Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: June 28, 2007, 06:21:36 PM
For the record, IMHO
a) Strom Thurmond was a nasty cracker
b) Robert Byrd is a gaseous windbag, a hypcirite and an unprincipled slut
c) Trent Lott is an unprincipled slut
d) Sean Hannity, after a decent start, has rapidly become an unprincipled slut and partyline hack.
e) I've never heard Savage and only heard Beck once. His IQ seemed quite moderate.
f) Who is Phil Hendrie?
g) Sometimes Rush is a windbag. Sometimes he is a partyline hack. Often he has some good points.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 28, 2007, 01:18:40 AM
Actually, with all members of the Council of Elders in attendance, quite a few warriors were ascended. A very incomplete list off the top of my head follows-- if you belong on it but aren't please let me know.
Ascending to the grand exalted status of Dog Brother:
New Candidate Dog Brothers:
Greame "C-Scotty Dog" Higgins
Tim "C-Iforgethischosenname" Ferguson
Oli "C-Ghost Dog" _______
Again, if your name does not appear on the list but should, please email me at Craftydog@dogbrothers.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: June 28, 2007, 01:08:59 AM
Iran: Is Fuel Rationing a Spark in a Powder Keg?
Iranians reportedly rioted June 27 over the government's move to engage in fuel rationing. Given Iran's lack of refining capabilities, Tehran is trying to control public gasoline consumption. The move, which at this stage is being implemented in a controlled fashion, is highly risky since it could lead to greater social and political unrest.
As many as 50 gasoline stations were reportedly torched early June 27 in Iran as angry citizens protested fuel rationing measures. There are additional unconfirmed reports that gasoline stations in several other cities across the country were also burned. Elsewhere, protesters reportedly blocked the main highway in Tehran, and clashes were said to have led to at least three deaths.
This unrest came in the 24 hours after the government -- in an effort to curb the public's gasoline consumption -- imposed a system of fuel rationing that allows consumers 26.4 gallons per month (15.8 gallons if they use compressed natural gas). A long and intense back-and-forth has been taking place between Iran's parliament, which wanted to raise prices, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration, which favored rationing for fear of increasing inflation, already at 17 percent. In the end, the government did a bit of both. On May 22, a 25 percent hike was introduced, setting the new price at roughly 42 cents per gallon, followed by rationing, which is being instituted via a smart card system.
The reasons for the price hike and rations are rooted in Iran's chronic lack of refining facilities. Though Iran is a major crude oil exporter, it must import 7.9 million gallons of gasoline per day to meet demand. In 2006, Iran spent some $5 billion on gasoline imports from some 16 countries, with most coming from the United Arab Emirates. The current budget has an allocation of $2.5 billion. The difference in the figures from last year and this year has led to a situation in which, according to National Iranian Oil Co. International Affairs Director Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, Tehran can afford gasoline supplies until roughly the middle of August, while the current fiscal year ends in March 2008.
The government will be forced to revise its rationing and import policies based on the results of the current rationing system, which is more or less a pilot program, because Tehran wants to cut down on its multibillion-dollar annual fuel import expenditures. The idea is to allocate money away from subsidized fuel and toward infrastructure projects.
Tehran is also trying to counter the rising demand for fuel, which has been growing at 10 percent annually. Moreover, the decision also factors in the uncertainty surrounding Iran's international position; additional sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program could put the clerical regime in even more of a crunch. The rationing also allows Iran's pragmatic conservatives, led by Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to weaken the ultraconservatives, led by Ahmadinejad, by fueling public dissatisfaction with the president, in hopes that it could eventually lead to his exit from the political scene. The maverick leader is increasingly viewed as a liability in terms of domestic politics, and especially on the foreign policy front.
Actual rationale notwithstanding, the move is very risky because there is no such thing as managed chaos. The unrest generated by the fuel rationing could spiral out of control and threaten the entire system -- not just the ultraconservative administration. It is true that the Islamic republic has proven to be resilient since it was founded more than 28 years ago, and the clerical regime has managed to contain opposition forces so that none poses a challenge to the state. But tampering with public need for fuel could create the kind of unrest capable of seriously wounding the regime, especially at a time when it is playing a high-stakes game with the United States over Iraq and pursuing a controversial nuclear program.
Considering that Iran is in the middle of negotiations with Washington, this rationing policy could reveal Iranian vulnerability, which Washington might use as leverage against Tehran. Iran would not be engaging in such a move unless it was really financially pressed into doing so.
Ultimately, the regime hopes the negotiations over Iraq and its nuclear program will allow it to come out from underneath international sanctions, which will allow Tehran to acquire refining capabilities and reap other economic benefits. But until that happens, the Iranians are walking on thin ice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Du Pont on Immigration
on: June 27, 2007, 09:17:46 AM
How to protect the borders while welcoming the immigrants America needs.
BY PETE DU PONT
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The immigration bill may be back on the Senate floor this week, and the policies that are adopted will have a significant impact on the sovereignty, security, economic growth and opportunity of America in the coming decades.
America's modern immigration trend began in 1986 when President Reagan's bill granted amnesty to some three million illegal immigrants yet failed to improve border security. That amnesty sent a message to people across the border: If you slip into America you will be able to work and live here, and nothing negative will happen to you. Almost 20 years went by before any serious effort was undertaken to secure our borders, so that three million 1986 illegal immigrants have turned into 12 million today. About eight million people have entered the U.S. during the current Bush administration, half or more illegally, and according to the Washington Post, undocumented workers now make up "about 5 percent of all employees nationally."
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorized 750 miles of fence to be built along our border with Mexico, where almost all of our illegal immigrants enter--over 80% of them come from Mexico and Latin American countries--but only about 150 miles of that border fence will have been built by the end of this year.
With this growing influx of illegal entrants into America, there are five essential actions the Senate should take next week:
First, secure the Mexican border so that America is closed to illegal immigration. Controlling our borders is essential to our national security. The additional 600 miles of border fencing authorized by the 2006 law must immediately be built; and we must add surveillance technology and more border security agents to our entire southern border. President Bush has agreed to add an upfront $4.4 billion to the bill to strengthen border security, enforce our immigration law, and prosecute employers who hire illegal workers--a good first step to solve our illegal immigration problems.
Second, make sure the bill contains the provisions of the Isakson Rule (proposed by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R., Ga.) that no other immigration reform programs can be implemented until the border is secure.
Third, once the border has been secured, require tamper-proof ID cards of all immigrants. Today there are no such cards, and verifiable identification is essential to both immigration policy and national security. We must know who is entering our country and what their background is.
Fourth, identify the skills required for the jobs immigrants need to fill, so that immigration policy will reflect America's economic needs. The Senate bill contains a merit-based system for evaluating immigration applicants. It encourages higher education, those skilled in specialist occupations (including scientists, engineers and technicians) and people who have previously worked in America and speak English. Working skills should be the focus of our immigration policy, so we must move from the current "chain migration" policy which gives preference to extended families of current immigrants--like sisters, cousins, uncles, and grandparents, to one that admits the skilled working people we need. Sen. Barack Obama tried to sunset this merit program after five years, and fortunately his attempt was defeated.
Fifth, get rid of the existing "visa lottery" that randomly selects 50,000 immigrants from the application list each year. An effective immigration policy isn't based on gambling.
These are the essential elements of any immigration policy, and all must must be enacted to have both a secure America and enough guest workers for a prosperous society. Passage of them would greatly improve our immigration system, our economy, and the quality of our workforce.
Then comes the difficult question of what to do about the aforementioned 12 million undocumented aliens who are in the country already. Sen. Ted Kennedy proposes allowing them to stay indefinitely and pursue citizenship. They would have to apply for a Z visa (temporary legal status) by admitting they have broken the law, pay an initial $1,000 fine, and submit to a background check. They would still not then eligible for welfare benefits or food stamps, and if they wanted a green card and permanent legal status, they would have to pay an additional $4,000 fine, learn English, and then return to their home countries to file for it. The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that some 15% to 20% of the 12 million illegal immigrants in America have criminal records and would be ineligible for Z visas or green cards.
Granting blanket amnesty to the 12 million illegal immigrants would be abandoning the rule of law, and deporting them would be difficult and chaotic. So a serious, enforceable visa plan makes sense.
America's illegal immigrant admission has accelerated over time. Congress and President Reagan granted amnesty to three million illegal aliens in 1986; and the current President Bush wants to legalize another 12 million now, which sends an arithmetic signal to other immigrants who want to slip into America that 20 years from now whoever is president will perhaps grant amnesty to 48 million illegal immigrants.
We do need to secure our borders, issue legal ID cards to immigrants, and admit people skilled in the jobs we need to fill. But experience shows that our government lacks the political will to enforce such an immigration policy. Georgia state employee Reagan W. Dean was recently quoted in the New York Times: "Maybe it is possible to secure the border. Maybe it is possible to establish an employee identification system. But I don't have any confidence it will be done."
Many Americans agree with him, so a serious and substantive bill that would restore the people's confidence is the Senate's task this week.
Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His column appears once a month.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Evo-Devo part two
on: June 27, 2007, 09:03:58 AM
Page 4 of 5)
Last year, Dr. Shubin and colleagues reported the discovery of a fossil fish
on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. They had found Tiktaalik, as they
named the fish, after searching for six years. They persisted for so long
because they were certain that they had found the right age and kind of rock
where a fossil of a fish trying to make the transition to life on land was
likely to be found. And Tiktaalik appeared to be just such a fish, but it
also had a few surprises for the researchers.
"Tiktaalik is special," Dr. Shubin said. "It has a flat head with eyes on
top. It has gills and lungs. It's an animal that's exploring the interface
between water and land."
But Tiktaalik was a truly stunning discovery because this water-loving fish
bore wrists, an attribute thought to have been an innovation confined
strictly to animals that had already made the transition to land.
"This was telling us that a piece of the toolkit, to make arms, legs, hand
and feet, could very well be present in fish limbs," Dr. Shubin said. In
other words, the genetic tools or toolkit genes for making limbs to walk on
land might well have been present long before fish made that critical leap.
But as fascinating as Tiktaalik was, it was also rock hard and provided no
DNA that might shed light on the presence or absence of any particular gene.
So Dr. Shubin did what more and more evo-devo researchers are learning to
do: take off one hat (paleontologist) and don another (molecular biologist).
Dr. Shubin oversees one of what he says is a small but growing number of
laboratories where old-fashioned rock-pounding takes place alongside
high-tech molecular DNA studies.
He and colleagues began a study of the living but ancient fish known as the
paddlefish. What they found, reported last month in the journal Nature, was
that these thoroughly fishy fish were turning on control genes known as Hox
genes, in a manner characteristic of the four-limbed, land-loving beasts
known as tetrapods.
Tetrapods include cows, people, birds, rodents and so on. In other words,
the potential for making fingers, hands and feet, crucial innovations used
in emerging from the water to a life of walking and crawling on land,
appears to have been present in fish, long before they began flip-flopping
their way out of the muck. "The genetic tools to build fingers and toes were
in place for a long time," Dr. Shubin wrote in an e-mail message. "Lacking
were the environmental conditions where these structures would be useful."
He added, "Fingers arose when the right environments arose."
And here is another of the main themes to emerge from evo-devo. Major events
in evolution like the transition from life in the water to life on land are
not necessarily set off by the arising of the genetic mutations that will
build the required body parts, or even the appearance of the body parts
themselves, as had long been assumed. Instead, it is theorized that the
right ecological situation, the right habitat in which such bold, new forms
will prove to be particularly advantageous, may be what is required to set
these major transitions in motion.
So far, most of the evo-devo work has been on animals, but researchers have
begun to ask whether the same themes are being played out in plants.
Of particular interest to botanists is what Darwin described as an
"abominable mystery": the origin of flowering plants. A critical event in
the evolution of plants, it happened, by paleontological standards, rather
So what genes were involved in the origin of flowers? Botanists know that
during development, the genes known as MADS box genes lay out the
architecture of the blossom. They do so by turning on other genes, thereby
determining what will develop where - petals here, reproductive parts there
and so on, in much the same manner that Hox genes determine the general
layout of parts in animals. Hox genes have had an important role in the
evolution of animal form. But have MADS box genes had as central a role in
the evolution of plants?
Page 5 of 5)
So far, said Dr. Vivian F. Irish, a developmental biologist at Yale
University, the answer appears to be yes. There is a variety of
circumstantial evidence, the most interesting of which is the fact that the
MADS box genes exploded in number right around the time that flowering
plants first appeared.
"It's really analogous to what's going on in Hox genes," said Dr. Irish,
though she noted that details of the role of the MADS box genes remained to
be worked out. "It's very cool that evolution has used a similar strategy in
two very different kingdoms."
Amid the enthusiast hubbub, cautionary notes have been sounded. Dr. Jerry
Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, said that as
dramatic as the changes in form caused by mutations in toolkit genes can be,
it was premature to credit these genes with being the primary drivers of the
evolution of novel forms and diversity. He said that too few studies had
been done so far to support such broad claims, and that it could turn out
that other, more mundane workaday genes, of the sort that were being studied
long before evo-devo appeared on the scene, would play equally or even more
"I urge caution," Dr. Coyne said. "We just don't know."
All of which goes to show that like all emerging fields, evo-devo's
significance and the uniqueness of its contributions will continue to be
reassessed. It will remain to be seen just how separate or incorporated into
the rest of evolutionary thinking its findings will end up being.
Paradoxically, it was during just such a flurry of intellectual synthesis
and research activity, the watershed known as the New or Modern Synthesis in
which modern evolutionary biology was born in the last century, that
developmental thinking was almost entirely ejected from the science of
But perhaps today synthesizers can do better, broadening their focus without
constricting their view of evolution as they try to take in all of the great
pageant that is the history of life.
"We're still a very young field," Dr. Gilbert said. "But I think this is a
new evolutionary synthesis, an emerging evolutionary synthesis. I think we're
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Evo-Devo part one
on: June 27, 2007, 08:26:08 AM
From a Few Genes, Life's Myriad Shapes
By CAROL KAESUK YOON
Published: June 26, 2007
Since its humble beginnings as a single cell, life has evolved into a
spectacular array of shapes and sizes, from tiny fleas to towering
Tyrannosaurus rex, from slow-soaring vultures to fast-swimming swordfish,
and from modest ferns to alluring orchids. But just how such diversity of
form could arise out of evolution's mess of random genetic mutations - how a
functional wing could sprout where none had grown before, or how flowers
could blossom in what had been a flowerless world - has remained one of the
most fascinating and intractable questions in evolutionary biology.
Now finally, after more than a century of puzzling, scientists are finding
answers coming fast and furious and from a surprising quarter, the field
known as evo-devo. Just coming into its own as a science, evo-devo is the
combined study of evolution and development, the process by which a nubbin
of a fertilized egg transforms into a full-fledged adult. And what these
scientists are finding is that development, a process that has for more than
half a century been largely ignored in the study of evolution, appears to
have been one of the major forces shaping the history of life on earth.
For starters, evo-devo researchers are finding that the evolution of complex
new forms, rather than requiring many new mutations or many new genes as had
long been thought, can instead be accomplished by a much simpler process
requiring no more than tweaks to already existing genes and developmental
plans. Stranger still, researchers are finding that the genes that can be
tweaked to create new shapes and body parts are surprisingly few. The same
DNA sequences are turning out to be the spark inciting one evolutionary
flowering after another. "Do these discoveries blow people's minds? Yes,"
said Dr. Sean B. Carroll, biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "The first response is 'Huh?' and
the second response is 'Far out.' "
"This is the illumination of the utterly dark," Dr. Carroll added.
The development of an organism - how one end gets designated as the head or
the tail, how feet are enticed to grow at the end of a leg rather than at
the wrist - is controlled by a hierarchy of genes, with master genes at the
top controlling a next tier of genes, controlling a next and so on. But the
real interest for evolutionary biologists is that these hierarchies not only
favor the evolution of certain forms but also disallow the growth of others,
determining what can and cannot arise not only in the course of the growth
of an embryo, but also over the history of life itself.
"It's been said that classical evolutionary theory looks at survival of the
fittest," said Dr. Scott F. Gilbert, a developmental biologist at Swarthmore
College. By looking at what sorts of organisms are most likely or impossible
to develop, he explained, "evo-devo looks at the arrival of the fittest."
Charles Darwin saw it first. He pointed out well over a century ago that
developing forms of life would be central to the study of evolution. Little
came of it initially, for a variety of reasons. Not least of these was the
discovery that perturbing the process of development often resulted in a
freak show starring horrors like bipedal goats and insects with legs growing
out of their mouths, monstrosities that seemed to shed little light on the
wonders of evolution.
But the advent of molecular biology reinvigorated the study of development
in the 1980s, and evo-devo quickly got scientists' attention when early
breakthroughs revealed that the same master genes were laying out
fundamental body plans and parts across the animal kingdom. For example,
researchers discovered that genes in the Pax6 family could switch on the
development of eyes in animals as different as flies and people. More recent
work has begun looking beyond the body's basic building blocks to reveal how
changes in development have resulted in some of the world's most celebrated
of evolutionary events.
In one of the most exciting of the new studies, a team of scientists led by
Dr. Cliff Tabin, a developmental biologist at Harvard Medical School,
investigated a classic example of evolution by natural selection, the
evolution of Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands.
Like the other organisms that made it to the remote archipelago off the
coast of Ecuador, Darwin's finches have flourished in their isolation,
evolving into many and varied species. But, while the finches bear his name
and while Darwin was indeed inspired to thoughts of evolution by animals on
these islands, the finches left him flummoxed. Darwin did not realize for
quite some time that these birds were all finches or even that they were
related to one another.
(Page 2 of 5)
He should be forgiven, however. For while the species are descendants of an
original pioneering finch, they no longer bear its characteristic short,
slender beak, which is excellent for hulling tiny seeds. In fact, the
finches no longer look very finchlike at all. Adapting to the strange new
foods of the islands, some have evolved taller, broader, more powerful
nut-cracking beaks; the most impressive of the big-beaked finches is
Geospiza magnirostris. Other finches have evolved longer bills that are
ideal for drilling holes into cactus fruits to get at the seeds; Geospiza
conirostris is one species with a particularly elongated beak.
