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28501  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: November 18, 2008, 10:38:22 AM
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week will consider three proposed antibiotics designed to treat serious skin infections, including some caused by a type of staph bacterium resistant to many antibiotics.

The bacterium -- methicillin-resistant staph aureus, or MRSA -- has sparked concern as the super bug has moved into community settings like schools and locker rooms in recent years after once being largely confined to hospital settings. But it's not clear if any of the three drugs will reach the bar for FDA approval because of safety concerns or questions about how well the drugs work compared with other available medications.

On Wednesday the panel is expected to vote on Theravance Inc.'s telavancin and Targanta Therapeutics Corp.'s oritavancin before considering iclaprim by Swiss biotech company Arpida Ltd. Thursday.

The FDA posted a review Monday of telavancin and oritavancin ahead of the meeting. Iclaprim's review is expected Tuesday.

Telavancin has already faced trouble gaining FDA approval. Last year, the agency refused to approve the drug and asked for additional clinical data. Earlier this year, the agency canceled an advisory panel meeting for telavancin after it had discovered violations of good clinical practice at some study sites involved in telavancin's clinical trials.

On Monday, the FDA said that, after tossing data from five sites out of about 200 study sites, the rest of the study information used to evaluate telavancin was "reliable," thereby allowing the agency to consider it as part of the drug application submitted by Theravance.

Overall, the agency said both telavancin and oritavancin met study goals of being at least as good as a vancomycin -- an older, generic antibiotic -- at treating skin infections.

However, the FDA said it was concerned about an "imbalance" in the number of serious adverse events that involved the kidneys, with more patients receiving Theravance's telavancin having some problems when compared with those receiving vancomycin.

The agency also said it would ask the FDA panel for advice about whether a risk-management program would be needed to keep pregnant women from receiving the drug because of concerns about the drug's effect on a developing fetus, based on results from animal studies. The agency also noted that 18 patients receiving telavancin or vancomycin died during studies and said some deaths in both groups were possibly drug-related.

Theravance said in a statement that "the safety profile of telavancin in these studies was compatible with treatment of patients with serious infections."

In a review of Targanta's oritavancin, the FDA looked at the impact of the drug on 11 types of bacteria -- including MRSA -- compared with vancomycin's effects. The agency said one of the studies showed that a lower percentage of oritavancin patients were considered a treatment success for MRSA, and it will ask the panel to comment on that finding.

Targanta, in briefing documents posted on FDA's Web site, said oritavancin was "safe and well-tolerated."

Write to Jennifer Corbett Dooren at

28502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: New Staph antibiotics on: November 18, 2008, 10:37:34 AM
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week will consider three proposed antibiotics designed to treat serious skin infections, including some caused by a type of staph bacterium resistant to many antibiotics.

The bacterium -- methicillin-resistant staph aureus, or MRSA -- has sparked concern as the super bug has moved into community settings like schools and locker rooms in recent years after once being largely confined to hospital settings. But it's not clear if any of the three drugs will reach the bar for FDA approval because of safety concerns or questions about how well the drugs work compared with other available medications.

On Wednesday the panel is expected to vote on Theravance Inc.'s telavancin and Targanta Therapeutics Corp.'s oritavancin before considering iclaprim by Swiss biotech company Arpida Ltd. Thursday.

The FDA posted a review Monday of telavancin and oritavancin ahead of the meeting. Iclaprim's review is expected Tuesday.

Telavancin has already faced trouble gaining FDA approval. Last year, the agency refused to approve the drug and asked for additional clinical data. Earlier this year, the agency canceled an advisory panel meeting for telavancin after it had discovered violations of good clinical practice at some study sites involved in telavancin's clinical trials.

On Monday, the FDA said that, after tossing data from five sites out of about 200 study sites, the rest of the study information used to evaluate telavancin was "reliable," thereby allowing the agency to consider it as part of the drug application submitted by Theravance.

Overall, the agency said both telavancin and oritavancin met study goals of being at least as good as a vancomycin -- an older, generic antibiotic -- at treating skin infections.

However, the FDA said it was concerned about an "imbalance" in the number of serious adverse events that involved the kidneys, with more patients receiving Theravance's telavancin having some problems when compared with those receiving vancomycin.

The agency also said it would ask the FDA panel for advice about whether a risk-management program would be needed to keep pregnant women from receiving the drug because of concerns about the drug's effect on a developing fetus, based on results from animal studies. The agency also noted that 18 patients receiving telavancin or vancomycin died during studies and said some deaths in both groups were possibly drug-related.

Theravance said in a statement that "the safety profile of telavancin in these studies was compatible with treatment of patients with serious infections."

In a review of Targanta's oritavancin, the FDA looked at the impact of the drug on 11 types of bacteria -- including MRSA -- compared with vancomycin's effects. The agency said one of the studies showed that a lower percentage of oritavancin patients were considered a treatment success for MRSA, and it will ask the panel to comment on that finding.

Targanta, in briefing documents posted on FDA's Web site, said oritavancin was "safe and well-tolerated."

Write to Jennifer Corbett Dooren at

28503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: November 18, 2008, 10:28:38 AM
I have voiced my concerns over what I perceive as an absence of a coherent strategy for Afg-Pak.  Here's one POV:

==============n't Negotiate With the Taliban
Afghanistan is making progress despite its president.By ANN MARLOWEArticle
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Khost Province, Afghanistan

The British have been muttering in recent weeks about talking with the Taliban to end the Afghan insurgency. And Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently offered amnesty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he would return to Afghanistan for peace talks. Mr. Karzai said that if foreign nations disapproved they could either withdraw their troops or remove him (the latter being the best suggestion he has had in a long time). So the terrible idea of talks with the Taliban has penetrated American military and political circles, part of a new pessimism that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

"The security situation is better than it was when the 82nd Airborne left in April. I am satisfied." So says Haji Doulat, the 63-year-old subgovernor of Mandozai, one of the 12 districts of Khost Province. He has worked hard with American troops to develop this rural farming community of 120,000.

Khost is one of the frontline provinces in the war on terror. It shares a 112 mile border with some of the most lawless areas of Pakistan. And its Zadran tribe counts as a member the insurgent leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, who regularly stages attacks on Coalition forces from across the border. The first two girls admitted to Khost's university this fall are so fearful of reprisals that they study at home and go to the campus only for exams. But Khost is also one of the places where we are winning the war against the Taliban, if slowly and expensively.

Since 2007, the U.S. commanders in Khost have dispersed their fighters among the province's districts to live in force-protection facilities alongside the subgovernors like Mr. Doulat and the Afghan National Police. These troops and the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, a civil-military partnership, use their Commander's Emergency Response Program Funds to improve Afghans' lives.

In 2002, there were 13 schools in this province of a million people. Now there are 205, of which 53 were built by the U.S. and 30 by other donors including NGOs, the World Bank and foreign governments. U.S. troops are building 25 more now. Before the invasion not a single girl went to school in all of Khost Province. In 2002 approximately 3,000 attended school. This year, 8,000 girls in Mandozai District alone were in school, and 50,047 attended in all of Khost.

The economy in Mandozai, as in other districts of Khost, has boomed thanks to the hardtop roads financed by the U.S. This week, Mr. Doulat sent men to take a first-ever survey of all the shops in his district with a view of increasing tax rolls and jumpstarting a small bazaar area. There were 61 shops in one half of Mandozai, most with more than 50,000 afghanis ($1,000) in capital. At the beginning of 2007, there were only about 15 shops in all of Mandozai bazaar. (There are 11,300 shops in the city of Khost, the provincial capital, with 2,000 added in the past year, according to Kiramert Khan, the head of the shopkeepers' union.)

Good governance is an essential part of progress. Mr. Doulat is considered the best of Khost's subgovernors by U.S. commanders. On a national level, much that's gone wrong is the fault of Mr. Karzai's wavering and often incompetent government.

This is why Mr. Karzai has been calling for talks with the Taliban and the ruthless war criminal Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- who in his Kabul University days splashed acid on the faces of unveiled female students -- for a couple of years now. Exaggerating the potency of the insurgents is a way of excusing his own failures. It may also help him retain the support of hard-line Pashtun nationalists, nearly his only constituency now.

American commanders have nothing to cover up. In the 14 eastern provinces they command, progress is obvious. But talking with the Taliban will send the wrong message to everyone, from the feckless Mr. Karzai to energetic, courageous Afghans like Mr. Doulat to the little girls going to school for the first time.

– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamAhmad Nadar Nadary, commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, is about to publish a 30-page report on Taliban atrocities, including about 700 Afghan civilians murdered between June 2007 and July 2008. (Look for it on One recent attack came on Oct. 30, when the Taliban attacked Afghanistan's Ministry of Culture. Three insurgents murdered a policeman and four civilians. The people who commit such killings are criminals who should be punished.

Apart from the ethics of talking with the Taliban, it would also be a fool's errand. If they weren't losing, they would have no interest in dialogue. Those who've been killing their own countrymen for the past few years aren't interested in the democratic process. Any Taliban who is interested is already in the government. (About 30%-40% of Afghan Parliament's Lower House are religious fundamentalists.)

Victory in Afghanistan -- defined as the time when we can pack up and leave Afghans to govern and defend their own country -- will come. It will take patience, however. After meeting with Mr. Doulat, I visited a girls' school in neighboring Tani District and stepped into a first-grade class with about 20 girls. None of them had a mother who was literate. They were being taught by an ancient, bearded, good-hearted man. I asked him who the top girl in the class was, and he pulled skinny, seven-year-old Meena to her feet. Her father is a laborer, and her clothes were ragged. If her illiterate parents have enough faith in the future that they send her to school, against cultural norms, we must not betray them or her.

An Afghanistan that officially acknowledges Taliban ideology by talking to Taliban leaders about their grievances and concerns offers nothing for its Meenas.

Ms. Marlowe is a New York-based writer who travels frequently to Afghanistan.

28504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Europe kitties out again on: November 18, 2008, 10:22:15 AM
Russia needed only a few days this August to drive Georgia's army into retreat. In the aftermath, Europe has held out only a bit longer than Tbilisi's troops.

EU leaders on Friday said they were resuming talks with Moscow toward an economic-cooperation agreement. The negotiations were put on ice 10 weeks earlier because of Russia's invasion of its tiny neighbor and refusal to abide by a French-brokered cease-fire. But by Friday's EU-Russia summit in Nice, France, Moscow's fulfillment of "a large part of its obligations" was good enough for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thus ends the lone sanction Europe placed on its belligerent neighbor after the August war. The talks are back on, but Georgians are still waiting for the promised pullback of Russian soldiers to their prewar positions. Numerous Russian troops remain in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose self-declared independence has been recognized by only Russia and Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians are still unable to return to their homes both in and outside the conflict zone. EU and other Western observers remain blocked from entering the most war-torn areas, and as recently as Sunday were still reporting incidents in which they'd been fired upon near Abkhazia.

A second round of peace talks between Russia and Georgia is slated to begin today in Geneva. But with Europe in retreat, Moscow will be under no pressure to compromise with Tbilisi. This round is likely to end almost as soon as it begins, just like a first set of negotiations in October.

In today's Opinion Journal

Iraq 'Fails' UpwardRussia Out of RehabThe Public Payroll Always Rises


Global View: 'No Excuses' for Liberals
– Bret StephensMain Street: Mr. Obama, Give That Man a Medal – William McGurn


Our Spendthrift States Don't Need a Bailout
– Steve MalangaHow to Help People Whose Home Values Are Underwater
– Martin FeldsteinDon't Negotiate With the Taliban
– Ann MarloweThere's a Better Way to Prevent 'Bear Raids'
– Robert C. Pozen and Yaneer Bar-YamEurope's reversal is embarrassing on a number of levels. Russia hardly seemed bothered by the suspension in the first place -- and wasn't exactly begging Brussels to come back to the table. Worse were the rationales for resuming the talks, as offered by Mr. Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Perhaps anticipating the decision, Mr. Sarkozy noted on November 7 that the negotiations had not been suspended but "postponed" -- and that this meant he and Mr. Barroso had the authority to decide how long the postponement would last.

Mr. Barroso even scolded EU members such as Lithuania and Poland for standing in the way of consensus on the bloc's stance toward Russia. "You may not like the common EU position entirely," he said, "but it is in your own interest to have one rather than three or four different positions."

One might expect the Poles and Baltic nations to have a better idea than Mr. Barroso of how to deal with Russia. As for us, we recall a conversation in August with a U.S. diplomat about approaching Russia after the war in Georgia. Rather than trying to wallop Russia's political and business elites with some large penalty while they were in the flush of victory, the diplomat suggested, it would be better to produce a steady stream of measures over time, "so that they realize this isn't going to pass."

What Russia no doubt realizes after last week is that Europe has the will to do absolutely nothing, and that its invasion will in fact "pass" without consequence.
28505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SATs on: November 18, 2008, 09:22:20 AM
FOR some years now, many elite American colleges have been downgrading the role of standardized tests like the SAT in deciding which applicants are admitted, or have even discarded their use altogether. While some institutions justify this move primarily as a way to enroll a more diverse group of students, an increasing number claim that the SAT is a poor predictor of academic success in college, especially compared with high school grade-point averages.

Are they correct? To get an answer, we need to first decide on a good measure of “academic success.” Given inconsistent grading standards for college courses, the most easily comparable metric is the graduation rate. Students’ families and society both want college entrants to graduate, and we all know that having a college degree translates into higher income. Further, graduation rates among students and institutions vary much more widely than do college grades, making them a clearer indicator of how students are faring.

So, here is the question: do SATs predict graduation rates more accurately than high school grade-point averages? If we look merely at studies that statistically correlate SAT scores and high school grades with graduation rates, we find that, indeed, the two standards are roughly equivalent, meaning that the better that applicants do on either of these indicators the more likely they are to graduate from college. However, since students with high SAT scores tend to have better high school grade-point averages, this data doesn’t tell us which of the indicators — independent of the other — is a better predictor of college success.

Instead, we need to look at the two factors separately. And we can, thanks to the recent experience of the State University of New York, America’s largest comprehensive university system, where I was provost from 1997 to 2006. SUNY is blessed with many different types of campuses, mirroring most of the collegiate options (other than small elite private institutions) that characterize contemporary higher education. The university also collects a gold mine of student data, including statistics on pre-admission academic profiles and graduation rates.

In the 1990s, several SUNY campuses chose to raise their admissions standards by requiring higher SAT scores, while others opted to keep them unchanged. With respect to high school grades, all SUNY campuses consider applicants’ grade-point averages in decisions, but among the total pool of applicants across the state system, those averages have remained fairly consistent over time.

Thus, by comparing graduation rates at SUNY campuses that raised the SAT admissions bar with those that didn’t, we have a controlled experiment of sorts that can fairly conclusively tell us whether SAT scores were accurate predictors of whether a student would get a degree.

The short answer is: yes, they were. Consider the changes in admissions profiles and six-year graduation rates of the classes entering in 1997 and 2001 at SUNY’s 16 baccalaureate institutions. Among this group, nine campuses raised the emphasis they put on the SAT after 1997. This group included two prestigious research universities (Buffalo and Stony Brook) and seven smaller, regional colleges (Brockport, Cortland, New Paltz, Old Westbury, Oneonta, Potsdam and Purchase).

Among the campuses that raised selectivity, the average incoming student’s SAT score increased 4.5 percent (at Cortland) to 13.3 percent (Old Westbury), while high school grade-point averages increased only 2.4 percent to 3.7 percent — a gain in grades almost identical to that at campuses that did not raise their SAT cutoff.

Yet when we look at the graduation rates of those incoming classes, we find remarkable improvements at the increasingly selective campuses. These ranged from 10 percent (at Stony Brook, where the six-year graduation rate went to 59.2 percent from 53.8 percent) to 95 percent (at Old Westbury, which went to 35.9 percent from 18.4 percent).

Most revealingly, graduation rates actually declined at the seven SUNY campuses that did not raise their cutoffs and whose entering students’ SAT scores from 1997 to 2001 were stable or rose only modestly. Even at Binghamton, always the most selective of SUNY’s research universities, the graduation rate declined by 2.8 percent.

The change is even more striking if we compare experiences of three pairs of similar SUNY campuses that, from 1997 to 2001, took sharply divergent paths. First, Stony Brook and Albany, both research universities: over four years, at Stony Brook the average entering freshman SAT score went up 7.9 percent, to 1164, and the graduation rate rose by 10 percent; meanwhile, Albany’s average freshman SAT score increased by only 1.3 percent and its graduation rate fell by 2.7 percent, to 64 percent.

Next, Brockport and Oswego, two urban colleges with about 8,000 students each: Brockport’s average freshman SAT score rose 5.7 percent to 1080, and its graduation rate increased by 18.7 percent, to 58.5 percent. At the same time, Oswego’s freshman SAT average rose by only 3 percent and its graduation rate fell by 1.9 percent, to 52.6 percent.

Finally, Oneonta and Plattsburgh, two small liberal arts colleges with 5,000 students each: Oneonta’s freshman SAT score increased by 6.2 percent, to 1069, and its graduation rate rose 25.3 percent, to 58.9 percent. Plattsburgh’s average freshman SAT score increased by 1.3 percent and its graduation rate fell sharply, by 6.3 percent, to 55.1 percent.

Clearly, we find that among a group of SUNY campuses with very different missions and admissions standards, and at which the high school grade-point averages of enrolling freshmen improved by the same modest amount (about 2 percent to 4 percent), only those campuses whose incoming students’ SAT scores improved substantially saw gains in graduation rates.

