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27601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkmenistan on: March 24, 2008, 06:43:29 PM

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will become the first Turkmen leader to attend a NATO summit when he goes to the alliance’s upcoming heads-of-state meeting in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2-4. The move indicates that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between the West and Russia while both sides try to pull Turkmenistan off the fence.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov will attend NATO’s April 2-4 heads-of-state summit in Bucharest, Romania. This will be the first time a Turkmen leader has attended a NATO summit and it indicates that Berdimukhammedov is not as afraid of the West as his predecessor was. Moreover, it shows that Berdimukhammedov is looking to balance his country between Russia and the West, even as both sides are tugging at Ashgabat.

In December 2006, the Turkmenbashi (Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov) died, leaving the country’s path unclear. Turkmenistan’s entire existence had hinged on the Turkmenbashi and his quirky but highly repressive means of running the country. Since his death, there has been a large battle among five forces — the United States, Europe, Russia, China and Iran — over who will dominate Turkmenistan’s wealth of energy supplies. Though each player has made small deals, none has really solidified an alliance with Ashgabat or Berdimukhammedov, who acts as if he is open to any of the powers’ investments.

Turkmenistan has remained neutral since the end of the Soviet Union. It is an unofficial observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and Niyazov signed a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO in 1994.

Though Turkmenistan is an unofficial observer of the SCO, it has routinely attended almost all of the organization’s meetings, since most of Turkmenistan’s economic partners and regional countries are in the SCO. Ashgabat’s relationship with NATO, on the other hand, has been very precarious. Niyazov only signed the agreement with NATO to try to control the Mary Clan, the most powerful clan in Turkmenistan and the group that controls drug trafficking in the country.

Niyazov was also a supporter of the 2001 war in Afghanistan launched chiefly by the United States, though that support stemmed from his fear that Afghanistan’s instability would spill over into his controlled country. But the Iraq war deeply affected Niyazov and the rest of the Turkmen government, especially regarding their view of the United States. The 2003 Iraq war was, in Niyazov’s mind, about the United States going in to overthrow a very familiar-looking government. After Saddam Hussein was removed from power — and particularly after Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi reached a rapprochement with the United States — Niyazov became convinced that he was the next target on Washington’s to-smite list.

In addition, there was a wave of “color” and “velvet” revolutions that began in Serbia in 2000, swept Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004, and finally reached the Central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 2005. Not only was the Turkmenbashi terrified that the West — which was accused of sparking the revolutions — would attempt one in his country, but he knew that his country would be more vulnerable to such a revolution because it had a far more brittle power structure and weaker security services than the other countries.

This all led Niyazov to sign a rather comprehensive defense agreement with Moscow that abandoned Ashgabat’s previous policy of utter neutrality and placed Turkmenistan back under Moscow’s security umbrella.

However, Berdimukhammedov is a more level-headed leader and is making his own decisions.

The new leader has opened his country up to proposals from all sides over developing Turkmenistan’s large energy reserves. However, Berdimukhammedov has been very cautious and conservative in deciding which deals to take, with proposals from Europe, Russia and China all on the table. Berdimukhammedov has also been asserting his country’s place as a global energy supplier by confronting the countries to which it sends supplies. In December 2007, Turkmenistan announced that it was doubling the price of natural gas to Russia, and in January it cut natural gas supplies to Iran.

In security and military matters, Berdimukhammedov had been pushing his country toward Moscow. At the last SCO meeting, Berdimukhammedov discussed the possibility of becoming a recognized observer or even a member. Also, the leader has made a military upgrade one of his country’s top priorities. Turkmenistan currently has a slew of unused military bases left over from the Soviet era, and because Turkmenistan is next to Iran and Afghanistan, Moscow and Washington are fighting over those bases. But Ashgabat wants more than either side is currently offering and recently asked Moscow to help it carry out a military upgrade, primarily for its air force.

But Moscow has yet to decide whether it will arm a country that has been growing closer to the West, especially if Ashgabat is only going to give Moscow a harder time over energy prices while entertaining Western and Asian alternative proposals. And now Berdimukhammedov has raised the stakes by becoming the first leader of Turkmenistan to formally attend a NATO summit. The president is feeling out his options for security outside of Moscow — a break with the behavior typical of Turkmenistan during the past century.

Moscow will certainly take notice and make some sort of move, since the upcoming NATO summit is a pivotal benchmark for Russia’s geopolitical position as an international leader. NATO will be considering extending membership offers to several countries that are crucially important to Russia, including the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. The last thing Moscow needs is for Turkmenistan also to be cozying up to the rival alliance — and Ashgabat knows it
27602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dems super disaster on: March 24, 2008, 02:43:16 PM
Not exactly on point with the subject matter of this thread, but pertinent enough I think to merit its placement here.

The Democrats' Super Disaster
March 24, 2008; Page A15

Until recent weeks, one of the least understood aspects of the Democrats' primary contest was the role of superdelegates. These are Democratic Party insiders, members of Congress, and other officials who can cast ballots at the party's national convention this summer.

But now these unelected delegates are coming in for a close inspection, because neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama can win their party's nomination without superdelegate support. The big Pennsylvania primary on April 22, for example, has only 158 delegates at stake (each of them will be pledged to support one of the candidates). By comparison, there are a total of 795 superdelegates, none of whom are required to honor the will of the voters of their state at the party's convention.

Sound undemocratic? It is. That the 2008 Democratic nominee for president will be chosen by individuals no one voted for in the primaries flew for too long under the commentariat's radar. This from the party that litigated to "make every vote count" in the 2000 Florida recount, reviled the institution of the Electoral College for letting the loser of the national popular election win the presidency, and has called the Bush administration illegitimate ever since.

Democratic Party reforms in 1982 gave super-delegates about 20% of convention votes -- so that party greybeards can stop a popular, but politically extreme, candidate from seizing the nomination. The Democrats deliberately rejiggered their party's rules to head off insurgent candidates, like a George McGovern or a Jimmy Carter, who might be crushed in the general election. Unelected delegates thus have more than twice the votes of the richest state prize, California.

So much for unfiltered democracy. In truth, the Democratic Party runs by rules that are the epitome of the smoke-filled room and ensure, in essence, that congressional incumbents exercise a veto power over the nomination.

This delegate dissonance wasn't anything the Framers of the U.S. Constitution dreamed up. They believed that letting Congress choose the president was a dreadful idea. Without direct election by the people, the Framers said that the executive would lose its independence and vigor and become a mere servant of the legislature. They had the record of revolutionary America to go on. All but one of America's first state constitutions gave state assemblies the power to choose the governor. James Madison commented that this structure allowed legislatures to turn governors into "little more than ciphers."

That's why, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Framers rejected early proposals to follow any such model. New York delegate Gouverneur Morris explained that if Congress picked the president, he "will not be independent of it; and if not independent, usurpation and tyranny on the part of the Legislature will be the consequence." Choosing the president would result from the "work of intrigue, of cabal, and of faction." After weeks of debate, the Framers vested the presidency with its own base of popular support by establishing a national election, saying that the president should represent the views of the entire people, not the wishes of Congress.

They kept the same rule when considering what should happen when the president ran for re-election. Alexander Hamilton wrote, while ratification of the Constitution was being debated, "that the executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all, but the people themselves," for otherwise, the president might "be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence."

The Framers were deeply concerned that a president chosen by Congress would keep his eye only on the happiness of legislators, turning our government into a parliamentary system like those which prevail in Europe today, in which the nation's leader is merely a prime minister.

Press reports indicate that the Framers were right to worry. The Clinton and Obama campaigns are now competing hard to win superdelegates. Members of Congress no doubt will cut deals for themselves and their constituents. A water project here, some pet legislation there -- surely such details are worth the nomination. Lose, and the candidate pays nothing. Win, and a presidency is gained. Like shareholders deciding whether to sell in a tender offer, superdelegates will bargain ferociously until the moment that the nominee secures a delegate majority. As we close in on the Democratic convention, the demand for superdelegates will escalate, with the choice of the nominee becoming increasingly the work of political intrigue, inside deals, and power struggles among special interest groups -- just as the Framers feared.

A nominee who survives this process will come to the presidency weighed down by dozens, if not hundreds, of commitments. Little hope there for a fresh start, or any break from a politics-as-usual Congress. Some may welcome such a development. Some students of American politics argue that the president and Congress should work more closely together. Critics of the Bush administration may well prefer a President Clinton or Obama who obeys congressional wishes.

But the historical record on this is not heartening. During the reign of the Jeffersonians, the progenitors of today's Democrats, the congressional caucus chose the party's nominee. It was a system that yielded mediocrity, even danger. Congressional hawks pushed James Madison into the War of 1812 by demanding ever more aggressive trade restrictions against Great Britain and ultimately declaring war -- all because they wanted to absorb Canada. It ended with a stalemate in the north, the torching of the U.S. capital, and Gen. Andrew Jackson winning a victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

"King Caucus" finally broke down when the system reached a peak of "cabal, intrigue, and faction." Jackson received the plurality of the popular vote in the election of 1824, but with no Electoral College majority the choice went to the House of Representatives. In what became known as the "corrupt bargain," House Speaker Henry Clay, who had come in fourth, threw his electors behind John Quincy Adams in exchange for being appointed Secretary of State. Jackson spent the next four years successfully attacking the legitimacy of the Adams administration and won his revenge in the election of 1828.

It is unlikely that a candidate today would trade a cabinet post for a superdelegate's vote. Sen. Harry Reid is unlikely to be the next Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, or Speaker Nancy Pelosi the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But the election of 1824 ought to serve as a caution about what may happen again today, if we let Congress play a large role in choosing the next president. Our Framers designed the Constitution to prevent just this from happening. The Democrats have created an electoral system that echoes failed models from the American past, and threatens to sap the presidency of its independence and authority by turning it into the handmaiden of Congress instead of the choice of the American people.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03.
27603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: March 24, 2008, 02:35:29 PM
From Western Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq

Despite recent news reports, progress in Iraq continues.  The 5th year, the 4,000th death... these are sad truths.  Also true is that violence is down and al Qaeda loses ground day by day.  The biggest challenge now is national reconciliation.
Nevertheless, I've planted myself up here in Nineveh where al Qaeda is making a last stand.  They are putting up a good fight, but my gut instinct is that AQI will essentially be finished in Iraq by the end of this summer.  This does not imply that they will be completely exterminated or that attacks will cease, but, for all intents and purposes, al Qaeda will have suffered a devastating defeat in Iraq.
Al Qaeda Central seems to have finally realized that the United States and Great Britain are the wrong animals to kick.   They might prefer easier targets in Europe.  Whatever happens, it's clear that al Qaeda is devastated here.  What is left of al Qaeda here is being mulched, mostly up here in Nineveh, where I think there will be more fighting in the coming months.
Please read "Stake through their Hearts" to learn more about the fighting in Nineveh.
And please buy an advance copy of Moment of Truth in Iraq to help keep me on the battlefield.  Looks like I've got Nineveh mostly to myself, again.
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27604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 24, 2008, 01:59:45 PM
Clinton Campaign Touts
Value of Big-State Victories
Primary Argument
Overlooks Outcomes
In General Elections
March 24, 2008; Page A4

If a Democrat wins a primary in a Republican stronghold, is it really a win? That is the question Clinton supporters will be posing to superdelegates in the coming weeks.

With neither Democratic presidential candidate likely to reach the number of pledged delegates required to secure the nomination, the Clinton campaign is relying on its argument that victories in big states such as California and Ohio make Sen. Hillary Clinton a stronger candidate to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

Clinton aides are highlighting that Sen. Barack Obama has won among affluent voters in caucuses and primaries in states with small populations of Democrats -- such as Idaho and Wyoming -- and among African Americans in Republican states unlikely to turn blue in November -- such as South Carolina and Georgia.

A Clinton campaign memo released early this month noted Sen. Obama has won 10 out of the 11 core Republican states that have held primaries or caucuses this year. Wyoming, for one, the campaign later noted, hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe has rejected the Clinton campaign's attempts to give greater importance to certain states and notes that Sen. Obama won Missouri and Illinois, two large swing states.

The Clinton campaign has been using the big-state argument on and off since Super Tuesday, when Sen. Clinton won big prizes including New York, California and New Jersey. The argument has been central to the campaign since her Ohio and Texas victories, and Clinton aides will be aggressively pushing the point in the weeks before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Pennsylvania represents another battleground state for the Democrats in November. A recent poll of likely voters conducted by SurveyUSA puts Sen. Clinton ahead in the Keystone State, with 55% favoring her compared with 36% favoring Sen. Obama. Other polls give her a narrower lead.

"I think it is significant that I have won Ohio and I won Florida and I've won the big states that serve as those anchors on the electoral map," Sen. Clinton told reporters on board the campaign plane in Scranton, Pa.

Monday in Philadelphia, Sen. Clinton is expected to deliver a speech addressing the housing crisis followed by an event to reach women voters.

The Clinton campaign also has been making an aggressive push for primaries in Michigan and Florida to be counted or redone. Both states were stripped of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention after staging contests earlier than party rules allowed. Last week, Michigan Democrats rejected the idea of a vote-by-mail presidential primary to replace the January vote and were unable to agree to a bill that would authorize a state-run, privately funded primary. Florida also has ruled out a revote.

Clinton adviser Harold Ickes says a revote would prove Sen. Clinton can win in the big, swing states that are important in a general election.

But even if Sen. Clinton won revotes in Michigan and Florida, she would probably still lag in the delegate count. Sen. Obama leads the delegate race with 1,620 to Sen. Clinton's 1,499, including superdelegates, according to the Associated Press; roughly 2,025 are needed to secure the nomination.

A Gallup tracking poll conducted last week shows Sen. Obama leading nationally with 48% of the vote compared with 45% for Sen. Clinton. Other polls show Sen. Clinton slightly ahead nationally.

Historians and political pundits caution that victories in a primary don't necessarily produce dividends in a general election.

"She can win every Democratic vote in the world [during the primary] and not win a general election," says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He points to the small segment of more liberal Democrats who participate in a primary compared to the huge cross section of voters likely to turn out in a general election.

Sen. Clinton won Ohio, for example, with 54% of the vote, compared with 44% for Sen. Obama. But a recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters projected her losing Ohio to Sen. McCain in a general election, 46% to 40%. The poll showed Sen. McCain defeating Sen. Obama in the state by the same margin; 14% of respondents said they were undecided.

Allan Lichtman, a political historian at American University, says a candidate's primary showing has very little to do with the general-election result. "The argument holds no water at all, not even a thimbleful," Mr. Lichtman says. He points to the 1980 primary, when incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter carried most of the big swing states, and early polls predicted he would defeat Republican Ronald Reagan in the general election by as much as 25 percentage points. Instead, Mr. Reagan decisively captured the White House. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry racked up primary victories in key swing states in 1988 and 2004, respectively, only to then lose those states to Republicans.

The Clinton campaign says that just because Sen. Clinton has won in the big states in the primary doesn't mean Sen. Obama will lose those states in a general election. "Nobody is saying Barack Obama will definitely lose Pennsylvania in the fall," says that state's governor, Ed Rendell, a Clinton backer. "If Sen. Obama is the nominee, we will work our hearts out for him...but we are much more confident we would win with Sen. Clinton."

The campaign also argues that big states typically have primaries rather than caucuses, and that primaries are more reflective of the results of a general election.

Part of the reason Sen. Clinton has done well in larger states is strategy. The campaign chose to pour limited resources into advertisements and field offices in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, rather than make a big push in small caucus states where Sen. Obama was favored.

Sen. Clinton's wins also reflect her solid base of support among Catholics, working-class white voters and Hispanics, three important swing groups for the Democrats to capture in November.

