Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: October 29, 2007, 01:03:22 PM
The judge becomes a pawn in the politics of interrogation.
Monday, October 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Just when you thought someone might be confirmed in Washington without a partisan fight, Senate Democrats are suggesting they may not approve Michael Mukasey as Attorney General after all. The judge's offense is that he's declined to declare "illegal" an interrogation technique in the war on terror that Congress itself has never specifically banned.
Last week, Democrats postponed a vote on his nomination. And all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have sent Judge Mukasey a letter expressing alarm that he refused to repudiate "waterboarding" during his recent confirmation hearing. "I don't know what's involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional," the judge had said. This seems fair enough, because both the Justice Department's legal opinions on interrogation and the specific CIA practices are classified. It would be irresponsible for Judge Mukasey to make any declarations about the law or practice until he knows the details.
That's not good enough for Democrats, who are under pressure from their antiwar left to keep pinning a phony "torture" rap on the Bush Administration. The letter from the Judiciary Democrats demands that Judge Mukasey declare himself on the legality of "waterboarding," with the clear implication that if he gives the wrong answer his nomination won't make it out of committee. These are the same Democrats who had declared, before he was nominated, that Judge Mukasey was exactly the sort of "consensus" choice they welcomed.
The irony here is that Congress has twice had the chance to ban waterboarding, or simulated drowning, but has twice declined to do so. In both the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress only barred "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment. While some Members have said they believe waterboarding is banned by that language, when given the chance to say so specifically in a statute and be accountable for it, they refused.
As usual, Congress wants it both ways. The Members want to denounce what they call "torture," but the last thing they want is to be responsible if some future detainee knows about an imminent terrorist attack but the CIA can't get the information because Congress barred certain kinds of interrogation. So they toss their non-specific language into the lap of the executive, and say "You figure it out."
Yet they still object because the Justice Department has since tried to interpret that language by providing some practical, specific guidelines to the CIA. According to several news reports, the CIA rarely uses waterboarding but believes it can be useful against the very hardest cases.
Senator John McCain all but acknowledged Congress's political dodge when he once said that, while he deplored aggressive interrogation, in extremis a President might have to approve it. And in that case, he added, the Commander in Chief has the power to absolve some Jack Bauer-type who did the dirty work. At least Mr. McCain is honest about the realities of the war on terror, in which surveillance and interrogation are two essential tools to prevent future attacks. But this also passes the buck from Congress to the executive, and CIA interrogators can be forgiven if they want more specific guidance lest they be interrogated themselves by the Monday-morning generals on the Judiciary Committee.
We hope Mr. Mukasey holds fast to his earlier answer. If he makes a declaration of illegality, he will be doing so without all the facts and will undermine the Office of Legal Counsel officials he may soon supervise at Justice. If he attempts the feint of saying that he is personally opposed to waterboarding or other aggressive techniques, he may get confirmed. But Congress will eventually ask if he's gone on to ban these techniques, which in any case is a Presidential decision. The judge will only be buying political trouble for himself later.
If Democrats want a 2008 debate over specific interrogation procedures, then by all means let's have it. And if they want to ban waterboarding, or for that matter any stressful interrogation, they can try to do so. But they shouldn't use a universally hailed Attorney General nominee as a political pawn to appease the antiwar left even as they refuse to say what kind of interrogation they do support.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Seminar reviews
on: October 29, 2007, 01:00:34 PM
A fine time was had by all. Dino & Ashley's wonderful Akita has awakened the Akita spirit in me, indeed I will be considering her litter when they get around to breeding her. Good times over at Tiny's house watching the UFC. I'm very glad to see that D&A will be bringing in Porn Star on a regular basis.
And I am very much looking foward to the joint seminar in April with Sonny Puzikas!
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: October 29, 2007, 11:04:28 AM
THE FOUNDATION: CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION
“They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless.” —Thomas Jefferson
The following is from economist Walter Williams who while certainly not a Founding Father, equally certainly discusses a very pertinent matter:
“In each new Congress since 1995, Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) has introduced the Enumerated Powers Act (HR 1359)... Simply put, if enacted, the Enumerated Powers Act would require Congress to specify the basis of authority in the U.S. Constitution for the enactment of laws and other congressional actions. HR 1359 has 28 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. When Shadegg introduced the Enumerated Powers Act, he explained that the Constitution gives the federal government great, but limited, powers. Its framers granted Congress, as the central mechanism for protecting liberty, specific rather than general powers. The Constitution gives Congress 18 specific enumerated powers, spelled out mostly in Article 1, Section 8. The framers reinforced that enumeration by the 10th Amendment, which reads: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.’ Just a few of the numerous statements by our founders demonstrate that their vision and the vision of Shadegg’s Enumerated Powers Act are one and the same... I salute the bravery of Rep. Shadegg and the 28 co-sponsors of the Enumerated Powers Act. They have a monumental struggle. Congress is not alone in its constitutional contempt, but is joined by the White House and particularly the constitutionally derelict U.S. Supreme Court.” —Walter Williams
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: October 29, 2007, 11:01:19 AM
“Perpetual adolescence is not just a cultural drag, but also dangerous to our way of life... The leveling of adult authority over the past half century or so was accompanied by a leveling of cultural authority. This brought on the age of multiculturalism, a time when Western Civ (like the adult) no longer occupies its old pinnacle atop the hierarchy of cultures. The multiculti conception of equally valuable cultures (except for the West, which is deemed the pits) depends on a strenuous non-judgmentalism. This non-judgmentalism expresses itself in a self-censoring adherence to political correctness. Such non-judgmentalism, such PC self-censorship, is infantilizing because it requires us to suppress our faculties of analysis and judgment.” —Diana West
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: October 29, 2007, 11:00:00 AM
A nice rhetorical flourish here, but perhaps it misses the point about the central role of Kurdish separatism in the mix?
“If there is one idea that Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, share on how to fight the war on terror, it is that we need to reach out to and win the hearts and minds of the moderate, modern, peaceable, more secularist Muslims and empower them to defeat by both persuasion and other methods the radical, violent fundamentalists in their religion. That would be a very, very good idea. But consider the Turkish experience in the past six years. The Turks are the moderate, modern, peaceable, more secularist Muslims. Moreover our countries have been close allies for a half-century. And Turkey has had extensive friendly commercial relations with Israel. They are Turks, not Arabs, and are therefore less susceptible to the emotional plight of the West Bank Arabs under Israeli occupation. And yet we have lost the Turks almost as badly as we have lost the angriest fundamentalist Arab Muslims. If we can’t keep a fair share of their friendly attitude, how do we expect to win the much vaunted and awaited hearts and minds campaign?” —Tony Blankley
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: October 29, 2007, 08:51:15 AM
The message below was sent to me by a member of ICCF, Johnstuf, and I am grateful to him for doing so. Apparently kids from all over the country have sent in their artwork to say thanks to America's finest. Xerox uses the picture you select, prints YOUR note on it and sends it to our women and men overseas.
Well, I not only checked out the link but sent one off myself. It's so easy even I was able to do it. Just so you know, as one of the selections you have the option of sending your own personalized message, I did.
Prior to sending, check out this page... From The Troops. These folk's really appreciate this and, in all honesty, it is the least we can do.
Something cool that Xerox is doing
If you go to this web site, Let's Say Thanks you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq . You can't pick who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.
How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! This is a great site. Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second.
Whether you are for or against the war, our guys and gals over there need to know we are behind them...
Hey, here's the link for AdoptaPlatoon. This is an all volunteer organization. There are many ways to help, look around the site and see what works best for you.
My family and I "adopted two Soldiers at the end of the Iraq War, thank God they both made it home OK. We sent many needed items to them as well as little luxuries. Kool-Aid, Chapstick, and sun-screen were very popular then.
BTW, boxes are free from the USPS and we tried to send a little extra as all GI's have Buddies...
I just signed up again...going the pen-pal route this time. Perhaps there's some other old guy who needs a Buddy...
I have two more worthy additions so you can choose how you want to help our service personnel. These I got from MedSpec65 over at the Packing 4 Life forum.
The first is an organization that assists the families of our troops here at home; the V.F.W. Unmet Needs Program. According to their site 100% of your donation goes to the families, now that's how to run a charitable organization folks. Oh, by the way, "The Gunny", R. Lee Ermy donates his time and money to this cause.
The second one is Any Soldier. This should also read "any service member" as you can link to any of the five armed services via the site. This is a rather interesting organization started by an Army family whose son, an airborne vet and multiple deployee, would give packages his Ma and Dad sent to others in his outfit. Basically, Any Soldier works the same way. You send a package to a designated service member, who is a volunteer, and that person gives the package to another service member that receives little or NO mail. The FAQ section explains it all people.
Well there you have it, four organizations and multiple ways to assist the men, women, and their families who are doing one hell of a job for us.
Please do what you can and don't hesitate to tell your friends, co-workers, schools and churches about the most excellent organizations.
Thank You All.
Take Care and Stay Safe,
Administrator Integrated Close Combat Forum
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: October 29, 2007, 08:07:13 AM
The Middle East War thread today has analysis on the Kurds, US, and Turkey. This NY Times piece focuses on the Kurds.
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: October 29, 2007
RANIYA, Iraq, Oct. 27 — A low-slung concrete building off a steep mountain road marks the beginning of rebel territory in this remote corner of northern Iraq. The fighters based here, Kurdish militants fighting Turkey, fly their own flag, and despite urgent international calls to curb them, they operate freely, receiving supplies in beat-up pickup trucks less than 10 miles from a government checkpoint.
Skip to next paragraph
The New York Times
Hiding in Rugged Terrain
Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions (October 29, 2007)
Petraeus Says U.S. Seeking Calm in North (October 29, 2007) “Our condition is good,” said one fighter, putting a heaping spoonful of sugar into his steaming tea. “How about yours?” A giant face of the rebels’ leader — Abdullah Ocalan, now in a Turkish prison — has been painted on a nearby slope.
The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., is at the center of a crisis between Turkey and Iraq that began when the group’s fighters killed 12 Turkish soldiers on Oct. 21, prompting Turkey, a NATO member, to threaten an invasion.
But the P.K.K. continues to operate casually here, in full view of Iraqi authorities. The P.K.K.’s impunity is rooted in the complex web of relationships and ambitions that began with the American-led invasion of Iraq more than four years ago, and has frustrated others with an interest in resolving the crisis — the Turks, Iraqis and the Bush administration.
The United States responded to the P.K.K. raid by putting intense pressure on Iraq’s Kurdish leaders who control the northern area where the rebels hide, with a senior State Department official delivering a rare rebuke last week over their “lack of action” in curbing the P.K.K.
But even with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scheduled to visit Istanbul this week, Kurdish political leaders seemed in no hurry to act.
An all-out battle is out of the question, they argue, because the rugged terrain makes it impossible to dislodge them.
“Closing the camps means war and fighting,” said Azad Jindyany, a senior Kurdish official in Sulaimaniya, a regional capital. “We don’t have the army to do that. We did it in the past, and we failed.”
But even logistical flows remain uninterrupted, despite the fact that Iraqi Kurdish leaders have some of the most precise and extensive intelligence networks in the country. As the war has worsened, the United States has come to depend increasingly on the Kurds as partners in running Iraq and as overseers of the one part of the country where some of their original aspirations are actually being met.
Iraqi Kurdish officials, for their part, appear to be politely ignoring American calls for action, saying the only serious solution is political, not military. They have taken their own path, allowing the guerrillas to exist on their territory, while at the same time quietly trying to persuade them to stop attacks.
“They have allowed the P.K.K. to be up there,” said Mark Parris, a former American ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Brookings Institution. “That couldn’t have happened without their permitting them to be there. That’s their turf. It’s as simple as that.”
The situation poses a puzzle to the United States, which badly wants to avert a new front in the war, but finds itself forced to choose between two trusted allies — Turkey, a NATO member whose territory is the transit area for most of its air cargo to Iraq, and the Kurds, their closest partners in Iraq.
The United States “is like a man with two wives,” said one Iraqi Kurd in Sulaimaniya. “They quarrel, but he doesn’t want to lose either of them.”
Kurds are one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state, numbering more than 25 million, spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Most live in Turkey, which has curtailed their rights, fearing secession. The P.K.K. wants an autonomous Kurdish area in eastern Turkey, and has repeatedly attacked the Turkish military, and sometimes the civilian population, since the 1980s, in a conflict that has left more than 30,000 dead.
In this small town a short drive from the edge of rebel territory, and in Sulaimaniya, 55 miles to the south, it is business as usual. A political party affiliated with the rebel group is open and holding meetings. Pickup trucks zip in and out of the group’s territory, and a government checkpoint a short drive away from the area acts as a friendly tour guide. Its soldiers said they had waved through eight cars of journalists on one day last week.
Mala Bakhtyar, a senior member in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party that governs this northeastern region, said there had been no explicit orders from Baghdad to limit the P.K.K., and scoffed at last week’s statement by the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that Iraq would close the P.K.K.’s offices, saying they had already been shut long ago.
“They are guests, but they are making their living by themselves,” Mr. Bakhtyar said. “We don’t support them.”
He added: “We don’t agree with them. We don’t like to make a fight with Turkey.”
Fayeq Mohamed Goppy, a leader in the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, an offshoot of the P.K.K. that still operates freely, argues that Iraqi Kurdish leaders are only paying lip service to wanting the P.K.K. to leave. In reality, the politicians want the separatists around as protection against Sunni Arab extremists, who most Iraqi Kurds believe will move in if the P.K.K. leaves the mountains.
Skip to next paragraph
Hiding in Rugged Terrain
Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions (October 29, 2007)
Petraeus Says U.S. Seeking Calm in North (October 29, 2007) Noshirwan Mustafa, a prominent Kurdish leader, said the area was as impenetrable as the mountains in Pakistan where leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are thought to be hiding. “For me, the P.K.K. is better than the Taliban,” he said.
Local Kurdish authorities have asked Mr. Goppy to keep a low profile, including canceling a planned conference in Erbil, he said, but otherwise have not limited his activities.
“They really don’t want P.K.K. to go,” he said in an interview in his home in Sulaimaniya. If the group is eliminated, the Iraqi Kurdish area “is a really small piece for eating, very easy to swallow.”
Mr. Parris argues that the Kurdish leader of northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, ever astute, is holding onto the P.K.K. as a future bargaining chip with Turkey, and will not use it until he absolutely has to.
“The single most important piece of negotiating capital may very well be his ability to take care of the P.K.K.,” he said.
Mr. Jindyany said local authorities would be happy to get rid of them if they could, calling the situation a sword of Damocles for Iraqi Kurds.
Throughout its history in northern Iraq, which dates back to the early 1980s, under an agreement with Mr. Barzani, the P.K.K. has had contentious relations with Iraqi Kurdish leaders. It fought in their civil wars, against Mr. Barzani in 1997, and three years later, against Jalal Talabani, a powerful Kurd who is now the president of Iraq.
But since the American invasion in 2003, the political landscape has changed. Iraqi Kurds, emboldened by their secure position, have stopped fighting each other and turned their attentions to other threats like Turkey, a state that has long oppressed its Kurdish population, and Islamic extremism from Baghdad.
This area of northern Iraq, which Iraqis call Kurdistan, in some ways eclipsed the P.K.K.’s struggle for an autonomous Kurdish area, Iraqi Kurds said.
“They were jealous of our autonomy,” said Goran Kader, a Communist Party leader in Sulaimaniya. “They wanted to do the same thing in Turkey.”
At the same time, the P.K.K. was reorganizing, after its leader, Mr. Ocalan, was captured in 1999, and a skilled group of military commanders took over day-to-day operations, said Aliza Marcus, the author of “Blood and Belief: The P.K.K. and the Kurdish Fight for Independence.”
The commanders were intent on military escalation, she said, and stepped up attacks, under Mr. Ocalan’s jailhouse orders, in part to remain relevant.
“They don’t want to be sidelined,” Ms. Marcus said. “That’s really what’s driven them since 2004,” when attacks resumed after a five-year cease-fire. “They want to say, ‘Turkish Kurds are important too — don’t think the Kurdish problem has been solved.’ ”
The ambush of Turkish soldiers on Oct. 21, which took place just a few miles from the Iraqi border, served the purpose perfectly.
Public sympathy in Raniya and Sulaimaniya is enormous, and the fighters procure supplies and health care here with ease. Fighters do not go to hospitals, for fear of standing out — the ones from Turkey speak a different Kurdish dialect — but are treated in doctors’ homes, said one former fighter, an Iraqi Kurd who was recruited at age 14.
“Their organization is everywhere,” said the fighter, who now works as a police officer for the main political party, after surrendering to local authorities in 2003. “Their members are everywhere.”
To Iraqi Kurds, Turkey’s approach is pure politics. There is no military solution to the problem of the P.K.K., they say, because the terrain would never permit victory, and Turkey’s leaders know that.
The solution, Mr. Mustafa argued, lies with moderates in Turkey, who must push for an amnesty for the rebels. Militant Kurds, for their part, should take advantage of the political opening in Turkey — 20 Kurdish deputies are now serving in Parliament there.
“When you have the door to the Parliament open, why are you going to the caves?” he said.
To that aim, talks were held with intermediaries for the P.K.K., Mr. Bakhtyar said. Since then, the rebels have not attacked, and officials and security analysts say that if the quiet holds until Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meets with Ms. Rice on Friday and with President Bush three days later, he might not be pressured into military action.
“Soon there will be snow,” Mr. Kader said. “The roads will be blocked. That will be that until next year.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: October 29, 2007, 07:53:12 AM
'Fairness' Is Foul
Liberals vs. the First Amendment.
Monday, October 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
It wasn't that hard for Indiana's Rep. Mike Pence to build media and congressional support for his Free Flow of Information Act, which would protect the confidentiality of contacts between reporters and sources. It passed the House this month by an overwhelming vote of 398-21. His next battle will be a lot harder--to permanently ban the Fairness Doctrine, the regulation many liberals are now actively trying to revive in an effort to silence their critics.
Until the FCC scrapped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, it required broadcasters to provide equal time to all sides of "controversial" issues. In practice, this led to what Bill Monroe, a former host of NBC's "Meet the Press," called "timid, don't-rock-the-boat coverage." On radio, Newsweek's Howard Fineman notes, it "effectively kept partisan shows off the airwaves," so that in 1980 there were a mere 75 talk radio stations. Today there are 1,800.
But the Fairness Doctrine has always had fans in the corridors of power because it gave incumbents a way of muzzling their opponents. The Kennedy administration used it as a political weapon. Bill Ruder, Kennedy's assistant secretary of commerce, explained: "Our strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." The Nixon administration similarly used the doctrine to torment left-wing broadcasters.
Democrats who have become "Fairness" mongers insist they simply want to restore civility and balance to the airwaves. Al Gore, in a typically overheated speech last year bemoaned "the destruction of [the] marketplace of ideas" which he blamed in part on the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, after which "Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein rails against "one-sided programming" that has pushed the American people into "extreme views without a lot of information." She thinks Americans deserve to know "both sides of the story." Isn't it enough that National Public Radio, subsidized by the government, serves as a vehicle for liberal voices in just about every community in the country?
True, commercial radio is dominated by conservatives, but perhaps that's because liberal arguments in their full-throated glory just haven't sold as well. Air America, the liberal talk radio network that debuted in 2004, is in perpetual financial trouble. Then there's the GreenStone talk radio network started last year by feminists Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem. It offered cutting-edge liberal thinking pitched to a female audience--and flopped completely.
Rep. Pence says he knows all about the power of talk radio because he used to host a statewide show in Indiana, where he describes himself as "the decaf Rush Limbaugh." He believes the Fairness Doctrine would "amount to government control over political views expressed on the public airwaves." In June his first effort to impose a one-year moratorium on any revival of the Fairness Doctrine by the FCC passed, 309-115, with nearly half of House Democrats voting in favor.
But a one-year moratorium was an easy vote, because there is no reason to expect the Fairness Doctrine to make a comeback before 2009, when a new president--perhaps a Democrat--appoints a majority of FCC commissioners.
That's why Mr. Pence is proposing the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a bill that would permanently bury the Fairness Doctrine. Because House Democratic leaders are unlikely to allow it to come to the floor for a vote, Mr. Pence has launched a "discharge petition," a device to bypass House committees and move the bill directly to the floor. He needs 218 members--a House majority--to sign the petition. He has collected 185 signatures, but all from Republicans. Democrats are being told by their leadership that signing such a petition would undermine their control of the House.
Mr. Pence, says that "freedom should not be a partisan issue" and that he is optimistic that he can collect the signature of every Republican and then pluck off some 20 of the Democrats who voted for his one-year moratorium last summer (he'd need at least 18).
The stakes are high. "Lovers of liberty must expose calls to restore the Fairness Doctrine for the fraudulent power-grab that they plainly are," writes Brian Anderson, editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
That's because the attempts to control the airwaves won't stop with so-called equal time rules. Al Franken, the liberal former Air America host who is now running for the Senate in Minnesota, is already slipping into the role of potential legislative censor of his old industry. "You shouldn't be able to lie on the air," he told Newsweek's Mr. Fineman earlier this year. "You can't utter obscenities in a broadcast, so why should you be able to lie? You should be fined for lying."
In fact, you can be "fined" for lying, if the person you lie about successfully sues for defamation. But the First Amendment makes it exceedingly difficult for defamation plaintiffs to prevail, especially if they are public figures--and for good reason. Under a more pro-plaintiff legal regime, "the pall of fear and timidity imposed upon those who would give voice to public criticism is an atmosphere in which the First Amendment freedoms cannot survive," Justice William Brennan wrote in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964).
Justice Brennan used to be a liberal hero. If he were alive today, he would surely be dismayed to learn that liberals seem to have concluded they have no use for the First Amendment.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Kurdish Bind
on: October 29, 2007, 07:47:32 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Washington's Kurdish Bind
Turkish forces have not yet moved into Iraq. Despite claims of continued clashes with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas inside of Turkey, the important news is what hasn't happened: There has been no major incursion of Turkish troops into Iraq's Kurdish region. We suspect that the pause is in response to U.S. requests for more time to address the PKK issue with the Iraqi government.
However, Ankara on Sunday sent Washington a deliberate signal about the consequences of not producing a solution acceptable to Turkey: Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan visited Tehran for meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki. In addition, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad phoned Turkish President Abdullah Gul to discuss the crisis.
Iranian-Turkish relations can best be described as "proper" -- meaning they are not particularly warm, nor are they as venomous as U.S.-Iranian relations. However, the Kurdish question is one on which Turkey and Iran have historically agreed -- and while not quite as critical to Iran as it is to Turkey, it is a major national security issue for both. In talking to the Iranians on multiple levels this weekend, the Turks were hinting to the Americans just how bad the situation could become. Any alignment of Turkey and Iran, on any level, would strike at the heart of U.S. strategy in the region, which is focused on the containment of Iran.
The Americans are caught in a bind. Since 1991, the United States has defended Kurdish interests inside of Iraq, carefully walking a tightrope with Turkey on the issue. If the United States were to back off its defense of the Kurds now, it would throw its entire Iraq strategy into chaos. It is more than just a question of the Kurdish role in the Iraqi government. If the United States went so far as to abandon the Kurds in favor of maintaining good relations with Turkey, the signal to all groups in Iraq would be that American guarantees will last only until other U.S. interests take precedence. Many in Iraq have been making that argument anyway, but a shift in U.S. support for the Kurds would confirm it. The Sunnis and Shia who have been considering alignment with the United States would certainly have to reconsider their position.
