Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pearls before breakfast 2
on: April 16, 2007, 07:58:03 PM
Bell decided to begin with "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won't be cheating with some half-assed version."
Bell didn't say it, but Bach's "Chaconne" is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. It's exhaustingly long -- 14 minutes -- and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.
If Bell's encomium to "Chaconne" seems overly effusive, consider this from the 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann: "On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."
So, that's the piece Bell started with.
He'd clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.
Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.
A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.
Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
No, Mr. Slatkin, there was never a crowd, not even for a second.
It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.
Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler's movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.
Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.
IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?
It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
We'll go with Kant, because he's obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.
"At the beginning," Bell says, "I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn't really watching what was happening around me . . ."
Playing the violin looks all-consuming, mentally and physically, but Bell says that for him the mechanics of it are partly second nature, cemented by practice and muscle memory: It's like a juggler, he says, who can keep those balls in play while interacting with a crowd. What he's mostly thinking about as he plays, Bell says, is capturing emotion as a narrative: "When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you're telling a story."
With "Chaconne," the opening is filled with a building sense of awe. That kept him busy for a while. Eventually, though, he began to steal a sidelong glance.
"It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . ."
The word doesn't come easily.
". . . ignoring me."
Bell is laughing. It's at himself.
"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.
Before he began, Bell hadn't known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.
"It wasn't exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies," he says. "I was stressing a little."
Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?
"When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."
He was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened -- or, more precisely, what didn't happen -- on January 12.
MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.
"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"
Leithauser's point is that we shouldn't be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.
Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one's ability to appreciate beauty is related to one's ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America's most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.
"Optimal," Guyer said, "doesn't mean heading to work, focusing on your report to the boss, maybe your shoes don't fit right."
So, if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby?
"He would have inferred about them," Guyer said, "absolutely nothing."
And that's that.
Except it isn't. To really understand what happened, you have to rewind that video and play it back from the beginning, from the moment Bell's bow first touched the strings.
White guy, khakis, leather jacket, briefcase. Early 30s. John David Mortensen is on the final leg of his daily bus-to-Metro commute from Reston. He's heading up the escalator. It's a long ride -- 1 minute and 15 seconds if you don't walk. So, like most everyone who passes Bell this day, Mortensen gets a good earful of music before he has his first look at the musician. Like most of them, he notes that it sounds pretty good. But like very few of them, when he gets to the top, he doesn't race past as though Bell were some nuisance to be avoided. Mortensen is that first person to stop, that guy at the six-minute mark.
It's not that he has nothing else to do. He's a project manager for an international program at the Department of Energy; on this day, Mortensen has to participate in a monthly budget exercise, not the most exciting part of his job: "You review the past month's expenditures," he says, "forecast spending for the next month, if you have X dollars, where will it go, that sort of thing."
On the video, you can see Mortensen get off the escalator and look around. He locates the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his cellphone -- he's three minutes early for work -- then settles against a wall to listen.
Mortensen doesn't know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there's something about what he's hearing that he really likes.
As it happens, he's arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of "Chaconne." ("It's the point," Bell says, "where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There's a religious, exalted feeling to it.") The violinist's bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big.
Mortensen doesn't know about major or minor keys: "Whatever it was," he says, "it made me feel at peace."
So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there's another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money.
THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: "The awkward times," he calls them. It's what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn't noticed him playing don't notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord -- the embarrassed musician's equivalent of, "Er, okay, moving right along . . ." -- and begins the next piece.
After "Chaconne," it is Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," which surprised some music critics when it debuted in 1825: Schubert seldom showed religious feeling in his compositions, yet "Ave Maria" is a breathtaking work of adoration of the Virgin Mary. What was with the sudden piety? Schubert dryly answered: "I think this is due to the fact that I never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers of that kind unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion." This musical prayer became among the most familiar and enduring religious pieces in history.
A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.
"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."
Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.
You can see Evan clearly on the video. He's the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.
"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."
So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan's and Bell's, cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.
"Evan is very smart!"
The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother's heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.
There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.
IF THERE WAS ONE PERSON ON THAT DAY WHO WAS TOO BUSY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE VIOLINIST, it was George Tindley. Tindley wasn't hurrying to get to work. He was at work.
The glass doors through which most people exit the L'Enfant station lead into an indoor shopping mall, from which there are exits to the street and elevators to office buildings. The first store in the mall is an Au Bon Pain, the croissant and coffee shop where Tindley, in his 40s, works in a white uniform busing the tables, restocking the salt and pepper packets, taking out the garbage. Tindley labors under the watchful eye of his bosses, and he's supposed to be hopping, and he was.
But every minute or so, as though drawn by something not entirely within his control, Tindley would walk to the very edge of the Au Bon Pain property, keeping his toes inside the line, still on the job. Then he'd lean forward, as far out into the hallway as he could, watching the fiddler on the other side of the glass doors. The foot traffic was steady, so the doors were usually open. The sound came through pretty well.
"You could tell in one second that this guy was good, that he was clearly a professional," Tindley says. He plays the guitar, loves the sound of strings, and has no respect for a certain kind of musician.
"Most people, they play music; they don't feel it," Tindley says. "Well, that man was feeling it. That man was moving. Moving into the sound."
A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view of Bell than Tindley did, if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.
J.T. Tillman was in that line. A computer specialist for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he remembers every single number he played that day -- 10 of them, $2 apiece, for a total of $20. He doesn't recall what the violinist was playing, though. He says it sounded like generic classical music, the kind the ship's band was playing in "Titanic," before the iceberg.
"I didn't think nothing of it," Tillman says, "just a guy trying to make a couple of bucks." Tillman would have given him one or two, he said, but he spent all his cash on lotto.
When he is told that he stiffed one of the best musicians in the world, he laughs.
"Is he ever going to play around here again?"
"Yeah, but you're going to have to pay a lot to hear him."
Tillman didn't win the lottery, either.
BELL ENDS "AVE MARIA" TO ANOTHER THUNDEROUS SILENCE, plays Manuel Ponce's sentimental "Estrellita," then a piece by Jules Massenet, and then begins a Bach gavotte, a joyful, frolicsome, lyrical dance. It's got an Old World delicacy to it; you can imagine it entertaining bewigged dancers at a Versailles ball, or -- in a lute, fiddle and fife version -- the boot-kicking peasants of a Pieter Bruegel painting.
Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he's not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: "I'm surprised at the number of people who don't pay attention at all, as if I'm invisible. Because, you know what? I'm makin' a lot of noise!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pearls before breakfast
on: April 16, 2007, 07:56:43 PM
There's clips on the webpage where this article appears, but don't know how long they will be therehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.
By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007; Page W10
HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
Monday, April 9, 2007 1 p.m. ET
Post Magazine: Too Busy to Stop and Hear the Music
Can one of the nation's greatest musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Gene Weingarten set out to discover if violinist Josh Bell -- and his Stradivarius -- could stop busy commuters in their tracks.
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Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?
The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.
The acoustics proved surprisingly kind. Though the arcade is of utilitarian design, a buffer between the Metro escalator and the outdoors, it somehow caught the sound and bounced it back round and resonant. The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician's masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang -- ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.
So, what do you think happened?
HANG ON, WE'LL GET YOU SOME EXPERT HELP.
Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world's great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?
"Let's assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don't think that if he's really good, he's going to go unnoticed. He'd get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."
So, a crowd would gather?
And how much will he make?
Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.
"How'd I do?"
We'll tell you in a minute.
"Well, who was the musician?"
A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.
Bell was first pitched this idea shortly before Christmas, over coffee at a sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. A New Yorker, he was in town to perform at the Library of Congress and to visit the library's vaults to examine an unusual treasure: an 18th-century violin that once belonged to the great Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. The curators invited Bell to play it; good sound, still.
"Here's what I'm thinking," Bell confided, as he sipped his coffee. "I'm thinking that I could do a tour where I'd play Kreisler's music . . ."
". . . on Kreisler's violin."
It was a snazzy, sequined idea -- part inspiration and part gimmick -- and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship even as his concert career has become more and more august. He's soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad, but he's also appeared on "Sesame Street," done late-night talk TV and performed in feature films. That was Bell playing the soundtrack on the 1998 movie "The Red Violin." (He body-doubled, too, playing to a naked Greta Scacchi.) As composer John Corigliano accepted the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, he credited Bell, who, he said, "plays like a god."
When Bell was asked if he'd be willing to don street clothes and perform at rush hour, he said:
"Uh, a stunt?"
Well, yes. A stunt. Would he think it . . . unseemly?
Bell drained his cup.
"Sounds like fun," he said.
Bell's a heartthrob. Tall and handsome, he's got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott. When he performs, he is usually the only man under the lights who is not in white tie and tails -- he walks out to a standing O, looking like Zorro, in black pants and an untucked black dress shirt, shirttail dangling. That cute Beatles-style mop top is also a strategic asset: Because his technique is full of body -- athletic and passionate -- he's almost dancing with the instrument, and his hair flies.
He's single and straight, a fact not lost on some of his fans. In Boston, as he performed Max Bruch's dour Violin Concerto in G Minor, the very few young women in the audience nearly disappeared in the deep sea of silver heads. But seemingly every single one of them -- a distillate of the young and pretty -- coalesced at the stage door after the performance, seeking an autograph. It's like that always, with Bell.
Bell's been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live." He's learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified "pshaw."
For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: "I'm not comfortable if you call this genius." "Genius" is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.
It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.
It would be breaking no rules, however, to note that the term in question, particularly as applied in the field of music, refers to a congenital brilliance -- an elite, innate, preternatural ability that manifests itself early, and often in dramatic fashion.
One biographically intriguing fact about Bell is that he got his first music lessons when he was a 4-year-old in Bloomington, Ind. His parents, both psychologists, decided formal training might be a good idea after they saw that their son had strung rubber bands across his dresser drawers and was replicating classical tunes by ear, moving drawers in and out to vary the pitch.
TO GET TO THE METRO FROM HIS HOTEL, a distance of three blocks, Bell took a taxi. He's neither lame nor lazy: He did it for his violin.
Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master's "golden period," toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.
"Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete," Bell said, "but he, he just . . . knew."
Bell doesn't mention Stradivari by name. Just "he." When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. "He made this to perfect thickness at all parts," Bell says, pivoting it. "If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound." No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.
The front of Bell's violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood.
"This has never been refinished," Bell said. "That's his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula." Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.
Like the instrument in "The Red Violin," this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman's hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief -- a minor New York violinist -- made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument.
Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.
All of which is a long explanation for why, in the early morning chill of a day in January, Josh Bell took a three-block cab ride to the Orange Line, and rode one stop to L'Enfant.
AS METRO STATIONS GO, L'ENFANT PLAZA IS MORE PLEBEIAN THAN MOST. Even before you arrive, it gets no respect. Metro conductors never seem to get it right: "Leh-fahn." "Layfont." "El'phant."
At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it's that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers' bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be "hot." They sell briskly. There's also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you've won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.
On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break -- a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world's most famous musicians -- but only if they were of a mind to take note.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 16, 2007, 03:43:20 PM
There's going to be a lot of wild and contradictory rumors being bandied about as facts-- and powerful biases within the MSM against guns as they so often do may look to install falsehoods as facts in the public mind.
Keep your eyes open and hold on to all relevant info before the "inconvenient" parts get sent down the Orwellian memory hole.
Here's Stratfor from a few minutes ago:
U.S.: A Well-Planned Shooting Spree
At least 32 people were killed April 16 when an individual or individuals went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg, Va. This was obviously an attack for which the killer prepared, and the high killed-to-wounded ratio suggests the killer was skilled and thorough.
At least 32 people were killed April 16 when an individual or individuals went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg, Va. The shooter reportedly used two 9 mm semiautomatic pistols to kill his victims, many of whom were lined up and shot.
The first shooting occurred around 7:15 a.m. local time on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory, where one victim was killed. The second shooting occurred approximately two hours later in Norris Hall, an engineering building. The gunman reportedly entered the building, chained the doors shut behind him and moved from classroom to classroom executing students.
This was obviously an attack for which the killer prepared. The high killed-to-wounded ratio suggests the killer was skilled and thorough. Police were still investigating the first shooting at the dorm when the other shootings occurred. It is possible the killing in the dormitory was meant as a diversion to occupy police while the gunman moved on to his primary target, Norris Hall.
Within the last two weeks, there were two separate bomb threats against engineering department buildings at the university. These could have been a form of preoperational surveillance to gauge the response times and procedures of university police.
Unconfirmed reports coming from Blacksburg have identified the suspect as an Asian individual in his mid-20s. In all probability, the delay in identifying the culprit or culprits is because the intelligence community is running foreign and criminal intelligence traces on the suspect(s). Police believe the shooting spree might have been the result of an off-campus incident. They are not certain whether the suspect was a student, nor have they ruled out the possibility that he had accomplices. Arrests reportedly were made this morning.
The largest killing spree on a U.S. campus until this incident was in 1966, when Charles Whitman killed 15 people in the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1999, two high school students in Columbine, Colo., killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: It's getting harder and harder to tell the left from the jihadists....
on: April 16, 2007, 03:36:21 PM
I'd like to add here that it wasn't just the fact of 3,000 people being killed. It was also the particular targets which were chosen. In addition to the WTC (significant not only in its own right but also because it was the second attempt at this particular target, which indicates a unusual degree of sustained focus) my understanding is that the plane that hit the Pentagon did so because the killer pilot couldn't steer well enough to hit the White House and the Pentagon was Plan B.
And what was the target for Flight 93? The Capitol Building? The nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: April 16, 2007, 10:32:51 AM
The Wolfowitz Files
The anatomy of a World Bank smear.
Monday, April 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.
Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.
The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.
The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:
"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)
That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.
Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."
Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.
And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.
Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.
Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.
In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, he averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."
And when anonymous World Bank staffers began to circulate emails making nasty allegations about Ms. Shaha's job transfer and pay in early 2006, Mr. Melkert dismissed them in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz on February 28, 2006, because they "did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee." Yet amid the recent media smears, Mr. Melkert has minimized his own crucial role.
All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza's pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn't true, it's clear that his enemies--especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own--are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.
Equally cynical has been the press corps, which slurred Mr. Wolfowitz with selective reporting and now says, in straight-faced solemnity, that the president must leave the bank because his "credibility" has been damaged. Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.
The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness. We're glad the Bush Administration isn't falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch. Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 16, 2007, 08:32:43 AM
A discouraging piece from today's NY Times-- an often suspect source:
Attacks Surge as Iraq Militants Overshadow City
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
Published: April 16, 2007
BAQUBA, Iraq — They maneuver in squads, like the American infantrymen they try to kill. One squad fires furiously so another can attack from a better position. They operate in bad weather, knowing American helicopters and surveillance drones are grounded. Some carry G.P.S. receivers so mortar teams can calculate the coordinates of American armored vehicles. They kidnap and massacre police officers.
The New York Times
The Sunni guerrillas and extremists who now overshadow this city demonstrate a sophistication and lethality born of years of confronting American military tactics. While the “surge” plays out in Baghdad just 35 miles to the south, Baquba has emerged as a magnet for insurgents from around the country and, perhaps, the next major headache for the American military.
Some insurgents have moved into Baquba to escape the escalation in Baghdad. But the city has been attracting insurgents for years, particularly after American officials in Baghdad proclaimed it and surrounding Diyala Province relatively pacified over a year ago and drew down their troop presence.
When 70 insurgents broke out of a Mosul jail in March, for example, escapees from Chad, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan were apprehended here, the Iraqi police said. And Sunni fighters continue to heed calls by insurgent leaders to converge here.
It is impossible to say how many insurgents are in Baquba now. Using a broad definition that comprises not just those who actively fight, but also those who place bombs and others paid by insurgents, some military officials put the number around 2,000. It is a nasty stew that includes former members of the Saddam Hussein army and paramilitary forces, the Fedayeen; angry and impoverished Sunni men; criminal gangs; Wahhabi Islamists; and foreigners.
While most insurgents here are not as hardened, that is similar to the numbers in Falluja in 2004, before a bloody Marine offensive to retake the city, said Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, deputy head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, who fought in Falluja.
As the insurgent ranks have swelled, attacks on American troops have soared. The 5,000-member brigade that patrols Diyala Province has had 44 soldiers killed in five months, more than twice the number who died in the preceding year.
On the ground in Baquba, it is not hard to see why. Despite recent seizures of stockpiles, the insurgents have a ready supply of artillery shells and material to make bombs, the biggest killer of American troops here. Some bombs destroy American vehicles. Some are used to booby-trap houses to crash down on Americans. Some are used in larger battle plans: Before overrunning an Iraqi Army outpost south of Baquba, guerrillas laid bombs on the road that Iraqi and American forces would later use to try to rescue the outpost. The minefield blocked the reinforcements, and the Iraqi soldiers at the outpost fled.
The guerrillas seem increasingly well organized and trained. An insurgent force trying to overrun an American outpost in southern Baquba was repelled only after American soldiers fired more than 2,000 Coke-bottle-size rounds from Bradley fighting vehicles and 13,000 rounds from M-240 machine guns.
“They were firing from every direction, trying to get us to concentrate on one spot while the other guys were maneuvering,” said Cpl. Bill McGrath, who said the M-240 barrels glowed cherry red and had to be swapped out a half-dozen times. “These were well-trained military types, not like the guys who shoot tanks with AK-47s. A lot of these guys we never saw. We’d just see muzzle flashes.”
The tactics reflect the skill and resolve of the insurgency here, soldiers say. “To say the guys we are fighting are any less smarter than me, that would be crazy,” said Lt. Col. Morris Goins, commander of the 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion.
The Sunni groups seem to be cooperating like mob families, with ever-shifting alliances. Colonel Goins likens it to the HBO series “The Sopranos.” “We’ll work together today, but when they are no longer of any value,” he said, they part company.
They are capable of disciplined and sustained operations. In early March, a guerrilla force chased a four-man American sniper team through palm groves around the Diyala River for more than two hours, after cutting off the Americans’ escape routes. The snipers were cornered in a sharp bend of the river, officers said, before helicopters finally flew in to rescue them.
Some are purely fanatical. American forces on the main road in western Baquba reported their astonishment during a night in which, over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, they gunned down four teams of guerrillas trying one after the other to plant a bomb in the same spot.
There are many reasons for the mayhem. Diyala and Baquba had significant Shiite and Sunni populations. Shiite-dominated security forces in the city inflamed tensions by persecuting Sunnis, but remain ill prepared to fight the insurgents without support of American forces. Basic government services like food and fuel deliveries have collapsed.
Sunni extremists operate with an extraordinary ruthlessness that terrorizes residents into submission. And Baquba has always had a heavy population of former Baathists and Fedayeen, providing a sympathetic backdrop for the insurgency. Some fighters still wear black Fedayeen uniforms, American officers say.
“Our city has become ruins, even its people,” said one Baquba resident, Mohammed al-Zaidi, 34. “We have no hope to live for.”
Colonel Jackson said he believed that the largest portion of insurgents were disgruntled men or others who just needed money. The rest are homegrown Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis, foreigners and their rivals, Shiite militiamen. Falluja, he said, had a significantly higher proportion of hardened and skilled fighters.
However, he added, “the core of the insurgents in Baquba are as well trained as they were in Falluja.”
Fighters from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia largely loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, have also flooded north from Baghdad and now control villages west of Baquba and north of Sadr City. The police chief of Khalis, a city controlled by the Mahdi Army, was arrested by American forces in March for sectarian wrongdoing.
Thousands of Shiites have been killed or displaced in Baquba. But the roots of the gruesome toll that Sunni killers have taken here is partly a consequence of Shiite aggression in Baghdad, where Shiite death squads drove Sunnis out. Many angry Sunnis sought refuge in Baquba, and helped fuel the insurgency.
The human disaster that unfolded in Baquba was a mirror image of much of Baghdad — Sunni death squads wiping out Shiite families. The Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad responded by sending a new Iraqi Army commander who arrested Sunnis with no evidence, while the recently fired provincial police chief stocked his ranks with Shiite Mahdi militiamen.
American soldiers cited repeated instances of Iraqi troops or police officers terrorizing Sunnis in Diyala. The Iraqi forces’ conduct induced some Sunnis to turn to the insurgency for protection, American officers said. Iraqi lawmakers in Baghdad continue to block provincial elections that would give Sunni Arabs — a majority in Diyala, but one that largely boycotted the last provincial elections — a real stake in government.