Demeaning the SAT has become fashionable at campuses across the country. But college administrators who really seek to understand the value of the test based on good empirical evidence would do well to learn from the varied experiences of New York’s state university campuses.

Peter D. Salins is a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
28506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story on: November 18, 2008, 09:11:22 AM
"The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution."

—Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
28507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 18, 2008, 12:00:33 AM
A German friend asked me what I thought of the election.  Here's my response:

> Hello Marc
> I'm very, very impressed how honourably Republicans are handling the
> setback.

Forgive me the crankiness, but note the contrast with the Dems over the two
Bush victories.

>I was impressed with Senator McCain's strength restraining the audience to
>boo during his last speech.

What a frustrating candidate McCain was!  So many mediocrities, so many
hesitations, so many failures to get the analysis right, so many failures to
spot and capitalize on weaknesses, , , , and then moments of sheer class and
quality-- like his concession speech.

> What is your personal opinion on Obama's victory?

The most hopeful thing I can say is that it is really hard to say who he is
or what he truly stands for.

I greatly fear that he will legalize some 10-20 million illegal Mexicans and
enable them to easily become citizens via low meaningless standards and
enable them to bring multiples of their numbers into the US.  Apart from the
economic questions raised by this, there is the matter that these tens of
millions will mostly vote Democrat and the political landscape will change
America from center-right to center-left and we then will head down the road
towards Europe.

IF he goes with the liberal left twaddle on the economy, then we are
seriously fcuked.  If he turns the American tax code into a welfare program,
then it may not be possible to undo the damage for it will become
untouchable. He does not seem to grasp that taxing business drives it
off-shore.  He thinks that global warming is both real and man-made and
looks to try to impose central control of the economy in the name of
stopping it.  Profoundly foolish and damaging!

OTOH if he goes with serious, somber people like Volcker or Summers at
Treasury, it will be a good sign that the adults are in charge of some
aspects of his economic policy.  His chief of staff selection can be
interpreted as preparing himself to deal with the Demogogue wing of his

I greatly fear for BO's desire to give away US sovereignty to international
organizations (UN et al)

If he goes with the Bambi (a nice gentle deer in children's stories)
approach to foreign affairs, then the world is fcuked.   His weakness on
Iraq leaves him little bargaining leverage with Iran.  As Iran goes nuke, I
fear terrible consequences.

He has made bellicose noises about Pak-Afg, but IMHO no one has a coherent
strategy there for us.  I am better informed than most (I think) but I
cannot say what our strategy is.  As it is, we fear to take on the opium
because of its economic importance to the people there and as long as it is
there, much of the money/power goes to the enemy.  There is no win in this
circle for us and with no win, we lose.

Bush has left a mess with Russia and now, given Euro spinelessness, we have
no good options.    Bush's stupidity in recognizing Kosovo has enabled
Russia to take the two provinces in Georgia; the larger point of which is to
make clear that it can take the pipeline any time it wants.  The true issue
is access to central Asian gas and oil-- as we have discussed.  I like Jack
Wheeler's idea of building a pipeline from central Asia through Afg-Pak and
thus create a form of wealth generation that gives us true leverage in
Afg-Pak as well as undercutting Russia's chokehold on Euro energy.

OTOH the man seems unusually calm and centered and capable of extraordinary
changes in his position without his groupies caring or noticing.


28508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 17, 2008, 06:44:41 PM,8599,1858151,00.html?imw=Y

In Mexico, a Theme Park for Border Crossers
By Ioan Grillo / Parque Alberto Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008Tour guide Poncho leads a night walk for Saturday night revelers
Alan Gonzalez for TIME

Men in border-patrol caps tackle a young Mexican to the ground amid jagged rocks and cacti. "You need papers to come to this country. This is not a game!" shouts one agent as he yanks the man's arms behind his back, almost tearing them from his shoulders. It looks like a scene on the U.S. border that would get human rights groups yelling. But actually, it is a game, and it takes place in the mountains of central Mexico. All of the participants are Mexicans, many of whom have paid to be part of the re-enactment of the arrest, part of a border-crossing experience for Saturday-night revelers.

The so-called night hike in the highlands of Hidalgo state is a curious testimony to Mexico's identity as an emigrant nation, in which enormous numbers of young men and women continue to risk their lives sneaking into "El Norte" for a perceived better life. Every weekend, dozens of participants pay about $20 apiece to scramble up hills, slide down ravines and run through tunnels pursued by siren-blaring pickup trucks and pumped-up border-patrol agents shouting in accented English. (See pictures of the fence between the U.S. and Mexico.)

To many outsiders, this seems an odd way to enjoy a night out. But the participants and organizers all say it is both a great deal of fun and an important way to raise consciousness about the migrant experience. "It was fantastic. It totally exceeded my expectations," says medical saleswoman Araceli Hernandez, nursing a bite from a giant ant and brushing off dust after the five-hour slog. "But it makes me feel sad thinking about what the real migrants go through."

The hike was started four years ago by a group of Hnahnu Indians on their ancestral lands. Some of the poorest people in Mexico, the Hnahnu first began crossing into the U.S. in the late 1980s, and within a decade most of their young had left their ramshackle villages in search of dollars. While the fruits of the exodus transformed the Hnahnu's home landscape, allowing migrants to build walled mansions and paved roads, it also divided the community, separating families by thousands of miles and an ever more fortified border. The Hnahnu of the Parque Alberto community then began an eco-tourism project as a local jobs program so more of their people could stay home. The border-crossing simulation soon became their most famous attraction.

"We wanted to have a type of tourism that really raised people's understanding," says founder Alfonso Martinez, who dresses in a ski mask and goes by the name Poncho. "So we decided to turn the painful experience all of us here have gone through into a kind of game that teaches something to our fellow Mexicans." Poncho and other ski-masked comrades play polleros, or chicken herders — the human smugglers who guide wannabe migrants over the deserts and rivers into the U.S. Having made the real journey dozens of times to work as a gardener in Nevada, Poncho is well versed in mimicking the polleros' tactics closely. He moves swiftly over the side of the mountain, commanding participants with authority and ordering them to hold tight in the brambles for long periods and then suddenly sprint for miles.

In hot pursuit are the migra, or border-patrol agents, played by other Hnahnu. Most migrants have been nabbed at least once and know well what it feels like to get a pair of handcuffs slapped on after days of exhausting travel. The actors play their nemeses with energy and zest, tearing across fields to get the migrants and insulting them in a colorful language: "Don't you speak Spanish. You are not in Mexico now, my friend. Tell me who the boss is."

The participants are mostly middle-class professionals and students from Mexico City and other urban areas. While many have friends or family who have crossed illegally into the U.S., they all say they will not do it themselves: the simulated border-crossing is adventure enough for them. At one point the group walks through a nest of giant ants that bite people's legs. One girl starts screaming after injuring herself on the trip and has to be supported by friends as she hops along. The group slides down a steep ravine, a particularly hard task in the middle of the night, and many come through with cuts and bruises. But by the time the group arrives at the base camp and sings a lively rendition of the Mexican national anthem, no one complains that it was too hard.

Poncho hopes the experience will be life-changing for the participants. With the night-hike tours, he envisions himself as a revolutionary fighting for a better world. In a final pep talk, he drills the group about their class differences and how they can overcome them. "What do you call our ethnic group?" he asks in a booming voice. "You call us Indians, and say we are lazy and ignorant. Don't worry, I'm used to it. This experience is about showing we are human beings."

28509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 17, 2008, 12:21:22 PM
November 17, 2008

For More of Mexico’s Wealthy, Expenses Include Guards

MEXICO CITY — When José hops into his Ferrari, presses his Ferragamo loafer to the floor and fills the night air with a deep roar, his bodyguards hustle into a black sport utility vehicle with their weapons at the ready, tailing their fast-moving boss through the streets.

José, a business magnate in his 30s who said he was afraid to have his full name published, makes sure his two children get the same protection. Bodyguards pick them up from school and escort them even to friends’ birthday parties — where the bodyguards meet other bodyguards, because many of the children’s classmates have similar protection.

With drug-related violence spinning out of control and kidnappings a proven money-maker for criminal gangs, members of Mexico’s upper class find themselves juggling the spoils of their status with the fear of being killed.

Dinner party chatter these days focuses on two things that are making their lives, still the envy of the country’s masses, far less enviable: the financial crisis, which is chipping away at their wealth, and the wave of insecurity, which is making it more perilous for them to enjoy what remains.

Mexico’s violence afflicts both rich and poor, but the nation’s income gap is so pronounced that criminals scour the society pages for potential kidnapping victims, for whom they demand, and often receive, huge sums in ransom. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that Mexico had the largest divide between rich and poor of the group’s 30 member nations, virtually assuring that wealthy targets stand out.

Wealthy Mexicans have long hired bodyguards, but experts say the numbers of those seeking protection have jumped since President Felipe Calderón challenged the drug cartels, bringing unprecedented levels of related violence — which had been mainly confined to the areas bordering the United States — into the major cities.

High-profile and sometimes gruesome crimes have stoked people’s fears.

In one of the worst cases, a 5-year-old boy from a poor family was plucked from a gritty market this month and killed by kidnappers, who injected acid into his heart.

Early this month, white-coated doctors in Tijuana protested after one of their own, a prominent kidney specialist, was plucked from outside his office by heavily armed men. He has since been released.

“It’s out of control,” said Dr. Hector Rico, the leader of the local medical association.

Confronted by the irate doctors at a public meeting, José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, the governor of Baja California State, said the answer to the rising insecurity was to come together and fight.

“We’re not going to cede one millimeter of territory to these criminals,” he said of the federal government’s war on drug traffickers.

But hundreds of well-off families along the border have become so consumed by their fears that they have moved out of Mexico, at least temporarily, often using business visas granted because of their work in the United States.

“It’s a bad feeling to have to leave your country behind,” said Javier, a prosperous Tijuana businessman, who moved his family across the border to San Diego last year after a group of armed men tried to kidnap him. “But I didn’t really have a choice.” He insisted that his last name not be used, out of fear that criminals might track him.

“There’s an exodus, and it’s all about insecurity,” said Guillermo Alonso Meneses, an anthropologist at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. “A psychosis has developed. There’s fear of getting kidnapped or killed.

“People don’t want to live that way,” he continued, “and those who can afford it move north.”

Still, most of the wealthy have chosen to stay put, hiring armies of protectors to continue enjoying their gilded lives.

Although there are few firm figures for the number of Mexicans employed to guard their fellow citizens — most security companies ignore requirements to register with the government — experts say business is booming for the estimated 10,000 security companies operating in the country.

In the border state of Chihuahua, the Mexican Employers’ Association recently reported a 300 percent increase in the number of bodyguards. In that violence-torn state, some luxury hotels now offer their guests bodyguards and bulletproof vehicles.

For many affluent families, the guards and bulletproof cars, homes and even clothing have become a way of life. Some Mexicans say the protection has even become a status symbol.

In Mexico City, some people being protected by men wearing earpieces strut along in designer clothes, using their armed guards to clear a path.

A stylish woman at a Starbucks in the well-off Coyoacán neighborhood held out her cappuccino the other day while chatting with friends. A member of her two-man security detail discreetly slipped a cardboard sleeve on the cup so that the woman’s fingertips were protected, along with the rest of her.

“It’s a different life,” said José, the well-protected Ferrari driver, who agreed to provide a glimpse of that life. “I’ve gotten used to it.”

Indeed, José hands out designer clothing and other expensive gifts to his family’s two dozen or so bodyguards and invites them to his mother’s house weekly for a meal. He is being benevolent but also practical, given that many crimes in Mexico are inside jobs.

“I want them to feel like they’re part of the family,” he said. “And if something happens to me, I want them to react. They won’t risk their life for a paycheck. They will risk their life for a friend, for family.”

Some security consultants and academics point out that at least the upper crust has options, while other Mexicans must rely on law enforcement agencies, known for their corruption and ineffectiveness, to protect them from the violence. Many families who struggle to make ends meet find their loved ones grabbed for ransom. And shootouts between traffickers and the police and soldiers pursuing them erupt with no regard for the income level of bystanders.

“There’s reason for everyone to be fearful,” said Dr. Alonso, the Tijuana anthropologist, who hears gunfire at night in his middle-class neighborhood and, like many others, rarely ventures out after dark.

Despite José’s expensive clothing, eye-catching jewelry and luxury home in the hills, he insists that his family is different from many others in their income bracket.

“We’re not nouveau riche,” he said with a huff. “Those people want guards to show how important they are.”

As for the Ferrari, which he acknowledged is the opposite of discreet, José said it was the car’s engine that attracted him to it. “It’s not to sit back and have everyone look at me,” he said. “It’s to drive.”

But people do gawk. And José’s bodyguards worry about the attention his rare sports car attracts on the roads of Mexico.

“Of course, he shouldn’t be driving himself,” one of José’s bodyguards said. “But he’s like a presidential candidate who likes to go into crowds. Our function is to provide the security around the life he’s living.”

That life includes late-night stops at exclusive nightclubs and humble taco shops. José understands what he puts his guards through, because he completed bodyguard training in Guatemala to learn what his employees should be doing.

José also conducts background checks before hiring his bodyguards and sends them for regular refresher courses, meaning they are a cut above the run-of-the-mill Mexican bodyguard, who might be a washout police officer or soldier with modest training and little discipline for the job.

Javier, the businessman who now lives north of the border, said he did not believe bodyguards were the answer.

“One bodyguard, two bodyguards, even three of them can’t do anything with these criminals, who come in groups of 20 with high-powered arms,” he said. “If they want to hunt you down, they will get you.”

Even José is taking a break from Mexico. He recently headed to Canada with his family, for what he insisted was a respite rather than an abandonment of his country.

“I’m not running away,” he said. “I have an opportunity, and I’ll be back. But I’m not going to miss the insecurity. Not at all.”

Especially appealing, he said, was that his 6-year-old son would be able to ride his bike to school instead of being escorted in a bulletproof vehicle driven by a private paramilitary force.

“For my children, they don’t understand,” José said. “They’re happy to have these guys around. When they get out of school, there’s someone to take their backpack. There’s always someone around to play. I try to teach them that this isn’t normal. It shouldn’t be this way.”
28510  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: November 17, 2008, 11:58:30 AM
Just wanted to make sure I had it clear in my mind  smiley


 NY Detective Saves Ex Cop Shot In Waldorf Heist By Relieving Tension PneumoThorax




November 16, 2008

A gunman dressed all in black shot a retired NYPD detective working as a security guard during a robbery of a jewelry store in the lobby of the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel yesterday afternoon, police said.  Rafael Rabinovich-Ardans, 20, entered Cellini Jewelry - where gems and watches typically sell for tens of thousands of dollars - at the rear of the Park Avenue hotel's lobby just before 2:30 p.m., pulled a gun and announced a robbery, sources said.  The suspect - wearing black Army pants, a black shirt and black boots - allegedly smashed two display cases before Gregory Boyle, a 21-year-veteran of the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn, tackled him.  As they struggled, the gunman fired three shots, striking Boyle, 54, in the left armpit, sources said.  As the shots echoed through the lobby, panicked visitors began running for cover and hotel staff began to evacuate guests.

"I heard pops and instantly people screamed, 'Gunshot! Robbery! Get out!' Everyone ran to the exit," said Matt Luba, 49, of Old Tappan, NJ.

"Everybody just started running and I'm like, 'What's going on?' " said Jeff Johnstone, 51, who is in vacationing with his wife from Raleigh, NC.

He said he then heard a shot and saw people duck for cover behind chairs and pillars, and run into the bar.

"I just ran behind a column, just like everybody else," he said.

As the thief tried to flee the store an employee tackled him. The gunman managed to squeeze off another round, but hit no one, sources said. Hotel security then subdued him and held him for police.

"We saw mass commotion and lots of people started running," said Leanne McDonald, 34, of Freehold, NJ. "A few minutes later, cops flooded the lobby. A man was carried out on a stretcher and he had blood all over his chest."

An NYPD Hercules team, which monitors high-profile locations, was at Grand Central Station and was the first to respond, police said.
Detective Dennis Canale, who has training as a physician's assistant, put a stent in Boyle's collapsed lung, allowing him to breathe.

"He was pretty disoriented, that's the first sign of shock. That's what we were concerned about," said Canale, who kneeled in broken glass as he worked on Boyle. "It's a very deadly wound. I told him we'll take care of you."

Canale, 32, also saw a wound on Boyle's left forearm, but it was unclear what it was, he said.  Boyle, who retired in 2002 and whose son Edward is an officer in the 72nd Precinct, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he was "conscious and alert."

"He's a wonderful man," said the ex-cop's neighbor Isabella Damante, 78. "He's always helpful to us. The whole family is very well-respected in the neighborhood."

Rabinovich-Ardans, of Highland Park, NJ, was taken from the hotel in cuffs, weeping while he struggled with police. He was charged with attempted murder, assault, attempted grand larceny, robbery and criminal use of a firearm, police said.

Cops recovered two semiautomatic handguns - including a .45-caliber weapon - from the scene.
28511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 17, 2008, 11:37:50 AM
November 17, 2008

In today's Political Diary

More Clinton Melodrama
They Vote Secretly So You Won't Have To
Grand Old Toupee (Quote of the Day I)
The New Affirmative Action Babies (Quote of the Day II)
Three Musketeers

What's Behind the Hillary Head Fake?