On the other hand, if Washington simply backs up the Kurds, the Turks are apparently prepared to reconsider not only their relations with the United States, but also their relations with the Iranians. To say that this would be a regional earthquake understates the matter.
Thus, the United States has to figure out a way to finesse the issue, getting the Kurds in Iraq not only to clamp down on the PKK, but also to turn over some of their members. However, clamping down is one thing; turning over leaders and members of the PKK to the Turks is quite another, and would pose huge political problems for the Kurds in Iraq. While factionalized, the Kurds still comprise a single ethnic group, and turning over PKK members who have conducted attacks on behalf of Kurdish independence will go deeply against the grain of the community. In fact, their very fragmentation decreases their propensity to turn each other in: Whoever did it might be regarded as a traitor to the Kurdish cause.
Turkey is trying to give the United States time to sort this out, but the Turks themselves don't have a lot of time. Public feelings in Turkey about PKK attacks are running high. There is also a sense that the United States is indebted to Turkey for permitting about 70 percent of the supplies used by U.S. forces in Iraq to flow through Turkish ports and over Turkish roads -- in spite of Turkey's opposition to the U.S. invasion. If Washington won't deliver the PKK but instead sides with the Kurds, the popular pressure on the Turkish government to shift its position regarding the United States will be enormous.
If you've ever wondered what it looks like between a rock and a hard place, ask the Bush administration. That's where it is on this issue. The United States can't threaten the Kurds too much without losing credibility with other parties it is wooing in Iraq; the Kurds can't simply turn over other Kurds to the Turks; and the Turks can't settle for anything less.
At the moment, the Iranians are doing everything they can to look statesmanlike. A situation that makes Ahmadinejad look like a calm and deliberate statesman -- that is what the space between a rock and a hard place looks like.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST
on: October 28, 2007, 09:50:22 AM
I was a judge at UFC 10-- the night Frye lost his title to Mark Coleman. It was still a tournament back then and in an earlier fight Frye was on top and really thumping his opponent. I was close enough to hear him say "You don't have to keep on" (meaning taking this beating) and the other man answered "Yes I do" and the fight continued.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: October 27, 2007, 01:15:31 PM
New findings on how offenders train with, carry and deploy the weapons they use to attack police officers have emerged in a just-published, 5-year study by the FBI.
Among other things, the data reveal that most would-be cop killers:
--show signs of being armed that officers miss;
--have more experience using deadly force in “street combat” than their intended victims;
--practice with firearms more often and shoot more accurately;
--have no hesitation whatsoever about pulling the trigger. “If you hesitate,” one told the study’s researchers, “you’re dead. You have the instinct or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re in trouble on the street….”
These and other weapons-related findings comprise one chapter in a 180-page research summary called “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers.” The study is the third in a series of long investigations into fatal and nonfatal attacks on POs by the FBI team of Dr. Anthony Pinizzotto, clinical forensic psychologist, and Ed Davis, criminal investigative instructor, both with the Bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit, and Charles Miller III, coordinator of the LEOs Killed and Assaulted program.
“Violent Encounters” also reports in detail on the personal characteristics of attacked officers and their assaulters, the role of perception in life-threatening confrontations, the myths of memory that can hamper OIS investigations, the suicide-by-cop phenomenon, current training issues, and other matters relevant to officer survival. (Force Science News and our strategic partner PoliceOne.com will be reporting on more findings from this landmark study in future transmissions.)
Commenting on the broad-based study, Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato, called it “very challenging and insightful--important work that only a handful of gifted and experienced researchers could accomplish.”
From a pool of more than 800 incidents, the researchers selected 40, involving 43 offenders (13 of them admitted gangbangers-drug traffickers) and 50 officers, for in-depth exploration. They visited crime scenes and extensively interviewed surviving officers and attackers alike, most of the latter in prison. Here are highlights of what they learned about weapon selection, familiarity, transport and use by criminals attempting to murder cops, a small portion of the overall research:
Predominately handguns were used in the assaults on officers and all but one were obtained illegally, usually in street transactions or in thefts. In contrast to media myth, none of the firearms in the study was obtained from gun shows. What was available “was the overriding factor in weapon choice,” the report says. Only 1 offender hand-picked a particular gun “because he felt it would do the most damage to a human being.”
Researcher Davis, in a presentation and discussion for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, noted that none of the attackers interviewed was “hindered by any law--federal, state or local--that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws.”
Several of the offenders began regularly to carry weapons when they were 9 to 12 years old, although the average age was 17 when they first started packing “most of the time.” Gang members especially started young.
Nearly 40% of the offenders had some type of formal firearms training, primarily from the military. More than 80% “regularly practiced with handguns, averaging 23 practice sessions a year,” the study reports, usually in informal settings like trash dumps, rural woods, back yards and “street corners in known drug-trafficking areas.”
One spoke of being motivated to improve his gun skills by his belief that officers “go to the range two, three times a week [and] practice arms so they can hit anything.”
In reality, victim officers in the study averaged just 14 hours of sidearm training and 2.5 qualifications per year. Only 6 of the 50 officers reported practicing regularly with handguns apart from what their department required, and that was mostly in competitive shooting. Overall, the offenders practiced more often than the officers they assaulted, and this “may have helped increase [their] marksmanship skills,” the study says.
The offender quoted above about his practice motivation, for example, fired 12 rounds at an officer, striking him 3 times. The officer fired 7 rounds, all misses.
More than 40% of the offenders had been involved in actual shooting confrontations before they feloniously assaulted an officer. Ten of these “street combat veterans,” all from “inner-city, drug-trafficking environments,” had taken part in 5 or more “criminal firefight experiences” in their lifetime.
One reported that he was 14 when he was first shot on the street, “about 18 before a cop shot me.” Another said getting shot was a pivotal experience “because I made up my mind no one was gonna shoot me again.”
Again in contrast, only 8 of the 50 LEO victims had participated in a prior shooting; 1 had been involved in 2 previously, another in 3. Seven of the 8 had killed offenders.
The offenders said they most often hid guns on their person in the front waistband, with the groin area and the small of the back nearly tied for second place. Some occasionally gave their weapons to another person to carry, “most often a female companion.” None regularly used a holster, and about 40% at least sometimes carried a backup weapon.
In motor vehicles, they most often kept their firearm readily available on their person, or, less often, under the seat. In residences, most stashed their weapon under a pillow, on a nightstand, under the mattress--somewhere within immediate reach while in bed.
Almost all carried when on the move and strong majorities did so when socializing, committing crimes or being at home. About one-third brought weapons with them to work. Interestingly, the offenders in this study more commonly admitted having guns under all these circumstances than did offenders interviewed in the researchers’ earlier 2 surveys, conducted in the 1980s and ’90s.
According to Davis, “Male offenders said time and time again that female officers tend to search them more thoroughly than male officers. In prison, most of the offenders were more afraid to carry contraband or weapons when a female CO was on duty.”
On the street, however, both male and female officers too often regard female subjects “as less of a threat, assuming that they not going to have a gun,” Davis said. In truth, the researchers concluded that more female offenders are armed today than 20 years ago--“not just female gang associates, but female offenders generally.”
Twenty-six of the offenders [about 60%], including all of the street combat veterans, “claimed to be instinctive shooters, pointing and firing the weapon without consciously aligning the sights,” the study says.
“They practice getting the gun out and using it,” Davis explained. “They shoot for effect.” Or as one of the offenders put it: “[W]e’re not working with no marksmanship….We just putting it in your direction, you know….It don’t matter…as long as it’s gonna hit you…if it’s up at your head or your chest, down at your legs, whatever….Once I squeeze and you fall, then…if I want to execute you, then I could go from there.”
More often than the officers they attacked, offenders delivered at least some rounds on target in their encounters. Nearly 70% of assailants were successful in that regard with handguns, compared to about 40% of the victim officers, the study found. (Efforts of offenders and officers to get on target were considered successful if any rounds struck, regardless of the number fired.)
Davis speculated that the offenders might have had an advantage because in all but 3 cases they fired first, usually catching the officer by surprise. Indeed, the report points out, “10 of the total victim officers had been wounded [and thus impaired] before they returned gunfire at their attackers.”
Officers would less likely be caught off guard by attackers if they were more observant of indicators of concealed weapons, the study concludes. These particularly include manners of dress, ways of moving and unconscious gestures often related to carrying.
“Officers should look for unnatural protrusions or bulges in the waist, back and crotch areas,” the study says, and watch for “shirts that appear rippled or wavy on one side of the body while the fabric on the other side appears smooth.” In warm weather, multilayered clothing inappropriate to the temperature may be a giveaway. On cold or rainy days, a subject’s jacket hood may not be covering his head because it is being used to conceal a handgun.
Because they eschew holsters, offenders reported frequently touching a concealed gun with hands or arms “to assure themselves that it is still hidden, secure and accessible” and hasn’t shifted. Such gestures are especially noticeable “whenever individuals change body positions, such as standing, sitting or exiting a vehicle.” If they run, they may need to keep a constant grip on a hidden gun to control it.
Just as cops generally blade their body to make their sidearm less accessible, armed criminals “do the same in encounters with LEOs to ensure concealment and easy access.”
An irony, Davis noted, is that officers who are assigned to look for concealed weapons, while working off-duty security at night clubs for instance, are often highly proficient at detecting them. “But then when they go back to the street without that specific assignment, they seem to ‘turn off’ that skill,” and thus are startled--sometimes fatally--when a suspect suddenly produces a weapon and attacks.
Thirty-six of the 50 officers in the study had “experienced hazardous situations where they had the legal authority” to use deadly force “but chose not to shoot.” They averaged 4 such prior incidents before the encounters that the researchers investigated. “It appeared clear that none of these officers were willing to use deadly force against an offender if other options were available,” the researchers concluded.
The offenders were of a different mind-set entirely. In fact, Davis said the study team “did not realize how cold blooded the younger generation of offender is. They have been exposed to killing after killing, they fully expect to get killed and they don’t hesitate to shoot anybody, including a police officer. They can go from riding down the street saying what a beautiful day it is to killing in the next instant.”
“Offenders typically displayed no moral or ethical restraints in using firearms,” the report states. “In fact, the street combat veterans survived by developing a shoot-first mentality.
“Officers never can assume that a criminal is unarmed until they have thoroughly searched the person and the surroundings themselves.” Nor, in the interest of personal safety, can officers “let their guards down in any type of law enforcement situation.” NOTE: For new findings from the FBI researchers about highly dangerous suicide-by-cop confrontations, read the exclusive 2-part report by Force Science Research Center board member Chuck Remsberg here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: October 27, 2007, 10:07:14 AM
This from today's NY Times. One wishes that the anthros had a different point of view, but , , , there it is.
A True Culture War
By RICHARD A. SHWEDER
Published: October 27, 2007
IS the Pentagon truly going to deploy an army of cultural relativists to Muslim nations in an effort to make the world a safer place?
A few weeks ago this newspaper reported on an experimental Pentagon “human terrain” program to embed anthropologists in combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. It featured two military anthropologists: Tracy (last name withheld), a cultural translator viewed by American paratroopers as “a crucial new weapon” in counterinsurgency; and Montgomery McFate, who has taken her Yale doctorate into active duty in a media blitz to convince skeptical colleagues that the occupying forces should know more about the local cultural scene.
How have members of the anthropological profession reacted to the Pentagon’s new inclusion agenda? A group calling itself the Network of Concerned Anthropologists has called for a boycott and asked faculty members and students around the country to pledge not to contribute to counterinsurgency efforts. Their logic is clear: America is engaged in a brutal war of occupation; if you don’t support the mission then you shouldn’t support the troops. Understandably these concerned scholars don’t want to make it easier for the American military to conquer or pacify people who once trusted anthropologists. Nevertheless, I believe the pledge campaign is a way of shooting oneself in the foot.
Part of my thinking stems from an interview with Ms. McFate on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show” to which I tried to listen with an open mind. My first reaction was to feel let down. It turns out that the anthropologists are not really doing anthropology at all, but are basically hired as military tour guides to help counterinsurgency forces accomplish various nonlethal missions.
These anthropological “angels on the shoulder,” as Ms. McFate put it, offer global positioning advice as soldiers move through poorly understood human terrain — telling them when not to cross their legs at meetings, how to show respect to leaders, how to arrange a party. They use their degrees in cultural anthropology to play the part of Emily Post.
More worrisome, it was revealed that Tracy, the mystery anthropologist, wears a military uniform and carries a gun during her cultural sensitivity missions. This brought to my increasingly skeptical mind the unfortunate image of an angelic anthropologist perched on the shoulder of a member of an American counterinsurgency unit who is kicking in the door of someone’s home in Iraq, while exclaiming, “Hi, we’re here from the government; we’re here to understand you.”
Nevertheless the military voices on the show had their winning moments, sounding like old-fashioned relativists, whose basic mission in life was to counter ethnocentrism and disarm those possessed by a strident sense of group superiority. Ms. McFate stressed her success at getting American soldiers to stop making moral judgments about a local Afghan cultural practice in which older men go off with younger boys on “love Thursdays” and do some “hanky-panky.” “Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming.
I began to imagine an occupying army of moral relativists, enforcing the peace by drawing a lesson from the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans lasted a much longer time than the British Empire in part because they had a brilliant counterinsurgency strategy. They did not try to impose their values on others. Instead, they made room — their famous “millet system” — for cultural pluralism, leaving each ethnic and religious group to control its own territory and at liberty to carry forward its distinctive way of life.
When the American Anthropological Association holds its annual convention in November in Washington, I expect it to become a forum for heated expression of political and moral opposition to the war, to the Bush administration, to capitalism, to neo-colonialism, and to the corrupting influence of the Pentagon and the C.I.A. on professional ethics.
Nevertheless I think it is a mistake to support a profession-wide military boycott or a public counter-counterinsurgency loyalty oath. And I think it would be unwise for the American Anthropological Association to do so at this time.
The real issue for academic anthropologists is not whether the military should know more rather than less about other ways of life — of course it should know more. The real issue is how our profession is going to begin to play a far more significant educational role in the formulation of foreign policy, in the hope that anthropologists won’t have to answer some patriotic call late in a sad day to become an armed angel riding the shoulder of a misguided American warrior.
Richard A. Shweder, an anthropologist and professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago, is the author of “Thinking Through Cultures.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / New football helmet
on: October 27, 2007, 09:54:05 AM
New Helmet Design Absorbs Shock in a New Way
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: October 27, 2007
Vin Ferrara, a former Harvard quarterback, was looking for an aspirin in his medicine cabinet when his eyes fixed upon a ribbed plastic bottle used to squirt saline into sinuses. Ferrara squeezed the bottle, then pounded on it — finding that it cushioned soft and hard blows with equal aplomb, almost intelligence. “This is it,” Ferrara declared. Three years later, Ferrara’s squirt bottle has led to a promising new technology to protect football players from concussions.
Football helmets have evolved over more than a century from crude leather bonnets to face-masked, polycarbonate battering rams. But they still often fail to protect brains from the sudden forces that cause concussions. Studies have found that 10 to 50 percent of high school players each season sustain concussions, whose effects can range from persistent memory problems and depression to coma and death.
Contemporary helmet manufacturers have made a point of improving protection against concussions. But experts suspect that Ferrara, who sustained several concussions as a player himself, has developed a radically effective design.
Rather than being lined with rows of traditional foam or urethane, Ferrara’s helmet features 18 black, thermoplastic shock absorbers filled with air that — not unlike his squirt bottle — can accept a wide range of forces and still moderate the sudden jarring of the head that causes concussion. Moreover, laboratory tests have shown that the disks can withstand hundreds of impacts without any notable degradation in performance, a longtime drawback of helmets’ traditional foam.
Dr. Robert Cantu of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, one of the nation’s leading experts in concussion management, called it “the greatest advance in helmet design in at least 30 years.”
Cantu informally advised Ferrara during the helmet’s development but has no financial relationship with the product.
Dr. Gerry Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist who directs the concussion program at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, said Ferrara’s helmet could “take helmet protection to a whole new level.”
“I think it’s very real,” Gioia said. “Foams have only had a certain amount of success in absorbing force. Think of what crumple zones in cars meant to reducing injuries. That’s the idea behind this technology — this does what it’s supposed to do better than any other.”
The helmet has not yet been tested by actual players in games. Earlier this month, it passed certification tests conducted by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, which certifies helmet models worn by each of the more than 2 million football players in the United States, from pee-wees to professionals.
Ferrara said that his company, Xenith LLC, expected the helmet to be available for the 2008 football season — either produced by Xenith or perhaps by license to an existing manufacturer. The price will be about $350, more than twice the cost of existing headgear. Ferrara, who after graduating from Harvard in 1996 earned medical and business degrees from Columbia, said he expected marketing to focus less on schools, whose budgets are tight, than parents with concern for their child.
“This is more a piece of safety equipment, along the lines of a child car seat, than just a piece of athletic equipment,” Ferrara said.
After raising $10 million in venture capital, Ferrara assembled the engineering team that has turned that squirt bottle into a finished helmet. Three high schools, which Ferrara declined to name because he had promised them anonymity, will begin field-testing it next month. Meanwhile, Ferrara has begun presenting the helmet and its test results to groups of football decision-makers, including the athletic directors of the Big Ten Conference last week.
“It really caught my attention,” said Barry Alvarez, the University of Wisconsin athletic director and former football coach. “Coaches and trainers should really see this thing.”
An N.F.L. spokesman said that the league was aware of Ferrara’s helmet design but had not reviewed it enough to comment.
In part due to liability concerns, the number of helmet manufacturers has decreased over two decades from more than half a dozen to three: Riddell, Schutt and Adams. Eighty-four percent of N.F.L. players choose helmets made by Riddell, which also has an exclusive marketing agreement with the league. Schutt and Adams have far greater market shares on the high school and youth levels, respectively, while exclusive arrangements within leagues or schools are discouraged because head sizes fit better in different brands.
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Football helmets present the technological challenge of protecting against all manner of blows to the head and also doing so thousands of times. (Bicycle helmets, by contrast, are designed to withstand just one major, accidental impact.) Optimally, a helmet’s interior must be forgiving enough to cushion against a routine impact while also sturdy enough to withstand a potentially lethal one — each level of force requires a different response from the material.
To earn certification, a helmet is impact-tested at dozens of forces and angles, with the energy it still allows to reach the skull measured by what is called severity index. The helmet must always score at 1,200 or below on the severity index because that is the zone that causes fractured skulls, the injury whose prevention historically has been emphasized — quite successfully — in football. Concussions become likely at a severity index of about 300; the certification agency has feared demanding that level of protection because of potential sacrifices it might mean at higher levels.
During its certification test this month, the Xenith helmet scored in the 200’s in several key locations and averaged about 340, scores generally lower than those attained by today’s helmet designs. The certification agency’s executive director, Mike Oliver, strongly cautioned against comparing test scores because differences are not as meaningful as they appear.
“Concussion is the big elephant in the room right now when it comes to helmets, and I’m cautiously optimistic at how low these numbers are,” Oliver said. “But you can test as much as you want, and we won’t really know until it’s tested in the field and we see how it performs.”
Ferrara, 34, shared Oliver’s caution and said that no helmet could prevent concussion — all it could do is decrease the chance for one. “You can’t put a seat belt on the brain,” he said.
In general, only about 20 percent of helmets in use by high schools at any one time are less than one year old; a vast majority are reconditioned every one to three years, as budgets permit. Reconditioned helmets are cleaned, receive new bolts and undergo random drop testing to the certification agency’s 1,200 severity-index standard. But the process does little to address the foam padding that degrades over time and provides less protection against the lower-level impacts that cause concussion, according to Dave Halstead, the agency’s technical director.
Horror stories regarding use of deteriorated helmets are not uncommon. Six years ago, Max Conradt, a high school player in Yachats, Ore., was wearing a 20-year-old helmet when he sustained hits that left him comatose for two months and permanently impaired. Halstead said he had seen helmets with padding replaced by athletic socks and with screw points exposed.
Beyond those rare cases, however, Halstead estimated that half of helmets in use at the high school level are either improperly reconditioned, have foam degradation or fit poorly. This leaves them susceptible to the lower-level forces that cause the majority of concussions, rather than the higher grades for which the agency tests. The certification agency does test hockey and lacrosse helmets at both high and low levels — an extra step that Halstead said his organization should strongly consider for football, as more data are collected on its effectiveness.
“There is concern that changing anything about the standards can affect the safety we’ve already attained,” Halstead said. “The unanswered questions are real. But the injuries we see because of concussions are also real, and are becoming more important.”
Ferrara said that internal tests on his helmet’s shock absorbers had shown no notable degradation after hundreds of hits. That, along with the helmet’s promising test scores, have left Cantu imagining uses for the technology beyond football.
“In the military, you have helmets for pilots and ground troops,” said Cantu, who has also advised the Department of Defense on soldiers’ concussions and other brain injuries. “There’s ice-hockey boards and auto-race barriers. Anything that’s protective in nature, that’s used to attenuate energy, could be improved markedly.”
Other companies are attempting to address football’s concussion quandary. Schutt developed a model called the DNA that uses a thermoplastic urethane liner to attenuate energy as well as foam-filled air bladders for fit.
Simbex, a company based in Lebanon, N.H., has developed a tiny accelerometer that fits inside helmet padding, measures sudden movements of the head and can wirelessly alert a sideline trainer. (Riddell now markets a $1,000 helmet with this technology built in.) While by no means foolproof, the device — now in use in eight colleges and four high schools — can help identify when players sustain a particularly dangerous hit but, wanting to stay on the field, attempt to hide it from medical personnel.
And SportSoft, based in Kirkland, Wash., makes tracking stickers similar to labels on grocery items so that equipment managers can better monitor each helmet’s age and reconditioning history.
Ferrara said he wanted his new shock-absorber helmet design to be only one of several lines of defense against concussions. Mindful that previous helmet improvements have occasionally led athletes to feel a false sense of security and take more risks, he said part of his rollout plan would be to emphasize to players and coaches proper, head-up tackling technique, so that the helmet sees fewer dangerous hits to begin with — as well as encouraging athletes to admit when they think they might have a concussion.
“The educational side of it is just as important, if not more important, as the helmet itself,” Ferrara said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: October 27, 2007, 08:38:35 AM
I wish Stratfor had fleshed out his career more. I remember it to be all they say it is, but frankly I forget the details
Anyway, I live in a major target area of America. Time to continue tightening up my game. With this news, "Escape from LA" scenarios just became a tad more likely.
PS: I hold the health-care-fascist-pardon-selling-etc Clintons in low regard, but in fairness one must note that the President's father created much of our problems today by snatching stalemate from the jaws of victory in 1991.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lone Survivor
on: October 27, 2007, 12:43:21 AM
On Monday Lt. Michael Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Meet the man who told his story.
BY MARK LASSWELL
Saturday, October 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
ARLINGTON, Va.--At the White House on Monday, the parents of Navy Lt. Michael Murphy received the Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to their son. One of his former SEAL teammates, Marcus Luttrell, was on hand in the East Room but not entirely there. As a military aide read the citation extolling Lt. Murphy for his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life" during a ferocious firefight in Afghanistan in 2005, Mr. Luttrell's mind was firmly back in the mountains of the Hindu Kush on the day that Lt. Murphy died.
