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27601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: September 19, 2007, 08:21:15 AM
Took advantage of yesterday's drop due to a secondary offering to fatten my position in LNOP a bit.
27602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 19, 2007, 08:19:23 AM
The Fed and Character
September 19, 2007; Page A20
The Federal Reserve pulled no punches yesterday with its decision to cut the fed funds rate by 50 basis points to 4.75%. The unanimous statement from the Fed's Open Market Committee was equally as definitive, leaning clearly on the side of those willing to risk more inflation in order to protect the economy from recent disruptions in the credit markets.

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

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

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

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

27603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 19, 2007, 08:08:33 AM
HillaryCare's New Clothes
Different means but the same political destination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: "You go to war with the citizens you have, not the citizens you want." on: September 19, 2007, 08:03:02 AM
Even though I strongly agree with the underlying proposition, as I finished reading that I had a sense of "Where's the punch line?" -- or having read an advertisement , , ,
27605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 19, 2007, 07:58:24 AM

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

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

Bottom line:  I read the story with interest, but lack the basis for an opinion.
27606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 19, 2007, 07:29:06 AM
"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we
may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to
disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate
and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the
great body of our country.  Unequivocal in principle, reasonable
in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to
the cause of freedom & harmony."

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

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

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

27607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 10:40:36 PM

I am still confused.  Post #339 is from me and is directed specfically to you.  Have you read it?
27608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 09:37:56 PM

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

WTF?  Is there an inference here?

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

27609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2007, 06:05:35 PM
Dozens died in Syrian-Iranian chemical weapons experiment'



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SourceDrudge /servlet/Satellite?cid=1189411428847&pagename=JPost%2FJPArt icle%2FShowFull
27610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: September 18, 2007, 12:53:03 PM
There was quite a media firestorm ignited when security at USC's library tasered a late night Iranian who refused to ID himself and/or leave.

Why did this not receive similar coverage?
27611  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 18, 2007, 12:21:19 PM
Chattels of the Nanny State

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

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

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

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

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

-- John Fund

27612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 18, 2007, 11:21:58 AM
From Berlin to Baghdad
September 18, 2007; Page A14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 18, 2007, 11:09:09 AM
"[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy, such an anarchy
that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's
life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every
one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination
of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers
of wealth, beauty, wit and science, to the wanton pleasures, the
capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few."

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

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (338); original The Papers of
John Adams, Taylor, ed., vol. 1 (83)
27614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: September 18, 2007, 11:06:37 AM
Antibiotic Runoff
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Published: September 18, 2007
One of the persistent problems of industrial agriculture is the inappropriate use of antibiotics. It’s one thing to give antibiotics to individual animals, case by case, the way we treat humans. But it’s a common practice in the confinement hog industry to give antibiotics to the whole herd, to enhance growth and to fight off the risk of disease, which is increased by keeping so many animals in such close quarters. This is an ideal way to create organisms resistant to the drugs. That poses a risk to us all.

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

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

The consumer has the choice to buy pork that doesn’t come from factory farms. The justification for that kind of farming has always been efficiency, and yet, as so often happens in agriculture, the argument breaks down once you look at all the side effects. The trouble with factory farms is that they are raising more than pigs. They are raising drug-resistant bugs as well.
NY Times
27615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 11:01:17 AM
After Talk of War, Cooler Words in France on Iran
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Published: September 18, 2007
MOSCOW, Sept. 17 — France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katrin Bennhold reported from Moscow, and Elaine Sciolino from Paris. Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Nicola Clark from Paris.
27616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 18, 2007, 10:50:31 AM
Iran Warns German Banks: If You Leave, Don’t Come Back
August 23, 2007 | From
Financial broadsides between Berlin and Tehran could presage more dangerous exchanges in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

27617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: September 18, 2007, 10:46:12 AM
Muslim Brotherhood's papers detail plan to seize U.S.

Group's takeover plot emerges in Holy Land case

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

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News

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

The documents – introduced in recent weeks as part of the prosecution's case in the trial of the now defunct Holy Land Foundation and five of its organizers – lay out the Brotherhood's plans in chillingly stark terms. A 1991 strategy paper for the Brotherhood, often referred to as the Ikhwan in Arabic, found in the Virginia home of an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, describes the group's U.S. goals, referred to as a "civilization-jihadist process."
"The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions," it states. This process requires a "mastery of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.' "
Success in the U.S. "in establishing an observant Islamic base with power and effectiveness will be the best support and aid to the global movement," it states.
A transcript of a Brotherhood orientation meeting recorded in the early 1980s includes discussions of the need for "securing the group" from infiltration by "Zionism, Masonry ... the CIA, FBI, etc. so that we find out if they are monitoring us" and "how can we get rid of them." Discussions later turn to "weapons training at the Ikhwan's camps" in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Esam Omeish, president of the Virginia-based Muslim American Society, or MAS, says the documents introduced in the Holy Land trial are full of "abhorrent statements and are in direct conflict of the very principles of our Islam."
"The Muslim community in America wishes to contribute positively to the continued success and greatness of our civilization," Dr. Omeish said. "The ethics of tolerance and inclusion are the very tenets that MAS was based on from its inception."
His group, formed in 1993, is thought by many to be the Brotherhood's current incarnation in the U.S., although he and other MAS leaders say their group formed as an alternative to radicalism.
"MAS is not the Muslim Brotherhood," Dr. Omeish said. The society "grew out of a history of Islamic activism in the U.S. when the Muslim Brotherhood once existed but has a different intellectual paradigm and outlook."
Mahdi Bray, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Muslim American Society's Freedom Foundation, which promotes Muslim civil rights, called the Holy Land documents "a throwback." He has attended portions of the Holy Land trial.
"If those documents talk about the establishing of Shariah law in America, I'm saying that's a lot of hype: wishful thinking from an immigrant perspective. ... It doesn't reflect genuine American perspective in terms of where we're heading," Mr. Bray said.
He said members of MAS decided in 1993, when the organization was founded, that they would pursue political and nonviolent tactics.
"I wouldn't be candid if I didn't say there weren't some old-timers who want to hold onto the old way, who say that this is the way the Ikhwan did it, this should be our model," he said. "We said 'So what? It doesn't work here.' We've been very adamant about that."
Mr. Bray, an Islamic convert, has been criticized by some as being an apologist for terrorists, particularly for his condemnation of Israel's 2004 missile strike in the Palestinian Gaza Strip that killed Hamas' spiritual founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Mr. Bray says that although his politics are controversial, he's not anti-American.
"Those on the right and many of those who I would classify as Islamophobes, many of them have failed to realize that there is an authentic American Muslim organization here and movement in America that wants to integrate," he said. "We believe the ballot is an appropriate place to be."
He said that he "liked the Bill of Rights" and didn't want to see the Constitution replaced with Islamic law.
"There's a maturation that's taken place in the American Muslim community that's either not understood, or understood but viewed as a threat to other interest groups in this country."
There are those in the U.S. government who believe that the Brotherhood is the Bush administration's best chance for reaching out to moderate Islamists internationally.
The Brotherhood "works to dissuade the Muslims from violence, instead channeling them into politics and charitable activities," said Robert S. Leiken, director of the Immigration and National Security Program at The Nixon Center in a recent article in Foreign Affairs, a publication of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations.
While he has not studied the Holy Land documents, Dr. Leiken said that the U.S. discussion on Islamic thought tends to be polarized and that what passes for scholarship is often more selective than rigorous.
"The more you study it, the more distinctions and differences should emerge," he said. "And scholars should see these distinctions. In Europe, these things are understood better, but in the U.S., they often get brushed aside in the heat of the debate."
27618  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: September 18, 2007, 10:39:27 AM
Sent to me by a friend. 

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

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

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

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

Prayer Request: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.
27619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: September 18, 2007, 09:33:23 AM
The Mukasey Nomination
Earth to Washington: Mukasey fits the job. Don't screw up this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 18, 2007, 09:28:29 AM
Another previous article by Mukasey from this morning's WSJ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Mukasey is chief judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. This is adapted from a speech he gave last Wednesday, on his acceptance of the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence.
27621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 18, 2007, 09:26:50 AM
G'morning GM:

That's a very nice hope.

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

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

27622  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: September 18, 2007, 09:14:04 AM
Jose Padilla Makes Bad Law
Terror trials hurt the nation even when they lead to convictions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Politics of Health Care on: September 18, 2007, 09:07:13 AM
Woof All:

There are two health related threads already on the SC&H forum, so I pause before starting a third one here.  That said, I do start this thread here because it is obvious that health care is going to be a major theme in the Presidential campaign. 

We kick the thread off with Karl Rove evil


Republicans Can Win on Health Care
A market-based system can give us freedom, innovation and health security.

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

All around America, families are grappling with health-care concerns. They wonder if they'll have insurance at a price they can afford. They worry about how much out-of-pocket health costs take from the family budget. They question if they'll be able to pick their own doctor. Some feel trapped in jobs they don't like out of fear of losing their health insurance.

As the latest government-heavy plan announced by Hillary Clinton yesterday once again shows, the answers politicians offer on health care highlight the deep differences between liberals and conservatives. This is a debate Republicans cannot avoid. But it is one we can win--if we offer a bold plan. Conservatives must put forward reforms aimed at putting the patient in charge. Increasing competition will ensure greater access, lower costs and more innovation.

Liberals see the concerns of families as a failure of private insurance, and want the U.S. to move toward a government-run, single-payer model. This is a recipe for making problems worse. Socialized medicine inevitably leads to poor quality, inefficiency, rising taxes and rationing. The waiting lines and poor care that cause people from other countries to come here for treatment are not the answer.

Government can help poorer and older Americans get quality health care without sacrificing what everyone wants--the ability to choose their own doctor and health coverage that meets their family's particular needs. What reforms will do that?
• Level the tax playing field. People who work for companies get a tax break on the health insurance they get from their employer. Many small business employees, farmers and the self-employed are unable to benefit from the same tax advantage, because they or their employers can't afford health insurance. It's not fair or wise to penalize people who have to pay for health insurance out of their own pockets. They should benefit from the same tax advantage employees from bigger companies get.

The mortgage interest deduction made it easier for people to own a home and all America benefited. Similarly, every worker should get a deduction for health-insurance premiums. This would ease the burden on working families and make it possible for millions more Americans to own health insurance. Some Republicans in Congress support a tax credit rather than a deduction: that's reasonable, too. A deduction or a credit puts patients in charge by helping them get private coverage that meets their needs.

• Tax-free savings for health costs. We are encouraged to save tax-free for retirement and college; we should make it easier to save tax-free for out-of-pocket medical expenses, too. Tax-free savings accounts, paired with low-cost catastrophic health insurance, make coverage affordable for working families. For example, a youth minister told me his Health Savings Account (HSA) gave his family peace of mind because they now had insurance coverage for big emergencies and could save tax-free for everyday health expenses.

That's why, in less than three years, more than 4.5 million families have set up HSAs. Some Democrats want to rein in HSAs because they fear HSAs put the individual--not government--in charge and once someone gets to pick a plan that meets their needs, they won't like being dictated to by government.

And when people see they can save money by eating better, exercising and making healthy lifestyle choices, guess what? They do. I met with workers at Wendy's Headquarters in Ohio who were eagerly taking steps to lead healthier lives because it saved them money.

• Portability. When you change jobs, you don't have to change auto insurance, but you may have to change your health insurance and even your doctor. That's important in a world where young Americans are likely to have 10 jobs before they are age 36. Too many people are locked into jobs they don't like out of fear they'll lose health coverage. The solution is obvious: People should be able to take their health insurance with them when they change jobs.

• Arming consumers through more competition. Rep. John Shadegg (R., Ariz.) argues that people should be able to buy health insurance issued by a company based in another state. Lack of interstate competition helps to explain why the same health policy costs $8,334 in North Dakota but $10,312 in South Dakota. If consumers in South Dakota could buy that North Dakota policy, prices for health insurance would go down.

• Pool risk, lower costs. Large companies get purchasing power and savings because they share risk across large numbers of employees. Sen. Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) and Rep. Sam Johnson (R., Texas) believe small businesses should be able to join together to pool risk, too. It would mean more competition and lower costs, and more people able to afford coverage.

• Greater transparency.Today, patients rarely know what a procedure will cost or how good a clinic or hospital is, except by reputation and word of mouth. For example, a study of metropolitan hospitals found prices for services varied widely--by as much as 259%--even after controlling for geographic variations in the cost of doing business. Putting information about cost and quality in the hands of patients would lower the cost and improve the quality of health care. Patients making informed choices would create market pressures for lower prices and better care.

