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27951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Immigration on: June 05, 2007, 07:52:45 AM
The author for me has a suspect background in MALDEF and related organizations, but as part of search for truth, I post her piece here:


The Great Assimilation Machine
June 5, 2007; Page A23

For more than 200 years the United States has been the great assimilation machine, churning Germans, Swedes, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Russians, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis and myriad others into Americans. There are many Americans today who believe, or worry, that the largest group of recent immigrants -- the nearly 20 million Hispanics who have come here in the last several decades -- are unwilling or unable to do the same.

In his 2004 book, "Who Are We? The Challenges to National Identity," Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington warned that "Mexican immigration is leading toward the demographic reconquista of areas Americans took from Mexico by force in the 1830s and 1840s," a sentiment I hear echoed frequently in the debate over immigration reform. Others warn that the country is playing host to a burgeoning new underclass of poorly educated, welfare-dependent Hispanics who will overwhelm us with social pathologies. Still others marshal statistics that appear to support their view that Hispanics are indeed failing to assimilate as have previous ethnic groups.

The real story of Hispanic assimilation, however, is a lot less gloomy -- although a bit more complicated -- than the critics charge. Part of the problem is the interpretation of statistics: As we are in the midst of a huge influx of new immigrants, legal and illegal, including seven million Mexicans who have arrived since 1990, any statistical snapshot that includes these newcomers (who make up about half the adult Hispanic population) will distort the overall moving picture.

Take Hispanic dropout rates. A snapshot looks bad: 42% of Hispanics, according to the Current Population Survey, had not finished high school in 2005. But nearly half of the people counted aren't dropouts in the usual sense; they've never dropped in to an American school. They are immigrants who completed their schooling, such as it was, before coming here in their late teens or 20s. Granted, low education levels will make their climb up the economic ladder slower -- 60% of Mexican-born adults have not completed high school. But the earnings of Hispanic immigrants will improve as they gain work skills and experience, and the evidence is strong that they will do so. Mexican-born men, for example, had higher labor force participation rates than native-born male workers, 88% compared with 83%, and lower unemployment rates than native workers, 4.4% compared with 5.1% in 2006. Labor force participation rates of illegal aliens are higher yet, a whopping 94%.

More importantly, the children of Hispanic immigrants are graduating from high school. The high school completion rate for young, U.S.-born Hispanics is 86%, only slightly lower than the 92% of non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic immigrant children who do enroll in school after they come here are as likely as American-born Hispanics to earn a high school diploma (although half of Mexican immigrants 15-17 years-old do not enroll in school).

Hispanics are more likely than either whites or blacks to continue their education at two-year institutions; in 2000 they represented 14% of all students enrolled in two-year institutions. Only 12% of U.S.-born Hispanics earn four-year degrees compared with 26% of non-Hispanic whites. Nonetheless, the economic returns on education are substantial for Hispanics. As a 2006 study on Hispanics by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported, "We consistently find that, after adjusting for the levels of human capital (e.g., schooling and English language proficiency), Hispanics do almost as well as whites with respect to both employment and labor market earnings," which the authors note is not the case for blacks, who still lag behind whites even after adjusting for observable measures of human capital.

English proficiency is, of course, essential if Hispanics are to fully assimilate into the mainstream, and one issue many Americans have expressed great concern over. But despite anxiety that Hispanics aren't learning English and will soon insist that the U.S. become bilingual, the evidence suggests otherwise. True enough, most Hispanic immigrants have poor English skills: The 2000 Census reported that 26 million people spoke Spanish at home, and of these, 14 million were unable to speak English well. But there is nothing unusual about this; historically most immigrant groups have taken a generation or more to produce fluent English speakers. In 1900, nearly 50 years after the peak period of German immigration, 600,000 students attended German bilingual schools in the U.S.

But if Hispanic immigrants have been slow to learn English, their American-born progeny have quickly adapted. English is the preferred language of virtually all U.S.-born Hispanics; according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, indeed, 78% of third-generation Hispanics cannot speak Spanish at all. Even in Southern California, an area with the largest population of Spanish speakers in the nation, 96% of third-generation Mexican Americans prefer to speak English at home, according to a recent study by sociologists Ruben Rumbaut, Douglas Massey and Frank Bean.

The fear that Hispanics are or will become an isolated, economically alienated group within the larger American society also does not jibe with a variety of other measures. A 2006 Commerce Department study reported that Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average. In 2002, the last year for which detailed data are available, there were 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses generating $222 billion in revenue. Most of these businesses are family affairs, with few employees, but some 1,500 Hispanic businesses employed 100 or more people, generating $42 billion in gross receipts.

Half of all Hispanics own homes. This is substantially below the 76% of non-Hispanic whites that are homeowners. A Department of Housing and Urban Development analysis of Hispanic home ownership trends suggests that the gap can be explained by a number of factors, including age. Home ownership increases with age, but nearly twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanic whites are under 35, while only 10% of Hispanics, but nearly one quarter of whites, are over 65.

One genuinely disturbing trend is the increase in out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics, which has risen to 46% in 2004 from 24% in 1980, compared with 24.5% for non-Hispanic whites and 69% for blacks. (Mexican immigrants have a somewhat lower rate of unmarried childbearing, 35%.) This is not good, but it is not clear that these unmarried mothers remain so for long or that their children grow up in fatherless homes. Marriage rates for Hispanics are virtually the same as for non-Hispanic whites, suggesting many unwed mothers make it to the altar eventually, and they are no more likely to divorce than whites. The most comprehensive study of marriage and cohabitation, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2002, shows that 77% of Hispanic women will marry by age 30, compared with 81% of non-Hispanic whites but only 52% of blacks. Moreover, 67% of Mexican origin children live in two parent families, compared with about 77% of whites, but only 37% of blacks.

Finally, consider that ultimate indicator of assimilation, intermarriage. One in four Hispanics marries a non-Hispanic white spouse, but nearly one-third of all U.S.-born Hispanics who are married have non-Hispanic spouses; and the percentage is slightly higher among college-educated Hispanic women (35%). There is a curious, and provocative fact buried in all this. The Population Reference Bureau notes in its 2005 study of intermarriage that, because most children of intermarriages are reported as Hispanic on Census data, "Hispanic intermarriage may have been a factor in the phenomenal growth of the U.S. Hispanic population in recent years, and it has important implications for future growth and characteristics of the Hispanic population." In other words, the widely cited prediction that by mid-century Hispanics will represent fully one third of the U.S. population fails to take into account that increasing numbers of these so-called Hispanics will have only one grandparent or great-grandparent of Hispanic heritage. At which point Hispanic ethnicity will mean little more than German, Italian or Irish ethnicity does today.

Ms. Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and the author of a number of books, including "Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation" (Basic Books, 1991).
27952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: June 05, 2007, 07:48:37 AM

Our Soviet Health System
June 5, 2007; Page A22

When my Labrador retriever became acutely lame, we were able to locate a veterinary orthopedic expert in Atlanta within 48 hours who was able to repair a ruptured tendon within one week. But my prospects of identifying an endocrinologist who can care for my daughter's diabetes when she turns 18 are much less promising.

The limited number of endocrine specialists is a not a consequence of limited demand -- everyone is aware of the epidemic of diabetes we are facing. There are also shortages of generalists and other specialists, and the reason is the absence of market signals -- i.e., market-based prices -- for influencing the supply of physicians in various specialties.

The roots of this problem lay in the use of administrative pricing structures in medicine. The way prices are set in health care already distorts the appropriate allocation of efforts and resources in health care today. Unfortunately, many of the suggested reforms of our health care system -- including the various plans for universal care, or universal insurance, or a single-payer system, that various policy makers and Democratic presidential candidates espouse -- rest on the same unsound foundations, and will produce more of the same.

The essential problem is this. The pricing of medical care in this country is either directly or indirectly dictated by Medicare; and Medicare uses an administrative formula which calculates "appropriate" prices based upon imperfect estimates and fudge factors. Rather than independently calculate prices, private insurers in this country almost universally use Medicare prices as a framework to negotiate payments, generally setting payments for services as a percentage of the Medicare fee structure.

Many if not most administratively determined prices fail to take into consideration supply and demand. Unlike prices set on the market, errors are not self-correcting. That is why, despite an expanding cohort of patients with diabetes, thyroid disease and other endocrine disorders, the number of people entering this field is actually dropping. Young physicians are accurately reading inappropriate price signals.

In their book, "The Turning Point," Soviet economists Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov focused on key factors which undermined the economy during the communist era. They concluded that Goskomtsen, the agency responsible for setting prices, was simply incapable of setting and tracking prices on the myriad of goods and services under its purview.

The failures they describe sound disturbingly similar to challenges to Medicare described by Paul Ginsburg in "When the Price Isn't Right: How inadvertent payment incentives drive medical care" (Health Affairs, August 2005). Assessments as to the accuracy of pricing is always difficult, time consuming, costly, and more often than not, methodologically flawed. No matter which formulas and variables are used at any given moment, the information derived will generally be inaccurate; it will either be wrong to start or will be applied in the wrong context, or become dated so rapidly it is of little use.

Many prices will be too high or too low, and political forces tend to keep inappropriate prices in place -- specialists in fields with excessive payments will resist cuts, and there will not be enough specialists in low-paid fields to become an effective counterlobby. New physicians will react to existing prices, and so the misallocation of human resources will be self-perpetuating.

Nevertheless, those who control public policy, and public policy debates, treat pricing as something trivial -- the concern of bourgeois shop keepers peddling trinkets. Yet the dilemma of administrative pricing causes problems for the allocation of resources today that would only be amplified if the U.S. moves toward even more government intervention in health care than already exists. Where do prices come from, how do we know when they are right? If the prices set are mistaken -- result in a mismatch of supply and demand -- how are they to be corrected if pricing decisions are made in a political (bureaucratic) arena, and by the market (supply and demand)? These questions cannot be wished away.

One important lesson of the 20th century is that, while markets are far from perfect, more choices are available when people are able to use free markets to interact with each other. Markets may not get the prices exactly correct all the time, but they are capable of self-correction, a capacity that has yet to be demonstrated by administrative pricing.

It tells you something when the supply of and demand for specialist veterinary care is so easily matched when the prices of these services are established on the market -- while shortages and oversupplies are common for human medical care when the prices of these services are set by administrators in the public sector. Will health-care reformers -- and American citizens -- get the message?

Dr. Swerlick is associate professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.

27953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 05, 2007, 07:40:34 AM
No Pyrrhic Victory
Most of the conventional wisdom about the Six Day War is wrong.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

On the morning of June 5, 1967, a fleet of low-flying Israeli jets surprised the Egyptian air force on the ground and destroyed it. This act of military pre-emption helped save Israel from what Iraq's then-President Abdul Rahman Aref had called, only several days earlier, "our opportunity . . . to wipe Israel off the map." Yet 40 years later Israel's victory is widely seen as a Pyrrhic one--"a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors," according to a recent editorial in The Economist.

And the alternative was?

The Six Day War is supposed to be the great pivot on which the modern history of the Middle East hinges, the moment the Palestinian question came into focus and Israel went from being the David to the Goliath of the conflict. It's a reading of history that has the convenience of offering a political prescription: Rewind to the status quo ante June 5, arrange a peace deal, and the problems that have arisen since more or less go away. Or so the thinking goes.

Yet the striking fact is that all of Israel's peace agreements--with Egypt in 1979, with the Palestinians in 1993, with Jordan and Morocco in 1994--were achieved in the wake of the war. The Jewish state had gained territory; the Arab states wanted it back. Whatever else might be said for the land-for-peace formula, it's odd that the people who are its strongest advocates are usually the same ones who bemoan the apparent completeness of Israel's victory in 1967.

Great events have a way not only of reshaping the outlook for the future but also our understanding of the past, usually in the service of clarity. "Why England Slept" was an apt question to ask of Britain in the mid-1930s, but it made sense only after Sept. 1, 1939. By contrast, the Six Day War laid a thick fog over what came before. Today, the pre-1967 period is remembered (not least by many Israelis) as a time when the country's conscience was clear and respectable world opinion admired "plucky little Israel." Yet these were the same years when Israel lived within what Abba Eban, its dovish foreign minister, called "Auschwitz borders," with only nine miles separating the westernmost part of the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea.
It is also often said today that the Six Day War humiliated the Arabs and propelled the region into future rounds of fighting. Yet President Aref of Iraq had prefaced his call to destroy Israel by describing the war as the Arabs' chance "to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948." It is said that the war inaugurated the era of modern terrorism, as the Arab world switched from a strategy of conventional confrontation with Israel to one of "unconventional" attacks. Yet hundreds of Israelis had already been killed in fedayeen raids in Israel's first 19 years of existence.

It is said that the Palestinian movement was born from Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was already in its third year of operations when the war began. It is said that Israel enjoyed international legitimacy so long as it lived behind recognized frontiers. Yet those frontiers were no less provisional before 1967 than they were after. Only after the Six Day War did the Green Line come to be seen as the "real" border.

Fog also surrounds memories of the immediate aftermath of the war. To read some recent accounts, a more sagacious Israel could have followed up its historic victory with peace overtures that would have spared everyone the bloody entanglements of its occupation of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Or, failing that, it could have resisted the lure of building settlements in the territories in order not to complicate a land-for-peace transaction.

In fact, the Israeli cabinet agreed on June 19 to offer the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace deals. In Khartoum that September, the Arab League declared "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." As for Jewish settlements, hardly any were built for years after the war: In 1972, for instance, only about 800 settlers had moved to the West Bank.

It's true that the war caused Israel to lose friends abroad. "Le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur" ("the Jewish people, sure of themselves and domineering") was Charles de Gaulle's memorable line in announcing, in November 1967, that France would no longer supply Israel militarily. Such were the Jewish state's former friends.

On the other hand, Israel gained new friends. The U.S., whose declared policy during the war was to be "neutral in thought, word and deed," would never again pretend such indifference, something that made all the difference to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Tens of thousands of American and European Jews immigrated to Israel after 1967, sensing it was a country not on the brink of extinction. Christian evangelicals also became Israel's firm friends, expanding the political base of American support beyond its traditionally narrow, Jewish-Democratic core.