"Somebody had to tap me on the shoulder to bring me back. I kind of zoned out," Mr. Luttrell recalled in an interview two days after the ceremony. As he spoke, his thoughts seemed to drift back to the battle again. "I remember how loud it was. And I remember our lungs being on fire"--but here he paused, then added: "I was thinking that nobody can have any idea what the hell happened up on that mountain that day."
The bare outlines are harrowing enough. A four-man contingent of Navy SEALs were inserted by helicopter at night on June 28, 2005, in the desolate mountain region near the border with Pakistan. The men were: Mr. Luttrell, a hospital corpsman second class at the time; Gunner's Mate Second Class Danny Dietz; Sonar Technician Second Class Matthew Axelson; and Lt. Michael Murphy, the officer in charge and one of Mr. Luttrell's closest friends. They were on a reconnaissance mission, trying to locate a guerrilla commander who was aligned with the Taliban.
The SEALs scrambled across the unforgiving terrain toward their target, but after daylight broke the mission started to go awry. Three goat herders--and their goats--happened upon the SEALs. The Americans recognized that they had a potentially lethal problem: The herders glowering at them were likely Taliban sympathizers who would report the Americans' presence.
With deep misgivings, the SEALs resolved to let the herders go--a decision they quickly regretted. Radio communications problems prevented the SEALs from calling headquarters for assistance; moving across the mountainsides with little cover in daylight would almost certainly attract enemy attention. All they could do was hunker down. And then the shooting started. Dozens of Taliban fighters had taken up a position above the SEALs and were pouring lead down on them.
Over the next two hours, a terrible dance unfolded. Swarming Taliban fighters would try to slide down the mountain slopes on either side of the SEALs, who furiously picked them off until the Americans were nearly overwhelmed by force of numbers; then the SEALs would fling themselves blindly down the mountain, hoping to alight still alive, with a little cover, so they could take up the fight again.
After a series of these desperate plunges, the SEALs were in a grim state: shot up, hit by the shrapnel of rocket-propelled grenades, running out of ammunition. Danny Dietz died first--he had been badly wounded, but then was shot fatally as Mr. Luttrell tried to help him to safety.
As Mr. Luttrell recounts in "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10," his book about the episode, the remaining three SEALs' final plunge down the mountain landed them in a ravine. Matthew Axelson was grievously wounded and would die that day. Lt. Murphy, bleeding from a stomach wound, "groped in his pocket for his mobile phone, the one we had dared not use because it would betray our position," Mr. Luttrell writes. "And then Lieutenant Murphy walked out into the open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ."
Any act of heroic battlefield self-sacrifice is almost incomprehensible to those whom soldiers fight to protect, but the fact that Lt. Murphy was performing such a familiar task--moving out into an open space seeking a cell-phone signal--under such murderous circumstances lends his actions an almost unbearable poignancy. While he was on the phone, calling for help, Lt. Murphy was shot in the back, the bullet exiting through his chest, yet he continued to talk--even, astonishingly, finishing the conversation: "Roger that, sir. Thank you."
But it was too late. SEALs Murphy and Axelson were killed, and then the day's disaster was compounded when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying a quick-response force was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade during a rescue effort, killing 16.
It was the worst single day of American fatalities of the war in Afghanistan, and the worst loss of life in SEAL history. But Mr. Luttrell miraculously survived the fight in the mountains. Just as the SEALs were making their last stand, with Taliban fighters closing in, he was blown from the ravine to relative safety by a grenade explosion.
With three broken vertebrae, badly wounded and barely able to walk, he eluded the enemy for the better part of four days, three of them under the care of villagers who took him in and were then obliged by custom to protect their guest against all threats--even against the Taliban fighters who discovered Mr. Luttrell's whereabouts. The Taliban menaced the village, but, loath to create enemies in a region where they rely on local assistance, never attacked. Mr. Luttrell was rescued by U.S. forces on July 2.
War veterans returning to civilian life commonly find themselves in jobs that are, in light of their recent battlefield experience, decidedly incongruous. For Mr. Luttrell, coming home after his discharge in June has meant an incongruity of a kind he would never have imagined. The former SEAL--a man with special-operations training in marksmanship and underwater demolition, a recipient of the Navy Cross for combat heroism, a warrior who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan--has been working for the past five months as a publicist. It is strictly a volunteer position and reluctantly undertaken, to be sure, and Mr. Luttrell has only one client: the memory of that terrible day in Afghanistan. He wants the world to know about the sacrifices of Lt. Murphy, of his two other dead SEAL teammates, and of the eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers killed in the failed helicopter rescue. It is a timely effort, coming during a period in this country when the heroism of American soldiers is not reliably noted, much less honored, in every corner.
"It's not about me, it's about my guys," he says of his publicity labors since leaving the service. "It's like the job I was doing before I got out. There were probably plenty of missions that I didn't want to go on because I was tired or whatever, but I still did it. Because it's not about me."
Mr. Luttrell was born in Houston in 1975 but grew up in rural Texas on the horse farms his family owned, much of the time in the piney-woods country in the eastern part of the state. He would clearly rather do just about anything than talk to the media. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and well over 200 pounds, with long, cowboyish sideburns, he is Texas taciturn to begin with, and the secrecy of SEAL missions tends to make frogmen--as the naval Sea, Air, Land team-members call themselves--a less-than-loquacious bunch.
In the months following the mountain fight, queries from family and friends about the gun battle and debriefings following inaccurate news reports on the incident became such a distraction, Mr. Luttrell says, that it was difficult to concentrate on his SEAL duties.
"Normally I wouldn't talk about any of our operations. This one wouldn't leave me alone," he says. "It kept banging on my door and I had to do something about it." The solution, he thought, would be to set the facts down in print so that they would be on the public record. Then maybe he could move on.
With clearance from his superiors, Mr. Luttrell began looking into writing a book and was eventually put in touch with British writer Patrick Robinson, whose military thrillers often involve the U.S. Navy. Their collaboration, "Lone Survivor," was published in June; it quickly became a nonfiction best seller.
"All I wanted to do was stop talking" about what happened in Afghanistan, Mr. Luttrell says, "and now I'm neck-deep in it." Another frustration is the inadequacy of words to convey the experience. "I can sit here and tell you that I got into a gunfight," Mr. Luttrell says, "but you can't put it into words. Your heartbeat doesn't raise, the hair on the back of your neck doesn't stand up when I tell you that. When you're out there--the stuff we get into--people get sick. You get so scared, you urinate on yourself. That's fear."
Hollywood, he says, has no idea what war is like. That's why he's wary of negotiations currently under way to film "Lone Survivor." If it happens, he says with the trace of a grimace, he'll probably "go out there and help," otherwise it might turn into "a love story" or a special-effects extravaganza with "people spinning from wires, which it wasn't. It was about death and people dying."
It should be noted that Mr. Luttrell is giving away his income from "Lone Survivor," reportedly putting it in a trust to aid military charities and the families of the dead soldiers, although now he says simply: "I'm in control of it so it goes to the right places."
For now, Mr. Luttrell is heading back to East Texas. Not far from his parents' place, he and his twin brother, Morgan--who followed him into the SEALs--own a ranch. The two men each have a large tattoo on their backs, one half of the trident badge awarded to newly minted SEALs. "When we come together, and it makes the whole thing, you're like, 'Oh, I know what that is.' It was just something we did to honor all the guys who went before us and are here today. And it signifies that without him I'm only half a frogman."
The ranch is devoted to rehabilitating sick and injured horses--about a dozen of them at any one time. The place is likely to be restorative for Mr. Luttrell, as well. "Out there it's pretty peaceful and I work all the time," he says. But he hasn't been able to stay at home for more than a few days at a time since being plunged into "Lone Survivor" concerns.
"Being a civilian hasn't set in just yet. Except when I try to get on a military base and I can't because I don't have an ID anymore." When he feels especially troubled by thoughts about the firefight in the mountains, his instinct--as it is when dealing with his injuries, from which he is still recovering--is simply to "suck it up." But sometimes he calls his old SEAL buddies. It's not always easy to reach them. "I forgot how busy it is being a team guy."
I talked to Mr. Luttrell at the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel on Wednesday morning, not far from the Pentagon. In the lobby before the interview, it was the uniformed military personnel who caught the eye as they headed out the front door, most likely on their way to doing business at the Pentagon. The few civilian guests in evidence attracted less attention. A family was at the front desk checking out. And then there was the tall young man in blue jeans who was saying goodbye to a pleasant-looking older couple near the entrance. The woman in the couple was much shorter than the young man, who had to lean over--a little awkwardly, as if he had a tricky back--when he hugged her. Not a remarkable farewell scene in most hotels, but in this one it was unutterably moving.
Marcus Luttrell was saying goodbye to Dan and Maureen Murphy, Lt. Murphy's parents. The parting wasn't tearful; it was a cordial exchange between people who have a deep bond and who seem to know that they'll be speaking again soon. Probably on Sunday, in fact. That's the day, each week, when Mr. Luttrell calls the families--the other survivors.
Mr. Lasswell is The Wall Street Journal's deputy books editor.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: When you don't feel like fighting...
on: October 26, 2007, 11:11:06 PM
Woof Dog Dan:
Your June Gathering smelled to me like a big piece of what you came for-- entirely natural to have a phase after where the focus is different. Also there was the trip to Prescott , , , Know that the Wednesday class is happening again. Also know that your "Brondo Buzzsaw" will appear in a DBMA DVD, and perhaps in the Nat Geo documentary. You are one of the featured story lines in the piece by the way. You come across quite well. Well done!
The Adventure continues!
PS: Please call me. I have a project I wish to discuss with you.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: October 26, 2007, 03:36:39 PM
I did not know that Charles Krauthammer is VERY anti-gun. Here's what he wrote in an op-ed piece entitled "Disarm The Citizenry", in 1996:
Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquility of the kind enjoyed by sister democracies such as Canada and Britain. Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today. Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic - purely symbolic - move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Philippines
on: October 26, 2007, 02:57:00 PM
Philippines: The Mall Bombing Controversy
The mayor of Makati City, the Philippines, called Oct. 25 for an independent investigation into the Oct. 19 explosion at the Glorietta 2 mall in Metro Manila. He cited conflicting reports from Philippine National Police (PNP) investigators and their superiors as to the cause of the blast, which left 11 people dead and more than 100 wounded.
Since the explosion, conflicting explanations of the blast have been reported in the media. The day after the bombing, police reported that investigators at the scene had found traces of RDX, a chemical component of the explosive C-4. Several days later, on Oct. 24, the chief of the PNP announced that the blast was caused by an accidental buildup of methane gas and diesel fumes in the mall's basement. That same day, a group of investigators hired by the mall's owners reported that conditions in the basement were inconsistent with an accidental explosion, citing a lack of evidence about the buildup of explosive gases. The timing of the explosion -- at lunch time when the mall was crowded with shoppers and diners -- is also suspicious.
One of the most compelling arguments that the explosion was not accidental is the continued involvement of investigators from the FBI and other U.S. agencies. When explosions such as this one occur, law enforcement agents attached to the U.S. Embassy typically assist the local police with the investigation. The resources available at the embassy in Manila include explosives field-test kits and experienced investigators and intelligence personnel from the FBI, CIA, State Department, Defense Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The FBI also sent in a team from Washington, something it would not have done if it was certain of an accidental gas explosion.
Given these capabilities, U.S. investigators would have been able to determine within the first few days whether the explosion was accidental or intentional. Five days after the blast, a PNP spokesman described the FBI investigation at the scene as ongoing, suggesting investigators have found evidence of foul play.
The lack of a bomb crater at the scene has been cited by many as the primary reason to suspect that no bomb was used. A report released Oct. 24 by U.S. government investigators said the blast likely originated in the basement, and although it did not rule out the possibility of a bomb, it said all signs point to a gas explosion. Physical evidence at the crime scene suggests that a diesel tank was the most probable source of the blast. However, this evidence says nothing about whether the explosion was intentional or accidental.
On May 24, 2000, a small bomb exploded at the same mall, killing one person and wounding 14. Islamist militants were accused of the attack, though the incident was also explained as a business dispute or criminal act. There are several likely suspects in this latest incident; the Abu Sayyaf-linked Rajah Solaiman Movement claimed responsibility several days after the blast, though officials continue to examine that claim.
Philippine politics are very contentious, and there are a host of reasons why different elements of the government would disagree on the cause of the blast. Indecision on the part of the Philippine government about the blast is a typical example of the factional infighting that commonly occurs. Since the mall had previously been targeted by militants, security forces have an interest in not appearing incapable of implementing an effective security program.
The continued presence of U.S. investigators suggests there is more to this explosion than a simple accidental ignition of gases. The government disagreements about the incident are likely to continue, even if the police or the United States are able to provide a convincing report about the real cause.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Unorganzied Militia: Citizens defend themselves/others.
on: October 26, 2007, 11:41:58 AM
Dallas police: Man in wheelchair disarms and kills invader
09:18 AM CDT on Friday, October 26, 2007
From WFAA-TV Staff Reports
We open this thread with a real humdinger:
3500 East Overton Road
Dallas police said a disabled man shot and killed a person who broke into his apartment early Friday morning.
Police said the man was able to get out of his wheelchair, struggle with the invader, take his gun away and shoot him.
The events at the Village Oaks Apartments in the 3500 block of East Overton Road were reported to police at 2:49 a.m.
The intruder was taken to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas where he died.
The disabled man was not immediately identified by police, but he appeared to be in his mid-50s.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crime and Punishment
on: October 26, 2007, 08:59:40 AM
Innocent man shares his 20-year struggle behind bars
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Willie "Pete" Williams had no idea when he was pulled over by police that the criminal justice system was about to steal away half his life.
Willie "Pete" Williams, 45, spent half of his life behind bars for a 1985 rape he did not commit.
Sitting in the flashing glow of Atlanta squad car lights along Georgia State Road 400, the 23-year-old part-time house painter didn't know police were looking for a rapist who had struck nearby three weeks earlier.
Police questioned -- and then arrested Williams, triggering a series of mistaken witness identifications that led to his unjust conviction for rape, kidnapping and aggravated sodomy.
It was 1985 and Williams was sentenced to serve 45 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. "I felt betrayed. ... I felt like these people had taken my life for something I didn't do. I felt like I was being treated unfairly. ... I felt very, very angry towards everybody," said Williams last week, a free man after nearly 22 years behind bars.
He said he spent many of those years stoking that anger by fighting guards and inmates, while his childhood friends were developing careers and raising families.
Earlier this year, after DNA science proved his innocence, the 45-year-old with a graying mustache stood again before a judge -- who this time exonerated Williams. Williams' troubling story provokes discomfort in a nation that prides itself on a justice system where the accused are innocent until proven guilty. So far, DNA evidence has directly exonerated 208 wrongly convicted people in the United States, according to the Innocence Project.It's unknown how many prisoners now locked up in American jails could be freed by new testing of DNA evidence.
A jury of Williams' peers convicted him in the April 5, 1985, rape, kidnapping and aggravated sodomy of a woman in Atlanta's Sandy Springs neighborhood.
The victim told police her attacker first approached her to ask if she could help him find someone named Paul. Then he produced a gun and forced her into her car, according to police. They then drove to a dead-end street where the assault occurred.
Because the science behind each person's unique DNA signature was new to police in 1985, the key evidence that sealed Williams' fate was the testimony of three eyewitnesses who mistakenly said they recognized him.
"Mistaken eyewitness identification has long been the single biggest factor in the conviction of innocents," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project.
"That has got to be important to everybody, because if we can reform identification procedures, it will keep more innocent people out of jail and convict criminals who really commit the crimes."
A national nonprofit group, the Innocence Project has inspired creation of state and regional organizations including the Georgia Innocence Project, which exonerated Williams.
As a new prisoner Williams said he fought a painful struggle against the raw deal the world had dealt him. When board members denied him parole the first of three times Williams said, "they had to escort me to 'the hole' [solitary confinement]."
"I couldn't function out there around the other inmates," Williams said. "I was mad, I was bitter. I felt the whole world just gave me up."
It wasn't until 1997 -- more than a decade after he was locked away -- that Williams' own voice freed him from the grip of his anger. At Valdosta State Prison, a close friend named Charlie Brown helped him join a Christian choir -- leading him to accept Jesus.
"Singing was like being out here, in a sense. It freed me from all the things, from all the fights, from the officers who were cruel, prison, stabbings," said Williams, who especially embraced the hymn "Amazing Grace."
After singing got a hold of Williams, he said the hardest part of his heart started to dissolve.
"I didn't feel angry anymore -- or any hate."
To prevent more tragedies like Williams', innocence projects in many states, including Georgia, have begun pressing lawmakers to adopt special witness ID procedures called sequential double-blind lineups. Such lineups are administrated by officials who don't know who the suspect is and present each member of a lineup one-by-one instead of simultaneously.
Witnesses who see several potential suspects simultaneously are more likely to choose a person who looks most like the perpetrator -- but who may not actually be the perpetrator, according to the Innocence Project. The group also cites research that says misidentification is reduced if the person overseeing the lineup is "blind" to which person in the lineup is the suspect.
Georgia's Legislature held hearings Monday in Atlanta to study the research and the proposed standards, which have been adopted by New Jersey and jurisdictions in Minnesota, California and elsewhere.
Louis M. Dekmar, vice chair of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is skeptical of the research, but said the issue deserves further study.
"I don't believe the research is so compelling that we need to make swings and changes that don't bode well for criminal investigations and the criminal justice process," said Dekmar, a 30-year law enforcement veteran and chief of police for LaGrange, Georgia.
Dekmar argues investigators should be allowed to administer lineups to gauge reaction while they look at witness faces, to see if a witness is "stressed, weeping, nervous -- all those reactions that help detectives formulate whether this is a strong identification or a weak identification."
Williams was convicted on the identification of three witnesses who first singled him out from a photo lineup, according to the Georgia Innocence Project.
More than 20 years later, Georgia Innocence Project attorneys arranged to compare Williams' DNA with DNA evidence collected from the 1985 rape. It was not a match, proving that Williams was not the attacker and opening the door to his release.
Shortly after Williams' exoneration, DNA science again played a role in the case when a genetic match resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Kenneth G. Wicker for the crime that Williams had been wrongly convicted of. Years earlier Wicker had served four years in prison for another rape and two attempted sexual assaults, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
As Scheck's Innocence Project marks its 15th year, the 1995 O.J. Simpson defense attorney describes it as a movement for criminal justice as well as human rights.
"I think that it's going to be remembered for getting innocents out of jail, but also for changing the paradigm in the criminal justice system," said Scheck.
"There is a greater understanding now that sound scientific and critical research can go a long way toward proving injustice and prosecuting the guilty."
Sometimes an Innocence Project client is confirmed to be guilty by DNA evidence, but the group doesn't make the number of those cases available. Theoretically, If key DNA material in a case is properly preserved, there's no time limit on revisiting old cases, according to the Innocence Project.
Critics accuse the group of denying closure to communities and victims' families by giving new life to old cases. To that, project spokesman Eric Ferrero said, "Victims are not served by the wrong people being convicted."
Perhaps the most important victory for the project has been its role in sparing the lives of 15 people condemned to death. In 2000, 13 condemned prisoners were exonerated by a group of Northwestern University students affiliated with the Innocence Project.
Some of the innocent prisoners were freed through DNA testing, others were exonerated after new trials were ordered by appellate courts.
Those spared lives prompted then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan to declare a state moratorium on all executions and later, a blanket clemency of all 167 death row prisoners.
The moratorium remains in effect while Illinois authorities consider proposed reforms to the system.
Back in Georgia, during the ten months since Williams' friends and family welcomed him home with hugs and kisses, he's been taking his time rejoining society, attending electronics classes and dealing with his top complaint: 21st century traffic.
Williams has found a home in a church congregation and plans to join its choir, holding on to the spiritual anchor he formed in prison.
Money is tight for Williams, and, according to the Innocence Project, only 45 percent of those exonerated by DNA evidence have been financially compensated. He expects some compensation from Georgia, although the state has no law guiding such cases.
Regaining his freedom has renewed Williams' belief in the power of prayer, but he said it has done little to repair his faith in the nation's justice system. He wonders how many other Americans are still suffering injustices like his own. "When I see someone on television when they say, 'this is a suspect,' I have a difficult time believing that that actually is a suspect," Williams said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Remittance growth slowing
on: October 26, 2007, 08:23:33 AM
Caveat lector-- its the NY Times:
EL RODEO, Mexico — For years, millions of Mexican migrants working in the United States have sent money back home to villages like this one, money that allows families to pay medical bills and school fees, build houses and buy clothes or, if they save enough, maybe start a tiny business.
But after years of strong increases, the amount of migrant money flowing to Mexico has stagnated. From 2000 to 2006, remittances grew to nearly $24 billion a year from $6.6 billion, (
) rising more than 20 percent some years. In 2007, the increase so far has been less than 2 percent.
Migrants and migration experts say a flagging American economy and an enforcement campaign against illegal workers in the United States have persuaded some migrants not to try to cross the border illegally to look for work. Others have decided to return to Mexico. And many of those who are staying in the United States are sending less money home.
In the rest of the world, remittances are rising, up as much as 10 percent a year, according to Donald F. Terry of the Inter-American Development Bank. Last year, migrant workers worldwide sent more than $300 billion to developing countries — almost twice the amount of foreign direct investment.
But in Mexico, families are feeling squeezed.
Estrella Rivera, a slight 27-year-old in this stone-paved village in Guanajuato state in central Mexico, was hoping to use the money her husband, Alonso, sent back from working illegally in Texas to build a small clothing shop at the edge of her garden.
But a month ago, Mr. Rivera returned home. His hours at a Dallas window-screen factory were cut and rumors spread that he would inevitably have to produce a valid Social Security number. Now, he works odd jobs or tends cornfields. Mrs. Rivera’s shop is indefinitely delayed, a pile of bricks stacked on the grass.
Like Mr. Rivera, some of the men who went to work in the United States illegally have returned discouraged. And less work means less money to send home — particularly from the southern United States and other areas where Mexican migrants are a more recent presence.
“One out of three people in these new states who was sending a year ago is not sending it home today,” Mr. Terry of the Inter-American Development Bank said. “There are some 500,000 families who aren’t receiving this year.”
Until last year, the American housing trades absorbed hundreds of thousands of migrants, and the hardships of the trip north seemed to pale beside the near certainty of finding work.
Now, the construction slump — along with a year-old crackdown on illegal immigration at the border and in the workplace, and mounting anti-immigrant sentiment in places — has made it even harder for Mexican migrants to reach the United States and land well-paying jobs.
Many experts say it is too early to know if the negligible increase in remittances will continue. Some argue it was to be expected: much of the initial spike in money transfers had resulted from better accounting. In addition, earlier waves of migrants are returning to the houses they built, or they have managed to legalize their status in the United States and bring their families, sending less money back.
But the events of the last year in the United States, political and economic, have also clouded the prospects of many illegal Mexican workers. New walls, new guards and new equipment at the border have dissuaded many from trying to cross and raised the cost for those who try to as much as $2,800. Workplace raids and stories of summary deportations stoke fears among Mexicans on both sides of the border.
