Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: December 18, 2006, 10:57:16 AM
I loathe Sen. Hillary Evita Clinton, but this seems like a responsible piece:
An Oil Trust for Iraq
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON and JOHN ENSIGN
December 18, 2006; Page A16
Every day, American troops in Iraq continue to sacrifice while serving bravely and magnificently under deteriorating circumstances. And every day, the Iraqi people are paying an enormous price for the future of that country as well -- a future that, by all accounts, is in jeopardy. For the sake of our soldiers and for the future of Iraq, it is time we place greater rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the hands of the Iraqi people. This includes a stake in oil revenues, which are central to political reconciliation and an end to the sectarian violence.
Recent news reports suggest that Iraqi officials are nearing a compromise on how to divide Iraq's substantial oil revenues, based on population, among the various regions in the country. As part of the final compromise regarding oil revenues, we believe that the distribution of funds should be structured in a way that helps the Iraqi people directly.
We have urged for three years that the Bush administration pursue an Iraq Oil Trust, modeled on the Alaskan Permanent Fund, guaranteeing that every individual Iraqi would share in the country's oil wealth. Oil revenues would accrue to the national government and a significant percentage of oil revenues would be divided equally among ordinary Iraqis, giving every citizen a stake in the nation's recovery and political reconciliation and instilling a sense of hope for the promise of democratic values.
The implications would be vast.
• The future of Iraq's oil reserves remains at the heart of the political crisis in Iraq, as the regional and sectarian divides in Iraq play out over the division of resources and revenues. As the Iraq Study Group writes, "The politics of oil has the potential to further damage the country's already fragile efforts to create a unified central government." An Iraq Oil Trust would chart an equitable path forward for dividing oil revenues in a way that transcends the divide among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.
• As report after report indicates, one of the challenges to building Iraq's oil revenues has been insurgent attacks against oil infrastructure. A distribution of revenues to all Iraqis would mean they would have a greater incentive to keep the oil flowing, help the economy grow, reject the insurgency, and commit to the future of their nation.
• While demonstrating that the U.S. is not in Iraq for oil, an Iraq Oil Trust would also inhibit corruption and the concentration of oil wealth in the hands of a privileged few.
• Finally, an Iraq Oil Trust would demonstrate the values at the heart of democratic governance: Individuals would have the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Indeed, the study group reports, "Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own future." By trusting ordinary Iraqis, ordinary Iraqis would in turn gain greater trust in the national government while seeing something positive about the future at a time when positive signs have been few and far between.
Of course, there are obstacles to putting an Iraq Oil Trust in place, from the ability to perform a census to the capacity to distribute funds. But these obstacles do not seem so daunting when compared to the implications of not taking all the steps we can to find a political solution.
There is a bipartisan consensus about the importance of placing in the hands of Iraqis greater control over their own destiny. Sadly, with Iraq riven by sectarian strife, terrorism, insurgency, corruption and day-to-day criminality and violence, the ability of Iraqis to determine their own future seems to be in jeopardy. In order to build popular support for an end to the chaos, ordinary Iraqis must believe that keeping the nation unified holds the promise of a brighter future for their families. An Iraq Oil Trust will be an important step in the right direction.
Now is the time to act. We are at a critical juncture in our nation's policy toward Iraq. In the aftermath of the Iraq Study Group report, the administration is conducting several reviews of our Iraq policy. We should seize this moment and chart a course that places greater responsibility in the leaders and citizens of Iraq. It's time to put our trust where our democratic values lie: in the Iraqi people.
Mrs. Clinton, a Democratic senator from New York, and Mr. Ensign, a Republican senator from Nevada, are members of the Senate Armed Services committee. Mrs. Clinton is the author of "It Takes a Village," rereleased last week by Simon & Shuster to mark the book's 10th anniversary.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: December 18, 2006, 10:43:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Palestinian Struggles
Hamas and Fatah struck a cease-fire agreement Sunday in an attempt to end one of the bloodiest weeks of feuding in the Palestinian territories. The violence was touched off Dec. 11 after suspected Hamas gunmen killed the children of one of Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' top aides. It culminated in Hamas supporters firing rockets and mortars at Abbas' residence, Palestinian television stations and members of the presidential guard.
However politically necessary the cease-fire agreement might have been, the struggle is still far from over. Since taking office in January, the Hamas-led government has been suffering under economic sanctions -- and the suitcases of cash smuggled in from Iran and other donors in the Arab world have done little to ease the pain. As intended by Israel and the Western powers, the sanctions have steadily whittled away at Hamas' support base: A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah showed that 61 percent of Palestinians favor holding early elections -- as Abbas recently suggested. Fatah would get 42 percent of the vote and Hamas would get 36 percent.
That said, it is not a foregone conclusion, even within the Fatah leadership, that early elections would bring the Hamas government down. Despite the financial desperation, there is a pervasive belief within the territories that the outside world never gave the Hamas leadership a chance to govern effectively. The party's populist image and hard-line stance against Israel still appeal deeply to large segments of the Palestinian population. Should Abbas force an early election, Hamas would encourage its supporters to boycott the polls. This certainly would give Fatah the numbers it needs to reclaim the government, but the party would be hampered by perceptions of illegitimacy.
At the same time, Hamas knows that the longer the political and economic stalemate continues, the more disillusioned the populace will become.
For economic sanctions to be lifted, the Quartet has demanded that Hamas disarm and politically recognize the state of Israel. But both are anathema to Hamas: It cannot disarm because, like Hezbollah, it needs to maintain its legitimacy as a militant resistance movement -- and Israel is the state whose existence it resists.
The geography of Israel is key here. So long as the Jewish state refrains from formally demarcating its borders, any recognition of Israel in its current shape by Hamas would be an implicit admission that Israel has a rightful claim to territory seized during the Six-Day War of 1967 -- the war that carved up the region in such a way as to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state. For this reason, Hamas has insisted that a return to the pre-1967 borders is a precondition for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
For the Israelis, of course, this precondition is a nonstarter. In their view, the religious and historical significance of the land Israel occupies in the West Bank outweighs the value of any concessions in the name of a truce. Israel's reluctance to acknowledge its own pre-1967 borders came to light this month in a textbook controversy, when Education Minister Yuli Tamir -- a Labor Party member who advocates dismantling Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories -- ordered that maps in all future textbooks show the Green Line, an armistice boundary that separated Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip before the 1967 war. The move generated a storm among Israel's political conservatives, who argue that the Israeli position should be defined as complete rejection of any return to the pre-1967 borders.
Intransigence is an all too common theme in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Neither side has the means to discard the political constraints that keep significant negotiations from taking place. With the understanding that the peace process will remain in a stalemate, then, Israel benefits from the frictions between Hamas and Fatah. So long as the Palestinians are busy fighting each other, they will be less concerned with orchestrating attacks against Israel. Any talk of a power-sharing agreement between Hamas and Fatah, therefore, likely will meet with an Israeli military offensive or assassination attempt designed to exacerbate intra-Palestinian feuding.www.stratfor.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Snaggletooth Variations:
on: December 16, 2006, 11:50:40 AM
We have just finished editing our newest DBMA DVD. It is titled "The Snaggletooth Variations" (TSV).