None of this is to say that the Six Day War was an unalloyed (or unironic) blessing for Israel. By gaining control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel swapped its old territorial insecurities for new demographic ones. As Palestinian numbers grew, Israel's efforts to find a new strategic equilibrium--first through negotiations with the PLO, later through unilateral withdrawals--became increasingly frenetic. Who knows whether they will succeed.
Then again, when the sun rose on June 5, 1967, Israel was a poor, desperately vulnerable country, which threw the dice on its own survival in the most audacious military strike of the 20th century. It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, sure in its alliance with the U.S. and capable of making concessions inconceivable 40 years ago. If these are the fruits of Israel's "Pyrrhic victory," it needs more such of them.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
27954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 05, 2007, 07:28:42 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Meltdown of the Musharraf State

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Monday amended laws governing the country's electronic media, GEO television reported. Musharraf empowered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to block transmissions, suspend licenses, confiscate equipment and seal the buildings of electronic media organizations deemed in violation of PEMRA regulations. This, combined with the ongoing political crisis, has increased the number of protests in Pakistan. The same day Musharraf also chaired a special meeting of the National Security Council, during which he discussed ways and means of dealing with the increasingly deteriorating crisis of governance.

Thus far all the steps taken by the Musharraf government to fix the growing political instability have backfired, and even have made matters worse. For the most part, this outcome is the result of serious miscalculations. This is not altogether surprising because Musharraf is now relying on a small circle of bureaucratic advisers, and is no longer listening to his political allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML).

However, not heeding the PML's advice might not have major consequences, since it is the party that is dependent on Musharraf for its position of power. But Musharraf is critically dependent on the military's support to ensure his regime's continuity. This is why Musharraf on June 1 called an emergency meeting of the corps commanders and army's agency heads, during which the top generals reportedly expressed complete support for the president.

During this meeting Musharraf made use of the increasingly loud criticisms of the military's domination of the state. He was able to convince the generals that the government's opponents are not just out to force the country's military chief from power, but also want the military establishment to lose control of the political system.

In this regard, Musharraf also exploited the recent release of the new book "Military, Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy," authored by Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani political and military analyst. Siddiqa's book, which provides a detailed account of the military's hold over Pakistan's economic system, has further fueled the public ire against the military's domination of the country. As a result the government scrambled to torpedo the launching ceremony of the book and has accused the author of spreading lies and of being an enemy of the state. There are reports that Siddiqa is being intimidated by intelligence officials.

Taking all of this into account, the generals are currently rallying around Musharraf and are saying they will support his efforts to do all that is necessary to remedy the faltering situation. But they, more than anyone else, know that the need to hold such a special meeting indicates a weakness in Musharraf's position.

Therefore, the generals will be watching the situation more closely than ever and will be considering contingency plans as the political temperature rises in the coming weeks. Then, if needed, they can intervene and force Musharraf to step down in order to avoid risking an ugly confrontation on the streets.

For now, the generals figure the anti-Musharraf movement, though growing in size, lacks direction, organization and critical mass because the main opposition parties remain divided. Put differently, they believe their interests can still be secured through a compromise involving the reinstatement of the chief justice, and perhaps even with Musharraf assuming the role of a civilian president. But Musharraf does not believe he can both compromise and sustain power, which is why he has decided to tough it out in an effort to get past the re-election in September.

The generals would prefer a situation in which they are not forced to move against Musharraf because they know such a situation does not necessarily help them salvage the position of the institution. Having Musharraf step down could land them in a situation in which the new military leadership would be forced to negotiate a new civil-military power-sharing mechanism with the political forces, and from a position of relative weakness. Part of this has to do with the fact that Musharraf has been reshuffling the military deck so much that most of the top generals have not had much experience in dealing with national politics.

But when the generals know things have reached a point of no return, they will act; this could happen before the end of summer depending on how fast events progress. The prevention of news broadcasts and political talk shows deemed critical of the government on private television channels could prove to be one key step in that direction. Because of the immense popularity of these private channels, the anti-Musharraf movement is likely to gain greater momentum -- and rapidly.

The growing public unrest will only get worse because the government is determined to deal with the situation by cracking down. Unless Musharraf reverses course and opts for the path of accommodation with his opponents -- both among the political parties and with civil society -- it is quite feasible that the unrest, which is expected to peak around the time of the presidential vote in September, could surge earlier. Even his key civilian partner, the PML, is starting to show signs of hemorrhaging, indicating that it might not be possible for Musharraf to secure a second term.
27955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 05, 2007, 07:27:09 AM

Realists on Iraq
Democratic presidential candidates should listen to the "experts" they so often cite.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

During Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate, the candidates cited an oft-repeated source of the mess in Iraq: The White House's refusal to heed knowledgeable advice.

Indeed, it has often been said that the president got into Iraq because he disregarded advice from the true regional experts: foreign-policy "realists" who put together the Gulf War I coalition and counseled President George H.W. Bush against regime change; "moderate" Sunni Arab Governments; and the U.S. intelligence community.

But what if today these groups were actually advising against an American withdrawal?

Consider Brent Scowcroft, dean of the Realist School, who openly opposed the war from the outset and was a lead skeptic of the president's democracy-building agenda. In a recent Financial Times interview, he succinctly summed up the implication of withdrawal: "The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution."
And here is retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Centcom Commander and a vociferous critic of the what he sees as the administration's naive and one-sided policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East: "When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don't have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq."

A number of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors also opposed the war as well as the U.S. push for liberalizing the region's authoritarian governments. Yet they now backchannel the same two priorities to Washington: Do not let Iran acquire nukes, and do not withdraw from Iraq.

A senior Gulf Cooperation Council official told me that "If America leaves Iraq, America will have to return. Soon. It will not be a clean break. It will not be a permanent goodbye. And by the time America returns, we will have all been drawn in. America will have to stabilize more than just Iraq. The warfare will have spread to other countries, governments will be overthrown. America's military is barely holding on in Iraq today. How will it stabilize 'Iraq Plus'?" (Iraq Plus is the term that some leaders in Arab capitals use to describe the region following a U.S. withdrawal.)

I heard similar warnings made repeatedly on a recent trip to almost every capital in the Persian Gulf--to some of America's closest allies and hosts of our military.

Likewise, withdrawal proponents cite career U.S. intelligence professionals as war skeptics, and not without basis. Yet here is what the U.S. intelligence community predicted in its National Intelligence Estimate early this year: "Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq. . . .

"If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi Security Forces would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution: neighboring countries--invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally--might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; al Qaida in Iraq would attempt to use parts of the country--particularly al-Anbar province--to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion."

If the presidential candidates go on a listening tour, it's important to consider one additional group: A number of Western reporters who have spent the past few years in Iraq.

The White House has actually been inviting Baghdad bureau reporters to the Oval Office--however belatedly--so the president can hear their observations. One of them is John Burns of the New York Times. He won Pulitzers for his coverage in Bosnia and Afghanistan before throwing himself full-bore into Iraq. This is how he described the stakes of withdrawal on "The Charlie Rose Show" recently:

"Friends of mine who are Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd--all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we're seeing now. It's really difficult to imagine that that would happen . . . without Iran becoming involved from the east, without the Saudis, who have already said in that situation that they would move in to help protect the Sunni minority in Iraq.

"It's difficult to see how this could go anywhere but into a much wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world's flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there's complete chaos in the region? . . . It just seems to me that the consequences are endless, endless."

Earlier on the same program, Mr. Burns laid out his own version of Iraq Plus. "If you pull out now, and catastrophe ensues, then it is very likely that the United States would have to come back in circumstances which, of course, would be even less favorable, one might imagine, than the ones that now confront American troops here."

It would be one thing if only the architects of the Bush policy and their die-hard supporters opposed withdrawal. But four separate groups of knowledgeable critics--three of whom opposed going into Iraq--now describe the possible costs of withdrawal as very high.
If the Realists, neighboring Arab regimes, our intelligence community and some of the most knowledgeable reporters all say such a course could be disastrous, on what basis are the withdrawal advocates taking their position?

The American people are understandably frustrated with Iraq. But this does not mean they will be satisfied with politicians who support a path that could make matters much worse.

Mr. Senor, a former foreign policy advisor to the Bush administration, was based in Baghdad from April 2003 through June 2004. He is a founding partner of Rosemont Capital.
27956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Melting Pot on: June 05, 2007, 07:08:18 AM
IMHO, this piece glosses over the significance of the danger of the disconcerting large minority who believe in terrorism, jihad, etc., but it does make valid points as well.

Muslim Melting Pot
Once again, America beats Europe on assimilation.

Monday, June 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Against the backdrop of civil war, Abraham Lincoln stirred Americans by appealing to their "better angels." Now some of those angels appear in an unprecedented study about Muslims in the United States--and they may show us how to prevent civil war in Europe.

"Muslim Americans," released by the Pew Research Center, contains moments of bad news. For example, one in four respondents under the age of 30 accepts suicide bombing. As a reformed-minded Muslim, I say that honoring any religion of peace through violence is like preserving virginity through pre-marital sex. Think about it.

But the Pew report offers a lot more good news. Political Islam has not caught on in America as it has in Europe because most Muslims in the U.S. are--dare it be said--treated with dignity.

The vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as "pretty happy" or "very happy." Which means lobbyists do not speak for Muslim Americans when they cry that the U.S. hates Islam.

In Berlin recently, an audience buzzed nervously when I suggested that Europe can learn from America about integrating Muslims. Afterwards, several people confided to me that they know the U.S. is getting something right. What is that something? As I engage with young Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic, I see three factors: economics, diversity and faith.
• For plenty of Muslims in the United States, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. "can make it if they are willing to work hard."

Meanwhile, in Europe, young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the Web for preachers who spew a rigid identity. This is the path that led Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

• In much of America, diversity is a reason to intermingle. The Pew study reveals that most Muslims are close friends with non-Muslims.

In much of Europe, diversity has become an excuse to self-segregate. Many of Europe's mosques, and the Muslims who attend them, refuse to communicate in the language of their new surroundings. As a result, young Muslim men drift away from moderate religious authorities and fall for online opportunists. That is how Mohammad Sidique Khan, mastermind of the London transit bombers, fell under the sway of "Sheikh Google," the collective nickname for Islamist Web sites.

• To Americans, it is not the fact of having faith that invites scrutiny, but what one is perceived to be doing with that faith. Western Europeans, still steeped in a backlash against the Catholic Church, often show suspicion or outright contempt to people of faith. Such "secular fundamentalism" leads some Muslims to believe that they will never be accepted by their adopted countries. So why integrate?

Small wonder that young Muslims in Western Europe whisper to me, "I wish I lived in the United States." The honesty doesn't end there. Muslim men, in their twenties, have complained to me that in an effort to appear sensitive, Europeans downplay shared values. This confuses many Muslim youth and creates a vacuum that radical clerics can exploit.

Translation: A common aspiration such as the American Dream is crucial to giving Muslims a sense of belonging to something larger and more dynamic than cultural enclaves.

But what about the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay? The answer always comes back that these are unfortunate and unjust exceptions. In America, they say, you can be more than a Muslim. You are a member of the wider public.

Naïve? Not according to the Pew study. More than half of Muslims in the U.S. identify themselves as Americans first, easily eclipsing patriotism among Muslims in Germany, Spain or Britain. Clearly, the U.S. has retained its genius as a nation of immigrants.

To be sure, there is a long way to go in giving non-immigrant Muslims, especially African-Americans, a sense of belonging. Most are not among the better educated, wealthier and politically influential Americans that so many South Asian, Iranian and Arab Muslims are.
However, that gap is the product of America's persistent racial battle. It has almost nothing to do with a fear of Islam.

For the all the slogans, accusations and fulminations of the Islam industry's lobbyists, fear is not what mainstream Americans feel about Muslims. Just ask the 73% of Muslims who told Pew that they have never been discriminated against in the U.S.

Europe, take notes. America, take a break from self-flagellation. Reformist Muslims, take your cue. In the U.S., you have the possibility of a voice. Islam's better angels depend on it.

Ms. Manji, a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, is author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (St. Martin's, 2005).
27957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR unindicted co-conspirator on: June 05, 2007, 07:01:35 AM
Islamic Groups Named in Hamas Funding Case

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 4, 2007

Federal prosecutors have named three prominent Islamic organizations in America as participants in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.

Prosecutors applied the label of "unindicted co-conspirator" to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the North American Islamic Trust in connection with a trial planned in Texas next month for five officials of a defunct charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

While the foundation was charged in the case, which was filed in 2004, none of the other groups was. However, the co-conspirator designation could be a blow to the credibility of the national Islamic organizations, which often work hand-in-hand with government officials engaged in outreach to the Muslim community.

A court filing by the government last week listed the three prominent groups among about 300 individuals or entities named as co-conspirators. The document gave scant details, but prosecutors described CAIR as a present or past member of "the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee and/or its organizations." The government listed the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust as "entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood."

The secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, Muneer Fareed, said his group was surprised to be named in the Texas case. "I can tell you categorically that the current administration of ISNA, as well as its stakeholders, they have no connection to my knowledge with any Holy Land foundations," he said.

Mr. Fareed denied his group has any ties to Hamas, though he said it is difficult to police all 300 mosques under his umbrella. "We might have a kid whose dad was president of Hamas for all I know," he said. "How do you verify these things?"

The Islamic official expressed frustration at the lack of detail in the prosecution's filing. "Perhaps there's some evidence. I just don't really know what it is," he said.

Spokesmen for CAIR did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday. Efforts to contact the North American Islamic Trust were unsuccessful.

The identification of the alleged co-conspirators could aid prosecutors when the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulraham Odeh, go to trial on July 16 in Dallas. Statements by and about co-conspirators are exempt from rules barring hearsay.

Judge A. Joe Fish will have to decide whether to accept the government's description of the alleged conspiracy.

The practice of publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators is frowned on by some in the legal community, chiefly because there is no trial or other mechanism for those named to challenge their designation. Justice Department guidelines discourage the public identification of unindicted co-conspirators by the government.

"In all public filings and proceedings, federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties," the Justice Department's manual for prosecutors says. When co-conspirator lists have to be filed in court, prosecutors should seek to file them under seal, the guidelines say.

In practice, the lists are often made public. A list of co-conspirators was released in connection with the federal trial in 2005 of a former college professor, Sami Al-Arian, on terrorism support charges. However, when Enron executives went on trial last year, the list of alleged co-conspirators was kept under seal. Prosecutors on the Holy Land Foundation case could not be reached yesterday and did not respond to an e-mail.

The inclusion of the Islamic groups on the list of alleged conspirators could give ammunition to critics of the organizations. CAIR, in particular, has faced persistent claims that it is soft on terrorism. Critics note that several former CAIR officials have been convicted or deported after being charged with fraud, embargo violations, or aiding terrorist training. Spokesmen for the group have also raised eyebrows for offering generic denunciations of terrorism but refusing to condemn by name specific Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah.

In addition, one of the Holy Land Foundation defendants, Ghassan Elashi, founded CAIR's Texas chapter. CAIR's Washington office was also set up in 1994 with $5,000 in seed money from the foundation, according to congressional testimony by a researcher into Islamic extremism, Steven Emerson.