Sen. Obama rejects the notion that he has failed to attract a broad coalition of voters important to the party. "In South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans," he said in a speech last week.

On Friday, Sen. Obama picked up the endorsement of former presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Gov. Richardson, a Mexican-American, could help Sen. Obama broaden his appeal among Hispanics.

Write to Amy Chozick at

27605  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ : Colombia " on: March 24, 2008, 11:06:58 AM
Bogotá Eyes the Irish Model
March 24, 2008; Page A14

When Colombia's trade minister visited the Journal's New York offices two weeks ago, the last thing I expected to come up in our conversation was Ireland. To my surprise, it was the first subject he raised.

No sooner had Luis Plata sat down then he started talking about the Irish economic transformation -- from impoverished ugly duckling to swanky swan of Europe in just two decades -- and why a similar growth model is just what Colombia needs.

Some of the necessary policy adjustments are already under way in Bogotá, he said, and with any success, the reforms can be deepened. But the big question mark is whether the U.S. Congress will approve the pending Free Trade Agreement. The FTA, Mr. Plata explained, is as important to Colombia's growth as European Union membership has been to Ireland's.

To think that Democrats might undermine Mr. Plata's visionary agenda is troubling. In 2006, U.S. official development assistance aimed at alleviating poverty around the globe was $23.5 billion and it was pretty much money down a rat hole. That's because development requires economic liberalization, and leaders of poor countries have little incentive to disturb the status quo of monopolies and protectionism that put them in power. Their incentives are even less when rich-country handouts are flowing.

Now along comes Colombia, with a leader -- President Álvaro Uribe -- who is willing to risk political capital to open domestic markets, cut taxes and spur competition in a bid to grow fast à la Ireland. All his government asks from Washington is two-way trade, but Democrats want to slam the door in his face.

Before Mr. Plata became trade minister last year, he headed a government export agency. "We starting going to Ireland several years ago, he says, "because we were looking at countries around the world that had been successful in attracting foreign direct investment. What we found was that Ireland had lowered its corporate tax rate from 40% to 12.5%," and as a result "was attracting investment, had lowered tax evasion and had increased tax collection. We went back to Colombia and said, 'why don't we just bring [our corporate rate] from 38% to 12.5%.'"

That wasn't a popular view with Colombia's treasury department. "It got me kicked out of their offices," Mr. Plata recalls.

No surprise there. Bean counters in every treasury in Latin America have tax-cut phobia in their DNA. It explains why they often get jobs at the International Monetary Fund in Washington after the collapse of the governments they've served back home. At the fund they can put into practice their deeply held convictions that the only responsible fiscal policy is one built on a static analysis to discover the "right" tax rate. Embracing the notion that production creates its own demand, and that government revenues expand under a low-tax regime, is considered high-risk behavior.

Mr. Plata is more sympathetic toward his treasury colleagues. He says that they have to balance the medium- and long-term benefits of tax cutting with the more immediate need to finance the government. Nevertheless, he was convinced that Ireland's experience could be applied to Colombia. Despite the initial reaction, his team "went to work" on the idea of attracting investment through tax cuts.

In a perfect world, he would have won a flat corporate rate. But he had to compromise and instead came up with the "single-enterprise free-trade zone." It expands the low-tax treatment that companies receive when they are located within a "free trade zone" -- normally an industrial park -- to any company that meets certain investment criteria. Businesses (excluding mining and oil) that qualify by meeting minimum investment amounts and employment targets now pay a 15% flat tax instead of 33%. They also import all raw materials with no tariffs and pay no value-added tax.

In addition to offering these tax advantages, the government is writing "stability contracts" to guarantee that the rules will not change when presidents do. It is also working to reduce the regulatory burden, since red tape is one of the most common complaints from foreign investors.

The "single-enterprise free-trade zone" was launched last May, and to date it has attracted about $864 million in foreign direct investment. That number would be higher under a pure flat tax, and if Colombia is to rival the Irish miracle, it will have to move in that direction. But to persuade the treasury to adopt a broad-based flat tax, Mr. Plata will have to show some results with his initial experiment.

That's why the FTA is so important. Companies investing in Colombia are looking beyond the domestic market and, as the minister notes, the recent dustup with Venezuela -- in which President Hugo Chávez threatened to close the border -- demonstrates the fragility of Colombia's export market. About half of Colombian exports now go to Venezuela and Ecuador. Access to the U.S. market and to duty-free imports from the U.S. are both crucial for producers.

All of this begs the question of why congressional Democrats want to reject the Colombian trade agreement. They say it's because Mr. Uribe hasn't done enough to quell violence against labor leaders in the country. But murders are down dramatically, and as Mr. Plata says, "you can't make the case that killing the FTA will make things better."

What will make things better is investment, which is fundamental to reducing poverty. Peru, Mexico and Central America all have FTAs with the U.S., which means that Colombia is automatically disadvantaged if it is denied one. And that could harm national security, which is so fragile. As Mr. Plata pointed out, "You don't win the peace with soldiers alone. You have to have a functioning economy." Surely Democrats can't be against that.
27606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: SH's terror links on: March 24, 2008, 11:02:41 AM
Saddam's Terror Links
March 24, 2008; Page A14
Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.

Naturally, it's getting little or no attention. Press accounts have been misleading or outright distortions, while the Bush Administration seems indifferent. Even John McCain has let the study's revelations float by. But that doesn't make the facts any less notable or true.

The redacted version of "Saddam and Terrorism" is the most definitive public assessment to date from the Harmony program, the trove of "exploitable" documents, audio and video records, and computer files captured in Iraq. On the basis of about 600,000 items, the report lays out Saddam's willingness to use terrorism against American and other international targets, as well as his larger state sponsorship of terror, which included harboring, training and equipping jihadis throughout the Middle East.

"The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' toolbox, not only cost effective but a formal instrument of state power," the authors conclude. Throughout the 1990s, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) cooperated with Hamas; the Palestine Liberation Front, which maintained a Baghdad office; Force 17, Yasser Arafat's private army; and others. The IIS gave commando training for members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the organization that assassinated Anwar Sadat and whose "emir" was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became Osama bin Laden's second-in-command when the group merged with al Qaeda in 1998.

At the very least the report should dispel the notion that outwardly "secular" Saddam would never consort with religious types like al Qaeda. A pan-Arab nationalist, Saddam viewed radical Islamists as potential allies, and they likewise. According to a 1993 memo, Saddam decided to "form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia," where al Qaeda was then working with warlords against U.S. humanitarian forces. Saddam also trained Sudanese fighters in Iraq.

The Pentagon report cites this as "a tactical example" of their cooperation. When Saddam "was ordering action in Somalia aimed at the American presence, Osama bin Laden was doing the same thing." Saddam took an interest in "far-flung terrorist groups . . . to locate any organization whose services he might use in the future." The Harmony documents "reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term version."

For 20 years, such "support" included using Fedayeen Saddam training camps to school terrorists, especially Palestinians but also non-Iraqis "directly associated" with al Qaeda, continuing up to the fall of Baghdad. Saddam also provided financial support and weapons, amounting to "a state-directed program of significant scale." In July 2001, the regime began patronizing a terror cartel in Bahrain calling itself the Army of Muhammad, which, according to an Iraqi memo, "is under the wings of bin Laden."

It's true that the Pentagon report found no "smoking gun," i.e., a direct connection on a joint Iraq-al Qaeda operation. Supposedly this vindicates the view that Iraq's liberation was launched on false premises. But the Administration was always cautious, with Colin Powell alleging merely a "sinister nexus" in his 2003 U.N. speech. If anything, sinister is an understatement. The main Iraq intelligence failure was over WMD, but the report indicates that the CIA also underestimated Saddam's ties to global terror cartels.

The Administration has always maintained that Iraq is just one front in the war on terror; and the report offers "evidence of logistical preparation for terrorist operations in other nations, including those in the West." In 2002, an IIS memo explained to Saddam that Iraqi embassies were stockpiling weapons, while many of the terrorists trained in Fedayeen camps were dispatched to London with counterfeit documents, where they circulated throughout Europe.

Around the same time, the IIS began to manufacture better improvised explosive devices "designed to be used in civilian areas," and the regime bureaucratized suicide operations, with local Baath Party leaders competing to provide recruits for Saddam as part of a "Martyrdom Project."

All of these are inconvenient facts for those who want to assert that somehow Saddam could have been easily contained and presented no threat to the U.S. The Harmony files buttress the case that the decision to oust Saddam was the right one -- which makes it all the more puzzling that the Bush Administration is mum. It isn't the first time the White House has ceded the Iraq debate to its opponents.
27607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pay raises needed on: March 24, 2008, 10:54:28 AM
“The denial of annual [pay] increases, [Chief Justice John] Roberts wrote, ‘has left federal trial judges—the backbone of our system of justice—earning about the same as (and in some cases less than) first-year lawyers at firms in major cities, where many of the judges are located.’ The cost of rectifying this would be less than 0.004% of the federal budget. The cost of not doing so will be a decrease in the quality of an increasingly important judiciary—and a change in its perspective. Fifty years ago, about 65 percent of the federal judiciary came from the private sector—from the practicing bar—and 35 percent from the public sector. Today 60 percent come from government jobs, less than 40 percent from private practice. This tends to produce a judiciary that is not only more important than ever but also is more of an extension of the bureaucracy than a check on it... The enlargement of the judiciary’s role by the regulatory state requires compensation of the judiciary commensurate with its ever-expanding importance. That importance, although regrettable, is a fact, and so is this: You get the quality—and the perspective—you pay for.” —George Will
27608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Religion; P. Henry: Life & Death on: March 24, 2008, 10:35:37 AM
"If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if
without it?"

-- Benjamin Franklin (to Thomas Paine, Date Unknown)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (297); original The Works of
Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 10 (281-282)

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” —Patrick Henry, 23 March 1775
27609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The NYTimes rationalizes on: March 24, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
The NYTimes tries to cover its *ss, but fails-- the truth is simple: the coverage is less because things are going much better.
The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?
comments (70)
Yahoo! Buzz

Published: March 24, 2008
Five years later, the United States remains at war in Iraq, but there are days when it would be hard to tell from a quick look at television news, newspapers and the Internet.

Readers' Comments
"The fact that the economy and the election are now of major interest to the public is part of the reason for the war being put on the back burner."
Read Full Comment »
Post a Comment »
Media attention on Iraq began to wane after the first months of fighting, but as recently as the middle of last year, it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The drop in coverage parallels — and may be explained by — a decline in public interest. Surveys by the Pew Research Center show that more than 50 percent of Americans said they followed events in Iraq “very closely” in the months just before and after the war began, but that slid to an average of 40 percent in 2006, and has been running below 30 percent since last fall.

Experts offer many other explanations for the declining media focus, like the danger and expense in covering Iraq, and shrinking newsroom budgets. In the last year, a flagging economy and the most competitive presidential campaign in memory have diverted attention and resources.

“Vietnam held the media’s attention a lot better because it was a war with a draft that touched a lot more people; people were sent against their will, and many more Americans were killed,” said Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard.

“In a conventional war, like World War II, there’s dramatic change, a moving front line, a compelling narrative,” he said. But after the triumphal first months, Iraq became a war of insurgents vs. counterinsurgents, harder to make sense of, “with more of the same grim news, day after day.”

The three broadcast networks’ nightly newscasts devoted more than 4,100 minutes to Iraq in 2003 and 3,000 in 2004, before leveling off at about 2,000 a year, according to Andrew Tyndall, who monitors the broadcasts and posts detailed breakdowns at And by the last months of 2007, he said, the broadcasts were spending half as much time on Iraq as earlier in the year.

Since the start of last year, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of the nonprofit Pew Research Center, has tracked reporting by several dozen major newspapers, cable stations, broadcast television networks, Web sites and radio programs. Iraq accounted for 18 percent of their prominent news coverage in the first nine months of 2007, but only 9 percent in the following three months, and 3 percent so far this year.

The policy debate in Washington that dominated last year’s Iraq coverage has almost disappeared from the news. And reporting on events in Iraq has fallen by more than two-thirds from a year ago.

The drop accelerated with a sharp decline in violence in Iraq that began at the end of last summer. The last six months have been safer for American troops than any comparable period since the war began, with about 33 killed each month, compared with about 91 a month over the previous year.

“The available news hole got so much smaller because election and economic news took up so much of the space,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center.

There are no authoritative figures for most media coverage before 2007. But a check of several large and midsize newspapers’ archives shows a year-by-year decline in articles about Iraq, and an increase in the proportion supplied by wire services. Experts who follow the coverage say there is no doubt about the trend.

“I was getting on average three to five calls a day for interviews about the war” in the first years, said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow on national security at the Brookings Institution. “Now it’s less than one a day.”

He argued that Americans who support the war might not have wanted to follow the news when it was bad, and that Americans against the war are less interested now that the news is better. And the presidential candidates, he said, have shown “surprisingly little interest in discussing it in detail.”

Many news organizations have fewer people in Iraq than they once did, though no definitive numbers are available. Coalition officials have said that although there were several hundred reporters embedded with military units early in the war, the number has been measured in tens in recent months.

Violence against journalists makes reporting on Iraq costly and difficult; executives of The New York Times have said that the newspaper is spending more than $3 million a year to cover Iraq. The risks have forced news organizations to hire private security forces and Iraqi employees who can go places that Westerners cannot safely explore.

From the start of the war through 2005, journalists and their support workers were killed in Iraq at a rate of one every 12 days, according to tallies kept by the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2006 and 2007, the rate was one every eight days. Most of those killed have been Iraqis.

“Danger and the expense are gigantic factors,” Mr. Jones said. “The news media have to constantly revisit how much money and risk to expend.”
27610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Libertarian Issues on: March 23, 2008, 08:18:08 PM

DNA database plans for children who 'could become criminals'

By Simon Johnson
Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 18/03/2008

Primary school children should be put on the national DNA database if their
behaviour suggests they will become criminals, a senior Scotland Yard
expert said yesterday.

Ed Balls plans 'baby Asbos' for 10-year olds

Gary Pugh, the director of forensic science and the new DNA spokesman
for the Association of Chief Police Officers, called for a debate on the
measures required to identify future offenders.

He said: "If we have a primary means of identifying people before they
offend, then in the long term the benefits of targeting younger people are
extremely large.

"We have to find who are possibly going to be the biggest threat to

But critics said this was a step towards a police state that would risk
stigmatising youngsters who had yet to commit a criminal act.

The details of more than 4.5 million people, including about 150,000
children under the age of 16, are held on the Government's database,
making it the largest system of its kind in the world.

Last week it emerged that the number of 10 to 18-year-olds placed on the
database after being arrested will have reached about 1.5 million this time
next year.

Police in England and Wales need parental consent to take a DNA sample
from children under 10, the age of criminal responsibility.

Children in Scotland can be charged with an offence at eight, but police
cannot take DNA if they are younger.

Julia Margo, from the Institute for Public Policy Research who wrote a
recent report on the issue, agreed that it was possible to identify risk
factors in children aged five to seven. But she said that placing young
children on a database risked stigmatising them.

Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said Mr
Pugh's suggestion could be viewed "as a step towards a police state."

He added: "It is condemning them at a very young age to something they
have not yet done. To label children at that stage and put them on a
register is going too far."
27611  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hair gel saves cabby on: March 23, 2008, 06:10:23 PM
After stiffing cabdriver, teen girl slashes his throat

He was trying to collect his fare when the girl attacked him. Hair gel saved him, he told police.

Roy Carlson Jr.KSTP

Roy Carlson Jr. needed 13 stitches for this neck wound.