As the insurgency has swelled in Baquba, many soldiers here described an American force spread astonishingly thin. The 5,000-member Third Brigade Combat Team of the First Cavalry Division is based in Baquba. But its forces have responsibility over a wide region in Diyala, which is about the size of Maryland, and parts of neighboring Salahuddin Province.
American commanders began a strategy here similar to the new security plan in Baghdad, pushing soldiers into small forward bases deep in insurgent territory.
The troops say that before reinforcements arrived it had essentially been left up to a few dozen foot soldiers and a few tanks from Company B of the 1-12 Battalion to patrol from eastern Baquba to Zaganiya — an insurgent-dominated region of hundreds of thousands of people. “The takeaway was that we had freakin’ next to nothing” for an area with many terrorists, said Capt. Pete Chapman, the company commander.
With areas like Zaganiya receiving little attention, insurgent ranks grew unchecked. Eight of the 300 soldiers in the Fifth Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment have been killed near Zaganiya since they arrived in March to secure the village. The squadron has been sweeping the area northeast of Baquba, while the Fifth Battalion of the 20th Infantry Regiment rushed north from Taji in March to reinforce Baquba.
(Page 3 of 3)
A number of officers said additional battalions were still needed for new patrol bases and operations. None would speak for the record. The senior American commander in Diyala, Col. David Sutherland, said he believed there were enough troops in Baquba now.
The Iraqi Insurgency At one newly built outpost in Baquba, nicknamed Disneyland, soldiers staff lookouts and sniper posts and sleep on cots. They say they control little outside the tall concrete barriers. “You see anybody out there with binoculars, you light them up!” Sgt. Gary Rojas barked on a radio to American snipers one recent afternoon, after an Iraqi insurgent bullet struck the second floor.
Later, Iraqi and American troops walked out of Disneyland, sprinted alongside a wall on the deserted street and then broke into a house 200 yards away. They found the sniper’s nest on the second floor, along with a shell casing. A perfect spot for a sniper, Sergeant Rojas said. The unit climbed into a Bradley to go search another nearby house. First Lt. Karim Branford ordered a move back to the outpost, fearing a trap, before they had gone two blocks from it. “I’m not going to take guys into a baited ambush,” he said.
The Americans said the Iraqis performed well. But the Iraqi soldiers said that most Iraqis assigned to the outpost had fled, kicking back some of their pay to commanders to avoid punishment. Colonel Sutherland said the Iraqi troops were accounted for.
The Iraqi soldiers fretted that the insurgents had better equipment compared with their two clips and rickety Kalashnikov rifles. Like Baquba’s residents, they are intimidated. An Iraqi, Sgt. Raad Rashid, said his countrymen would flee if Americans abandoned the outpost. “Twenty minutes later we’d be gone,” he said. “They would surround this place and kill us.”
The insurgency’s remarkable ability to terrorize residents, killing those who help Americans while coercing others, is undeniably one of its biggest weapons. It appears to be well financed, too.
“Some guys will give you $300 to put this in a hole in the ground and attach a wire,” said John M. Jones, head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, explaining how insurgents recruit bomb emplacers. “Where are the other incentives?”
With the combination of threats and money, Mr. Jones said, the insurgents’ offers are hard for residents to refuse. “You might not agree with the philosophy of what he’s saying, but he’s got the big guns, and they live in the same neighborhood. It’s you, your wife and kids. What can you do?”
Such intimidation makes progress impossible. “We are not able to make even baby steps,” he said. “I hope we’re laying the framework for future baby steps. Right now, I’d say we are pretty much frustrated.”
An Iraqi reporter for The New York Times contributed to this report. (Marc: Does this mean the NY Times never left the Green Zone?)
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Condiciones de Alerta
on: April 15, 2007, 07:00:57 PM
Estados de alerta, El código de colores de Jeff Cooper
Por Tom Givens
La mayoría de la gente discurre por la vida distraídamente desatenta del mundo que hay a su alrededor. Ellos están preocupados pensando en el trabajo, en problemas personales, o como tener una cita con una chica u otras trivialidades, sin reparar en el ambiente que los rodea. Al no prestar atención a lo que los rodea, se colocan en un peligro innecesario.
Vaya y siéntese una tarde en la sala de espera de la guardia del hospital de su ciudad, tómelo como una experiencia educativa. Observe a los infortunados que llegan por atención y tendrá una ilustración excelente de este punto. Cerca del 20% de los clientes estarán realmente enfermos, descartemos a estos. El 80% restante están allí porque no prestaron atención a lo que los rodea, será gente que cayo por una escalera, porque se llevo por delante una columna, o se lastimaron con alguna maquina, o se cruzaron con algún vehículo ...O tal vez permitió que un ratero se le acercara sin ser notado y lo golpeara con un ladrillo en la cabeza.
Usted puede ser estúpido, distraído o descuidado en su trabajo todos los días sin que nada pase, hasta que un día las probabilidades estén en su contra y termine herido. Lo mismo pasa en la calle: Usted puede ser estúpido, distraído o descuidado sin que nada pase, hasta que un día su camino se cruce con el de un delincuente. La gran mayoría de los delincuentes son oportunistas, los que solo golpean cuando se les presenta una oportunidad viable. No le presente la oportunidad y evitara el riesgo!
Aprendiendo a observar el ambiente circundante, a evaluarlo y a reaccionar apropiadamente a lo que usted ve, puede obtener una gran porción de control sobre su destino.
Esto requiere que aprenda a subir y bajar en una escala de atención, como haciendo los cambios en un auto, así puede equiparar su nivel de atención/preparación con los que requiera la situación en ese momento. En un auto, uno hace los cambios basado en el trafico o en la velocidad deseada. En la calle, uno debe aprender a “hacer cambios” mentalmente, para equiparar el nivel de amenaza enfrentado. Existe una amplia escala de atención que va desde un estado inconsciente y no preparado, hasta la condición de estar listo para ejercer una violencia mortal instantáneamente, en caso de ser necesario. Uno no puede vivir totalmente de un lado o del otro del espectro.
Si trata de vivir en el fondo de la escala, eventualmente será víctima de un accidente o de un delincuente. La pregunta no es si sucederá algún día, sino “cuando” sucederá. Por otro lado, no podemos ir por la vida con la mano apoyada en la pistola que tenemos en la funda, listos para disparar si algo se mueve! Lo que debemos aprender a hacer es a ascender y descender en esta escala, según lo dicten las circunstancias a nuestro alrededor. Este es un sistema muy fácil de aprender, que nos ayudara a tener el “estado mental” apropiado para tratar con cualquier conflicto que nos toque enfrentar.
Si usted tuviera que enfrentar a un delincuente que amenaza su vida, siendo una persona normal, se enfrentara con tres enormes dificultades. Ellas son:
1- Reconocer la presencia del delincuente a tiempo
2- Darse cuenta, internalizar y aceptar que ESE HOMBRE, AHÍ MISMO, si usted no lo detiene, va a matarlo por razones que usted no comprende.
3- Superar la resistencia a ejercer violencia mortal contra otro ser humano.
Analicemos cada una. Antes que nada debe verlo y darse cuenta que es una amenaza para usted, los delincuentes son de carne y hueso y no seres invisibles. Típicamente, ellos atacaran acercándose sin ser vistos a alguien metido en la niebla mental diaria en la que se mueven estas personas. Aprenda a disipar esa niebla y vera antes los signos de alarma, y así podrá estar preparado.
Segundo, es muy difícil para una persona normal, racional, sociable y civilizada aceptar el hecho que vive junto a gente que NO ES ni normal, ni racional, ni sociable o civilizada.
Hay gente ahí afuera a la que no le importan sus esperanzas o planes para el futuro, no les importa su familia, ni les importa todo el dolor y el sufrimiento que infligen, simplemente no les importa. Pueden matarlo por el contenido de su billetera, así pueden comprar su ración diaria de drogas. Pueden violarla porque sienten que no tienen ningún poder, excepto mientras están degradando y abusando de alguien más. Pueden matarlo simplemente para ascender un rango en su banda callejera. Sabe que? No importa “por que?” La reacción típica de la víctima es “Pero, por que alguien querrá lastimarme?” A quien le importa “por que?”
Tercero, será difícil para usted poner sus miras en el centro del pecho de un ser humano y apretar el gatillo, sabiendo que transformará a alguien vivo, que respira, en una masa de carne muerta. No deje que nadie le diga que será algo fácil. Como sociedad, no queremos que sea algo fácil, verdad? Es por eso que ciudadanos honestos y armados no le disparan a otras personas por discusiones o accidentes de transito. De hecho, los disparos hechos por ciudadanos armados casi siempre son considerados justificados por las autoridades, mientras que casi un tercio de los disparos hechos por la policía son caratulados cuestionables o injustificados. Los ciudadanos son reacios a disparar, aun cuando es necesario. Debe superar este obstáculo si su vida esta en peligro. Tendrá que darse cuenta que hay momentos en que la fuerza mortal no solo es perdonable, o justificable, sino que es lo que se necesita.
Por suerte, existe un sistema para ayudarlo a superar estos tres problemas. Aprendiendo a usar este sistema, practicándolo y haciéndolo parte de su rutina diaria, estará seguro de ver un ataque en su inicio y estará en condición tanto física como mental para defenderse. Este sistema, llamado “El código de colores” fue mostrado por primera vez por Jeff Cooper, quien lo enseñaba en Gunsite.
Tuve la buena suerte que Jeff me enseñara esto al comenzar mi carrera, y puedo decir sin reservas que este sistema salvo mi vida en varias ocasiones. No el tipo de arma que tenia, no la marca de la munición, sino este sistema mental de alerta.
Creo tan fuertemente que este sistema es una de las armas más importante para tener en el arsenal, que siento que es mi deber compartirlo con usted.
Como mencioné antes, hay que aprender a “hacer cambios” hacia arriba y hacia abajo en nuestra escala de alerta. La escala consiste en cuatro estados mentales, a los cuales Jeff los nombro con colores. Los colores simplemente nos permiten conceptualizar y discutir estos estados mentales. Debe aprender a subir y bajar en esta escala según las circunstancias a su alrededor cambien, como invariablemente lo harán a medida que pase el día.
CONDICION BLANCA: blanco es el nivel más bajo en nuestra escala. En condición blanca uno esta desatento, distraído. Puede ser caracterizado como “soñar despierto” o “preocupado”. La gente en condición blanca suele ir caminando con sus cabezas bajas, mirando a sus pies, no se darán cuenta del peligro hasta que literalmente los tenga agarrados del cuello.
Frecuentemente se ven ejemplos de esto: en el tráfico, cuando alguien se queda parado mientras los demás vehículos ya arrancaron, estos conductores están en condición blanca. Cuando un automovilista se lleva por delante a una moto, cuales son las primeras palabras que dice? No lo vi! Y no están mintiendo, están tan desatentos que no notaron una moto de 200Kg y a su conductor de 90Kg ahí mismo, delante de ellos.
Estas mismas personas son las que serán víctimas del crimen violento, porque el delincuente ataca al desatento, al complaciente, al perezoso, al preocupado. ¿Por que? Porque el delincuente quiere caerte encima, tomar lo que quiere, y desaparecer, sin ser herido o atrapado. ¿Cuál será la persona que estará mas a su merced? Alguien en condición blanca. Estoy seguro que habrá visto en las películas cuando un policía le lee los derechos a alguien que arrestan. Las víctimas podrían tener una tarjeta similar. Si todavía están vivos para cuando llega la policía, pueden sacar la tarjeta y leer:
¡Dios mío, paso tan rápido!
¡Apareció de repente al lado mío!
¡Ni siquiera lo vi!
Entonces, ¿cuando es aceptable estar en condición blanca? Solo cuando esté en casa, con las puertas cerradas, la alarma prendida y con el perro echado a sus pies. Solo entonces podrá “apagar” su mente si lo desea, porque existen suficientes capas de protección y advertencia para permitirle despertar, tomar su equipo y tener su mente “encendida”.
Si deja su casa, deja la condición blanca allí también. En el instante que deja su casa, sube un nivel, a Condición Amarilla.
CONDICION AMARILLA: Este es un estado general de relajada atención, sin ningún punto de atención especifico. No está mirando a nada ni a nadie en particular, simplemente lleva su cabeza erguida y los ojos abiertos. Está atento a lo que pasa a su alrededor, usted es difícil de sorprender, y por eso, difícil de lastimar. No espera ser atacado hoy, simplemente reconoce la posibilidad.
Cualquier cosa en su inmediata cercanía que le resulte inusual, fuera de lugar, o fuera de contexto, debe ser vista como potencialmente peligrosa, hasta que tenga la oportunidad de comprobar que no es así. Alguien que se ve fuera de lugar o alguien haciendo algo que no tiene un propósito obvio, debe ser observado con mucho cuidado. Cuando tu “radar” capta algo raro, inmediatamente subis otro nivel en la escala, a Condición Naranja.
CONDICION NARANJA: Este es un elevado nivel de alerta, con un punto de atención especifico. La diferencia entre Amarillo y Naranja es este especifico punto de atención, que será la persona que llame su atención por lo que este haciendo. Podría ser que este usando una gruesa campera en diciembre, que este parado al lado de una columna en el estacionamiento de un shopping, en vez de subirse a un auto e irse. Podría ser que lo haya encontrado ya en tres de los negocios que visitó. Sus acciones hicieron que lo notara como una posible amenaza.
¿Cómo determinar si alguien es una amenaza? Hay que tomar en cuenta todos los signos disponibles que tengamos: su vestimenta, comportamiento, apariencia y/o acciones, todas son pistas para determinar si es o no una amenaza. Lo más importante es “leer” su lenguaje corporal. Cerca del 80% de la comunicación humana es a través del lenguaje corporal. Los criminales muestran pequeños indicadores “pre-agresión”, los que son fáciles de reconocer una vez que se aprende a buscarlos.
Cuando usted sube a Naranja, su foco de atención estará en este individuo que llamo su atención, pero no dejará de tener una visión general del lugar. No queremos que sus amigos nos sorprendan.
Todo empieza cuando mira al tipo en cuestión y evalúa sus intenciones, buscando toda la información que pueda obtener, en nueve de cada diez casos, después de unos pocos segundos de observación notara que sus razones son inofensivas, haciendo que vuelva a bajar a Amarillo... pero, y el décimo? Él es un depredador, que podría caerle encima si estuviera desatento. Ahora que esta al tanto de su presencia, usted corre mucho menos riesgo.
Mientras evalúa al tipo y ve las cosas que lo convencen de sus malas intenciones, empiece a jugar al “que pasaría si...” en su mente, para comenzar a formular un plan de acción.
Así es como nos mantendremos adelante en la “curva de poder”. Si él actúa de repente, tendremos listo al menos un rudimentario plan para enfrentarlo y así responder rápidamente. Diciéndose a usted mismo: “Este tipo parece como que va a asaltarme, que voy a hacer al respecto?” empieza con la vital preparación mental para ganar el “altercado”
Aun con un plan simple preparado, su reacción física será segura e inmediata si es que el “malo” decide atacar de todos modos. Si después de evaluarlo, decide que SI es una amenaza, entonces escala hasta el nivel mas alto de alerta, Condición Roja
CONDICION ROJA: Cuándo esta en rojo, ¡esta listo para pelear! De hecho puede o no estar peleando, pero esta PREPARADO MENTALMENTE para hacerlo. En muchas, sino la mayoría de las veces cuando esta totalmente en “Rojo” no estará haciendo nada físicamente hablando. Todo el proceso de escalar de Amarillo a Naranja y después a Rojo y de ahí bajar otra vez en la escala según la situación es resuelta, ocurre sin ninguna actividad física de su parte. La clave es que esta mentalmente preparado para un conflicto y puede actuar físicamente si la situación lo requiere.
Cuando ya cree que una amenaza es real y esta completamente “rojo”, lo que estará esperando es su “Gatillo Mental” que es una acción especifica, predeterminada de parte de él que resultará en una reacción inmediata, positiva, agresiva, defensiva, de parte suya. Así es como se logra la velocidad necesaria para ganar. Teniendo una decisión pre-establecida en su mente puede moverse lo suficientemente rápido como para lidiar con el problema. Sin esa preestablecida decisión, ese tiempo precioso que podría haber usado para actuar, será malgastado tratando de decidir que hacer cuando el malo te ataque.
Este “Gatillo Mental” será diferente, dependiendo de la situación. Podría ser, “Si gira ese arma en mi dirección, le tiro” o también “Ya le dije que se detuviera, si da un paso mas con ese (cuchillo/destornillador/martillo) en su mano, le tiro. Cualquiera sea el gatillo seleccionado, es un botón que una vez presionado, resulta en una acción inmediata de su parte.
Su principal enemigo es el tiempo de reacción. Si no esta atento a lo que lo rodea y no ve a ese tipo sospechoso, podría ser dominado por él, antes que puedas formular una defensa efectiva. Por otro lado, si esta pensando: “Quizá tenga que lastimar a este tipo si no se calma” probablemente ya haya ganado esa pelea, porque entiende mejor que él lo que esta pasando. La mejor pelea termina antes que el perdedor se de cuenta que fue lo que paso. Si es sorprendido en Condición Blanca, va a necesitar de 5 a 6 segundos para darse cuenta que esta pasando, tomar una decisión y responder. Simplemente no dispone de ese tiempo.
Hay un par de trucos que puede usar al principio de su entrenamiento que lo ayudaran con esto. ¿Se acuerda que uno de los tres problemas que mencione mas arriba seria el “hacerlo?” ¿Usar fuerza mortal cuando se la requiere? Para ayudar con esto, cada mañana cuando se calce su arma en la cintura, recuérdese a usted mismo: quizá tenga que usar mi ama hoy. Esto fija en su subconsciente (que maneja el 90% de su vida) que existe una razón por la que usamos nuestras armas: ¡podemos necesitarlas para salvar nuestras vidas!
Cuando se dio cuenta que alguien puede ser una amenaza y eso hizo que escalara hasta la Condición Naranja, piense: “quizá hoy tenga que dispararle a él!” Créame, si puede internalizar que alguien en particular es una amenaza para su vida, pero que tiene los medios para detenerlo si fuera necesario, es más fácil lidiar mentalmente con la situación.
Veamos un ejemplo para ilustrar estos principios. Supongamos que esta trabajando en una joyería, un negocio pequeño en los suburbios que da a la calle. En este momento es la hora del almuerzo y por eso esta solo, no hay clientes tampoco. ¿Cuál es el estado mental en el que esta? Amarillo, porque esta en la calle, en el mundo real y por eso esta con la cabeza en alto y ocasionalmente echa una mirada a través de la vidriera hacia la calle.
Como no hay nadie mas en el negocio, cualquier problema que se presente necesariamente llegará desde ahí. Usted querrá enterarse del problema mientras este afuera, no cuando ya este frente suyo, mostrador de por medio.
En uno de sus vistazos a través del vidrio, ve a dos hombres de veinte y pico estacionando un auto viejo frente a su negocio, se bajan y nota que usan joggings idénticos, entran al negocio y se separan. Inmediatamente ya esta en condición Naranja. Ellos no hicieron nada ilegal, nada agresivo, pero están “fuera de lugar” fuera de lo común, entonces usted escala en su estado mental y empieza a pensar “Esto parece un posible asalto. Quizá tenga que lastimar a estos tipos. Si las cosas se ponen feas, me tiro detrás de esa caja fuerte y así puedo tirar hacia esa pared sin poner en peligro a nadie en el estacionamiento. Tengo un plan.” En este momento los esta mirando y monitoreando sus movimientos. Si se van, baja un nivel a amarillo una vez que se hayan ido.
Si se quedan, probablemente se pongan a hablar en una esquina y brevemente discutirán lo que han visto. Entonces se acercaran hacia donde esta y luego de tratar de distraerlo (¿puedo ver ese anillo de atrás?) Sacaran sus armas y pedirán lo de valor. Si estuvo usando el sistema, paso de amarillo a naranja cuando entraron, y a rojo cuando se acercaban. Esta preparado. Debido a que los delincuentes saben leer el lenguaje corporal (sus vidas dependen de ello), ellos verán que esta preparado y simplemente se irán. Cerca de 9 de cada 10 se irán en ese momento sin confrontar. Al irse, bajara de rojo a naranja y de ahí a amarillo.
¿Qué hacemos con el décimo par, el que no se va? Ellos pueden estar drogados, o borrachos, o ambas cosas y no reconocieron su nivel de alerta. Ellos seguirán estúpidamente con su asalto. De acuerdo con estudios del FBI, cerca del 80% con los cuales tendrá que enfrentarte estarán bajo la influencia de alguna droga o del alcohol en ese momento. ¿Las buenas noticias? Estarán borrachos o drogados y eso será terrible para sus reflejos, tiempo de reacción y coordinación motora. Será relativamente fácil tratar con ellos, SOLO si esta mentalmente preparado (condición roja) e hizo sus deberes.