Last year, Senator Boxer of California, a Democrat, withdrew an award she gave to an official at a local CAIR chapter. She said she had concerns about statements by some CAIR officials and about claims of financial links to terrorism. Many FBI officials meet regularly with CAIR representatives and clerics from the Islamic Society of North America.

A New York Times article published in March said unidentified government officials believed that the criticism of CAIR was unwarranted. A former FBI official, Michael Rolince, said yesterday that the co-conspirator designation might prompt CAIR to be more direct in denouncing terrorism but was no reason to cut off all contact with the group.

"People could say the same thing about the FBI. They're not all choirboys," he said. "We don't go into this with blinders on."

Separately, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Steve McGonigle, is fighting the prosecution's efforts to call him as a witness at the Holy Land Foundation trial.

In filing to quash the subpoena last week, Mr. McGonigle said prosecutors want to question him about an interview that he conducted in 1999 with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004, denied any connection between Holy Land Foundation and Hamas.

However, Mr. McGonigle reported that records showed that the foundation sometimes singled out the families of Hamas "martyrs" for assistance.

Mr. McGonigle's lawyer said his client could be targeted by terrorists if he forced to testify. "A journalist who is perceived to have acted as an agent for the U.S. Government will almost inevitably be placed at a substantially greater risk when on assignment in the Middle East," the attorney, Paul Watler, wrote.
27958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gay Conjugal Visits in CA Prisons on: June 05, 2007, 06:08:27 AM
NY Times

Gay Inmates to Be Granted Conjugal Visits in California

Published: June 3, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 — Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.

The policy comes more than two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, including those of the same sex and non-married heterosexuals. Gay and civil rights groups had threatened to sue to permit the conjugal visits in prisons, which they say have been slow to enact changes promised by the law.

“It’s a little troubling that a state agency had to be threatened with legal action to obey state law,” said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights organization. “There was no justifiable excuse for not complying.”

Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the slow pace of change was due, in part, to considerations of whether allowing the visits would expose gay inmates to danger inside the prison, where they are sometimes singled out for attack. “We had to thoroughly evaluate all the security concerns,” Ms. Thornton said.

The policy change was spurred by a letter warning of legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Vernon Foeller, 40, a gay man who had been serving a 20-month sentence for attempted burglary at the state prison in Vacaville, Calif. Alex Cleghorn, an AC.L.U. lawyer, said that Mr. Foeller was eligible for a conjugal visit except that the prison system “didn’t recognize his partner as a family member.”

“They have pages and pages of regulations that must be met to permit these visits,” Mr. Cleghorn said, “and Vernon met all of these requirements.”

Mr. Foeller was released in April.

Overnight visits, which can be up to 72 hours long, have been allowed in California since the 1970s, Ms. Thornton said, and are conducted in units inside prison grounds, often trailers. While suggestive of sexual activity, the visits sometimes include several family members, including children.

“It’s not exclusive to conjugal activities,” Ms. Thornton said.

Gay and lesbian inmates were not allowed visits from their partners because only spouses were recognized as “immediate family.”

Several categories of inmate are not allowed the visits, including those on death row, sex offenders, those serving sentences of life without parole, and those who have been violent with minors or family members. Prisoners also must have been on good behavior, with no violations.

The new policy will allow only those currently registered as domestic partners to ask for the visits, and affirms that no prisoners will be allowed overnight visits with other prisoners, regardless of status.

Only a handful of states — including New York — allow conjugal visits, which some prison officials say can help reduce the stress of prison life and maintain prisoners’ connections to their families. Critics, however, have cited a variety of reasons to oppose the visits, including the potential for spreading sexually transmitted diseases and the additional cost of maintaining separate conjugal prison quarters.

Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, called the policy change a “great leap forward” but said gay and lesbian inmates were often still the target of discrimination and violence.

“There are certain social arenas that have been insulated from social changes going on in broader society, and jails and prisons is one of those areas,” Mr. Minter said.

California has a ban on same-sex marriage, although that law has been the subject of legal battles. The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the law’s constitutionality as part of a suit brought by the City of San Francisco and a group of gay and lesbian couples.

The policy change must be approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law before taking effect, most likely later this year.

27959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 04, 2007, 08:39:17 PM
Towards a 21st Century Governing Majority

I am giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday that is so central to where America needs to go if we're going to win the future for our children and grandchildren that I wanted to preview it for you today. I also want to urge you to find out more at the AEI website and to watch it at American Solutions, where you can sign up to get an e-mail reminder here.

We are still more than 500 days from the 2008 elections, but one thing is clear: There will be a future governing majority, and its three key principles can already be defined. What is not clear, however, is whether this next governing majority will be led by Republicans or Democrats.

First, New Deal Democrats, Then Reagan/Contract With America Republicans

From 1932 to 1980, the Democrats clearly led the governing coalition. Republican Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all operated within the world created by the New Deal and FDR.

Then in 1980, President Reagan broke with that pattern and launched a substantial shift in the core principles of American public policy. Under Reagan, defeating the Soviet Union replaced containing it, cutting taxes replaced government redistribution, and pride in American civilization replaced the left's hostility toward American values.

The 1994 Contract with America deepened and extended the Reagan initiative. The Contract expanded the Republican governing majority through welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced budget for four consecutive years, paying off $405 billion in debt and enacting term limits for committee chairmen. Republicans controlled the House for more than two years for the first time since 1928, and Republican control of governorships and state legislatures was deepened.

And Then Came Six Years of Republicans' Failing to Perform

The last six years, however, have been a different story. They have been too often punctuated with examples of performance failures that have effectively ended the current attempt at forging a Republican governing majority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff encapsulated this inability to get the job done when he recently said that the disastrous new immigration bill "bows to reality." In other words: It's too hard, so why not concede defeat and give up securing the border and enforcing the law.

But we hire leaders to change reality to fit our values, not to change our values to fit their failures.

I don't know what "reality" Secretary Chertoff lives in, but the reality of the vast majority of the American people is one of growing distrust of their leaders and growing disgust with the ways things are being done in Washington.

We value limited, effective government, but the reality we get is the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.

We value lower taxes and living within our means, but the reality we get is out-of-control spending on congressional pet projects.

We value enforcing our laws, but our reality is a Senate-sanctioned order to keep local police in the dark about the legal status of those they arrest.

We value protecting our homeland, but our reality is a federal bureaucracy that allows a man with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis to enter the country -- after a U.S. border guard ignored a warning that he was so dangerous he had to be approached wearing bio-protective gear. And our reality is the discovery of three terrorists in New Jersey who had been in the U.S. illegally for 23 years and charged 75 times by the police without being identified as having no legal right to be in the United States in the first place.

The Principles of a New Governing Majority

It is quite clear that the next governing majority -- a 21st Century governing majority -- will be required to have the following three major characteristics to be a successful and lasting majority.

Represent the Values of the People: It will represent the vast majority of the American people in their key values and beliefs (see below for some examples);

Be Accountable to the Standards of the People: It will insist on a government that is metrics-based, constantly measuring results and changing strategies, policies, bureaucracies and personnel until it actually succeeds in meeting the values, expectations and demands of the American people. A 21st Century government will join the best of the private sector in offering more choices of higher quality at lower cost and with greater convenience; and

Protect the Lives of the People: It will insist on protecting America and her allies from the threat of the irreconcilable wing of Islam as well as resurgent Russian aggressiveness and the challenge of Chinese economic and scientific development.

Which Party Will It Be?

While either party could become the next governing majority, each has some major hurdles to becoming that majority.

The Democrats are in a better tactical position, because they are the opposition party at a time of public disenchantment with the performance of the Republicans in government.

But the values of the Left, the interest groups of government and the grip of the 20th Century systems of bureaucracy make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to propose effective solutions to how we govern ourselves. It is a better-than-even possibility that Democrats can win the presidency in 2008 but a very limited possibility that they could propose the kind of change that would be necessary to form a governing majority.

Republicans Are in a Bad Tactical Spot, But a Good Strategic One

The Republicans have a bad tactical situation, but they are strategically in an easier place than Democrats. Once Republicans get out from under the current performance problems, they could more easily adopt the favored policies of the vast majority of Americans and advocate the transformation of government and the protection of the United States from a broad set of dangers.

It is unlikely that any new Republican attempts to create a natural governing majority could evolve rapidly enough to be offered as a compelling choice to the American people in the 2008 election. But the election of Sarkozy in France shows that it is possible to produce a decisive national decision in favoring of moving toward more conservative reform -- in spite of the performance failures of the incumbent from the same party -- when combined with an ideological failure on the left and an offering of bold solutions and bold leadership from a newly defined right.

'That Government of the People, by the People, and for the People Shall Not Perish From the Earth'

My speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute will address this battle to create America's next governing majority in the context of President Lincoln's charge at Gettysburg:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The speech will examine:

How government of the people is in danger of being replaced by an iron triangle of tax-funded incumbents, interest group lobbyists and powerful bureaucracies;

How government of the people and by the people is being threatened by the anti-free speech law of McCain-Feingold and other anti-citizen efforts to strangle public dissent; and

How government for the people is being replaced by government for the bureaucracies, government for the public-employee unions and government for the trial lawyers.

Restoring 'Government of the People': Making English the Official Language of the United States

The opposition in Congress to making English the official language of the United States is a near perfect example of the failure of the current leadership in Washington to adopt a deeply held value of the American people. Eighty-five percent of Americans want the federal government to join with 30 states in making English the official language of the United States, and yet our elites consider the adoption of this value as a distraction or worse.

Consider last night's Democratic presidential debate. When asked for a show of hands, former Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel was the only candidate to express support for English. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said that the question "is designed precisely to divide us" and that "when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people." If 85% of Americans support English as the official language of government, the only division is between Sen. Obama and the American people.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton responded that she supported English as the "national" language but not the "official" language of the United States, since making English the official language would prevent the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

It seems that only liberals can possibly see 85% support for a deeply held American value as divisive and only liberals think it is acceptable to express support for English as long as it does not actually have any meaning, such as ending the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

Only a Mass Movement Can Break the Power of the Entrenched Special Interests

The power of the entrenched special interests in Washington, in many state capitals, and in city and county government is such that only a mass movement comparable to the Jeffersonians, the Jacksonians, and the Lincoln Republicans and Progressives could break the hold of the entrenched power structure.

Three are three reasons to believe this mass movement is growing:

First, the gap between the values of the elite on the left and the values of the vast majority of Americans is growing wider. Ninety-one percent of all Americans favor the right to say "One Nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Eighty-nine percent believe American workers should have the right to a secret ballot election before being forced to join a union. Ninety-three percent believe Americans should know the price and quality of healthcare before making a decision about it. Eighty-five percent believe English should be the official language of government. The list goes on and on. Certainly, any 21st Century governing majority will be center-right in its values and policies.

Second, the gap between the world that works (largely but not entirely private sector) and the world that fails (largely but not entirely government bureaucracy) is growing wider and wider. In the 21st Century private sector, we routinely expect MORE choices of LOWER cost with HIGHER quality and GREATER convenience. But in government we continue to be told about higher taxes, slower implementation, greater error rates and "hard choices." A 21st Century governing majority will be allied with the American people in insisting on the delivery standard of the world that works being applied to the government systems that currently fail.

Third, as the world visibly grows more dangerous, the natural desire of the American people to be protected will reassert itself. The implementation failures in Iraq combined with the Bush Administration's inarticulateness have led to a temporary resurgence of the "Peace at Any Price" Left. But this will rapidly disintegrate as the problems of the modern world persist. Cyber attacks on Estonia, Chinese activities in space, Russian assertiveness against Lithuania and Poland, Iranian seizure of American hostages, the six terrorists in New Jersey and the four terrorists who were planning to blow up the jet fuel at JFK airport in New York are early indicators that any future governing majority will have a very strong national and homeland security component.

I will explore all these ideas in my speech at AEI on Friday, June 8. I hope you'll join me. And then, all these concepts will be expanded into practical, workable solutions in the American Solutions "Solutions Day" workshops on September 27 and 29. It's going to be the start of a great and meaningful adventure. I hope you'll choose to be a part of it.


27960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 04, 2007, 08:34:30 PM
The JFK Airport Plot and the Caribbean Connection
U.S. and Guyanese authorities were still searching June 4 for a fourth suspect wanted in connection with an alleged plot to blow up jet fuel pipelines and storage tanks at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport. Although a serious flaw in the plot made the threat far smaller than the suspects apparently planned, the case does highlight the link between jihadism and the Caribbean islands -- and the effectiveness of jihadist propaganda.

Federal investigators charged four Muslims and arrested three -- two in New York and one in Trinidad and Tobago -- on June 2 in connection with the plot. One of the suspects in custody in New York, Guyana-born U.S. citizen Russell Defreitas, was employed at the airport until 1995 as a cargo handler, a position that would have allowed him to gain knowledge of the security and fuel-transfer systems. Another suspect arrested in New York, Kareem Ibrahim, is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, while a third suspect, Abdul Kadir, a former member of Guyana's parliament, is in custody in Trinidad and Tobago. The fourth alleged member of the cell, Abdel Nur, is believed to be at large in Guyana. The U.S. Justice Department described cell members as Islamists who, although they reached out to Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), an Islamist group in Trinidad and Tobago, have no known ties to al Qaeda.

Although the arrests occurred after more than a year of surveillance, the plot reportedly was still early in the planning stage, and the cell still had not obtained explosives. Therefore, although the plotters were serious -- the plan apparently called for massive explosions at the airport -- they did not present an immediate threat. According to investigators, authorities acted against the cell because Kadir was about to leave for Iran, where keeping tabs on him would have been impossible.

The arrests, however, highlight the Caribbean islands' connections to jihadists. Some significant links between the region and jihadists already have been demonstrated, the most notable being Adnan El Shukrijumah, an alleged al Qaeda militant who was born in Saudi Arabia, lived in Guyana and has strong ties to Trinidad. Also, Germaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers involved in the July 2005 attack against London's mass transit system, was born in Jamaica. Authorities in Trinidad say Kadir and Nur are associated with JAM, which was involved in a 1990 coup attempt in that country that resulted in 24 deaths.

The Caribbean shares some similar characteristics with some other regions where jihadism has taken root, including much of the Middle East, Indonesia and East Africa. Although many Caribbean countries are wealthy (Trinidad and Tobago is a major oil producer), their often-corrupt governments siphon off much of the wealth and fail to provide adequate social services, leaving much of their populations poor and living in substandard conditions. Moreover, although the islands' Muslim populations are not large -- Trinidad and Tobago is about 6 percent Muslim, for example -- these communities are active.

