Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: World Trade Center Tower 7
on: June 09, 2007, 08:51:45 AM
Dog Brian approached me privately with some of his ideas before starting to post here. I told him I found some of them quite fringe (and still do!
) but decided to clear him to post them. I forget the actual words or who said it, but the gist of what one of the Founding Fathers said when explaining the free speech of the First Amendment was that the solution for wrong speech was right speech. Sure we're private sector here, but the principal is the same.
Apparently a lot of people are entertaining strange notions like these, so before they become part of American folklore, its time to shine the light of logic and truth on them. And who knows, we may learn a thing or two from Dog Brian as well-- for example one of the URLs he posted seemed from a reliable site and was an interesting review of a book about the CIA intervention in Iran at the time of the Arbenz regime in 1953-54. I didn't agree with everything it said, but it was well worth the time to read.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt with Chris Wallace
on: June 09, 2007, 01:32:39 AM
Fundamental Change Needed in Washington
Fox News Sunday
Fox News Transcripts June 3 2007
Chris Wallace Newt Gingrich
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Well, joining us now, someone who's always interesting and often controversial. But these days, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is directing his fire not at Democrats but at problems within his own Republican Party.
Mr. Speaker, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's good to be with you.
WALLACE: Let's start with your interview in The New Yorker magazine this week. And I want to quote from it at length. Let's put it up. "Newt Gingrich is one of those who fear that Republicans have been branded with the label of incompetence. He says that the Bush administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter presidency when nothing seemed to go right."
And later, there's this. "Not since Watergate," Gingrich said, "has the Republican Party been in such desperate shape. Let me be clear: 28 percent approval of the president, losing every closely contested Senate seat except one, every one that involved an incumbent -- that's a collapse."
Jimmy Carter? Watergate? Collapse? Are things really that bad?
GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, nothing that I said in The New Yorker disagrees with things I said as early as December of '03 when I talked about having gone off the cliff in Iraq, things I said all through '04 in trying to get the Bush campaign team to shift from attacking Kerry personally to forcing a genuine choice over values and policies, to concerns I raised in December of '04, January and February of '05, about how they were approaching Social Security reform, through what happened at Katrina.
I mean, so what I said in The New Yorker may be compressed, but in fact, it is things that for the last three years I've talked -- I've warned all last year that I suspected we were drifting into a catastrophic defeat. I don't see any other way to read '06 except it was a defeat.
And if we don't have a serious, open discussion of where we are, I don't see how we're going to change.
Just take this week. An American with tuberculosis shows up at the border. We're in the middle of a debate over immigration and controlling the border. He shows up at the border. The computer says do not let him enter and only deal with him in a hazardous suit.
And the border patrol currently is so ill-trained, or the immigration service is so ill-trained, that the guy lets him in -- looks at him with his eyeballs and says, "you know, I don't think he looks sick," and lets him in.
You learn that there are three illegal terrorists in New Jersey who were in the U.S. for 23 years illegally, intercepted by the police 75 times in the last six years, and it was never indicated that they were here illegally.
You go through this list. You say to yourself this government -- I mean, not just the president. This is not about the presidency. The government is not functioning. It's not getting the job done.
WALLACE: But you compare George W. Bush to Jimmy Carter, which, as you well know, is fighting words among Republicans.
GINGRICH: Look, the functional effect in public opinion is about the same. Now, Republicans need to confront this reality.
If you were at 28 percent, 29 percent, 30 percent approval, and if things aren't working, and now you have a fight which splits your own party -- and this immigration fight goes to the core of where we are. If you read Peggy Noonan's column last Friday, which was devastating -- and I think it resonates with where the base of this party is right now. The base of this party is looking up going, "What are we in the middle of -- why are we ramming through an omnibus Teddy Kennedy bill, and attacking Republicans who criticize it, and calling us," for example, as one senator did, "bigots, when all we're saying is this government couldn't possibly implement this bill?"
There's no evidence at all that this government is capable of executing this.
WALLACE: We're going to get to immigration in a second. But White House spokesman Tony Snow pushed back at your comments this week.
WALLACE: And let's take a look at them. Here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When it comes to presidential politics, you know that the first rule is if you're running even in your own party, the first thing you do is you try to differentiate your product, and you always use the president as somebody that you're sort of measuring yourself against.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: He says you're trying to carve out a place in the Republican debate by knocking the president.
GINGRICH: Look, Tony Snow is a great friend, and I admire him a great deal, and it's a nice try. In 1988, no one running for president on the Republican nomination tried to differentiate themselves from Ronald Reagan.
There's a lesson there. Ronald Reagan was enormously popular. The fact is that -- forget presidential politics. We as a country over the next 1.5 years half have to do dramatically better.
You just had a report from Iraq that's very sobering. You have a comment from General Sanchez that should alarm every American. You have the report today of the terrorists being picked up in New York who were trying to blow up the jet fuel.
And by the way, one of those terrorists was picked up on the way to Iran for a conference on Islamic behavior around the world.
WALLACE: Basically, what do you think is wrong with George W. Bush?
GINGRICH: Look, I think that he means very, very well. I think he's very, very sincere. But I don't think that he drives implementation and looks at the reality in which he's trying to implement things. And I think that's why you ended up with, "Brownie, you're doing a great job," when it was obvious to the entire country at Katrina that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had collapsed and was not capable of doing any job at that point.
And I think as a result, the administration has very, very high goals -- Democracy throughout the Middle East -- and very weak bureaucratic support for those goals, and the result is an enormous mismatch in just sheer implementation.
And this is, in the end, a practical country. Americans want their government to work.
WALLACE: You say that this president doesn't solve anything.
GINGRICH: He doesn't methodically insist on changing things. I mean, again, take the example last week. If somebody with tuberculosis, who is actually in the computer system, can't be stopped at the border; if you have three terrorists in New Jersey who have been here illegally for 23 years -- and the Senate, by the way, voted to sanction cities and counties not asking if you're illegal, an amendment to this -- what I think is an absolute disaster of immigration legislation -- you have to look at that and say, "We're not serious."
I just did, as you know, a novel on the second world war. I was out recently at Pearl Harbor and looking at the Missouri and looking at the Arizona, and they're sitting right next to each other. And the Missouri was our answer to Pearl Harbor.
We built an entire navy. We built an entire air force. We created the atomic bomb. We mobilized 16.5 million people in uniform. We won the entire war in less than four years.
Now, you look at the ruthlessness, the aggressiveness, the energy that we put into that war, and here we are 5.5 years after 9/11, and the fact is I would argue we're losing the war around the world with Islamist extremists and they are, in fact, gaining ground.
WALLACE: Let's talk about what may be the biggest problem that conservatives have right now with President Bush, and that is his support for comprehensive immigration reform.
Mr. Bush said this week that critics like yourself on the right are misrepresenting the plan. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, "The bill is an amnesty bill." It's not an amnesty bill. That's empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our fellow citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Empty rhetoric trying to frighten the American people. Your response?
GINGRICH: Well, the bill explicitly grandfathers in somewhere between 10 million and 20 million people. We don't know the number because the government has no idea how many there are -- again, an example of incompetence.
The government doesn't know within a million how many people will be grandfathered in.
They're all, in effect, made permanent temporary workers the day the bill is signed. They have to go through one day of filling out a form. There is zero possibility the federal government will be able to process those forms.
And it's simply, I think, disingenuous. I'm assuming that the president and his staff understand what this bill does. And if they do, what the president said is disingenuous.
This bill, in effect, grandfathers somewhere between 12 million and 20 million people. We don't know who they are. It would have grandfathered the three terrorists in New Jersey.
WALLACE: But some conservatives say, "You know, there's a lot to like in this bill." There is tougher border enforcement in the bill. Let me just ask the question. There is tougher border enforcement in the bill -- that it creates a temporary guest worker program, that it puts an end to the chain migration of families in.
Isn't a bill with those features better than no bill at all?
GINGRICH: No, because this bill creates a brand new system that gives between 10 million and 20 million people guaranteed access to the United States without any recourse.
I was in Dallas doing a book signing two weeks ago, and a federal prosecutor walked up to me, career bureaucrat, civil servant, not a political appointee, and said to me, with anger, the most effective tool they have in dealing with illegal gang members is deportation.
This bill would, in effect, guarantee 30,000 illegal gang members that they can stay in the U.S. by the following. You sign a paper that says I promise not to be in the gang anymore. Now, that is so out of touch with reality.
WALLACE: But the Bush administration -- and I know Commerce Secretary Gutierrez has said this, "Look, we're not going to deport 12 million to 20 million people."
WALLACE: Let me finish. It isn't going to happen. And so as a result, if you do nothing, if you stay with the system you have now, the 12 million people are going to stay here, and what you have is amnesty. It's just silent amnesty.
GINGRICH: Yes, but what they're saying, in effect, is we either have to do nothing or we have to do something fairly dumb.
Now, why can't we do a series of small, smart steps? Why couldn't they -- I'll give you another example. Democratic Governor Napolitano of Arizona wrote a column this week pointing out that they are cutting the number of National Guard supporting the border before they have actually met their goals at the border.
So the average American looks up and says, "Why can't you control the border tomorrow morning? Why can't you enforce the law?" I mean, you don't have to deport anybody. All you have to say is to American businesses, who are American citizens, "Obey American law or face economic penalties."
Now, the morning you do that, you begin to dry up the market for hiring people illegally.
Why couldn't you make sure that there was a fairly easy way to verify somebody was legally here so that, as rapidly as you do with an automatic teller machine with your credit card, you're able to know that you're hiring somebody legally?
Those things drive people -- you don't have to deport anybody. All you have to do is make it dramatically harder to get in the U.S. and dramatically harder to hire people illegally.
WALLACE: Let's turn to 2008. You suggest that the only way that a Republican in this current political climate is going to win the presidency is to run against President Bush the same way that Nicolas Sarkozy was just elected president of France running against the incumbent, Jacques Chirac, even though he was a member of Chirac's cabinet.
Do you really think the Republicans will nominate someone who is running against George W. Bush?
GINGRICH: No, I don't think you need to run -- in fact, I don't think you should run against President Bush. I think most of his major decisions have been very sincere, and most of them are decisions the average American actually would endorse.
I think what you do have to do is run in favor of radically changing Washington and radically changing government. And I think that all you have to do is look at the examples I've given you today where the government simply fails.
Look at New Orleans today and you can't possibly believe this is an effective federal program. And so I think...
WALLACE: But if you're not running against the president, you're certainly running against his record.
GINGRICH: Well, what Sarkozy said was that without -- he never attacked President Chirac. He never took him on at all. He said simply, "We have to have dramatically bigger changes."
I think the average American will tell you they want Washington changed very dramatically, and that doesn't always involve the president.
Eighty-two percent of the country believes we ought to have a dramatic change in earmarks in the Congress, for example. And I think 85 percent of the country believes English ought to be the official language of government. Those are not necessarily involving President Bush.
WALLACE: We've got a couple of minutes left. Fred Thompson all but announced this week that he is running for president. Are you satisfied with his credentials? Does the Republican field now have a true conservative?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, there are several candidates who each bring their own unique strengths to this, and in terms of offering a very bold, dramatic vision, Governor Romney would be capable of it. I think Mayor Giuliani would be capable of it. I think Fred Thompson will be capable of it.
These are solid people. And over the next three months or four months, we'll see what they do. My entire focus -- despite Tony Snow's comment, my entire focus is on creating a solutions day on September 27th.
I'm going to be giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday outlining the scale of change I'm describing. It is not pro- or anti-Bush. It is beyond the current presidency.
And it argues that in order for us to be effective, in order for us to apply the World War II standard of effectiveness, we have to have very relentless, dramatic change in American government.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, because the question a lot of people are asking is, "Is there still room for Newt Gingrich in the race?" You have been dropping a lot of hints recently, and let's put them up on the screen.
Two weeks ago, you said, "It is a great possibility" that you'll run. Then a few days ago, you said, "I'll probably end up running."
Mr. Speaker, it sure sounds like you want to get in this race.
GINGRICH: Well, I think when you see that there's nobody yet -- and we're giving all of our material from American Solutions to every candidate in both parties.
But when you look at -- for example, all the Democrats' proposals on health care sadly represent more big government, more bureaucracy, more Washington controls, which is a denial of the whole underlying reality of...
WALLACE: Right. I wouldn't expect the Democrats to adopt your strategy, but how about the Republicans?
GINGRICH: I would have to say that you have to look -- and I'm waiting -- I mean, I'm not out here trying to crowd anybody on anything. I'm simply suggesting we need to have some very bold proposals for fundamental change, and so far I don't see much of that.
I see some encouraging signs, but I think the key question is, is somebody prepared to stand up and say that the American people deserve fundamental change in Washington, and to outline a set of those fundamental changes that are big enough that people look up and say, "That's what I want."
WALLACE: And if you don't see that, you're getting in?
GINGRICH: I think after September 29th -- we're going to have two days of workshops on September 27th on the Internet and again on September 29th, available to anybody in the country, Democrat, Republican, independent.
After those two days of solutions-oriented approach, I'll start looking at it, you know, on September 30th.
WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, come on back and tell us what you decide.
GINGRICH: All right.
WALLACE: Thank you, as always, for coming in.
And we also want to note that you have a new book out, which you mentioned -- you can see it up there on the screen -- called "Pearl Harbor", a historical novel. And good luck with that, sir.
GINGRICH: Thank you.http://www.newt.org/backpage.asp?art=4527
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks
on: June 09, 2007, 01:05:29 AM
I have followed David Gordon's decision to exit from ISIS for now at about a 10% loss. DG feels that it looks to be going down a bit further and, assuming the story, fundamentals remain as they are, will re-enter at that time.
MVIS is now a triple for me
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines
on: June 09, 2007, 01:02:55 AM
Black Commonwealth's Attorney, who blocked execution of search warrant obtained by Sheriff's Office, playing the race card because his effort to protect Michael Vick got bitch slapped by the Feds.
Feds use warrant, search Vick's property
Posted: 11 hours ago
SURRY, Va. (AP) - Federal law enforcement officials descended on a home owned by Michael Vick on Thursday armed with a search warrant that suggests they're taking over an investigation into the Falcons quarterback's possible involvement in dogfighting.
More than a dozen vehicles went to the home early in the afternoon and investigators searched inside before turning their attention to the area where officials found dozens of dogs in late April and evidence that suggested the home was involved in a dogfighting operation.
Surry County officials had secured a search warrant in late May based on an informant's information to look for as many as 30 dog carcasses buried on the property. The warrant never was executed because Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald G. Poindexter said he had issues with the way it was worded.
That search warrant expired Thursday.
"What is foreign to me is the federal government getting into a dogfighting case," Poindexter said. "I know it's been done, but what's driving this? Is it this boy's celebrity? Would they have done this if it wasn't Michael Vick?"
Poindexter said he was "absolutely floored" that federal officials got involved, and that he believes he and Sheriff Harold D. Brown handled the investigation properly.
"Apparently these people want it," Poindexter said. "They want it, and I don't believe they want it because of the serious criminal consequences involved. ... They want it because Michael Vick may be involved."
Poindexter said he found out about a sealed search warrant filed in the U.S. Attorney's office about the time federal investigators executed it Thursday.
"If they've made a judgment that we're not acting prudently and with dispatch based on what we have, they've not acting very wisely," Poindexter said.
He said Surry County officials were preparing another search warrant for the property and that the investigative team planned to meet to make sure they had all the experts needed to make the search most effective.
"There's a larger thing here, and it has nothing to do with any breach of protocol," Poindexter said. "There's something awful going on here. I don't know if it's racial. I don't know what it is."
State police assisted investigators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Attorney's office in executing the warrant, Virginia State Police Sgt. D.S. Carr said, declining to comment further.
Thursday evening, a state police evidence collection truck was parked inside the fence surrounding the house. Investigators could be seen carrying a large sheet of plywood and a box.
The U.S. Attorney's office would not confirm a search warrant was filed.
Messages left at Brown's office were not returned, and a dispatcher said he left for the day at around 4 p.m.
An after-hours call to Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward of Virginia Beach, was not immediately returned.
During an April 25 drug raid on the home Vick owns in the county, authorities seized 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment that suggested someone at the property was involved in a dogfighting operation.
A search warrant affidavit said some of the dogs were in individual kennels and about 30 were tethered with "heavy logging-type chains" buried in the ground. The chains allowed the dogs to get close to each other, but not to have contact, one of myriad findings on the property that suggested a dogfighting operation.
Others included a rape stand, used to hold non-receptive dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified to be used by dogs; a "pry bar" used to open the clamped-down mouths of dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting the authorities believe was used in dog fights. Carpeting gives dogs traction in a plywood fighting pit.
Vick has claimed he rarely visits the home and was unaware it could be involved in a criminal enterprise. He also has blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity. Vick's cousin, Davon Boddie, was living at the home at the time of the raids.
