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27951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: May 08, 2007, 09:23:55 PM
IIRC a boxing welterweight is 147 pounds.
27952  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: ESKRIMA COALITION TOURNAMENT July 14th 2007 on: May 08, 2007, 09:22:32 PM
This announcement was posted with my prior approval.

I went to one of these many years ago and had a fine time.  It was wonderful meeting some of the masters and manongs of Stockton such as Gilbert Tenio (sorry don't know his proper title) Dentoy Revilar (sorry don't know his proper title), and others.
27953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin on: May 08, 2007, 11:37:55 AM
Political Journal WSJ

Thought Crime

Finally, George W. Bush has found his veto sword.

After vetoing the Democratic supplemental budget, he has now threatened a veto of the Hate Crimes bill passed by the House last week. Constitutional scholars are rightly celebrating Mr. Bush's intervention.

Democrats passed the legislation to federalize hate crimes at the bidding of civil rights groups, feminists and gay rights activists. The bill amends the federal criminal code to prohibit willfully causing bodily injury to any person because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The bill was inspired by detestable crimes like the murders of James Byrd and Matthew Shepard. But as Timothy Lynch, a legal expert at the Cato Institute, notes: "Every act of violence against a victim that would be protected by this new federal law is already a felony crime in every state in America. What's new here and inadvisable is the criminalization of the thought or motivation, not the deed itself."

The House bill creates a peculiar pecking order of victims, in which crimes against some groups in America are classified as more tolerable than crimes against others. As long as we're going down this road, some Republicans argued that Congress should at least make sure all definable groups receive hate crime protection -- not just those groups Democrats claim as their own voting blocs. Nonetheless, an amendment to protect members of the armed forces was defeated by the Democrats. An amendment to protect senior citizens was defeated, as was one to protect pregnant women. What about rich people? We know from the demented and hate-filled writings of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho that he loathed the wealthy.

For more than a decade the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been required to compile data on hate crimes. Curiously, although blacks are at least 30 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, blacks are three to five times more likely to be classified as victims of racially motivated crimes than whites. And the greatest hate motivated crime in America in decades, the 9/11 attacks, was somehow not classified as a hate crime. Perhaps too many of the thousands of victims were straight, white, men.

During one exchange in a Judiciary Committee markup, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas asked: "If a minister was giving a sermon, a Bible study or any kind of written or spoken message saying that homosexuality was a serious sin, and a person in the congregation went out and committed a crime against a homosexual, would the minister be protected from being charged with the crime of incitement?" Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama said "no." The Democrats voted down amendments protecting freedom of thought, religion, conscience and speech in America.

Mr. Gohmert notes that this legislation absurdly tells the criminal: "If you are going to shoot me, brutalize me or hurt me, please, please don't hate me. Make it a random, senseless act of violence."
27954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Betrayal of the Military Father on: May 08, 2007, 11:16:38 AM
From a Glenn Sachs email:
=============================

Deployed Troops Battle for Child Custody
As I've discussed in numerous columns, deployed military parents face a variety of family law-related problems, including custody and child support. In my co-authored Veterans Day column Protect Deployed Parents' Rights (Various papers, 11/11/06) I explained:

"Divorced or separated military parents often lose custody of their children--and sometimes permanently forfeit any meaningful role in their lives--simply because they have served their country. Many married parents deploy overseas, never suspecting that their parenthood essentially ended the day they left home."

Associated Press reporter Pauline Arrillaga wrote an excellent piece on this issue this week--Deployed Troops Battle for Child Custody (5/5/07). Arrillaga narrates the stories of several deployed service personnel who lost their children as a result of family law machinations done in their absence:

"Army reservist Brad Carlson lived in Phoenix with his wife, Bianca, and three kids when he volunteered to deploy to Kuwait in 2003. His wife and children were spending that summer with her parents in Luxembourg and expected to remain there until he returned from duty.

"A year later, after his wife indicated she wanted to end the marriage and remain in Luxembourg, Carlson filed for divorce in an Arizona court, seeking custody of Dirk, Sven and Phoebe, all American citizens.

"The Arizona court dismissed the custody case after Bianca's lawyer argued that jurisdiction belonged in Luxembourg because the children had resided there for at least six months.

"Again citing the Servicemembers Act, Carlson's attorney argued that the time the kids spent in Luxembourg shouldn't count toward residency because it came during Carlson's deployment.

"A Luxembourg court awarded custody to Bianca, and the kids remain there to this day.

"They call him 'Bradley' now, he says, instead of 'Daddy.' They converse in German in stilted long-distance phone calls that provide few precious minutes for a father to absorb missed moments - soccer games, kindergarten, birthdays. On Dirk's 9th, Carlson stood beneath a rainbow-colored birthday banner and had a friend take a digital photo of him holding a sign: 'Happy 9th Birthday Dirk!'

"Tears fill his eyes when it hits him: 'That's how I celebrate.'

"'I feel really betrayed,' Carlson says. 'To be able to send me into harm's way... and my own country can't protect my child custody rights. Why aren't they looking out for me, when I'm looking out for the country?'"

Carlson's story is similar to that of Gary S., the subject of my column The Betrayal of the Military Father (Los Angeles Daily News, 5/4/03). Former California Senator Bill Morrow saw that column, and, with the enormous assistance of Sacramento lobbyist Michael Robinson, it led to AB 1082, a military parents' bill signed into law in California in 2005. Some of you participated in our campaign in support of that bill--to learn more, click here.

In the column I wrote:

"When Gary, a San Diego-based US Navy SEAL, was deployed in Afghanistan in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he never dreamed that his service to his country would cost him his little son. Gary's son was not taken from him by a terrorist or a kidnapper. This 17-year Navy veteran with an unblemished military and civilian record was effectively stripped of his right to be a father by a California court."

Arrillaga also discusses the case of Lt. Eva Crouch of the Kentucky National Guard. When she was mobilized, her daughter Sara (pictured above) went to stay with her father. Arrillaga writes:

"A year and a half later, her assignment up, Crouch pulled into her driveway with one thing in mind - bringing home the little girl who shared her smile and blue eyes. She dialed her ex and said she'd be there the next day to pick Sara up, but his response sent her reeling. 'Not without a court order you won't.' Within a month, a judge would decide that Sara should stay with her dad. It was, he said, in 'the best interests of the child.'

"What happened? Crouch was the legal residential caretaker; this was only supposed to be temporary. What had changed? She wasn't a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or an abusive mother.

"Her only misstep, it seems, was answering the call to serve her country.

"Crouch and an unknown number of others among the 140,000-plus single parents in uniform fight a war on two fronts: For the nation they are sworn to defend, and for the children they are losing because of that duty.

"A federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is meant to protect them by staying civil court actions and administrative proceedings during military activation. They can't be evicted. Creditors can't seize their property. Civilian health benefits, if suspended during deployment, must be reinstated.

"And yet service members' children can be - and are being - taken from them after they are deployed.

"Some family court judges say that determining what's best for a child in a custody case is simply not comparable to deciding civil property disputes and the like; they have ruled that family law trumps the federal law protecting servicemembers. And so, in many cases when a soldier deploys, the ex-spouse seeks custody, and temporary changes become lasting."

Crouch did eventually get her daughter back--after all, she is a woman in family court--and now the father is only allowed a few days a month with the girl. The better solution would have been shared parenting and a rough 50-50 time split, with one or more parent(s) moving to accommodate the other one. Eva Crouch was treated unfairly, but her case pales in comparison to many others.
27955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 08, 2007, 11:10:19 AM
stratfor.com

PAKISTAN: Pakistan has enlarged its military presence along the Afghan border, increasing the number of troops from 80,000 to 90,000 and increasing the number of military posts from 100 to 110, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said. Kasuri also said Pakistan expects Afghanistan to increase its efforts to secure the border. The increases are aimed at stopping Taliban militants from crossing the border.

PAKISTAN: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Pakistan to meet with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. They are expected to discuss regional security with a special focus on Afghanistan, where militant violence has recently increased. There has been pressure on Pakistan to stop militants from using the country as a base to stage attacks inside Afghanistan.

PAKISTAN: Rustam Shah Mohmand, head of the Pakistani delegation for the Pakistani-Afghan Peace Jirga Commission, said he does "not have much hope" that the commission will succeed against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The commission is scheduled to hold its first meeting in August.

AFGHANISTAN: The upper house of the Afghan parliament voted to hold direct talks with Taliban members and other opposition forces. Parliament members also voted to advise coalition forces to stop pursuing militants in the country. The resolution will go to President Hamid Karzai for approval.
27956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: May 08, 2007, 11:04:01 AM
WSJ
Trouble in Turkey
By MELIK KAYLAN
May 8, 2007; Page A19

ISTANBUL -- There is a perfectly logical temptation to take the position of much of the non-native press on the current political crisis in Turkey. The argument goes something like this: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his "mildly Islamic" Justice and Development Party (AKP) are good for the country. They proposed Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for president. Under the current constitution, parliament elects the president. Thus the AKP has a freely elected majority in parliament and represents the will of the people, therefore Mr. Gul should be president.

The rest, observers argue, is just loud noise, such as the two massive demonstrations in 10 days in Ankara and Istanbul (the latter of a million or more people) in tandem with grim warnings by the military against any AKP violation of secularist principles. AKP, the argument goes, has played by the rules and democracy is all about due process, which produces stability over time.

Turkey must accept that it is culturally Eastern but politically Western. Otherwise the EU will never take it, foreign investment will dry up and the country will remain excluded from the Western world. So goes the argument in favor of Mr. Erdogan as well as Mr. Gul, who withdrew his candidacy on Sunday.

 
There are a number of critical flaws in this argument, the first being that such a country will ultimately neither belong to an Eastern nor a Western club. It might serve, distantly, as an example to other Muslim countries, but the EU will certainly not accept it because the EU considers itself as much a civilization as a political alliance.

The pro-AKP argument suffers from other critical flaws. Mr. Erdogan's party won only 35% of the vote, but under a constitution rigged to create a two-party system, AKP has 65% of parliamentary seats. Besides, even that 35% derived in part from voters disgusted by the corrupt incompetence of the secular parties, not from pro-Muslim sentiment.

The results in no way suggest that a majority of the country regards itself as politically Islamic or nonsecular, and under such conditions AKP has no mandate for foisting a partisan figure onto the presidency, an office that is supposed to rise above party dogma and represent the country and constitution. This is why most nominees for the presidency rarely survive the painstaking but necessary business of consultation and compromise between parties. It's a somewhat uncodified process but it works to ensure a unifying, rather than divisive, outcome.

Mr. Erdogan did the exact opposite. He pushed the system's limits for his own ends until it gave way at the seams. He didn't select a compromise candidate but tried to impose his choice on the country through his technical parliamentary majority. In the event, the other parties simply didn't turn up for the vote on Mr. Gul's confirmation. They then appealed to the Constitutional Court which held that without them the numbers would be inquorate, leaving Mr. Gul unelected. The Court intentionally sent the country to a June or July national election which is, surely, the best place to settle the entire matter.

Mr. Erdogan has responded with predictable acuity, proposing new parliamentary term-lengths and direct elections for presidency, thus offering his AKP as the party that most trusts in the ballot box. If he wins, he simply rewinds to the beginning. With prime minister, president and house speaker all AKP figures, he can make such structural changes as to shift the national polity for a several generations.

So what, some say, Mr. Erdogan is hardly a fundamentalist. Sure, he and Mr. Gul have said hair-raising things in the past -- an old Gul remark made in the 1990s that "the Republic is over" recently surfaced in the press -- but politicians become pragmatic once in power. What have he and Mr. Gul done concretely in the last four years to be alarmed about? One hears this question particularly from foreign observers who don't understand or can't credit the Islamic concept of "Takkiye," meaning dissimulation.

The answer, of course, is that they have palpably tried to influence the army, universities and the Constitution itself, only to have their efforts stymied by those same institutions. Even so, disturbing incidents abound. In the city of Van a university dean is sacked because he resisted the request of a fully veiled female student for a go-between to deal with male teachers. He is later reinstated. In Istanbul's Uskudar district the municipality treats beer bars like a red-light zone and you can barely get alcohol anywhere. The national newspaper Sabah is taken over by state officials and soon the political commentators are being told what to write. Yasin El Kadi, a Saudi sought by the U.S. for financial links to terrorism, is publicly supported by Mr. Erdogan. Everywhere, barely qualified madrassa graduates replace more qualified secular technocrats in the civil service.

But the headscarf controversy and the bogeyman of military intervention eclipse such incremental dangers. Mr. Erdogan knows how to play the symbols and polarize for political ends. One side effect, no doubt unintended but predictable, is the spike in Islamic political violence: the murder of a Catholic nun near the Black Sea, of Protestant missionaries in the town of Malatya and so on. Pulled on either side by Europe and the Middle East, both Turkey and Turkish identity are as constantly in flux as its institutions are in danger of drifting out of control. That this never quite happens is in part due to the military threatening to step in periodically to restore democracy, a very Turkish paradox.

A military coup is always a disastrous option, but without past coups would there even be a Turkey today? One need only look at Iraq, a democracy without an effective army, or indeed Lebanon, to imagine the possibilities.

Turkey's democratic history shows that politicians can too easily lead the country, whether by drift or design, to such dangerous political extremes as to threaten national stability. It's wise to judge the merit of a Turkish politician by asking where his policies will ultimately lead.

Does Mr. Erdogan's populism suggest stability or a hidden drift to extremes? The voters will decide soon enough. They have got it wrong before. With such leaders, who can blame them?

Mr. Kaylan is an Istanbul-born writer living in New York.
27957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 08, 2007, 10:55:37 AM
WSJ

Jerusalem Before Israel
At the twilight of empire, the origins of conflict.

BY AMY DOCKSER MARCUS
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Editor's note: The roots of Arab-Israeli enmity are usually traced to Palestine's administration as a British Mandate (1920-48). But in "Jerusalem 1913," Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Dockser Marcus--the paper's former Middle East correspondent (1991-98) and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her coverage of improving cancer-survival rates--finds that the conflict's origins lie deeper in the past, in the Ottoman Empire before World War I. She begins by noting a long period of mutual accommodation that would vanish with the rise of modern nationalism. Some excerpts:

The Ottoman occupation of Jerusalem in the 16th century until the early 20th was often marked by peaceful coexistence: "Twice a year, Jews, Muslims, and Christians celebrated together at the shrine of Simon the Just, a popular biblical figure. For a single coin, you could buy a ride to the tombs on a camel or donkey. Their owners would lead the animals from café to café soliciting business, the colored rocks worn around the beasts' necks to protect them from the evil eye clicking rhythmically as they made their way down the street. During the monthlong Muslim holiday of Ramadan, nighttime shows featured entertainers who would make shadow puppets against the walls of the café, often using the puppets' dialogue to poke fun at local officials or make veiled political commentary on the latest events. During the Jewish holiday of Purim, children from all over the city dressed up in colorful costumes to celebrate and exchange sweets. The Arabs even had a name for Purim in their own language, which translated as 'the sugar holiday.' "

Theodor Herzl, the author of "The Jewish State," which called in 1897 for a Jewish homeland, visited Palestine after the first Zionist Congress that same year had settled on it as the best site for a Jewish home: "Herzl was everywhere greeted as a kind of prophet. Children lined up at the village gates to sing to him, dressed in white, freshly laundered linen and bearing gifts of chocolate. Old men rushed to his side clutching bread and salt, a traditional gesture of hospitality. Groups of farmers left their fields and rode out to meet him on horseback, cheering him on and shooting their rifles in the air as he approached.

"During an appearance at one Jewish settlement, three elderly men trailed behind him as he walked, falling to their knees to kiss the tracks he left in the sand. That incident so unsettled Herzl that afterward he made certain never to be seen riding a white donkey while in the country, for fear that people would think he considered himself the Messiah and turn him in to the Ottoman authorities."

World War I dissolved the Ottoman Empire, leaving Palestine, the nascent Jewish homeland, in the hands of British administrators for nearly 30 years. After gaining its independence in 1948, the country newly named Israel joined the United Nations the following year: "After the state of Israel had been founded and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was well under way, many looked back, trying to pinpoint the moment when they realized that that conflict was inevitable. David Ben-Gurion, who became Israel's first prime minister, said it was the day in 1915 that he sat on a train waiting to leave Jerusalem at the order of [Ahmed Djemal, the city's Ottoman ruler], who banished many known Zionist activists from the city.

"Ben-Gurion had tried to turn himself into an Ottoman--studying Turkish, attending law school in Constantinople, trying to organize a Jewish legion to fight on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in the war, and even donning a red fez. But all these gestures had been to no avail, for at the end of the day, Djemal had looked at him and seen not an Ottoman but an advocate for a future Jewish state, and had him jailed in Jerusalem. . . . Upon his release from jail, he was exiled to Alexandria. Later, in his books and memoirs, he recalled vividly a particular moment on the train, when an Arab acquaintance of his, whom he called Yeya Effendi, walked by and saw him waiting to leave. The men embraced, exchanged news and greetings, and then Yeya Effendi asked him where he was going.

"Ben-Gurion told him that he was being exiled, ordered never to return to Jerusalem. Yeya Effendi held him in the embrace of a true friend, mourning his loss of their shared city. Then he looked at Ben-Gurion and said something that Ben-Gurion pondered for the entire train ride to Alexandria. 'As your friend, I am sad,' Yeya Effendi told him. 'But as an Arab, I rejoice.' "

You can buy "Jerusalem 1913" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
27958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Paul's girl (the Wolfowitz affair) on: May 08, 2007, 10:54:54 AM
The Whistleblowers' Tale
The real disgrace at the World Bank.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, May 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

In the summer of 1997, two senior World Bank officials published an academic article under the cheerful title, "Africa on the Move: Attracting Private Capital to a Changing Continent." The authors, Jean-Louis Sarbib of France and Callisto Madavo of Zimbabwe, were responsible for the bank's work in Africa, and they took an optimistic view. "A new spirit of social and economic progress has energized much of the region," they wrote, "and gradually the rest of the world is beginning to take notice."

Among the bank's own contributions to this African Renaissance, as it was then being billed, was something called the Niger Health Sector Development Program. It had been approved by Mr. Sarbib the year before with the stated objectives of improving the quality and coverage of basic health services, expanding the population's access to generic drugs and reforming the health sector. The plan anticipated expenditures of $275 million over five years, starting with an initial grant of $40 million--big sums for a small, highly indebted and politically unstable country.

Months before the project was formally approved by the bank's board, however, doubts about its size, nature and prospective efficacy were being raised by a midlevel bank officer named Bahram Mahmoudi. An Iranian-born economist with extensive field experience in Africa, Mr. Mahmoudi had been in Niger in April 1996 on a separate project. But he had seen enough of the health program to share his misgivings about it with its manager.

Why, for instance, were most of the program funds being allocated to construction projects when the World Bank's own "assistance strategy" to Niger emphasized rural and preventive care? Why were 13 staff members--more than double the usual size--assigned to the program? Why--despite two years and nearly $1 million worth of "concept development"--had there been no adequate financial and economic analysis of the program's feasibility? Did Niger have the institutional capacity to handle such large investments? And was it appropriate for team members to be using their time in Niger to take their spouses on sightseeing tours?





None of these observations went down well with the management. Mr. Mahmoudi made himself even more of a nuisance at the bank in 1998, when he raised a flag with Messrs. Madavo and Sarbib over the dismissal, ostensibly on budgetary grounds, of a dozen employees, mostly from developing countries, and their subsequent replacement with a dozen mostly European ones. In July 1999, an independent investigation by the law firm Dewey Ballantine concluded this was not, as Mr. Mahmoudi believed, a case of racial discrimination, although it did cite "significant management problems."
Yet by the time that conclusion was reached Mr. Mahmoudi had left the bank, having ended a 20-year career with a sharp downward turn in his performance reviews and a pink slip. A review given a year prior to his criticism of the Niger program praised Mr. Mahmoudi's work in Africa for its "dynamism and perspicacity." By contrast, a review from 1997 notes that his work in Niger, "which initially received favorable comments from peer reviewers . . . was not endorsed by the management team which felt he had moved too quickly without carrying out sufficient dialogue."

Convinced he had been sacked for his whistleblowing, Mr. Mahmoudi appealed his termination to the bank's administrative tribunal. In May 2000 the tribunal agreed he had been wrongfully dismissed--albeit on procedural grounds--and ordered his reinstatement. In an extraordinary step, the bank cited presidential discretion to refuse reinstatement and instead offer compensation of 18 months salary.

Given usual bank practices, Mr. Mahmoudi was lucky to have gotten even that much. "Keep in mind that nobody is truly independent at the Word Bank," says former bank official Anthony Van Vugt. "Not the ethics officers, not the judges, not the staff association. The managers are very severe about anyone who speaks out."

The Dutch-born Mr. Van Vugt has his own bitter experience as a whistleblower. In 1995, he discovered that $100,000 had been misappropriated by his managers from a trust fund intended to finance water-sector reform in the Philippines. At his retirement that year, he submitted an audit certificate for the project making note of the misused money. Several months later he requested a copy of the certificate. "What I found," he recalls, "was a substitute statement that was signed in my name. The qualification [regarding the $100,000] that I had included in the original statement had disappeared."

Mr. Van Vugt then filed an ethics investigation. "I made the point to quite a few people that $100,000 had been used improperly, and that made people uncomfortable. Eventually, I find a piece of paper that says that Tony Van Vugt mismanaged his project and for that reason he shall be denied any future employment with the bank." The ethics investigation went nowhere.

For Mr. Van Vugt, that note foreclosed the often lucrative consulting opportunities many retired bank officials enjoy. For midcareer officials, the bank's hex can be absolutely devastating. It can make its enemies unemployable. A foreign national who loses his job can have his U.S. visa revoked. The result is a culture of conformity, silence and fear. "As soon as you're seen blowing the whistle," says Mr. Van Vugt, "your own colleagues won't even sit next to you in the cafeteria."





As for Mr. Mahmoudi, a vindication of sorts came several years later when the bank quietly released a report assessing the Niger health program. The program, on which $50 million was ultimately spent, was rated as "unsatisfactory" for bank performance, borrower performance, sustainability and "quality at entry." A comparative analysis of project performance across six regions shows that during the tenure of Messrs. Sarbib and Madavo, Africa had the highest number of projects yet the lowest likely sustainability percentage, the lowest satisfactory percentage for bank performance and the lowest satisfactory borrower performance at implementation.
Mr. Sarbib was subsequently promoted to senior vice president before retiring last year. Mr. Madavo is a visiting professor at Georgetown. Both men recently signed a public letter calling on Paul Wolfowitz to resign for damaging the bank's reputation.

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

27959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: May 08, 2007, 08:58:55 AM
Today's NY Times:

==========

WASHINGTON, May 7 — Every week, a group of experts from agencies around the government — including the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the F.B.I. and the Energy Department — meet to assess Washington’s progress toward solving a grim problem: if a terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in an American city, could the United States determine who detonated it and who provided the nuclear material?

So far, the answer is maybe.

That uncertainty lies at the center of a vigorous, but carefully cloaked, debate within the Bush administration. It focuses on how to refashion the American approach to nuclear deterrence in an attempt to counter the threat posed by terrorists who could obtain bomb-grade uranium or plutonium to make and deliver a weapon.

A previously undisclosed meeting last year of President Bush’s most senior national security advisers was the highest level discussion about how to rewrite the cold war rules. The existing approach to deterrence dates from the time when the nuclear attacks Washington worried about would be launched by missiles and bombers, which can be tracked back to a source by radar, and not carried in backpacks or hidden in cargo containers.

Among the subjects of the meeting last year was whether to issue a warning to all countries around the world that if a nuclear weapon was detonated on American soil and was traced back to any nation’s stockpiles, through nuclear forensics, the United States would hold that country “fully responsible” for the consequences of the explosion. The term “fully responsible” was left deliberately vague so that it would be unclear whether the United States would respond with a retaliatory nuclear attack, or, far more likely, a nonnuclear retaliation, whether military or diplomatic.

But that meeting of Mr. Bush’s principal national security and military advisers in May 2006 broke up with the question unresolved, according to participants. The discussion remained hung up on such complexities as whether it would be wise to threaten Iran even as diplomacy still offered at least some hope of halting Tehran’s nuclear program, and whether it was credible to issue a warning that would be heard to include countries that America considers partners and allies, like Russia or Pakistan, which are nuclear powers with far from perfect nuclear safeguards.

Then, on Oct. 9, North Korea detonated a nuclear test.

Mr. Bush responded that morning with an explicit warning to President Kim Jong-il that “transfer of nuclear weapons or material” to other countries or terrorist groups “would be considered a grave threat to the United States,” and that the North would be held “fully accountable.”

A senior American official involved in the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing private national security deliberations, said, “Given the fact that they were trying to cross red lines, that they were launching missiles and that they conducted the nuclear test, we finally decided it was time.”

Mr. Bush was able to issue a credible warning, other senior officials said, in part because the International Atomic Energy Agency has a library of nuclear samples from North Korea, obtained before the agency’s inspectors were thrown out of the country, that would likely make it possible to trace an explosion back to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The North Koreans are fully aware, government experts believe, that the United States has access to that database of nuclear DNA.

But when it comes to other countries, many of that library’s shelves are empty. And in interviews over the past several weeks, senior American nuclear experts have said that the huge gap is one reason that the Bush administration is so far unable to make a convincing threat to terrorists or their suppliers that they will be found out.

“I believe the most likely source of the material would be from the Russian nuclear arsenal, but you shouldn’t confuse ‘likely’ with ‘certainty’ by any means,” said Scott D. Sagan, co-director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, who has studied the problem known in Washington and the national nuclear laboratories as “nuclear attribution.”