In floating the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming his Secretary of State, Barack Obama has scored a two-fer. If she accepted such an offer, he would instantly neutralize his strongest potential adversary within the Democratic Party, enhance his relationship with Democratic women and gain a tough-minded operator who might actually be able to manage the notoriously independent Foggy Bottom bureaucracy.

But Reason #1 also makes it very unlikely Mrs. Clinton will become Secretary of State. As the nation's top diplomat, she would be barred by both law and custom from any partisan politics. Fundraisers for the Democratic Party or Democratic candidates would be off the table. She would have to dismantle her formidable political operation. Finally, she would be forced to follow Obama administration policy and rule out, as a loyal soldier, any possibility of challenging him for the 2012 Democratic nomination if his administration were widely seen to be unsuccessful.

Look for a face-saving maneuver that will, in the end, keep her out of the cabinet. One excuse would be the difficulty of unwinding the large number of conflicts of interest arising from Bill Clinton's global foundation, whose myriad of donors Mr. Clinton would be less than anxious to make public. As the New York Daily News dryly notes: "Questions about those donors, some say, might trip up a new administration that has made itself all about promoting a new kind of politics."

Thus Barack Obama will get credit for having considered Hillary Clinton to be the nation's top diplomat and none of the blame when it doesn't happen. Mr. Obama may be good at shooting hoops on the basketball court, but his real skill is in the political head fake.

-- John Fund

A Secret Ballot for Me, Not Thee

Last year, Democratic Senators voted for so-called "card check" legislation that would have deprived millions of employees of the right to vote secretly on whether they want to be represented by a labor union. Tomorrow many of those same Democratic Senators will insist on using a secret ballot process to determine whether Joe Lieberman will be stripped of his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

That same day, Republican Senators are likely to use a secret ballot to decide whether to expel convicted colleague Ted Stevens from their caucus. Later in January, the House Democratic Caucus will use a secret ballot to determine whether Michigan Rep. John Dingell keeps his chairmanship of the House Energy & Commerce Committee against a challenge from California Rep. Henry Waxman.

In other words, many legislators who value a secret ballot to preserve their own privacy and freedom from intimidation in conducting Congressional business are nonetheless prepared to support union-backed "card check" legislation to strip American workers of the same privacy and freedom. Instead, a workplace would be deemed "organized" as soon as 50%-plus-one-worker signed cards carried around by union organizers authorizing such a move.

If card-check passes, workers in company after company might soon see their workplaces dominated by the same kind of union shop arrangements that helped bring Detroit's auto making industry to its knees -- and all without workers being able to choose their fate in the privacy of a voting booth.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"We're going to need more than just a political comb-over" -- Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association on the current state of the Republican Party.

Quote of the Day II

"ome of the conservatives' complaints about a liberal tilt are valid. Journalism naturally draws liberals; we like to change the world. I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. . . . Are there ways to tackle this? More conservatives in newsrooms and rigorous editing would be two. The first is not easy: Editors hire not on the basis of beliefs but on talent in reporting, photography and editing, and hiring is at a standstill because of the economy. But newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done" -- Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, in an article called "Remedying the Bias Perception."

No Room for RINOs

South Carolina's Mark Sanford is one of three GOP governors now being widely mentioned as potential saviors of the Republican Party between now and 2012. All are conspicuous for calling on their own party to live up to its principles. Most notably, none have advocated the GOP move to the left.

Mr. Sanford is a two-term governor known for vetoing spending bills, pushing market-oriented policy reforms (such as moving his state's Medicaid system to a private account-based model) and criticizing the lapses of the national GOP. "Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty," he wrote on after this month's elections. "But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles."

In the same op-ed he took a swing at Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, identifying him as someone who "personifies what went wrong in the election. . . He was a proud champion of pork barrel spending and bridges to nowhere and stayed so long that he developed a blind eye to ethical lapses that would be readily seen by scout leaders and soccer moms alike."

Two other leading lights for a troubled GOP are Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Before she became John McCain's running mate, Mrs. Palin was best known for challenging her own state GOP to cure its spendthrift, corrupt ways. She unseated a sitting mayor in her first bid for office and became a giant killer by knocking off the high-handed, free-spending Gov. Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary.

Mr. Jindal is a boy wonder of the party. At 25, he was appointed to fix Louisiana's failing Medicaid program, and succeeded. At 32, he lost a hard-fought campaign for governor but later landed a Congressional seat from which he criticized bureaucratic bungling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, after Katrina had destroyed Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco's reputation, he won his second bid for the office by promising sweeping reform of Louisiana's corrupt and inefficient government culture.

That Republicans are coalescing around these three governors is also revealing for who is not included. Several years ago Christie Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator, wrote a book called "It's My Party Too." She used that treatise to argue for the party to abandon its conservative roots. Even after two serious GOP drubbings at the polls, she has found no takers. Likewise, Lincoln Chaffee, the former Rhode Island Senator once labeled a "Republican in Name Only," was still complaining last week to the Washington Post that "right-wing talk show hosts and the Ann Coulters and that ilk" never understood that the GOP needs people like him.

Maybe that's because Republicans have looked closely at the election results. The country hasn't so much moved left as it has abandoned a GOP that abandoned its own principles. In Ohio, Barack Obama actually won about 40,000 fewer votes than John Kerry did four years ago. Mr. Obama took Ohio only because John McCain pulled 350,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. Republicans and Republican-leaning voters stayed home.

That's not an endorsement of the ideas of the left. It's a lack enthusiasm for a party that failed to deliver the smaller government it promised in Washington. At least the GOP, in settling on future leaders like Governors Jindal, Sanford and Palin, seems to understand that.

28512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 17, 2008, 11:36:17 AM
No Room for RINOs

South Carolina's Mark Sanford is one of three GOP governors now being widely mentioned as potential saviors of the Republican Party between now and 2012. All are conspicuous for calling on their own party to live up to its principles. Most notably, none have advocated the GOP move to the left.

Mr. Sanford is a two-term governor known for vetoing spending bills, pushing market-oriented policy reforms (such as moving his state's Medicaid system to a private account-based model) and criticizing the lapses of the national GOP. "Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty," he wrote on after this month's elections. "But Tuesday was not in fact a rejection of those principles -- it was a rejection of Republicans' failure to live up to those principles."

In the same op-ed he took a swing at Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, identifying him as someone who "personifies what went wrong in the election. . . He was a proud champion of pork barrel spending and bridges to nowhere and stayed so long that he developed a blind eye to ethical lapses that would be readily seen by scout leaders and soccer moms alike."

Two other leading lights for a troubled GOP are Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Before she became John McCain's running mate, Mrs. Palin was best known for challenging her own state GOP to cure its spendthrift, corrupt ways. She unseated a sitting mayor in her first bid for office and became a giant killer by knocking off the high-handed, free-spending Gov. Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary.

Mr. Jindal is a boy wonder of the party. At 25, he was appointed to fix Louisiana's failing Medicaid program, and succeeded. At 32, he lost a hard-fought campaign for governor but later landed a Congressional seat from which he criticized bureaucratic bungling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, after Katrina had destroyed Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco's reputation, he won his second bid for the office by promising sweeping reform of Louisiana's corrupt and inefficient government culture.

That Republicans are coalescing around these three governors is also revealing for who is not included. Several years ago Christie Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator, wrote a book called "It's My Party Too." She used that treatise to argue for the party to abandon its conservative roots. Even after two serious GOP drubbings at the polls, she has found no takers. Likewise, Lincoln Chaffee, the former Rhode Island Senator once labeled a "Republican in Name Only," was still complaining last week to the Washington Post that "right-wing talk show hosts and the Ann Coulters and that ilk" never understood that the GOP needs people like him.

Maybe that's because Republicans have looked closely at the election results. The country hasn't so much moved left as it has abandoned a GOP that abandoned its own principles. In Ohio, Barack Obama actually won about 40,000 fewer votes than John Kerry did four years ago. Mr. Obama took Ohio only because John McCain pulled 350,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. Republicans and Republican-leaning voters stayed home.

That's not an endorsement of the ideas of the left. It's a lack enthusiasm for a party that failed to deliver the smaller government it promised in Washington. At least the GOP, in settling on future leaders like Governors Jindal, Sanford and Palin, seems to understand that.

-- Brendan Miniter

28513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chavez (Dodd) on: November 17, 2008, 11:24:12 AM
Hugo Chávez's threat last week to bring tanks to the streets if his side does not win key states in Sunday's gubernatorial elections is chilling. But it is not surprising. It is only the next logical step in what is the Venezuelan president's drive to seize all power and silence all dissent.

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.
Despite numerous setbacks for Venezuelan democracy, many still believe that they can rid themselves of Mr. Chávez democratically. Their expectations were raised last year when voters defeated a referendum in which Mr. Chávez attempted to rewrite the constitution to strengthen his authoritarian powers. Now they hope to deliver another setback by voting in anti-Chávez governors in at least three and maybe more than 10 of the country's 23 states. The top post in the capital district of Caracas is also up for grabs.

There are currently at least 18 states with pro-Chávez governors, and despite deteriorating living standards, Mr. Chávez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela is expected to be returned to power in a good number of them.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady speaks with James Freeman. (Nov. 17)
One reason is that the cards are stacked against the opposition. The government is using state funds for pro-Chávez candidates and has dramatically outspent the competition. The National Electoral Council is dominated by pro-Chávez representatives. Scores of individuals who are popular were declared "ineligible" to run. The government has refused to release the voter rolls so that the opposition can ensure that they are clean. On election day, lines are expected to be long and the widespread assumption that the government will use tricks to win could dampen opposition turnout.

Yet even these odds are not enough for Mr. Chávez. In recent weeks he has begun threatening to use the military against his own population in states where his municipal and gubernatorial candidates are defeated. On a trip to the state of Carabobo last week, for example, he told voters, "If you let the oligarchy return to government then maybe I'll end up sending the tanks of the armored brigade out to defend the revolutionary government." Just as troubling are the president's declarations that in states where his candidates are not elected, he will withhold federal funding.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chávez began working to destroy any checks on his power. On April 11, 2002, after weeks of street protests against this effort, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched again in Caracas. Nineteen people were shot dead in the streets by government supporters. When Mr. Chávez asked the military to use force against the crowd, the generals refused and instead told him he had to step aside.

One might think that all Americans would have supported the demand to stop the bloodshed. But Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd threw a fit over Mr. Chávez's removal. The self-styled Latin America expert insisted that since Mr. Chávez had been initially "democratically elected" in a fair vote, he should have been immune from challenges to his power, no matter the abuses. To this day the senator calls the event a U.S.-backed coup, even though a State Department Inspector General's report found that the charge was false. Even the Organization of American States accepted the change in power.

Of course it wasn't a coup, U.S. backed or otherwise, as witnessed by the fact that while Mr. Chávez was removed from power, he was allowed to keep his cell phone, chat with Havana and negotiate his future. With the inadvertent help of the opposition, which acted incompetently, Mr. Chávez was back in office days later.

Today in Opinion Journal

Spitzer as VictimThe $639 Million LoopholeChina's News Concession


The Americas: Dodd's 'Democrat' Tightens His Grip
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Markets Declare Truce in Copyright Wars
– L. Gordon Crovitz


Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM
– Michael E. LevineTo Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
– Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.Democrats Shouldn't Rush on Labor Legislation
– Ariella BernsteinThe circumstances of Mr. Chávez's political resurrection are still debated, but what is not in question is the reason Venezuelans had massed in the streets that day: They opposed the strongman's consolidation of power, which they warned would lead to dictatorship.

Fast forward six and a half years, and it turns out that the protestors were right.

Nearly all economic, judicial, electoral and congressional power in Venezuela is now in the hands of Mr. Dodd's "democratically elected" Chávez. Cuban doctors and teachers blanket the country, indoctrinating the poor. Cuban intelligence personnel are always on hand to support the Bolivarian Revolution while neighborhood gangs do the grass-roots work of enforcement. Political prisoners are rotting in Venezuelan jails without trials.

Being identified as a political opponent of the revolution is a ticket to the end of the unemployment line. Private property has zero protection under the law and the economy's private sector has been all but destroyed.

Mr. Chávez appears surprised that after a decade of repression, Venezuelans are still struggling to regain their liberty. But he is just as determined to retain control, and has made it clear he will not accept defeat at the polls. This is your "democratically elected" president, Sen. Dodd.

Write to Mary Anastasia O'Grady at O'
28514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chapter 11 for GM on: November 17, 2008, 11:17:15 AM
eneral Motors is a once-great company caught in a web of relationships designed for another era. It should not be fed while still caught, because that will leave it trapped until we get tired of feeding it. Then it will die. The only possibility of saving it is to take the risk of cutting it free. In other words, GM should be allowed to go bankrupt.

APConsider the costs of tackling GM's problems with some kind of bailout plan. After 42 years of eroding U.S. market share (from 53% to 20%) and countless announcements of "change," GM still has eight U.S. brands (Cadillac, Saab, Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Saturn, Chevrolet and Hummer). As for its more successful competitors, Toyota (19% market share) has three, and Honda (11%) has two.

GM has about 7,000 dealers. Toyota has fewer than 1,500. Honda has about 1,000. These fewer and larger dealers are better able to advertise, stock and service the cars they sell. GM knows it needs fewer brands and dealers, but the dealers are protected from termination by state laws. This makes eliminating them and the brands they sell very expensive. It would cost GM billions of dollars and many years to reduce the number of dealers it has to a number near Toyota's.

Foreign-owned manufacturers who build cars with American workers pay wages similar to GM's. But their expenses for benefits are a fraction of GM's. GM is contractually required to support thousands of workers in the UAW's "Jobs Bank" program, which guarantees nearly full wages and benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to automation or plant closure. It supports more retirees than current workers. It owns or leases enormous amounts of property for facilities it's not using and probably will never use again, and is obliged to support revenue bonds for municipalities that issued them to build these facilities. It has other contractual obligations such as health coverage for union retirees. All of these commitments drain its cash every month. Moreover, GM supports myriad suppliers and supports a huge infrastructure of firms and localities that depend on it. Many of them have contractual claims; they all have moral claims. They all want GM to be more or less what it is.

And therein lies the problem: The cost of terminating dealers is only a fraction of what it would cost to rebuild GM to become a company sized and marketed appropriately for its market share. Contracts would have to be bought out. The company would have to shed many of its fixed obligations. Some obligations will be impossible to cut by voluntary agreement. GM will run out of cash and out of time.

GM's solution is to ask the federal government for the cash that will allow it to do all of this piece by piece. But much of the cash will be thrown at unproductive commitments. And the sense of urgency that would enable GM to make choices painful to its management, its workers, its retirees, its suppliers and its localities will simply not be there if federal money is available. Like AIG, it will be back for more, and at the same time it will be telling us that it's doing a great job under difficult circumstances.

Federal law provides a way out of the web: reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. If GM were told that no assistance would be available without a bankruptcy filing, all options would be put on the table. The web could be cut wherever it needed to be. State protection for dealers would disappear. Labor contracts could be renegotiated. Pension plans could be terminated, with existing pensions turned over to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC). Health benefits could be renegotiated. Mortgaged assets could be abandoned, so plants could be closed without being supported as idle hindrances on GM's viability. GM could be rebuilt as a company that had a chance to make vehicles people want and support itself on revenue. It wouldn't be easy but, unlike trying to bail out GM as it is, it wouldn't be impossible.

The social and political costs would be very large, but if GM fails after getting $50 billion or $100 billion in bailout money, it'll be just as large and there will be less money to soften the blow and even more blame to go around. The PBGC will probably need money to guarantee GM's pensions for its white- and blue-collar workers (pension support is capped at around $40,000 per year, so that won't help executives much). Unemployment insurance will have to be extended and offered to many people, perhaps millions if you include dealers, suppliers and communities dependent on GM as it exists now. A GM bankruptcy will make addressing health-care coverage more urgent, which is probably a good thing. It would require job-retraining money and community assistance to affected localities.

But unless we are willing to support GM as it is indefinitely, the downsizing and asset-shedding will have to come anyway. Even if it builds cars as attractive and environmentally responsible as those Honda and Toyota will be building, they won't be able to carry the weight of GM's past.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner says "bankruptcy is not an option." Critics of a bankruptcy say that GM won't be able to get the loans it will need to guarantee warranties, pay its operating losses while it restructures, and preserve customers' ability to finance purchases. While consumers buy tickets from bankrupt airlines, electronics from bankrupt retailers, and apartments from bankrupt builders, they say consumers won't buy cars from a bankrupt auto maker. But bankruptcy no longer means "liquidation" or "out of business" to a generation of consumers used to buying from firms in reorganization.

Today in Opinion Journal

Spitzer as VictimThe $639 Million LoopholeChina's News Concession


The Americas: Dodd's 'Democrat' Tightens His Grip
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Markets Declare Truce in Copyright Wars
– L. Gordon Crovitz


Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM
– Michael E. LevineTo Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
– Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.Democrats Shouldn't Rush on Labor Legislation
– Ariella BernsteinGM would guarantee warranty support with a segregated fund if necessary. And debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing -- loans that provide the near-term cash for reorganizing companies -- is very safe, because the DIP lender has priority over all other claimants. In normal markets, it would certainly be available to a GM that has assets to sell, including a viable overseas business. Such financing is probably available even now.