• Stop junk lawsuits. I've heard sad stories from doctors and patients. The doctor who had to close her clinic in her hometown and move across the state to work at a hospital that would pay her rising liability insurance premiums. The head trauma specialist afraid that when he retired, his community in one of the poorest regions in the country couldn't attract a replacement. The pregnant woman who drove 80 miles from home in Las Vegas to get prenatal care.

Communities are losing talented health-care professionals who simply can't afford the bigger liability premiums caused by frivolous lawsuits. More than 48% of all counties in the U.S. have no ob-gyn physicians. Hospitals are finding it tougher to provide obstetrics, emergency room care or neurosurgery because of frivolous lawsuits. And doctors, afraid of lawsuits, practice "defensive medicine," ordering unnecessary tests and procedures which add to the cost of health care.

Whose interest does that really serve? If we want richer trial lawyers, let them keep filing junk lawsuits we all pay for. If we want better health care, curb frivolous lawsuits.

• Build on the progress already made by putting patients in charge and letting competition work. When Congress considered prescription drug coverage under Medicare, Democrats tried to have government set prices and deliver the drugs. When the Congressional Budget Office estimated the first year's monthly premium for seniors would be $35, Democrats tried to lock in that price.

Republicans disagreed, arguing competition would lower prices and provide more choices. They were right: Competition led to more options and an average monthly premium of around $23--an annual savings of $144 in the first year. Competition continues to save seniors (and taxpayers) money. When the bill passed, independent actuaries estimated the monthly premium for 2008 would be $41. Recently, Medicare officials announced that the 2008 average monthly premium will be around $25. Seniors would have paid over $4 billion more in prescription drug premiums the first two years of the program had Democrats mandated a $35 monthly premium. Taxpayers are saving also: This past January, the actuaries projected that the prescription drug benefit will cost $113 billion less over the next 10 years than estimated the previous year, primarily because of competition and low bids.

In short, the best health reform proposals will be those that recognize and build on the virtues of our market-based medical system. Sick people around the world come here because they can't get quality care in their home countries. Many health-care professionals come here to practice, leaving behind well-meaning health-care systems where government is in charge, bureaucrats make the decisions, and where the patient doesn't have the choice he or she does in the U.S.
Mrs. Clinton may think Americans want to trade freedom and innovation for the illusory security of government regulation and surrender control of their health decisions to government bureaucrats. My bet is 2008 will teach us something different if Republicans make health care a centerpiece issue.

Mr. Rove recently left the White House, where he was an adviser to President Bush.

27624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2007, 09:02:43 AM
Second post of the day.  From the WSJ:

Osirak II?
Israel's silence on Syria speaks volumes.

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

In the late spring of 2002 the American press reported that Israel had armed its German-made submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. In Israel, this was old news. It was also headline news.

"Washington Post: Israeli subs have nuclear cruise missiles," was how the Jerusalem Post, of which I was then the editor, titled its story of June 16. It wasn't as if we didn't previously know that Israel had purchased and modified the German subs for purposes of strategic deterrence. Nor did we delight in circumlocutions. We simply needed the imprimatur of a foreign source to publish items that Israel's military censors (who operate as if the Internet doesn't exist) forbade us from reporting forthrightly.

So it's more than a little telling that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz chose, in the wake of an Israeli Air Force raid on Syria on Sept. 6 dubbed "Operation Orchard," to give front-page billing to an op-ed by John Bolton that appeared in this newspaper Aug. 31. While the article dealt mainly with the six-party talks with North Korea, Mr. Bolton also noted that "both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched." He went on to wonder whether Pyongyang was using its Middle Eastern allies as safe havens for its nuclear goods while it went through a U.N. inspections process.

How plausible is this scenario? The usual suspects in the nonproliferation crowd reject it as some kind of trumped-up neocon plot. Yet based on conversations with Israeli and U.S. sources, along with evidence both positive and negative (that is, what people aren't saying), it seems the likeliest suggested so far. That isn't to say, however, that plenty of gaps and question marks about the operation don't remain.

What's beyond question is that something big went down on Sept. 6. Israeli sources had been telling me for months that their air force was intensively war-gaming attack scenarios against Syria; I assumed this was in anticipation of a second round of fighting with Hezbollah. On the morning of the raid, Israeli combat brigades in the northern Golan Heights went on high alert, reinforced by elite Maglan commando units. Most telling has been Israel's blanket censorship of the story--unprecedented in the experience of even the most veteran Israeli reporters--which has also been extended to its ordinarily hypertalkative politicians. In a country of open secrets, this is, for once, a closed one.
The censorship helps dispose of at least one theory of the case. According to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Israel's target was a cache of Iranian weapons destined for Hezbollah. But if that were the case, Israel would have every reason to advertise Damascus's ongoing violations of Lebanese sovereignty, particularly on the eve of Lebanon's crucial presidential election. Following the January 2002 Karine-A incident--in which Israeli frogmen intercepted an Iranian weapons shipment bound for Gaza--the government of Ariel Sharon wasted no time inviting reporters to inspect the captured merchandise. Had Orchard had a similar target, with similar results, it's doubtful the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert--which badly needs to erase the blot of last year's failed war--could have resisted turning it into a propaganda coup.

Something similar goes for another theory, this one from British journalist Peter Beaumont of the Observer, that the raid was in fact "a dry run for attack on Iran." Mr. Beaumont is much taken by a report that at least one of the Israeli bombers involved in the raid dropped its fuel tanks in a Turkish field near the Syrian border.

Why Israel apparently chose to route its attack through Turkey is a nice question, given that it means a detour of more than 1,000 miles. Damascus claims the fuel tank was discarded after the planes came under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, which could be true. But if Israel is contemplating an attack on Tehran's nuclear installations--and it is--it makes no sense to advertise the "Turkish corridor" as its likely avenue of attack.

As for the North Korean theory, evidence for it starts with Pyongyang. The raid, said one North Korean foreign ministry official quoted by China's Xinhua news agency, was "little short of wantonly violating the sovereignty of Syria and seriously harassing the regional peace and security." But who asked him, anyway? In August, the North Korean trade minister signed an agreement with Syria on "cooperation in trade and science and technology." Last week, Andrew Semmel, the acting counterproliferation chief at the State Department, confirmed that North Korean technicians of some kind were known to be in Syria, and that Syria was "on the U.S. nuclear watch list." And then there is yesterday's curious news that North Korea has abruptly suspended its participation in the six-party talks, for reasons undeclared.

That still leaves the question of just what kind of transfers could have taken place. There has been some speculation regarding a Syrian plant in the city of Homs, built 20 years ago to extract uranium from phosphate (of which Syria has an ample supply). Yet Homs is 200 miles west of Dayr az Zawr, the city on the Euphrates reportedly closest to the site of the attack. More to the point, uranium extraction from phosphates is a commonplace activity (without it, phosphate is hazardous as fertilizer) and there is a vast gulf separating this kind of extraction from the enrichment process needed to turn uranium into something genuinely threatening.
There is also a rumor--sourced to an unnamed expert in the Washington Post--that on Sept. 3 a North Korean ship delivered some kind of nuclear cargo to the Syrian port of Tartus, forcing the Israelis to act. That may well be accurate, though it squares awkwardly with the evidence that plans for Orchard were laid months ago.

More questions will no doubt be raised about the operational details of the raid (some sources claim there were actually two raids, one of them diversionary), as well as fresh theories about what the Israelis were after and whether they got it. The only people that can provide real answers are in Jerusalem and Damascus, and for the most part they are preserving an abnormal silence. In the Middle East, that only happens when the interests of prudence and the demands of shame happen to coincide. Could we have just lived through a partial reprise of the 1981 Israeli attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor? On current evidence, it is the least unlikely possibility.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

27625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 18, 2007, 08:54:33 AM
Former IDF officer Yoni on what Israel's up to in Syria, and what Syria and Iran's up to regarding Israel.
 Monday, September 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM 

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Hugh Hewitt: That music means Yoni joins us,, if you want to read his blog, many years in the Israeli defense services, now in the Pacific Northwest. Yoni, good to talk to you.

YT: How are you, Hugh?

HH: Did you have a good Rosh Hashanah? 

YT: I had a great Rosh Hashanah. 

HH: Well, I’m glad to hear that. And now, what did the Israelis do, and when did they do it?

YT: What we did on the 6th of September is we inserted elite ground troops into Syria on the eastern side of Syria near the Euphrates River in a region that’s called Deir Ez-Zour, and these elite units on the ground assisted a flight of F-15s in destroying two locations in Syria. One location, which nobody is talking about anymore, was a major weapons depot of weapons that had been shipped from Iran to Syria, for then trans-shipment into Lebanon to Hezbollah, which included long range missiles that could hit the whole state of Israel. And the second location was a facility that was storing equipment that had arrived in Syria on the 3rd of September from North Korea that was nuclear weapons components. 

HH: Now what kind of components would they be sending through to Syria, on their way to Iran, I assume?

YT: No, on their way to Syria. 

HH: What is…Syria doesn’t have a program, do they?

YT: Syria’s trying to jump start a program. 

HH: Now first of all, tell us your sources for this stuff.

YT: Guys I used to work with. 

HH: All right. And so this is not…you’ll see some of this hinted at in the write-up in the Times of London, et cetera. So are you in trouble for discussing this on the air?

YT: No.

HH: Okay.

YT: No, enough of it’s leaked out that…you know, I mean, we’re fine. 

HH: Now talk to me a little bit about what you mean by jump start. What were they trying to build? What did they have there? Do you know?

YT: That, no, I don’t know, other than my friend said components that would lead them to be able to put together nuclear weapons. I think, reading between the lines, what they are trying to do is bring in the components that they could then just assemble, and have a ready bomb, rather than trying to produce, like Iran is trying to produce, from the ground up. They were wanting to get kind of, you know, a do-it-yourself kit from North Korea, and put it together, and then hit Israel. 

HH: Now given this, does this tip the hand of the Israelis, vis-à-vis Iran, as Iran gets closer?

YT: Oh, yes and no. I mean, Iran is today, they’ve threatened us that they could hit us with 600 missiles, which is just an empty threat, because they’re scared to death, because Iran and Syria, late spring, early summer, I don’t recall the exact time frame, both purchased from Russia the same so-called state of the art air defense system.

HH: And you just took it down easily?

YT: We just went through it like it wasn’t even there. 

HH: Now how did that happen? Is that because of stealth technology? Or did they do something on the ground?

YT: That I’m not going to get into.

HH: Okay. The sum and substance of this popular support in Israel for the action?

YT: Oh, absolutely. Look, we did two things in one week that herald the bad days are potentially behind us. We did this raid into Syria, and in addition to that, we had undercover troops go into Gaza and grab one of the main guys behind the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the soldier that was kidnapped and taken into Gaza.

HH: I missed that entirely. 

YT: Well, you don’t go to often enough. 

HH: When did that happen?

YT: The same week, the first week of September, as the air raid. 

HH: And what branch of the service did that?

YT: The IDF, the ground forces. We have elite units, and what they did is they went in dressed up as Arabs on donkey carts, and were able to get close to the guy, grabbed him, and then a helicopter pops up over the fence and sets down in the open area, and picks everybody up and back to Israel they go.

HH: And what are they going to do with him? Trade him?

YT: Well, let’s just say right now, we’re getting information from him.

HH: And it’s been how long since the change at Defense? Obviously, I’m not talking about Barak’s return, but the new chief of staff.

YT: It’s been now, oh, maybe nine months. 

HH: And so what’s the impact on the armed services?

YT: Huge, huge. Guys are training like they’re supposed to. Guys that haven’t trained in seven, eight years that we put into combat last summer now are back to training like they’re supposed to. We’re spending a lot of money getting them new equipment. You know, the situation, you wouldn’t know it from the American media, but as we speak, Israel is at the highest state of alert that we can be. 

HH: Why?

YT: Because of massive Syrian troop movements, because Assad’s brother-in-law and some of the top generals told Assad that he has to hit Israel back for what we did, or they will take action. Well, we know in an Arab country what that means. They’ll just take him out behind the palace and put a bullet in his head. So things are pretty hectic, and we’ve got, you know, troops were not sent home for Rosh Hashanah, nor will they be sent home for Yom Kippur. Things are at a very high state of alert right now. 

HH: But I check Ha’aretz every day. It’s not really evident from that, is it, that they’re…

YT: We have military censors. 

HH: Oh, I’d forgotten that.

YT: There are things that when it pertains to state security, that they won’t publish inside Israel. 

HH: And so what is the threat level right now, you think, in Israel?

YT: I think, well, if we’re at the highest, if our forces are at the highest stage of alert, the threat level is very high.

HH: And so, what I’m getting at, how routine is that level of alert?