TSV builds upon "Combining Stick & Footwork". CSF was the first DVD for Dog Brothers Martial Arts and was the first DVD after our "Real Contact Stickfighting" series. As a fighter and as a teacher, it is my experience that most people do not move their feet well in good integration with their hitting during a fight. It is also my experience that most peole feel incredibly caucasian when going through the training necessary to achieve skills that will actually appear in the adrenal state. This is why CSF took a "basic building blocks" kind of approach.
TSV on the other hand, although it starts with the "basic power combo", which is something I regard as extremely important, practical and accessible to people relatively early on their path in popping their opponents' bubbles and cracking them in the head, has the bulk of its material aimed at intermediate and advanced practitioners and fighters. The concepts, material, and training progression will take some time for most people to absorb.
It is intensely bilateral, both in its footwork and its stickwork. It is both single stick and double stick-- but in the double stick, due to the progression, either stick can and does act as single stick.
Bilateralism is the foundation for 360 degree skills. It works with the "attacking block" concept (and if you have already worked with our "Attacking Blocks" DVD, this will help).
As it progresses, TSV "breaks the mirror". The "mirror" is our term for patterns whereing the right always meets the right, the left always meets the left, etc. Breaking the mirror means that left meets right or vice versa. Breaking the mirrior means that merges are part of the repertoire, not just meets.
In TSV I am assisted by Guro Lonely Dog, who as is always is the case, does an outstanding job.
Because there is a strong taste of Lameco in the material, the extras footage includes an interesting portion a lesson of Punong Guro Edgar Sulite training Salty Dog in my backyard.
The Adventure continues,
PS: Now we have to design the box cover.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: December 16, 2006, 09:43:51 AM
December 15th, NY Times
From Head Scarf to Army Cap
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Tex. — Stomping her boots and swinging her bony arms, Fadwa Hamdan led a column of troops through this bleak Texas base.
Fadwa Hamdan belongs to the rare class of Muslim women who have signed up to become soldiers trained in Arabic translation.
Faith and War
This is the third and final article in an occasional series looking at the experiences of Muslims and the United States military.
For Recruiter, Saying ‘Go Army’ Is a Hard Job (October 7, 2006)
Sorting Out Life as Muslims and Marines (August 7, 2006)
Only six months earlier, she wore the head scarf of a pious Muslim woman and dropped her eyes in the presence of men. Now she was marching them to dinner.
“I’m gonna be a shooting man, a shooting man!” she cried, her Jordanian accent lost in the chanting voices. “The best I can for Uncle Sam, for Uncle Sam!”
The United States military has long prided itself on molding raw recruits into hardened soldiers. Perhaps none have undergone a transformation quite like that of Ms. Hamdan.
Forbidden by her husband to work, she raised five children behind the drawn curtains of their home in Saudi Arabia. She was not allowed to drive. On the rare occasions when she set foot outside, she wore a full-face veil.
Then her world unraveled. Separated from her husband, who had taken a second wife, and torn from her children, she moved to Queens to start over. Struggling to survive on her own, she answered a recruiting advertisement for the Army and enlisted in May.
Ms. Hamdan’s passage through the military is a remarkable act of reinvention. It required courage and sacrifice. She had to remove her hijab, a sacred symbol of the faith she holds deeply. She had to embrace, at the age of 39, an arduous and unfamiliar life.
In return, she sought what the military has always promised new soldiers: a stable home, an adoptive family, a remade identity. She left one male-dominated culture for another, she said, in the hope of finding new strength along the way.
“Always, I dream I have power on the inside, and one day it’s going to come out,” said Ms. Hamdan, a small woman with delicate hands and sad, almond eyes.
She belongs to the rare class of Muslim women who have signed up to become soldiers trained in Arabic translation. Such female linguists play a crucial role for the American armed forces in Iraq, where civilian women often feel uncomfortable interacting with male troops.
Finding Arabic-speaking women willing to serve in the military has proved daunting. Of the 317 soldiers who have completed training in the Army linguist program since 2003, just 23 are women, 13 of them Muslim.
Ms. Hamdan wrestled with the decision for two years. Only in the Army, she decided, would she be able to save money to hire a lawyer and finally divorce her husband. She yearned to regain custody of her children and support them on her own. She thought of going to graduate school one day.
But when Ms. Hamdan finally enlisted, she was filled with as much fear as determination. There was no guarantee, with her broken English and frail physique, that she could meet the military’s standards or survive its rigors.
“This is different world for me,” she said at the time.
‘This Is the Army’
It was around midnight on May 31 when a yellow school bus brought Ms. Hamdan and 16 other new soldiers to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, a spread of parched grass and drab, low-lying buildings.
Ms. Hamdan had not scored high enough on the required English examination to go directly to basic training, so she was sent here for intensive language instruction.
At Lackland, soldiers enlisted in the Army linguist program known as 09-Lima have 24 weeks to improve their English and pass the exam. In that time, they follow a strict military regimen. They rise at 5 a.m. for physical training. They march to class. They drop to the ground for punitive push-ups.
When the bus arrived at the barracks that evening, Ms. Hamdan said, she hopped out first, her camouflage cap pulled low on her head.
Standing by the metal stairs was Sgt. First Class Willie Brannon, an imposing 48-year-old man with a stern jaw and a leveling stare. He ordered the soldiers to change into shorts. Ms. Hamdan explained softly that she was Muslim and could not do this.
“This is the Army,” he replied. “Everybody’s the same.”
Ms. Hamdan burst into tears.
The issue had arisen at the base before, and some of the Muslim women had been permitted to wear sweat pants instead of shorts. Officially, it would be Ms. Hamdan’s choice.
(Page 2 of 4)
But from the sidelines came two opposing directives, one in English and the other in Arabic. The drill sergeants wanted Ms. Hamdan to get used to wearing shorts, while several of the male Muslim soldiers tried to shame her into refusing.
“You’re not supposed to show your legs,” they told her.
For three weeks, she wore the blue nylon shorts, hitching up her white socks. Then she switched to sweat pants, even as the summer heat surpassed 100 degrees.
It helped, Ms. Hamdan thought, that there were so many similarities between Islam and the Army.
The command “Attention!” reminded her of the first step in the daily Muslim prayer, when one must stand completely still.
Soldiers, like Muslims, were instructed to eat with one hand. The women ate by themselves, and always walked with an escort, as Muslim women traditionally traveled.
The Army taught soldiers to live with order. They folded their fatigues as women folded their hijabs, and woke before sunrise as Ms. Hamdan had done all her life. They always marched behind a flag, as Muslims did in the days of the Prophet.
Nothing felt more familiar than the military’s emphasis on respect. Soldiers learned to tuck their hands behind their backs when speaking to superiors.
When Ms. Hamdan tried this with Sergeant Brannon, she thought of her father. Her eyes automatically dropped to the floor, with customary Muslim modesty.
“Look me in the eye,” the sergeant said. It was a command he had learned to deliver with care.
Sergeant Brannon, an African-American Baptist from North Carolina, had never met a Muslim before coming to Lackland. He soon concluded that the Muslim women in his charge had survived greater struggles outside the military than anything they would face inside it.
“They’ve been through a lot,” he said.
Life Before the Service
Fadwa Hamdan was always a touch rebellious.
One of seven children, she was raised by her Palestinian parents in Amman, Jordan. Her father worked as a government irrigation official while her mother stayed at home with the children. They expected the same of their daughters.