But how could such bills evolve from a simple finch beak? Scientists had
assumed that the dramatic alterations in beak shape, height, width and
strength would require the accumulation of many chance mutations in many
different genes. But evo-devo has revealed that getting a fancy new beak can
be simpler than anyone had imagined.
Genes are stretches of DNA that can be switched on so that they will produce
molecules known as proteins. Proteins can then do a number of jobs in the
cell or outside it, working to make parts of organisms, switching other
genes on and so on. When genes are switched on to produce proteins, they can
do so at a low level in a limited area or they can crank out lots of protein
in many cells.
What Dr. Tabin and colleagues found, when looking at the range of beak
shapes and sizes across different finch species, was that the thicker and
taller and more robust a beak, the more strongly it expressed a gene known
as BMP4 early in development. The BMP4 gene (its abbreviation stands for
bone morphogenetic protein, No. 4) produces the BMP4 protein, which can
signal cells to begin producing bone. But BMP4 is multitalented and can also
act to direct early development, laying out a variety of architectural plans
including signaling which part of the embryo is to be the backside and which
the belly side. To verify that the BMP4 gene itself could indeed trigger the
growth of grander, bigger, nut-crushing beaks, researchers artificially
cranked up the production of BMP4 in the developing beaks of chicken
embryos. The chicks began growing wider, taller, more robust beaks similar
to those of a nut-cracking finch.
In the finches with long, probing beaks, researchers found at work a
different gene, known as calmodulin. As with BMP4, the more that calmodulin
was expressed, the longer the beak became. When scientists artificially
increased calmodulin in chicken embryos, the chicks began growing extended
beaks, just like a cactus driller.
So, with just these two genes, not tens or hundreds, the scientists found
the potential to recreate beaks, massive or stubby or elongated.
"So now one wants to go in a number of directions," Dr. Tabin said. "What
happens in a stork? What happens in a hummingbird? A parrot?" For the
evolution of beaks, the main tool with which a bird handles its food and
makes its living, is central not only to Darwin's finches, but to birds as a
BMP4's reach does not stop at the birds, however.
In lakes in Africa, the fish known as cichlids have evolved so rapidly into
such a huge diversity of species that they have become one of the best known
evolutionary radiations. The cichlids have evolved in different shapes and
sizes, and with a variety of jaw types specialized for eating certain kinds
of food. Robust, thick jaws are excellent at crushing snails, while longer
jaws work well for sucking up algae. As with the beaks of finches, a range
of styles developed.
Now in a new study, Dr. R. Craig Albertson, an evolutionary biologist at
Syracuse University, and Dr. Thomas D. Kocher, a geneticist at the
University of New Hampshire, have shown that more robust-jawed cichlids
express more BMP4 during development than those with more delicate jaws. To
test whether BMP4 was indeed responsible for the difference, these
scientists artificially increased the expression of BMP4 in the zebrafish,
the lab rat of the fish world. And, reprising the beak experiments,
researchers found that increased production of BMP4 in the jaws of embryonic
zebrafish led to the development of more robust chewing and chomping parts.
Page 3 of 5)
And if being a major player in the evolution of African cichlids and Darwin's
finches - two of the most famous evolutionary radiations of species - were
not enough for BMP4, Dr. Peter R. Grant, an evolutionary biologist at
Princeton University, predicted that the gene would probably be found to
play an important role in the evolution of still other animals. He noted
that jaw changes were a crucial element in the evolution of lizards, rabbits
and mice, among others, making them prime candidates for evolution via BMP4.
"This is just the beginning," Dr. Grant said. "These are exciting times for
Used to lay out body plans, build beaks and alter fish jaws, BMP4
illustrates perfectly one of the major recurring themes of evo-devo. New
forms can arise via new uses of existing genes, in particular the control
genes or what are sometimes called toolkit genes that oversee development.
It is a discovery that can explain much that has previously been mysterious,
like the observation that without much obvious change to the genome over
all, one can get fairly radical changes in form.
"There aren't new genes arising every time a new species arises," said Dr.
Brian K. Hall, a developmental biologist at Dalhousie University in Nova
Scotia. "Basically you take existing genes and processes and modify them,
and that's why humans and chimps can be 99 percent similar at the genome
Evo-devo has also begun to shine a light on a phenomenon with which
evolutionary biologists have long been familiar, the way in which different
species will come up with sometimes jaw-droppingly similar solutions when
confronted with the same challenges.
Among the placental mammals of the Americas and the marsupials of Australia,
for example, have evolved the same sorts of animals independently: beasts
that burrowed, loping critters that grazed, creatures that had long snouts
for eating ants, and versions of wolf.
In the same way, the cichlids have evolved pairs of matching species,
arising independently in separate lakes in Africa. In Lake Malawi, for
example, there is a long and flat-headed species with a deep underbite that
looks remarkably like an unrelated species that lives a similar lifestyle in
Lake Tanganyika. There is another cichlid with a bulging brow and frowning
lips in Lake Malawi with, again, an unrelated but otherwise extremely
similar-looking cichlid in Lake Tanganyika. The same jaws, heads, and ways
of living can be seen to evolve again and again.
The findings of evo-devo suggest that such parallels might in fact be
expected. For cichlids are hardly coming up with new genetic solutions to
eating tough snails as they each crank up the BMP4 or tinker with other
toolkit genes. Instead, whether in Lake Malawi or Lake Tanganyika, they may
be using the same genes to develop the same forms that provide the same
solutions to the same ecological challenges. Why not, when even the beaked
birds flying overhead are using the very same genes?
Evo-devo has even begun to give biologists new insight into one of the most
beautiful examples of recurring forms: the evolution of mimicry.
It has long been a source of amazement how some species seem so able to
evolve near-perfect mimicry of another. Poisonous species often evolve
bright warning colors, which have been reproduced by nonpoisonous species or
by other, similarly poisonous species, hoping to fend off curious predators.
Now in a new study of Heliconius butterflies, Dr. Mathieu Joron, an
evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, and colleagues, found
evidence that the mimics may be using some of the same genes to produce
their copycat warning colors and patterns.
The researchers studied several species of tropical Heliconius butterflies,
all of which are nasty-tasting to birds and which mimic one another's color
patterns. Dr. Joron and colleagues found that some of the main elements of
the patterns - a yellow band in Heliconius melpomene and Heliconius erato
and a complex tiger-stripe pattern in Heliconius numata - are controlled by
a single region of DNA, a tightly linked set of genes known as a supergene.
Dr. Joron said he and colleagues were still mapping the details of color
pattern control within the supergene. But if this turned out to function, as
researchers suspected, like a toolkit gene turning the patterns on and off,
it could explain both the prevalence of mimicry in Heliconius and the
apparent ease with which these species have been shown to repeatedly evolve
such superbly matching patterns.
One of evo-devo's greatest strengths is its cross-disciplinary nature,
bridging not only evolutionary and developmental studies but gaps as broad
as those between fossil-hunting paleontologists and molecular biologists.
One researcher whose approach epitomizes the power of such synthesis is Dr.
Neil Shubin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago and the
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: June 27, 2007, 08:00:57 AM
Pues, yo no estaba alli', ni soy Mexicano pero la impresion que yo formaba de LO era precisamente el negativo que menciona el autor de este ensayo. A mi me parecia que LO buscaba la manera de interumpir los resultados de la elecion fuera del sistema legal, lo cual habia declarado por Calderon.
Con la historia del PRI en Mexico es natural tener sospechos de trampas y manipulaciones del resultados, pero el hecho que el PRI cayo' a tercer lugar habla fuertamente que las cosas ya no son como fueron.
Yo me acuerdo viajando por el campo de Mexico en mi motocicleta en el ano 1976 viendo "Jose Lopez Portillo" por todos lados como el candidato de todos los partidos
. Para mi es sumamente impresionante que Mexico haya logrado reformas electorales que han permitido que ahora Mexico realmente ahora tiene una democracia. Mi impresion es que LO ponia todo eso en peligro por razones de ambicion personal.
PA: Hablando de campanas negativas, el PRD esta' segundo a nadie.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 27, 2007, 12:03:23 AM
By BRET STEPHENS
Bret Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. He joined the Journal in New York in 1998 as a features editor and moved to Brussels the following year to work as an editorial writer for the paper's European edition. In 2002, Mr. Stephens, then 28, became editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, where he was responsible for its news, editorial, electronic and international divisions, and where he also wrote a weekly column. He returned to his present position in late 2004 and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum the following year.
Mr. Stephens was raised in Mexico City and educated at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. He lives with his family in New York City. He invites comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Who Killed Palestine?
June 26, 2007; Page A14
Bill Clinton did it. Yasser Arafat did it. So did George W. Bush, Yitzhak Rabin, Hosni Mubarak, Ariel Sharon, Al-Jazeera and the BBC. The list of culprits in the whodunit called "Who Killed Palestine?" is neither short nor mutually exclusive. But since future historians are bound to ask the question, let's get a head start by suggesting some answers.
And make no mistake: No matter how much diplomatic, military and financial oxygen is pumped into Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, it's oxygen flowing to a corpse. Palestine has always been a notional place, a field of dreams belonging only to those who know how to keep it. Israelis have held on to their state because they were able to develop the political, military and economic institutions that a state requires to survive, beginning with its monopoly on the use of legitimate force. In its nearly 14 years as an autonomous entity, the PA has succeeded in none of that, despite being on the receiving end of unprecedented international good will and largesse.
Hamas's seizure of the Gaza Strip this month -- and the consequent division of the PA into two hostile, geographically distinct camps -- is only the latest in a chain of events set in motion when Israel agreed, in September 1993, to accept Arafat and the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. An early indicator of what lay ahead took place on July 1, 1994, when Arafat made his triumphal entry into Gaza while carrying, in the trunk of his Mercedes, four of the Palestinian cause's most violent partisans. Among them were the organizers of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the 1974 Ma'alot school massacre. If ever there was an apt metaphor for what Arafat's rule would bring, this was it.
Arafat was determined to use Gaza and the West Bank as a staging ground for attacks against Israel, and he said so publicly and repeatedly: "O Haifa, O Jerusalem, you are returning, you are returning" (1995); "We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion" (1996); "With blood and spirit we will redeem you, Palestine" (1997). With equal determination, the Clinton administration and the Israeli governments of Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak treated Arafat's remarks as only so much rhetorical bluster. Mr. Clinton desperately wanted a Nobel Peace Prize; Israelis wanted out of the occupation business at almost any cost. These were respectable goals, but neither had as its primary aim the creation of a respectable Palestinian state.
Later, after the second intifada had erupted in all its suicidal frenzy, former U.S. negotiator Dennis Ross would admit the Clinton administration became too obsessed with process at the expense of substance. He should give himself more credit. The decision to legitimize Arafat was Israel's, not America's; once he was brought inside the proverbial tent he was bound to put a match to it. Still, the Clinton administration elevated Arafat like no other leader of the 1990s. If the rais came to flatter himself as a second Saladin, the flattery of White House banquets surely played a role.
The global media also did their bit in Arafat's elevation. Successive generations of Jerusalem bureau chiefs developed a conveniently even-handed narrative pitting moderates on both sides against extremists on both sides -- a narrative in which Arafat was a "moderate" and Ariel Sharon was an "extremist." When Mr. Sharon took his famous walk on the Temple Mount in September 2000, it was easy to cast him as the villain and Palestinian rioters -- and, later, suicide bombers -- as the justifiably aggrieved. Cheering Palestinians on from the sidelines were the Arab media and the governments that own them, happy to channel domestic discontent toward a foreign drama.
As with individuals, nations generally benefit from self-criticism, and sometimes from the criticism of others. No people in modern history have been so immune from both as the Palestinians. In 1999, Abdel Sattar Kassem, a professor of political science in the Palestinian city of Nablus, put his name to the "petition of the 20," written to "stand against [Arafat's] tyranny and corruption." Arafat imprisoned him; the rest of the world barely took notice. Arafat's global popularity reached its apogee in the spring of 2002, exactly at the same time the civilian Israeli death toll from terrorism reached its height.
Yet what served Arafat's interests well served Palestinian interests poorly. Arafat learned from his experience with Mr. Clinton that one could bamboozle an American president and not pay a price. George W. Bush took a different view and effectively shut the Palestinians out of his agenda. Arafat learned from the "international community" that no one would look too closely at where its foreign aid was spent. But a reputation for theft has been the undoing of Fatah. Arafat thought he could harness the religious power of "martyrdom" to his political ends. But at the core of every suicide bombing is an act of self-destruction, and a nation that celebrates the former inevitably courts the latter.
Above all, Arafat equated territory with power. But what the experience of an unoccupied Gaza Strip has shown is the Palestinians' unfitness for political sovereignty. There are no Jewish settlers to blame for Gaza's plight anymore, no Israeli soldiers to be filmed demolishing Palestinian homes. The Israeli right, which came to detest Mr. Sharon for pulling out of the Strip, might reconsider its view of the man and the deed. Nothing has so completely soured the world on the idea of a Palestinian state as the experience of it.
What does this mean for the future? At yesterday's summit in Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah threw rose petals at Mr. Abbas's feet. But the potentates of the Middle East will not midwife into existence a state the chief political movement of which has claims to both democratic and Islamist legitimacy. The U.S. and Israel will never bless Hamastan (even if the EU and the U.N. come around to it) and they can only do so much for the feckless Mr. Abbas. "Palestine," as we know it today, will revert to what it was -- shadowland between Israel and its neighbors -- and Palestinians, as we know them today, will revert to who they were: Arabs.
Whether there might have been a better outcome is anyone's guess. But the dream that was Palestine is finally dead.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: June 25, 2007, 04:05:45 PM
Winds of War
Iran is making a mistake that may lead the Middle East into a broader conflict.
BY JOSHUA MURAVCHIK
Monday, June 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Several conflicts of various intensities are raging in the Middle East. But a bigger war, involving more states--Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the Palestinian Authority and perhaps the United States and others--is growing more likely every day, beckoned by the sense that America and Israel are in retreat and that radical Islam is ascending.
Consider the pell-mell events of recent weeks. Iran imprisons four Americans on absurd charges only weeks after seizing 15 British sailors on the high seas. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is caught delivering weapons to the Taliban and explosives to Iraqi terrorists. A car bomb in Lebanon is used to assassinate parliament member Walid Eido, killing nine others and wounding 11 more.
At the same time, Fatah al-Islam, a shady group linked to Syria, launches an attack on the Lebanese army from within a Palestinian refugee area, beheading several soldiers. Tehran trumpets further progress on nuclear enrichment as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeats his call for annihilating Israel, crowing that "the countdown to the destruction of this regime has begun." Hamas seizes control militarily in Gaza. Katyusha rockets are launched from Lebanon into northern Israel for the first time since the end of last summer's Israel-Hezbollah war.
Two important inferences can be distilled from this list. One is that the Tehran regime takes its slogan, "death to America," quite seriously, even if we do not. It is arming the Taliban, with which it was at sword's point when the Taliban were in power. It seems to be supplying explosives not only to Shiite, but also Sunni terrorists in Iraq. It reportedly is sheltering high-level al Qaeda figures despite the Sunni-Shiite divide. All of these surprising actions are for the sake of bleeding the U.S. However hateful this behavior may be to us, it has a certain strategic logic: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
What is even more worrisome about the events enumerated above is that most of them are devoid of any such strategic logic. For example, the Hamas "putsch" in Gaza--as Marwan Barghouti, the hero of the Palestinian intifada, labeled it from his prison cell--was an enormous blunder.
Hamas already mostly controlled Gaza. It is hard to imagine what gains it can reap from its "victory." But it is easy to see the losses. Fatah, and the government of its leader Mahmoud Abbas, will be able to restore their strength in the West Bank with the eager assistance of virtually the whole outside world, while Gaza will be shut off and denied outside aid far more strictly than during the past year. Israel will retaliate against shelling with a freer hand. Egypt will tighten its border. And Hamas has in one swoop negated its own supreme achievement, namely winning a majority in Palestine's 2006 parliamentary elections. Until now, Hamas had a powerful argument: how can the West demand democracy and then boycott the winners? But now it is Hamas itself that has destroyed Palestinian democracy by staging an armed coup. Its democratic credentials have gone up in the smoke of its own arson.
Syria's actions in Lebanon scarcely make more sense. The murder of parliamentarian Eido will solidify and energize the majority that opposes Syria. Some suppose that, having now bumped off two Lebanese MPs (Pierre Gemayel was the other one), Syria plans to shave away the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon's parliament by committing another five murders. But if so, this is a crazy gambit. Such a campaign would invite international intervention. It might well fracture the pro-Syrian forces: More Shiites will abandon Hezbollah and more Maronites will turn against Hezbollah's cat's-paw, Michel Aoun. And the murders might be for naught anyway: By-elections are already being planned that are likely to replace the martyred legislators with others of the same mind. As for the attack on the Lebanese army, Fatah al-Islam is on the brink of being crushed, leaving behind only more hatred of Syria and a better-armed, more confident Lebanese army.
As for Iran's actions, while arming the Taliban and Iraqi terrorists may make sense, what is the point of seizing British sailors or locking up the four Iranian-Americans, including the beloved 67-year-old scholar, Haleh Esfandieri, none of whom are involved even in political activity, much less in the exercise of hard power?
The apparent meaning of all of this pointless provocation and bullying is that the axis of radicals--Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah--is feeling its oats. In part its aim is to intimidate the rest of us, in part it is merely enjoying flexing its muscles. It believes that its side has defeated America in Iraq, and Israel in Gaza and Lebanon. Mr. Ahmadinejad recently claimed that the West has already begun to "surrender," and he gloated that " final victory . . . is near." It is this bravado that bodes war.