By ABBY SIMONS, Star Tribune
Last update: March 20, 2008 - 12:02 AM

Roy Carlson Jr. says hair gel saved his life.
That was one of the first fleeting thoughts the St. Paul taxi driver had as he struggled with the 15-year-old girl who, seconds earlier, had slashed his throat and stabbed him repeatedly after a cab ride gone awry early Tuesday.

After the girl tried to stiff him on a $22 cab fare following a ride across St. Paul, the frustrated driver for Diamond Cab Co. was driving her to a St. Paul police precinct for violating curfew.
"All of the sudden I hear her scream in the background, 'I'm not going to jail!' and she pulled my hair back and started to cut my throat," he said Wednesday. "I had styling cream in my hair, and it slipped out of her hands."

Carlson is taking a week off to recover from a curve-shaped slash just below his chin held together with 13 stitches, additional cuts to his face, and stab wounds to his inner right leg and buttock.

St. Paul police say Carlson was an innocent victim attempting to collect his fare when the enraged girl cut him. The girl, whose name has not been released because she is a juvenile, remains in the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center awaiting charges.

Carlson said he picked her up at a housing complex at 1511 Supornick Lane just after midnight. After taking her to an address on West Maynard Drive, the girl said she needed to collect money from her mother for the fare, so Carlson took her purse and cell phone as collateral while he waited for her to return. He was then told the mother did not have money.
"I'm kind of ticked off by now, and I said, 'Pick her up at juvenile hall, I'm gonna take her in for curfew,'" he said.

A knife cut into his neck.
That's typical protocol for getting stiffed, Carlson said, and it's easier than filing a police report, which he said generally doesn't result in recovered money, and takes additional time. Carlson said he had turned onto Edgcumbe from Montreal when he felt the kitchen knife cut into his neck. She jumped out of the cab immediately when he grabbed her. Both of them were covered in blood.

"I said, 'You know I'm bringing you in for a curfew violation. Do you realize you're looking at attempted murder now?' It was then that I think it hit her, and she started to cry."
He pinned the girl with his knee while he radioed for help. He was later treated at a local hospital.

St. Paul police said Carlson's story corroborates with what they believe happened in the cab. For the hundreds of rides given daily, attacks on drivers are relatively rare, police spokesman Tom Walsh said.
In Minnesota, there have been several instances of violence against cabbies.

In February, Blue & White/ABC driver Mohd Farahid, 51, was hospitalized after being beaten with a hatchet handle in north Minneapolis.
In February 2007, Green & White driver Jim Moody, 46, was shot to death during a botched robbery in Brooklyn Center; an Omaha man was convicted in his death. In August 2003, Red & White driver Mohamed Ahmed Salah, 28, was fatally shot in Minneapolis; Salvador Pacheco of Anoka was convicted in his death.
According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, more than 100 cabdrivers nationwide were assaulted in 2006.

Carlson, a four-year cabdriver who has also worked in the tow-truck business, said he is no stranger to assaults. This, however, is a first. And hopefully a last, he added.
"We do have a lot of young kids where the parents are gonna pay at the other end, and I don't want to leave a young kid stranded, not in the projects," he said. "But to expect a 15-year-old to come at you with a knife is unreal."
27612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 23, 2008, 06:05:13 PM
Register columnist

Comments 4 | Recommend 6
It was the sort of incident that never makes it into the official crime statistics – that is, an incident in which a crime may have been prevented by a firearm.
It happened earlier this month in Irvine. Police were looking for a man suspected of raping an 18-year-old woman in her home. As the cops searched, the fleeing suspect, a 27-year-old L.A. gang member, tried to hide by breaking into another home. Inside, the homeowner, a man who had recently undergone defensive firearms training, heard the commotion, grabbed a handgun and confronted the suspect.
The homeowner didn't shoot the alleged rapist, although legally he almost certainly could have. If someone breaks into your home, and you have a justifiable fear that he might kill or harm you or someone else, you have a right to defend yourself with lethal force.
But as I said, the homeowner – for security reasons, he declined to be interviewed or identified by name – didn't shoot. Instead, he shouted at the suspect to stop, at which point the guy ran out of the house. Shortly thereafter he was caught and arrested by the police.
"The homeowner took the appropriate safety steps," Irvine Police Lt. Rick Handfield told me. "And he had had some firearms training, which is an important part of gun ownership."
But did the homeowner's use of a gun prevent another crime from occurring – perhaps an assault on the homeowner or his family? Or would the suspect, who turned out to be unarmed, have fled when confronted by the homeowner, gun or no gun? The police can't definitively say.
So how will that incident be reflected in the crime statistics?
Yes, the rape will be added to the grim numbers of that despicable crime, and the successful arrest will appear in the Irvine Police Department's annual statistics. And ironically, if the homeowner had justifiably shot and killed the intruder it still would have been listed in the overall statistics as a gun-related homicide – the same statistics that anti-gun activists use to promote stricter so-called "gun control" laws to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
But police departments and other government agencies don't collect hard numbers on crimes that may have been prevented by armed citizens – because, as in the Irvine case, they're difficult and sometimes impossible to quantify.
And that's unfortunate. Because crimes prevented by firearms are as important in the debate over guns as crimes committed with firearms.
As you probably know, last week the U.S. Supreme Court took up the 2nd Amendment question. The case could finally decide whether the U.S. Constitution gives individuals the "right to keep and bear arms," as opposed to a collective right afforded only to organized state "militias" such as the National Guard.
(By the way, California law defines our state's "militia" as "all able-bodied male citizens … between the ages of eighteen and forty-five" – which, at age 57, I find somewhat insulting and discriminatory. And in any modern application I guess we would have to include the gals in the militia, too.)
Well, I don't have enough space to go into all the 2nd Amendment arguments. But to me it's obvious that a homeowner in Irvine – or any other law-abiding citizen – has a constitutional right to have a firearm.
Of course, whenever gun ownership rights are debated, anti-gun activists like to point out that about 30,000 people are killed by guns in America every year -- although they seldom note that about 60 percent of those deaths are suicides, or that the firearm murder rate has dropped by 40 percent in the past 15 years, or that far more people are killed by motor vehicles or medical malpractice every year than are killed by guns.
And they never mention how many crimes have been prevented by citizens bearing arms.
Once again, that's a hard thing to quantify. One U.S. government survey in the 1990s estimated that more than 80,000 Americans a year used guns in an effort to protect themselves or their property against crime. Other estimates put the number far higher, at more than 2 million crimes prevented each year by the presence of privately-owned firearms.
But those are estimates and extrapolations – which means we can argue about the numbers all day long.
Still, this much is clear. When faced with a violent criminal in his house in the middle of the night, it would be hard to argue that that homeowner in Irvine would have been better off without a gun.
714-796-7953 or
27613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: March 22, 2008, 10:48:47 PM
Mr. Constitution
March 22, 2008; Page A25

Clarence Thomas leaps from his chair. He retrieves a wire coat hanger from his closet for a demonstration -- the same demonstration he gives his law clerks. He bends it and says: "How do you compensate? So, you say well, deal with it. Bend this over here. Oh, wait a minute, bend it a little bit there. And you're saying that it throws everything out of whack. What do you do?"

He holds up a twisted wire, useless now for its original purpose and the point is made. "If you notice sometimes I will write just to point out that I think that we've gone down a track that's going to cause some distortion, then it's quite precisely because of that. I don't do things that I think are illegitimate in other areas, just to bend it back to compensate for what's already happened."

Terry Shoffner 
Interpreting the Constitution is the Supreme Court's most important and most difficult task. An even harder question is how to approach a Constitution that, in fact, is no longer in pristine form -- with the Framers' design having been warped over the years by waves of judicial mischief. There is an obvious temptation to redress the imbalance, which Associate Justice Thomas decisively rejects. Thus his coat hanger metaphor.

So is the most controversial Supreme Court justice an "originalist" when it comes to Constitutional interpretation? He says he doesn't like labels, though he does admit to being a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy.

Upon entering his spacious office overlooking the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C., the first thing to catch your eye is his Nebraska Cornhuskers screen saver. Mr. Thomas never attended the University of Nebraska, or even lived in the state. He's just a fan. His office is also decorated with pictures of the historical figures he admires, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Thomas More and Winston Churchill, and he speaks of them with knowledge and passion. Watching over all is a bust of his grandfather atop Mr. Thomas's bookcase -- its countenance as stern as a Roman consul. There is little doubt this man was the driving force in Mr. Thomas's life -- a fact he confirms, and which is reflected in the title of his recently published memoir, "My Grandfather's Son."

Mr. Thomas faced one of the most destructive and personally vicious Supreme Court confirmation hearings in American history -- described at the time by Mr. Thomas himself as a "high-tech lynching." Mr. Thomas's opponents smeared his character and integrity. To this day, disappointed and embittered, they feel entitled to insult his qualifications, intelligence and record.

In 2004, when Mr. Thomas's name was floated as a possible replacement for ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist, then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called him an "embarrassment" to the Court, and attacked his opinions as "poorly written."

In point of fact, Mr. Thomas's opinions are well-written, displaying a distinctive style -- a sure sign that the Justice and not his clerks does most of the writing.

As for his judicial philosophy, "I don't put myself in a category. Maybe I am labeled as an originalist or something, but it's not my constitution to play around with. Let's just start with that. We're citizens. It's our country, it's our constitution. I don't feel I have any particular right to put my gloss on your constitution. My job is simply to interpret it."

In that process, the first place to look is the document itself. "And when I can't find something in that document or in the tradition or history around that document, then I am getting on dangerous ground. Because that's when you drift so much more towards your own policy preferences."

It is the insertion of those policy preferences into the interpretive process that Mr. Thomas finds particularly illegitimate. "People can say you are an originalist, I just think that we should interpret the Constitution as it's drafted, not as we would have drafted it."

Mr. Thomas acknowledges that discerning a two-hundred-year-old document's meaning is not always easy. Mistakes are possible, if not inevitable, as advocates of a malleable "living constitution," subject to endless judicial revision, never tire of pointing out. "Of course it's flawed" agrees Mr. Thomas, "but all interpretive models are flawed."

Simply following your own preferences is both flawed and illegitimate, he says. "But if that is difficult, does that difficulty legitimate just simply watching your own preference?" By doing that "I haven't cleared up the problem, I've simply trumped it with my personal preferences."

Mr. Thomas has also been criticized for his supposed lack of respect for precedent. Even his fellow conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, was reported by a Thomas biographer to have claimed that Mr. Thomas just doesn't believe in "stare decisis." Latin for "let the decision stand," stare decisis is an important aspect of the Anglo-American system of precedent -- deciding new cases based on what the courts have done before and leaving long established rules in place.

Mr. Thomas, however, is less absolute here than his critics suggest. He understands the Supreme Court can't simply erase decades, or even centuries, of precedent -- "you can't do it."

At the same time, he views precedent with respect, not veneration. "You have people who will just constantly point out stare decisis, stare decisis, stare decisis . . . then it is one big ratchet. It is something that you wrestle with." History would seem to vindicate Mr. Thomas and his insistence on "getting it right" -- even if that does mean questioning precedent.

The perfect example is Brown v. Board of Education (1954), where the Supreme Court overruled the racist "separate but equal" rule of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which permitted legally enforced segregation and had been settled precedent for nearly 60 years.

It is the Plessy dissent of Justice John Marshall Harlan to which Mr. Thomas points for an example of a Justice putting his personal predilections aside to keep faith with the Constitution. Harlan was a Kentucky aristocrat and former slaveowner, although he was also a Unionist who fought for the North during the Civil War. A man of his time, he believed in white superiority, if not supremacy, and wrote in Plessy that the "white race" would continue to be dominant in the United States "in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power . . . for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty."

"But," Harlan continued, "in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens."

That, for Mr. Thomas, is the "great 'But,'" where Harlan's intellectual honesty trumped his personal prejudice, causing Mr. Thomas to describe Harlan as his favorite justice and even a role model. For both of them, justice is truly blind to everything but the law.

More than anything else, this explains Mr. Thomas's own understanding of his job -- a determination to put "a firewall between my [PERSONAL\]view and the way that I interpret the Constitution," and to vindicate his oath "that I will administer justice without respect to person, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all of the duties incumbent upon me as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

This insistence by the Justice on judging based upon the law, and not on who the parties are, presents a stark contrast with today's liberal orthodoxy. The liberal approach -- which confuses law-driven judging with compassion-driven politics, enthused with a heavy distrust of the American political system's fairness -- was recently articulated by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who emphasized the need for judges with "heart" and "empathy" for the less fortunate, judges willing to favor the disempowered.

Born in rural Georgia in 1948, Mr. Thomas and his brother were mostly raised in Savannah by their maternal grandparents. His grandfather, Myers Anderson, believed in work, and that rights come with responsibilities. According to his book, Mr. Anderson told the seven-year-old Clarence that "the damn vacation is over" the morning he moved in.

Says Mr. Thomas: "Being willing to accept responsibility, that sort of dark side of freedom, first -- before you accept all the benefits. Being ready to be responsible for yourself -- you want to be independent. That was my grandfather." Anderson also taught his grandson to arrive at his conclusions honestly and not "to be bullied away from opinions that I think are legitimate. You know, not being unreasonable, but not being bullied away."

For a man who has been subjected to a great deal of vitriol, Mr. Thomas manifests remarkable serenity. He rejoices in life outside the Court, regaling us with stories about his travels throughout the U.S., his many encounters with ordinary Americans, and his love of sports -- especially the Cornhuskers, the Dallas Cowboys and Nascar.

Mr. Thomas isn't much bothered by his critics. "I can't answer the cynics and the negative people. I can't answer them because they can always be cynical about something."

Mr. Thomas speaks movingly about the Court as an institution, and about his colleagues, both past and present. He sees them all, despite their differences, as honorable, each possessing a distinctive voice, and trying to do right as they see it. Our job, he concludes, is "to do it right. It's no more than that. We can talk about methodology. It's merely a methodology. It's not a religion. It is in the approach to doing the job right. And at bottom what it comes to, is to choose to interpret this document as carefully and as accurately and as legitimately as I can, versus inflicting my personal opinion or imposing my personal opinion on the rest of the country."

And why doesn't he ask questions at oral argument, a question oft-posed by critics insinuating that he is intellectually lazy or worse? Mr. Thomas chuckles wryly and observes that oral advocacy was much more important in the Court's early days. Today, cases are thoroughly briefed by the time they reach the Supreme Court, and there is just too little time to have a meaningful conversation with the lawyers. "This is my 17th term and I haven't found it necessary to ask a bunch of questions. I would be doing it to satisfy other people, not to do my job. Most of the answers are in the briefs. This isn't Perry Mason."

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.
27614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 22, 2008, 06:54:43 PM
I find myself riffing in my head on this little episode on BO's ability to deal with extremism in his own church as a parable for his probably approach to dealing with Muslim extremism.
27615  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 22, 2008, 06:27:30 PM
Not only that, but that bit about MH seeing himself like Ester was a tad bizarre I thought, and generally I did not care for his coaching personality at all.  I also did not like the way the show made the guys from Serra's team have to go over to Hughes's team or the way MH belittled them for their feeling weird about it.
27616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Certifying Parents on: March 22, 2008, 12:45:56 PM
Certifying Parents
March 22, 2008; Page A24
In the annals of judicial imperialism, we have arrived at a strange new chapter. A California court ruled this month that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification. No teaching credential, no teaching. Parents "do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote California appellate Justice Walter Croskey.

The 166,000 families in the state that now choose to educate their children at home must be stunned. But at least one political lobby likes the ruling. "We're happy," the California Teachers Association's Lloyd Porter told the San Francisco Chronicle. He says the union believes all students should be taught only by "credentialed" teachers, who will in due course belong to unions.