In any event, it would be lined up before a filing, not after, so any problems wouldn't be a surprise. As a last resort, we could at least consider a public DIP loan to support a reorganizing GM with a good chance to survive -- as opposed to subsidizing a GM slowly deflating.

The fate of Daewoo -- the Korean auto maker that collapsed in 2000 after filing for bankruptcy, leaving about 500 dealers stranded in the U.S. -- is often cited as "proof" that a GM bankruptcy won't work. But Daewoo was headquartered in a part of the world where bankruptcy still carries a major stigma and usually means liquidation. Daewoo's experience is largely irrelevant to a major U.S. company undergoing a well-publicized positive transformation, almost certainly under new management.

GM as it is cannot survive without long-term government life support. If it gets that support, it can't change enough and won't change fast enough. Contrary to Mr. Wagoner's brave declaration, bankruptcy is an option. In fact, it's the only option that merits public support and actually has a chance at succeeding.

Mr. Levine, a former airline executive, is a distinguished research scholar and senior lecturer at NYU School of Law.

28515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: November 17, 2008, 11:00:28 AM
My education continues-- thank you.  Looking forward to the next installment.
28516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Early Doors recording to be released soon on: November 17, 2008, 10:57:02 AM
Early S.F. Doors show breaks on through to CD
Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Monday, November 17, 2008

Only a few tables of curious spectators showed up at the club each night, so the musicians pretty much played for themselves. In between two weekend engagements at the Avalon Ballroom, a little-known rock group from Los Angeles called the Doors played Tuesday through Friday at a 100-seat Marina district club called the Matrix. Even the musicians might have forgotten all about the gig if the club manager hadn't decided to tape the shows.

The Doors were making their second trip to the thriving San Francisco ballroom scene in March 1967. It was an unseasonably chilly end of winter before the Summer of Love and just three months after the little-noted release of the band's now-historic debut album.

"We were on the lip of great success and we didn't know it," drummer John Densmore says. "Neither did the audience, which was very cool."

"Light My Fire" wouldn't break the group on radio for another three months, so the Doors were playing that weekend second-billed to Country Joe and the Fish at the Avalon, and almost no one showed up at their midweek Matrix engagement.

Matrix co-owner Peter Abrams had only recently installed a tape recorder in the sound booth, but it would be his custom over the next five years to record every show at the club. His tapes have been made into albums before; his live recording of the Velvet Underground is one of the few records of that landmark band's stage show. The Doors' tapes have been passed around in the underground world of bootleg recordings for years, including a set of "horrible, horrible sounding" Italian CDs that Doors producer Bruce Botnick heard.

Botnick, who has engineered and produced virtually every Doors recording in the band's history, finally dusted off the tape copies in the band's vault, cleaned them up and put together a two-CD set, "Live at the Matrix," complete with a cover by '60s San Francisco poster artist Stanley Mouse, to be released Tuesday on Rhino Records. Botnick says he thinks the Matrix tapes contain "one of their best recorded performances."

"They were young, enthusiastic, out to have fun," he says. "They experimented a lot, changed arrangements around and played things they never did before."

"We looked at it as a paid rehearsal," says guitarist Robbie Krieger. "There were five to 10 people in the club. We did it for ourselves."

The Doors first came to San Francisco in January 1967 to open for the Young Rascals and Sopwith Camel at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was the same weekend that more than 25,000 hippies filled Golden Gate Park for the Human Be-In, and the Doors were there, too.

'Changing the world'
"We thought you guys were changing the world," Densmore says.

They stayed at the Swiss American Hotel on Broadway and ate po'boy sandwiches across the street at Mike's Pool Hall. "We were baby beatniks," organist Ray Manzarek says.

Along with the San Francisco rock bands of the day, such as Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, LSD evangelist Tim Leary urged the gathering of the tribes in the park to "turn on, tune in and drop out." There were also readings by the beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and Gary Snyder.

"Holy cow - these are the beat icons," says Manzarek. "(Jim) Morrison and I idolized the beats."

When the band appeared that night in the scheduled engagement at the Fillmore, the musicians sensed a certain reluctance by the crowd to embrace the band, introduced as a rock group from Los Angeles - "grumble, rumble, murmur, spatter of applause, sigh of disrespect," Manzarek remembers - but Morrison insisted the band plunge right ahead, opening with the 10-minute-plus opus "When the Music's Over," and winning the crowd right from the start. Promoter Bill Graham gave the band a $100 bonus.

Three months later, the Doors returned to San Francisco for the Avalon Ballroom and the midweek Matrix engagement, checking into a Lombard Street motel.

Airplane led the way
The Matrix opened in August 1965, with the first public performance by the Jefferson Airplane - in many ways, the birth of the San Francisco scene. The band held an ownership interest in the enterprise - the surviving Doors semi-accurately remembered the club as belonging to Airplane vocalist Marty Balin - and the Airplane performed as house band during the brief, early days.

"Then the Fillmore opened and we got semi-famous," says Airplane founding member Paul Kantner, who helped paint the club.

All the San Francisco bands of the day played the former Fillmore Street pizza parlor. Artist Victor Moscoso did some of his most famous posters, highly prized by collectors, for the club. The Airplane played the band's last Matrix show in September 1966, the first night Grace Slick sang with the band. Her previous group, the Great Society, is largely remembered today through two live albums recorded by Abrams at the Matrix.

The current whereabouts of Abrams is not known to his former associates or the Doors, who tried to locate him for years. He is rumored to have sold copies of his Matrix tapes through classified ads in the back of Rolling Stone magazine during the '80s. Some 40 years ago, he gave the Doors four edited reels of the recordings - Botnick says he believes the tapes come from only two different nights - and the CD set was made from these first-generation dub copies.

A roar through the repertoire
On the earliest known live recording of the Doors, the band surges with power ("Robby was exceptionally good," says Botnick), roaring through the repertoire from the band's classic debut album with the certainty of a thousand previous performances at Sunset Strip niteries. Vocalist Morrison doesn't sound on the tapes like he thinks it's a paid rehearsal.

"The ante is upped anytime you have people there," drummer Densmore says, "even if it's only a couple. You can tell - Jim wants to say something, even to two people: 'I don't care - it will be like a pebble dropped in the water and make big circles.' "

The band played a lot of blues at the Matrix, including Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman" and Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee" that rarely turned up again in the repertoire. They did an instrumental version of "Summertime," a piece Botnick never heard the band play again. The group introduced new material that would eventually find its way to the second album - "People Are Strange," "Moonlight Drive" - while Morrison expanded and elaborated the ending of the already epic "The End" as recorded on the first album. The shadowy, echoey recording sounds like being in the dingy, rundown nightclub. The tiny room and handful of strangers in the crowd give off a palpable presence on the tape. All 10 people applaud madly.

Site's come full circle
In 2001, new owners reclaimed the bar's name - it now goes by MatrixFillmore - and some of its history. A enlargement of one of Moscoso's iridescent psychedelic posters dominates the entranceway of this sleek, upscale bar, operated by the ritzy PlumpJack restaurant firm. The entire front wall is glass now, and a modern fireplace burns away in the middle of the floor.

On a recent Wednesday night, a desultory DJ spun bluesy instrumentals from the stage in the corner to a crowd about the size the Doors drew in '67. Fewer than a dozen patrons nursed their drinks and made small talk. The dance floor was empty.

New owners have done over the floors and ceiling. The backstage where Jerry Garcia once smoked joints has been converted into an upholstered lounge. The place is not just empty of customers; something else is missing. It's squeaky clean, well-appointed, illuminated carefully. Despite the echo of the psychedelic posters on the drinks menu and the matchbooks, there isn't a trace of rock 'n' roll funk anywhere.

Outside a chilly wind whips though the foggy streets. At least the weather hasn't changed.

E-mail Joel Selvin at
28517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: November 17, 2008, 10:55:41 AM
OTOH, a goodly percentage of the other side is this:
28518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: November 17, 2008, 10:46:11 AM
As long time readers around here may remember, my great hope early in the past election was that Newt would run. 
28519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 17, 2008, 10:37:43 AM
Good Morning Rachel:

I posted the article because a) it was on point, and b) I had it at hand.  smiley  Agreed I should have put in a brief introduction/description to it (just like I so often tell GM  embarassed  cheesy )

Sorry to hear about pressures at work.  May I ask here what it is that you do?
28520  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Different sticks for training on: November 17, 2008, 10:29:05 AM
Exactly so.

I would add that in DBMA our philosophy is to be able to handle sticks of different sizes (length AND diameter) weights, etc.
28521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: November 17, 2008, 10:25:11 AM
"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass."

—George Washington, letter to Benjamin Lincoln, June 29, 1788
28522  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: November 16, 2008, 08:24:17 PM
WW1 Combatives:
28523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The NY Times? on: November 16, 2008, 10:19:08 AM
Apart from kittying out on the missile defense in Poland and Czech, this is not what I would have expected from the NY Times , , ,

A Military for a Dangerous New World
Published: November 15, 2008
NY Times editorial
As president, Barack Obama will face the most daunting and complicated national security challenges in more than a generation — and he will inherit a military that is critically ill-equipped for the task.

Troops and equipment are so overtaxed by President Bush’s disastrous Iraq war that the Pentagon does not have enough of either for the fight in Afghanistan, the war on terror’s front line, let alone to confront the next threats.

This is intolerable, especially when the Pentagon’s budget, including spending on the two wars, reached $685 billion in 2008. That is an increase of 85 percent in real dollars since 2000 and nearly equal to all of the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined. It is also the highest level in real dollars since World War II.

To protect the nation, the Obama administration will have to rebuild and significantly reshape the military. We do not minimize the difficulty of this task. Even if money were limitless, planning is extraordinarily difficult in a world with no single enemy and many dangers.

The United States and its NATO allies must be able to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — and keep pursuing Al Qaeda forces around the world. Pentagon planners must weigh the potential threats posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an erratic North Korea, a rising China, an assertive Russia and a raft of unstable countries like Somalia and nuclear-armed Pakistan. And they must have sufficient troops, ships and planes to reassure allies in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

The goal is a military that is large enough and mobile enough to deter enemies. There must be no more ill-founded wars of choice like the one in Iraq. The next president must be far more willing to solve problems with creative and sustained diplomacy.

But this country must also be prepared to fight if needed. To build an effective military the next president must make some fundamental changes.

More ground forces: We believe the military needs the 65,000 additional Army troops and the 27,000 additional marines that Congress finally pushed President Bush into seeking. That buildup is projected to take at least two years; by the end the United States will have 759,000 active-duty ground troops.

That sounds like a lot, especially with the prospect of significant withdrawals from Iraq. But it would still be about 200,000 fewer ground forces than the United States had 20 years ago, during the final stages of the cold war. Less than a third of that expanded ground force would be available for deployment at any given moment.

Military experts agree that for every year active-duty troops spend in the field, they need two years at home recovering, retraining and reconnecting with their families, especially in an all-volunteer force. (The older, part-time soldiers of the National Guard and the Reserves need even more).

The Army has been so badly stretched, mainly by the Iraq war, that it has been unable to honor this one-year-out-of-three rule. Brigades have been rotated back in for second and even third combat tours with barely one year’s rest in between. Even then, the Pentagon has still had to rely far too heavily on National Guard and Reserve units to supplement the force. The long-term cost in morale, recruit quality and readiness will persist for years. Nearly one-fifth of the troops — some 300,000 men and women — have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan reporting post-traumatic stress disorders.

The most responsible prescription for overcoming these problems is a significantly larger ground force. If the country is lucky enough to need fewer troops in the field over the next few years, improving rotation ratios will still help create a higher quality military force.

New skills: America still may have to fight traditional wars against hostile regimes, but future conflicts are at least as likely to involve guerrilla insurgencies wielding terror tactics or possibly weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon easily defeated Saddam Hussein’s army. It was clearly unprepared to handle the insurgency and then the fierce sectarian civil war that followed.


Page 2 of 2)

The Army has made strides in training troops for “irregular warfare.” Gen. David Petraeus has rewritten American counterinsurgency doctrine to make protecting the civilian population and legitimizing the indigenous government central tasks for American soldiers.

The new doctrine gives as much priority to dealing with civilians in conflict zones (shaping attitudes, restoring security, minimizing casualties, restoring basic services and engaging in other “stability operations”) as to combat operations.

Every soldier and marine who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan has had real world experience. But the Army’s structure and institutional bias are still weighted toward conventional war-fighting. Some experts fear that, as happened after Vietnam, the Army will in time reject the recent lessons and innovations.

For the foreseeable future, troops must be schooled in counterinsurgency and stability operations as well as more traditional fighting. And they must be prepared to sustain long-term operations.

The military also must field more specialized units, including more trainers to help friendly countries develop their own armies to supplement or replace American troops in conflict zones. It means hiring more linguists, training more special forces, and building expertise in civil affairs and cultural awareness.

Maintain mobility: In an unpredictable world with no clear battle lines, the country must ensure its ability — so-called lift capacity — to move enormous quantities of men and matériel quickly around the world and to supply them when necessary by sea.

Except in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has reduced its number of permanent overseas bases as a way to lower America’s profile. Between 2004 and 2014, American bases abroad are expected to decline from 850 to 550. The number of troops permanently based overseas will drop to 180,000, down from 450,000 in the 1980s.

Much of the transport equipment is old and wearing out. The Pentagon will need to invest more in unglamorous but essential aircraft like long-haul cargo planes and refueling tankers. The KC-X aerial tanker got caught up in a messy contracting controversy. The new administration must move forward on plans to buy 179 new planes in a fair and open competition.

China is expanding its deep-water navy, much to the anxiety of many of its neighbors. The United States should not try to block China’s re-emergence as a great power. Neither can it cede the seas. Nor can it allow any country to interfere with vital maritime lanes.

America should maintain its investment in sealift, including Maritime Prepositioning Force ships that carry everything marines need for initial military operations (helicopter landing decks, food, water pumping equipment). It must also restock ships’ supplies that have been depleted for use in Iraq. One 2006 study predicted replenishment would cost $12 billion plus $5 billion for every additional year the marines stayed in Iraq.

The Pentagon needs to spend more on capable, smaller coastal warcraft — the littoral combat ship deserves support — and less on blue-water fighting ships.

More rational spending: What we are calling for will be expensive. Adding 92,000 ground troops will cost more than $100 billion over the next six years, and maintaining lift capacity will cost billions more. Much of the savings from withdrawing troops from Iraq will have to be devoted to repairing and rebuilding the force.

Money must be spent more wisely. If the Pentagon continues buying expensive weapons systems more suited for the cold war, it will be impossible to invest in the armaments and talents needed to prevail in the future.

There are savings to be found — by slowing or eliminating production of hugely expensive aerial combat fighters (like the F-22, which has not been used in the two current wars) and mid-ocean fighting ships with no likely near-term use. The Pentagon plans to spend $10 billion next year on an untested missile defense system in Alaska and Europe. Mr. Obama should halt deployment and devote a fraction of that budget to continued research until there is a guarantee that the system will work.

The Pentagon’s procurement system must be fixed. Dozens of the most costly weapons program are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

Killing a weapons program, starting a new one or carrying out new doctrine — all this takes time and political leadership. President Obama will need to quickly lay out his vision of the military this country needs to keep safe and to prevail over 21st-century threats.
28524  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Any Training Groups Near San Diego? on: November 16, 2008, 12:38:18 AM
I'd love to see you guys on Saturday.  In the meantime, how close are you to Chula Vista?

Michael Ritz and Greg Moody - Apprentice Instructor
Practical Defense Systems
Chula Vista, CA
28525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Future? of Republican party on: November 15, 2008, 12:20:21 PM

Very interesting article. 

May I ask you to put it in this thread?

thank you,
28526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: FNG Intro / Lament for a Maverick on: November 15, 2008, 09:30:50 AM
Woof DD:

Looking forward to your contributions.

28527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: What's Your View on Prop 8? on: November 15, 2008, 09:27:56 AM
"Marriage means 1 man and 1 woman. Consenting adults that live outside that definition don't bother me. What bothers me is judicial tyranny that tries to alter this key element in our social structure despite the wishes of the majority in our society, even in deep blue California."

Agreed, and I will add that just as people are free to live as they wish, people are free to be grossed out by it.  What I see liberalism seeking now, through the violence of state action, is the creation of a thought crime.
28528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AWOL Feminism part 2 on: November 14, 2008, 09:00:10 PM
Spivak?s phrase, a great favorite on campus, points to the postcolonial notion that brown men, having been victimized by the West, can never be oppressors in their own right. If they give the appearance of treating women badly, the oppression they have suffered at the hands of Western colonial masters is to blame. In fact, the worse they treat women, the more they are expressing their own justifiable outrage. ?When men are traumatized [by colonial rule], they tend to traumatize their own women,? Miriam Cooke, a Duke professor and head of the Association for Middle East Women?s Studies, told me. And today, Cooke asserts, brown men are subjected to a new form of imperialism. ?Now there is a return of colonialism that we saw in the nineteenth century in the context of globalization,? she says. ?What is driving Islamist men is globalization.?