Vick, a registered dog breeder, has said in more recent interviews that his lawyers have advised him not to discuss the investigation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Diyala Province
on: June 09, 2007, 12:58:20 AM
Iraq's Dangerous Diyala Province
Unknown gunmen attacked the home of the police chief in Baqubah, Iraq, on June 8, killing the man's wife and 11 guards, and kidnapping three of his grown children. The chief, Col. Ali Dilayan al-Jorani, was not at home at the time of the attack.
Diyala province, the capital of which is Baqubah, is now the site of some of the worst violence in Iraq, in part because the foreign jihadists and the Sunnis have turned on one another there. However, the fighting, which pits the jihadists against Sunni tribes and Sunni nationalist militants, also is going on in the other central Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Babil, as well as in the country's capital, Baghdad. Meanwhile, the other conflicts that have been raging for years -- between coalition forces and jihadists, Shia and jihadists, and Sunnis and Shia -- continue unabated. Jihadists also are increasingly attacking Iraqi Kurds in the North.
Anbar province was once a haven for foreign jihadists and a major point on the so-called "rat line" used by the jihadists to enter Iraq from Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan. Coalition troops, in fact, engaged in frequent pitched battles with insurgents in Anbar's cites of Al Fallujah and Ar Ramadi, though they failed to permanently drive out the jihadists. Around October 2005, however, the Sunni tribes in Anbar turned on the jihadists, and the fighting between the two groups is now in full swing. The jihadists have struck back by attacking the tribes with suicide bombs, truck bombs and bombs laced with chlorine in an effort to coerce the tribes to fall back in line.
It does not appear to be working.
U.S. forces, however, enlisted the support of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar, as well as leaders who have sought refuge in Jordan and Syria but retain influence at home. This has led to a major reduction in the number of foreign jihadists in Anbar. The tribal leaders started coming on board after the jihadists began attacking their tribes and disrespecting their culture in an effort to coerce them to cooperate. Once the tribal leaders started to ally themselves with U.S. and Iraqi security forces, young tribesmen joined the Iraqi army, police and provincial security units (PSU) that patrol the province. These recruits have been critical to the coalition's success in Anbar. The tribesmen in the PSUs have been especially vital to this effort because they know who belongs and who does not, leaving the jihadists with little sanctuary.
The situation in Anbar in recent months, along with the surge in U.S. security operations in Baghdad, has compelled the jihadists to regroup in Diyala province, where they historically have had some level of influence. In fact, slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was seeking refuge in Diyala when he was betrayed by Sunni tribes.
The situation in Diyala, however, differs from that in Anbar as regards the number of actors involved. In Diyala, the jihadists are encountering the Sunni nationalist militias, Sunni tribes (though the tribes are not as fully engaged as in Anbar), Shiite militias and increasing numbers of U.S. troops who are being steadily shifted from other provinces. Also contributing to the level of violence in Diyala are the Kurds, who want the province incorporated into a Kurdish autonomous region; the Iranians just over the border, who are supporting different factions in this fight; and the Shiite-on-Sunni fighting.
As a result of all this, Diyala has seen a significant rise in attacks since February -- and has now become one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq for U.S. and Iraqi troops, their foes and civilians.
Violence also is increasing in Babil province, which lies on a fault line between the Sunni and Shiite areas. Not only has Babil witnessed some of the most devastating attacks against Shiite targets in the war, but the jihadists in Babil also have been fighting Sunni tribes as they try to maintain their position in the province.
This trend of Sunni nationalist-jihadist fighting reflects the growing momentum of political negotiations between Iran, the United States and the various Iraqi factions to reach a political resolution in Iraq. For the Shiite and Sunni factions to get on board with the deal, each side will have to deliver on its end of the bargain. For the Shia, it means reining in the militias -- a process that appears to be under way. For the Sunnis, this means wiping out the jihadists.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America
on: June 09, 2007, 12:55:11 AM
Spain arrests Syrian man for selling arms to FARC
By Michelle Nichols 32 minutes ago
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A suspected Syrian weapons dealer accused of arming militants from Iraq to Nicaragua for decades has been arrested in Spain on U.S. charges of trying to supply Colombian rebels, authorities said on Friday.
The arrest of Monzer al-Kassar "finally brought one of the world's most prolific arms traffickers to justice," U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said.
U.S. authorities were seeking the extradition of Kassar, 61, of Marbella, Spain, and two other men, Tareq Mousa al Ghazi, 60, of Lebanon, and Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, 58, also of Marbella, who were arrested in Romania.
All three are wanted on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
An indictment unsealed in New York on Friday said the men had agreed to provide the weapons for the FARC "to use to protect their cocaine-trafficking business and to attack United States interests in Colombia."
"They knew the weapons they agreed to sell were destined for a terrorist organization. They knew the arms were going to be used to kill Americans," Garcia told a news conference.
Colombia is the world's top producer of cocaine, with most of its crop destined for the United States and Europe.
A longtime Spanish resident known as the "Prince of Marbella" for his opulent lifestyle, Kassar has sold weapons to the Palestinian Liberation Front, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Iraq and Somalia since the 1970s, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid said.
The three are also charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill officers and employees of the United States, conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, and money laundering.
In 1995, Kassar was acquitted by Spain's high court of a charge of piracy in connection with the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro by Palestinian guerrillas.
He was arrested at Madrid airport on Thursday on a U.S. request and appeared before a judge in the capital on Friday.
Prosecutors said Kassar and Ghazi met with two confidential sources working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at Kassar's home in Marbella in February and discussed the sale of weapons to the FARC.
The sources said they represented the FARC and needed the weapons to fight against the United States in Colombia. They requested assault rifles, sniper rifles, Makarov pistols, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenade rounds and hand grenades.
Prosecutors say Kassar told the sources the weapons would cost between 6 million and 8 million euros ($8 million to $10.6 million) and offered to send 1,000 men to fight with the FARC against U.S. military officers.
He also offered to supply the sources "with C4 explosives, detonators, and experts to train the FARC to use them against these United States armed forces," the indictment said.
In March, prosecutors said all three men met again with the sources at Kassar's home where the men allegedly agreed to provide prices for "surface-to-air missile systems for the FARC to use to attack United States helicopters in Colombia."
DEA administrator Karen Tandy told reporters Kassar was a "notorious transnational criminal" whose motivation was "sometimes based on a shared ideology of hatred for America and what we stand for and sometimes purely for greed."
The U.S. government has designated the FARC as a foreign terrorist organization. The rebels have been fighting for socialist revolution since 1964 and have at times run large swathes of Colombia.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario
on: June 09, 2007, 12:54:05 AM
Antes de nada, quiero ofrecerte nuestro bienvenidos a nuestro foro.
No he tenido mucho contacto con Aflonso recientemente. Acabo de mandar por tu parte un email a Alfonso, pero parece que la direcion ya no sirve. Tratare' localizar una manera de ponerme en contacto con el para que el sepa de tu interes.
La Aventura continua,
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: June 09, 2007, 12:18:09 AM
Lamento que otra vez lo siguiente sea en ingles, pero nadie esta' "posting" (?Como se dice "to post"?) en espanol.
In Mexico drug traffickers silence media
Chris Hawley and Sean Holstege
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 8, 2007 12:00 AM
When hand grenades began exploding outside its subsidiary in Sonora state,
the largest newspaper chain in Mexico decided to throw in the towel.
"For the good of all, I recognize the imperative need to make this painful
and difficult decision and announce the temporary closure of the Cambio
Sonora newspaper," Mario Vázquez Raña, president of Organización Editorial
Mexicana, told readers in a letter.
That was two weeks ago. The newspaper has not published since.
Across Mexico, a tide of drug-related violence is silencing journalists, one
of the few institutions that people still trust in this country racked by
police and judicial corruption.
Mexico was the deadliest country for journalists after Iraq in 2006, with
nine dead and three missing, according to the Reporters Without Borders
The numbers of attacks have been rising since 2003, as reporters are
snatched from the street by armed men in SUVs or gunned down as they leave
their offices. Just in the past month, a reporter and cameraman disappeared,
another reporter received death threats and a newspaper office was attacked.
The repression is hampering anti-crime efforts and threatening to destroy
Mexico's free press, which had just begun to flourish after decades of
control by the Mexican government, some journalists say.
"Before, the repression was political. Now, it's coming from organized
crime, and it's targeting the very lives of journalists, " said Adela
Bello, publisher of the Zeta newsmagazine in Tijuana.
In some cases, attackers seem to be punishing reporters for specific
articles identifying drug-smuggling and other suspects. But other attacks,
like the Cambio Sonora grenades, seem to be aimed simply at sowing fear
among the news media, said Reporters Without Borders, which interviewed
reporters for its annual report.
"Journalists on the border were telling us they were afraid to write about
local crimes," said Lucie Morillon, Washington director for the group. "If
you know the mayor or a powerful politician is linked to drug traffickers
and you've just had a baby, you won't write that story."
In drug hotspots, many newspapers no longer write about drug-related crime.
Others bury news of shootouts and murders deep in the newspaper.
Nuevo Laredo's El Mañana newspaper stopped covering drug-related crimes
after a Feb. 6, 2006, attack on its offices with grenades and assault
rifles. Editors now review every crime story to see if it is safe to print,
editor Ricardo Garza said.
At Cambio Sonora, editors had stopped assigning drug-related investigative
articles more than a year ago, editor Roberto Gutiérrez said.
El Imparcial, the most prestigious newspaper in Sonora, cut back on its
drug-crime reporting after one of its reporters, Alfredo Jiménez,
disappeared in 2005. Now, the newspaper won't even talk about the issue.
In the past year, there have been at least 30 attacks, threats or attempts
to silence journalists or their employers, according to an analysis by The
Republic. And the incidents are getting closer to the Arizona border.
On April 16, gunmen killed Saúl Martínez, a reporter for the Interdiario
newspaper in Agua Prieta, just across the border from Douglas. Police said
he may have been involved in drug smuggling, a charge his family fiercely
Also in April, reporters in San Luis Río Colorado, near Yuma, filed a police
complaint alleging that lawyers for an drug-trafficking suspect were
pressuring them to change testimony about the 1997 death of a fellow
The attackers have been picking increasingly high-profile targets.
On April 6, gunmen killed Amado Ramírez, correspondent in Acapulco for
Mexico's No. 1 television network, Televisa. On May 10, they abducted
popular television reporter Gamaliel López Candanosa and his cameraman in
Monterrey, Mexico's third-largest city.
Since 1994, 15 reporters have been confirmed killed because of their work,
according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The only conviction came
12 years ago, and only five cases resulted in arrests.
A main reason is that murder is not a federal offense under Mexican law and
state investigators often lack the tools or desire to hunt down journalists'
When journalist killings began to accelerate last year, the Mexican
government created an Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against
Journalists to handle such cases. But of 152 complaints investigated by the
office, only two have gone to court, special prosecutor Octavio Orellana
told La Jornada newspaper on May 16.
"More than a year has passed with no results. They haven't broken that cycle
of impunity," said Carlos Luria, Americas program coordinator for the
Committee to Protect Journalists.
Setback for democracy
Press watchdog groups say the pressure comes at a critical time, as Mexican
journalists were becoming more independent and aggressive after decades of
Until democratic reforms in the 1990s, Mexican presidents pressured the
media by controlling the flow of government advertising, manipulating unions
allied with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or cutting off
newspapers' paper supply through the state-run newsprint monopoly,
Productora y Importadora de Papel S.A.
Mexicans now trust the mass media more than they trust President Felipe
Calderón, the Supreme Court, the police and nearly every other institution
in Mexico, according to a February poll by the Mitofsky consulting company.
Only universities, the Roman Catholic Church, the army and the National
Commission on Human Rights ranked higher.
Watchdog groups say the attacks on journalists are crippling Calderón's
recent efforts to crack down on drug crime in Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo,
Monterrey, Michoacán state and other hotspots.
Police corruption in these places is rampant, and journalists are often the
only source of solid information about drug lords.
"The drug traffickers are getting rid of people who tell the Mexican people
the truth, who keep them informed." Morillon said.
"You can't solve the drug problem if you don't have the proper information.
Failing to address the drug problem will lead to more violence, she and
"It will be a very unstable situation and very dangerous, "Morillon said.
"It's terrible for Mexican civil society, and that will affect the border
Silencing a giant
The May 24 closure of Cambio Sonora showed that even Mexico's biggest
newspaper chain could be brought to heel, analysts say.
"This goes beyond violence to the press," Lauria said. "It's limiting the
ability of Mexicans to communicate with each other."
Organización Editorial Mexicana, known as OEM, claims to be Latin America's
biggest newspaper chain, with 70 daily papers.
Gannett Co., which owns The Republic, has 102 daily newspapers.OEM also owns
24 radio stations, and Vázquez Raña, the company's president, briefly owned
the U.S. news agency United Press International in the 1980s.
The company's decision to close Cambio Sonora came after grenades exploded
in the newspaper's parking lot on April 17 and May 16.
The second grenade narrowly missed a reporter who was coming out of the
office. That attack came the same day as a confrontation between police and
drug smugglers that killed 23 people in northeastern Sonora.
OEM said it closed the newspaper because the Sonoran authorities ignored the
company's calls to put police around its office and failed to find the
The company said that it did not believe the move showed weakness and hoped
that the closure would force the Sonoran government to take action.
"The very fact that we are such a large and strong chain should prevent
people from seeing this as a sign of weakness," company Vice President
Eduardo Andrade said.
"What we are hoping is that this will make everyone reflect on the
responsibility of the authorities to provide security."
Sonoran Gov. Eduardo Bours said detectives are doing their best to find the
attackers and accused the company of overreacting.
"The two grenades are regrettable, no doubt about it, and I'm not saying
they aren't regrettable, " Bours told reporters at a May 28 news conference.
"But the reaction seems extremely strange to me, to say the least."
Newspaper officials still don't know the motive for the attacks. Cambio
Sonora had not published any investigative articles recently, said
Gutiérrez, the newspaper's editor.
"We don't have the slightest idea what the attacks were about," he told The
Republic shortly before the paper closed.
The newspaper had already taken precautions to protect its reporters after
the disappearance of El Imparcial's Jiménez, he said.
Crime stories ran without bylines, and the newspaper had struck a deal not
to run investigative pieces unless all newspapers in the region published
Andrade said the newspaper's reporters will continue to be paid during the
"It's worrying how they have managed to intimidate these media," said
Navarro, the publisher of Zeta.
"It's getting more serious and more widespread.
"We've lost media in the northwest of the country and some in the center and
others. We're just going to keep doing our job and hope these gloomy
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: World Trade Center Tower 7
on: June 08, 2007, 11:56:04 PM
From the GetofftheX forum:
Sadly, too many in the short time since 9/11 have, in their search for understanding, come to entertain and champion some of the most outlandish, lurid, infantile and offensive hypotheses ever to spread beyond the fevered ramblings of the maniacal. It is understandable for those who can not perceive of just how the physics of the events of 9/11 make sense, those who are ignorant will (more often than not) find the most comfortable perch to look at an event from rather than searching for truth that requires work to understand. We can be smacked in the face by events and instead of understanding the roots, we latch on to an emotion created by that event and blindly move on, learning nothing.
Human nature being what it is, some of these outrageous theories are predictable, but their spread lies not within the proof they say they have but within individual's general mistrust and poor opinion of the current administration and government in general. How do we combat this spreading meme that "9/11 was an inside job!", perhaps by starting with incontrovertible evidence.
A few weeks after 9/11, I had the thought (it seemed a little ghoulish to me at the time, necessary but ghoulish) that we should take all of the media generated that day and the days after by amateurs and pros and government agencies and compile it in DVD form and make it available to the public for the cost of the manufacture and compilation only. At the time I felt that even though I had seen enough of the 9/11 footage to last me till I died, I was afraid that visual evidence of this tragedy would be sanitized by the media for future generations, kind of like they were doing to movies and other things at the times, removing any reference to the WTC or it's image. I suppose my fears of that we wouldn't be allowed as TV viewers to see it ever again were pretty unfounded, but I still believe the idea has merit and today it would be useful as a tool to correct the distortions perpetrated by the ignorant and the deceitful.
With all that said, the intention of this post and future posts in this thread is to lay out the facts of 9/11 in visual format in a way that (hopefully) won't or can't be misconstrued by "Truthers" to advance the inaccuracies they purport to be truth in regards to the events of that day. I will start this post with a bunch of videos I found on YouTube that I had never seen before from 9/11, they offer a number of different views of the attacks and the aftermath, some of which completely blow a number of "Truther" arguments out of the water, but it is a little hard for them to see beyond their own agenda, or even look at the next video in the queue of videos related to the one they just posted. If any of you have additions please post them, but know this, they will be vetted to best of the abilities of those assembled here, which is an incredible array of dudes of who have way too much knowledge and time on their hands not to be able to debunk 99% of the BS floating on the internet concerning 9/11. Every admission will be looked at fairly, and those found wanting will be dumped, simple as that, if you have a problem with that, come into the locker room and bitch at me, and we can argue it there. Hell, I may even let you reiterate your case there, if you can convince me of it's merit. I'm a pussy like that.