YT: It’s not routine at all. I mean, when you’ve got extra aircraft in the air, we have got extra aircraft with pilots sitting in the seats on the runways, when you’ve got soldiers in the thousands that you would have sent home for the holiday, and you keep them there, I mean, that causes a huge inconvenience to families, because you don’t get to see your kids often enough when they’re in the military. You know, your kids are out running for three days straight without sleep across the desert and things like that, it’s a huge inconvenience. 

HH: We will then be watching Thanks, Yoni.

End of interview.
27626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 18, 2007, 08:36:02 AM
Agreed-- but IMHO the thought process needs to go much further than this initial step.

Question:  Assume we succeed in finding/pressuring out a goodly percentage of the 12 million illegals and send them back to from whence they came-- which in the overwhelming majority of cases is Mexico. 

27627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: September 18, 2007, 08:29:00 AM

Have you seen this thread?
27628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 18, 2007, 08:22:57 AM
I share this criticism of President Bush.  His failure (via Rumbo) to listen to his generals who told him they would need more boots on the ground was foolish.  His failure to respond to the facts on the ground as they developed was either arrogant-- or fear of the political consequences.  Even Sen. Kerry was calling for an increase of 40,000 for the Army during the 2004 elections, but Bush kept saying everything was hunky dory.  A HUGE ERROR, the consequences of which are documented daily on this forum.
27629  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: September 18, 2007, 08:16:18 AM,2933,297134,00.html
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Threatens to Take Over Private Schools

Monday, September 17, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government, a move some Venezuelans fear will impose leftist ideology in the classroom.
All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chavez said.
A new curriculum will be phased in during this school year, and new textbooks are being developed to help educate "the new citizen," added Chavez's brother and education minister Adan Chavez in their televised ceremony on the first day of classes.
Just what the curriculum will include and how it will be applied to all Venezuelan schools and universities remains unclear.
But one college-level syllabus obtained by The Associated Press shows some premedical students already have a recommended reading list including Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" and Fidel Castro's speeches, alongside traditional subjects like biology and chemistry.
The syllabus also includes quotations from Chavez and urges students to learn about slain revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Colombian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, whose leftist guerrillas are considered a terrorist group by Colombia, the U.S. and European Union.
Venezuelan officials defend the program at the Latin American Medical School — one in a handful of state-run colleges and universities that emphasize socialist ideology — as the new direction of Venezuelan higher education.
"We must train socially minded people to help the community, and that's why the revolution's socialist program is being implemented," said Zulay Campos, a member of a Bolivarian State Academic Commission that evaluates compliance with academic guidelines.
"If they attack us because we're indoctrinating, well yes, we're doing it, because those capitalist ideas that our young people have — and that have done so much damage to our people — must be eliminated," Campos said.
Now some critics worry that primary and secondary schoolchildren will be indoctrinated as well.
Chavez's efforts to spread ideology throughout society is "typical of communist regimes at the beginning" in Russia, China and Cuba — and is aimed at "imposing a sole, singular vision," sociologist Antonio Cova said.
But Adan Chavez said the goal is to develop "critical thinking," not to impose a single philosophy.
More than eight years after President Chavez was first elected, the curriculum at most Venezuelan schools remains largely unchanged, particularly in private schools commonly attended by middle- and upper-class children.
Anticipating criticism, Chavez noted that a state role in regulating education is internationally accepted in countries from Germany to the United States.
Chavez said all schools in Venezuela must comply with the "new Bolivarian educational system," named after South American liberation leader Simon Bolivar and Chavez's socialist movement.
Discussing the new curriculum, he said it would help students develop values of "cooperation and solidarity" while learning critical reflection, dialogue and volunteer work.
Previous Venezuelan educational systems carried their own ideology, Chavez said. Leafing through old texts from the 1970s during his speech, he pointed out how they referred to Venezuela's "discovery" by Europeans.
"They taught us to admire Christopher Columbus and Superman," Chavez said.
Education based on capitalist ideology has corrupted children's values, he said. "We want to create our own ideology collectively — creative, diverse." Chavez said Venezuelans — not Cubans as opponents suggest — have been drawing up the new curriculum, but added that Venezuela could always accept Cuban help in the future.
Venezuela has more than 160 universities and colleges, most of which maintain their independence. Leftist ideology is already part of the curriculum at seven different state universities. But encouraging students nationwide to read up on Guevara, Castro and Friedrich Engels' speech before Marx's tomb would be something new entirely.
About 20 of the 400 foreign pre-med students have dropped out of the Latin American Medical School near Caracas. Among them was Gabriel Gomez Guerrero, 22, of Colombia, who was shocked that the syllabus counts Marulanda among "important Latin American thinkers" to be studied. The head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is his government's public enemy No. 1.
"They aren't going to introduce that man to me as a 'Latin American thinker,'" Gomez said. "They may brainwash other people, but not me."
School director Sandra Moreno said nobody is being brainwashed — the idea is simply to provide a foundation in Latin American affairs. And Ana Montenegro, a program coordinator who helped create the syllabus, said it was a mistake to describe Marulanda that way, but that the course program will continue to evolve and improve.
Many of the remaining students describe themselves as socialists and say no one is pressuring them.
"They don't impose what we have to learn," said Roberto Leal, a 30-year-old Brazilian. "If we don't agree with something, we express our opinion."
27630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 17, 2007, 09:09:58 PM
Second post of the day:

Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 17, 2007
September 17, 2007 20 47  GMT

Simple, Sustainable Operations

This past week began with an increasingly common incident: a bomb attack carried out by the leftist guerrilla group Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). Like a series of bombings in July, this incident targeted oil and natural gas pipelines controlled by state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos. In a statement released a day after the bombings, the group claimed responsibility for what it said were 12 explosive devices placed on pipelines in Veracruz and Tlaxcala states Sept. 10 and said further attacks would come. Following the July pipeline attacks and incidents in Oaxaca and Chiapas states, Stratfor observed that EPR had increased its operational tempo and that similar attacks were likely. If the group follows the previous pattern, more attacks will follow in the next several weeks.

This latest bombing further demonstrates how effective EPR has become in its operations. The absence of malfunctioning devices suggests that the group has at least one skilled bombmaker, and the lack of significant investigative leads or arrests by authorities suggests that the group is small and practices good tradecraft in both planning and carrying out the operations it selects, which are simple bombings against soft targets that require few resources. EPR has demonstrated that it is capable of reaching targets anywhere in Mexico, since it had not previously conducted attacks in Veracruz or Tlaxcala. This latest bombing also reinforces the conclusion that EPR will continue to conduct attacks designed to minimize human casualties.

Public Attacks & Beheadings

The northern city of Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon state, was the scene of more drug violence this past week when two federal agents were killed and two were wounded in a gunbattle that also wounded two civilians. The attack in broad daylight was the first significant firefight in the metropolitan area since an attack against a police station in May. The agents in this case had recently arrived as the first part of a group of 1,300 federal agents to carry out "important arrests" of narcotics traffickers in the city. The cartel members to be arrested were likely tipped off by corrupt law enforcement sources and staged a very public attack against the four agents in order to warn federal authorities not to get too close during their deployment in the city. The strategy might have worked; no significant arrests have been reported so far during the operation.

Other high-profile attacks were made against police officials in San Luis Potosi and Taxco, in Guerrero state. The Taxco incident is noteworthy, since this small touristy town has not been the scene of significant drug violence recently, though it is located on a federal highway important for moving drug shipments. The attack also offers an example of the brutality involved in Mexican drug violence, since the police officer abducted in the attack was later beheaded. Another beheading occurred in the neighboring state of Michoacan just a few days later. Nearly everyone kidnapped by drug gangs in Mexico can expect to be tortured before being killed, but as a form of torture, beheadings are still rare. Although most beheadings in Mexico occur after the victim is killed, the practice is still a powerful technique for intimidating authorities.

Sept. 10

A series of bombings claimed by the Popular Revolutionary Army damaged oil and natural gas pipelines in Veracruz and Tlaxcala states. No one was injured in the blasts.

Security around the Ninth Military Zone headquarters in Sinaloa state has been increased over the last several months following death threats against commanding officer Gen. Rolando Eugenio Hidalgo Eddy, local media reported.

Authorities discovered the body of a municipal police commander in Veracruz, Veracruz state, who had been kidnapped the night before.

Sept. 11

A firefight in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, left two federal agents dead and two wounded. The agents reportedly were attempting to flee from two vehicles that were following them, but were cornered in a gas station where a 20-minute gunbattle ensued.

Officials in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported two killings related to organized crime. The two unidentified victims had been shot several times.

The body of an unidentified man was found floating in the Gulf of California. He had been stabbed several times and appeared to have been dropped out of an airplane.

Gunmen in several vehicles armed with assault rifles opened fire on a municipal police station in Taxco, Guerrero state, kidnapping one police officer who was later found beheaded.

Sept. 12

Three high-ranking police commanders from Baja California and Baja California Sur states were arrested by agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix for illegally purchasing weapons at a gun show several days before, U.S. officials announced.

A federal agent was ambushed by a group of gunmen and wounded while he was driving his vehicle in Mexico City.

Sept. 13

The public security director for the state of San Luis Potosi was shot dead by gunmen as he was driving his vehicle. His wife and son, who also were in the vehicle, were unharmed in the attack, in which gunmen fired more than 40 rounds.

The son of a labor union boss in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Nuevo Leon state, died after being shot several times while driving his vehicle in the Monterrey suburb. He survived a previous attempt on his life in 1998.

Authorities in Hidalgo state discovered the body of a ministerial police commander assigned to a counternarcotics unit in the city of Pachuca. He had been strangled and stabbed in the neck.

Michoacan state officials discovered the decapitated body of a man wrapped in a plastic bag in the city of Los Reyes.

Sept. 14

A police officer in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, was shot dead by gunmen as he left his home to go to work. A police spokesman said the officer had recently received death threats.

The Mexican navy seized 2.5 tons of cocaine and detained four suspects from a small boat off the coast of Michoacan state. The operation reportedly began after a U.S. aircraft reported a suspicious vessel outside of Mexican territorial waters.

Sept. 15

A Mexican soldier and his brother were shot dead while traveling on a highway near Acapulco, in Guerrero state. The gunmen opened fire on the soldier's vehicle after following them. Another brother was killed by drug traffickers several days before.

Sept. 16

An unidentified man was killed in Tijuana, Baja California state, and his body dumped along a street.

Federal agents near Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, arrested Fernando Cabrera Juarez, described as the liaison between the Juarez cartel and South American drug gangs. The agents making the arrest reportedly cooperated with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as Cabrera fled to Mexico after escaping from U.S. custody.
27631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 17, 2007, 09:06:38 PM
Sorry to dump so much reading on everyone so fast, but sometimes life is like that:

Geopolitical Diary: A Shift in Iran's Calculus?
September 18, 2007 02 00  GMT

Paris added some oomph into a U.S. campaign against Iran on Monday when French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the world must prepare for war over Iran's nuclear policies. Kouchner's remarks triggered a fiery statement from Tehran, which brandished the new French presidency as a U.S. copycat bent on impressing the White House. As the Iranians rather cheekily put it, "the French people will never forget the era when a non-European moved into the Elysee."

In the last few days a number of European states have taken a far firmer position against things Iranian -- in particular Iran's nuclear program -- than ever before. Under pro-American Nicolas Sarkozy, France -- once the bastion of pro-Iranian sentiment in Europe under Jacques Chirac -- has openly warned of war as the logical consequence of the Iranian program should circumstances not change. On Monday the Netherlands threw its support behind a growing movement in the European Union for sanctions, specifically noting that should the United Nations prove unable to enact them, the European Union is morally obligated to.

The only notable European state that so far has held back from threatening war against the Iranians is Germany, which holds the lion's share of European investment into and trade with Iran. But even there the situation is starkly different from two years ago, when Gerhard Schroeder ruled. Not only is Angela Merkel's Germany far more willing to consider Washington's point of view, European sanctions against Iran would censure Iran's primary nuclear supplier -- Russia -- in a way that would likely avoid a major dust up. As Germany (gently) reasserts its supremacy in Europe, such fights without pain are an excellent means of garnering credibility and momentum.

With all this war and sanctions talk circulating on the European continent, Iran is longing for the early days of the Iraq war, when it could adroitly manipulate the divide between the United States and Europe. Back then, when the Iran-EU-3 talks were still in play, Iran used the nuclear negotiations a way to buy time to further its nuclear program and bargain with the United States over political concessions it was seeking in Iraq.

But with Europe shifting its mood and the United States using every opportunity to remind Tehran that a military option is still on the table, the Iranians are now looking at a very uncertain future. At this time, it would be useful to re-examine Iran's Iraq policy moving forward.

Before the delivery of Gen. David Petraeus' Iraq report, the expectation was that U.S. President George W. Bush had lost his fighting power against Congress, and that a withdrawal was all but imminent. The celebrations in Tehran could be heard across the Atlantic as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced to the world that Iran was preparing to fill the vacuum in Iraq.