A large portion of modern wars erupted because aggressive tyrannies believed that their democratic opponents were soft and weak. Often democracies have fed such beliefs by their own flaccid behavior. Hitler's contempt for America, stoked by the policy of appeasement, is a familiar story. But there are many others. North Korea invaded South Korea after Secretary of State Dean Acheson declared that Korea lay beyond our "defense perimeter." Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait after our ambassador assured him that America does not intervene in quarrels among Arabs. Imperial Germany launched World War I, encouraged by Great Britain's open reluctance to get involved. Nasser brought on the 1967 Six Day War, thinking that he could extort some concessions from Israel by rattling his sword.
Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.
Today, this same dynamic is creating a moment of great danger. The radicals are becoming reckless, asserting themselves for little reason beyond the conviction that they can. They are very likely to overreach. It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which a single match--say a terrible terror attack from Gaza--could ignite a chain reaction. Israel could handle Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, albeit with painful losses all around, but if Iran intervened rather than see its regional assets eliminated, could the U.S. stay out?
With the Bush administration's policies having failed to pacify Iraq, it is natural that the public has lost patience and that the opposition party is hurling brickbats. But the demands of congressional Democrats that we throw in the towel in Iraq, their attempts to constrain the president's freedom to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons program, the proposal of the Baker-Hamilton commission that we appeal to Iran to help extricate us from Iraq--all of these may be read by the radicals as signs of our imminent collapse. In the name of peace, they are hastening the advent of the next war.
Mr. Muravchik is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 25, 2007, 08:04:07 AM
This from today's NY Times discusses the H1B Visa issue. I am sympathetic to the companies desire for more H1Bs, but the devil is in the details , , ,
WASHINGTON, June 24 — Bill Gates and Steven A. Ballmer of Microsoft have led a parade of high-tech executives to Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to provide more visas for temporary foreign workers and permanent immigrants who can fill critical jobs.
Google has reminded senators that one of its founders, Sergey Brin, came from the Soviet Union as a young boy. To stay competitive in a “knowledge-based economy,” company officials have said, Google needs to hire many more immigrants as software engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists.
The top executives of these and other high-tech companies have been making a huge effort to reshape the Senate immigration bill to meet their demand for more foreign workers. But they have had only limited success, as is often the case when strong-willed corporate leaders confront powerful members of Congress.
The Senate plans to resume work on the bill this week. Much of the debate will focus on proposals for granting legal status to illegal immigrants. But the sections of the bill affecting high-tech industries could prove to be very important as well.
High-tech companies want to be able to hire larger numbers of well-educated, foreign-born professionals who, they say, can help them succeed in the global economy. For these scientists and engineers, they seek permanent-residence visas, known as green cards, and H-1B visas. The H-1B program provides temporary work visas for people who have university degrees or the equivalent to fill jobs in specialty occupations including health care and technology. The Senate bill would expand the number of work visas for skilled professionals, but high-tech companies say the proposed increase is not nearly enough. Several provisions of the Senate bill are meant to enhance protections for American workers and to prevent visa fraud and abuse.
High-tech companies were surprised and upset by the bill that emerged last month from secret Senate negotiations. E. John Krumholtz, director of federal affairs at Microsoft, said the bill was “worse than the status quo, and the status quo is a disaster.”
In the last two weeks, these businesses have quietly negotiated for changes to meet some of their needs. But the bill still falls far short of what they want, an outcome suggesting that their political clout does not match their economic strength.
Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, a co-author of a treatise on immigration law, said: “High-tech companies are very organized. They have numerous lobby groups. When Bill Gates advocates more H-1B visas and green cards for tech workers, everyone listens.
“But that supposed influence has not translated into legislative results,” Mr. Yale-Loehr, who teaches at Cornell Law School, continued. “High-tech companies have been lobbying unsuccessfully since 2003 for more H-1B visas. It’s hard to get anything through Congress these days. In addition, anti-immigrant groups are well organized. U.S. computer programmers are constantly arguing that H-1B workers undercut their wages.”
The Republican architects of the Senate bill, like Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, thought they were doing a favor for high-tech companies when they proposed a “point system” to evaluate immigrants seeking green cards. The point system would reward people who have advanced degrees and job skills needed in the United States.
But the high-tech companies were upset because the bill would have stripped them of the ability to sponsor specific immigrants for particular jobs.
The companies flooded Senate offices with letters, telephone calls and e-mail messages seeking changes to the bill. Mr. Ballmer, the blunt-spoken chief executive of Microsoft, Craig R. Barrett, the chairman of Intel, and other executives pressed their concerns in person.
These advocates have made some gains, which are embodied in an amendment to be proposed by Mr. Kyl and Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington.
Edward J. Sweeney, senior vice president of National Semiconductor, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said, “I’ve spent many hours in Washington talking with senators to get their support on this amendment.”
Likewise, William D. Watkins, the chief executive of Seagate Technology, the world’s largest maker of computer disk drives, said he met with five or six senators two weeks ago.
Under the Kyl-Cantwell proposal, 20,000 green cards would be set aside each year for immigrants of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers and certain managers and executives of multinational corporations. The original bill would have eliminated the existing preference for such workers.
In addition, the amendment would give employers five years to adjust their hiring practices to the new “merit-based” point system for obtaining green cards.
“For the first five years, employers would still have a say,” Ms. Cantwell said in an interview. “They could recruit the best and the brightest.”
The number of green cards for employer-sponsored immigrants would gradually decline, to 44,000 in the fifth year from 115,000 in each of the first two years. No green cards would be set aside for employer-sponsored immigrants after that.
Many high-tech companies bring in foreign professionals on temporary H-1B visas. The government is swamped with petitions. On the first two days of the application period in April, it received more than 123,000 petitions for 65,000 slots.
The Senate bill would raise the cap to 115,000 in 2008, with a possible increase to 180,000 in later years, based on labor market needs.
Many high-tech businesses want to hire foreign students who obtain advanced degrees from American universities, and many of the students want to work here, but cannot get visas.
Under current law, up to 20,000 foreigners who earn a master’s degree or higher from an American university are generally exempt from the annual limit on new H-1B visas. The Kyl-Cantwell proposal would double the number.
The amendment would also establish a new exemption, providing 20,000 additional H-1B visas for people who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a university outside the United States.
The technology companies face a serious challenge from a different direction, as lawmakers of both parties worry about possible abuses in the H-1B program.
Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, have a proposal that would overhaul the H-1 B program and give priority to American workers. Their proposal would also define, in great detail, the wages that must be paid to workers who have H-1B visas.
Mr. Durbin contended that some companies have used foreign workers to undercut the wages of American workers. And in some cases, he said, foreign workers come to this country for a few years of training, then return home “to populate businesses competing with the United States.”
“The H-1B visa program is being abused by foreign companies to deprive qualified Americans of good jobs,” Mr. Durbin said. “Some companies are so brazen, they say ‘no Americans need apply’ in their job advertisements.”
High-tech companies said that the wage standards in the Durbin-Grassley proposal would, in effect, require them to pay some H-1B employees more than some equally qualified American workers who are performing the same duties.
The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that thousands of H-1B workers have been paid less than the prevailing wage.
One company, Patni Computer Systems, agreed this month to pay more than $2.4 million to 607 workers with visas after Labor Department investigators found that they had not been paid the wages required by federal law. The company’s global headquarters are in Mumbai, India, and its American operations are based in Cambridge, Mass.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran cracks down
on: June 24, 2007, 08:14:35 AM
Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women’s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.
The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world’s second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline. At the same time, the nuclear standoff with the West threatens to bring new sanctions.
The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, analysts say, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using American support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as a pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.
Some analysts describe it as a “cultural revolution,” an attempt to roll back the clock to the time of the 1979 revolution, when the newly formed Islamic Republic combined religious zeal and anti-imperialist rhetoric to try to assert itself as a regional leader.
Equally noteworthy is how little has been permitted to be discussed in the Iranian news media. Instead, attention has been strategically focused on Mr. Ahmadinejad’s political enemies, like the former president, Mohammad Khatami, and the controversy over whether he violated Islamic morals by deliberately shaking hands with an unfamiliar woman after he gave a speech in Rome.
Mr. Khatami, the lost hope of Iran’s reform movement, felt compelled to rebut the accusation because such a handshake is religiously suspect, but contended that the crowd seeking to congratulate him for his speech was so tumultuous that he could not distinguish between the hands of men and women. Naturally a video clip emerged, showing the cleric in his typical gregarious style bounding over to the first woman who addressed him on the orderly sidewalk, shaking her hand and chatting amicably.
The dispute over the handshake occurred during a particularly fierce round of the factional fighting that has hamstrung the country since the 1979 revolution. Far more harsh examples abound.
Young men wearing T-shirts deemed too tight or haircuts seen as too Western have been paraded bleeding through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers who force them to suck on plastic jerrycans, a toilet item Iranians use to wash their bottoms. In case anyone misses the point, it is the official news agency Fars distributing the pictures of what it calls “riffraff.” Far bloodier photographs are circulating on blogs and on the Internet.
The country’s police chief boasted that 150,000 people — a number far larger than usual — were detained in the annual spring sweep against any clothing considered not Islamic. More than 30 women’s rights advocates were arrested in one day in March, according to Human Rights Watch, five of whom have since been sentenced to prison terms of up to four years. They were charged with endangering national security for organizing an Internet campaign to collect more than a million signatures supporting the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.
Eight student leaders at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, the site of one of the few public protests against Mr. Ahmadinejad, disappeared into Evin Prison starting in early May. Student newspapers had published articles suggesting that no humans were infallible, including the Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The National Security Council sent a stern three-page warning to all the country’s newspaper editors detailing banned topics, including the rise in gasoline prices or other economic woes like possible new international sanctions, negotiations with the United States over the future of Iraq, civil society movements and the Iranian-American arrests.
The entire campaign is “a strong message by Ahmadinejad’s government, security and intelligence forces that they are in control of the domestic situation,” said Hadi Ghaemi, an Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch. “But it’s really a sign of weakness and insecurity.”
At least three prominent nongovernment organizations that pushed for broader legal rights or civil society have been shuttered outright, while hundreds more have been forced underground. A recent article on the Baztab Web site said that about 8,000 nongovernment organizations were in jeopardy, forced to prove their innocence, basically because the government suspects all of them of being potential conduits for some $75 million the United States has earmarked to promote a change in government.
Professors have been warned against attending overseas conferences or having any contact with foreign governments, lest they be recruited as spies. The Iranian-Americans are all being detained basically on the grounds that they were either recruiting or somehow abetting an American attempt to achieve a “velvet revolution” in Iran.
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Analysts trace the broadening crackdown to a March speech by Ayatollah Khamenei, whose pronouncements carry the weight of law. He warned that no one should damage national unity when the West was waging psychological war on Iran. The country has been under fire, particularly from the United States, which accuses it of trying to develop nuclear weapons and fomenting violence in Iraq.
President Ahmadinejad and other senior officials have dismissed all the criticism as carping. The president blames the previous administration for inflation or calls it media exaggeration, while Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Said Mortazavi, said Iranians who oppose the Islamic Republic look for an excuse to criticize it.
After a meeting of senior police and judiciary officials in Tehran on June 19 to review what was described as “the public security drive,” the Iranian Labor News Agency quoted Mr. Mortazavi as saying that if the state did not protect public security, then “louts” and criminals “would be safe in society.
The three Iranian-Americans are being held in the notorious Section 209 of Evin Prison, the wing controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, and have been denied visits by their lawyers or relatives. Iran recognizes only their Iranian nationality and has dismissed any diplomatic efforts to intervene. A rally to demand their release is set for Wednesday outside the United Nations.
The three are Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the Open Society Institute; and Ali Shakeri, of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine. A fourth, Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for Radio Farda, an American-financed station based in Europe, has been barred from leaving the country.
“People don’t want to come to conferences, they don’t even want to talk on the phone,” said Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University. “The regime has created an atmosphere of absolute terror.”
To the political crackdown, Mr. Ahmadinejad adds a messianic fervor, Mr. Milani noted, telling students in Qom this month that the Muslim savior would soon return.
The appeal of such a message may be limited, however. Iran’s sophisticated middle class wants to be connected to the world, and grumbles that the country’s only friends are Syria, Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba. But it might play well with Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main constituency.
“They are the poor, the rural,” said Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations. “They don’t travel abroad, they don’t go to conferences. He is trying to undermine the social and political position of his rivals in order to consolidate his own people.”
Most ascribe Mr. Ahmadinejad’s motives to blocking what could become a formidable alliance between the camps of Mr. Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, both former presidents. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for early next year, and the next presidential vote in 2009.
“Having to face a single pragmatic conservative and reform block is extremely threatening,” Mr. Nasr said, hence the intimidation of all possible supporters.
Not that everyone has been intimidated. More than 50 leading economists published a harshly worded, open letter to the president saying his policies were bringing economic ruin. High unemployment persists, there has been little foreign investment and inflation is galloping, with gasoline alone jumping 25 percent this spring.
Gasoline rationing is expected within a month, with consumers so anxious about it, reported the Web site Ruz, financed by the Dutch government, that skirmishes broke out in long lines at some pumps on June 17.
Iran can prove a difficult country to separate into black and white. Amid all the recent oppression, for example, last week the public stoning of a couple — the punishment for adultery — was called off. Women’s rights advocates had been agitating against it.
Also, two recent movies touched off controversy as too racy. One depicted an extramarital affair, and the hero of the second was an abortion doctor who drank and gambled, and yet was so beloved of the patients he had seduced that they sent him bouquets on his wedding night.
In an attempt to deflect criticism that its standards had grown loose, the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which vets all books, movies and gallery exhibits, issued a statement noting that both scripts had been approved under the former administration of Mr. Khatami.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Where is?
on: June 24, 2007, 01:04:52 AM
Most all of us with women in our lives have done it. You can't find
something and what do you do? You ask your wife/significant other! And she
resents it. She gets tired of being asked where everything is. This is so
common a comedienne once mused, "The uterus is not a tracking device!"
For many years I carried this guilt of manhood. I thought, I'm a man, I
can't find anything and I shouldn't expect my wife to know where everything
is. But, admittedly, this still didn't stop the periodic inquiry.
So, the other night a typical scenario ensues and I ask the obligatory
question, "Honey, do you know where my (lost item here) is?" and I get the
obligatory response, "How should I know where your (lost item) is?!!" (This
is sometimes flavored with expletives.)
And then it hit me! Like a bolt out of the blue! That feeling you get when
you discover something so obvious, something that was in front of you the
whole time, but just realize it was there...
"Because you moved it. Because you cleaned and had to put it away. If you'd
just leave things where I put them down then I could find them, but you have
to tuck them in some corner somewhere. That's why I ask you where things
are, because you're the only one that knows where they are."
Oh, all those years of unnecessary guilt.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whose Orders
on: June 23, 2007, 07:19:57 AM
By RICHARD J. EVANS
Published: June 24, 2007
In 1997, Saul Friedländer published “The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939,” the first of his projected two-volume history of “Nazi Germany and the Jews.” In the introduction to that volume, he announced his intention of “establishing a historical account of the Holocaust in which the policies of the perpetrators, the attitudes of surrounding society and the world of the victims could be addressed within an integrated framework.” Such a framework has indeed been missing from most historical accounts of this most difficult and challenging of subjects. They have focused either on the processes of decision-making and their implementation or on the world of suffering and death experienced by the victims. Friedländer’s first volume stood out from most other work in this field because it successfully combined both of these aspects. And his second volume does so as well. It now establishes itself as the standard historical work on Nazi Germany’s mass murder of Europe’s Jews.
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THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION
Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.
By Saul Friedländer.
870 pp. HarperCollins Publishers. $39.95.
And yet “The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945” is no ordinary academic book. True, Friedländer seems to have read virtually every printed source and secondary work on his vast subject in English, German and French. His judgments are scrupulous and levelheaded. And he treats the historical controversies that have raged around so many of the topics he covers with untiring fair-mindedness. He writes without a trace of polemic or of facile retrospective moralizing. The book meticulously satisfies every requirement of professional historical writing.
What raises “The Years of Extermination” to the level of literature, however, is the skilled interweaving of individual testimony with the broader depiction of events. Friedländer never lets the reader forget the human and personal meanings of the historical processes he is describing. By and large, he avoids the sometimes unreliable testimony of memoirs for the greater immediacy of contemporary diaries and letters, though he also makes good use of witness statements at postwar trials. The result is an account of unparalleled vividness and power that reads like a novel.
Friedländer’s witnesses run into scores if not hundreds, and range from well-known figures like Anne Frank and Adam Czerniakow, the head of the Jewish administration of the Warsaw Ghetto, to more obscure individuals like Mihail Sebastian, a Romanian writer in his 30s, who recorded the descent of his country into its own barbarous version of genocide, and Raymond-Raoul Lambert, an Alsatian veteran of the French Army in World War I. Their haunting words chronicle the horror and disbelief of European Jewry as it slid down through discrimination and persecution to deportation and death. “If my life ends,” the Warsaw religious teacher Chaim Kaplan wrote not long before he was taken away to perish in the gas chambers of Treblinka, “what will become of my diary?” Like many others cited in this book, it survived not least by chance, having been smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto into the hands of the Polish underground resistance movement, from where it eventually found its way to New York and publication in the 1960s. The writings of diarists like Kaplan, committed to paper in conditions of terrible adversity, provide much of the human dimension of this remarkable book: they did not write in vain.
These people were the victims, Friedländer argues, not of anonymous processes generated in the machinery of Nazi and SS administration, but of one man above all: Adolf Hitler. Friedländer is critical of the recent, voluminous literature, mainly by a younger generation of German historians, that attempts to depict the extermination program as the outcome of coldly rational processes of decision-making by administrators, “experts” and officials in the German-occupied areas of Eastern Europe, who decided that the Jews would have to be killed so that the limited food supplies available in the area could go to the Germans, or to make room for German settlers or Germans left homeless by Allied bombing raids.
Such arguments do not explain the manic obsessiveness with which Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the man in charge of implementing the extermination program, tracked down Jews to arrest and kill, even traveling to Germany’s ally Finland to try and persuade its government to surrender that country’s tiny Jewish population, which was of no objective economic or strategic importance to Germany at all. Nor do these arguments do justice to the virulent language of hatred used by the Nazi leaders, Hitler and Goebbels in particular, when they spoke, as they did almost unceasingly, of the Jews.