So, let the truth begin!
First, let's point you all to THE clearing house for debunking the BS surrounding the WTC.http://www.debunking911.com/
Now, for something that addresses one of the other attacks, this is an excellent amateur explanation of the attack on the Pentagon using data and images available on the web. The most gratifying part is it comes from one of the most unlikely sources, a web site and forum dedicated to UFO discussion and evidence called abovetopsecret. Trust me, this is worth the visit.
Remove the #'s around the link, I don't want this to become a direct link that might lead some of the other less sensible members of that site over here.
And now, several different compilations of video that don't get seen much on TV or anywhere else, for that matter. These are all from YouTube.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fH7c8H6SNwhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_kmfzwc5Pw
Here is an video that expands on part of one of the ones above where they are in the lobby of WTC 1 when 2 collapses, partially trapping them, listen for the sound of the fire extinguisher as they enter and think about what the camera man says he could have filmed as they walked in, but didn't.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfce_C8GzdE&mode=related&search=
This is a little more of that video with stuff cut from the first.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4LHUOPOEv4
Another different collection of the impacts.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_gdCrmbrIg
Here is video from Shanksville after the crash of United 93, the "Truthers" want to use it to show how there is no wreckage, but in fact you can clearly see the area is absolutely littered with debris, but the remains of the plane that you can immediately see are small because the plane was pulverized by it's high speed, high angle of impact with the ground. There were in fact larger pieces of wreckage found but they were scattered over a wide area due to the force of the impact.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZekosYOmXc
I hope some of this helps answer any questions you may have had but didn't want to voice, or helps you "correct" any true believers you might cross paths with. This was a truly unprecedented event in human history, nothing quite like it had ever happened and God willing never again. It makes sense that people can't wrap their brains around it, but approaching six years on, we can not let the their lack of understanding steer public opinion.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology
on: June 08, 2007, 11:53:23 PM
"drivers can download multimedia — including movies, images and songs"
Ummm, , , , Call me old-fashioned, I'd rather they watch the road than a movie.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Celebrities - Paris
on: June 08, 2007, 11:47:43 PM
I was tempted to delete this thread when it was first posted, but left it to see what would develop.
I certainly agree about the ratings sluts that most news organizations have become; indeed I go further in that I get irked by the crime as soap opera stories too
At this point I suppose there is a legitimate curiousity as to whether this vapid little , , , , was able to game her way out of prison with the system's wink and a nod, but overall for me its one giant OY VEY.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 08, 2007, 12:40:45 PM
I'm not familiar with the argument about the citizenship vel non of those born to illegal aliens.
Immigration, Part 2: “Subject to the jurisdiction thereof”?
Would it surprise you to know that more than 20 percent of children born in the United States are born to illegal aliens? As recently as 2002, that figure was 23 percent. Currently, all those children enjoy birthright citizenship and all its favors, despite the fact that there are legitimate questions about the constitutionality of such a right.
More on that in a minute.
Thursday morning, Demo Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempted to rally a test vote on the so-called “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007,” but Republicans and a handful of Democrats refused to end debate on the legislation. Reid failed to muster the 60 votes necessary for cloture by a wide margin—only 32 Democrats and one Independent voted to close the debate. Thursday afternoon, Reid called again for a vote to end debate and move the legislation to the floor, but strike two. Rather than risk a third strike, Reid pulled the legislation—and it may not be back this year.
In other words, the Senate is a long way from passing an immigration bill of its own, much less coming up with something that can get through the House. Indeed, that’s the good news.
As I outlined in Part One of this series on immigration, the debate is nothing more than political pandering to 12 percent of the electorate—Latino voters—unless it begins with a commitment to secure our southern border and coastlines. As Ronald Reagan declared, “A nation without borders is not a nation.”
Only after the establishment of functional border security can a legitimate immigration debate take place.
At that point, immigration legislation must authorize and fund these priorities: enforcement of current immigration laws; immediate detention and deportation of those crossing our borders illegally; deportation of any foreign national convicted of a serious crime or seditious activity; a guest-worker program (with reliable documentation as a prerequisite) to meet the current demand for both skilled and unskilled labor; penalties against employers who hire illegal aliens; no extension of blanket amnesty or fast-track citizenship (new citizenship applicants go to the back of the line); the preservation and provision of tax-subsidized medical, educational and social services for American citizens and immigrants here legally; and the Americanization of new legal immigrants, including an end to bilingual education and a national mandate for English as our nation’s official language.
Currently, there are deportation orders for more than 600,000 illegal aliens, but virtually no funding or effort to enforce these orders. And while there are substantial penalties for hiring illegal immigrants, there is no funding or effort to enforce these laws, either.
Question: If there is no comprehensive effort to secure our borders and enforce existing immigration laws, what difference would any new legislation make, other than to shore up Latino voter constituencies?
While the swamp rats are sorting out that question, hundreds of thousands of immigrants are birthing children in the U.S. (more than three million at last count). It is assumed that they have a constitutional birthright to citizenship. As such, those children, and their attendant families, are served up a plethora of social services at taxpayer expense. They are also the anchors for a chain of migration because upon reaching age 21, the children of illegal immigrants can petition to have citizenship extended to the entire family.
But does the Constitution authorize birthright citizenship to illegal aliens?
The relevant constitutional clause concerning birthright is found in the 14th Amendment, one of three “reconstruction amendments” proposed after the War Between the States. The 13th Amendment banned slavery, the 14th ensured Due Process and Equal Protection under the law for former slaves and their children, and the 15th banned race-based qualification for voting rights.
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (as proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868) reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” It explicitly referred to children born to U.S. citizens and those born to aliens lawfully in the U.S.
Why did the amendment’s sponsors insist on adding, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof”?
For insight, consider the words of Sen. Jacob Howard, co-author of the amendment’s citizenship clause. In 1866, he wrote that the amendment “will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, or who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States...”
By extension, then, it is fair to conclude that, in addition to the children of those legally in the U.S. under the above exclusion, this would apply to the children of those illegally in the U.S. —until the Supreme Court took up the question of the rights of illegal aliens to taxpayer services in 1982. In Plyler v. Doe, the judicial activists concluded that “no plausible distinction with respect to Fourteenth Amendment ‘jurisdiction’ can be drawn between resident aliens whose entry into the United States was lawful, and resident aliens whose entry was unlawful.”
But Plyler v. Doe is historically and legally inaccurate. In the context of original intent, children born to those who have entered the U.S. illegally—those who are not citizens—are not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” One would hope, in the course of the current debate about immigration, that Congress and the courts would actually pay homage to the plain language of our Constitution.
Not much chance of that, though, especially when it’s not politically expedient.
Meanwhile, 12-20 million illegal aliens in the U.S. have hundreds of thousands of children, who are extended birthright citizenship—at an annual cost to taxpayers of between six and ten billion dollars.
On top of that, the “economic benefit” argument for “guest workers” is suffering a significant trade deficit. On average, the households of illegal aliens are paying about $9,000 in various taxes, and receiving about $30,000 in benefits—direct benefits, social services, public services and population based services like education.
Quote of the week
“In 1970, six percent of all births in the United States were to illegal aliens. In 2002, that figure was 23 percent. In 1994, 36 percent of the births paid for by Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid, were to illegals. That figure has doubtless increased in the intervening 12 years as the rate of illegal immigration has risen.” —Mona Charen
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: June 08, 2007, 11:41:59 AM
The Road to Reformation
By Fareed Zakaria
For those in the west asking when Islam will have its Reformation, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the process appears to have begun. The bad news is it's been marked by calumny, hatred and bloody violence. In this way it mirrors the Reformation itself, which we now remember in a highly sanitized way. During that era, Christians of differing sects massacred each other as they fought to own the true interpretation of their religion. No analogy is exact, but something similar seems to be happening within Islam. Here the divide is between the Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of the Muslim world, and the Shiites, who represent most of the other 15 percent.
The dominant new reality in the Middle East today is the growing schism between these two groups. Look at the daily sectarian killings in Iraq, listen to the dark warnings of Saudi and Jordanian leaders about a "Shia crescent," watch the power struggles in Lebanon. Islam's quiet cleavage has come out into the open. At a recent demonstration in the Palestinian territories, opponents of Hamas taunted the Sunni Islamists as "Shiites" because of their links to Iranian-backed Hizbullah.
We in the United States have spent much time asking what all this means for Iraq, for U.S. troops in the midst of this free-for-all and for America more generally. But think, for a moment, about what the trend means for Al Qaeda.
Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, both Sunnis, created Al Qaeda to be a Pan-Islamic organization, uniting all Muslims as it battled the West, Israel and Western-allied regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Neither Zawahiri nor bin Laden was animated by hatred of Shiites. In its original fatwas and other statements, Al Qaeda makes no mention of them, condemning only the "Crusaders" and "Jews." But all ideologies change as they encounter reality. When bin Laden moved to Peshawar in the 1980s to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, he allied with radical Sunnis who had a long history of oppressing Afghanistan's Shiite minority, the Hazaras. (The novel "The Kite Runner" is about a young Hazara boy.) Even then, bin Laden didn't sanction anti-Shiite violence, nor did he add anti-Shiite accusations to his messages. But after the Sunni Taliban took power, Arab fighters under his command did support his hosts' anti-Shiite pogroms.
Iraq was the real turning point. The self-appointed leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, had a poisonous attitude toward Shiites. In a letter to bin Laden, written in February 2004, he described Iraq's Shiite majority as "the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy ... The danger from the Shia ... is greater ... than the Americans ... I come back and again say that the only solution is for us to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shia with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis." Zarqawi was drawing on Wahhabi Islam-and its offshoot Deobandism in South Asia-in which there is a deep and oppressive strain of anti-Shiite ideology.
Bin Laden and Zawahiri were clearly uncomfortable with this new line, and the latter reproached Zarqawi directly. Bin Laden remained largely silent on the matter, but by the end of 2004, both had decided that Al Qaeda in Iraq was too strong to rebuke. And, rousing anti-Shiite feelings seemed the only way to mobilize Iraq's Sunni minority. It also, crucially, made them see Al Qaeda as an ally. The trouble for Al Qaeda is that as a practical matter, loathing Shiites works in only a few places: principally Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some parts of the gulf. Most of the rest of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are turned off by attacks on their co-religionists.
So, an organization that had hoped to rally the entire Muslim world to jihad against the West has been dragged instead into a dirty internal war within Islam. Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination. This necessarily limits Al Qaeda's broader appeal and complicates its basic anti-Western strategy.
These emerging divisions weaken Al Qaeda, but they will help most Muslims only if this story ends as the Reformation did. What is currently a war of sects must become a war of ideas. First, Islam must make space for differing views about what makes a good Muslim. Then it will be able to take the next step and accept the diversity among religions, each true in its own way.
The United States should avoid taking sides in this sectarian struggle and aim instead to move the debate to this broader plain. We should encourage the diversity within Islam, which has the potential to divide our enemies. But more important, we should encourage the emerging debate within it. In the end it was not murder but Martin Luther that made the Reformation matter.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: June 08, 2007, 10:42:00 AM
Good research skills to find such an on-point piece GM.
Not to interrupt the flow between you and Brian, but a moment's tangent on Lyndon LaRouche:
A child of the political turmoil of the late 60s, I remember LaRouche, described in the article in your post as "a right wing extremist", as being part of the Trostky-ite Progressive Labor Party. (I'm much less certain of my memory when I say I also remember him/his organization being in serious criminal legal trouble for fund-raising that basically came down to stealing from widows and orphans e.g. getting credit card information from old people, then running up their cards with donations to LaR and his movement).
From time to time one sees a table of his people hawking his writings and EIR-- which is a weird publication indeed. To call it "Right Wing" slanders those of us who believe in free minds and free markets-- "fascism off its medications" I think would be closer.
I've never, ever run across anyone who supports LaR. The people manning these tables are some real drones. Very disciplined, very relentless, and very angry-- especially when they run into someone well enough informed to call them on lies stated as facts. This is something I do with good manners and good cheer, yet more than once I have felt an effort on their part to intimidate me.
Who are these people? How do they make their money? Where does LaR get his money?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: June 08, 2007, 09:33:17 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Understanding Putin's Missile-Defense Offer
Russia and the United States have had some tense exchanges this week regarding a U.S. plan to create a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system based in Central Europe -- with Russian President Vladimir Putin at one point even threatening to point missiles at Europe if such a system were built. But on Thursday, Putin offered U.S. President George W. Bush what, on the surface, would appear to be a mutually beneficial alternative: Moscow and Washington could cooperate on the project, but base it in Azerbaijan instead.
The U.S. plan -- to construct BMD facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to defend against a potential Iranian missile strike -- has run into many complications. Within NATO there are concerns that the system will not protect all of Europe, and that it unnecessarily provokes the Russians. Moscow, meanwhile, certainly does not want any system in Europe that at all impedes delivery of its own nuclear deterrent, even obliquely.
At first glance, a system based in Azerbaijan would appear to remove all of these problems. Its location on Iran's northern border would enable earlier warning of launches, and would provide a bigger arc of protection that could shield all of Europe and most of Russia. And, since Azerbaijan is not located between Russia and the West, such a system would not threaten the Russian deterrent.
Sounds like a great deal, right?
That's what we thought until we took a closer look at U.S. BMD technology.
The U.S. missile-defense system uses specially equipped ground-based radar stations to identify a missile launch, track it and coordinate an intercept. Getting an interceptor to the target takes time, so the sooner a BMD radar can pick up the missile and start tracking it, the more time the system as a whole has to spin up and engage it. In practice, this means that any Polish/Czech system would really be intended to guard the mainland United States and maybe the United Kingdom, but certainly not mainland Europe.
It's true that pushing the system closer to the Middle East would give interceptor sites in Europe more time to react -- but Azerbaijan is actually too close to Iran to be a base for interceptors. It is much easier to predict where a missile will go once it establishes its ballistic path -- that is, after its final booster cuts out. If Iran could launch from its northwest, the missile would already be ahead of the Azerbaijan site before Azerbaijan-based interceptors could engage it or even plot its course. Even for the most advanced interceptors, it would be a tail-chase from the start, which would require essentially near-instantaneous response time to the initial launch for any chance of success at all.
Think of a BMD system like a baseball field. In essence, the Polish/Czech facility would serve as an outfielder trying to "catch" a missile after watching to see where it is going. The Russians want the outfielder to stand in Azerbaijan, which would be essentially right next to home plate. Catching anything at such short range is difficult -- and, while the United States does have systems in development to operate at such distances, even when they are deployed they would only work as one component of a larger system. That means a functional BMD system would have to be based in Central Europe, where it could engage any missiles in mid-flight, not in Azerbaijan where it would have to target the missile's boost phase. It also means that Tehran can rest easy -- there is no U.S. military facility coming to Iran's northern border.
Thus, Putin's offer is really about shifting the European BMD system's coverage toward central Asia and into irrelevance. It is a political offer that -- though it will play well in international media as a show of friendliness -- has little real value. An Azerbaijani-hosted BMD radar would certainly have its uses, but only as a complement to a larger BMD system in Europe. It cannot function alone.
Besides all this, Putin's offer will come with strings attached that will make this deal a non-starter for the United States:
Moscow's specific offer is for the United States to use Russia's own radar base at Qabala, Azerbaijan. The problem here is that Russia knows a thing or two about espionage. Closely guarded American technological developments will be at risk, as will communication signals with any larger BMD system.
These communications and the site itself will remain exceptionally vulnerable to Russian interference -- anything from toying with locally obtained supplies to physically destroying key facilities. And a BMD system is just the sort of thing that must be at its best at the height of a crisis.
While Iran's military capabilities are a pale shadow compared to those of a first-world power, even Tehran could probably jam signals in and out of southern Azerbaijan -- making the whole exercise useless.
Washington certainly realizes all this. So why would Putin make the offer if he knows it will be practically useless to the United States?
The real goal is to turn Washington's BMD plan into a wedge issue for NATO. Many European states are concerned about BMD for myriad reasons, but the one commonality is a fear that the plan will unnecessarily provoke Moscow into being more aggressive with Europe. By being "reasonable" and "offering" to "cooperate" with BMD, Moscow can snarl Washington's European policy in a way that has not been done since the Cold War.
We do not make that comparison lightly. In the Cold War days, the Soviets regularly made offers that seemed quite reasonable at first glance, but would have gutted Western defense capabilities in practice. For example, while working fervently to develop nuclear weapons, Josef Stalin proposed putting all nuclear weapons -- which at the time meant Washington's -- under U.N. control. It sounded nice in a speech, but in reality would have opened up Europe to the Soviet Union's overwhelmingly superior conventional military capabilities.
Such Soviet positioning was regularly effective at hurling intra-Western relations into the thresher -- and that was back when there were only a dozen NATO members.
Now there are 26.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Biologists make skin cells work like stem cells
on: June 07, 2007, 08:28:55 AM
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: June 7, 2007
In a surprising advance that could sidestep the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient’s cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.