But as a teenager, Ms. Hamdan rejected her many suitors. She wanted to see the world. At 19, she said, she secretly volunteered as a nurse with the Jordanian police, infuriating her parents. That same year, a visiting Palestinian doctor who lived in New York spotted her in the street.
He tracked down her home address, and spoke to her father. The next day, Ms. Hamdan learned she was engaged.
“Your dream has come true,” Ms. Hamdan recalls her mother saying. “You’re leaving Jordan.”
Ms. Hamdan joined her husband in Staten Island in 1987. She felt nothing for him. He was 10 years her senior, and she found him stiff and dictatorial. He only let her leave the house with him, she said. If she upset him, he refused to speak to her for months.
She had children to fill the void. She became more religious, and began wearing the face veil known as a niqab. Eventually, the family moved to Saudi Arabia.
Weeks after Ms. Hamdan delivered her fifth child in 2000, she learned from her mother-in-law that her husband was taking a second wife in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Ms. Hamdan was shocked.
“I couldn’t talk,” she said.
The next summer, on a family vacation in Amman, her husband disappeared one evening with three of their children, she said. Days later she located two of her boys in Saudi Arabia, and learned that the new wife would be joining them.
Ms. Hamdan’s 8-year-old girl had been left with her grandparents in Ramallah. She tried to get the girl back, but her husband had kept the child’s passport, she said.
When reached by telephone in Saudi Arabia, a man answering to her husband’s name said, “This is her choice and I don’t have anything to do with it,” apparently referring to her decision to join the Army. Then he hung up.
It never occurred to Ms. Hamdan to seek a divorce. She feared that it would bring shame to her family. From Jordan, she fought for legal custody of the children. In 2002, a judge ruled that she could keep the three youngest children, but allotted her a meager alimony, not enough to cover their schooling. Reluctantly, she returned them to their father.
Alone in Amman, she felt like an outcast.
“The neighbors, they look at me,” she said.
(Page 3 of 4)
In September 2002, she moved to Queens to live with her brother and his wife. She returned to wearing a regular head scarf, or hijab, and started classes at a local community college. One night she came home late, she said, and her brother told her to leave. “She did not follow the rules of the house,” the brother, Sam Saeed, said in an interview.
Ms. Hamdan did not know where to turn. Her father had refused to speak to her since she left Jordan. Over the next 10 days, she rode the subway at night and slept on a park bench in Queens. Finally, she walked into a hair salon in Brooklyn and approached a Lebanese Muslim woman.
“She was hysterical crying,” said the woman, Helena Buiduon.
Ms. Hamdan stayed with Ms. Buiduon until she found her own apartment. She taught the Koran to children and worked in a doctor’s office while earning an associate’s degree in medical assistance.
Her life remained a struggle. She lived in a small, drafty apartment in the Bronx. Other Muslim immigrants found her puzzling.
Some people suggested that she was a “loose woman,” she recalled, a notion that amused her given how little she wanted another relationship.
“I can’t feel anything for anybody,” she said. “I lived like jail. Just imagine you have a bird and the door is open. You think he will go back to this jail again? Never. He’s just flying.”
In 2003, she spotted an ad for the Army in an Arabic-language magazine. She met with a recruiter but cut the conversation short after learning she would have to remove her head scarf before enlisting.
Secretly, though, she kept imagining a new, military life. In March, she made up her mind.
“I broke the law with God,” she said of her decision to remove her hijab. “I had to.”
She put her belongings in storage. She began lifting 20-pound weights. She slipped off her veil in public a few times. She felt naked.
Two days before she left, she stopped by her brother’s video shop in Queens to say goodbye.
Mr. Saeed was kneeling in prayer, as a Spanish rap video blasted from a television set. He stiffened at the sight of Ms. Hamdan, then kissed her on the cheek. They had not seen each other all year. Within minutes, an argument began.
“She’ll never make it,” Mr. Saeed said, looking away from his sister.
“Oh yeah?” she replied, her eyes widening.
“A Muslim woman is not allowed to travel alone,” he said.
“What about working?” she said, her voice quivering. “Look at your wife, she works!”
“She likes to spend time here,” he said.
Ms. Hamdan ran from the store crying.
“She won’t make it,” Mr. Saeed told a reporter after she left. “Woman always weak. She need a man to protect her.”
Later, when Ms. Hamdan heard what her brother had said, she was silent.
“Why didn’t he protect me?” she said.
What Happens Next
Life at Lackland — where soldiers cannot chew gum, wear makeup or leave the base — reminded Ms. Hamdan of her marriage.
“Sometimes, when I’m by myself, I wonder how I have stayed here for six months,” she said as she sat outside her barracks one recent evening. “But I did it.”
She was among 39 men and women in the Army linguist program, in a company of 119 soldiers. The rest were immigrants from around the globe, there to improve their English in the hopes of entering boot camp.
Everyone, it seemed, had a sad story.
The women talked quietly after the lights went out. A Sudanese woman had come to the United States after most of her family died in a bombing in Khartoum. A 23-year-old woman had lost her Iranian mother in an honor killing.
A teenage Iraqi girl cried herself to sleep every night. She, like many other soldiers, began referring to Ms. Hamdan as “Mom.”
“They come into my arms,” said Ms. Hamdan, who was older than most of the others.
She missed being a mother, yet she rarely talked about her own children. She was learning not to cry, and that was a subject that broke her down. Privately, she called them in Saudi Arabia twice a week with 20-minute phone cards, four minutes per child.
As the summer wore on, it became clear that Ms. Hamdan was floundering in her English studies. She failed the exam repeatedly.
Physically, though, she was growing stronger. Push-ups and sit-ups no longer scared her. She found she was a fast runner.
(Page 4 of 4)
On Aug. 10, she won the one-mile race for female soldiers in seven minutes flat, in sweat pants. The next week, she became a squad leader and bay commander, directing a column of soldiers during marches and keeping order in the female barracks.
Days later, she decided to wear the shorts again.
“What, we have a new soldier here?” Sergeant Brannon called out as she walked deliberately down the stairs.
“I am going to show the men I’m like them,” she told him later. “I’m a man now.”
“No, you’re not a man” he said.
“Yes, I’m a man.”
“No,” he said. “You’re a strong-willed woman.”
That became his nickname for her: strong-willed woman.
As Ms. Hamdan’s status rose with the drill sergeants, so did her standing among the soldiers.
“Sometimes I’m tough on them,” she said one recent weekday as she patrolled her floor. The women smiled from their bunk beds. “I like everything clean.”
Another morning, she sat in the mess hall, eating her daily breakfast of Froot Loops followed by nacho-cheese Doritos. A drill sergeant called out that the group had three minutes to finish, just as a clean-shaven soldier walked past Ms. Hamdan with a tray full of food. She shot him a hard look.
“Three minutes,” she repeated. “You hear that?”
The greatest shift for Ms. Hamdan came in her relationship with the male soldiers. They stopped taunting her about wearing shorts. When she gave orders, they listened.
“It seems like a heavy burden has been lifted from her,” Sergeant Brannon said.
Yet even as she felt herself changing, she remained steady in her faith. She never stopped praying five times a day. She attended the base’s mosque each Friday and fasted through the holy month of Ramadan.