Referring to tougher measures in the United States, Primitivo Rodríguez, a Mexican immigration expert, said: “Psychologically, they lead you to save money in case of an emergency. You send less, you save more.”
The shakier economy in many states means that migrants have moved from well-paying steady jobs to work as day laborers.
“In our interviews with families, they say that migrants are now working two or three days when before they worked four or five days,” said David Skerritt, a historian at Veracruzana University.
Rodolfo García Zamora , an immigration expert at the University of Zacatecas, said money transfers to Zacatecas state fell by about 25 percent this year.
Here in Guanajuato state, remittances have created a peculiar economy in villages tucked among rolling corn and sorghum fields. There are few jobs, yet many houses have stereo systems, washing machines and three-piece living room sets.
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves
Things are changing, though. Some of the men are back and need cash for seeds and fertilizer to plow long-neglected fields. At the microcredit association operated by a local nonprofit group, the Bajío Women’s Network, loans for agriculture, which barely existed last year, now account for 11 percent of all borrowing.
Women are finding it harder to save, said Evelyne Sinquin, the network coordinator. “The people who have come back can’t work, and the people in the United States are working fewer hours.”
Other than agriculture, the jobs here are in construction, building houses of absentee owners houses along the cobbled streets. Some are modest with a few brick rooms; others are ornate tributes to their absentee owners’ success: gold-painted balconies, the Virgin of Guadalupe etched in a window, Greek columns. Los Emigrantes carpentry shop in nearby La Cuevita sits on a traffic circle adorned with a monument showing several figures, one of them a migrant waving a fistful of dollars.
Not much else flourishes. Three months ago, Mónica Núñez closed her tortilla shop in the village of San Lucas. “Most people went to the United States and sales went down,” she said.
Her husband has been home from Houston for a year, but she has seven brothers and a sister in the United States who still send money. She is planning a new business, perhaps an Internet cafe so people can connect with relatives in the United States.
Less than an hour’s drive away, the city of Querétaro is prospering, turning out home appliances for the world market. But for most people in the villages, education ended after elementary school. An unskilled factory or construction job pays little more than $50 or $60 a week.
With those prospects, the next generation — some of them as young as 15 — seemed to have few doubts about heading to the United States.
Estrella Rivera’s brother Francisco left for the first time when he was 16. Now 21, he recently came home after a year and a half in Orlando, Fla., working in construction. He earned enough to add a floor to his parents’ house, but then he struggled.
“Either there was no work or they did not want to hire somebody without papers,” he said, perched on an old Ford pickup truck with Michigan tags beside his family’s sheep and cow pens.
But he expects to go back again. “To tell the truth, it really is worth the trouble,” he said, recounting a terrifying crossing getting lost in the Arizona desert.
Mrs. Rivera’s husband is not so sure. “It’s really tough to go back,” he said. “Now they lock you up. Before, they grabbed you and sent you back. The laws were never this tough.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: October 26, 2007, 08:14:53 AM
Another Man From Hope
Who is Mike Huckabee?
Friday, October 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Republicans have won five of the last seven presidential elections by running candidates who broadly fit the Ronald Reagan model--fiscally conservative, and firmly but not harshly conservative on social issues. The wide-open race for the 2008 GOP nomination has generated two new approaches.
Rudy Giuliani, for example, isn't running away from his socially liberal views, although he has modified them. But he is campaigning as a staunch, even acerbic economic conservative. Should he win the nomination, conventional wisdom has it he may balance the ticket by picking former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as a running mate.
Mr. Huckabee, on the other hand, is running hard right on social issues but liberal-populist on some economic issues. This may help explain why the affable, golden-tongued Baptist minister was the clear favorite at the pro-life Family Research Council's national forum last Saturday. And why Mr. Huckabee's praises have been sung by liberal columnists such as Gail Collins of the New York Times and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek.
Mr. Huckabee attributes his support to the fact he is a "hardworking, consistent conservative with some authenticity about those convictions." He is certainly qualified for national office, having served nearly 11 years as a chief executive. I have known and liked him for years; on the stump he often tells the story of how we first met outside his boarded-up office in the state Capitol, which had been sealed by Arkansas Democrats who refused to accept he had won an upset election for lieutenant governor in 1993. But I also know he is not the "consistent conservative" he now claims to be.
Nor am I alone. Betsy Hagan, Arkansas director of the conservative Eagle Forum and a key backer of his early runs for office, was once "his No. 1 fan." She was bitterly disappointed with his record. "He was pro-life and pro-gun, but otherwise a liberal," she says. "Just like Bill Clinton he will charm you, but don't be surprised if he takes a completely different turn in office."
Phyllis Schlafly, president of the national Eagle Forum, is even more blunt. "He destroyed the conservative movement in Arkansas, and left the Republican Party a shambles," she says. "Yet some of the same evangelicals who sold us on George W. Bush as a 'compassionate conservative' are now trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee."
The business community in Arkansas is split. Some praise Mr. Huckabee's efforts to raise taxes to repair roads and work with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Free-market advocates are skeptical. "He has zero intellectual underpinnings in the conservative movement," says Blant Hurt, a former part owner of, and columnist for, Arkansas Business magazine. "He's hostile to free trade, hiked sales and grocery taxes, backed sales taxes on Internet purchases, and presided over state spending going up more than twice the inflation rate."
Mr. Huckabee told me yesterday he also cut some taxes, and has taken the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge. Former GOP state Rep. Randy Minton is not impressed. In 1999, he was urged by the governor to back a gas-tax increase. "I'd taken a pledge against higher taxes, but he sniffed that my constituents didn't understand what we have to do in state government to make it work," Mr. Minton says. "His support for taxes split the Republican Party, and damaged our name brand." The Club for Growth notes that only a handful of the 33 current GOP state legislators back their former governor.
Governors who served with him praise Mr. Huckabee for his ability to work with others, but say he was clearly a moderate. "He fought my efforts to reform the National Governors Association and always took fiscal positions to my left," former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a supporter of Mitt Romney, told me.
Rick Scarborough, a pastor who heads Vision America, attended seminary with Mr. Huckabee and is a strong backer. But, he acknowledges, "Mike has always sought the validation of elites." When conservatives took over the Southern Baptist Convention after a bitter fight in the 1980s, Mr. Huckabee sided with the ruling moderates. Paul Pressler, a former Texas judge who led the conservative Southern Baptist revolt, told me, "I know of no conservative he appointed while he headed the Arkansas Baptist Convention."
Mr. Huckabee's reluctance to surround himself with conservatives was evident as governor, when he kept many agency heads appointed by Bill Clinton. Zac Wright, a spokesman for incoming Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, was asked this year why 15 Huckabee agency heads had been retained. Most of them were "Clinton people," he replied, not "Huckabee people." Mr. Huckabee told me many of his agency heads had "apolitical" responsibilities.
Many Huckabee supporters have told me their man should be judged by what he's saying on the campaign trail today. Fair enough. Mr. Huckabee was the only GOP candidate to refuse to endorse President Bush's veto of the Democrats' bill to vastly expand the Schip health-care program. Only he and John McCain have endorsed the discredited cap-and-trade system to limit global-warming emissions that has proved a fiasco in Europe.
"It goes to the moral issue," he told an admiring group of environmentalists this month. Alan Greenspan blasts cap-and-trade in his new book as not feasible, noting that "jobs will be lost and real incomes of workers constrained." Mr. Huckabee defends his plan as an "innovative" way to attain complete energy independence from foreign oil by 2013.
During a visit to the Journal last spring, Mr. Huckabee joked that one of his biggest challenges is that "like Bill Clinton I hail from Hope, Arkansas, and not every Republican wants to take a chance like that again." But it's Mr. Huckabee who is creating the doubts. "He's just like Bill Clinton in that he practices management by news cycle," a former top Huckabee aide told me. "As with Clinton there was no long-term planning, just putting out fires on a daily basis. One thing I'll guarantee is that won't lead to competent conservative governance."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: October 26, 2007, 08:08:14 AM
The New Republic's editors seem to have mistaken Vietnam movies for real life.
Friday, October 26, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
"I love chicks that have been intimate with EDS's," he announced to his fellow soldiers sitting in the chow tent in Camp Falcon in Baghdad. "It really turns me on--melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses." The soldiers laughed so hard they almost fell from their chairs. They enjoy running over dogs in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, luring them in and then crushing their bones as they whelp. When a soldier comes upon a mass grave, he picks up a human skull, places it merrily on his head, and marches around.
This is from the now-famous "Baghdad Diaries," in The New Republic, carrying the byline of soldier-writer Scott Thomas. They are an attempt to capture the tragedy and dehumanization of war, how it coarsens men in ways that you, safe in your bed, cannot fathom. They are a lost generation, battered by war, and struggling, with the real weapons of war's survivors--mordant wit, pitiless humor, the final surrender to nihilism--to survive in a world they never made. Do I overwrite? Do I sound like an idiot? I'm just trying to fit in.
To read the Thomas pieces was, simply, to doubt them. And to wonder if its editors had ever actually met a soldier on his way to or from Iraq, or talked to any human being involved in the modern military.
The diaries appear to be another case of journalistic fabulism. This week came word, via the published transcript of a telephone conversation between "Thomas," who is actually Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and his editors. It is actually painful to read. The editors almost plead with him to stand by his work, after months of critics' picking them factually apart. He won't do it. He doesn't want to talk to "the media." He's said enough.
Everyone in journalism thought first of Stephen Glass. I actually remember the day I read his New Republic piece on the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in 1997, a profile of young Republicans as crude and ignorant pot-smoking alcoholics in search of an orgy. It, um, startled me. After years of observation, I was inclined toward the view that there's no such thing as a young Republican. More to the point, I'd been to the kind of convention Mr. Glass wrote about, and I thought it not remotely possible that the people he painted were real. I also thought: Man, this is way too convenient. The New Republic tends to think Republicans are hateful, and this reporter just happened to be welcomed into the private world of the most hateful Republicans in history.
On the Thomas stories, which I read not when they came out but when they began to come under scrutiny, I had a similar thought, or a variation of it. I thought: That's not Iraq, that's a Vietnam War movie. That's not life as it's being lived on the ground right now, that's life as an editor absorbed it through media. That's the dark world of Kubrick and Coppola and Oliver Stone, of the great Vietnam movies of the '70s and '80s.
If that's what you absorbed during the past 20 or 30 years, it just might make sense to you, it would actually seem believable, if a fellow in Iraq wrote for you about taunting scarred women, shooting dogs, and wearing skulls as helmets. This is the offhand brutality of war. You know. You saw it in a movie.
If you'd had a broader array of references, and were less preoccupied by the media that is the great occupying force in our own country, and you were the editor of the Thomas pieces, you might have said, "Whoa." Just whoa.
I'll jump here, or lurch I suppose, to something I am concerned about that I think I am observing accurately. It has to do with what sometimes seems to me to be the limited lives that have been or are being lived by the rising generation of American professionals in the arts, journalism, academia and business. They have had good lives, happy lives, but there is a sense with some of them that they didn't so much live it as view it. That they learned too much from media and not enough from life's difficulties. That they saw much of what they know in a film or play and picked up all the memes and themes.
In terms of personal difficulties, they seem to have had less real-life experience, or rather different experiences, than their rougher predecessors. They grew up affluent in a city or suburb, cosseted in material terms, and generally directed toward academic and material success. Their lives seem to have been not crowded or fearful, but relatively peaceful, at least until September 2001, which was very hard.
But this new leadership class, those roughly 35 to 40, grew up in a time when media dominated all. They studied, they entered a top-tier college, and then on to Washington or New York or Los Angeles. But their knowledge, their experience, is necessarily circumscribed. Too much is abstract to them, or symbolic. The education establishment did them few favors. They didn't have to read Dostoevsky, they had to read critiques and deconstruction of Dostoevsky.
I'm not sure it's always good to grow up surrounded by stability, immersed in affluence, and having had it drummed into you that you are entitled to be a member of the next leadership class. To have this background in the modern era is to come from a ghetto, the luckiest ghetto in the world, a golden ghetto beyond whose walls it can be hard to see. There's much to be said for suffering, for being on the outside or the bottom, for having to have fought yourself up and through. It can leave you grounded. It can give you real knowledge not only of the world and of other men but of yourself. In some ways it can leave you less cynical. (Not everything comes down to money.) And in some ways it leaves you just cynical enough.
Journalistically, I was lucky enough to work at CBS News when it was still shaped by the influence of the Murrow boys. They knew and taught that "everyone is entitled to his own opinions"--and they had them--"but not his own facts." And I miss the rough old boys and girls of the front page, who'd greet FDR with "Snappy suit, Mr. President," who'd bribe the guard to tell them what the prisoner said on the way to the chair, and who were not rich and important but performed an extremely important social function.
They found out who, what, where, when, why. And they would have looked at the half-baked, overcooked junior Hemingway of Scott Thomas Beauchamp and said, "That sounds like a buncha hooey."
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: October 26, 2007, 08:07:30 AM
"It has ever been my hobby-horse to see rising in America an empire
of liberty, and a prospect of two or three hundred millions of
freemen, without one noble or one king among them. You say it
is impossible. If I should agree with you in this, I would still
say, let us try the experiment, and preserve our equality as long
as we can. A better system of education for the common people
might preserve them long from such artificial inequalities as are
prejudicial to society, by confounding the natural distinctions
of right and wrong, virtue and vice."
-- John Adams (letter to Count Sarsfield, 3 February 1786)
Reference: Our Sacred Honor, Bennett, 264.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: October 26, 2007, 07:52:14 AM
0056 GMT -- SYRIA -- Satellite photos taken Oct. 24 indicate that a Syrian site near the Euphrates River that is believed to have been the target of a September Israeli attack now shows no signs of what formerly appeared be a partially constructed nuclear reactor similar in design to a North Korean one, the International Herald Tribune reported Oct. 25. In August, satellite imagery of the site revealed a tall square building measuring about 150 feet on one side.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: October 26, 2007, 07:21:45 AM
I'm putting this piece here because I'm guessing the American homeland will be this man's target:
Geopolitical Diary: The Re-emergence of a Terrorism Artist
The United States dished out another round of sanctions against Iran on Thursday, making good on threats to single out the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity and targeting three of Iran's largest banks. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is neck-deep in separate security negotiations with both Washington and Tehran, bluntly accused the United States of worsening the situation by "running around like a madman with a razor blade."
As we have discussed extensively in recent days, the Iranians have a lot to ponder as they decide their next steps in dealing with the United States over Iraq. It does not appear that Tehran has yet made a decision on whether to move toward serious talks with Washington or hold out for a U.S. withdrawal with the Russians watching its back, but the stress is definitely taking its toll on the regime. Washington has picked up on this friction, and there are indications that it soon will extend a fresh offer of talks -- a negotiations carrot to complement the sanctions stick.
It was against this backdrop that we received a bit of intelligence on Thursday that made us bolt upright. Reports indicate that Imad Fayez Mugniyah has been training Shiite militants from Arab Persian Gulf states -- specifically, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain -- in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley for use in retaliatory attacks if the United States strikes Iran.
It has been some time since Mugniyah has popped up on the radar, so it is certainly worth revisiting what the man is capable of -- and, more important, how he fits into the contemporary geopolitical context.
Mugniyah's job title ranges from chief Hezbollah intelligence officer to head of special operations, but it does not matter what his business card says -- this guy is important. Simple improvised explosive devices and assassinations are not Mugniyah's game; he specializes in working behind the scenes in an egoless manner to plan the attacks that really hurt. Unlike Osama bin Laden, he ignores the limelight, and he eschews the day-to-day operations in much the same way Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did. Mugniyah is patient, good at understanding cultures and obsessed with security. His 30-year career has put him on a number of most-wanted lists, and his close association with Iranian intelligence is as cordial as it is impossible to track (except in retrospect).
While Mugniyah has a number of successful attacks under his belt, the most effective by far was the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. In a day, Mugniyah achieved what 20 years of terrorist attacks could not: convincing the United States not only that the Middle East is dangerous but also that even a superpower can bleed badly enough that an ignoble retreat is the only policy option.
This singular attack unnerved Washington, causing it to end direct military involvement in Lebanon and ingraining a "cut-and-run" mentality in the White House. And this was under President Ronald Reagan, who is not exactly known for being gentle. The United States quickly developed a reputation for abandoning operations at (or even before) the first sign of casualties (e.g., Somalia, the Iranian hostage rescue and the first Gulf War), or limiting operations to those in which the chances of casualties are nil (e.g., Grenada, Panama, Haiti, the Libya bombing and the Kosovo air war). This risk-averse attitude persisted until al Qaeda's 9/11 attack.
Mugniyah is not simply a terrorist or a terrorist trainer; he treats terrorism almost as an art form, searching for a soft spot in a country's physical, cultural and emotional defenses. This makes him absolutely critical to Iranian military strategy.
Iran has to take U.S. threats of military action seriously, but it also has to do everything it can to make U.S. military planners seriously consider what would happen the day after Washington launched an attack. With Mugniyah back in the game, Iran appears to be hard at work creating that nightmare scenario.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: October 25, 2007, 02:43:26 PM
AFGHANISTAN: Sources inform Stratfor that Taliban fighters in southwestern Afghanistan claim to have received AK-47 assault rifles from Iran and treatment for battlefield wounds in Iranian hospitals.
TURKEY: Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will visit Iran on Oct. 27, IRNA reported. An unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry official reportedly said Babacan will discuss the regional situation, particularly in Iraq, and conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The visit comes before foreign ministers of Iraq's neighboring countries are set to meet in Istanbul, the official added.
IRAQ, TURKEY: Oil continues to flow from Iraq to Turkey through a pipeline near Iraq's Kurdish region despite threats and sabotage attacks from Kurdish rebels and insurgents, Reuters reported, citing an oil shipper. Iraq has pumped nearly 400,000 barrels per day of oil to Turkey for the seventh consecutive day, the shipper said.
RUSSIA, IRAN: During Russian President Vladimir Putin's Oct. 16 visit to Tehran, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked him to order Russian experts to help Iran figure out how Israel jammed Syrian radars prior to the Sept. 6 air raid, a Stratfor source in Hezbollah said. Iran wants to rectify the problem associated with the failure of Syrian radars because Iran uses similar equipment , the source added.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Journal WSJ- BO and RG
on: October 25, 2007, 12:08:29 PM
Sometimes schisms within a political party aren't exposed until a candidate steps right into them. This week, Barack Obama stepped into one.
Donnie McClurkin is a Grammy-Award winning gospel singer and preacher highly respected within the black community, especially in the South where religious conviction runs strong. It probably seemed like a great idea to the Obama campaign to invite Mr. McClurkin to sing this weekend at an event during Mr. Obama's "Embrace the Change" Tour, aimed at religious blacks in South Carolina.
Except gay activists consider Mr. McClurkin a bigot for claiming to have been "cured" of his homosexuality and for preaching that other homosexuals can be cured as well through the power of prayer. Obama aides were quick to respond to the rising outrage and held several conference calls with gay activists this week to try to ease tensions. Eventually Mr. Obama released his own statement saying he "strongly disagreed" with Mr. McClurkin's views, but so far the campaign hasn't pulled the singer off the tour.
The reason for the campaign's hesitancy might have something to do with poll numbers showing that blacks in South Carolina strongly disagree with homosexuality. As the Politico's Ben Smith reported, last month's Winthrop/ETV poll found that 74% view homosexuality as "unacceptable," with 62% calling it "strongly unacceptable." Indeed, this episode illustrates a vast chasm in the Democratic coalition between black voters, mainly in the South, and the party's activist wing. This no doubt explains why none of the other Democratic presidential candidates have said a word about the controversy, perhaps feeling it wiser to just avoid the schism altogether.
Ditching Mr. McClurkin would present a particularly serious problem in a state where Mr. Obama trails Hillary Clinton by 13 points in the latest RCP Average. Among South Carolina black voters, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll last month found that Mr. Obama trails Ms. Clinton by 11 points (43% to 32%). The "Embrace the Change" Tour was launched precisely to close that gap.
But with the nation's largest gay-rights groups like Human Rights Campaign now demanding that the campaign yank Mr. McClurkin, bringing unwanted national attention with each press release, what was supposed to be a fun voter outreach effort has suddenly become a public-relations mess.
-- Blake Dvorak, RealClearPolitics.com
Quote of the Day
"The filthiest, grimiest, most unpleasant job that any human being can ever suffer to perform: run for political office.... Because political power in modern America means the power to take money from A and give it to B, bevies of wannabe Bs swarm to get a piece of you. It must be suffocating and morally disorienting constantly to be hounded by people begging you to assist them in their efforts to take what doesn't belong to them. Worse, to keep or win office, you must actually engage in such dirty behavior (or promise to do so once elected). You must determine which innocent people are the easiest marks for your grabbing hand -- which people are least likely to be aware that you're picking their pockets -- and then grab fistfuls of their wealth, all the while assuring them that you're their boon companion and great protector. In short, in this job you must soil your honor and sell your soul by behaving foolishly and by saying things that you know to be false" -- Donald Boudreaux, chairman of the economics department at George Mason University, writing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The John Gotti Primary
Political consultants for Rudy Giuliani's opponents have long been licking their chops for the day when the mayor's controversial past is thrust before voters. "In the end, he will be viewed as just too 'New York' and too strange for Middle America voters," one opposition researcher for a rival campaign told me. This campaign adviser also mentioned in passing that "even though it's unfair," many voters might be rattled by the revelation that Mr. Giuliani's father served time in prison for robbery and later worked as a collector for the mayor's mob-tied uncle.
But for every Giuliani blemish there may well be a competing story line. "Rudy Giuliani is being smeared with the dishonest blood of family members," wrote columnist Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News in 2000, when the Giuliani family revelations first gained currency.
Now the New York Post reports that the Mafia clearly did not view Mr. Giuliani as anything other than a bitter enemy. Indeed, the paper cites FBI records that a gathering of mob bosses voted by only three to two not to kill him during his 1980s career as a federal prosecutor.
In documents released this week as part of an ongoing criminal trial, a long FBI memo reported: "On Sept. 17, 1987, sources advised that recent information disclosed that approximately a year ago all five NY LCN [La Cosa Nostra] families discussed the idea of killing USA [United States Attorney] Rudy Giuliani and John Gotti and Carmine Persico were in favor of the hit." The memo goes on to report that "the bosses of the Lucchese, Bonanno and Genovese families rejected the idea, despite strong efforts to convince them otherwise by Gotti and Persico."
Carmine Persico apparently didn't give up on his belief Mr. Giuliani should be whacked. In 2004, evidence surfaced that Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace, a Persico "employee," had planned a failed assassination attempt on the prosecutor. Cacace is now serving a 20-year sentence on unrelated charges.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: October 25, 2007, 10:36:46 AM
Some details exemplifying the preceding:
IRAN: Iran has commissioned Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official for foreign operations, to organize cells of Shiite operatives in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to operate against U.S. and pro-U.S. Arabs in the event of war against Iran, a Stratfor source in Lebanon said. Trainees from the Persian Gulf region reportedly have arrived in Lebanon and are conducting drills in the Bekaa Valley.
CZECH REPUBLIC, RUSSIA: The Czech Republic could allow Russia to inspect a site where the United States plans to construct a radar as part of a proposed missile shield in Europe, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said. Russian experts would not be allowed to maintain a permanent presence either during the radar's construction or after the base becomes operational, but they could be given specific dates for inspections, Topolanek said in an interview with Czech television.