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Friedländer devotes a good deal of space to quoting Hitler at length, showing clearly his personal obsession with the forces of international Jewry that, in his mind, lay behind the actions of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. It was the Jews, he believed, who had fomented the war launched (in reality by himself) in September 1939. As the United States committed itself ever more firmly to the Allied side in the summer and fall of 1941, Hitler delivered one tirade after another against the Jewish conspiracy he thought lay behind Roosevelt’s policy. It was at this point that he escalated his persecution of the Jews first to deportation to the East and then to mass murder and total extermination.
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THE YEARS OF EXTERMINATION
Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.
By Saul Friedländer.
870 pp. HarperCollins Publishers. $39.95.
The German defeat by the Red Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943, blamed by Hitler yet again on the Jews, raised his anti-Semitic fury to fresh heights. The Jews, he declared, were driven by their innate racial instinct to subvert civilization everywhere. “The modern peoples have no option left,” he said in May, as the genocide was reaching its height, “but to eliminate the Jews.” Millions of entirely innocent and largely unsuspecting people across Europe paid for such violent fantasies with their lives.
The diaries and letters cited in the book show graphically how even as the prospective Jewish victims began to fear the worst, they continued to hope for the best; only a small minority found their way into hiding or resistance. As for the mass of non-Jewish citizens in Germany and other parts of Europe, indifference was the commonest reaction. Police and other state officials in most occupied countries cooperated willingly in the roundups and deportations; in some parts of Europe, notably Poland, Romania and Croatia, native anti-Semitism made its own brutal contribution to the genocide.
Friedländer’s narrative sweeps across an entire continent, encompassing every country affected by the Nazi drive for domination. In Bulgaria and Slovakia, popular outrage at the genocide forced governments initially willing to collaborate to change their stance. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in a number of countries played a part in articulating such feelings, and individual priests in Germany and elsewhere sometimes paid for their courageous opposition with their lives. But Friedländer makes it equally clear that many clerics, particularly senior church leaders who feared that open criticism of the genocide would bring down the wrath of the Nazis on them, remained silent and inactive, except where Jewish converts to Christianity were concerned. In some areas — particularly Croatia — nationalist clergymen egged on the murder squads with their own brand of religiously inspired anti-Semitism. Pope Pius XII, the subject of an earlier book by Friedländer, does not come out well, but what strikes the reader yet again is the exemplary evenhandedness with which Friedländer weighs the arguments on both sides in an area that has become more controversial than most in recent years.
The book’s chapters are organized chronologically, each covering a period of several months. This has the disadvantage of breaking up many of the narratives, so that, for example, if one wants to follow what happened in the Netherlands, or in Romania, or even in Germany itself, one has to search through several different chapters to piece the story together. But for the reader who persists from beginning to end, this structure has the benefit of enabling one to see the connections between what was happening at any one time in different parts of the Continent, to link it to the state of play of military affairs during the war (which Friedländer usefully sketches in at various points) and to follow the slow development of Nazi policy and its implementation as it unfolded over time.
In a celebrated exchange with the German historian Martin Broszat many years ago, Friedländer argued that, faced with such events, no historian could or should remain neutral. Born in Prague into a Jewish family in 1932, Friedländer grew up in hiding in France during the war, and his personal history gives him an unusually strong identification with his subject. Broszat, who had spent much of his career compiling or overseeing expert witness reports in German war crimes prosecutions and had a vested interest in preserving the appearance of neutrality, disagreed.
The practical consequences of Friedländer’s stance are apparent: the personal testimonies of Hitler’s Jewish victims create an overwhelming impression of suffering and cast a lurid light on the policies and actions of the Nazis and their helpers. The downside of this is that the experiences of the perpetrators are presented perhaps less fully than they might have been. Their testimony is generally used to describe the conditions they created rather than (with the obvious exception of Hitler himself) to chart their personal beliefs, motives or impressions. The attitudes and behavior of the German people also remain unexplained, and are presented in a sweeping and undifferentiated way that does scant justice to the nuances and complexities that recent historical work has uncovered.
And the book’s focus on the sufferings of the Jews pushes the broader context of Nazi racial policy — which includes the mass murder of millions of Soviet prisoners of war, the systematic extermination of the Polish intelligentsia, the killing of about 200,000 mentally ill or handicapped Germans, the annihilation of a large part of Europe’s Gypsies — possibly too far into the background. For as a good deal of recent work has shown, the Third Reich’s genocidal policies toward the Jews have to be understood as part of a larger policy aimed at the ethnic reshaping of Europe. Comparisons with these other victims would have made it evident that the Jews occupied a special place in the exterminatory mentality of the Nazis; they were perceived not as a regional obstacle but as a global threat, not as inferior beings like insects but as powerful enemies, whose very existence anywhere was a terrible danger to the future of the German race.
Still, to have broadened the focus too much would have made this already very lengthy and complex book almost unmanageable. Friedländer succeeds in binding together the many different strands of his story with a sure touch. He has written a masterpiece that will endure.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: June 23, 2007, 06:57:20 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 22 — Pakistan is building a third plutonium production reactor at a major nuclear weapons center, a sign of plans to increase the nation’s nuclear arsenal significantly, a Washington group specializing in nuclear issues said Friday.
Based on satellite imagery of a reactor under construction at Khushab, about 100 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, it appeared that Pakistan would be able to build a new generation of lighter, more powerful weapons that could be more easily launched on missiles, said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
The new reactor, which had not been publicly known about, is a replica of a second heavy water reactor at Khushab, Mr. Albright said in a telephone interview.
“The other two reactors at Khushab are there for weapons, and this is a duplicate of the second,” Mr. Albright said. He said he was convinced that the new reactor was intended for plutonium to be used in nuclear weapons and not for a civilian energy program.
He added that it was possible that Pakistan was pushing forward with the new reactor because the military was not satisfied that the current nuclear warheads were of sufficient power.
The more powerful weapons, which use plutonium instead of highly enriched uranium — currently Pakistan’s principal nuclear explosive material — would do greater damage to the large cities of its rival, India, which also possesses nuclear arms, Mr. Albright said.
“The trouble with the third reactor is that it seems almost provocative, especially when Pakistan doesn’t say anything, and remains ambiguous,” Mr. Albright said.
Pakistan also recently tested a cruise missile on which it could put a smaller, more lethal nuclear warhead, Mr. Albright said.
A State Department deputy spokesman, Thomas H. Casey, said, “I am not in a position to speculate on the veracity of the information in this report or the intentions of the Pakistani government.” Washington continued to discourage expansion or modernization of such weapons programs in Pakistan, he said.
A spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, Tasnim Aslam, did not confirm or deny that a new reactor was under construction.
“Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program, and we have nuclear facilities in Khushab,” she said. The site was “well known,” and “coordinates” were exchanged with India, she said.
“Regarding details of development of nuclear weapons facilities, we don’t comment on that,” Ms. Aslam said.
John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, met with the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, here last weekend during a visit that reaffirmed Washington’s backing of the military leader, who is now under increasing popular pressure to return Pakistan to civilian rule.
It was not clear whether Mr. Negroponte raised the issue of the construction of the new reactor with General Musharraf.
Critics of the Bush administration’s support of General Musharraf, who is viewed by the White House as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism, assert that Pakistan has been given too easy a ride on its nuclear weapons program.
“The expansion of the Pakistani nuclear program demonstrates that the Bush policy of giving Musharraf a pass on nonproliferation is accelerating the nuclear arms race in South Asia,” said Bruce Riedel, who directed Pakistan policy at the National Security Council under President Clinton and is now at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Pakistan’s facilities at Khushab are not subject to safeguard inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency because the nation has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The first reactor at the Khushab site came on line in 1998.
Maria Sultan, a Pakistan nuclear expert at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute in Britain, said that Pakistan had embarked on an ambitious program for civilian nuclear power that involved building new reactors by 2030. The new reactor could be for either military needs or civilian power requirements, she said.
Pakistan and India, which has also not signed the nonproliferation treaty, each have enough fissile material for more than 50 nuclear weapons, and possibly 100, Mr. Albright said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More Kelo
on: June 23, 2007, 06:44:58 AM
The 'Blight' Excuse
By CARLA T. MAIN
June 23, 2007; Page A11
In Brandon, Ore. there lives a one-armed man named Scott Cook who owns income-producing timberland. The state revoked his license to drive a truck on account of his having only one arm. Then the government decided it wasn't quite through with him: Now his land is being taken by the town by eminent domain, so his neighbor's golf resort can be expanded. The town likes the resort because it supplies jobs. Mr. Cook feels certain he will never get what his land is worth. He is outraged that his town would take land from one man to give to another.
This is called an "economic development" taking, and two years ago -- June 23, 2005 -- the nation was up in arms over this sort of thing. On that day the Supreme Court decided Kelo v. New London, and said that it is constitutional for the government to take your property and give it to someone else if doing so will rake in greater taxes for your town.
Americans were instantly united in bipartisan fury. The U.S. Congress swiftly passed a resolution condemning Kelo, and the House and Senate introduced a slew of bills, to curb what so many perceived as the power of eminent domain run amok. More than a hundred bills were introduced in state legislatures to accomplish the same end, and two states passed moratoriums on economic development takings. Pundits spilled ink declaring that the Founding Fathers were spinning in their graves. Spittle flew as politicians grabbed the nearest mike, rushing to condemn Kelo as the unquestioned death knell of American property rights.
But how is it we still have someone like the soon-to-be-timberless Mr. Cook? Well, a year went by and the moratoriums were lifted. Congress never did pass any of the bills. Reform was left to the states. Some states, such as Oregon (hence Mr. Cook's bad luck), California, New York and New Jersey passed no meaningful reforms. The latter three are among the most active in these kinds of takings.
Some 28 states have passed substantive eminent domain reform since Kelo. Many enacted laws that prohibited private-to-private transfers for purposes of economic development. Sounds grand, right? But there's a loophole: blight.
Armed with a blight exception, private property in nearly all of the loophole states may still be condemned and ultimately used for economic development. Put another way, once a finding of blight is made, it's anchors away to build whatever the city or a private developer fancies. This leaves property owners vulnerable to unholy alliances between municipalities and developers, with condemnation processes that can lack transparency and due process.
In 1954, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas unleashed municipalities with the ruling in Berman v. Parker: The liberal court at its apex unanimously agreed with the notion that the elimination of blight is a "public use" under the takings clause of the Constitution. But what is blight? A half-century of experience has demonstrated only that it is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps more to the point, in the eye of the power holder.
Blight standards are notoriously subjective; it just isn't that hard to find when one goes looking for it. And Congress conveniently passed statutes that rewarded municipalities with federal dough for slum clearance. Bingo! Cities found ever more blight to remove, often and not coincidentally in neighborhoods inhabited by blacks and Latinos.
Now, even in the backlash against Kelo, eliminating blight as a ground for eminent domain has proven to be close to impossible. The importance of this problem must not be underestimated if we are to understand why takings for economic development have been so hard to stop. Even when common sense would dictate that a project is economic in purpose, it can still be pursued under an urban renewal plan, i.e., to eliminate "blight." In our post-Kelo world, the vocabulary of economic development takings may have changed, but in many states the substance will not, especially as towns learn to teach to the test.
Only Utah and Florida passed statutes that eliminated the blight loophole -- stating plainly, no economic development takings, ever. The relief in Utah was short-lived. On March 20, 2007, Utah reversed course. Gov. Jon Huntsman signed a bill that restores blight to the table and allows the taking of private property for private development so long as 80% of one's neighbors concur -- a democratic scenario one homeowner called "mob rule."
Florida's law was passed under the white-hot intensity of the Riviera Beach controversy, a massive project that gained national media attention right after Kelo. This development was the brainchild of former Mayor Michael Brown, who wanted to "save" his mostly black city by ejecting some 1,000 homeowners from their modest seaside bungalows that sit on valuable land not far from Palm Beach. Then a great condo and yacht marina complex could be built on this formerly "blighted" land.
The post-Kelo media wave, with support from then Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, helped push Florida's reform bill through and oust the Riviera Beach council, thus killing the project. It remains to be seen how long condo and yacht club developers, big box retailers and the lawmakers they lobby will wait in the wings before obtaining changes in Florida's law.
Fellow legislators wonder too. Ohio conducted a year-long, post-Kelo dog-and-pony show of hearings by an eminent domain task force. It issued a lengthy report -- but the legislature has passed no laws. One member of the task force, unable to envision a world without eminent domain bulldozers, commented to me about Florida's law: "I don't know how they plan to renovate their barrios down there."
At the other end of the spectrum from Utah and Florida there is New Jersey, which has seemingly never met an eminent domain project it didn't like. Events in the Garden State are an object lesson in how post-Kelo politics can devolve. New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald Chen, appointed by Gov. John Corzine, has championed the cause of basic reforms such as giving homeowners notice before condemning their property, improving compensation, and putting the burden on powerful developers to justify a taking by showing that the property is blighted.
As a result, Mr. Chen has found himself mired in the down and dirty muck one finds at the intersection of real estate and money in New Jersey politics. State senators have publicly excoriated him in a legislative hearing for something as ordinary as daring to file amicus briefs in eminent domain cases.
Meanwhile, change has come at an excruciatingly slow pace. Reform bills have been introduced, but none has passed. Working class octogenarians in Long Branch continue their fight to keep their small oceanfront homes -- now valuable -- from the grasp of condo builders; trailer park residents in Lodi have to litigate to hold on in a town that wants to upgrade its residents. In Paulsboro, the taking of empty warehouses and vacant land was challenged; the New Jersey Supreme Court held it does not pass muster to say a property is blighted simply because it is "not fully productive."
The decision was hailed, though it did not invalidate the redevelopment law that spawns such takings. Still, it's a faint light in a very dark tunnel, and similar to a decision by Ohio's Supreme Court, Gamble v. Norwood, in which a working class neighborhood was slated for urban renewal, not because it was deteriorated, but because it was "deteriorating." The court struck the term down as unconstitutionally vague.
In the summer of 2005, even as impassioned speeches to protect private property rights were made to the media on state house steps around the country, resistance was brought to bear inside by interest groups. The result is a national landscape that continues to include barely fettered economic development takings under the blight umbrella.
With each Kelo anniversary, the politics will become more partisan as we forget our initial outrage. While the reforms can improve due process, such as those Mr. Chen recommends, many have aimed at narrowing -- but not eliminating -- blight exceptions. We need to take care. Developers will always look for eminent domain bargains, and towns for ways to raise revenue or rid themselves of undesirable populations. It is not hard to imagine a time when they will set their sights on the surest bets -- the poor and minorities -- resetting eminent domain on its most pernicious historical path.
Ms. Main is the author of the forthcoming "Bulldozed: 'Kelo,' Eminent Domain and the American Lust for Land" (Encounter Books).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sir Slaman Rushdie
on: June 23, 2007, 06:38:29 AM
Given that the response is world-wide I suppose that this post could go in any of a number of threads, but I decided to put it here.
Sir Salman Rushdie
By SADANAND DHUME
June 23, 2007; Page A10
Another Friday in Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi -- and as if on cue, the hoarse, bearded and pyromaniacal pour out of the mosques into the streets armed with Union Jacks and effigies of Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair and the newly knighted Sir Salman Rushdie.
Having protested Danish cartoons and popish detours into Byzantine history to the point of exhaustion, the proverbial Muslim street is once again seething. Pakistan's minister of religious affairs said Mr. Rushdie's award justified suicide bombings, while a group of traders in Islamabad banded together to place a $140,000 bounty on his head. Fathi Sorour, the speaker of Egypt's parliament, declared that, "Honoring someone who has offended the Muslim religion is a bigger error than the publication of caricatures attacking Prophet Muhammad." Malaysian protesters besieged the British high commission (embassy) in Kuala Lumpur chanting, "Destroy Britain" and "Crush Salman Rushdie." With the irony perhaps lost in translation, Iran, whose president thinks nothing of threatening to wipe Israel off the map, condemned the award and called it a clear sign of (that mysterious new ailment) "Islamophobia."
For many of us, however, her majesty's conferral is a welcome example of something that has grown exceedingly rare: British backbone. After years of kowtowing to every fundamentalist demand imaginable -- from accommodating the burqa in schools and colleges to re-orienting prison toilets to face away from Mecca -- the British seem to be saying enough is enough. Nobody expects Mr. Rushdie to be awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the Collar of the Nile or Iran's Islamic Republic Medal, but in Britain, as elsewhere in the civilized world, great novelists are honored for their work. A pinched view of the human condition or poorly imagined characters may harm your prospects. Blasphemy does not.
In the larger struggle against Islamism -- the ideology that demands that every aspect of human life be ordered by the seventh-century Arabian precepts enshrined in Shariah law -- the Rushdie affair carries totemic significance. In 1989 the late Ayatollah Khomeini declared a price on Mr. Rushdie's head for the crime of apostasy, after reading about his mockery of the prophet Mohammed in "The Satanic Verses." At the time, few could have predicted that this was merely the first act of a drama that's still unfolding.
Eighteen years after the ayatollah's fatwa, since lifted, but thanks to freelance fanaticism, never quite extinguished, the Bombay-born Mr. Rushdie has managed to lead a full life. He has turned out eight novels and essay collections, married twice (most recently the model and actress Padma Lakshmi), mentored a generation of young Indians writing in English, and spoken out against obscurantism and religious bigotry of every stripe. He has also witnessed -- mirrored in his own predicament -- the consequences of a Europe too paralyzed by deathwish multiculturalism and moral relativism to recognize the danger it faces. It has become a continent where an Islamist stabs a film director in broad daylight in Amsterdam, where bombs go off in Madrid commuter trains and London buses, where writers, directors and cartoonists suddenly find themselves bound by sensitivities imported not merely from alien lands but from another age altogether.