Skip to next paragraph
From Skin Cells to Stem Cells
A Long, Uncertain Path for New Cell Technique (June 7, 2007)
Times Topics: Stem CellsThe advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body’s major tissues.
If the technique can be adapted to human cells, researchers could use a patient’s skin cells to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient’s immune system. But scientists say they cannot predict when they can overcome the considerable problems in adapting the method to human cells.
Previously, the only way to convert adult cells to embryonic form has been by nuclear transfer, the insertion of an adult cell’s nucleus into an egg whose own nucleus has been removed. The egg somehow reprograms the nucleus back to an embryonic state. That procedure is known as therapeutic cloning when applied to people, but no one has yet succeeded in doing it.
The new technique, developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, depends on inserting just four genes into a skin cell. These accomplish the same reprogramming task as the egg does, or at least one that seems very similar.
The technique, if adaptable to human cells, is much easier to apply than nuclear transfer, would not involve the expensive and controversial use of human eggs, and should avoid all or almost all of the ethical criticism directed at the use of embryonic stem cells.
“From the point of view of moving biomedicine and regenerative medicine faster, this is about as big a deal as you could imagine,” said Irving Weissman, a leading stem cell biologist at Stanford University, who was not involved in the new research.
David Scadden, a stem cell biologist at the Harvard Medical School, said the finding that cells could be reprogrammed with simple biochemical techniques “is truly extraordinary and frankly something most assumed would take a decade to work out.”
The technique seems likely to be welcomed by many who have opposed human embryonic stem cell research. It “raises no serious moral problem, because it creates embryoniclike stem cells without creating, harming or destroying human lives at any stage,” said Richard Doerflinger, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spokesman on stem cell issues. In themselves, embryonic stem cells “have no moral status,” and the bishops’ objections to embryonic stem cell research rest solely on the fact that human embryos must be harmed or destroyed to obtain them, Mr. Doerflinger said.
Ronald Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College, said it would be “very hard for people to say that what is created here is a nascent form of human life that should be protected.” The new technique, if adaptable to human cells, “will be one way this debate could end,” Mr. Green said.
Biologists learned how to generate human embryonic stem cells in 1998 from the few-day-old embryos discarded by fertility clinics, a procedure the embryos did not survive. This source proved controversial, and biologists supported by federal financing were unable to explore the new opportunity until August 2001 when President Bush, in a political compromise, decreed that research on human embryonic stem cells could begin, but only with cell lines already in existence by that date.
The restrictions have caused considerable frustration among biologists and other supporters of research on embryonic stem cells. Indeed, the House is expected to vote today to increase federal funds for such research. If approved, the bill, similar to one approved by the Senate, would go to the president. The White House has already said that the president will veto it.
The new technique, when adaptable to human cells, should sidestep all these problems. James Battey, vice chairman of the National Institutes of Health stem cell task force, said he saw “no impediment at all” to federal support of researchers using the new technique on human cells.
Ever since the creation of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, scientists have sought to lay hands on the mysterious chemicals with which an egg will reprogram a mature cell nucleus injected into it and set the cell on the same path of embryonic development as when egg and sperm combine.
Years of patient research have identified many of the genes that are active in the embryonic cell and maintain its pluripotency, or ability to morph into many different tissues. Last year, Dr. Yamanaka and his colleague Kazutoshi Takahashi, both at Kyoto University, published a remarkable report relating how they had guessed at 24 genes responsible for maintaining pluripotency in mouse embryonic stem cells.
When they inserted all 24 genes into mouse skin cells, some of the cells showed signs of pluripotency. The Kyoto team then subtracted genes one by one until they had a set of four genes that were essential. The genes are inserted into viruses that infect the cell and become active as the virus replicates. The skin cell’s own copies of these genes are repressed since they would interfere with its function. “We were very surprised” that just four genes are sufficient to reprogram the skin cells, Dr. Yamanaka said.
Stem CellsDr. Yamanaka’s report riveted the attention of biologists elsewhere. Two teams set out to repeat and extend his findings, one led by Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute and the other by Kathrin Plath of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Yamanaka, too, set about refining his work.
In articles published today in Nature and a new journal, Cell-Stem Cell, the three teams show that injection of the four genes identified by Dr. Yamanaka can make mouse cells revert to cells indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. Dr. Yamanaka’s report of last year showed that only some properties of embryonic stem cells were attained.
This clear confirmation of Dr. Yamanaka’s recipe is exciting to researchers because it throws open to study the key process of multicellular organisms, that of committing cells to a variety of different roles, even though all carry the same genetic information.
Recent studies have shown that the chromatin, the complex protein material that clads the DNA in chromosomes, is not passive packaging material but highly dynamic. It contains systems of switches that close down large suites of genes but allow others to be active, depending on the role each cell is assigned to perform.
Dr. Yamanaka’s four genes evidently reset the switch settings appropriate for a skin cell to ones that specify an embryonic stem cell. The technique is easy to use and “should revolutionize the field since every small lab can work on reprogramming,” said Alexander Meissner, a co-author of Dr. Jaenisch’s report.
An immediate issue is whether the technique can be reinvented for human cells. One problem is that the mice have to be interbred, which cannot be done with people. Another is that the cells must be infected with the gene-carrying virus, which is not ideal for cells to be used in therapy. A third issue is that two of the genes in the recipe can cause cancer. Indeed 20 percent of Dr. Yamanaka’s mice died of the disease. Nonetheless, several biologists expressed confidence that all these difficulties would be sidestepped somehow.
“The technical problems seem approachable — I don’t see anyone running into a brick wall,” said Owen Witte, a stem cell biologist at U.C.L.A. Dr. Jaenisch, in a Webcast about the research, predicted that the problems of adapting the technique to human cells would be solvable but he did not know when.
If a human version of Dr. Yamanaka’s recipe is developed, one important research use, Dr. Weissman said, will be to reprogram diseased cells from patients so as to study the molecular basis of how their disease develops.
Beyond that is the hope of generating cells for therapy. Researchers have learned how to make embryonic cells in the laboratory develop into neurons, heart muscle cells and other tissues. In principle, these might be injected into a patient to replace or supplement the cells of the diseased tissue, without fear of immune rejection.
No one really knows if the new cells would succumb to the same disease process, or if they would be well behaved, given that they developed in a laboratory dish without recapitulating the exact succession of environments they would have experienced in the embryo.
Still, repairing the body with its own cells should in principle be a superior to the surgeon’s knife and the oncologists’ poisons. Cloning Bill Defeated in House
WASHINGTON, June 6 (AP) — House Republicans united Wednesday to reject a bill supported by Democrats that would make it illegal to use cloning technology to initiate a pregnancy and create a cloned human being. The parties accused each other of using the legislation to score political points before the House votes Thursday on a stem cell bill that President Bush says he will veto.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3
on: June 07, 2007, 08:14:40 AM
Defeat’s Killing Fields
By PETER W. RODMAN and WILLIAM SHAWCROSS
Published: June 7, 2007
SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.
Skip to next paragraph
We beg to differ. Many years ago, the two of us clashed sharply over the wisdom and morality of American policy in Indochina, especially in Cambodia. One of us (Mr. Shawcross) published a book, “Sideshow,” that bitterly criticized Nixon administration policy. The other (Mr. Rodman), a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger, issued a rebuttal in The American Spectator, defending American policy. Decades later, we have not changed our views. But we agreed even then that the outcome in Indochina was indeed disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region. Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting.
The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. In Vietnam and Laos, cruel gulags and “re-education” camps enforced repression. Millions of people fled, mostly by boat, with thousands dying in the attempt.
The defeat had a lasting and significant strategic impact. Leonid Brezhnev trumpeted that the global “correlation of forces” had shifted in favor of “socialism,” and the Soviets went on a geopolitical offensive in the third world for a decade. Their invasion of Afghanistan was one result. Demoralized European leaders publicly lamented Soviet aggressiveness and American paralysis.
True, the consequences of defeat were mitigated by various factors. The Nixon-Kissinger breakthrough with China contributed to China’s role as a counterweight to Moscow’s and Hanoi’s new power in Southeast Asia. (Although China, a Khmer Rouge ally, was less scrupulous than the United States about who its partners were.)
And despite the defeat in 1975, America’s 10 years in Indochina had positive effects. Lee Kuan Yew, then prime minister of Singapore, has well articulated how the consequences would have been worse if the United States had not made the effort in Indochina. “Had there been no U.S. intervention,” he argues, the will of non-communist countries to resist communist revolution in the 1960s “would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely have gone communist.” The domino theory would have proved correct.
Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.
As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk. Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did after 1975.
The new strategy of the coalition and the Iraqis, ably directed by Gen. David Petraeus, offers the best prospect of reversing the direction of events — provided that we show staying power. Osama bin Laden said, a few months after 9/11, that “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” The United States, in his mind, is the weak horse. American defeat in Iraq would embolden the extremists in the Muslim world, demoralize and perhaps destabilize many moderate friendly governments, and accelerate the radicalization of every conflict in the Middle East.
Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.
When government officials argued that American credibility was at stake in Indochina, critics ridiculed the notion. But when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam as a reason not to take American warnings seriously. The United States cannot be strong against Iran — or anywhere — if we accept defeat in Iraq.
Peter W. Rodman, an assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2001 to March, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. William Shawcross is the author of “Allies: Why the West Had to Remove Saddam.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: June 06, 2007, 08:53:18 AM
Be Careful What You Sue For
By FLOYD ABRAMS
June 6, 2007; Page A19
Pursuing a libel or slander suit has long been a dangerous enterprise. Oscar Wilde sued the father of his young lover Alfred Douglas for having referred to him as a "posing Somdomite" and wound up not only dropping his case but being tried, convicted and jailed for violating England's repressive laws banning homosexual conduct. Alger Hiss sued Wittaker Chambers for slander for accusing Hiss of being a member of the Communist Party with Chambers, and of illegally passing secret government documents to him for transmission to the Soviet Union. In the end, Hiss was jailed for perjury for having denied Chambers' claims before a grand jury.
More recently, British historian David Irving sued American scholar Deborah Lipstadt in England for having characterized him as a Holocaust denier and was ultimately so discredited in court that an English judge not only determined that he was indeed a Holocaust denier but an "antisemite" and "racist" as well.
On May 29 of this year, the potential vulnerability of a plaintiff that misuses the courts to sue for libel once again surfaced when the Islamic Society of Boston abandoned a libel action it had commenced against a number of Boston residents, a Boston newspaper and television station, and Steven Emerson, a recognized expert on terrorism and, in particular, extremist Islamic groups. In all, 17 defendants were named.
Those accused had publicly raised questions about a real estate transaction entered into between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Islamic Society, which transferred to the latter a plot of land in Boston, at a price well below market value, for the construction of a mosque and other facilities. The critics urged the Boston authorities to reconsider their decision to provide the land on such favorable terms (which included promised contributions to the community by the Islamic Society, such as holding lectures and offering other teaching about Islam) to an organization whose present or former leaders had close connections with or who had otherwise supported terrorist organizations.
On the face of it, the Islamic Society was a surprising entry into the legal arena. Its founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, had been indicted in 2003 for his role in a terrorism financing scheme, pled guilty and had been sentenced to a 23-year prison term. Another individual, Yusef Al-Qaradawi, who had been repeatedly identified by the Islamic Society as a member of its board of Trustees, had been described by a U.S. Treasury Department official as a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and had endorsed the killing of Americans in Iraq and Jews everywhere. One director of the Islamic Society, Walid Fitaihi, had written that the Jews would be "scourged" because of their "oppression, murder and rape of the worshipers of Allah," and that they had "perpetrated the worst of evils and brought the worst corruption to the earth."
The Islamic Society nonetheless sued, claiming both libel and civil-rights violations. Motions to dismiss the case were denied, and the litigants began to compel third parties to turn over documents bearing on the case. In short order, one after another of the allegations made by the Islamic Society collapsed.
Their complaint asserted that the defendants had falsely stated that monies had been sent to the Islamic Society from "Saudi/Middle Eastern sources," and that such statements and others had devastated its fund-raising efforts. But documents obtained in discovery demonstrated without ambiguity that fund-raising was (as one representative of the Islamic Society had put it) "robust," with at least $7.2 million having been wired to the Islamic Society from Middle Eastern sources, mostly from Saudi Arabia.
The Islamic Society claimed it had been libeled by a variety of expressions of concern by the defendants that it, the Society, had provided support for extremist organizations. But bank records obtained by the defendants showed that the Islamic Society had served as funder both of the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas-controlled organization that the U.S. Treasury Department had said "exists to raise money in the United States to promote terror," and of the Benevolence International Foundation, which was identified by the 9/11 Commission as an al Qaeda fund-raising arm.
The complaint maintained that any reference to recent connections between the Islamic Society and the now-imprisoned Abdurahman Alamoudi was false since it "had had no connection with him for years." But an Islamic Society check written in November 2000, two months after Alamoudi publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, was uncovered in discovery which directed money to pay for Alamoudi's travel expenses.
To top it all off, documents obtained from the Boston Redevelopment Authority itself revealed serious, almost incomprehensible, conflicts of interest in the real-estate deal. It turned out that the city agency employee in charge of negotiating the deal with the Islamic Society was at the same time a member of that group and secretly advising it about how to obtain the land at the cheapest possible price.
So the case was dropped. No money was paid by the defendants, no apologies offered, and no limits on their future speech imposed. But it is not at all as if nothing happened. The case offers two enduring lessons. The first is that those who think about suing for libel should think again before doing so. And then again once more. While all the ultimate consequences to the Islamic Society for bringing the lawsuit remain uncertain, any adverse consequences could have been avoided by not suing in the first place.
The second lesson is that in one way (and perhaps no other) we should learn from the English system and award counsel fees to the winning side in cases like this, which are brought to inhibit speech on matters of serious public import. Because all the defendants in this case were steadfast and refused to settle, they were eventually vindicated. But the real way to avoid meritless cases such as this is to have a body of law that makes clear that plaintiffs who bring them will be held financially responsible for doing so.
Mr. Abrams, a partner in the law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, represented Steven Emerson in the case discussed in this op-ed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: June 06, 2007, 08:47:49 AM
Well, lets forget about my effort at a particular example
and stay with the big picture.
Here's this from today's WSJ-- I don't agree with all its points, but think it makes one worth considering well with regard to guest workers:
The 'Guest Worker' Folly
By PETER D. SALINS
June 6, 2007; Page A19
After years of inconclusive posturing and negotiation, Congress is finally getting serious about a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. The Senate proposal under consideration, to its credit, deals with all three crucial elements of the immigration policy challenge: what to do about the illegal immigrants already here (whom no one honestly believes we would ever deport); how we might secure the border and stem future illegal entry; and whom we should admit in the future.
The bill is a decidedly mixed bag, however, with elements that are good, very good and downright ugly. Unfortunately, the ugly element may fatally outweigh the rest.
First, the good: The proposed legislation's convoluted path to legal status for the country's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants is probably the best compromise to be achieved between the adamant proponents and opponents of "amnesty." It is essential that all immigrants who are permitted to stay actually become members of American society. The legalization provisions, however imperfect, are better than the status quo. More good: On border security, the proposed bill would focus primarily on an electronically supported implementation of employer sanctions. This makes real sense, because employer sanctions have always been a far more effective means of stopping illegal immigration in its tracks than border guards or fences. Those who claim that employer sanctions haven't worked are unaware that they have never been seriously tried. If we mean it this time, employer sanctions will work.
Turkish guest workers in Germany.
Second, the very good: The most commendable aspect of the bill is its retreat from family sponsorship -- indeed any form of sponsorship -- as the only basis for admitting immigrants, in favor of a merit-based point system. The point system is predicated on self-sponsorship, with bonus points for criteria well within the ability of most potential immigrants to meet: English language proficiency, modest levels of education and a set of specific skills. Of all aspects of the current proposal, this is the most far-reaching and creative, because the current family and employer sponsorship system is seriously flawed, at war with our immigration heritage and a major contributor to illegal entry.
Because it sets aside "family reunification," this provision is being vehemently attacked by supposed immigration "liberals" as being cruel and unfair. They have it backward; it is the current system that is cruel and unfair, and it was designed to be that way. It was instituted in the 1920s for only one deplorable purpose -- to keep out the growing number of immigrants from "undesirable" countries, then meaning those from southern and eastern Europe. The family sponsorship criteria that immigration advocates so cherish were designed not out of concern for family values at all, but to skew the immigrant mix toward nationalities already here.
As it happens, by the time the U.S. expanded its quotas after 1965, Europeans were less interested in coming, and Mexicans and other Latin Americans had secured enough of a demographic foothold to give the family sponsorship feature a decided Latino tilt. But family sponsorship is also profoundly unfair, and a major spur to illegal entry, because most potential immigrants -- even from Mexico -- do not have close American relatives.
In any case, the immigration reform bill's deleterious impact on families would be minimal, because it sets aside enough slots to finally clear the entire backlog of current family-sponsored applicants, and would allow point-based admittees to bring their close relatives with them.