On a recent Friday, she sat with her eyes closed on the mosque’s embroidered carpet, wearing a white veil and skirt over her Army fatigues.
“Staying on the straight path is not an easy matter, except for those who Allah helps to do so,” the Egyptian imam said in Arabic over a loudspeaker.
In November, Ms. Hamdan’s English score was still too low, by 11 points, even though she was performing better on the weekly quizzes. She was given a one-month extension, and one more chance.
She took her last exam in December, and failed again. She ran from her classroom.
“Don’t come looking for me,” she recalled telling a startled drill sergeant.
By herself, Ms. Hamdan began walking across the base. Tears streamed down her face as she reached the two-story, concrete building that had long been her refuge.
She climbed the stairs of the mosque. Alone, she knelt on the carpet and prayed. Finally, she sat in silence. She felt at peace.
Ms. Hamdan will be discharged on Dec. 15. She is unsure of what the future holds. She may stay in Texas and look for a job. She may no longer wear a hijab in public. All she knows is that she is different now, and no less a Muslim for it.
“I can face men,” she said. “I can fight. I can talk. I don’t keep it inside.”
She thought for a moment.
“I changed myself,” she said. “I’m a new Fadwa. Strong female. I like this.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: December 16, 2006, 09:15:16 AM
The following piece by a Syrian was written for what I understand to be a major Indian newspaper. Interesting.
A bitter struggle for power in Iran
By Sami Moubayed
DAMASCUS - Much is being written in the international media about the twin elections in Iran, which take place on Friday. Some, like veteran Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, are expecting the "first major political defeat" for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
One election will be for municipalities, the other for the Council of Experts (COE). This congressional body of 86 ayatollahs selects the supreme leader of Iran and supervises his activities. Members have to be experts in Islamic jurisprudence so they can debate
Islamic law, and see that the grand ayatollah does not violate the Holy Koran.
The COE can hire and fire the supreme leader, a post held since 1989 by the strong and all-powerful Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei. It is currently headed by the old and ailing Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who has re-nominated himself for office but stands a very slim chance of succeeding since he is supported neither by Ahmadinejad nor by Khamenei.
For this reason, Ahmadinejad has his eyes set on winning elections for the COE, which are by direct votes for an eight-year term. Khamenei, who is 66 and also in frail health, is likely to be ousted - if Ahmadinejad gets his way - before the new council's term expires in 2014.
By all accounts, the president does not like the overpowering influence that Khamenei has on Iranian politics. Some expect that if the president's list wins the elections, they would ask Khamenei to step down on the grounds of ill health.
The man earmarked to replace Khamenei by the president is Ahmadinejad's ideological mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghli Misbah Yazdi. Born in 1934, the radical cleric studied in Qom and was educated in Islam by none other than Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic in 1979. He graduated with honors from the religious seminary in 1960 and worked as editor-in-chief of a anti-Shah journal called "Revenge".
He was also a member of the board of directors at an influential religious school in Iran. In recent years, he has headed the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute and is a current member of the outgoing COE. During the 1990s he rose to fame for seriously challenging the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, arguing that contact with the West is un-Islamic and claiming that the reformists were straying from the pure revolutionary ideals of Khomeini.
He encouraged disobedience to Khatami through his writings and sermons on Fridays, prompting the former president to describe him as a "theotrician of violence". Yazdi's day in the sun came when his student Ahmadinejad was voted to power in August 2005. To him, Western culture means "misleading ideas" and it resembles injecting Iran "with the AIDS virus".
If this man becomes the new leader of Iran, all talk about curbing Ahmadinejad's powers and re-engaging Iran in dialogue with the West will come to an abrupt end. But luckily for opponents of the Iranian president, his ambitions face strong obstacles from within Iranian politics. These have been created by the Khamenei-backed Guardian Council.
This body is made up of 12 officials (six being clerics appointed directly by the supreme leader) and has ultimate executive, judiciary and electoral authority. The remaining six members are lawyers appointed by a judicial authority, which in turn is approved or vetoed by Khamenei.
Although Khamenei originally supported Ahmadinejad's rise to power in 2005, the two men have parted on a variety of issues and the president sees Khamenei as an obstacle to his powers at the presidency. He wants - but cannot so long as Khamenei is in power - to clip the wings of the supreme leader. Khamenei, a smart man by all accounts who also served as president in the 1980s, realizes the threat coming from Ahmadinejad. That is why he ordered his supporters - all 12 members of the Guardian Council - to veto most of the 493 candidates running for elections on Friday who are declared supporters of the president.
Among those vetoed are Yazdi's son. They also banned any woman from standing for office at the CEO. All reformists running for office were also rejected because they are trying to pass an amendment in the Iranian constitution allowing non-clerics into the CEO - something that Khamenei curtly refuses as well.
Other candidates turned down include pro-business and modernizing clerics supportive of former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who challenged Ahmadinejad for the presidency in 2005. The very fact that Khamenei and the Guardian Council allowed Rafsanjani to run for the CEO, given his animosity toward the wild policies of Ahmadinejad, is also an indicator that they want to make life more difficult for the president.
Victory for Rafsanjani, however, is doubtful, since both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are opposed to him, and it is rumored that he is in favor of reaching a deal with the United States on Iran's nuclear program. In short, Khamenei has engineered elections that guarantee continuity of his post as the grand master of Iranian elections. Iranian observers are saying that out of the 86 seats contested at the CEO, only 17 new members will be voted into office. The remaining 69 clerics will all be pro-Khamenei.
For the above reasons, along with a recent Iranian poll affiliated with the Rafsanjani-led Expediency Council, show that the future is not promising for Ahmadinejad. Khamenei, however, has not come out to challenge Ahmadinejad - at least not yet - and insists on being a godfather to all Iranians. He has even called on all able citizens to vote, saying that it is a national and religious duty.
Despite that, Iranian observers claim that voter turnout will be no more than 49%. The poll showed that out of the Iranians surveyed, 90% said that their support for the president had diminished over the past 16 months. This was made clear by student demonstrators on December 11 at the Amir Kabir University of Iran, when young men burned pictures of Ahmadinejad and raised slogans that read "death to the dictator".
Unable to crack down on the rioters, for fear of losing support in the upcoming elections, Ahmadinejad did not arrest or harass them. On the contrary, he released a statement saying that he was pleased by the demonstrations. They reminded him of his student days under the Shah in the 1970s when students were prohibited from expressing their views.
If he fails to control the COE, however, Ahmadinejad plans to take the municipality elections through a list of candidates headed by his sister, Parvan Ahmadinejad. Her list is called "The Enchanting Scent for Services", and it is campaigning on the same youth-related issues that Ahmadinejad touted when he was voted in in 2005. The ambitious president, however, will not be satisfied unless he wins the COE.
One might ask, how is it that this president, who surprised the world with his victory in 2005, finds himself in a difficult position today, unable to impose his will on Iranian society? Is the Ahmadinejad myth a fabrication created by the US? Is the superman president really human - and weak - after all? Perhaps the Americans concentrated on Ahmadinejad more than they should have, because the real powerbroker in Iran is Khamenei - not Ahmadinejad.