California law requires children between six and 18 to attend a full-time day school. Failure to comply means falling afoul of the state's truancy laws, which say kids can't play hooky without an excuse. But kids who are taught at home are less likely to be truants. Their parents choose to spend their time teaching English, math and science precisely because they don't think the public schools do a good enough job.

The case was initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services after a home-schooled child reportedly complained of physical abuse by his father. A lawyer assigned to two of the family's eight children invoked the truancy law to get the children enrolled in a public school and away from their parents. So a single case of parental abuse is being used to promote the registration of all parents who crack a book for their kids. If this strikes some readers as a tad East German, we know how you feel.

That so many families turn to home schooling is a market solution to a market failure -- namely the dismal performance of the local education monopoly. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the majority of states have low to moderate levels of regulation for home schools, an environment that has allowed the option to flourish, especially in the South and Western U.S. Between 1999 and 2003, the rate of home-schooling increased by 29%.

For some parents, the motive for home schooling is religious; others want to protect their kids from gangs and drugs. But the most-cited reason is to ensure a good education. Home-schooled students are routinely high performers on standardized academic tests, beating their public school peers on average by as much as 30 percentile points, regardless of subject. They perform well on tests like the SAT -- and colleges actively recruit them both for their high scores and the diversity they bring to campus.

In 1994, a federal attempt to require certification of parent-teachers went down in flames as hundreds of thousands of calls lit up phone banks on Capitol Hill. The movement has since only grown larger and better organized, now conservatively estimated at well over a million nationwide. But what they can't accomplish legislatively, unions are now trying to achieve by diktat from the courts.

If John McCain wants an issue to endear him to cultural conservatives, this would be it. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rarely stray from the preferences of the teachers unions, but we'd like to know whether they really favor the certification of parents who dare to believe they know best how to teach their children.
27617  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 22, 2008, 12:44:10 PM
I enjoyed Serra's coaching persona on TUF.
27618  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 22, 2008, 12:31:25 PM
Its showing as "no longer available".
27619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ted Kennedy on: March 22, 2008, 10:22:09 AM

After numerous rounds of "We don't know if Osama is still alive," Osama himself decided to send Ted Kennedy a note in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game.

Kennedy opened the note, which appeared to contain a single line of coded message: 370HSSV-0773H.

Kennedy was baffled, so he E-mailed it to John Kerry. Kerry and his aides had no clue either, so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it at the FBI, so it went to the CIA, then to the NSA. With no clue as to its meaning, the FBI finally asked Marine Corps Intelligence for help.

Within a few seconds, the Marines cabled back with this reply: "Tell Kennedy he is holding the message upside down."

27620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: With extreme prejudice (Kerry still an idiot) on: March 22, 2008, 12:21:24 AM
With Extreme Prejudice
March 21, 2008

Remember John Kerry? He was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, lauded by his supporters for his intellect and his nuance, as compared with the simpleminded George W. Bush. Having lost the election, he decided to sit out the 2008 contest. He recently endorsed Barack Obama, and earlier this week he sat down with the editorial board of the Standard-Times (New Bedford, Mass.) to make the case for his candidate.

It's a real jaw-dropper. ABC News's Jake Tapper sums it up:

Kerry said that a President Obama would help the US, in relations with Muslim countries, "in some cases go around their dictator leaders to the people and inspire the people in ways that we can't otherwise."
"He has the ability to help us bridge the divide of religious extremism," Kerry said. "To maybe even give power to moderate Islam to be able to stand up against this radical misinterpretation of a legitimate religion."
Kerry was asked what gives Obama that credibility.
"Because he's African-American. Because he's a black man. Who has come from a place of oppression and repression through the years in our own country."
An African-American president would be "a symbol of empowerment" for those who have been disenfranchised around the world, Kerry said, "an important lesson for America to show Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other places in the world where disenfranchised people don't get anything."
One obvious question: What do the events of this week, involving Obama's own church, tell us about his ability to "stand up against" a "radical misinterpretation of a legitimate religion"? Nothing very encouraging in this columnist's view, but many observers view Obama much more charitably in this regard than we do.

What is really striking about Kerry's case for Obama, though, is that it rests on what may be the crudest stereotyping we have ever observed. Commentary's Abe Greenwald has a chuckle over Kerry's racial stereotyping of Obama:

Where is this "place of oppression and repression" in which Obama has suffered "through the years"? Hawaii? Harvard? The Senate? We should find out immediately and do something about this horrific crisis.
But Kerry isn't just stereotyping blacks. He is stereotyping Muslims too. And he is drawing an equivalence between American blacks, a racial minority in one country, and Middle Eastern Muslims, a religious majority in a whole region.

Never mind that, as Greenwald points out, "Arab Muslims [are] none too happy with their black countrymen in northern Africa." Never mind that in some African countries, notably Sudan and Mauritania, Arab Muslims still enslave blacks.

To Kerry, it seems, all "oppressed peoples" look alike. The man has all the intellectual subtlety of a third-rate ethnic studies professor.
27621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Heller on: March 22, 2008, 12:17:45 AM
Guns and Legal Ammo
March 22, 2008
As shoot-outs go, the Supreme Court had a famous one Tuesday during oral arguments over the constitutionality of Washington D.C.'s handgun ban. The smoke won't clear until the High Court issues its decision, but the debate this week augurs well for a conclusion that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.

District of Columbia v. Heller has become the test case for a question that has animated legal scholars, politicians and lower courts for much of our modern history: Is the Second Amendment guarantee a collective right, which is to say it is reserved only for state militias, or is it an individual right?

Judge Laurence Silberman's landmark opinion last year for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down D.C.'s ban on handguns, rejecting the militia argument and scouring the historical and legal record to show that the Founders clearly intended to protect an individual's right to defend himself and family. The District appealed, and so the Supremes will issue the most important Second Amendment ruling in decades.

Judging by Tuesday argument, the High Court has a majority in support of the circuit court opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Framers included the word "people" if the Amendment only applied to militias. Justice Antonin Scalia discussed the importance the Framers attached to providing citizens the means to protect against tyrannical government. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the Court's swing vote, informed all in attendance that "In my view, there's a general right to bear arms quite without reference to the militia either way."

The debate also focused on what restrictions, if any, government could impose on such an individual right. Several Justices had particular fun with Solicitor General Paul Clement, who was charged with defending his (and thus the Bush Administration's) odd split-the-baby amicus brief arguing that while the Second Amendment is an individual right, the D.C. Circuit opinion would bar governments from banning even such heavy weapons as machine guns.

In fact, that opinion leaves ample room for a government to regulate machine guns, bazookas and the like -- much as even the First Amendment protects speech as an individual right but not as a right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater. We hope the Supreme Court agrees with Judge Silberman that the Second Amendment does protect the right to own pistols, rifles and other guns of the kind the American Founders believed were needed to protect liberty.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
27622  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Act: ulterior motives? on: March 21, 2008, 10:14:25 PM
Still think the 'Patriot Act' is about terrorism?


When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. The odd connection between the antiterror law and Spitzer's trysts with call girls illustrates how laws enacted for one purpose often end up being used very differently once they're on the books.

The Patriot Act gave the FBI new powers to snoop on suspected terrorists. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. Congress wanted to help the Feds identify terrorist money launderers. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers—on a scale of zero to 100—based on complex formulas that included the credit rating, assets and profession of the account holder.

Another element of the formulas: whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person." At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption.

The new scrutiny resulted in an explosion of SARs, from 204,915 in 2001 to 1.23 million last year. The data, stored in an IRS computer in Detroit, are accessible by law-enforcement agencies nationwide. "Terrorism has virtually nothing to do with it," says Peter Djinis, a former top Treasury lawyer. "The vast majority of SARs filed today involve garden-variety forms of white-collar crime." Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads.

One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made, say law-enforcement and industry sources who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the probe. One of the sources tells NEWSWEEK that Spitzer wasn't flagged because of his public position. Instead, the governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. (A North Fork spokesperson says the bank does not discuss its customers.) The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.
27623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 21, 2008, 10:22:54 AM
There is much I disagree with here, but I always consider what Peggy Noonan has to say-- especially so in this case; after all she was an outstanding speechwriter for Ronald Reagan-- which is why I suspect she is so soft on BO.


A Thinking Man's Speech
March 21, 2008
I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important. Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to. It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare.

It seemed to me as honest a speech as one in his position could give within the limits imposed by politics. As such it was a contribution. We'll see if it was a success. The blowhard guild, proud member since 2000, praised it, and, in the biggest compliment, cable news shows came out of the speech not with jokes or jaded insiderism, but with thought. They started talking, pundits left and right, black and white, about what they'd experienced of race in America. It was kind of wonderful. I thought, Go, America, go, go.

You know what Mr. Obama said. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was wrong. His sermons were "incendiary," and they "denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation." Mr. Obama admitted that if all he knew of Mr. Wright were what he saw on the "endless loop . . . of YouTube," he wouldn't like him either. But he's known him 20 years as a man who taught him Christian faith, helped the poor, served as a Marine, and leads a community helping the homeless, needy and sick. "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me." He would not renounce their friendship.

Most significantly, Mr. Obama asserted that race in America has become a generational story. The original sin of slavery is a fact, but the progress we have lived through the past 50 years means each generation experiences race differently. Older blacks, like Mr. Wright, remember Jim Crow and were left misshapen by it. Some rose anyway, some did not; of the latter, a "legacy of defeat" went on to misshape another generation. The result: destructive anger that is at times "exploited by politicians" and that can keep African-Americans "from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition." But "a similar anger exists within segments of the white community." He speaks of working- and middle-class whites whose "experience is the immigrant experience," who started with nothing. "As far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they've built it from scratch." "So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town," when they hear of someone receiving preferences they never received, and "when they're told their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced," they feel anger too.

This is all, simply, true. And we are not used to political figures being frank, in this way, in public. For this Mr. Obama deserves deep credit. It is also true the particular whites Obama chose to paint -- ethnic, middle class -- are precisely the voters he needs to draw in Pennsylvania. It was strategically clever. But as one who witnessed busing in Boston first hand, and whose memories of those days can still bring tears, I was glad for his admission that busing was experienced as an injustice by the white working class. Next step: admitting it was an injustice, period.

* * *

The primary rhetorical virtue of the speech can be found in two words, endemic and Faulkner. Endemic is the kind of word political consultants don't let politicians use because 72% of Americans don't understand it. This lowest-common-denominator thinking, based on dizzy polling, has long degraded American discourse. When Obama said Mr. Wright wrongly encouraged "a view that sees white racism as endemic," everyone understood. Because they're not, actually, stupid. As for Faulkner -- well, this was an American politician quoting William Faulkner: "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." This is a thought, an interesting one, which means most current politicians would never share it.

The speech assumed the audience was intelligent. This was a compliment, and I suspect was received as a gift. It also assumed many in the audience were educated. I was grateful for this, as the educated are not much addressed in American politics.

Here I point out an aspect of the speech that may have a beneficial impact on current rhetoric. It is assumed now that a candidate must say a silly, boring line -- "And families in Michigan matter!" or "What I stand for is affordable quality health care!" -- and the audience will clap. The line and the applause make, together, the eight-second soundbite that will be used tonight on the news, and seen by the people. This has been standard politico-journalistic procedure for 20 years.

Mr. Obama subverted this in his speech. He didn't have applause lines. He didn't give you eight seconds of a line followed by clapping. He spoke in full and longish paragraphs that didn't summon applause. This left TV producers having to use longer-than-usual soundbites in order to capture his meaning. And so the cuts of the speech you heard on the news were more substantial and interesting than usual, which made the coverage of the speech better. People who didn't hear it but only saw parts on the news got a real sense of what he'd said.

If Hillary or John McCain said something interesting, they'd get more than an eight-second cut too. But it works only if you don't write an applause-line speech. It works only if you write a thinking speech.

They should try it.

* * *

Here's what didn't work. Near the end of the speech, Mr. Obama painted an America that didn't summon thoughts of Faulkner but of William Blake. The bankruptcies, the dark satanic mills, the job loss and corporate corruptions. There is of course some truth in his portrait, but why do appeals to the Democratic base have to be so unrelievedly, so unrealistically, bleak?

This connected in my mind to the persistent feeling one has -- the fear one has, actually -- that the Obamas, he and she, may not actually know all that much about America. They are bright, accomplished, decent, they know all about the yuppie experience, the buppie experience, Ivy League ways, networking. But they bring along with all this -- perhaps defensively, to keep their ideological views from being refuted by the evidence of their own lives, or so as not to be embarrassed about how nice fame, success, and power are -- habitual reversions to how tough it is to be in America, and to be black in America, and how everyone since the Reagan days has been dying of nothing to eat, and of exploding untreated diseases. America is always coming to them on crutches.

But most people didn't experience the past 25 years that way. Because it wasn't that way. Do the Obamas know it?

This is a lot of baggage to bring into the Executive Mansion.

Still, it was a good speech, and a serious one. I don't know if it will help him. We're in uncharted territory. We've never had a major-party presidential front-runner who is black, or rather black and white, who has given such an address. We don't know if more voters will be alienated by Mr. Wright than will be impressed by the speech about Mr. Wright. We don't know if voters will welcome a meditation on race. My sense: The speech will be labeled by history as the speech that saved a candidacy or the speech that helped do it in. I hope the former.
27624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation on: March 21, 2008, 09:57:11 AM
"May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness,
upon our paths, and make us in all our several vocations useful
here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy. "

-- George Washington (letter to the  Hebrew Congregation in
Newport, August  1790)

Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (548)
27625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: March 21, 2008, 09:39:01 AM
Elderly Man Shoots, Kills Near-Naked Intruder
POSTED: 5:41 pm EDT March 20, 2008
UPDATED: 6:33 pm EDT March 20, 2008

TUCKER, Ga. -- An 81-year-old man who shot and killed an intruder said Thursday he would do it again if he's ever faced with the same situation. Robert Jenkins is recovering from injuries he suffered during a struggle with a man who had broken into his DeKalb County home Tuesday about 11 p.m.

Jenkins and his wife said they were in bed when they heard noises in the house. "I said 'Bob they're in the house, how did they get in the house?' and with that Bob hopped out of the bed went to the closet, got his gun,'" said Peggy Jenkins.

When Jenkins got to the kitchen he found Jynad Marshall, 25, stripped down to his underwear. "He said 'give me that gun' and started at me, so I put a round in him right then,'" Jenkins told WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Eric Philips.

Meanwhile he wife was dialing 911. "I heard pow, and I told the operator and she said 'stay on the line', and I said 'no, I can't stay on the line,'" Peggy Jenkins explained. "Then I heard another pow."

The 6 foot 225 pound Marshall fell on top of Jenkins. Marshall continued attacking Jenkins until he died. "I don't feel good about killing anybody, but I'm glad I did because it was us or him," said Jenkins.

Police said Jenkins won't face charges since the shooting was self-defense.
27626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And then, there is this on: March 21, 2008, 03:37:20 AM
Words fail , , ,
27627  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Foot Fist Way Trailer on: March 21, 2008, 03:09:47 AM
27628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: March 21, 2008, 02:52:58 AM
Stratfor, as usual, seeks the deep view:

Geopolitical Diary: The Start of Cold War II?
March 21, 2008
Legislators in the Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia signed a statement on Thursday accusing Georgia of aggression and warning of the possibility of war in the Caucasus. In Moscow, the Russian parliament urged the government to send additional peacekeepers to both Abkhazia and Georgia’s other breakaway republic, South Ossetia. Elsewhere, the Kremlin’s NATO envoy said Russia wants an emergency meeting with the Western military alliance to discuss the March 19 move by U.S. President George W. Bush to establish Kosovar eligibility for military assistance from the United States.