U.S., IRAN: New U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Iran for missile sales, nuclear activities and support of "terrorist organizations" will cut off Iranian entities from the U.S. financial system, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. The sanctions target the Quds Force, Bank Melli and two other state-owned banks, and companies controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with the designated groups, and any assets the groups have in the United States will be frozen.
CHINA: China denied reports that it had agreed to sell two squadrons of J-10 fighter planes to Iran. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called the reports "irresponsible" and said no talks had taken place. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported the deal Oct. 24.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's foreign policy debate
on: October 25, 2007, 08:39:27 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Intense Foreign Policy Debate
Iran is at a stage where friction in its policymaking is to be expected. Iran survives by having a very conservative foreign policy, but conservative does not mean quiet. During the past century all of Iran's meaningful regional rivals -- the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, the Taliban and Iraq -- have collapsed. For the first time in centuries, Tehran has the opportunity to venture out of its redoubt in the Zagros Mountains and establish a buffer in Mesopotamia. Deciding the pace, tone and force to use in that task is the stuff of high policy, and Iran is understandably of many minds over which specific path to follow.
These debates are now coming to a boil within Iran. The confusion surrounding the surprise resignation of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, followed by false rumors of a resignation by Iran's foreign minister are all manifestations of an intense policy debate brewing in Tehran over the course Iran should take in pursuing its Iraq policy. The Iranians can either move toward a comprehensive agreement with the United States over Iraq that would come with security guarantees and involve a capitulation of sorts on its nuclear program; or it could choose to align with the Russians for some short-term, albeit shaky, security guarantees against a U.S. attack while it stays the course and tries to make things difficult enough in Iraq that the United States will change its mind and withdraw. In any case, the Iranians have clearly not made up their mind, and this debate is getting more intense by the day.
And the debate is not taking place in a vacuum. On Oct. 23 in Prague, Czech Republic, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates informed the Russians that the United States -- in order to reach an accommodation with the Russians over National Missile Defense (NMD) policy -- would not "activate" its planned Polish/Czech system until Iran's ballistic missile program was more clearly a threat. Russia feels that the system is the first step toward the United States nullifying the Russian nuclear deterrent. The United States insists it is about preparing for the day that Iran's missile program is ready for intercontinental prime time.
While subtle, Gates' offer is nonetheless a policy shift. Washington has moved from "we have to complete NMD because Iran is an immediate threat" to "we have to complete NMD, but we do not need to switch it on until Iran is close to having ICBMs." All Gates has really done is note that there is a little wiggle room in the construction schedule -- a move so subtle that Stratfor would brush off a single mention of it as unimportant. But Gates has persisted in offering and reoffering the deal, most recently in front of the Czechs. Place that repetition in the context of relations among the United States, Russia and Iran and it becomes of critical importance -- and the friction in Iran's inner circle is brought into sharp focus.
Russia is offering itself to Iran as a sort of informal security guarantor in order to gain influence with the Americans. The Iranians are seeking out Russian backing in order to gain influence with the Americans. Now the Americans are in essence telling the Russians that if they can keep Iran from developing intercontinental missiles, then the United States does not necessarily need to complete the NMD system that so concerns the Kremlin.
The Russian response came from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who -- in the middle of an agonizingly long speech -- noted that Russia wanted "the joint work of Russian and American specialists to be more efficient." For those of you not fluent in Russian bureaucratese, that translates to, "Interesting. Let's talk details."
So we have the Russians and Americans groping toward some sort of talks on the NMD issue, something that by definition would involve the two powers actively putting limitations on Iranian weapons development. And we have a fierce debate in Tehran -- likely over how far it can trust the Russians, who are perfectly willing to sell Iran out if it means brokering a deal with the United States. To complete the picture all that is needed is a sudden change in the American-Iranian impasse over Iraq.
And that happened in an interview Gen. David Petraeus gave the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Baghdad bureau. Since testifying to the U.S. Congress in September, Petraeus has more or less spouted on about how evil the Iranians are for their anti-American efforts in Iraq. In the interview published on Wednesday he flatly called for a new round of talks with Iran on the topic of Iraqi security questions.
So the Russians and Iranians are baiting each other while the Americans are sounding out the Russians, and now the Iranians are entertaining an American offer to negotiate on Iraq. Where all this will develop is of course entirely up in the air. An American-Russian deal would isolate Iran just as easily as an American-Iranian deal would cut out Russia or a serious Russian-Iranian deal would hamstring Washington. But for the first time in several weeks there is a hint that Russia and Iran are not actually in lockstep and that there is room to maneuver on the American side. This could still all go straight to hell, but Washington is still in the game.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robb: Security: Power to the People
on: October 25, 2007, 06:58:06 AM
Security: Power To The People
The myth of American omnipotence fell in the Iraqi desert, laid low by an
agile new enemy. We have a chance now to rethink the systems that protected
us in the past. It's one we cannot miss.
By: John Robb
The next decade holds mind-bending promise for American business.
Globalization is prying open vast new markets. Technology is plowing ahead,
fueling--and transforming--entire industries, creating services we never
thought possible. Clever people worldwide are capitalizing every which way.
But because globalization and technology are morally neutral forces, they
can also drive change of a different sort. We saw this very clearly on
September 11 and are seeing it now in Iraq and in conflicts around the
world. In short, despite the aura of limitless possibility, our lives are
evolving in ways we can control only if we recognize the new landscape. It's
time to take an unblinking look.
We have entered the age of the faceless, agile enemy. From London to Madrid
and Nigeria to Russia, stateless terrorist groups have emerged to score blow
after blow against us. Driven by cultural fragmentation, schooled in the
most sophisticated technologies, and fueled by transnational crime, these
groups are forcing corporations and individuals to develop new ways of
defending themselves. The end result of this struggle will be a new, more
resilient approach to national security, one built not around the state but
around private citizens and companies. That new system will change how we
live and work--for the better, in many ways--but the road getting there may
seem long at times.
The conflict in Iraq has foreshadowed the future of global security in much
the same way that the Spanish Civil War prefigured World War II. Unlike
previous insurgencies, the one in Iraq is comprised of 75 to 100 small,
diverse, and autonomous groups of zealots, patriots, and criminals alike.
These groups, of course, have access to the same tools we do--from satellite
phones to engineering degrees--and use them every bit as well. But their
single most important asset is their organizational structure, an
open-source community network very similar to what we now see in the
software industry. It is an extremely innovative structure, sadly, and
results in decision-making cycles much shorter than those of the U.S.
military. Indeed, because the insurgents in Iraq lack a recognizable center
of gravity--a leadership structure or an ideology--they are nearly immune to
the application of conventional military force. Like Microsoft, the software
superpower, the United States hasn't found its match in a competitor similar
to itself, but rather in a loose, self-tuning network.
The second insight Iraq gives us is that the convergence of international
crime and terrorism will provide ample fuel and a global platform for these
new enemies. Al Qaeda's attack on Madrid, for example, was funded by the
sale of the drug Ecstasy. And Moisés Naím, in his new book, Illicit, details
how globalization has fostered the development of a huge criminal economy
that boasts a technologically leveraged global supply chain (like
Wal-Mart's) and can handle everything from human trafficking (Eastern
Europe) to illicit drugs (Asia and South America), pirated goods (Southeast
Asia), arms (Central Asia), and money laundering (everywhere). Naím puts the
value of that economy at between $2 trillion and $3 trillion a year. He says
it is expanding at seven times the rate of legitimate world trade.
This terrorist-criminal symbiosis becomes even more powerful when considered
next to the most disturbing sign coming out of Iraq: The terrorists have
developed the ability to fight nation-states strategically--without weapons
of mass destruction. This new method is called "systems disruption," a
simple way of attacking the critical networks (electricity, oil, gas, water,
communications, and transportation) that underpin modern life. Such
disruptions are designed to erode the target state's legitimacy, to drive it
to failure by keeping it from providing the services it must deliver in
order to command the allegiance of its citizens. Over the past two years,
attacks on the oil and electricity networks in Iraq have reduced and held
delivery of these critical services below prewar levels, with a disastrous
effect on the country, its people, and its economy.
The early examples of systems disruption in Iraq and elsewhere are ominous.
If these techniques are even lightly applied to the fragile electrical and
oil-gas systems in Russia, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere in the target-rich
West, we could see a rapid onset of economic and political chaos unmatched
since the advent of blitzkrieg. (India's January arrest of militants with
explosives in Hyderabad suggests that the country's high-tech industry could
be a new target.) It's even worse when we consider the asymmetry of the
economics involved: One small attack on an oil pipeline in southeast Iraq,
conducted for an estimated $2,000, cost the Iraqi government more than $500
million in lost oil revenues. That is a return on investment of 25,000,000%.
Now that the tipping point has been reached, the rise of global virtual
states--with their thriving criminal economies, innovative networks, and
hyperefficient war craft--will rapidly undermine public confidence in our
national-security systems. In fact, this process has already begun. We've
seen disruption of our oil supply in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Colombia;
the market's fear of more contributes mightily to the current high prices.
But as those disruptions continue, the damage will spill over into the very
structure of our society. Our profligate Defense Department, reeling from
its inability to defend our borders on September 11 or to pacify even a
small country like Iraq, will increasingly be seen as obsolete. The myth of
the American superpower will be exposed as such.
Then, inevitably, there will be a series of attacks on U.S. soil. The first
casualty of these will be another institution, the ultrabureaucratic
Department of Homeland Security, which, despite its new extra-legal
surveillance powers, will prove unable to isolate and defuse the threats
against us. (Its one big idea for keeping the global insurgency at
bay--building a fence between Mexico and the United States, proposed in a
recent congressional immigration bill--will prove as effective as the
Maginot Line and the Great Wall of China.)
But the metaphorical targets of September 11 are largely behind us. The
strikes of the future will be strategic, pinpointing the systems we rely on,
and they will leave entire sections of the country without energy and
communications for protracted periods. But the frustration and economic pain
that result will have a curious side effect: They will spur development of
an entirely new, decentralized security system, one that devolves power and
responsibility to a mix of private companies, individuals, and local
governments. This structure is already visible in the legions of private
contractors in Iraq, as well as in New York's amazingly effective
counterterrorist intelligence unit. But as we look out to 2016, the
long-term implications are clearer.
Like Microsoft, the United States hasn't found its match in a competitor
similar to itself, but rather in a loose, self-tuning network.
[Continued in next post}
Security will become a function of where you live and whom you work for,
much as health care is allocated already. Wealthy individuals and
multinational corporations will be the first to bail out of our collective
system, opting instead to hire private military companies, such as
Blackwater and Triple Canopy, to protect their homes and facilities and
establish a protective perimeter around daily life. Parallel transportation
networks--evolving out of the time-share aircraft companies such as Warren
Buffett's NetJets--will cater to this group, leapfrogging its members from
one secure, well-appointed lily pad to the next. Members of the middle class
will follow, taking matters into their own hands by forming suburban
collectives to share the costs of security--as they do now with
education--and shore up delivery of critical services. These "armored
suburbs" will deploy and maintain backup generators and communications
links; they will be patrolled by civilian police auxiliaries that have
received corporate training and boast their own state-of-the-art
emergency-response systems. As for those without the means to build their
own defense, they will have to make do with the remains of the national
system. They will gravitate to America's cities, where they will be subject
to ubiquitous surveillance and marginal or nonexistent services. For the
poor, there will be no other refuge.
Until, that is, the next wave of adaptive innovation takes hold. For all of
these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative destruction we
need to move beyond the current, failed state of affairs. By 2016 and
beyond, real long-term solutions will emerge. Cities, most acutely affected
by the new disruptions, will move fastest to become self-reliant, drawing
from a wellspring of new ideas the market will put forward. These will range
from building-based solar systems from firms such as Energy Innovations to
privatized disaster and counterterrorist responses. We will also see the
emergence of packaged software that combines real-time information (the
status of first-responder units and facilities) with interactive content
(information from citizens) and rich sources of data (satellite maps).
Corporate communications monopolies will crumble as cities build their own
emergency wireless networks using simple products from companies such as
By 2016, we may see the trials of the previous decade as progress in
disguise. The grassroots security effort will do more than just insulate our
gas lines and high schools. It will also spur positive social change:
So-called green systems will quickly shed their tree-hugger status and be
seen as vital components of our economic and personal security. Even those
civilian police auxiliaries could turn out to be a good thing in the long
run: Their proliferation--and the technology they'll adopt--will lead to
major reductions in crime.
All of these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative
destruction we need.
Some towns and cities will go even further. In an effort to bar the door
against expanding criminal networks, certain communities will move to
regulate, tax, and control everything from illegal immigration to illicit
drugs, despite federal pressure to do otherwise. A newly vigilant and
networked public will push for much greater levels of transparency in
government and corporate operations, using the Internet to expose, publish,
and patch potential security flaws. Over time, this new transparency, and
the wider participation it entails, will lead to radical improvements in
government and corporate efficiency.
On the national level, we'll see a withering of the security apparatus, but
quite possibly a flowering in other areas. Energy independence and the
obsolescence of conventional war with other countries will reduce tensions
between the United States and the rest of the world. The end of oil will
also force corrupt states, now propped up by energy income, to make the
reforms they need to be accepted internationally, improving life for their
Perhaps the most important global shift will be the rise of grassroots
action and cross-connected communities. Like the Internet, these new
networks will develop slowly at first. After a period of exponential growth,
however, they will quickly become all but ubiquitous--and astonishingly
powerful, perhaps as powerful as the networks arrayed against us. And so we
will all become security consultants, taking an active role in deciding how
it is bought, structured, and applied. That's a great responsibility and,
with luck, an enormous opportunity. Choose wisely.
John Robb was a mission commander for a "black" counterterrorism unit that
worked with Delta Force and Seal Team 6 before becoming the first Internet
analyst at Forrester Research and a key architect in the rise of Web logs
and RSS. He is writing a book on the logic of terrorism.http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/..._Friendly.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The modern Liberal mindset explained!
on: October 25, 2007, 06:55:00 AM
By ROBERT LEE HOTZ
MSN Money Homepage
MSN Money Investing
• How the Brain Agonizes Over Fairness
• Digital Age Makes Space Weather Important
MIND & MONEY GAMES: RECOMMENDED READING
-- by Robert Lee Hotz
In the first full-length book on neuroeconomics, "Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics," New York University's Paul Glimcher argues that economic theory may provide a new way to think about the brain and behavior.
* * *
In the Journal of Economic Literature, economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Drazen Prelec lay out the case for using neuroscience to revolutionize traditional economics.
* * *
In "Nature: An Economic History," Geerat Vermeij, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Davis, explores biology, economics and geology to show how processes common to all economic systems govern evolution.
* * *
The "Handbook of Functional Neuroimaging of Cognition," edited by neuroscientists Roberto Cabeza and Alan Kingstone, explains the imaging techniques used to study the neural basis of cognition.
* * *
Until the 17th century, people thought the human brain was a curious lump of animate curds. Its discovery as the seat of human consciousness is a whodunit of science history told by Carl Zimmer in "Soul Made Flesh."
* * *
The Web site for the Canaan Children's Home in Uganda.
* * *
The web site for the Caltech Imaging Center.
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Charting the Agony
Of a Brain as It
Struggles to Be Fair
October 12, 2007; Page B1
At the Canaan Children's Home in southern Uganda, the orphans had no idea that a woman inside a brain scanner 9,400 miles away was playing mind games with their food.
The children were the focus of a brain experiment under way at the California Institute of Technology to explore the neural anatomy of indecision. With the push of a button, the woman in the Caltech scanner could distribute meals at the orphanage more fairly, but only by taking food off the table, not by serving more portions.
While she pondered, the 12-ton fMRI scanner at the university's brain-imaging center traced the synaptic patterns of equity, remorse and reward in her brain. In these riptides of neural currents, the researchers sought clues to human variables missing from the mathematics of conventional economics.
NEUROECONOMICS AND DECISIONS
Ever wonder why you make such bad investment decisions? What happens in your head when logic and rationality take a backseat? Share your thoughts with Robert Lee Hotz and other readers on the Science forum.The quirky experiment exemplifies the new field of neuroeconomics. Behavioral economist Ming Hsu and his Caltech colleagues combined financial-decision theories and medical brain-imaging tools to analyze the brain as a living engine of economics, one fine-tuned by evolution through eons of foraging for scarce resources. These scientists studied hard choices, documenting how competing networks of neurons unconsciously shape the way we buy, sell, risk and trust.
During this test, the scientists wanted to see how synapses valued fairness against the desire to avoid harming others. The dilemma can arise when a limited resource is distributed unequally, and the only way to help one person comes at another's expense -- whether in profit sharing, setting affirmative-action policy, or rationing health care.
In the summer of 2006, when they organized the test, Dr. Hsu and his colleagues could imagine no more agonizing choice, within the constraints of medical ethics, than to ask people to take food away from orphans in a war-torn African country.
An online search led them to the Web site for the Canaan Children's Home, a one-story green building with a clinic next door, set amid the trees and chicken coops a half hour's drive from Jinja, Uganda. As of April, 100 children were living there, many of them orphaned by AIDS, said Frank P. Crane in Richmond, Va., chairman of the Uganda Missions Action Committee, which monitors the home's finances.
It was the winsome faces of those children -- whose photographs had been posted on the Web site to solicit charitable donations -- that caught Dr. Hsu's science eye. Here was the perfect experimental device for stirring the turmoil of indecision, the researchers agreed.
The team next contacted Tom Roberts, an attorney in Richmond, who created the Web site. He gave consent for the photos to be used. Because there would be no contact with the children and no actual consequences of the experiment to the orphanage, "I said help yourself," Mr. Roberts recalled.
Dr. Hsu wanted the pictures to heighten the realism of the experiment.
In the scanner, each volunteer could equalize how a fixed amount of donated meals was shared between orphans -- but only by taking away meals from those who had more than others and thereby reducing the total number of meals given to the orphanage. The allocation of meals was sometimes fair, sometimes not. "We manipulated the allocations and how much could be taken away," Dr. Hsu said.
To trigger the brain behavior, the 26 volunteers had to believe their decisions really would affect orphans being denied their seat at a groaning board of plenty where others feasted. So, the experimenters made them all study a 10-page brochure with pictures of 60 orphans.
In 36 rounds of testing, each subject had 10 seconds to choose the lesser of two evils: Allow some children to keep more than their fair share of meals or take away their food to eliminate inequity.
It was a measure of the economics of morality. Dr. Hsu made the inequities more or less severe by changing the number of meals donated to different groups of children. That provoked patterns of neural activation that revealed the brain's distaste for injustice and its willingness if the disparity was wide enough -- in one case, one child receiving five times more than another -- to punish the rich by putting them on short rations. To redress the extremes, people were willing to confiscate meals even when it hurt the orphanage as a whole, Dr. Hsu, now at the University of Illinois, reported recently at a meeting of the Society for Neuroeconomics in Nantasket, Mass.
As a test of economic theory against the benchmark of the brain, the Uganda experiment is one subtle brushstroke in an emerging self-portrait of the mind, generated by floods of new brain data. Indeed, neuroeconomics itself is still so new that cultural anthropologists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University are documenting the folkways of this nascent network of scholars.
"The payout for this in economics may not come for 20 years," said University of Zurich economist Ernst Fehr. "Economics is a slow science."
• Email me at email@example.com
. For a discussion on this column, go to the Science Journal forum.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: October 25, 2007, 06:50:39 AM
On the other hand , , , This from the WSJ:
Fighting Within Sects
Complicates U.S. Iraq Plans
Falters as Militias
Jockey for Influence
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
October 25, 2007; Page A12
BAGHDAD -- While fighting between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites has begun to ebb, fighting within the sects has increased, as rival groups jockey for power, influence and money.
The trend may complicate efforts to promote a partition of the country along sectarian lines, an idea gaining traction among U.S. lawmakers seeking a politically palatable exit strategy.
THE ENEMY WITHIN
• The Shift: The violence in Iraq is changing from a low-grade civil war between Shiites and Sunnis to internecine fighting within each community.
• The Background: Rival groups, likened by one U.S. commander to organized-crime families, are battling for power, influence, and money. Some U.S. commanders believe the groups are jockeying to be in dominant positions if Iraq is partitioned into three homogenous ministates.
• What's Next: U.S. military commanders are trying to decide whether to intervene in the fighting, a move that could boost the forces friendliest to American interests but also runs the risk of inflaming the Iraqi population.Proponents, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D., Del.), say they believe that creating ministates populated exclusively by Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds offers the best chance of gradually pacifying Iraq. Late last month, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a nonbinding partition plan.
But the internecine strife suggests that dividing the country into three autonomous regions might present new problems, as armed groups within each sectarian community pursue control over their newly created ministates.
"People think that all of the violence in Iraq is Sunni on Shia or Shia on Sunni, but it's not," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands the army's Third Infantry Division, in an interview in Iraq last month. "It's guys from the same communities fighting each other for power, money and influence."
Gen. Lynch likens the strife to the fights among organized-crime families. "I tell my guys, the best way they can prepare before they come out here is to watch 'The Sopranos,'" he said, referring to the popular U.S. television mob drama.
U.S. commanders also stress that sectarian violence continues in areas such as in the ethnically mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad and other major cities.
Iraq's overall level of bloodshed has been steadily declining, in part because of the U.S. "surge" policy of sending more U.S. troops into the country. The number of Americans killed in Iraq fell from 84 in August to 63 in September and, according to the Iraqi government, Iraqi civilian fatalities fell by nearly half. Twenty-nine U.S. soldiers had been killed in October, as of yesterday.
Another reason for the drop, U.S. commanders suggested, stems from the evolving nature of the fighting here. They said the conflict was beginning to shift from open warfare between Shiite and Sunni militias -- which often targeted civilians from the other sect -- to battles within the communities themselves. That has resulted in fewer casualties.
FIGHT FOR IRAQ
See continuing coverage of developments in Iraq, including an interactive map of day-to-day events in Iraq and a tally of military deaths.Several U.S. commanders based in different parts of Iraq said they saw the internecine violence as a sign that Iraq's major sects were preparing for when, in the near future, they are expected to work out a viable power-sharing arrangement for the country.
The commanders said rival players within each sect were jockeying now to ensure that they are seen as spokesmen for their community in any future negotiations.
"These internal struggles are all about securing your position relative to the other guys," Lt. Col. David Oclander, executive officer of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said last month.
The intrasectarian violence has been particularly acute in Shiite areas of Baghdad and oil-rich southern Iraq, where cleric Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army and Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader Abdul-Aziz al Hakim's Badr Corps have been battling over oil, smuggling routes and patronage jobs.
"For a guy like Sadr, the goal is to maneuver and maneuver so that when things begin to shake themselves out, he can say, 'I speak for the Shia,'" said Col. Oclander.
In the past two months, the Shiite governors of Muthanna and Qadariyah provinces, both loyal to Mr. Hakim, were assassinated in attacks attributed to fighters loyal to Mr. Sadr. Gun battles between the two militias left more than 50 dead during a Shiite pilgrimage in Karbala.
Messrs. Sadr and Hakim issued a joint declaration in early October calling for a cease-fire between their groups. But Mr. Sadr has struggled to control his militia in the past, and several U.S. commanders said they were unsure whether the agreement would endure.