Mr. Sagan noted that nuclear material in a terrorist attack might also come from Pakistan, home of the network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The Bush administration is also finding a skeptical audience when it warns of emerging nuclear threats, since its assessments of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capacity in advance of the 2003 invasion proved wildly off the mark. On Sunday, defending his new book during an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, made the case that any past errors should not blind the public to the threat of nuclear attack posed by Al Qaeda today.

“What I believe is that Al Qaeda is seeking this capability,” Mr. Tenet said.

Pakistani officials have been visiting Washington recently offering assurances that their nuclear supplies and weapons are locked down with sophisticated new technology. During a presentation at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonprofit organization here that studies nuclear proliferation, Lt. Col. Zafar Ali, who works in the arms control section of the Pakistani Strategic Plans Division, said that while Al Qaeda and other groups may want a nuclear weapon, “there are doubts that these organizations have the capability to fabricate a nuclear device.”
=======

He bristled at the continuing questions about Pakistan’s nuclear security, arguing that “there is no reported case of security failure subsequent to A. Q. Khan’s case” in 2004, and suggested that American concerns would be better directed at Russia.

But few experts in the Bush administration are reassured, saying that their fear is not only leakage from Pakistan, but a takeover of the government of the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It is a subject they will never discuss on the record, but one that is the constant topic of study and assessment.

The issue of shaping a new policy even presents difficulties when dealing with a country like Iran, which, like North Korea, was once described by President Bush as a member of an “axis of evil.” Tehran does not yet possess nuclear weapons, and inspectors believe that it has produced only small amounts of nuclear fuel, not enough to make a bomb, and none of it bomb grade.

In the cabinet-level discussion last May, Mr. Bush’s top advisers concluded that issuing a warning to Iran might signal that the United States was preparing for the day when Iran becomes a nuclear-armed state, an impression that one former senior administration official said “is not the message we want to send.” As a result, Iran did not receive a warning similar to the one issued to North Korea, whose test made clear that it is edging into the nuclear club.

Mr. Sagan said he supported that approach, saying that if Mr. Bush issues a declaration specifically aimed at Iran, it may be heard among the most radical leaders in Tehran as a tacit acknowledgment that the United States has accepted the possibility that Iran is going to go nuclear.

“We need to distinguish between the leakage problem, where it would be inadvertent, and the provider problem, where it would be an intentional act,” said Robert S. Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author of “Regime Change: U.S. Strategy Through the Prism of 9/11.”

“To the provider we should say, ‘Don’t even think about it,’ and this more explicit declaratory policy can get us traction because these regimes value their own survival above all else,” Mr. Litwak said. “For the leakage problem, we don’t want to be trapped into a question of how we retaliate against Russia or Pakistan. But through calculated ambiguity, we can create incentives for the Russians and the Pakistanis to do even more in the area of safeguarding their weapons and capabilities.”

The weekly meeting of the interagency group dealing with nuclear attribution is just one part of a governmentwide effort to prepare for what might happen after a small nuclear device was detonated in an American city, just as Washington once gamed out a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.

But it is a subject Mr. Bush and his aides have rarely referred to in public. In private, officials say, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to plan for more than a dozen scenarios — including one in which a bomb goes off, and terrorist groups then claim to have planted others in cities around the country.

While most of that planning takes place behind locked doors, officials responsible for it appeared at a workshop last month sponsored by the Preventive Defense Project, a research collaboration sponsored by Harvard and Stanford Universities.

The daylong discussion revealed major gaps in the planning. But it also demonstrated that while the first instinct of government officials after an explosion would be to figure out retaliation, “that would probably give way to an effort to seek the cooperation of a Pakistan or Russia to figure out where the stuff came from, what else was lost, and to hunt down the remaining bombs rather than punish the government that lost them,” said one of the conference’s organizers, Ashton B. Carter of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

27960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How the Incas leapt Canyons on: May 08, 2007, 08:50:00 AM
I saw that shirt when Chester, my host at my Albuquerque seminar took me to the Navajo Reservation.  Tough to be the butt of the joke, but it had to be acknowledged  smiley

Anyway, here's this from today's NY Times:
========

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.


Yet the suspension bridges were familiar and vital links in the vast empire of the Inca, as they had been to Andean cultures for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. The people had not developed the stone arch or wheeled vehicles, but they were accomplished in the use of natural fibers for textiles, boats, sling weapons — even keeping inventories by a prewriting system of knots.

So bridges made of fiber ropes, some as thick as a man’s torso, were the technological solution to the problem of road building in rugged terrain. By some estimates, at least 200 such suspension bridges spanned river gorges in the 16th century. One of the last of these, over the Apurimac River, inspired Thornton Wilder’s novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”

Although scholars have studied the Inca road system’s importance in forging and controlling the pre-Columbian empire, John A.Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology here said, “Historians and archaeologists have neglected the role of bridges.”

Dr. Ochsendorf’s research on Inca suspension bridges, begun while he was an undergraduate at Cornell University, illustrates an engineering university’s approach to archaeology, combining materials science and experimentation with the traditional fieldwork of observing and dating artifacts. Other universities conduct research in archaeological materials, but it has long been a specialty at M.I.T.

Students here are introduced to the multidisciplinary investigation of ancient technologies as applied in transforming resources into cultural hallmarks from household pottery to grand pyramids. In a course called “materials in human experience,” students are making a 60-foot-long fiber bridge in the Peruvian style. On Saturday, they plan to stretch the bridge across a dry basin between two campus buildings.

In recent years, M.I.T. archaeologists and scientists have joined forces in studies of early Peruvian ceramics, balsa rafts and metal alloys; Egyptian glass and Roman concrete; and also the casting of bronze bells in Mexico. They discovered that Ecuadoreans, traveling by sea, introduced metallurgy to western Mexico. They even found how Mexicans added bits of morning-glory plants, which contain sulfur, in processing natural rubber into bouncing balls.

“Mexicans discovered vulcanization 3,500 years before Goodyear,” said Dorothy Hosler, an M.I.T. professor of archaeology and ancient technology. “The Spanish had never seen anything that bounced like the rubber balls of Mexico.”

Heather Lechtman, an archaeologist of ancient technology who helped develop the M.I.T. program, said that in learning “how objects were made, what they were made of and how they were used, we see people making decisions at various stages, and the choices involve engineering as well as culture.”

From this perspective, she said, the choices are not always based only on what works well, but also are guided by ideological and aesthetic criteria. In the casting of early Mexican bells, attention was given to their ringing tone and their color; an unusually large amount of arsenic was added to copper to make the bronze shine like silver.

“If people use materials in different ways in different societies, that tells you something about those people,” Professor Lechtman said.

In the case of the Peruvian bridges, the builders relied on a technology well suited to the problem and their resources. The Spanish themselves demonstrated how appropriate the Peruvian technique was.

Dr. Ochsendorf, a specialist in early architecture and engineering, said the colonial government tried many times to erect European arch bridges across the canyons, and each attempt ended in fiasco until iron and steel were applied to bridge building. The Peruvians, knowing nothing of the arch or iron metallurgy, instead relied on what they knew best, fibers from cotton, grasses and saplings, and llama and alpaca wool.

The Inca suspension bridges achieved clear spans of at least 150 feet, probably much greater. This was a longer span than any European masonry bridges at the time. The longest Roman bridge in Spain had a maximum span between supports of 95 feet. And none of these European bridges had to stretch across deep canyons.
====

Published: May 8, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)



The Peruvians apparently invented their fiber bridges independently of outside influences, Dr. Ochsendorf said, but these bridges were neither the first of their kind in the world nor the inspiration for the modern suspension bridge like the George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges in New York and the Golden Gate in San Francisco.

In a recent research paper, Dr. Ochsendorf wrote: “The Inca were the only ancient American civilization to develop suspension bridges. Similar bridges existed in other mountainous regions of the world, most notably in the Himalayas and in ancient China, where iron chain suspension bridges existed in the third century B.C.”

The first of the modern versions was erected in Britain in the late 18th century, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The longest one today connects two islands in Japan, with a span of more than 6,000 feet from tower to supporting tower. These bridges are really “hanging roadways,” Dr. Ochsendorf said, to provide a fairly level surface for wheeled traffic.

In his authoritative 1984 book, “The Inka Road System,” John Hyslop, who was an official of the Institute of Andean Research and associated with the American Museum of Natural History, compiled descriptions of the Inca bridges recorded by early travelers.

Garcilasco de la Vega, in 1604, reported on the cable-making techniques. The fibers, he wrote, were braided into ropes of the length necessary for the bridge. Three of these ropes were woven together to make a larger rope, and three of them were again braided to make a still larger rope, and so on. The thick cables were pulled across the river with small ropes and attached to stone abutments on each side.

Three of the big cables served as the floor of the bridge, which often was at least four to five feet wide, and two others served as handrails. Pieces of wood were tied to the cable floor. Finally, the floor was strewn with branches to give firm footing for beasts of burden.

More branches and pieces of wood were strung to make walls along the entire length of the bridge. The side covering, one chronicler said, was such that “if a horse fell on all fours, it could not fall off the bridge.”

Still, it took a while for the Spanish to adjust to the bridges and to coax their horses to cross them. The bridges trembled underfoot and swayed dangerously in stiff winds.

Ephraim G. Squier, a visitor to Peru from the United States in the 1870s, said of the Apurimac River bridge: “It is usual for the traveler to time his day’s journey so as to reach the bridge in the morning, before the strong wind sets in; for, during the greater part of the day, it sweeps up the Canyon of the Apurimac with great force, and then the bridge sways like a gigantic hammock, and crossing is next to impossible.”

Other travelers noted that in many cases, two suspension bridges stood side by side. Some said that one was for the lords and gentry, the other for commoners; or one for men, the other for women.

Recent scholars have suggested that it was more likely that one bridge served as a backup for the other, considering the need for frequent repairs of frayed and worn ropes.

The last existing Inca suspension bridge, at Huinchiri, near Cuzco, is virtually rebuilt each year. People from the villages on either side hold a three-day festival and gather stiff grasses for producing more than 50,000 feet of cord. Finally, the cord is braided into 150-foot replacement cables.

In the M.I.T. class project, 14 students met two evenings a week and occasional afternoons to braid the ropes for a Peruvian bridge replica 60 feet long and 2 feet wide. They were allowed one important shortcut: some 50 miles of twine already prepared from sisal, a stronger fiber than the materials used by the Inca.

Some of the time thus gained was invested in steps the Inca had never thought of. The twine and the completed ropes were submitted to stress tests, load-bearing measurements and X-rays.

“We have proof-tested the stuff at every step as we go along,” said Linn W. Hobbs, a materials science professor and one of the principal teachers of the course.

The students incorporated 12 strands of twine for each primary rope. Then three of these 12-ply ropes were braided into the major cables, each 120 feet long — 60 feet for the span and 30 feet at each end for tying the bridge to concrete anchors.

One afternoon last week, several of the students stretched ropes down a long corridor, braiding one of the main cables. While one student knelt to make the braid and three students down the line did some nimble footwork to keep the separate ropes from entangling, Zack Jackowski, a sophomore, put a foot firmly down on the just-completed braid.

“It’s important to get the braids as tight as possible,” Mr. Jackowski said. “A little twist, pull it back hard, hold the twist you just put in.”

No doubt the students will escape the fate of Brother Juniper, the Franciscan missionary in Wilder’s novel who investigated the five people who perished in the collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey.

Brother Juniper hoped to discern scientific evidence of divine intervention in human affairs, examples of “the wicked visited by destruction and the good called early to Heaven.”

Alas, he could not; there is some of both good and evil in people. So his written account was judged heretical. He and his manuscript were burned at the stake.

If the students’ bridge holds, they will have learned one lesson: engineering, in antiquity as now, is the process of finding a way through and over the challenges of environment and culture.

27961  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: May 08, 2007, 08:31:40 AM
I won't be seeing the fight until it is on for free, but I suspect you are right Keith.

As for Lampley, I met him several times (bit of a story there) and never cared for him at all.

Anyway, a bit off subject, but here's this:

Boxer Corrales dies in crash
The former IBF super-featherweight and WBC lightweight champ is killed on motorcycle in Las Vegas. He was 29.
By Lance Pugmire, Times Staff Writer
May 8, 2007


 
Former champion
 click to enlarge
Former world champion boxer Diego Corrales was killed in a motorcycle accident Monday night in Las Vegas.

A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department source confirmed Corrales was killed in the evening crash and was "traveling at a high rate of speed" before impact. The spokesman said at least one other vehicle was involved and that one person in an automobile at the scene had sustained minor injuries.

Another police spokesman, Blake Quackenbush, confirmed there was a fatal collision involving a motorcycle near the intersection of South Fort Apache Road and Hacienda Avenue in southwest Las Vegas.

Boxing trainer Joe Goossen and Jin Mosley, a close friend of the boxer, said the victim was Corrales, 29.

"It's confirmed, he's dead," said Mosley, the wife of Pomona boxer Shane Mosley. "Details are sketchy. We were told he was going over 100 mph. We're in absolute shock, this is tragic. He has a baby on the way."

Corrales' boxing promoter, Gary Shaw, said the fighter's manager told him he saw Corrales "under the sheets with his helmet on," with a "new racing bike" nearby. "We're being told he ran into the back of a car and was struck by another from behind," Shaw said.

Corrales (40-5, with 33 knockouts), a former International Boxing Federation super-featherweight and World Boxing Council lightweight champion, reached what Goossen called "the pinnacle" of his career in 2005, when he rallied from two 10th-round knockdowns to knock out Jose Luis Castillo.

"In my 35 years, that was the greatest fight I've ever seen," said Goossen, who was Corrales' trainer.

Castillo failed to make weight in two scheduled rematches, however, and a third meeting in June 2006 was scrapped, costing Corrales a $1.2-million payday, Goossen said.

The fighter's career began to spiral. He showed up overweight for an October 2006 lightweight title defense against Joel Casamayor, then lost by split decision. Last month, Corrales lost a unanimous decision to Joshua Clottey in a welterweight bout.

Shaw said Corrales' life "was in a tailspin" after that loss, and "we were trying to put his life back together." Corrales had also negotiated to join Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, but the deal never materialized, boxing sources said.

"The guy was a true warrior; simply by the way he fought, he should be in the hall of fame," Shaw said. "Believe me, if he could've got off that cold pavement, he would."

Jin Mosley said Corrales was suffering marital and financial difficulties with his wife, Michelle, six months pregnant.

"Diego was not immune to the pitfalls of life, especially as a young man surrounded by the fame and fortune of this game," Goossen said. "His better times in boxing were behind him. I'm sure he felt he was in a bad spot. It's too bad Diego couldn't stay in the top place he once was. Now, we'll all say prayers for him."

Corrales discussed his motorcycle riding last summer in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story.

"I'm only young once and, unless someone hasn't told me something yet, I only get to live once," said Corrales. "If I couldn't do this stuff now, stuff I always wanted to do, I would never get a chance to do it."

Corrales is survived by his wife and five children, Jin Mosley said.
27962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: May 08, 2007, 07:12:31 AM
Six Arrested in Fort Dix Murder Plot

Tuesday , May 08, 2007

Six people were arrested on Monday night in connection with a plot to murder as many soldiers as possible at Fort Dix, WNBC.com reports.

The six ethnic Albanians attempted to purchase automatic weapons from an arms dealer working with the FBI and were arrested in New Jersey after officials learned of the plot, a law enforcement source said.

The undercover investigation followed the men, three of whom are brothers, from New Jersey to the Poconos, where they allegedly practiced firing automatic weapons.

Officials raided the homes of the men, described as Islamic radicals, and said there is video showing some of the planning.
================


NEW YORK -- Six men from New Jersey have been arrested in an alleged terror plot against soldiers at Fort Dix, according investigators.

Investigators said the men planned to use automatic rifles to enter Fort Dix and kill as many soldiers as they could at the N.J. base. Fort Dix was just one of several military and security locations allegedly scouted by this group, authorities said.

Investigators told Newschannel 4's Jonathan Dienst that these arrests are the result of a tip to the FBI and use of an informant to track the suspects. Authorities were alerted in January 2006 after the terror suspects traveled to the Pocono’s for a training exercise where they practiced firing automatic weapons, investigators said.

Sources have told Newschannel 4's Brian Thompson that the suspects tried to have a their training video tape converted to DVD at a store in Cherry Hill, N.J., but the store owner alerted authorities.

Authorities then inserted a cooperating witness into the alleged terror cell to be a go between in their attempt to purchase M16 and AK-47 semi-automatic rifles. Arrests were made Monday night after the informant delivered dummy weapons paid for by the alleged terror cell suspects.

Investigators said the group discussed targeting numerous locations like Dover Air base, Fort Monmouth, a Coast Guard building in Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Federal building before deciding on Fort Dix as their intended target. Fort Dix is run in part by the Army and is a reserve-training center, but active units take part in training, including some which focuses on counter-terrorism.

Sources tell Newschannel 4's Brian Thompson that the family of one of the suspects owns a pizzeria near Fort Dix and claimed to know the base "like the back of his hand." The same suspect told the alleged terror group it would be easy to penetrate to "get the most soldiers killed."

Investigators said the group of suspects have been discussing and planning for much of the last year. They allegedly pooled their savings to pay for the operation targeted at soldiers stationed here at home.

The six suspects arrested Monday night will face terror conspiracy charges. Three of the men are brothers, all believed to be Islamic radicals. Authorities have told Newschannel 4 that some of the men were born in Albania and the former Yugoslavia. Investigators said most of the suspects have spent several years here in the U.S.

Some of the group's alleged planning was caught on videotape, investigators said. On the videotape there is significant discussion of Martyrdom.

"Who is going to take care of my wife and kids," one suspect asks. Another responds, "Allah will take care of your wife and kids." The alleged terror cell is described by investigators as disciples of Osama Bin Laden. Among the evidence seized was the downloaded will and testament of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

Spokesmen for U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and the FBI in New Jersey and Philadelphia could not be reached for a comment.
The suspects will be arraigned this afternoon in front of a Federal Magistrate at 1 PM.
27963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: May 07, 2007, 09:33:04 PM
I think he IS running and doing so in a manner to avoid the stupdities of McCain-Feingold Act (Shame on McCain and the US Supreme Court!  angry )  Also, he gets to be on TV lots and lots without triggering the obligation to air other candidates.

Newt is the only one I could support with considerable enthusiasm. 
27964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: May 07, 2007, 09:25:05 PM
Not exactly within the subject of this thread, but worth noting. 

Dhimmitude wins again:
Little Green Footballs blog
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
France Bans Citizen Journalists from Reporting Violence

The French government, in inimitable French fashion, have decided that they can prevent more riots like the intifada that tore apart French suburbs in 2005 by cracking down on free speech: France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)

The French Constitutional Council has approved a law that criminalizes the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. The law could lead to the imprisonment of eyewitnesses who film acts of police violence, or operators of Web sites publishing the images, one French civil liberties group warned on Tuesday.

The council chose an unfortunate anniversary to publish its decision approving the law, which came exactly 16 years after Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King were filmed by amateur videographer George Holliday on the night of March 3, 1991. The officers’ acquittal at the end on April 29, 1992 sparked riots in Los Angeles.

If Holliday were to film a similar scene of violence in France today, he could end up in prison as a result of the new law, said Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi. And anyone publishing such images could face up to five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (US $98,537), potentially a harsher sentence than that for committing the violent act.
============



Riot coverage ‘excessive’, says French TV boss. (Hat tip: Ralph.)

One of France’s leading TV news executives has admitted censoring his coverage of the riots in the country for fear of encouraging support for far-right politicians.
Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service TCI, said the prominence given to the rioters on international news networks had been “excessive” and could even be fanning the flames of the violence.

Mr Dassier said his own channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, recently decided not to show footage of burning cars.

“Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television,” Mr Dassier told an audience of broadcasters at the News Xchange conference in Amsterdam today.

“Having satellites trained on towns across France 24 hours a day showing the violence would have been wrong and totally disproportionate ... Journalism is not simply a matter of switching on the cameras and letting them roll. You have to think about what you’re broadcasting,” he said.





27965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: May 07, 2007, 07:18:29 PM
Newt Gingrich

A French Lesson for Republicans

BERLIN, Germany, May 7 -- Callista and I are in Europe this week for a conference on innovation in health care. More about our trip to Berlin in a minute, but first the big news in Europe this week isn't in Germany but in France.

I know this will seem strange to those of us who like to make jokes about the French, but the fact is that there is a great deal to be learned from the victory of Nicolas Sarkozy (a member of the ruling party) in last weekend's "change" election in France -- and Republicans had better learn it.

For those of you who haven't followed it closely, here is some background on the election.

The Background: An Unpopular Incumbent President and a Desire for Change

Incumbent French President Jacques Chirac had been twice elected, has served a total of 12 years in office, and is very unpopular. Coming into this election, people were very tired of the Chirac government and there was a sense that there had to be change.

But the opposition on the left, the Socialist Party, failed completely to capitalize on this desire for change. They nominated a candidate of great achievement, Ségolène Royal, but she proved herself to be the candidate of the status quo, not the candidate of change. She was actually committed to keeping all the bureaucracies that were failing and all the policies that were creating unemployment. She was committed to avoiding the changes necessary for a French future of prosperity, opportunity and safety.

Normally, with the incumbent conservative government so unpopular, the left would have been expected to win the election, probably by a significant margin. But the conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, won decisively because he is an aggressive, different kind of French political leader. He is a member of the Chirac government -- the Minister of the Interior. But not only is he a man who is willing to stand up and fight for what he believes in, but Sarkozy is also a man who hasn't followed the normal French path to success by going to an elite university, becoming part of the ruling elite and fitting in.

Sarkozy: A Different Kind of Frenchman

Instead, Sarkozy is just the opposite. He was born of Hungarian parents who had fled communism in Eastern Europe. That makes him the first president of France who is a first-generation immigrant. It also means his name doesn't sound very French. And his style certainly isn't very French. He is a tough, confrontational leader -- a man who has been preaching things that don't sound very much like the French establishment.

In the campaign, Sarkozy argued that the French have to work longer hours and, in order to give them an incentive to do so, that they shouldn't pay taxes if they work overtime. He called for tax cuts to encourage investment so the private sector can create jobs. And critically, Sarkozy has said that the people must obey the law, that the creation of law and respect for the law is a central part of any civilized society.

Remember, this is a jarring message for a country that routinely accepts the burning of up to 15,000 cars a year by hooligans who, according to the elites, are simply "expressing their desire to disrupt society." It's jarring for a country that was very proud a few years back to have the first mandatory 35-hour work week in history. Yet an increasing majority of the French believes that without the kind of changes Sarkozy is calling for, France's stature will disappear in a wave of lawlessness and economic decay.

A Royal Commitment to the Status Quo and a Candidate of Change

As for the opposition in the French election, much like the American Democratic Party, it is trapped by its commitment to big labor, big bureaucracy, high taxes and social values people don't believe in. Every time French voters seriously looked at Ségolène Royal and the kind of politics she represents, she lost ground. She simply couldn't make the case that left-wing Socialist policies would work.

The result was a surprising and powerful upset by Sarkozy -- a victory by a center-right reformer, a member of the unpopular ruling party, who came to personify change.

And here's where American Republicans really need to pay attention: In France, voting for change meant voting for the party in office, but not the personality in office. And voting to keep the old order meant voting for the opposition, not for the incumbent party.

If Republicans hope to win the presidency next year, they better find a candidate who is prepared to stand for very bold, very dramatic and very systematic change in Washington. Not only that, but they had better make the case that the left-wing Democrat likely to be nominated represents the failed status quo: the bureaucracies that are failing, the social policies that are failing, the high tax policies that are failing, and the weakness around the world that has failed so badly in protecting America.

Only if we have that kind of campaign do we have a reasonable chance to expect the American people will vote for effective change for a better, safer and more prosperous future -- and that they will see that effective change as being Republican.

A Franco-American Alliance for 'Green Conservatism'?

In the meantime, Sarkozy has pledged to repair relations between France and America, and we should take him seriously in his pledge. In particular, he has called on America to lead the world in addressing climate change.

This gives President Bush a unique opportunity to change the perception of his attitude toward both Europe and the environment. The President should take up Sarkozy's call for U.S. leadership on global warming by proposing a bold new initiative on market-based, entrepreneurial incentives to help in the environment. As I outline in an op-ed that appeared in Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, using new technology to dramatically increase energy independence and reduce reliance on carbon isn't giving in to the left -- it's resisting the big government solutions that the left routinely imposes under the guise of protecting the environment and instead finding a more effective way forward to protect and renew the natural world.

Solutions Watch

In the news here at home, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for his call in a speech [video, audio] at the Citadel last week for the creation of a special force to specifically handle post-combat operations in places like Iraq.

In 1999, I served on the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century (also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission) to examine our national security challenges as far out as 2025. One of the reforms we called for was the creation of a post-combat force.

In addition, I have long argued for the creation of a much larger military. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are all on record calling for a bigger army. The White House should answer their calls now. We can't wait until 2009.

Environmental Polar Opposites

While we are here in Berlin, Callista and I plan to stop by the zoo to see my namesake, Knut the polar bear. He's getting bigger these days, but you probably remember him from a few months ago when he was a cub recently abandoned by his mother. Some animal rights activists had declared that he should be put to death rather than be raised by humans. I'm going to see Knut, not only because of my great love of zoos and the natural world, but because I think he is a symbol of a growing divide on man's relationship with the environment. The activists who wanted Knut killed represent the radical view that humans are only destroyers of the natural world and that human needs and wants shall always be a distant second to the environment.