It is Khamenei who supports Hezbollah and Khamenei, rather than the president, who is stubborn when it comes to Iran's nuclear issue. Ahmadinejad is simply a figure of state who has limited domestic authority and by no means is a dictator like Saddam Hussein. He achieved victory not because of his revolutionary views, nor for his support and conviction in the Islamic Revolution, but rather because of his promises to grassroots Iranians. By rhetoric, action, dress and origin, he mirrored their plight and realities.
But Ahmadinejad promised more than he could deliver, forgetting during election time that he was not the ultimate ruler and would have to share power with the Majlis (parliament), the Guardian Council, the COE - and Khamenei.
Young Iranians, born after the revolution of 1979, had not experienced the autocracy of the Shah and were (and still are) unimpressed by the revolutionary rhetoric of the 1980s. They wanted a president who could provide jobs for the university-educated Iranians who were unemployed. They wanted a leader who could combat the 16% unemployment rate ( 21.2% among women and 34% in the 15-19 age group.)
Currently, 800,000 Iranian youth enter the job market every year and Ahmadinejad would have to double job creation efforts to meet this staggering number. This would require huge investment and an economic growth rate of more than 6% per year. Iran's economy is now down to 1.9%, after growth of 4.8% for 2004-2005.
One slogan devised under Ahmadinejad read: "$550 for every Iranian citizen", Ahmadinejad also won because he was Khamenei's man since the supreme leader did not want to deal with a political strongman like Rafsanjani. It was believed that Ahmadinejad would follow Khamenei's orders and not defy him.
Rafsanjani, however, would have worked with Khamenei as an equal. The supreme leader wanted someone he could manipulate. For the exact same reasons, he is now working against Ahmadinejad, who apparently no longer wants to be manipulated or overpowered.
Rather than criticize Ahmadinejad, the US could bide its time and see how Friday's polls play out. Change can be achieved - through evolution of the Iranian regime and its own system of checks-and-balances - rather than revolution, or war.
Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: US Dollar
on: December 16, 2006, 09:05:50 AM
The Bush team is harranging China to allow its currency to revalue.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/14/AR2006121400681.html
Here's how this issue stacks up for me:
1) As a general rule, seeking to export unemployment through competitive devaluations is quite stupid. I think Jude Wanniski's writings on this point quite sound.
2) The balance of trade between between two countries is as relevant as the balance of trade between California and Maine. This is even more the case wherein one of the countries in question strongly restricts, as China does, capital outflows-- at least this is my understanding. If I am correct with regard to this last point, the balance of trade is even less meaningful than is normally the case.
3) While we might differ on how to measure it (gold, basket of commodities, balance of trade, purchasing power parity,exchange rates, per Austrian economics, etc) what matters is that stability of value of the currency. It seems pretty clear that regardless of the measurement used, right now we have developed quite a bit of momentum towards printing too many dollars. This is profoundly unwise.
Thus, this conversation with China is a great foolishness on out part.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 15, 2006, 04:21:10 PM
Second post of the day on this thread:
DIABETES BREAKTHROUGH; TORONTO SCIENTISTS CURE DISEASE IN MICE: In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians. Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas."I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 15, 2006, 09:46:29 AM
The Healthy Americans Act
It's been some time since I've run across a genuinely new health care proposal, but the comprehensive reform legislation Ron Wyden's unveiled today is just such a beast. Wyden, a gangly goofball of a Senator who last turned heads for his tax reform ideas, must have decided fully restructuring the tax code was thinking too small, so this morning, he took over the Senate Finance Committee's hearing room, brought in an array of union leaders, CEOs, and health wonks, and argued to totally scrap the employer-based health system.
Here's how it would work: The Healthy Americans Act of 2007 would begin by dissolving all employer-based insurance. Instead, it would mandate that every employer who had covered his employees in 2006 convert the total they spent on insurance into salary increases creating, in one day, the single largest pay raise America has ever seen. Now, why would employers go along with that? Well, legislatively they'd have to, but, as Len Nichols explained to me, they'll also want to: Health costs are accelerating, every year costs 10 or so percent more than they ear before. By freezing the total at what employers paid in 2006, Wyden's plan would exempt them from 2007's increase.
Meanwhile, an individual mandate would be implemented, forcing every American to purchase one of the options offered by their state's newly formed Health Help Agency (HHA). The HHA's will have a menu of private insurance plans, all of which must provide coverage equal to or better than the Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Plan used by Congress. All plans will be community rated by the state, meaning an end to adverse selection and preexisting condition problems. The only acceptable variables for price will be geography, family size, and smoking status. Subsidies will be offered up to 400 percent of the poverty line, will full coverage provided to those below 100 percent. Employers will contribute through a set equation related to business size and yearly profits. There's quite a bit more, but that's the basic outline.
I have to spend some more time with the legislation ("c'mon baby, open up to me, tell me your secrets..."), but my snap reaction is heavily favorable. It isn't everything I'd want, but imposing the combination of community rating and an insurance floor will be a huge step forward. The cost stability offered to employers seems very, very savvy, as does the forced conversion of 2006 health costs into salary increases. The Lewin Group, the gold standard in health care actuarial data (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence), has evaluated the plan. Their conclusion? The plan would cover more than 99 percent of Americans, we'd save $4.8 billion in the first year and $1.48 trillion over the next decade. How's that sound? To me, it sounds like precisely the sort of big thinking Democrats need to be doing now that they're back in the majority.
For those want to dive in, there are more materials at Wyden HQ.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: December 15, 2006, 09:32:14 AM
Administration to Drop Effort to Track if Visitors Leave
By RACHEL L. SWARNS and ERIC LIPTON
Published: December 15, 2006
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 — In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.
Domestic security officials had described the system, known as U.S. Visit, as critical to security and important in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Similarly, one-third of the overall total of illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas, a Congressional report says.
Tracking visitors took on particular urgency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became clear that some of the hijackers had remained in the country after their visas had expired.
But in recent days, officials at the Homeland Security Department have conceded that they lack the financing and technology to meet their deadline to have exit-monitoring systems at the 50 busiest land border crossings by next December. A vast majority of foreign visitors enter and exit by land from Mexico and Canada, and the policy shift means that officials will remain unable to track the departures.
A report released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, restated those findings, reporting that the administration believes that it will take 5 to 10 years to develop technology that might allow for a cost-effective departure system.
Domestic security officials, who have allocated $1.7 billion since the 2003 fiscal year to track arrivals and departures, argue that creating the program with the existing technology would be prohibitively expensive.
They say it would require additional employees, new buildings and roads at border crossings, and would probably hamper the vital flow of commerce across those borders.
Congress ordered the creation of such a system in 1996.
In an interview last week, the assistant secretary for homeland security policy, Stewart A. Baker, estimated that an exit system at the land borders would cost “tens of billions of dollars” and said the department had concluded that such a program was not feasible, at least for the time being.
“It is a pretty daunting set of costs, both for the U.S. government and the economy,” Mr. Stewart said. “Congress has said, ‘We want you to do it.’ We are not going to ignore what Congress has said. But the costs here are daunting.
“There are a lot of good ideas and things that would make the country safer. But when you have to sit down and compare all the good ideas people have developed against each other, with a limited budget, you have to make choices that are much harder.”
The news sent alarms to Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats warned that suspending the monitoring plan would leave the United States vulnerable.
Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who is a departing subcommittee chairman on the House International Relations Committee, said the administration could not say it was protecting domestic security without creating a viable exit monitoring system.
“There will not be border security in this country until we have a knowledge of both entry and exit,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. “We have to make a choice. Do we want to act and control our borders or do we want to have tens of millions of illegals continuing to pour into our country?”
Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is set to lead the Homeland Security Committee, also expressed concern.
“It is imperative that Congress work in partnership with the department to develop a comprehensive border security system that ensures we know who is entering and exiting this country and one that cannot be defeated by imposters, criminals and terrorists,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement Thursday.
In January 2004, domestic security officials began fingerprint scanning for arriving visitors. The program has screened more than 64 million travelers and prevented more than 1,300 criminals and immigration violators from entering, officials said.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other officials often call the program a singular achievement in making the country safer. U.S. Visit fingerprints and photographs 2 percent of the people entering the country, because Americans and most Canadians and Mexicans are exempt.
Efforts to determine whether visitors actually leave have faltered. Departure monitoring would help officials hunt for foreigners who have not left, if necessary. Domestic security officials say, however, it would be too expensive to conduct fingerprint or facial recognition scans for land departures. Officials have experimented with less costly technologies, including a system that would monitor by radio data embedded in a travel form carried by foreigners as they depart by foot or in vehicles.
Tests of that technology, Radio Frequency Identification, found a high failure rate. At one border point, the system correctly identified 14 percent of the 166 vehicles carrying the embedded documents, the General Accountability Office reported.
The Congressional investigators noted the “numerous performance and reliability problems” with the technology and said it remained unclear how domestic security officials would be able to meet their legal obligation to create an exit program.
Some immigration analysts said stepping away from the program raised questions again about the commitment to enforce border security and immigration laws.
A senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, Jessica Vaughn, said the government had long been too deferential to big businesses and travel groups that raised concerns that exit technology might disrupt travel and trade.
“I worry that the issue of cost is an excuse for not doing anything,” said Ms. Vaughn, whose group advocates curbing immigration. Domestic security officials said they still hoped to find a way to create an exit system at land borders. “We would to do more testing,” a spokesman for the department, Jarrod Agen, said. “We are evaluating the initial tests to determine how to move forward.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: December 15, 2006, 09:27:09 AM
A Pentagon Agency
Is Looking at Brains --
And Raising Eyebrows
December 15, 2006; Page B1
In a request issued in October, a government agency asked researchers for "innovative" ways to monitor the brain as it learns and acquires skills, such as by tracking when brain waves flip from those characteristic of novices to those of experts, and noninvasive ways to speed up the process.
In February, the agency said it was interested in ways to use EEGs to detect when a brain had found what it was looking for in a photograph, such as a familiar face in a crowd.
As part of the same program, the agency awarded Lockheed Martin $650,000 in August to develop technology to monitor a brain's cognitive activity in real time and, if the device senses overload, make changes such as slowing the flow of data the brain is receiving.
In a progress report to the agency's "Augmented Cognition" program, a company said in September that it had completed development of a portable, wearable system of sensors that assess cognitive function, producing a readout showing how a brain's pattern of thought-related activity deviates "from that of the normal population."
The requests came from, and the report went to, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Established in 1958, Darpa is best known for inventing the forerunner of the Internet. For decades it lavished most of its support on physics. But lately, as part of its mission to maintain U.S. military superiority "by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research," the agency has expanded into neuroscience.
Can the folks who brought you the Internet also bring you ways to look into brains -- and do you want them to?
Darpa has good reason to fund neuroscience. Discoveries and new technologies such as noninvasive imaging to detect what the mind is doing might help analysts, pilots and grunts process and react better to barrages of data, and allow real-time assessment of head injuries on the battlefield. Brain-computer interfaces in which thoughts are electronically translated into signals that operate a computer or prosthetic limb might improve rehab for soldiers suffering grievous injuries.
As with other "dual use" technologies, however, the findings and gizmos born of Darpa's brain research may well find their way into civilian life, and in ways that trouble some ethicists. Darpa's interest in neuroscience is "extensive and growing," says Jonathan Moreno of the University of Virginia, a former adviser on biodefense to the Department of Homeland Security. "There are reasons to be concerned about what uses these discoveries might be put to."
The Augmented Cognition program, for instance, seeks technologies that will "measure and track a subject's cognitive state in real time." The agency is partway there. One prototype helmet monitors brain states, which may include those associated with anger, aggression, anxiety, fatigue, deception -- in principle, any mental state -- and transmit the data wirelessly to a command center.
In battle, that would let commanders redeploy soldiers who are in no state to fight or carry out certain missions; you might not want a soldier who is boiling over with rage to search civilians. How an office supervisor, airport screener or job interviewer might make use of the technology is left to the reader's imagination.
A Darpa project using fMRI imaging of brain activity applies the discovery that recognizing a face or place you've seen before triggers a characteristic pattern of cortical activity. Do you recognize this terrorist training camp? This terrorist? The benefits could be huge. As with polygraphs and fingerprint analysis, however, technologies can be widely deployed without a solid scientific foundation about their rate of false positives, with the result that they send the innocent to prison.
In a new book, "Mind Wars," Prof. Moreno describes a Darpa project on a drug called CX717, which enables sleep-deprived people to maintain memory and cognitive function. In a world where students take Ritalin to give them a boost on the SAT and Provigil to pull all-nighters, there is no reason to think CX717, if it passes more tests, will be confined to military pilots on long-haul flights. If the drug doesn't succeed in keeping a sleep-deprived brain sharp, maybe Darpa-funded research on neurostimulation -- little zaps of electricity to improve cognitive performance -- will.
Presumably, workers and students will have the legal right to reject such "enhancements," Prof. Moreno says. Soldiers might not. Should they? Will employers or others pressure people to accept better thinking through technology? Will the use of such "augmented cognition" by business competitors have the same effect as steroids in baseball, where the perception that everyone is using them exerts pressure to do the same, to keep the playing field level? There has been virtually no debate on the ethical questions raised by the brave new brain technologies.
Ever since the atomic bomb, physicists have known that their work has potential military uses, and have spoken up about it. But on the morality of sending orders directly to the brain (of a soldier, employee, child, prisoner ...), or of devices that read thoughts and intentions from afar, neuroscientists have been strangely silent. The time to speak up is before the genie is out of the bottle.
• You can email me at email@example.com
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Islamo-fascismo en Latino America
on: December 15, 2006, 12:51:23 AM
V= Hide Post
Tri-border transfers 'funding terror'
The tri-border area, where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, is a lawless region where drugs trafficking, gun running and counterfeit goods are rife.
The BBC has now found documents showing the suspicious transfer of large sums of money to the Middle East, which investigators believe goes to fund terrorism. The BBC's Andrew Bomford reports from Ciudad del Este in Paraguay.
It didn't look like the global centre of a business sending billions of dollars overseas, but on the first floor of the dingy-looking shopping arcade, if you could get past the two guards blocking the stairs, there it was - a shop, looking like a pawnbrokers, called Telefax.
According to Paraguayan and American investigators, Telefax, owned by a Lebanese businessman called Kassem Hijazi, is responsible for transferring huge sums of laundered money overseas and hiding the identities of the people responsible.
The money is believed to be the proceeds of crime - anything from drug smuggling, to gun running, to counterfeit goods to tax evasion.