Because it is a popular tourist destination, the Caribbean has well-developed transportation links to and from the United States. Someone making frequent trips to and from the resorts, therefore, would not arouse as much suspicion from intelligence and law enforcement agencies as, say, someone making frequent trips to Pakistan. This access, along with the Caribbean's confidential banking systems, allows for the easy transfer of funds, as well as for money laundering.

However, unlike places like Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, where militant groups have been able to operate freely in remote, sparsely populated areas, the Caribbean islands are small and populous. The almost small-town-like environment makes it difficult for large, complex militant organizations to operate undetected. Furthermore, most Caribbean governments are not hostile to Washington, which wields significant political and financial influence in the region. This influence, then, makes it easy for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to operate on the islands.

The JFK plot does highlight the effectiveness of al Qaeda's propaganda, which is inspiring autonomous grassroots cells to act with little or no contact with anyone even close to the core of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and other militant groups have posted a steady stream of videos and messages on the Internet calling for Muslims to act on their own against the West. This has been effective in inspiring impromptu militant cells in Europe and the United States, most recently involving Fort Dix, N.J..

Even if the alleged plotters had succeeded in carrying out the attack, though, it likely would not have been as destructive as they had hoped. In the United States, most turbine-powered civilian aircraft use a fuel called Jet A, which is harder to set ablaze in the open air than AvGas, which is commonly used in piston-powered general-aviation aircraft. Although Jet A was a poor choice for the plotters' purposes, their tactic was sound. Had they chosen a location where AvGas could be used to cause explosions, the potential destruction would have been greater. Experienced militants who had done better research and target selection would have known better than to target Jet A tanks and pipelines.

While the Caribbean is an unlikely place for militant training camps and bases, it can produce recruits and be a transit point for the global jihadist movement.
27961  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 04, 2007, 08:10:51 PM

Venezuela: Chavez Fans the Political Flames
June 04, 2007 22 06  GMT


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said June 3 that the student protests following his refusal to renew Radio Caracas Television's (RCTV) contract were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive and should be revised. Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) should form a federation of republics. Though the president is influential enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said during his weekly radio address June 3 that the student protests that followed his refusal to renew the contract of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive of foreign influence on public dissent and should be revised. In the same address, Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is made up of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, should form a federation of republics.

Though Chavez is strong enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the student protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators, which originally dealt only with the issue of RCTV, into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador, which is not a member of ALBA but has been considering joining.

As expected, Chavez halted RCTV's public broadcasts May 27 despite large protests. In Stratfor's first discussion of the issue it was suggested that, having failed to save RCTV, opposition groups would drop their campaign, at least for awhile. However, we did not anticipate that Chavez would fan the flames by claiming the students are being funded by the United States' Albert Einstein Institution as part of a U.S. attempt to destabilize the country, much as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) did during Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

Student protesters are notorious for their ideological immaturity, rowdiness and copious amounts of free time, and they rarely are taken seriously as a political movement. The RCTV protesters are no more powerful than most; however, they likely will resent the accusation that they are acting on behalf of a foreign influence -- particularly the United States. Instead of simply ignoring the students, Chavez has poured salt on a wound that was likely to go away on its own. This could sustain the protesters' anger and turn them into a more serious opposition group. Though the students are unlikely to pose an immediate threat to Chavez, the movement could strengthen opposition to the president's proposed constitutional reforms.

Chavez's comments that the current constitution is too "permissive" carry dire implications for the funding, personnel and activities of NGOs in Venezuela, particularly those with U.S. ties. Chavez's reference to the Orange Revolution, which was spurred by several of the country's NGOs, could indicate a coming crackdown on such organizations in Venezuela.

The president did not provide many details on how he wants ALBA, a regional Chavez fan club that was formed in response to the United States' proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, to become a federation of republics. The organization will hold a ministerial meeting June 6, so it is possible Chavez will elaborate on his proposal then. The idea is unlikely to please Venezuelans, who already are complaining that Chavez devotes too much attention to international events and not enough to problems at home. It also is unlikely to please residents of other ALBA countries, many of whom are concerned that Chavez has too much influence over their leaders.

Taken together, Chavez's recent announcements could even compel Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to further distance themselves from the Venezuelan president. Both Bolivia and Ecuador are in the midst of instituting their own constitutional reforms -- partially inspired by the Venezuelan effort that resulted in the 1999 constitution. Morales is seeking to overcome lowland opposition to his reforms, and Correa is trying to push forward his agenda while reassuring businesses that Ecuador will continue to be a relatively stable environment in which they can turn a profit. The last thing they need is for their respective oppositions to accuse them of following a leader who clamps down on civil liberties and attempts to subjugate their sovereignty for his regional vision.

Though Chavez's moves likely will backfire in the short term, they might not be a total miscalculation. It is possible Chavez is attempting to regain symbolic control of the domestic and regional agenda by acting aggressively. At home, the student protests have made headlines, and he likely felt the need to cast doubt on the idea that this is a homegrown movement. Abroad, Brazil has successfully reached out to the region via its ethanol diplomacy; stymied the Banco del Sur; criticized the RCTV closure; and is preventing Venezuela from co-opting Mercosur as a forum for Chavez's regional ambitions. These events likely convinced Chavez that he cannot rely on Brazil or Mercosur to be the seed for his vision of an integrated Latin America, and he needs to focus on further developing ALBA.

As such, Chavez is turning back to his tried-and-true method of using the United States as a scapegoat, and he is looking to his longtime allies to further his vision for Latin American integration. But he might be unpleasantly surprised to find that such actions are increasingly seen by his supporters
27962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: June 04, 2007, 09:47:20 AM
In my humble opinion, one of the most fundamental and difficult questions of modern life is what to do with the sexual energy prior to its biological purpose of reproduction.  Not only has the length of time between sexual maturity and reproduction reached extraordinary lengths (often decades!) but the sexual act itself can be separated from reproductive consequences.

Here is one approach:


Iranian Minister Calls for Temporary Marriages to Fulfill Sexual Desires

Sunday, June 03, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's hard-line interior minister is encouraging temporary marriages as a way to avoid extramarital sex, a stance many in this conservative country fear would instead encourage prostitution.

A temporary marriage, or "sigheh," refers to a Shiite Muslim tradition under which a man and a woman sign a contract that allows them to be "married" for any length of time, even a few hours. An exchange of money, as a sort of dowry, is often involved.

Although the practice exists, it's not very common in Iran, a Shiite majority nation where many consider it a license for prostitution. Others, however, have advocated institutionalizing the tradition, saying it would help fight "illicit" sex in a country where sexual relations outside marriage are banned under Islamic law.
"Temporary marriage is God's rule. We must aggressively encourage that," state-run television quoted Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi as saying.

The minister, who made his comments Thursday, was the first Iranian official to support the disputed practice in more than a decade. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani raised the issue in the early 1990s but was opposed by the country's hard-line clerics.
"We have to find a solution to meet the sexual desire of the youth who have no possibility of marriage," Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

Half of Iran's population of 70 million is under 30. Taxi driver Reza Sarabi, 23, expressed the frustration of many young Iranian men who can't afford to buy a house and get married.
"I have no money to set up a matrimonial life. I don't want prostitutes. What should I do with my sexual needs?" he said.

The "sigheh" is banned in Sunni Islam, but similar practices can be found in Sunni countries. One such practice is the "urfi" marriage, an unofficial arrangement that is often kept secret. Although an urfi marriage involves signing a document in front of witnesses, the marriage can be broken by destroying the paper.

In Iran, temporary marriage has been reported as a way some widows and poor women help support themselves. But critics of the practice believe such arrangements only exacerbate the country's prostitution problem and undermine Iran's values.
"It will damage the foundation of the family," said lawyer Nemat Ahmadi, who argues it gives wealthy men religious cover to have affairs. "This will only promote prostitution."

Prostitution was banned in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution but has increased in recent years. There are no official statistics available in Iran on the number of prostitutes, but unofficial figures published by some media outlets put the number at several hundred thousand.
27963  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Politica on: June 04, 2007, 01:13:59 AM
Este URL se me lo mando' un amigo Venezolano sobre la situacion actual alli':
27964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 03, 2007, 04:14:10 PM

"PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread."

This is in the interest of thread coherency.  This thread is about "The 2008 Presidential Race".  So would you please repost your response on the Immigration thread and I will delete it here.

Thank you.
27965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Canis Bostonus..... on: June 03, 2007, 03:18:39 AM
C-Cyborg Dog is from Boston, but is out here in LA to train with me for the next several months.
27966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 07:14:17 PM
If we want to keep a fcukin' genius like Simon Cao (formerly of Avanex) here in the US and not running off to set up a cheaper operation in China where he can find a ton of people who a fcukin' brilliant workaholics for pennies a day, it behooves us to have it not too hard to bring them here.

PS:  We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread.  If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread.
27967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 01:15:31 PM
Woof Milt:

In a very unprofitable period of my life,  cry I followed surfed the peak of the NAZ boom and crashed and burned along with it.  During this time I followed the Gilder Technology Report and related readings.  My impressions on this issue were formed during that time.  As can be seen from some of the threads on the SCH forum here, I retain an interest.


27968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 01:11:09 PM

Well, I sure don't see anything objectionable to what Newt said or any reason to think him less presidential timber , , ,
27969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 02, 2007, 09:16:16 AM
IMHO, that is a separate question-- and if we wait for its answer, we will become a nation of hamburger flippers in the meantime.

Perhaps worth noting in the case of the Chinese is that they are allowed to have only one child.  Therefore that child receives the undivided attention of both parents.

Whatever the reason, our high tech sector desparately needs these people and our country desparately needs a strong high tech sector.
27970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 02, 2007, 09:12:29 AM
As the Presidential race 2008 thread bears witness,  smiley I'm favor Newt at present.

What did he say about Rove?
27971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: June 02, 2007, 08:56:38 AM
Another fine call by David Gordon on JCG, which jumped over 10% yesterday.  Thanks to his table pounding I expanded my position just in time.
27972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: June 02, 2007, 08:54:44 AM
Published: June 2, 2007
San Francisco
NY Times

IF it turns out that none of his fellow passengers were actually infected with the dangerous form of tuberculosis he carries, then Andrew Speaker, the young honeymooner who recently eluded government efforts to keep him off commercial flights, may actually have done a favor to public health. His case has brought to light the neglected but growing problem of super drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the ease with which this deadly airborne disease can travel around the world.

Federal health officials have recently warned state and city TB treatment programs to expect budget cuts of as much as 25 percent over the next five years. But Mr. Speaker is not the first world traveler to carry the most drug-resistant TB, and he will surely not be the last. Instead of cutting back on TB research and treatment, we should be intensifying our efforts to fight the disease.

We urgently need tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance overnight, so that we can know which patients present the most danger to the public. We need new drugs to outwit the disease. And we need to support a worldwide effort to prevent TB bacteria from developing further drug-resistance.

Tuberculosis is an illness that was once thought to be under control. A century ago, it was responsible for one in five deaths in the United States. But then antibiotics came along, and a national effort to develop new drugs and diagnostic tools and to institute TB-control public health programs drove down the rates of tuberculosis in the United States to the point where people assumed it was eradicated.

Twenty years ago, complacency about TB control combined with the H.I.V. epidemic and a growing immigrant population to bring about a resurgence. As a result, in the early 1990s, TB programs in the United States were rebuilt to provide better patient care and case investigation and to improve adherence to treatment.

These programs have become models for TB treatment around the world. But unfortunately, in many countries, public health standards still fall short. Patients infected with tuberculosis are given inadequate courses of antibiotics, or they fail to adhere to the course of treatment they are given. In such cases, the most drug-resistant strains of the bacteria are allowed to multiply.

It’s easy to see how drug resistance in any one country grows into a global problem. One-third of the world’s population carries the TB bacillus in their bodies, and in the stream of people traveling around the world the bacteria are constantly on the move.

The World Health Organization estimates that each person with TB infects 10 to 15 other people, usually by coughing the germs into the air. And once the bacteria reach a new host, they can either progress to disease, keeping the cycle going, or be carried around for years or decades, only to cause illness later on in a chosen few. A robust immune system is needed to contain the infection, but even in healthy people, 5 percent to 10 percent of those exposed go on to develop TB.

The most extremely resistant form of the illness — the kind that Mr. Speaker has, known as XDR-TB, which is impervious to even our most powerful antibiotics — is now found all over the world. It is thought to be rare, though the exact numbers are unknown. But we know that the numbers are rising, because strains of TB that are resistant to multiple drugs — the precursors to XDR-TB — are proliferating. In 2004, almost half a million of the more than 8 million cases of tuberculosis worldwide were resistant to the most potent TB drugs. And drug resistance feeds further drug resistance.

Adding to the problem is the long time, often a period of months, that it takes to detect drug resistance. Doctors are forced to treat in the dark, not knowing whether their drugs are actually working.

What is needed are tests capable of diagnosing drug resistance within 24 hours — tests that do not require letting the bacteria grow in culture for days but rather identify gene mutations that confer drug resistance.

Such genetic tests to detect resistance to first-line TB drugs already exist, though they are in limited use, mainly in New York and California. We need to put in the effort to develop them for the second-line antibiotics, and make the investment to ensure that the quick tests are put into widespread use.

Perhaps if Mr. Speaker’s doctors had known before he left for Paris that his tuberculosis was the drug-resistant kind, they might have taken even stronger action to keep him from flying to Europe in the first place. State and federal laws give public health officials the authority they need to keep contagious patients away from the public, but in exercising that authority, it helps to know the danger that a patient poses.

In addition, we need more drugs to treat TB. No new drug class has been approved for TB since the antibiotic rifampin, 35 years ago. Without effective drugs to treat the new superbugs, patients often suffer longer periods of contagion, and that makes their treatment extremely costly (from about $90,000 to more than $700,000 per patient).

Last fall, the World Health Organization proclaimed XDR-TB to be a public health emergency and called on governments to provide $95 million in 2007 to deal with the problem. Three bills now before Congress would increase domestic and international spending for TB treatment and research.

As global travel continues to increase and the rate of drug-resistant TB rises, the number of cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis inevitably will grow. It is essential that we redouble our efforts to halt the epidemic of drug resistance and the global spread of all forms of TB.

L. Masae Kawamura is the director of the tuberculosis control section of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

27973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: June 02, 2007, 08:51:50 AM
NY Times Editorial
A Cyberblockade in Estonia
Published: June 2, 2007
The small but technologically adept nation of Estonia has raised an alarm that should be heard around the wired world. Last month it weathered what some describe as the first real war in cyberspace when its government and much of its commerce nearly shut down for days because of an orchestrated Internet assault.