My view is that we are stewards of the natural world. We have an obligation to preserve and protect it, not only for future generations of human beings, but for all living things.

So long for now from Berlin. I'll report again next week on the launch of my new novel, Pearl Harbor, and the national security lessons it contains for America today.

27966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Yoga on: May 07, 2007, 08:43:21 AM
This article from today's NYTimes leads me to open this thread.
=========================================

A Big Stretch
by SUKETU MEHTA
Published: May 7, 2007

I GREW up watching my father stand on his head every morning. He was doing sirsasana, a yoga pose that accounts for his youthful looks well into his 60s. Now he might have to pay a royalty to an American patent holder if he teaches the secrets of his good health to others. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks. There’s big money in those pretzel twists and contortions — $3 billion a year in America alone.

It’s a mystery to most Indians that anybody can make that much money from the teaching of a knowledge that is not supposed to be bought or sold like sausages. Should an Indian, in retaliation, patent the Heimlich maneuver, so that he can collect every time a waiter saves a customer from choking on a fishbone?

The Indian government is not laughing. It has set up a task force that is cataloging traditional knowledge, including ayurvedic remedies and hundreds of yoga poses, to protect them from being pirated and copyrighted by foreign hucksters. The data will be translated from ancient Sanskrit and Tamil texts, stored digitally and available in five international languages, so that patent offices in other countries can see that yoga didn’t originate in a San Francisco commune.

It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly overseas. We know a business opportunity when we see one and have exported generations of gurus skilled in peddling enlightenment for a buck. The two scientists in Mississippi who patented the medicinal use of turmeric, a traditional Indian spice, are Indians. So is the strapping Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, who has copyrighted his method of teaching yoga — a sequence of 26 poses in an overheated room — and whose lawyers sent out threatening notices to small yoga studios that he claimed violated his copyright.

But as an Indian, he ought to know that the very idea of patenting knowledge is a gross violation of the tradition of yoga. In Sanskrit, “yoga” means “union.” Indians believe in a universal mind — brahman — of which we are all a part, and which ponders eternally. Everyone has access to this knowledge. There is a line in the Hindu scriptures: “Let good knowledge come to us from all sides.” There is no follow-up that adds, “And let us pay royalties for it.”

Knowledge in ancient India was protected by caste lines, not legal or economic ones. The term “intellectual property” was an oxymoron: the intellect could not be anybody’s property. You did not pay your guru in coin; you herded his cows and married his daughter, and passed on the knowledge to others when you were sufficiently steeped in it. This tradition continues today, most notably in Indian classical music, none of whose melodies have been copyrighted.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Indians do not feel obligated to pay for knowledge. Pirated copies of my book are openly sold on the Bombay streets, for a fourth of its official price. Many of the plots and the music in Bollywood movies are lifted wholesale from Hollywood. I have sat in on Bollywood script meetings where we viewed American films and decided that replication was the sincerest form of flattery.

Still, Indians get upset every time they hear reports — often overblown — of Westerners’ stealing their age-old wisdom, through the mechanism of copyright law. They were outraged by a story last year of some Americans trying to copyright the sacred Hindu syllable “om” — which would be like trade-marking “amen.”

The fears may be exaggerated, but they are widespread and reflect India’s mixed experience with globalization. Western pharmaceutical companies make billions on drugs that are often first discovered in developing countries — but herbal remedies like bitter gourd or turmeric, which are known to be effective against everything from diabetes to piles, earn nothing for the country whose sages first isolated their virtues. The Indian government estimates that worldwide, 2000 patents are issued a year based on traditional Indian medicines.
27967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 07, 2007, 08:36:49 AM

SOMETHING OF VALUE
How to Sink a Newspaper
Free news for online customers is a disastrous business plan.
BY WALTER E. HUSSMAN JR.
WSJ
Monday, May 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

One has to wonder how many of the newspaper industry's current problems are self-inflicted. Take free news. News has become ubiquitous, free, and as a result, a commodity. Anytime you are trying to sell something that becomes a commodity, you have lost much of the value in providing that product or service.

Not many years ago if someone wanted to find out what was in the newspaper they had to buy one. But not anymore. Now you can just go to the newspaper's Web site and get that same information for free.

The newspaper industry wonders why it is losing young readers. Those readers might be young, but many of them are smart, not to mention computer-savvy. Why would they buy a newspaper when they can get the same information online for free?

Newspapers initially created their Web sites with the best of intentions. After all, newspapers are in the information business. And rather than fight the new medium, the Internet, why not embrace it? Wanting to be the leading information providers and thereby have the most popular Web site in the community, they posted all of their news online for free.

Exacerbating the problem with free news was the decision by the newspaper industry, which owns the Associated Press, to sell AP copy to news aggregators like Yahoo, Google and MSN. These aggregators created lucrative news portals where the world could get much of the news that was in newspapers. So readers could now get free news not only on newspaper Web sites, but also from portals and aggregators that had a chance to monetize the content, most of which was created and financed by the newspaper industry.

With local radio and television stations also creating Web sites and posting their news for free, newspapers soon realized that much of the news on the broadcast Web sites had been created by the local newspaper. So, whereas before the newspapers were selling print ads while radio and TV were selling air time, now they were all selling the same medium: their Web sites. Since newspapers share their content with the Associated Press so other members can use it, radio and TV members are using much of that content to compete against the newspapers that created it.





Newspapers have for years been frustrated by radio stations which merely read the stories which are printed in that morning's edition. TV stations often get much of their news from the newspapers, too. But reading it on the air is clearly different from posting it online, placing them in direct competition with newspapers' Web sites.
All of this would be fine if newspapers generated lots of additional revenues from offering free news. But the fact is newspapers generate most of their online revenues from classified advertising, not from news. Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, estimated that newspaper Web sites generated 78% of their revenues from classifieds in 2006.

It turns out that a Web site is a very different medium from a newspaper. While consumers often find pop-up ads a distraction and banner ads as more clutter, readers often seek out the advertising in newspapers.

The Inland Cost and Revenue Study shows that newspapers will generate between $500 and $900 in revenue per subscriber per year. But a newspaper's Web site typically generates $5 to $10 per unique visitor per year. It may be that newspaper Web sites as an advertising medium, and free news, just can't generate the revenue to sustain a valued news operation.

In fact, online revenues for the publicly traded newspaper companies in 2005 varied from 1.7% at Journal Register Co. to 5.7% at Belo Corp. The only company higher was the Washington Post Co. at 8.4%. Yet newspapers typically spend 12% or more of their revenues on their news and editorial operations.

The Wall Street Journal Online now has 931,000 paying subscribers, more than the paying subscribers to all but three U.S. newspapers: USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Our newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, does not offer our news for free on the Web site. We offer free headlines. On a few selected stories, we offer a few free paragraphs, designed to get people to read our paper. We also offer free classifieds.

Recently I had the opportunity to compare our Web site policy with the free news policies of other papers. For the six months ending March 31, 2007, the newspaper industry's circulation was down 2.1% daily and 3.1% Sunday. By contrast, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's circulation was up 1.24% daily and up less than 1% Sunday.

I was able to make another interesting comparison, too, with the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch. Columbus and Little Rock are both state capitals. Columbus is a larger market, and the Columbus Dispatch's circulation of 217,291 compares with 176,172 for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Up until Jan. 1, 2006, both our paper and the Columbus Dispatch offered news content only by subscription. We even charged the same price, $4.95, for an online monthly subscription, and both of us offered the same style electronic editions.

But Columbus dropped its subscription model on Jan. 1, 2006, and began offering most of its news for free. Its Web traffic and revenues certainly increased. But what happened to its paid circulation?

The six months ending Sept. 30, 2006 was a good comparison, since it compared six months in 2006 when the Columbus Dispatch had free news on its Web site compared with six months in 2005 when it did not offer free news. The Columbus Dispatch's daily circulation was down 5.8% while Sunday was down 1.1% for the six-month period. This compared with our loss of less than 0.4% daily and 1% Sunday.

When I looked at this comparison with Columbus, as well as the newspaper industry's larger losses, it didn't encourage me to change our Web policy to free news.





So what are we doing with our Web site? We have hired a videographer to complement our text coverage in the newspaper. We have added photo galleries to increase the number of photographs beyond what we can publish. We offer an electronic edition where you can search the entire edition by keywords, something you can't do in the print edition. And we offer breaking news email alerts, something else you can't do in print. In other words, we are offering value on our Web site that complements, rather than cannibalizes, our print edition.
Collectively, the American newspaper industry spends $7 billion on news and editorial operations. This includes everything from copy editor salaries to sports travel expenses. In addition, the Associated Press spent about $600 million world-wide in editing and creating news. By offering this news for free, and selling it to aggregators like Google, Yahoo and MSN for a small fraction of what it costs to create it, newspaper readership and circulation have declined.

These declines are accelerating. In 2004 and prior years, industry circulation declines were usually less than 1%. Since March 2005, these declines have been 2%-3% per year. With declining readership comes declining ad revenues, which are followed by layoffs.

The newsroom layoffs are most troubling, as less news with less quality, context and details results in more declines in readership and later, declines in advertising. If the $7 billion spent covering news becomes $6 billion, and later $5 billion, it is not just the newspaper industry that gets hurt. Journalism will be diminished in America with less investigative and enterprise reporting; indeed, less reporting of state houses, city halls, school boards, business and sports. Clearly a lot is at stake.

It is time for newspapers to reconsider the ultimate costs and consequences of free news.

Mr. Hussman is publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


27968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 07, 2007, 08:29:14 AM
WHAT TO GIVE UP . . . AND WHAT LAND TO HOLD: ISRAEL'S TOUGHEST CHOICE
 
May 6, 2007 -- EACH time I visit Israel, I come home more pro-Israeli - and more worried about Israel's future.

The nation has been a stunning success, as close to a miracle as humanity achieved over the last, horrid century. But Israel is also a victim of that success. Built - like the United States - by the "old country's" rejects and outsiders, Israel's triumph is a slap in Europe's face. Europe was comfortable with its image of the Jew as a narrow-shouldered rabbinical student the local toughs could bully. But Europeans don't like Jews with muscles.  As for Israel's neighbors, they had 13 centuries to make a go of "Palestine." Instead, they turned the Land of Milk and Honey into a desert.

The ecological reclamation of the land of Israel is nearly as dramatic as the creation of a Jewish state. (Indeed, environmentalists of real integrity should count among Israel's strongest advocates.) That return to the garden is as humiliating to feckless Arab cultures as their military defeats.

And we won't even talk about Israel's introduction of rule-of-law democracy into the wretchedly governed Middle East.

The point is that, whatever Israel does or doesn't do, it will always have plenty of enemies. No matter how self-destructive and murderous Palestinian behavior may be in Gaza, how nakedly corrupt Palestinian leaders are, or how hypocritical Arab governments remain, the global left will always make excuses for them, while blaming Israel for every boil on a terrorist's backside.

SO why should Israel surren der any land to its enemies, if it gets in return nothing but empty promises and more security problems?

The reason has nothing to do with justice or sense, but with one of those oddities of the international system, "world opinion." I wish Israel could keep every inch of ground it now holds. But the reality is that global leaders who don't know Gaza from Giza will demand that Israel give up turf.

Some of those pressures can be shrugged off. But not all.

In this unjust world, Israel will be forced to make very difficult choices. Some of the toughest will have to do with the land it must surrender to thugs who'll turn it into yet another patch of self-made Arab misery. And there's a very real danger that, for internal political reasons, a future Israeli government will make faulty decisions.

ISRAEL must be severely prag matic, distinguishing between strategic terrain and evocative terrain - between those stretches of land critical to security and those whose appeal is purely emotional.

Sounds sensible and easy, but it isn't.

Israel's internal enemies are the rogue, extremist settlers who invoke a real-estate-magnate god to occupy West Bank territory that the state doesn't need and can't digest - and whose seizure plays into the hands of Israel's foes and complicates the support of her all-too-few friends.

Yet the fateful evolution of the Israeli parliamentary system has made those who return the least benefit to Israel - who drain its resources and give nothing back - into political kingmakers.

Jews who insist that their god cares more about a plot of bedeviled dirt than the reverence in their hearts are behaving like Arab militants (complete with the intolerance). No religious text is a valid deed.

Don't get me wrong: Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Christians have a stronger claim to Alexandria, Antioch and Istanbul than Muslims do to Jerusalem.

But when it comes to strategic terrain, forget about Hebron - the West Bank town that's home to less than 1,000 Israeli settlers, and well over 100,000 Palestinians. It's just one of the many settlements that hurt Israel's security instead of helping it.

SO what land truly matters to Israel's survival (assuming, for a moment, that Iran won't be permitted to build a nuclear arsenal)?

Israel can never surrender the Golan Heights. We might as well be honest about it. Syria repeatedly - three times - attacked Upper Galilee from the Golan. Three strikes and you're out.

Syria's a phony state, anyway, its borders drawn to please France. Israel has administered the Golan longer - and far better - than post-independence Damascus did.

Borders change. Get over it.

Elsewhere, though, traditional strategists have it wrong. They claim that whoever holds the mountainous "spine" running down through the West Bank controls the land that now comprises Israel. But Israel's survival and victorious wars disprove that "law."

What matters is control of the lines of communication - the roads - that enable Israel to shift military forces rapidly, and the control of foreign borders across which weapons can be infiltrated.

Thus, control of the Jordan Valley and its vital north-south highway is essential. The string of hilltop settlements east of Jerusalem that dominate the direct route to Jordan can never be given up.

And the recently floated scheme to swap Arab towns in northern Israel for part of the West Bank is madness - it would cost Israel control of a militarily vital highway from the coast into Galilee.

IN short, there are vital loca tions within the West Bank. They're just not the ones obsessing the fanatics who shame their faith.

If Israel doesn't do a cold- blooded analysis of what it truly needs to retain, the world will ask too much, its government will make decisions based upon political pressure rather than military necessity - and the result will be a far-worse mess than the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip created.

Israel must do what its survival requires. As the interim Winograd Report made clear on Monday, last summer's duel with Hezbollah was disastrous. Now Israel's enemies smell blood. Instead of the longed-for era of peace, we'll see no end of violence in the Middle East.

THERE'S no good solution to the region's problems. There may not even be any bad solutions that work. The failed civilization surrounding Israel may be hopeless - a possibility we pretend away because we cannot bear the implications.

But Israel can't pretend anything away. In a world in which so many openly seek its destruction - while others secretly long for the same thing - Israel is going to have to play flawless political chess. That means giving up the spaces on the board that don't help it checkmate its enemies.

Ralph Peters' most recent book is "Never Quit The Fight."
27969  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: May 06, 2007, 10:48:14 AM
Well, we passed on spending $55 for boxing  rolleyes

BTW, my seven year old and I were watching the promo clips yesterday and he said he thought Mayweather was going to win.  I asked why.  "Because he seems to do more hard training and the other guy seems to mostly be talking."  grin
27970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Assessing Blame for Iraq front of WW3: on: May 05, 2007, 12:46:42 PM

Failures of Generalship in Iraq

America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America's generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America's generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.

Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In "The Sling and the Stone," T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department's transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals." Population security is the most important measure of effectiveness in counterinsurgency. For more than three years, America's generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America's generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation's deployable land power to a single theater of operations.

The intellectual and moral failures common to America's general officer corps in Vietnam and Iraq constitute a crisis in American generalship. Any explanation that fixes culpability on individuals is insufficient. No one leader, civilian or military, caused failure in Vietnam or Iraq. Different military and civilian leaders in the two conflicts produced similar results. In both conflicts, the general officer corps designed to advise policymakers, prepare forces and conduct operations failed to perform its intended functions. To understand how the U.S. could face defeat at the hands of a weaker insurgent enemy for the second time in a generation, we must look at the structural influences that produce our general officer corps.

The Generals We Need

The most insightful examination of failed generalship comes from J.F.C. Fuller's "Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure." Fuller was a British major general who saw action in the first attempts at armored warfare in World War I. He found three common characteristics in great generals — courage, creative intelligence and physical fitness.

The need for intelligent, creative and courageous general officers is self-evident. An understanding of the larger aspects of war is essential to great generalship. However, a survey of Army three- and four-star generals shows that only 25 percent hold advanced degrees from civilian institutions in the social sciences or humanities. Counterinsurgency theory holds that proficiency in foreign languages is essential to success, yet only one in four of the Army's senior generals speaks another language. While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long.

Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America's general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem. The services themselves are equally to blame. The system that produces our generals does little to reward creativity and moral courage. Officers rise to flag rank by following remarkably similar career patterns. Senior generals, both active and retired, are the most important figures in determining an officer's potential for flag rank. The views of subordinates and peers play no role in an officer's advancement; to move up he must only please his superiors. In a system in which senior officers select for promotion those like themselves, there are powerful incentives for conformity. It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties.

If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America's military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.

To improve the creative intelligence of our generals, Congress must change the officer promotion system in ways that reward adaptation and intellectual achievement. Congress should require the armed services to implement 360-degree evaluations for field-grade and flag officers. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers are often the first to adapt because they bear the brunt of failed tactics most directly. They are also less wed to organizational norms and less influenced by organizational taboos. Junior leaders have valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of their leaders, but the current promotion system excludes these judgments. Incorporating subordinate and peer reviews into promotion decisions for senior leaders would produce officers more willing to adapt to changing circumstances, and less likely to conform to outmoded practices.

Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer's potential for senior leadership.

To reward moral courage in our general officers, Congress must ask hard questions about the means and ways for war as part of its oversight responsibility. Some of the answers will be shocking, which is perhaps why Congress has not asked and the generals have not told. Congress must ask for a candid assessment of the money and manpower required over the next generation to prevail in the Long War. The money required to prevail may place fiscal constraints on popular domestic priorities. The quantity and quality of manpower required may call into question the viability of the all-volunteer military. Congress must re-examine the allocation of existing resources, and demand that procurement priorities reflect the most likely threats we will face. Congress must be equally rigorous in ensuring that the ways of war contribute to conflict termination consistent with the aims of national policy. If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.

Mortal Danger

This article began with Frederick the Great's admonition to his officers to focus their energies on the larger aspects of war. The Prussian monarch's innovations had made his army the terror of Europe, but he knew that his adversaries were learning and adapting. Frederick feared that his generals would master his system of war without thinking deeply about the ever-changing nature of war, and in doing so would place Prussia's security at risk. These fears would prove prophetic. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, Frederick's successors were checked by France's ragtag citizen army. In the fourteen years that followed, Prussia's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like those of the past. In 1806, the Prussian Army marched lockstep into defeat and disaster at the hands of Napoleon at Jena. Frederick's prophecy had come to pass; Prussia became a French vassal.

Iraq is America's Valmy. America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand. They spent the years following the 1991 Gulf War mastering a system of war without thinking deeply about the ever changing nature of war. They marched into Iraq having assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past. Those few who saw clearly our vulnerability to insurgent tactics said and did little to prepare for these dangers. As at Valmy, this one debacle, however humiliating, will not in itself signal national disaster. The hour is late, but not too late to prepare for the challenges of the Long War. We still have time to select as our generals those who possess the intelligence to visualize future conflicts and the moral courage to advise civilian policymakers on the preparations needed for our security. The power and the responsibility to identify such generals lie with the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not act, our Jena awaits us.

 
27971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Assessing Blame for Iraq front of WW3: on: May 05, 2007, 12:46:13 PM

http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2007/05/2635198
A failure in generalship
By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling
"You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict."
- Frederick the Great


For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

 
The Responsibilities of Generalship

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice. Global conflicts such as World War II require the full mobilization of entire societies to provide the men and materiel necessary for the successful prosecution of war. The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.

However much it is influenced by passion and probability, war is ultimately an instrument of policy and its conduct is the responsibility of policymakers. War is a social activity undertaken on behalf of the nation; Augustine counsels us that the only purpose of war is to achieve a better peace. The choice of making war to achieve a better peace is inherently a value judgment in which the statesman must decide those interests and beliefs worth killing and dying for. The military man is no better qualified than the common citizen to make such judgments. He must therefore confine his input to his area of expertise — the estimation of strategic probabilities.

The correct estimation of strategic possibilities can be further subdivided into the preparation for war and the conduct of war. Preparation for war consists in the raising, arming, equipping and training of forces. The conduct of war consists of both planning for the use of those forces and directing those forces in operations.

To prepare forces for war, the general must visualize the conditions of future combat. To raise military forces properly, the general must visualize the quality and quantity of forces needed in the next war. To arm and equip military forces properly, the general must visualize the materiel requirements of future engagements. To train military forces properly, the general must visualize the human demands on future battlefields, and replicate those conditions in peacetime exercises. Of course, not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought. According to British military historian and soldier Sir Michael Howard, "In structuring and preparing an army for war, you can be clear that you will not get it precisely right, but the important thing is not to be too far wrong, so that you can put it right quickly."

The most tragic error a general can make is to assume without much reflection that wars of the future will look much like wars of the past. Following World War I, French generals committed this error, assuming that the next war would involve static battles dominated by firepower and fixed fortifications. Throughout the interwar years, French generals raised, equipped, armed and trained the French military to fight the last war. In stark contrast, German generals spent the interwar years attempting to break the stalemate created by firepower and fortifications. They developed a new form of war — the blitzkrieg — that integrated mobility, firepower and decentralized tactics. The German Army did not get this new form of warfare precisely right. After the 1939 conquest of Poland, the German Army undertook a critical self-examination of its operations. However, German generals did not get it too far wrong either, and in less than a year had adapted their tactics for the invasion of France.

After visualizing the conditions of future combat, the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands. Civilian policymakers have neither the expertise nor the inclination to think deeply about strategic probabilities in the distant future. Policymakers, especially elected representatives, face powerful incentives to focus on near-term challenges that are of immediate concern to the public. Generating military capability is the labor of decades. If the general waits until the public and its elected representatives are immediately concerned with national security threats before finding his voice, he has waited too long. The general who speaks too loudly of preparing for war while the nation is at peace places at risk his position and status. However, the general who speaks too softly places at risk the security of his country.

Failing to visualize future battlefields represents a lapse in professional competence, but seeing those fields clearly and saying nothing is an even more serious lapse in professional character. Moral courage is often inversely proportional to popularity and this observation in nowhere more true than in the profession of arms. The history of military innovation is littered with the truncated careers of reformers who saw gathering threats clearly and advocated change boldly. A military professional must possess both the physical courage to face the hazards of battle and the moral courage to withstand the barbs of public scorn. On and off the battlefield, courage is the first characteristic of generalship.

Failures of Generalship in Vietnam

America's defeat in Vietnam is the most egregious failure in the history of American arms. America's general officer corps refused to prepare the Army to fight unconventional wars, despite ample indications that such preparations were in order. Having failed to prepare for such wars, America's generals sent our forces into battle without a coherent plan for victory. Unprepared for war and lacking a coherent strategy, America lost the war and the lives of more than 58,000 service members.

Following World War II, there were ample indicators that America's enemies would turn to insurgency to negate our advantages in firepower and mobility. The French experiences in Indochina and Algeria offered object lessons to Western armies facing unconventional foes. These lessons were not lost on the more astute members of America's political class. In 1961, President Kennedy warned of "another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by evading and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him." In response to these threats, Kennedy undertook a comprehensive program to prepare America's armed forces for counterinsurgency.

Despite the experience of their allies and the urging of their president, America's generals failed to prepare their forces for counterinsurgency. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Decker assured his young president, "Any good soldier can handle guerrillas." Despite Kennedy's guidance to the contrary, the Army viewed the conflict in Vietnam in conventional terms. As late as 1964, Gen. Earle Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated flatly that "the essence of the problem in Vietnam is military." While the Army made minor organizational adjustments at the urging of the president, the generals clung to what Andrew Krepinevich has called "the Army concept," a vision of warfare focused on the destruction of the enemy's forces.

Having failed to visualize accurately the conditions of combat in Vietnam, America's generals prosecuted the war in conventional terms. The U.S. military embarked on a graduated attrition strategy intended to compel North Vietnam to accept a negotiated peace. The U.S. undertook modest efforts at innovation in Vietnam. Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS), spearheaded by the State Department's "Blowtorch" Bob Kromer, was a serious effort to address the political and economic causes of the insurgency. The Marine Corps' Combined Action Program (CAP) was an innovative approach to population security. However, these efforts are best described as too little, too late. Innovations such as CORDS and CAP never received the resources necessary to make a large-scale difference. The U.S. military grudgingly accepted these innovations late in the war, after the American public's commitment to the conflict began to wane.

America's generals not only failed to develop a strategy for victory in Vietnam, but also remained largely silent while the strategy developed by civilian politicians led to defeat. As H.R. McMaster noted in "Dereliction of Duty," the Joint Chiefs of Staff were divided by service parochialism and failed to develop a unified and coherent recommendation to the president for prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson estimated in 1965 that victory would require as many as 700,000 troops for up to five years. Commandant of the Marine Corps Wallace Greene made a similar estimate on troop levels. As President Johnson incrementally escalated the war, neither man made his views known to the president or Congress. President Johnson made a concerted effort to conceal the costs and consequences of Vietnam from the public, but such duplicity required the passive consent of America's generals.

Having participated in the deception of the American people during the war, the Army chose after the war to deceive itself. In "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," John Nagl argued that instead of learning from defeat, the Army after Vietnam focused its energies on the kind of wars it knew how to win — high-technology conventional wars. An essential contribution to this strategy of denial was the publication of "On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War," by Col. Harry Summers. Summers, a faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, argued that the Army had erred by not focusing enough on conventional warfare in Vietnam, a lesson the Army was happy to hear. Despite having been recently defeated by an insurgency, the Army slashed training and resources devoted to counterinsurgency.