And then came the buzz kill.

Despite repeated declarations that Iraq had barely reached one out of 18 political and security benchmarks, Bush responded to Petraeus' surprisingly optimistic report by declaring that the United States would remain committed to Iraq (Iraq's Sunni community in particular.) Troop levels would gradually decrease, but Iran would be staring at U.S. forces across the border for a long, long time. In short, Bush was setting an Iraq agenda for a long-term, robust troop presence that would extend well beyond his own presidency.

Iran now has loads to reconsider. A long-term troop presence in Iraq and continued U.S. support for Iraq's Sunni community not only complicates Iran's plans to consolidate its gains in Iraq, but also puts Iran in a very uncomfortable situation in which it faces a constant security threat from the United States across its border. Moreover, the nuclear dossier can be seized by Washington (as well as the Europeans) at any time to make a case for military action against Iran. Tehran might be feeling confident that the United States lacks the bandwidth to carry out an attack against Iran now, but give it two, three years, and Tehran's clerical regime will be living in a cloud of uncertainty while being boxed in by the United States on both its western and eastern borders in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

Now Tehran must decide whether it is still worth its while to negotiate an Iraq settlement with the United States, bet that it will not underestimate the U.S. a third time, and wager that enough pain can be inflicted on U.S. troops and enough chaos can perpetuate in Baghdad to force the United States into leaving the region. The Iranians still have a number of options at hand moving forward, but the decision-making process just got a lot trickier.
27632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: September 17, 2007, 08:57:07 PM
Originally Posted by Lott
John R. Lott Jr.: D.C. Handgun Ban
Friday , September 14, 2007
By John R. Lott Jr.

Is banning handguns a "reasonable regulation"? The District of Columbia certainly hopes that the Supreme Court thinks so.

D.C. filed a brief last week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to let it keep its 1976 handgun ban, but how the city argued its case was what was most surprising. Instead of spending a lot of time arguing over what the constitution means, the city largely made a public policy argument. D.C. argues that whatever one thinks about the Second Amendment guaranteeing people a right to own guns, banning handguns should be allowed for public safety reasons.

Claiming that the Second Amendment doesn't protect individual rights might be a tough sell, but the city's public safety argument will be at least as tough. After the ban, D.C.'s murder rate only once fell below what it was in 1976. From 1977 to 2003, there were only two years when D.C.'s violent crime rate fell below the rate in 1976. After the ban, DC’s murder and violent rates rose relative to Maryland and Virginia as well as relative to other cities with more than 500,000 people.

But it is not just D.C. that has experienced increases in murder and violent crime after guns are banned. Chicago also experienced an increase after its ban in 1982. Island nations supposedly present ideal environments for gun control because it is relatively easy for them to control their borders, but countries such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Jamaica have experienced large increases in murder and violent crime after gun bans. For example, after handguns were banned in 1997, the number of deaths and injuries from gun crime in England and Wales increased 340 percent in the seven years from 1998 to 2005.

Passing a gun ban simply doesn't mean that we are going to get guns away from criminals. The real problem is that if it is the law-abiding good citizens who obey these laws and not the criminals, criminals have less to fear and crime can go up.

D.C.’s brief makes a number of other claims:

The ban comes "nowhere close to disarmament of residents. The District's overwhelming interest in reducing death and injury caused by handguns outweighs respondent's asserted need . . . ." The obvious key here is that DC says people can use rifles and shotguns for self-defense. D.C. also adds that they don't believe that the regulations that lock up and require the disassembling of guns does not "prevent the use of a lawful firearm in self-defense."

But locked guns are simply not as readily accessible for defensive gun uses. In the U.S., states that require guns be locked up and unloaded face a 5 percent increase in murder and a 12 percent increase in rapes. Criminals are more likely to attack people in their homes and those attacks are more likely to be successful.

Since potentially armed victims deter criminals, storing a gun locked and unloaded actually encourages increased crime.

— "All too often, handguns in the heat of anger turn domestic violence into murder."

To put it bluntly, criminals are not your typical citizens. Few people should be fearful of those who they are in relationshipswith. Almost 90 percent of adult murders already have a criminal record as an adult. As is well known, young males from their mid-teens to mid-thirties commit more than their share of crime, but even this is categorization can be substantially narrowed. We know that criminals tend to have low IQ’s as well as atypical personalities. For example, delinquents generally tended to be more “assertive, unafraid, aggressive, unconventional, extroverted, and poorly socialized,” while non-delinquents are “self-controlled, concerned about their relations with others, willing to be guided by social standards, and rich in internal feelings like insecurity, helplessness, love (or its lack), and anxiety.” Other evidence indicates that criminals tend to be more impulsive and put relatively little weight on future events. Finally, we cannot ignore the unfortunate fact that crime (particularly violent crime even more so murder) is disproportionately committed against blacks and by blacks.

— "handguns cause accidents, frequently involving children. The smaller the weapon, the more likely a child can use it, and children as young as three years old are strong enough to fire today's handguns."

Accidental gun deaths among children are, fortunately, much rarer than most people believe. With 40 million children in the United States under the age of 10, the Centers for Disease Control indicates that there were just 20 accidental gun deaths in 2003. 56 children under the age of 15. While guns get most of the attention, children are 41 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation, 32 times more likely to accidentally drown and 20 times more likely to die as a result of accidental fires. Looking at all children under 15, there were 56 accidental gun deaths in 2003— still a fraction of the deaths resulting from these other accidents for only the younger children.

Despite the image of children firing these guns and killing themselves or other children, the typical person who accidentally fires a gun is an adult male, usually in his 20s. Accidental shooters overwhelmingly have problems with alcoholism and long criminal histories, particularly arrests for violent acts. They are also disproportionately involved in automobile crashes and are much more likely to have had their driver's licenses suspended or revoked. Even if gun locks could stop children from using guns, gun locks are simply not designed to stop adult males from firing their own guns — even if they were to use the gun locks.

Of course, D.C. makes other claims as well, but the city’s crime problems and the fact that they began after the gun ban are hardly a secret. After the ban, D.C. regularly ranked number one in murder rates for cities over 500,000 people. That wasn’t even close to being true before the ban. The fact that D.C. must argue that the gun ban reduced the murder rate shows how incredibly weak the city's case really is.

*John Lott is the author of the book "Freedomnomics," and is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland.
27633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 17, 2007, 08:47:58 PM

This may answer some of your questions.


Iraq: Coming Down on the Contractors
September 17, 2007 17 36  GMT


The Iraqi Interior Ministry said it suspended Blackwater USA's license to operate in the country Sept. 17 following an incident in Baghdad that left at least eight civilians dead. Whatever Blackwater's fate, security contractors will remain essential to the U.S. effort in Iraq. But the move bodes ill for the security contractors, both in Baghdad and Washington.


Security contractor Blackwater USA reportedly had its license to operate in Iraq suspended after an incident involving the deaths of at least eight civilians in the Mansour district of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Sept. 17. The U.S. contractor recently has been involved in a standoff with Iraqi troops.

Incidents of security contractors using excessive force are nothing new in Iraq. But this latest incident could represent a turning point for the issue -- both in Baghdad and Washington.

Some 30,000 security contractors in Iraq provide everything from mundane perimeter security at key infrastructure sites to personal security details for high-value targets like Gen. David Petraeus, who normally would be protected by U.S. military personnel. (In peacetime, Delta soldiers would be covering Petraeus). With the U.S. military stretched as thin as it is, security contractors of all types help keep U.S. troops free for frontline military operations.

Blackwater has profited greatly from this situation. Its business model has allowed it to offer volume pricing to the CIA and the State Department because of its ability to recruit and train large numbers of employees to fill demand for security contractor services.

Despite increased attention from the Iraqi government, a complete withdrawal of security contractors from Iraq is simply not in the cards, especially given U.S. moves to begin drawing down troops levels later in 2007. Though the fortunes of specific companies in Iraq could rise and fall, security contractors will continue to be needed in Iraq as long as U.S. troops remain in the country.

But the contractors' working environment could soon become much less comfortable. The timing of this most recent incident comes at a crucial juncture for the Bush administration. The turning of the tide -- both in Iraq and the United States -- might now provide an impetus for enforcing standards of conduct on the contractors. This has previously been legislated and mandated, but never enforced. Who will do the monitoring and enforcing remains an open question, however. Given how thin U.S. agencies are stretched, no one in Iraq really has the bandwidth to monitor -- much less enforce -- any kind of standards of conduct on security contractors.

And in addition to laying another mission at the feet of the U.S. military or another agency with its hands already too full in Iraq, any attempt to move toward monitoring and enforcement inevitably will churn up past incidents -- and there are plenty to look back on. In two days in late May, for instance, Blackwater contractors killed a civilian driver (the contractors might have used appropriate escalation of force) in a contentious incident and also saw the contractors wind up in a standoff with Iraqi security forces. A U.S. military convoy had to intervene to settle the incident. This dredging process will become ugly.

Iraqi civilians universally revile the force and aggression these firms often use, since they most often bear the brunt of it. Regardless of whether the latest grievance is legitimate, the history of animosity is there. Though hardly all security contractors have used excessive force, this largely is beside the point. The abuses of some security contractors mean no Iraqi politician or government agency is going to stand up for them. They are a particularly unpopular element of an already painfully unpopular war.

For Iraq's political leadership -- whether Sunni or Shiite -- going after the contactors represents a means of publicly challenging the occupation and appearing to address an issue that transcends sectarian divisions without touching on the issue of foreign military forces.

On the other side of the world, security contractors will not be easy to defend politically. Indeed, as the White House attempts to distance itself from Blackwater due to investigations into financial misconduct, security contractors could find themselves without a political ally -- making them easy prey for a Democratic Party trying to walk a fine line between opposing the war in Iraq while supporting U.S. troops and appearing tough on defense.

But even if the party as a whole does not aggressively pursue the issue, the issue offers individual senators and representatives -- Democratic and Republican alike -- in trouble with their constituencies to come down hard on the war. The Democrats, already on thin ice with the party's large anti-war constituency, in particular will not rein in these individual members of Congress. For security contractors, the streets of Washington could soon become as unfriendly as the streets of Baghdad.
27634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: September 17, 2007, 07:46:23 PM
Buz, GM, anyone:

Any comments on my Red October post of earlier today?
27635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Red October on: September 17, 2007, 03:37:31 PM
Red October: Russia, Iran and Iraq
By George Friedman

The course of the war in Iraq appears to be set for the next year. Of the four options we laid out a few weeks ago, the Bush administration essentially has selected a course between the first and second options -- maintaining the current mission and force level or retaining the mission but gradually reducing the force. The mission -- creating a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad that can assume the role of ensuring security -- remains intact. The strategy is to use the maximum available force to provide security until the Iraqis can assume the burden. The force will be reduced by the 30,000 troops who were surged into Iraq, though because that level of force will be unavailable by spring, the reduction is not really a matter of choice. The remaining force is the maximum available, and it will be reduced as circumstances permit.

Top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus and others have made two broad arguments. First, while prior strategy indeed failed to make progress, a new strategy that combines aggressive security operations with recruiting political leaders on the subnational level -- the Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province, for example -- has had a positive impact, and could achieve the mission, given more time. Therefore, having spent treasure and blood to this point, it would be foolish for the United States not to pursue it for another year or two.

The second argument addresses the consequence of withdrawal. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice summed it up in an interview with NBC News. "And I would note that President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said if the United States leaves Iraq, Iran is prepared to fill the vacuum. That is what is at stake here," she said. We had suggested that the best way to contain Iran would be to cede Iraq and defend the Arabian Peninsula. One reason is that it would release troops for operations elsewhere in the world, if needed. The administration has chosen to try to keep Iraq -- any part of it -- out of Iranian hands. If successful, this obviously benefits the United States. If it fails, the United States can always choose a different option.

Within the region, this seems a reasonable choice, assuming the political foundations in Washington can be maintained, foundations that so far appear to be holding. The Achilles' heel of the strategy is the fact that it includes the window of vulnerability that we discussed a few weeks ago. The strategy and mission outlined by Petraeus commits virtually all U.S. ground forces to Iraq, with Afghanistan and South Korea soaking up the rest. It leaves air and naval power available, but it does not allow the United States to deal with any other crisis that involves the significant threat of ground intervention. This has consequences.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended a meeting of the Iranian-Russian Joint Economic Commission in Moscow over the weekend. While in the Russian capital, Mottaki also met with Russian Atomic Energy Chief Sergei Kiriyenko to discuss Russian assistance in completing the Bushehr nuclear power plant. After the meeting, Mottaki said Russian officials had assured him of their commitment to complete the power plant. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said, "With regards to the Bushehr power plant, we have reached good understanding with the Russians. In this understanding a timetable for providing nuclear fuel on time and inaugurating this power plant has been fixed." While the truth of Russian assurances is questionable -- Moscow has been mere weeks away from making Bushehr operational for the better part of the last three years, and is about as excited about a nuclear-armed Iran as is Washington -- the fact remains that Russian-Iranian cooperation continues to be substantial, and public.