Si entraron y después de observarlos pasa a naranja, y cuando se le acercan, pasa a rojo y después vuelve a bajar, habrá pasado por toda la escala sin siquiera tocar su arma, lo cual es muy común. El punto es que hubiera estado preparado para usar su arma de ser necesario. Esta es la manera como se ganan las batallas, estando mentalmente preparado para ganar.
Las armas son necesarias
Pero naides sabe cuando;
Ansina, si andas pasiando,
Y de noche sobre todo,
Debes llevarlo de modo
Que al salir, salga cortando.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 300
on: April 15, 2007, 01:37:15 PM
At last the wife and I arranged a date last night and planned to see "300". Long story short, after much misadventure 300 became impossible and in search of brownie points I deferred to her request for "Perfect Stranger" which I found perfectly boring. Ugh.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Predators part 2
on: April 15, 2007, 10:08:19 AM
That shift has been profitable for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The company, which remains privately held, refuses to disclose its revenue or profits. But it now employs more than 2,400 workers and has sold more than 200 unmanned planes since 1993, according to a spokesman.
In 2005, the Air Force announced that it was ordering enough Predators to equip 15 squadrons over five years, at a price of $5.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security has bought two Predators for border control, and Italy and Turkey have also bought planes.
A research firm, the Teal Group, predicts that the handful of U.A.V. manufacturers will collect about $55 billion worldwide over the next 10 years. General Atomics is expected to dominate a large portion of that market, said Philip Finnegan, an analyst at Teal.
When Mr. Rumsfeld stepped down last year, one of the mandates that had bolstered the Predator for so long also disappeared.
“Transformation is dead as a political idea,” Mr. Thompson said. “Rumsfeld was discredited by Iraq, and when he left, his priorities left with him.”
That presents a challenge for General Atomics, which is also confronting a flurry of competition. The major military contractors, including Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have all jumped into the U.A.V. game. With billions of dollars at their disposal and deep military relationships, those companies can outspend smaller rivals.
“This is an exploding marketplace, and we intend to claim a larger market share as it grows bigger and bigger,” said Gemma Loochkartt, a spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman. “Being a leader in this sector is important to maintaining leadership within the defense industry.”
So General Atomics is aggressively building on its existing clout. Unlike many other military contractors, which wait for a guaranteed contract to build new products, General Atomics has set aside what some analysts estimate at $50 million to build the next generation of Predators.
“We can move faster because we’re smaller, and we make sure people know that,” says Mr. Blue, who, at 72, still actively guides the company’s strategic direction. General Atomics has upgraded its manufacturing with a diverse range of automated and laser-guided tools that allow it to quickly change design specifications and produce custom-built planes, a flexibility that analysts say is almost unrivaled within the military industry.
Despite a demand for its products that far outpaces supply, the company has kept the Predator relatively cheap — about $19.2 million a plane, according to a study that the Government Accountability Office released last year. “For the military, $19 million is almost an impulse buy,” said John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense research firm in Washington.
YET however much General Atomics competes on price, some of its most dexterous strategies have involved overtly political tactics.
In 2006, a study conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity and other watchdog groups said that General Atomics had spent $660,000, more than any other company, sending Congressional staff members on trips. Company executives said the jaunts allowed staffers to help educate foreign governments about the Predator’s successes, although they acknowledge that they also improved the company’s relationships in Washington.
“Everyone else was doing it, so we did, too,” says Mr. Cassidy at General Atomics. After the study was released, General Atomics decided to sponsor less than $10,000 worth of Congressional trips a year.
General Atomics has also hired scores of former military commanders and has partnered with Lockheed Martin to pursue a $2 billion Navy program, one of its first such joint projects.
Equally important, the company has begun whispering to lawmakers about the importance of diversifying the military marketplace, say lobbyists who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the company. In part to preserve that selling point, General Atomics has spurned acquisition offers from major military contractors, Mr. Blue says.
Analysts say the trends that have kept General Atomics’ fortunes aloft are likely to persist for decades.
“It took 30 years for the world’s militaries to completely absorb and implement the technologies that started with panzerdivizions,” says Mr. Goure, the defense analyst. Although military strategists talk about organizing war-making around information and intelligence, the truth is that it will take decades for that transformation to be complete. In the meantime, leaders are likely to latch onto emblems of transformation — like the Predator — as symbols of progress.
“Once you prove that something works, a flurry of activity starts that builds the infrastructure for more innovations, and fights over who controls the new technologies emerge,” Mr. Goure says. “That’s when things become permanent.”
Such fights have already broken out over Predators. This year, the Air Force told Congress that it, rather than other branches of the military, should control the deployment of unmanned planes. Commanders in other military branches have voiced disagreement.
“The Predator has become a very durable and powerful symbol in a very short time,” says Mr. Thompson, the defense analyst.
That transition is even more impressive, considering what the Predator cannot do.
“It is unclear if this plane will ever meet some of the key suitability tests the Air Force applies to most aircraft,” said Mr. Ehrhard, the military analyst. “But no one seems to care that much.”
WHICH brings us to a final bit of advice for visiting General Atomics: Don’t count on leisurely send-offs. When its corporate jet lands back in San Diego, the company’s president is likely to bound out, make a dash for his BMW — the one with the license plate reading “UAV S”) — and shout out a hasty goodbye.
“I gotta run,” said Mr. Cassidy, the pilot and executive, after a recent flight. “We’ve got planes to sell.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 15, 2007, 10:06:47 AM
The Pilotless Plane That Only Looks Like Child’s Play
By CHARLES DUHIGG
Published: April 15, 2007
IF you’re the type of shopper who spends billions of dollars on lethal military gadgets, and you’re ever invited to visit General Atomics Aeronautical Systems — the small, privately held San Diego company that has quickly become one of the military industry’s most celebrated businesses — take a bit of advice: accept a ride on the corporate jet.
Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., left, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, prepares for takeoff. He was commander of the Navy station that housed the “Top Gun” school. He even had a bit part in the movie.
The plane isn’t fancy. The cabin is cramped and the seats a little threadbare. (Want a beverage? Open the cooler, help yourself and quit whining about the heat.) Still, such bare-bones accoutrements haven’t stopped a parade of top military officials and politicians from clamoring for their own seats on General Atomics flights.
If you’re lucky, after the jet lands at the company’s airstrip in the high desert east of Los Angeles, you’ll tour one of the room-sized shipping containers clustered near the runway. Inside is a video-game addict’s idea of a cockpit, with joysticks, gauges and high-tech screens sprouting everywhere and a cushy chair that has improbably become one of the sexiest seats in the military. From that perch you can guide an unmanned airplane, known as the Predator, that is potentially thousands of miles away and can hover over suspected enemies for dozens of hours before raining down missiles.
For years, such planes — known as U.A.V.’s, for unmanned aerial vehicles — were pariahs within the military industry, scorned by commanders who saw them as threats to the status quo. But during the last several years, U.A.V.’s have amassed unusual political firepower. “For a long time, the only thing most generals could agree on was that they didn’t want any unmanned vehicles,” says Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Now everyone wants as many as they can get.”
In fact, only a decade ago, crucial Air Force commanders were lobbying to prevent battlefield deployment of U.A.V.’s, according to Congressional staff members. By 2005, however, John P. Jumper, then the Air Force chief of staff, had sufficiently about-faced to tell Congress that “we’re going to tell General Atomics to build every Predator they can possibly build.”
This transformation is, in many ways, a reflection of how the military’s priorities and goals have changed over the last decade. It is also a testament to how much clout General Atomics has amassed in a short period of time.
All of which raises another bit of advice if you’re visiting General Atomics: Don’t be late.
More than one official has learned the hard way that when the pilot of the General Atomics corporate jet says he’s flying back at noon, he means it. And that pilot is likely to be Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., a 34-year Navy veteran, former rear admiral, onetime commander of the station where the “Top Gun” flight school is based and now the president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Mr. Cassidy’s belly may hang a bit over his belt now, but he’s so authentic that when the producers of the film “Top Gun” needed someone for a bit part who oozed power, they cast him.
Which is only fitting, for while General Atomics boasts elaborate technological gizmos and martial splendor, its authority also derives from its political savvy. In the last decade, the company has outgunned some of the nation’s biggest corporate heavyweights in the battle for prized military contracts. Soon, analysts say, Americans may rely on a host of General Atomics military devices, including magnetic cannons that use pulses of electricity to drop ammunition on distant targets, radar systems that can see through even the densest clouds and guns that shoot laser beams.
“Everyone talks about how the world has changed,” Mr. Cassidy says. “We’re building the technology for where it’s going.”
NO single moment marks the ascent of General Atomics. But to understand its rise and what that says about changes in military contracting, it helps to go way back, to a point before a pair of wealthy, intensely private brothers bought it, before General Dynamics spun it off, and before it even existed — to the 1930s and a group of angry German commanders plotting revenge.
After World War I, while France and other Allies were building military defenses modeled on trench warfare, German commanders were shaping a nimble fighting force. Using new technologies — like radio and fast-moving armored vehicles — they created the blitzkrieg, or “lightning war,” a strategy that allowed them to end-run their enemies’ trenches by using panzerdivizions — small, sprightly forces that revolutionized how battles were fought. In 1940, Germany toppled France in 20 days and the panzerdivizion symbolized war’s shift from drawn-out conflicts using massive fortifications to rapid-fire engagements built around manned, motorized armor.
Nearly 70 years later, the Predator and General Atomics reflect the military’s transformation from conflicts built around manned armor to strategies organized around surveillance. U.A.V.’s embody the potential for quick, relatively effortless wars fought by drones controlled from great distances, and thus have become lightning rods for battles over the military’s direction.
Page 2 of 4)
General Atomics, the progenitor of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, started life in 1955 when a major military contractor, General Dynamics, feared that the military hardware market might dry up. It began exploring peacetime uses of atomic energy, but abandoned the effort when cold-war military spending took off. General Atomics eventually passed through the hands of a number of energy companies before landing in the lap of two Denver real estate moguls, Neal and Linden Blue, who bought it in 1986 for about $50 million.
At the time, a big part of the company’s revenue came from contracts focused on fusion experiments. (General Atomics, today a sister company to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, still runs one of the world’s largest fusion programs.) But the Blue brothers wanted to pursue the fascination with airplanes and national security they had carried since they were students at Yale in the 1950s, Neal Blue said in an interview.
While still in college, they persuaded Life magazine to finance a trip around South America on a propeller-driven Tri-Pacer, in exchange for sending back photographs. After graduation, the brothers moved to Nicaragua to found a cocoa and banana plantation with the family of Luis Somoza Debayle, then Nicaragua’s president. (They were “enthusiastic supporters” of the United States-backed fight against Communism in Nicaragua during the 1980s, Mr. Blue said, though, he added, not formally involved.)
After serving in the Air Force, the brothers expanded their business holdings to include petroleum mines in Australia, natural gas wells in Canada, manufacturing concerns in the former East Germany and hundreds of acres of ranches in Arkansas, Colorado and California. Neal Blue, now the chairman of the company, said that both brothers have top-secret clearance with the United States government, but declined to discuss if they have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
All the while, they remained flying enthusiasts. Linden Blue served as president of Beech Aircraft from 1982 to 1984 and was briefly imprisoned by Fidel Castro after his private plane skirted Cuban airspace a few weeks before the Bay of Pigs incursion.
Soon after the brothers gained control of General Atomics in 1986, they unleashed their passion for advanced aviation by turning the company into a leading pioneer in drone warfare.
Military efforts to develop unmanned planes had existed for decades, but unreliable technology and shifting priorities had killed most of the programs. The Blues, however, were convinced that technological advances in microprocessing and global positioning systems had made it possible to build inexpensive, technologically reliable and ultralight unmanned airplanes that could stay aloft for days. They poured tens of millions of dollars into the project, eventually establishing a separate company, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Neal Blue said.
At the time, the Defense Department was less enthusiastic.
“The military can react to new threats and new enemies very quickly, but there is a very high bar to shifting how forces are deployed, because a mistake can be catastrophic to national security,” said Andrew L. Ross, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. “Commanders are skeptical about machines that remove soldiers from the field.”
The Predator itself has offered critics some ammunition. One analyst estimates that 20 percent of all Predators sold to the United States military have crashed, because of errors by pilots controlling them from the ground. Another analyst, who has flown the aircraft but asked not to be identified to maintain his relationship with General Atomics, says they offer significantly less maneuverability than manned jets.
Another analyst who has studied the history of U.A.V.’s says the Predator has failed at some crucial tests.
“It has never done everything the military originally wanted it to do,” said Tom P. Ehrhard, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan research organization. “It still fails on flight reliability, flight worthiness, the camera’s accuracy, the ability to fly through clouds. There are a whole series of operational limitations that normally would prevent a device like this from getting military adoption.”
Officials at General Atomics declined to discuss those and other criticisms in detail. An Air Force spokesman said that the number of Predator crashes had declined, and that the plane’s limitations had not prevented its combat use.
Another obstacle to military adoption of U.A.V.’s, say the Blues and others, is a dynamic even older than the panzerdivizion: resistance to innovations that threaten entrenched power structures.
“There is a very strong tendency to reward commanders for figuring out how to win the last war,” says Neal Blue. “The fiefdoms within the Department of Defense were built upon putting more people into airplanes or into the battlefield. Technologies that didn’t include cockpit pilots or moving soldiers were seen as unattractive.”
Page 3 of 4)
For its part, the Air Force disputes that turf wars ever impeded the Predator’s deployment. “It is hard to name any other aircraft that has accomplished so much in so little time, or that has had such an immediate impact on how we conduct combat operations,” it said in a statement. “It was the Air Force that gave birth to the concept that Predator could both find and attack fleeting targets, a concept that has paid huge dividends.”
The Blue brothers bought General Atomics in 1986 for $50 million. Neal Blue is now chairman.
Nonetheless, the Blues’ early attempts to find military supporters of U.A.V.’s during the 1980s and early ’90s met with little success.
“No fighter pilot is ever going to pick up a girl at a bar by saying he flies a U.A.V.,” says Andrew F. Krepinevich, a former Defense Department analyst who is executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “When defense contractors initially talked about U.A.V.’s, they advertised them as replacements for fighter pilots. Fighter pilots don’t want to be replaced.”
BUT, ultimately, fighter pilots don’t run the military. Politicians do. And when Bill Clinton entered the White House in 1993, there was already a sense among some elected officials that the military was stuck in cold-war thinking, according to members of Congress at the time.
Those politicians, however, were increasingly butting heads with Pentagon officials. And the military industry, which collected billions of dollars a year selling expensive jets and submarines, was in no rush to tell customers that they needed smaller, cheaper equipment.
So the politicians used stealth tactics. In 1993, John M. Deutch, a deputy defense secretary under President Clinton, invited Neal Blue to the Pentagon under the pretense of discussing fusion reactors. Mr. Blue said in an interview that when he walked in, he discovered an array of high-ranking officials waiting to hear about the Predator. Mr. Deutch asked how long it would take to deliver a flight-ready aircraft. Six months, Mr. Blue promised.
“We were looking for technologies that were sufficiently path-breaking that they offered justification for changing military doctrine,” Mr. Deutch recalled.
Flashy images helped, too. The live video feeds from cameras attached to Predators were transmitted to commanders and politicians back home.
“There was a lot of work to make sure that G.A.’s product made it to the battlefield before the bureaucracy could stop it,” said Representative Duncan L. Hunter of California, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “We knew that once we sent all those pictures to Washington, D.C., the debate would be over.”
After the Predators’ deployment in the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, the military’s support for them began to grow. Although many analysts were already suggesting that Predators could easily carry weapons — cruise missiles use similar technologies — General Atomics avoided even mentioning such possibilities until clients requested them.
“There was an unspoken deal. It was obvious the technology existed to make the Predator into more than just a surveillance platform,” said Daniel Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a military policy research group in northern Virginia. “But fighter pilots shoot the missiles, and fighter pilots have a lot of power within the Air Force. So G.A. made it clear pilots didn’t have to worry about Predators doing something they hadn’t asked for.”
(In the late 1990s, armed Predators were rolling off the assembly line two months after they were requested by Air Force commanders, according to company executives.)
After taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush gave his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, a mandate to remake the military into a more technologically advanced organization, and U.A.V.’s became a top priority, say former department officials. The Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan heightened the push.
By the time a Predator-launched missile killed a suspected Al Qaeda leader in 2002, even the public was accustomed to hearing about unmanned planes’ successes. Voicing enthusiasm for U.A.V.’s became an easy way for the military brass to show that it had signed on to Mr. Rumsfeld’s program.
“Predators became emblematic of what Rumsfeld wanted,” said Loren B. Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute. “Suddenly, everyone was saying they were ordering Predators, whether they actually wanted them or not.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Fred Thompson part two
on: April 14, 2007, 12:36:36 PM
Thompson also served as chairman of the Senate Government Relations Committee, which he used to investigate fundraising irregularities in the 1996 presidential election cycle. Republicans had high hopes that Thompson's inquiry would add to the political difficulties of the Clinton White House stemming from its malfeasance on campaign financing.
After the hearings ended, Fox News Channel's Brit Hume described Thompson as "flying high before his hearings . . . and shot down once they started and all the way through them."
Thompson says "the congressional investigative function is not a prosecutorial function" and acknowledges that the hearings produced "mixed result in many respects." He believes the criticism stems from the fact that "few people went to jail."
As Thompson considered his future, he began telling friends that he was not certain he wanted to seek reelection in 2002. He changed his mind after the attacks of September 11. Thompson, who served at the time on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced in late September that he would run again. "Now is not the time for me to leave," he said. "This is the way now, it's perfectly clear, for me to contribute the most." He spent the next several weeks traveling to churches throughout Tennessee talking about the attacks and the coming U.S. response to them.
At a hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on October 4, 2001, Thompson sounded a skeptical note about the prospect of reorganizing the federal homeland security bureaucracy. "The government, basically, cannot manage large projects very well," he said. "Maybe we can learn from our past experience with other government agencies and other crises and things of that nature and not make the same mistakes as we go about trying to rearrange these boxes and decide who reports to who and who has what authority. And maybe we'll take the lessons that we've learned from our other management problems in particular."
Then in late January 2002, his daughter Elizabeth Panici died suddenly following a heart attack. She was only 38. Thompson's friends say he was devastated. A month later he announced that he had changed his mind--he would not seek reelection. "I simply do not have the heart for another six-year term."
At a press conference after his announcement, he lashed out at the media for their intrusive coverage of his private life. "Every public official has to understand that he or she is a public official and that's the price you pay. For the most part, that's appropriate," he said. "That's the price your whole family pays. There are lines to be drawn. I think it's extremely unfortunate and uncalled for for the local newspaper to discuss the details of this. Her death obviously played in my decision, but the details of all of that, what news value does that have? Why did she have to pay that price? Why does her little five-year-old boy have to pay that price because her daddy chose to try to serve his state and his country? It's over the line and more like the National Enquirer-type stuff than anything else."
In his final months in the Senate, Thompson concentrated his efforts on legislation that would create the Department of Homeland Security. He fought efforts by Democrats to subject the new workforce to union and collective bargaining rules that apply to federal employees more broadly. The bill passed two weeks after the 2002 midterm elections, on a vote of 90-9.
"This is the most significant thing I've been involved in and certainly the most significant thing I've had my name on because it involves the main function of government, and that is protecting its citizens."
More than four years later, munching on a turkey sandwich and sour cream and onion potato chips at his dining room table, he displays an unusual willingness to second-guess his own decision. After Thompson criticized the growth of bureaucracy under the new director of national intelligence, I asked him why the new bureaucracy under Department of Homeland Security is any different.
"Well, to tell you the truth, in retrospect, we may conclude that it wasn't any different. But it got to the point where almost anything would have been an improvement," he says. "A lot of those agencies were in and of themselves dysfunctional, so bringing them together was not going to make everybody greater. . . . But you've got to start somewhere and you can't wait until everything is just right until you start coordinating. So we were kind of jumping aboard a moving train."
It was an admirably honest appraisal of what he once pointed to as the crowning achievement of his career in Congress. As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn't seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answers he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously. Many of his answers would drive a poll-watching political consultant nuts.
My suspicions were confirmed when Thompson asked at one point if he could have a transcript of our interview. "I found myself talking on some subjects that I haven't really thought that much about," he explained. "Oh, so this is what I think, huh?"