It would be difficult to exaggerate the through-the-looking-glass quality of postcolonialist theory when it comes to the subject of women. Female suicide bombers are a good thing, because they are strong women demonstrating ?agency? against colonial powers. Polygamy too must be shown due consideration. ?Polygamy can be liberating and empowering,? Cooke answered sunnily when I asked her about it. ?Our norm is the Western, heterosexual, single couple. If we can imagine different forms that would allow us to be something other than a heterosexual couple, we might imagine polygamy working,? she explained murkily. Some women, she continued, are relieved when their husbands take a new wife: they won?t have to service him so often. Or they might find they now have the freedom to take a lover. But, I ask, wouldn?t that be dangerous in places where adulteresses can be stoned to death? At any rate, how common is that? ?I don?t know,? Cooke answers, ?I?m interested in discourse.? The irony couldn?t be darker: the very people protesting the imperialist exploitation of the ?Other? endorse that Other?s repressive customs as a means of promoting their own uniquely Western agenda?subverting the heterosexual patriarchy.

The final category in the feminist taxonomy, which might be called the world-government utopian strain, is in many respects closest to classical liberal feminism. Dedicated to full female dignity and equality, it generally eschews both the biological determinism of the gender feminist and the cultural relativism of the multiculti postcolonialist. Stanford political science professor Susan Moller Okin, an influential, subtle, and intelligent spokeswoman for this approach, created a stir among feminists in 1997 when she forthrightly attacked multiculturalists for valuing ?group rights for minority cultures? over the well-being of individual women. Okin admirably minced no words attacking arranged marriage, female circumcision, and polygamy, which she believed women experienced as a ?barely tolerable institution.? Some women, she went so far as to declare, ?might be better off if the culture into which they were born were either to become extinct . . . or preferably, to be encouraged to alter itself so as to reinforce the equality of women.?

But though Okin is less shy than other feminists about discussing the plight of women under Islamic fundamentalism, the typical U.N. utopian has her own reasons for keeping quiet as that plight fills Western headlines. For one thing, the utopian is also a bean-counting absolutist, seeking a pure, numerical equality between men and women in all departments of life. She greets Western, and particularly American, claims to have achieved freedom for women with skepticism. The motto of the 2002 International Women?s Day??Afghanistan Is Everywhere??was in part a reproach to the West about its superior airs. Women in Afghanistan might have to wear burqas, but don?t women in the West parade around in bikinis? ?It?s equally disrespectful and abusive to have women prancing around a stage in bathing suits for cash or walking the streets shrouded in burqas in order to survive,? columnist Jill Nelson wrote on the MSNBC website about the murderously fanatical riots that attended the Miss World pageant in Nigeria.

As Nelson?s statement hints, the utopian is less interested in freeing women to make their own choices than in engineering and imposing her own elite vision of a perfect society. Indeed, she is under no illusions that, left to their own democratic devices, women would freely choose the utopia she has in mind. She would not be surprised by recent Pakistani elections, where a number of the women who won parliamentary seats were Islamist. But it doesn?t really matter what women want. The universalist has a comprehensive vision of ?women?s human rights,? meaning not simply women?s civil and political rights but ?economic rights? and ?socioeconomic justice.? Cynical about free markets and globalization, the U.N. utopian is also unimpressed by the liberal democratic nation-state ?as an emancipatory institution,? in the dismissive words of J. Ann Tickner, director for international studies at the University of Southern California. Such nation-states are ?unresponsive to the needs of [their] most vulnerable members? and seeped in ?nationalist ideologies? as well as in patriarchal assumptions about autonomy. In fact, like the (usually) unacknowledged socialist that she is, the U.N. utopian eagerly awaits the withering of the nation-state, a political arrangement that she sees as tied to imperialism, war, and masculinity. During war, in particular, nations ?depend on ideas about masculinized dignity and feminized sacrifice to sustain the sense of autonomous nationhood,? writes Cynthia Enloe, professor of government at Clark University.

Having rejected the patriarchal liberal nation-state, with all the democratic machinery of self-government that goes along with it, the utopian concludes that there is only one way to achieve her goals: to impose them through international government. Utopian feminists fill the halls of the United Nations, where they examine everything through the lens of the ?gender perspective? in study after unreadable study. (My personal favorites: ?Gender Perspectives on Landmines? and ?Gender Perspectives on Weapons of Mass Destruction,? whose conclusion is that landmines and WMDs are bad for women.)

The 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), perhaps the first and most important document of feminist utopianism, gives the best sense of the sweeping nature of the movement?s ambitions. CEDAW demands many measures that anyone committed to democratic liberal values would applaud, including women?s right to vote and protection against honor killings and forced marriage. Would that the document stopped there. Instead it sets out to impose a utopian order that would erase all distinctions between men and women, a kind of revolution of the sexes from above, requiring nations to ?take all appropriate measures to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women? and to eliminate ?stereotyped roles? to accomplish this legislative abolition of biology. The document calls for paid maternity leave, nonsexist school curricula, and government-supported child care. The treaty?s 23-member enforcement committee hectors nations that do not adequately grasp that, as Enloe puts it, ?the personal is international.? The committee has cited Belarus for celebrating Mother?s Day, China for failing to legalize prostitution, and Libya for not interpreting the Qur?an in accordance with ?committee guidelines.?

Confusing ?women?s participation? with self-determination, and numerical equivalence with equality, CEDAW utopians try to orchestrate their perfect society through quotas and affirmative-action plans. Their bean-counting mentality cares about whether women participate equally, without asking what it is that they are participating in or whether their participation is anything more than ceremonial. Thus at the recent Women?s Summit in Jordan, Rima Khalaf suggested that governments be required to use quotas in elections ?to leapfrog women to power.? Khalaf, like so many illiberal feminist utopians, has no hesitation in forcing society to be free. As is often the case when elites decide they have discovered the route to human perfection, the utopian urge is not simply antidemocratic but verges on the totalitarian.

That this combination of sentimental victimhood, postcolonial relativism, and utopian overreaching has caused feminism to suffer so profound a loss of moral and political imagination that it cannot speak against the brutalization of Islamic women is an incalculable loss to women and to men. The great contribution of Western feminism was to expand the definition of human dignity and freedom. It insisted that all human beings were worthy of liberty. Feminists now have the opportunity to make that claim on behalf of women who in their oppression have not so much as imagined that its promise could include them, too. At its best, feminism has stood for a rich idea of personal choice in shaping a meaningful life, one that respects not only the woman who wants to crash through glass ceilings but also the one who wants to stay home with her children and bake cookies or to wear a veil and fast on Ramadan. Why shouldn?t feminists want to shout out their own profound discovery for the world to hear?

Perhaps, finally, because to do so would be to acknowledge the freedom they themselves enjoy, thanks to Western ideals and institutions. Not only would such an admission force them to give up their own simmering resentments; it would be bad for business.
The truth is that the free institutions?an independent judiciary, a free press, open elections?that protect the rights of women are the same ones that protect the rights of men. The separation of church and state that would allow women to escape the burqa would also free men from having their hands amputated for theft. The education system that would teach girls to read would also empower millions of illiterate boys. The capitalist economies that bring clean water, cheap clothes, and washing machines that change the lives of women are the same ones that lead to healthier, freer men. In other words, to address the problems of Muslim women honestly, feminists would have to recognize that free men and women need the same things?and that those are things that they themselves already have. And recognizing that would mean an end to feminism as we know it.

There are signs that, outside the academy, middlebrow literary circles, and the United Nations, feminism has indeed met its Waterloo. Most Americans seem to realize that September 11 turned self-indulgent sentimental illusions, including those about the sexes, into an unaffordable luxury. Consider, for instance, women?s attitudes toward war, a topic on which politicians have learned to take for granted a gender gap. But according to the Pew Research Center, in January 2002, 57 percent of women versus 46 percent of men cited national security as the country?s top priority. There has been a ?seismic gender shift on matters of war,? according to pollster Kellyanne Conway. In 1991, 45 percent of U.S. women supported the use of ground troops in the Gulf War, a substantially smaller number than the 67 percent of men. But as of November, a CNN survey found women were more likely than men to support the use of ground troops against Iraq, 58 percent to 56 percent. The numbers for younger women were especially dramatic. Sixty-five percent of women between 18 and 49 support ground troops, as opposed to 48 percent of women 50 and over. Women are also changing their attitudes toward military spending: before September 11, only 24 percent of women supported increased funds; after the attacks, that number climbed to 47 percent. An evolutionary psychologist might speculate that, if females tend to be less aggressively territorial than males, there?s little to compare to the ferocity of the lioness when she believes her young are threatened.

Even among some who consider themselves feminists, there is some grudging recognition that Western, and specifically American, men are sometimes a force for the good. The Feminist Majority is sending around urgent messages asking for President Bush to increase American security forces in Afghanistan. The influential left-wing British columnist Polly Toynbee, who just 18 months ago coined the phrase ?America the Horrible,? went to Afghanistan to figure out whether the war ?was worth it.? Her answer was not what she might have expected. Though she found nine out of ten women still wearing burqas, partly out of fear of lingering fundamentalist hostility, she was convinced their lives had greatly improved. Women say they can go out alone now.

As we sink more deeply into what is likely to be a protracted struggle with radical Islam, American feminists have a moral responsibility to give up their resentments and speak up for women who actually need their support. Feminists have the moral authority to say that their call for the rights of women is a universal demand?that the rights of women are the Rights of Man.

Feminism Behind the Veil

Feminists in the West may fiddle while Muslim women are burning, but in the Muslim world itself there is a burgeoning movement to address the miserable predicament of the second sex?without simply adopting a philosophy whose higher cultural products include Sex and the City, Rosie O?Donnell, and the power-suited female executive.

The most impressive signs of an indigenous female revolt against the fundamentalist order are in Iran. Over the past ten years or so, Iran has seen the publication of a slew of serious journals dedicated to the social and political predicament of Islamic women, the most well known being the Teheran-based Zonan and Zan, published by Faezah Hashemi, a well-known member of parliament and the daughter of former president Rafsanjani. Believing that Western feminism has promoted hostility between the sexes, confused sex roles, and the sexual objectification of women, a number of writers have proposed an Islamic-style feminism that would stress ?gender complementarity? rather than equality and that would pay full respect to housewifery and motherhood while also giving women access to education and jobs.

Attacking from the religious front, a number of ?Islamic feminists? are challenging the reigning fundamentalist reading of the Qur?an. These scholars insist that the founding principles of Islam, which they believe were long ago corrupted by pre-Islamic Arab, Persian, and North African customs, are if anything more egalitarian than those of Western religions; the Qur?an explicitly describes women as the moral and spiritual equals of men and allows them to inherit and pass down property. The power of misogynistic mullahs has grown in recent decades, feminists continue, because Muslim men have felt threatened by modernity?s challenge to traditional arrangements between the sexes.

What makes Islamic feminism really worth watching is that it has the potential to play a profoundly important role in the future of the Islamic world?and not just because it could improve the lot of women. By insisting that it is true to Islam?in fact, truer than the creed espoused by the entrenched religious elite?Islamic feminism can affirm the dignity of Islam while at the same time bringing it more in line with modernity. In doing this, feminists can help lay the philosophical groundwork for democracy. In the West, feminism lagged behind religious reformation and political democratization by centuries; in the East, feminism could help lead the charge.

At the same time, though, the issue of women?s rights highlights two reasons for caution about the Islamic future. For one thing, no matter how much feminists might wish otherwise, polygamy and male domination of the family are not merely a fact of local traditions; they are written into the Qur?an itself. This in and of itself would not prove to be such an impediment?the Old Testament is filled with laws antithetical to women?s equality?except for the second problem: more than other religions, Islam is unfriendly to the notion of the separation of church and state. If history is any guide, there?s the rub. The ultimate guarantor of the rights of all citizens, whether Islamic or not, can only be a fully secular state
28529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 14, 2008, 08:59:14 PM
I understand Rachel's point to be that IN THIS CASE there was general condemnation and I uinderstand BBG's point to apply in general.

The following is a few years old (I originally posted in on the DBMAA forum in Jan '03), but addresses the issues involved:

Why Feminism Is AWOL on Islam
Kay S. Hymowitz

U.S. feminists should be protesting the brutal oppression of Middle Eastern women. But doing so would reveal how little they have to complain about at home.

Argue all you want with many feminist policies, but few quarrel with feminism?s core moral insight, which changed the lives (and minds) of women forever: that women are due the same rights and dignity as men. So, as news of the appalling miseries of women in the Islamic world has piled up, where are the feminists? Where?s the outrage? For a brief moment after September 11, when pictures of those blue alien-creaturely shapes in Afghanistan filled the papers, it seemed as if feminists were going to have their moment. And in fact the Feminist Majority, to its credit, had been publicizing since the mid-90s how Afghan girls were barred from school, how women were stoned for adultery or beaten for showing an ankle or wearing high-heeled shoes, how they were prohibited from leaving the house unless accompanied by a male relative, how they were denied medical help because the only doctors around were male.

But the rest is feminist silence. You haven?t heard a peep from feminists as it has grown clear that the Taliban were exceptional not in their extreme views about women but in their success at embodying those views in law and practice. In the United Arab Emirates, husbands have the right to beat their wives in order to discipline them??provided that the beating is not so severe as to damage her bones or deform her body,? in the words of the Gulf News. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot vote, drive, or show their faces or talk with male non-relatives in public. (Evidently they can?t talk to men over the airwaves either; when Prince Abdullah went to President Bush?s ranch in Crawford last April, he insisted that no female air-traffic controllers handle his flight.) Yes, Saudi girls can go to school, and many even attend the university; but at the university, women must sit in segregated rooms and watch their professors on closed-circuit televisions. If they have a question, they push a button on their desk, which turns on a light at the professor?s lectern, from which he can answer the female without being in her dangerous presence. And in Saudi Arabia, education can be harmful to female health. Last spring in Mecca, members of the mutaween, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue, pushed fleeing students back into their burning school because they were not properly covered in abaya. Fifteen girls died.

You didn?t hear much from feminists when in the northern Nigerian province of Katsina a Muslim court sentenced a woman to death by stoning for having a child outside of marriage. The case might not have earned much attention?stonings are common in parts of the Muslim world?except that the young woman, who had been married off at 14 to a husband who ultimately divorced her when she lost her virginal allure, was still nursing a baby at the time of sentencing. During her trial she had no lawyer, although the court did see fit to delay her execution until she weans her infant.

You didn?t hear much from feminists as it emerged that honor killings by relatives, often either ignored or only lightly punished by authorities, are also commonplace in the Muslim world. In September, Reuters reported the story of an Iranian man, ?defending my honor, family, and dignity,? who cut off his seven-year-old daughter?s head after suspecting she had been raped by her uncle. The postmortem showed the girl to be a virgin. In another family mix-up, a Yemeni man shot his daughter to death on her wedding night when her husband claimed she was not a virgin. After a medical exam revealed that the husband was mistaken, officials concluded he was simply trying to protect himself from embarrassment about his own impotence. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, every day two women are slain by male relatives seeking to avenge the family honor.

The savagery of some of these murders is worth a moment?s pause. In 2000, two Punjabi sisters, 20 and 21 years old, had their throats slit by their brother and cousin because the girls were seen talking to two boys to whom they were not related. In one especially notorious case, an Egyptian woman named Nora Marzouk Ahmed fell in love and eloped. When she went to make amends with her father, he cut off her head and paraded it down the street. Several years back, according to the Washington Post, the husband of Zahida Perveen, a 32-year-old pregnant Pakistani, gouged out her eyes and sliced off her earlobe and nose because he suspected her of having an affair.

In a related example widely covered last summer, a teenage girl in the Punjab was sentenced by a tribal council to rape by a gang that included one of the councilmen. After the hour-and-a-half ordeal, the girl was forced to walk home naked in front of scores of onlookers. She had been punished because her 11-year-old brother had compromised another girl by being been seen alone with her. But that charge turned out to be a ruse: it seems that three men of a neighboring tribe had sodomized the boy and accused him of illicit relations?an accusation leading to his sister?s barbaric punishment?as a way of covering up their crime.

Nor is such brutality limited to backward, out-of-the-way villages. Muddassir Rizvi, a Pakistani journalist, says that, though always common in rural areas, in recent years honor killings have become more prevalent in cities ?among educated and liberal families.? In relatively modern Jordan, honor killings were all but exempt from punishment until the penal code was modified last year; unfortunately, a young Palestinian living in Jordan, who had recently stabbed his 19-year-old sister 40 times ?to cleanse the family honor,? and another man from near Amman, who ran over his 23-year-old sister with his truck because of her ?immoral behavior,? had not yet changed their ways. British psychiatrist Anthony Daniels reports that British Muslim men frequently spirit their young daughters back to their native Pakistan and force the girls to marry. Such fathers have been known to kill daughters who resist. In Sweden, in one highly publicized case, Fadima Sahindal, an assimilated 26-year-old of Kurdish origin, was murdered by her father after she began living with her Swedish boyfriend. ?The whore is dead,? the family announced.

As you look at this inventory of brutality, the question bears repeating: Where are the demonstrations, the articles, the petitions, the resolutions, the vindications of the rights of Islamic women by American feminists? The weird fact is that, even after the excesses of the Taliban did more to forge an American consensus about women?s rights than 30 years of speeches by Gloria Steinem, feminists refused to touch this subject. They have averted their eyes from the harsh, blatant oppression of millions of women, even while they have continued to stare into the Western patriarchal abyss, indignant over female executives who cannot join an exclusive golf club and college women who do not have their own lacrosse teams.