By the early 1990s, the Army's focus on conventional war-fighting appeared to have been vindicated. During the 1980s, the U.S. military benefited from the largest peacetime military buildup in the nation's history. High-technology equipment dramatically increased the mobility and lethality of our ground forces. The Army's National Training Center honed the Army's conventional war-fighting skills to a razor's edge. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the demise of the Soviet Union and the futility of direct confrontation with the U.S. Despite the fact the U.S. supported insurgencies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Angola to hasten the Soviet Union's demise, the U.S. military gave little thought to counterinsurgency throughout the 1990s. America's generals assumed without much reflection that the wars of the future would look much like the wars of the past — state-on-state conflicts against conventional forces. America's swift defeat of the Iraqi Army, the world's fourth-largest, in 1991 seemed to confirm the wisdom of the U.S. military's post-Vietnam reforms. But the military learned the wrong lessons from Operation Desert Storm. It continued to prepare for the last war, while its future enemies prepared for a new kind of war.
27972  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cops need naps on: May 05, 2007, 06:55:41 AM
Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com> wrote:
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 20:33:33 -0500
Subject: FORCE SCIENCE NEWS: Transmission #71
From: Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com>
To: <stickwacker1@yahoo.com>

Force Science News #71
May 4, 2007

=======================================
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non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free,
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"OUR COPS ARE TICKING TIME BOMBS FOR LACK OF SLEEP"

About the time we were transmitting our recent article on the need for
on-shift naps, one of the nation's foremost law enforcement risk managers
was independently telling a standing-room crowd at the annual ILEETA
training conference that fatigue is a life-threatening issue for street
officers and that approved napping should be considered an on-duty necessity.

Risk and liability specialist Gordon Graham, an attorney and retired captain
with the California Highway Patrol, claimed later in an interview with Force
Science News that fatigue played a significant role in at least 3 officer
deaths that he's aware of in recent months in just one state alone.

"Administrators won't talk about it," Graham says, "but our cops are
ticking time bombs for lack of sleep.

"If a big rig runs off the road, we take that driver's life apart for the
previous few days, looking at his sleep log, among other things. But when
something tragic happens with a cop, we don't analyze for fatigue.

"Wouldn't it be interesting to know how many hours of sleep officers have
had before some of the controversial shootings that have rocked law
enforcement? Or to correlate citizen complaints with officer fatigue?

"Fatigue is an identifiable risk. Let's take responsibility and manage that
risk.

"I'd like to see officers paid to take care of 3 basic needs while on duty:
to eat, to nap, and to work out so they stay in better physical shape. This
could be a negotiable issue with the unions. I'm convinced that all the
positives would be up and that we'd save money in the long run."

[Gordon Graham, who consults with agencies throughout the nation on
liability issues, can be reached at: Ggraham@Lexipol.com]

In our report on fatigue and napping, which you can read here:

http://www.policeone.com/writers/columnists/ForceScience/articles/1238757/

we asked for comments. In this "Mailbag" edition of Force Science News, we
present a representative sampling of your responses, edited for clarity and
brevity. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the
writers' employers.

OFFICER THROUGH THE WRINGER: 3 DIFFERENT SHIFTS IN 1 WEEK!

As the research continues to confirm the importance of adequate sleep,
employers continue to ignore the implications. Police agencies are far and
beyond the worst offenders, small agencies in particular.

I work in a 12-officer agency. My REGULAR schedule, not affected by other
officers taking a sick day or holiday or overtime/court requirements, has me
working AT LEAST 2 different shifts in the SAME week.

"Double backs," with only 8 hours scheduled off between shifts (e.g.,
working an evening shift until midnight then having to be back at work at 8
AM) are the rule for every officer's schedule. Given report time, commute
time, getting ready for bed, sleeping, getting up and ready for work, that
translates to about 4 hours of actual sleep.

A TYPICAL schedule for me is midnight, double back to an evening shift,
another midnight, then double back again to another evening, then double
back yet again to a day shift: All 3 shifts in 1 week, with 3 double backs
and MAYBE 12 hours of total sleep--assuming your body isn't so confused by
the constantly variable schedule that you CAN sleep--and you're so damn
tired you can hardly think straight.

It isn't safe, it isn't smart, and it's a miserable way to live. Officers
are irritable and short with people, their productivity is quite
lacking--but at least they're not crashing their patrol cars into civilians.

Oh, wait...they are! When they're not racking up citizen complaints for
being rude.

Two factors perpetuate this pattern: One, there aren't enough officers.
Adding officers means more money, and small agencies simply do not have
enough money. Second, the administrators and supervisors writing the
schedules that affect all their officers work a straight day shift with
weekends off. They lose track of what it means to be sleep deprived.

Forget sanctioned naps. When you have only 1 officer on duty, you want him
to actually be awake for calls.

A Deputy from Texas


SNOOZE ELSEWHERE

I agree with the need to catnap to recharge. However, if our brothers in
blue are tired only because they have a second job, sleep on that one.

John Mertz
State Conservation Ofcr.
Knoxville, IA


HOURS OF NO CALLS ARE UNSAFE

I would not agree to napping on the 3 PM to 11 PM shift but definitely on
the midnight shift. It becomes unsafe when you have been driving around for
6 hours with little or no calls. If the call volume is high the fatigue does
not seem to set in as much. But the slow nights make it very hard to stay
awake.

Ofcr. Cliff Mahan
Guthrie (OK) PD


A COMPASSIONATE DEPARTMENT

My old department would let us come in for a 20- to 30-min. break and
snooze. This did wonders, especially when things were slow, since I could
only average 3-4 hours of sleep before work. Working 12-hr. shifts killed me.

A Force Science Reader


"WE ALREADY HAVE A TARNISHED IMAGE"

Officer fatigue is a valid argument for 2-person assignments. As a sergeant
I notice I am less efficient when I have to drive and supervise. When I have
a driver, my work is more efficient and I have more energy because I can
rest while being driven.

Napping, however, is another matter and unacceptable in a world where we
already have a tarnished image of not doing enough!

Sgt. Richard Aztlan
Chicago PD, Mass Transit


HAVE ANOTHER COP WATCH OVER YOU

I have said to my officers on the 3rd watch (2100-0700) that I am not
encouraging sleeping on duty, but I am a realist. I know it will happen,
especially at the first couple of weeks into the shift change. Therefore,
call your beat partner or me and have another cop park next to you while you
catch a 30-min. nap.

I have done so myself. I find the short rest is very refreshing and will
carry you alertly through the rest of the shift. I view this nap as healthy
and possibly lifesaving, not only during your shift but afterward while
you're on your way home.

A Sergeant from California


THE DISRUPTION OF BEING "FAIR"

For a decade I worked a job with a shift of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. It
took my body and brain nearly 2 years to become truly accustomed to this
shift, and for me to learn coping strategies to deal with the issues this
shift induced.

My local police department rotates officer shifts every 3 months, to be
"fair" don't you know. This is a huge mistake. I suspect officers may take 2
of the 3 months for their bodies, brains, and sleep and their family and
social patterns to become mostly adapted to the new shift. Just as they're
getting into a rhythm, their department disrupts them all over again with a
mandatory shift rotation.

Such departments must have a lot of officers operating at fractional
potential much of the time, just because of this effort to be "fair." If
this disruptive practice has not been studied, it's dang time it were.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Assn.
Missoula, MT


"A HARD SELL"

All of us know [napping] has gone on since the first night shift began. It's
human nature. Having trained your body to be awake in the day and asleep at
night then telling it to do something totally to the contrary on changing
intervals is not only very dangerous it's unhealthy.

Still, I believe this is a hard sell to administrators who don't have to
deal with this issue themselves. Also not everyone can just fall asleep on
command.

A Force Science Reader


MANPOWER DEMANDS OVERRIDE GOOD INTENTIONS

I have been in LE for over 28 years and totally agree that sleep deprivation
is a severe detriment to many officers. I average about 5 hours of sleep a
night while working our day shift. Because my spouse works and my child is
grown, I have the luxury of sleeping in on my days off, trying to make up
for my lost sleep. However, I find that I am often fatigued at work,
especially during the early morning hours and after the work day. Our shift
pattern causes all shifts to work during some hours of darkness.

Over the years we have allowed, and even encouraged, officers to come to the
station and take a snooze if they become over-tired. Unfortunately, even
though our manning is higher than it has ever been, our calls for service
have also increased to the point that allowing for a nap except under the
most serious situations has become a thing of the past.

Until there's a plan that allows for naps without causing a problem with
response to calls, it's coffee and supplements!

A Lieutenant from Florida


SWAP FOOD FOR SLEEP

If a lunch hour is in your shift hours, even half an hour, get permission to
sleep your lunch break, and eat energy bars and fruit as you drive to
replace a formal lunch.

Mike Hargreaves
CEO, Community Patrol, Inc.
Orlando, FL

================
(c) 2007: Force Science Research Center, www.forcescience.org.
27973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 05, 2007, 06:48:08 AM
Move Over Olmert
Will Tzipi Livni be Israel's next prime minister?

BY FANIA OZ-SALZBERGER
Saturday, May 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
WSJ

HAIFA, Israel--On Wednesday, Tzipi Livni gave a press conference calling for Ehud Olmert's resignation in the wake of the Winograd Commission's sharp critique of his performance during the Lebanon war. She also announced she would be challenging him in the Kadima Party primary elections. Mr. Olmert fumed, but stopped short of firing the minister of foreign affairs, aware of her popularity within the party and striving to keep his government above water.

Many Israelis, by contrast, found Ms. Livni's soft tone and refusal to step down a symptom of political weakness. Still, she is determined to keep alive both Kadima and the chances for Israeli-Arab peace. Amid the political tsunami that washed over Israel in the last four days, this is something of a feat.

In an interview given prior to the release of the Winograd Report--which lambasted Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz--Ms. Livni told me why she ought to stay in power. She has a peace-seeking vision for Israel's future, which she has consistently pursued since her appointment in March 2006 and throughout the 34 days of war with Lebanon. Despite current accusations of wishy-washiness, she is still considered by many voters to be the stuff prime ministers are made of. If not now, a little later--assuming Kadima survives.





Ms. Livni has the distinction of being Israel's least-hated leader, widely trusted and considered a spotless and serious stateswoman. The president is suspended and faces likely prosecution on rape, and both prime minister and finance minister are suspected of corruption; Ms. Livni's slate, by contrast, is glaringly clean. A good number of Israelis have considered her a viable heir to Mr. Olmert, and now, in the eye of the storm, many of her party members and supporters still do.
Yet the country is on a political roller-coaster. More than 100,000 protesters flocked to Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Thursday, calling for Messrs. Olmert and Peretz to step down. Minister Livni was not targeted. And significantly, the rally did not demand new elections. The reason is clear: Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is poised to win them. His support rose to 27% in recent polls. But many Israelis fear his leadership no less than they despise Mr. Olmert's. This concern is echoed by prominent voices world-wide. Germany's foreign minister Steinmeyer, on behalf of the EU, said on Thursday that "Israel's internal crisis must not be allowed to jeopardize the efforts to resuscitate the Middle East peace process."

If the polling box stays comfortably far, Ms. Livni faces four alternative futures: Mr. Olmert may survive and oust her; he may survive, swallow his pride and keep her in the cabinet, setting his sights on mending both army and peace process; Shimon Peres could take over if Mr. Olmert is forced to resign; or Ms. Livni would take the prime ministerial helm herself. The last three options leave ample room for her international vision to push onward.

This weekend, therefore, Ms. Livni's views are still deeply relevant to Israel's future.

We met in her modest, one-day-a-week Tel Aviv office. Somewhat slumped after a heavy lunch with EU ambassadors, Ms. Livni's energies promptly resurfaced as she recalled addressing a cheering Kadima audience. She told them she had left Likud last year because she couldn't support a political platform dominated by the word "No." "My colleagues and I established Kadima because we were sick and tired of Likud's political fallacies, both ideological and procedural. We wanted to spell out what Likud knows, but due to militant members of its electoral assembly, cannot utter: the principle of two states for two nations. The Kadima platform is based on a paper I originally drafted for the Likud; I took it from my computer, deleted the title 'Reaching Agreement in Likud,' and typed 'Platform' instead."

Ms. Livni's document won voters' confidence last March, scoring a historical victory for the newly founded party shortly after it was deprived of its natural leader, Ariel Sharon. Ms. Livni misses him, personally and politically: "He belonged to a generation of leaders whose commitment to Israel and to the Jewish people was obvious to the public even when they erred," she told me. His heirs, by contrast, must prove their worth. "Kadima represents a huge portion of the Israeli public that is sitting on the fence [between left and right]," she says. "We must regain its trust."

Center parties have never done well in this opinionated country, but Ms. Livni thinks the middle road will prevail. "It is a worldview, not a bunch of nondeciders. My vision of Israeli society and economy is clear and focused." In effect, her economic views are consistent with Kadima's social-minded but essentially free-market stance. Far more urgent for most Israelis is her international outlook. Can she get talks with the Palestinians going? Can she jump-start the peace process, cashing in on American support while courting a helpful European input? Will Israel's strongest female politician since Golda Meir deliver the goods which all her predecessors--Golda most of all--failed to bring home?

Born in 1958 to a seasoned right-wing family--her father was Knesset member for Likud--Tzipora Livni trained as a lawyer and worked for Mossad. Married with two children, she entered Israeli parliament in Netanyahu's list in 1999, and held several ministerial posts under Sharon. Her rise to political stardom was swift and relatively painless. Her political views shifted from right to center early in the new millennium. The longtime hawk, who at 16 years old demonstrated against Henry Kissinger's mission to get Israel out of the Sinai and the Golan Heights, became a supporter of major territorial compromise, buttressed by a vital condition: that not one Palestinian refugee be repatriated into the Jewish state as part of the final deal.

"The establishment of Israel," she says, "has removed 'the Jewish problem' from world agenda. A Palestinian state must do the same for all Palestinians, residents of the territories and exiles alike. It is the only solution for the refugee problem." Can this be anchored in the newly awakened Saudi peace initiative? Ms. Livni draws a clear demarcation: She would give her blessing to the Saudi plan--in fact, she did so from the day it was broached in 2002--as long as the Palestinian "right of return" is off the agenda. "Any border disagreement can be solved by negotiation," she says. Demography is another matter.





This statement not only matches a near-consensus among Jewish Israelis, it also reflects a constitutional credo. Ms. Livni and I have met during the lively debates of the public council of the Israeli Democracy Institute, a powerful independent think tank drafting a written constitution for the country and closely associated with legislators of all political shades. This ambitious project is based on Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish and democratic state" (though some Israelis, this writer included, would prefer to change the order of the adjectives). Ms. Livni is committed to both tags, along with "a strong protection of individual rights." Put together, "these are the Israeli values that every immigrant should memorize, just like the American values in the U.S." Not all Israelis would agree, I retort. Ms. Livni thinks that the solid center is on her side. So, by implication, is the political left. "The real political fault-line runs between those who accept the 'Jewish and democratic' principle, and such religious groups who demand Jewish presence in as much of the Land of Israel as possible. For them, each passing day is a net gain. For me, every decision must substantiate Israel's dual-value vision. Therefore, the land must be divided into two nation states."
Unlike her former Likud friends, she chose to face reality: Avery large Palestinian minority within Israel's final borders would kill off either its Jewish or its democratic character. A generous territorial compromise is her way to square the ensuing circle. This was Kadima's initial raison d'etre, before it slalomed into Lebanon and corruption charges.

Till recently, Israel did not officially respond to the Saudi peace plan. A mistake? "We ought to have put our concept on the table years ago," Ms. Livni concedes. "By neglecting to do so, we lost opportunities of launching a viable process." Her tenure at the ministry of foreign affairs is marked by an effort to advertise a clearer Israeli stance. "There is a pragmatic Muslim-Arab world, which conceives Iran as the primary threat rather than Israel and its [West Bank] settlements. The fundamental solution we can offer these countries is based on two equilibriums: a Palestinian state entailing a [non-repatriation] solution for the Palestinian refugees, and a border agreement entailing [Israel dealing with] the Jewish settlements." The Oslo accord, negotiated by Yitzhak Rabin's labor-led coalition, was therefore a dire error. "Leaving the refugee issue hanging out for separate negotiation is our worst-case scenario. The two-state concept incorporates the solution for the refugees' problem. Israel agrees to a major border compromise in return for a clear international statement about the non-return of the refugees. We have accomplished this with the Bush administration, and I have asked for a similar statement from the Europeans. My interlocutors tell me it makes sense."

Ms. Livni is convinced that an independent, peaceful Palestine is in Israel's best interest. "I want to accomplish a viable Palestine. It is in our interest, because the Palestinian nation state would vouchsafe the Jewish nation state." Are moderate Muslims part of the solution? "Oh yes. They are crucial for strengthening the Palestinian moderates, who are unfortunately weak."





In recent months, Ms. Livni has publicly called for immediate dialogue on a prospective Palestinian state, based on a new common denominator. Iranian Shiite ideology is now a shared enemy, and Middle Eastern extremism no longer stems from the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. "The camps and the alignments have changed. The solution depends on Israelis, moderate Palestinians and pragmatic Arabs and Muslims working together. The two nation state concept is the touchstone of moderation."
Like many Israelis, Ms. Livni feels that television is the enemy of peace-promoting subtlety. "The electronic media does not generate moderation: neither Al-Jazeera television, nor the Internet insofar as it serves al Qaeda. Public opinion has become a tool for extremists, and [Muslim] moderates are afraid to speak up." Another good reason, I tell Ms. Livni, to cultivate every bud of European-Muslim moderation. She consents, then lashes out against what she calls "attempts to theologize the conflict. I cannot solve a religious strife," she says, "but I can solve a conflict between nations."

The Road Map is of course a starting point, although Ms. Livni regrets its vagueness on the refugee issue. Territorial compromise, furthermore, demands mutual flexibility. "We must explain--mainly to Europe--that a wholesale return to the 1967 border is no magic solution. It would bust the dream of a Palestinian state, because there was no geographical or political connection between Gaza and the West Bank. So amendments would be necessary, and both sides would appeal for them. I believe in bilateral negotiation."

"Is Europe a helpful member of the peace-brokering Quartet?" I ask. Most Israelis are painfully suspicious of the old continent's true feelings toward the Jewish state. Ms. Livni is quick to praise the EU's new presence in the Middle East. After all, the deployment of European forces in Lebanon last summer is partly credited to her diplomatic performance. "Yet Israel's image among the European public is remote from reality," she adds. "European leaders told me they must take their own public opinion and media on board. Some EU members, impatient to move on, might soften the conditions imposed on the Palestinians, and speed the process in the wrong direction. If they tell the Palestinians they need not recognize Israel's existence, then we are back to 1947." For the German chancellor, though, Ms. Livni has nothing but praise. "Angela Merkel is a leader with strong values. Like myself, she refuses to accept that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. She has a moral backbone."

Nothing of the sort can be said of Vladimir Putin. "Russia is recently edging away from American positions, and from the Quartet. It aims for independent policies, softer on Iran, accommodating to Hamas." A pause, and then a small concession to Israeli frankness: "Russia's wish to play a different game, vis a vis the Americans, is not helpful." What of the U.S. after President Bush? Israeli commentators suggest that a Democratic White House would pull some carpet from under our feet. On this, Ms. Livni is the diplomat again. "I take the American outlook I have discussed here to be bipartisan."

At close quarters, Ms. Livni is very much the sharp and likeable Sabra gal that middle Israel cannot dislike. She has genuine and refreshing faith in Israeli society and economy. The recent corruption investigations are a healthy sign, she says. Norms are changing and a painful cleanup operation would leave the country stronger, its ethical standards even higher. This utterance is no lip service: Israelis have good feelers for fakes, and Ms. Livni's optimism strikes even her political rivals as authentic.


Asked to comment on the outstanding performance of the Israeli economy throughout these years of crisis, her face lightens up. "This is amazing indeed: war in Lebanon, political dramas, and investments keep pouring in. I ascribe it to the human quality and originality of a group of Israelis. . . . Our economic policy has remained stable, despite the frequent government changes. We have not tilted between ideologies, but kept a consistent middle path. The Israeli public, grumpy as it is, has faith in its economy. So do international investors." Significantly, Israel's stock exchange did not even blink during this week's Winograd mayhem.





Ms. Livni's particular strength is the solid, optimistic, almost old-fashioned Israeli faith in her moral vision. Widespread public trust has been her greatest asset. Ironically, her greatest liability is the party she co-founded, fraught from its infancy by an unending tide of drama: Ariel Sharon's stroke, Mr. Olmert's Lebanese misadventure, Labor's unsuccessful chief as coalition partner, the string of probes and investigations, and now the Winograd showdown. If Kadima sinks, it is hard to see how Ms. Livni will remain afloat. If Kadima survives, however, Ms. Livni may yet be called upon to navigate the ship of state through the world's wildest water course.

Ms. Oz-Salzberger is the Leon Liberman Chair of Modern Israel Studies at Monash University and a senior lecturer in history at the University of Haifa.
27974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senator challenges M4 on: May 05, 2007, 06:40:56 AM


http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,133962,00.html?ESRC=dod.nl

Senator Tells Army to Reconsider M4
Military.com  |  By Christian Lowe  |  April 30, 2007
The debate over the Army's choice to purchase hundreds of thousands of M4 carbines for its new brigade combat teams is facing stiff opposition from a small group of senators who say the rifle may be inferior to others already in the field.

In an April 12 letter to acting Army Secretary Pete Geren, Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said purchase of the M4 - a shortened version of the Vietnam-era M16 - was based on requirements from the early 1990s and that better, more reliable weapons exist that could give Army troops a more effective weapon.

Coburn asked the Army to hold a "free and open competition" before inking sole-source contracts worth about $375 million to M4 manufacturer, West Hartford, Conn.-based Colt Defense - which just received a $50 million Army contract for M4s on April 20.

"I am concerned with the Army's plans to procure nearly half a million new rifles outside of any competitive process," Coburn wrote in the mid-April letter obtained by Military.com.

A Geren spokesman said the secretary's office is putting together a reply to Coburn's letter, but provided no further details.

Take Action: Tell your public officials how you feel about this issue.

Coburn has banded together with a small group of like-minded senators to push the Army into a competition to determine whether the M4 is the best choice to equip newly-forming brigade combat teams, a top Coburn aide said.

The senator's concerns grew out of media coverage that showed the M4's design fails in critical situations and that special operations forces prefer other designs.

"Considering the long standing reliability and lethality problems with the M16 design, of which the M4 is based, I am afraid that our troops in combat might not have the best weapon," Coburn wrote. "A number of manufacturers have researched, tested and fielded weapons which, by all accounts, appear to provide significantly improved reliability."

Related Article: Army Won't Field Rifle Deemed Superior to M4

Special operations forces, including "tier one" units such as the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Development Group - or SEAL Team Six - have used their own funds to purchase the Heckler & Koch-built 416, which uses a gas-piston operating system less susceptible to failure than Colt's gas-operated design.

"That's significant, because these guys don't screw around," the aide said.

In fact, Colt included four different weapons in the competition to build the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, none of which used the M4s gas system, the aide said.

In a routine acquisition notice March 23, a U.S. Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 upper receiver assemblies for the HK416 to modify their M4 carbines. The M4 fires using a system that redirects gas from the expended round to eject it and reload another. The 416 and SCAR use a gas-operated piston that physically pushes the bolt back to eject the round and load another.

Carbon buildup from the M4's gas system has plagued the rifle for years, resulting in some close calls with Soldiers in combat whose rifles jammed at critical moments.

According to the solicitation for the new upper receiver assemblies, the 416 "allows Soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon's interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent."

Yet the Army has still declined to buy anything other than the M4 for its regular troops, requesting about $100 million in the 2007 wartime supplemental to buy M4s for its Soldiers.

The office in charge of equipping Soldiers said in a March 30 statement the service has no plans to purchase the HK416.

"I am certain we can all agree that America's Soldiers should have the best technology in their hands," Coburn wrote. "And there is simply no excuse for not providing our soldiers the best weapon - not just a weapon that is 'good enough.' "

The Army has not yet responded to Coburn's letter, but his aide said if the senator doesn't receive a response to the letter by Monday, Coburn plans to call Geren personally to address the issue.

"Our feeling is once people see the facts on the face of it they're going to say that this is ridiculous and demand that the Army does it right and competes the contract," the aide said.
27975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 05, 2007, 06:36:36 AM
A Beautiful Mine
By ERIK REECE
Published: May 5, 2007
Rowdy, Ky.

MY home state contains the largest contiguous forests in southern Appalachia, which is home to the most biologically diverse landscape in North America. To sit quietly in such a place is an extraordinary thing to do. I have heard ovenbirds and black-and-white warblers, sometimes a wood thrush, as steep ridgelines rose around me, mountains older than the Himalayas. There is a lot to see in this forest: 250 different songbirds, 70 species of trees, bears, bobcats and my favorite nonspeaking mammal, the Southern flying squirrel.

Alas, many of these species are vanishing because their habitat is vanishing. A form of strip mining called mountaintop removal has ripped apart all of the ridgelines that surround this forest, leaving miles of lifeless gray plateaus, lunar wastelands. Mountaintop removal entails the blasting of entire summits to rubble in an effort to reach, as quickly and inexpensively as possible, thin seams of bituminous coal. Trees, topsoil and sandstone are dumped into the valleys below. More than 1,000 miles of streams have been buried in this way, and an Environmental Protection Agency study found that 95 percent of headwater streams near mines have been contaminated by heavy metals leeching from the sites.