Mottaki also confirmed -- and this is significant -- that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Tehran on Oct. 16. The occasion is a meeting of the Caspian Sea littoral nations, a group that comprises Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. According to the Iranians, Putin agreed not only to attend the conference, but also to use the visit to confer with top Iranian leaders.

This is about the last thing the United States wanted the Russians to do -- and therefore the first thing the Russians did. The Russians are quite pleased with the current situation in Iraq and Iran and do not want anything to upset it. From the Russian point of view, the Americans are tied down in an extended conflict that sucks up resources and strategic bandwidth in Washington. There is a similarity here with Vietnam. The more tied down U.S. forces were in Vietnam, the more opportunities the Soviets had. Nowadays, Russia's resources are much diminished compared with those of the Soviets -- while Russia has a much smaller range of interest. Moscow's primary goal is to regain a sphere of influence within the former Soviet Union. Whatever ambitions it may dream of, this is the starting point. The Russians see the Americans as trying to thwart their ambitions throughout their periphery, through support for anti-Russian elements via U.S. intelligence.

If the United States plans to stay in Iraq until the end of the Bush presidency, then the United States badly needs something from the Russians -- that they not provide arms, particularly air-defense systems, to the Syrians and especially the Iranians. The Americans need the Russians not to provide fighter aircraft, modern command-and-control systems or any of the other war-making systems that the Russians have been developing. Above all else, they want the Russians not to provide the Iranians any nuclear-linked technology.

Therefore, it is no accident that the Iranians claimed over the weekend that the Russians told them they would do precisely that. Obviously, the discussion was of a purely civilian nature, but the United States is aware that the Russians have advanced military nuclear technology and that the distinction between civilian and military is subtle. In short, Russia has signaled the Americans that it could very easily trigger their worst nightmare.

The Iranians, fairly isolated in the world, are being warned even by the French that war is a real possibility. Obviously, then, they view the meetings with the Russians as being of enormous value. The Russians have no interest in seeing Iran devastated by the United States. They want Iran to do just what it is doing -- tying down U.S. forces in Iraq and providing a strategic quagmire for the Americans. And they are aware that they have technologies that would make an extended air campaign against Iran much more costly than it would be otherwise. Indeed, without a U.S. ground force capable of exploiting an air attack anyway, the Russians might be able to create a situation in which suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD, the first stage of a U.S. air campaign) would be costly, and in which the second phase -- battle against infrastructure -- could become a war of attrition. The United States might win, in the sense of ultimately having command of the air, but it could not force a regime change -- and it would pay a high price.

It also should not be forgotten that the Russians have the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. The Russians very ostentatiously announced a few weeks ago that their Bear bombers were returning to constant patrol. This amused some in the U.S. military, who correctly regard the Bear as obsolete. They forget that the Russians never really had a bomber force designed for massive intercontinental delivery of nuclear devices. The announcement was a gesture -- and reminder that Russian ICBMs could easily be pointed at the United States.

Russia obviously doesn't plan a nuclear exchange with the United States, although it likes forcing the Americans to consider the possibility. Nor do the Russians want the Iranians to gain nuclear weapons. What they do want is an extended conflict in Iraq, extended tension between Iran and the United States, and they wouldn't much mind if the United States went to war with Iran as well. The Russians would happily supply the Iranians with whatever weapons systems they could use in order to bleed the United States a bit more, as long as they are reasonably confident that those systems would not be pointed north any time soon.

The Russians are just as prepared to let the United States have a free hand against Iran and not pose any challenges while U.S. forces are tied down in Iraq. But there is a price and it will be high. The Russians are aware that the window of opportunity is now and that they could create nightmarish problems for the United States. Therefore, the Russians will want the following:

In the Caucasus, they want the United States to withdraw support for Georgia and force the Georgian government to reach an accommodation with Moscow. Given Armenian hostility to Turkey and closeness to Russia, this would allow the Russians to reclaim a sphere of influence in the Caucasus, leaving Azerbaijan as a buffer with Iran.

In Ukraine and Belarus, the Russians will expect an end to all U.S. support to nongovernmental organizations agitating for a pro-Western course.

In the Baltics, the Russians will expect the United States to curb anti-Russian sentiment and to explicitly limit the Baltics' role in NATO, excluding the presence of foreign troops, particularly Polish.

Regarding Serbia, they want an end to any discussion of an independent Kosovo.

The Russians also will want plans abandoned for an anti-ballistic-missile system that deploys missiles in Poland.

In other words, the Russians will want the United States to get out of the former Soviet Union -- and stay out. Alternatively, the Russians are prepared, on Oct. 16, to reach agreements on nuclear exchange and weapons transfers that will include weapons that the Iranians can easily send into Iraq to kill U.S. troops. Should the United States initiate an air campaign prior to any of this taking effect, the Russians will increase the supply of weapons to Iran dramatically, using means it used effectively in Vietnam: shipping them in. If the United States strikes against Russian ships, the Russians will then be free to strike directly against Georgia or the Baltic states, countries that cannot defend themselves without American support, and countries that the United States is in no position to support.

It is increasingly clear that Putin intends to reverse in practice, if not formally, the consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union. He does not expect at this point to move back into Central Europe or engage in a global competition with the United States. He knows that is impossible. But he also understands three things: First, his armed forces have improved dramatically since 2000. Second, the countries he is dealing with are no match for his forces as long as the United States stays out. Third, staying out or not really is not a choice for the United States. As long as it maintains this posture in Iraq, it is out.

This is Putin's moment and he can exploit it in one of two ways: He can reach a quiet accommodation with the Americans, and leave the Iranians hanging. Conversely, he can align with the Iranians and place the United States in a far more complex situation than it otherwise would be in. He could achieve this by supporting Syria, arming militias in Lebanon or even causing significant problems in Afghanistan, where Russia retains a degree of influence in the North.

The Russians are chess players and geopoliticians. In chess and geopolitics, the game is routine and then, suddenly, there is an opening. You seize the opening because you might never get another one. The United States is inherently more powerful than Russia, save at this particular moment. Because of a series of choices the United States has made, it is weaker in the places that matter to Russia. Russia will not be in this position in two or three years. It needs to act now.

Therefore, Putin will go to Iran on Oct. 16 and will work to complete Iran's civilian nuclear project. What agreements he might reach with Iran could given the United States nightmares. If the United States takes out Iran's nuclear weapons, the Russians will sympathize and arm the Iranians even more intensely. If the Americans launch an extended air campaign, the Russians will happily increase the supply of weapons even more. Talk about carpet-bombing Iran is silly. It is a big country and the United States doesn't have that much carpet. The supplies would get through.

Or the United States can quietly give Putin the sphere of influence he wants, letting down allies in the former Soviet Union, in return for which the Russians will let the Iranians stand alone against the Americans, not give arms to Middle Eastern countries, not ship Iran weapons that will wind up with militias in Iraq. In effect, Putin is giving the United States a month to let him know what it has in mind.

It should not be forgotten that Iran retains an option that could upset Russian plans. Iran has no great trust of Russia, nor does it have a desire to be trapped between American power and Russian willingness to hold Iran's coat while it slugs things out with the Americans. At a certain point, sooner rather than later, the Iranians must examine whether they want to play the role of the Russian cape to the American bull. The option for the Iranians remains the same -- negotiate the future of Iraq with the Americans. If the United States is committed to remaining in Iraq, Iran can choose to undermine Washington, at the cost of increasing its own dependence on the Russians and the possibility of war with the Americans. Or it can choose to cut a deal with the Americans that gives it influence in Iraq without domination. Iran is delighted with Putin's visit. But that visit also gives it negotiating leverage with the Americans. This remains the wild card.

Petraeus' area of operations is Iraq. He may well have crafted a viable plan for stabilizing Iraq over the next few years. But the price to be paid for that is not in Iraq or even in Iran. It is in leaving the door wide open in other areas of the world. We believe the Russians are about to walk through one of those doors. The question in the White House, therefore, must be: How much is Iraq worth? Is it worth recreating the geopolitical foundations of the Soviet Union?
27636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: September 17, 2007, 02:12:58 PM
I'm guessing that most of these people are Muslims, so I post this piece from yesterday's LA Times in this thread:

Iranians in U.S. face a choice -- to speak out, or not
Genaro Molina / LAT
USC professor Muhammad Sahimi canceled a trip to Iran after hearing Ali Shakeri was held
Some openly lobby for a change in Iran; others are cautious, preferring to be able to visit their homeland without fear of arrest.
By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 16, 2007
USC professor Muhammad Sahimi knew he risked interrogation or arrest while visiting Iran because of his outspokenness about the need for political reform in his homeland.

But it wasn't until this summer that he canceled his travel plans. He deemed a family trip to Iran too dangerous after his friend, Ali Shakeri, a mild-mannered businessman and peace activist from Lake Forest, was thrown in a Tehran prison.

"A lot of people are afraid to go to Iran," he said, "because they say if a guy like Shakeri, who always advocated peace and negotiations, gets arrested, then who is safe?"

The plight of Shakeri has created a dilemma for politically active Iranian Americans: Do they lobby for change in Iran, knowing that their words could land them in prison if they visit their homeland? Or do they keep quiet and preserve their ability to go home again?

Shakeri, 59, a businessman whose pro-democracy writings about Iran circulate on the Web, has been jailed for more than four months in Tehran. He had been on his way back from visiting his mother, who died while he was there.

Shakeri's case surprised the Iranian American community because he was seen as a moderate peace activist and a minor figure in Southern California. A board member for the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at UC Irvine, Shakeri garnered international attention when he became one of four dual Iranian American citizens detained in Iran this year. Two have since been released.

His family had been working quietly to free him until Friday, when his son, Kaveh Shakeri, broke the silence and implored authorities to release his father.

"Shakeri really sent shock waves," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based civic group. "Unlike the others, he was not a known figure on the national level. If someone like that gets taken, it becomes much more blurry who's a target and who's not."

That sentiment has rung especially true in Southern California, home to the world's largest community of Iranian emigres. Most settled in Southern California after the fall of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1979. Centered in West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Orange County, they now number more than 500,000.

Like the Cuban exile community in South Florida and Vietnamese expatriates of Orange County's Little Saigon, many Iranian Americans in the U.S. are advocates of democratic reform in their homeland. But they have had little success against the authoritative governments.

That doesn't stop some from trying to wield their influence from a distance, often through TV broadcasts, radio shows and online periodicals.

Ali Limonadi, producer and director of IRTV, a Persian-language international television station based in Studio City, said he had changed his e-mail address three times because of the nearly 1,500 virus-ridden e-mails a day he received. He said he believed those e-mails were generated by Iranian government agents.

Limonadi said he first spoke out in 1979 because he thought Islamic rule wouldn't last long in Iran.

He came to the United States a month after the 1979 revolution and planned to stay for a year. "I just didn't think the revolution would take that long," he said.

Others, however, have kept quiet about their political convictions, doing all they can to remain invisible to Tehran and preserve their ability to travel back and forth.

"Most of us in the U.S. don't really like what's going on in Iran, but whatever we say becomes a backlash against us," said Moe, a Rancho Santa Margarita engineer and dual citizen of Iran and the U.S. who asked that his last name be withheld to avoid attracting the attention of Iranian officials.

He has vowed to not speak about politics, hoping it will guarantee that he is not harassed or detained when he visits his mother and sister in Tehran every other year.

"If my mother over there doesn't do anything against the government, and I don't raise my voice in public either, we have nothing to worry about," he said.

Friends said Shakeri had no reason to be concerned either. They describe Shakeri as a political moderate who advocated nonviolent solutions, a stance that often earned him criticism for being a regime sympathizer.

"He got it on both sides," said Hossein Hedjazi, who featured Shakeri a handful of times as a guest on Golgasht, a Persian-language political commentary radio show he hosts on KIRN-AM (670).

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Mohammed Ali Dadkha, a Tehran human rights lawyer who said he had been contacted by Shakeri's family and was asked to defend him, said he had not been able to meet with Shakeri to sign forms authorizing him as his lawyer and had no idea what accusations Shakeri faced.

According to Iranian law, he said, "Nobody can be detained for more than two months unless new accusations are raised against him."

A spokesman for the Iranian Judicial Branch in Tehran who declined to give his name said Saturday that Shakeri's case was still under investigation and that he could not publicize the accusations against him, because "He has not been proven to be a criminal yet.

"I do hope his dossier will be clarified in the near future, like other cases recently," he added.