But look more deeply into the matter, and you realize that the sound of feminist silence about the savage fundamentalist Muslim oppression of women has its own perverse logic. The silence is a direct outgrowth of the way feminist theory has developed in recent years. Now mired in self-righteous sentimentalism, multicultural nonjudgmentalism, and internationalist utopianism, feminism has lost the language to make the universalist moral claims of equal dignity and individual freedom that once rendered it so compelling. No wonder that most Americans, trying to deal with the realities of a post-9/11 world, are paying feminists no mind.

To understand the current sisterly silence about the sort of tyranny that the women?s movement came into existence to attack, it is helpful to think of feminisms plural rather than singular. Though not entirely discrete philosophies, each of three different feminisms has its own distinct reasons for causing activists to ?lose their voice? in the face of women?s oppression.

The first variety?radical feminism (or gender feminism, in Christina Hoff Sommers?s term)?starts with the insight that men are, not to put too fine a point upon it, brutes. Radical feminists do not simply subscribe to the reasonable-enough notion that men are naturally more prone to aggression than women. They believe that maleness is a kind of original sin. Masculinity explains child abuse, marital strife, high defense spending, every war from Troy to Afghanistan, as well as Hitler, Franco, and Pinochet. As Gloria Steinem informed the audience at a Florida fundraiser last March: ?The cult of masculinity is the basis for every violent, fascist regime.?

Gender feminists are little interested in fine distinctions between radical Muslim men who slam commercial airliners into office buildings and soldiers who want to stop radical Muslim men from slamming commercial airliners into office buildings. They are both examples of generic male violence?and specifically, male violence against women. ?Terrorism is on a continuum that starts with violence within the family, battery against women, violence against women in the society, all the way up to organized militaries that are supported by taxpayer money,? according to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who teaches ?The Sexuality of Terrorism? at California State University in Hayward. Violence is so intertwined with male sexuality that, she tells us, military pilots watch porn movies before they go out on sorties. The war in Afghanistan could not possibly offer a chance to liberate women from their oppressors, since it would simply expose women to yet another set of oppressors, in the gender feminists? view. As Sharon Lerner asserted bizarrely in the Village Voice, feminists? ?discomfort? with the Afghanistan bombing was ?deepened by the knowledge that more women than men die as a result of most wars.?

If guys are brutes, girls are their opposite: peace-loving, tolerant, conciliatory, and reasonable??Antiwar and Pro-Feminist,? as the popular peace-rally sign goes. Feminists long ago banished tough-as-nails women like Margaret Thatcher and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (and these days, one would guess, even the fetching Condoleezza Rice) to the ranks of the imperfectly female. Real women, they believe, would never justify war. ?Most women, Western and Muslim, are opposed to war regardless of its reasons and objectives,? wrote the Jordanian feminist Fadia Faqir on ?They are concerned with emancipation, freedom (personal and civic), human rights, power sharing, integrity, dignity, equality, autonomy, power-sharing [sic], liberation, and pluralism.?

Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking, is perhaps one of the most influential spokeswomen for the position that women are instinctually peaceful. According to Ruddick (who clearly didn?t have Joan Crawford in mind), that?s because a good deal of mothering is naturally governed by the Gandhian principles of nonviolence such as ?renunciation,? ?resistance to injustice,? and ?reconciliation.? The novelist Barbara Kingsolver was one of the first to demonstrate the subtleties of such universal maternal thinking after the United States invaded Afghanistan. ?I feel like I?m standing on a playground where the little boys are all screaming ?He started it!? and throwing rocks,? she wrote in the Los Angeles Times. ?I keep looking for somebody?s mother to come on the scene saying, ?Boys! Boys!? ?

Gender feminism?s tendency to reduce foreign affairs to a Lifetime Channel movie may make it seem too silly to bear mentioning, but its kitschy naivet? hasn?t stopped it from being widespread among elites. You see it in widely read writers like Kingsolver, Maureen Dowd, and Alice Walker. It turns up in our most elite institutions. Swanee Hunt, head of the Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard?s Kennedy School of Government wrote, with Cristina Posa in Foreign Policy: ?The key reason behind women?s marginalization may be that everyone recognizes just how good women are at forging peace.? Even female elected officials are on board. ?The women of all these countries should go on strike, they should all sit down and refuse to do anything until their men agree to talk peace,? urged Ohio representative Marcy Kaptur to the Arab News last spring, echoing an idea that Aristophanes, a dead white male, proposed as a joke 2,400 years ago. And President Clinton is an advocate of maternal thinking, too. ?If we?d had women at Camp David,? he said in July 2000, ?we?d have an agreement.?

Major foundations too seem to take gender feminism seriously enough to promote it as an answer to world problems. Last December, the Ford Foundation and the Soros Open Society Foundation helped fund the Afghan Women?s Summit in Brussels to develop ideas for a new government in Afghanistan. As Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler described it on her website, the summit was made up of ?meetings and meals, canvassing, workshops, tears, and dancing.? ?Defense was mentioned nowhere in the document,? Ensler wrote proudly of the summit?s concluding proclamation?despite the continuing threat in Afghanistan of warlords, bandits, and lingering al-Qaida operatives. ?uilding weapons or instruments of retaliation was not called for in any category,? Ensler cooed. ?Instead [the women] wanted education, health care, and the protection of refugees, culture, and human rights.?

Too busy celebrating their own virtue and contemplating their own victimhood, gender feminists cannot address the suffering of their Muslim sisters realistically, as light years worse than their own petulant grievances. They are too intent on hating war to ask if unleashing its horrors might be worth it to overturn a brutal tyranny that, among its manifold inhumanities, treats women like animals. After all, hating war and machismo is evidence of the moral superiority that comes with being born female.

Yet the gender feminist idea of superior feminine virtue is becoming an increasingly tough sell for anyone actually keeping up with world events. Kipling once wrote of the fierceness of Afghan women: ?When you?re wounded and left on the Afghan plains/And the women come out to cut up your remains/Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains.? Now it?s clearer than ever that the dream of worldwide sisterhood is no more realistic than worldwide brotherhood; culture trumps gender any day. Mothers all over the Muslim world are naming their babies Usama or praising Allah for their sons? efforts to kill crusading infidels. Last February, 28-year-old Wafa Idris became the first female Palestinian suicide bomber to strike in Israel, killing an elderly man and wounding scores of women and children. And in April, Israeli soldiers discovered under the maternity clothes of 26-year-old Shifa Adnan Kodsi a bomb rather than a baby. Maternal thinking, indeed.

The second variety of feminism, seemingly more sophisticated and especially prevalent on college campuses, is multiculturalism and its twin, postcolonialism. The postcolonial feminist has even more reason to shy away from the predicament of women under radical Islam than her maternally thinking sister. She believes that the Western world is so sullied by its legacy of imperialism that no Westerner, man or woman, can utter a word of judgment against former colonial peoples. Worse, she is not so sure that radical Islam isn?t an authentic, indigenous?and therefore appropriate?expression of Arab and Middle Eastern identity.

The postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, one of the intellectual godfathers of multiculturalism and postcolonialism, first set the tone in 1978 when an Italian newspaper sent him to Teheran to cover the Iranian revolution. As his biographer James Miller tells it, Foucault looked in the face of Islamic fundamentalism and saw . . . an awe-inspiring revolt against ?global hegemony.? He was mesmerized by this new form of ?political spirituality? that, in a phrase whose dark prescience he could not have grasped, portended the ?transfiguration of the world.? Even after the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and reintroduced polygamy and divorce on the husband?s demand with automatic custody to fathers, reduced the official female age of marriage from 18 to 13, fired all female judges, and ordered compulsory veiling, whose transgression was to be punished by public flogging, Foucault saw no reason to temper his enthusiasm. What was a small matter like women?s basic rights, when a struggle against ?the planetary system? was at hand?

Postcolonialists, then, have their own binary system, somewhat at odds with gender feminism?not to mention with women?s rights. It is not men who are the sinners; it is the West. It is not women who are victimized innocents; it is the people who suffered under Western colonialism, or the descendants of those people, to be more exact. Caught between the rock of patriarchy and the hard place of imperialism, the postcolonial feminist scholar gingerly tiptoes her way around the subject of Islamic fundamentalism and does the only thing she can do: she focuses her ire on Western men.

To this end, the postcolonialist eagerly dips into the inkwell of gender feminism. She ties colonialist exploitation and domination to maleness; she might refer to Israel?s ?masculinist military culture??Israel being white and Western?though she would never dream of pointing out the ?masculinist military culture? of the jihadi. And she expends a good deal of energy condemning Western men for wanting to improve the lives of Eastern women. At the turn of the twentieth century Lord Cromer, the British vice consul of Egypt and a pet target of postcolonial feminists, argued that the ?degradation? of women under Islam had a harmful effect on society. Rubbish, according to the postcolonialist feminist. His words are simply part of ?the Western narrative of the quintessential otherness and inferiority of Islam,? as Harvard professor Leila Ahmed puts it in Women and Gender in Islam. The same goes for American concern about Afghan women; it is merely a ?device for ranking the ?other? men as inferior or as ?uncivilized,? ? according to Nira Yuval-Davis, professor of gender and ethnic studies at the University of Greenwich, England. These are all examples of what renowned Columbia professor Gayatri Spivak called ?white men saving brown women from brown men.?
28530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cowardly scum on: November 14, 2008, 03:08:34 PM,2933,451941,00.html
Taliban Blamed for Acid Attack on Afghan Schoolgirls
Friday, November 14, 2008

Nov. 14: Shamsia Husainai, 17, rests on a hospital bed in Kabul after an acid attack on her Wednesday in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan  —  No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls' school in the Taliban's spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.

A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid. The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.  One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.

"Today the school is open, but there are no girls," Qaderi said Thursday. "Yesterday, all of the classes were full." His school has 1,500 students.

Afghanistan's government condemned the attack as "un-Islamic" and blamed it on the "country's enemies," a typical reference to Taliban militants. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, denied the insurgents were involved.

Girls were banned from schools under the rule of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.
Qaderi said he believes there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.

The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.

But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.

"They don't want us go to school. They don't like education," said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.

"They didn't say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away," Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.

The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi's face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother's hand.

"I am worried that I will have scars on my face," said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.

Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.  Ibrahimi said it was the Taliban that attacked her but then explained that she used the term to refer to anyone who was against education for women.

The United Nations called the attack "a hideous crime."

First lady Laura Bush on Thursday decried the attack as cowardly, saying in a statement the "shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world."

The attacks are "contrary to previous assurances Afghans have been given that there would not be further attacks against schools or students," the U.N. said in a statement.

Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls' schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls' school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.

In Wednesday's attack, three young women were hospitalized for burns. Two were released Thursday morning, but 17-year-old Shamsia Husainai was still lying on a hospital bed unable to open her eyes. Her brother Masood Morbi said her body shook about every 10 seconds.  She could talk, but her brother said her words were mangled. Her face was covered with a cream to treat her burns. The doctors were giving her pills to blunt the pain. 

Husainai's younger sister told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they had been walking on the street with a group of friends, all of whom were wearing a typical Afghan school uniform of black pants, white shirt, black coat and white headscarf.

Fourteen-year-old Atifa Bibi was also badly burned on her face but she was released from the hospital late Wednesday.

Qaderi, the principal, said no one in the school had reported any direct threats but one of the teachers attacked Wednesday had reported an incident two days ago in which two men threatened her.

"She told me when she was walking two men said to her, 'Oh, you are putting on makeup and going to the school. Okay, we will see you.'"

Husainai and Bibi's aunt, Bibi Meryam, said no one had threatened them but they would consider keeping the girls at home until it felt safer.  A handful of teachers showed up Thursday, but Qaderi said the only students who tried to attend were about 20 primary school students who arrived late in the afternoon and were sent home because the school had already decided not to hold classes. 
Ibrahimi, the young teacher who was burned, said she and her mother stayed home.

"Yesterday we didn't go to school. Today we didn't go to school. I don't know about the future," she said.
28531  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: November 14, 2008, 02:18:47 PM
Jose Mena

How old does he seem to be here?
28532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia rethinks pricing policy on: November 14, 2008, 12:29:49 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia Rethinks Energy Pricing Policy
November 13, 2008 | 0126 GMT
Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, will start dropping natural gas prices for European consumers at the beginning of 2009, CEO Alexei Miller. Miller’s stated rationale for making such a move in midwinter, when demand is highest, is that the export price for natural gas to Europe in the fourth quarter of 2008 was at a record high of more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters. With the global economy in recession and energy consumption dropping across the board, that price would naturally have to come down.

Such an announcement would not be anomalous were it not Russia doing the talking. The Russians are reducing natural gas prices for the Europeans not out of economic pragmatism, nor out of the goodness of their hearts; instead, this is primarily a political move designed to keep the window of opportunity for manipulating Europe open as long as possible.

Russia is a powerful producer and exporter of both crude oil and natural gas. Because oil can be loaded and shipped across the world in a variety of ways — tanker, pipeline, truck or rail car — the laws of supply and demand more clearly dictate the price of oil than that of natural gas. Now that the world’s economic hubs are being hit with recession, there is little preventing the price of oil from plunging as demand drops. Thus, Russia also announced Wednesday that it is drastically revising its budget downward, anticipating oil prices falling to at least $50 per barrel in 2009 amid the global financial crisis.

Natural gas pricing works differently. Gas can be shipped easily only through existing pipeline networks, making the relationship between the producer and the consumer much tighter, and therefore much more politicized. As a result, prices for Europe are dictated far more by the Kremlin’s naughty-and-nice list than by market forces. This economic reality is all too familiar to countries like Ukraine, Lithuania and the Czech Republic: All have felt the wrath of Moscow, through price hikes or natural gas supply cutoffs, when they moved against Russia’s geopolitical interests.

Russia is the primary natural gas supplier for many former Soviet republics as well as for Turkey and Europe, with Europe dependent on Russian natural gas for about 25 percent of its energy supply. This economic interdependence gives Russia a big bat to swing in Eurasia, in order to sustain its influence on matters like NATO expansion in the region and the installation of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield. When winter rolls around, countries like Germany and Ukraine get especially nervous, knowing they have no adequate alternatives to Russia for keeping their lights and heat on. And with the price of oil plunging and Russia expecting to lose some $600 million per day in oil revenues compared to July highs, it has seemed all the more likely that Russia would compensate for these losses by keeping the price of natural gas high.

So why are the Russians talking about reducing the price instead? Gazprom’s announcement likely has to with a growing fear in Russia that a huge energy shift is sweeping across Europe — an energy shift that, for once, is leaving Russia out in the cold.

Russia’s energy leverage strategy, while effective in the past, has strong potential to backfire on the Kremlin over the long term. Since early winter 2006, when Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe (as punishment for the Western-backed Orange Revolution in Ukraine), energy security has become the dominant theme of every EU summit. With plenty of encouragement from the United States, Europe has accelerated efforts to break its dependence from the Russian natural gas monopoly. Its moves have involved such things as constructing new nuclear reactors and new pipelines, building terminals for the import (by tanker) of more expensive liquefied natural gas, and promoting alternative energy sources and conservation. The Europeans’ grand plan is to reduce total energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, and to get 20 percent of the remainder from renewable energy sources, thereby significantly reducing Russia’s ability to twist their arm on political matters.

While the European moves to break Russia’s energy grip have been under way for a couple of years now, the pace at which the change is taking place is astounding — much to Stratfor’s surprise and Russia’s deep discontent.

According to a report by Russian newspaper Vremya Novosti, Russian natural gas exports fell 8.3 percent year-on-year in October. The report also revealed that Germany, Turkey and Italy, Russia’s top three natural gas clients, cut their imports from Russia after Gazprom on Oct. 1 hiked prices to $460-$520 per 1,000 cubic meters.

An 8.3 percent drop in Russian natural gas imports, dwarfing a 1 percent decline in 2007, is very troubling news for the Russians. The Kremlin realizes that the more aggressive its stance toward Europe on energy matters, the faster Europe will move to cut the Russians out of the equation. By reducing the price of natural gas in the winter, the government — through Gazprom — could be toning down energy policy in efforts to win back some of Europe’s faith in Russia as a reliable, or at least less belligerent, energy supplier.

But Gazprom will not be entirely even-handed in its energy pricing this winter. According to Stratfor sources at Gazprom, the company is likely to apply the price breaks selectively. States that have been friendlier to Russian interests on recent matters will get a better deal. Most notably, this includes Germany — which has consciously refrained from taking a strong stance against Russia over the Georgian war and has spoken out against NATO expansion for Ukraine and Georgia — and the Czech Republic, which recently has become much more apprehensive over its BMD deal with the United States. Selective price breaks for EU states would be in direct violation of EU law, which stipulates that no individual economic deals can be made without the consent of the 27-member bloc. But Moscow won’t want to pass up the chance to whittle away at the EU’s economic coherence in the middle of a financial crisis, and to reward countries that are more willing to align with Russian interests.

However Gazprom chooses to implement these price cuts, the European trend of diversifying and seeking greater independence from Russian energy likely will continue. With the window of opportunity for political exploitation closing, the onus is now on Russia to maintain the credibility of its threats in Europe. The energy lever has been effective in the past, and Russia will continue to use it moving forward. But as tough tactics lose their effectiveness, the Kremlin needs a more nuanced approach to slow Europe’s drive toward energy independence.