"From the evidence and documentation we saw, it was clear that this man was moving large sums, hundreds of millions of dollars, through its doors, in its own name, hiding the identities of who was truly the owners of the money," said Carlos Maza, of the US Department of Homeland Security.
"Kassem Hijazi is a serious player who more than anything else has found the vulnerability in the Paraguayan system, the ability to control how money is moved through its banking system."
But US investigators are particularly worried that some of this money goes to fund terrorism as well as militant organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas.
Robert Morgenthau, the New York District Attorney, has prosecuted a number of American banks for moving millions of dollars from the tri-border area to what he suspects are terrorist bank accounts in the Middle East.
"We've found money going to the Arab Bank in Ramallah," he told the BBC.
"The Arab Bank is well known as one of the banks used by terrorist organisations. But that's part of the frustration. You don't know who's sending the money and you don't know who's receiving it."
The BBC saw company accounts for Telefax showing a business with an annual turnover of just $50,000.
But a large number of money transfer documents, obtained in a series of raids by Paraguayan prosecutors, show Telefax making international transfers worth ten times that amount almost on a daily basis.
The owner of Telefax, Kassem Hijazi, agreed to do an interview with the BBC.
The people I work with are friends, not terrorists
He produced a large amount of the prosecution paperwork allegedly showing thousands of money transfers, but claimed that every single one of the documents had been forged.
"The proof is here," Mr Hijazi said, indicating the transfer documents.
"They have to prove that I've done it. Even the prosecutor says the documents are false, not us, the prosecutor. I wasn't transferring money abroad. It's the money exchange houses that send the money, and they've forged the documents. We don't do transfers abroad."
Mr Hijazi did admit to using numbers instead of names for his clients, effectively hiding their identities, but he said that was merely to make his paperwork easier.
The BBC examined a number of the transfer documents and saw large amounts of money, around $10m, moving to Lebanon in the space of a year.
Three transfers, for $100,000, $70,000, and $42,200, went in the space of two days to companies in Beirut which did not appear to exist.
Adolfo Marin, the original prosecutor in the case, said it was very difficult to investigate the money transfers because the banks in Beirut were dominated by Hezbollah.
"I have no idea what they can export to us from Lebanon, so necessarily the money that goes to Lebanon is not for imports," he said. "So it is possible to formulate a hypothesis about the probability of money laundering and links with terrorism."
Kassem Hijazi strongly denied any involvement in terrorist financing. "It's absurd," he said.
"It doesn't happen here. The people I work with are friends, not terrorists. They've been investigated and if there was some evidence they would have been charged."
'Helping our brothers'
This view was supported by Sheik Taleb Jomha, the Muslim leader of the 30,000-strong Lebanese community in the tri-border area.
"I am not telling you a secret when I say that Iran and Syria are supporting Hezbollah," he said.
"Iran has the ability to send weapons and rockets, not us. They say money is moving from here to the Middle East. That's right. But not to help political or military groups, but to help our brothers and sisters who need help."
Kassem Hijazi is not facing charges of money laundering or even terrorist financing.
In Paraguay, funding terrorism is not a crime, and the law on money laundering is out of date, making it difficult to achieve a prosecution.
A new law has been languishing, unapproved, in the country's Congress for more than two years.
In the meantime, Mr Hijazi has been accused of tax evasion, which he also denies, and is expected to face trial in 2007.
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/6179085.stm
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney
on: December 14, 2006, 10:00:31 PM
If I could get 1 to 1,000 odds here in Las vegas I would bet on Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and 2008 winner of Olympic Um Presidential Gold! Eric
Romney strategy pays off quickly
Multistate tactic overcomes limits
By Scott Helman and Chase Davis, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent | June 11, 2006
Governor Mitt Romney is financing the early stages of his potential presidential campaign with a novel, multistate fund-raising operation that is allowing him to maximize legal donations, outflank top Republican competitors, and minimize public scrutiny.
Since July 2004, Romney has set up affiliates of his political action committee, the Commonwealth PAC, in five states. By having donors spread their contributions across the various affiliates, Romney has been able to effectively evade the $5,000-per-donor annual contribution limit that applies only to federal committees, which most presidential aspirants set up to build initial support for their candidacies.
The multistate system is helping Romney raise money quickly from relatively few contributors, and foster valuable political relationships around the country. It also is a strategy several potential opponents for the Republican nomination cannot use: Federal office-holders, under new campaign finance rules, are barred from operating such state affiliates.
That means possible 2008 competitors such as Senators John McCain of Arizona and George Allen of Virginia have to rely solely on their federal PACs and thus cannot accept more than $5,000 from any contributor each year.
``I think it's a brilliant strategy," said Rich Bond, a former Republican National Committee chairman and a McCain supporter. ``It's fully compliant with the law, yet allows Romney to deploy political assets in a comprehensive fashion."
Globe graphics: Wallets behind Romney Romney fund-raising
A review by the Globe of Commonwealth PAC campaign finance filings indicates that more than 100 donors have given a total of $1.6 million to Romney's various PAC organizations over the past two years. It is a relatively small amount compared to what Romney would need for a presidential campaign -- President Bush raised $273 million in 2004, for example -- but the creation of a fund-raising network will help establish Romney in monied circles that will be crucial if he decides to run for the White House.
A few supporters and their families have given roughly $100,000 or more to Commonwealth PAC, but many donors have made large contributions to several affiliates at a time. On March 30, for example, Florida investment adviser Lee Munder gave $5,000 to Romney's federal PAC, $18,250 to his Iowa affiliate, $18,250 to the one in Michigan, and $3,500 to the one in South Carolina, campaign finance records show.
The Commonwealth PAC is a so-called leadership PAC, which politicians often establish in advance of their official candidacies to finance cross-country travel, maintain a staff, and distribute tactical campaign contributions to local politicians in key states. The money these committees raise is far less than what it takes to mount a formal presidential campaign, but the committees are crucial to building name recognition and a network of donors early on. (Candidates cannot use leadership PAC money to finance their campaigns once they officially declare.)
Romney's multistate strategy, made possible by a campaign finance law that McCain helped write, was crafted by the governor's former advisers Mike Murphy and Trent Wisecup, ``and a smart lawyer or two," according to a person with knowledge of the plans.
One of those lawyers was Benjamin L. Ginsberg, who was a top lawyer for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
The 2008 presidential election cycle is the first full cycle in which the new campaign finance rules apply, and Romney appears to be taking advantage of them more than other potential candidates. New York Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and former Virginia governor Mark Warner, a Democrat, each have state affiliates of their PACs, but only in one or two places.
``It's been well-documented that being a governor is an ideal office from which to seek the presidency, and the McCain-Feingold law has just magnified that," said FEC chairman Michael Toner, adding that such a system is ``a potential leg up for office-holders such as Governor Romney that their federal counterparts do not have."
Romney has PAC affiliates in Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and, formerly, in Arizona. Particularly beneficial to Romney are the affiliates in Iowa and Michigan, where there are no limits on how much an individual can give. (Donors can give up to $3,500 in South Carolina and up to $5,000 in New Hampshire.)
But the multistate setup is not necessarily helpful to voters, who have to hunt down public campaign finance filings in several places to see who has given to the Commonwealth PAC, said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that tracks money in politics.