These developments follow a series of similar events in the past few weeks, underscoring an escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia in the wake of Kosovo’s Feb. 17 declaration of independence. The flurry of activity includes moves to expand NATO, violent reactions from Kosovar Serbs, the U.S. attempt to construct ballistic missile defense installations in Eastern Europe, and Russia’s apprehension of Western spies in Moscow. All these events clearly underscore that the Cold War is back.

Cold War II is different than the original Cold War, which was a Soviet-U.S. confrontation that lasted from the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Nuclear-armed ideological rivals Washington and Moscow competed for global influence, and a divided Europe was a key theater in which this war played out. Cold War II is being waged by a far more powerful United States and a vastly weakened Russia — an emasculated successor to the Soviet Union. 

Another key difference between the new and old Cold War is that Europe no longer is just a theater in which the Americans and Russians are playing geopolitical chess. The Europeans are playing major roles as independent actors in this new Cold War. This time around, Europe as a continent is not exactly occupied and has recovered from both World War II and the first Cold War. But the European Union is an increasingly incoherent entity, with the three principal state actors –- Germany, France and the United Kingdom –- not interested in confronting Russia. 

Berlin made this very clear when it expressed a lack of interest in NATO expansion, the independence of Kosovo and the Ukraine gas issue. This is not surprising, given that the Germans are dependent upon Moscow for energy. Beyond energy, Germany’s wider economic relationship with and its proximity to Russia inform its lack of appetite for confrontation with the Kremlin. But this does not mean that Berlin won’t take on Moscow when it deems necessary. Germany is re-emerging on its own to again become an international power player.

France is even further removed from the new Cold War dynamics. Paris has its own ideas about how it wishes to advance itself as an international player, which has very little to do with West vs. Russia competition. Geographically far more insulated, it wants no part in this new Cold War. 

As for the British, they have enough domestic political issues to sort out, which is why they also are out of the game. That said, given London’s historic role as a major U.S. ally, the United Kingdom cannot avoid the issues that the United States is dealing with. Therefore, at best the British will maintain a low-key role in the U.S. moves to continue its geopolitical push against Russia. 

The United States — considering that it has the luxury of waging a geopolitical assault against Russia from afar — is not bothered by the lack of European involvement. But the European position is not tenable in the long run. Europe’s geography — and the fact that, unlike during the original Cold War, there isn’t an iron curtain in place — will force the Europeans to jump in or at least choose sides.
27629  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gorbachev admits he is a Christian on: March 20, 2008, 08:15:09 PM
Mikhail Gorbachev admits he is a Christian

By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 3:04am GMT 19/03/2008

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.

Accompanied by his daughter Irina, Mr Gorbachev spent half an hour on his knees in silent prayer at the tomb.

His arrival in Assisi was described as "spiritual perestroika" by La Stampa, the Italian newspaper.

"St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ," said Mr Gorbachev. "His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life," he added.

Mr Gorbachev's surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light.

Mr Gorbachev, 77, was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church and his parents were Christians.

In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their home.

Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a "closet believer".

Mr Reagan held deep religious convictions himself. However, until now Mr Gorbachev has allowed himself to express only pantheistic views, saying in one interview "nature is my god".

After his prayers, Mr Gorbachev toured the Basilica of St Francis and asked in particular to be shown an icon of St Francis portraying his "dream at Spoleto".

St Francis, who lived in the 12th century, was a troubadour and a poet before the spiritual vision caused him to return to Assisi and contemplate a religious life.

Even in his early days, St Francis helped the poor, once giving all of his money to a beggar. As well as spending time in the wilderness, he also nursed lepers and eventually became a priest.

"It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb," said Mr Gorbachev.

"I feel very emotional to be here at such an important place not only for the Catholic faith, but for all humanity."

He also asked the monks for theological books to help him understand St Francis's life.

Father Miroslavo Anuskevic, who accompanied the former Soviet leader, said: "He was not recognised by any of the worshippers in the church, and silently meditated at the tomb for a while. He seemed a man deeply inspired by charity, and told me that he was involved in a project to help children with cancer.

"He talked a lot about Russia and said that even though the transition to democracy had been very important

for the world, it was very painful for Russia. He said it was a country which has a great history, and also a great spirituality."
27630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 20, 2008, 02:51:03 PM
Will the Last Republican in New York Turn Out the Lights?

How does House Minority Leader John Boehner know he has an unusually challenging election year on his hands? When even the most recent chairman of the House Republican campaign committee joins the avalanche of GOP House Members who are retiring this year.

Rep. Tom Reynolds, who represents an upstate New York district wedged between Buffalo and Rochester, will announce he's leaving office after a decade of service. He becomes the 29th House Republican to decide the party is unlikely to win back a House majority this year and thus is heading for the exits. Only six Democrats so far have announced they are leaving the House.

Mr. Reynolds only won with 52% of the vote last time, and since then he has endured an ongoing scandal involving the National Republican Campaign Committee he headed until 2006. The committee's treasurer during his time is alleged to have embezzled nearly $1 million because of lax supervision.

Republicans hold only six out of the Empire State's 29 House seats. Now they will have to defend two because of retirements. The seat held by departing Rep. James Walsh is truly marginal, but Republicans believe they should be able to hold the Reynolds seat. It gave President Bush a solid 55% of the vote in 2004, normally sign of a safe GOP seat. But Democrats have found a candidate they think perfectly suited for the district: John Powers, a schoolteacher who happens to be an Iraq War veteran.

-- John Fund

Manna for Document Nerds

What will the bloodhounds be pawing for now that the National Archives has bequeathed its first major document dump related to Hillary Clinton's time as First Lady?

The press for the immediate moment will be zeroing in on titillating details, such as where Mrs. Clinton was on that fateful day when hubby Bill introduced Monica Lewinsky to the Oval Office. But that's shooting fish in a barrel. Investigative reporters also will be looking for promising leads about, say, Mrs. Clinton's contact with the now deceased Vince Foster or her possible meetings with former Democratic fundraiser (and now convicted felon) Johnny Chung.

Meanwhile, those focused on the current presidential race will be trawling for info that would either buttress or dismantle Mrs. Clinton's claims that she was an instrumental policy player in the Clinton White House. Britain's Guardian newspaper was already reporting yesterday that "Mrs. Clinton was a long way from the White House at key foreign policy moments," such as NATO air strikes against Serbia, or the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

Finally expect a brouhaha (which has already begun) over some 4,746 schedule items that have been redacted. The National Archives says this was done to protect the privacy of third parties, but what isn't yet clear is whether the redactions were imposed by Clinton representative Bruce Lindsey, who was allowed to vet the documents before their release. Christopher Farrell of Judicial Watch -- a conservative organization that sued to get the information -- says he doesn't expect to find any "smoking gun," since Mr. Lindsey had "enormous discretion" to redact potentially damaging material.

Naturally, the release has spurred a new round of "Who's More Transparent?" bickering between the Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns. Clinton advisor Howard Wolfson says Mrs. Clinton's public record now reflects "11,000 more documents than the Obama campaign has released up until this point relating to any part of his service especially as state Senator." The Obama campaign, meanwhile, continues to ask why Mrs. Clinton has yet to photocopy and release recent tax records.

-- Kim Strassel

Back In The Game

Oregon is ecstatic right now. For the first time in 60 years the state may hold a meaningful presidential primary.

Stymied in its attempts at relevancy in 1992 and 1996, Oregon in 2000 decided to move its presidential primary back to its traditional placement in May, having found that a March primary was still overshadowed by bigger states. Now, two months before Oregon voters get to decide between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in one of the most competitive primary seasons ever, the state's late slot on the primary calendar has suddenly turned into a virtue.

Mr. Obama, anticipating the importance of Oregon's 52 pledged delegates, already plans to hold rallies Friday in Portland and Eugene -- two of the state's three largest cities. In any other presidential year, Oregonians would likely have known the candidates only from seeing them on TV.

The state's last significant presidential primary came in 1948, when New York Gov. Thomas Dewey squeaked past former Minnesota Gov. Harold Stassen with 52% of the vote, essentially ending Stassen's presidential hopes. Leading up to that primary, between 40 million and 80 million people heard the two Republican candidates debate from a Portland radio station studio on whether the U.S. should outlaw the Communist Party. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, this was the first and last time a presidential debate was ever limited to one issue.

-- Kyle Trygstad,

Alaska's Changing of the Guard, with Prejudice

Rep. Don Young of Alaska has been cheerfully hauling back pork to his native state for years. But in 2005, he and fellow Republican Senator Ted Stevens were caught promoting the "Bridge to Nowhere," which became an instant symbol for bloated federal earmarks. Then last year, both men came under federal investigation over their cozy ties to companies that often sought earmarks. Mr. Young has spent $845,000 on legal fees related to the investigation, but refuses to answer any questions on the subject.

Senator Stevens has already drawn a primary opponent in his re-election race, and now Mr. Young faces a top-flight challenger: Sean Parnell, Alaska's lieutenant governor. Mr. Parnell hopes to replicate the success of his boss, Governor Sarah Palin, who in 2006 defeated then-Gov. Frank Murkowski in a GOP primary by playing up the corruption surrounding his political machine. Mr. Parnell certainly will benefit from the popular Republican governor's backing. Ms. Palin personally accompanied her deputy to the state election office when he filed to enter the primary.

Rep. Young isn't giving up, but polls show he has only a 40% approval rating and many voters realize that as an ethically challenged member of the minority party his best pork-salting days are probably over.

-- John Fund

Whiz Wit English

A small blow for sanity was struck yesterday when a local regulatory body in Philadelphia ruled that a famous cheesesteak restaurant did not violate anyone's human rights by posting a small sign: "This is America: WHEN ORDERING PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH."

Joe Vento, owner of Geno's Steaks, says he never in fact refused service to anyone who didn't speak English and only put up the sign out of concern that so many in the neighborhood were lapsing into their native tongues when they could have used basic English.

By a 2 to 1 vote, the city's Commission on Human Relations ruled that Mr. Vento's sign did not convey any message that business will be "refused, withheld or denied." The ruling was a surprise because just last year the commission had found probable cause to charge Mr. Vento with violation of anti-discrimination laws. The same panel later decided to charge him only with posting an "offensive" sign.

The ruling comes just days after the U.S. Senate voted 54 to 44 to approve a common-sense amendment barring federal employment regulators from suing small businesses that require employees to speak English on the job.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a sponsor of the amendment, says his goal is to end "frivolous lawsuits" such as one filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Salvation Army and 125 other organizations for requiring English in the workplace except during breaks and lunch periods. Mr. Alexander's amendment would direct the EEOC to spend the money being used to finance the lawsuits to support programs to teach adults English instead.

Senator Alexander is under no illusions that his amendment will now pass the House. Last November, a previous version was approved by both House and Senate, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi cancelled a conference committee scheduled to finalize the bill under pressure from liberal groups. The legislation then died, but not before House Democrats came under withering criticism for undermining the use of English as America's common language.

27631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: America and Iraq on: March 20, 2008, 02:43:50 PM
America and Iraq
March 20, 2008; Page A18
Five years after U.S. and coalition forces began rolling into Iraq on their way to Baghdad, it's easy to lament the war's mistakes.

The Bush Administration underestimated the war's cost -- in treasure, and most painfully in lives. The CIA and every other Western intelligence agency was wrong about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. failed to anticipate the insurgency and was almost fatally late in implementing a counterinsurgency. It allowed the U.N. to design a system of proportional electoral representation that has encouraged its sectarian political divisions. And so on.

These columns have often discussed these and other blunders. But we have always done so while supporting the larger war effort and with a goal of victory that would be worthy of the sacrifice. Five years on, and thanks to the troop "surge" and strategy change of the last year, many of the goals that motivated the original invasion are once again within reach if we see the effort through.

* * *
No one should forget that the invasion toppled a dictator who had already terrorized the region and would sooner or later have threatened American interests. This by itself was no small achievement. Saddam's trial was a teaching moment for that part of the Arab world that used to cheer him; his hanging, however crudely carried out, was a warning to dictators everywhere.

Iraq may not have had WMD, but Saddam admitted to American interrogators that he planned to reconstitute his WMD effort once U.N. sanctions collapsed. The capture of Saddam persuaded Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to abandon his nuclear program and seek a reconciliation with the U.S. This in turn led to the rolling up of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's proliferation network, whose arms extended to Iran and North Korea.

Strategically, Iraq has gone from being one of America's two principal enemies (with Iran) in the region to one of its two principal allies (with Israel). Iraq's government, for all of its shortcomings, demonstrates that a Shiite-led government need not be a theocracy. The invasion did prompt thousands of jihadis to emerge from places like Saudi Arabia and Morocco to fight the "crusaders and infidels." Thousands of them are now dead or in prison, however, and the radical corners of the Arab world have learned that America cannot be defeated by a strategy of car bombs and assassination.

The strategic case for toppling Saddam also rested in part on the idea that a free Iraq would provide a strategic counterweight to Iran and Syria, as well as an ideological counterexample for a region where autocracy is the norm. The potency of that combination has been demonstrated by Sunni Arab hostility to the new Iraqi government; by Iran, Syria and al Qaeda efforts to destabilize it; and by those in the West who have sought to denigrate the effort as a way to diminish U.S. power.

Today, those efforts have largely failed. A new generation of European leaders has no interest in humiliating the U.S. and understands the danger of a chaotic Iraq. Al Qaeda has been nearly destroyed as a fighting force in Iraq and has lost support in the Arab Street with its brutality against Iraq's Sunni Arabs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Sunni states are belatedly coming to terms with the new Iraq as they conclude that the U.S. won't leave in defeat.

The Iraqi government is also at last beginning to meet its most important political commitments. Yesterday, Iraq's presidency council agreed to a law on provincial elections to go forward after a month's delay. The central government has passed a budget, approved a detainee amnesty, enlisted 425,000 men in its security forces and increased oil production to 2.4 million barrels a day while funneling $100 million a year to its provinces. This is happening while the number of daily insurgent attacks has been cut by about two-thirds, with commensurate declines in civilian and military casualties.

Where do we go from here? Iraq's transition to self-government remains fragile enough that U.S. forces will need to remain there in some numbers for years to come. The two countries will have to strike a long-term U.S.-Iraq military agreement, which would serve the interests of both countries. For Iraq, it would show America's continuing commitment in a rough neighborhood. And for the U.S., it would make the job of containing Iran easier. President Bush can best serve his Presidential successor by leaving enough troops on the ground to give him or her some strategic flexibility.

It is therefore unfortunate, and dangerous, that both Democratic candidates have backed themselves into a corner by endorsing rapid withdrawal from Iraq. In a speech yesterday in North Carolina, Barack Obama called for an almost complete U.S. withdrawal in 16 months. He continues to endorse the illusion that defeat in Iraq will help us prevail in Afghanistan; the opposite is closer to the truth. We will never maintain the support, either at home or abroad, to prevail in Afghanistan if we show we can be driven from the more vital strategic prize of Iraq.

* * *
In our March 18, 2003 editorial on the eve of Iraq's liberation, we supported the war while noting that "toppling Saddam is a long-term undertaking" and "the U.S. has never been good at nation-building." We wish we had been wrong on both counts, but our view has always been that nations shouldn't begin wars they don't intend to win. And newspapers don't endorse wars only to walk away when the fighting gets difficult. The U.S. sacrifice in Iraq has been honorable, our soldiers have fought superbly, and the best way -- the only way -- to honor both is to leave Iraq in victory.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

27632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: March 20, 2008, 10:25:49 AM
"If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain
our object; but if we break into squads, everyone pursuing the
path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those
who can now barely hold us in check."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to William Duane, 1811)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
27633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Outrage at Cartoons still tests the Danes on: March 20, 2008, 10:15:19 AM
AARHUS, Denmark — “I think this is safe house No. 5,” Kurt Westergaard said the other day, and it was clear that he genuinely had lost track.