The assault on Estonia’s virtual society began in April after authorities moved a real bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from a central park in Tallinn to a military graveyard farther from the center of the city. For many Estonians, the statue was another reminder of Soviet invaders who took over their homes at Stalin’s orders. But Russians and Estonians of Russian descent immediately took to the streets to protest. The statue’s move was, for them, a sign of disrespect for Soviets who battled the Nazis in World War II.

The rioting and looting in Tallinn turned out to be nothing compared to what began happening to Estonia’s computers. Waves of unwanted data quickly clogged the Web sites of the government, businesses and several newspapers, shutting down one branch of their computer network after another. One minister described it as a kind of electronic blockade, like having the nation’s ports all shut to the sea. Estonian authorities charged that the data flood came on orders from the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin’s government has denied any involvement.

In recent years, governments, businesses and individuals have focused on ways to keep hackers or destructive viruses from stealing or destroying sensitive information. But Estonia should put the computer-dependent world on full notice that there can be many offensive forms of information warfare and figuring out how to stop it — and ultimately who is behind it — is essential to all of our security.
27974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: June 02, 2007, 07:25:24 AM
HillaryCare Blooms
All the Democratic health plans spurn market-based reforms.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The HillaryCare experiment ended badly in 1994, but Democrats are back in the universal health-care laboratory. All the party's major Presidential candidates have or will introduce plans, and last week Hillary Clinton presented the first part of hers. The former First Lady joked that she's "tangled with this issue before" and has "the scars to show for it." But the lesson she seems to have learned is political, not substantive--that is, make any plans for government control gauzy and incremental, not grandiose.

Mrs. Clinton will unroll her universal plan later this year; last week's speech focused on lowering health-care costs, which stand at $1.9 trillion for 2005. She says she can trim that by "at least" $120 billion. A big lump of that figure comes from digitizing and integrating medical records. Not a bad idea, probably: A 2005 RAND study suggests it could produce $77 billion in net savings a year with 90% adoption. Computerized record-keeping is so unobjectionable that it's also a pet issue of Newt Gingrich, among other Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton also nodded at medical malpractice reform. She neglected, however, to support the proposals that would actually reduce costs, such as punitive damage caps and specialized medical courts. These, not incidentally, are also the programs most vigorously opposed by the tort bar.

Her main thrust addressed prevention to reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Mrs. Clinton would do so by mandating that insurers re-orient their policies to cover prevention, at least when dealing with the federal government--no doubt with other mandates to follow.

This was only the first of Mrs. Clinton's promises to crack down on the "marketing and schemes" of the insurance industry. She decried companies, for instance, that "discriminate" against those with pre-existing conditions, and would require that "anyone" be allowed to join a plan, whenever. This is called "guaranteed issue"; it allows people to wait until they're sick before seeking insurance, making it less affordable for everyone else.

Guaranteed issue is precisely one of the mandates that makes insurance so expensive in states like Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Policies might be more affordable if the insurance market were deregulated; now, the market is balkanized by 50 separate sets of state regulations, inhibiting innovation and economies of scale. But for the Senator from New York, it's easier to blame nefarious business.

Mrs. Clinton also took some predictable swipes against the pharmaceutical companies for the cost of prescription drugs. She would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices and allow for reimportation from foreign countries. These drugs, of course, are cheaper because foreign governments impose price controls on pharmaceuticals that mostly originated in the U.S.

The Senator also discussed at length her proposal to create a regulatory pathway for the approval of generic copies of biotechnology medicines. Not only is such a program shot through with serious scientific and intellectual-property concerns, but the best research indicates that the savings range for follow-on biologics falls between 5% and 13% over the original drugs. The U.S. spent $52.7 billion on biologics in 2005, so the potential savings are small while what Mrs. Clinton suggests could hamstring the most innovative medical sector.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama offered his own full-dress plan, which promises to "provide coverage for all." The Presidential hopeful latched on to many of the same worn-out policy ideas as Mrs. Clinton--guaranteed issue, drug reimportation and more severe insurance regulation. As it turns out, though, Mr. Obama's program isn't necessarily universal. He would retain the private insurance system while creating a parallel public health plan based on the one currently available for federal employees; a sliding subsidy would be provided to those with lower incomes. The campaign says this will cost the federal government between $50 billion and $65 billion per year, and will be paid for by repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
The Obama plan has been roughed up on the left because it doesn't mandate 100% coverage outright, aiming instead to cut down the number of uninsured. The John Edwards camp calls the program "simply inadequate." For his part, Mr. Edwards has offered a universal plan that would require businesses to cover their employees or else pay into a government fund to provide coverage; and he'd create a new, expanded federal entitlement program modeled after Medicare. Mr. Edwards estimates it will cost between $90 billion and $120 billion a year--and some experts say the price will be higher than that--which he proposes to fund by raising taxes. At least Mr. Edwards is somewhat honest about cost, as opposed to the free-lunchism of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. Put simply, a universal health-care system can't be financed with savings from computerized medical records.

What's most striking is that all these Democratic proposals spurn market reforms and the tax code, which is biased toward health spending. Because third-party businesses--but not individuals--can deduct health expenditures, the tax code insulates those with private insurance from the real costs of their treatment decisions and then prices uninsured Americans out of the market. Instead of aggrandizing more power to the government, changing this arrangement would devolve more control to patients and their doctors, and reduce overall spending as part of the bargain.

In any event, it will be interesting to see in the coming months how Mrs. Clinton negotiates what she calls "the moral imperative" to extend universal coverage to all Americans. Given that most of her proposals so far would raise, not lower, the cost of health care, she might want to go back to the drawing board.

27975  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: June 02, 2007, 06:48:40 AM
From: "Martial Arts Tournaments" <>
Subject: [Eskrima] Pro fight league is a hit

Pro fight league is a hit
John Boyle
Herald, Everett, Wash

Aaron Stark will step into the ring at the Everett Events Center
tonight with his mind set on knocking his opponent unconscious or
beating him into submission.

The Oregon native is 205 pounds of tough, a fighter in the
International Fight League, the world's first team-based professional
mixed martial arts league, which is making its first stop in
Washington tonight.

And Stark's long-term dream: To make world-class pinot noir.


When he's not busy fighting or training, Stark is the vineyard manager
for Colene Clemens Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. The
family-owned vineyard, named for Stark's grandmother, planted pinot
noir vines - three different Dijon clones, Stark says with pride - two
years ago, and Stark said they hope to produce their first wines next

Oh yeah, the former college wrestler is also a member of Mensa
International, an organization of people with high IQs.

While mixed martial arts competitions, best known from the Ultimate
Fighting Championships that draw huge crowds and pay-per-view ratings,
continue their rapid growth in this country and abroad (see last
week's cover of Sports Illustrated as evidence), they also fight
constant misconceptions.

Gone are the early days of the sport when there were no weight classes
and few rules. Despite the violence of the sport - and there's no
arguing that it is violent - fighters say the sport is much safer than
the casual observer might believe.

These are athletes, and well-rounded ones at that, not brawlers.

"I do think that's something we're always dealing with," Stark said.
"I won't tell you that there aren't any savages in the business, but
most of the guys tend to be fairly well-rounded guys outside of the
ring. They're guys with families, guys who went to college. I don't
have any hatred for my opponents. It's a sport."

The IFL's visit tonight gives local fight fans a chance to see the
sport up close. The IFL, which started last year and is in its first
full season, differs from Ultimate Fighting by being a team sport.
Tonight's card features fighters from four of the teams in the 12-team
league: Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles; and Tokyo. Each team has
fighters in five weight classes, and teams win by winning three or
more of the five matches.

Competitions take place in a round-robin format from January to June,
with the top two teams competing for the IFL Championship in

While the IFL may not have the name recognition of Ultimate Fighting,
it is certainly doing well in its first full season. Matches are held
in smaller venues, similar in size to the 8,300-seat Everett Events
Center, and usually draw between 5,000 and 8,000 fans. The league also
has TV contracts with FSN, which airs a weekly show Friday nights, and
with MyNetworkTV, which has a two-hour show on Mondays that is part
fight action and part a behind-the-scenes look at the league.

In the early to mid-1990s, the early days of mixed martial arts in the
U.S., fighters could get away with almost anything. The sport was
referred to as "human cockfighting" by Republican Sen. John McCain of
Arizona and was banned in many states before changes were made.

Now the sport is regulated. It has weight classes and rules.

The IFL's Web site lists 27 actions constituting fouls, including
butting with the head, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, fish
hooking, groin attacks of any kind, elbows to the face or head, and -
get ready to cringe - intentionally placing a finger in any opponent's

The sport's top athletes are just that: athletes, not barroom brawlers
stepping into the ring. Most come into the sport with a background in
one fighting discipline and then learn others such as boxing,
kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, karate, Muay Thai or tae kwon do.

Unlike boxing, mixed martial arts has not had a death in a sanctioned event.

"It's definitely not as bad as what people think," said Ryan Schultz,
a member of the Portland Wolfpack and one of the league's stars.
"We're not just brutes up there beating the crap out of each other.
We're all friends. It's totally a sport. Most of us, we're pretty
easygoing guys."

The IFL is also unique in that is provides a steady fight schedule and
steady pay. While the top fighters on pay-per-view fights are making
good money, other fighters can struggle to find fights at all, let
alone fights that pay well. IFL fighters, on the other hand, have
contracts with the league that provide a steady paycheck and health

"I've fought all over the place, in Japan, Hawaii, Canada, just
looking for fights," said Schultz, who wrestled at the University of
Nebraska. "With this league it's great. With IFL, you can plan your
life a little bit better. You know when you're fighting. They take
care of us."

That financial security is something some fighters never thought
they'd get from fighting.

"My first five fights were for free," said Brad Blackburn, an Olympia
native who fights for the Seattle Tiger Sharks. "Now I'm getting paid
enough to pay my bills. I was hoping one day it would pay, but I never
really thought it would. I'm getting paid to go out and do something I

Controversial or not, the sport on display tonight in Everett seems
here to stay.

"This sport is definitely blowing up," Schultz said. "It's fun to be
on that train. It's exciting; you can definitely see the change in how
popular it's becoming. I think it's here to stay and I see it doing
big, big things."

More about the sport

Fighting styles used: Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu,
karate, Muay Thai and tae kwon do are the most prominent - also judo,
aikido and others.

How a fight is won: Matches are won by knockout, technical knockout
(referee or corner stoppage), submission or tap out (when an athlete
resigns the match because he is in a compromised hold or choke), or a
judge's decision. The team that wins the best three of five matches
wins the team competition.

Common terms

Armbar: A type of armlock in which the arm is hyper-extended at the
elbow in order to get an opponent to submit or tap out.

Ground-and-pound: A technique in which an athlete gains an advantage
through a takedown, assumes a top position and strikes down on the

Heelhook: A submission hold applied on the heel and then fully
accomplished by twisting the knee at the joint.

Submission hold: A choke or joint manipulation that is meant to cause
an opponent to submit or tap out.

Tap/tap out: An act of submission or giving up in which an opponent,
hopelessly captured in a submission hold or being pummeled by strikes,
taps the mat or his opponent in lieu of blacking out or risking bodily

Takedown: The act of putting your opponent to the floor with a tackle,
sweep, Greco-throw or other technique, typically involving the legs.

IFL timeline

Jan. 6, 2006: Real estate developer and martial arts aficionado Kurt
Otto and Gareb Shamus, founder of Wizard Entertainment, announce the
creation of the International Fight League. The IFL will field four
teams (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Moline, Ill.) and play host
to two national tournaments in 2006 before formally launching a full
season in 2007.

April 29, 2006: The IFL makes its debut at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic
City, N.J. The Quad Cities Silverbacks post a 4-1 win over the Los
Angeles Anacondas, and the Seattle Tiger Sharks edge the New York
Pitbulls 3-2.

June 2-Nov. 20, 2006: The league expands to 12 teams for the 2007
season, adding franchises in Portland, Ore.; Tokyo; Toronto; San Jose,
Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Orange County, Calif.; Chicago; and in Nevada.

Nov. 29, 2006: The IFL begins trading as a public company under the
OTC Bulletin Board ticker symbol (IFLI: OTC.BB).

Jan. 19, 2007: The IFL holds its inaugural regular-season event at The
Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., where the Toronto Lions defeat the
San Jose Razorclaws and the Southern California Condors beat the
Seattle Tiger Sharks.

Today: The IFL comes to the Everett Events Center.

Source: The IFL
27976  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 02, 2007, 06:42:25 AM
Woof All:

Maija left a phone message last night that she has mailed in her fighter's registration  cool

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
27977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: June 02, 2007, 06:40:28 AM

Syria's Useful Idiots
June 1, 2007; Page A13

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council voted to set up a tribunal that will try suspects in the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria is the leading suspect in the case, so the establishment of the tribunal serves as a step toward creating a stable Lebanon. It also poses a clarifying question to the United States: What will engaging Syria mean for building a liberal future for Lebanon?

At the moment, it is clear that Syria hasn't stopped meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs. The Security Council only created its tribunal after efforts to establish a similar tribunal within Lebanon were stymied by Syrian allies. Indeed, to understand what is at stake in the Lebanese crisis today, flip through the report released last April by the U.N. commission investigating the Hariri assassination.

The commission, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, now assumes that Hariri's assassination was tied to his political activities, particularly his preparations for the summer 2005 legislative elections. This sets up a key passage in the report: "[A] working hypothesis is that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway."

Lebanese citizens celebrate Wednesday's establishment of a U.N. tribunal for the Rafiq Hariri murder.
For anyone who followed Lebanese politics at the time, this deceptively anodyne passage says a lot. Hariri was hoping to score a victory against Syria and its Lebanese allies during the elections, after Syria had extended the mandate of his bitter rival, President Emile Lahoud. The Syrians felt that such a victory would jeopardize their position in Lebanon and, although there was mediation to patch up Hariri's differences with the Syrians, the plot to eliminate him continued. It is plain from Mr. Brammertz's phrasing that those who were planning the former prime minister's elimination are the same ones with whom the intermediaries were trying to reconcile him.

Mr. Brammertz is building a case that, from the information provided to date, can only point the finger at Syria and its Lebanese supplicants. The Hariri tribunal, now that it has been formally established, poses an existential threat to the Syrian regime, and it is in Lebanon that the Syrians have and will continue to hit back to save themselves.

The outbreak of violence in northern Lebanon between the Lebanese army and a group calling itself Fatah al-Islam is the latest stage in such an endeavor. In a BBC interview last week, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora openly linked Fatah al-Islam to Syrian intelligence. The group has claimed to be an al Qaeda affiliate, but observers in Lebanon, including Palestinian sources usually critical of the Siniora government, qualify this, saying that Fatah al-Islam is acting on Syria's behalf. The daily Al-Hayat has reported that the group's weapons come from caches belonging to Palestinian organizations under Syrian control, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, from which Fatah al-Islam allegedly broke off.