Now the ugly: The most ill-conceived element of the Senate bill is its provision for admitting hundreds of thousands of temporary, or "guest," workers. As many critics have already noted, since it is unlikely that all, or even a majority, of temporary workers would actually return to their native countries when their visas expired, the guest-worker mechanism means that we can readily anticipate the next wave of illegal residents -- and is unlikely that we will ever again entertain any kind of post hoc residency legitimation.
But even if all temporary workers went back home after their allotted stay ended, the notion of inviting millions of new immigrants to live in American communities with no possibility of their ever becoming Americans is an affront to our civic and immigration heritage. (The current legislation is quite clear that neither extended stays nor citizenship will be options for temporary workers.) Can our civil society -- so grounded in the notions of assimilation and civic participation by all Americans -- tolerate an army of permanent aliens in our midst? I believe not.
Western Europe's experiment with foreign labor recruitment in the 1960s and 1970s, under various guest-worker rubrics, should give us pause. While the individual nations' policies varied widely, they all shared with the Senate proposal two expectations: that imported laborers would not stay very long, and that they would not assimilate into the national social fabric.
True enough, the guest workers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia did not assimilate; but the majority have stayed, legally and illegally, residing in alienated economic and cultural enclaves, resentful of and resented by their unwelcoming host citizenry. If we are determined to replicate Western Europe's four decade old guest-worker experiment, we may soon reap the same civil discord it is experiencing today.
The temporary-worker provision has been included in the reform package supposedly at the behest of employers, especially those needing unskilled workers in agriculture and services. But if employers across America really need a larger labor force, this result could easily be achieved under the new point-based quota system. The quota could be enlarged by precisely the number of visas that the bill allots to temporary workers, and under the bill's Labor Department certification provisions, its criteria could be broadened to encompass the kinds of low-skill occupations that temporary workers would presumably fill. But the bedrock principle that must be sustained is that all who come to America must have the potential to become Americans.
As with all compromise legislation, no interest group, policy wonk (like myself), or partisan position gets everything it wants. There is now such a hunger for immigration reform across the policy spectrum that, regardless of our specific misgivings, we are all being asked to take the ugly along with the good and very good. But at this point I feel so strongly that the "guest worker" provision would be catastrophic that I would rather wait for a better bill without it.
Mr. Salins, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University, is the author of "Assimilation, American Style" (Basic Books, 1997).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: June 06, 2007, 08:40:45 AM
Second post of the morning:
My Sweet Press Lord
We'll take the Washington Post, please.
BY HOLMAN W. JENKINS JR.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Here's my dream, and it's a not good one. The day comes when a controversialist like Rupert Murdoch bids to buy The Wall Street Journal--and no one cares. That's one of the considerations swirling in a mess that, from any party's perspectives except Mr. Murdoch's, makes the decision faced by the Bancroft family (which controls Dow Jones, our parent company) so vexing. The future of the paper is at risk if we do the deal; it's also at risk if we don't.
Our owners, in the way of other businesses, have not made themselves richer by growing their capital in the Journal. Nonetheless, in their stewardship of the paper, they've let us do what we do without interference, which is something we all cherish. Even those of us who don't find Mr. Murdoch an ogre naturally would treat as dubious any change of circumstance that might portend a change in this, our own very satisfying situation.
Mr. Murdoch's dealings in China have been a concern. This column, tongue in cheek, once assailed him for his "offenses against freedom and democracy," such as dropping the BBC from his Star TV lineup to appease Beijing. But we also let the reader in on a secret: "Mr. Murdoch's judgment about when to trim may not be perfect, but most sensible people want Star TV in China."
In any case, his trimmings in China have been far less egregious than those of Yahoo. With any owner, you take a chance--and the risks include not just errors of commission (inappropriate interference) but errors of omission (letting the business run itself when it really needs a strong hand to alter course and correct its follies).
Much is heard about editorial independence, some of it fusty, some of it exactly to the point. What makes the New York Post such a delight is partly the entertaining suspicion (most of the time probably unwarranted) that hidden agendas and childish rivalries are behind the decision to bash this muckety-muck and spare that. Not for nothing is the Post the favorite read of New York's catty media, social and business elite, and nobody mistakes it for a paper of record. Mr. Murdoch clearly knows what he's doing, fitting a newspaper to its market opportunity. One has a reasonable suspicion that he also understands the very different market position and opportunity of the Journal. (Indeed, we'd like to think he'd end up more hostage to the Journal--its visibility, credibility and power to embarrass--than the paper would ever be to his business and personal interests.)
The flipside is that great newspapers aren't great because nobody is running them. In his wonderful memoir, the journalist and eminent business adviser Peter Drucker wrote: "Every first-rate editor I have ever heard of reads, edits and rewrites every word that goes into his publication. . . . Good editors are not 'permissive'; they do not let their colleagues do 'their thing'; they make sure that everybody does the 'paper's thing.' A good, let alone a great editor is an obsessive autocrat with a whim of iron, who rewrites and rewrites, cuts and slashes, until every piece is exactly the way he thinks it should have been done."
His qualities as a newshound and shrewd businessman mean, in all likelihood, that Mr. Murdoch would prove a responsible proprietor for the Journal, despite hyperventilation at the prospect by some readers and employees. He's certainly equipped by experience to make the necessary judgments to protect the paper's stature while expanding its reach (and has the resources to do so). Though strictly from the perspective of someone who works here, I'd still prefer to be owned by a company exclusively in the news business, one that lives and dies by the reputation of its newsgathering.
Here I confess to a personal bias, related to nothing more than reading the Washington Post over the years, which is that it's an exceptionally brainy newspaper.
Intelligence as a quality is hit or miss in most newspaper writing and editing. At the Post, they seem to have institutionalized it. You rarely find the collapses of critical judgment that seem to be routine at other papers when, say, a trial lawyer appears claiming evidence of racism in the auto dealership industry or at an oil company.
Absent too are the excesses of billboard journalism--the habit of editors casually intruding a noisy paragraph that oversells and distorts the story below, leaving an unsatisfying jumble of facts that don't live up to the assertions at the top.
We don't love everything in the Post or all its reporters, and it has certainly benefited from conservative competition from the Washington Times. It also lacks the leverageable assets that Mr. Murdoch would presumably use to build the Journal's brand and distribution opportunities. But the Post's editorial page has become remarkably more sensible in recent years (although its Web site remains awful and the Style section has gone down the tubes). The company itself is principally in the news business; Warren Buffett sits on the board, guarding against investment misadventure.
A few readers have harrumphed that Mr. Murdoch reputedly would try to shorten the Journal's articles. He's not the only one. Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie has instructed his crew to write shorter too--and the Post already strikes me as a very well-edited paper: News stories are rounded, complete but not overwritten. They also have a semblance of being written by somebody with a living mind, not just re-executing the media's general template on a given news event (for an everyday example, see the Post's recent contributions on the Chinese pet food scare).
More than that, if you read a lot of newspapers, what sneaks up on you are the outward manifestations of a quiet, non-braggy excellence that should be attractive to anyone looking to ensure the Journal's long-term future. Mr. Murdoch is the only one who has put money on the table. He's not the only one some of us wish would.
Mr. Jenkins is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal on Wednesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: June 06, 2007, 08:32:55 AM
As many of you may know, Robert Murdoch is trying to buy the WSJ. Here is the WSJ's editorial today:
An Independent Newspaper
The Bancrofts and a century of "free people and free markets."
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
"Don't believe the man who tells you there are two sides to every question. There is only one side to the truth."
So wrote William Peter Hamilton, one of the first men to hold the job of editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, in the early decades of the last century. For editorial writers worth their pay, those are words to live by, and we hope to be living by them for a long time to come.
That's a point worth stressing amid the news that the Bancroft family may soon sell the Journal's parent company to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. or some other bidder. The Bancrofts have been exceptional stewards of this newspaper for more than a century. But capitalism is dynamic, and those of us who extol the virtues of Joseph Schumpeter's "creative destruction" for others can't complain when it sweeps through our own industry. That's what is happening as the Internet breaks up long-time media business models, and Dow Jones is hardly immune. The Bancrofts have every right as owners to sell or not based on their own dictates, and what we say won't matter in any event.
Where we do have a say, however, is on the question of journalistic "independence." There's been a lot of debate lately about what that means. We thought our readers might like to know what it has meant at the Journal, and specifically for these columns, over the decades.
For starters, the Bancrofts are unique in their hands-off ownership. They are often compared as family newspaper proprietors to the Grahams at the Washington Post or the Sulzbergers at the New York Times. But members of those families run those newspapers, exerting influence over the news and opinion operations. In that sense, those newspapers are hardly "independent" of those families.
Everyone knows that the influence of Times Publisher and CEO Arthur Sulzberger Jr. extends to selecting not merely the editorial page editor but columnists, political endorsements and, as far as we can tell, even news coverage priorities. We don't see how this differs from most of what Mr. Murdoch is accused of doing with his newspapers. The same lack of independence also applies to most non-family media companies such as Gannett, a newspaper owner whose make-no-waves corporate ethic turns nearly all of its editorial pages into mush.
By contrast, the Bancrofts have allowed journalists to run the news and editorial shops. That family ethic became a guiding principle under Jessie Bancroft Cox, step-granddaughter of Clarence Barron, and the business leadership of the great Barney Kilgore.
At the editorial page, this has meant that for a century we have been able to adhere to a worldview we now distill to the phrase "free people and free markets." This began, more or less, with the classical liberalism of William Hamilton, who as a Scotsman before emigrating had dabbled in British Liberal Party politics. It has continued through a series of editors who have adhered to those principles despite shifting political fashions and partisan winds.
Over the years this independence has also meant the freedom to challenge prevailing media conventions and political power. Following Hamilton as editor in the 1930s, Thomas Woodlock battled Keynesian economics and the New Deal. The Journal was skeptical of FDR's dalliances with prewar Britain--until the day war began and our short editorial was headlined, "We Have a Duty." The editorial hangs in our office today.
As he campaigned for re-election in 1948, Harry Truman denounced the Journal as the "Republicans' Bible," a line that earned him a rebuke from Editor (of the editorial page) William Grimes because "our loyalties are to the economic and governmental principles in which we believe and not to any political party." In one of his visits to the White House, Editor Vermont Royster was thanked by John F. Kennedy for supporting his free-trade agenda. "Young man," said Royster, "the Wall Street Journal was supporting free trade before you were born." The Journal hasn't endorsed a Presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover, preferring instead to praise or assail the candidates' ideas.
On occasion this has meant the Journal has come under outside pressure, both commercial and political, but the Bancrofts and our publishers have always stood firm. In the 1950s, these columns defended Journal reporters against General Motors for disclosing the car company's tactics against independent auto dealers only weeks after we had defended GM against the government's trustbusters. GM pulled its advertising for a time, only to back down later, and the episode helped the Journal build credibility as independent of advertising interests.
Our former Editor Robert Bartley once told us of being called on the carpet by Henry Kissinger, then the Secretary of State, for opposing détente and arms control with the Soviet Union. Journal Publisher and CEO Warren Phillips accompanied Bartley to the meeting, and started things off by asking Mr. Kissinger what all of his Spengler-pessimism talk vis-à-vis the Russians was about. The anti-détente editorials kept coming, and Bartley and Mr. Kissinger later became friends.
The 1990s were especially controversial with the Journal's reporting about Whitewater and Bill Clinton's ethics, and more than one liberal thought he could mute Bartley's campaign in the wake of the Vincent Foster suicide. But the Bancrofts and Publisher Peter Kann stood up to the pressure.
Perhaps the sternest commercial test has come as we have expanded abroad, especially in Asia. The Journal has been banned or had its circulation restricted in many countries, and a reporter for another Dow Jones publication went to jail in Malaysia. In Singapore, a big market for the Journal, the government made the editorial page the first target of its campaign to curtail Western coverage of its domestic politics in the mid-1980s. While other companies--notably Bloomberg--have surrendered pre-emptively, the Journal has been nearly alone in fighting back. Freedom of the press has improved in Asia as democracy has expanded, and we're proud to continue fighting for freedom and human rights today in China.
We could tell other stories, but the essential point is that our owners have allowed us to speak our mind on behalf of a consistent set of principles. Readers may like, or loathe, those beliefs and our way of defending them. But we like to think this brand of independence is one reason the Journal has attracted such an influential readership. To borrow a phrase from modern business lingo, we hope it is part of our value proposition.
At a dinner honoring their century of Journal ownership in 2002, Bob Bartley expressed his gratitude to the Bancrofts for their support, noting that some of his editorials over 30 years must not have sat well with everyone in the ideologically diverse clan. But Bartley added that his proudest boast was that he ran the only editorial page "that sells newspapers." We can't say what any future owner would do, but we doubt one would be foolish enough to undermine this market appeal.
On January 2, 1951, William Grimes wrote a memorable editorial, "A Newspaper's Philosophy," that summed up our worldview this way:
"On our editorial page we make no pretense of walking down the middle of the road. Our comments and interpretations are made from a definite point of view. We believe in the individual, in his wisdom and his decency. We oppose all infringements on individual rights, whether they stem from attempts at private monopoly, labor union monopoly or from an overgrowing government. People will say we are conservative or even reactionary. We are not much interested in labels but if we were to choose one, we would say we are radical."
Even 56 years later, that still sounds good to us. Whether the Bancroft family sells or not, and no matter who is the buyer, we plan to stand for those beliefs for as long into the future as we are able.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Khuzestan wants to separate
on: June 05, 2007, 07:07:48 PM
IRAN: Iranian Arabs in the southwestern province of Khuzestan have expressed a desire to separate from Iran, Al Jazeera reported. National Liberation Movement of Ahwaz head Tahir Aal Sayyed Nima said a lack of schools in villages and a ban on Arabic in schools and government institutions is an attempt "to assassinate our Arab identity" and has led to separatist goals.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Immigration
on: June 05, 2007, 07:52:45 AM
The author for me has a suspect background in MALDEF and related organizations, but as part of search for truth, I post her piece here:
The Great Assimilation Machine
By LINDA CHAVEZ
June 5, 2007; Page A23
For more than 200 years the United States has been the great assimilation machine, churning Germans, Swedes, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Russians, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis and myriad others into Americans. There are many Americans today who believe, or worry, that the largest group of recent immigrants -- the nearly 20 million Hispanics who have come here in the last several decades -- are unwilling or unable to do the same.
In his 2004 book, "Who Are We? The Challenges to National Identity," Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington warned that "Mexican immigration is leading toward the demographic reconquista of areas Americans took from Mexico by force in the 1830s and 1840s," a sentiment I hear echoed frequently in the debate over immigration reform. Others warn that the country is playing host to a burgeoning new underclass of poorly educated, welfare-dependent Hispanics who will overwhelm us with social pathologies. Still others marshal statistics that appear to support their view that Hispanics are indeed failing to assimilate as have previous ethnic groups.
The real story of Hispanic assimilation, however, is a lot less gloomy -- although a bit more complicated -- than the critics charge. Part of the problem is the interpretation of statistics: As we are in the midst of a huge influx of new immigrants, legal and illegal, including seven million Mexicans who have arrived since 1990, any statistical snapshot that includes these newcomers (who make up about half the adult Hispanic population) will distort the overall moving picture.
Take Hispanic dropout rates. A snapshot looks bad: 42% of Hispanics, according to the Current Population Survey, had not finished high school in 2005. But nearly half of the people counted aren't dropouts in the usual sense; they've never dropped in to an American school. They are immigrants who completed their schooling, such as it was, before coming here in their late teens or 20s. Granted, low education levels will make their climb up the economic ladder slower -- 60% of Mexican-born adults have not completed high school. But the earnings of Hispanic immigrants will improve as they gain work skills and experience, and the evidence is strong that they will do so. Mexican-born men, for example, had higher labor force participation rates than native-born male workers, 88% compared with 83%, and lower unemployment rates than native workers, 4.4% compared with 5.1% in 2006. Labor force participation rates of illegal aliens are higher yet, a whopping 94%.
More importantly, the children of Hispanic immigrants are graduating from high school. The high school completion rate for young, U.S.-born Hispanics is 86%, only slightly lower than the 92% of non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic immigrant children who do enroll in school after they come here are as likely as American-born Hispanics to earn a high school diploma (although half of Mexican immigrants 15-17 years-old do not enroll in school).
Hispanics are more likely than either whites or blacks to continue their education at two-year institutions; in 2000 they represented 14% of all students enrolled in two-year institutions. Only 12% of U.S.-born Hispanics earn four-year degrees compared with 26% of non-Hispanic whites. Nonetheless, the economic returns on education are substantial for Hispanics. As a 2006 study on Hispanics by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported, "We consistently find that, after adjusting for the levels of human capital (e.g., schooling and English language proficiency), Hispanics do almost as well as whites with respect to both employment and labor market earnings," which the authors note is not the case for blacks, who still lag behind whites even after adjusting for observable measures of human capital.