28533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: November 14, 2008, 12:28:34 PM
28534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More Treason from the NYT on: November 14, 2008, 12:23:42 PM
The Gray Lady undermines national security ... again
There they go again. The New York Times, continuing its policy of aiding and abetting this nation's enemies, on Monday published the latest classified anti-terrorist program to come to its attention. This revelation covers a secret order that authorized covert military action inside Syria, Pakistan and "elsewhere" (a quick look at the map to see what lies between Pakistan and Syria will discover "elsewhere"). Citing military and civilian sources, The Times reports that nearly a dozen such raids have been carried out since 2004. We can only imagine the gratitude felt by those brave special-ops soldiers carrying out these missions that their activities are public knowledge.

Freedom of the press is one of the most important rights enshrined in the Constitution. Its position as part of the First Amendment is no accident, indicating the importance the Founders gave to a press able to report freely and without fear on the activities of government. Even in wartime, the government should not censor the media unless truly extraordinary circumstances dictate otherwise. But there is also a reason for the government's classification of information, including this definition of Top Secret: "information of a highly sensitive nature, whose disclosure could result in grave danger to the national security of the United States." At what point does The Times consider that protecting our national security is more important than scoring political points against the Bush administration?
28535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fund Raising Appeal from PatriotPost on: November 14, 2008, 12:16:42 PM
I support PatriotPost and hope you will too:

Our sacred honor ... to support and defend
By Mark Alexander

In 1776, an extraordinary group of men signed a document that affirmed their God-given right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." By attaching their signatures to our great Declaration of Independence, they, in effect, were signing their potential death warrants.

Indeed, the last line of our Declaration reads, "For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Many of these men, and many of their countrymen, the first generation of American Patriots, would die fighting for American liberty.

A decade later, their liberty having been won at great cost, our Founders further codified their independence and interdependence by instituting yet another historic document, our Constitution.

The Constitution specifies in Article VI, clause 3:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..."

Bound by Oath to support...

The Constitution also prescribes the following oath to be taken by the president-elect: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Preserve, protect and defend...

Commissioned and enlisted military personnel are also required by statute to "solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...", though the officer's oath doesn't include any provision that they obey orders.

Against all enemies, foreign and domestic...

Notably, all these oaths mandate the preservation, protection, support and defense of our Constitution as ratified, not the so-called "living constitution" as amended by judicial activists populating what Thomas Jefferson predicted would become "the despotic branch."

While uniformed Americans serving our nation defend our Constitution with their lives, most elected officials debase it with all manner of extra-constitutional empowerment of the central government, not the least of which is the forced redistribution of income to benefit their constituency groups which, in turn, dutifully re-elect them.

Military service personnel who violate the Constitution are remanded for courts-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, while politicians who violate the Constitution are remanded for -- re-election.

On that note, the latest crop of Leftists on their way to Washington under the supervision of President-elect Barack Obama are destined to make a greater mockery of our Constitution than any administration in history. Clearly, Obama and his ilk have no history of honoring, or intention to honor, their oaths and, in fact, have no context for such honor.

A small cadre of liberals who believe themselves to be "patriots" have asked, "Can't I be a bona fide Patriot and support Barack Obama?"

In a word ... NO, unless in a state of solemn repentance.

In the spirit of charity, perhaps Obama supporters, who self-identify as patriots, are just grossly misinformed about our Constitution, our history and their own civic duty. Of course, they would likewise be grossly deluded about their identity, but perhaps the delusion is temporary.

I would suggest that Obama "patriots" are nothing more than "sunshine patriots," as Thomas Paine wrote, who "will in crisis, shrink from the service of his country."

At its core, the word "patriot" has direct lineage to those who fought for American independence and established our constitutional republic. That lineage has descended most directly through our history with those who have been entrusted "to support and defend" our Constitution -- more specifically, those who have been faithful to, and have abided by, that oath. As previously noted, by "our Constitution," I am referring to the United States Constitution, not the adulterated vestigial remains that liberals call "the living constitution."

I have taken oaths five times in the service of our country. But I did not have to take any oath to understand my obligations as a citizen "to support and defend" our Constitution.

So, does the title of "Patriot" apply to an individual who votes for a man who has not honored his public oaths of office previously, and has given no indication he intends to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same" as president -- a man who subscribes to the errant notion of a "living constitution" which, in his own words, "breaks free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution"?

No authentic Patriot would support those who violate their sacred oaths.

Unfortunately, in this most recent election, we saw even a handful of flag-rank military officers who have no more reverence for their oaths than Obama. However, they are the exception, not the rule.

Obama's mantra, "change," is a euphemism for constitutional abrogation -- an incremental encroachment on liberty until, at last, liberty is lost.

Our nation's second president, John Adams, warned, "A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

As for Obama's deception about his own patriotic pedigree, I commend the words of our nation's first president, George Washington: "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ...[W]here is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths...?"

Regarding the Presidential Oath of Office, Justice Joseph Story wrote: "[T]he duty imposed upon him to take care, that the laws be faithfully executed, follows out the strong injunctions of his oath of office, that he will 'preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.' The great object of the executive department is to accomplish this purpose." He wrote further that if the president does not honor his oath, his office "will be utterly worthless for ... the protection of rights; for the happiness, or good order, or safety of the people."

Of course, Barack Obama proposes to further constrain the rights of the people by advancing centralized government control of the economy by way of regulation and forced income redistribution, all in the name of "happiness, good order, and safety of the people," but in direct violation of his oath.

Quote of the week
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." --Ronald Reagan

Legacy of the American Revolution
"It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn." --George Washington

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Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis!
Mark Alexander
28536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: November 14, 2008, 11:01:19 AM
"In addition, Iran has a pre-existing alliance with AQ and may well have Saudi Hezbollah assets to lend to any effort."


Shia Iran has an alliance with Sunni AQ?  And the Sunni Saudi's also back Iran's pawn/partner Hezbollah?
28537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pelosi: hoisted on her own petard on: November 14, 2008, 10:55:41 AM
WSJ: What do bleeding Detroit auto makers, Colombia and green groups have in common? Not a lot, unless you are Nancy Pelosi.

If there was a moment that highlights to what extent the Democratic Party has become captive to its special interests, this might be it. Mrs. Pelosi and Harry Reid have spent this week demanding that Washington stave off a car-maker collapse. What makes this a little weird is that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid are Washington. If they so desperately want a Detroit bailout they could always, you know, pass one.

Ken FallinInstead, having punted the Detroit question in the past, and having failed to offload it on the Bush administration, Mrs. Pelosi is now stuck dealing with it in the middle of a lame-duck session that is tangled in Colombia trade politics. Detroit's demands are meanwhile pressing in a postelection environment where Big Labor and greens are presenting their own bills for political services rendered. If you're wondering why Mrs. Pelosi hasn't yet decided what will happen when Congress returns, it's because she hasn't decided which group to annoy.

Democrats have been trying to shuffle money to Detroit since summer, but their timing has been off. The Michigan delegation's big push for auto funds coincided with September's financial crisis. With Washington in a panic, voters howling over $700 billion for banks, and an election in the offing, the leadership decided a Detroit bailout was one hot potato too many.

This decision was made easier by the fact that the Big Three's balance sheets have made even sympathetic Washington spenders worry about throwing money at a bankruptcy. Democrats decided it would be better to direct the funds in a way that allowed them to later deny fault.

The plan? Make it the Bush administration's responsibility to give Detroit cash -- namely by claiming after the event that the $700 billion rescue package for financial institutions was in fact a rescue package for auto makers. This was attempted with several hilarious "colloquys" -- pre-scripted dialogues between members that were quietly inserted into the Congressional Record after the vote, all aimed at rewriting the "intent" of the law. Say, this one, from Oct. 1:

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin: "As Treasury implements this new program, it is clear to me from reading the definition of financial institution that auto financing companies would be among the many financial institutions that would be eligible sellers to the government. Do you agree?"

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd: "Yes, for purposes of this act, I agree that financial institution may encompass auto financing companies."

Fun. Meanwhile, Democrats passed $25 billion in aid for Detroit, though under the careful guise of "green" funds to help it meet new fuel-efficiency standards.

Alas! All for naught! Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has stubbornly insisted that -- whatever the dreamy "intent" of Sen. Levin -- the $700 billion is, indeed, earmarked for financial institutions. Even a last-ditch letter-writing campaign by Mrs. Pelosi and the Michigan members this weekend, begging the administration to let them off the hook, wouldn't budge Mr. Paulson.

If that weren't enough, the administration has had the temerity to take Democrats at their legislative word, and demand the auto makers actually use that $25 billion in green funds for . . . green retooling. Which, needless to say, isn't going to help the Big Three CEOs pay their upcoming health-care bills.

And so Mrs. Pelosi has been landed with Detroit, again. The auto makers have staged a brilliant PR campaign, tying their misfortunes to today's financial mess -- never mind those decades of mismanagement. They've warned that the ripple effect of a crash could cost three million to four million jobs. Democrats have also undoubtedly been reminded by UAW President Ron Gettelfinger that those come from his union, which recently helped Mrs. Pelosi win an election.

The problem is how not to offend the other groups that just helped her win an election. The White House has intimated that its price for Democratic legislation in a lame-duck session would be the passage of the Colombia trade agreement. Yet Mrs. Pelosi has successfully sat on that deal for months at the demand of the broader union movement, which just spent hundreds of millions to increase Democratic majority.

Meanwhile, another trial balloon -- a proposal to loosen the rules governing the $25 billion in green money -- sent Mrs. Pelosi's environmental friends bonkers. They also just spent big helping Democrats, and insist the money go to building clean cars, not digging out Detroit.

Mrs. Pelosi has since tasked Barney Frank with "drafting" a bailout bill. Yet by yesterday, Democrats were backing away from a vote, complaining they weren't getting help from Republicans. That might work now, though come January, a bigger Democratic majority will no longer have the GOP as an excuse. By the looks of this week, that's when the real fun begins.

Write to
28538  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Starting up with FMA (training options) on: November 14, 2008, 10:50:54 AM
You now have begun the Adventure that continues to intrigue so many of us here  cool
28539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stable money is the key on: November 14, 2008, 10:44:43 AM
I confess to having just skimmed that long read, but towards the end caught the idea about the role of the Chinese savings glut.  This idea I find very interesting and will think about it.

A bit briefer is this from today's WSJ:

OPINION NOVEMBER 14, 2008 Stable Money Is the Key to Recovery

How the G-20 can rebuild the 'capitalism of the future.'By JUDY SHELTON
Tomorrow's "Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy" in Washington will have a stellar cast. Leaders of the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging nations will be there, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who initiated the whole affair, in order, as he put it, "to build together the capitalism of the future," will be in attendance, along with the host, our own President George W. Bush, and the chiefs of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations.

Martin KozlowskiOne thing is guaranteed: Most attendees will take the view that Wall Street greed and inadequate regulatory oversight by U.S. authorities caused the global financial crisis -- never mind that their own regulatory agencies missed the boat and that their own governments eagerly bought up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities for the higher yield over Treasurys.

But whatever they agree to pursue, whether new transnational regulatory authority or globally mandated limits on executive remuneration, would only stultify prospects for economic recovery -- and completely miss the point.

At the bottom of the world financial crisis is international monetary disorder. Ever since the post-World War II Bretton Woods system -- anchored by a gold-convertible dollar -- ended in August 1971, the cause of free trade has been compromised by sovereign monetary-policy indulgence.

Today, a soupy mix of currencies sloshes investment capital around the world, channeling it into stagnant pools while productive endeavor is left high and dry. Entrepreneurs in countries with overvalued currencies are unable to attract the foreign investment that should logically flow in their direction, while scam artists in countries with undervalued currencies lure global financial resources into brackish puddles.

To speak of "overvalued" or "undervalued" currencies is to raise the question: Why can't we just have money that works -- a meaningful unit of account to provide accurate price signals to producers and consumers across the globe?

Consider this: The total outstanding notional amount of financial derivatives, according to the Bank for International Settlements, is $684 trillion (as of June 2008) -- over 12 times the world's nominal gross domestic product. Derivatives make it possible to place bets on future monetary policy or exchange-rate movements. More than 66% of those financial derivatives are interest-rate contracts: swaps, options or forward-rate agreements. Another 9% are foreign-exchange contracts.

In other words, some three-quarters of the massive derivatives market, which has wreaked the most havoc across global financial markets, derives its investment allure from the capricious monetary policies of central banks and the chaotic movements of currencies.

In the absence of a rational monetary system, investment responds to the perverse incentives of paper profits. Meanwhile, price signals in the global marketplace are hopelessly distorted.

For his part, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says his essential goal is "to root out the irresponsible and often undisclosed lending at the heart of our problems." But if anyone has demonstrated irresponsibility, it is not those who chased misleading price signals in pursuit of false profits -- but rather global authorities who have failed to provide an appropriate international monetary system to serve the needs of honest entrepreneurs in an open world economy.

When President Richard Nixon closed the gold window some 37 years ago, it marked the end of a golden age of robust trade and unprecedented global economic growth. The Bretton Woods system derived its strength from a commitment by the U.S. to redeem dollars for gold on demand.

True, the right of convertibility at a pre-established rate was granted only to foreign central banks, not to individual dollar holders; therein lies the distinction between the Bretton Woods gold exchange system and a classical gold standard. Under Bretton Woods, participating nations agreed to maintain their own currencies at a fixed exchange rate relative to the dollar.

Since the value of the dollar was fixed to gold at $35 per ounce of gold -- guaranteed by the redemption privilege -- it was as if all currencies were anchored to gold. It also meant all currencies were convertible into each other at fixed rates.

Paul Volcker, former Fed chairman, was at Camp David with Nixon on that fateful day, Aug. 15, when the system was ended. Mr. Volcker, serving as Treasury undersecretary for monetary affairs at the time, had misgivings; and he has since noted that the inflationary pressures which caused us to go off the gold standard in the first place have only worsened. Moreover, he suggests, floating rates undermine the fundamental tenets of comparative advantage.

"What can an exchange rate really mean," he wrote in "Changing Fortunes" (1992), "in terms of everything a textbook teaches about rational economic decision making, when it changes by 30% or more in the space of 12 months only to reverse itself? What kind of signals does that send about where a businessman should intelligently invest his capital for long-term profitability? In the grand scheme of economic life first described by Adam Smith, in which nations like individuals should concentrate on the things they do best, how can anyone decide which country produces what most efficiently when the prices change so fast? The answer, to me, must be that such large swings are a symptom of a system in disarray."

If we are to "build together the capitalism of the future," as Mr. Sarkozy puts it, the world needs sound money. Does that mean going back to a gold standard, or gold-based international monetary system? Perhaps so; it's hard to imagine a more universally accepted standard of value.

Gold has occupied a primary place in the world's monetary history and continues to be widely held as a reserve asset. The central banks of the G-20 nations hold two-thirds of official world gold reserves; include the gold reserves of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the Bank for International Settlements, and the figure goes to nearly 80%, representing about 15% of all the gold ever mined.

Ironically, it was French President Charles de Gaulle who best made the case in the 1960s. Worried that the U.S. would be tempted to abuse its role as key currency issuer by exporting domestic inflation, he called for the return to a classical international gold standard. "Gold," he observed, "has no nationality."

Mr. Sarkozy might build on that legacy if he can look beyond the immediacy of the crisis and work toward a future global economy based on monetary integrity. This would indeed help to restore the values of democratic capitalism. And Mr. Volcker, an influential adviser to President-elect Barack Obama, could turn out to be a powerful ally in the pursuit of a new stable monetary order.

Ms. Shelton, an economist, is author of "Money Meltdown: Restoring Order to the Global Currency System" (Free Press, 1994).
28540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / B. Rush on: November 14, 2008, 10:28:42 AM
"Patriotism is as much a virtue as justice, and is as necessary for the support of societies as natural affection is for the support of families."

—Benjamin Rush, letter to His Fellow Countrymen: On Patriotism, October 20, 1773
28541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: November 14, 2008, 09:00:50 AM
This is an interesting theme you focus on here GM.

I note the date of the most recent of your posts.  It was sometime around that time that Stratfor had a piece which focused on the vulnerability of the Saudi installations and IIRC it noted that there were some variables about the installations themselves that made it harder to blow the whole thing up than one might think.  That said, they did regard it as a very legitimate security concern. 

With the oil price spike one can easily imagine AQ dusting off their plans in this regard and even with the bursting of the bubble still thinking about it.
28542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: R.I.P. on: November 13, 2008, 05:40:04 PM
Magical moments that continue to inform my Life , , ,

The Adventure continues!
28543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: November 13, 2008, 05:11:33 PM

Would you please summarize in 25-100 words?

Thank you.
28544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 13, 2008, 05:07:46 PM
"I just wish Bush, i.e. the republican party had been more fiscally responsible.  I mean
democrats are suppose to spend    but republicans are suppose to keep a tight purse.  Look at the mess we
are in when the both team up and spend and print money."

Mostly amen to that!  Worth noting though is that it is a mistake for Reps to allow Dems to maneuver them into being "the tax collector for the nanny state."  Part of Reagan's genius was that he knew how to avoid this trap.
28545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on: November 13, 2008, 01:15:36 PM
second post of the day:

Political races are about candidates and issues. But election results, in the end, are about numbers. So now that the dust is settling on the 2008 presidential race, what do the numbers tell us?

First, the predicted huge turnout surge didn't happen. The final tally is likely to show that fewer than 128.5 million people voted. That's up marginally from 122 million in 2004. But 17 million more people voted in 2004 than in 2000 (three times the change from 2004 to 2008).