Meanwhile, a more subtle battle is taking place over interpretation of what is happening in Lebanon. This is especially important because there are those in Washington who still insist that something can be gained from dealing with Syria. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought so in April when she visited Damascus, did the Gertrude Bell tour of the Hamadiyyeh souq, and capped it all with a visit to President Bashar Assad, all for precisely nothing in return.

The Iraq Study Group also thought Syria could be a useful partner in Iraq, even as all the signs suggest that Damascus has little real influence there and is sowing dissension to compensate. That's why understanding what is going on in Lebanon is vital for a sense of what can be gained from Syria elsewhere. Yet something is amiss when the most obvious truths are those the pundits won't consider.

For example, what did the former CIA agent Robert Baer mean in Time magazine, when he wrote that the Lebanese government should "know better" than to believe that Fatah al-Islam is a Syrian creation, because "at the end of the day Fatah Islam is the Syrian regime's mortal enemy"? Mr. Baer's point was that a Lebanese civil war might undermine Syrian stability, but also that Sunni Islamists oppose the minority Alawite Syrian regime. He reminded us that "the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood used northern Lebanon as a rear base to seize the Syrian city of Hama in 1982."

It is Mr. Baer who should know better. Syria has fueled a sectarian war in neighboring Iraq by funneling Sunni al Qaeda fighters into the country, without worrying about what this might mean for its own stability. Syria's vulnerabilities have not prevented it from hosting Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Syria's anxieties notwithstanding, throughout its years in Lebanon it developed ties with many Sunni Islamist groups and recently welcomed to Damascus a prominent Lebanese Islamist it has co-opted, Fathi Yakan.

The point is that Syria will have no qualms about provoking sectarian discord in Lebanon to ward away the menace of the Hariri tribunal.

And what are we to make of the journalist Seymour Hersh, now considered an authority on Lebanese Sunni Islamist groups on the basis of a flawed article he wrote for the New Yorker last March? In that article, and in a recent CNN interview, he indirectly suggested that Fatah al-Islam had received weapons not from Syria but from the Siniora government.

The only source Mr. Hersh cited in his article for the Fatah al-Islam story was Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 agent who co-directs Conflicts Forum, an institution advocating dialogue with Islamist movements. Mr. Crooke did not have direct knowledge of what he was claiming, as he "was told" that weapons and money were offered to the group, "presumably to take on Hezbollah."

Mr. Hersh is wading into very muddy waters with very simple ideas. The relationship of the Lebanese government and the Hariri camp with Sunni Islamists is byzantine, but there is no evidence to date that the government or the Hariris had any strategy to use al Qaeda against Hezbollah. In fact most Lebanese Sunni Islamists are not linked to al Qaeda. And Mr. Hersh has provided no proof that Fatah al-Islam received government assistance. Still, the Syrian regime's media has repeatedly used Mr. Hersh's charges to discredit the Lebanese government.

Then there are those with little patience for Lebanese independence. Arguing that Syria is worth more to the U.S. than Lebanon, they advocate Washington's ceding Lebanon to Syria as a price for constructive dialogue. For example, Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staffer now at the New America Foundation, recently told National Public Radio, where he appears regularly, that the Bush administration had "romanticized" the 2005 "Cedar Revolution." This was his way of implying that the latter was worth discarding. For Mr. Leverett and others, a Lebanon free of Syria is inherently unstable, even as they disregard Syrian responsibility for that instability.

In a March 2005 op-ed in the New York Times, as Lebanese took to the streets demanding a Syrian pullout, Mr. Leverett urged the U.S. to abandon efforts to establish a "pro-Western government" in Beirut. Instead, he proposed that "the most promising (if gradual) course for promoting reform in Syria is to engage and empower [President] Assad, not to isolate and overthrow him."

This makes for restorative reading today, as Mr. Assad's regime pursues its destabilization of Lebanon, Iraq and Palestinian areas, ignores domestic reform and continues to detain thousands of political opponents in its prisons.

There is nothing wrong with keeping an open mind on Syria. However, an "open mind" can be shorthand for blindness or bad faith. Given the evidence, it makes no sense to dismiss Syrian involvement in the Lebanese crisis, or to blame the crisis on an al Qaeda affiliate allegedly financed by the Lebanese government. Nor does it make sense to assume that Lebanon is a burden that the U.S. should jettison in favor of a stabilizing Syria, considering the fact that al Qaeda materialized from across the Syrian border. We're asked to believe that a group, said to be financed by the Siniora government, picked a fight with that very government, and somehow innocently did so just as the U.N. prepared to establish a tribunal the Syrians fear.

When Syria is systematically exporting instability throughout the region, you have to wonder whether its regime can be a credible partner to the U.S.

Mr. Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.


Justice for Lebanon
June 1, 2007; Page A12
Russia and China refused to endorse Wednesday's Security Council vote to establish an international tribunal for the February 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister. The tribunal, they argued, was an illegitimate form of outside interference in the country's domestic affairs. As for Syria's role in Mr. Hariri's murder -- the very reason the tribunal was needed in the first place -- that's a form of meddling our friends in Moscow and Beijing apparently prefer not to notice.

The good news is that these two veto-wielding powers abstained from the vote, which means the tribunal will be established by international fiat by June 10 if the Lebanese parliament fails to do it before then. In Beirut, this brought dancing in the streets; Mr. Hariri's son Saad called the resolution a "victory the world has given to oppressed Lebanon and a victory for an oppressed Lebanon in the world."

By contrast, Syria denounced the U.N. vote as a "degradation of Lebanon's sovereignty," which -- considering the source -- is almost amusing. Iranian-proxy Hezbollah was equally dismayed: It has spent the last six months attempting to block the tribunal by calling mass demonstrations and trying to bring down the democratic government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. For Hezbollah especially, the resolution marks a major political defeat, and therefore a strategic victory for anyone who cares about Lebanon's future as a sovereign democracy.

Nobody should be under any illusions that the road forward for the tribunal will be easy. The Syrians have consistently tried to derail the U.N. investigation leading to the tribunal. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who recently met with Condoleezza Rice in Egypt, was secretly taped threatening Rafik Hariri just weeks before his death. He then lied about it to U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis -- a useful reminder of the value of trying to negotiate anything with the regime of Bashar Assad.

Damascus almost certainly had a hand in the assassinations of anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians Gibran Tueni in 2005 and Pierre Gemayal in 2006. More recently, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat has reported that the leadership of Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Lebanon, consists entirely of Syrian officers. The Lebanese army has been fighting a pitched battle with the group for the past two weeks in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared -- this despite the fact that the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reported that the Lebanese government, with the connivance of Saudi Arabia and the Bush Administration, was actually behind the group. (See Michael Young's dispatch nearby.)

As in Iraq, the Syrian game in Lebanon is to foment chaos and then offer itself as the solution. The gambit has plainly impressed at least some people: Wang Guangya, the Chinese ambassador to the U.N., argued that the tribunal would "add to the uncertainties embodied in the already turbulent political and security situation in Lebanon." Comments like that will surely embolden the Syrians to sow more chaos in Lebanon to show that the price of justice in the service of a fallen leader will be prohibitively high.

But whatever happens next, passage of the resolution has shown the Syrians and their Lebanese friends that they cannot assassinate political enemies without paying a price of their own. As U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad put it Wednesday to the Security Council, "there can be no peace . . . without justice." We've heard that slogan before; in the case of Lebanon, at least, it happens to be true.

27978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 01, 2007, 04:20:38 PM

Dog Brothers Inc. is proud to support Michael Yon in his mission to report the truth from the frontlines.
27979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia on: June 01, 2007, 12:14:18 PM

Show of Bad Faith
June 1, 2007

As Islamist protestors' shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" echoed through Putrajaya's Palace of Justice, the Malaysian Federal Court Wednesday reaffirmed that religion is determined by court orders and not personal conscience. The two-to-one landmark decision by the country's highest court marks a monumental setback to religious freedom and human rights in Malaysia, a secular country increasingly influenced by Islamism.

Lina Joy, about whom I wrote on this page last September, is an ethnic Malay born into an Islamic family who converted to Christianity in 1998 at the age of 36. Desiring to live as a Christian, she sought to have "Islam" removed from her national identification card so that she could marry her Roman Catholic fiancé. However, the National Registration Department refused her request without an official order from the Islamic Sharia court declaring her an apostate. Because Ms. Joy was not a Muslim, she argued that the Sharia court -- which constitutionally has jurisdiction only in limited, enumerated matters relating to family law "over persons professing the religion of Islam" -- had no jurisdiction over her decision.

Once a Muslim, forever a Muslim in Malaysia.
On principle, Ms. Joy never applied to the Sharia court because she rightly reasoned that the state could not tell her what she believes in her heart. Further, no Sharia court has ever recognized an application for apostasy made by an ethnic Malay. Instead, a common judgment has been years-long sentences to religious "rehabilitation" camps for re-education in Islam.

Ms. Joy courageously filed suit in civil court, optimistic that the federal Constitution's provisions for equal protection and freedom of religion for all Malaysians would strengthen her case. The trial court dismissed her application, arguing that ethnic Malays are constitutionally defined as Muslim, thereby making conversion from Islam illegal. The judge also reasoned that allowing this exemption would encourage future converts. The Court of Appeals subsequently wrote that allowing Ms. Joy's conversion would "consequently be inviting the censure of the Muslim community."

Any hope that Ms. Joy might find protection from the federal Constitution was crushed by the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the doctrine that if you are born a Muslim, you will stay a Muslim until the community decides otherwise. Ignoring Lina Joy's years of Catholic study, church attendance, and the baptism certificate she presented as proof of her sincerity, Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in his decision, "You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another."

Judge Richard Malanjum, the only non-Muslim among the three judges, dissented, arguing that because the National Registration Department had required a special approval only for Muslims, it violated the equal treatment provision in Article Eight of the federal Constitution. In its perverse way, Wednesday's ruling was discriminatory only against those born into Islam.

Even beyond Ms. Joy's plight, this and similar rulings set dangerous precedents for related cases regarding the application of Sharia law. Consider Subashini Rajasingam, whose husband embraced Islam in 2006 and then converted their eldest son. He then filed an application before the Kuala Lumpur Sharia Court to dissolve their civil marriage and obtain custody of the children. Ms. Subashini lost her case in both lower courts, and the Federal Court granted leave to appeal on May 17.

Malaysia's religious and ethnic diversity, growing economy, and regional leadership make these rulings all the more troubling. Indicators such as Ms. Joy's case, in which judges unabashedly set aside constitutional protections in favor of the sensibilities of Muslim believers, suggest that there is growing support for Islamization.

Just as Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists mingle in Kuala Lumpur's Central Market, so too have Sharia and civil law existed side by side since Malaysia's Constitution came into force in 1957. Now, the prospects of Sharia and civil law peacefully coexisting have grown dim. Malaysia's ability to protect fundamental human rights while navigating its parallel legal system among rising religious and ethnic tensions is an indication of whether it's possible anywhere.

In Malaysia, where Islam as the state religion was historically merely a symbolic statement, and where the Constitution reflects religious freedom for people of all faiths, the issue is not whether Sharia can accommodate human rights. It's whether human rights can accommodate Sharia.

Ms. Joy remains in hiding, trapped in a legal quagmire designed by a state judging her religion according to her ethnicity and not what she professes. Meanwhile her country -- whose motto is "Unity is Strength" -- is at a cultural and legal crossroads. Wednesday's ruling is a step toward an Islamic state in which group religious sentiment trumps the most fundamental human right, the right without which other rights are meaningless -- the right to follow one's conscience. Let us hope Malaysia can turn back in time.

Ms. Wu is the International Director of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C
27980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: June 01, 2007, 12:08:36 PM
A Back Door for Terrorists

Published: June 1, 2007
AMID all of the xenophobia and nativism surrounding the immigration debate, there is a real security concern. In the language of the bureaucracy, the problem is referred to as the “O.T.M.’s,” or Other Than Mexicans.

Thousands of non-Mexicans are caught crossing the United States border every year. They cannot be sent back to Mexico, but must be deported to their home country. Until recently, most were given a deportation hearing date and then simply released. Not surprisingly, few showed up for their scheduled appearances. Beginning last year, however, most who are caught are put into detention. They are then put through a procedure called expedited removal, under which many are flown back home within a few weeks.

Many of these non-Mexicans come from Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and other areas of concern to counterterrorism officials. What we don’t know is how many others are evading the Border Patrol every year and what happens to them when they leave the border area. It’s not too hard to imagine that these illegal immigrants, who have clearly spent a lot of money getting to Mexico and then into the United States, are able to buy themselves an identity and corroborating papers once in an American city.

Since 9/11, it has been far more difficult to get a visa to enter the United States if you are a citizen of a country considered a terrorism concern. But it is not difficult for a Pakistani, for example, to enter Mexico or another Central American country from which he can get to our border relatively easily, cross it and blend in.

The Real ID Act of 2005, which among other things established standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver’s identification cards, has now been put off until at least 2009. And many states are in open revolt against its tough requirements for issuing driver’s licenses.

The result is that potential terrorists here illegally can easily use phony licenses or, in many states, get real ones issued to them, along with credit cards and all of the other papers needed to blend into our society. (The only places in this country that seem to check the validity of drivers’ licenses are bars in college neighborhoods.) Indeed, those arrested for allegedly planning to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey included illegal immigrants who apparently had little difficulty getting along in this country.

In his commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy last month, President Bush was right to express concern that Al Qaeda is trying to bring terrorists into the United States. He was wrong, however, to claim that fighting in Iraq somehow helps stop such attempts. In the absence of a secure border and verifiable biometric identification systems, preventing terrorists from getting in to this country and setting up sleeper cells here is almost impossible. Maybe we will get serious after the next attack.

Richard A. Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.”

27981  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: June 01, 2007, 11:43:19 AM
For our purposes shooting any video at all is verboten. angry  In addition to the obvious business reasons, there is also the very important matter of fighters knowing that they can come to play secure in the knowledge that they will not be unfairly portrayed. 

For example several years back we had someone sneak a video of a fight and spread it all over the internet at "Our Style beats Style XYZ".     This made for some very bad feelings on the part of Style XYZ (a knife oriented system) and for a while there was talk of settling things on the sidelines at the next Gathering.   Fortunately I was able to steer things in a different direction.

Folks, what we have built is something very special.  If we do it right, it looks easy.  That does not mean it is easy. 