Last month the Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent on charges of plotting to kill Mr. Westergaard, one of the 12 cartoonists whose pictures of Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked protests, some of them violent, by Muslims around the world in 2006 and put bounties on the heads of Mr. Westergaard and his editor, Flemming Rose. Mr. Westergaard (he drew Muhammad with a bomb in his turban) has been in hiding ever since.

Americans, for whom the presidential election seems to have become a delirious, unending sport, preoccupying their attention, turn out not to be the only ones who preferred to forget about the cartoons. So had many Danes and fellow Europeans. They were shocked by the arrests.

In the days shortly after, 17 Danish newspapers, having declined to publish the offending cartoons two years ago, declared solidarity with Mr. Westergaard and printed them. This, naturally, provoked a fresh round of protests from Gaza to Indonesia.

In Egypt the speaker of the Parliament claimed Danes had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which seemed a little rich coming just a few weeks after the European Parliament, which itself complained about the cartoons’ re-publication, condemned Egypt for the sorry state of its human rights.

Meanwhile demands in Afghanistan for the instant withdrawal of Danish troops under NATO’s command and the severing of all diplomatic ties with Denmark caused Denmark’s foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, to reply that it was becoming difficult for him “to put Danish soldiers’ lives in danger” to support a country “where one is at risk to be condemned to death for values that we believe to be an inseparable part of democracy and the modern world.”

And then, while it still seemed just a Danish problem, trouble spread. A gallery in Berlin was shut because an exhibition of satirical art by a Danish group called Surrend, which has previously produced works mocking neo-Nazis, caused several angry Muslim visitors to threaten violence unless a poster depicting the Kaaba, the shrine in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, was removed.

Two years earlier, in the wake of the original cartoon imbroglio, a Berlin opera company canceled performances of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” when police warned the company that a scene with the severed head of Muhammad, among other religious figures, posed “incalculable risk” to the performers and audience. Cries of self-censorship erupted across Europe.

This time around Germany’s interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, a politician who has been conspicuous in working to improve relations with Muslims in Germany, was reported to have urged other newspapers in Europe to reprint the cartoons, a remark he strongly denied making, which made no difference to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

“The German minister is required to immediately withdraw his statement,” Al-Watan demanded. Racism, not freedom of speech, was obviously behind Germany policy, the newspaper added. After all, Germans aren’t free to “discuss the Jewish Holocaust.”

And everybody knew what that meant.

Now many Europeans seem fed up. Over dinner in Copenhagen recently, Mr. Rose, who has made something of a second career out of the cartoon fallout, said it all came late but was inevitable.

“At the time, in 2006, there were good journalistic reasons for other newspapers to publish the cartoons because few people had seen them then, so they were news,” he said. “Now the journalistic justification is almost nonexistent because everyone knows what they look like, so it’s more about solidarity than about news.”

Unlike Mr. Westergaard, Mr. Rose doesn’t live in safe houses, although he long ago removed his name from the local telephone directory and has learned that a different Flemming Rose (there are apparently several in Denmark) decided to change his name.

“It was not about mocking a minority but a religious figure, the Prophet, so it was blasphemy, not racism,” Mr. Rose said of the cartoons. “The idea of challenging religious authority led to liberal democracy, whereas the singling out of minorities, as minorities, led to Nazism and the persecution of the bourgeoisie in Russia. So this distinction is crucial to understand.”


Page 2 of 2)

Years spent as a student and a newspaper correspondent in the Soviet Union shaped Mr. Rose’s philosophy. There he saw how “the concept of universal values was crucial to the dissident culture, and I saw what censorship meant,” he said. “I saw that values were not relative between Western society and the Soviets.”

Flemming Rose, Kurt Westergaard's editor. Recently, 17 papers reprinted the cartoons.

The Soviets, he noted, had a law in their penal code outlawing defamation of the Soviet way of life. Blasphemy laws in Muslim countries today “have the same purpose of silencing dissident voices,” he said. “Free speech does not extend to libel, invasion of privacy and incitement to violence.” But “a distinction must be made between words and deeds,” he insisted. “Images are open to interpretation, they’re different from words.”

Mr. Westergaard put it differently: “Cartoons always concentrate and simplify an idea and allow a quick impression that arouses some strong feeling.”

He recalled a cartoon he did years ago to complement an article defending Palestinians against Israelis, “not because this was my belief but because my job was to illustrate the views in this article, and I showed a Palestinian wearing a yellow star with ‘Arab’ on it.” He continued: “Many people called to protest. One man said I had abused a Jewish symbol. We talked for a long time and finally accepted each other’ s viewpoint.” It was the talking, he said, that mattered.

Did he go too far that time?

“Looking back,” he said, “perhaps I should have made a cartoon that did not use the yellow star.”

But then why Muhammad and not a star?

“Because millions of Jews died in camps wearing that star.”

Which is obviously the wrong answer for those who have put a price on his head. “I have always been an atheist, and I dare say these events have only intensified my atheism,” he said. “But the same clash would eventually have occurred over some book or a play. It was waiting to happen.”

He brought a cartoon that he had recently revised. In it Jesus, wearing a suit and tie, strides from the cross on which a sign hangs: “Service hours, Sunday, 10-11, 2-3.” Mr. Westergaard recently added an imam watching Jesus walk away.

He agreed to meet at Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper, from which he’s now semi-retired. Tall, broad-shouldered, with a salt-and-pepper beard, at 72 he’s like a Scandinavian sailor out of central casting but dressed, as usual, in fire-engine red pants, a patterned red scarf and a Sgt. Pepper black coat — clearly an act of sartorial defiance. When asked about Mr. Westergaard’s general approach to the last two years, Mr. Rose, with awe, said, “Calm.”

As it happens, most of the dozen cartoonists are older and, like Mr. Westergaard, closer to the generational ethos of 1968 than to the cultural relativism of later generations. A Social Democrat, Mr. Westergaard ran a school for severely disabled children before he became a cartoonist. He likes to point out that Himmerland, the region of Denmark where he was born, was home to a race of warriors: “There were also Danes among the Crusaders.”

He knows it’s a loaded reference. “Is this another Crusade now, or what is it?” he asked.

Then he answered himself: “In Denmark there is a culture of radicalism, a skepticism toward authority and religion. It’s part of our national character.” Years of relativism, during which Danes felt they “had no right to ask anyone else to live like us,” ended with the cartoons, he said. But he’s less sure than Mr. Rose about the degree of progress, conceding that recent gains by Denmark’s anti-immigrant party “are an unfortunate setback due to all this.”

Now he’s accustomed to being (and maybe, who is to say, even slightly enjoys his status as) an accidental celebrity with a soapbox. “Disagreement is an essential part of democracy,” he said. “I want to explain my sense of this clash between two cultures because I have grandchildren who will grow up in this multicultural society. The Danes are tolerant people. They don’t deserve to be treated like racists.”

He added: “This will go on for the rest of my lifetime, I am sure. I will never get out of this. But I feel more anger than fear. I’m angry because my life is threatened, and I know I have done nothing wrong, just done my job.”

“Anger,” he said, smiling, “is the best therapy.”
27634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghanistan's New Deal on: March 20, 2008, 10:06:04 AM
Appearing in the NY Times, our embassador to the UN makes a proposal

Published: March 20, 2008
BAN KI-MOON, secretary general of the United Nations, has appointed a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, Kai Eide, as his special representative to Afghanistan. Mr. Eide’s success will depend not only on his skills, but also on the friends of Afghanistan at the United Nations providing him with the proper mission, mandate and resources.

The most important task for the new special representative is to form a trusting, collaborative relationship with President Hamid Karzai, enabling them to agree on Afghanistan’s key challenges and on how aid money and military assistance can best be used. Today in New York, the Security Council is scheduled to extend the mandate of the United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for another year — the perfect chance to provide a clear set of priorities.

This resolution rightly gives Mr. Eide the powers to directly coordinate all of the support provided by international donors. As things stand, more than 30 national embassies and bilateral development agencies, several United Nations agencies, four development banks and international financial institutions, and about 2,000 nongovernmental organizations and contractors are involved in rebuilding in Afghanistan.

However, because of a lack of coordination among these donors, reconstruction resources often fail to arrive in a timely way after areas have been cleared of the enemy. Hundreds of projects are undertaken by allies and nongovernmental groups without coordination with the Afghan government, leading to cases of “ghost” schools or health clinics that are built but sit idle because they cannot be staffed or equipped.

Ministries are often hamstrung by having to comply with the varying procurement and accounting rules of dozens of foreign agencies, many of which are not consistent with Afghan law. This puts the international community at cross purposes with our goal of helping Afghanistan build coherent national systems for education, health and other services.

There is only one way to end the confusion: the United Nations must take on the primary coordination role, and donors must show a willingness to be coordinated. The new resolution allows this to happen in a number of ways.

First, Mr. Eide will need to oversee the coordination of civilian assistance with military efforts of the two military organizations operating in Afghanistan, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force. While it’s promising that those two organizations are meeting in Bucharest, Romania, next month to discuss better integrating their efforts, success against the insurgency will require efforts to ensure that military actions to secure areas from the enemy are coordinated with civilian efforts to establish good governance and economic development.

Second, Mr. Eide must coordinate the efforts of the international community to support the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year plan agreed upon in 2006 by the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and the international community that requires Afghan leaders to take steps in reform and institution-building in exchange for commitments of sustained support. The United Nations must have a stronger role in overseeing the increasing capacity of Afghan ministries and their anti-corruption efforts.

Third, the new United Nations special representative should help the leaders and people of key donor countries understand achievements and challenges. This is the only way that the friends of Afghanistan can fully appreciate the return on their investments.

Last, Mr. Eide will have a mandate to engage Afghanistan’s neighbors to help stabilize the country. In the aftermath of 9/11, regional powers came together to support the so-called Bonn agreement, which enabled Afghans to freely choose their own government. Reclaiming the spirit of Bonn must be a priority.

The United States is fully behind the United Nations in the mission. Afghanistan is important not only because it was the origin of the attacks of 9/11 but also because it is the keystone of the geopolitical stability of Central and South Asia. Moreover, success in Afghanistan will be a major step in helping to create security, stability and progress in the broader Middle East, which is the defining challenge of our time.

Zalmay Khalilzad is the United States permanent representative to the United Nations.

Next Article in Opinion (6 of 15) »
27635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: March 20, 2008, 10:00:42 AM
Stratfor I think has had good insight in its assessment of what Russia is up to geopolitically, and continues to have it here.  That said, I would quibble with the final sentence.  The Russians have been fcuking with us by helping Iran and now we are showing them that there are costs to that.  That certainly does not make us the confrontational one in my book.

Geopolitical Diary: U.S. Puts Russia On Notice
March 20, 2008
U.S. President George W. Bush, fresh from meetings with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Wednesday, announced American support for Georgia’s NATO bid. Specifically, Bush announced that he would lobby the NATO allies to grant Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP), the first step toward joining the alliance. Bush’s statement contained sufficient equivocation that MAP is hardly a foregone conclusion and formal membership is anything but imminent, but Russia has nonetheless been put on notice. NATO is preparing to march east yet again.

For the past month the West and Russia have been at a crossroads. After 10 years of heavy investment of political capital by the Kremlin into supporting its Balkan ally, Serbia, the West ran roughshod over Russian concerns by recognizing the independence of Kosovo, a renegade Serbian province. That decision blew a hole through the image of Russian power. In the midst of an internal transition of power and reeling from the Kosovo defeat, Moscow needs a means of striking back at the West to demonstrate its potency. To flex its muscles, Russia can encourage separatism in U.S. allies, complicate the United States’ Middle East policy with selective weapons sales and technology transfers, and manipulate European energy supplies.

But Russia also knows that if it makes any missteps, Western influence could threaten its position on more fronts than the country can defend. Even with high energy prices bolstering its bottom line and a strong president holding the system together, the Kremlin knows Russia is but a shadow of its Cold War self. Meanwhile, it is not that the West is without vulnerabilities — weaknesses are available for exploitation from Finland to Turkey — but that during the last 18 years, Western institutions have only strengthened in absolute terms.

The West has the advantage of political, economic and military superiority, along with the flexibility to dabble anywhere along the Russian periphery, and with a little elbow grease and luck, even within the Russian Federation itself. Remember, it is Russia — not the United States — that is riddled with potential secessionist regions. And it is the United States — not Russia — that sits safely on the other side of an ocean from its potential competitors.

In short, there is no doubt in either Moscow or Washington that the two share the ability to swap blows in areas of critical importance. Efforts undertaken March 17 and March 18 saw a final attempt to head off a post-Kosovo confrontation when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Moscow to determine whether the Russians and Americans could agree to disagree.

In the American mind, a Russia that agrees to sit on its hands while the United States sews up Iraq is preferable. And yes, we realize that “sew up” is a gross simplification even in the best of circumstances. Moscow’s position in the talks was more nuanced than Washington’s: Moscow offered to hold off on seeking retaliation for its defeat in Kosovo should the United States agree to hold off on pushing its NATO agenda deeper into the former Soviet Union. Ultimately, the two sides proved unable to hammer out a deal, and Bush’s statement is the proof that, for the Americans at least, confrontation is the order of the day.
27636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 19, 2008, 03:35:31 PM
My friend responds:

He said it was from the John McCain website,  I don't have the time to find its exact location, sorry.
27637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 19, 2008, 03:32:07 PM
Barack Obama's speech on race in America was a tour de force in many ways, but one section made me cringe and deserves some rebuke. There is an expression about ambitious politicians who would "walk over their grandmothers" in pursuit of their goals. Mr. Obama almost did that yesterday.

In explaining why he would not repudiate his extremist pastor, Mr. Obama said, "I can no more disown [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Now Mr. Obama’s campaign has made clear that his 84-year old grandmother, who has asked to be left alone, should be considered off-limits to political reporters. But yesterday, it was Mr. Obama who didn't leave her alone when he used her for one of the central themes of his speech. His behavior recalls the time when Bill Clinton regularly trashed his stepfather as a violent drunk as part of his 1992 campaign. The idea of talking about his stepfather's human frailties to advance himself politically struck many people then as a selfish act and a gross distortion of the loyalty family members owe to each other.

-- John Fund

Quick-Draw Dellinger, He's Not

Talk out being outgunned. Former Clinton Solicitor General Walter Dellinger apparently had a bulls-eye on him when he faced the Supreme Court yesterday to defend the crime-ridden District of Columbia's handgun ban.

Mr. Dellinger didn't do himself any favors by taking the most extreme view -- that the Constitution's right to bear arms applies only to members of a militia, none of which exist anymore. He was barely a few sentences into his argument before the Court's conservative majority opened fire. Chief Justice John Roberts asked why the Second Amendment mentions "the people" if it didn't mean... the people? Justice Antonin Scalia followed up with a sermon on the eminent 18th-century English legal authority William Blackstone, who placed a high value on a right to self-defense that likely animated the Founding Fathers too.

But what really had observers buzzing was the intervention of Anthony Kennedy, seen as a swing vote on this case. He quizzed Mr. Dellinger about whether the right of self-defense wasn't at the heart of the Framer's deliberations, given their natural concern for a "remote settler" who needed "to defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that."

Anything can happen behind the Court's closed doors, but yesterday's oral argument strongly indicates that the District's comprehensive ban on private handgun ownership may be headed for history's ash-heap. Gun controllers will be outraged, but leading Democrats, who have all but abandoned the gun-control issue in their pursuit of national majority status, are likely to find some other subject to get worked up about when the Court's decision comes down.

