another cataclysm calls forth from the people demands for hastier and harsher results."

If there is reason at all for concern in the Mukasey nomination, it would be that the level of seriousness he has brought to bear on these problems, from the bench and in his writings, has become largely alien to life in official Washington. Thus we wonder whether Judge Mukasey realizes how poisonous Washington has become and whether he has the hide to survive it.

Inside the Administration, he can probably resist those at the State Department who want to close Guantanamo, largely because they haven't offered a credible alternative. The bigger test will be the Democratic demand for a special counsel to investigate the U.S. attorney firings. He'll have to resist this assault on executive authority, even at the risk of not being confirmed.

Notwithstanding Judge Mukasey's past support from Senator Chuck Schumer (with the President's announcement, the Senator's inevitable caveats are already landing), the nomination is going to need active political cover from the White House. Its behavior the past several days makes that an open question.
After Ted Olson's name floated out of the Washington vapors last week, he was subjected to an absurd attack on his "partisanship" from Harry Reid and Mr. Leahy. Set aside that Mr. Olson is widely regarded as one of the nation's top Constitutional lawyers arguing cases before the Supreme Court or that he served as Solicitor General without a peep of partisan accusation.

Shorn of the rhetoric, Mr. Olson's offense was providing legal services to one party's political opponents, a standard that would disqualify half the D.C. bar from serving in a Clinton Administration. The upshot was that Mr. Bush angered natural allies by letting a loyal conservative take it in the neck for days, and he opened himself to the appearance of backing down against Mr. Reid's threat to block an Olson nomination.

Against all this, Michael Mukasey's nomination to be Attorney General is salutary. For the Democrats, it offers an opportunity to set aside wheel-spinning obsessions like the U.S. attorney firings and focus on the manifestly more serious issue of thwarting terror plots. As for the Bush Presidency, it at last may have an Attorney General who has the heft to make the legal case for the tools needed in this war.

Earth to Washington: You finally have the right man for the right job at the right time. Try not to screw this one up.

27548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 18, 2007, 09:28:29 AM
Another previous article by Mukasey from this morning's WSJ:

The Spirit of Liberty'
Before attacking the Patriot Act, try reading it.

Monday, September 17, 2007 2:00 p.m. EDT

(Editor's note: This morning President Bush nominated Judge Mukasey as attorney general. This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on this Web site May 10, 2004.)

Learned Hand, among the last century's greatest judges, defined the spirit of liberty 60 years ago as "the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." We must consider what message we can take from those words today.

We are now in a struggle with an extremism that expresses itself in the form of terror attacks, and in that we face what is probably the gravest threat to this country's institutions, if not to its physical welfare, since the Civil War. When one tries to assess people who can find it in themselves to fly airplanes into buildings and murder 3,000 of us in a single morning, whatever else you can say about such people, they are very sure that they are right; and wouldn't it be music to their ears to hear that our spirit says we're not too sure that we are right?

What measures we should take to protect ourselves, both abroad and at home, is now the subject of heated debate as we participate in a war against extremism, not so much to make the world safe for democracy as to achieve a more modest-sounding but, I would suggest, no less important goal--to make the world safe for us. Regrettably, like many debates, our current one already has seen its share of half-truths and outright falsehoods.
They began right after Sept. 11, when some claimed that FBI agents were rounding up Muslim Arabs wholesale and holding them incommunicado. That accusation seems dubious on its face when you consider that the FBI has only about 12,000 agents world-wide. That is not many when you realize that they investigate not only terrorism, but also every other federal crime aside from counterfeiting, tax evasion and mail fraud; that they share responsibility for drug investigations with the Drug Enforcement Administration--a pretty hefty set of assignments--and that they had numerous leads as to those responsible for the attack on Sept. 11. Under those circumstances--with many leads to work on and relatively few agents to do that work--does it really stand to reason that they spent their time rounding people up based on nothing other than religion and ethnicity?

No doubt there were people taken into custody, whether on immigration warrants or material witness warrants, who in retrospect should not have been. If those people have grievances redressable under the law, those grievances can be redressed. But we should keep in mind that any investigation conducted by fallible human beings in the aftermath of an attack is bound to be either overinclusive or underinclusive. There are consequences both ways. The consequences of overinclusiveness include condemnations. The consequences of underinclusiveness include condolences.