* Thompson says he came to respect George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign because of his plan to reform Social Security. Congressional Republicans considered the plan a political liability, and it went nowhere. Thompson says that although it was only tinkering on the margins of real reform, it was a good start. He won't share his own plan--"I'll roll that out at the appropriate time"--but the general principle he articulates sounds like a political risk.
"It's based upon the proposition that granddad and grandmom will be willing to sacrifice a little bit if they feel like it helps their grandkids avoid financial disaster, and that their sacrifice is not going to be wasted down some government rathole," he explains. "Under most plans, most good plans, you know current retirees probably would not be affected that much at all. . . . We've been operating under the assumption in this country that it's the third rail and that if you talk about it, those people who are most concerned about retirement programs will kill you. I don't think that's true."
* He believes that elements of the CIA were out to get Scooter Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby, though not the original leaker of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, was convicted of lying and obstructing justice. "It makes me mad as the devil just to think about it," Thompson says. He had never met Libby when he volunteered to serve on the advisory board of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. Is Libby innocent? Thompson answers with one word. "Yes."
Do you think there will be negative political fallout from defending the convicted former chief of staff to an unpopular vice president?
"I have no idea. I have a hard time seeing it. If I'm wrong about the temperature of the American people on this, then I'm wrong about a lot of things about the American people. And we might as well find out."
* I asked him about his vote for the Iraq war and the Bush administration's failure to explain to the American public the real story of the prewar intelligence on Iraq. I ask Thompson how it is possible that a majority of the country believes the Bush administration lied about Iraqi WMD, when the U.S. intelligence community and the world consensus was that Saddam Hussein had these weapons.
"Part of it had to do with what has become almost a knee-jerk suspicion on the part of a lot of people with regards to anybody in authority," he says. And then he directly faults the Bush administration. "A part of it has been the administration's inability to sufficiently communicate the reality of the situation. It's not just the president. . . . You have to have an organized, pervasive ability to get your message across and rebut erroneous misstatements of the history. It is amazing to me how something like this could be perceived so erroneously by so many people. Because we all
know what the facts are. We've all seen the statements and the comments of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the list goes on and on and on."
Thompson slips into sarcasm. "It is amazing to me how a man that they say is so dumb fooled so many real smart people. But that's what they're saying about Bush. Bush
canoodled the entire Democratic establishment. Absurd on its face, and yet some people want to believe that sort of thing."
Then he goes on to give a better defense of the White House than anything that has come out of the White House communications shop in four years.
The irony here is that intelligence services had consistently over the years understated the capabilities of enemies and potential enemies. Now, here there was unanimity among the intelligence services, some of whom are supposed to be better than ours. . . . People don't understand intelligence. They don't understand. It's seldom clear. It's often caveated. It's sometimes flat-out wrong. Different people often have different ideas. That's what a president is faced with. And some today would say that politically a president has got to have unanimity before he can make a choice. And then they say that if he has that unanimity, the president has to make that choice--at the same time talking about how deficient our capabilities are. But if those deficient capabilities produced a recommendation, the president of the United States and leader of the free world has to take that recommendation. That has been so faulty in the past. It's absurd. Presidents in the future, as always, have to make a determination based on a lot of things, and intelligence is one of them. And the president not only has the right to evaluate the intelligence that he's receiving, he has a duty to do that. He listens to the British. I mean, if history was any judge, I don't know about now, but if the Brits tell me that there's an [Iraqi] deal with Niger and our guys don't know whether there was or not, I tend to rely on the Brits. I mean, those are the calls the president's got to make, and the question is really: Which way do you want the president to lean? Caution--that it's probably not so? When bad news is delivered, he gets mixed messages, he gets various intelligence reports of various kinds. Did you want him all balled up in all of that, you know, trying to apply some kind of a scientific equation to it for fear that somebody in an intelligence committee is going to wave it around at a hearing later on or something like that? Is that what it's come to? If so, the world is going to be a lot more dangerous than it otherwise already is. You've got to exercise the authority and the responsibilities that you've been given. I mean, in this debate over intelligence and what it is and what it ought to be and how it's used and all of that, you know, [it] needs to be dealt with and laid out in a way that people can understand it. . . . The next report says somebody's got weapons of mass destruction, you know what're we going to do with that? You know, just because history--a cat won't sit on a hot stove twice, but he won't sit on a cold stove either.
* He is equally blunt about Iran. Thompson says that the actions of the Iranian regime--harboring senior al Qaeda leaders, funding and training Iraqi insurgents, supplying terrorists in Iraq with devices that are killing American soldiers--are acts of war. He stops short of calling for a military response, but seems to suggest that he would be saying something different if circumstances were different.
"Unfortunately, today it can't be considered in isolation, so you have to take into consideration our capabilities and our priorities worldwide right now. And unfortunately we're stretched too thin." Nonetheless, he says, the long-term objective in Iran is the same one that led to the Iraq war. "I think the bottom line with Iran is that nothing is going to change unless there is a regime change."
* In the days since Thompson allowed that he was thinking about running for president, his views on abortion have come under scrutiny. Thompson finds the news reports from his first run for Senate perplexing.
"I have read these accounts and tried to think back 13 years ago as to what may have given rise to them. Although I don't remember it, I must have said something to someone as I was getting my campaign started that led to a story. Apparently, another story was based upon that story, and then another was based upon that, concluding I was pro-choice."
But, he adds: "I was interviewed and rated pro-life by the National Right to Life folks in 1994, and I had a 100 percent voting record on abortion issues while in the Senate."
Darla St. Martin, associate executive director of National Right to Life, supports Thompson on those claims. She traveled to Tennessee in 1994 to meet with him. "I interviewed him and on all of the questions I asked him, he opposed abortion," she told the American Spectator's Philip Klein.
Thompson says he thinks Roe v. Wade is bad law and should be overturned, but he says he does not support a Human Life Amendment.
One of the few times Thompson was unwilling to share his thoughts came when I asked him if he thought Rudy Giuliani was too liberal to win the Republican nomination and if Hillary Clinton could make a good president. The only question he would answer about his potential rivals concerned John McCain.
Thompson was one of four senators to support McCain in 2000 and served as the national co-chairman of his campaign. So I asked him why he's not supporting McCain again.
"You know the old joke about--what about me? As self-centered as that sounds, and it is, that ought to be the way it is." He adds: "Besides, you can't predict what's going to happen anyway, with any of them. Anybody could implode. Anybody could take off."
Before his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Thompson called McCain to let him know that he would announce that he was seriously considering a presidential bid. The conversation was friendly. "If we do this," he says, "we'll remain friends and we'll be friends after this."
There is considerable talk among the other Republican campaigns that the Thompson boomlet is driven by little more than celebrity. Maybe. But history suggests that Thompson may actually be underpolling right now. As was the case when he ran for office in Tennessee, he has a very recognizable face but his national name identity is actually quite low.
Gallup conducted a survey in late March asking respondents an open-ended question: "What comes to your mind when you think about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson?" Sixty-seven percent of Republicans responded that they had no opinion of Thompson or were not familiar with him. And yet he shows up in the top three choices of potential Republican nominees in most of the polling that includes his name. As voters come to associate that name with a familiar and well-liked face, and if they get to see the personable Thompson on TV, Thompson strategists assume those polling numbers can only go up.
When Thompson met with Bill Frist at the Mayflower Hotel, they had important business to discuss. More than two years ago, Thompson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is "indolent" lymphoma, a slow-growing form of the disease that is not usually symptomatic. If you're going to have one of the 33 varieties of lymphoma, Thompson says, this is the one you want. "It's easy to diagnose, easy to treat and easy to live with," Frist, a physician, confirms. But it sounds scary, the kind of thing that might spook potential primary voters if it were disclosed by an announced candidate.
"We thought we had to get it out early," says Frist, "in the sense that he's going to be announcing."
If Frist's acknowledgment that Thompson was going to run may have been a slip, Thompson's own words also suggest he's running. He says he understands "how hard it is, how difficult it is, how embarrassing it is, how intrusive it is." And he knows that as a candidate he could be subject to harsh attacks.
"That's the least of it anymore," he says. "It's not pleasant, but it's not that important anymore because you're straight with your family, you have a level of understanding and knowledge about your family, and they with you, and with the man upstairs, and that's that. You know, ain't really much past that. And it kind of frees you up in a way."
Yes, it does.
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
© Copyright 2007, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Fred Thompson
on: April 14, 2007, 12:32:34 PM
From the Courthouse
to the White House
Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role.
by Stephen F. Hayes
04/23/2007, Volume 012, Issue 30
A strange thing happened a few weeks back when I went to the Café Promenade at the Mayflower Hotel for an off-the-record interview with an unpaid adviser to the non-campaign of unannounced presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
Fred Thompson showed up.
Thompson was there to have lunch with Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a powerhouse consultant with ties to the White House. The two men worked together in the fall of 2005 on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Thompson had invited Gillespie to lunch to discuss a potential presidential bid.
On March 11, just a week before, Thompson had appeared on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that he was giving "serious consideration" to running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Ever since, advisers on other campaigns have tried to figure out how he'll affect the race if he runs.
Several patrons in the restaurant recognized Thompson. One well-dressed man with thick white hair approached him for an autograph. It's possible that this man wanted the autograph because Thompson served for eight years as a senator from Tennessee. But it's more likely that he wanted a memento of the day he ate at the same restaurant as Arthur Branch, the sagacious district attorney on Law & Order; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Law & Order: Trial by Jury; and Conviction, a spin-off of, well, you can probably guess. The same man returned to the table twice more. Each time Thompson put his conversation on hold and graciously tolerated the interruption.
After an hour, Thompson and Gillespie--currently chairman of the Republican party of Virginia--rose and left the restaurant. Ten minutes later, Thompson walked back in with former senator Bill Frist. They were led to a different table, but Thompson's waitress was the same. She laughed as she took his new order. Thompson says this second lunch was unplanned. Although he and Frist talk daily, the two Tennesseans met this time by chance. Finding they both had gaps in their schedules, they spent the next two hours at Café Promenade talking about a Fred Thompson for President campaign.
There is some discontent among Republicans with the current choices for the party's nominee in 2008. The complaints are well known: Senator John McCain, the maverick Republican, is too much maverick and not enough Republican. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is thought to be too willful and too liberal: He recently suggested he would allow his new wife to attend cabinet meetings and reaffirmed his support for federal funding of abortion. Mitt Romney seems pleasant and competent, but pleasant and competent doesn't beat Hillary Clinton. Senator Sam Brownback is unknown and uncharismatic. And former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is from Arkansas.
According to an adviser to one of the leading candidates, the rationale for a Thompson run is best illustrated--as so many things are--by The Simpsons. In one episode, Homer Simpson's civic-minded neighbor Ned Flanders tells a large crowd of fellow Springfield citizens that they must choose someone to lead an anticrime campaign in the town.
"Who should lead the group?"
"You," shouts a man from the crowd. The entire mob begins to chant.
"Flanders! Flanders! Flanders!"
When Flanders humbly begins to explain that he doesn't have much experience in such matters, Moe the Bartender cuts him off.
The crowd joins in.
"Someone else! Someone else! Someone else!"
One obvious advantage Fred Thompson has is that he's someone else.
In recent Republican presidential preference polls, Thompson tends to run third, behind Giuliani and McCain but ahead of Romney and the rest of the field. In a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll released last week, Thompson came in second, just ahead of McCain, with support from 15 percent of those surveyed. In late March, Thompson won a straw poll of Republicans in conservative Gwinnett County, Georgia, earning more votes than all of the other candidates combined. And Iowa Republican party executive director Chuck Laudner told the Washington Times, "He's the biggest buzz in the state."
Representative Zach Wamp, a fellow Tennesseean who is running an effort to "Draft Fred," tells me he expects 60 congressional Republicans to show up early next week at a meet-and-greet with Thompson. Mark Corallo, who has volunteered to answer press inquiries for Thompson, has been getting dozens of calls each day--not only from reporters, but from Republicans around the country who have seen his name in the newspaper and tracked him down at his private consulting firm to sign up for a Thompson campaign. Politicians are reaching out to Bill Frist to offer their support. Says Frist: "I have governors who have called me, fundraisers I've known from my days as majority leader who are ready to go."
All of this, for a candidate who has not yet announced for anything.
Last week, I went to Thompson's home in the verdant Washington suburb of McLean, Virginia, to talk to him about his prospective presidential run. We spoke for more than four hours about his life in Tennessee, his family, his acting career, his foray into politics, and his future.
I was 30 minutes late. Thompson, who was on the phone with Howard Baker, his political mentor, didn't seem to care. He hung up, extended his large hand, offered a friendly greeting, and led me to his office. We were alone. Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.
The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?--and might have dampened Thompson's natural candor. On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours.
And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn't been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field.
Thompson seems to recognize that he wins the guy-I'd-want-to-get-a-beer-with primary the moment he announces. He comes across as a regular guy--"folksy" will be the political cliché that attaches to his candidacy--and punctuates explanations of his positions with the kind of off-the-cuff homespun witticisms that Dan Rather spent a career trying to come up with.
We sat facing each other in leather armchairs, and after some small talk I asked him what life was like growing up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He began talking, and about 30 minutes later it was already 1994 and he was about to be elected to the U.S. Senate. I'd tried to interrupt with questions here and there, but he had a story he was determined to tell.
It's a good story. Thompson was born in Alabama and lived for most of his young life in Middle Tennessee. His father sold used cars and his mother took care of the house. Neither one graduated from high school, although Thompson's father earned his high school equivalency certificate later in life. His family ate dinner every night at 6:00 P.M. "It was like clockwork," he says. Thompson was not a great student in high school. At one point, he says, several of his teachers worked together to strip him of the title given to him by a vote of his peers--Most Athletic--because his grades were substandard. His father was something of a jokester, but also when necessary a disciplinarian.
"I grew up not having anything to live up to from an economic or professional standpoint, but having a lot to live up to from a growing-up and becoming-a-man standpoint," says Thompson.
That example would be important at a young age. Thompson married his high school sweetheart at 17, and together they enrolled at Memphis State University, where he studied philosophy and political science. Thompson worked several jobs to put himself through college and support a growing family.
"I sold clothing," he says. "I sold shoes. I sold baby shoes. I sold ladies shoes. I worked in a factory."
His wife's uncle and grandfather were both lawyers, and Thompson says he wanted to live up to the professional standards of her family. The law school at Vanderbilt University had seemed an unattainable goal for an underachieving high school student from a family without means. But it was a goal nonetheless. Thompson got serious academically as an undergraduate, and won admission.
Once a lawyer, he had a brief stint with the U.S. attorney's office, then went into private practice--"hung out my shingle," he says--and volunteered to work for Howard Baker's reelection campaign for Senate in 1972. Shortly after Baker returned to Washington he asked Thompson to join him for what he thought would be a short-term project. A special committee had been established to look into the Committee to Reelect President Richard M. Nixon, and Baker, the panel's top Republican, asked Thompson to serve as minority counsel. Thompson could often be seen at Baker's side as the investigation grew from a routine oversight hearing into the proceedings that would cause a president to resign. Thompson, who wrote a book about his experiences called At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee, asked the question that led to the revelation of the White House taping systems. "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?" And Thompson is often credited with feeding Baker the line that would become one of the most famous of an era: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
Thompson says he passed up several offers with big Washington law firms to return to Nashville, where he entered a private practice with two law school classmates. He took the case of Marie Ragghianti, the head of Tennessee's Parole and Pardons Board. Ragghianti had grown concerned about what she saw as a pattern of suspicious pardons ordered from the office of Governor Ray Blanton. Her suspicions were later confirmed and Blanton was forced from office in a cash-for-clemency scandal that continued until his last day.
Peter Maas, author of Serpico, turned Marie Ragghianti's story into a book creatively titled Marie and published in 1983. Director Roger Donaldson bought the movie rights and came to Nashville to interview the major players. After meeting Thompson, Donaldson asked him if he'd like to play himself in the movie. Thompson agreed.
Over the next two decades, Thompson would appear in dozens of films and television shows as a character actor, often one who personifies government strength. It is a role that seems to fit. "Literally, I don't think Fred ever acts," says Tom Ingram, a longtime friend from Tennessee who now serves as chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander. "He played himself in Marie, and he's been playing himself ever since."
When Donaldson needed someone to play the role of CIA director in his next film, No Way Out, he turned to Thompson. A string of movies followed: The Hunt for Red October, Days of Thunder, Die Hard 2, Curly Sue, Cape Fear, In the Line of Fire. And there were cameo appearances on TV's Matlock and later Sex and the City.
Thompson never moved to Hollywood, choosing to stay in Tennessee, where he continued to practice law and remained involved in Republican politics. When Al Gore was elected vice president, Tennessee's Democratic governor, Ned McWherter, appointed one of his top advisers to serve until the 1994 elections, when a replacement would be elected to fill the final two years of Gore's term. Thompson's name came up early, and eventually, in July 1993, he filed papers for an exploratory committee.
Thompson knew from the beginning that it would be a difficult race. His opponent was Jim Cooper, a popular conservative Democrat who had developed a national reputation as a legislative expert on health care, widely considered one of the country's most important issues. Thompson started the race well behind Cooper. He told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that he was a moderate Republican. The reporter who interviewed Thompson described him as "pro-choice," but noted that he supported restrictions on abortion at the state level and opposed federal funding. (A 1994 story in National Review also described Thompson as pro-choice.)
In a poll taken in February 1994, 36 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Cooper, while just 17 percent supported Thompson. The Hotline, a Washington-based digest on campaigns and elections, reported the poll results under the headline: "They Know Thompson's Face, But Not His Name." It would prove to be an accurate diagnosis of Thompson's difficulties.
"For a year, I didn't scratch," Thompson says, looking back.
At the low point, Thompson met at a Cracker Barrel with Ingram. Thompson told his friend that he wasn't having any fun campaigning and was pessimistic about his chances to win. He was considering dropping out. Thompson had had it with the rubber-chicken Republican dinners and the rigors of campaigning across the state. "Fred was beleaguered by the traditional way of running for office," Ingram remembers. "He was expressing his misery over things."
Ingram had a question for Thompson: What would you do if you ran the way you wanted to run? Thompson thought for a minute, then said he'd shed as much of the campaign apparatus as possible and drive around the state in a pick-up truck. Ingram suggested he do just that, and Thompson thought it a good recommendation. Thompson would soon be known for his red pick-up truck. Cooper's campaign complained that it was a Hollywood-style gimmick designed to make Thompson look down to earth, and it surely was that. "But it was more than a device," Ingram insists. "It made Fred comfortable as a candidate. He felt liberated to just be himself."
Thompson ran on a strong small-government--even antigovernment--message. "America's government is bringing America down, and the only thing that can change that is a return to the basics," he said. "We will get back to basics and make the sacrifices and once again amaze the world at how, in America, ordinary people can do very extraordinary things." Thompson emphasized issues that would appeal to disaffected voters--making laws apply to the members of Congress who pass them; congressional pay raises; entitlement reform.
It was a message that began to resonate. Two months before the election, a poll by national Republicans put the race dead even. And as Thompson increased his advertising--allowing voters to put his famous face together with his name--he took the lead, and it grew. "Some people knew me and knew my face, but I started out 20 points behind" he says. "I just had to work at it until I raised enough money to go on television and then I went up pretty fast." Cooper asked for and was given free air-time for his ads after stations played movies starring Thompson. But it was too late.
Thompson won 61 percent of the vote, Cooper just 39 percent. Part of the explanation was that Thompson was swept along in the historic Republican tide of 1994. But Cooper would later say that he'd underestimated the political importance of Thompson's film career. "He was in so many movies," Cooper told the Nashville Tennesseean in 2002. "I should have been more worried than I was because that is a powerful way to present yourself to the public."
Thompson's new colleagues in Washington immediately tried to capitalize on his ability to communicate. Bob Dole, recently elevated to Senate majority leader, picked Thompson to present the televised Republican response to a national address by President Bill Clinton.
On Christmas Day, 1994, Thompson was a guest on ABC's This Week. Sam Donaldson opened the interview by telling viewers that while they might not know the name Fred Thompson, they might recognize his face. "I want to just show people how accomplished you are, because if they have been sitting at home saying, 'You know, I know this guy, I know this guy,' there's a reason," he said, before playing clips of the actor.
Thompson was at his most self-deprecating. "When they needed some middle-aged guy who'd work cheap, they'd call me for a little part and I'd go out there two or three weeks and knock one out," he explained to Donaldson.
Donaldson asked Thompson why he was chosen to give the GOP response to Clinton. "I want to keep boring in on this question of--perhaps you were chosen because the Republican leaders said, 'Fred Thompson is not just another pretty face.' I mean, Fred Thompson--"
"That's for sure."