When it comes to mountaintop removal, a certain fatalism seems to take hold in Appalachia — the coal companies are too powerful, the politicians are corrupt, the regulators won’t regulate and the news media don’t care. But we cannot give up on rehabilitating Appalachia. While most efforts to reclaim the land destroyed by strip-mining have done little to restore the landscape or improve the region’s economy, one effort holds out special promise. It is a three-year-old program within the United States Office of Surface Mining called the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and it is based on decades of research.

Pioneering foresters found that the best way to grow trees on a strip mine is not to compact the soil, as has been done on most strip mine sites, where regrowth has been scant and slow, but simply to plant saplings in the loose mix of sandstone and shale, known as spoil, that mines leave behind. High-value hardwoods will grow twice as fast in this loose rubble as in their native forest, because there is plenty of room below ground for the roots to take hold, and no competition from taller trees above ground. The porous spoil acts like a sponge during heavy rainfalls and greatly reduces the flooding caused by compacted strip mines.

Last spring I took a ride with Patrick Angel, the initiative’s point man in Kentucky, to a large mountaintop removal site called Bent Mountain. It was covered with mounded sandstone where foot-high saplings grew. On one acre, 1,000 disease-resistant American chestnuts waved like lawn flags in the gray rock. More small trees grew in the loosened spoil. Mr. Angel told me that the trees’ survival rate was 75 percent to 90 percent.

Then Mr. Angel drove me to one of the state’s largest strip jobs, the Starfire Mine. We pulled away from the heavy machinery and cratered landscape, toward a test site established nine years ago. Back then it looked like Bent Mountain. Nine years later, we were wandering among 30-foot tall poplar and 20-foot tall white ash. The trees had already developed a canopy. If I hadn’t heard the sounds of mining in the distance, I could almost imagine myself in a young forest.

“A culture,” wrote the poet W. H. Auden, “is no better than its woods.” Over a million acres have been strip-mined in Kentucky since 1980, and the numbers in West Virginia are worse. Mountaintop removal sites across Appalachia will soon reach the size of Delaware. And much of that acreage has been “reclaimed” as pasture: companies spray the mines with a layer of grass seed and hope it takes.

But to replace the forest with a grassland monoculture does not reclaim what has been lost. A forest sequesters 20 times more carbon than a grassland, prevents flooding and erosion, purifies streams, turns waste into food and insures species survival. Reforesting wasted mine sites would replace failed industrial methods with a system that mimics nature. Toward that goal, foresters have planted two million high-value trees on 2,700 acres of abandoned mine land.

Appalachia’s land is dying. Its fractured communities show the typical symptoms of hopelessness, including OxyContin abuse rates higher than anywhere in the country. Meanwhile, 22 states power houses and businesses with Kentucky coal. The people of central and southern Appalachia have relinquished much of their natural wealth to the rest of the country and have received next to nothing in return.

To right these wrongs, first we need federal legislation that will halt the decapitation of mountains and bring accountability to an industry that is out of control. Then we need a New Deal for Appalachia that would expand the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, or create a similar program, to finally return some of the region’s lost wealth in the form of jobs and trees, rebuilt topsoil and resuscitated communities. Financing should come from a carbon tax on Appalachian coal bought and burned by utility companies across the country — a tax that would also discourage the wasteful emissions of greenhouse gases. Such a project would educate and employ an entire generation of foresters and forest managers, who would be followed by locally owned wood-product industries and craftsmen like Patrick Angel’s brother Mike, who makes much sought-after hardwood chairs just like ones his grandfather fashioned.

We know that our species, and most other species, will survive only in a future that burns no coal or oil. The question now is whether we have the nerve to get there before the world’s oldest mountains are gone.

Erik Reece is the author of “Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness.”
27976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Darwin, Intelligent Design, Creationism in Christianity on: May 05, 2007, 06:07:33 AM
NY Times

A Split Emerges as Conservatives Discuss Darwin
By PATRICIA COHEN
Published: May 5, 2007
Evolution has long generated bitter fights between the left and the right about whether God or science better explains the origins of life. But now a dispute has cropped up within conservative circles, not over science, but over political ideology: Does Darwinian theory undermine conservative notions of religion and morality or does it actually support conservative philosophy?

On one level the debate can be seen as a polite discussion of political theory among the members of a small group of intellectuals. But the argument also exposes tensions within the Republicans’ “big tent,” as could be seen Thursday night when the party’s 10 candidates for president were asked during their first debate whether they believed in evolution. Three — Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas; and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado — indicated they did not.

For some conservatives, accepting Darwin undercuts religious faith and produces an amoral, materialistic worldview that easily embraces abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other practices they abhor. As an alternative to Darwin, many advocate intelligent design, which holds that life is so intricately organized that only an intelligent power could have created it.

Yet it is that very embrace of intelligent design — not to mention creationism, which takes a literal view of the Bible’s Book of Genesis — that has led conservative opponents to speak out for fear their ideology will be branded as out of touch and anti-science.

Some of these thinkers have gone one step further, arguing that Darwin’s scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today’s patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.

“I do indeed believe conservatives need Charles Darwin,” said Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, who has spearheaded the cause. “The intellectual vitality of conservatism in the 21st century will depend on the success of conservatives in appealing to advances in the biology of human nature as confirming conservative thought.”

The arguments have played out in recent books, magazine articles and blogs, as well as at a conference on Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. There Mr. Arnhart was grouped with John Derbyshire, a contributing editor at National Review, against John G. West and George Gilder, who both are associated with the Discovery Institute, which advocates intelligent design.

Mr. Derbyshire, who has described himself as the “designated point man” against creationists and intelligent-design proponents at National Review, later said that many conservatives were disturbed by positions taken by the religious right.

“There are plenty of people glad to call themselves conservatives,” he said, “who don’t see any reason not to support stem cell research.”

The reference to stem cells suggests just how wide the split is. “The current debate is not primarily about religious fundamentalism,” Mr. West, the author of “Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest” (2006), said at Thursday’s conference. “Nor is it simply an irrelevant rehashing of certain esoteric points of biology and philosophy. Darwinian reductionism has become culturally pervasive and inextricably intertwined with contemporary conflicts over traditional morality, personal responsibility, sex and family, and bioethics.”

The technocrats, he charged, wanted to grab control from “ordinary citizens and their elected representatives” so that they alone could make decisions over “controversial issues such as sex education, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and global warming.”

Advances in biotechnology — and pressure on elected Republicans to curb them — are partly responsible for the surge of interest in linking evolutionary and political theory, said those in the thick of the debate.

The fledgling field of evolutionary psychology also spurred some conservatives to invoke Darwinism in the 1990s. In “The Moral Sense” (1993), followed by “The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families” (2002), James Q. Wilson used evolution to explain the genesis of morality and to support traditional family and sex roles. Conservative thinkers from Francis Fukuyama to Richard Pipes have drawn on evolutionary psychology to support ideas like a natural human desire for private property and a biological basis for morality.

Debates over Darwinism became more pointed in 2005, however, as school districts considered teaching intelligent design, and President Bush stated that it should be taught along with evolution. The conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote in Time magazine that to teach intelligent design “as science is to encourage the supercilious caricature of America as a nation in the thrall of a religious authority.” George F. Will wrote that Kansas school board officials who favored intelligent design were “the kind of conservatives who make conservatism repulsive to temperate people.”
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Mr. Arnhart, in his 2005 book, “Darwinian Conservatism,” tackled the issue of conservatism’s compatibility with evolutionary theory head on, saying Darwinists and conservatives share a similar view of human beings: they are imperfect; they have organized in male-dominated hierarchies; they have a natural instinct for accumulation and power; and their moral thought has evolved over time.

The institutions that successfully evolved to deal with this natural order were conservative ones, founded in sentiment, tradition and judgment, like limited government and a system of balances to curb unchecked power, he explains. Unlike leftists, who assume “a utopian vision of human nature” liberated from the constraints of biology, Mr. Arnhart says, conservatives assume that evolved social traditions have more wisdom than rationally planned reforms.

While Darwinism does not resolve specific policy debates, Mr. Arnhart said in an interview on Thursday, it can provide overarching guidelines. Policies that are in tune with human nature, for example, like a male military or traditional social and sex roles, he said, are more likely to succeed. He added that “moral sympathy for the suffering of fellow human beings” allows for aid to the poor, weak and ill.

To many people, asking whether evolution is good for conservatism is like asking if gravity is good for liberalism; nature is morally neutral. Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard and Carson Holloway in his 2006 book, “The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy,” for example, have written that jumping from evolutionary science to moral conclusions and policy proposals is absurd.

Skeptics of Darwinism like William F. Buckley, Mr. West and Mr. Gilder also object. The notion that “the whole universe contains no intelligence,” Mr. Gilder said at Thursday’s conference, is perpetuated by “Darwinian storm troopers.”

“Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism,” he continued. “Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me.”

Of Mr. Arnhart, he said, “Larry has a beautiful Darwinism, a James Dobson Darwinism” — referring to the chairman of the Christian organization Focus on the Family — “a supply-side Darwinism.” But in capitalism, he added, “the winners don’t eat the losers.” Mr. West made a similar point, saying you could find justification in Darwin for both maternal instinct and for infanticide.

It is true that political interpretations of Darwinism have turned out to be quite pliable. Victorian-era social Darwinists like Herbert Spencer adopted evolutionary theory to justify colonialism and imperialism, opposition to labor unions and the withdrawal of aid to the sick and needy. Francis Galton based his “science” of eugenics on it. Arguing that cooperation was actually what enabled the species to survive, Pyotr Kropotkin used it to justify anarchism.

Karl Marx wrote that “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.” Woodrow Wilson declared, “Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice.”

More recently the bioethicist and animal rights activist Peter Singer’s “Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation” (1999) urged people to reject the notion that there is a “fundamental difference in kind between human beings and nonhuman animals.”

At the American Enterprise Institute’s conference, the tension between the proponents of intelligent design and of evolution was occasionally on display. When Mr. Derbyshire described himself as a “lapsed Anglican,” which he compared to “falling out of a first-floor window,” Mr. Gilder piped up, “Did you fall on your head?”

What both sides do agree on is that conservatives who have shied away from these debates should speak up. Mr. Arnhart said that having been so badly burned by social Darwinism, many conservatives today did not want “to get involved in these moral and political debates, and I think that’s evasive.”

Yet getting involved is more important than ever, after “the disaster” of “President Bush’s compassionate conservatism,” he said, because the only hope for Republicans is a “fusion of libertarianism and traditionalism, and Darwinian nature supports that conservative fusion.”

Mr. West agreed that “conservatives who are discomfited by the continuing debate over Darwin’s theory need to understand that it is not about to go away”; that it “fundamentally challenges the traditional Western understanding of human nature and the universe.”

“If conservatives want to address root causes rather than just symptoms,” he said, “they need to join the debate over Darwinism, not scorn it or ignore it.”

As for Mr. Derbyshire, he would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true. And, he said, if that turns out to be “bad for conservatives, then so much the worse for conservatism.”
27977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The US Congress; Congressional races on: May 05, 2007, 05:45:16 AM
The following article helped me realize we need a thread specifically for the doings/shenanigans of our elected representatives

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http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,133428,00.html?ESRC=dod.nl

Air Force Might Cut Pay for Surge
Military.com  |  By Christian Lowe  |  April 25, 2007
The Air Force’s top officer said Wednesday that if nearly $1 billion in personnel funds taken from the service to pay for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t restored by the end of the summer, Airmen and civilian employees might not get their pay.

Due to a congressional delay in approving a wartime supplemental funding bill this year, the Pentagon pulled about $880 million from the Air Force’s personnel accounts to make up for a shortfall it warned lawmakers would come in mid-April.

Poll: Should Air Force personnel be used to man Army billets in Iraq?
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael “Buzz” Moseley said at a breakfast meeting with reporters today that the money is coming out of the military personnel account earmarked for the last four months of the year.

“Somebody’s going to have to pay us back,” Moseley said. “You have to pay people every day when they come to work.”

“A: it’s the right thing to do, and B: it’s kind of the law,” he added.

Alert: Tell your public officials how you feel about this issue.

The shortfall could delay permanent change of station moves, temporary duty expenses and other pays that “take care of people,” he said.

On April 15, the Army announced it would have to cut training, depot repair, and maintenance of non war-related gear because funding for the surge in Iraq, combat operations in Afghanistan and other Global War on Terrorism costs was running dry.

The Army also requested that about $1.6 billion be diverted from the Air Force and Navy personnel accounts to help put the wartime funding tab in the black.

With Congress locked in a political battle with the Bush administration over withdrawal deadlines and troop rotation schedules, the $100 billion wartime spending bill to pay for operations through the end of the fiscal year has yet to be signed into law.

Though both the Senate and House have submitted the supplemental bill to the floor for a vote this week, President Bush has vowed a veto over withdrawal deadlines inserted into the law.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace has said if the wartime funds aren’t in place by mid-May, even more drastic cuts will have to be made, including reductions in training for forces on their way to Iraq, which will force the Pentagon to extend the deployments of units already there.

“The comptroller now has a check that they’re going to have to give us back to pay for [personnel] as we get closer to the end of the summer,” Moseley explained, putting the screws to Pentagon and administration budgeteers to recoup the loss.

“I don’t want to have any concerns about getting that money back,” he said. “It would be a breach of faith to take mil-pers money out of a service and then fast forward a couple of quarters and then just say ‘eat it.’”

Moseley said he’ll resist providing Airmen to man jobs the Army and Marine Corps can’t fill due to high operational tempo and increased demand, insisting his service is “drawing some red lines” to deny ground commanders’ requests.

About 20,000 Air Force personnel have filled shortfalls in the ground services’ manning – dubbed “in lieu of taskings” – including convoy and base security operations and even detainee handling jobs. As early as 2005, Air Force security personnel began augmenting Army detainee-handling troops at Camp Bucca prison near Baghdad and have continued to man prison jobs in Iraq.

“We don’t guard prisoners, we don’t even have a prison,” Moseley said. “To take out people and train them to be a detainee-guarding entity requires time away from their normal job.”

Some U.S.-based Air Force commands have as many as 25 percent of their personnel deployed to Iraq and are still executing their home station duties. For example, the San Angelo, Texas-based 17th Training Wing has its crash, fire, and rescue teams and security force units deployed “and we’re still operating the wing,” Moseley said.  

Moseley said he’s happy to provide personnel with job skills the Air Force has in abundance, including drivers and information technology specialists. But “I am less supportive of things outside of our competencies,” he said.

“We’ve drawn some red lines on some of the ‘in lieu of’ taskings to get away from the tasking of our folks that is incredibly outside the competencies.”


27978  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spike TV, the Dog Brothers Gathering Webisodes; National Geographic on: May 05, 2007, 05:39:57 AM
Woof Tom:

Your "Happy Cuatro de Mayo" reminds me of when today, the first Saturday of May, used to be the date of our Spring Gatherings when we held them at the park across from where I lived in Hermosa Beach.   Indeed it would be most excellent if we could hold a Gathering there again, but it appears that such is not to be. 

Life moves forward and there are considerable benefits to being in an environment where one can exclude people who need to be excluded and this was not possible in a public park. 

Assuming all goes well with OP/Nat Geo, the June Gathering will be at a warehouse in Glendale belonging to OP.  I have seen it and think it will be tres cool.

The Adventure continues!
CD
27979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: May 04, 2007, 05:55:04 PM
Newt Analyzes the First GOP Debate
Hannity and Colmes
Fox News Transcripts 
Sean Hannity   Alan  Colmes   Newt Gingrich   
ALAN COLMES: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes."

The Republican candidates' first debate in California is happening now, but the conservative that everybody wants to hear from tonight, right here, only on "Hannity & Colmes." Former speaker of the House, FOX News contributor, author of "Rediscovering God," Newt Gingrich joins us.

Mr. Speaker, do you wish you were on that stage tonight?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No. If anything would convince me to lean away from running, it was watching all of those guys with too little time, with too many Mickey Mouse questions from the reporters. It's exactly the wrong way to pick a president, and I think it doesn't help the country much.

Some of them I think did very well in brief moments. Senator McCain and Governor Tommy Thompson both were very, very eloquent on Iraq and offered very good ideas about Iraq. Governor Romney was very good in talking about health care, where he knows a great deal. Mayor Giuliani was very good about having controlled crime, having turned New York around.

But think about -- you know, you have 10 people up there. You have a couple of news media types being self-important. Towards the close of the debate, we get this absolutely childish question: How would you feel about Senator Clinton being in the White House? I mean, why would you waste the time of the American people and the 10 candidates when it's obvious that every single Republican is going to say that Senator Clinton shouldn't be in the White House?

Compare this for a minute, Alan, with the debate the French had last night. The French presidential runoff is Sunday. And last night, two candidates went head-to-head with almost no interference from the two moderators, and they went at each other. It was emotional; it was direct; it was aggressive.

And people had a chance to see the real personalities come out. I think, if they eliminated the moderators, and allowed the candidates to ask each other questions and kept the entire process between the candidates, it would be fascinating to see how an evening like this would evolve.

COLMES: By the way, is this why, in all the speculation about you, that you have decided, if you get in, it will be later in the process, is this example Exhibit A as to why that would be the case, so you don't have to go through this particular kind of gauntlet? And if you do get in, it will be after this part of the process?

GINGRICH: It's not a gauntlet. It's boring. Look, I have great respect for the people who are running. They're working very, very hard. They're on the road every day.

My hunch is Governor Thompson, by the time this was done, will have been in every town in Iowa 12 times. Governor Romney has done a great job of raising money. Senator McCain has been campaigning now for years and has built a huge national network. These are serious people doing serious things. You know, Mayor Giuliani, as you know, is the front-runner.

But what I'm struck with is, we as a country need to have a serious dialogue about a lot of things. This is not about Newt Gingrich. It's something, as you know, Governor Cuomo and I have talked about. Governor Cuomo recently wrote two articles talking about this and suggesting that the Democrats would be much better off to have a longer debate in an open, free form, to really talk things out.

But there's a second part of this, Alan, that really worries me. You have people sitting around in May of this year trying to describe what they would do in January of 2009. And now, let's say the world changes. Something different happens, and so somebody changes their position in September, October, November. Suddenly they'll have seven reporters, 16 blog sites, all saying, "Ah, this person switched." And you suddenly freeze people into defending positions that they took a year and a half or two years before they're ever going to be in office.

SEAN HANNITY: All right, I'm a little intrigued, because we're friends, Mr. Speaker, and you're going to hate me for going down this road, but when you said this would make you lean away more, I think people would like a little bit more definitive an answer about you.

GINGRICH: Well, I've told you, and I've told everybody that American Solutions is going to have a nationwide workshop on September 27th on the Internet, available to everybody in the country, in both Democrat, Republican, independent, and we're going to try to explain how you could change and dramatically improve government at every level. There are 511,000 elected offices in America; only one of them is the Oval Office.

But we have an amazing number of elected officials in this country. After we're done with that, we'll have a second workshop on Saturday the 29th of September. And then I'll look at it. But I am absolutely not going to think about this until then.

If it weren't for my friendship with you two and my willingness to come on tonight and talk about this, I wouldn't even be talking about the debate tonight. I mean, I think that it is so absurd to have this much attention paid to an office that doesn't get filled until January of 2009, that I really think this is exactly the wrong model for this country.

HANNITY: Well, I agree with you, and I like the debate that you mentioned in France that took place. I love the free-for-all. This is basically a joint press conference, where you end up getting like four minutes each in the course of an hour-and-a-half debate, so I think your criticism is valid. And you don't really have the substance that either one of us would like.

Do you glean anything -- the two issues that are picking news out of this debate, one has to do with Mayor Giuliani and his comments that it would be OK to repeal Roe v. Wade, it would be OK if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent, and Senator McCain saying the Bush administration had terribly mismanaged the war.

Your reaction to both of those moments, which will make all the news here tonight?

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, I do think that, if Mayor Giuliani's position tomorrow clarifies what he just said, that would be a remarkable change from what I understood his position to be. So I think that will certainly lead to several days of conversation, probably more news out of that one item than everything that happened at the Democratic debate a week ago.

In the case of Senator McCain's position, I think he has been -- you have to give him enormous credit. He has been in Iraq over and over again. He has been deeply concerned for years. He has been public about his concerned about this war.

He has served very, very ably in a very senior position in the Senate on this. He's a graduate of Annapolis. As you know, he was a prisoner of war. I mean, Senator McCain has as much authority as any person in this country to render judgment on the mismanagement of the war in Iraq, and I think it's an act of courage on his part to simply tell the truth.

I mean, I don't care how much you like President Bush or how loyal you are to the Republican Party. This is clearly not where we wanted to be and not where we thought we would be in 2003 when the war began.

HANNITY: Is that what you're saying then yourself, Mr. Speaker, that the war is terribly mismanaged? Because I know you've had criticisms, but...

GINGRICH: Look, I said, in December of 2003, publicly in "Newsweek" and on several TV shows, that we went off a cliff in June of 2003 when Ambassador Bremer changed all the plans, abandoned the Iraqi army, failed to go through with having an Iraqi governing council, took over the administration, and made it an American administration. I spoke out as -- if you go back and look at what I said at that time, I was as clear and as direct as I could be that we were on a disastrous path and it was going to cause us an enormous amount of trouble.

Recently, I testified in the Senate in front of Senator Biden's committee, and I outlined 18 additional changes over and above the surge that I thought we needed. And I'm very, very concerned, Sean. I mean, as you know, I think that being defeated in Iraq, which clearly many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to see happen, will be a terrible blow to the United States and to the cause of freedom. And I think it is very, very dangerous for us to contemplate being defeated and think that's going to make life easier.

I think it's doubly dangerous to have the Congress imposing defeat on the United States in a way that will resonate around the world. But I am also very troubled. I believe very deeply in General Petraeus, as I believed earlier in General Abizaid. I think both of them are superb people, and I think that, had their advice been followed more carefully, we'd be in dramatically better shape today.

COLMES: We can debate whether Democrats really want defeat, but I'd rather talk about the debates. I don't see it that way, and many Democrats don't see it that way.

But I want to get back to John McCain, because when John McCain said it's been mismanaged, the other part of what he said tonight was, "But now we're on the right track." Most Americans, Quinnipiac poll out today, says 31 percent don't agree with Bush's Iraq policy. Most Americans don't see it that way. So I wonder if Senator McCain hurt himself by somehow saying we're now on the right track, when many of us, most Americans, don't see a difference.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think Senator McCain has decided that it's his duty to be honest about what he honestly believes. And I think that's actually a very courageous thing for him to be doing.

I think, on the issue of Iraq, that John McCain is not going to look at any polling. He's not going to listen to any advisors. This is a field where he has spent his lifetime serving his country. He believes in his own knowledge. He knows very, very well the senior military leaders. He has been on the ground. And I think he is telling us what he believes to be the case.

Now, I don't think he's telling us we're going to win the war next Tuesday. I don't think he's telling us that bombings are going to go away. But what he is saying is that the team that General Petraeus has assembled, the strategy that they're following, gives us a better chance of defeating the terrorists than anything we've done up until now.

And, Alan, what we have to face up to as a country is this is very hard and very painful, but the alternative may be worse. And I think that it's very important to have a conscious national dialogue about, what's the world going to look like if the Congress mandates defeat, forces the U.S. to withdraw, and we end up with the entire world seeing us as having been defeated?

COLMES: If that's what it is. You know, most of the candidates, most of the Republican candidates who either want to stay in Iraq, or support a surge, or support the continuation of this war, and I include some Democrats in this, are out of synch with what most of the American public is now saying. So how would the American public vote for somebody who wants to continue any of the Bush policies for which most Americans don't agree?

GINGRICH: Look, I think the question is, what do the American people think after six weeks of discussing the consequences of defeat? I think what we've had -- look, I've not been happy, and I've been pretty public about the fact that I think there are a lot of changes we ought to have in how the American government works. There are a lot of changes we ought to have in what we've been doing in Iraq. I have always been against using American forces in the streets of big cities, because I don't think that they're very effective as policemen. I think they should be the reinforcers of Iraqi troops, rather than enforcers.

So I'm not sitting here as a pie in the sky, let's salute and march forward stubbornly. But I am saying, it's one thing to try to find a way to be patient and determined and to ultimately find a way to victory. It's another thing to say, "Let's set a deadline. Let's guarantee that the U.S. Congress will legislate defeat," and not talk about the consequences, Alan.

All I'm saying is, let's have a national debate about what the world is going to look like a year after the United States is publicly defeated, and the terrorists publicly are in triumph, and countries around the world look at us as a country that doesn't have the will to keep its word and doesn't have the will to protect its friends. I think, after that debate, you might be surprised how many Americans say, "Well, let's go a little slow with this legislative defeat process."

HANNITY: You know, Mr. Speaker, I'm listening to you, and what you're describing is so consequential. And I'm listening to the comments of Senator McCain here tonight and what you're saying here. And I can't imagine, especially in light of the veto that took place, and, you know, the slow bleed strategy that has emerged from the Democrats, and, you know, Harry Reid saying the war is lost, meanwhile we have troops over there in harm's way that are fighting and trying to win this whole thing.

And it seems what you've hit on here is the one thing that nobody has ever thought of: What happens if we lose Iraq? What does the world think? We create a safe haven for Al Qaeda and Iran inside of Iraq, and the world is a less dangerous place. And with all the criticism -- and I guess there's a lot to go around -- it seems that nobody has thought of that and nobody is thinking about that. And I don't think anyone's stopping to do so.

GINGRICH: You know, it's as though our neighbor's house was on fire, to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, somebody who I assume Alan would approve of...