No Western country has done more to accommodate Islamists than Britain, and none better shows the folly of this course. Successive governments feted organizations such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, and welcomed as refugees a stable of jihadist clerics, including the Syrian-born Omar Bakri Muhammad and the hook-handed Abu Hamza al-Masri. Rather than moderate Muslim passions, this climate of permissiveness gave us Richard Reid the shoe bomber, Daniel Pearl's murderer, Omar Saeed Sheikh, the quartet behind the 2005 London bombings and the plotters who ensured that we must now worry about carrying moisturizing lotion and baby formula each time we board an airplane. A recent poll by Policy Exchange, a London think tank, shows that 28% of British Muslims would rather live under Shariah than under British law.
But at last it looks like the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. Mr. Rushdie's elevation signals an intention to draw a line between respecting Islam and allowing a small minority of Islamists to impose their hairtrigger hysteria on secular Muslims and non-Muslims. It highlights two of the core values of Western civilization conspicuously absent in most of the Muslim world: freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. It squarely rejects the notion that the fossilized norms of Mecca and Mashhad hold sway over Manchester and Middlesex, and beyond them, over Malmo and Minneapolis. Above all, it honors a brave man who has come to symbolize our turbulent times. A little old-fashioned British spine has never been more welcome.
Mr. Dhume is a fellow at the Asia Society in Washington, D.C. "My Friend the Fanatic," his book about the rise of radical Islam in Indonesia, will be published next year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kelo's consequences
on: June 23, 2007, 06:32:01 AM
June 23, 2007; Page A10
Today marks the second anniversary of Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruling that gave governments the authority to seize property on behalf of private developers. Since the 5-4 ruling, many state governments have taken some sort of action to limit these "takings." But in areas that legislators have failed to protect -- which usually turn out to be where low-income minorities reside -- citizens are still exposed to eminent domain abuse.
A recent study by the Institute for Justice compared the demographic characteristics of 184 areas targeted by eminent domain to the surrounding communities. The report shows that eminent domain disproportionately affects poor, ethnic minorities with lower levels of education. Minorities comprised 58% of the population in areas targeted by eminent domain, compared to 45% in the surrounding communities. The median income of residents targeted by eminent domain is less than $19,000 per year, compared to more than $23,000 elsewhere. And 25% live at or below the poverty line, versus only 16% elsewhere.
New Jersey resident Jim Keelen doesn't need statistics to define eminent-domain abuse. His home and business, located one block away from the Atlantic Ocean, have been slated for seizure by local government officials. His business, J&M Keelen Transportation Co., runs special-education transportation for public schools in two local counties.
If the government is successful in seizing his property, Mr. Keelen and his 85 employees -- most of them low-income minorities -- will be forced to vacate their office, a restored historical building, so that private developers can tear it down and put up condominiums in its place. His home, located next door, would be torn down as well.
New Jersey is one of 41 states that have enacted some kind of eminent domain reform. Florida and a couple of other states have done the most to limit eminent domain for private development, but others, such as New Jersey, still allow a loophole based on the definition of "blight." In effect, these laws form a patchwork of property rights that can leave many Americans vulnerable to politicians and local officials allied with rich private developers. (See Carla Main's feature.)
Congress is full of proposals to enact federal protections against eminent domain abuse, but so far no measure has gained political traction. Public support for legislative reform remains strong, however, with an overwhelming majority of Americans favoring some kind of limits on government takings. Opposition comes from city and state governments.
If the consequences of Kelo seem surprising, they were anticipated. In her powerful dissent in the case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that "fallout from this decision will not be random." She predicted that "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more." Two years later, her predictions are coming true, and short of a Supreme Court reversal, more legislative protection for property rights is needed.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 23, 2007, 01:31:32 AM
Pretty Kitty tells me we haave 61 fighters!!! Doors will open at 1000. If you have been meaning to buy some of our products, this will be a good opportunity to do so without having to pay shipping and handling. Please bring cash!
I saw the layout today. Things seem to be coming together very nicely. More on this tomorrow.
Realize that with 61 fighters that the day will be longer than usual. In addition to conventional bleachers, some of the seating will be on scaffolding and there will be some choice positions available on the hood and roof of a rusty Plymouth Roadrunner (1965?)-- (this warehouse was the set of the TV show "Monster Garage" and many of the freaky vehicles built for the show were moved from the warehouse for our Gathering and for the moment sit in the parking lot.) and on top of a very large pickup truck bed, roof, and hood. Some of the seating will be on the floor. We really have no idea of how many people will be coming, but guesstimate that we will be able to handle 400 people without trouble (RAW was packed to the rafters) with 200.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: June 23, 2007, 01:16:55 AM
Gracias por tu "post" (?Como se dice "post"?). Lamento que con nuestro "Gathering" este fin de semana no tendre' tiempo para responder hasta la semana que viene.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru
on: June 23, 2007, 01:15:11 AM
THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW
The famous novelist on politics, and how writing can change the course of history.
BY EMILY PARKER
Saturday, June 23, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
LIMA, Peru--"This is a story that often repeated itself," Mario Vargas Llosa says. "If a father was a businessman, he was a man who had to be complicit with the dictatorship. It was the only way to prosper, right? And what happens is that the son discovers it, the son is young, restless, idealistic, believes in justice and liberty, and he finds out that his vile father is serving a dictatorship that assassinates, incarcerates, censors and is corrupted to the bone."
Mr. Vargas Llosa could have plucked this scenario from his personal recollections of living under dictatorial rule in Peru. But he tells this story to make a more universal point: Dictatorships poison everything in their grasp, from political institutions right down to relationships between fathers and sons.
When I meet Mr. Vargas Llosa in his home in Lima, I am not surprised to find that the world-famous novelist is a natural storyteller. He speaks to me in Spanish, gripping his black-rimmed glasses in his hand and occasionally waving them around for emphasis.
Mr. Vargas Llosa's bold ideas and expressive language may make him one of Latin America's finest writers--"Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," "The Time of the Hero" and "Conversation in the Cathedral" are just a few of his classic works--but those same traits didn't necessarily serve him well at the polls. After running for president of Peru in 1990 and losing to Alberto Fujimori, Mr. Vargas Llosa decided to devote his full attention to writing. He now lives in Lima for about three months of the year, spending the rest of his time in Europe.
"I am not going to participate in professional politics again," he says. And he doesn't have to. Mr. Vargas Llosa has found an effective way to expose the destructive nature of dictatorships, while underscoring the importance of individual liberty and free will. He just picks up his pen. "Words are acts," he says, echoing Jean-Paul Sartre. "Through writing, one can change history."
During the 1990 presidential campaign Mr. Varga Llosa emphasized the need for a market economy, privatization, free trade, and above all, the dissemination of private property. He didn't exactly receive a welcome reception. "It was a very different era, because to speak of private property, private enterprise, the market--it was sacrilegious," he says. "I was fairly vulnerable in that campaign," he continues, "because I didn't lie. I said exactly what we were going to do. It was a question of principle and also . . . I thought it would be impossible to do liberal, radical reforms without having the mandate to do them."
Now, almost 20 years later, the landscape looks very different. Mr. Vargas Llosa explains that he was propelled into politics when then-president Alan García, at the time a socialist and a populist, attempted to nationalize the banks. Today he is running the country again, but "now, the same Alan García is the champion of capitalism in Peru!" Mr. Vargas Llosa laughs merrily. "It's funny, no?"
He is relatively upbeat about Latin America today: "I'm not as pessimistic as others who believe that Latin America has returned to the time of populism, leftism." The region has its problems, to be sure, one major one coming from Caracas in the form of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But according to Mr. Vargas Llosa, perhaps what is most remarkable is what Mr. Chávez has not been able to do.
"We have a big problem with Chávez," Mr. Vargas Llosa admits. "He's a demagogue and a 19th century socialist. He is a destabilizing force for democracy in Latin America, but what he thought would be so easy hasn't been so easy. There has been a lot of resistance."
One of Mr. Chávez's major errors was his refusal last month to renew the license of popular Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV. "International hostility was enormous," Mr. Vargas Llosa notes. "For me, most important was that the protests in Venezuela were very strong, in particular the sectors that were once very sympathetic to him, for example the students in the Central University of Venezuela, not only the students in the private universities."
It is such infringements of free speech that highlight why in places like Latin America, reading a good novel can be much more than just a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. "I think in countries where basic problems are still unresolved, where a society remains so traumatized by deep conflicts--as in Latin America or in Third World countries in general--the novel is not only a form of entertainment, but it substitutes for something that these societies are not accustomed to seeing--information, for example," Mr. Vargas Llosa says. "If you live in a country where there is nothing comparable to free information, often literature becomes the only way to be more or less informed about what's going on." Literature can also be a form of resistance, perhaps the only way to express discontent in the absence of political parties.
This all sounds true enough, but in a dictatorship, wouldn't literature be censored as well? "In undeveloped countries, censorship doesn't reach that point of subtlety, as it did in Spain for example," Mr. Vargas Llosa explains. "Because in undeveloped countries, the dictators are, well, functioning illiterates that don't think that literature can be dangerous."
To give one example, Mr. Vargas Llosa's first novel, "The Time of the Hero," about life at a military school in Lima, was burned publicly in Peru by a military dictatorship in the 1960s. But the authorities apparently didn't find the book enough of a political threat to ban it outright, and in the end it was Mr. Vargas Llosa who reaped the benefits of the public burning. "It became a best seller!" He exclaims, laughing.
There is another disturbing current in Mr. Vargas Llosa's work that is less often discussed--mistreatment of women, ranging from disrespect to outright violence. The abuses are particularly horrifying in "The Feast of the Goat," a novel based on the life of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who terrorized the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. Mr. Vargas Llosa describes traveling to the Dominican Republic and being stunned to hear stories of peasants offering their own daughters as "gifts" to the lustful tyrant. Trujillo and his sons, he tells me, could abuse any woman of any social class with absolute impunity. The situation in the Dominican Republic, which he refers to as a "laboratory of horrors," may have tended toward the extreme, but it underscores a larger trend: "The woman is almost always the first victim of a dictatorship."
Mr. Vargas Llosa discovered that this phenomenon was hardly limited to Latin America. "I went to Iraq after the invasion," he tells me. "When I heard stories about the sons of Saddam Hussein, it seemed like I was in the Dominican Republic, hearing stories about the sons of Trujillo! That women would be taken from the street, put in automobiles and simply presented like objects. . . . The phenomenon was very similar, even with such different cultures and religions." He concludes: "Brutality takes the same form in dictatorial regimes."
Did this mean that Mr. Vargas Llosa supported the invasion of Iraq? "I was against it at the beginning," he says. But then he went to Iraq and heard accounts of life under Saddam Hussein. "Because there has been so much opposition to the war, already one forgets that this was one of the most monstrous dictatorships that humanity has ever seen, comparable to that of Hitler, or Stalin." He changed his mind about the invasion: "Iraq is better without Saddam Hussein than with Saddam Hussein. Without a doubt."
Mr. Vargas Llosa's broad, visceral hatred of dictatorships in part stems from personal experience, in particular growing up in 1950s Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel Odría. "All the political parties were prohibited, there was strict censorship of radio and the press," he explains. "The university had many professors in exile and many student prisoners . . . this is the atmosphere in which a boy of my generation entered adulthood."
This period is the backdrop for "Conversation in the Cathedral," which Mr. Vargas Llosa said would be the work that he would rescue from a fire. The brilliant, four-volume novel rarely addresses Odría directly, rather zooming in on relationships between ordinary Peruvians from all levels of society. With unembellished prose, Mr. Vargas Llosa plunges you right into the heart of a nation without hope. "It's a novel in which I wanted to show what I lived through in through in those years, how the dictatorship didn't limit itself to censorship or prohibiting political life, no!" Mr. Vargas Llosa tells me. "The dictatorship created a system that impregnated every act of life."
And herein lies the power of Mr. Vargas Llosa's work: He finds that tyranny takes its toll in places we hadn't even thought to look. As for the value of freedom, perhaps he puts it best in "The Feast of the Goat": "It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans 31 years ago: free will."
We begin to wrap up our interview. We both drink red wine. A room nearby houses Mr. Vargas Llosa's private library--I notice that some of the volumes are bound in leather. He tells me that there are more than 18,000 books. His collection is clearly a point of pride, but it is also a tangible representation of his belief in the power of words. Or as he would say it: "I think that literature has the important effect of creating free, independent, critical citizens who cannot be manipulated."
Ms. Parker is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin
on: June 21, 2007, 08:41:25 PM
THE END IS NIFONG
by Ann Coulter
June 20, 2007
There is nothing so dangerous as a Southern liberal hoping to be invited to a Graydon Carter party.
As is now well-known, Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong falsely accused three white Duke lacrosse players of gang-raping a stripper, even as evidence piled up proving it never happened. In the weeks after an unstable stripper — or, since this is not a Hollywood movie, "a stripper" — accused the players of rape, Nifong stated on national TV: "I am convinced that there was a rape." He called the players "hooligans," contemptuously sneering that their "daddies could buy them expensive lawyers."
Envy is an emotion well-known for producing model behavior.
Revealing his own motives, Nifong said defense attorneys for the non-indicted players "were almost disappointed that their clients didn't get indicted so they could be a part of this spectacle here in Durham." Hello, Vanity Fair? Did you see where I talked about their "daddies"?
The Arianna Huffington of the legal profession might still have made his star turn at a Vanity Fair party, but for the fortuity of the defense lawyers discovering that he had tried to hide DNA evidence from the defendants, revealing that the stripper, Crystal Gail Mangum, had the DNA of four different men in or on her person, including the driver who took her to stripping gigs and enough other men to bring a class-action suit against her.
None of the DNA matched any Duke lacrosse players, who are starting to look like the only adult males in the Durham area who haven't had sex with Mangum.
Nifong has tried to portray himself as simply making "mistakes." This is absurd. Not even a half-wit like Nifong could have believed "something happened in that bathroom," as he said during his disbarment hearing last weekend. He was willing to send three innocent men to prison to improve his electoral viability in a heavily black district and to become a liberal hero in Manhattan salons.
Admittedly, Nifong studiously refused to take a peek at the evidence. On March 29, 2006, he told reporters he knew a rape had occurred based on — I quote — "my reading of the report of the emergency-room nurse." That report was not given to the police until April 5, 2006, making it the equivalent of the forged Nigerian letter Joe Wilson claims to have debunked eight months before it surfaced at the CIA.
But there were some facts even Nifong couldn't have missed.
He knew, for example, that the cab driver who picked up accused "rapist" Reade Seligmann had signed a sworn statement attesting to the fact that the accused was in his cab when the rape was allegedly taking place.
We know Nifong's office knew about the cab driver because the police soon picked him up on a 3-year-old shoplifting charge. The cabdriver claims that when the police came to arrest him, they asked "if I had anything new to say about the lacrosse case." When he said no, they arrested him. He was tried on the 3-year-old case and acquitted.
Nifong also knew that the second "exotic dancer" at the party called the rape allegation a "crock" and said she had been separated from Mangum for no more than five minutes all night. In other words, another stripper knew Mangum wasn't credible, but Nifong based his entire case on her — or rather on one version of her multiple stories.
We know Nifong knew about the second stripper's statement because his office was soon offering her favorable bail treatment for violating probation. She took the deal — and suddenly decided it was possible a rape had occurred.
Mangum had made similar accusations of gang rape 10 years earlier, but her own father denied it had happened and no charges were ever brought. We know Nifong knew about Mangum's prior false accusation because when he was asked about it, he responded: "All the facts are not yet known, and many of the so-called 'facts' that have been reported and commented on are simply wrong." As we now know, the only "wrong" facts circulating in the press were the ones Nifong had put there.
Nifong knew that Mangum made Tawana Brawley look like Billy Graham: She kept changing her story, altering the number of men who raped her, and was unable to identify her attackers.
Except one. Mangum confidently and repeatedly identified only one lacrosse player as one of her rapists: Brad Ross. Nifong knew this because Brad Ross promptly gave the police proof that he was at North Carolina State University with his girlfriend the night of the party.
This investigation wasn't a mistake — it was malice.
The media love to drone on about the explosive combination of "race and sex" — and they'll wait forever for a single non-hoax case to prove it! In fact, the truly explosive combination is "liberal" and "mediocrity."
Half-bright liberals think Hollywood fantasies are real life. And in Hollywood, conservatives like Rush Limbaugh are never fabulously rich and successful. Conservative Christians like Tom DeLay are never savvy, influential congressmen. And handsome boys from good families are never nice.
Nifong was supposed to look like Gregory Peck — not like Bob Wexler! But it's the lacrosse players who look like Gregory Peck.
Second-rate liberals who went to mediocre schools and married mediocre women are burning with jealousy from their nondescript, mediocre jobs. So they use their government jobs to attack their betters and sneer about the players' "daddies."
Like so much injustice in America, this whole sick spectacle was the revenge of the mediocre against the successful. Stupid and envious is a bad combo platter.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Maybe this explains it- part 2
on: June 21, 2007, 07:31:57 PM
A Defaulter using the nom de phreak Lucky225 steps up to the mike. With a phone tucked between his ear and shoulder and the keyboard under his fingers, he looks like a cross between a DJ and a telephone line repairman.
Lucky regales the audience with a tale about his favorite VoIP hack: He can make a VoIP phone display whatever caller ID number he chooses. To prove his point, he tells us he can impersonate "Jenny," the girl from the pop song by Tommy Tutone.
Earsplitting static issues from the speakers, and suddenly we hear a thunderous dial tone. Lucky has routed his VoIP phone through the sound system. He dials MCI's caller ID readback line, a service that identifies whatever number you're calling from. A robotic voice slowly intones Lucky's number: "eight-six-seven-five" - the crowd erupts, screams of laughter mingling with groans - "three-zero-nine."
Having demonstrated his power over caller ID, Lucky proceeds to tell the phreak-packed auditorium how he spoofed the number. Turns out the whole thing is a social hack. A few days before, he called his service provider, Vonage, and told them he wanted to port all his cell phone calls to the Internet phone connected to his computer. His cell number is 867 5309, he lied, and Vonage believed him. Now it's rerouting all calls made to Jenny on the Vonage network to Lucky.