-- Kim Strassel

Grudge Match

Democratic debates are coming back! While some voters might be exhausted from the two dozen that were held earlier this year, others of us welcome their return because the pitched battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has finally gotten interesting.

The next championship bouts look to be on April 16 in Philadelphia, hosted by ABC, and on April 19 in North Carolina, hosted by CBS. Mrs. Clinton hasn't accepted the North Carolina debate yet, but that's likely a formality. The CBS debate would feature Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer, two veteran journalists who so far haven't had a star turn as debate moderators.

As for whether the debates will be worth watching, just consider how contentious the last few weeks of campaigning between the two candidates have been. Given the stakes, that intensity is likely to keep building until they confront each other in Philadelphia. The debate should be an interesting one, but don't expect to see much "brotherly love" present.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"How is it possible that a campaign apparatus that sniffed out Geraldine Ferraro's offensive statement to a local California newspaper (the Daily Breeze, 12th paragraph) did not know that Wright's statements condemning America were all over the Internet and had been cited March 6 by the (reputable) anti-Obama columnist Ronald Kessler? The sermon was also available on YouTube. In other words, how is it possible that a man who has made judgment the centerpiece of his presidential campaign has shown so little of it in this matter? One possible answer to these questions is that Obama has learned to rely on a sycophantic media that hears any criticism of him as either (1) racist, (2) vaguely racist or (3) doing the bidding of Hillary and Bill Clinton" -- Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.

He Saw the Future More Clearly Than the Present

The last member of the great science fiction-writing trio of the 20th century has left us with the death of British writer Arthur C. Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka. The other members were Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

Although Mr. Clarke wrote, co-wrote or edited some 100 books, he is perhaps best known as the author of "2001: A Space Odyssey," which was turned into an iconic 1960s film by Stanley Kubrick. But Mr. Clarke's other books were a treasure trove of predictions in which he anticipated, with remarkable accuracy, everything from communications satellites to the Internet and cloning.

Mr. Clarke had pithy notions about social and technological change. "Every revolutionary idea," he once said, "evokes three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) it's completely impossible; (2) it's possible but it's not worth doing; (3) I said it was a good idea all along." Mr. Clarke also sagely noted that the short-term impact of any new technology tends to be overestimated, while its long-term impact is underestimated.

But when it came to politics, Mr. Clarke was often frightfully wooly-headed. He called President Reagan's missile-defense plans "technological obscenities" and testified against them before Congress. He failed to foresee how Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative would contribute to the Soviet Union's peaceful downfall. He also ignored the lesson of his own novel, "The Trigger," in which a physicist invents a machine that can safely detonate any explosive, rendering weapons obsolete.

In 2000, Mr. Clarke also signed onto the so-called Human Manifesto, which one British newspaper sniffed was "a messy ideological goulash -- a conflicting mess of hard-core individualism, fettered capitalism, left-over socialism, dreamy one-worldism and goofy Al Gore environmentalism."

Still, despite such lapses Mr. Clarke leaves us at age 90 with a body of work that will inspire readers for hundreds of years with the potential of human accomplishment.

-- John Fund

27638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: More Visas, More jobs on: March 19, 2008, 11:20:12 AM
More Visas, More Jobs
March 19, 2008; Page A16
Bill Gates appeared before Congress again last week to make a simple point to simpler pols: The ridiculously low annual cap on H-1B visas for foreign professionals is undermining the ability of U.S. companies to compete in a global marketplace.

"Congress's failure to pass high-skill immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation," said the Microsoft chairman. "The current base cap of 65,000 H-1B visas is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to the U.S. economy's demand for skilled workers."

The Labor Department projects that by 2014 there will be more than two million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math fields. But the number of Americans graduating with degrees in those disciplines is falling. Meanwhile, visa quotas make it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to hire foreign-born graduates of our own universities. Last year, as in prior years, the supply of H-1B visas was exhausted on the first day petitions could be filed.

"Today, knowledge and expertise are the essential raw materials that companies and countries need in order to be competitive," said Mr. Gates. "We live in an economy that depends on the ability of innovative companies to attract and retain the very best talent, regardless of nationality or citizenship."

Lest you think Microsoft and other companies are making this stuff up, we direct you to two recent studies published by the National Foundation for American Policy. The first, entitled "Talent Search," found that major U.S. technology companies average more than 470 job openings for skilled positions, while defense companies average more than 1,200 such openings. In all, more than 140,000 skilled job openings are available today in the S&P 500 companies.

The second study, "H-1B Visas and Job Creation," reports the results of a regression analysis of H-1B filings and employment at U.S. tech companies. The objective was to determine if hiring foreign nationals harms the job prospects of Americans -- a common claim of protectionists. In fact, the study found a positive association between H-1B visa requests and the percentage change in total employment.

Among S&P 500 firms, "the data show that for every H-1B position requested, U.S. technology companies increased employment by 5 workers," according to the study. And "for technology firms with fewer than 5,000 employees, each H-1B position requested in labor condition applications was associated with an increase of employment of 7.5 workers." Far from stealing jobs from Americans, skilled immigrants expand the economic pie.

Mr. Gates said his software company exemplifies this phenomenon. "Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities," he told lawmakers. "If we increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to U.S. companies, employment of U.S. nationals would likely grow as well."

The preponderance of evidence continues to show that businesses are having difficulty filling skilled positions in the U.S. By blocking their access to foreign talent, Congress isn't protecting U.S. jobs but is providing incentives to outsource. If lawmakers can't bring themselves to eliminate the H-1B visa cap, they might at least raise it to a level that doesn't handicap U.S. companies.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
27639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Discovering Obama on: March 19, 2008, 11:06:34 AM
Discovering Obama
March 19, 2008; Page A16
The political tide for Barack Obama was inconceivable as recently as a few months ago, and it may still carry him into the White House. A mere three years out of the state legislature, the Illinois Senator has captured the Democratic imagination with his charisma, his silver tongue, and most of all, his claims to transcend the partisan and racial animosities of the day.

But the suddenness of Mr. Obama's rise allowed him, until recently, to evade the scrutiny that usually attends Presidential campaigns. If nothing else, the uproar over Reverend Jeremiah Wright has changed that. In Philadelphia yesterday, the Senator tried to explain his puzzling 20-year attendance at Reverend Wright's Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, while also using his nearly 5,000-word address to elaborate on the themes that have energized his candidacy. It was an instructive moment, though not always in the way the Senator intended.

Mr. Obama, of course, is in the midst of a chiefly political crisis. No one honestly believes he shares his minister's rage, or his political and racial beliefs, which have been seen all over cable news and reveal a deep disgust with America. Mr. Obama's fault, rather, was to maintain a two-decade entanglement with Mr. Wright without ever seeming to harbor qualms about the causes espoused by his mentor and spiritual guide.

Such complacency couldn't simply be waved off, as the Senator tried initially to do, because it drills into the core of his political appeal: that he represents new thinking and an attempt to end cultural and racial polarization. Mr. Wright imperils the possibility inherent in the first black candidate who has a genuine shot at the Presidency, in part because race is only an element of the Senator's political character, not its definition.

So yesterday Mr. Obama sought to rehabilitate his image by distancing himself from Mr. Wright's race-paranoia. He talked about his own multiracial background -- son of a white mother and Kenyan father -- and said, "I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

Mr. Wright's remarks "expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country," Mr. Obama continued, and are "not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity" -- his way of broadening out the discussion to include his political message.

Less uplifting was his attempt to pair Mr. Wright's extremism with Geraldine Ferraro's recent remarks as "the other end" of the spectrum on race. Mr. Wright's sermons are rooted in a racial separatism and black liberation theology that is a distinct minority even among African-Americans. Ms. Ferraro was, at worst, saying that Mr. Obama is helped because many Americans want to vote for someone who is black.

It is also notable that Mr. Obama situated Mr. Wright within what the Senator sees as the continuing black-white conflict and the worst excesses of racial injustice like Jim Crow. He dwelled on a lack of funding for inner-city schools and a general "lack of economic opportunity." But Mr. Obama neglected the massive failures of the government programs that were supposed to address these problems, as well as the culture of dependency they ingrained. A genuine message of racial healing would also have given more credit to the real racial gains in American society over the last 40 years.

The Senator noted that the anger of his pastor "is real; it is powerful," and in fact it is mirrored in "white resentments." He then laid down a litany of American woe: "the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who has been laid off," the "shuttered mill," those "without health care," the soldiers who have fought in "a war that never should have been authorized and never should've been waged," etc. Thus Mr. Obama's message is we "need unity" because all Americans are victims, racial and otherwise; he even mentioned working for change by "binding our particular grievances."

And the cause of all this human misery? Why, "a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many." Mr. Obama's villains, in other words, are the standard-issue populist straw men of Wall Street and the GOP, and his candidacy is a vessel for liberal policy orthodoxy -- raise taxes, "invest" more in social programs, restrict trade, retreat from Iraq.

Needless to say, this is not an agenda rooted in bipartisanship or even one that has captured a national Presidential majority in more than 40 years. It would be unfortunate if Mr. Obama's candidacy were toppled by racial neuroses, and his speech yesterday may have prevented that. But it also revealed the extent to which his ideas are neither new nor transcendent.
27640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams: Religion and morals on: March 19, 2008, 10:40:41 AM
"Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public
liberty and happiness."

-- Samuel Adams (letter to John Trumbull, 16 October 1778)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (320); original The Writings
of Samuel Adams, Cushing, ed., vol. 4 (74)
27641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 19, 2008, 01:44:50 AM
Quite right-- so I have asked the friend who sent it to me, who is usually a reliable source, for the URL and he is going back to the friend who sent it to him.
27642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: March 19, 2008, 01:42:58 AM
Newt was on Hannity tonight so I recorded it so I could watch that segment.  He pithily dissected the bimbette that Fox had as subsitute punching bag for Alan Colmes many times, including a comment that if BO had not spotted his Reverend's politics after 20 years he certainly wasn't ready to be President  cheesy
27643  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Monkey Style on: March 19, 2008, 01:27:25 AM
Monkey Style:
27644  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Test your optical skills on: March 18, 2008, 02:58:09 PM

Test your optical skills:
27645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Containment strategy on: March 18, 2008, 02:19:32 PM
U.S. Adapts Cold-War Idea to Fight Terrorists

Published: March 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — In the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, members of President Bush’s war cabinet declared that it would be impossible to deter the most fervent extremists from carrying out even more deadly terrorist missions with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Since then, however, administration, military and intelligence officials assigned to counterterrorism have begun to change their view. After piecing together a more nuanced portrait of terrorist organizations, they say there is reason to believe that a combination of efforts could in fact establish something akin to the posture of deterrence, the strategy that helped protect the United States from a Soviet nuclear attack during the cold war.
Interviews with more than two dozen senior officials involved in the effort provided the outlines of previously unreported missions to mute Al Qaeda’s message, turn the jihadi movement’s own weaknesses against it and illuminate Al Qaeda’s errors whenever possible.

A primary focus has become cyberspace, which is the global safe haven of terrorist networks. To counter efforts by terrorists to plot attacks, raise money and recruit new members on the Internet, the government has mounted a secret campaign to plant bogus e-mail messages and Web site postings, with the intent to sow confusion, dissent and distrust among militant organizations, officials confirm.

At the same time, American diplomats are quietly working behind the scenes with Middle Eastern partners to amplify the speeches and writings of prominent Islamic clerics who are renouncing terrorist violence.

At the local level, the authorities are experimenting with new ways to keep potential terrorists off guard.

In New York City, as many as 100 police officers in squad cars from every precinct converge twice daily at randomly selected times and at randomly selected sites, like Times Square or the financial district, to rehearse their response to a terrorist attack. City police officials say the operations are believed to be a crucial tactic to keep extremists guessing as to when and where a large police presence may materialize at any hour. “What we’ve developed since 9/11, in six or seven years, is a better understanding of the support that is necessary for terrorists, the network which provides that support, whether it’s financial or material or expertise,” said Michael E. Leiter, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

“We’ve now begun to develop more sophisticated thoughts about deterrence looking at each one of those individually,” Mr. Leiter said in an interview. “Terrorists don’t operate in a vacuum.”

In some ways, government officials acknowledge, the effort represents a second-best solution. Their preferred way to combat terrorism remains to capture or kill extremists, and the new emphasis on deterrence in some ways amounts to attaching a new label to old tools.

“There is one key question that no one can answer: How much disruption does it take to give you the effect of deterrence?” said Michael Levi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a new book, “On Nuclear Terrorism.”

The New Deterrence

The emerging belief that terrorists may be subject to a new form of deterrence is reflected in two of the nation’s central strategy documents.

The 2002 National Security Strategy, signed by the president one year after the Sept. 11 attacks, stated flatly that “traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents.”

Four years later, however, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism concluded: “A new deterrence calculus combines the need to deter terrorists and supporters from contemplating a W.M.D. attack and, failing that, to dissuade them from actually conducting an attack.”

For obvious reasons, it is harder to deter terrorists than it was to deter a Soviet attack.

Terrorists hold no obvious targets for American retaliation as Soviet cities, factories, military bases and silos were under the cold-war deterrence doctrine. And it is far harder to pinpoint the location of a terrorist group’s leaders than it was to identify the Kremlin offices of the Politburo bosses, making it all but impossible to deter attacks by credibly threatening a retaliatory attack.

But over the six and a half years since the Sept. 11 attacks, many terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have successfully evaded capture, and American officials say they now recognize that threats to kill terrorist leaders may never be enough to keep America safe.


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So American officials have spent the last several years trying to identify other types of “territory” that extremists hold dear, and they say they believe that one important aspect may be the terrorists’ reputation and credibility with Muslims.

Counterterrorism officials seek ways to deter attacks by Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden, left, and Ayman al-Zawahri.

Under this theory, if the seeds of doubt can be planted in the mind of Al Qaeda’s strategic leadership that an attack would be viewed as a shameful murder of innocents — or, even more effectively, that it would be an embarrassing failure — then the order may not be given, according to this new analysis.

Senior officials acknowledge that it is difficult to prove what role these new tactics and strategies have played in thwarting plots or deterring Al Qaeda from attacking. Senior officials say there have been several successes using the new approaches, but many involve highly classified technical programs, including the cyberoperations, that they declined to detail.

They did point to some older and now publicized examples that suggest that their efforts are moving in the right direction.

George J. Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in his autobiography that the authorities were concerned that Qaeda operatives had made plans in 2003 to attack the New York City subway using cyanide devices.

Mr. Zawahri reportedly called off the plot because he feared that it “was not sufficiently inspiring to serve Al Qaeda’s ambitions,” and would be viewed as a pale, even humiliating, follow-up to the 9/11 attacks.

And in 2002, Iyman Faris, a naturalized American citizen from Kashmir, began casing the Brooklyn Bridge to plan an attack and communicated with Qaeda leaders in Pakistan via coded messages about using a blowtorch to sever the suspension cables.

But by early 2003, Mr. Faris sent a message to his confederates saying that “the weather is too hot.” American officials said that meant Mr. Faris feared that the plot was unlikely to succeed — apparently because of increased security.

“We made a very visible presence there and that may have contributed to it,” said Paul J. Browne, the New York City Police Department’s chief spokesman. “Deterrence is part and parcel of our entire effort.”

Disrupting Cyberprojects

Terrorists hold little or no terrain, except on the Web. “Al Qaeda and other terrorists’ center of gravity lies in the information domain, and it is there that we must engage it,” said Dell L. Dailey, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief.

Some of the government’s most secretive counterterrorism efforts involve disrupting terrorists’ cyberoperations. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, specially trained teams have recovered computer hard drives used by terrorists and are turning the terrorists’ tools against them.