English proficiency is, of course, essential if Hispanics are to fully assimilate into the mainstream, and one issue many Americans have expressed great concern over. But despite anxiety that Hispanics aren't learning English and will soon insist that the U.S. become bilingual, the evidence suggests otherwise. True enough, most Hispanic immigrants have poor English skills: The 2000 Census reported that 26 million people spoke Spanish at home, and of these, 14 million were unable to speak English well. But there is nothing unusual about this; historically most immigrant groups have taken a generation or more to produce fluent English speakers. In 1900, nearly 50 years after the peak period of German immigration, 600,000 students attended German bilingual schools in the U.S.
But if Hispanic immigrants have been slow to learn English, their American-born progeny have quickly adapted. English is the preferred language of virtually all U.S.-born Hispanics; according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, indeed, 78% of third-generation Hispanics cannot speak Spanish at all. Even in Southern California, an area with the largest population of Spanish speakers in the nation, 96% of third-generation Mexican Americans prefer to speak English at home, according to a recent study by sociologists Ruben Rumbaut, Douglas Massey and Frank Bean.
The fear that Hispanics are or will become an isolated, economically alienated group within the larger American society also does not jibe with a variety of other measures. A 2006 Commerce Department study reported that Hispanics are opening businesses at a rate three times faster than the national average. In 2002, the last year for which detailed data are available, there were 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses generating $222 billion in revenue. Most of these businesses are family affairs, with few employees, but some 1,500 Hispanic businesses employed 100 or more people, generating $42 billion in gross receipts.
Half of all Hispanics own homes. This is substantially below the 76% of non-Hispanic whites that are homeowners. A Department of Housing and Urban Development analysis of Hispanic home ownership trends suggests that the gap can be explained by a number of factors, including age. Home ownership increases with age, but nearly twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanic whites are under 35, while only 10% of Hispanics, but nearly one quarter of whites, are over 65.
One genuinely disturbing trend is the increase in out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics, which has risen to 46% in 2004 from 24% in 1980, compared with 24.5% for non-Hispanic whites and 69% for blacks. (Mexican immigrants have a somewhat lower rate of unmarried childbearing, 35%.) This is not good, but it is not clear that these unmarried mothers remain so for long or that their children grow up in fatherless homes. Marriage rates for Hispanics are virtually the same as for non-Hispanic whites, suggesting many unwed mothers make it to the altar eventually, and they are no more likely to divorce than whites. The most comprehensive study of marriage and cohabitation, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2002, shows that 77% of Hispanic women will marry by age 30, compared with 81% of non-Hispanic whites but only 52% of blacks. Moreover, 67% of Mexican origin children live in two parent families, compared with about 77% of whites, but only 37% of blacks.
Finally, consider that ultimate indicator of assimilation, intermarriage. One in four Hispanics marries a non-Hispanic white spouse, but nearly one-third of all U.S.-born Hispanics who are married have non-Hispanic spouses; and the percentage is slightly higher among college-educated Hispanic women (35%). There is a curious, and provocative fact buried in all this. The Population Reference Bureau notes in its 2005 study of intermarriage that, because most children of intermarriages are reported as Hispanic on Census data, "Hispanic intermarriage may have been a factor in the phenomenal growth of the U.S. Hispanic population in recent years, and it has important implications for future growth and characteristics of the Hispanic population." In other words, the widely cited prediction that by mid-century Hispanics will represent fully one third of the U.S. population fails to take into account that increasing numbers of these so-called Hispanics will have only one grandparent or great-grandparent of Hispanic heritage. At which point Hispanic ethnicity will mean little more than German, Italian or Irish ethnicity does today.
Ms. Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and the author of a number of books, including "Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation" (Basic Books, 1991).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: June 05, 2007, 07:48:37 AM
Our Soviet Health System
By ROBERT A. SWERLICK
June 5, 2007; Page A22
When my Labrador retriever became acutely lame, we were able to locate a veterinary orthopedic expert in Atlanta within 48 hours who was able to repair a ruptured tendon within one week. But my prospects of identifying an endocrinologist who can care for my daughter's diabetes when she turns 18 are much less promising.
The limited number of endocrine specialists is a not a consequence of limited demand -- everyone is aware of the epidemic of diabetes we are facing. There are also shortages of generalists and other specialists, and the reason is the absence of market signals -- i.e., market-based prices -- for influencing the supply of physicians in various specialties.
The roots of this problem lay in the use of administrative pricing structures in medicine. The way prices are set in health care already distorts the appropriate allocation of efforts and resources in health care today. Unfortunately, many of the suggested reforms of our health care system -- including the various plans for universal care, or universal insurance, or a single-payer system, that various policy makers and Democratic presidential candidates espouse -- rest on the same unsound foundations, and will produce more of the same.
The essential problem is this. The pricing of medical care in this country is either directly or indirectly dictated by Medicare; and Medicare uses an administrative formula which calculates "appropriate" prices based upon imperfect estimates and fudge factors. Rather than independently calculate prices, private insurers in this country almost universally use Medicare prices as a framework to negotiate payments, generally setting payments for services as a percentage of the Medicare fee structure.
Many if not most administratively determined prices fail to take into consideration supply and demand. Unlike prices set on the market, errors are not self-correcting. That is why, despite an expanding cohort of patients with diabetes, thyroid disease and other endocrine disorders, the number of people entering this field is actually dropping. Young physicians are accurately reading inappropriate price signals.
In their book, "The Turning Point," Soviet economists Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov focused on key factors which undermined the economy during the communist era. They concluded that Goskomtsen, the agency responsible for setting prices, was simply incapable of setting and tracking prices on the myriad of goods and services under its purview.
The failures they describe sound disturbingly similar to challenges to Medicare described by Paul Ginsburg in "When the Price Isn't Right: How inadvertent payment incentives drive medical care" (Health Affairs, August 2005). Assessments as to the accuracy of pricing is always difficult, time consuming, costly, and more often than not, methodologically flawed. No matter which formulas and variables are used at any given moment, the information derived will generally be inaccurate; it will either be wrong to start or will be applied in the wrong context, or become dated so rapidly it is of little use.
Many prices will be too high or too low, and political forces tend to keep inappropriate prices in place -- specialists in fields with excessive payments will resist cuts, and there will not be enough specialists in low-paid fields to become an effective counterlobby. New physicians will react to existing prices, and so the misallocation of human resources will be self-perpetuating.
Nevertheless, those who control public policy, and public policy debates, treat pricing as something trivial -- the concern of bourgeois shop keepers peddling trinkets. Yet the dilemma of administrative pricing causes problems for the allocation of resources today that would only be amplified if the U.S. moves toward even more government intervention in health care than already exists. Where do prices come from, how do we know when they are right? If the prices set are mistaken -- result in a mismatch of supply and demand -- how are they to be corrected if pricing decisions are made in a political (bureaucratic) arena, and by the market (supply and demand)? These questions cannot be wished away.
One important lesson of the 20th century is that, while markets are far from perfect, more choices are available when people are able to use free markets to interact with each other. Markets may not get the prices exactly correct all the time, but they are capable of self-correction, a capacity that has yet to be demonstrated by administrative pricing.
It tells you something when the supply of and demand for specialist veterinary care is so easily matched when the prices of these services are established on the market -- while shortages and oversupplies are common for human medical care when the prices of these services are set by administrators in the public sector. Will health-care reformers -- and American citizens -- get the message?
Dr. Swerlick is associate professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 05, 2007, 07:40:34 AM
No Pyrrhic Victory
Most of the conventional wisdom about the Six Day War is wrong.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
On the morning of June 5, 1967, a fleet of low-flying Israeli jets surprised the Egyptian air force on the ground and destroyed it. This act of military pre-emption helped save Israel from what Iraq's then-President Abdul Rahman Aref had called, only several days earlier, "our opportunity . . . to wipe Israel off the map." Yet 40 years later Israel's victory is widely seen as a Pyrrhic one--"a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors," according to a recent editorial in The Economist.
And the alternative was?
The Six Day War is supposed to be the great pivot on which the modern history of the Middle East hinges, the moment the Palestinian question came into focus and Israel went from being the David to the Goliath of the conflict. It's a reading of history that has the convenience of offering a political prescription: Rewind to the status quo ante June 5, arrange a peace deal, and the problems that have arisen since more or less go away. Or so the thinking goes.
Yet the striking fact is that all of Israel's peace agreements--with Egypt in 1979, with the Palestinians in 1993, with Jordan and Morocco in 1994--were achieved in the wake of the war. The Jewish state had gained territory; the Arab states wanted it back. Whatever else might be said for the land-for-peace formula, it's odd that the people who are its strongest advocates are usually the same ones who bemoan the apparent completeness of Israel's victory in 1967.
Great events have a way not only of reshaping the outlook for the future but also our understanding of the past, usually in the service of clarity. "Why England Slept" was an apt question to ask of Britain in the mid-1930s, but it made sense only after Sept. 1, 1939. By contrast, the Six Day War laid a thick fog over what came before. Today, the pre-1967 period is remembered (not least by many Israelis) as a time when the country's conscience was clear and respectable world opinion admired "plucky little Israel." Yet these were the same years when Israel lived within what Abba Eban, its dovish foreign minister, called "Auschwitz borders," with only nine miles separating the westernmost part of the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea.
It is also often said today that the Six Day War humiliated the Arabs and propelled the region into future rounds of fighting. Yet President Aref of Iraq had prefaced his call to destroy Israel by describing the war as the Arabs' chance "to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948." It is said that the war inaugurated the era of modern terrorism, as the Arab world switched from a strategy of conventional confrontation with Israel to one of "unconventional" attacks. Yet hundreds of Israelis had already been killed in fedayeen raids in Israel's first 19 years of existence.
It is said that the Palestinian movement was born from Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was already in its third year of operations when the war began. It is said that Israel enjoyed international legitimacy so long as it lived behind recognized frontiers. Yet those frontiers were no less provisional before 1967 than they were after. Only after the Six Day War did the Green Line come to be seen as the "real" border.
Fog also surrounds memories of the immediate aftermath of the war. To read some recent accounts, a more sagacious Israel could have followed up its historic victory with peace overtures that would have spared everyone the bloody entanglements of its occupation of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Or, failing that, it could have resisted the lure of building settlements in the territories in order not to complicate a land-for-peace transaction.
In fact, the Israeli cabinet agreed on June 19 to offer the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace deals. In Khartoum that September, the Arab League declared "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." As for Jewish settlements, hardly any were built for years after the war: In 1972, for instance, only about 800 settlers had moved to the West Bank.
It's true that the war caused Israel to lose friends abroad. "Le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur" ("the Jewish people, sure of themselves and domineering") was Charles de Gaulle's memorable line in announcing, in November 1967, that France would no longer supply Israel militarily. Such were the Jewish state's former friends.
On the other hand, Israel gained new friends. The U.S., whose declared policy during the war was to be "neutral in thought, word and deed," would never again pretend such indifference, something that made all the difference to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Tens of thousands of American and European Jews immigrated to Israel after 1967, sensing it was a country not on the brink of extinction. Christian evangelicals also became Israel's firm friends, expanding the political base of American support beyond its traditionally narrow, Jewish-Democratic core.
None of this is to say that the Six Day War was an unalloyed (or unironic) blessing for Israel. By gaining control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel swapped its old territorial insecurities for new demographic ones. As Palestinian numbers grew, Israel's efforts to find a new strategic equilibrium--first through negotiations with the PLO, later through unilateral withdrawals--became increasingly frenetic. Who knows whether they will succeed.
Then again, when the sun rose on June 5, 1967, Israel was a poor, desperately vulnerable country, which threw the dice on its own survival in the most audacious military strike of the 20th century. It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, sure in its alliance with the U.S. and capable of making concessions inconceivable 40 years ago. If these are the fruits of Israel's "Pyrrhic victory," it needs more such of them.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: June 05, 2007, 07:28:42 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Meltdown of the Musharraf State
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Monday amended laws governing the country's electronic media, GEO television reported. Musharraf empowered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to block transmissions, suspend licenses, confiscate equipment and seal the buildings of electronic media organizations deemed in violation of PEMRA regulations. This, combined with the ongoing political crisis, has increased the number of protests in Pakistan. The same day Musharraf also chaired a special meeting of the National Security Council, during which he discussed ways and means of dealing with the increasingly deteriorating crisis of governance.
Thus far all the steps taken by the Musharraf government to fix the growing political instability have backfired, and even have made matters worse. For the most part, this outcome is the result of serious miscalculations. This is not altogether surprising because Musharraf is now relying on a small circle of bureaucratic advisers, and is no longer listening to his political allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
However, not heeding the PML's advice might not have major consequences, since it is the party that is dependent on Musharraf for its position of power. But Musharraf is critically dependent on the military's support to ensure his regime's continuity. This is why Musharraf on June 1 called an emergency meeting of the corps commanders and army's agency heads, during which the top generals reportedly expressed complete support for the president.
During this meeting Musharraf made use of the increasingly loud criticisms of the military's domination of the state. He was able to convince the generals that the government's opponents are not just out to force the country's military chief from power, but also want the military establishment to lose control of the political system.
In this regard, Musharraf also exploited the recent release of the new book "Military, Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy," authored by Ayesha Siddiqa, a top Pakistani political and military analyst. Siddiqa's book, which provides a detailed account of the military's hold over Pakistan's economic system, has further fueled the public ire against the military's domination of the country. As a result the government scrambled to torpedo the launching ceremony of the book and has accused the author of spreading lies and of being an enemy of the state. There are reports that Siddiqa is being intimidated by intelligence officials.
Taking all of this into account, the generals are currently rallying around Musharraf and are saying they will support his efforts to do all that is necessary to remedy the faltering situation. But they, more than anyone else, know that the need to hold such a special meeting indicates a weakness in Musharraf's position.
Therefore, the generals will be watching the situation more closely than ever and will be considering contingency plans as the political temperature rises in the coming weeks. Then, if needed, they can intervene and force Musharraf to step down in order to avoid risking an ugly confrontation on the streets.
For now, the generals figure the anti-Musharraf movement, though growing in size, lacks direction, organization and critical mass because the main opposition parties remain divided. Put differently, they believe their interests can still be secured through a compromise involving the reinstatement of the chief justice, and perhaps even with Musharraf assuming the role of a civilian president. But Musharraf does not believe he can both compromise and sustain power, which is why he has decided to tough it out in an effort to get past the re-election in September.
The generals would prefer a situation in which they are not forced to move against Musharraf because they know such a situation does not necessarily help them salvage the position of the institution. Having Musharraf step down could land them in a situation in which the new military leadership would be forced to negotiate a new civil-military power-sharing mechanism with the political forces, and from a position of relative weakness. Part of this has to do with the fact that Musharraf has been reshuffling the military deck so much that most of the top generals have not had much experience in dealing with national politics.
But when the generals know things have reached a point of no return, they will act; this could happen before the end of summer depending on how fast events progress. The prevention of news broadcasts and political talk shows deemed critical of the government on private television channels could prove to be one key step in that direction. Because of the immense popularity of these private channels, the anti-Musharraf movement is likely to gain greater momentum -- and rapidly.
The growing public unrest will only get worse because the government is determined to deal with the situation by cracking down. Unless Musharraf reverses course and opts for the path of accommodation with his opponents -- both among the political parties and with civil society -- it is quite feasible that the unrest, which is expected to peak around the time of the presidential vote in September, could surge earlier. Even his key civilian partner, the PML, is starting to show signs of hemorrhaging, indicating that it might not be possible for Musharraf to secure a second term.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: June 05, 2007, 07:27:09 AM
Realists on Iraq
Democratic presidential candidates should listen to the "experts" they so often cite.
BY DAN SENOR
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
During Sunday night's Democratic presidential debate, the candidates cited an oft-repeated source of the mess in Iraq: The White House's refusal to heed knowledgeable advice.
Indeed, it has often been said that the president got into Iraq because he disregarded advice from the true regional experts: foreign-policy "realists" who put together the Gulf War I coalition and counseled President George H.W. Bush against regime change; "moderate" Sunni Arab Governments; and the U.S. intelligence community.
But what if today these groups were actually advising against an American withdrawal?
Consider Brent Scowcroft, dean of the Realist School, who openly opposed the war from the outset and was a lead skeptic of the president's democracy-building agenda. In a recent Financial Times interview, he succinctly summed up the implication of withdrawal: "The costs of staying are visible; the costs of getting out are almost never discussed. If we get out before Iraq is stable, the entire Middle East region might start to resemble Iraq today. Getting out is not a solution."
And here is retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Centcom Commander and a vociferous critic of the what he sees as the administration's naive and one-sided policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East: "When we are in Iraq we are in many ways containing the violence. If we back off we give it more room to breathe, and it may metastasize in some way and become a regional problem. We don't have to be there at the same force level, but it is a five- to seven-year process to get any reasonable stability in Iraq."