Naturally, Vonage also set the caller ID on Lucky's VoIP phone to Jenny's number - so any time he dials out, it looks like he's calling from 867 5309. A lot of systems depend on receiving accurate caller ID - credit card-activation lines, voicemail systems, even 911. So being able to control what a called party sees after you dial can be a potent weapon. Armed with your caller ID, an identity thief could order a new ATM card, activate it over the phone, and use it to empty your bank account. And, given that many voicemail boxes will play their contents to any phone with the right caller ID, you could be opening up your private life to anyone with a Vonage phone.
After the show, I ask Lucky why he got into the phreak scene. "Well," Lucky deadpans, sketching out plans for a network of cans and rubber bands, "I wanted to start this elastic-based phone system " He's a prankster, but with a purpose - to make clear to the public that VoIP is a privacy nightmare. "Yup," he concludes, still pondering voice over elastic, "I think this tin can shit is really going to take off."
Steve Wozniak, the Apple computer pioneer whose phreak days began in the 1970s, says pranks are what it's all about. "Those of us who have the phreaker mentality see playing with the world as fun, but in these times it's hard for people to see us as harmless."
Maybe so, but Vonage doesn't seem too concerned. When I contact the company later to find out whether they know about Lucky's caller ID trick and what they are doing to stop it, executive VP Louis Holder admits they're not doing anything. "We allow people to do what he did," Holder says. "We give people a temporary phone number before we verify it with the phone company, and verification takes a couple of weeks. Somebody could pick the White House number and pretend to be the president."
Today's phreaks have the power to crash the phone system - but they also have the power to rebuild it. Lucky's joke about creating his own network out of tin cans and rubber bands isn't that far from the truth. Slestak, Da Beave, and GiD are the crew behind Florida-based Telephreak.org, a free VoIP service that they've built to run on a roll-your-own, open source private branch exchange (PBX) system called Asterisk.
Typically used by businesses, a PBX consists of computers that route calls between what amounts to a phone intranet and the public telephone system. A company using a PBX might pay for 100 lines that service 500 employees, linking callers to the outside world, voicemail, or conferences by dynamically connecting phone calls using whichever landlines are open. In the past, all these connections would be managed by the phone company or a proprietary, closed black box in the server room. But with Asterisk, there's no need for the phone company to manage your lines anymore. You can do it yourself.
The Telephreak crew has created its own private phone company for themselves and their friends - one that never sends a bill. Dial an access line to check voicemail, create conference calls, forward calls to other phones, even get a new number. And never pay a cent.
Currently, there are several hundred voicemail accounts, and the system can handle a hundred simultaneous calls. Although the Telephreak crew has to pay for connectivity to Ma Bell, the amount is so negligible that they're willing to eat the money. It's a small price to pay for freedom.
I'm talking to them on a Telephreak conference call, and the sound is a little fuzzy. Beave, identifiable by his slight southern twang, tells me he's working on ironing out the bugs. It's a little strange to know someone is manipulating your phone connection while talking to you. Suddenly, the sound is perfect. We've been rerouted. Slestak's voice comes in loud and clear: "My connection to you guys right now is going across a cordless phone with a box to the server, then to Telephreak. My dial tone is coming from the West Coast."
One of the best things about building your own PBX is that you can do what Slestak calls "chemistry experiments" with the phone system. Some PBX phreakers, like Telediablo, even provide a caller ID spoofing service: With it, there's no need to lie to Vonage - you simply call up Telediablo's PBX, plug in the number you want to use as your caller ID, then dial the party you want to trick. When I try out his little hack, I pick the number 666 6666. Next, I key in a nearby friend's number. It rings. My friend shows me his caller ID window: Now I feel like a phreak. Instead of displaying my number, his phone is displaying the devil's digits.
There are other PBX tricks - like caller ID unmasking, which can sometimes reveal the actual phone number of a caller, regardless of whether they've paid to have their number blocked. So if you think you're anonymous on the telephone system, think again.
Probably the most unsettling discovery made by whitehat phreakers is that VoIP providers and wireless companies are willing to peddle phones and services that they know perfectly well are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks. After several months of bad publicity in the UK, where Laurie and Whitehouse are based, the cell phone companies are responding. Nokia and Sony Ericsson have issued patches, and Motorola says that its security flaws have been fixed in the newer models. And upstart VoIP provider Skype is marketing built-in encryption. Meanwhile, the Bluetooth Consortium - a group of industry leaders, including Nokia and Sony Ericsson, whose products incorporate Bluetooth - focused explicitly on security at its UnPlugFest in Germany last month. At the meeting, security experts (including Laurie) rated each company's phones in terms of their resistance to common attacks. Still, nobody is tracking bluesnarf or bluebug attacks to measure the extent of the problem - nobody but the whitehat phreaks themselves.
Whitehouse has written a program he calls Sweet Tooth that can detect the signature radio signals sent by bluesnarfers. Modeled on honeypot programs that law enforcement and security analysts use to detect hackers on the Internet, Sweet Tooth could provide accurate statistics on how prevalent bluesnarf attacks really are. The program is ready for action, says Whitehouse. The question now is whether law enforcement and the phone companies will actually deploy it, however. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it better - especially because phone hacking is only going to get easier.
Bluetooth phreaking is just the beginning. The holes will get patched, but the problem won't go away, because all the tools that hackers have spent decades developing will now be repurposed to hijack your phone. Next-generation handsets will have three entry points for the blackhats: If a snarfer can't suck down your data with Bluetooth, he'll try your Wi-Fi port, and if that doesn't work, infrared.
"I guess that's the price you pay for convergence," Whitehouse says.
The Great Cell Phone Robbery
How security flaws in today's mobile phones could add up to tomorrow's perfect crime.
Step 1: Approach
A virus-spreader enters Heathrow Airport toting a briefcase with a laptop and an external antenna. The rig can sniff Bluetooth signals from up to 20 feet away - and with just a bit of hacking, it can be modified to send and receive signals over much greater distances.
Step 2: Discover
Using a program like bluesnarf, the laptop automatically finds Bluetooth phones with firmware vulnerable to remote takeover. This process is completed in less than 15 seconds.
Step 3: Take over
The laptop sends a program to all the vulnerable phones. Disguised as a game or a marketing promotion, the program is really a Trojan horse hiding a nasty virus. Once the user launches it, the virus hijacks the phone's operating system, taking over basic functions like dialing and messaging.
Step 4: Propagate
The target phone is now infected, and it reacts by broadcasting the virus to other vulnerable Bluetooth phones within 20 feet. Within minutes, thousands of phones can be infected.
Step 5: Steal
Commandeering the phones' SMS system, the virus uses a popular European micropayment system called reverse SMS to transfer 10 euros from each phone to a temporary account in Estonia. The virus requests the transfer and stays in control until it can confirm the order. The account is closed long before any user sees the charge reflected on the monthly bill.
Annalee Newitz (email@example.com
), a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote about dating optimizers in issue 12.06.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Maybe this explains it
on: June 21, 2007, 07:30:27 PM
I found this @ wired.comhttp://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/phreakers.html?pg=3&topic=phreakers&topic_set=
It is a 4 page article
They've Got Your Number …
… your text messages and address book, and a way to bug your calls. Why spam, scams, and viruses are coming soon to a phone near you.
It's a beautiful afternoon in Shepherd's Bush, a bustling neighborhood on the outskirts of London, and Adam Laurie is feeling peckish. Heading out of the office, he's about to pick up more than a sandwich. As he walks, he'll be probing every cell phone that comes within range of a hidden antenna he has connected to the laptop in his bag. We stroll past a park near the Tube station, then wander into a supermarket. Laurie contemplates which sort of crisps to buy while his laptop quietly scans the 2.4-GHz frequency range used by Bluetooth devices, probing the cell phones nestled in other shoppers' pockets and purses.
Laurie, 42, the CSO of boutique security firm the Bunker, isn't going to mess with anyone's phone, although he could: With just a few tweaks to the scanning program his computer is running, Laurie could be crashing cell phones all around him, cutting a little swath of telecommunications destruction down the deli aisle. But today Laurie is just gathering data. We are counting how many phones he can hack using Bluetooth, a wireless protocol for syncing cell phones with headsets, computers, and other devices.
We review the results of the expedition in a nearby pub. In the 17 minutes we wandered around, Laurie's computer picked up signals from 39 phones. He peers at his monitor for a while. "It takes only 15 seconds to suck down somebody's address book, so we could have had a lot of those," he says at last. "And at least five of these phones were vulnerable to an attack."
The "attack" Laurie mentions so casually could mean almost anything - a person using another person's cell to make long distance calls or changing every phone number in his address book or even bugging his conversations. There are, he says, "a whole range of new powers" available to the intrepid phone marauder, including nasty viral attacks. A benign Bluetooth worm has already been discovered circulating in Singapore, and Laurie thinks future variants could be something really scary. Especially vulnerable are Europeans who use their mobile phone to make micropayments - small purchases that show up as charges on cell phone bills. A malicious virus maker bent on a get-rich-quick scheme could take advantage of this feature by issuing "reverse SMS" orders.
Bluetooth security has become a pressing issue in Europe, where the technology is ubiquitous. The problem will migrate to American shores as the protocol catches on here, too. But in the long run, Bluetooth vulnerabilities are manageable: Handset manufacturers can rewrite faulty implementations, and cell phone users will learn to be more careful. A far bigger security nightmare for the US is Internet telephony, which is fast being adopted for large corporations and is available to consumers through many broadband providers. Voice over IP is, by design, hacker-friendly. No enterprising criminals have dreamed up a million-dollar scam exploiting VoIP technology yet. But when they do, it likely won't be something a simple patch can fix.
Bluetooth hacking is technically very different from VoIP hacking, but they're both surging for the same basic reason. Increasingly, telephones have become indistinguishable from computers, which makes them more useful, but also more vulnerable. VoIP, which routes calls over the Internet, gives users the power to port their phone number anywhere, package voice messages into MP3s and receive them as emails, and make cheap international calls. Yet VoIP, like Bluetooth, exposes your telephone to the same ills that regularly befall a desktop box - worms, spam, crashes.
"It's not like we've fixed the vulnerabilities on computers," says security expert Bruce Schneier, author of Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World. "The phone network used to get its security from being closed, but VoIP phones will be just as bad as computers."
Many of today's hacks work because the traditional phone system was built on the premise that only large, monopolistic phone companies would be using it, and they would all play by the same rules. But the network isn't the telcos' private sandbox anymore; it can be manipulated and controlled by anybody who understands basic computer networking. The people who know this best are a new generation of phone hackers - aka phreakers - who aren't interested in following the rules. They're busy ripping apart the latest phones to discover what can make them turn against their owners. As the phone companies and handset makers lumber along, we can only hope that the phreaks in white hats figure out some fixes before the blackhats move in for the kill.
Laurie, whose laptop is now packed with information from vulnerable cell phones in the Shepherd's Bush, has become infamous in Britain for conducting a similar experiment in the House of Parliament, where he had the opportunity (which he didn't take) to copy the address books and calendars of several prominent politicians. That excursion resulted in a mandate that all Bluetooth devices be turned off in the House of Parliament.
As the inventor of "bluesnarfing," a hack that uses Bluetooth to peek at data stored on cell phones, Laurie is dedicated to publicizing the danger of a wide-open Bluetooth connection. A bluesnarf attack can identify an unprotected phone and copy its entire address book, calendar, photos, and any other information that happens to be inside. Using a bluesnarf program, a phreak can also crash any phone within range by using Bluetooth to broadcast what Laurie calls "a corrupted message."
Bluesnarf was born after Laurie scrutinized the code running some Bluetooth headsets his staff was using. He wasn't happy with what he found. "Gaping security holes," he says with a frown. Rebuffed by the cell phone companies to which he reported the problems, he conceived of bluesnarf as a publicity stunt, a tool that would dramatize the danger of owning these phones.
Compounding Bluetooth's technical vulnerabilities are problems with the way people use it. Most folks leave Bluetooth on all the time, often because they don't bother to learn how to turn it off. Even tech-savvy types tend to keep their connections open. "People have heard about 'toothing,' where strangers send each other flirtatious messages via Bluetooth," he says. Hoping to get toothed, they risk an entirely different kind of penetration.
The risk doesn't end with snarfing. Another way to use Bluetooth to hijack a phone completely is bluebugging, and Laurie gives me a quick demo. He runs the bluebug software on his laptop, and it quickly locates an Ericsson t610 phone he's set on the table between us (not all phones can be bluebugged, but this model can). His computer connects to the phone and takes it over, remotely. Tapping the keyboard, Laurie sends the t610 a command to ring up the phone on his belt. It bleeps. He answers. We've got a bluebug.
Invented by Austrian researcher Martin Herfurt earlier this year, bluebugging is the perfect weapon for corporate spies. Let's say you and I are competing for a big contract with an oil company. I want to hear everything that happens in your meeting with the VP of Massive Oil Inc., so I hire a blackhat phreak to take over your cell phone. Once he's bluebugged it, I tell him to have your mobile call mine. The phone that's sitting in your jacket pocket is now picking up everything you and the VP say during your conversation, and I can hear the prices you're quoting as clear as a bell on my own phone. "A cell phone is the ultimate well-engineered bugging device," Laurie says.
Unlike bluesnarfers, who need only some gear and know-how, the bluebugger first has to get your cell phone to pair with his computer, establishing a "trusted" data link. Laurie explains one crafty way to make this happen. "You just say, 'Gee, that's a cool phone, can I see it?'Punch a few buttons to establish the pairing, and hand it back." As soon as the pairing is complete, the bluebugger can commandeer every aspect of the phone. He can initiate calls, send SMS messages, even overwrite the address book and contacts list.
Laurie's revelation is disturbing, but the fact that phreakers need to approach and interact with their intended targets significantly cuts down on the number of victims. Yet British security consultant Ollie Whitehouse, whose Bluetooth-hunting program Redfang has made him a celebrity among phreakers, describes another a way to bluebug - a method that doesn't demand the eavesdropper come into physical contact with the target's phone. In this case, the trick is to sniff the data traffic traveling to and from a Bluetooth phone when it's pairing with another device, like a headset. Armed with this information, an attacker can bluebug the phone by pretending to be the trusted device with which it regularly networks.
Cell phone companies argue that bluesnarfing and bluebugging are minor threats because Bluetooth is designed to work only over short distances, 20 feet or less, requiring attackers to be close to their targets.
Enter the Bluetooth sniper rifle. Made from $200 worth of off-the-shelf parts, the sniper is a Bluetooth antenna optimized for long-distance use. It can send and receive faint signals at more than a thousand yards. With the sniper - or a wireless weapon like it - bluesnarfers and bluebuggers no longer have to be in the same room as their targets. "By smashing any notion that distance is an issue," says 24-year-old inventor Jon Hering, a student at the University of Southern California, "we showed that bluebugging is a real-world threat."
Surely the phone companies must be doing something to protect us from all this. Keith Nowak, a spokesperson at Nokia, suggests "just turning off Bluetooth - or switching into hidden mode."
Whitehouse laughs at that advice. Redfang, his signature phreak tool, is specifically designed to find Bluetooth devices in hidden mode. And given that so few people actually do turn off Bluetooth, their phones are susceptible to countless hacks - ones that Hering's sniper rifle could launch from half a mile away.
The Default Radio boys, rock stars in the phreak underground, are onstage at DefCon, the venerable hacker conference that's sort of a cross between the Ozzfest mosh pit and an after-hours party for NSA agents. Wearing baseball caps, T-shirts, and baggy jeans, the boys are doing a live version of their phreak-friendly streaming-audio talk show. The long table in front of them is covered with telephone equipment and computers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: June 21, 2007, 04:23:26 PM
PAKISTAN: Osama bin Laden has been awarded the Pakistani Ulema Council's highest honor as a reaction to the United Kingdom knighting Salman Rushdie The Pakistani Ulema Council, a leading group of Pakistani Islamic scholars with a purported membership of 2,000 Pakistanis, gave bin Laden the title of Saifullah, meaning "sword of God."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: June 21, 2007, 04:17:57 PM
Dog Corey: Dogzilla emailed his regrets about a week ago. Some family matters arose, etc. and will see us in September. I would have loved for him to be at this one in particular. He sounded to be in outstanding shape too!
Here is an email from Shocknife's president Jeff Quail in its entirety:
I haven't been able to sign on to the message board yet so I will send you
my replies for you to post on my behalf:
The answer to the first questions:
1) The suggestion of wearing no clothing to increase the shock sensation.
The opposite is actually true. If your participants wear long sleeve shirts
they will receive a greater shock sensation. The fabric should be thin and
dry for best results. The reason is that the clothing will create a gap
between the electrodes and the skin which will allow the capacitor to fill
up to a higher level before it discharges. The clothing will also ensure
that heavy sweat does not create a temporary short on the blade. The
clothing should not be to thick (like a jacket).
2) The Shocknives will not be damaged be incidental contact with the blades.
Extended contact can cause overheating of the internal electronics but
nothing during a knife on knife scenario should create a problem. The
voltage can not be increased by introducing more of the same voltage from an
alternative source. In otherwords if the electrodes touch they will not
double the voltage returning into the receiving electrode. For what you guys
are using it for there should be no problem.
3) In regards to the question about the fencing mask. Electricity will
always travel in the path of least resistance. If the material of the
fencing mask can conduct electricity the charge will flow through the
shortest path from electrode to electrode. If the mask was pushed up against
the face or eye at that point, the electricity could possible flow into the
body. IF ANY ELECTRICITY GETS IN THE EYE IT CAN CAUSE SEVERE DAMAGE. This is
why we ask that a fully enclosed impact resistant plastic googles are worn.
If the person is wearing a mask instead of googles, the mask should be
tested to ensure that the mesh can not be pushed up against the eye or face.
If it can, it should not be used.
Hope this helps Marc! If there are any more questions please let me know. I
appologize about not having the new knife for you but will get you one when
they are available. The blade will completely eliminate shorting from sweat.