Then Donaldson asked Thompson about presidential politics. "Who are the Republicans going to put up to run for the presidency in two years?"
"I think that it's going to be wide open," Thompson replied. "I think that there's at least a half a dozen people out there. There might be someone that hasn't been mentioned."
"Let me give you a name," Donaldson pressed. "Let me give you a name: Fred Thompson. Senator Fred Thompson."
Thompson found the suggestion amusing. "There's one thing, I think, for certain that I've observed around here over the period of time that I've been here, and watching all this for years, and that is when people come to town, somewhere along the line, if they do anything at all, if they're shown to be able to put one foot in front of the other, they're mentioned for the national ticket. So now you've mentioned me, and I appreciate it, so we can move on to more serious topics."
Thompson had not yet been sworn in.
In eight years in the Senate, Thompson developed a reputation for an independent streak, yet he compiled a voting record more conservative than one might expect of one who had described himself as a moderate in his first campaign. Over the course of his time in Congress he earned a lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union of 86 percent. He was not quite as conservative (using 2002 numbers) as Rick Santorum (87), Strom Thurmond (91), Trent Lott (93), or Jesse Helms (99), but more conservative than Arlen Specter (42), Olympia Snowe (52), John Warner (82), and John McCain (84).
His voting record suggests a strong belief in federalism. Thompson was frequently a lonely voice opposing the federalization of what in his view were state issues. His unwillingness to compromise on that principle even put him on the losing end of a 99-to-1 vote on the so-called Good Samaritan law, legislation that protected individuals from being sued if their good faith efforts to help someone in distress were unsuccessful. He thought it should have been left to the states.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo Groundwork have in store for us??
on: April 14, 2007, 10:02:11 AM
For the moment I think I will keep my cards close to my vest
At the moment the intention is to shoot "Kali Tudo 2" this summer.
I've heard of Eddie Bravo and his rubber guard, but do not know much about it. Roy Harris has an excellent reputation, but again I do not know much about his particular approach. Machado BB and Inosanto Blend man Chris Hauter introduced me to the Machados back in 1990. Its been several years since I've seen what Chris is up to, but I always found him to be very innovative in his thinking and approach.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Martial Art teacher gets 15 years for pledging to teach AQ
on: April 14, 2007, 09:55:17 AM
SB Mig et al.
In the year 2000 I received a very brief email from an email address in Syria asking for knife training. I asked who they were and they replied that they were a "Syrian kickboxing club". I did not respond further and have always wondered who they were , , ,
I have received other inquiries which also had my spider sense tingling and have acted accordingly.
In answer to your specific questions:
1) I do gage to the best of my ability and have deflected away some people.
2) To "ensure" is not possible. One can only do one's best. IMHO we also need to keep in mind that there is lots of lethal info out there and that virtue does not consist of fighting it by defanging one's self. I do believe that a society of sheeple is more likely to have problems than a society where criminals, Islamo-fascists, etc must fear the capabilities of a righteous unorganized militia.
3) One part of the answer for me is that with our Die Less Often material is that I orient the answer around defending the knife attack as is commonly done by thug culture. Thus, unless I feel confident about who is in the room, I do not show what thug culture already does not know. I also seek to anchor the material continuously with higher consciousness values.
You may remember a thread here on this forum where I asked about finding out about people's criminal records. Unfortunately it seems that getting someone's records is either illegal, really expensive and/or a great pain in the ass (e.g. records are county by county). The logic of this eludes me. To me it seems quite sound for criminal records to be a matter of easily accessible information to one and all.
4) We can only do the best we can-- and must avoid letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. FWIW I see my posting of this thread as an example of raising consciousness about these issues. The more we the unorganized militia think about these things, the better I suspect we will do in making good choices.
What can you tell us about what has happened with the Silat Mubai people? What news of their leader (Usatz Hussein Udom or something like that?)
Concerning mixing martial arts and politics, at the moment my thinking is that for some arts (e.g. submission grappling) keeping them separate is possible. Others, e.g. Kali/FMA because of their weaponry orientation, need to be careful about how they go about things. Western civilization in general and the United States in particular are being targetted by world-wide Islamo-fascism. In many circumstances, the skills and knowledge of our art would be ideal for the killers of Islamo-fascism and we must be vigilant.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fred Thompson
on: April 14, 2007, 09:19:08 AM
Tax cuts mean growth.
BY FRED THOMPSON
Saturday, April 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
It's that time again, and I was thinking of the old joke about paying your taxes with a smile. The punch line is that the IRS doesn't accept smiles. They want your money.
So it's not that funny, but there is reason to smile this tax season. The results of the experiment that began when Congress passed a series of tax-rate cuts in 2001 and 2003 are in. Supporters of those cuts said they would stimulate the economy. Opponents predicted ever-increasing budget deficits and national bankruptcy unless tax rates were increased, especially on the wealthy.
In fact, Treasury statistics show that tax revenues have soared and the budget deficit has been shrinking faster than even the optimists projected. Since the first tax cuts were passed, when I was in the Senate, the budget deficit has been cut in half.
Remarkably, this has happened despite the financial trauma of 9/11 and the cost of the War on Terror. The deficit, compared to the entire economy, is well below the average for the last 35 years and, at this rate, the budget will be in surplus by 2010.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this success story is where the increased revenues are coming from. Critics claimed that across-the-board tax cuts were some sort of gift to the rich but, on the contrary, the wealthy are paying a greater percentage of the national bill than ever before.
The richest 1% of Americans now pays 35% of all income taxes. The top 10% pay more taxes than the bottom 60%.
The reason for this outcome is that, because of lower rates, money is being invested in our economy instead of being sheltered from the taxman. Greater investment has created overall economic strength. Job growth is robust, overcoming trouble in the housing sector; and the personal incomes of Americans at every income level are higher than they've ever been.
President John F. Kennedy was an astute proponent of tax cuts and the proposition that lower tax rates produce economic growth. Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan also understood the power of lower tax rates and managed to put through cuts that grew the U.S. economy like Kansas corn. Sadly, we just don't seem able to keep that lesson learned.
Now, as before, politicians are itching to fund their pet projects with the short-term revenue increases that come from tax hikes, ignoring the long-term pain they always cause. Unfortunately, the tax cuts that have produced our record-breaking government revenues and personal incomes will expire soon. Because Congress has failed to make them permanent, we are facing the worst tax hike in our history. Already, worried investors are trying to figure out what the financial landscape will look like in 2011 and beyond.
This issue is particularly important now because massive, unfunded entitlements are coming due as the baby-boom generation retires. We simply cannot afford higher taxes if we want an economy able to bear up under the strain of those obligations. And beyond the issue of our annual federal budget is the nearly $9 trillion national debt that we have not even begun to pay off.
To face these challenges, and any others that we might encounter in a hazardous world, we need to maintain economic growth and healthy tax revenues. That is why we need to reject taxes that punish rather than reward success. Those who say they want a "more progressive" tax system should be asked one question:
Are you really interested in tax rates that benefit the economy and raise revenue--or are you interested in redistributing income for political reasons?
Mr. Thompson is a former Republican senator from Tennessee whose commentaries, "The Fred Thompson Report," can be heard on the ABC Radio network.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: the titles of the teachers in the fillipino martial arts
on: April 14, 2007, 09:04:48 AM
The following was posted on the Eskrima Digest-- please do not infer an opinion on my part!
I am very excited to announce that a book called "CEBUANO ESKRIMA: Beyond
the myth" written by Ned R. Nepangue, M.D. and Celestino C. Macachor. Here
is a brief synopsis:
* Cebuano Eskrima: Beyond the Myth boldly unravels with compelling and
provocative hypothesis on the Hispanic origins of the Filipino
Martial Arts known as eskrima, arnis and estokada
* The last vestiges of the extinct European medieval fencing could
be found indirectly linked to Filipino eskrima
* The authors present prima facie evidence on the fraud of the
supposedly precursor art called kali
* A more plausible theory on the origins of eskrima are
presented in startling detail from its early beginnings
as a defense against Moro pirates and slave traders and
its later fusion with Spanish fencing through the Jesuit
warrior priests during the pivotal years 1635-1644, the
height of Spanish rapier fencing in Europe during the
* It also presents a comprehensive chronology on the
development of eskrima in Cebu, a meticulous
commentary of Cebuano pioneers and innovators of
eskrima and elucidates the pre-eminence of Visayans
in the art of eskrima / arnis / estokada
* As both authors are practitioners of this martial
art, technicalities in eskrima never before
detailed in other materials on the subject are
carefully discussed in the book
* Other interesting topics related to eskrima
like the esoteric practices and healing
modalities are also explained in fascinating
If you are interested feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and will send the details
to you. Thank you. Respectfully,Jason AutajayLos
Angeles Chapter, United States Eskrima De Campo
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: April 13, 2007, 09:53:13 PM
TERRORISM IN EUROPE
Bin Laden's Eurofighters
By Yassin Musharbash
242 jihadists, 31 attacks, 28 networks. After examining militant Islamism in Europe, researchers have found that self-recruitment is on the rise among terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's Eurofighters, and that there is no such thing as a standard terrorist.
Dutch researchers Edwin Bakker and Teije Hidde Donker had an ambitious goal in mind when they wrote: "We must find out who the jihadists are, where they come from and what they look like." Although they were not able to answer that question in its entirety, their study, "Jihadi Terrorists in Europe," does offer plenty of fascinating results.
They researched the stories of 242 people who, between 2001 and 2006, were organized in 28 networks, planned 31 attacks and, in some cases, executed or allegedly executed these attacks. (Some are still considered presumed terrorists because their cases are still pending.) The list includes little known plots, such as the attempt to attack the Spanish Supreme Court in 2004, as well as prominent terrorist attacks, including the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 and the 2005 London bus and subway bombings.
Photo Gallery: Bin Laden's Eurofighters
Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (5 Photos)
One of the most important findings of the Dutch study is that there are no standard jihadists. According to the researchers, the 28 networks they identified differ considerably from one another. In some cases, authorities were dealing with individual attackers, whereas more than 30 people were involved in the 2004 bombings of trains in Madrid. The data also cover a wide range when it comes to the attackers' ages. The youngest was 16 and the oldest 59, which makes the average age of 27.3 years not especially meaningful.
Internally, however, the cells are surprisingly homogeneous. Pakistanis generally get together with Pakistanis, Moroccans with Moroccans and -- as in the case of -- Lebanese with Lebanese. Most jihadists are men. Only five women appear in the study.
There are also few differences when it comes to goals and methods. Transportation systems were by far the most common targets, and in many cases explosives were the weapons of choice. The choice of specific targets was consistently perfidious: the plans were directed exclusively against civilian facilities or civilians themselves. Of the 242 jihadists, 11 were suicide bombers -- and they were the ones who committed the most devastating attacks.
Great Britain and the Netherlands have proven to be at the greatest risk during the period studied, with 12 of the networks operating in Great Britain, seven in the Netherlands, four in France and three each in Spain and Belgium.
Searching for a profile
By far the most interesting aspect of Bakker's and Hidde Donker's study is their analysis of the origins and radicalization of the attackers and presumed terrorists.
A total of 29 nationalities are represented, but there are clear clusters. The 55 Algerians in the study make up almost one-fourth of the entire sample. Together with other North Africans, they account for more than half of those studied. They were most likely to be active in those countries where many of their countrymen had settled: France, Spain and Belgium.
The second largest group consisted of 24 attackers of Pakistani ethnic origin whose attacks were planned primarily for Great Britain.
The Dutch data are even more meaningful when compared with a study by US researcher Marc Sagemann, who presented a similar analysis of international terrorists with ties to al-Qaida in 2004. The Dutch researchers also provided such a comparison, and it clearly points out that the European jihadists are already part of a different generation than those in Sagemann's sample.
His jihadists were mainly Arabs, especially Saudis and Egyptians, who went abroad. Seventy percent of them became radicalized outside the country in which they had previously lived. The situation is reversed among al-Qaida's Eurofighters: More than 80 percent of them found their way to armed jihad in the country in which they lived.
Radicalization with friends and family
These numbers indicate that the impact of Afghan training camps on radicalization has since been largely offset.
Bakker and Hidde Donker summarize the issue of radicalization as follows: Their group of jihadists differs "fundamentally from the global mujaheddin." This conclusion is also supported in other ways-- by the realization, for example, that the jihadists who became active in Europe "radicalized with little outside interference, ...often together with friends and family members."
What this boils down to is that these Euro-terrorists are recruiting themselves. The Internet plays an important role in this process. Many of the jihadists featured in the study obtained al-Qaida propaganda via the Internet, especially in the last few months leading up to their attacks.
This reinforces a fear security officials have long had: The radicalization phase is becoming shorter and shorter.
Another difference between the Dutch study and Sagemann's results is also disconcerting: 58 jihadists were noticed by the police before their planned attacks -- almost one-fourth of the sample and far more than in Sagemann's study. Small-time criminals are apparently finding their way into al-Qaida in Europe more often today than in the past.
A higher proportion of converts than in the Sagemann study (a total of 14, including 13 former Christians and one former Hindu) also confirms that there are more detours on the road to jihadism than there were in the past.
New generation of European jihadists is a fact
Despite all the interesting details, a profile cannot be derived from the data. The types of attackers are too diverse. Perhaps the most useful fact for the purpose of profiling is that so many terrorism suspects were minor criminals in the past.
The authors of the study believe that they have confirmed that "homegrown terrorism" is the new megatrend among Europe's jihadists. However, the debate among terrorism experts is currently moving away from this term again, now that investigations of the July 2005 London bombings revealed connections to Pakistan and possibly the central leadership of al-Qaida. These ties contradict the conclusion that the attackers acted entirely on their own.
But the real value of the study is likely to lie elsewhere: in the simple analysis of what has already happened. For example, the light the study sheds on the trends among active terrorists in selecting targets in Europe is helpful in prevention, as is the empirically backed conclusion that there is a correlation between propaganda on the Internet and rapid radicalization.
Most of all, what the study shows is that most attackers who commit acts of terror in Europe first developed into jihadists within European societies, and in most cases completely without any prior battlefield experience and without having attended terrorist training camps.
The "new generation" of jihadists in Europe is not the writing on the wall, but reality.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology
on: April 13, 2007, 09:45:51 PM
The Wireless Wars
By GEORGE GILDER
April 13, 2007; Page A13
The 10-year war mounted by EU bureaucrats and Europe's communications giants against America's leading wireless technology innovator, Qualcomm, is now reaching a climax. On Monday, Nokia refused to renew licenses on next generation technology following EU ally Broadcom's suit at the International Trade Commission to bar import of cellphones containing Qualcomm chips from factories in Taiwan.
A decade ago, with its single, unifying cellphone standard known as GSM, Europe led the world in mobile communications. But threatened by Qualcomm's CDMA breakthrough, the Europeans launched a ferocious political and PR offensive, hoping to scare off potential customers of the young American firm. The technology was all hype, they said; it "violated the laws of physics."
When Qualcomm proved them wrong and its mobile technology deployed across the U.S. and Korea, Europe went to plan B. They excluded the Americans from the standards process for third-generation, or 3G, technology, battled in the courts, and mandated their "new" system for all of Europe. But in fact, the new European and Japanese standard, called Wideband CDMA, was essentially a copy of the American CDMA system.
We've come a long way.
With the new mobile system flourishing -- accommodating many times more voice callers and beating the previous generation in security, dropped calls and data -- everyone finally admitted that the American company had a lock on the fundamental technologies. The Europeans and Japanese licensed the American technology, CDMA and its sibling WCDMA, assuring that it would be the future of wireless mobile communications, an industry now selling a billion handsets a year.
Today, however, with those 3G licenses coming up for renewal and a fourth generation of wireless in sight, Europe is once again pushing the political levers to control the future -- this time with the unwitting assistance of the U.S. government. Although their immediate target is U.S. dominance in cellphone technology, a collateral victim would be the U.S. broadband economy.
Until recently, the obscure International Trade Commission played a minor role in the enforcement of patents. But with a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 making it more difficult for patent holders to win federal court injunctions against violators, complainants can now turn to the ITC. Unfortunately, complainants can also use an intellectual-property dispute as a cover for enmeshing competitors in the protectionist mazes of international trade law.
And that is what's happened to Qualcomm, the titan of U.S. intellectual property in wireless, with close to 5,700 patents on the next generation of cellphones and wireless data systems around the globe. Attempting to upend the San Diego titan's well-earned dominance are Broadcom and its European "Gang of Six" sponsors.
At a recent ITC public hearing, Broadcom CEO Scott MacGregor declared that the U.S. wireless telecom system would function better if it completely capitulated to the European standard. The Broadcom campaign began in May 2001 when it purchased, from an obscure bar-code and RFID company called Intermec, a set of three flimsy patents that they are now attempting to use to block the importation of all Qualcomm wireless data chips incorporating its (Qualcomm's) state-of-the-art data system called EV-DO.
EV-DO chips not only make mobile voice-over-IP possible, but they also allow cellphones to function more like multimedia computers, carrying eight to 10 times more data than previous technology. At the ITC public hearing, Verizon Vice President Richard Lynch noted that without EV-DO, "handsets go back to being voice and text."
Not coincidentally, Qualcomm recently announced an upgrade to EV-DO that permits transmissions at up to 9.3 megabits a second, a broadband service faster than U.S. wireline services and fast enough to permit mobile TV and streaming music with simultaneous voice and VoIP calling.
The Broadcom action is part of a campaign, reaching from Seoul through Brussels and cropping up in courts from New Jersey to California, to bring down Verizon's and Sprint's aggressive expansion programs for their EV-DO networks. The EU has its sights set on Qualcomm: The Eurocrats contend that with 20% of global market share in cell-phone technology, Qualcomm is a monopolist, guilty of the sin of inventing new systems needed for successful mobile Internet data access.
At stake in the litigation is who will control the next two phases of wireless technology -- 3G and 4G. Nokia's action on licenses is part of this coordinated attack.
However, with no commercially available alternatives to the Qualcomm EV-DO chips that Broadcom wants to block, the administrative law judge who considered Broadcom's claims noted that a "significant financial burden" falling on third parties, including handset manufacturers, wireless carriers and consumers, "weighed heavily" against categorical exclusion of cellphones containing the chips, which would take at least two years to replace.
And there's the rub. Wireless has become the largest source of profits for nearly all major telcos; and a paralysis on the wireless front would reverberate throughout the American broadband economy.
Verizon's mobile phones, for example, are about two-and-a-half times more profitable than its wireline phones. For the most recent quarter, Verizon Wireless profits were $804 million, while wireline profits were $393 million. AT&T affirmed the strategic importance of wireless last year when it acquired BellSouth for $67 billion. All analysts agreed AT&T's chief interest in BellSouth was the remaining 40% ownership of Cingular, the nation's largest mobile carrier with 54 million customers. And EV-DO's own strategic importance was manifest in the Sprint-Nextel merger. According to Sprint executive Bill Elliott, the ability to migrate Nextel customers to Sprint's EV-DO network "was one of the key reasons for the $35 billion merger."
In the past, U.S. telcos used wireline phone revenues to fund their wireless expansion; now they use revenues from wireless to fund fiber-to-the-home. It is profit from its wireless network, for example, that allows Verizon to maintain its stock price and attract the capital to sustain its ambitious $23 billion program of fiber deployments expected to reach 18 million households over the next four years. Any major setback at Verizon wireless would thus likely halt Verizon fiber.
Similarly, profits from the Qualcomm-based technology used by Cingular (now AT&T Wireless) for next generation systems will be critical to fund AT&T's ambitious Project Lightspeed broadband rollout.
Broadcom's attempt to close down Qualcomm on the basis of some flimsy patents on power-management techniques seems preposterous. The entire Qualcomm system, going back two decades, depends on an exquisite dance of exhaustively patented automatic gain controls and instant power regulation. But by the magic of injunctive relief at the ITC you can shut down the entire U.S. broadband industry in favor of European rivals.
With nearly all chips made or packaged overseas, the entire U.S. information economy now depends on ersatz "imports" based on designs and innovations that nearly all originate in the U.S. and generate profits here. The bottom line: Foreign governments can manipulate U.S. companies to favor their own industrial policies by pressing protectionist buttons at the ITC, putting much of U.S. broadband, wired and wireless, into sleep mode.
Is it not the ultimate irony that this new ITC authority is based on an obscure provision of that protectionist grim reaper, the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930? Surely the president and Congress can act to remove this new U.S. vulnerability -- one that springs from laws and regulations based on an obsolete vision of segregated national economies shipping products across the seas in clipper ships in exchange for transfers of gold.