Second, a substantial victory was won by modest improvement in the Democratic share of the vote. Barack Obama received 2.1 points more in the popular vote than President Bush received in 2004, 3.1 points more than Vice President Al Gore in 2000, and 4.6 points more than John Kerry in 2004. In raw numbers, the latest tally shows that Mr. Obama received 66.1 million votes, about 7.1 million more than Mr. Kerry.

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at or visit him on the web at
Four out of five of these additional votes came from minorities. Mr. Obama got nearly 3.3 million more votes from African-Americans than did Mr. Kerry; 2.9 million of them were from younger blacks aged 18-29. A quarter of Mr. Obama's improvement among blacks -- 811,000 votes -- came from African-Americans who voted Republican in 2004. Mr. Obama also received 2.5 million more Hispanic votes than Mr. Kerry. Over a third of these votes -- 719,000 -- cast ballots for Republicans in 2004.

One of the most important shifts was Hispanic support for Democrats. John McCain got the votes of 32% of Hispanic voters. That's down from the 44% Mr. Bush won four years ago. If this trend continues, the GOP will find it difficult to regain the majority.

Mr. Obama won 4.6 million more votes in the West and 1.4 million more in the Midwest than Mr. Kerry. Mr. McCain, on the other hand, got more than 2.6 million fewer votes in the Midwest than Mr. Bush. In Ohio, for example, Mr. Obama received 32,000 fewer votes than Mr. Kerry in 2004 -- but Mr. McCain got 360,000 fewer votes than Mr. Bush. That turned a 119,000 vote GOP victory in 2004 into a 206,000 vote Democratic win this year.

Then there were those who didn't show up. There were 4.1 million fewer Republicans voting this year than in 2004. Some missing Republicans had turned independent or Democratic for this election. But most simply stayed home. Ironically for a campaign that featured probably the last Vietnam veteran to run for president, 2.7 million fewer veterans voted. There were also 4.1 million fewer voters who attend religious services more than once a week. Americans aren't suddenly going to church less; something was missing from the campaign to draw out the more religiously observant.

In a sign Mr. Obama's victory may have been more personal than partisan or philosophical, Democrats picked up just 10 state senate seats (out of 1,971) and 94 state house seats (out of 5,411). By comparison, when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980, Republicans picked up 112 state senate seats (out of 1,981) and 190 state house seats (out of 5,501).

In the states this year, five chambers shifted from Republican to Democrats, while four shifted from either tied or Democratic control to Republican control. In the South, Mr. Obama had "reverse coattails." Republicans gained legislative seats across the region. In Tennessee both the house and senate now have GOP majorities for the first time since the Civil War.

In today's Opinion Journal

A Barack MarketEmpire State ImplosionThe Greens Get Harpooned


Wonder Land: A Monument to Government Power
– Daniel HenningerHistory Favors Republicans in 2010
– Karl Rove


How to Put the Squeeze on Iran
– Orde F. KittrieObama and Missile Defense
– John R. BoltonIt's Time to Rethink Our Retirement Plans
– Roger W. Ferguson Jr.This matters because the 2010 Census could allocate as many as four additional congressional districts to Texas, two each to Arizona and Florida, and one district to each of a number of (mostly) red-leaning states, while subtracting seats from (mostly) blue-leaning states like Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and, for the first time, California. Redistricting and reapportionment could help tilt the playing field back to the GOP in Congress and the race for the White House by moving seven House seats (and electoral votes) from mostly blue to mostly red states.

History will favor Republicans in 2010. Since World War II, the out-party has gained an average of 23 seats in the U.S. House and two in the U.S. Senate in a new president's first midterm election. Other than FDR and George W. Bush, no president has gained seats in his first midterm election in both chambers.

Since 1966, the incumbent party has lost an average of 63 state senate and 262 state house seats, and six governorships, in a president's first midterm election. That 2010 is likely to see Republicans begin rebounding just before redistricting is one silver lining in an otherwise dismal year for the GOP.

In politics, good years follow bad years. Republicans and Democrats have experienced both during the past 15 years. A GOP comeback, while certainly possible, won't be self-executing and automatic. It will require Republicans to be skillful at both defense (opposing Mr. Obama on some issues) and offense (creating a compelling agenda that resonates with voters). And it will require leaders to emerge who give the right public face to the GOP. None of this will be easy. All of this will be necessary.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
28546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Coming Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: November 13, 2008, 12:46:10 PM
As bad as a spender as Bush was, it is deranged and disingenuous for Dems to point the finger on this-- for their complaint about him was always that he wasn't spending enough-- not to mention that when they control the House of Representatives control over spending is theirs.
28547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The First Amendment on: November 13, 2008, 12:41:27 PM
Amongst those first to be thanked for this odious piece of legislation is Senator John McCain.
28548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 13, 2008, 12:37:27 PM
November 13, 2008

In today's Political Diary

'Election Day' Won't End Till Democrats Have 60
Nancy Rules
Pence for His Thoughts
The Man, Not the Plan (Quote of the Day)
Howard Shows How

Nightmare on Constitution Avenue

With news that Democratic candidate Mark Begich has taken the lead from incumbent GOP Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska's Senate race, Republicans are beginning to visualize a nightmare scenario in which Democrats actually reach the goal of 60 Senate seats that would allow them to stop any GOP filibuster.

The scenario runs like this:

First, Republicans lose the Alaska seat. At least 15,000 provisional ballots and an estimated 20,000 mailed absentee ballots remain to be counted. Ominously for Republicans, Mr. Begich now holds an 814-vote lead after some 50,000 absentee ballots were counted this week. The race could remain undecided for some time. Alaska will continue to accept absentee ballots through Nov. 19 if they were postmarked by Election Day.

Democrats also have an excellent opportunity to pick up a Georgia Senate seat if President-elect Obama decides it's vital for his party to win the December 2 runoff between GOP incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin. With a snap of Mr. Obama's fingers, money and resources from Team Obama's vaunted organization would pour in. Dispirited Republicans might well stay home, allowing Democrats to capture the seat much as Republicans took a Georgia Senate seat in a similar 1992 runoff. "We're a long way away from having the resources we need to match the Democrats," Senator Chambliss told reporters.

Then there's Minnesota, where GOP Senator Norm Coleman's lead over comedian Al Franken has just dwindled to 206 votes even before a statewide recount begins next week. Republicans fear that Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, an ally of the activist group ACORN, will attempt to put his thumb on the scale during the process.

If bad breaks occur in all of these races, Democrats will win the important strategic and psychological prize of 60 seats, and Republicans will have lost 15 Senate seats in just two election cycles -- a modern record.

-- John Fund

The Godmother

How determined is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to start the new term with her caucus marching in lockstep behind here? Take a look at the House Democratic leadership races -- if you can stay awake.

Barack Obama's tapping of Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his White House chief of staff opened up his powerful position as chair of the Democratic Caucus. Just a few days ago, rumors were flying that at least two challengers would seek his job. Connecticut Rep. John Larson, currently vice-chairman, made clear his intention to run. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, architect of this cycle's House wins, said he wanted to run as well, setting up a showdown. Meanwhile, the vice-chairman's job that Mr. Larson is vacating quickly attracted competing bids from Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, New York Rep. Joe Crowley, and Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek.

But Mrs. Pelosi was apparently having none of it. Suddenly Mr. Van Hollen announced that he'd decided to stay put as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well as accepting an additional title as "assistant" to Speaker Pelosi. That left Mr. Larson unopposed for the caucus chairmanship. At the same time, Reps. Shakowsky, Crowley and Meeks all changed their minds and decided not to run for the vice-chair slot. Instead, most will be supporting Mrs. Pelosi's handpicked ally for the job, California Rep. Xavier Becerra, who now appears a shoe-in.

In short, Mrs. Pelosi seems to have orchestrated the party's internal reorganization without any major infighting. Then again, she's also leaving some ambitious caucus members without prizes. We'll see how they respond once the legislating begins.

-- Kim Strassel

Hoosier Hero

The message of this election and the 2006 election is simple: "Big government Republicanism is a failed experiment."

So says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican. Mr. Pence is running to become chairman of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 power slot and effectively the communications director of the Republican Party. He is currently unopposed, but Dan Lungren of California has hinted he might also vie for the job. The leadership elections are next week.

I caught up with Mr. Pence on Wednesday and he was in a feisty mood. "Our job," he tells me, "is to expose and defeat the liberal agenda that is coming." He sees the first round being fought over a big-spending "stimulus" plan from the Obama administration as well as an attempt to reinstate the ban on offshore drilling. Mr. Pence says his party needs to discover its inner Reagan and bring back a "vision of policy contrast" with the Obama liberals. The only thing embattled Republicans have going for them, he adds, is that America "is still a center-right country. Voters know that we can't tax, spend and bailout our way back to prosperity."

Mr. Pence is ideally suited to rehab the Republican Party. He voted against three Bush initiatives that have grown the government mightily: the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the No Child Left Behind school spending law, and September's $700 billion financial rescue plan. Mr. Pence says he got into the race for conference chairman after a call from House Minority Leader John Boehner, who told him the party needs his crisp message.

Mr. Pence is a Reaganite optimist who tells me something that seems paradoxical but true. "For the first time in eight years, we as conservative Republicans have the wind at our backs." He means that being in the minority can be liberating, allowing the party to rediscover its bearings and figure out how to modernize the GOP message. Step One, he says, will be repudiating the Bush-era philosophy of "big government Republicanism."

Good riddance.

-- Stephen Moore

Quote of the Day

"First, the good news for Obama: Sixty-two percent of Americans expect him to be a 'good' or 'great' president, and 70 percent expect the economy to improve over the next four years, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. . . But data in the Quinnipiac poll shows that overall goodwill won't necessarily translate into automatic support for Obama's policy proposals. Obama called for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay during the campaign, and it was reported on Tuesday that the president-elect is already looking into shuttering the facility. But a 44 percent plurality of voters said Guantanamo should remain open, compared with 29 percent who wanted it closed and 27 percent who weren't sure. On Iraq, Obama's plans don't match voter sentiment right now, either. . . . And even on some Obama proposals with widespread support, Americans don't seem optimistic they'll be enacted. Fifty-four percent of voters believe the president-elect will not follow through on his oft-repeated campaign pledge to lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans" -- David Herbert, National Journal "Poll Track" columnist, on new post-election polling of voter attitudes about a Barack Obama presidency.

They're All Deaniacs Now

Four years after Howard Dean took over the Democratic National Committee with promises to invest in party building even in heavily Republican territory, his would-be counterparts in the Republican Party are talking about imitating Mr. Dean's approach. After all, it's tough to argue with two straight cycles of nearly unparalleled Democratic success.

Mr. Dean's "50-state strategy," which invested financial and human resources everywhere from Alaska to Wyoming and the Deep South, is credited with reviving the party in states where it had lately withered. In turn, those states helped steal more than 50 House seats from Republicans over two cycles, some in districts that gave President Bush more than 60% of the vote in 2004.

No wonder candidates looking to replace RNC chairman Mike Duncan are touting the Dean model as a way to rebuild the GOP. "We have to come up with our own 50-state strategy, so to speak," says Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis, who made his candidacy official on Wednesday.

"I thought Howard Dean had a pretty good idea with his 50-state strategy," echoes Oklahoma Republican Party chief Gary Jones, who is backing a combined ticket of former Senator Fred Thompson and one-time Michigan National Committeeman Chuck Yob for the RNC post.

Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor who made a name for himself during the 2004 presidential primaries for his anti-war appeal to liberals, is an unlikely role model for Republican Party strategists. But they know a good idea when they see it. Along with gains in Congressional elections and picking up Electoral College votes from enemy territory in Indiana, North Carolina and even Nebraska's Second Congressional District, Democrats under Mr. Dean made impressive gains in state legislatures, including netting about 100 legislative seats this cycle (though several are being disputed in recounts).

Another great idea Republicans are adopting from Mr. Dean: If a candidate for public office helps raise money and manpower for state and local party organizations, the national party will always return the favor.

-- Reid Wilson,

28549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / R.I.P. on: November 13, 2008, 11:02:38 AM
Mitch Mitchell, drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, has died, apparently of natural causes at the age of 61 huh

MM was an outstanding drummer.  In addition to seeing him play as part of the JHE in 1967, I also saw him sit in various times with the Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East.  There were strong connections between the JA and the JHE.  Jack Casady frequently played with JH (see e.g. "Voodoo Chile on Electric Ladyland", and a cut on "JH live at Winterland") and MM relates in his book on his years with JH that JH asked Jack to replace Noel Redding in the JHE but that Jack was loyal to the JA.  Anyway, MM would come sit in with the JA. 

The late show at the Fillmore began at 11:30 and usually had two bands before the JA, so the JA typically would come on stage around 0200 and MM would join in around 0400 with the set typically finishing around 0530 (which was cutting it close for me sneaking back into the house before my folks awoke).  This was not a problem when the JA drummer was Spencer Dryden, but Spencer's replacement Joey Covington apparently felt insecure--  one time a separate drum set was put out on stage for MM to play even as JC continued to play.  Eventually JC backed off and insincerely introduced "Our friend Mitch Mitchell" to the crowd. 

The rapport between Mitch, Jack on bass and Jorma on guitar (Paul Kantner doing fine on rythhm guitar too) was extraordinary.

Scary to see someone 5 years older than me dying of "natural causes"! shocked
28550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bolton on: November 13, 2008, 10:51:30 AM
Well, tis a rare event but, apart from the tedious boilerplate about Bush, I'm in agreement with JDN on this one.

However, the following presages exactly the sort of weakness that I fear from a President BO:

Presidential transitions provide the opportunity to predict how an incoming administration will govern. While the Obama transition is proceeding largely behind the scenes, commentators have been hard at work examining the emerging evidence to reach sweeping conclusions about the administration's likely direction.

While it is much too early to reach any firm conclusions, a few substantive events have taken place. Consider, for example, the established tradition of a president-elect's series of calls to world leaders, to introduce himself and receive their congratulations. One of Barack Obama's first such conversations took place last Friday with Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

From the press reports and statements regarding their brief exchange it seems Messrs. Obama and Kaczynski drew radically different conclusions on a critical issue -- missile defense. Mr. Kaczynski raised the subject, given the recent U.S.-Polish agreement to base missile defense assets in Poland. In the words of the Polish press statement about the call, Mr. Kaczynski heard Mr. Obama say "that the missile defense project would continue."

The Obama transition promptly issued a rebuttal: "President-elect Obama made no commitment on it. His position is as it was throughout the campaign -- that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."

This was a remarkable statement. Mr. Obama contradicted a head of state, clinging to a campaign position that could most kindly be described as weak and ambiguous. The statement also reflected a naiveté in the structuring of such transition conversations -- and future dealings with truly unfriendly foreign leaders -- that could have been avoided.

Importantly, the Obama-Kaczynski telephone call must be seen in the context of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's speech just two days before, where he threatened to base Russian missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave, targeting our proposed missile defense deployments in Poland. Mr. Medvedev's words were more than just a direct challenge to President-elect Obama on missile defense. They were also a direct challenge to the Polish government, which reached an agreement with the Bush administration just days after the Russian invasion of Georgia. The Poles were out on a limb, and Mr. Medvedev was testing the strength of that limb and the strength of the incoming U.S. president. Both now look disturbingly weak.

To be sure, one could argue that the Poles should not so quickly have issued an unequivocal statement without checking with Mr. Obama's handlers. But so too the Obama team should have understood that foreign leaders, both friends and adversaries, are in a state of high tension, hoping to get the president-elect to give his stamp of approval for their agendas before the inertia of the permanent government gets in the way.

Mr. Kaczynski's gambit may have been the first, but it won't be the last, and those hundreds of Obama foreign-affairs advisers should have known it was coming. The Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs, Arab-Israeli affairs and a host of other critical problems are thundering toward Mr. Obama as Jan. 20 approaches.

Freeing America from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's antiquated constraints is rightly regarded as one of President Bush's most significant achievements. In 2001, we believed that the Russian strategic threat had eased. But the emerging threats from rogue states possessing a few nuclear-capable ballistic missiles required that we develop adequate defenses -- especially because many emerging nuclear-weapons states do not accept the same calculus of deterrence that maintained the Cold War's uneasy nuclear standoff. The demise of the ABM Treaty allows America to defend itself from these threats.

For a new Obama administration to retreat from this achievement, as many in the arms-control "community" have advocated, would be a significant step backward. His campaign position about deployment after the technology is "proved" is an excuse never to deploy missile defenses -- because nothing in the military field is ever conclusively proven for all time. Rebuffing Mr. Kaczynski is also precisely the wrong response to Mr. Medvedev's provocation. It will surely be read as weakness, and not only in Moscow. In fact, Moscow announced yesterday there would be no more missile-defense negotiations before Jan. 20.

How should Israel and the Arab world now contemplate the prospects for rapid U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the prospects for turmoil there and enhanced Iranian influence in the Middle East? Will North Korea -- whoever is in charge -- now kick back and wait for Jan. 20? The list of questions is far longer than the list of Mr. Obama's answers.

To repeat, it is much too early to draw larger conclusions from this one episode. On the existing postelection evidence, we cannot tell whether Mr. Obama will govern on the left or the center-left, or whether he is simply passive and risk-averse. But on balance, his conversation with Mr. Kaczynski points toward a weakening of the U.S. defense posture, indifference to allies under duress, and the need to satisfy his natural constituency within the Democratic Party. Let us now await the next pieces of evidence.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations"
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