Wish everyone luck!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Coming and going at the same time
on: June 21, 2007, 09:54:08 AM
06/21/2007 09:07 AM ID: 63161
Fornicating Couple Falls off Roof, Both Die
Two South Carolina residents in their early 20's are dead after what police believe may have been a sexual encounter gone horribly wrong. An unwitting cab driver came across the two nude, lifeless bodies at around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Police were summoned immediately, and an investigation began. The bodies were located next to a building, and police began to search the area. A check of the building's roof, some fifty feet off the ground below, revealed the couple's clothes.
Police are still looking into other possibilities, although there is currently no sign of foul play. "It's too early to rule out anything," said Columbia police Sgt. Florence McCants. Their identities have not yet been publicly released.
for the news clip.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 21, 2007, 05:45:23 AM
Poisonous and Treasonous
By Quin Hillyer
Published 6/20/2007 12:08:40 AM
For those of us out here who really do have a moderate position on
immigration, who really do seek a reasoned approach that in the long
run allows for some form of "guest workers," the immigration bill
being considered by the Senate is more and more of an affront the
more and more its details become clear. It is an affront because it
appears to have been written in bad faith, by illegitimate
procedures, with all sorts of smoke screens meant to snooker us into
believing the bill is moderate and balanced.
In fact, the bill is a radical and dangerous attempt to open the
It must be stopped.
That's the only conclusion one can reach after re-reading, closely,
the report called "20 Loopholes in the Senate Immigration Bill,"
released on June 4 by Alabama's Sen. Jeff Sessions. (Of the 20, only
one minor "loophole" has since been improved by amendment.)
For "Loophole 1," Sessions has identified the provision which, all
along, has been the single biggest stumbling block to people of good
will who wish to take this bill seriously. It is the now-infamous
allowance for "probationary benefits," which effectively makes every
other law-and-order provision in the bill utterly worthless. Allow me
to quote Sessions' entire paragraph:
Amnesty benefits do not wait for the "enforcement trigger." After
filing an application and waiting 24 hours, illegal aliens will
receive full "probationary benefits," complete with the ability to
legally live and work in the U.S., travel outside of the U.S. and
return, and their own social security card. Astonishingly, if the
trigger is never met and amnesty applications are therefore never
"approved," the probationary benefits granted to the illegal alien
population never expire, and the new social security cards issued to
the illegal alien population are not revoked. [See pp. 1, 290-291, &
Even worse is the combination of that loophole with "Loophole 5 --
Completion of Background Checks Not Required For Probationary Legal
Status." Again, I quote:
Legal status must be granted to illegal aliens 24 hours after they
file an application, even if the aliens have not yet "passed all
appropriate background checks." (Last year's bill gave DHS 90 days to
check an alien's background before any status was granted.)... [See
As Sessions then comments, on the contrary, "No legal status should
[my emphasis] be given to any illegal alien until all appropriate
background checks are complete."
As long as the probationary visa provisions remain in the bill, all
reasonable people ought to consider this bill poisonous. No matter
how one slices it, this is complete amnesty, pure and simple, with no
enforcement, no respect for the law, no guarantee of safety, no
requirement to learn English, no reliable insistence that businesses
hire only legal visitors, no protection against Social Security and
welfare fraud that could cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions
of dollars over the next several decades.
It is hard to see this as anything other than a deliberate attempt by
the bill's drafters to provide an end-run around everything else in
the bill, in effect to make everything else into window dressing.
What other reason could there be for cutting the background check
time period from 90 days to a single day? (!!!!!!!)
Collectively, all the other loopholes identified by Sessions are at
least equally scary. For instance, the trigger does not require full
implementation of the U.S. VISIT system, which is the biometric
border check-in/check-out program that already is two years overdue.
The trigger's requirements for detention capabilities for scofflaws
is off by about 50 percent, or more than 30 thousand beds, from what
a later part of the bill acknowledges is the desirable amount.
Also, "Aliens who broke into the country illegally a mere 5 months
ago are treated better than foreign nationals who legally applied to
come to the U.S. more than two years ago."
There are loopholes that fail to protect against certain child
molesters, fail to protect against certain people with terrorist
connections, fail against known gang members (who must merely
"renounce" their gang membership on their application), and fail
against absconders (people who already have been given deportation
orders but ignored them and remain in our country).
On and on goes Sessions' list, with the senator also identifying a
number of provisions that would make the bill financially costly to
American taxpayers. One of these provisions is so bad that it, too,
merits quoting Sessions' description in full:
Free legal counsel and the fees and expense of arbitrators will be
provided to aliens that have been working illegally in agriculture.
The U.S. taxpayer will fund the attorneys that help these individuals
fill out their amnesty applications. Additionally, if these
individuals have a dispute with their employer over whether they were
fired for "just cause," DHS will "pay the fee and expenses of the
arbitrator." [See p. 339:37-41, & p. 332: 37-38.]
In all, if passed in its current form, this might be one of the
single worst bills in the history of the United States, ranking right
up there with the Smoot-Hawley tariff that helped usher in the Great
Depression. It makes a mockery of law and order and public safety,
and it makes a mockery of the entire notion of American citizenship.
It is outrageously irresponsible.
Not only that, but by concocting it via the alchemy of back-room deal-
making, without benefit of a single committee hearing, its drafters
contemptuously insult the American people by refusing to trust the
people with the ability to analyze and comment on the legislation the
drafters would impose upon them. Such shenanigans are utterly
destructive to all efforts to maintain within our populace what the
poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson called "some sense of duty, something of a
faith, some reverence for the laws ourselves have made."
There is no way, none whatsoever, that this bill can inculcate a
reverence for this nation's laws. Instead, it breeds only further
contempt: the contempt for our laws it will instill in the minds of
illegal immigrants, and the contempt for our system with which a
clear majority of Americans will greet such legislation if passed
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: June 21, 2007, 04:34:43 AM
Victory means achieving something like we set out to do. Some sort of representative government like millions of Iraqis have voted for at considerable personal risk to themselves three times and something which is opposed by Al Qaeda and its ilk-- who have succeeded in stirring up sectarian religious strife while engaging in considerable true torture and mass deliberate targetting of civilians as part of their standard operating procedure. This vision is also opposed by Saddamite Baathist elements who also have engaged in terrible deeds.
Coming on the heels of finding nothing wrong with revealing military secrets in time of war, to say that one "opposes" our victory is to deliberately choose to express oneself in a way that sounds quite like something unpatriotic and I find it a bit disingenuous to be surprised when GM took the bait.
"The way I see it, both we and the Iraqis win if we stop the war now and concentrate our energy on making Iraq a better place for Iraqis to live than it was under Saddam, which we have the power to do anytime we want."
This is either vacuous or , , , silly. It has been our mission from the beginning and continues being our mission under the most challenging of circumstances to "make Iraq a better place for Iraqis". Preventing this are AQ and its ilk (who have openly declared democracy to be against Islam) Saddamite Baathist elements, etc. The blame for the fighting belongs on those who violently and murderously oppose the three times democratically expressed will of the Iraqi people, not on the US. Sure the Bush people have made plenty of mistakes but to put the blame on the US equally with AQ, Baathist elements, etc is easily understood to go hand in hand with opposing our victory.
"The reasons we were given for getting into this war were complete BS, and there is simply no denying this."
This is tedious. Quite the contrary. There is plenty of denying this as I have with you for several years now, both on the Assn forum and here. I find the denial of what has been explained to you many times by others and by me to be yours.
Also tedious was this:
Hypothetical question: what would be your feelings about the subject titles below, on your political discussion forum or somebody else's?
Israel vs. Palestine
Zionism and Fascism
Judaism the religion
Jews in the US
Jews in the Media
Jews in Hollywood
Jews in Europe
Over-representation of Jews in the Bush Administration?
Invitation to dialog with Jews
Keep in mind that I haven't said anything about what would be posted in them. I'm just talking about opening the subjects for a truth-seeking discussion.
There is not a world-wide movment (India, Canada, Thailand, France, Afghanistan, England, Iran, Spain, Iraq, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Horn of Africa, Algeria and the rest of North Africa, Palestine, United States, Lebanon, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc) of jewish fascism of at least 100 million and maybe hundreds of million more jews looking to bring down western civilization by the sword, terror and treachery. You do not see world-wide demonstrations of jews killing and burning down embassies as we did in the events that started this thread with the world-side response to the Danish cartoons- although there are far nastier cartoons aplenty about Jews in the Arab and Iranian press quite regularly.
If there were such a movement doing such things, such questions would be quite appropriate. However there is not such a movement, which is why such questions are tediously in search of a non-existant moral parity.
Again, one may fairly think that our goals are not achievable and that therefore we should come home. To oppose the achievement of these goals is something else. Do you two oppose the achievement of these goals?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin
on: June 20, 2007, 09:02:20 PM
THEN AND NOW
Racial Role Reversal
What the Scottsboro Boys and the Duke lacrosse players have in common.
BY JOHN STEELE GORDON
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Imagine this: In a Southern town, a woman accuses several men of rape. Despite the woman's limited credibility and ever-shifting story, the community and its legal establishment immediately decide the men are guilty. Their protestations of innocence are dismissed out of hand, exculpatory evidence is ignored.
The Duke rape case, right? No, the Scottsboro case that began in 1931, in the darkest days of the Jim Crow South.
The two cases offer a remarkable insight into how very, very far this country has come in race relations, and alas, in some ways how little. For race is central to why both cases became notorious. In Scottsboro, Ala., of course, the accusers were white and the accused was black. In Durham, N.C., it was the other way around.
On March 25, 1931, a group of nine young black men got into a fight with a group of whites while riding a freight train near Paint Rock, Ala. All but one of the whites were forced to jump off the train. But when it reached Paint Rock, the blacks were arrested. Two white women, dressed in boys clothing, were found on the train as well, Victoria Price, 21, and Ruby Bates, 17. Unemployed mill workers, they both had worked as prostitutes in Huntsville. Apparently to avoid getting into trouble themselves, they told a tale of having been brutally gang raped by the nine blacks.
The blacks were taken to the jail in Scottsboro, the county seat. Because the circumstances of the women's story--black men attacking and raping white women--fit the prevailing racial paradigm of the local white population, guilt was assumed and the governor was forced to call out the National Guard to prevent a lynch mob from hanging the men on the spot. The nine were indicted on March 30 and, by the end of April, all had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death (except for the one who was 13 years old, who was sentenced to life in prison).
A year later, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions of those on death row, except for one who was determined to be a juvenile. By this time, however, the "Scottsboro Boys" had become a national and even international story, with rallies taking place in many cities in the North. Thousands of letters poured into the Alabama courts and the governor's office demanding justice.
The International Labor Defense, the legal arm of the Communist Party USA, provided competent legal help, and the convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court because the defendants had not received adequate counsel. Samuel Leibowitz, a highly successful New York trial lawyer (he would later serve on the state's highest court) was hired to defend the accused in a second trial, held in Decatur, Ala. This turned out to be a tactical error, as Leibowitz was perceived by the local jury pool--all of them white, of course--as an outsider, a Jew and a communist (which he was not). Even though Ruby Bates repudiated her earlier testimony and said no rape had taken place, the accused were again convicted, this time the jury believing that Ruby Bates had been bribed to perjure herself.
Again the sentences were overturned, and in 1937--six years after the case began--four of the defendants had the charges dropped. One pleaded guilty to having assaulted the sheriff (and was sentenced to 20 years) and the other four were found guilty, once again, of rape. Eventually, as Jim Crow began to yield to the civil rights movement, they were paroled or pardoned, except for one who had escaped from prison and fled to Michigan. When he was caught in the 1950s, the governor of Michigan refused to allow his extradition to Alabama.
It is now clear to everyone that the nine Scottsboro boys were guilty only of being black.
When the accuser in the Duke case charged rape, the district attorney--in the midst of a tough primary election--saw an opportunity to curry favor with Durham's black community and exploit the town-gown tension found in every college town. He ran with it, inflaming public opinion against the accused at every opportunity.
To be sure, there was no lynch mob, which happily is almost inconceivable today. But many Duke University students and faculty, and many members of the media (Nancy Grace of Court TV comes to mind), simply plugged the alleged circumstances into their racial paradigm--wealthy white college jocks partying and behaving badly with regard to a poor black woman--and pronounced the Duke boys guilty. Wanted posters went up on campus with pictures of the accused; 88 members of the faculty sponsored an ad in the college paper effectively supporting the posters; and the university president suspended two of the accused upon their indictment (the third had already graduated), cancelled the rest of the season for the lacrosse team, and forced the resignation of the team coach.
Here is where the real difference between the Scottsboro boys and the Duke boys kicked in: not race but money. The Scottsboro boys were destitute and spent years in jail, while the Duke boys were all from families who could afford first-class legal talent. Their lawyers quickly began blowing hole after hole in the case and releasing the facts to the media until it was obvious that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. The three Duke boys were guilty only of being white and affluent.
The district attorney won his election. But when the case fell apart and his almost grotesque malfeasance was exposed, he first resigned his office and ultimately was disbarred from the practice of law. Duke University has just settled with the three students it treated so shamefully for an undisclosed, but given the university's legal exposure, undoubtedly substantial sum. Meanwhile, the 88 members of the faculty have yet to apologize for a rush to judgment that was racist at its heart.
The country has come a long, long way in regard to race relations since 1931. But we have not yet reached the promised land where race is irrelevant. Far too many people are still being judged according to the color of their skin, not the content of their character, let alone the evidence.
Mr. Gordon is the author of "An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power" (HarperCollins, 2004).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 20, 2007, 11:37:35 AM
WSJ's Political Journal:
Money Talks, Even If It Doesn't Run
In the end he may not run, but New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg certainly roiled political waters yesterday with his announcement he was leaving the Republican Party to register as an Independent.
For the next seven months you can expect a lot of teasing from Team Bloomberg as he evaluates whether or not to run. He will likely make up his mind after the Tsunami Tuesday primaries next Feb. 5, when both major party nominees are likely to be known.
"If John McCain gets beaten to the right -- which is possible in a conservative Republican primary -- and if Democrats elect someone through a primary who Democrats generally view as unelectable, there's a large segment of the American electorate that is looking for something different," Bloomberg strategist Kevin Sheekey told Politico.com last year, in a clear reference to Hillary Clinton as the "unelectable" Democrat. Mr. Sheekey is apparently convinced there are enough alienated voters to make up "36% of the vote in enough states to give you an electoral win." Money, of course, wouldn't be a problem -- Mr. Bloomberg has hinted to friends he could easily spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a presidential race.
In reality, winning a majority of the Electoral College is tricky for an independent under the best of circumstances, a consideration that ultimately may convince Mr. Bloomberg to keep his billions in his pocket. If he does run, whom does he hurt most?
The biggest ding would be to Democrats, who would suddenly find themselves having to defend safe blue territories such as New York and California (86 electoral votes between them). Other states that lean Democratic, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, would also be in play. For their part, Republicans would be forced to compete more intensely in a few states they usually carry, such as Florida (chock full of New York migrants). But it's unlikely Mr. Bloomberg would have much appeal in the South or Midwest GOP strongholds. "How much of a cultural fit can a five-foot, seven-inch culturally liberal Jew from New York City with a Boston accent be in Kansas City?" asks one GOP consultant.
That said, Mr. Bloomberg will no doubt enjoy the next seven months as the entire national press corps speculates on his possible moves and provides him with endless media coverage. Mr. Bloomberg may end up getting all the attention he wants without having to spend his fortune running for president.
-- John Fund
Et Tu, Bloomie?
Yesterday wasn't a good day for GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. First came word that President Bush was appointing former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle as his new budget director, replacing the retiring Rob Portman. Mr. Nussle had been the top strategist for Mr. Giuliani in the key Iowa caucuses but now will be sidelined from politics.
Then came word that Thomas Ravenel, South Carolina's state treasurer and the campaign chairman for Mr. Giuliani in that key early primary state, has been suspended from office and indicted by a federal grand jury on distribution of cocaine charges.
To top everything off, the surprise move to register as an Independent by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man Mr. Giuliani campaigned for in 2001, couldn't have been good news for Team Rudy. Should Mr. Bloomberg run for president, it is almost certain he would diminish Mr. Guiliani's contention that he could win the White House for the GOP by putting states such as New York into play.
A new Quinnipiac Poll makes it unclear just how much of a chance Mr. Giuliani would have in the state both he and Hillary Clinton call home. It shows Senator Clinton with a solid 52% to 37% lead against Mr. Giuliani in a two-way race. With Mr. Bloomberg thrown into the mix, Mrs. Clinton leads by 43% to 29% with 16% opting for Mr. Bloomberg as an independent. Most ominously, Mr. Bloomberg actually ties Mr. Giuliani among key independent voters -- each man gets 23%.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Journey into Islam
on: June 20, 2007, 10:38:54 AM
June 20, 2007
Journey into Islam
By Tony Blankley
I have just finished reading a deeply disheartening book by my friend
Professor Akbar Ahmed. Dr. Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner
to Britain and member of the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge,
current chair of Islamic Studies at American University -- and is in the
front ranks of what we Westerners call the moderate Muslims, who we are
counting on to win the hearts and minds of the others.
I first met Professor Ahmed shortly after Sept. 11. He, his friends and I
broke bread several times and discussed the condition of Islam and the West.
He graciously agreed to share a stage with me at the National Press Club to
debate with me the merits of my book, "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win
the Clash of Civilization?" As my book was very harshly received by many
Muslims around the world, I don't doubt that Dr. Ahmed shared that stage
with me at some risk at least to his reputation -- if not more.
We even considered doing a weekly cable TV show on the clash of civilization
from our different (but respectful) points of view -- although nothing came
of it. Dr. Ahmed is a worldly man of letters who profoundly believes that
collective good can be accomplished by individual acts of good conscience --
that each of us (Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu) must connect with others and
live out our convictions for our common humanity in the face of tribalism,
religion and other dividing forces. Thus, his reach out to me, a fiery
American nationalist TV commentator and editor to find if not complete
common ground, at least common friendship.