Mr. Gilder is a founder of the Discovery Institute and the Gilder Technology Fund. Both Broadcom and Qualcomm are on his Gilder Technology Report list of favored companies.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Giuliani and the defeat of the line item veto
on: April 13, 2007, 09:42:09 PM
Rudy's Big Apple Baggage
Will New York politics haunt Mr. Giuliani?
BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, April 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Here's a little nugget from the past, a tale that may offer some insights into the next stage of the GOP presidential race, and the fortunes of front-runner Rudy Giuliani:
The date is the mid-1990s, and Republicans have swept Congress with their Contract with America. A top promise is greater fiscal responsibility, and a crucial element of that is a vow to pass a line-item veto and give the president the power to weed out pork. In 1996 Republicans are as good as their word, and grant the opposition's Bill Clinton a broad new power to strip wasteful spending.
Mr. Clinton is enthusiastic, and in August 1997 uses his tool for the first time to strike down a special-interest provision tucked in a bill. That provision gives New York hospitals a unique right to bilk extra Medicaid money, and the veto is expected to save federal taxpayers at least $200 million. Quicker than a Big Apple pol can say "pork," New York officials sue, challenging the line item veto's constitutionality. That suit, Clinton v. City of New York, goes all the way to the Supremes, which in 1998 put the kibosh on veto authority.
The kicker? The guy who brought the suit and won--or, rather, the guy who helped stall one of the more powerful tools for reining in government spending--was none other than former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 13, 2007, 05:26:48 PM
Sorry, no URL for this one, but it seems sound and comes from a sound person:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The military's controversial V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will head to Iraq for its first combat tour later this year, Marine officials announced Friday.
After 18 years and $20 billion in development, the plane will deploy to western Iraq in September to support Marine Corps combat operations for seven months, Marine officials said.
The plane, which is intended to replace the Corps' 40-year-old fleet of CH-46 helicopters by 2018, can fly like a plane and land like a helicopter, giving the Marines more flexibility in the field, officials said.
The V-22 can carry troops three times as far, twice as fast and has six to seven times more survivability than the CH-46 widely used now in Iraq, the military says.
The Osprey's performance has also been noticed by the Air Force, which has plans to use it as a special operations aircraft.
The aircraft has been redesigned after two fatal accidents in 2000 that killed 23 Marines. Accidents in 1991 and 1992 killed seven other people, but Marines say the plane's problems are in the past.
"It's been through extensive operational testing and evaluation, and it is our fervent feeling that this aircraft is the most capable, survivable aircraft that we carry our most important weapon system in, which is the Marine or rifleman, and that we will successfully introduce this aircraft in combat," said Lt. Gen. John G. Castellaw, deputy commandant for aviation.
Critics say the tilt-rotor design may still be too unsafe for the complexities of flying in combat operations.
The Marine Corps maintains it is a much more controllable aircraft in those situations.
Since 2003, the Marines have lost seven aircraft in combat operations. The Marine Corps says the V-22 can better avoid being shot down because it can fly higher than the missiles that have been targeting helicopters. In addition, people on the ground cannot hear the aircraft approaching, giving insurgents less time to prepare to shoot as it flies at low altitude.
"I flown the V-22, and I have taken it and used it in a tactical manner," Castellaw said. "The ability to maneuver this aircraft is far in excess of what we have with the existing helicopters."
CNN's Mike Mount contributed to this report.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Syderco's balisong legal troubles
on: April 13, 2007, 12:46:12 PM
OAKLAND - LAWFUEL - American Law Newswire - United States Attorney Scott N. Schools announced that Spyderco, Inc., a Colorado corporation, pleaded guilty and was sentenced today to mailing butterfly knives, which are nonmailable, to pay a $75,000 criminal fine, a $125 special assessment, and to forfeit all such knives seized by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement from its corporate offices in Golden, Colorado (estimated to be valued at over $400,000). The guilty plea and sentence is the result of an investigation by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE").
In pleading guilty, Spyderco admitted that from June 2005 through January 2007, it had mailed butterfly knives, after importing the knife components from Taipei, Taiwan, through the Port of San Francisco and the Port of Oakland, to Golden, Colorado. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol had issued a ruling to Spyderco holding that these knives fit the definition of "switchblade knives" as an imported knife "with a blade which opens automatically by operation of inertia, gravity, or both" and were therefore not allowed into the United States pursuant to the Switchblade Knife Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1241-1245, and were further not to be mailed in the United States.
Spyderco agreed to issue a Notice of Recall on its internet site for these butterfly knives and to mail this recall notice to reasonably identifiable customers. Spyderco also agreed not to import, transport, distribute, manufacture, sell, introduce, or attempt to introduce into interstate commerce knives defined as switchblades under the Switchblade Knife Act, in violation of the law.
The sentence was handed down by U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne D. Brazil following the corporate guilty plea to one violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1716(j)(1), a class A misdemeanor.
Maureen Bessette is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case with the assistance of Cynthia Daniel. The prosecution is the result of a one year investigation by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Case #: CR0700203WDB
A copy of this press release may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Natalya LaBauve at (415) 436-7055 or by email at Natalya.LaBauve@usdoj.gov
SpyderFly/SzaboFly Recall Announcement
(2007-04-12) US Customs brought to our attention that some of the parts used in the construction of the SpyderFly/SzaboFly were imported contrary to U. S. Customs laws. Additionally, federal statutes require that only certain classes of individuals may purchase knives that fall within the definition of switchblade knives under the federal Switchblade Knife Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1241-1245. Switchblade knives may be lawfully acquired and possessed in particular state and local jurisdictions. In other jurisdictions, they may not. They may be transported in interstate commerce only under certain circumstances. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon anyone acquiring a knife that may fall within the legal definition of a switchblade knife to check the Federal law and laws of your local jurisdiction to determine whether such a knife may be lawfully acquired or possessed. In order to comply with US Customs regulations, Spyderco will not be manufacturing this product in the future with any improperly imported components. They will be shipped only to persons legally authorized by law to acquire them. In order to conform to legal requirements, Spyderco is asking for any purchaser of the B01 SpyderFly or B03 SzaboFly from January 1, 2006, through January, 2007, to review the attached Acknowledgement and Representation form to determine whether he or she qualifies as an authorized dealer or purchaser of the knife that was acquired from Spyderco. If so, please execute the form and return it to Spyderco. If you did not qualify as an authorized dealer or purchaser at the time of acquisition of the knife(s), please return your purchase directly to Spyderco for a credit or refund. Please cut and paste this link into your browser for the form:http://spyderco.com/catalog/SpydercoAutoForm.pdf
Please contact Spyderco at 800-525-7770 for more information.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 13, 2007, 10:41:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iraq's Worsening Crisis of Governance
The al Qaeda-claimed suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament cafeteria on Thursday killed three members of parliament -- two Sunnis and a Kurd -- and wounded numerous others, including several Shiite parliament members.
By targeting the parliament building, which is located in the maximum-security Green Zone in Baghdad, the jihadists are trying to prove that the United States is unable to provide protection to any of the three principal ethno-sectarian groups in Iraq. Given the pressure on the Bush administration to withdraw troops from Iraq and the dire need of each communal group for U.S. protection, this attack was well timed. Moreover, it makes a mockery of the U.S. surge policy and the Baghdad Security Plan.
But though critically timed, the attack should not be viewed as evidence of jihadist dominance in Iraq. In fact, the militants are trying to counter the threats from the mainstream Sunni community and nationalist insurgent groups that have turned against them. The militants also are keeping an eye on the intensifying U.S.-Iranian back-channel negotiations because they fear the discussion will move toward a settlement on Iraq.
Al Qaeda realizes the only way it can block such a settlement is to create a crisis of governance, which could be realized if a large number of parliamentarians were eliminated. The jihadists know all too well the vulnerabilities within the fledgling Iraqi political system because they have seen how difficult it has been to establish the legislature and the Cabinet.
The deaths of a large number of parliamentarians would divert the attention of the Iraqi government and the United States toward filling the political vacuum -- a process that would only further exacerbate existing political tensions within the country.
Iraq's largest Sunni political bloc already is threatening to leave the government because it feels the Baghdad Security Plan has not contained Shiite militias. And the Sunnis believe they have upheld their end of the bargain by going after the jihadists operating within their midst.
However, the Shia, especially the radical al-Sadrite bloc, also are threatening to leave the coalition government unless their demand for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable is met. It is no secret that the Shia are perhaps the most internally divided of all of Iraq's communal groups, which is why Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has been unable to make much progress with plans to disband Shiite militias -- a key prerequisite in containing the Sunni insurgency.
Meanwhile, another complex communal fault line is emerging in the northern Kurdish territory over the future of Kirkuk, where Shiite and Sunni Arabs could end up facing off with the increasingly assertive Kurdish community. Further complicating the situation in northern Iraq is the aggressive posture toward Turkey of Kurdistan Regional Government leader Massoud Barzani. Barzani has issued more than one statement warning Ankara that if it tries to intervene in northern Iraq in an effort to go after Turkish Kurdish separatist groups that Iraqi Kurds will cause trouble in Turkey's southeastern Kurdish areas.
On Thursday Turkey's military chief announced a major offensive against Kurds within Turkish borders and asked the government for permission to send troops into northern Iraq. Barzani's warnings and the resulting escalation of tensions has fellow Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani worried, which would explain why he has tried to placate Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying he regrets Barzani's comments.
Talabani's reaction to Barzani's statements is indicative of the rivalry between the two principal Kurdish leaders and their respective groups. Barzani knows that Talabani will not be around for long because of his advanced age and declining health, and is angling to emerge as the top leader of Iraqi Kurds -- moves that will only exacerbate intra-Kurdish struggles.
Given the various moving parts that form Iraq and the multilevel conflicts in which they are engaged, it must be questioned how much stability can be derived from a U.S.-Iranian accommodation on Iraq, which is another messy affair altogether.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / bajas en produccion de petroleo
on: April 12, 2007, 05:53:21 PM
MEXICO: Mexican President Felipe Calderon decreased Mexico's base commitment to supply oil to a proposed Central American oil refinery during the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) meeting in Campeche, Mexico, on April 9-10. PPP is a regional integration and development initiative started by Calderon's predecessor, involving Mexico's nine southern states and Central American countries. Although the PPP meeting aimed to revitalize regional development, Calderon reduced Mexico's commitment from 230,000 to 80,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to declining production at Cantarell, the country's largest oil field. Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala are vying to be selected as the site for the proposed refinery, which is to have a 360,000 bpd capacity; firms from China, India and Japan are bidding to build it. Calderon's reappraisal is a further indication that Mexican oil output is headed for a serious collapse if legal barriers to foreign cooperation in offshore exploration are not addressed soon. Furthermore, if Mexico cannot provide sufficient crude for the Central American refinery project, the project could become unviable.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops)
on: April 12, 2007, 05:09:07 PM
I am in Basra, with our British Coalition partners, who this week launched a clever operation that lured enemy fighters into combat, a decision that proved fatal for more than two dozen of militia members and terrorists. Please click the link to read about Operation Arezzo.
New readers will find the dispatch Tabula Rasa gives context to my work from Iraq.
Another dispatch, with more than 100 photos of the 1-4 Cav at work in Baghdad, is nearly ready. What an excellent bunch of soldiers! I'll send out an announcement when "Desires of the Human Heart" is published and folks at home can see and read about things rarely reported.
I am energized by this embed with British soldiers, which has me in the thick of things with their soldiers who are engaged with the enemy. I broke yet another lens in combat with the British on Tuesday.
Before it got smashed, the lens was taking great photos, some of which you'll see in the latest dispatch, and others will be published in the coming days.
This site is wholly contingent on reader support, for which I'm truly grateful. In addition to keeping me in camera lenses, reader support is the best indication I have of how important it is for me to continue this work.
Also, read this! http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/tabula-rasa.htm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War?
on: April 12, 2007, 03:15:46 PM
Special Dispatch Series - No. 1538
April 12, 2007 No.1538
Is it Legitimate to Use Nuclear Weapons Against the West? A Debate on An Islamist Forum
The Islamist website Al-Firdaws recently posted an article by a certain Abu Zabadi titled "Religious Grounds for [Launching] a Nuclear Attack."  The article, presented as a response to "recent rumors about Al-Qaeda's plan to attack the U.S. with WMDs such as a nuclear bomb," unequivocally opposes the use of WMDs by Muslims against the West, and attempts to counter the legal justifications for their use recently put forward by some prominent religious scholars affiliated with Al-Qaeda and other jihad movements. 
The article sparked a fierce debate among participants on the forum, with some participants supporting the author's reasoning and conclusions, and others forcefully rejecting them.
The following are the main points of Abu Zabadi's article, and excerpts from some of the responses to it.
A Nuclear Attack Results in Indiscriminate Killing, Which Is Forbidden by Islam
The author's main concern is not the legitimacy of obtaining WMDs for purposes of deterrence, but whether Islam sanctions a first-strike nuclear attack by Al-Qaeda against the U.S. or Europe. The author states that such an attack is forbidden, and presents several arguments in support of his position.
Using WMDs May Provoke U.S. WMD Counterattack
Abu Zabadi first points out that a nuclear attack results in indiscriminate killing of both innocent and guilty, which violates Allah's commandment to preserve the lives of the innocent.
Next, he dismisses the claim that the U.S. itself has used WMDs - such as phosphor bombs, cluster bombs or depleted uranium - against its enemies, which makes it legitimate to attack it with WMDs. The author states that these are conventional weapons, and that, unlike nuclear weapons, "they do not kill millions at a single strike." From a practical point of view, he adds, "using WMDs against America and its allies will provoke them... to aim a painful blow at Muslims, and this time not with conventional weapons but with WMDs." Such provocation, he states, stands in contradiction to the Prophet's conduct as attested in the Islamic tradition. "Since America and its allies are stronger than the Islamic nation," he says, "circumstances forbid us to provoke America and its allies... even if Al-Qaeda succeeds in obtaining a nuclear bomb."
"If God Wishes to Wipe America Off the Face of the Earth... The Matter Is In His Hands"
Abu Zabadi next addresses the claim that the U.S. must be destroyed because it is an immoral country that encourages corrupt behavior such as consuming alcohol and visiting brothels. He responds that a similar argument can be used to "sanction the killing of our brothers in Yemen, Egypt, and other [countries]." Pointing out that the murder rate in Yemen is very close to that of the U.S., he asks: "Are we therefore permitted to destroy Yemen... with WMDs because of [its]... moral corruption?" He concludes, "If God wishes to wipe America off the face of the earth because of its great corruption, the matter is in His hands [and not in the hands of the mujahideen]."
"If Bin Laden and His Followers Wish to Respond [to U.S. Attacks] in Kind, They Should [Confront] the Evil Troops on the Battlefield"
The author rejects the argument that killing innocent Americans can be regarded as legitimate retribution for attacks on Muslims, which some claim is sanctioned by several Koranic verses.  When bin Laden used this argument to justify the attack on the World Trade Center, says Abu Zabadi, he was basing his claims on a flawed understanding of the Koranic text. The Koran, he explains, permits to take revenge on a person who commits an act of aggression, but not to take revenge on his family or friends, as the verse says: "Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors [2: 190]." He therefore concludes, "If bin Laden and his associates wish to respond [to the U.S. attacks] in kind, they should go out and [confront] the evil troops on the battlefield. However, they are not permitted to target unarmed civilians.... men, women, children and elderly people. This is... not permitted by Islamic law."
Forum Participant: The Article "Is All Distortions, It Laughs in the Faces of the Muslims"
Most of the forum participants who criticized the article took up religious arguments made in the past by prominent contemporary Islamist sheikhs (see endnote 2).
A participant calling himself Abdal Al-Sham began with a personal attack on the author, saying: "This article was not written by a Muslim... but by an American, and more specifically, by [someone from] one of their strategic centers for countering the Islamic jihad..." Regarding the content of the article, he said: "The essence of the article.... is that the U.S. bears no responsibility for the killing of Muslim children... And [even in cases] where it is proven that the U.S has killed Muslim women, children and elderly, [the article stipulates that it is permissible] to take revenge only on the one [directly] responsible for the killing... This is a distortion. [The article] laughs in Muslims' faces... It essentially [misrepresents] some of the [texts] it quotes from the Koran and the sunna..."
"The Destructive Power of the... Bombs Dropped on Afghanistan Alone Was Greater Than That of the Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima"
Abdal Al-Sham then argues against Abu Zabadi's legal reasoning: "The distinction between WMDs and conventional weapons, based on the extent of death and destruction they cause... is theoretically valid. But in reality, this distinction is false!!!... The amount of destruction... and the number of deaths to Muslim civilians - women, children, and the elderly - caused by the... conventional weapons used by the U.S. throughout its years-long Crusader war against Islam is equivalent to the [extent of death and destruction] caused by WMDs!!... The destructive power of the one-ton bombs dropped on Afghanistan alone is greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima... The ignorant writer should consider this fact!!!"
It Is Permitted to Strike the Infidels When Their Women and Children Are with Them
Abdal Al-Sham continues: "The principle of retribution in kind applies, for example, when the infidels do something that is completely forbidden to Muslims, such as mutilating corpses. It is prohibited for Muslims [to do such a thing] unless the infidels commit [this crime] against Muslims!!!... However, striking the infidels when their women and children are with them is permitted independently [of] the principle of retribution in kind."
Legally, Americans Are Considered a Single Individual
"It is clear that the elected American government..., the military and civil organizations associated with it, and [the American] nation [as a whole] legally constitute 'a single individual' when it comes to [responsibility for] the killing of women, children and the elderly... by U.S. troops in Muslim lands. This aggression is committed by every American who is [a citizen of] the United States and does not wash his hands of it or keep away from it... Legally, all of them are considered 'one individual.' An American who is against this aggression against Muslims should emigrate from America to a safe place... in order to avoid the punishment [meted out by] the Muslim mujahideen. It is not the concern of the mujahideen to distinguish him from... those Americans who do support the aggression."
Americans Have Used Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Weapons
Another forum participant supported Abdal Al-Sham's position, saying: "[WMDs] include biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, which the Americans - as admitted by their [own] judicial authorities - have used to varying degrees. The U.S. sanctions the killing of civilians day and night, and claims that it is an unavoidable [consequence] of war... It is permissible to kill the infidels..."
Another forum participant criticized Abdal Al-Sham's grasp of the religious sources and provided additional proof-texts in support of the position expressed in Abu Zabadi's article.
 For a summary of the arguments presented by some of these scholars, see Special Report No. 34, "Contemporary Islamist Ideology Authorizing Genocidal Murder," September 15, 2004, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Pa...a=sr&ID=SR2504
. See also Reuven Paz, "Global Jihad and WMD: Between Martyrdom and Mass Destruction," Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, 2, (2005) pp. 74-86. For a May 2003 article by Islamist Saudi Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Fahd justifying the use of WMDs, see Nasser Al-Fahd, Risalah fi hukm istikhdam aslihat al-damar al-shamil dhid al-kuffar, (May 2003): http://www.al-fhd.net/surf.php?ad=32
 As an example, the author cites the following verse: "Whoever commits aggression against you, you should commit aggression against him like he has committed against you" (2:194).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Part Two
on: April 12, 2007, 03:14:35 PM
How is this case to be sustained in the face of contemporary test data indicating that non-Ashkenazi Jews do not have the elevated mean of today's Ashkenazim? The logical inconsistency disappears if one posits that Jews circa 1000 C.E. had elevated intelligence everywhere, but that it subsequently was augmented still further among Ashkenazim and declined for Jews living in the Islamic world—perhaps because of the dynamics described by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending (that is, Oriental Jews were concentrated in trades for which high intelligence did not yield wealth).
Recent advances in the use of genetic markers to characterize populations enable us to pursue such possibilities systematically. I offer this testable hypothesis as just one of many possibilities: if genetic markers are used to discriminate among non- Ashkenazi Jews, it will be found that those who are closest genetically to the Sephardim of Golden Age Spain have an elevated mean IQ, though perhaps not so high as the contemporary Ashkenazi IQ.
The next strand of an alternative to the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory involves reasons for thinking that some of the elevation of Jewish intelligence occurred even before Jews moved into occupations selected for intelligence, because of the shift in ancient Judaism from a rite-based to a learning-based religion.