HANNITY: At times.

GINGRICH: ... it's as though our neighbor's house was on fire, and we were getting tired of fighting the fire, and we said, you know, let's just give up. This is too hard. The house is going to burn down. And nobody has stopped to say, "Well, what if the fire spreads to our house?"

Yesterday, in Great Britain, five terrorists were sentenced to prison for life, and the judge said to them, "Do not expect to ever be back on the street, because you are ruthless, dangerous, evil men." I just want to suggest to you, the British weren't doing that as some kind of political ploy. They know that they are in a serious, long war and that the terrorists out there want to destroy us, if they can.

So all I think we have to ask is, let's have a national dialogue about, how are we going to manage the Middle East? How are we going to manage America's role in the world? Why would any of our allies trust us, if the Congress decides to legislate defeat and if we, in fact, leave in defeat?

HANNITY: Let me ask you this question.

GINGRICH: I'm not saying this is easy. I am not saying this is a happy time. I'm not saying this is a positive thing we should feel good about. I'm saying that Senator McCain tonight and Governor Thompson both had positive ideas.

HANNITY: What are the troops thinking? We're running out of time. What are the troops thinking when they hear Senator McCain, the Republican, say that? What are they thinking when they hear Senator Reid say that it's lost? What do they think when they have slow bleed strategies and other strategies emerging to cut off bullet supplies and armor? What are these guys thinking, you know, out there?

GINGRICH: There's no question -- I was just told today by somebody who has a son who's serving at Fort Bragg -- that the level of demoralization and confusion among the younger troops watching the Congress, watching the news, watching the debates, watching the maneuvering, these guys want to serve their country. They're willing to risk their lives. They sure wish the political class would get them the money, have the policy fights, but don't mess up the military while you're doing it.

COLMES: The confusion might be because of policy, not because of free speech in the United States, Mr. Speaker.

We thank you very much for being with us tonight. Thank you for your time.

27980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gonzales at it again! on: May 04, 2007, 05:44:22 PM
GONZALES WANTS ARBITRARY POWER TO BLOCK GUN PURCHASES; SAF SAYS HE SHOULD RESIGN
BELLEVUE, WA – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ troubling support of legislation that would allow him and future attorneys general the arbitrary power to block firearms purchases without due process is cause for him to step down as the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer, the Second Amendment Foundation said today.

The bill, S. 1237, was introduced last week at the Justice Department’s request by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), one of the most extreme anti-gunners in Congress. Called the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2007,” this legislation would give the Attorney General discretionary authority to deny the purchase of a firearm or the issuance of a firearm license or permit because of some vague suspicion that an American citizen may be up to no good.

“This bill,” said SAF founder Alan Gottlieb, “raises serious concerns about how someone becomes a ‘suspected terrorist.’ Nobody has explained how one gets their name on such a list, and worse, nobody knows how to get one’s name off such a list.

“The process by which someone may appeal the Attorney General’s arbitrary denial seems weak at best,” Gottlieb suggested, “and there is a greater concern. When did we decide as a nation that it is a good idea to give a cabinet member the power to deny someone’s constitutional right simply on suspicion, without a trial or anything approaching due process?

“We’re not surprised that General Gonzales has found an agreeable sponsor in Frank Lautenberg,” Gottlieb observed. “The senator from New Jersey has never seen a restrictive gun control scheme he did not immediately embrace, and S. 1237 is loaded with red flags. It would allow an appointed bureaucrat the authority to suspend or cancel someone’s Second Amendment right without even being charged with a crime.

“Attorney General Gonzales has no business asking for that kind of power over any tenet in the Bill of Rights,” Gottlieb said. “He took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not trample it. Perhaps it is time for him to go.”
27981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: May 04, 2007, 03:59:27 PM
Woof All:

Just a quick yip to say that we are looking to shoot KT2 and maybe KT3 in August.  We haven't decided how to organize it, but subject areas are:

KT for the Clinch
KT against the Guard
KT Guard

TAC,
Guro Crafty
27982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: May 04, 2007, 02:39:33 PM


The Burgeoning Extortion Racket along the U.S.-Mexico Border
U.S. authorities are investigating what appears to be a new extortion scheme that involves the threat of bodily harm to attorneys, bankers and their families in Laredo, Texas. This is yet another sign that the extortion racket is expanding and escalating along the U.S.-Mexico border. Left unchecked, this criminal activity could escalate into violence on the U.S. side, similar to what is occurring now south of the border.

Since mid-April, at least a dozen attorneys and an unknown number of bankers have received phone calls from a man threatening to harm them or their families unless money is paid immediately. The caller, who speaks with a Spanish accent, provides a significant amount of personal information about the targets, such as names, addresses, habits and the birthdates and schools of family members.

The caller then orders the targets to wire a certain amount of money to various Western Union offices in Mexico, threatening that "bad things" will happen if they fail to pay. The amount of the extortion demand is unclear, but the victims are given just 30 minutes to send the money. They are told that if the money is even one minute late, they and their families will suffer the consequences -- a tactic designed to prevent targets from thinking rationally, and thus to increase the chances that they will pay. The tactic apparently has worked, as some victims reportedly have complied with the demands and transferred money.

These calls are very similar to the virtual kidnapping
schemes that are common in Mexico. Both exploit the fear generated by the frequent kidnappings in Mexico and the violence that occurs on both sides of the border. While a typical kidnapping requires the victim to be housed and fed -- and thus usually requires a group of accomplices to successfully execute -- crimes of the virtual nature are cheap and easy to commit, requiring very little physical risk and infrastructure. In essence, this crime takes far less effort than one involving an actual kidnap victim.

It is unclear whether the calls in this latest scheme are originating from the United States or Mexico, and whether the scheme is being perpetrated by a lone criminal or an extortion ring. The tactics, however, are similar to other extortion schemes targeting business owners along the border. The targets of those schemes have had connections to both sides of the border, such as a Mexico resident who owns property in Texas. In one case, a Mexican business owner was shown evidence that the criminals threatening him had surveilled his home in Brownsville, Texas. Considering that bankers and lawyers are the targets of this latest scheme, it appears the extortionists are focusing on those who have the ability to pay higher sums than earlier victims.

In most extortion schemes, the problem often is more widespread than it appears on the surface because victims can be reluctant to involve law enforcement authorities on either side of the border for reasons that include distrust of authorities, fear of the consequences and a desire to avoid publicity. This reluctance already has been seen in cases involving trucking companies operating between the United States and Mexico. Evidence suggests that, when threatened with the hijacking of their shipments, many truckers have found it easier and less damaging to their bottom line to simply pay the criminals rather than involve the authorities.

Unlike in extortion cases involving truckers, or even small-business owners and shopkeepers, however, lawyers have better access to law enforcement assistance -- and are more likely to use it. By targeting this group, then, the extortionists appear fearless of law enforcement involvement. This is cause for concern, especially considering that the extortion payments are being directed to Mexico, where drug cartels and other criminals often have killed lawyers and judges. Having already demonstrated a disregard for the law -- and the attorneys who practice it -- these extortionists could progress to more violent means to influence them.

stratfor.com
27983  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: May 04, 2007, 02:37:25 PM
stratfor.com
The Burgeoning Extortion Racket along the U.S.-Mexico Border

U.S. authorities are investigating what appears to be a new extortion scheme that involves the threat of bodily harm to attorneys, bankers and their families in Laredo, Texas. This is yet another sign that the extortion racket is expanding and escalating along the U.S.-Mexico border. Left unchecked, this criminal activity could escalate into violence on the U.S. side, similar to what is occurring now south of the border.

Since mid-April, at least a dozen attorneys and an unknown number of bankers have received phone calls from a man threatening to harm them or their families unless money is paid immediately. The caller, who speaks with a Spanish (CD: Mexican?) accent, provides a significant amount of personal information about the targets, such as names, addresses, habits and the birthdates and schools of family members.

The caller then orders the targets to wire a certain amount of money to various Western Union offices in Mexico, threatening that "bad things" will happen if they fail to pay. The amount of the extortion demand is unclear, but the victims are given just 30 minutes to send the money. They are told that if the money is even one minute late, they and their families will suffer the consequences -- a tactic designed to prevent targets from thinking rationally, and thus to increase the chances that they will pay. The tactic apparently has worked, as some victims reportedly have complied with the demands and transferred money.

These calls are very similar to the virtual kidnapping
schemes that are common in Mexico. Both exploit the fear generated by the frequent kidnappings in Mexico and the violence that occurs on both sides of the border. While a typical kidnapping requires the victim to be housed and fed -- and thus usually requires a group of accomplices to successfully execute -- crimes of the virtual nature are cheap and easy to commit, requiring very little physical risk and infrastructure. In essence, this crime takes far less effort than one involving an actual kidnap victim.

It is unclear whether the calls in this latest scheme are originating from the United States or Mexico, and whether the scheme is being perpetrated by a lone criminal or an extortion ring. The tactics, however, are similar to other extortion schemes targeting business owners along the border. The targets of those schemes have had connections to both sides of the border, such as a Mexico resident who owns property in Texas. In one case, a Mexican business owner was shown evidence that the criminals threatening him had surveilled his home in Brownsville, Texas. Considering that bankers and lawyers are the targets of this latest scheme, it appears the extortionists are focusing on those who have the ability to pay higher sums than earlier victims.

In most extortion schemes, the problem often is more widespread than it appears on the surface because victims can be reluctant to involve law enforcement authorities on either side of the border for reasons that include distrust of authorities, fear of the consequences and a desire to avoid publicity. This reluctance already has been seen in cases involving trucking companies operating between the United States and Mexico. Evidence suggests that, when threatened with the hijacking of their shipments, many truckers have found it easier and less damaging to their bottom line to simply pay the criminals rather than involve the authorities.

Unlike in extortion cases involving truckers, or even small-business owners and shopkeepers, however, lawyers have better access to law enforcement assistance -- and are more likely to use it. By targeting this group, then, the extortionists appear fearless of law enforcement involvement. This is cause for concern, especially considering that the extortion payments are being directed to Mexico, where drug cartels and other criminals often have killed lawyers and judges. Having already demonstrated a disregard for the law -- and the attorneys who practice it -- these extortionists could progress to more violent means to influence them.
27984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 04, 2007, 12:58:27 PM
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2...321.shtml?s=tn

From the NewsMax.com Staff For the story behind the story...
Friday, May 4, 2007 11:39 a.m. EDT
Hamas Calls for 'Extermination of Jews'

The Palestinian militant organization Hamas not only wants the elimination of the state of Israel, but also the extermination of the Jews, according to the group’s newspaper.


"The extermination of Jews is Allah’s will and is for the benefit of all humanity, according to an article in the Hamas paper Al-Risalah,” the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports.



"The author of the article, Kan’an Ubayd, explains that the suicide operations carried out by Hamas are being committed solely to fulfill Allah’s wishes. Furthermore, Allah demanded this action, because ‘the extermination of the Jews is good for the inhabitants of the worlds.’”

PMW points out that Hamas’ justification for the extermination of the Jews echoes Adolph Hitler’s words in "Mein Kampf”: "Thus I believe today that I am acting according to the will of the almighty Creator: when I defend myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

Another Hamas statement monitored by the PMW called Judaism "a faith that is based on murder.”

And in a televised speech, Dr. Ahmad Bahar, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, called for the killing of Americans as well as Jews.


Bahar said his people were "afflicted by the cancerous lump, that is the Jews, in the heart of the Arab nation,” according to a transcript provided by the PMW.


"Be certain that America is on its way to disappear. America is wallowing [in blood] today in Iraq and Afghanistan. America is defeated and Israel is defeated . . . Allah, take hold of the Jews and their allies. Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies . . . Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.”


© NewsMax 2007. All Rights Reserved.

=============

Added on Saturday evening, what seems to be a better report from another forum:
----------------------

Here is a fuller report of Bahr's speach. If you want to pass it around Marc, this is probably a better version:

JPost.com Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST May. 1, 2007

Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, declared during a Friday sermon at a Sudan mosque that America and Israel will be annihilated and called upon Allah to kill Jews and Americans "to the very Last One". Following are excerpts from the sermon that took place last month, courtesy of MEMRI.

Ahmad Bahr began: "You will be victorious" on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] "you will be victorious," but only "if you are believers." Allah willing, "you will be victorious," while America and Israel will be annihilated. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America's nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere.

Bahr continued and said that America will be annihilated, while Islam will remain. The Muslims "will be victorious, if you are believers." Oh Muslims, I guarantee you that the power of Allah is greater than America, by whom many are blinded today. Some people are blinded by the power of America. We say to them that with the might of Allah, with the might of His Messenger, and with the power of Allah, we are stronger than America and Israel.

The Hamas spokesperson concluded with a prayer, saying: "Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them."
27985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 04, 2007, 11:53:17 AM
http://blog.gildertech.com/

See the May 4th entry by Gilder's daughter scientifically ripping Al Gore a new butthole so big that he is going to need "Depends"  cheesy

27986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 04, 2007, 10:31:03 AM
Second post of the morning:

   

 
By Hoshyar Zebari
Friday, May 4, 2007; A23



Last weekend a traffic jam several miles long snaked out of the Mansour district in western Baghdad. The delay stemmed not from a car bomb closing the road but from a queue to enter the city's central amusement park. The line became so long some families left their cars and walked to enjoy picnics, fairground rides and soccer, the Iraqi national obsession.

Across the city, restaurants are slowly filling and shops are reopening. The streets are busy. Iraqis are not cowering indoors. The appalling death tolls from suicide attacks are often high because of crowding at markets. These days you are as likely to hear complaints about traffic congestion as about the security situation. Across Baghdad there is a cacophony of sirens from ambulances, firefighters and police providing public services. You cannot even escape the curse of traffic wardens ticketing illegally parked cars.

These small but significant snippets of normality are overshadowed by acts of gross violence, which fuel the opinion of some that Iraq is in a downward spiral. The Iraqi people are indeed suffering tremendous hardships and making grave sacrifices -- but daily life goes on for 7 million Baghdadis struggling to take back their capital and country.

Today, at an international summit on the future of Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, my government will ask the international community to maintain its engagement in our country to help us achieve our goals of security and stability. We recognize that our request conflicts with a plethora of voices decrying the situation in Iraq and those in the British and American publics who seek an expeditious withdrawal from a war they claim is all but lost.

So why should the world remain engaged in Iraq?

There is no denying the difficulties Iraq faces, and no amount of good news can obscure the demons of terrorism and sectarianism that have risen in my country. But there is too much at stake to risk failure, and everything to gain by helping us protect our hard-won democratic achievements and emerge as a stable, self-sustaining country.

We remain determined in spite of our losses. Spectacular attacks may dominate foreign headlines, but they cannot change the reality that Iraq has made steady political, economic and social progress over the past four years. We continue to strengthen our nascent democratic institutions, pursue national reconciliation and expand Iraqi security forces. The Baghdad security plan was conceived to give us breathing space to expedite political and economic development by "securing and holding" neighborhoods across the capital. There is no quick fix, but there have been real results: Winning public confidence has led to a spike in intelligence, a disruption of terrorist networks and the capture of key leaders, as well as the discovery of weapons caches. In Anbar province, Sunni sheikhs and insurgents have turned against al-Qaeda and to the side of Iraqi security forces. This would have been unthinkable even six months ago.

Contrary to popular belief, most government ministries are located outside the Green Zone, and employees drive to work every day despite death threats and attacks on colleagues and families. We government ministers are always at risk of assassination. When a suicide bomber attacked parliament last month, the legislators sat in defiance in an extraordinary session the following day. I am particularly inspired by the commitment of the young diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, a diverse mix of Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Arab and Kurdish men and women who serve their country without subscribing to religious or sectarian divisions.

Iraqis are standing up every day, and we persevere because there is no other option. We will not surrender our country to terrorists. They have failed to cripple the elected government, and they have failed to intimidate us into submission. Iraqis reject their vision of a future whose hallmarks are bloodshed and hatred.

Those calling for withdrawal may think it is the least painful option, but its benefits would be short-lived. The fate of the region and the world is linked with ours. Leaving a broken Iraq in the Middle East would offer international terrorism a haven and ensure a legacy of chaos for future generations. Furthermore, the sacrifices of all the young men and women who stood up here would have been in vain.

Iraqis, for all our determination and courage, cannot succeed alone. We need a healthy and supportive regional environment. We will not allow our country to be a battleground for settling scores in regional and international conflicts that adversely affect stability inside our borders. Only with continued international commitment and deeper engagement from our neighbors can we establish a stable democratic, federal and united Iraq. The world should not abandon us.

The writer is foreign minister of Iraq.
27987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FDA vs. medical freedom on: May 04, 2007, 08:52:43 AM
Drug Czars
By STEVEN WALKER
May 4, 2007; Page A15

The Food and Drug Administration recently argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals that it has the power to ban meat and vegetables without violating anyone's fundamental rights. The agency chose this bizarre position in an attempt to counter arguments made by patients and their advocates in Abigail Alliance v. von Eschenbach. This groundbreaking case challenges the agency's refusal to grant access to investigational drugs, even as a last resort for terminally ill patients.

Last year, a three-judge panel decided that the FDA is violating the due- process rights of terminally ill patients by denying them access to promising investigational drugs. In response the FDA moved for a rehearing by the full court, hoping to prevent a lower court-supervised examination of whether its draconian policies actually serve a narrowly tailored compelling governmental interest. In layman's terms, this means the FDA would have to show its policies toward terminal patients are so critical to the well-being of society that they supersede (in broad and highly imperfect fashion) the fundamental right of an individual to pursue life free of undue government interference. The FDA knows their policies will not survive this test, and doesn't want the question asked.

Consider the FDA's handling of Genasense, a new drug for melanoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), two often terminal forms of cancer. The drug is being developed by Genta, a small, innovative company with only one approved drug and limited financial resources. Despite compelling evidence that Genasense is making progress in fighting both diseases, the FDA appears determined to kill the drug.

 
In the case of the melanoma application, instead of reviewing the clinical-trial data in accordance with usual methods (which showed positive results), the FDA chose a nonstandard statistical approach aimed at discrediting the results. The agency used this analysis in its briefing to its advisory committee, claiming that the drug might not be effective. The committee then relied on that information to vote against approval.

Now, Genta has found a serious mathematical error in the FDA's analysis, rendering its results meaningless. Genta is filing a complaint under the Federal Data Quality Act to correct the record. But in the meantime, the drug remains unapproved and melanoma patients continue to wait.

Genasense was also shown in a well-run, randomized clinical trial (the FDA's gold standard) to cause a complete disappearance of disease in 17% of patients with advanced CLL when combined with two older drugs. Just 7% of patients in a control group who received only the older drugs experienced similar benefit. The responders to Genasense have seen their relief last an average of 36 months, while those using other drugs saw their cancer return, on average, in 22 months.

Following these results, the Director of the FDA's cancer division, Dr. Richard Pazdur, again convened a public meeting of his advisory committee. After an agency presentation designed to elicit a negative outcome, the panel voted 7 to 3 against approval, triggering an immediate reaction of surprise and dismay among many CLL experts.

But the committee vote is less surprising if one knows that the FDA appointed several voting consultants to the committee (none of them CLL experts), and recused from the meeting the only sitting member of the committee who is an expert in CLL. Perhaps even more troubling, two of the voting committee members worked behind the scenes as undisclosed consultants for the FDA on Genasense, then without disclosure voted in the open meeting.

A shocked Genta quickly requested a meeting with the FDA to seek clarity on the agency's position, and to present additional information from patient follow-up. On the referral of an eminent leukemia expert, Genta asked if we would attend the meeting as witnesses in our capacity as patient advocates. No compensation was offered, requested or received.

Most of the meeting was consumed by getting the FDA to admit the obvious: The long-lasting, complete disappearance of CLL and its symptoms constituted "clinical benefit." Making these arguments were two cancer-medicine professors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the recused ODAC member and an immediate past president of the American Society of Hematology -- all experts in CLL. None were employees of Genta and collectively represented a far more qualified advisory committee than the one that the FDA had convened.

The FDA's inane answer to the CLL experts was that the long-lasting disappearance of disease in patients taking Genasense was a "theoretical construct" and not grounds for approval.

The experts explained to the FDA that complete responses in advanced CLL patients are the medical equivalent of the Holy Grail. The FDA finally agreed, but was unimpressed with emerging data showing responders to Genasense living longer than responders in the control group.

The experts were unanimous in advising that Genasense should be approved, but the FDA was unmoved. The agency's Dr. Pazdur suggested that Genta could make the drug available as an unapproved treatment through an expanded access program -- this from a regulator fond of stating that the best way to get a drug to patients in need is through approval! In this case the agency was saying to Genta: We are not going to approve your drug, but any patient who needs it can have it so long as you give it away.

Genta responded that nonapproval would be a denial of patient access to Genasense because they could not afford to give it away in an expanded access program. Twice, Dr. Pazdur referred to that logic as a "business decision."

Less than 48 hours later, the FDA rejected Genasense. Within days Genta made a "business decision," laying off a third of its staff in a cost cutting move aimed at keeping the doors open long enough to appeal the FDA's decision. The appeal was filed in early April. Genta's announcement of the filing included a statement from one of the expert physicians: "It is puzzling that they would deny approval to a drug that met its primary and key secondary endpoint, especially since these findings were observed in the only randomized controlled trial that has ever been conducted in patients with relapsed CLL."

The FDA's handling of Genasense lays bare the all too common, aggressive incompetence of the FDA's cancer-drug division and should lead to an immediate examination of its policies and leadership, followed by swift corrective action.

As for the FDA's belief that their power to control us and even deny us the pursuit of life itself is unlimited under the Constitution, we can only hope the appeals court disagrees. An agency that blocks progress against deadly diseases -- while arguing that its power to do so is above challenge -- is in dire need of a court supervised review.

Mr. Walker is co-founder and chief adviser for the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs . He receives no compensation for his work as an advocate, nor has he ever received compensation from any private or public-sector entity involved in drug development, approval or marketing.
27988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Negroponte on: May 04, 2007, 08:44:52 AM
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What's Going Right in Iraq
By JOHN D. NEGROPONTE
May 4, 2007; Page A15

By now it goes without saying that sectarian conflict and extremism in Iraq cannot be solved by military means alone -- it will take national reconciliation, economic reform and development, and international support as well. And as a former ambassador to Iraq, I know how difficult it is to create an alternative to coercive violence in a country that has lived under these conditions for decades.

In 2004 the U.N. Security Council laid out an arduous agenda for Iraq when it regained its sovereignty. This included setting up an interim government and electing a transitional government, writing and adopting a constitution, electing a permanent government, and developing national reconciliation based on the rule of law, tolerance and pluralism.

Despite horrific violence, much of that agenda has been implemented, though not national reconciliation. Nonetheless, the Iraqis have come a long way in what has been a short time for them. Pressing them to continue moving ahead on national reconciliation and reform is well-justified. But imposing fixed deadlines would be ill-advised.

Fixed deadlines would empower the obstructionists, stiffening their resolve to resist and delay by showing them where to concentrate their efforts. It would also weaken the moderates who -- forced to face a near-term future without us -- would hedge their bets and be less willing to broker hard political compromises. This could provoke even greater violence and insecurity, the opposite effect of that presumably intended by those advocating deadlines. That is why President Bush just issued only the second veto of his administration.

The fact is that critically important economic, political and diplomatic progress is being made; we must not allow the fog of war to obscure major developments that are fundamental to stability in Iraq and the region. These developments are more powerful than bombs -- they are the stuff of which modern nation states are made and the basis upon which they survive and thrive.

The U.S. has spent more than 84% of its major reconstruction appropriation in 11 sectors. Despite some missteps, inevitable given the chaotic conditions, these projects have brought significant benefits to the Iraqi people and will continue to do so for decades.

Now we are shifting toward increasing the capacity of Iraqis to meet their own needs. This is critical to Iraq's prospects for effective self-governance. In 2006 we began a ministerial capacity development program and completed the initial rollout of our Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) program. We're on track to double the number of PRTs from 10 to 20, deploying specialists to support moderates in local government, civil society and business.

Without question, oil is the most important and contentious economic sector. The Iraqis are making progress on a legislative package that is extremely important for national reconciliation. That this will prompt a great deal of debate should surprise no one. Such debate is healthy. Politically and economically, the stakes are high.

Iraq's financial position is improving, and the government is making budget execution a priority for 2007. The $1 billion that the Ministry of Finance released upon enactment of the budget has been delivered. Thus far, 94 of 128 spending units have opened the capital expenditure accounts needed for the full Iraqi budget to be disbursed. Some key ministries like Oil have not performed well. Others -- such as Communications, which has allocated 90% of its capital budget already -- are making good headway.

The International Compact with Iraq -- a road map for what Iraq will need to do over the next five years to achieve economic self-sufficiency -- is another step forward. Iraq has produced this credible package of economic reforms in 10 short months. There's no package like this anywhere else in the region.

Another positive development is that the IMF Board of Directors has approved the combined third and fourth reviews of Iraq's Stand-By Arrangement, keeping Iraq on track for the final 20% of Paris Club debt relief due in 2008. As part of this arrangement, Iraq has cut fuel subsidies, increased hard currency reserves to $18 billion, and mitigated inflationary pressure by appreciating the Iraqi dinar against the U.S. dollar and raising interest rates. These are tough measures. Countries less troubled than Iraq have balked or failed when trying to take similar steps.

Iraq's national reconciliation, reconstruction and stability depend not only on its internal policies but also on its relations with its neighbors. The Neighbors Conference being held this week in Sharm el-Sheikh is giving Iraq an important opportunity to improve those relations. We strongly support this effort.