More recently, a statute called the USA Patriot Act has become the focus of a good deal of hysteria, some of it reflexive, much of it recreational.

My favorite example is the well-publicized resolution of the American Library Association condemning what the librarians claim to believe is a section of the statute that authorizes the FBI to obtain library records and to investigate people based on the books they take out. Some of the membership have announced a policy of destroying records so that they do not fall into the hands of the FBI.

First a word on the organization that gives us this news. The motto of this organization is "Free people read freely." When it was called to their attention that there are 10 librarians languishing in Cuban prisons for encouraging their fellow countrymen to read freely, an imprisonment that has been condemned by Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, among others, this association declined to vote any resolution of condemnation, although they did find time at their convention to condemn their own government.

In addition to the library association, many towns and villages across the country, notably Berkeley, Calif., and Amherst, Mass., have announced that they will not cooperate with any effort to gather evidence under the statute. A former vice president has called for the statute's repeal, and a former presidential candidate has called the act "morally wrong," "shameful" and "unconstitutional."

I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism." You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.
Most of the provisions have nothing to do with the current debate, including provisions authorizing purchase of equipment for police departments and the like, and provisions tightening restrictions on money laundering, including restrictions on the export of currency, which is the lifeblood of terrorists. Recall that when Saddam Hussein was captured, he had with him $750,000 in $100 bills.

The statute also breaks down the wall that has separated intelligence gathering from criminal investigation. It allows intelligence information to be shared with criminal investigators, and information that criminal investigators unearth to be shared with those conducting intelligence investigations. I think many people would believe this makes sense, although a series of bureaucratic decisions and a stark misreading of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for years made this impossible, and thus prevented the government from fulfilling its most basic responsibility under the Constitution: "to provide for the common defense [and] promote the general Welfare."

What difference would this make? Well, there is one documented incident involving an FBI intelligence agent on the West Coast who was trying to find two men on a watch list who he realized had entered the country. He tried to get help from the criminal investigative side of the FBI, but headquarters intervened and said that was not allowed. That happened in August 2001. The two men he was looking for were named Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. A few weeks later, on Sept. 11, they were at the controls of the airplane that struck the Pentagon. This provision of the statute, permitting information sharing, could not pass Congress without an agreement that it would sunset on Dec. 31, 2005, and so unless that provision is changed, come Jan. 1, 2006, we will be back to the rules that prevailed in August 2001.

The provisions in the law that have generated the most opposition have to do with investigative techniques, including electronic surveillance and the gathering of business records. The electronic surveillance provisions give investigators access to cable-based communications, such as e-mail, on the same basis as they have long had access to telephone communications, and give them access to telephone communications in national security cases on the same basis on which they already have such access in drug cases.

I think most people would have been surprised and somewhat dismayed to learn that before the Patriot Act was passed, an FBI agent could apply to a court for a roving wiretap if a drug dealer switched cell phones, as they often do, but not if an identified agent of a foreign terrorist organization did; and could apply for a wiretap to investigate illegal sports betting, but not to investigate a potentially catastrophic computer hacking attack, the killing of U.S. nationals abroad, or the giving of material support to a terrorist organization. Violations like those simply were not on the list of offenses for which wiretaps could be authorized.

The statute also codifies the procedure for issuing and executing what are called "sneak and peek" warrants that allow agents, with court authorization, to enter premises, examine what is there and then leave. These warrants had been issued by courts before the Patriot Act was passed, including my own court--although I have never issued one myself--on the fairly simple logic that if it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to enter premises and seize things, it should also be reasonable to enter premises and not seize things. The statute permits agents to delay disclosure of their presence to the person who controls the premises, again with court authorization. Here too, the logic seems obvious: If you leave behind a note saying "Good afternoon, Mr. bin Laden, we were here," that might betray the existence of an investigation and cause the subjects to flee or destroy evidence. There are analogous provisions that were in existence long before the Patriot Act permitting a delay in notifying people who are overheard on wiretaps, and for the same reason.