All scholars who have examined the topic agree that about 80–90 percent of all Jews were farmers at the beginning of the Common Era, and that only about 10–20 percent of Jews were farmers by the end of the first millennium. No other ethnic group underwent this same kind of occupational shift. For the story of why this happened, I turn to a discussion by Maristella Botticini and Zvi Eckstein entitled "Jewish Occupational Selection: Education, Restrictions, or Minorities?" which appeared in the Journal of Economic History in 2005.
Rejecting the explanation that Jews became merchants because they were restricted from farming, Botticini and Eckstein point to cases in which Jews who were free to own land and engage in agriculture made the same shift to urban, skilled occupations that Jews exhibited where restrictions were in force. Instead, they focus on an event that occurred in 64 C.E., when the Palestinian sage Joshua ben Gamla issued an ordinance mandating universal schooling for all males starting at about age six. The ordinance was not only issued; it was implemented. Within about a century, the Jews, uniquely among the peoples of the world, had effectively established universal male literacy and numeracy.
The authors' explanation for the subsequent shift from farming to urban occupations reduces to this: if you were educated, you possessed an asset that had economic value in occupations that required literacy and numeracy, such as those involving sales and transactions. If you remained a farmer, your education had little or no value. Over the centuries, this basic economic reality led Jews to leave farming and engage in urban occupations.
So far, Botticini and Eckstein have provided an explanatory backdrop to the shift in occupations that in turn produced the selection pressures for intelligence described by Cochran, Hardy, and Harpending. But selection pressure in this classic form was probably not the only force at work. Between the 1st and 6th centuries C.E., the number of Jews in the world plummeted from about 4.5 million to 1.5 million or fewer. About 1 million Jews were killed in the revolts against the Romans in Judea and Egypt. There were scattered forced conversions from Judaism to another religion. Some of the reduction may be associated with a general drop in population that accompanied the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But that still leaves a huge number of Jews who just disappeared.
What happened to them? Botticini and Eckstein argue that an economic force was at work: for Jews who remained farmers, universal education involved a cost that had little economic benefit. As time went on, they drifted away from Judaism. I am sure this explanation has some merit. But a more direct explanation could involve the increased intellectual demands of Judaism.
Joshua ben Gamla's ordinance mandating literacy occurred at about the same time as the destruction of the Second Temple—64 C.E. and 70 C.E., respectively. Both mark the moment when Judaism began actively to transform itself from a religion centered on rites and sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem to a religion centered on prayer and the study of the Torah at decentralized synagogues and study houses. Rabbis and scholars took on a much larger role as leaders of local communities. Since worship of God involved not only prayer but study, all Jewish males had to read if they were to practice their faith—and not only read in private but be able to read aloud in the presence of others.
In this context, consider the intellectual requirements of literacy. People with modest intelligence can become functionally literate, but they are able to read only simple texts. The Torah and the Hebrew prayer book are not simple texts; even to be able to read them mechanically requires fairly advanced literacy. To study the Talmud and its commentaries with any understanding requires considerable intellectual capacity. In short, during the centuries after Rome's destruction of the Temple, Judaism evolved in such a way that to be a good Jew meant that a man had to be smart.
What happened to the millions of Jews who disappeared? It is not necessary to maintain that Jews of low intelligence were run out of town because they could not read the Torah and commentaries fluently. Rather, few people enjoy being in a position where their inadequacies are constantly highlighted. It is human nature to withdraw from such situations. I suggest that the Jews who fell away from Judaism from the 1st to 6th centuries C.E. were heavily concentrated among those who could not learn to read well enough to be good Jews—meaning those from the lower half of the intelligence distribution. Even before the selection pressures arising from urban occupations began to have an effect, I am arguing, the remaining self-identified Jews circa 800 C.E. already had elevated intelligence.
A loose end remains. Is it the case that, before the 1st century C.E., Jews were intellectually ordinary? Are we to believe that the Bible, a work compiled over centuries and incorporating everything from brilliant poetry to profound ethics, with stories that speak so eloquently to the human condition that they have inspired great art, music, and literature for millennia, was produced by an intellectually run-of-the-mill Levantine tribe?
In The Evolution of Man and Society (1969), the geneticist Cyril Darlington presented the thesis that Jews and Judaism were decisively shaped much earlier than the 1st century C.E., namely, by the Babylonian captivity that began with the fall of Jerusalem to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E.
Darlington's analysis touches on many issues, but I will focus on just the intelligence question. The biblical account clearly states that only a select group of Jews were taken to Babylon. We read that Nebuchadnezzar "carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans. . . . Only the poorest people of the land were left" (2 Kings 24:10).
In effect, the Babylonians took away the Jewish elites, selected in part for high intelligence, and left behind the poor and unskilled, selected in part for low intelligence. By the time the exiles returned, more than a century later, many of those remaining behind in Judah had been absorbed into other religions. Following Ezra's command to "separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives" (Ezra 10:9), only those who renounced their foreign wives and children were permitted to stay within the group. The returned exiles, who formed the bulk of the reconstituted Jewish community, comprised mainly the descendants of the Jewish elites—plausibly a far more able population, on average, than the pre-captivity population.
I offer the Babylonian captivity as a concrete mechanism whereby Jewish intelligence may have been elevated very early, but I am not wedded to it. Even without that mechanism, there is reason to think that selection for intelligence antedates the 1st century C.E.
From its very outset, apparently going back to the time of Moses, Judaism was intertwined with intellectual complexity. Jews were commanded by God to heed the law, which meant they had to learn the law. The law was so extensive and complicated that this process of learning and reviewing was never complete. Moreover, Jewish males were not free to pretend that they had learned the law, for fathers were commanded to teach the law to their children. It became obvious to all when fathers failed in their duty. No other religion made so many intellectual demands upon the whole body of its believers. Long before Joshua ben Gamla and the destruction of the Second Temple, the requirements for being a good Jew had provided incentives for the less intelligent to fall away.
Assessing the events of the 1st century C.E. thus poses a chicken-and-egg problem. By way of an analogy, consider written Chinese with its thousands of unique characters. On cognitive tests, today's Chinese do especially well on visuo-spatial skills. It is possible, I suppose, that their high visuo-spatial skills have been fostered by having to learn written Chinese; but I find it much more plausible that only people who already possessed high visuo-spatial skills would ever devise such a ferociously difficult written language. Similarly, I suppose it is possible that the Jews' high verbal skills were fostered, through secondary and tertiary effects, by the requirement that they be able to read and understand complicated texts after the 1st century C.E.; but I find it much more plausible that only people who already possessed high verbal skills would dream of installing such a demanding requirement.
This reasoning pushes me even farther into the realm of speculation. Insofar as I am suggesting that the Jews may have had some degree of unusual verbal skills going back to the time of Moses, I am naked before the evolutionary psychologists' ultimate challenge. Why should one particular tribe at the time of Moses, living in the same environment as other nomadic and agricultural peoples of the Middle East, have already evolved elevated intelligence when the others did not?
At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. The Jews are God's chosen people.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jewish Genius
on: April 12, 2007, 03:13:42 PM
A piece of scary implications , , ,
From issue: April 2007
By Charles Murray
Since its first issue in 1945, COMMENTARY has published hundreds of articles about Jews and Judaism. As one would expect, they cover just about every important aspect of the topic. But there is a lacuna, and not one involving some obscure bit of Judaica. COMMENTARY has never published a systematic discussion of one of the most obvious topics of all: the extravagant overrepresentation of Jews, relative to their numbers, in the top ranks of the arts, sciences, law, medicine, finance, entrepreneurship, and the media.
I have personal experience with the reluctance of Jews to talk about Jewish accomplishment—my co-author, the late Richard Herrnstein, gently resisted the paragraphs on Jewish IQ that I insisted on putting in The Bell Curve (1994). Both history and the contemporary revival of anti-Semitism in Europe make it easy to understand the reasons for that reluctance. But Jewish accomplishment constitutes a fascinating and important story. Recent scholarship is expanding our understanding of its origins.
And so this Scots-Irish Gentile from Iowa hereby undertakes to tell the story. I cover three topics: the timing and nature of Jewish accomplishment, focusing on the arts and sciences; elevated Jewish IQ as an explanation for that accomplishment; and current theories about how the Jews acquired their elevated IQ.
From 800 B.C.E. through the first millennium of the Common Era, we have just two examples of great Jewish accomplishment, and neither falls strictly within the realms of the arts or sciences. But what a pair they are. The first is the fully realized conceptualization of monotheism, expressed through one of the literary treasures of the world, the Hebrew Bible. It not only laid the foundation for three great religions but, as Thomas Cahill describes in The Gifts of the Jews (1998), introduced a way of looking at the meaning of human life and the nature of history that defines core elements of the modern sensibility. The second achievement is not often treated as a Jewish one but clearly is: Christian theology expressed through the New Testament, an accomplishment that has spilled into every aspect of Western civilization.
But religious literature is the exception. The Jews do not appear in the annals of philosophy, drama, visual art, mathematics, or the natural sciences during the eighteen centuries from the time of Homer through the first millennium C.E., when so much was happening in Greece, China, and South Asia. It is unclear to what extent this reflects a lack of activity or the lack of a readily available record. For example, only a handful of the scientists of the Middle Ages are mentioned in most histories of science, and none was a Jew. But when George Sarton put a high-powered lens to the Middle Ages in his monumental Introduction to the History of Science (1927-48), he found that 95 of the 626 known scientists working everywhere in the world from 1150 to 1300 were Jews—15 percent of the total, far out of proportion to the Jewish population.
As it happens, that same period overlaps with the life of the most famous Jewish philosopher of medieval times, Maimonides (1135–1204), and of others less well known, not to mention the Jewish poets, grammarians, religious thinkers, scholars, physicians, and courtiers of Spain in the "Golden Age," or the brilliant exegetes and rabbinical legislators of northern France and Germany. But this only exemplifies the difficulty of assessing Jewish intellectual activity in that period. Aside from Maimonides and a few others, these thinkers and artists did not perceptibly influence history or culture outside the confines of the Jewish world.
Generally speaking, this remained the case well into the Renaissance and beyond. When writing a book called Human Accomplishment (2003), I compiled inventories of "significant figures" in the arts and sciences, defined as people who are mentioned in at least half of the major histories of their respective fields. From 1200 to 1800, only seven Jews are among those significant figures, and only two were important enough to have names that are still widely recognized: Spinoza and Montaigne (whose mother was Jewish).
The sparse representation of Jews during the flowering of the European arts and sciences is not hard to explain. They were systematically excluded, both by legal restrictions on the occupations they could enter and by savage social discrimination. Then came legal emancipation, beginning in the late 1700's in a few countries and completed in Western Europe by the 1870's, and with it one of the most extraordinary stories of any ethnic group at any point in human history.
As soon as Jewish children born under legal emancipation had time to grow to adulthood, they started appearing in the first ranks of the arts and sciences. During the four decades from 1830 to 1870, when the first Jews to live under emancipation reached their forties, 16 significant Jewish figures appear. In the next four decades, from 1870 to 1910, the number jumps to 40. During the next four decades, 1910–1950, despite the contemporaneous devastation of European Jewry, the number of significant figures almost triples, to 114.
To get a sense of the density of accomplishment these numbers represent, I will focus on 1870 onward, after legal emancipation had been achieved throughout Central and Western Europe. How does the actual number of significant figures compare to what would be expected given the Jewish proportion of the European and North American population? From 1870 to 1950, Jewish representation in literature was four times the number one would expect. In music, five times. In the visual arts, five times. In biology, eight times. In chemistry, six times. In physics, nine times. In mathematics, twelve times. In philosophy, fourteen times.
Disproportionate Jewish accomplishment in the arts and sciences continues to this day. My inventories end with 1950, but many other measures are available, of which the best known is the Nobel Prize. In the first half of the 20th century, despite pervasive and continuing social discrimination against Jews throughout the Western world, despite the retraction of legal rights, and despite the Holocaust, Jews won 14 percent of Nobel Prizes in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology. In the second half of the 20th century, when Nobel Prizes began to be awarded to people from all over the world, that figure rose to 29 percent. So far, in the 21st century, it has been 32 percent. Jews constitute about two-tenths of one percent of the world's population. You do the math.
What accounts for this remarkable record? A full answer must call on many characteristics of Jewish culture, but intelligence has to be at the center of the answer. Jews have been found to have an unusually high mean intelligence as measured by IQ tests since the first Jewish samples were tested. (The widely repeated story that Jewish immigrants to this country in the early 20th century tested low on IQ is a canard.) Exactly how high has been difficult to pin down, because Jewish sub-samples in the available surveys are seldom perfectly representative. But it is currently accepted that the mean is somewhere in the range of 107 to 115, with 110 being a plausible compromise.
The IQ mean for the American population is "normed" to be 100, with a standard deviation of 15. If the Jewish mean is 110, then the mathematics of the normal distribution says that the average Jew is at the 75th percentile. Underlying that mean in overall IQ is a consistent pattern on IQ subtests: Jews are only about average on the subtests measuring visuo-spatial skills, but extremely high on subtests that measure verbal and reasoning skills.
A group's mean intelligence is important in explaining outcomes such as mean educational attainment or mean income. The key indicator for predicting exceptional accomplishment (like winning a Nobel Prize) is the incidence of exceptional intelligence. Consider an IQ score of 140 or higher, denoting the level of intelligence that can permit people to excel in fields like theoretical physics and pure mathematics. If the mean Jewish IQ is 110 and the standard deviation is 15, then the proportion of Jews with IQ's of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else.
The imbalance continues to increase for still higher IQ's. New York City's public-school system used to administer a pencil-and-paper IQ test to its entire school population. In 1954, a psychologist used those test results to identify all 28 children in the New York public-school system with measured IQ's of 170 or higher. Of those 28, 24 were Jews.
Exceptional intelligence is not enough to explain exceptional accomplishment. Qualities such as imagination, ambition, perseverance, and curiosity are decisive in separating the merely smart from the highly productive. The role of intelligence is nicely expressed in an analogy suggested to me years ago by the sociologist Steven Goldberg: intelligence plays the same role in an intellectually demanding task that weight plays in the performance of NFL offensive tackles. The heaviest offensive tackle is not necessarily the best. Indeed, the correlation between weight and performance among NFL offensive tackles is probably quite low. But they all weigh more than 300 pounds.
So with intelligence. The other things count, but you must be very smart to have even a chance of achieving great work. A randomly selected Jew has a higher probability of possessing that level of intelligence than a randomly selected member of any other ethnic or national group, by far.
Nothing that I have presented up to this point is scientifically controversial. The profile of disproportionately high Jewish accomplishment in the arts and sciences since the 18th century, the reality of elevated Jewish IQ, and the connection between the two are not to be denied by means of data. And so we come to the great question: how and when did this elevated Jewish IQ come about? Here, the discussion must become speculative. Geneticists and historians are still assembling the pieces of the explanation, and there is much room for disagreement.
I begin with the assumption that elevated Jewish intelligence is grounded in genetics. It is no longer seriously disputed that intelligence in Homo sapiens is substantially heritable. In the last two decades, it has also been established that obvious environmental factors such as high income, books in the house, and parental reading to children are not as potent as one might expect. A "good enough" environment is important for the nurture of intellectual potential, but the requirements for "good enough" are not high. Even the very best home environments add only a few points, if that, to a merely okay environment. It is also known that children adopted at birth do not achieve the IQ's predicted by their parents' IQ.
To put it another way, we have good reason to think that Gentile children raised in Jewish families do not acquire Jewish intelligence. Hence my view that something in the genes explains elevated Jewish IQ. That conclusion is not logically necessary but, given what we know about heritability and environmental effects on intelligence in humans as a species, it is extremely plausible.
Two potential explanations for a Jewish gene pool favoring high intelligence are so obvious that many people assume they must be true: winnowing by persecution (only the smartest Jews either survived or remained Jews) and marrying for brains (scholars and children of scholars were socially desirable spouses). I too think that both of these must have played some role, but how much of a role is open to question.
In the case of winnowing through persecution, the logic cuts both ways. Yes, those who remained faithful during the many persecutions of the Jews were self-selected for commitment to Judaism, and the role of scholarship in that commitment probably means that intelligence was one of the factors in self-selection. The foresight that goes with intelligence might also have had some survival value (as in anticipating pogroms), though it is not obvious that its effect would be large enough to explain much.
But once the Cossacks are sweeping through town, the kind of intelligence that leads to business success or rabbinical acumen is no help at all. On the contrary, the most successful people could easily have become the most likely to be killed, by virtue of being more visible and the targets of greater envy. Furthermore, other groups, such as the Gypsies, have been persecuted for centuries without developing elevated intelligence. Considered closely, the winnowing-by-persecution logic is not as compelling as it may first appear.
What of the marrying-for-brains theory? "A man should sell all he possesses in order to marry the daughter of a scholar, as well as to marry his daughter to a scholar," advises the Talmud (Pesahim 49a), and scholarship did in fact have social cachet within many Jewish communities before (and after) emancipation. The combination could have been potent: by marrying the children of scholars to the children of successful merchants, Jews were in effect joining those selected for abstract reasoning ability with those selected for practical intelligence.
Once again, however, it is difficult to be more specific about how much effect this might have had. Arguments have been advanced that rich merchants were in fact often reluctant to entrust their daughters to penniless and unworldly scholars. Nor is it clear that the fertility rate of scholars, or their numbers, were high enough to account for a major effect on intelligence. The attractiveness of brains in prospective marriage partners surely played some role but, once again, the data for assessing how much have not been assembled.
Against this backdrop of uncertainty, a data-driven theory for explaining elevated Jewish IQ appeared in 2006 in the Journal of Biosocial Science. In an article entitled "Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence," Gregory Cochran (a physicist) and Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending (anthropologists) contend that elevated Jewish IQ is confined to the Ashkenazi Jews of northern and central Europe, and developed from the Middle Ages onward, primarily from 800 to 1600 C.E.
In the analysis of these authors, the key factor explaining elevated Jewish intelligence is occupational selection. From the time Jews became established north of the Pyrenees-Balkans line, around 800 C.E ., they were in most places and at most times restricted to occupations involving sales, finance, and trade. Economic success in all of these occupations is far more highly selected for intelligence than success in the chief occupation of non-Jews: namely, farming. Economic success is in turn related to reproductive success, because higher income means lower infant mortality, better nutrition, and, more generally, reproductive "fitness." Over time, increased fitness among the successful leads to strong selection for the cognitive and psychological traits that produce that fitness, intensified when there is a low inward gene flow from other populations—as was the case with Ashkenazim.
Sephardi and Oriental Jews—i.e., those from the Iberian peninsula, the Mediterranean littoral, and the Islamic East—were also engaged in urban occupations during the same centuries. But the authors cite evidence that, as a rule, they were less concentrated in occupations that selected for IQ and instead more commonly worked in craft trades. Thus, elevated intelligence did not develop among Sephardi and Oriental Jews—as manifested by contemporary test results in Israel that show the IQ's of non-European Jews to be roughly similar to the IQ's of Gentiles.
The three authors conclude this part of their argument with an elegant corollary that matches the known test profiles of today's Ashkenazim with the historical experience of their ancestors:
The suggested selective process explains the pattern of mental abilities in Ashkenazi Jews: high verbal and mathematical ability but relatively low spatio-visual ability. Verbal and mathematical talent helped medieval businessmen succeed, while spatio-visual abilities were irrelevant.
The rest of their presentation is a lengthy and technical discussion of the genetics of selection for IQ, indirect evidence linking elevated Jewish IQ with a variety of genetically based diseases found among Ashkenazim, and evidence that most of these selection effects have occurred within the last 1,200 years.
No one has yet presented an alternative to the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory that can match it for documentation. But, as someone who suspects that elevated Jewish intelligence was (a) not confined to Ashkenazim and (b) antedates the Middle Ages, I will outline the strands of an alternative explanation that should be explored.
It begins with evidence that Jews who remained in the Islamic world exhibited unusually high levels of accomplishment as of the beginning of the second millennium. The hardest evidence is Sarton's enumeration of scientists mentioned earlier, of whom 15 percent were Jews. These were not Ashkenazim in northern Europe, where Jews were still largely excluded from the world of scientific scholarship, but Sephardim in the Iberian peninsula, in Baghdad, and in other Islamic centers of learning. I have also mentioned the more diffuse cultural evidence from Spain, where, under both Muslim and Christian rule, Jews attained eminent positions in the professions, commerce, and government as well as in elite literary and intellectual circles.
After being expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century, Sephardi Jews rose to distinction in many of the countries where they settled. Some economic historians have traced the decline of Spain after 1500, and the subsequent rise of the Netherlands, in part to the Sephardi commercial talent that was transferred from the one to the other. Centuries later, in England, one could point to such Sephardi eminences as Benjamin Disraeli and the economist David Ricardo.