The Bush administration in May called for the release of Shakeri and the other three detainees, and the U.S. State Department has called the detainment of Shakeri and other dual nationals a "disturbing pattern" of harassment under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This summer the agency issued a travel warning urging Iranian American citizens traveling to Iran to be cautious, but it has been difficult to gauge whether they have made fewer trips.

Those who have not been back to their homeland in decades -- and don't plan to return under the current regime -- serve as the most vocal critics.

"What we have now is a new reign of terror, the goal being precisely ending this bridge between Iranian intellectuals and the diaspora community that was being created," said Abbas Milani, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University.

Milani's house on campus is filled with reminders of his homeland -- Persian paintings, books and carpets. He cooks rice and kebabs for his son and listens to the Persian rock group Kiosk.

And although he dreams of returning to see the country on which he is considered a national expert, he has not been back since 1987, knowing that he might be apprehended.

"I won't buy that privilege at the price of self-censorship," he said.

Mariam Khosravani, a community services commissioner for the city of Irvine, said she made a conscious decision to enter into civic affairs in Orange County at the expense of visits home to her extended family in Tehran.

She said images like the photo that hangs in Khosravani's office in Fountain Valley -- her posing with former President Clinton at a campaign fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton -- are precisely what many Iranian Americans are reluctant to be associated with.

"It's a sad feeling that you know you cannot go back to your motherland," she said. "It's not like my name is on a blacklist, but it's hard to take a chance going to a country where you can't guarantee your safety."

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.
27637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: September 17, 2007, 01:58:06 PM
Under the facts of the hypothetical I gave, I would condone torture. 

Under the facts of the hypothetical you gave, I would take the baby to the emergency ward of the hospital and have his/er stomach pumped.  cheesy
27638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: September 17, 2007, 01:53:09 PM
An oldie but goodie:

A young woman was just finishing her first year of college.   Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat and was very much in favor or redistribution of wealth. She was ashamed that her father was a staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. She felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought was his.
One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the addition of more government welfare programs.  He responded by asking her how she was doing in school. Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4. 0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to mai ntain. Difficult course load, no partying, no boyfriends, and not many friends because of the heavy studying.

Her father asked, "How's your friend Audrey doing?" She replied, "Barely getting by, she takes easy courses, never studies, goes to all the parties, and missed classes being hung-over, she barely has a 2.0 GPA."

The father says," Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your 4.0 GPA and give it to Audrey, who only has a 2.0, then you both will have a 3.0 GPA, certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of the GPA.  The daughter, visibly shocked by the suggestion angrily fired back, "That wouldn't be fair! I have worked my tail off to get my good grades and Audrey has done next to nothing to get hers!"
The father slowly smiled, winked and gently said,"Welcome to the Republican Party"
27639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Subscribe to Stratfor! on: September 17, 2007, 01:33:19 PM
No, several years ago from someone on the Gilder Technology Forum.
27640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 17, 2007, 01:30:19 PM
Below is an essay found on the Fraser Institute web site.  The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Our mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals.  Enjoy

Individualism, Intellectual Property, and the Future of Capitalism

Simple coincidence cannot explain that the first known patent was issued not just in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence, but also roughly at the moment of its birth (1421). What is most intriguing about the issuance of patent No. 1 to Filippo Brunelleschi, who had invented a loading crane for ships, is less that the Florentine authorities granted it, and more that Filippo had asked for it in the first place. The preamble to this first patent states: “he refuses to make such machine available to the public, in order that the fruit of his genius and skill may not be reaped by another without his will and consent; and that, if he enjoyed some prerogative concerning this, he would open up what he is hiding, and would disclose it to all.”1 For 20 generations, medieval artisans had devised the means to build ever more complex cathedrals and public works and, yet, we know the names of only a handful of them. Why, then, against all tradition, did one man in 1421 stand up to demand both recognition of, and financial control over “his genius and skill”?
The answer encompasses both changes to economic life and to the way people viewed themselves in society. In part, Filippo wanted control over his invention because economic changes had suddenly made it valuable beyond historical precedent. In the early fifteenth century, Florence had not only secured access to the markets of Constantinople and Cairo, but also had developed rudimentary banking and insurance skills which spurred a dramatic increase in trade. Still, the middle ages had witnessed the invention of the stirrup, the windmill, and the flying buttress without ever making an inventor wealthy. Perhaps more significantly, this obsessively commercial Italian city-state had incubated a view of people as no longer simply anonymous souls in an organic, hierarchical society held together by bonds of piety and obligation. Though argued to be classically-inspired, this singlatore uomo emerged as a new person in history, an active, self-directed agent in an expressive, creative and possessive society, in short, an individual in the world as it is, not as it should be.
The very idea of a patent broke tradition with the norm of outright seizure. Florence’s rulers probably devised it as a trial-and-error response to an individual who had unexpectedly redefined what he could possess in and of himself at a time when the city was striving hard to improve its reputation vis à vis Venice as a safer and more profitable venue for the Eastern trade. Not to be outdone, Venice, itself, soon ran patent contests offering winners even more favourable terms.
If, for the city fathers of Florence and Venice (and shortly thereafter the German and Dutch trade cities), the granting of a patent was simply a calculation of costs and benefits, for Filippo, and the inventive individuals who followed him, it was a revolution in their economic and legal relationship to both the state and the broader business community. They held a property right, if only temporarily protected, to the relatively exclusive use and control of the physical and practical forms derived from their own unique insights into the possibilities of matter. What they owned the state could not seize, nor competitors steal. Thus, from its beginning, the patent embodied, in the words of Michael P. Ryan, “the philosophical tension between natural property rights and public welfare—enhancing incentives for risky investment.”2
One could, indeed, write the history of patent law as the shifting relative value of personal property rights versus a mere incentive for innovation and investment. Deputies of the National Assembly during the French Revolution asserted that an inventor’s property right in his or her discovery represented one of the “rights of man.” They desired in part to restrict the state and the aristocrats who controlled it from exploiting productive and innovative members of the bourgeoisie. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson, who worried less about aristocrats and more about the social value of proprietary knowledge, wrote Article I, section 8, of the Constitution to establish patents for strictly utilitarian purposes; in his words, “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts.”3 In the years since, fierce debates have broken out over whether intellectual innovations ought to be governed by property rights or by the utility of government’s either granting or removing monopoly privileges.
One could conclude that personal interests will forever determine the debate. On the one side, inventors and their lawyers insist that intellectual property rights are about preventing theft. On the other, politicians and economic planners assert that patent “law” concerns the balance between industrial incentives and the diffusion of useful knowledge. But just as the Renaissance created “new facts” as to the nature of capitalism and to the nature of mankind, thus altering profoundly the treatment of innovation, so, too, will the next 20 years re-shape our thinking of intellectual property protection, tipping the balance farther towards a property-rights based conception of intellectual property.
The impetus, the “new facts,” lies beyond the obvious—an economy increasingly driven by technological advances and thus more heavily dependent on proprietary knowledge, be it in the new (computers and software), or the traditional (medicine and agriculture). This greater dependence on intellectual property is not changing the nature of modern capitalism, but rather allowing it to operate at a qualitatively higher level of efficiency. New communication tools have sped the diffusion of both market information and production, thus speeding up the articulation of consumer preferences and the ability of producers to respond. It is no longer necessary to have either a central market or a central factory. Technology has simplified and automated monitoring and process functions, thus reducing both transaction costs and personnel costs relative to a unit of economic output. Technology has allowed us to become more productive, while at the same time subjecting us to fewer hierarchical and personal controls. Just as the innovations of banking and insurance awoke Florence to the possibilities of early capitalism, the greater economic role of intellectual property has brought into clearer focus Friederich Hayek’s vision of “extended order” through the “rule of law.”4
As entrepreneurs flourish and more individuals work for themselves (roughly one in six North Americans), the concept of productive work in a capitalist economy has embraced new, decentralized configurations. Work can be self-directed. High levels of economic activity can be sustained by networks of self-contracting individuals and not just by economies-of-scale corporations. This emergent free-agent capitalism will, in turn, give greater weight to the insight of Austrian economics—that our “producer surplus” lies less in the hours of our labour and more in our creativity.5
In time, this understanding should further strengthen and extend to intellectual property John Locke’s familiar argument that individuals own their labours, at least initially.6 If the value of our labour lies in the product of our minds, we have no less a right to own it than the product of our physical labour, regardless of the social cost. If anything, the argument for the personal possession of intellectual creativity is stronger than for physical labour because the former is by definition unique. As such, it remains outside the purview of the state and society until we choose to share it. Though collective rules may define the limits of possession, they should still respect the origins of possession.
It would be insufficient to argue circularly that the current highly productive use of “owned” knowledge (patents) proves the case that property law, not policy wishes, guide decision-makers. Just as in the Renaissance, economic opportunity is alone an incomplete force to change attitudes. As in the fifteenth century, the legal recognition of intellectual property arose in response to both a new form of economic organization and to a new sense not just of self, but of its abstraction—the individual. If we are not surprised today that the nature of the economy is in flux, neither should we be if our ideas of the individual are shifting. At least, Western history shows individualism to possess an ontology or a story of change.7 This cannot help but alter the cultural boundaries into which we cast the nature and treatment of innovation and innovators. After all, it was a champion of the individual, not of economics, Lysander Spooner, the nineteenth century libertarian, who first coined the potent phrase, “intellectual property,” recasting unalterably the debate.8
Will our society, in the new millennium, recognize even greater individual autonomy, thus further shielding intellectual property from the short-term utilitarian machinations of a politicized state? It should, but wishes are poor predictions.
Still, if the hard-edged men of Renaissance Florence could figure out the advantage of patents in the first place, perhaps we can discern the potential value of conceiving of intellectual property as individual property before the law. In the real world, full of Filippo Brunschellis and Bill Gateses, the power of these individuals’ imaginations may illuminate a social self-interest expanding our current definitions of collective utility. The future of individualism, intellectual property, and capitalism should not be bound by today’s crude efforts to measure and analyze them.
1Bruce W. Bugbee, Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1967), p. 17.
2Michael P. Ryan, Knowledge Diplomacy: Global Competition and the Politics of Intellectual Property (Washington: Brookings Inst. Press, 1998), p. 7.
3Tom Bethell, The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 262.
27641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 17, 2007, 01:05:36 PM
Well, now that the Sunnis are opposing AQ instead of in bed with it, IMHO one cornerstone of a foundation for some sort of working relationship has been laid.  Of course by itself, this may not suffice.

Anyway, the Adventure continues.  Here's this from Stratfor on the expulsion of Blackwater:

Iraq: The Possible Repercussions of the Blackwater Suspension
The Iraqi Interior Ministry suspended the operating license of private U.S. security contractor Blackwater on Sept. 17, citing a shootout between a Blackwater security team and insurgents a day earlier that resulted in the death of a least eight Iraqi civilians. The ministry also threatened to prosecute anyone deemed to have used excessive force in the shooting.

Removing Blackwater from Iraq's security equation opens the door to other contractors -- though filling the void left by Blackwater could come at a much higher price. The suspension also could result in more attacks against security contractors by insurgents aiming to increase tensions, further destabilize the security environment in Baghdad and complicate the political process.

The insurgent attack began about midday Sept. 16 as a six-vehicle U.S. State Department convoy returned to the fortified Green Zone through central Baghdad's predominantly Sunni Mansour district. According to reports, an improvised explosive device detonated as the convoy passed through Nisoor Square. The insurgents then attacked the convoy with small arms, sparking a 20-minute firefight with the convoy's Blackwater escorts. Helicopters owned by Blackwater fired into the street in an attempt to provide cover to the security team on the ground, though at least one vehicle in the convoy was disabled during the attack.

The estimated 30,000 security contractors in Iraq -- from the United States and many other countries -- are an integral part of Iraq's security environment. Blackwater, with approximately 1,500 employees in the country, specializes in guarding high-value targets (HVTs) and is contracted to the U.S. State Department to protect convoys transporting diplomats and other personnel. A convoy escorted by Blackwater, with its distinctive vehicles and helicopter support, is easily recognizable -- and likely to contain HVTs.

When a convoy is attacked, the contractor's first priority is to get its charges out of the area as quickly as possible. The long duration of the firefight suggests that the attackers were able to block the escape route or keep the convoy pinned down with heavy direct fire. This suggests the ambush was complex, well planned and well executed. When the shooting was over, at least eight civilians lay dead.

Convoys are vulnerable, especially in Iraq's urban battlefields. Although the State Department sets the training requirements for security contractors it employs, private contractors have been known to respond to an attack with overwhelming force -- mainly because they lack the large support structure that military units can count on when they get into a tight spot. In this case, the Iraqi government indeed claimed that the Blackwater specialists used excessive force in responding to the attack. However, a 20-minute firefight involving automatic weapons can expend a great deal of ammunition and cause a tremendous amount of damage. A shootout that results in only eight noncombatant fatalities suggests the Blackwater security specialists employed a fair degree of control and discipline.