As Gen. Petraeus explained last week, security is a necessary condition for sustained progress in the political, economic and diplomatic dimensions. By the same token, political, economic and diplomatic progress is necessary for achieving improved security. The two go hand-in-hand.

When I was ambassador to Iraq two years ago, the country had no permanent government, no Council of Representatives, no constitution, no IMF Stand-By Arrangement, no hydrocarbon laws in draft or otherwise, no willingness to cut subsidies, no International Compact with Iraq, and no forum for constructive dialogue with its neighbors and international community leaders. Now all that exists. It is what the Iraqis and we are fighting for, and what the terrorists and extremists are fighting against.

Mr. Negroponte is the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.
 
27989  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: May 04, 2007, 08:42:36 AM
Losing Latin America
May 4, 2007; Page A14
Wall Street Journal
A popular theme among Democrats running for President is their pledge to make America better liked around the world. Hillary Clinton says she'll even dispatch her husband as a kind of ambassador to the world. Well, he might start in Latin America, where our allies are getting stiffed by Democrats in Congress on trade and security.

We're referring in particular to Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who has been in Washington this week, making his case for the U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement and for continued U.S. help against terrorism. Colombia, Peru and Panama have all negotiated trade accords with the U.S. that, pending Congressional approval, would raise living standards and expand American influence.

A defeat for any of the three would do great harm to the Andean region, where democrats are battling Hugo Chávez's neo-socialist populism. Mr. Uribe, Peruvian President Álan Garcia and Panamanian President Martin Torrijos have all bet their futures on opening their economies to the U.S. If they're rebuffed, the local disciples of Mr. Chávez will say they were right not to trust the capitalist Yankees. The consequences won't look good on Nancy Pelosi's resume.

 
On economic grounds alone, the U.S. has everything to gain by approving these trade deals. Most Peruvian and Colombian exports already have duty-free access to the U.S. market through the Andean Trade Preferences Act. But U.S. manufacturing and farm exports heading south still face high tariff and non-tariff barriers. The regional financial center of Panama is especially attractive for U.S. services but is likewise a protected market.

The larger goal is spurring development and improving the investment climate in all three countries. While Colombia and Peru have duty-free access to U.S. markets, that privilege must be renewed every few years. The FTAs end this uncertainty. Even if Latin producers lose some protection, new access to imports means they can use help from abroad to innovate and grow more competitive. This is how Chile became an export powerhouse and reduced poverty. Maybe that's why Chile's Socialist President Michelle Bachelet has endorsed the deals.

None of this matters to some Democrats, whose loyalty to the AFL-CIO trumps their concern for the poor. Having won assurances that our Latin trading partners would enforce their labor and environmental laws at home, such Democrats as Michigan's Sander Levin are now asking for more. They're threatening to block the Latin FTAs unless the U.S. accepts language that would force U.S. companies to adhere to International Labor Organization "core principles." These "principles" have never passed Congress, in part because they'd put "right-to-work" states in legal jeopardy. Republicans won't support a trade pact with such a provision, which suggests that Mr. Levin intends it as a poison pill.

All of this is taking place while Venezuela's Mr. Chávez is working to reduce American influence in the Western Hemisphere. He's doing energy deals with China while confiscating U.S. oil assets. And he's pressing to supplant the U.S. goal of hemispheric free trade with a high-tariff South American customs union that he would run. Bolivia and Ecuador have already been captured by versions of chavismo, though Peru and Colombia have so far escaped thanks to their political leadership.

Colombia is especially vulnerable, as Mr. Chávez provides aid and comfort to that country's narco-trafficking guerrillas. This is why Mr. Uribe is also asking for continued U.S. assistance to fight organized crime. The State Department has certified that Colombia has held up its commitment to human rights under this "Plan Colombia" agreement.

But now that they control Congress again, Democrats are putting this policy in doubt. Mr. Levin says the Colombia FTA should be blocked on human rights grounds, claiming that Mr. Uribe's impressive record of reducing murder, kidnapping and terrorism isn't good enough. Vermont Senator Pat Leahy has put a hold on $55 million in new Plan Colombia funding because of false human rights charges coming from Mr. Uribe's political enemies in Bogotá. Mr. Leahy's grandstanding is all the more embarrassing because U.S. demand for cocaine is the largest source of financing for the criminal networks that have killed so many innocent Colombians.

If Democrats want to make more enemies in Latin America, this is the way to do it. The twice-elected Mr. Uribe is the most far-sighted leader Colombia has had in decades, and his FTA is an attempt to align his country's future firmly with the hemisphere's free-market democracies. Peru, Panama and Colombia are saying they want to be America's political and economic partners. Do Democrats in Congress want to drive them into the arms of Mr. Chávez?
27990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gagging Shaha Riza on: May 04, 2007, 08:27:13 AM
Gagging Shaha Riza
Why won't the World Bank let her have her say?
WSJ
Friday, May 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Since the misnamed "Wolfowitz scandal" broke last month, enemies of the World Bank president have engaged in selective press leaks and calculated smears intended to oust him. Most of these leaks have come from within the bank itself, not that we've seen any effort by the institution to stop them.

Meanwhile, the bank bureaucracy has systematically sought to prevent Mr. Wolfowitz and his girlfriend Shaha Riza from telling their side of the story. Exhibit A is the bank's refusal to allow Ms. Riza--whose raise and promotion are the central issue--to defend herself even in a newspaper op-ed.

That was the order she received this week from one W. Paatii Ofosu-Amaah, a longtime bank bureaucrat from Ghana who serves as its vice president and corporate secretary. Both Ms. Riza and her lawyer declined to comment and were not our sources, but others who've seen the letter tell us that Mr. Ofosu-Amaah cited the bank's disclosure policies regarding board proceedings to forbid Ms. Riza from taking her case to the public.

That's more than odd, given that Ms. Riza currently works at a State Department affiliate; her salary continues to be paid by the bank as part of an agreement to avoid a "conflict of interest" claimed by the bank's own ethics committee. Bank sources also tell us that Mr. Ofosu-Amaah was among those who opposed letting Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza testify on Monday to the "ad hoc committee" investigating the case. One source adds that, "like several other vice presidents, Paatii took the position that a verdict could be reached through the documentary evidence alone."

Maybe that explains why this kangaroo court was prepared last week to reach a guilty verdict against Mr. Wolfowitz before either he or Ms. Riza had been given a chance to appear, according to "three senior bank officials" cited on Saturday by the Washington Post. Mr. Ofosu-Amaah's office didn't return our calls, naturally.
27991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: May 03, 2007, 05:29:44 PM

'Goat Man' of Sudan Becomes a 'Widower'

Thursday , May 03, 2007

Charles Tombe just may be the world's most unique widower.

The Sudanese man's bizarre story first came to light more than a year ago when a newspaper in his hometown of Juba reported that he had been caught having sexual relations with... a goat.

Tombe was arrested, and later told a Sudanese judge that he was drunk at the time and didn't realize what he'd done.

The judge, however, relying on tribal law, passed judgment and equated Tombe's crime with that of a man caught sleeping with an unmarried girl, who would be ordered to marry her immediately to protect her honor and that of her family.

The judge, therefore ordered Tombe to pay the owner of the goat — named Rose — a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars (about $50 at the time) — and marry the goat.

Hand-and-hoof, the two returned to Tombe's home.

"The idea was to publicly embarrass the man," says Tom Rhodes, editor of the Juba Post, which first ran the story.

Shortly after Tombe brought Rose back to his Juba home, the black-and-white goat gave birth to a male kid.

Villagers, meanwhile, started calling Tombe "The Goat Man," a title he so loathed that he kept to himself, allowing Rose to roam local streets, where it is believed she ate a plastic bag, choked and died this week.

Unlike the Anna Nicole Smith custody battle, however, there's no controversy involving the "couple's" offspring: Tombe gets to keep the kid.
__________________
27992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: May 03, 2007, 04:42:33 PM
Second post of the day:

WSJ
The American Century
By LEO MELAMED
May 3, 2007; Page A17

If one had to pinpoint the birth of globalization, a good bet would be Aug. 15, 1971, when President Richard Nixon dropped the U.S. dollar's convertibility to gold. This led to an irreversible breakdown of fixed exchange rates, initiated the modern era of globalization, and provided the rationale for the launch of financial futures by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).

As the world left the gold standard in favor of the information standard, the U.S. had the so-called "first mover advantage." For the next three decades we dominated the world's capital markets, dwarfing everyone. With derivatives, the CME, Chicago Board of Trade and New York Mercantile Exchange initiated the modern futures era. In over-the-counter, financial engineers created a vast array of financial instruments. In securities, Chicago Board Options Exchange stock options were born, and the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq, as well as other American exchanges grew without equal -- deeper and more liquid than anywhere else.

Merton Miller, Nobel Laureate in economics, liked to say the period between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s was unique. In his view, no other 20-year period in recorded American history witnessed even a tenth of the financial innovation of those two decades. But time marched on. Suddenly, American first mover advantage was over. The growth track the U.S. maintained in the decades after the onset of globalization has been steadily leveling off, while the growth track of other industrial nations has ramped up. The U.S., its commercial enterprises and its exchanges are facing serious competition from other capital markets.

Recently three major studies, one led by Glenn Hubbard and John Thornton, another by Sen. Charles Schumer and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the third by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, have concluded that America is losing its dominance in world securities markets. These studies were a wake-up call. But reducing the Sarbanes-Oxley regulatory requirements, as these studies suggested, while a good idea, will by itself not alter the dynamic. Nor will we fix the problem with populist demagoguery advocating a protectionist agenda. "America First" solutions have been tried before and are self-defeating. In today's globalized marketplace, such remedies would be devastating to both U.S. capital markets and the American standard of living.

To find a solution one must first recognize the cause of the problem. We have entered a new era in the global marketplace. The industrial world has caught up with us. It has learned the value of Milton Friedman's free-market precepts, adopted them and put them to work. All major capital markets have modern trading capabilities, competent securities and derivatives exchanges, cutting-edge technology and banks that are as solid as our own. We are beginning to feel the competitive pinch from the Asian giants China and India. Within a decade their competitive presence will be felt in every segment of the marketplace. Needless to say, we were excellent teachers and our students learned well.

To remain competitive in the 21st century, the U.S. must first accept the reality of the modern global paradigm. We cannot pretend or assume that things will ever again be as they were. In the future, our private sector will have to fight for business flows on a world stage. It will require our best efforts and brightest minds. Similarly, U.S. government officials must accept the fact that U.S. businesses face competitors from across the ocean rather than across the river.

The old road map is history. The new map necessitates continued deregulation to promote continued innovation, reduction of burdensome compliance costs, containment of baseless litigation and open markets for goods. Beyond that, we must redouble our efforts to sustain the academic excellence that helped give us our first-mover advantage in the first place.

The fruit of our labor resulting from a three-decade, first-mover advantage is a priceless intellectual legacy -- a unique reservoir of knowledge, ideas and experience that can become an arsenal of competitive weaponry for the future. This, coupled with the constitutional and cultural birthright that encourages Americans to think freely, experiment and create, gives us an endowment of extraordinary potency.

Mr. Melamed is chairman emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
27993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Shadow Candidates on: May 03, 2007, 04:38:16 PM
The Shadow Candidates
The art of not running for president.

Thursday, May 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Tonight 10 Republicans go on stage to trade sound bites in a debate at the Reagan Library in Los Angeles. But a lot of media oxygen is being used up by the "noncandidate candidates"--those who might want to be president, but haven't yet officially jumped into the race.

In every election some conventional wisdom is swept aside. Be it that third party candidates can't influence the race (Ross Perot won 19% of the popular vote in 1992), that sitting presidents have to wait for their opposing party to pick a candidate (Bill Clinton ran negative ads more than a year before the 1996 election and went on to be the first Democrat to win re-election since FDR in 1944) or that an Internet-based campaign can't threaten an establishment candidate (Howard Dean surged, if briefly, past everyone in 2004), conventional wisdom is only right until it turns out to be wrong. This year, the assumption that the best way to run for president is to, well, run for president might go by the boards.





Everyone agrees on the negatives of being a noncandidate. Rivals scoop up cash, campaign talent and endorsements while noncandidates sit and wait. But for the already well-known, there are advantages to being "outside the ring." While official candidates are scrutinized relentlessly for gaffes and battered by "independent" opposition groups, noncandidates can be selective in their media exposure and appear high-minded.
Playing hard-to-get also creates allure and curiosity. Today noncandidates appeal to both parties. Depending on the poll, between one-third and three-fifths of Republicans are dissatisfied with their current crop of candidates. Last month, a straw poll at the Oklahoma Republican Party's convention saw noncandidates Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich top the field with a majority of the votes between them. Democrats are more happy with their field, but persistent doubts about Hillary Clinton's electability or Barack Obama's seasoning fuels speculation that Al Gore or some other savior will enter the race.

Mr. Gingrich is touring the country touting his ideas without the scrutiny and legal constraints that an official candidate's fund-raising team would get. His aim is to offer "solutions so compelling that if voters say I have to be the president, it will happen." He will make up his mind in September, but in the meantime his audiences are larger, his influence greater and his exposure on TV even more ubiquitous.

The same is true for Mr. Gore. Only a noncandidate could get the praise and royal treatment he enjoyed testifying before Congress in March. This summer, he is both losing weight and keeping his name in the headlines by promoting his new book and environmentally themed rock concerts. Even if he doesn't win the Nobel Peace Prize this fall, he could parachute into the presidential race. He has trained thousands of people to present his global-warming film in every state, a cast of supporters who could easily be converted into campaign volunteers. A Quinnipiac Poll of three battleground states shows that Mr. Gore polls better against leading Republicans than either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama.

Mr. Thompson, whose movies and network appearances are a fixture on TV screens, is clearly being helped for now by not being part of the candidate pack. The day after tonight's GOP debate he will appear before a large GOP audience in Orange County, 75 miles south of the Reagan Library. C-Span and CNN will cover the event live. His solo act may get as many viewers as tonight's debate. Pollsters John Zogby and Doug Schoen both agree that Mr. Thompson could shake up the GOP race.

Another candidate who could transform the race is popular New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a client of Mr. Schoen's. He has already told friends he could easily spend $500 million of his own money on an independent run and could snap up middle-of-the-road voters from both parties.





Whoever runs, looking over this year's shadow candidates it is clear that they are changing the rules of American politics. "Americans love having more choices," says Peter Brown, an analyst with the Quinnipiac Poll. "They'll now even give noncandidates a real look to see if there's something there they're missing in the others."
In 2000, blogger Mickey Kaus refined the Feiler Faster Thesis, which holds that though news cycles are constantly getting faster, "people are comfortable processing that information with what seems like breathtaking speed." This rapid pace may be transforming presidential politics. Voters aren't waiting for pundits to tell them who is running for president, and shadow candidates can run low-cost guerilla campaigns using the Internet, talk shows and word-of-mouth. "Candidates have been running so long already it opens up opportunities for late entries," says Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com. "We may not like it, but voter boredom may now be a driver of politics."

Modern presidential campaigns started in 1960 when the first Kennedy-Nixon debate established the primacy of television. This upcoming race could mark similar dramatic changes in the pace, shape and tone of elections to come.


WSJ
27994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: May 03, 2007, 04:05:10 PM
Doug:

You are right.

GM:

You too.

 grin
27995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Intellectual Property theft on: May 03, 2007, 10:59:35 AM
The tenor of this piece is vintage NY Slimes, but it does report something of interest to those who seek to protect their intellectual property.
============================

In Web Uproar, Antipiracy Code Spreads Wildly
       
By BRAD STONE
Published: May 3, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, May 2 — There is open revolt on the Web.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Does encryption of media files unfairly limit consumer freedom?

Sophisticated Internet users have banded together over the last two days to publish and widely distribute a secret code used by the technology and movie industries to prevent piracy of high-definition movies.

The broader distribution of the code may not pose a serious threat to the studios, because it requires some technical expertise and specialized software to use it to defeat the copy protection on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. But its relentless spread has already become a lesson in mob power on the Internet and the futility of censorship in the digital world.

An online uproar came in response to a series of cease-and-desist letters from lawyers for a group of companies that use the copy protection system, demanding that the code be removed from several Web sites.

Rather than wiping out the code — a string of 32 digits and letters in a specialized counting system — the legal notices sparked its proliferation on Web sites, in chat rooms, inside cleverly doctored digital photographs and on user-submitted news sites like Digg.com.

“It’s a perfect example of how a lawyer’s involvement can turn a little story into a huge story,” said Fred von Lohmann, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. “Now that they started sending threatening letters, the Internet has turned the number into the latest celebrity. It is now guaranteed eternal fame.”

The number is being enshrined in some creative ways. Keith Burgon, a 24-year-old musician in Goldens Bridge, N.Y., grabbed his acoustic guitar on Tuesday and improvised a melody while soulfully singing the code. He posted the song to YouTube, where it was played more than 45,000 times.

“I thought it was a source of comedy that they were trying so futilely to quell the spread of this number,” Mr. Burgon said. “The ironic thing is, because they tried to quiet it down it’s the most famous number on the Internet.”

During his work break on Tuesday, James Bertelson, an engineer in Vancouver, Wash., joined the movement and created a Web page featuring nothing but the number, obscured in an encrypted format that only insiders could appreciate. He then submitted his page to Digg, a news site where users vote on what is important. Despite its sparse offerings, his submission received nearly 5,000 votes and was propelled onto Digg’s main page.

“For most people this is about freedom of speech, and an industry that thinks that just because it has high-priced lawyers it has the final say,” Mr. Bertelson said.

Messages left for those lawyers and the trade organization they represent, the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator, which controls the encryption system known as A.A.C.S., were not answered. In an e-mail message, a representative for the group said only that it “is looking into the matter and has no further comment at this time.”

The organization is backed by technology companies like I.B.M., Intel, Microsoft and Sony and movie studios like Disney and Warner Brothers, which is owned by Time Warner.

The secret code actually stopped being a secret in February, when a hacker ferreted it out of his movie-playing software and posted it on a Web bulletin board. From there it spread through the network of technology news sites and blogs.

Last month, lawyers for the trade group began sending out cease-and-desist letters, claiming that Web pages carrying the code violated its intellectual property rights under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Letters were sent to Google, which runs a blog network at blogspot.com, and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The campaign to remove the number from circulation went largely unnoticed until news of the letters hit Digg. The 25-employee company in San Francisco, acting on the advice of its lawyers, removed posting submissions about the secret number from its database earlier this week, then explained the move to its readers on Tuesday afternoon.

The removals were seen by many Digg users as a capitulation to corporate interests and an assault on free speech. Some also said that the trade group that promotes the HD-DVD format, which uses A.A.C.S. protection, had advertised on a weekly Digg-related video podcast.

On Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, stories about or including the code swamped Digg’s main page, which the company says gets 16 million readers each month. At 9 p.m. West Coast time, the company surrendered to mob sentiment.

“You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company,” wrote Kevin Rose, Digg’s founder, in a blog post. “We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.” If Digg loses, he wrote, “at least we died trying.”

Jay Adelson, Digg’s chief executive, said in an interview that the site was disregarding the advice of its lawyers. “We just decided that it is more important to stand by our users,” he said. Regarding the company’s exposure to lawsuits he said, “we are just going to prepare and do our best.”

The conflict spilled over to Wikipedia, where administrators had to restrict editing on some entries to keep contributors from repeatedly posting the code.

The episode recalls earlier acts of online rebellion against the encryption that protects media files from piracy. Some people believe that such systems unfairly limit their freedom to listen to music and watch movies on whatever devices they choose.

In 1999, hackers created a program called DeCSS that broke the software protecting standard DVDs and posted it on the hacker site 2600.com. The Motion Picture Association of America sued, and Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, citing the 1998 digital copyright act, sided with the movie industry.

The DVD code disappeared from the 2600 site, but nevertheless resurfaced in playful haiku, on T-shirts and even in a movie in which the code scrolled across the screen like the introductory crawl in “Star Wars.”

In both cases, the users who joined the revolt and published the codes may be exposing themselves to legal risk. Chris Sprigman, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, said that under the digital copyright act, propagating even parts of techniques intended to circumvent copyright was illegal.

However, with thousands of Internet users now impudently breaking the law, Mr. Sprigman said that the entertainment and technology industries would have no realistic way to pursue a legal remedy. “It’s a gigantic can of worms they’ve opened, and now it will be awfully hard to do anything with lawsuits,” he said.

NY Times
27996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: May 03, 2007, 10:19:08 AM
Good questions SB Mig.

This analysis from Stratfor I think does a good job of showing just how complicated all this is.
===============

The Iraq Security Conference: Hanging a Deal on Faulty Assumptions
By Kamran Bokhari

After weeks of playing hard to get, Iran announced April 29 that Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will attend the May 3-4 conference in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where Iraq's neighboring states and major world powers will explore ways to stabilize Iraq. The same day, Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani traveled to Baghdad on a surprise three-day visit apparently aimed at discussing security and the upcoming conference with Iraqi officials.

The United States welcomed Iran's decision to attend the conference, calling it a "positive" development. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted before Iran's announcement at the possibility of meeting directly with Mottaki on the sidelines of the conference. President George W. Bush later explained that Rice and Mottaki could engage in bilateral talks within the context of the multilateral event, though he ruled out separate public-level talks between Tehran and Washington. Things still could go wrong before May 3, and Mottaki could decide against attending the conference, but for now it looks like he will show up. Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi said May 1 that, while Iran is ready to hold "discussions" with the United States, the conditions are not appropriate for negotiations.

The potential open engagement between the United States and Iran at the foreign ministry level would be the culmination of back-channel negotiations that started even before the United States led the invasion of Iraq. In other words, the Bush administration -- long after having scrapped its original deal with Tehran on the makeup of a post-war Iraqi government -- has reached a preliminary understanding with Iran's clerical regime on how the two sides will proceed with regard to stabilizing Iraq in the wake of the unexpected Sunni insurgency, the subsequent sectarian war and the involvement of Arab Sunni states in the fray.

The Sharm el-Sheikh conference, then, represents the launch of the formal process of hammering out a complex, multi-party deal to piece together the Humpty Dumpty that is Iraq.

The U.S.-Iranian back-channel talks were never going to result in a deal on how to divide Iraq; rather, they were a way for Washington and Tehran to work out their respective concerns about a future post-Baathist Iraq before taking the problem to the wider forum. The back-channel talks, which provide the context for the multilateral conference, will continue -- though the real deal will likely emerge from this wider forum.

Throughout the years of behind-the-scenes talks, the two sides have been unable to reach an understanding that balances the concerns of both with regard to Iraq's future. Iran does not want an Iraq with close ties to the United States -- one that threatens Iranian national security and Tehran's regional aspirations. Conversely, the United States does not want to see an Iraq dominated by Iran -- a situation that would allow Tehran to threaten the Arab states in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Peninsula, and thus U.S. regional interests. Moreover, the involvement of Sunni Arab states that feel threatened by the rise of Iran and its Shiite Arab allies has further complicated U.S.-Iranian dealings. Saudi Arabia, which has emerged as the leader of the Arab world, has been spearheading the move to counter Iran.

Complications aside, the Saudi efforts to insert themselves into the equation have given Washington a tool with which to counter Iranian moves. In fact, just as the Bush administration has used the Iraqi Sunni card to rein in the country's Shia (Washington has signaled to the Shia that it is willing to cut deals with the Sunnis, especially the Baathists), it has leveraged its alignment with the Arab states to contain the Iranians. While the United States needs Iranian cooperation to stabilize Iraq, the Iranians also need the United States to ensure that the Arab states and their Iraqi Sunni allies will not threaten Iranian interests.

The upcoming conference, therefore, is immensely important to all sides. The meeting represents a formal acknowledgement by all parties of the sphere of influence the Iranians and the Saudis will have in Iraq. Both Riyadh and Tehran want assurances that each other's respective proxies -- the Shiite militias and the Sunni insurgents -- will be restrained from creating security issues for them. In recent weeks, the Iranians have demonstrated they can get Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's militia, the Mehdi Army, to more or less go along with the security plan. On the other hand, the Saudi announcement of the arrests of jihadist militants and the seizure of large sums of cash and weapons was meant as a reciprocating message that Riyadh, too, can rein in the jihadists who threaten the Shia -- and, by extension, the Iranian position in Iraq.

The general understanding has been that a U.S.-Saudi-Iranian deal could help stabilize Iraq -- the assumption being that Riyadh and Tehran have the ability to rein in their respective militias and insurgents in Iraq. Although ending the violence is beyond either country's ability, the Saudis and the Iranians are letting on that they can contain their fighters -- for a price. The Saudis want to ensure that Iraq's Sunni community has a sufficient share of the political pie in Baghdad so that, even with Shiite domination of the Iraqi state, the Iranians could not use Iraq as a military springboard into the Arabian Peninsula. For their part, the Iranians want assurances that the Sunni minority in Iraq never again will be in a position to threaten Iran's national security. More than that, however, the Islamic republic would like to be able to use its influence to pull strings within the Iraqi Shiite-dominated government.

This is the dilemma that faces the United States and the Sunni Arab states. They want to figure out how to acknowledge Iranian influence in Iraq's affairs, but still prevent Tehran from using such influence to enhance its power. Iraq's ethno-sectarian demography -- it is only approximately 20 percent Sunni -- is what scares Washington and its Arab allies. They are hoping, then, that ensuring the Sunnis a sufficient share of the Iraqi government will serve to check the Iranian/Shiite rise. To achieve that goal, however, the United States and Saudi Arabia would have to make a major reciprocal concession: acknowledging that a larger share of the pie will be in the hands of the Shia. This is one of the key reasons why reining in the Shiite militias has become a prerequisite for containing the Sunni insurgency.