In sum, I propose that a strong case could be assembled that Jews everywhere had unusually high intellectual resources that manifested themselves outside of Ashkenaz and well before the period when non-rabbinic Ashkenazi accomplishment manifested itself.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: April 12, 2007, 02:58:54 PM
Second post of the day:
PAKISTAN: Gunmen thought to be Sunni Muslim tribesmen on April 11 raided the Shiite Muslim village of Chardiwar in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region, near the Afghan border, killing five people, officials said.
AFGHANISTAN: Former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef said he and other members of Afghanistan's old regime will not mediate between the current government and rebel forces, as President Hamid Karzai has asked them to do, until the United States backs the plan, and unless they receive safety assurances from the government and their Taliban comrades. Zaeef said that while the Taliban believe Karzai is serious about his desire for peace talks, the Pashtun jihadist movement does not think the Afghan leader is free to make this decision.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Consequences Continue
on: April 12, 2007, 09:51:58 AM
The consequences of Bush-Rumbo failing to increase our military when they should have done so back in 2003-4 continue:
WAR ON TERRORISM | Effective immediately, deployments are three months longer
Army extends war tours
The action affects troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, or those about to be sent there, but not Guard and Reserve units or Marines.
By NANCY A. YOUSSEF
WASHINGTON | U.S. Army soldiers deployed to Iraq will serve at least 15 months there instead of 12, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the new rotation schedule, which also will affect soldiers sent to Afghanistan, would allow the Pentagon to guarantee units at least 12 months at home between war zone rotations. Without the change, five brigades would have had to return to combat after less than a year at home, he said.
On U.S. Army bases, commanders and families scrambled to determine the effect of the new deployment schedule.
About 100 soldiers from a company of the 705th Military Police Battalion at Fort Leavenworth have been deployed to Iraq since December for a 12-month tour, said post spokeswoman Janet Wray. Her office had not received official word whether these troops would be affected by the extended deployment.
The extended deployments probably will affect about 6,000 soldiers currently deployed in Iraq from Fort Riley, and an additional 3,500 soldiers will be deployed to Iraq within the next year, said Master Sgt. Cameron Porter, a Fort Riley spokesman.
The longer deployments will greatly affect military families, said Michelle Joyner, spokeswoman for the National Military Family Association, based in Alexandria, Va.
“It’s difficult once you start marking two birthdays that are missed or two anniversaries or two holidays — that makes it seem like a much longer time,” she said. “It is a long time for families to be separated, especially while they’re worried about the safety and well-being of their loved one that’s deployed.
“For military families, once the service member deploys, many of us have a mental countdown clock as to when they’re coming home and when they’ll be someplace where you know they’re safe. It becomes very difficult when you’ve adjusted to that, to recondition your thoughts knowing it’s going to be longer.”
Joyner said that extended deployments also might affect families’ practical plans that had been made for celebrating the deployed service member’s homecoming.
“This plays heavily on the children,” she said. “They don’t understand why mommy or daddy isn’t coming home” as scheduled.
Democrats charged that lengthening the time that troops would be expected to stay in Iraq is proof that the “surge” President Bush announced in January is really a long-term increase in troop strength likely to last well into next year. They also called it an acknowledgment that the Iraq war has seriously overstretched the U.S. military’s largest branch.
“The decision to extend the tours of U.S. service members by three months is an urgent warning that the administration’s Iraq policy cannot be sustained without doing terrible long-term damage to our military,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat. “We don’t have to guess at the impact on readiness, recruitment and retention.”
The new schedule is effective immediately for all Army troops serving in or getting ready to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. It does not affect the Marine Corps, whose members are rotated into the war zone for seven months, with six months between tours, or Army National Guard and Reserve units, whose tours will still last 12 months.
Gates said units that had already been extended would not be extended again.
Gates conceded that “our forces are stretched; there’s no question about that,” but said that it was better for the troops to have firm timetables.
Marine Gen. Pete Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the extension was part of a U.S. strategy to give Iraqi leaders more time to find a political solution to violence.
“What we are doing as a U.S. armed force with our coalition partners is buying time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that’s required,” Pace said.
Andrew Krepinevich, director for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, a Washington think tank, said the extension is likely to heighten debate in Congress over whether to set a timetable for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.
Before the Iraq war, the Army’s policy called for troops to serve one year in combat and rest for at least two years before being redeployed.
That rotation schedule quickly fell to the demands of the Iraq war, which has required far more troops than administration officials originally envisioned.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: April 12, 2007, 02:33:51 AM
Pakistan: The Challenge of Religious Extremism and the Musharrafian State
Pakistan's government remained internally divided April 11 over how to handle the standoff with extremist mullahs running a key mosque in Islamabad. Just as civil society groups -- rather than secular political parties -- spearheaded the public unrest stemming from the legal crisis over the sacking of Pakistan's top judge, ultra-conservative social elements -- not Islamist political parties -- are stirring the controversy over vigilante attempts to Islamize the capital. The nature of the controversy and the manner in which it is being handled will prove detrimental to both President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his opponents.
Since February, radical clerics and their followers at a mosque/seminary facility in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad have been challenging the government's authority by trying to impose their version of "Islamic" law in parts of the capital through kidnappings, illegal occupations of buildings and attempts to forcibly prevent "un-Islamic" behavior. Moreover, these armed mullahs have established a self-styled Islamic court and have said that if the Pakistani government does not enforce Islamic law, the mullahs will do it themselves. The extremist clerics have also reportedly threatened suicide attacks in response to a government crackdown.
The standoff between authorities and the hard-line mullahs from the Red Mosque continued April 11. Despite a second meeting with ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) party chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, the two top clerics at the mosque/madrassa complex -- Maulana Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed -- are in no mood to negotiate an end to the standoff at the mosque and its affiliated madrassa, Jamia Hafsa. Meanwhile, senior Cabinet members are at odds over how to resolve the matter; some advocate an ironhanded policy, while others urge caution.
Meanwhile, in northwestern Pakistan, fighting between Pashtun tribesmen and transnational jihadist elements is continuing in the South Waziristan agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). A PML parliament member appealed to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to deploy the army to quell raging Sunni-Shiite clashes in FATA's Kurram agency. In Karachi, a new kind of sectarian violence has emerged; a Barelvi religious group (the main school of thought in Pakistan that adheres to Sunni Islam's Sufi leanings) used high-powered assault rifles to attack Wahhabi mosques April 10 in retaliation for a jihadist suicide attack that killed top leaders of the Sunni Tehreek.
The growing security problems and political unrest would explain Musharraf’s comments April 11 in a speech at a political rally in the eastern city of Narowal, during which he said he will not dissolve parliament despite growing pressure to do so. The crisis involving the mullahs has overshadowed the legal crisis over Musharraf's dismissal of Pakistan's chief justice, giving the president a breather, but the mosque/madrassa standoff could create both short-term and long-term problems for the Pakistani state.
Ruling PML party chief Hussain has been pushing for a negotiated settlement with the mullahs, arguing that the government cannot handle the black coats (a euphemism for the legal community) and the black burkas (the female vigilantes who have symbolized the religious extremist campaign in Islamabad) teaming up against it. However, the Red Mosque issue has given Musharraf something with which to scare his secular political opponents into treading carefully, lest they empower the religious right. Conversely, his political opponents -- particularly the Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P), with whom Musharraf is engaged in power-sharing negotiations -- hope to convince the president he needs them to stem the rising tide of religious extremism. His secular opponents hope that a Musharraf weakened by the Red Mosque crisis would be more likely to deal on their terms. Put differently, each side wants to use the situation to extract concessions from the other.
While Musharraf has been focusing on dealing with the political forces -- both secular and Islamist -- the problems he is facing are not coming from political groups. In both the legal crisis and the mosque/madrassa controversy, his opponents are civil society groups. In fact, the mosque controversy is posing problems for the country’s main Islamist group, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), which is worried that the religious vigilantes in Islamabad are actually hurting their cause. Moreover, the crisis has sharpened the differences between the MMA’s two main component parties.
Having contained the MMA and engaged the PPP-P, the government feels that it still has a handle on the overall situation in Pakistan. However, because the political parties have proven ineffective, public discontent of one kind or another has found other channels of expression, including civil society groups. This was the case in the aftermath of the suspension of the country’s top jurist, when the legal community and the media took to the streets to demand rule of law while the pro-democracy groups either did not want to or were not able to take up the cause.
Similarly, the social liberalization that Musharraf has been pushing has triggered another backlash from the conservative elements of society -- people affiliated with mosques and seminaries who have taken it upon themselves to thwart the re-secularization of state and society.
Musharraf must hold and win a presidential election at some point between late September and early October, but his problems seem to be increasing with time. On one hand, the legal crisis is still playing out; on the other hand, he is faced with religious extremists in the heart of the capital creating an even more disturbing crisis of governance.
He has some time to fix the legal crisis because it has now moved to the Supreme Court, and the wheels of the judicial system turn very slowly. But the crisis with the rogue mullahs in Islamabad will have to be dealt with much sooner. Part of the problem is that the president's current civilian allies in the ruling PML are not on the same page as he is on issues related to the role of religion in society and state.
This would explain why Hussain has pushed for a conciliatory approach to the mullahs. Musharraf's lack of social capital, due to his alienation of mainstream political forces, prevents him from taking a firmer stance against religious extremism in the country. Part of the reason he has agreed with the defensive approach is his concern over the backlash that could come should he adopt an ironhanded policy against the mullahs when dealing with such a sensitive issue.
If the crisis deepens, Musharraf could impose some form of emergency rule -- which does not involve dismissing the Cabinet or the parliament. But in the end, Musharraf’s only hope for effectively combating growing religious extremism in the country is a deal with mainstream political parties. For that, he will need to cut a power-sharing deal with his opponents, which is something he wants to avoid for as long as possible.
Whether the standoff with the mullahs ends peacefully (which would involve the government giving concessions to the mullahs) or in police action, it will have long-term repercussions for both the current government -- in terms of its ability to maintain power -- and for its opponents, who will be around long after the Musharrafian period has ended.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al
on: April 12, 2007, 02:25:40 AM
IIRC I posted somewhere on this forum (anyone?) a piece that 12er Assassin posted a piece on GetofftheX (I found his many posts while there quite educated in a tradition with which I was and am completely unfamiliar. I found them thoughtful too. Working from memory, a distinctive theological point is that Ahmadinejad seeks to create the conditions that will lead to the return of the 12th Iman, whereas Sistani of Iraq is of the "quietist school" i.e. lead a good Muslim life and the 12 Iman will re-appear when he wishes. This latter school of thought would seem to be more amenable to some sort of separation of Mosque and State.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Prisoner's Dilema; Game Theory
on: April 11, 2007, 07:46:25 PM
Although this subject could easily be part of the Evolutionary Psychology thread, I give it its own thread because I think it worthy.
First, a description of the PD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma
Next, an article and a high IQ friend's comments:
Human Nature Redux
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: February 18, 2007
Sometimes a big idea fades so imperceptibly from public consciousness you don't even notice until it has almost disappeared. Such is the fate of the belief in natural human goodness.
The Way We Live Now
This belief, most often associated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, begins with the notion that "everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man." Human beings are virtuous and free in their natural state. It is only corrupt institutions that make them venal. They are happy in their simplicity, but social conventions make them unwell.
This belief had gigantic ramifications over the years. It led, first of all, to the belief that bourgeois social conventions are repressive and soul-destroying. It contributed to romantic revolts against tradition and etiquette. Whether it was 19th-century Parisian bohemians or 20th-century beatniks and hippies, Western culture has seen a string of antiestablishment rebellions led by people who wanted to shuck off convention and reawaken more natural modes of awareness.
It led people to hit the road, do drugs, form communes and explore free love in order to unleash their authentic selves.
In education, it led to progressive reforms, in which children were liberated to follow their natural instincts. Politically, it led to radical social engineering efforts, because if institutions were the source of sin, then all you had to do was reshape institutions in order to create a New Man.
Therapeutically, it led to an emphasis of feelings over reason, self-esteem over self-discipline. In the realm of foreign policy, it led to a sort of global doctrine of the noble savage - the belief that societies in the colonial world were fundamentally innocent, and once the chains of their oppression were lifted something wonderful would flower.
Over the past 30 years or so, however, this belief in natural goodness has been discarded. It began to lose favor because of the failure of just about every social program that was inspired by it, from the communes to progressive education on up. But the big blow came at the hands of science.
From the content of our genes, the nature of our neurons and the lessons of evolutionary biology, it has become clear that nature is filled with competition and conflicts of interest. Humanity did not come before status contests. Status contests came before humanity, and are embedded deep in human relations. People in hunter-gatherer societies were deadly warriors, not sexually liberated pacifists. As Steven Pinker has put it, Hobbes was more right than Rousseau.
Moreover, human beings are not as pliable as the social engineers imagined. Human beings operate according to preset epigenetic rules, which dispose people to act in certain ways. We strive for dominance and undermine radical egalitarian dreams. We're tribal and divide the world into in-groups and out-groups.
This darker if more realistic view of human nature has led to a rediscovery of different moral codes and different political assumptions. Most people today share what Thomas Sowell calls the Constrained Vision, what Pinker calls the Tragic Vision and what E. O. Wilson calls Existential Conservatism. This is based on the idea that there is a universal human nature; that it has nasty, competitive elements; that we don't understand much about it; and that the conventions and institutions that have evolved to keep us from slitting each other's throats are valuable and are altered at great peril.
Today, parents don't seek to liberate their children; they supervise, coach and instruct every element of their lives. Today, there really is no antinomian counterculture - even the artists and rock stars are bourgeois strivers. Today, communes and utopian schemes are out of favor. People are mostly skeptical of social engineering efforts and jaundiced about revolutionaries who promise to herald a new dawn. Iraq has revealed what human beings do without a strong order-imposing state.
This is a big pivot in intellectual history. The thinkers most associated with the Tragic Vision are Isaiah Berlin, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Friedrich Hayek and Hobbes. Many of them are conservative.
And here's another perversity of human nature. Many conservatives resist the theory of evolution even though it confirms many of conservatism's deepest truths.
Interesting article. I think that using evolutionary psychology to justify the Statist leviathan contains a number of very serious problems. Politicians should not be seen as altruistic Platonic Guardians; rather, they would simply be ambitious, probably ruthless human beings seeking to maximize their own genetically-mandated fitness criteria, just like everyone else. The best system would be one that harnessed our self-interested behavior towards value creation at the societal level. Of course, Adam Smith discussed this a long time ago.
Stephen Quartz, who I believe is still at CalTech, has performed a number of interesting experiments with people placed in game situation with the following rules: Person A starts the game with $5. He can decide how much of this to share with Person B. Whatever he decides to share, that amount will double before it gets to Person B. Person B can then decide if he wants to give any money back to Person A. The game can be played with an unknown number of iterative rounds, but it is truly fascinating when both players are told in advance that the game will have, say, 10 rounds of play. (By the way, the players are complete strangers to one another and do not communicate with each other during the game).
If one knows how many rounds are going to be involved in the game, it is easy to "defect" during that round and keep all of the winnings to oneself. Knowing this, the other player will defect a round earlier. And so on and so on...a regression to the first round takes place and the game theoretical solution would end up with Person A simply pocketing the $5 and walking away, operating under the assumption that any money given to Person B will never be seen again. However, virtually no one actually plays this way. A typical game begins with Person A making an initial offer of $2.50 to the other player. If the other player gives the (now $5) same amount back or something close to it, a tentative "trust potential" has been formed. MRI scans performed on the brains of the players have revealed that blood flow to pleasure centers is enhanced when a cycle of trust has been completed. We really seem to enjoy cooperative, win-win arrangements when we can find them. The game generally continues through the full number of rounds, with Person B sharing 50% of the final pot with his new "partner".
The Hobbesian gimmick used by some Socialists to justify their social engineering programs does not reflect the true nature of the human animal, a social primate equipped with an intuitive sense of cooperation and a finely-honed ability to keep track of favors given and received
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Tapado
on: April 11, 2007, 07:16:19 PM
Tapado made its appearance in Tape 6 of the RCSFg series. As announced on the Eskrima Digest, here's this about Tapado:
Here are some videos of Original Filipino Tapado (OFT), the indigenous long stickfighting art founded by the late Grandmaster Romeo "Nono" C. Mamar in Brgy. Taloc, Bago City, Negros Occidental, Philippines in 1960. OFT is currently headed by the founder's nephewe and 1st Generation Inheritor Grandmaster Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido, who is the president of the Original Filipino Tapado Long Stick Fighting Association (OFTLSFA),Inc. (http://oftlsfai.blogspot
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido feeding for Senior Instructor Dr. Raymund Antonio A. Maguad of Conceptual Martial Arts Soceity (CMAS) at 13.5 KM, Bago City http://youtube.com/watch?v=8z52e6MYBZA
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido demonstrating advanced techniques of OFT together with OFT and Filipino Tang Soo Do Master Elmer V. Montoyo http://youtube.com/watch?v=jbennFMSMnE
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido demonstrating the basic strikes of OFT http://youtube.com/watch?v=AV3-nsyRDd8
OFT and Filipino Tang Soo Do Master Elmer V. Montoyo demonstrating the basic strikes of OFT with GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido http://youtube.com/watch?v=IPmQAUL3atI
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido feeding for his brother Master Clodualdo "Budoy" Mamar Lobrido at Brgy. Taloc, Bago City http://youtube.com/watch?v=VScZuY6y1NY
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido feeding for OFT Senior Instructor Joeffreu S. Deriada of CMAS at the Philippine Integrated Martial Arts Academy-Filipino Tang Soo Do Association, Group K Complex, Bacolod City. http://youtube.com/watch?v=7e4rFHaxpoQ http://youtube.com/watch?v=9_ezunY55GY
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido demonstrating advance OFT techniques on Senior Instructor Joeffreu S. Deriada of CMAS http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZpPxkDswIgQ
Senior Instructor Joeffreu S. Deriada demonstrating advance OFT techniques on Senior Instructor James U. Sy Jr., both of CMAS http://youtube.com/watch?v=QGgXZKz6uQA
Senior Instructor Joeffreu S. Deriada demonstrating advance OFT techniques on Senior Instructor Narciso "Hansy" Alojado, both of CMAS http://youtube.com/watch?v=8i5XIOAkioU
Senior Instructor Narciso "Hansy" Alojado demonstrating advance OFT techniques on Senior Instructor Joeffreu S. Deriada, both of CMAS http://youtube.com/watch?v=vso6PMk7_hc
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido feeding for Tapondo black belt Jezreel Bugna http://youtube.com/watch?v=01bnWDfrKu0
GM Benefredo "Bebing" Mamar Lobrido demonstrating lastico on OFT and Filipino Tang Soo Do Master Elmer V. Montoyo http://youtube.com/watch?v=7bK-L_JLSS4
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: April 11, 2007, 05:40:40 PM
George W. Bush went to the U.S.-Mexican frontier to highlight his proposal for immigration reform this week. But on the other side of the border, a different U.S.-Mexico issue is getting most of the headline ink.
Since taking office in December, Mexico's new President Felipe Calderón has launched an all-out assault against the nation's organized crime networks, which supply U.S. narcotics demand. Given the money to be made under prohibition, it's not surprising that the drug cartels are not yielding easily. Rather, they've been fighting back with increasingly extreme terror tactics and threatening to turn Mexico upside down.
The month of March was one of the bloodiest on record for the country's "war on drugs." According to the Dallas Morning News, more than 50 people were killed in drug violence in a single week -- and not in only in notoriously rough cities like Tijuana but in traditionally stable locales such as Monterrey in the state of Nuevo Leon, which saw the brutal killing of a police officer, a police commander and numerous civilians. April hasn't started off too well either. On Good Friday, a reporter for the Mexican television station Televisa, who had just finished a radio interview in Acapulco, was shot in the back three times and killed. According to Reuters, local Mexican media also reported 12 other execution-style killings in Mexico on Good Friday. The killers have grown more vicious in their messages to would-be snitches, leaving behind severed heads, corpses with ice picks driven through them and most recently a Veracruz victim who had been castrated.
It's worth noting that lowly policemen, hundreds of whom are reported to have been handing in resignations around the country, are not the only targets. Last month Mr. Calderón confirmed that he and his family have been receiving serious death threats since he launched his "war." Nevertheless, Mr. Calderón says he's not giving in and that the war could last longer than his six-year term. If so, it looks like an awful lot of Mexicans are going to die for the cause of stopping Americans from using drugs.
-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Opinion Journal, WSJ