What about the section the librarians were so concerned about, Section 215? Well, it bears some mention that the word library appears nowhere in that section. What the section does authorize is the issuance of subpoenas for tangible things, including business records, but only upon approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Such a subpoena can direct everyone, including the record keeper, not to disclose the subpoena to anyone, including to the person whose records were obtained. That section also specifically forbids investigation of a citizen or a lawful alien solely on the basis of activity protected by the First Amendment. It requires that the Justice Department report to Congress every six months on subpoenas issued under it. At last report, there have been no such subpoenas issued to libraries. Indeed, there have been no such subpoenas, period.

Let me hasten to add that it is not impossible to imagine how library records might prove highly relevant, as they did in one case, very much pre-9/11--the case of the "Unabomber," Ted Kaczynski. Some of you may recall that Kaczynski was apprehended soon after a newspaper agreed to publish his manifesto, and was caught based principally on a tip from his brother, who read the manifesto, and recognized the rhetoric. But one of the ways that tip was proved accurate was through examination of library records, which disclosed that the three arcane books cited in the manifesto had been checked out to Ted Kaczynski from a local library--a devastating bit of corroborative circumstantial evidence.

Like any other act of Congress, the Patriot Act should be scrutinized, criticized and, if necessary, amended. But in order to scrutinize and criticize it, it helps to read what is actually in it. It helps not to conduct the debate in terms that suggest it gives the government the power to investigate us based on what we read, or that people who work for the government actually have the inclination to do such a thing, not to mention the spare time.

As we participate in this debate on what is the right course to pursue, I think it is important to remember an interesting structural feature of the Constitution we all revere. When we speak of constitutional rights, we generally speak of rights that appear not in the original Constitution itself, but rather in amendments to the Constitution--principally the first 10. Those amendments are a noble work, but it is the rest of the Constitution--the boring part--the part that sets up a bicameral legislature and separation of powers, and so on, the part you will never see mentioned in any flyer or hear at any rally, that guarantees that the rights referred to in those 10 amendments are worth something more than the paper they are written on.
A bill of rights was omitted from the original Constitution over the objections of Patrick Henry and others. It may well be that those who drafted the original Constitution understood that if you give equal prominence to the provisions creating the government and the provisions guaranteeing rights against the government--God-given rights, no less, according to the Declaration of Independence--then citizens will feel that much less inclined to sacrifice in behalf of their government, and that much more inclined simply to go where their rights and their interests seem to take them.

So, as the historian Walter Berns has argued, the built-in message--the hidden message in the structure of the Constitution--is that the government it establishes is entitled, at least in the first instance, to receive from its citizens the benefit of the doubt. If we keep that in mind, then the spirit of liberty will be the spirit which, if it is not too sure that it is right, is at least sure enough to keep itself--and us--alive.

Mr. Mukasey is chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. This is adapted from a speech he gave last Wednesday, on his acceptance of the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence.
27549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 18, 2007, 09:26:50 AM
G'morning GM:

That's a very nice hope.

My understanding is that Mexico's population is about 120 million-- i.e. about 10% of them are here.  Now imagine those folks back home and restless.  Imagine the money that they send home (quite a huge sum and a major factor for the Mexican economy) dried up.  Did you follow their most recent election and its aftermath? 

This thread here, started relatively recently, has posted mostly on the growing challenge to Mexican society and its government posed by the drug gangs increasing military power, but there is much more than that going on.  On our Spanish language forum, there is a thread dedicated to Mexico.  Many of the posts are in English.  For a serious student of our country's welfare such as yourself, it is recommended reading.

27550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 18, 2007, 09:14:04 AM
Jose Padilla Makes Bad Law
Terror trials hurt the nation even when they lead to convictions.

Monday, September 17, 2007 2:00 p.m. EDT

(Editor's note: This morning President Bush nominated Mr. Mukasey as attorney general. This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on this Web site Aug. 22.)

The apparently conventional ending to Jose Padilla's trial last week--conviction on charges of conspiring to commit violence abroad and providing material assistance to a terrorist organization--gives only the coldest of comfort to anyone concerned about how our legal system deals with the threat he and his co-conspirators represent. He will be sentenced--likely to a long if not a life-long term of imprisonment. He will appeal. By the time his appeals run out he will have engaged the attention of three federal district courts, three courts of appeal and on at least one occasion the Supreme Court of the United States.

It may be claimed that Padilla's odyssey is a triumph for due process and the rule of law in wartime. Instead, when it is examined closely, this case shows why current institutions and statutes are not well suited to even the limited task of supplementing what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism.