I repeat, shooting any video at all is verboten.
27982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Huber: Germs and the City on: June 01, 2007, 11:36:15 AM

Friday Feature / Peter Huber: Germs and the City

Two centuries of success against infectious disease have left us complacent—and vulnerable.


There have been at work among us three great social agencies: the London City Mission; the novels of Mr. Dickens; the cholera.” Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb quotes this reductionist observation at the end of her chapter on Charles Dickens in The Moral Imagination; her debt is to an English nonconformist minister, addressing his flock in 1853. It comes as no surprise to find the author of Hard Times and Oliver Twist discussed alongside Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill in a book on moral history. Nor is it puzzling to see Dickens honored in his own day alongside the City Mission, a movement founded to engage churches in aiding the poor. But what’s V. cholerae doing up there on the dais beside the Inimitable Boz? It’s being commended for the tens of millions of lives it’s going to save. The nastiness of this vile little bacterium has just transformed ancient sanitary rituals and taboos into a new science of epidemiology. And that science is about to launch a massive—and ultimately successful—public effort to rid the city of infectious disease.


The year 1853, when a Victorian doctor worked out that cholera spread through London’s water supply, was the turning point. Ordinary people would spend the next century crowding into the cities, bearing many children, and thus incubating and spreading infectious disease. Public authorities would do all they could to wipe it out. For the rest of the nineteenth century, they lost more ground than they gained, and microbes thrived as never before. Then the germ killers caught up—and pulled ahead. When Jonas Salk announced his polio vaccine to the press in April 1955, the war seemed all but over. “The time has come to close the book on infectious disease,” declared William Stewart, the U.S. surgeon general, a few years later. “We have basically wiped out infection in the United States.”


By then, however, infectious diseases had completed their social mission. Public authorities had taken over the germ-killing side of medicine completely. The focus shifted from germs to money—from social disease to social economics. As germs grew less dangerous, people gradually lost interest in them, and ended up fearing germ-killing medicines more than the germs themselves.


Government policies expressed that fear, putting the development, composition, performance, manufacture, price, and marketing of antibiotics and vaccines under closer scrutiny and control than any public utility’s operations and services. The manufacturers of these drugs, which took up the germ-killing mission where the sewer commission left off, must today operate like big defense contractors, mirror images of the insurers, regulatory agencies, and tort-litigation machines that they answer to. Most drug companies aren’t developing any vaccines or antibiotics any more. The industry’s critics discern no good reason for this at all: as they tell it, the big drug companies just can’t be bothered.


These problems capture our attention only now and again; they hardly figure in the much louder debate about how much we spend on doctors and drugs, and who should pay the bills. “Public health” (in the literal sense) now seems to be one thing, and—occasional lurid headlines notwithstanding—not a particularly important one, while “health care” is quite another.


We will bitterly regret this shift, and probably sooner rather than later. As another Victorian might have predicted—he published a book on the subject in 1859—germs have evolved to exploit our new weakness. Public authorities are ponderous and slow; the new germs are nimble and fast. Drug regulators are paralyzed by the knowledge that error is politically lethal; the new germs make genetic error—constant mutation—the key to their survival. The new germs don’t have to be smarter than our scientists, just faster than our lawyers. The demise of cholera, one could say, has been one of the great antisocial developments of modern times.


By withdrawing from the battlefield just long enough to let us drift into this state of indifference, the germs have set the stage for their own spectacular revival. Germs are never in fact defeated completely. If they retire for a while, it’s only to search, in their ingeniously stupid and methodically random way, for a bold new strategy. They’ve also contrived, of late, to get human sociopaths to add thought and order to the search. The germs will return. We won’t be ready.


Read Peter Huber’s Complete Article in the City Journal:
27983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Growing Demand for the rare American Iman on: June 01, 2007, 11:11:43 AM
Today's NY Times-- Often on topical subjects, but always a suspect source:

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. — Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon.

Sheik Yassir Fazaga greeting worshipers after a prayer service. He went to high school in Orange County, Calif., and now leads a mosque there.
Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.)

On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse.

“My main objective is to make Islam relevant,” said Sheik Fazaga, 34, who went to high school in Orange County, which includes Mission Viejo, and brings a certain American flair to his role as imam in the mosque here.

Prayer leaders, or imams, in the United States have long arrived from overseas, forced to negotiate a foreign culture along with their congregation. Older immigrants usually overlook the fact that it is an uneasy fit, particularly since imported sheiks rarely speak English. They welcome a flavor of home.

But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people, like dating and drugs. On an even more practical level, they want an imam who can advise them on day-to-day American matters like how to set up a 401(k) plan to funnel the charitable donations known as zakat, which Islam mandates.

“The problem is that you have a young generation whose own experience has nothing to do with where its parents came from,” said Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Near Eastern studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, who surveys Muslim communities.

But the underlying quandary is that American imams are hard to find, though there are a few nascent training programs. These days, many of the men leading prayers across the United States on any given Friday are volunteers, doctors or engineers who know a bit more about the Koran than everyone else. Scholars point out that one of the great strengths of Islam, particularly the Sunni version, is that there is no official hierarchy.

But this situation is fueling a debate about just how thoroughly an imam has to be schooled in Islamic jurisprudence and other religious matters before running a mosque.

The downside for Islam in America, some critics argue, is that those interpreting Islamic law often lack a command of the full scope of the traditions carried in the Koran and the hadith, the sayings of the prophet Muhammad considered sacred.

“I call it ‘hadith slinging,’ ” said Prof. Khaled Abou el Fadl, a specialist in Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I throw a couple of hadiths at you, and you throw a couple of hadiths at me, and that is the way we do Islamic law,” he added. “It’s like any moron can do that.”

Experts say the problem is exacerbated because few immigrant parents want their children to become imams.

“Immigrant parents want their children to become doctors, engineers, computer scientists,” Dr. Bazian said. “If you suggested that they might want their kid to study to become an imam, they would hold a funeral procession.” Ultimately, in the absence of trained sheiks, good religion in many American mosques has come to be defined through rigid adherence to rituals, Professor Abou el Fadl said, adding, “It’s ritual that defines piety.”

The few imams born or at least raised in the United States who win over their congregations tend to be younger men who can play pickup basketball with the teenagers, but also have enough training in classical Arabic and Islamic jurisprudence that the older members accept their religious credentials.

Imam Ronald Smith Jr., 29, who runs the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach, Fla., converted to Islam at 14 to escape the violence in his African-American community in Atlantic City. As part of his training, he spent six years studying at the Islamic University in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign imams, because of the culture in their countries, kind of stick to the mosque and the duties of the mosque without involving themselves much in the general community,” Imam Smith said. “The hip-hop culture is difficult to understand if you have never lived it.”


(Page 2 of 2)

The foreign imams’ idea of mosque outreach, Imam Smith said, is sponsoring an evening lecture series where everyone sits around for an hour and listens to a speech about being devout or maybe world politics, which teenagers find less than compelling.

Mosque leaders say the risk is that younger Muslims, already feeling under assault in the United States because of the faith’s checkered reputation, might choose one of two extremes. They either drift away from the faith entirely if they cannot find answers, or leave the mosque for a more radical fringe.

Here in Mission Viejo, Sheik Fazaga wears street clothes much of the time, but dons traditional robes to deliver the Friday sermon at the mosque, a building distinguishable from the surrounding strip malls and low-slung office buildings mostly by its airy exterior dome of metal filigree painted sea green. It was a practice he started 10 years ago when he first returned home and kind of fell into the imam’s job around age 24, because some members considered him too young for the position.

Born in the East African nation of Eritrea, he moved to the Arab world before coming to Mission Viejo at age 15. Drawn toward Islam by college students, he enrolled in the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, a Virginia campus of al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The United States government expelled much of the faculty in 2004 as part of the crackdown on extremist Islamic rhetoric.

The school was accused of being an American outpost of the puritanical Wahhabi sect, a label Sheik Fazaga rejects. But that might be one reason he has been stopped for questioning some 20 times — every time he returns home from abroad.

“ ‘How come you don’t dress like an imam?’— that’s their favorite question,” he said with a wry grin.

Younger Muslims seek him out for guidance, he said, and the fact that he is studying for a master’s degree in psychological therapy helps. Teenagers have requested advice about being addicted to Internet pornography, he said, and about sexual orientation. He counsels adolescents — gay and straight — that sexual attraction is natural, but to act on it is wrong and that any addiction should be treated.

Previous imams would simply admonish the youths that something was a forbidden abomination, subject closed.

Gihan Zahran, 43, an Egyptian immigrant, remembers a previous Arab imam who even told a much perplexed teenager that wearing Nike shoes was “haram,” or forbidden in Arabic, without explaining why. Some Muslims consider this aloofness particularly ineffective in America, given that they are a minority faced by majority practices like drinking alcohol that clash with their faith and that teenagers confront daily.

Ms. Zahran’s sister Nermeen Zahran, 42, recently went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She is a real estate agent, and has not veiled her hair at least partly because it might affect her livelihood in a conservative place like Orange County.

When she went on the hajj, as it is called in Arabic, a fellow pilgrim asked the Egyptian imam who accompanied them from Southern California his opinion of her not wearing the scarf afterward.

“He was so mad, so offended and said he couldn’t believe it could happen,” Nermeen Zahran recalled over a glass of orange juice in the neat condominium she shares with her sister. His basic reaction, she said, was that there was no point in seeking forgiveness for previous sins if one did not take the veil afterward.

Ms. Zahran has also consulted religious figures about periodic bouts of depression, but the usual response was that her faith lacked vigor.

Now she talks to Sheik Fazaga about it, she said. “He tries to solve the problems and doesn’t tell you that you have to accept that this is your life, this is what Allah gave you, and if you don’t then you are not a good Muslim.”

She wonders, in the end, whether a purer form of Islam will develop in the United States, with prayer leaders focused on the concerns of the community, rather than not treading on the toes of the government that supports them, as in much of the Arab world.

Mosques will probably continue to address the wishes of the immigrant population for another decade, but after that the tide will shift away from them, experts suggest.

“Islam in America is trying to create a new cultural matrix that can survive in the broader context of America,” said Prof. Sherman Jackson, who teaches Arabic and Islamic law at the University of Michigan. “It has to change for the religion to survive.”
27984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: June 01, 2007, 08:54:26 AM
I loathe Hillary Evita Clinton, but I think she is correct to agree with those who favor reforming the H1B visas to faciliatate immigration by the highly educated.
27985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 01, 2007, 08:50:55 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Musharraf Cracks Down

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Thursday called an emergency meeting of the country's top military brass, including corps commanders and agency heads, for June 1 to discuss the domestic political situation. The same day, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sen. Muhammad Ali Durrani said all private electronic media outlets must now obtain permission from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority before each live broadcast. Pakistan's Supreme Court also said it plans to investigate reports of state authorities and political groups harassing and threatening journalists.

The country's increasingly assertive judiciary and media have played a key role in the growing crisis of governance. The most recent blow to Musharraf came May 26 during a Supreme Court Bar Association seminar titled "Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary," when several prominent lawyers harshly criticized the government and the military's control of the state. Several TV channels carried the event live.

The seminar enraged the Musharraf regime, which responded by saying abusive and derogatory remarks about national institutions, especially the armed forces, will not be tolerated. In a May 30 speech to officers at the Jehlum garrison, Musharraf warned the media to stop politicizing the judicial crisis, though media criticism of the Pakistani government is hardly unprecedented.

In fact, the country has seen a major proliferation of private television channels under Musharraf's rule. The government allowed this in order to counter public criticism that it is a military-dominated autocratic regime. It also could afford to allow the increasingly vibrant media its freedom since Musharraf faced no real challenge to his rule.

But in the wake of the suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, this vibrancy has damaged the public perception of the government. Yet, because the country's opposition parties continue to be divided over how to move against Musharraf, media coverage of political events and the broadcasting of damning criticism have not resulted in the protests attaining critical mass. Nonetheless, the government is moving toward a major crackdown that will drastically curtail free speech.

The nature of the criticism -- which has been aimed not only at the president, but also at the military's domination of the state -- and its reception within Musharraf's own constituency could present major problems for Musharraf's ability to rule.

Musharraf's most important source of power is the support he receives from the military, particularly the army. Criticism of Musharraf due to his dual role as military chief and president is one thing, but the questioning of the military's control over the state changes things dramatically. This forces the top generals to question Musharraf's ability to look after the military's interests. Hence, Musharraf is rushing to clamp down on the media. He must now show the generals he is very much in control and is capable of ensuring that the military maintains its hold on the state. Losing the confidence of the army's senior leadership would prove fatal to his own hold on power.

It is unlikely a crackdown on political dissent will help Musharraf shore up his position; in fact, it likely will make the situation worse for him. The verdict in Chaudhry's appeal case and the controversial presidential vote set to take place in September will only accelerate the momentum of the country's growing unrest.
27986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: May 31, 2007, 09:13:47 PM
Woof Brian:

Interesting post, but I'm thinking this is not quite the right thread for it.  Would you be so kind as to post in Geopolitical Matters at and then I will delete it here?

27987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: May 31, 2007, 10:38:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Keeping U.S. Troops in Iraq

The White House on Wednesday compared the future U.S. troop presence in Iraq to that in South Korea. This is not so much an announcement of a plan to create a specific force structure or basing arrangement as it is a statement about the length and character of Washington's commitment to Baghdad. The real underlying significance of the announcement is simple: the United States is not leaving Iraq any time soon.

While perhaps at first indistinguishable from the Bush administration's well-rehearsed company line -- that the United States is committed to Iraq -- White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's choice of analogies comes amid the first public negotiations between Washington and Tehran on Iraq's stability. These negotiations themselves are the product of years of behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at finding a way to reconcile nearly incompatible national interests. Nevertheless, the very existence of public negotiations on the subject suggests substantial progress has been made from the impasse that existed earlier in the year.

The South Korea analogy is thus no small statement, no accident and no coincidence. This was not the standard "we stand by Iraq" press conference; the White House appears to have made an assertion that reflects a much deeper agreement with Tehran. Washington could well be positioning itself to garner domestic and Iraqi support for a U.S. military presence in Iraq that will continue for the foreseeable future (significantly, while reassuring Sunni allies in Iraq they will not be abandoned).

That presence, of course, will shift dramatically from the current arrangement. This is consistent with some changes already in the cards: a reduced U.S. troop presence and operational tempo, a shift from combat to advising and support, and a withdrawal from day-to-day security operations. The exact basing configuration and force structure are mere details, yet to be decided and -- especially in the case of Iraqi Kurdistan -- up for negotiation. But at the end of the day, a significant U.S. military presence will remain in Iraq.