The struggle between the competing Shiite factions is posing policy dilemmas for U.S. commanders. They are trying to decide whether to back Mr. Hakim's fighters, who are seen as being relatively more friendly to U.S. interests in the country, or whether it would be too dangerous to intervene.
In Sunni areas, the U.S. is already involved, funneling money and other supplies to Sunni tribal militias that have been battling al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni religious militants. Commanders said these alliances have contributed to a steep decline in violence in once-restive parts of Iraq, such as Anbar Province.
U.S. commanders hope to build similar relationships with Shiite tribal leaders. U.S. officers said growing numbers of Shiite sheiks, alarmed by Mr. Sadr's radicalism and the continuing intra-Shiite bloodshed, are beginning to share intelligence tips and discuss more formal alliances with the U.S forces.
Many U.S. commanders remain divided over whether to intervene directly in the infighting between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, given the possibility that such a move could inflame large portions of Iraq's Shiite majority.
In an interview last month, Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, then-deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said the U.S. "can and should" support the Badr Corps in its fight with the Mahdi Army. He argued that Mr. Hakim's militia is broadly supportive of the Iraqi government while Mr. Sadr's forces aren't.
"Badr is reconcilable, and we can win them over. JAM is not," he said, using the military's acronym for the Arabic name of Mr. Sadr's forces, the Jaish al-Mahdi.
Other senior officers disagreed. "It's a dangerous thought process, once you start down that path," Gen. Lynch said.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: October 25, 2007, 05:16:23 AM
"It does not take a majority to prevail...but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
"Under all those disadvantages no men ever show more spirit or
prudence than ours. In my opinion nothing but virtue has kept
our army together through this campaign."
-- Colonel John Brooks (letter to a friend, 5 January 1778)
Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (649);
original Massachusets Histrocal Society Procedings, Brooks,
vol. 13 (243-
"Posterity — you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."
—John Quincy Adams
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water- part three
on: October 25, 2007, 05:09:37 AM
Page 7 of 10)
Mulroy is not gambling the entire future of Las Vegas on this project. One
catchphrase of the water trade is that water flows uphill toward money,
which is another way of saying that a city with ample funds can, at least
theoretically, augment its supplies indefinitely. In a tight water market
like that of the West, this isn't an absolute truth, but in many instances
money can move rivers. The trade-off is that new water tends to be of lower
quality (requiring more expensive purification) or far away (requiring more
expensive transport). Thanks to Las Vegas's growth - the metro area is now
at 1.8 million people - cost is currently no object. The city's cash
reserves have made it possible for Mulroy to pay Arizona $330 million for
water she can use in emergencies and to plan a controversial
multibillion-dollar pipeline to east-central Nevada, where the water
authority has identified groundwater it wants to extract and transport.
Wealth allows for the additional possibility of a sophisticated trading
scheme whereby Las Vegas might pay for a desalination plant on the Pacific
Coast that would transform seawater into potable water for use in California
and Mexico. In exchange, Nevada could get a portion of their Colorado River
water in Lake Mead.
So money does make a kind of sustainability possible for Las Vegas. On the
other hand, buying water is quite unlike buying anything else. At the
moment, water doesn't really function like a private good; its value, which
Peter Binney calls "infinite," is often only vaguely related to its price,
which can vary from 50 cents an acre-foot (what Mulroy pays to take water
from Lake Mead) to $12,000 an acre-foot (the most Binney has paid farmers in
Colorado for their rights). Moreover, water is so necessary to human life,
and hence so heavily subsidized and regulated, that it can't really be
bought and sold freely across state lines. (Enron tried to start a water
market called Azurix in the late 1990s, only to see it fail spectacularly.)
The more successful water markets have instead been local, like one in the
late 1980s in California, where farmers agreed to reduce their water use and
sell the savings to a state water bank. Mulroy and Binney each told me they
think a true free-market water exchange would create too many winners and
losers. "What you would have is affluent communities being able to buy the
lifeblood right out from under those that are less well heeled," Mulroy
said. More practical, in her mind, would be a regional market that gives
states, cities and farmers greater freedom to strike mutually beneficial
agreements, but with protections so that municipalities aren't pitted
against one another.
More-efficient water markets might ease shortages, but they can't replace a
big city's principal source. What if, I asked Mulroy, Lake Mead drained
nearly to the bottom? Even if drought conditions ease over the next year or
two, several people I spoke with think the odds are greater that Lake
Powell, the 27-million-acre-foot reservoir that supplies Lake Mead, will
drop to unusable levels before it ever fills again. Mulroy didn't
immediately dismiss the possibility; she is certain that the reduced
circumstances of the two big Western reservoirs are tied to global warming
and that Las Vegas is this country's first victim of climate change. An
empty Lake Mead, she began, would mean there is nothing in Lake Powell.
"It's well outside probabilities," she said - but it could happen. "In that
case, it's not just a Las Vegas problem. You have three entire states wiped
out: Arizona, California and Nevada. Because you can't replace those volumes
with desalted ocean water." What seems more likely, she said, is that the
legal framework governing the Colorado River would preclude such a dire turn
of events. Recently, the states that use the Colorado reached a tentative
agreement that guarantees Lake Mead will remain partly full under current
conditions, even if upstream users have to cut back their withdrawals as a
result. The deal supplements a more fundamental understanding that dates to
the 1920s. If the river is failing to carry a certain, guaranteed volume of
water to Lee's Ferry, which is just below Lake Powell, the river's
lower-basin states (Nevada, Arizona and California) can legally force the
upper-basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah) to reduce or
stop their water withdrawals. This contingency, known as a "compact call,"
sets the lower-basin states against the upper, but it has never occurred; it
is deeply feared by many water managers, because it would ravage the fragile
relationship among states and almost certainly lead to a scrum of lawsuits.
Yet, last year water managers in Colorado began meeting for the first time
to discuss the possibility. In our conversations, Mulroy denied that there
would be a compact call, but she pointed out that Las Vegas's groundwater
and desalination plans were going ahead anyway for precautionary reasons.
Page 8 of 10)
I asked if limiting the growth of the Las Vegas metro area wouldn't help.
Mulroy bristled. "This country is going to have 100 million additional
people in it in the next 25 to 30 years," she replied. "Tell me where they're
supposed to go. Seriously. Every community says, 'Not here,' 'No growth
here,' 'There's too many people here already.' For a large urban area that
is the core economic hub of any particular area, to even attempt to throw up
walls? I'm not sure it can be done." Besides, she added, the problem isn't
growth alone: "We have an exploding human population, and we have a
shrinking clean-water supply. Those are on colliding paths. This is not just
a Las Vegas issue. This is a microcosm of a much larger issue." Americans,
she went on to say, are the most voracious users of natural resources in the
world. Maybe we need to talk about that as well. "The people who move to the
West today need to realize they're moving into a desert," Mulroy said. "If
they want to live in a desert, they have to adapt to a desert lifestyle."
That means a shift from the mindset of the 1930s, when the federal
government encouraged people to settle in the West, plant water-intensive
crops and make it look like the East Coast. It means landscapes of parched
dirt. It means mesquite bushes and palo verde trees for vegetation. It means
recycled water. It means gravel lawns. It is the West's new deal, she seemed
to be saying, and I got the feeling that for Mulroy it means that every
blade of grass in her state would soon be gone.
The first impulse when confronted with the West's water problems may be to
wonder how, as scarcity becomes more acute, the region will engineer its way
back to health. What can be built, what can technology accomplish, to ease
any shortages? Yet this is almost certainly the wrong way to think about the
situation. To be sure, construction projects like a pipeline from
east-central Nevada could help Las Vegas. But the larger difficulty facing
Pat Mulroy and Peter Binney, as they describe it, is re-engineering the
culture and conventions of the West before it becomes too late. Whether or
not there is enough water in the region for, say, the next 30 or 50 years
isn't necessarily a question with a yes-or-no answer. The water managers I
spoke with believe the total volume of available water could be great enough
to sustain the cities, many farms and perhaps the natural flow of the area's
rivers. But it's not unreasonable to assume that if things continue as they
have - with so much water going to agriculture; with conservation only
beginning to take hold among residents, industry and farmers; with supplies
diminishing slowly but steadily as the Earth warms; with the population
growing faster than anywhere else in the United States; and with some of our
most economically vital states constricted by antique water agreements - the
region will become a topography of crisis and perhaps catastrophe. This is
an old prophecy, dating back more than a century to one of the original
American explorers of the West, John Wesley Powell, who doubted the
territory could support large populations and intense development. (Powell
presciently argued that river basins, not arbitrary mapmakers, should
determine the boundaries of the Western states, in order to avoid inevitable
conflicts over water.) An earlier explorer, J. C. Ives, visited the present
location of Hoover Dam, between Arizona and Nevada, in 1857. The desiccated
landscape was "valueless," Ives reported. "There is nothing there to do but
Roger Pulwarty, for his part, rejects the notion of environmental
determinism. Nature, in other words, isn't inexorably pushing the region
into a grim, suffering century. Things can be done. Redoubling efforts to
prevent further climate change, Pulwarty says, is one place to start;
another is getting the states that share the Colorado River to reach
cooperative arrangements, as they have begun to discuss, for coping with
long-term droughts. Other parts of the solution are less obvious. To Peter
Gleick, head of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif.,
that focuses on global water issues, whether we can adapt to a drier future
depends on whether we can rethink the functions, and value, of fresh water.
Can we can do the same things using less of it? How we use our water, Gleick
believes, is considerably more complex than it appears. First of all, there
are consumptive and nonconsumptive uses of water. Consumptive use, roughly
speaking, refers to water taken from a reservoir that cannot be recovered.
"It's embedded in a product like a liter of Coca-Cola, or it's contaminated
so badly we can't reuse it," Gleick says. In agriculture, the vast majority
of water use is also consumptive, because it evaporates or transpires from
crops into the atmosphere. Evaporated water may fall as rain 1,000 miles
away - that's how Earth's water cycle works - but it is gone locally. A
similar consumptive process characterizes the water we put on our lawns or
gardens: it mostly disappears. Meanwhile, most of the water used by
metropolitan areas is nonconsumptive. It goes down the drain and empties
into nearby rivers, like Colorado's South Platte, as treated wastewater.
Page 9 of 10)
Gleick calls the Colorado River "the most complicated water system in the
world," and he isn't convinced it will be easy, or practical, to change the
laws that govern its usage. "But I think it's less hard to change how we use
water," he says. He accepts that climate change is confronting the West with
serious problems. (He was also one of the country's first scientists, in the
mid-1980s, to point out that reductions in mountain snowpack could present
huge challenges.) He makes a persuasive case, however, that there are
immense opportunities - even in cities like Las Vegas, which has made
strides in conservation - to reduce both consumptive and nonconsumptive
demand for water. These include installing more low-flow home appliances and
adopting more efficient irrigation methods. And they include economic tools
too: for example, many municipalities have reduced consumption by making
water more expensive (the more you use, the higher your per-gallon rate).
The United States uses less water than it did 25 years ago, Gleick points
out: "We haven't even paid too much attention to it, and we've accomplished
this." To go further, he says he believes we could alter not only demand but
also supply. "Treated wastewater isn't a liability, it's an asset," he says.
We don't need potable water to flush our toilets or water our lawns. "One
might say that's a ridiculous use of potable water. In fact, I might say
that. But that's the way we've set it up. And that's going to change, that's
got to change, in this century."
Among Colorado's water managers, Peter Binney's Prairie Waters project is
considered both innovative and important not on account of its technology
but because it seems to mark a new era of finding water sources in the
drying West. It also proves that the next generation's water will not come
cheap, or come easy. In late July, I went to Aurora to meet up again with
Binney. It was the groundbreaking day for Prairie Waters, which had been on
the local television news: Binney and several other officials grinned for
the cameras and signed a section of six-foot steel pipe, the same kind that
would transport water from the South Platte wells to the Aurora treatment
facility. That evening, Binney and I had dinner together at a steakhouse in
an Aurora shopping mall. When he remarked that we may have exceeded what he
calls the "carrying capacity" of the West, I asked him whether our desert
civilizations could last. Binney seemed dubious. "Not the way we've got it
set up," he said. "We've decoupled land use from water use. Water is the
limiting resource in the West. I think we need to match them back together
again." There was a decent amount of water out there, he went on to explain,
but it was a false presumption that it could sustain all the farms, all the
cities, all the rivers. Something will have to give. It was also wrong to
assume, he said, that cities could continue to grow without experiencing
something akin to a religious awakening about the scarcity of water. Soon,
he predicted, we would talk about our "water footprint" just as we now talk
about our carbon footprint.
Indeed, any conversations about the one will in short order expand to
include the other, Binney went on to say. Many water managers have known
this for a while. The two problems - water and energy - are so intimately
linked as to make it exceedingly difficult to tackle one without the other.
It isn't just the matter of growing corn for ethanol, which is already
straining water supplies. The less water in our rivers, for instance, the
less hydropower our dams produce. The further the water tables sink, the
more power it takes to pump water up. The more we depend on coal and nuclear
power plants, which require huge amounts of water for cooling, the larger
the burden we place on supplies.
Meanwhile, it is a perverse side effect of global warming that we may have
to emit large volumes of carbon dioxide to obtain the clean water that is
becoming scarcer because of the carbon dioxide we've already put into the
atmosphere. A dry region that turns to desalination, for example, would need
vast amounts of energy (and money) to purify its water. While wind-powered
desalination could perhaps meet this challenge - such a plant was recently
built outside Perth, Australia - it isn't clear that coastal residents in,
say, California would welcome such projects. Unclear, too, is how dumping
the brine that is a by-product of the process back into the ocean would
Page 10 of 10)
Similar energy challenges face other plans. In past years, various schemes
have arisen to move water from Canada or the Great Lakes to arid parts of
the United States. Beyond the environmental implications and construction
costs (probably hundreds of billions of dollars), such continental-scale
plumbing would require stupendous amounts of electricity. And yet, fears
that such plans will resurface in a drier, more populous world are partly
behind current efforts by the Great Lakes states to certify a pact that
protects their fresh water from outside exploitation.
Just pumping water from the Prairie Waters site to Aurora will cost a small
fortune. Binney told me this the day after the groundbreaking, as we drove
north from Aurora to the site. Along the 45-minute journey, Binney narrated
where his pipeline would go - along the edge of the highway here, over in
that field there and so on. Eventually we turned off the highway and onto a
small country road, and Binney slowed down so I could take in the
surroundings. "Here's where you see it all coming together and all of it
coming into conflict," he told me. To him, it was a perfect tableau of the
West in the 21st century. There was a housing development on one side of the
road and fields of irrigated crops on the other. Farther ahead was a gravel
pit, a remnant of the old Colorado mineral-extraction economy.
He drove on, and soon we turned onto a dirt road that bisected some open
fields. We rumbled along for a quarter mile or so, spewing dust and passing
over the South Platte in the process. Binney parked by a wire fence near a
sign marking it as Aurora property. We got out of the truck, hopped over a
locked gate and walked into a farm field.
For miles along the highway, we passed barren acreage that formerly grew
winter wheat but was now slated for new houses. The land we stood on once
grew corn, but tangles of weeds covered it now. As we walked, Binney
explained that the collection wells on the South Platte would soon be dug a
few hundred yards away; that water would be pumped into collection basins on
this field, where sand and gravel would purify it further. Then it would be
pumped back to the chemical treatment plants in Aurora before being piped to
residents. "We're standing 34 miles from there," Binney said.
It was a location as ordinary as I could have imagined, an empty place, far
from anything, and yet Binney saw it as something else. Earlier, when we
crossed over the gravel banks of the South Platte, I found the river
disappointing: broad and shallow, dun-colored and slow-moving, its
unimpressive flow somehow incorporating water Aurora had already used
upstream. James Michener, in writing about this region years ago, was
dead-on in calling it "a sad, bewildered nothing of a river." Still, the
South Platte was dependable. It was also Aurora's lifeline, buying the city
20 or 30 years of time. "What I really like about it," Binney said, smiling
as we walked from the field back to his truck, "is that it's wet."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Water- part two
on: October 25, 2007, 05:07:57 AM
Page 4 of 10)
Another practice, sometimes used in Europe, is to drill wells alongside a
river and pull river water up though them, using the gravel of the riverbank
as a natural filter - sort of like digging a hole in the sand near the ocean's
edge as it fills from below. Half of Aurora's water rights were on the South
Platte already; the city also pours its treated wastewater back into the
river, as do other cities in the Denver metro area. This gives the South
Platte a steady, dependable flow. Binney and the township reasoned that they
could conceivably, and legally, go some 20 or 30 miles downstream on the
South Platte, buy agricultural land near the river, install wells there and
retrieve their wastewater. Thus they could create a system whereby Aurora
would use South Platte water; send it to a treatment plant that would
discharge it back into the river; go downstream to recapture water from the
same river; then pump it back to the city for purification and further use.
The process would repeat, ad infinitum. Aurora would use its share of South
Platte water "to extinction," in the argot of water managers. A drop of the
South Platte used by an Aurora resident would find its way back to the city's
taps as a half-drop in 45 to 60 days, a quarter-drop 45 to 60 days after
that and so on. For every drop the town used from the South Platte, over
time it would almost - as all the fractional drops added up - get another.
Many towns have a supply that includes previously treated water. The water
from the Mississippi River, for instance, is reused many times by
municipalities as it flows southward. But as far as Binney knew, no
municipality in the United States had built the kind of closed loop that
Aurora envisioned. Water from wells in the South Platte would taste
different, because of its mineral and organic content, so Binney's engineers
would have to make it mimic mountain snowmelt. More delicate challenges
involved selling local taxpayers on authorizing a project, marketed to them
as "Prairie Waters," that would capitalize on their own wastewater. The
system, which meant building a 34-mile-long pipeline from the downstream
South Platte riverbanks to a treatment facility in Aurora, would cost
three-quarters of a billion dollars, making it one of the most expensive
municipal infrastructure projects in the country.
When Binney and I chatted at the reservoir outside Dillon, he had already
finished discussions with Moody's and Fitch, the bond-rating agencies whose
evaluations would help the town finance the project. Groundbreaking, which
would be the next occasion we would see each other, was still a month away.
"What we're doing now is trading high levels of treatment and purification
for building tunnels and chasing whatever remaining snowmelt there is in the
hills, which I think isn't a wise investment for the city," he told me. "I
would expect that what we're going to do is the blueprint for a lot of
cities in California, Arizona, Nevada - even the Carolinas and the Gulf
states. They're all going to be doing this in the future."
Water managers in the West tend to think in terms of "acre-feet." One
acre-foot, equal to about 326,000 gallons, is enough to serve two typical
Colorado families for one year. When measurements of the Colorado River
began near Lee's Ferry in the early 1920s, the region happened to be in the
midst of an extremely wet series of years, and the river was famously
misjudged to have an average flow of 17 million acre-feet per year - when in
fact its average flow would often prove to be significantly less. Part of
the legacy of that misjudgment is that the seven states that divided the
water in the 1920s entered into a legal partnership that created unrealistic
expectations about the river's capacity. But there is another, lesser-known
legacy too. As the 20th century progressed, many water managers came to
believe that the 1950s, which included the most severe drought years since
measurement of the river began, were the marker for a worst-case situation.
Page 5 of 10)
But recent studies of tree rings, in which academics drill core samples from
the oldest Ponderosa pines or Douglas firs they can find in order to
determine moisture levels hundreds of years ago, indicate that the dry times
of the 1950s were mild and brief compared with other historical droughts.
The latest research effort, published in the journal Geophysical Research
Letters in late May, identified the existence of an epochal Southwestern
megadrought that, if it recurred, would prove calamitous.
When Binney and I met at Dillon Reservoir, he brought graphs of Colorado
River flows that go back nearly a thousand years. "There was this one in the
1150s," he said, tracing a jagged line downward with his finger. "They think
that's when the Anasazi Indians were forced out. We see drought cycles here
that can go up to 60 years of below-average precipitation." What that would
mean today, he said, is that states would have to make a sudden choice
between agriculture and people, which would lead to bruising political
debates and an unavoidable blow to the former. Binney says that as much as
he believes that some farmers' water is ultimately destined for the cities
anyway, a big jolt like this would be tragic. "You hope you never get to
that point," he told me, "where you force those kinds of discussions,
because they will change for hundreds of years the way that people live in
the Western U.S. If you have to switch off agriculture, it's not like you
can get back into it readily. It took decades for the agricultural industry
to establish itself. It may never come back."
An even darker possibility is that a Western drought caused by climatic
variation and a drought caused by global warming could arrive at the same
time. Or perhaps they already have. This coming spring, the United Nations'
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will issue a report identifying
areas of the world most at risk of droughts and floods as the earth warms.
Fresh-water shortages are already a global concern, especially in China,
India and Africa. But the I.P.C.C., which along with Al Gore received the
2007 Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for its work on global-warming
issues, will note that many problem zones are located within the United
States, including California (where the Sierra Nevada snowpack is
threatened) and the Colorado River basin. These assessments follow on the
heels of a number of recent studies that analyze mountain snowpack and
future Colorado River flows. Almost without exception, recent climate models
envision reductions that range from the modest to the catastrophic by the
second half of this century. One study in particular, by Martin Hoerling and
Jon Eischeid, suggests the region is already "past peak water," a milestone
that means the river's water supply will now forever trend downward.
Climatologists seem to agree that global warming means the earth will, on
average, get wetter. According to Richard Seager, a scientist at Columbia
University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory who published a study on the
Southwest last spring, more rain and snow will fall in those regions closer
to the poles and more precipitation is likely to fall during sporadic,
intense storms rather than from smaller, more frequent storms. But many
subtropical regions closer to the equator will dry out. The models analyzed
by Seager, which focus on regional climate rather than Colorado River flows,
show that the Southwest will ultimately be subject to significant
atmospheric and weather alterations. More alarming, perhaps, is that the
models do not only concern the coming decades; they also address the
present. "You know, it's like, O.K., there's trouble in the future, but how
near in the future does it set in?" he told me. "In this case, it appears
that it's happening right now." When I asked if the drought in his models
would be permanent, he pondered the question for a moment, then replied:
"You can't call it a drought anymore, because it's going over to a drier
climate. No one says the Sahara is in drought."
Climate models tend to be more accurate at predicting temperature than
precipitation. Still, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that "something is
happening," as Peter Binney gently puts it. Everyone I spoke with in the
West has noticed - less snow, earlier spring melts, warmer nights. Los
Angeles this year went 150 days without a measurable rainfall. One afternoon
in Boulder, I spent some time with Roger Pulwarty, a highly regarded
climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Pulwarty, who has spent the past few years assessing adaptive solutions to a
long drought, has a light sense of humor and an air of optimism about him,
but he acknowledged that the big picture is worrisome. Even if the
precipitation in the West does not decrease, higher temperatures by
themselves create huge complications. Snowmelt runoff decreases. The immense
reservoirs lose far more water to evaporation. Meanwhile, demand increases
because crops are thirstier. Yet importing water from other river basins
becomes more difficult, because those basins may face shortages, too.