“If you can learn something about whatever is on those hard drives, whatever that information might be, you could instill doubt on their part by just countermessaging whatever it is they said they wanted to do or planned to do,” said Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, director of cyberoperations for the Air Force and a former deputy director of the antiterrorism office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since terrorists feel safe using the Internet to spread ideology and gather recruits, General Schissler added, “you may be able to interfere with some of that, interrupt some of that.”

“You can also post messages to the opposite of that,” he added.

Other American efforts are aimed at discrediting Qaeda operations, including the decision to release seized videotapes showing members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely Iraqi group with some foreign leaders, training children to kidnap and kill, as well as a lengthy letter said to have been written by another terrorist leader that describes the organization as weak and plagued by poor morale.

Dissuading Militants

Even as security and intelligence forces seek to disrupt terrorist operations, counterterrorism specialists are examining ways to dissuade insurgents from even considering an attack with unconventional weapons. They are looking at aspects of the militants’ culture, families or religion, to undermine the rhetoric of terrorist leaders.

For example, the government is seeking ways to amplify the voices of respected religious leaders who warn that suicide bombers will not enjoy the heavenly delights promised by terrorist literature, and that their families will be dishonored by such attacks. Those efforts are aimed at undermining a terrorist’s will.

“I’ve got to figure out what does dissuade you,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the Joint Chiefs’ director of strategic plans and policy. “What is your center of gravity that we can go at? The goal you set won’t be achieved, or you will be discredited and lose face with the rest of the Muslim world or radical extremism that you signed up for.”


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Efforts are also under way to persuade Muslims not to support terrorists. It is a delicate campaign that American officials are trying to promote and amplify — but without leaving telltale American fingerprints that could undermine the effort in the Muslim world. Senior Bush administration officials point to several promising developments.

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Asheik, gave a speech last October warning Saudis not to join unauthorized jihadist activities, a statement directed mainly at those considering going to Iraq to fight the American-led forces.

And Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, a top leader of the armed Egyptian movement Islamic Jihad and a longtime associate of Mr. Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda official, has just completed a book that renounces violent jihad on legal and religious grounds.

Such dissents are serving to widen rifts between Qaeda leaders and some former loyal backers, Western and Middle Eastern diplomats say.

“Many terrorists value the perception of popular or theological legitimacy for their actions,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser. “By encouraging debate about the moral legitimacy of using weapons of mass destruction, we can try to affect the strategic calculus of the terrorists.”

Denying Support

As the top Pentagon policy maker for special operations, Michael G. Vickers creates strategies for combating terrorism with specialized military forces, as well as for countering the proliferation of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Much of his planning is old school: how should the military’s most elite combat teams capture and kill terrorists? But with each passing day, more of his time is spent in the new world of terrorist deterrence theory, trying to figure out how to prevent attacks by persuading terrorist support networks — those who enable terrorists to operate — to refuse any kind of assistance to stateless agents of extremism.

“Obviously, hard-core terrorists will be the hardest to deter,” Mr. Vickers said. “But if we can deter the support network — recruiters, financial supporters, local security providers and states who provide sanctuary — then we can start achieving a deterrent effect on the whole terrorist network and constrain terrorists’ ability to operate.

“We have not deterred terrorists from their intention to do us great harm,” Mr. Vickers said, “but by constraining their means and taking away various tools, we approach the overall deterrent effect we want.”

Much effort is being spent on perfecting technical systems that can identify the source of unconventional weapons or their components regardless of where they are found — and letting nations around the world know the United States has this ability.

President Bush has declared that the United States will hold “fully accountable” any nation that shares nuclear weapons with another state or terrorists.

Rear Adm. William P. Loeffler, deputy director of the Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction at the military’s Strategic Command, said Mr. Bush’s declaration meant that those who might supply arms or components to terrorists were just as accountable as those who ordered and carried out an attack.

It is, the admiral said, a system of “attribution as deterrence.”
27646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Greatest or the Best on: March 18, 2008, 01:52:54 PM
"Strive to be the greatest man in your country, and you may
be disappointed.  Strive to be the best and you may succeed:
he may well win the race that runs by himself."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, 1747)

Reference: Bartlett's Quotations (177)
27647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two on: March 18, 2008, 01:43:34 PM

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
27648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 18, 2008, 01:42:48 PM
Here's BO's speech in response to the gathering firestorm over his reverend's rabblerousing and related matters:

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008/ 10:17:53 ET
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
27649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 18, 2008, 12:44:42 PM
Liberals: Show Us the Money!

Liberals may rail about money in politics, but liberal groups this year are pulling out all the stops to raise money outside the normal Democratic Party structure in order win back the White House and solidify their control of Congress.

Today, two large labor groups -- the AFL-CIO and Change to Win -- will team up with the left-wing and the housing advocacy group ACORN to announce plans to spend a whopping $150 million this fall. "In '04 the right mobilized its base and its resources," Bob Borosage, a co-director of the liberal Campaign for America's Future, told the Associated Press. "Well, we've continued to build and expand and gotten more enthusiastic and more mobilized and their coalition has collapsed."

Conservatives would beg to differ about that. They note that their own fundraising has finally started to pick up since John McCain became the presumptive GOP nominee. They also say Democrats are wasting a lot of resources on the trench warfare between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over which candidate will win the Democratic nomination.

But there's no denying there's a lot of new liberal money flooding the system. John Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Clinton, has set up a group called The Fund for America, which plans to raise and spend $100 million. Among its heavy contributors are George Soros, who ponied up $2.5 million last year, and the Service Employees International Union, which gave an equal amount.

All in all, liberals apparently have decided to counter what they have long perceived as a vast right-wing conspiracy with a vast financial conspiracy of their own creation. Perhaps that's why talk of new campaign finance reform laws was almost absent from the Democratic Party primary debates this year.

-- John Fund

McCain's Warning to Immigration Hotheads

John McCain has a message for Republican candidates who are planning to run on strong anti-immigration themes this fall. Pay attention to recent election defeats by get-tough candidates and modulate your message accordingly.

Mr. McCain told National Public Radio on Monday that he believes noisy anti-immigration rhetoric helped defeat Republicans in several high-profile border state races in Texas and Arizona. He also singled out Pennsylvania, where Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania lost re-election in 2006, and Illinois, where Jim Oberweis stunned the GOP this month by losing the special election to fill the seat of former House Speaker Denny Hastert.

"Senator Santorum emphasized that issue [immigration] and lost by a large number," Mr. McCain told NPR. "We just had a loss of Denny Hastert's seat out in Illinois. The Republican candidate out there, I am told, had very strong anti-immigrant rhetoric also, so I would hope that many of our Republican candidates would understand the political practicalities of this issue."

Mr. Oberweis lost for a variety of reasons, but his high-octane immigration rhetoric clearly didn't help him as he lagged well behind normal GOP totals in the suburban Chicago seat. As a millionaire he spent big bucks from his own pocket airing an ad decrying how Washington politicians "can't seem to fix" the problem and calling for "tougher sanctions" on employers and illegal immigrants. Mr. Oberweis ran similar ads during his 2004 primary race for U.S. Senate, which he also lost.

Indeed, the Oberweis electoral track record is such that many local GOP leaders are urging him to step aside and allow the Republican he beat in the special election primary, State Senator Chris Lauzen, to replace him when the former Hastert seat comes up again in November. But Mr. Oberweis is nothing if not proud and insists he has a good chance of evening the score by defeating the new Democratic incumbent Bill Foster this fall. Nonetheless, Congressional Quarterly now rates the race in the normally Republican seat as Mr. Foster's to lose.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright drives a wedge into the central contradiction of Obama's campaign -- an orthodox liberal politician who rose to prominence in a left-wing milieu in Chicago and has never broken with his party on anything of consequence is campaigning on unifying the country. There is nothing particularly unifying about Obama's past and his voting record. The senator has risen on his words, and will be hard-pressed to talk his way out of his long, jarring association with the gleefully divisive Rev. Wright" -- National Review editor Rich Lowry.

Putting the 'Super' Back in Superdelegate

Kudos to Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth. When asked recently why he is supporting Barack Obama for president, the first-term Democrat dispensed with the usual civic-minded blather and instead said the Illinois Senator was the best candidate to help him hold onto his seat in Congress. "In my district, there's no question Barack would be better," Mr. Yarmuth told Congressional Quarterly last week. In 2006, Mr. Yarmuth defeated incumbent Republican Ann Northup by fewer than 6,000 votes in a district that usually trends Republican. In that race, black voters made up just 10% of the electorate. If Mr. Obama is at the top of the ticket, "my guess is it will be three-to-five percent higher," Mr. Yarmuth said, which could tip the race in his favor in a rematch against Ms. Northup.

Mr. Yarmuth isn't the only one. CQ identifies four Indiana Democrats who are likely to support Mr. Obama in hopes of saving their seats in Congress. Reps. Andre Carson, Baron Hill, Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth are all freshmen congressmen from districts that could swing Republican in a competitive year.

Naturally, this is music to the Obama campaign's ears. His staff has tried to make a high principle out of the idea that superdelegates should rigidly vote as their districts do -- which, of course, defeats the purpose of having superdelegates in the first place. From 1954 until 1994, Democrats managed to win more than 50% of the popular vote in a presidential election just once, when Lyndon Johnson crushed Barry Goldwater in 1964, despite Democrats' nearly uninterrupted dominance of Congress during the period. Indeed, no Democratic candidate since then has hit the 50% mark, though Al Gore came close in 2000. This history suggests the party base is better at dutifully reelecting Congressmen than at picking presidential winners. Had they learned this history better, Democrats might be sticking with the plan to let superdelegates use their own judgment.

27650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 18, 2008, 11:50:34 AM


15% (no change)





How does this affect you? If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes. If you are heading toward retirement and would like to down-size your home or move into  a retirement community, 28% of the money you make from your home will go to taxes. This proposal will adversely affect the elderly who are counting on the income from their homes as part of their retirement income.



15% (no change)





How will this affect you? If you have any money invested in stock market, IRA, mutual funds, college funds, life insurance, retirement accounts, or anything that pays or reinvests dividends, you will now be paying nearly 40% of the money earned on taxes if Obama or Clinton become president. The experts predict that 'Higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stock market yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.'



(no changes)

Single making 30K - tax $4,500 
Single making 50K - tax $12,500
Single making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 60K- tax $9,000
Married making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 125K - tax $31,250


(reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)

Single making 30K - tax $8,400   
Single making 50K - tax $14,000   
Single making 75K - tax $23,250   
Married making 60K - tax $16,800   
Married making 75K - tax $21,000   
Married making 125K - tax $38,750


(reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)

Single making 30K - tax $8,400   
Single making 50K - tax $14,000   
Single making 75K - tax $23,250   
Married making 60K - tax $16,800   
Married making 75K - tax $21,000   
Married making 125K - tax $38,750 

How does this affect you? No explanation needed. This is pretty straight forward.




(No change, Bush repealed this tax)


keep the inheritance tax


keep the inheritance tax

How does this affect you? Many families have lost businesses, farms and ranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations because they could not afford the inheritance tax. Those willing their assets to loved ones will not only lose them to these taxes.


* New government taxes proposed on homes that are more than 2400 square feet

* New gasoline taxes (as if gas weren't high enough already)

* New taxes on natural resources consumption (heating gas, water, electricity)

* New taxes on retirement accounts

and last but not least....

* New taxes to pay for socialized medicine so we can receive the same level of medical care as other third-world countries!!!

Can you afford Clinton or Obama?

(in case you want more information on Obama's tax and spend agenda:

If Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) Could Enact All Of His Campaign Proposals, Taxpayers Would Be Faced With Financing $874.35 Billion In New Spending Over One White House Term:
Updated February 14, 2008: Obama's National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank Will Cost $60 Billion Over Ten Years; Equal To $6 Billion A Year And $24 Billion Over Four Years. Obama: 'I'm proposing a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that will invest $60 billion over ten years.' (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks On Economic Policy, Janesville, WI, 2/13/08)
Obama's Health Care Plan Will Cost Up To $65 Billion A Year; Equal To $260 Billion Over Four Years. '[Obama] campaign officials estimated that the net cost of the plan to the federal government would be $50 billion to $65 billion a year, when fully phased in, and said the revenues from rolling back the tax cuts were enough to cover it.' (Robin Toner and Patrick Healy, 'Obama Calls For Wider And Less Costly Health Care Coverage,' The New York Times, 5/30/07)
Obama's Energy Plan Will Cost $150 Billion Over 10 Years, Equal To $15 Billion Annually And $60 Billion Over Four Years. 'Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid.' (Obama For America, 'The Blueprint For Change,', Accessed 1/14/08, p. 25)
Obama's Tax Plan Will Cost Approximately $85 Billion A Year; Equal To $340 Billion Over Four Years. '[Obama's] proposed tax cuts and credits, aimed at workers earning $50,000 or less per year, would cost the Treasury an estimated $85 billion annually.' (Margaret Talev, 'Obama Proposes Tax Code Overhaul To Help The Poor,' McClatchy Newspapers, 9/19/07)

Obama's Plan Would Raise Taxes On Capital Gains And Dividends, And On Carried Interest. Obama's tax plan includes: 'ncreasing the highest bracket for capital gains and dividends and closing the carried interest loophole.' (Obama For America, 'Barack Obama: Tax Fairness For The Middle Class,' Fact Sheet,, Accessed 1/8/08)
Obama's Economic Stimulus Package Will Cost $75 Billion. 'Barack Obama's economic plan will inject $75 billion of stimulus into the economy by getting money in the form of tax cuts and direct spending directly to the people who need it most.' (Obama For America, 'Barack Obama's Plan To Stimulate The Economy,' Fact Sheet,, 1/13/08)
Obama's Early Education And K-12 Package Will Cost $18 Billion A Year; Equal To $72 Billion Over Four Years. 'Barack Obama's early education and K-12 plan package costs about $18 billion per year.' (Obama For America, 'Barack Obama's Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education,' Fact Sheet,, 11/20/07, p. 15)
Obama's National Service Plan Will Cost $3.5 Billion A Year; Equal To $14 Billion Over Four Years. 'Barack Obama's national service plan will cost about $3.5 billion per year when it is fully implemented.' (Obama For America, 'Helping All Americans Serve Their Country: Barack Obama's Plan For Universal Voluntary Citizen Service,' Fact Sheet,, 12/5/07)
Obama Will Increase Our Foreign Assistance Funding By $25 Billion. 'Obama will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and he will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal.' (Obama For America, 'The Blueprint For Change,', Accessed 1/14/08, p. 53)
Obama Will Provide $2 Billion To Aid Iraqi Refugees. 'He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find a safe-haven.' (Obama For America, 'The Blueprint For Change,', Accessed 1/14/08, p. 51)
Obama Will Provide $1.5 Billion To Help States Adopt Paid-Leave Systems. 'As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.' (Obama For America, 'The Blueprint For Change,', Accessed 1/14/08, p. 15)
Obama Will Provide $1 Billion Over 5 Years For Transitional Jobs And Career Pathway Programs, Equal To $200 Million A Year And $800 Million Over Four Years. 'Obama will invest $1 billion over five years in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that implement proven methods of helping low-income Americans succeed in the workforce.' (Obama For America, 'The Blueprint For Change,', Accessed 1/14/08, p. 42)
Obama Will Provide $50 Million To Jump-Start The Creation Of An IAEA-Controlled Nuclear Fuel Bank. Obama: 'We must also stop the spread of nuclear weapons technology and ensure that countries cannot build -- or come to the brink of building -- a weapons program under the auspices of developing peaceful nuclear power. That is why my administration will immediately provide $50 million to jump-start the creation of an International Atomic Energy Agency-controlled nuclear fuel bank and work to update the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.' (Sen. Barack Obama, 'Renewing American Leadership,' Foreign Affairs, 7-8/07)
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