The U.S. government is investigating the incident, and the State Department could convene an accountability review board to determine whether the Blackwater team acted appropriately. In order to maintain the Iraqi government's appearance of sovereignty, the State Department could cancel its Iraq contract with Blackwater. Should it do so, there are two competing private security contractors -- DynCorp and Triple Canopy -- that are eligible fill the void. Neither of these contractors, however, has as many properly vetted U.S. security specialists in Iraq as Blackwater -- and the State Department will want properly vetted U.S. citizens on its HVT protection details. In order to make up the shortfall, the other companies might have to offer large bonuses to prospective replacements, increasing the cost of the original contract dramatically. Many of these replacements could come straight from Blackwater.

This incident and the strong Iraqi and U.S. reaction could cause an escalation in attacks against contractor-escorted convoys and contractor-guarded facilities by groups looking to increase tensions. Should this occur, it could further destabilize the security environment in Baghdad, and complicate the political process. In addition, security contractors are foundational to security in the country and the Green Zone. They protect many VIPs, HVTs, and logistics convoys. If a precedent is set here, attacking contractors and getting them kicked out of the country will prove an effective way to attack the U.S. foundational security and logistics base.
27642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 17, 2007, 12:49:31 PM
Which could explain why some factions within the Pentagon are pushing strongly for more/faster troop withdrawals from Irag , , ,
27643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Concerning Stratfor: on: September 17, 2007, 12:36:24 PM
Woof All:

As those of you who read here regularly know, I often post from my subscription to Stratfor.  I find Stratfor to be an outstanding resource.  Although it is not cheap, it is quite a bargain in terms of value received.  What I share here is a small fraction of what I receive from Stratfor.  I have subscribed for several years now, and find the high quality it achieves to be quite consistent over time and have paid for a lifetime subscription.

Here is a good opportunity for those so inclined to check it out:

The Adventure continues,
27644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 17, 2007, 12:03:04 PM
September 17, 2007; Page A16

As young Mexicans have poured across the southern U.S. border in recent years, looking for work, a common American refrain has been to blame Mexican economic policy. Even many of us who welcome the new labor for the U.S. economy have also noted that the Mexican government's failure to deepen the economic restructuring begun some 20 years ago has spurred migration, imposing a heavy burden on Mexican society.

This reality has not been lost on President Felipe Calderón. He campaigned in the lead-up to last year's election on a platform that emphasized jobs, promising to deliver the policy changes that would bring them about. Unfortunately, Mr. Calderón's National Action Party (PAN) is only a minority in Congress, and judging by the "reforms" passed there last week, his vision of a modernized Mexico is still a long way off.

It's bad enough that the government's fiscal reform falls so far short of the pro-growth agenda Mr. Calderón promised. But to make matters worse, opposition parties made passing it contingent on a heavily politicized "electoral reform" and a no-strings-attached tax cut for the monopoly, state-owned oil company Pemex. If there is one lesson from this latest legislative struggle between modernizers and Mexico's old guard in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), it's that timidity when confronting dinosaurs doesn't pay.

Mr. Calderón has been carefully choosing his fights in his first year in office. His biggest achievement to date is the reform of the public-sector pension system, a measure that in the medium term will remove the obligations of the large entitlement program from the budget.

Having one win under his belt, Mr. Calderón moved this summer to introduce a fiscal reform designed to close revenue shortfalls. A better course of action, with oil topping $80 a barrel, would have been opening the oil market to private investment. But this would have challenged the theology that says that the inefficient state-owned oil monopoly Pemex is sacred. Mr. Calderón apparently has decided, for now, against questioning that taboo.

Instead, he chose to go after the productive private sector of the economy, where at least some large companies are known to take advantage of a complex, exemption-ridden regime to dodge tax payments. The choice has not been fruitful.

As I reported in my July 2 column, Hacienda Minister (Treasury Secretary) Agustin Carstens, formerly of the International Monetary Fund, chose not to seek growth through lower corporate tax rates and simplification. Instead, he crafted a plan to create a corporate alternative minimum tax. The proposal raised the cost of labor on some part of the work force and complicated the code.

An email I received from the Mexican office of a large multinational investment firm insisted that the plan was not biased against skilled labor. That conclusion implied that the Hacienda proposal was so complicated that even some Mexican experts couldn't figure it out. John A. McLees, tax partner at the law firm Baker McKenzie, collaborated with his Mexican counterpart in Tijuana on a study that argued convincingly that the proposal did indeed raise the cost of labor for salaries between approximately $15,000-$35,000, middle-range pay in Mexico. When workers cost more, companies hire fewer. For a president who ran on an employment platform, it was a disappointment.

If the AMT is intended, as some have speculated, to be an end run toward the goal of a single, low flat-tax, not many are buying it. Most businesses view it as a tax hike and few seem confident that a new tax, once adopted, would ever be abolished.

Thus the administration, normally considered market friendly, found itself without even its natural allies in negotiations with Congress. Meanwhile some of the worst elements of Mexico's corporatist past were preparing to extract a pound of flesh for their support.

The bill that finally passed last week sets the AMT at 16.5%, increasing it to 17.5% in three years. Those rates are lower than originally proposed and the burden on labor has been significantly reduced. The government forecasts a revenue increase of 100 billion pesos ($9 billion) to be used for infrastructure investment and social programs for the poor. But no one expects it to spur much growth. Hacienda forecasts that without the reform Mexico would have grown at 3.5% in 2008 and with the reform it will grow at 3.7%, still an anemic rate for a developing country.

What is yet unknown is how the tax changes might affect investment decisions. Some tax experts are already warning that for U.S. investors, paying the AMT could mean double taxation because it is not an income tax and the tax treaty with the U.S. only covers income taxes.

As part of the bargain in Congress, the PRI opposition forced the government to hand Pemex what amounts to an annual tax cut of 30 billion pesos, to grow to 60 billion pesos by 2010. A reform-minded negotiator might have asked for something in return. Pemex is highly inefficient and not likely to improve without competition. Since there is nothing in the Mexican constitution that gives Pemex the right to the monopoly it has in trading energy products like petrochemicals and gasoline, some competition could be introduced without a constitutional amendment. This was also an opportunity to force reform in Pemex's bankrupt pension plan.

The government also had to give up important ground in an electoral reform. It agreed to fire Luis Ugalde, the head of the supposedly independent Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), and the entire board. The hard-left Revolutionary Democratic Party wanted this in order to delegitimize Mr. Calderón's victory last summer. The PRI dinosaurs wanted it to extract revenge against political rivals who worked with former President Vicente Fox to name Mr. Ugalde. Now they have a say in putting their own nominees on the board. The bargain also tightens restrictions on the use of campaign TV and radio spots, outlawing "negative" advertising -- which the IFE will judge subjectively -- and prohibiting private-sector issue ads. In other words, free speech takes a hit in this reform and the IFE board is politicized. Now the only hope that this constitutional change might be defeated is if more than half of Mexican states refuse to approve it.

If not, Mr. Calderón will have won his watered-down fiscal reform but at a high cost. Mexicans have to hope that he starts to think bigger and bolder. This nibbling around the edges of reform is only going to get him eaten alive by the dinosaurs.

Write to O'
27645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 17, 2007, 11:59:36 AM
Second post of the day. 

Let Taiwan Join the U.N.
September 17, 2007; Page A16

Tomorrow the United Nations will consider Taiwan's application for membership. It has formally sought admission every year since 1993, but this year's application is different.

First, the country is applying under its own name ("Taiwan") rather than its official appellation ("Republic of China"). Second, it is applying to the U.N. General Assembly, the organization's comprehensive body of member nations -- despite the rejection of its application this summer by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his legal office. Third, the application may be followed by a national referendum on whether Taiwan should apply for U.N. membership under its own name -- a plan that has elicited a sharp rebuke by the Bush administration.

The U.N.'s lawyers argued that, having transferred China's seat from Taipei to Beijing in 1971, the U.N. should reject Taiwan's latest application because Taiwan "for all intents and purposes" is "an integral part of the People's Republic of China." Taiwan presents a more compelling legal case: It meets all of the requirements of statehood under law.

It is already a full and productive member of international organizations such as the World Trade Organization and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. It has never been a province or part of the local government of the People's Republic of China. Taiwan's recent transformation into a modern democratic state supersedes any decades-old determination that gives the PRC a United Nations seat -- even as the U.N. failed to determine that Taiwan is part of the PRC or bestow upon it the right to represent Taiwan.

Taiwan's political case for U.N. membership is equally strong. It is the 48th most populous country in the world. Its economy is the world's 16th largest. Its gross national product totals $366 billion, or $16,098 per capita. With $267 billion in foreign exchange reserves, it is one of the world's three largest creditor states. Taiwan is therefore poised to be a significant contributor to the U.N.'s operations and play a constructive role in the organization.

Unfortunately, the United States and the other major powers discourage Taiwan in its quest for de jure international recognition of its de facto sovereignty. This is because they do not want to raise the ire of the PRC, which, as a member of the U.N. Security Council, can block any significant U.N. action, and, as a global power, can interfere on a host of issues important to the U.S. and Europe.

Thanks to exponentially increased trade with the U.S. and Europe, Beijing feels less compelled than ever to seek political accommodation with Taiwan, or to decrease its military threat against the island nation. Expanding economic relationships may be good in and of itself, but predictions that this would produce political cracks in China's authoritarian regime have proved wrong.

Today, Beijing is using its newfound economic might to isolate Taiwan still further in international organizations and attempt to persuade the two dozen countries that recognize Taiwan diplomatically to switch their ties to China. Meanwhile, the people of the PRC enjoy fewer political rights and civil liberties than in all but a few of the world's countries.

A few short years ago, the U.S. seemed determined to change this. During his 2000 election campaign and the first months of his administration, President Bush and his team vowed to fashion a new foreign policy in which U.S. national interests, particularly in Asia, were advanced less exclusively through the prism of Beijing. In other words, the U.S. wanted to be less beholden to the communist regime.

One of the casualties of 9/11, and the subsequent war in Iraq, was that this policy agenda became less of a priority. Our cooperation with Pakistan in the effort to topple the Taliban, find Osama bin Laden and eradicate terrorism in the region meant that we focused less on developing a higher-tier relationship with India. We also concentrated less on drawing out Japan, by encouraging it to play a more active political and military role on the global stage. Equally important, we were unable to increase our promotion of democracy in the region by fostering closer ties with countries such as Taiwan and South Korea and escalating pressure on Beijing to reform.

The current U.S. administration still has time to correct this omission. Having been an advocate for Taiwan during my time in the Senate, and today as part of a law firm that represents Taiwan's interests in the U.S., I believe that President Bush should support Taiwan's application for U.N. membership. This should be quickly followed by active or tacit support for Taiwan's plans for a popular vote on this issue in March 2008. Our close Asian friend and ally needs and deserves this recognition and support, which would at the same time advance America's regional and global interest in promoting democratization.

Mr. Dole, a former Senate majority leader and the Republican candidate for president in 1996, is special counsel to Alston & Bird.

27646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 17, 2007, 11:32:25 AM
This piece from the WSJ goes where others fear to tread:


China's One-Child Mistake
September 17, 2007; Page A17

If China could take a single decision today to enhance the nation's long-term economic outlook, it would be to recognize that coercive population control has been a tragic and historic mistake -- and to abandon it, immediately.

Such a call might surprise the casual observer, for on its own terms, China's population program has been a superficial success. In the early 1970s, China's then-current childbearing patterns implied nearly five births per woman. At the start of the "one child policy" in 1979, China's total fertility rate was nearly three births per woman. Today, China's fertility rate is far below the "net reproduction rate" -- by many estimates, just 1.7 births per woman nationwide. In some major population centers -- Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin among them -- the average number of births per woman today has fallen below one baby per lifetime.

This "success," however, comes with immense inadvertent costs and unintended consequences. Thanks to a decade and a half of sub-replacement fertility, China's working-age population is poised to peak in size, and then start to decline, more or less indefinitely, within less than a decade. A generation from now, China's potential labor force (ages 15-64) will be no larger than it is today, perhaps smaller. This presages a radical change in China's growth environment from the generation just completed, during which time (1980-2005) the country's working-age population expanded by over 55%.

"Composition effects" only make the picture worse. Until now, young people have been the life force raising the overall level of education and technical attainment in China's work force. But between 2005 and 2030, China's 15-24 age group is slated to slump in absolute size, with a projected decline of over 20% in store. In fact, the only part of the working-age population that stands to increase in size between now and 2030 is the over-50 cohort. Will they bring the dynamism we have come to expect from China in recent decades?