A number of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors also opposed the war as well as the U.S. push for liberalizing the region's authoritarian governments. Yet they now backchannel the same two priorities to Washington: Do not let Iran acquire nukes, and do not withdraw from Iraq.
A senior Gulf Cooperation Council official told me that "If America leaves Iraq, America will have to return. Soon. It will not be a clean break. It will not be a permanent goodbye. And by the time America returns, we will have all been drawn in. America will have to stabilize more than just Iraq. The warfare will have spread to other countries, governments will be overthrown. America's military is barely holding on in Iraq today. How will it stabilize 'Iraq Plus'?" (Iraq Plus is the term that some leaders in Arab capitals use to describe the region following a U.S. withdrawal.)
I heard similar warnings made repeatedly on a recent trip to almost every capital in the Persian Gulf--to some of America's closest allies and hosts of our military.
Likewise, withdrawal proponents cite career U.S. intelligence professionals as war skeptics, and not without basis. Yet here is what the U.S. intelligence community predicted in its National Intelligence Estimate early this year: "Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq. . . .
"If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the Iraqi Security Forces would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution: neighboring countries--invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally--might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; al Qaida in Iraq would attempt to use parts of the country--particularly al-Anbar province--to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion."
If the presidential candidates go on a listening tour, it's important to consider one additional group: A number of Western reporters who have spent the past few years in Iraq.
The White House has actually been inviting Baghdad bureau reporters to the Oval Office--however belatedly--so the president can hear their observations. One of them is John Burns of the New York Times. He won Pulitzers for his coverage in Bosnia and Afghanistan before throwing himself full-bore into Iraq. This is how he described the stakes of withdrawal on "The Charlie Rose Show" recently:
"Friends of mine who are Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd--all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we're seeing now. It's really difficult to imagine that that would happen . . . without Iran becoming involved from the east, without the Saudis, who have already said in that situation that they would move in to help protect the Sunni minority in Iraq.
"It's difficult to see how this could go anywhere but into a much wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world's flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there's complete chaos in the region? . . . It just seems to me that the consequences are endless, endless."
Earlier on the same program, Mr. Burns laid out his own version of Iraq Plus. "If you pull out now, and catastrophe ensues, then it is very likely that the United States would have to come back in circumstances which, of course, would be even less favorable, one might imagine, than the ones that now confront American troops here."
It would be one thing if only the architects of the Bush policy and their die-hard supporters opposed withdrawal. But four separate groups of knowledgeable critics--three of whom opposed going into Iraq--now describe the possible costs of withdrawal as very high.
If the Realists, neighboring Arab regimes, our intelligence community and some of the most knowledgeable reporters all say such a course could be disastrous, on what basis are the withdrawal advocates taking their position?
The American people are understandably frustrated with Iraq. But this does not mean they will be satisfied with politicians who support a path that could make matters much worse.
Mr. Senor, a former foreign policy advisor to the Bush administration, was based in Baghdad from April 2003 through June 2004. He is a founding partner of Rosemont Capital.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Melting Pot
on: June 05, 2007, 07:08:18 AM
IMHO, this piece glosses over the significance of the danger of the disconcerting large minority who believe in terrorism, jihad, etc., but it does make valid points as well.
Muslim Melting Pot
Once again, America beats Europe on assimilation.
BY IRSHAD MANJI
Monday, June 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Against the backdrop of civil war, Abraham Lincoln stirred Americans by appealing to their "better angels." Now some of those angels appear in an unprecedented study about Muslims in the United States--and they may show us how to prevent civil war in Europe.
"Muslim Americans," released by the Pew Research Center, contains moments of bad news. For example, one in four respondents under the age of 30 accepts suicide bombing. As a reformed-minded Muslim, I say that honoring any religion of peace through violence is like preserving virginity through pre-marital sex. Think about it.
But the Pew report offers a lot more good news. Political Islam has not caught on in America as it has in Europe because most Muslims in the U.S. are--dare it be said--treated with dignity.
The vast majority of those surveyed like their communities and describe their lives as "pretty happy" or "very happy." Which means lobbyists do not speak for Muslim Americans when they cry that the U.S. hates Islam.
In Berlin recently, an audience buzzed nervously when I suggested that Europe can learn from America about integrating Muslims. Afterwards, several people confided to me that they know the U.S. is getting something right. What is that something? As I engage with young Muslims on both sides of the Atlantic, I see three factors: economics, diversity and faith.
• For plenty of Muslims in the United States, ambition and initiative pay off. The Pew survey reinforces this lesson, telling us that 71% of Muslim Americans believe most people in the U.S. "can make it if they are willing to work hard."
Meanwhile, in Europe, young Muslims face blatant discrimination in employment, educational and social opportunities, even when they are citizens. Many subsist on welfare, which only gives them time to stew and surf the Web for preachers who spew a rigid identity. This is the path that led Mohammed Bouyeri to murder Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
• In much of America, diversity is a reason to intermingle. The Pew study reveals that most Muslims are close friends with non-Muslims.
In much of Europe, diversity has become an excuse to self-segregate. Many of Europe's mosques, and the Muslims who attend them, refuse to communicate in the language of their new surroundings. As a result, young Muslim men drift away from moderate religious authorities and fall for online opportunists. That is how Mohammad Sidique Khan, mastermind of the London transit bombers, fell under the sway of "Sheikh Google," the collective nickname for Islamist Web sites.
• To Americans, it is not the fact of having faith that invites scrutiny, but what one is perceived to be doing with that faith. Western Europeans, still steeped in a backlash against the Catholic Church, often show suspicion or outright contempt to people of faith. Such "secular fundamentalism" leads some Muslims to believe that they will never be accepted by their adopted countries. So why integrate?
Small wonder that young Muslims in Western Europe whisper to me, "I wish I lived in the United States." The honesty doesn't end there. Muslim men, in their twenties, have complained to me that in an effort to appear sensitive, Europeans downplay shared values. This confuses many Muslim youth and creates a vacuum that radical clerics can exploit.
Translation: A common aspiration such as the American Dream is crucial to giving Muslims a sense of belonging to something larger and more dynamic than cultural enclaves.
But what about the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay? The answer always comes back that these are unfortunate and unjust exceptions. In America, they say, you can be more than a Muslim. You are a member of the wider public.
Naïve? Not according to the Pew study. More than half of Muslims in the U.S. identify themselves as Americans first, easily eclipsing patriotism among Muslims in Germany, Spain or Britain. Clearly, the U.S. has retained its genius as a nation of immigrants.
To be sure, there is a long way to go in giving non-immigrant Muslims, especially African-Americans, a sense of belonging. Most are not among the better educated, wealthier and politically influential Americans that so many South Asian, Iranian and Arab Muslims are.
However, that gap is the product of America's persistent racial battle. It has almost nothing to do with a fear of Islam.
For the all the slogans, accusations and fulminations of the Islam industry's lobbyists, fear is not what mainstream Americans feel about Muslims. Just ask the 73% of Muslims who told Pew that they have never been discriminated against in the U.S.
Europe, take notes. America, take a break from self-flagellation. Reformist Muslims, take your cue. In the U.S., you have the possibility of a voice. Islam's better angels depend on it.
Ms. Manji, a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy, is author of "The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith" (St. Martin's, 2005).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR unindicted co-conspirator
on: June 05, 2007, 07:01:35 AM
Islamic Groups Named in Hamas Funding Case
BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
June 4, 2007
Federal prosecutors have named three prominent Islamic organizations in America as participants in an alleged criminal conspiracy to support a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, Hamas.
Prosecutors applied the label of "unindicted co-conspirator" to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the North American Islamic Trust in connection with a trial planned in Texas next month for five officials of a defunct charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.
While the foundation was charged in the case, which was filed in 2004, none of the other groups was. However, the co-conspirator designation could be a blow to the credibility of the national Islamic organizations, which often work hand-in-hand with government officials engaged in outreach to the Muslim community.
A court filing by the government last week listed the three prominent groups among about 300 individuals or entities named as co-conspirators. The document gave scant details, but prosecutors described CAIR as a present or past member of "the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee and/or its organizations." The government listed the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust as "entities who are and/or were members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood."
The secretary-general of the Islamic Society of North America, Muneer Fareed, said his group was surprised to be named in the Texas case. "I can tell you categorically that the current administration of ISNA, as well as its stakeholders, they have no connection to my knowledge with any Holy Land foundations," he said.
Mr. Fareed denied his group has any ties to Hamas, though he said it is difficult to police all 300 mosques under his umbrella. "We might have a kid whose dad was president of Hamas for all I know," he said. "How do you verify these things?"
The Islamic official expressed frustration at the lack of detail in the prosecution's filing. "Perhaps there's some evidence. I just don't really know what it is," he said.
Spokesmen for CAIR did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday. Efforts to contact the North American Islamic Trust were unsuccessful.
The identification of the alleged co-conspirators could aid prosecutors when the Holy Land Foundation and five of its officials, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mohammad El-Mezain, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, and Abdulraham Odeh, go to trial on July 16 in Dallas. Statements by and about co-conspirators are exempt from rules barring hearsay.
Judge A. Joe Fish will have to decide whether to accept the government's description of the alleged conspiracy.
The practice of publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators is frowned on by some in the legal community, chiefly because there is no trial or other mechanism for those named to challenge their designation. Justice Department guidelines discourage the public identification of unindicted co-conspirators by the government.
"In all public filings and proceedings, federal prosecutors should remain sensitive to the privacy and reputation interests of uncharged third-parties," the Justice Department's manual for prosecutors says. When co-conspirator lists have to be filed in court, prosecutors should seek to file them under seal, the guidelines say.
In practice, the lists are often made public. A list of co-conspirators was released in connection with the federal trial in 2005 of a former college professor, Sami Al-Arian, on terrorism support charges. However, when Enron executives went on trial last year, the list of alleged co-conspirators was kept under seal. Prosecutors on the Holy Land Foundation case could not be reached yesterday and did not respond to an e-mail.
The inclusion of the Islamic groups on the list of alleged conspirators could give ammunition to critics of the organizations. CAIR, in particular, has faced persistent claims that it is soft on terrorism. Critics note that several former CAIR officials have been convicted or deported after being charged with fraud, embargo violations, or aiding terrorist training. Spokesmen for the group have also raised eyebrows for offering generic denunciations of terrorism but refusing to condemn by name specific Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas or Hezbollah.
In addition, one of the Holy Land Foundation defendants, Ghassan Elashi, founded CAIR's Texas chapter. CAIR's Washington office was also set up in 1994 with $5,000 in seed money from the foundation, according to congressional testimony by a researcher into Islamic extremism, Steven Emerson.
Last year, Senator Boxer of California, a Democrat, withdrew an award she gave to an official at a local CAIR chapter. She said she had concerns about statements by some CAIR officials and about claims of financial links to terrorism. Many FBI officials meet regularly with CAIR representatives and clerics from the Islamic Society of North America.
A New York Times article published in March said unidentified government officials believed that the criticism of CAIR was unwarranted. A former FBI official, Michael Rolince, said yesterday that the co-conspirator designation might prompt CAIR to be more direct in denouncing terrorism but was no reason to cut off all contact with the group.
"People could say the same thing about the FBI. They're not all choirboys," he said. "We don't go into this with blinders on."
Separately, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Steve McGonigle, is fighting the prosecution's efforts to call him as a witness at the Holy Land Foundation trial.
In filing to quash the subpoena last week, Mr. McGonigle said prosecutors want to question him about an interview that he conducted in 1999 with the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004, denied any connection between Holy Land Foundation and Hamas.
However, Mr. McGonigle reported that records showed that the foundation sometimes singled out the families of Hamas "martyrs" for assistance.
Mr. McGonigle's lawyer said his client could be targeted by terrorists if he forced to testify. "A journalist who is perceived to have acted as an agent for the U.S. Government will almost inevitably be placed at a substantially greater risk when on assignment in the Middle East," the attorney, Paul Watler, wrote.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gay Conjugal Visits in CA Prisons
on: June 05, 2007, 06:08:27 AM
Gay Inmates to Be Granted Conjugal Visits in California
By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: June 3, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 — Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.
The policy comes more than two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, including those of the same sex and non-married heterosexuals. Gay and civil rights groups had threatened to sue to permit the conjugal visits in prisons, which they say have been slow to enact changes promised by the law.
“It’s a little troubling that a state agency had to be threatened with legal action to obey state law,” said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights organization. “There was no justifiable excuse for not complying.”
Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the slow pace of change was due, in part, to considerations of whether allowing the visits would expose gay inmates to danger inside the prison, where they are sometimes singled out for attack. “We had to thoroughly evaluate all the security concerns,” Ms. Thornton said.
The policy change was spurred by a letter warning of legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Vernon Foeller, 40, a gay man who had been serving a 20-month sentence for attempted burglary at the state prison in Vacaville, Calif. Alex Cleghorn, an AC.L.U. lawyer, said that Mr. Foeller was eligible for a conjugal visit except that the prison system “didn’t recognize his partner as a family member.”
“They have pages and pages of regulations that must be met to permit these visits,” Mr. Cleghorn said, “and Vernon met all of these requirements.”
Mr. Foeller was released in April.
Overnight visits, which can be up to 72 hours long, have been allowed in California since the 1970s, Ms. Thornton said, and are conducted in units inside prison grounds, often trailers. While suggestive of sexual activity, the visits sometimes include several family members, including children.
“It’s not exclusive to conjugal activities,” Ms. Thornton said.
Gay and lesbian inmates were not allowed visits from their partners because only spouses were recognized as “immediate family.”
Several categories of inmate are not allowed the visits, including those on death row, sex offenders, those serving sentences of life without parole, and those who have been violent with minors or family members. Prisoners also must have been on good behavior, with no violations.
The new policy will allow only those currently registered as domestic partners to ask for the visits, and affirms that no prisoners will be allowed overnight visits with other prisoners, regardless of status.
Only a handful of states — including New York — allow conjugal visits, which some prison officials say can help reduce the stress of prison life and maintain prisoners’ connections to their families. Critics, however, have cited a variety of reasons to oppose the visits, including the potential for spreading sexually transmitted diseases and the additional cost of maintaining separate conjugal prison quarters.
Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, called the policy change a “great leap forward” but said gay and lesbian inmates were often still the target of discrimination and violence.
“There are certain social arenas that have been insulated from social changes going on in broader society, and jails and prisons is one of those areas,” Mr. Minter said.
California has a ban on same-sex marriage, although that law has been the subject of legal battles. The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the law’s constitutionality as part of a suit brought by the City of San Francisco and a group of gay and lesbian couples.
The policy change must be approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law before taking effect, most likely later this year.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 04, 2007, 08:39:17 PM
Towards a 21st Century Governing Majority
I am giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday that is so central to where America needs to go if we're going to win the future for our children and grandchildren that I wanted to preview it for you today. I also want to urge you to find out more at the AEI website and to watch it at American Solutions, where you can sign up to get an e-mail reminder here.
We are still more than 500 days from the 2008 elections, but one thing is clear: There will be a future governing majority, and its three key principles can already be defined. What is not clear, however, is whether this next governing majority will be led by Republicans or Democrats.
First, New Deal Democrats, Then Reagan/Contract With America Republicans
From 1932 to 1980, the Democrats clearly led the governing coalition. Republican Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all operated within the world created by the New Deal and FDR.
Then in 1980, President Reagan broke with that pattern and launched a substantial shift in the core principles of American public policy. Under Reagan, defeating the Soviet Union replaced containing it, cutting taxes replaced government redistribution, and pride in American civilization replaced the left's hostility toward American values.
The 1994 Contract with America deepened and extended the Reagan initiative. The Contract expanded the Republican governing majority through welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced budget for four consecutive years, paying off $405 billion in debt and enacting term limits for committee chairmen. Republicans controlled the House for more than two years for the first time since 1928, and Republican control of governorships and state legislatures was deepened.
And Then Came Six Years of Republicans' Failing to Perform
The last six years, however, have been a different story. They have been too often punctuated with examples of performance failures that have effectively ended the current attempt at forging a Republican governing majority.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff encapsulated this inability to get the job done when he recently said that the disastrous new immigration bill "bows to reality." In other words: It's too hard, so why not concede defeat and give up securing the border and enforcing the law.
But we hire leaders to change reality to fit our values, not to change our values to fit their failures.
I don't know what "reality" Secretary Chertoff lives in, but the reality of the vast majority of the American people is one of growing distrust of their leaders and growing disgust with the ways things are being done in Washington.
We value limited, effective government, but the reality we get is the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.
We value lower taxes and living within our means, but the reality we get is out-of-control spending on congressional pet projects.
We value enforcing our laws, but our reality is a Senate-sanctioned order to keep local police in the dark about the legal status of those they arrest.
We value protecting our homeland, but our reality is a federal bureaucracy that allows a man with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis to enter the country -- after a U.S. border guard ignored a warning that he was so dangerous he had to be approached wearing bio-protective gear. And our reality is the discovery of three terrorists in New Jersey who had been in the U.S. illegally for 23 years and charged 75 times by the police without being identified as having no legal right to be in the United States in the first place.