His new book, "Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization," is thus
particularly heartbreaking for me. As a trained anthropologist, he took
three of his students on a six-month journey around the Muslim world to
investigate what Muslims are thinking.
His conclusion: Due to both misjudgments by the United States and
regrettable developments in Muslim attitudes, "The poisons are spreading so
rapidly that without immediate remedial action, no antidote may ever be
found." And Dr. Ahmed has always been an optimist.
He divides Muslim attitudes into three categories named after Indian Muslim
cities that have historically championed them: Ajmer, Aligarh and Deoband.
Ajmer represents peaceful Sufi mysticism, Aligarth represents the instinct
to modernize without corrupting Islam, Deoband represents non-fatalistic,
practical, action-oriented orthodox Islam. It traces to Ibn Taymiyya, a
14th-Century thinker who lived when Islam was reeling from the Mongol
invasions. He rejected Islam's prior easy, open acceptance of non-Muslims.
In short, Dr. Ahmed is an Aligarth. As a young man he was one of new
Pakistan's best and brightest, led by Pakistan's founding father and first
president, Dr. Jinnah. They hoped to build a modern democracy, overcome
tribalism and the more obscurantist aspects of Islam while still being "good
Muslims." The Deobands are the Bin Ladens and all the other Muslims we fear
Even one or two years ago, I think Dr. Ahmed was reasonably hopeful that his
views had a fighting chance around the Islamic world. So, my jaw dropped
when I got to page 192 of his new book and he described his thoughts while
in Pakistan last year on his investigative journey: "The progressive and
active Aligarth model had become enfeebled and in danger of being overtaken
by the Deoband model ... I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who
knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had
already lost the war."
He likewise reported from Indonesia -- invariably characterized as
practicing a more moderate form of Islam. There, too, his report was
crushingly negative. Meeting with people from presidents to cab drivers,
from elite professors to students from modest schools (Dr. Ahmed holds a
respected place in the Muslim firmament around the globe), reports that 50
percent want Shariah law, support the Bali terrorist bombing, oppose women
in politics, support stoning adulterers to death. Indonesia's secular legal
system and tolerant pluralist society is being "infiltrated by Deoband
thinking ... Dwindling moderates and growing extremists are a dangerous
Although I dissent from several of Dr. Ahmed's characterizations of the Bush
Administration, Washington policymakers and journalists should read this
book because it delivers a terrible message of warning both to those who say
things aren't as bad as Bush says, and we can rely on the moderate voices of
Islam -- with a little assist from the West -- winning; and for those who
argue for aggressive American action to show our strength to the Muslims
(because, in Bin Laden's words, they follow the strong horse).
To the first group he says that the "moderate" voice is in near hopeless
retreat across the Muslim world. Don't count on them. To the second group he
says, whatever Bush's intentions, our aggression only strengthens our
I think he knows his solution is forlorn: "Although the planet's societies
are running against time ... [we must] transcend race, tribe and religion
and cherish our common humanity, every individual must become the message."
Let us pray.
But for those of us who don't expect the milk of human kindness to suddenly
start flowing, it behooves us to read Professor Ahmed's honest assessment of
the real state of Muslim world attitudes and coldly re-assess our various
policy prescriptions in its light.
These are grim times, but we must resist indulging ourselves in hopeful
fantasies. Every piece of our national security calculations must be
realistically assessed against the available facts. What is working, what
isn't, what to do?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: June 20, 2007, 10:33:55 AM
Not a knife, but it is an item that cuts, so I post it here.
A study in "the Three Ss":
Bar fight charge is attempted murder
Man is “critical” after incident early Sunday.
By Jeff Wiehe email@example.com
Stapleton: Was reportedly in fight at another bar
Allen County prosecutors say a Fort Wayne man used a broken beer bottle to attack Charles A. Minnix early Sunday morning, stabbing the 42-year-old in the neck, arm, chest and hand during a fight outside Country Spirits bar on Arcola Road.
After medics airlifted the critically injured South Whitley man to a local hospital, doctors put him on a ventilator. He had emergency surgery to repair his punctured lung and stop arterial bleeding.
David Lee Stapleton, 45, of the 5300 block of Stonehedge Boulevard, was arrested at his apartment shortly after the attack and charged with aggravated battery. Thursday, the charge was raised to attempted murder, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Stapleton posted $10,000 bond after his intial arrest Sunday morning, but was rearrested during a court appearance the next day and given $25,000 bond. He posted that, too, and as of this morning he had not been arrested for the attempted murder warrant, according to lockup records.
The fight apparently began when Minnix began to ask bar patrons for money to put into the jukebox, according to an Allen County Sheriff’s Department report. He and Stapleton began to argue sometime before 2:45 a.m., and a bartender told police she heard Stapleton say to Minnix, “You want a piece of me?”
Stapleton — who witnesses said in the report had been in an altercation earlier that night at another bar — apparently wanted to use a pool cue against Minnix, but bar patrons wrestled it away from him and got the two to go outside. There, Stapleton broke a beer bottle and began jabbing at Minnix and another man trying to break up the fight.
According to a probable-cause affidavit, Stapleton stabbed Minnix in the arm before bystanders separated them. Then Stapleton somehow got to Minnix again and stabbed him in the throat. He also cut another man who was trying to break the two apart, the sheriff’s report said. That man suffered only a minor laceration to his arm.
Witnesses dragged Minnix back into the bar. They locked Stapleton out, and an affidavit said he tried to get back in, yelling and swearing. Several witnesses said he threatened to kill Minnix.
Stapleton left with a woman, according to the sheriff’s report.
Police arrived at the bar to find large amounts of blood outside the door and on the front wall, as well as a blood trail to where Stapleton’s car had been parked, the sheriff’s report said. Officers also found a broken beer bottle covered in blood in a trash barrel outside the bar.
Officers waited for Stapleton at his apartment, where he arrived about 45 minutes after the fight. When police arrested him, he had blood on his hands. He was treated at St. Joseph Hospital before police took him to Lockup.http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/fortwayne/news/local/17374237.htm
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Bolivia
on: June 20, 2007, 10:24:53 AM
BOLIVIA: A group of university students with torches, sticks, rocks and dynamite demonstrated in Sucre, Bolivia, late June 19. Police used tear gas to prevent the students from reaching the Constitutional Assembly. The students were protesting a proposed article in the assembly that would grant government control over universities -- a measure that ruling Movement Toward Socialism party already has said it will no longer support.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: June 20, 2007, 09:18:58 AM
That's pretty funny Buzz.
Changing subjects, Nature Conservancy is a fine group, which seeks market oriented solutions. As I read this editorial I am reminded that I need to renew my membership:
Published: June 20, 2007
The steady march of major timber companies to new locations in the southern United States and overseas has exposed millions of acres to development, ratcheting up the already fierce pressures on the nation’s dwindling supply of open space. With most federal open-space programs cut to the bone, the task of preserving these lands for future generations has fallen increasingly to private groups.
Given their relatively limited resources, any victory they achieve is cause for cheers. And cheer we do this week for the Nature Conservancy’s purchase — with financing from the Open Space Institute and other groups — from a paper company of 161,000 acres of hardwood forests, mountain peaks, lakes and streams in New York’s Adirondacks.
The deal secures for posterity the last big piece of privately owned timberland in the Adirondacks. It caps a series of transactions stretching back to the early 1990s that altogether have protected hundreds of thousands of Adirondack backcountry acres that might otherwise have been lost to second homes. The transaction is also significant because it will allow selective logging to continue for 20 years, helping to preserve jobs at a local paper mill.
To cover the $110 million price, the Nature Conservancy is going to need more than just cheering. Some of the money could come from private fund-raising, and some by selling part of the timberland back to a company that would harvest the land sustainably but keep out residential development.
We also urge Gov. Eliot Spitzer to step forward, as his predecessor George Pataki did on similar occasions in the past. The state could buy some of the land outright, adding it to the New York State Forest Preserve. It could also buy the development rights from the Nature Conservancy through a conservation easement — rights, of course, it would never use.
From Maine to California, groups like the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land are engaged in a continuing, and financially creative, battle to keep the developers at bay and keep large ecosystems intact. This week’s deal gives them, and all of us, heart.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 20, 2007, 09:06:46 AM
Published: June 20, 2007
McALLEN, Tex., June 15 — Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president and professor of anthropology at the University of Texas branch in Brownsville, saw a slight problem in the route of a border fence that federal officials displayed at a community meeting earlier this month.
Dr Antonio N. Zavaleta, a vice president of the University of Texas branch in Brownsville, at the site of the planned fence, which would split the university. “Would the students need to show a passport?” he asked.
“Part of our university,” Dr. Zavaleta said, “would be on the Mexican side of the fence.”
What about traffic between classes, he wondered. “Would the students need to show a passport?”
He was not the only one who was startled. Local leaders throughout South Texas have been voicing puzzlement and alarm at the implications of the barrier, which Congress has authorized the Department of Homeland Security to construct along 370 miles of the United States-Mexico border, including 153 miles in Texas, by December 2008.
Some of the gravest concern involves the effect on wildlife in the 90,000 acres of national refuges in South Texas, where bumper stickers read “No Border Wall” and a group of naturalists, Los Caminos del Rio, has been staging ecotourism forays into a long-closed sanctuary to draw attention to endangered habitats.
Customs and Border Protection officials say that the path of the fence is far from settled and that they are discussing it with local officials.
But maps like the one shown in Brownsville on June 4 by Chief David Aguilar of the Border Patrol put the route along a levee built inland to hold back flooding on the Rio Grande. That location, some here say, would in effect cede to Mexico the land on the other side of the fence up to the official international border, the middle of the Rio Grande.
In Brownsville, Dr. Zavaleta said, that path would cut off not only the International Technology, Education and Commerce campus of the University of Texas and Texas Southmost College, which is in a former shopping center about a mile from the main campus, but also its golf course and a national historic site, Fort Brown, where an upright cannon marks an opening skirmish of the Mexican War.
Even the heavily trafficked bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, would be on the Mexican side of the fence, Dr. Zavaleta said.
He said Chief Aguilar had seemed taken aback by the observations and agreed to review the route.
“Nothing has been finalized yet,” said Xavier Rios, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. “To say something will be cut off is way premature.”
Mr. Rios added that the fence would have many access points to allow monitored passage.
But in Laredo, where Mayor Raul G. Salinas, a former officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has complained of being bypassed, a city spokeswoman, Xochitl Mora Garcia, said that after promising to consult with local officials, federal authorities recently invited contract proposals for construction of the fence.
“What they’re saying and doing are two different things,” Ms. Garcia said.
In Brownsville, the district clerk, Aurora De La Garza, and a county commissioner, Sofia Benavides — who emerged from a hurricane-planning visit to the Mexican consulate at the university campus that would be isolated — derided officials in Washington as not understanding family ties across the border.
“This is a relationship that cannot be broken by a fence,” Ms. Benavides said.
Representative Henry Cuellar, the South Texas Democrat who has been organizing local forums to air grievances, said the Homeland Security Department had become more responsive.
“They may have started off on the wrong foot,” Mr. Cuellar said, “but they’re trying to work with the locals now.”
On Friday, the House passed a bill, now before the Senate, appropriating $37 billion for the Homeland Security Department with a provision, insisted on by Mr. Cuellar and others, requiring federal officials to consult with local communities about the fence, which could cost $2 billion to $49 billion.
Supporters say a fence is crucial to shoring up the nation’s southern border. Critics say that a 10-foot-high wall in San Diego is already being scaled by illegal immigrants using ladders, and that technology alone — a virtual fence — could provide much of the same security.
Furthermore, congested areas like Laredo, where development extends to the Rio Grande amid tightly intertwined commercial and social ties to its sister city across the border, Nuevo Laredo, do not lend themselves to a fence.
In an unusual step in the booming border crossroads city of McAllen, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has taken a role in the debate, providing a rare permit to Los Caminos del Rio (Ways of the River), to run scheduled biking and kayaking outings into the long-restricted Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Members have to announce their visits ahead of time to tip off the Border Patrol and assure protection from the human smugglers who infest the refuge — like, for example, the three jumpy fellows who had just crossed the river from Mexico the other evening to stash a bag of dry clothes for nightfall.
“Don’t mess with us or we’ll both get messed up,” warned one (or words to that effect).
Eric Ellman, executive director of the 17-year-old Los Caminos group, said the strategy was akin to that devised in New York City at the height of the 1970s crime wave.
“Legal activity will displace illegal activity,” Mr. Ellman said, maintaining that the presence of ecotourists would make the refuge less appealing to illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.
Bryan R. Wynton, the refuge manager, said he was concerned that a fence could prove ruinous to wildlife relying on the river. “It pretty much destroys 20 years of efforts,” he said.
But Mr. Wynton added, “I’m smart enough to know national security is going to trump fish and wildlife management any day, but that doesn’t mean I need to throw in the towel.”
A morning spent biking and kayaking the refuge with about a dozen members of Los Caminos showcased the diversity of the wildlife. As Lori Humphreys, executive secretary of the group, led the group with an S.U.V. full of gear, and Mel Piñeda, a consultant, followed in a pickup loaded with kayaks, a herd of javelinas bolted into the mesquite. A turkey buzzard circled overhead along with menacing-looking tarantula wasps that lay their eggs inside tarantulas also in evidence from a dried carcass at the side of the road.
Sue Thompson, a local farmer and a member of the North American Butterfly Association, with its own reserve nearby, said she had seen smugglers in the refuge driving up to unload boxes of drugs ferried across the Rio Grande.
Just the evening before, on a run-through of the next morning’s nature tour, Mr. Piñeda stumbled across the three men huddling on the shore of the river waiting for dark with their bag of dry clothes.
On the Mexican side, families frolicked in the water, and Mr. Piñeda shouted across, asking what they thought of the wall. “It’s an insult,” one man shouted back, adding, “We’ll make tunnels.”
As nightfall came, Napoleon Garza, an armed local caretaker who was patrolling the reserve against feral hogs, warned the visitors to leave.
“There’s a lot of dope being run across here,” he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Shadow goes
on: June 20, 2007, 09:01:37 AM
The Shadow Goes
By MARGARET WERTHEIM
Published: June 20, 2007
ON Thursday, on the summer solstice, the Sun will celebrate the year’s lazy months by resting on the horizon. The word solstice derives from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). The day marks the sun’s highest point in the sky, the moment when our shadows shrink to their shortest length of the year. How strange to think that these mundane friends, our ever-present familiars, can actually go faster than the sun’s rays.
I remarked on this recently to my husband as we sat on the porch with our shadows pooling by our chairs. Nothing can go faster than light, he insisted, expressing what is surely the most widely known law of physics, ingrained into us by a thousand “Nova” programs.
That is the point, I explained: Nothing can go faster than light. A shadow isn’t a thing. It’s a non-thing. It’s the absence of light.
Special relativity dictates that we cannot move anything more quickly than the particles of light known as photons, but no law says you can’t do nothing faster than light. Physicists have known this for a long time, even if they generally do not mention it on PBS documentaries.
My husband looked troubled, as did my sister and some friends I regaled with the story that evening. Like the warp drive on “Star Trek,” faster-than-light travel is supposed to be a science-fiction fantasy. Isn’t it?
They are right about the travel: According to relativity, no physical substance can exceed the speed of light because it would take infinite energy to accelerate anything to such a velocity.
Yet the laws of physics pertain only to that which is. That which isn’t is not bound by relativity’s restraint. From the point of view of relativity, a shadow (having no mass) is a non-thing, an existential void.
It’s quite easy to conjure up a faster-than-light shadow, at least in theory. Build a great klieg light, a superstrong version of the ones set up at the Academy Awards. Now paste a piece of black paper onto the klieg’s glass so there is a shadow in the middle of the beam, like the signal used to summon Batman. And we are going to mount our light in space and broadcast the Bat-call to the cosmos.
The key to our trick is to rotate the klieg. As the light turns, the bat shadow sweeps across the sky. Round and round it goes, projecting into the void. Just as the rim of a bicycle wheel moves faster than its hub, so too, away from the source our bat shadow will fly faster and faster, a consequence of the geometry that guarantees the rim of a really big wheel moves faster than a co-rotating small wheel.
At a great enough distance from the source, our shadow bat will go so fast it will exceed the speed of light. This does not violate relativity because a shadow carries no energy. Literally nothing is transferred. Our shadow bat can go 10 times the speed of light or 100 times faster without breaking any of physics’ sacred rules.
My sister leapt to the heart of this apparent paradox: Why isn’t the light itself traveling faster than the speed of light? Isn’t it also rotating in space? Actually, no. The bulbs that produce the light are spinning, but the light particles leave the source at 186,000 miles a second, the vaunted “speed of light.” Once emitted, the photons continue to travel at this speed directly away from the source. Only the shadow revolves around the great circle. The critical point is that no object, no substance, defies light.
My husband was right to object that you’d need one spectacular klieg to produce a detectable shadow thousands of miles out in space. Still, the theory is sound.
The anthropologist Mary Douglas noted that all systems of categorizing break down somewhere, unable to incorporate certain forms. By standing beyond relativity’s injunction, shadows suggest the limits of all classification schemes, a tension that even modern science cannot completely resolve.
In the terms recognized by relativity, shadows are non-things. Yet before the invention of clocks, shadows were the most important means for telling time. Weightless and without energy, shadows can nonetheless convey information — though they cannot, despite our giant klieg, be used for faster-than-light communication. That’s because the shadow’s location cannot be detected until the light, moving at its ponderous relativistic pace, arrives.
“Here there be monsters,” said the medieval maps, signaling the limits of reason’s reach. As a map of being, physics is flanked by the monsters of non-being whose outlines we glimpse in the paradoxes of quantum mechanics and in the zooming arc of a shadow bat going faster than light.
In Christian theology we are told, “God is that which nothing is greater than.” The scientific corollary might be, “Light is that which nothing is faster than” — a statement true both in spirit and fact.
Margaret Wertheim, the director of the Institute for Figuring, a science and mathematics education organization, is writing a book on physics and the imagination.