This brings us back to the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, where Tehran is hoping the United States and its Arab allies acknowledge Iranian interests in Iraq in exchange for Iran's willingness to restrain the Shiite militias. The Arabs are willing to give Tehran the recognition it wants, though they are operating from a position of relative weakness and cannot trust that Iran would not use a relatively stable Iraq to extend its influence across the Persian Gulf.

Furthermore, although the Bush administration is downplaying the possibility, the Arabs are concerned that the political pendulum in the United States is swinging heavily in favor of an early pullout -- or major drawdown -- of coalition forces from Iraq. Since, in the long run, they cannot trust Washington to underwrite a deal with the Iranians, the Arabs are hesitant to sign a document that would effectively give Iran the room to maneuver as it pleases. This is the root of the Saudi reluctance to use its influence among the Iraqi Sunnis to help contain sectarian violence.

More important, however, Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities are so internally factionalized (the Shia to a greater extent) that neither Tehran nor Riyadh is likely to succeed in shutting down the militancy. Moreover, the multiplicity of Shiite political and militant factions makes it difficult for Iran to keep all of them happy -- and thus on board with any deal it might be willing to cut. The continuing strife in the Shiite south, especially in the oil-rich city of Basra, is but one example of the problems the Iranians face in this regard.

Similarly, the Saudis cannot claim to speak for all the Sunnis. But even more problematic for Riyadh is that its best weapon against the Iranians is the jihadists, especially those affiliated with al Qaeda -- precisely those who pose a major national security threat to the Saudi kingdom.

The question, then, is whether the Saudis and the Iranians can actually deliver on a triangular deal involving each of them and the third main state actor in Iraq -- the United States. It would appear that their fears over their respective interests have forced them to deal with one another despite their apprehensions.

Ultimately, however, the three big players are negotiating a security deal that rests on the faulty assumptions that each side has enough sway over the various factions inside Iraq to make an agreement actually work.
27997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Smartest/Nuttiest Futurist on Earth on: May 02, 2007, 11:37:39 PM

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/14/100008848/index.htm?source=yahoo_quote

 
The smartest (or the nuttiest) futurist on Earth
Ray Kurzweil is a legendary inventor with a history of mind-blowing ideas. Now he's onto something even bigger. If he's right, the future will be a lot weirder and brighter than you think.
By Brian O'Keefe, Fortune senior editor
May 2 2007: 11:08 AM EDT


(Fortune Magazine) -- If you went around saying that in a couple of decades we'll have cell-sized, brain-enhancing robots circulating through our bloodstream or that we'll be able to upload a person's consciousness into a computer, people would probably question your sanity. But if you say things like that and you're Ray Kurzweil, you get invited to dinner at Bill Gates' house - twice - so he can pick your brain for insights on the future of technology. The Microsoft chairman calls him a "visionary thinker and futurist."

Kurzweil is an inventor whose work in artificial intelligence has dazzled technological sophisticates for four decades. He invented the flatbed scanner, the first true electric piano, and large-vocabulary speech-recognition software; he's launched ten companies and sold five, and has written five books; he has a BS in computer science from MIT and 13 honorary doctorates (but no real one); he's been inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame and charges $25,000 every time he gives a speech - 40 times last year.

 
Still life with innovator: Kurzweil at his home near Boston.
 
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The power of technology will keep growing exponentially. By 2050, you'll be able to buy a device with the computational capacity of all mankind for the price of a nice refrigerator.
 
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And now, if anything, he's gaining momentum as a cultural force: He has not one but two movies in the works - one a documentary about his career and ideas and the other an adaptation of his recent bestseller, The Singularity Is Near, which he's writing and co-producing (he's talking about a distribution deal with the people who brought you "The Day After Tomorrow").

When Kurzweil isn't giving keynote addresses or reading obscure peer-review journals, he's raising money for his new hedge fund, FatKat (Financial Accelerating Transactions from Kurzweil Adaptive Technologies). He's already attracted a roster of blue-ribbon investors that includes venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, former Microsoft CFO Mike Brown, and former Flextronics-CEO-turned-KKR-partner Michael Marks.

Life imitates TV
Being a hedge fund manager may seem an odd pursuit for an expert in AI, but to Kurzweil it's perfectly natural. The magic that has enabled all his innovations has been the science of pattern recognition - and what is the financial market, he postulates, but a series of patterns?

Kurzweil, however, has something bigger on his mind than just making money - after half a lifetime studying trends in technological change, he believes he's found a pattern that allows him to see into the future with a high degree of accuracy.

The secret is something he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns, and the basic idea is that the power of technology is expanding at an exponential rate. Mankind is on the cusp of a radically accelerating era of change unlike anything we have ever seen, he says, and almost more extreme than we can imagine.

What does that mean? By the time a child born today graduates from college, Kurzweil believes, poverty, disease, and reliance on fossil fuels should be a thing of the past. Speaking of which, don't get him started on global-warming hype.

"These slides that Gore puts up are ludicrous," says the man who once delivered a tech conference presentation as a singing computer avatar named Ramona. (That stunt was the inspiration for the 2002 Al Pacino movie "Simone.") "They don't account for anything like the technological progress we're going to experience."

Great big cell phones in the sky
He has plenty more ideas that may seem Woody Allen - wacky in a "Sleeper" kind of way (virtual sex as good as or better than the real thing) and occasionally downright disturbing à la "2001: A Space Odyssey" (computers will achieve consciousness in about 20 years). But a number of his predictions have had a funny way of coming true.

Back in the 1980s he predicted that a computer would beat the world chess champion in 1998 (it happened in 1997) and that some kind of worldwide computer network would arise and facilitate communication and entertainment (still happening). His current vision goes way, way past the web, of course. But at least give the guy a hearing. "We are the species that goes beyond our potential," he says. "Merging with our technology is the next stage in our evolution."

In mid-April, Kurzweil traveled to the Island hotel in Newport Beach, Calif., as one of the featured speakers at a two-day World Innovation Forum. The roster of luminaries included Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, now at Google (Charts, Fortune 500). But Kurzweil was the only one followed around by a team of documentary-film makers.

He took the stage wearing a brown houndstooth sports coat and navy checked tie and began toggling through his PowerPoint slides. He's about 5-foot-7, and in regular conversation he tends to speak in a monotone. But he comes alive onstage, mixing in reliable one-liners with his bigger point: Don't underestimate the power of technological change. "Information technologies are doubling in power every year right now," he tells the crowd of 400 or so attendees. "Doubling every year is multiplying by 1,000 in ten years. It's remarkable how scientists miss this basic trend."

Kurzweil's crusade, if you will, is to get across that most of us (even scientists) fail to see the world changing exponentially because we are "stuck in the intuitive linear view." To hammer home his point, Kurzweil packs his presentations with charts that show, for instance, supercomputer power doubling consistently over time.

He explains that Moore's Law - the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years - is but one excellent example of the Law of Accelerating Returns. One of Kurzweil's favorite illustrations of exponential growth is the Human Genome Project. "It was scheduled to be a 15-year project," he says. "After seven years only 1% of it was done, and the critics said it would be impossible. But if you double from 1% every year over seven years, you get 100%. It was right on schedule."

He believes humanity is near that 1% moment in technological growth. By 2027, he predicts, computers will surpass humans in intelligence; by 2045 or so, we will reach the Singularity, a moment when technology is advancing so rapidly that "strictly biological" humans will be unable to comprehend it.

A corporate governance gadfly irks CEOs
Everything will be subject to his Law of Accelerating Returns, Kurzweil says, because "everything is ultimately becoming information technology." As we are able to reverse-engineer and decode our own DNA, for instance, medical technology can be converted to bits and bytes and zoom along at the same fantastic rate. That will enable overlapping revolutions in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. Which is how you end up with nanobots living in your brain.

Kurzweil, 59, declared his career as an inventor at age 5. He grew up in Queens, New York, one of two children (he has a younger sister named Enid) of Fredric and Hannah Kurzweil, Viennese Jews who fled the Nazis in 1938. His parents encouraged their son's ambition. "Ideas were the religion of our household," he says. "They saw science and technology as the way of the future and a way to make money and not struggle the way they did." Fredric, a composer and conductor, died of heart disease at 58, an event that would have a lasting impact on his son.

Kurzweil discovered computers at age 12, and quickly demonstrated an amazing facility with technology. At 14 he wangled a job as the computer programmer at the research department of Head Start, the federal government's early-childhood-development program. While there he wrote software that was later distributed by IBM (Charts, Fortune 500) with its mainframes.

Going beyond 'Moneyball'
At 17 he won an international science contest by building a computer that analyzed the works of Chopin and Beethoven to compose music; that trick landed him on the TV show "I've Got a Secret," hosted by Steve Allen. At MIT he started a company that used a computer to crunch numbers and match high school students with the best college choice; he sold it for $100,000 plus royalties.

After graduating from MIT, he founded Kurzweil Computer Products in 1974, and his initial breakthrough came later that year when he created the first optical-character-recognition program capable of reading any font. After he happened to sit next to a blind man on a plane, he decided to apply the technology to building a reading machine for the sight-impaired. To make it work he invented the flatbed scanner and the text-to-speech synthesizer, and introduced a reader in 1976.

When his first reader customer - Stevie Wonder - later complained about the limitations of electronic keyboards, Kurzweil used pattern-recognition science to invent the first keyboard that could realistically reproduce the sound of pianos and other orchestra instruments. Thus was born Kurzweil Music Systems. (When his name is recognized today, it's still often as "that keyboard guy.")

Kurzweil never left the Boston area after college. He and his wife, Sonya, live in a suburb about 20 minutes west of the city in a house they bought 25 years ago. Both of his children are grown and out of the house - Ethan, 28, is at Harvard Business School and Amy, 20, is at Stanford - so it's just the two of them and 300 or so cat figurines. (Kurzweil says he likes the way cats always seem to be "calmly thinking through their options.")

Kurzweil won't say how much he's worth, but he's never had the kind of payday that made so many of his peers centimillionaires or better. He sold Kurzweil Computer Products to Xerox (Charts, Fortune 500) in 1980 for $6.25 million. Kurzweil Music Systems was in bankruptcy when Korean piano maker Young Chang bought it in 1990 for $12 million.

From NBA to MBA: Shaq suits up for business
Kurzweil Applied Intelligence introduced a series of speech-recognition products and went public in 1993, but was tarnished by an accounting-fraud scandal in 1995. Kurzweil, who was co-CEO, was not implicated. "I was focusing on the technology," he says. "There was this small conspiracy, which was deeply shocking." KAI was sold in 1997 for $53 million.

If Kurzweil hasn't made the big score, he's done well enough to keep funding his new ventures. Former Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500) CFO Brown has invested in a few of Kurzweil's businesses and says he's impressed. "There's a certain smart kind of person who can get all the way from the big picture down to the little kernel and back," he says. "He's extremely adaptive that way. His businesses in my experience have always been well run and successful. He's grown them until they get to be a certain size and typically sold them to somebody who has a bigger distribution network."

These days Kurzweil organizes his business interests - including FatKat and Ray & Terry's Longevity Products, which sells supplements - under the umbrella of Kurzweil Technologies. The company takes up all of one floor and half of another in a nondescript office-park building in Wellesley Hills, Mass. In the reception area on the second floor is an antique Ediphone, one of Thomas Edison's dictation machines.

On a table filled with plaques noting Kurzweil's achievements is a photo of him receiving the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton. There's a pipe-smoking mannequin with a ribbon that reads I AM AN INVENTOR on its chest. In the basement is a supercomputer processing millions of bits of market-related data.

Kurzweil is hoping that FatKat will prove to be as spectacular an achievement as his early inventions, only a lot more lucrative. When describing his approach, he refers to the success of fellow MIT board member and hedge fund manager James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, whose $6 billion fund Medallion has averaged 36% returns annually after fees since 1988 and who, according to the hedge fund trade magazine Alpha, was the highest-paid hedgie last year, with a take-home of $1.7 billion.

Kurzweil says he is applying Simons-like quantitative analysis to take advantage of market inefficiencies. And he's confident that, just as he trained computers to recognize patterns in human speech or the sound of a violin, he can do the same with currency fluctuations and stock-ownership trends. The ultimate goal is to create the first fully artificially intelligent quant fund - a black box that can learn to monitor itself and adjust. Although he started the company back in 1999, the fund has only been trading for about a year.

How's he doing? Kurzweil won't say, citing SEC rules, nor will his investors. "I view Ray as one of the best pattern-recognition people in the world," says Khosla, when asked why he put money into FatKat. "I am a happy investor in Ray's company. A very happy investor."

As respected as Kurzweil is, to some of his peers his ideas have a persistent whiff of the too-good-to-be-true. One intellectual equal who takes exception to Kurzweil's views is Mitch Kapor, the co-founder and former CEO of Lotus Development. In 2002, Kapor made a much publicized $20,000 bet with Kurzweil that a computer would not be able to demonstrate consciousness at a human level by 2029.

But his quibbles with Kurzweil run much deeper than that debate. He rejects Kurzweil's theories about the implications of accelerating technology as pseudo-evangelistic bunk. "It's intelligent design for the IQ 140 people," he says. "This proposition that we're heading to this point at which everything is going to be just unimaginably different - it's fundamentally, in my view, driven by a religious impulse. And all of the frantic arm-waving can't obscure that fact for me, no matter what numbers he marshals in favor of it. He's very good at having a lot of curves that point up to the right."

Even technologists who take Kurzweil seriously don't necessarily echo his optimism. It was after a conversation with him that Bill Joy wrote an apocalyptic cover story for Wired magazine in 2000 about nanotechnology run amok.

Kurzweil, who's always careful to acknowledge the possibility that everything could go haywire, says his outlook is about math, not religion. And he's not planning to go anywhere until he bears witness to humankind's ultimate destiny, even if it takes him forever.

Note that by "forever" we mean "forever": The man literally intends not to die. With an acute memory of his father's early death, he's been getting weekly blood tests and intravenous treatments. He also takes pills - lots of pills, more than 200 vitamins, antioxidants, and other supplements every day. It's all part of his effort to "reprogram" his body chemistry and stop growing old. "I've slowed down aging to a crawl," he claims. "By most measures my biological age is about 40, and I have some hormone and nutrient levels of a person in his 30s."

Tuesday night in Newport Beach, after his talk at the Innovation Forum, Kurzweil is having dinner at an upscale seafood restaurant with one of his true believers, Peter Diamandis. The 45-year-old Diamandis is best known as the creator of the X Prize, a $10 million bounty for the first privately built, manned rocket launched into space. (Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's team won in 2004.)

He's developing a new X Prize for a 100-mile-a-gallon car, and considering others in cancer research and, with Kurzweil's help, AI. Diamandis says he buys completely into Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns and everything that it implies. "The Singularity, for anyone who stops and thinks about it, is completely obvious," he says.

Diamandis, who has an MD, has also been profoundly affected by Kurzweil's 2004 book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever and has adopted Kurzweil's dietary guidelines. Diamandis pulls out a plastic bag of supplement pills and explains he's up to about 30 a day. Kurzweil reaches into his jacket for some of his own supplements. "His pills are bigger than my pills!" says Diamandis.

Then, more seriously, he asks Kurzweil if he ever gets nosebleeds from the supplement regimen. Kurzweil doesn't. "I think it might be the memory pills," says Diamandis. The conversation morphs into a debate on why earthlings have been unable to detect extraterrestrial civilizations, because with the billions of star systems out there, surely the Law of Accelerating Returns must have taken root somewhere...

It's easy to ridicule a scene like this, and perhaps people will when the movie comes out. (The documentary crew was there.) It's currently unfashionable to be so positive in one's open-mindedness. But remember, Kurzweil has been right before. And frankly, he's delighted we haven't heard from anyone else in the universe yet - it just means we're further up the technology curve than the aliens. "I think it's exciting that we're in the lead," he says, fiddling with his half-eaten ahi tuna. "There's a lot ahead of us."

Reporter associates Doris Burke and Telis Demos contributed to this article.

From the May 14, 2007 issue
27998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: May 02, 2007, 07:01:23 PM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/desires-of-the-human-heart-part-ii.htm

As always, MY is a must read.
27999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: May 02, 2007, 06:39:25 PM
Victor Davis HansonMay 2, 2007 8:48 AM The Crazy Middle East
All Eyes on Baghdad

All the pros and cons on the war have been aired. We’ve read all the tell-all books by Woodward, Ricks, Gordon, Trainor and the rest that now contradict the arguments and theses of what they wrote about the 1991 war—that then we should have done what we are doing now, which in turn should now be what we had done then.

All the once insider geniuses like Clark, Scheuer, O’Neil and Tenet have sold their tell-all accounts in which they were brilliant and all else obtuse. Feith has been called a dumb _____ by almost everyone in DC. Libby is facing jail for something or other, but most certainly not what the Special Prosecutor was supposed to be looking for; Wolfowitz faces an ouster: so much for bringing up to your board that you might have a conflict of interest down the road.

We’ve suffered through the distortions of Michael Moore and know that Cindy Sheehan once thanked President Bush for meeting with her. We’ve heard that the US military is akin to Saddam, Nazis, Pol Pot, or Stalin from the likes of Sens. Durbin and Kennedy, that America is a pariah from Sen. Kerry, that the war is lost from Sen. Reid and Howard Dean, and about everything imaginable from poor Sen. Biden.

We know that the Clintons once tried to restore their fides on national security by railing about Saddam’s WMD program, both before and after September 11. There has been a revolt of the generals and CIA operatives, that in addition to demonstrating opposition to the war, showed just how angry top brass are at our restructuring the military and /or intelligence agencies.

The Celebs have weighed in, and now we know that the Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, Rosie, the Donald, and Alec Baldwin are as ignorant as they are vehement and vicious in their pronouncements.

We’ve seen all the supposed landmark stories come and go: Dick Cheney’s shotgun, the supposed flushed Koran, the forged memos about Bush’s National Guard service, the doctored photos from Beirut, the slips from CNN brass about bias, the implosion of Dan Rather, the blood lust for Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Gonzalez, et. al. None of them did anything illegal; all of them were hounded by the press to resign—all of whom Republicans thought if these just go, the Left will stop, when in fact its appetite was only fed.

All that has come and gone, and we are left in the end with the verdict of the battlefield. The war will be won or lost, like it or not, fairly or unjustly, in the next six months in Baghdad. Either Gen. Petraeus quells the violence to a level that even the media cannot exaggerate, or the enterprise fails, and we withdraw. For all the acrimony and hysteria at home, that in the end is what we face—the verdict of all wars that ultimately are decided by the soldiers, and then either supported or opposed by the majority at home with no views or ideology other than its desire to conform to the narrative from the front: support our winners, oppose our losers. In the end, that is what this entire hysterical four years are about.

Win Iraq in the sense of a government stabilizing analogous to Kurdistan or Turkey, and even at this late hour, pundits and politicians will scramble around to dig up their 2002-3 quotes supporting the war, while Hollywood goes quiet and turns to more sermons on Darfur.

Sad, but true.


And the Palestinians wonder?

Polls show about 20% of Americans favor the Palestinians in their war against Israel, while about half the US population now expresses an unease with Muslims in general. Meanwhile a large minority of Muslims, according to polls, condones terrorist attacks on civilians, while a vast majority is vehemently anti-American. Their prejudice apparently is chalked up to our omnipresence—like saving Kuwait, feeding Somalia, stopping Muslims dying en masse in the Balkans, ridding Afghanistan of the Soviets, paying astronomical prices for their oil, and giving nearly $100 billion over the years to the Egyptians, Jordanians, and Palestinians.

Our prejudice surely could not be due to 19 Muslims slaughtering— to the delight of millions—3,000 Americans, nor to the news almost every hour of Christian-Muslim violence, Hindu-Muslim violence, Buddhist-Muslim violence, or secular-Muslim violence. And now the much circulated quote from Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

“You will be victorious” on the face of this planet. You are the masters of the world on the face of this planet. Yes, [the Koran says that] “you will be victorious,” but only “if you are believers.” Allah willing, “you will be victorious,” while America and Israel will be annihilated. I guarantee you that the power of belief and faith is greater than the power of America and Israel. They are cowards, who are eager for life, while we are eager for death for the sake of Allah. That is why America’s nose was rubbed in the mud in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and everywhere… Oh Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one. Oh Allah, show them a day of darkness. Oh Allah, who sent down His Book, the mover of the clouds, who defeated the enemies of the Prophet defeat the Jews and the Americans, and bring us victory over them.”

And wait till these people get the bomb. So much for the war against Islamism being “over.”

What is it about the Palestinians?

Occupied Land? Are we speaking of Tibet? And why not worry about territorial disputes between Argentina and its neighbors, or Russia and Japan over the Kuriles, or a divided and Turkish-occupied Cyprus, or for that matter, Germany that lost historic homelands to postwar Poland? Or let us stop the earth’s rotation for Kashmir, which at least involves two large nuclear adversaries. Do the millions of Kurds in Turkey qualify as homeless or refugees or voiceless?

Refugees?

Are we talking of the 600,000 plus Jews that were expelled from the major Arab capitals following the 1967 war?

Or are we drawn to the millions in the Congo and Nigeria that have lost their homes?

If we are speaking of Palestinians, do we refer to the quarter-million plus expelled from Kuwait following the 1991 Gulf War?

Violence?

Surely the world mourns the million lost in Rwanda? Or the tens of thousands now killed in Darfur? Or the million plus starved the last decade in North Korea?

So why just the Palestinians?


The truth is that the international media has created the entire Palestinian crisis, at least in terms of elevating it beyond all others of far worse magnitude.

Why?

Fear of international terrorists, going way back to the plane hijackings and Olympian killings of the 1970s.

Fear of oil price hikes, as if the Saudis might once again turn off the spigots in solidarity with Palestinians.

Demography? There are tens of millions of pro-Palestinian angry Muslims with a propensity toward supporting violent acts, and very few Jews who are busy writing scientific articles and discovering new products. So whom to fear?

And then there is the old anti-Semitism, old in the sense of both generated in Europe and as old as the Koran itself in the Middle East.

What to Do?

We should give not a cent to any government in Palestine. Americans might wish the people there well, but explain due to their vehement anti-American prejudices, we cannot accept any into this country, revoke the visas of those who are here, and politely ask them to settle their own differences with Israel.

Perhaps with Gulf oil money, they can one day forget Israel, create a just society, foster a vibrant, non-corrupt economy, and then with confidence negotiate with Israel about borders. But until then, there is no reason to have relations with this government or its populace.

Its mother’s milk is envy and jealousy that a displaced decimated people was placed down beside them in rock and scrub, and sixty years later built a humane, prosperous society that is a daily reminder to them that what they do—statism, gender apartheid, tribalism, feuding, religious intolerance, corruption, autocracy, polygamy, honor killings, etc.—lead to the very opposite sort of society in which nothing is invented, no discovery is found, no security or prosperity is achieved, and hand-outs are demanded but never appreciated.

But why discuss self-inflicted misery when the Jews are a few hundred yards away to blame, and guilt-ridden wealthy Westerners are easy marks for shake-downs, themselves anti-Semitic and fearful of hooded men with shaking fist and blood-curdling chants?

Don’t forget Syria.

Nancy Pelosi et al. gave sermons on the need to include Syria in regional discussions and to open a dialogue with this “key player.” Here’s what that olive branch won in reply, a boast from dictator Assad that Syria is essential to the killing of Americans in Iraq:

“To the east there is the resistance in Iraq, to the west there is the resistance in Lebanon and to the south there is the resistance of the Palestinian people…We, in Syria, are at the heart of all these events. Syria, the Arab region and the Middle East are going through a dangerous period. Destructive colonial projects are seeking to divide and reshape our region…Every Syrian citizen supports the Iraqi people who are resisting the American occupation.”

“Destructive colonial projects” means offering someone the right to vote and have some freedom of expression, in other words to say no to thugs like Assad, Ahmadinejad, or Khadafy.

Be careful what you wish for.

For years Arab intellectuals demanded from the West some concern for human rights, and a cessation of business as usual with their dictatorial strongmen. But post 2003 we are learning that such posturing was, well, posturing, and most of these hothouse plants are more angry at the democratization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq than they are at their own autocrats. An unspoken truth in the post 9/11 climate is that Arab reformers have zero credibility. Most live in Europe and the United States (including members of the families of the Pakistani, Syrian, Lebanese, and Saudi autocrats and extremists). Most are far more critical of western governments that gave them refuge and a new life than they are of the illiberal regimes that drove them out.

Oil, father of us all

In the end, all reasoning and caclucation comes down to oil, not energy independce just a lessening of our need to import by about 5 million barrels or so on the world market. Let Brazil export duty-free ethanol; drill in Anwar and off our coasts; build 20 or so nuclear reactors to replace natural gas and power batteries at night of small commuter cars; up the fleet average gas mileage; develop oil tar and oil shale; use alternative energies—and do all that inclusively rather than in an either/or strategy, and we can collapse the world price, and with it the strategic importance of this dangerous, dysfunctional, and ultimately irrelevant part of the world.

Without oil and nukes, the Arab and Iranian Middle East has no hold on the world, no more than does Paraguay or the Ivory Coast or Bulgaria or Laos. We wish them well, but find Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, the House of Saud, Hamas, Khadafy, and all the rest, well, all too retro-7th-century for our tastes.


28000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: May 02, 2007, 05:43:50 PM
I wonder what lies underneath this cryptic paragraph?

IRAN: Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian is being detained on charges of espionage, Fars News Agency reported. Earlier reports did not indicate what charges had been brought against him. Mousavian was reportedly taken from his home April 30.

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