Padilla's current journey through the legal system began on May 8, 2002, when a federal district court in New York issued, and FBI agents in Chicago executed, a warrant to arrest him when he landed at O'Hare Airport after a trip that started in Pakistan. His prior history included a murder charge in Chicago before his 18th birthday, and a firearms possession offense in Florida shortly after his release on the murder charge.
Padilla then journeyed to Egypt, where, as a convert to Islam, he took the name Abdullah al Muhajir, and traveled to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He eventually came to the attention of Abu Zubaydeh, a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden. The information underlying the warrant issued for Padilla indicated that he had returned to America to explore the possibility of locating radioactive material that could be dispersed with a conventional explosive--a device known as a dirty bomb.

However, Padilla was not detained on a criminal charge. Rather, he was arrested on a material witness warrant, issued under a statute (more than a century old) that authorizes the arrest of someone who has information likely to be of interest to a grand jury investigating a crime, but whose presence to testify cannot be assured. A federal grand jury in New York was then investigating the activities of al Qaeda.

The statute was used frequently after 9/11, when the government tried to investigate numerous leads and people to determine whether follow-on attacks were planned--but found itself without a statute that authorized investigative detention on reasonable suspicion, of the sort available to authorities in Britain and France, among other countries. And so, the U.S. government subpoenaed and arrested on a material witness warrant those like Padilla who seemed likely to have information.

Next the government took one of several courses: it released the person whose detention appeared on a second look to have been a mistake; or obtained the information he was thought to have, and his cooperation, and released him; or placed him before a grand jury with a grant of immunity under a compulsion to testify truthfully and, if he testified falsely, charge him with perjury; or developed independent evidence of criminality sufficiently reliable and admissible to warrant charging him.

Each individual so arrested was brought immediately before a federal judge where he was assigned counsel, had a bail hearing, and was permitted to challenge the basis for his detention, just as a criminal defendant would be.

The material witness statute has its perils. Because the law does not authorize investigative detention, the government had only a limited time in which to let Padilla testify, prosecute him or let him go. As that limited time drew to a close, the government changed course. It withdrew the grand jury subpoena that had triggered his designation as a material witness, designated Padilla instead as an unlawful combatant, and transferred him to military custody.

The reason? Perhaps it was because the initial claim, that Padilla was involved in a dirty bomb plot, could not be proved with evidence admissible in an ordinary criminal trial. Perhaps it was because to try him in open court potentially would compromise sources and methods of intelligence gathering. Or perhaps it was because Padilla's apparent contact with higher-ups in al Qaeda made him more valuable as a potential intelligence source than as a defendant.

The government's quandary here was real. The evidence that brought Padilla to the government's attention may have been compelling, but inadmissible. Hearsay is the most obvious reason why that could be so; or the source may have been such that to disclose it in a criminal trial could harm the government's overall effort.

In fact, terrorism prosecutions in this country have unintentionally provided terrorists with a rich source of intelligence. For example, in the course of prosecuting Omar Abdel Rahman (the so-called "blind sheik") and others for their role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other crimes, the government was compelled--as it is in all cases that charge conspiracy--to turn over a list of unindicted co-conspirators to the defendants.
That list included the name of Osama bin Laden. As was learned later, within 10 days a copy of that list reached bin Laden in Khartoum, letting him know that his connection to that case had been discovered.

Again, during the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, an apparently innocuous bit of testimony in a public courtroom about delivery of a cell phone battery was enough to tip off terrorists still at large that one of their communication links had been compromised. That link, which in fact had been monitored by the government and had provided enormously valuable intelligence, was immediately shut down, and further information lost.

The unlawful combatant designation affixed to Padilla certainly was not unprecedented. In June 1942, German saboteurs landed from submarines off the coasts of Florida and Long Island and were eventually apprehended. Because they were not acting as ordinary soldiers fighting in uniform and carrying arms openly, they were in violation of the laws of war and not entitled to Geneva Conventions protections.

Indeed, at the direction of President Roosevelt they were not only not held as prisoners of war but were tried before a military court in Washington, D.C., convicted, and--except for two who had cooperated--executed, notwithstanding the contention by one of them that he was an American citizen, as is Padilla, and thus entitled to constitutional protections. The Supreme Court dismissed that contention as irrelevant.