The Principles of a New Governing Majority
It is quite clear that the next governing majority -- a 21st Century governing majority -- will be required to have the following three major characteristics to be a successful and lasting majority.
Represent the Values of the People: It will represent the vast majority of the American people in their key values and beliefs (see below for some examples);
Be Accountable to the Standards of the People: It will insist on a government that is metrics-based, constantly measuring results and changing strategies, policies, bureaucracies and personnel until it actually succeeds in meeting the values, expectations and demands of the American people. A 21st Century government will join the best of the private sector in offering more choices of higher quality at lower cost and with greater convenience; and
Protect the Lives of the People: It will insist on protecting America and her allies from the threat of the irreconcilable wing of Islam as well as resurgent Russian aggressiveness and the challenge of Chinese economic and scientific development.
Which Party Will It Be?
While either party could become the next governing majority, each has some major hurdles to becoming that majority.
The Democrats are in a better tactical position, because they are the opposition party at a time of public disenchantment with the performance of the Republicans in government.
But the values of the Left, the interest groups of government and the grip of the 20th Century systems of bureaucracy make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to propose effective solutions to how we govern ourselves. It is a better-than-even possibility that Democrats can win the presidency in 2008 but a very limited possibility that they could propose the kind of change that would be necessary to form a governing majority.
Republicans Are in a Bad Tactical Spot, But a Good Strategic One
The Republicans have a bad tactical situation, but they are strategically in an easier place than Democrats. Once Republicans get out from under the current performance problems, they could more easily adopt the favored policies of the vast majority of Americans and advocate the transformation of government and the protection of the United States from a broad set of dangers.
It is unlikely that any new Republican attempts to create a natural governing majority could evolve rapidly enough to be offered as a compelling choice to the American people in the 2008 election. But the election of Sarkozy in France shows that it is possible to produce a decisive national decision in favoring of moving toward more conservative reform -- in spite of the performance failures of the incumbent from the same party -- when combined with an ideological failure on the left and an offering of bold solutions and bold leadership from a newly defined right.
'That Government of the People, by the People, and for the People Shall Not Perish From the Earth'
My speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute will address this battle to create America's next governing majority in the context of President Lincoln's charge at Gettysburg:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The speech will examine:
How government of the people is in danger of being replaced by an iron triangle of tax-funded incumbents, interest group lobbyists and powerful bureaucracies;
How government of the people and by the people is being threatened by the anti-free speech law of McCain-Feingold and other anti-citizen efforts to strangle public dissent; and
How government for the people is being replaced by government for the bureaucracies, government for the public-employee unions and government for the trial lawyers.
Restoring 'Government of the People': Making English the Official Language of the United States
The opposition in Congress to making English the official language of the United States is a near perfect example of the failure of the current leadership in Washington to adopt a deeply held value of the American people. Eighty-five percent of Americans want the federal government to join with 30 states in making English the official language of the United States, and yet our elites consider the adoption of this value as a distraction or worse.
Consider last night's Democratic presidential debate. When asked for a show of hands, former Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel was the only candidate to express support for English. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said that the question "is designed precisely to divide us" and that "when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people." If 85% of Americans support English as the official language of government, the only division is between Sen. Obama and the American people.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton responded that she supported English as the "national" language but not the "official" language of the United States, since making English the official language would prevent the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.
It seems that only liberals can possibly see 85% support for a deeply held American value as divisive and only liberals think it is acceptable to express support for English as long as it does not actually have any meaning, such as ending the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.
Only a Mass Movement Can Break the Power of the Entrenched Special Interests
The power of the entrenched special interests in Washington, in many state capitals, and in city and county government is such that only a mass movement comparable to the Jeffersonians, the Jacksonians, and the Lincoln Republicans and Progressives could break the hold of the entrenched power structure.
Three are three reasons to believe this mass movement is growing:
First, the gap between the values of the elite on the left and the values of the vast majority of Americans is growing wider. Ninety-one percent of all Americans favor the right to say "One Nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Eighty-nine percent believe American workers should have the right to a secret ballot election before being forced to join a union. Ninety-three percent believe Americans should know the price and quality of healthcare before making a decision about it. Eighty-five percent believe English should be the official language of government. The list goes on and on. Certainly, any 21st Century governing majority will be center-right in its values and policies.
Second, the gap between the world that works (largely but not entirely private sector) and the world that fails (largely but not entirely government bureaucracy) is growing wider and wider. In the 21st Century private sector, we routinely expect MORE choices of LOWER cost with HIGHER quality and GREATER convenience. But in government we continue to be told about higher taxes, slower implementation, greater error rates and "hard choices." A 21st Century governing majority will be allied with the American people in insisting on the delivery standard of the world that works being applied to the government systems that currently fail.
Third, as the world visibly grows more dangerous, the natural desire of the American people to be protected will reassert itself. The implementation failures in Iraq combined with the Bush Administration's inarticulateness have led to a temporary resurgence of the "Peace at Any Price" Left. But this will rapidly disintegrate as the problems of the modern world persist. Cyber attacks on Estonia, Chinese activities in space, Russian assertiveness against Lithuania and Poland, Iranian seizure of American hostages, the six terrorists in New Jersey and the four terrorists who were planning to blow up the jet fuel at JFK airport in New York are early indicators that any future governing majority will have a very strong national and homeland security component.
I will explore all these ideas in my speech at AEI on Friday, June 8. I hope you'll join me. And then, all these concepts will be expanded into practical, workable solutions in the American Solutions "Solutions Day" workshops on September 27 and 29. It's going to be the start of a great and meaningful adventure. I hope you'll choose to be a part of it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 04, 2007, 08:34:30 PM
The JFK Airport Plot and the Caribbean Connection
U.S. and Guyanese authorities were still searching June 4 for a fourth suspect wanted in connection with an alleged plot to blow up jet fuel pipelines and storage tanks at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport. Although a serious flaw in the plot made the threat far smaller than the suspects apparently planned, the case does highlight the link between jihadism and the Caribbean islands -- and the effectiveness of jihadist propaganda.
Federal investigators charged four Muslims and arrested three -- two in New York and one in Trinidad and Tobago -- on June 2 in connection with the plot. One of the suspects in custody in New York, Guyana-born U.S. citizen Russell Defreitas, was employed at the airport until 1995 as a cargo handler, a position that would have allowed him to gain knowledge of the security and fuel-transfer systems. Another suspect arrested in New York, Kareem Ibrahim, is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, while a third suspect, Abdul Kadir, a former member of Guyana's parliament, is in custody in Trinidad and Tobago. The fourth alleged member of the cell, Abdel Nur, is believed to be at large in Guyana. The U.S. Justice Department described cell members as Islamists who, although they reached out to Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), an Islamist group in Trinidad and Tobago, have no known ties to al Qaeda.
Although the arrests occurred after more than a year of surveillance, the plot reportedly was still early in the planning stage, and the cell still had not obtained explosives. Therefore, although the plotters were serious -- the plan apparently called for massive explosions at the airport -- they did not present an immediate threat. According to investigators, authorities acted against the cell because Kadir was about to leave for Iran, where keeping tabs on him would have been impossible.
The arrests, however, highlight the Caribbean islands' connections to jihadists. Some significant links between the region and jihadists already have been demonstrated, the most notable being Adnan El Shukrijumah, an alleged al Qaeda militant who was born in Saudi Arabia, lived in Guyana and has strong ties to Trinidad. Also, Germaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers involved in the July 2005 attack against London's mass transit system, was born in Jamaica. Authorities in Trinidad say Kadir and Nur are associated with JAM, which was involved in a 1990 coup attempt in that country that resulted in 24 deaths.
The Caribbean shares some similar characteristics with some other regions where jihadism has taken root, including much of the Middle East, Indonesia and East Africa. Although many Caribbean countries are wealthy (Trinidad and Tobago is a major oil producer), their often-corrupt governments siphon off much of the wealth and fail to provide adequate social services, leaving much of their populations poor and living in substandard conditions. Moreover, although the islands' Muslim populations are not large -- Trinidad and Tobago is about 6 percent Muslim, for example -- these communities are active.
Because it is a popular tourist destination, the Caribbean has well-developed transportation links to and from the United States. Someone making frequent trips to and from the resorts, therefore, would not arouse as much suspicion from intelligence and law enforcement agencies as, say, someone making frequent trips to Pakistan. This access, along with the Caribbean's confidential banking systems, allows for the easy transfer of funds, as well as for money laundering.
However, unlike places like Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia, where militant groups have been able to operate freely in remote, sparsely populated areas, the Caribbean islands are small and populous. The almost small-town-like environment makes it difficult for large, complex militant organizations to operate undetected. Furthermore, most Caribbean governments are not hostile to Washington, which wields significant political and financial influence in the region. This influence, then, makes it easy for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to operate on the islands.
The JFK plot does highlight the effectiveness of al Qaeda's propaganda, which is inspiring autonomous grassroots cells to act with little or no contact with anyone even close to the core of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and other militant groups have posted a steady stream of videos and messages on the Internet calling for Muslims to act on their own against the West. This has been effective in inspiring impromptu militant cells in Europe and the United States, most recently involving Fort Dix, N.J..
Even if the alleged plotters had succeeded in carrying out the attack, though, it likely would not have been as destructive as they had hoped. In the United States, most turbine-powered civilian aircraft use a fuel called Jet A, which is harder to set ablaze in the open air than AvGas, which is commonly used in piston-powered general-aviation aircraft. Although Jet A was a poor choice for the plotters' purposes, their tactic was sound. Had they chosen a location where AvGas could be used to cause explosions, the potential destruction would have been greater. Experienced militants who had done better research and target selection would have known better than to target Jet A tanks and pipelines.
While the Caribbean is an unlikely place for militant training camps and bases, it can produce recruits and be a transit point for the global jihadist movement.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica
on: June 04, 2007, 08:10:51 PM
Venezuela: Chavez Fans the Political Flames
June 04, 2007 22 06 GMT
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said June 3 that the student protests following his refusal to renew Radio Caracas Television's (RCTV) contract were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive and should be revised. Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) should form a federation of republics. Though the president is influential enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said during his weekly radio address June 3 that the student protests that followed his refusal to renew the contract of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) were instigated by the United States -- and that it is clear the 1999 constitution is too permissive of foreign influence on public dissent and should be revised. In the same address, Chavez also suggested that the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is made up of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, should form a federation of republics.
Though Chavez is strong enough to get his way on almost any domestic issue, his response to the student protests could turn the group of pro-RCTV demonstrators, which originally dealt only with the issue of RCTV, into a more serious opposition movement. Meanwhile, the ALBA proposal is likely to be a nonstarter with Bolivia, and could estrange Ecuador, which is not a member of ALBA but has been considering joining.
As expected, Chavez halted RCTV's public broadcasts May 27 despite large protests. In Stratfor's first discussion of the issue it was suggested that, having failed to save RCTV, opposition groups would drop their campaign, at least for awhile. However, we did not anticipate that Chavez would fan the flames by claiming the students are being funded by the United States' Albert Einstein Institution as part of a U.S. attempt to destabilize the country, much as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) did during Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
Student protesters are notorious for their ideological immaturity, rowdiness and copious amounts of free time, and they rarely are taken seriously as a political movement. The RCTV protesters are no more powerful than most; however, they likely will resent the accusation that they are acting on behalf of a foreign influence -- particularly the United States. Instead of simply ignoring the students, Chavez has poured salt on a wound that was likely to go away on its own. This could sustain the protesters' anger and turn them into a more serious opposition group. Though the students are unlikely to pose an immediate threat to Chavez, the movement could strengthen opposition to the president's proposed constitutional reforms.
Chavez's comments that the current constitution is too "permissive" carry dire implications for the funding, personnel and activities of NGOs in Venezuela, particularly those with U.S. ties. Chavez's reference to the Orange Revolution, which was spurred by several of the country's NGOs, could indicate a coming crackdown on such organizations in Venezuela.
The president did not provide many details on how he wants ALBA, a regional Chavez fan club that was formed in response to the United States' proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, to become a federation of republics. The organization will hold a ministerial meeting June 6, so it is possible Chavez will elaborate on his proposal then. The idea is unlikely to please Venezuelans, who already are complaining that Chavez devotes too much attention to international events and not enough to problems at home. It also is unlikely to please residents of other ALBA countries, many of whom are concerned that Chavez has too much influence over their leaders.
Taken together, Chavez's recent announcements could even compel Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to further distance themselves from the Venezuelan president. Both Bolivia and Ecuador are in the midst of instituting their own constitutional reforms -- partially inspired by the Venezuelan effort that resulted in the 1999 constitution. Morales is seeking to overcome lowland opposition to his reforms, and Correa is trying to push forward his agenda while reassuring businesses that Ecuador will continue to be a relatively stable environment in which they can turn a profit. The last thing they need is for their respective oppositions to accuse them of following a leader who clamps down on civil liberties and attempts to subjugate their sovereignty for his regional vision.
Though Chavez's moves likely will backfire in the short term, they might not be a total miscalculation. It is possible Chavez is attempting to regain symbolic control of the domestic and regional agenda by acting aggressively. At home, the student protests have made headlines, and he likely felt the need to cast doubt on the idea that this is a homegrown movement. Abroad, Brazil has successfully reached out to the region via its ethanol diplomacy; stymied the Banco del Sur; criticized the RCTV closure; and is preventing Venezuela from co-opting Mercosur as a forum for Chavez's regional ambitions. These events likely convinced Chavez that he cannot rely on Brazil or Mercosur to be the seed for his vision of an integrated Latin America, and he needs to focus on further developing ALBA.
As such, Chavez is turning back to his tried-and-true method of using the United States as a scapegoat, and he is looking to his longtime allies to further his vision for Latin American integration. But he might be unpleasantly surprised to find that such actions are increasingly seen by his supporters
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: June 04, 2007, 09:47:20 AM
In my humble opinion, one of the most fundamental and difficult questions of modern life is what to do with the sexual energy prior to its biological purpose of reproduction. Not only has the length of time between sexual maturity and reproduction reached extraordinary lengths (often decades!) but the sexual act itself can be separated from reproductive consequences.
Here is one approach:
Iranian Minister Calls for Temporary Marriages to Fulfill Sexual Desires
Sunday, June 03, 2007
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's hard-line interior minister is encouraging temporary marriages as a way to avoid extramarital sex, a stance many in this conservative country fear would instead encourage prostitution.
A temporary marriage, or "sigheh," refers to a Shiite Muslim tradition under which a man and a woman sign a contract that allows them to be "married" for any length of time, even a few hours. An exchange of money, as a sort of dowry, is often involved.
Although the practice exists, it's not very common in Iran, a Shiite majority nation where many consider it a license for prostitution. Others, however, have advocated institutionalizing the tradition, saying it would help fight "illicit" sex in a country where sexual relations outside marriage are banned under Islamic law.
"Temporary marriage is God's rule. We must aggressively encourage that," state-run television quoted Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi as saying.
The minister, who made his comments Thursday, was the first Iranian official to support the disputed practice in more than a decade. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani raised the issue in the early 1990s but was opposed by the country's hard-line clerics.
"We have to find a solution to meet the sexual desire of the youth who have no possibility of marriage," Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying by local newspapers.
Half of Iran's population of 70 million is under 30. Taxi driver Reza Sarabi, 23, expressed the frustration of many young Iranian men who can't afford to buy a house and get married.
"I have no money to set up a matrimonial life. I don't want prostitutes. What should I do with my sexual needs?" he said.
The "sigheh" is banned in Sunni Islam, but similar practices can be found in Sunni countries. One such practice is the "urfi" marriage, an unofficial arrangement that is often kept secret. Although an urfi marriage involves signing a document in front of witnesses, the marriage can be broken by destroying the paper.
In Iran, temporary marriage has been reported as a way some widows and poor women help support themselves. But critics of the practice believe such arrangements only exacerbate the country's prostitution problem and undermine Iran's values.
"It will damage the foundation of the family," said lawyer Nemat Ahmadi, who argues it gives wealthy men religious cover to have affairs. "This will only promote prostitution."
Prostitution was banned in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution but has increased in recent years. There are no official statistics available in Iran on the number of prostitutes, but unofficial figures published by some media outlets put the number at several hundred thousand.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 02, 2007, 07:14:17 PM
If we want to keep a fcukin' genius like Simon Cao (formerly of Avanex) here in the US and not running off to set up a cheaper operation in China where he can find a ton of people who a fcukin' brilliant workaholics for pennies a day, it behooves us to have it not too hard to bring them here.
PS: We are getting a bit afield from the subject of this thread. If we want to continue this conversation please continue on the Immigration thread.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 02, 2007, 01:15:31 PM
In a very unprofitable period of my life,
I followed surfed the peak of the NAZ boom and crashed and burned along with it. During this time I followed the Gilder Technology Report and related readings. My impressions on this issue were formed during that time. As can be seen from some of the threads on the SCH forum here, I retain an interest.