Page 6 of 10)
"You don't need to know all the numbers of the future exactly," Pulwarty
told me over lunch in a local Vietnamese restaurant. "You just need to know
that we're drying. And so the argument over whether it's 15 percent drier or
20 percent drier? It's irrelevant. Because in the long run, that decrease,
accumulated over time, is going to dry out the system." Pulwarty asked if I
knew the projections for what it would take to refill Lake Powell, which is
at about 50 percent of capacity. Twenty years of average flow on the
Colorado River, he told me. "Good luck," he said. "Even in normal conditions
we don't get 20 years of average flow. People are calling for more storage
on the system, but if you can't fill the reservoirs you have, I don't know
how more storage, or more dams, is going to help you. One has to ask if the
normal strategies that we have are actually viable anymore."
Pulwarty is convinced that the economic impacts could be profound. The worst
outcome, he suggested, would be mass migrations out of the region, along
with bitter interstate court battles over the dwindling water supplies. But
well before that, if too much water is siphoned from agriculture, farm towns
and ranch towns will wither. Meanwhile, Colorado's largest industry,
tourism, might collapse if river flows became a trickle during summertime.
Already, warmer temperatures have brought on an outbreak of pine beetles
that are destroying pine forests; Pulwarty wonders how many tourists will
want to visit a state full of dead trees. "A crisis is an interesting
thing," he said. In his view, a crisis is a point in a story, a moment in a
narrative, that presents an opportunity for characters to think their way
through a problem. A catastrophe, on the other hand, is something different:
it is one of several possible outcomes that follow from a crisis. "We're at
the point of crisis on the Colorado," Pulwarty concluded. "And it's at this
point that we decide, O.K., which way are we going to go?"
It is all but imposible to look into the future of the Western states
without calling on Pat Mulroy, the head of the Southern Nevada Water
Authority. Mulroy has no real counterpart on the East Coast; her nearest
analog might be Robert Moses, the notorious New York City planner who built
massive infrastructure projects and who almost always found a way around
institutional obstructions and financing constraints. She is arguably the
most influential and outspoken water manager in the country - a "woman
without fear," as Pulwarty describes her. Pulwarty and Peter Binney respect
her willingness to challenge historical water-sharing agreements that, in
Mulroy's view, no longer suit the modern West (meaning they don't suit Las
Vegas). According to Binney, however, Nevada's scant resources give Mulroy
little choice. She has to keep her city from drying out. That makes hers the
most difficult job in the water business, he told me.
Las Vegas is almost certainly more vulnerable to water shortages than any
metro area in the country. Partly that's a result of the city's explosive
growth. But the state of Nevada has the historical misfortune of receiving a
smaller share of Colorado River water (300,000 acre-feet annually) than the
other six states with which it signed a water-sharing compact in the 1920s.
That modest share, stored in Lake Mead along with water destined for
Southern California, Arizona and northern Mexico, now means everything to
Las Vegas. I traveled to Lake Mead on a 99-degree day last June. The narrow,
110-mile-long lake, which at full capacity holds 28 million acre-feet of
water (making it the largest reservoir in the United States), was at 49
percent of capacity. When riding into the valley and glimpsing it from
afar - an astonishing slash of blue in the desert - my guide for the day,
Bronson Mack of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, remarked that he had
never seen it so low. The white bathtub ring on the sides of the canyon that
marks the level of full capacity was visible about 100 feet above the water.
"I have a photograph of my mother on her honeymoon, standing in front of the
lake," Mack, a Las Vegas native, said. That was in 1970. "It was almost that
low, but not quite."
Over the past year, it has become conceivable that the lake could eventually
drop below the level of the water authority's intake pipes, the straws that
suck the water out for the Las Vegas Valley. The authority recently hired an
engineering firm to drill through several miles of rock and create a deeper
intake pipe near the bottom of the lake. To say the project is being
fast-tracked is an understatement. The day after visiting Lake Mead, I met
with Mulroy in her Las Vegas office. "We have everything in line to get it
running by 2012," she said of the new intake. But she added that she is
looking to cut as much time off construction as possible. Building the new
intake is a race against the clock, or rather a race against a lake that
keeps going down, down, down.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: October 25, 2007, 05:06:18 AM
David Gordon is back in town and has several posts in recent days up on his blog. His call for ISRG is up quite nicely for me! Speaking of David, it was he who first brought my attention to the fundamentals of water as an investment hypothesis. Here is a recent article that speaks to this theme.
By JON GERTNER
Published: October 21, 2007
Scientists sometimes refer to the effect a hotter world will have on this
country's fresh water as the other water problem, because global warming
more commonly evokes the specter of rising oceans submerging our great
coastal cities. By comparison, the steady decrease in mountain snowpack -
the loss of the deep accumulation of high-altitude winter snow that melts
each spring to provide the American West with most of its water - seems to
be a more modest worry. But not all researchers agree with this ranking of
dangers. Last May, for instance, Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and the
director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the United
States government's pre-eminent research facilities, remarked that
diminished supplies of fresh water might prove a far more serious problem
than slowly rising seas. When I met with Chu last summer in Berkeley, the
snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides most of the water for Northern
California, was at its lowest level in 20 years. Chu noted that even the
most optimistic climate models for the second half of this century suggest
that 30 to 70 percent of the snowpack will disappear. "There's a two-thirds
chance there will be a disaster," Chu said, "and that's in the best
In the Southwest this past summer, the outlook was equally sobering. A
catastrophic reduction in the flow of the Colorado River - which mostly
consists of snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains - has always served as a kind
of thought experiment for water engineers, a risk situation from the outer
edge of their practical imaginations. Some 30 million people depend on that
water. A greatly reduced river would wreak chaos in seven states: Colorado,
Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. An almost
unfathomable legal morass might well result, with farmers suing the federal
government; cities suing cities; states suing states; Indian nations suing
state officials; and foreign nations (by treaty, Mexico has a small claim on
the river) bringing international law to bear on the United States
government. In addition, a lesser Colorado River would almost certainly lead
to a considerable amount of economic havoc, as the future water supplies for
the West's industries, agriculture and growing municipalities are
threatened. As one prominent Western water official described the possible
future to me, if some of the Southwest's largest reservoirs empty out, the
region would experience an apocalypse, "an Armageddon."
One day last June, an environmental engineer named Bradley Udall appeared
before a Senate subcommittee that was seeking to understand how severe the
country's fresh-water problems might become in an era of global warming. As
far as Washington hearings go, the testimony was an obscure affair, which
was perhaps fitting: Udall is the head of an obscure organization, the
Western Water Assessment. The bureau is located in the Boulder, Colo.,
offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the
government agency that collects obscure data about the sky and seas. Still,
Udall has a name that commands some attention, at least within the Beltway.
His father was Morris Udall, the congressman and onetime presidential
candidate, and his uncle was Stewart Udall, the secretary of the interior
under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Bradley Udall's
great-great-grandfather, John D. Lee, moreover, was the founder of Lee's
Ferry, a flyspeck spot in northern Arizona that means nothing to most
Americans but holds near-mythic status to those who work with water for a
living. Near Lee's Ferry is where the annual flow of the Colorado River is
measured in order to divvy up its water among the seven states that depend
on it. To many politicians, economists and climatologists, there are few
things more important than what has happened at Lee's Ferry in the past,
just as there are few things more important than what will happen at Lee's
Ferry in the future.
The importance of the water there was essentially what Udall came to talk
about. A report by the National Academies on the Colorado River basin had
recently concluded that the combination of limited Colorado River water
supplies, increasing demands, warmer temperatures and the prospect of
recurrent droughts "point to a future in which the potential for conflict"
among those who use the river will be ever-present. Over the past few
decades, the driest states in the United States have become some of our
fastest-growing; meanwhile, an ongoing drought has brought the flow of the
Colorado to its lowest levels since measurements at Lee's Ferry began 85
years ago. At the Senate hearing, Udall stated that the Colorado River basin
is already two degrees warmer than it was in 1976 and that it is foolhardy
to imagine that the next 50 years will resemble the last 50. Lake Mead, the
enormous reservoir in Arizona and Nevada that supplies nearly all the water
for Las Vegas, is half-empty, and statistical models indicate that it will
never be full again. "As we move forward," Udall told his audience, "all
water-management actions based on 'normal' as defined by the 20th century
will increasingly turn out to be bad bets."
Page 2 of 10)
A few weeks after his testimony, I flew to Boulder to meet with Udall, and
we spent a day driving switchback roads high in the Rockies in his old
Subaru. It had been a wet season on the east slope of the Rockies, but the
farther west we went, the drier it became. Udall wanted to show me some of
the local reservoirs and water systems that were built over the past
century, so I could get a sense of their complexity as well as their
vulnerability. As he put it, he wants to connect the disparate members of
the water economy in a way that has never really been done before, so that
utility executives, scientists, environmentalists, business leaders, farmers
and politicians can begin discussing how to cope with the inevitable
shortages of fresh water. In the American West, whose huge economy and
political power derive from the ability of 20th-century engineers to conquer
rivers like the Colorado and establish a reliable water supply, the prospect
that there will be less water in the future, rather than the same amount, is
unnerving. "We have a very short period of time here to get people educated
on what this means," Udall told me as we drove through the mountains. "Then
once that occurs, perhaps we can start talking about how do we deal with
Skip to next paragraph
Udall suggested that I meet a water manager named Peter Binney, who works
for Aurora, Colo., a city - the 60th-largest in the United States - that
sprawls over an enormous swath of flat, postagricultural land south of the
Denver airport. It may be difficult for residents of the East Coast to
understand the political celebrity of some Western water managers, but in a
place like Aurora, where water, not available land, limits economic growth,
Binney has enormous responsibilities. In effect, the city's viability
depends on his wherewithal to conjure new sources of water or increase the
output of old ones. As Binney told me when we first spoke, "We have to find
a new way of meeting the needs of all this population that's turning up and
still satisfy all of our recreational and environmental demands." Aurora has
a population of 310,000 now, Binney said, but that figure is projected to
surpass 500,000 by 2035.
I asked if he had enough water for that many people. "Oh, no," he replied.
He seemed surprised that someone could even presume that he might. In fact,
he explained, his job is to figure out how to find more water in a region
where every drop is already spoken for and at a moment when there is little
possibility that any more will ever be discovered.
Binney and I got together outside Dillon, a village in the Colorado Rockies
75 miles from Aurora and just a few miles west of the Continental Divide. We
met in a small parking lot beside Dillon Reservoir, which sits at the bottom
of a bowl of snow-capped mountains. Binney, a thickset 54-year-old with dark
red hair and a fair complexion, had driven up in a large S.U.V. He still
carries a strong accent from his native New Zealand, and in conversation he
comes across as less a utility manager than a polymath with the combined
savvy of an engineer, an economist and a politician. As we moved to a picnic
table, Binney told me that we were looking at Denver's water, not Aurora's,
and that it would eventually travel 70 miles through tunnels under the
mountains to Denver's taps. He admitted that he would love to have this
water, which is pure snowmelt. To people in his job, snowmelt is the best
source of water because it requires little chemical treatment to bring it up
to federal drinking standards. But this water wasn't available. Denver got
here before him. And in Colorado, like most Western states, the rights to
water follow a bloodline back to whoever got to it first.
One way to view the history of the American West is as a series of important
moments in exploration or migration; another is to consider it, as Binney
does, in terms of its water. In the 20th century, for example, all of our
great dams and reservoirs were built - "heroic man-over-nature"
achievements, in Binney's words, that control floods, store water for
droughts, generate vast amounts of hydroelectric power and enable
agriculture to flourish in a region where the low annual rainfall otherwise
makes it difficult. And in constructing projects like the Glen Canyon Dam -
which backs up water to create Lake Powell, the vast reservoir in Arizona
and Utah that feeds Lake Mead - the builders went beyond the needs of the
moment. "They gave us about 40 to 50 years of excess capacity," Binney says.
"Now we've gotten to the end of that era." At this point, every available
gallon of the Colorado River has been appropriated by farmers, industries
and municipalities. And yet, he pointed out, the region's population is
expected to keep booming. California's Department of Finance recently
predicted that there will be 60 million Californians by midcentury, up from
36 million today. "In Colorado, we're sitting at a little under five million
people now, on our way to eight million people," Binney said. Western
settlers, who apportioned the region's water long ago, never could have
foreseen the thirst of its cities. Nor, he said, could they have anticipated
our environmental mandates to keep water "in stream" for the benefit of fish
and wildlife, as well as for rafters and kayakers
Page 3 of 10)
The West's predicament, though, isn't just a matter of limited capacity,
bigger populations and environmental regulations. It's also a distributional
one. Seventy-five years ago, cities like Denver made claims on - and from
the state of Colorado received rights to - water in the mountains; those
cities in turn built reservoirs for their water. As a result, older cities
have access to more surface water (that is, water that comes from rivers and
streams) than newer cities like Aurora, which have been forced to purchase
existing water rights from farmers and mining companies. Towns that rely on
groundwater (water pumped from deep underground) face an even bigger
disadvantage. Water tables all over the United States have been dropping,
sometimes drastically, from overuse. In the Denver area, some cities that
use only groundwater will almost certainly exhaust their accessible supplies
The biggest issue is that agriculture consumes most of the water, as much as
90 percent of it, in a state like Colorado. "The West has gone from a
fur-trapping, to a mining, to an agricultural, to a manufacturing, to an
urban-centric economy," Binney explained. As the region evolved, however,
its water ownership for the most part did not. "There's no magical locked
box of water that we can turn to," Binney says of cities like Aurora, "so it's
going to have to come from an existing use." Because the supply of water in
the West can't really change, water managers spend their time looking for
ways to adjust its allocation in their favor.
Binney knew all this back in 2002, when he took the job in Aurora after a
long career at an engineering firm. Over the course of a century, the city
had established a reasonable water supply. About a quarter of its water is
piped in from the Colorado River basin about 70 miles away; another quarter
is taken from reservoirs in the Arkansas River basin far to the south. The
rest comes from the South Platte, a lazy, meandering river that runs north
through Aurora on its way toward Nebraska. Binney says he believes that a
city like his needs at least five years of water in storage in case of
drought; his first year there turned out to be one of the worst years for
water managers in recorded history, and the town's reservoirs dropped to 26
percent of capacity, meaning Aurora had at most nine months of reserves and
could not endure another dry spring. During the summer and fall, Binney
focused on both supply and demand. He negotiated with neighboring towns to
buy water and accelerated a program to pay local farmers to fallow their
fields so the city could lease their water rights. Meanwhile, the town asked
residents to limit their showers and had water cops enforce new rules
against lawn sprinklers. ("It's interesting how many people were watering
lawns in the middle of the night," Binney said.)
Water use in the United States varies widely by region, influenced by
climate, neighborhood density and landscaping, among other things. In the
West, Los Angelenos use about 125 gallons per person per day in their homes,
compared with 114 for Tucson residents. Binney's customers generally use
about 160 gallons per person per day. "In the depths of the drought," he
said, "we got down to about 123 gallons."
Part of the cruelty of a Western drought is that a water manager never knows
if it will last 1 year or 10. In 2002, Binney was at the earliest stages of
what has since become a nearly continuous dry spell. Though he couldn't see
that at the time, he realized Aurora faced a permanent state of emergency if
it didn't boost its water supplies. But how? One option was to try to buy
water rights in the mountains (most likely from farmers who were looking to
quit agriculture), then build a new reservoir and a long supply line to
Aurora. Obvious hurdles included environmental and political resistance, as
well as an engineering difficulty: water is heavy, far heavier than oil, and
incompressible; a system to move it long distances (especially if it
involves tunneling through mountains or pumping water over them) can cost
billions. Binney figured that without the help of the federal government,
which has largely gotten out of the Western dam-and-reservoir-building
business, Aurora would be unwise to pursue such a project. Even if the money
could be raised, building a system would take decades. Aurora needed a
solution within five years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two- Turks in Germany
on: October 25, 2007, 04:49:23 AM
(Page 4 of 7)
The topic of marriage comes up often among Turks in places like Duisburg. It
is not a side issue. Of the roughly 25,000 foreigners who immigrate to
Germany every year to marry, about a thousand go to Duisburg, and the great
majority of those are Turks. The city's Marxloh neighborhood is the
Continental capital of Turkish wedding caterers and bridal shops.
Duisburg, where the Rhine and the Ruhr meet, and where mining and industry
link up to the biggest inland port in Europe, is a kind of European
Pittsburgh. In decades past, tens of thousands of Turks came to work in the
city's three big steel plants, which together employed 64,000 people in the
'70s, and in its archipelago of coal mines. But today there are only 20,000
industrial jobs left in the whole city. Duisburg's population, 608,000 in
the 1970s, has fallen to under half a million. The older German-born natives
(who had jobs) die, their children (who want jobs) move and the absolute
number of Turks living there continues to grow. According to the mayor's
office, there are 41,900 Turks in Duisburg, and another 24,000 of Turkish
background who have acquired German citizenship. Together they account for
more than half of Duisburg's minority population - and for much of the city's
dynamism as well. In Marxloh, where half of the 18,000 residents are
immigrants or children of immigrants, the largest mosque in Germany is
nearing completion. At the same time, the local Catholic bishop has
announced he must reduce the number of parishes in Duisburg from 32 to 4.
The Evangelical Church of Germany, a Protestant umbrella organization,
recently published a controversial document in which it laid out some ground
rules for turning Christian houses of worship into Muslim ones. Duisburg is
changing from a "typical" postwar German city into a heavily - and, in
parts, predominantly - Turkish one, through a kind of distillation.
In the neighborhood of Hochfeld, which has lost one-third of its population
in the past three decades, this distillation is at its extreme. Rauf Ceylan,
a sociologist whose parents settled as guest workers nearby in Wanheim, has
spent years studying the coffeehouses and mosques that are the central
community institutions for men. What Ceylan has found is a parallel society
growing increasingly elaborate and increasingly entrenched. He calls
Hochfeld an "ethnic colony," rather than just a "ghetto" or "community."
That is, Hochfeld is more than a place where a homesick Turk can find a
little corner of Turkey, the way a Japanese immigrant might gravitate to a
sushi restaurant in New Hampshire. It is turning into a fully articulated
Turkish society, where a Turk has the institutions to lead any kind of
Turkish life he chooses. And the life that most Hochfeld residents choose is
becoming steadily more traditional. The first generation of guest workers
were not particularly traditionalist, Ceylan says. They were mostly single
men, with the easy-come, easy-go lifestyle that being single implies. But
once they acquired wives from Turkey and formed families, their role changed
from hired worker to paterfamilias, and their priorities changed, too. They
built institutions that mimicked those of the villages they hailed from.
Many Germans held out hope that younger generations, those born here, would
have different priorities. Exposed to German society through television and
schools, they would lose interest in the ways of coffeehouse and mosque. The
old assumption that living in the middle of Western prosperity creates an
almost automatic loyalty has been shaken in recent years. German residents,
of course, played a leading role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Said
Bahaji, a German citizen of Moroccan descent who served in the German Army,
provided important logistical support for the Hamburg-based cell led by the
Egyptian Mohamed Atta. The Lebanese-born 9/11 terrorist Ziad Jarrah did part
of the planning in Duisburg, and had a romantic involvement with a seemingly
well-assimilated Turkish-German woman who studied dentistry nearby in
The way immigrants marry is a key factor in the way they assimilate, or don't.
In 2000, the German Youth Institute reported that 53 percent of Turkish
women ages 16 to 29 would not consider marrying a German "under any
circumstances." Indeed, the big gap that separates young Turks from German
youth culture is an important theme of "Head-On," Fatih Akin's
Turkish-German film of 2005. Perhaps Turks' preference for Turkish mates
reflects, in some cases, the desire for a religious life. But a survey taken
in the late 1990s found similar discomfort on the part of Germans, for whom
religious considerations are presumably less of a factor. Fifteen percent of
western Germans and just 7 percent of eastern ones said it would be
"pleasant" (angenehm) to have a Turkish relative. Majorities in both places
agreed it would be "unpleasant."
Page 5 of 7)
Where such attitudes prevail, self-segregation is inevitable, mystifying
those immigrants most inclined to assimilate. "There is a big change that
comes at puberty, a divergence of interests," says Osman Apaydin, who runs a
development program around the corner from the wedding shops in Marxloh.
Sitting in his office in February, he described how his grown daughter,
modern-minded, open to the world, much more comfortable speaking German than
Turkish, who went to majority-German schools, now finds herself unmarried,
with an increasingly Turkish circle of friends. To hear Apaydin describe it,
the difficulty of modern Turkish women in finding husbands resembles the
predicament of highly educated black women in the United States.
Where traditional young women start families and assimilated ones have
trouble finding their social footing, the next generation is brought up -
almost by definition - by those who are least assimilated themselves. You
can blame Turkish attitudes if you want, but they arise from a certain
objective truth: The closer one gets to German culture, the farther one gets
from family. There are a lot of ways to measure this. In North
Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state and the one where Duisburg
is located, 80 percent of Turks ages 25 to 34 are married; their average
marriage age is 21 for women and 24 for men. Among non-Turks, only 32
percent of 25- to 34-year-olds are married; the average marriage age is 29
for women and 32 for men. Germans have one of the lowest fertility rates in
the history of the world - 1.36 children per woman, according to 2004
figures. While it is hard to find precise figures for Turks in Germany, the
rate is widely agreed to be higher. The rate in Turkey itself is almost
twice as high, at 2.4 children per woman. If a good chance of childlessness
and middle-aged solitude is the price of assimilation, it is for many Turks
an exorbitant one. According to a study done by the Center for Turkey
Studies in Essen, young Turkish women and men brought up in Germany view
their fellow Turkish-Germans of the opposite sex as "distant from their own
culture, or 'degenerate.' "
You seldom meet young Turkish women of marriage age who describe themselves
as either unambiguously traditional or unambiguously modern. Take Yasemin
Yadigaroglu, for instance. A tight, traditional head scarf covers every last
strand of her hair. But there is something bold and dashing about her, as
well as conservative. At 26, she leads a campaign supported by the Duisburg
city government to dissuade Turks from marrying their cousins. A German
citizen born in Duisburg, she studied social science at the University of
Unlike Kelek, Yadigaroglu is an observant Muslim. She says that cousin
marriage is "a misrepresentation of Islam." Yet despite her religious bent,
Yadigaroglu's preoccupations and even conclusions about the family overlap
with Kelek's. Yadigaroglu claims that marriage between cousins retards
assimilation, that it contributes to parallel societies like the ones Ceylan
describes in Hochfeld and that it is responsible for birth defects. In an
academic paper, she even hints at a feminist critique of the traditional
Turkish family. "Through marriage to a cousin," she writes, "a new role
orientation gets established within the family. The aunt and uncle become
in-laws. The new daughter-in-law sinks to the lowest level of the family
hierarchy, in marked contrast to her previous role as niece."
One Friday afternoon just before evening prayers, I traveled to
Wanheimerort, a dockside area just south of Hochfeld, to see four young
women between 17 and 20 who meet there every week. All were born in Turkey
but have spent much of their lives in Wanheimerort. At least two are German
citizens. Esra is studying mathematics at a university nearby, Fatma and
Meltem are on their way there and Guler studies dental hygiene. Esra, at
least, spoke terrific English but wouldn't use it, perhaps out of
consideration for the several non-English speakers in the room. The Ditib
mosque they attend is among the more liberal in the area, but all the girls
except Fatma were wearing head scarves. I thought of Yadigaroglu, with her
mix of tradition and eagerness to assimilate and decided to ask whether -
given their career tracks - any of them might consider themselves feminists,
if only in an unconventional way. Their answers were: Nein, nein, nein and
nein. "Women think this word makes them more and more free," one said
Page 6 of 7)
Young men I met were often more sour and defensive in such discussions. It
was as if they wanted to be clear about just who was rejecting whom in this
battle between their egos and the wider society's values. In the Duisburg
neighborhood of Meiderich, I visited a German-literature class at the local
high school and asked a room full of 18-year-olds to talk about marriage.