In any event, Padilla was transferred to a brig in South Carolina, and the Supreme Court eventually held that he had the right to file a habeas corpus petition. His case wound its way back up the appellate chain, and after the government secured a favorable ruling from the Fourth Circuit, it changed course again.

Now, Padilla was transferred back to the civilian justice system. Although he reportedly confessed to the dirty bomb plot while in military custody, that statement--made without benefit of legal counsel--could not be used. He was instead indicted on other charges in the Florida case that took three months to try and ended with last week's convictions.

The history of Padilla's case helps illustrate in miniature the inadequacy of the current approach to terrorism prosecutions.
First, consider the overall record. Despite the growing threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates--beginning with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and continuing through later plots including inter alia the conspiracy to blow up airliners over the Pacific in 1994, the attack on the American barracks at Khobar Towers in 1996, the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the bombing of the Cole in Aden in 2000, and the attack on Sept. 11, 2001--criminal prosecutions have yielded about three dozen convictions, and even those have strained the financial and security resources of the federal courts near to the limit.

Second, consider that such prosecutions risk disclosure to our enemies of methods and sources of intelligence that can then be neutralized. Disclosure not only puts our secrets at risk, but also discourages allies abroad from sharing information with us lest it wind up in hostile hands.

And third, consider the distortions that arise from applying to national security cases generally the rules that apply to ordinary criminal cases.

On one end of the spectrum, the rules that apply to routine criminals who pursue finite goals are skewed, and properly so, to assure that only the highest level of proof will result in a conviction. But those rules do not protect a society that must gather information about, and at least incapacitate, people who have cosmic goals that they are intent on achieving by cataclysmic means.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is said to have told his American captors that he wanted a lawyer and would see them in court. If the Supreme Court rules--in a case it has agreed to hear relating to Guantanamo detainees--that foreigners in U.S. custody enjoy the protection of our Constitution regardless of the place or circumstances of their apprehension, this bold joke could become a reality.

The director of an organization purporting to protect constitutional rights has announced that his goal is to unleash a flood of lawyers on Guantanamo so as to paralyze interrogation of detainees. Perhaps it bears mention that one unintended outcome of a Supreme Court ruling exercising jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees may be that, in the future, capture of terrorism suspects will be forgone in favor of killing them. Or they may be put in the custody of other countries like Egypt or Pakistan that are famously not squeamish in their approach to interrogation--a practice, known as rendition, followed during the Clinton administration.

At the other end of the spectrum, if conventional legal rules are adapted to deal with a terrorist threat, whether by relaxed standards for conviction, searches, the admissibility of evidence or otherwise, those adaptations will infect and change the standards in ordinary cases with ordinary defendants in ordinary courts of law.

What is to be done? The Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 appear to address principally the detainees at Guantanamo. In any event, the Supreme Court's recently announced determination to review cases involving the Guantanamo detainees may end up making commissions, which the administration delayed in convening, no longer possible.
There have been several proposals for a new adjudicatory framework, notably by Andrew C. McCarthy and Alykhan Velshi of the Center for Law & Counterterrorism, and by former Deputy Attorney General George J. Terwilliger. Messrs. McCarthy and Velshi have urged the creation of a separate national security court staffed by independent, life-tenured judges to deal with the full gamut of national security issues, from intelligence gathering to prosecution. Mr. Terwilliger's more limited proposals address principally the need to incapacitate dangerous people, by using legal standards akin to those developed to handle civil commitment of the mentally ill.

These proposals deserve careful scrutiny by the public, and particularly by the U.S. Congress. It is Congress that authorized the use of armed force after Sept. 11--and it is Congress that has the constitutional authority to establish additional inferior courts as the need may be, or even to modify the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction.

Perhaps the world's greatest deliberative body (the Senate) and the people's house (the House of Representatives) could, while we still have the leisure, turn their considerable talents to deliberating how to fix a strained and mismatched legal system, before another cataclysm calls forth from the people demands for hastier and harsher results.

Mr. Mukasey was the district judge who signed the material witness warrant authorizing Jose Padilla's arrest in 2002, and who handled the case while it remained in the Southern District of New York. He was also the trial judge in United States v. Abdel Rahman et al. Retired from the bench, he is now a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler in New York.

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