That presence ultimately will mean the same thing for Iraq that it has meant for South Korea: an attack on Iraq is the same as an attack on the United States.

This position, whether official or unstated, has little to do with Iraq's internal sectarian strife. Rather, it creates a strategic tripwire in the region: the U.S. military physically interposes itself between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and gives Washington enough sway in Baghdad to provide a counterweight to Tehran's very real influence there. If the public talks continue to progress, Iraq could become the next nation to have its security (at least in terms of border integrity, if not internal stability) guaranteed by the United States -- a commitment from Washington that has rarely proven to be short-lived.

But first, of course, there are the negotiations. For Iran, a large U.S. military presence in Iraq would be little better than a U.S.-backed Sunni puppet government in Baghdad (which is Tehran's worst fear, whether or not Washington thinks it is attainable). Thus, if the Iranians have truly agreed to this arrangement -- and that is an exceedingly large "if" -- serious U.S. concessions will be forthcoming.

High on Iran's list of priorities, for example, is a significant role for Tehran in training (and thus influencing and controlling) Iraqi security forces. With a continued but more isolated U.S. military presence in the country, Iran needs a counterbalance. The trick, of course, is that these very security forces have been Washington's own counterbalance to Tehran's power over the Shiite militias -- and U.S. influence over the security apparatus will become increasingly important as the U.S. military draws back from day-to-day security operations.

In other words, Washington appears poised to set up a long-term presence in Iraq that is very nearly unacceptable for Tehran. If a deal is to proceed, Washington will have to reciprocate in kind with an equally unappetizing and nearly unacceptable concession, like sharing influence and perhaps even military participation in Iraq's security apparatus. It is a concession Washington could have a difficult time living with, even if the White House's representatives have agreed to it in principle.

The ability of the two sides to put this prospective compromise into practice is therefore far from certain. The situation is extremely fragile. Elections are looming in the United States and crucial power brokers in Iraq and Iran are falling ill. With both sides walking so close to the line, either could renege at the slightest provocation or the merest perceived shift in national interest.

Complicating matters further, any long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq will have to be worked out with the Iraqi government itself. Even after reaching this compromise with Washington, Tehran will need to convince its Shiite allies in Iraq to play ball -- and, through them, it will need to compel a controlling share of all Iraqi Shia to go along.

The Sunnis, and especially the Kurds, can probably follow suit. However, the Shiite and Sunni landscapes in Iraq are both highly fractured and dominated by Islamist forces, which will oppose a long-term U.S. military presence on Iraqi soil.

Should all go incredibly well -- should the various pieces of the puzzle not only fit into place but also hold their positions -- there will be a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. But while this might serve Washington's interests in part by providing a bulwark against jihadists, it also will fuel the jihadist fire. It is worth remembering that the origins of al Qaeda trace back to a single issue: the long-term U.S. military presence in nearby Saudi Arabia.
27988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Christianity on: May 31, 2007, 09:03:41 AM
What I Think About Evolution

Published: May 31, 2007

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.
27989  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 31, 2007, 08:22:34 AM
Yes there are bathrooms  cheesy

I've been meaning to ask DJ (Dan Jackson) about showers.  In the absence thereof I'm thinking some hoses might do  grin
27990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: May 31, 2007, 08:19:04 AM
ssions Revelation
May 30, 2007
The G-8 summit starts next week, and the U.S. is already under attack for blocking hostess German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal to curb so-called greenhouse gases. President George W. Bush's environmental adviser confirmed yesterday that the White House won't go along with an economically crippling plan to halve emissions from their 1990 levels by mid-century.

Amid all the Euro sanctimony about global warming and carping about America's unwillingness to play along with their grand schemes, a few truths are inconvenient. The U.S. is reducing emissions, without any need for caps. And on this score, America is outpacing Europe's jolly green giants.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Friday that energy-related CO2 emissions fell 1.3% last year, according to preliminary data, even as the economy grew 3.3%. Those emissions account for four-fifths of all greenhouse gases in the U.S. It's the third time since the base year of 1990 that America has recorded a decrease, but the first not to occur during a recession (as in 1991 and 2001). During the same period, Europe managed only once, in 1997, to cut CO2 emissions by at least 1% while its economy grew by more than 2%. (The EU has not released data for 2006.)

A single year doesn't make a trend, but the American one is clear. Since 2000, emissions are nearly flat, thanks to a strong economy that nurtures innovation and efficiency. U.S. manufacturers are curbing CO2 output, pushing last year's total below 1990 levels in absolute terms. After outpacing the U.S. during the Clinton-Gore '90s, Europe has fallen behind this decade on reducing greenhouse emissions.

The Kyoto-hugging Europeans want to tax or crimp this very American competitiveness. As next week's summit will likely prove again, no one can match the Europeans for the output of dangerous policy. Yet anyone seriously concerned about the environment can take a closer look at America's recent record of success.
27991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 31, 2007, 12:13:00 AM

'We Are the Only People Preventing Them From Telling the Story'
In a Memorial Day column, David Carr of the New York Times complains about a U.S. military rule requiring that embedded reporters "obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited."

Why is it so important to show images of hurt and dead Americans? A fellow Timesman gives away the game:

James Glanz, a Baghdad correspondent who will become bureau chief for The New York Times next month, said that although he and others had many great experiences working with the rank-and-file soldiers, some military leaders seem determined to protect something besides the privacy of their troops.

"As the number of reporters there dwindles further and further because of the difficult conditions we work under, the kind of work they are able to publish becomes very important," Mr. Glanz said. "This tiny remaining corps of reporters becomes a greater and greater problem for the military brass because we are the only people preventing them from telling the story the way they want it told."

Hmm, we thought the job of a reporter was to tell stories, not to prevent others from doing so. Furthermore, is it even possible to imagine a Times correspondent saying his job is to prevent the enemy from telling its story?

And here's an example of the kind of journalism the Times's Baghdad bureau produces. This is from a news account, also in yesterday's Times:

On Sunday, American troops freed 42 Iraqi prisoners from what military officials described as a Qaeda hideout northeast of Baghdad. Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman, said some of the captives appeared to have been tortured.

The raid was part of a security effort involving 3,000 additional troops sent to Diyala, a violent province north of the capital with a mixed population of Sunnis and Shiites. Colonel Garver said the hideout had been found because of a tip from an Iraqi, and that all 42 freed prisoners were receiving medical care.

"Some of the rescued stated they had been suspended from the ceiling," he said. "Some of them stated they had been there for four months. One young man stated he was 14 years old."

This is a good story, one that points up the brutality of the enemy and the bravery of American servicemen. Given Glanz's ideas about the press's role, you almost have to wonder how reporter Damien Cave managed to sneak it into the paper.

Well, here's how: The passage we quoted above was paragraphs 11 through 13 of a story titled "Roadside Bombing Kills 2 More G.I.'s in Iraq."

The story is not accompanied by a picture of the two dead soldiers' bodies. Do you wish it were?


Two Papers in One!

" There is one matter on which American military commanders, many Iraqis and some of the Bush administration's staunchest Congressional critics agree: if the United States withdrew its forces from Baghdad's streets this fall, the murder and mayhem would increase."--news story, New York Times, May 27

"It's upsetting to think that Mr. Bush believes the raging sectarian violence in Iraq awaits reigniting. . . . But we have grown accustomed to this president's disconnect from reality and his habit of tilting at straw men, like Americans who . . . don't worry about what will happen after the United States withdraws, as it inevitably must."--editorial, New York Times, May 27
27992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: May 31, 2007, 12:01:30 AM
Also, I am back to breakeven on CREE!  smiley

PCL chugs forward nicely.
27993  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gathering Numbers on: May 30, 2007, 12:01:19 PM
He's LAPD  cool
27994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: May 30, 2007, 12:00:26 PM
Hat tip to David Gordon:


Following the Money Trail Online

From David Pogue comes this referral to an interesting site.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one.

That's what I keep telling myself, anyway, to avoid becoming depressed by

It's a new Web site with a very simple mission: to correlate lawmakers' voting records with the money they've accepted from special-interest groups.

All of this is public information. All of it has been available for decades. Other sites, including, expose who's giving how much to whom. But nobody has ever revealed the relationship between money given and votes cast to quite such a startling effect.

If you click the "Video Tour" button on the home page, you'll see a six-minute video that illustrates the point. You find out that on H.R.5684, the U. S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, special interests in favor of this bill (including pharmaceutical companies and aircraft makers) gave each senator an average of $244,000. Lobbyists opposed to the bill (such as anti-poverty groups and consumer groups) coughed up only $38,000 per senator.

Surprise! The bill passed.

If you click "Timeline of Contributions," you find out that -- surprise again! -- contributions to the lawmakers surged during the six weeks leading up to the vote. On this same page, you can click the name of a particular member of Congress to see how much money that person collected.

Another mind-blowing example: from the home page, click "California." Click "Legislators," then click "Fabian Nunez." The resulting page shows you how much this guy has collected from each special-interest group -- $2.2 million so far -- and there, in black-and-white type, how often he voted their way.

Construction unions: 94 percent of the time. Casinos: 95 percent of the time. Law firms: 78 percent of the time. Seems as though if you're an industry lobbyist, giving this fellow money is a pretty good investment.

A little time spent clicking through to these California lawmakers' pages reveals a similar pattern in most of them.

(A few, on the other hand, appear to be deliciously contrary. Jim Brulte has accepted over $67,000 from the tobacco industry, but hasn't voted in their favor a single time. Is that even ethical -- I mean, by the standards of this whole sleazy business?)

For some reason, doesn't reveal these "percent of the time" figures for United States Congress, only for California. You can easily see how much money each member has taken, but the column that correlates those figures with their voting record is missing.

Now, not all bills exhibit the same money-to-outcome relationships. And it's not news that our lawmakers' campaigns accept money from special interests. What this site does, however, is to expose, often embarrassingly, how that money buys votes.

I probably sound absurdly naive here. But truth is, I can't quite figure out why these contributions are even legal. Let the various factions explain their points till they're blue in the face, sure -- but to cut checks for millions of dollars? isn't always easy to figure out, and not all of its data is complete. In fact, it's not even evident from the list of bills which ones have already been voted on -- a distinct disappointment, since the juicy patterns don't emerge until the vote is complete.

On the other hand, it's painstakingly non-partisan. And it uses very good data; for example, the information on contributions comes from the Center for Responsive Politics (the nonprofit, nonpartisan research group behind, and each special industry's interests (for or against each bill) are taken exclusively from public declarations of support or opposition (Web sites, news articles, Congressional hearings and so on).

Spend a few minutes poking around. Check out a couple of the people you voted for. Have a look at how often their votes align with the interests of the lobbyists who helped to get them elected.

And be glad makes it so easy to spot those correlations.

Labels: Humanities
27995  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 09:54:53 PM

Dan is a pretty bright guy, I think he is up to keeping track of things smiley


Gints makes a very good point about dual function cameras.  This concerns us.


27996  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Training Partners on: May 29, 2007, 09:52:33 PM
The Umpad tribe is at a very good level.  Highly recommended.
27997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: May 29, 2007, 06:55:31 PM
I posted this in the Libertarian thread as well:


Of course I hungry bird could mess up the best laid plans....

Scientist: Military Working on Cyborg Spy Moths

Tuesday , May 29, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not-too-distant future, a moth may take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth's entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a "reliable tissue-machine interface."

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts — known from science fiction as cyborgs — has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is involved with the research, said in a speech last week at the University of Southampton in England that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of U.S. military research.

Brooks said that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as just part of its overall research into microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

"This is going to happen," said Brooks. "It's not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply."

"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."

"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."

Brooks has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and is a founder of iRobot, the MIT-derived manufacturer of both Roomba robot floor cleaners and PackBots, military robots used by the Pentagon to defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brooks said that the military would be increasingly reliant on "semi-autonomous" devices, including ones which could fire.

"The DoD has said it wants one-third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there's no doubt their things will become weaponized, so the question comes: Should they be given targeting authority?"

"The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn't," he said, "but perhaps it's time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use."
Debates such as those over stem-cell research would "pale in comparison" to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures — including humans — and machines, Brooks told the Southampton audience.

"Biological engineering is coming," Brooks said. "There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people's retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we're going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes."

"There's going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just ... well, there's going to be a lot of moral debates," he said.

Another iRobot project being developed as part of the U.S. military's "Future Combat Systems" program, Brooks said, was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced "sug-vee"), basically the next generation of the PackBot, one which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment.

The 30-pound device, which can survive a drop of 30 feet onto concrete, has a small "head" with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called "Red Owl" which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

"It's designed to be the troop's eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too," Mr Brooks said.
27998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: May 29, 2007, 06:54:23 PM
Scary implications for us freedom loving civilians  shocked


Scientist: Military Working on Cyborg Spy Moths

Tuesday , May 29, 2007
By Jonathan Richards

At some point in the not-too-distant future, a moth may take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.

But this will be no ordinary moth.

Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth's entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.

The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a "reliable tissue-machine interface."

The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts — known from science fiction as cyborgs — has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rod Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is involved with the research, said in a speech last week at the University of Southampton in England that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of U.S. military research.

Brooks said that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as just part of its overall research into microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.

"This is going to happen," said Brooks. "It's not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply."

"Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places," he continued. "A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it."

"Once the moth hatches," Brooks said, "machine learning is used to control it."

Brooks has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and is a founder of iRobot, the MIT-derived manufacturer of both Roomba robot floor cleaners and PackBots, military robots used by the Pentagon to defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brooks said that the military would be increasingly reliant on "semi-autonomous" devices, including ones which could fire.

"The DoD has said it wants one-third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there's no doubt their things will become weaponized, so the question comes: Should they be given targeting authority?"

"The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn't," he said, "but perhaps it's time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use."
Debates such as those over stem-cell research would "pale in comparison" to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures — including humans — and machines, Brooks told the Southampton audience.

"Biological engineering is coming," Brooks said. "There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people's retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we're going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes."

"There's going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just ... well, there's going to be a lot of moral debates," he said.

Another iRobot project being developed as part of the U.S. military's "Future Combat Systems" program, Brooks said, was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced "sug-vee"), basically the next generation of the PackBot, one which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment.

The 30-pound device, which can survive a drop of 30 feet onto concrete, has a small "head" with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called "Red Owl" which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.

"It's designed to be the troop's eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too," Mr Brooks said.
27999  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 06:50:13 PM
No, just an appearance from the mists of time to witness the present.  cheesy grin cool
28000  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering on: May 29, 2007, 05:50:03 PM
I just spoke with Top Dog and he confirms that he is coming  afro

I just spoke with Salty Dog and he says he thinks he can make it , , ,
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