On current trajectories, China's total population will start to decline around 2030. Even so, China must expect a "population explosion" between then and now -- one entirely comprised of senior citizens. Between 2005 and 2030, China's 65-plus age cohort will likely more than double in size, to 235 million or more, from about 100 million now. And because of the fall-off in young people, China's age profile will "gray" in the decades ahead at a pace almost never before witnessed in human history. China is still a fairly youthful society today -- but by 2030, by such metrics as median population age, the country will be "grayer" than the United States -- "grayer," that is, than the U.S. of 2030, not the U.S. of today.

How will China's future senior citizens support themselves? China still has no official national pension system. Up to now, China's de facto national pension system has been the family -- but that social safety net is unraveling, and rapidly. Until very recently, thanks to relatively large Chinese families, almost every Chinese woman had given birth to at least one son -- under Confucian tradition, their first line of support. But just two decades from now, thanks to the "success" of the one-child policy, roughly a third of women entering their 60s will have no living son.

In such numbers, one can see the making of a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy. But the withering away of the Chinese family under population control has even more far-reaching implications.

In Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of China, extreme sub-replacement fertility has already been in effect for over a generation. If this continues for another generation, we will see the emergence of a new norm: a "4-2-1 family" composed of four grandparents, but only two children, and just one grandchild. The children in these new family structures will have no brothers or sisters, no uncles or aunts, and no cousins. Their only blood relatives will be their ancestors.

It is no secret that China is already a "low trust society": Personal and business transactions still rely heavily upon guanxi, the network of personal relations largely demarcated by family ties. What exactly will provide the "social capital" to undergird commercial and economic development in a future China where "families" are, increasingly, little more than atomized households and isolated individuals?

One final consequence of China's population-control program requires comment: the eerie, unnatural and increasingly extreme imbalance between baby boys and baby girls. Under normal circumstances, about 103 to 105 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls. Shortly after the advent of the one-child policy, however, China began reporting biologically impossible disparities between boys and girls -- and the imbalance has only continued to rise. Today China reports 123 baby boys for every 100 girls.

Over the coming generation, those same little boys and girls will grow up to be prospective brides and grooms. One need not be a demographer to see from these numbers the massive imbalance in the "marriage market" in a generation, or less. How will China cope with the sudden and very rapid emergence of tens of millions of essentially unmarriageable young men?

All of these problems just described are directly associated with involuntary population control. Scrapping this restrictive birth-control policy would surely ease China's incipient aging crisis, its looming family-structure problems and its worrisome gender imbalances. Some in China's leadership may worry that the end of the one-child policy might mean the return to the five-child family -- but in reality, modern China is most unlikely to return to pre-industrial fertility norms.

In the final analysis, the wealth of nations in the modern world is not found in the ground, or the forests, or in other natural resources. The true wealth of modern countries resides in their people -- in human resources. China's people are not a curse -- they are a blessing. The Chinese people, like people elsewhere, are rational, calculating actors who seek to improve their own circumstances -- not heedless beasts who procreate without thought of the future.

Trusting China's people to act in their own self-interest -- not least of all, trusting their choices and preferences with respect to their own family size -- may very well prove to be the key to whether China ultimately succeeds in abolishing poverty and attaining mass affluence in the decades and generations ahead.

Mr. Eberstadt is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This essay is excerpted from remarks delivered at the World Economic Forum's conference in Dalian, China earlier this month.
27647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: September 17, 2007, 11:28:07 AM
U.S./IRAQ: The Iraqi government said it is canceling U.S. security firm Blackwater's license to operate in the country. The decision came after security contractors believed to be working for the company allegedly opened fire on civilians during an attack against a U.S. State Department motorcade in Baghdad on Sept. 16. The Iraqi Interior Ministry, noting that eight civilians were killed and 13 wounded in the exchange, said it would prosecute any foreign contractors that were deemed to have used excessive force in the shooting.

IRAQ: The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite bloc that leads the Iraqi government, called for Muqtada al-Sadr's political movement to change its decision to pull out of the alliance, saying the withdrawal jeopardizes national unity. The pullout leaves the UIA with 32 fewer seats in parliament, giving Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government only 136 of 275 seats it can count on, including 53 seats from two Kurdish groups.
27648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New Terrorism Case Confirms That Denmark Is a Target on: September 17, 2007, 11:22:09 AM
With the shadings for which the NY Slimes is known, here is this on the Homeland dangers faced by Denmark:
This article was reported by Nicholas Kulish, Souad Mekhennet and Eric Schmitt, and written by Mr. Kulish.

Muslims see hypocrisy in Denmark’s talk of human rights and its actions in places like Afghanistan, said Imran Shah, 31.
COPENHAGEN, Sept. 16 — After three terrorism cases in less than two years, including an alleged bombing plot broken up this month, intelligence officials say tiny Denmark is on the front line in the battle against Islamic terrorism in Europe.

“Even though we’ve prevented one terrorist attack, we know that there are still people in Denmark and abroad that have the capacity, the will and the ability to carry out terrorist attacks in Denmark,” Jakob Scharf, the head of Danish intelligence, said in an interview in his office here.

He was referring to predawn raids on Sept. 4 that resulted in the arrests of eight suspects, two of whom are still in custody on terrorism charges and are accused of planning a bombing attack.

American authorities helped Danish security officials locate the suspects through electronic intercepts from Pakistan, just as they did in arrests the same day in a bombing plot in southern Germany, intelligence officials in Washington said. They said one of the men in the Danish case received instruction within the past 12 months in explosives, surveillance and other techniques at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

With Europe again focused on the threat posed by terrorist plots, Denmark illustrates the powerful interplay between foreign agitation and domestic discontent. The country became a target of foreign Islamist terrorist groups two years ago after a conservative newspaper here published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, drawing worldwide attention. At home, the children of Muslim immigrants complain of job discrimination and integration problems, feeding the disenchantment of the small but growing Muslim population.

“In the schools, Danish teachers are always talking about democracy and human rights, but now they see what Denmark is doing in Afghanistan and what they did here with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad,” said Imran Shah, 31, who leads a youth group at a local mosque. “They ask themselves, is this a democracy or are they talking about double standards?”

While much of the world’s attention was focused on the arrests that took place that same day in Germany, but were announced one day later, intelligence officials here and in Washington said at least one suspect in the Danish group had direct ties to leading figures in Al Qaeda, which has regrouped in northwestern Pakistan.

“What’s coming from this is that they are now able to give military and terrorist training and able to plan and steer specific operations in Europe,” Mr. Scharf, the Danish intelligence chief, said. “Al Qaeda is back.”

Mr. Scharf drew a clear distinction between independent or loosely affiliated groups drawing inspiration from Al Qaeda’s ideology and specific control of plans for attack, saying the Danish bomb plot was clearly the latter. “I’m not indicating a direct phone line to Osama bin Laden,” he said, but leading members are able to “direct operations outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

This case was the first time officials here have linked an operation in Denmark to the group that masterminded the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

While Mr. Scharf underscored the threat posed by Islamic terrorism, he also differentiated between the religion of Islam and those who commit violence in its name, an important distinction in a country where debates over the role of Islam in a traditionally Christian society have often been contentious and the lines sometimes blurred.

The case in Denmark also highlights the uneasy coexistence of intelligence and prosecution. Danish authorities gave no indication of the quantity of explosive material found in Copenhagen this month, but they said suspects had begun mixing precursor chemicals for bombs. Of the eight men arrested, the authorities quickly released six of them, fueling skepticism about the strength of the case and the government’s ability to turn arrests into convictions.

In the first of the recent terrorism cases, stemming from arrests in October 2005, three of the four defendants found guilty by jurors had their verdicts overruled by a three-judge review panel. The fourth was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison on terrorism charges, and prosecutors say they will retry another. In the second case, nine suspects were initially arrested, of whom four are on trial. The court proceedings are under way in Copenhagen.

“They are manipulating the press and the public by giving the impression that they have a very serious case,” said Bjoern Elmquist, a lawyer for defendants in two of the cases, including this one. “They are scaring people.”

With a population of 5.5 million, Denmark is smaller than New York City by several million people, but it is a disproportionately large target on jihadist Web sites. Not only did Denmark achieve infamy across the Muslim world for the publication of the Muhammad cartoons, which incited violent and even deadly protests in other countries, it also has troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq.


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There are no official statistics, but researchers estimate that there are roughly 210,000 Muslims in Denmark. It is not a homogeneous group but is split among Turks, Iraqis, Bosnians and others. That jihadist Web sites have been translated into Danish for such a small and disparate group demonstrates the interest and effort they are putting into the country.

The Heimdalsgade mosque which, according to a Danish newspaper, was attended by suspects in all three of the alleged plots.
Mr. Scharf said the profile of Muslim men pulled into extremism was young, “normally in the age from 16 to 25.” The young men are courted by mentors whose job is to identify those predisposed to a jihadi mind-set, radicalize them and put them in touch with others who could help them plan violent acts.

“This is not taking place when the imam is preaching in the mosque,” Mr. Scharf said. “I think that these imams play a very important role in preventing the radicalization” of young Muslims.

Mohammed el-Banna, an imam from the famous family of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, said, “They like heroes, and heroes, from their point of view, are not those who talk but those who fight.” He preaches at a mosque in Heimdalsgade that Politiken, a leading newspaper here, reported had been attended by suspects in all three of the alleged plots. “We cannot check the ID cards of people who attend the prayers,” he said.

Mr. Banna, 49, moved to Denmark from Egypt in 1985. He is a Danish citizen and has four children, the eldest of whom is studying computer science at a university in Denmark. Saying he was speaking for himself and not the mosque, Mr. Banna said that before the cartoon controversy, Denmark enjoyed a very good reputation in the Muslim world, as a nation that did business in the Middle East rather than fighting or keeping colonies there.

For second-generation Muslims coming of age after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the American-led invasion of Iraq, it is a different story. Mr. Banna said young men had come to him looking for religious justification to go and fight in Iraq. “When I told them that there is no justification, they would look for someone else to get the justification,” he said.

The generational gap is a concern not only for security officials, but for Muslim parents grappling with the anger of their children.

“Young people have a problem of identity,” said Bilal Assaad the spokesman for the Community of Islam Mosque in Copenhagen, which led the protests here against the Muhammad cartoons. “They were born in Denmark but they don’t feel Danish. They don’t have good possibilities to get jobs because their name is Muhammad. My son tells me, ‘Yes I can see that I’m Muslim, but I can’t see that I’m Danish.’ ”

Mr. Shah, the youth group leader, said, “When I’m going on a train with my backpack, people start to look at me in a different way.” He said that he appreciated the irony of the fact that, while under suspicion on his commute, he was on the way to his job as a security guard at the airport.

Of the 11 locations searched by Danish authorities in the recent raids, it was an apartment on Glasvej Street in a mixed neighborhood of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Danes where investigators say the bomb-making materials were found. The front door is cracked where it was broken open by a police battering ram.

The apartment was occupied by two brothers of Pakistani descent. Both were arrested in the raids. The older of the two, who is 24, was released after less than a day. “They came at 2 o’clock,” he said. “They broke open the door. They broke everything. They came as animals.”

He added that he had not seen his brother since going to sleep the night before their arrest. Under Danish law, the authorities do not release the names of suspects, and he asked not to have his name used. The authorities say he remains under investigation.

“I work all day,” he said in a soft voice. “I don’t know what my brother and his friends do.”

27649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: September 17, 2007, 11:06:32 AM

1139 GMT -- IRAN, UNITED STATES -- The Iranian military has the capacity to strike U.S. interests in the Middle East within a 1,250-mile range, Gen. Mohammad Hassan Koussechi, a top official in Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Sept. 17. The U.S. Army has encircled Iran, but if it strikes on any of the 2,000 Iranian targets it has identified, it will be attacked, Koussechi said. Separately, Iran's official media has launched a campaign accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of being driven by U.S. interests. The campaign was triggered by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's comments about a possible war with Iran.

1112 GMT -- IRAN -- Iran will reconsider its $15 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with French oil firm Total because of differences over the price paid to Tehran, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari said Sept. 16. Iran, which believes Total's price to market the agreed 5.5 million tons of LNG is too high, asked Total to submit a new quote earlier this year. "We think this amount should be supplied to the market and not to Total," Nozari said.

0145 GMT -- FRANCE, IRAN -- French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Sept. 16 that the world must prepare for the possibility of war with Iran over its nuclear development program. He said the possibility is unlikely, but that the world "must prepare for the worst."
27650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: September 17, 2007, 11:05:08 AM

Certainly that is pertinent to why the US has a hard time getting its act together, but my intention for this thread is to focus more on the articulation of what our strategy is so as to rally the American people.  As noted in a nearby thread, one goes to war with the citizens one has.

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