Three-quarters had a Turkish background. One, Husayn, spoke of how he had
already been betrothed to a cousin at a family celebration in Bielefeld and
was looking forward to standing on his own two feet. Several said that
brothers and sisters had married cousins from Turkey, yet each one of them
presented that as a special case, an exception.
But one student, a sharp-tongued fellow named Yavuz, had noticed the erosion
of the Turkish family model in Germany. It struck him as a catastrophe.
"Father and son are no longer father and son," he complained. "They're
buddies to one another. Your father becomes someone to go out and have a
beer with." And Turks' tendency to marry their cousins did not look so bad,
Yavuz said, with the air of one repeating something heard over a dinner
table, when you consider that "one out of six Germans commits incest."
I had heard similar things elsewhere in Germany. In the Comenius Garden in
Neukolln, a particularly tough part of Berlin, Murat, Ali and Hakan, all in
their late teens, were passing a freezing cold afternoon chatting and making
up rap verses. Ali, whose family comes from the Black Sea port of Rize, is
the son of a local NeukÃ¶lln imam. He is training to be a plumber but is not
employed yet. He is betrothed to a "friend" in Turkey. The person who
introduced me to Ali said Ali's other friends had spoken of the woman as his
cousin. So I started by asking him why he had looked for his wife in Turkey.
"German girls are Schlampen," he replied. They're sluts.
These may be dangerous attitudes. They may also be just the ordinary
sour-grapes insecurities that are the lot of immigrants' children at all
times and all places. Turks often complain that Germans see only the
repressive side to Turkish traditions and not the protective side.
Even Seyran Ates sometimes sounds uncertain that German ideals are
sufficient to protect women. At the end of last summer, two months after she
was attacked on the Mockernbrucke subway platform, she gave up her law
practice. She now says she would be willing to continue work in a law firm,
provided it was large enough to guarantee her security. People have
organized events for her and proclaimed their solidarity. Her alma mater,
the Free University of Berlin, awarded her a prize for defense of human
rights last March. "Socially, there has been a lot of support," she says.
But the way the incident itself occurred, particularly the way men looked on
while she and her client were assaulted - that clearly still upsets her.
"It brought me to despair," she said over tea. "It showed a lack of civic
But would it have been any different in Turkey if a man had begun to beat up
a woman like that on a subway platform?
"Oh, yes," she said calmly. "They'd have lynched him."
The Same Pillow
Wolfgang Schauble, Germany's interior minister, is in an awkward position. A
European interior minister is usually referred to as his country's "top
cop." That was the job description the last time Schauble held the post,
under Helmut Kohl, between 1989 and 1991. But since he returned to the
ministry in the autumn of 2005, as the highest-ranking Christian Democrat
(behind Chancellor Angela Merkel) in a new coalition government, Schauble
has devoted much of his effort to the Islamkonferenz. At times he seems less
a top cop than a top marriage counselor.
Seated near his desk at the top of an office tower north of Berlin's
Tiergarten in February, Schauble admitted that the tendency of Turks to
bring spouses from abroad is a "main reason why integration isn't improving
with the passing generations." He agrees with Kelek and Ates that what he
calls the "freedom-constraining effects of the family" can stand between a
woman from a non-German culture and the rights to which she is entitled as a
German resident. But as a churchgoing Protestant, he is disinclined to
fiddle with marriage itself. "You have to distinguish between arranged
marriages and forced marriages," he told me. "Forced marriages are illegal.
They're assaults on human rights. They don't meet the minimum demands of a
free society. But arranged marriage - that's a complicated area. There have
always been cases where people have chosen not to meet as just man and woman
but with the intercession of some kind of third party."
Page 7 of 7)
So Schauble seems to be trying to influence behaviors that he says are
neither illegal nor, in most cases, even wrong. He has been pragmatic. When
he started the Islamkonferenz last September, he praised Islam for
reinforcing aspects of German tradition that Germans themselves had
neglected: "the importance of family, respect for elders, a consciousness
and pride in one's own history, culture, religion, tradition and the
day-to-day life of one's faith." Yet he has also spoken favorably about a
controversial video that the government of the Netherlands has been showing
to prospective immigrants. It is supposed to acclimate them to the relative
tolerance of Western societies. Images of women at a topless beach and of
two men kissing are meant to squelch any expectation that those who inhabit
traditionalist cultures can bring those cultures with them to Holland. But
isn't this inconsistent? Don't the social benefits that SchÃ¤uble praises
come from a traditional moralism - about, for instance, baring ones breasts
in public - that the video repudiates? "Breasts," Schauble replied, "are not
the main theme."
Certain countries in Europe have placed sharp restrictions on those who
marry foreigners. The Netherlands is one of them. In Denmark, citizens under
the age of 24 are not even allowed to reside in the country with their
non-E.U. spouses. Germany is unlikely to try anything so restrictive. But in
March, the German cabinet approved a reform of immigration laws that would
raise the minimum age of foreign-born spouses to 18. (Studies show that the
lower the age of marriage, the greater the tendency to have an arranged
Schauble also intends to require a minimum basic language proficiency for a
spouse before he or she comes to Germany. "Let's say a young woman, from
some remote part of Turkey, is brought together with her husband while he is
on summer vacation," Schauble suggested. "If she doesn't know a single word
of German when she comes - well, she has little chance to escape the total
control of his family. If she knows a little bit of German, her chances are
better." Long a pet enthusiasm of Schauble's, the idea was taken up by the
incoming French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, during the French campaign this
spring. SchÃ¤uble insists that when he says "a little bit" of the native
language, he means a bare minimum, the kind of German you can learn from a
few weeks of listening to audiotapes.
Nonetheless, this little bit means a big change. For perhaps the first time
since the war, German institutions and public opinion are taking a stand in
favor of German culture as they understand it, and implicitly against the
culture of a foreign minority. After a decade in which the Social Democratic
government of Gerhard Schroder focused on the qualifications for German
citizenship (since 1999, all children born in Germany, of whatever
parentage, are eligible for it), the Merkel coalition, following SchÃ¤uble,
is stressing the content of citizenship. Germany is beginning to insist on
citizens' responsibilities as well as citizens' rights.
"We are facing the same problems, whether we are practicing Muslims or not,"
Oguz Ucuncu told me one night in Cologne, over a Turkish barbecue in the
heavily immigrant neighborhood of Mulheim. Ucuncu, a quick-witted and
decidedly modern spokesman for the conservative Turkish Muslim group Milli
Gorus, serves on one of the committees of the Islamkonferenz. He pointed out
that Internet "flirt exchanges" and "singles exchanges" are increasingly
popular in Germany. What are those, he asked, if not high-tech means of
"arranging" marriages? (Not to mention considerably less binding romantic
encounters.) What of those native Germans who marry abroad, he asked,
especially the thousands who have married women from East Asia? Shouldn't
they, too, stand accused of wishing to "secede" from Western European
feminism, just as those Turks who marry in Turkey stand accused? "The first
point of any government program now," Ucuncu said, "should be to promote
solidity of family. The idea we should promote is: May you sleep on the same
pillow to the end of your life. This is a Muslim value we should not give
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: October 25, 2007, 04:46:40 AM
Its the NYTimes, so the flavoring is to be expected, but a very interesting piece nonetheless. As the date of the piece indicates, I've been meaning to get around to posting this one for quite some time.
Where Every Generation Is First-Generation
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
Published: May 27, 2007
Last June, Seyran Ates, a lawyer, was waiting for a U-Bahn train in Berlin's
Mockernbrucke subway station with a client for whom she had secured a
divorce when the client's husband stormed onto the platform. He began
beating up his ex-wife. Then he turned on Ates. Ates recalls seeing a number
of men standing around, watching it all happen, as she danced from side to
side with her attaché case, trying to fend off his heavy punches and kicks.
It was not the first time she had been attacked in the line of duty.
A Turk of partly Kurdish descent, Ates arrived with her parents in the West
Berlin neighborhood of Wedding in the late 1960s, when she was 6. Her
parents were loving, but it was a traditional kind of love that involved
much scolding, grounding and disciplinary slapping. School was Ates's only
escape from the house, and she excelled at it. She knew she wanted to be a
lawyer. Just before her 18th birthday, as her mother and aunt were beginning
to make plans to marry her off, she ran away. This flight was not a simple
abandonment of her family, to whom Ates remains close. Nor was it an
abandonment of her ancestral culture. True, Ates has built her career in law
around a German - and to many Turks, idiosyncratic and hostile - conception
of women's rights. Yet she speaks to her young daughter in Turkish because,
she says, "I want her to understand why I cry when I hear my favorite
Ates (pronounced AH-tesh) went to Kreuzberg, a run-down, part-Turkish,
part-hippie neighborhood backed up against the Berlin Wall. By the early
1980s she was working part time as a counselor in a women's center while she
finished her studies. In September 1984, a Turkish nationalist, his exact
motives unclear even today, burst in. Mumbling that "this won't take long,"
he pulled out a gun and fired a bullet into Ates's neck. He then shot the
client Ates was counseling, mortally wounding her. Ates's 2003
autobiography, "Journey Into the Fire," centered on that incident, on her
long, touch-and-go recovery from it and on the preoccupation to which she
has devoted her intellectual and professional energies ever since. Namely,
the inability of women of Turkish background to claim the rights to which
they are entitled as German residents and even as German citizens.
Ates's preoccupation is now Germany's. Since last fall, the Islamkonferenz,
a 30-member panel set up by Interior Minister Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble, has
devoted much of its time and energy to the way ethnic minorities meet, mate
and marry - particularly the almost three million German residents of
Turkish descent, more than one-third of whom have German citizenship. The
panel, intended to create a "German Islam," differs from analogous
government bodies set up in France and Italy. In those countries, religious
hierarchs and political activists have dominated. Emerging government
structures have been staffed by people who view religion sympathetically.
The Islamkonferenz, by contrast, includes a wide variety of voices,
religious and not. There is the largely Arab and conservative Central Muslim
Council. There is the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (known by
its Turkish acronym, Ditib), a 25-year-old body established in Germany by
the Turkish government to aid with mosque-building, burials and other
religious arrangements. But there are also 10 independent members appointed
without regard to their religious views or affiliations. That is how Ates
wound up pronouncing on some of the most stubborn problems that have arisen
from the mass immigration that began decades ago.
Marriage is not just an aspect of the immigration problem in Germany; to a
growing extent, it is the immigration problem. Starting in the 1960s,
millions of Turkish "guest workers" were imported to provide manpower for
the German economic boom. The guest-worker program was ended in 1973, the
year of the first oil crisis, but large-scale immigration from Turkey has
scarcely abated since. For years, political asylum was relatively easy for
Turks to obtain, owing to political assassinations, military coups and the
violent Kurdish nationalist movement in eastern Anatolia. But since the
Balkan wars of the 1990s, Germany, like most European countries, has
steadily tightened its criteria for political asylum.
Page 2 of 7)
This leaves open only one avenue for non-European men and women who want to
enter Germany legally: marriage to someone with legal residency in the
country. Fortunately for would-be immigrants, young ethnic Turks in Germany
have a strong tendency to marry people from the home country. Exact
statistics are hard to come by, but it is possible that as many as 50
percent of Turks (a word that in common parlance often includes even those
with German citizenship) seek their spouses abroad, according to SchÃ¤uble,
the interior minister. For most of the past decade, according to the
ministry, between 21,000 and 27,000 people a year have successfully applied
at German consulates in Turkey to form families in Germany. (Just under
two-thirds of the newcomers are women.) That means roughly half a million
spouses since the mid-1980s, which in turn means hundreds of thousands of
new families in which the children's first language is as likely to be
Turkish as German.
Binational marriage alarms many Germans for two reasons. First, it allows
the Turkish community to grow fast at a time when support for immigration is
low. The Turkish population in Germany multiplies not once in a life cycle
but twice - at childbirth and at marriage. Second, such marriages retard
assimilation even for those Turks long established in Germany. You
frequently hear stories from schoolteachers about a child of guest workers
who was a star pupil three decades ago but whose own children, although born
in Germany, struggle to learn German in grade school. After half a century
of immigration, every new generation of Turks is still, to a large extent, a
Turkish marriages are seldom Western-style love matches. They are often
arranged by parents. A 2003 study by the Federal Ministry of Family found
that a quarter of Turkish women in Germany hadn't even known their partners
before they married. The rural Anatolian practice of marrying relatives,
usually first cousins, is frequent. It accounts, according to the Center for
Turkey Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, for between a sixth and
a quarter of binational pairings. These marriages bring certain Anatolian
problems into the heart of Germany. Domestic violence is high. The causes of
wife-beating among families of immigrant background can be debated, but not
the numbers. Gulgun Teyhani, who works at a battered-women's shelter in
Duisburg, reckoned that of the 86 women her house took in last year, 60 had
a migrant background, and 51 of them spoke Turkish. Last year, the Federal
Criminal Investigation Agency found that in the preceding five years, 45
"honor killings" were carried out by Turkish or Kurdish families in Germany
against women deemed to have "strayed," generally by dating Europeans or
adopting Western fashions.
It probably doesn't take more than a few such incidents to intimidate young
Turkish women who watch the news or read the papers. Seyran Ates admits that
even divorce lawyers feel this way. "It is a dangerous line of work," she
says. "The men are often aggressive. Their idea is, I'm taking their women
away from them."
The tragedy of imported brides, Necla Kelek writes, is that they "will live
in Germany but never arrive there." Like Ates, Kelek is a Turkish-German
woman with intense passions on either side of the hyphen. She is another
independent member of the Islamkonferenz. Kelek was born in Istanbul and
came to Germany as a young girl in the 1960s. She, too, climbed into the
middle of mainstream German society through the school system. She earned a
doctorate in sociology but has since turned to a more literary kind of
writing. Her best-selling book, "The Foreign Bride," is a memoir - although
it might be better described as a polemic - about Turkish women imported as
wives. It relies on Kelek's own family anecdotes, on dozens of interviews
conducted in mosques in Hamburg and Lower Saxony and on government studies.
It is in large part a result of her books that some Germans who once viewed
Turkish marriage practices as none of their business now see it as a
3 of 7
The German reading public has a powerful appetite for what might be called
noble-savage memoirs - books that span the genres between ethnology, erotica
and bildungsroman. Corinne Hofmann's "White Masai" series, which describes
her romantic life with an East African tribesman, has sold millions of
copies. Even given such a standing fascination, there is something
extraordinary about the appeal, over the last half-decade, of
autobiographies by Muslim women who have either triumphed over or been
beaten down by traditionalist understandings of the family. Although Ates's
and Kelek's books stand out, there are literally dozens of other, lesser
books - with titles like "Choking on Your Lies," "No One Asked My
Permission" and so on - covering entire dinner-table-size displays in
Just why Germans are consuming these books in such numbers is unclear. This
has always been a culture with an insatiable interest in other cultures, as
the role of Germans in founding the modern social sciences and the thick
concentration of museums in the center of Berlin both attest. It may also be
that Germans have so deeply internalized the ethics of repentance for World
War II that they lack the confidence, or the inclination, to make sweeping
and critical value judgments about other cultures. They now require
non-Germans or semi-Germans or new Germans to say such things. "I have a
special role in this debate," Kelek says over dinner in the East Berlin
neighborhood where she lives. "It is to say, 'Watch out!' "
Few deny that Kelek has put her finger on a genuine problem. A 2002 Berlin
Senate report (cited in her book) documented hundreds of complaints of
forced marriage. But there is controversy over what "forced" means. In
Turkish culture, people tend to discuss liberty in terms of the family
rather than in terms of the individual. If you look at things this way, then
Turkish-style betrothals are just the kind of consultation you would expect
in a close family. After all, they don't involve matchmakers or
extrafamilial institutions. But if you consider individuals first, as
Germans tend to, the intense involvement of parents in the child's marriage
decision looks like a severe constraint on personal freedom - particularly
in a structure as patriarchal as the traditional Turkish family. Kelek
embraces this German way of looking at things. "For me there is no essential
difference between arranged marriage and forced marriage," she writes. "The
outcome is the same."
Many Turks call this a simplistic view. It blurs the distinction between
parental persuasion and heartless coercion, they say. Almost all Turks would
grant that, at some point, threats of ostracism or violence would constitute
unacceptable force. But Kelek, who is a staunch, and to some ears strident,
defender of European values, is impatient with what she sees as
multiculturalist cant. (She is given to tossing off remarks like "Europeans
built America, not Indians," as she did over dinner in Berlin last winter.)
Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Netherlands, Kelek has been accused of
"Enlightenment fundamentalism," a tendency to defend secular values too
dogmatically. Last year, a group of 60 "migration researchers" wrote an open
letter to the weekly paper Die Zeit attacking Kelek's writing as
"unserious" - an odd criticism to level at a memoirist, even one trained in
sociology. Others say she has made Islam too central to her explanation of
violence against women.
Marriage among Turks has become a cause célÃ¨bre partly because of Turks'
resistance to German ways. But Turks' acceptance of German ways,
particularly by this first generation of Turkish-German feminist writers and
intellectuals, plays a role too. "I think a lot of Germans are positively
embarrassed by how patriotic these women are," writes Jorg Lau, an admirer
of both Kelek and Ates who often writes about Muslim issues for Die Zeit.
For the first time, negative verdicts on the Turkish model of relations
between the sexes are coming out of the Turkish community itself.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 25, 2007, 03:02:39 AM
By HUSAIN HAQQANI
October 25, 2007; Page A23
After more than a decade in exile, Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister of Pakistan, returned home to Karachi last week to throngs of cheering supporters. Her triumphal arrival was marred by a terrorist bombing that killed more than 130 people, and underscored this fact: Terrorism is a threat to Pakistan and its people, and not merely a response to the foreign policy of a distant superpower.
For too many Pakistanis, this is a hard fact to accept. Many seem to believe that the war on terrorism is America's war and that if it did not stand with the U.S., then Pakistan would be safe from attack. This is not true. Pakistan has been a terrorist target since the 1980s, when its security services got involved in proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
A compilation of published figures shows the trends. In 2006, 1,471 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Of these, 608 were civilians, 325 were security personnel and 538 were terrorists. That's an increase over 2005, when the number of fatalities was much lower: 430 civilians, 137 terrorists and 81 security personnel.
This year terrorists stepped up their attacks even before Ms. Bhutto's return. In the first 10 months of the year, a reported 2,037 people were killed. The number of suicide bombings in Pakistan is also up compared to previous years.
Pakistan clearly has a terrorist problem and needs to fight the organizations that carry out these attacks for the sake of its own people.
The willingness of the United States to provide economic and military aid for fighting terrorism is incidental. Those who punish men for not growing a beard, or who wish to subjugate women, or who behead human beings like animals are not open to persuasion. They will not stop if Pakistan were to distance itself from the U.S.
The attack against Ms. Bhutto reflects a deep-seated anger among global jihadis who shake at the thought of a woman leading the world's only nuclear-armed, majority-Muslim country. It's not the first time this anger has been directed at Ms. Bhutto. When she was elected prime minister for the first time in 1988, fatwas were issued by radical clerics condemning her and the decision to elect her. Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 attack on New York's World Trade Center, has also admitted to plotting an attack on Ms. Bhutto in 1989.
Ms. Bhutto is clearly a brave and courageous woman who cannot and will not be deterred easily by either the threats of terrorists, or the machinations of those within Pakistan's covert security services who have consistently conspired against her. Even after the attacks, Ms. Bhutto did not change her stance against terror, nor did she back away from her demand for restoration of democracy and free and fair elections.
Ms. Bhutto's suspicion is that certain elements within Pakistan's ruling establishment might be behind the bid to kill her. These fears should not be disregarded, even though it is difficult for Gen. Pervez Musharraf to accept that some of his close friends and associates may be complicit or tolerant of mass murder. Ms. Bhutto's fears come from almost two decades of being hounded by jihadis and their allies in Pakistan's security establishment. It's crucial for Pakistan to address her concerns.
Mr. Musharraf needs to open his heart to genuine democracy. And that must include listening to the complaints lodged by the people's representatives against his friends and allies in the establishment. In any case, Mr. Musharraf has wasted six critical years in the war against terrorism by failing to purge the government and intelligence services of hard-liners who supported jihadis in the past, and who have maneuvered behind the scenes to stop true democrats from gaining power.
The massive demonstration of support for Ms. Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party last Thursday confirms that her popularity remains undiminished by the political developments of the past two decades.
Before Ms. Bhutto's return, the conventional wisdom offered by many pundits and some politicians was this: Ms. Bhutto is seen to be too pro-American and too pro-Musharraf to be popular in Pakistan. But neither of these suggestions, nor the charges of corruption and misrule that have been repeatedly lodged against her over the past 19 years, seemed to carry much weight with the millions of people enthused about Ms. Bhutto's return.
From America's point of view, the good news is that the people who were cheering in the streets of Pakistan for Ms. Bhutto will likely cheer against terrorism under a government run by her. Pakistan's war against terrorism will likely make better progress with the support of the people than it has in recent years under an embattled military dictator.
Mr. Haqqani is director of Boston University's Center for International Relations and author of "Pakistan Between Mosque and Military" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005). He has also served as an adviser to several Pakistani prime ministers, including Ms. Bhutto.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: October 25, 2007, 02:54:38 AM
Oh, the Humanity!
A report from the Integrated Regional Information Networks of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs brings what sounds like good news from Baghdad:
Iraqis are breathing a sigh of relief as violence in their war-torn country is ebbing and the number of violence-related victims has dropped sharply since the beginning of this year, according to statistics compiled by the country's interior, defence and health ministries.
"Violence-related deaths in September dropped remarkably to levels not seen in more than a year as the number [of violence-related deaths] stood at 290 while in September 2006 the number was about 1,400," Adel Muhsin, the health ministry's inspector-general, told IRIN in a phone interview.
But relief from violence is not without cost, IRIN notes:
Taxi driver Ahmed Khalil Baqir used to station himself outside Baghdad's main morgue, waiting for grieving families who went there to claim their relatives' dead bodies.
"I was totally dependent on them for my living," Baqir, a 44-year-old father of four, said." I never thought about picking up people in the street as I was being hired five to eight times a day by these families. But now it is a waste of time to wait there and these days I wait only for about three hours in the morning and I continue my work picking up passengers in the street."
And to make matters worse, he has to face competition from all those out-of-work hearse drivers.
From NBC News:
In a development experts call a significant shift, Iraqi insurgent groups are speaking out against al-Qaida and its brutally violent tactics.
Last week, two groups, Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya (aka "the Iraqi Jihad Union") and a splinter faction of the 1920 Revolution Brigades called "Hamas in Iraq" issued statements accusing al-Qaida's Iraq wing, al-Qaida in Iraq, of brutally killing their fighters and commanders, as well as women and children.
We'd love to see what the New York Times's editors would do to that second paragraph.
It's About the Children!