``Setting up individual committees in multiple states makes it hard for the public to learn who's supporting a campaign financially," Ritsch said.
Asked about how Romney's fund-raising strategy differed from those of other potential candidates, Spencer Zwick, who oversees Commonwealth PAC finances, wrote in an e-mail, ``I'm not familiar with how other political leaders structure their political action committees. Furthermore, all of our fund-raising and donation activity, whether it's in connection with a state or the federal PAC, is fully disclosed and available for public inspection."
Romney said last week he was ``very pleased" with how PAC fund-raising was going, but he played down the amount of money he was taking in, saying it pales in comparison to what would be necessary to run for reelection as governor.
``There's no particular reason to raise vast amounts," he said. ``This is being used to support Republican candidates around the country, and it's not something where you're trying to create records or large numbers."
Zwick said he would not discuss fund-raising targets with the media. He said in an earlier e-mail that their focus for the first half of the year was raising money and the focus in the second half will be distributing it.
It is evident Romney has recently been raising money at quite a clip: He hosted at least three PAC fund-raisers last week, in Michigan, Utah, and California, and plans to host another tomorrow in Logan, Utah.
The Globe's review of campaign records offers a glimpse into the early donors Romney is attracting. They come from more than a dozen states -- one met Romney at a cocktail party and has backed him since, another hails from a family that's known his for almost 100 years, and others know him from his days as a venture capitalist.
Kem Gardner is a Utah developer who, along with family members, has given more than $100,000 to the Commonwealth PAC, records show. Gardner said he has known Romney since both lived in Belmont in the 1980s, and that he and many other supporters stand ready to do much more.
``We just hope he gives us an opportunity to work for him," said Gardner, who calls himself ``a good, mainstream Democrat." ``He can count on my support in a big way."
Another leading contributor is Jon M. Huntsman, a fellow Mormon whose father-in-law, David Haight, grew up with Romney's father, George, in Oakley, Idaho. Huntsman and his sons have contributed more than $130,000, records show.
``I've pushed him and encouraged him and done everything that I think our family could to move [him] to the next level and be an actual candidate," said Huntsman, whose son, Jon Jr., is governor of Utah.
Together, Gardner and Huntsman represent two important fund-raising bases for Romney as he eyes the presidency: Utahns and fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Romney is well known in Utah chiefly because he ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which was widely seen as headed for disaster until he took over. Utah residents have given more than $680,000 to his PAC affiliates, more than any other state. Romney is also one of the best-known members of the Mormon church, which has about 5.7 million members in the United States.
Another Romney donor, Robert Lichfield of Utah, is a controversial figure as the founder of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, which runs boarding schools for struggling teens. At least seven of the organization's schools have closed following allegations of child abuse, the Associated Press reported in October. Lichfield, a frequent Republican contributor, has given Commonwealth PAC $25,000, according to records.
Some political specialists caution that potential presidential candidates cannot be too dependent on a small group of big contributors. That's because once candidates officially declare their intentions, they are permitted to accept only about $2,000 from individuals for the primary cycle and another $2,000 for the general election.
``You can't rely on big donors, because running for president you've got to have a strong network of people around the country who are willing to go out to their friends and neighbors and ask them to join them in the effort," said Jack Oliver, who was finance director for Bush when he first ran for office in 2000.
Romney also recently revamped the Commonwealth PAC website (www.thecommonwealthpac.com
) to allow online contributions. Contributors also can print out a document to send in with checks; it asks that donors first give to the federal PAC; then it lists the state affiliates, noting any contribution limits.
Possible opponents such as McCain and Allen have their advantages, too. Both have already raised money for federal office that they could transfer to a presidential campaign. In McCain's case, he has broad name recognition from his presidential run in 2000.
Craig Goldman, executive director of McCain's PAC, Straight Talk America, said that while his group is aware of Romney's multistate strategy, McCain's PAC has raised $4 million by soliciting checks from $5 to $5,000.
``We're very happy where we are fund-raising," he said.
Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said Allen has been focused on his reelection to the Senate this year and has not devoted that much attention to his leadership PAC, Good Government for America. Told of Romney's strategy, Wadhams said, ``Wow. Well, that's pretty creative, no doubt about it."
Scott Helman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: December 14, 2006, 07:58:55 PM
IRAQ: IT'S TIME TO TAKE SIDES
By RALPH PETERS
December 14, 2006 -- AMERICAN diplomats and politically correct gener als
want to be honest bro kers in the Middle East, to achieve peace through
forbearance and negotiated compromises. It may be the most-hopeless dream in
the history of foreign affairs.
The deadly hatred goes too deep between Shia and Sunni (killing Jews is just
for practice). You can't broker peace between fanatics.
East of Athens, you have to pick a side and stick to it, no matter how it
behaves toward its enemies. Restraint is viewed as weakness; olive branches
signal cowardice, and aid is seen as a bribe.
Although Israel's existence is increasingly threatened, the unavoidable
struggle is between Sunni and Shia. Transcending their internal fault lines
- for now - these two competing forms of Islam are already at war in Iraq.
It's only a matter of time until the fighting spreads.
The question isn't "How can we stop it?" We can't. Even delaying the
confrontation may come at too high a price. The right question is "How do we
make sure we're on the winning side?"
The dynamism is with the Shia. Oppressed for centuries, Arab Shia have found
their strategic footing. Tehran's backing helps, but the rise of Shia power
is not synonymous with Iranian power - unless our old-school diplomacy makes
East of Suez and west of Kabul, Sunni Arab dominance is waning. To future
historians, al Qaeda may appear little more than the death-rattle of a
collapsing order. Jordan may have a future - if that future is guaranteed by
the West - but Syria's grandiose ambitions are unsustainable, and it's
difficult to imagine the long-term survival of the decayed Saudi royal
Now the Saudis are threatening us: If we turn our backs on Iraq's Sunni
Arabs, Riyadh says it will fund the insurgents.
The threat might carry more weight if Saudis weren't already funding Iraq's
Sunni butchers. And note that Saudi Arabia hasn't threatened to intervene
militarily - the playboy princes know that their incompetent armed forces
would collapse if sent to Iraq.
It's time to call Riyadh's bluff.
Having made whores of innumerable politicians on both sides of the aisle in
Washington, the Saudis still hope to steer American policy the way they did
before their citizens attacked us on 9/11.
Now they demand American protection for those Iraqis who have done their
best to kill our troops, instigate a religious civil war, slaughter the
innocent and destroy any hope Iraq has of a better future.
You bet we can always count on our Saudi pals to look out for our interests.
Perhaps we should reciprocate by threatening to fund the discontented Shia
who live atop the richest Saudi oil fields.
The Saudis could have undercut the insurgency in Iraq in 2003. Instead, they
backed it - because they refused to give up the old order in which the Sunni
Arabs - less than 20 percent of Iraq's population - ruled in Baghdad. But
Riyadh's policy of channeling funds through private donors didn't fool
anybody who didn't want to be fooled.
The Saudi (and Syrian) tactics backfired: Enraging Iraq's Shia only made the
weakness of the Sunni position obvious. Now only the presence of our troops
- whom the Sunnis continue to attack - protects Iraq's Sunnis from a
massacre. Isn't it time to stop defending those who murder our troops?
Our wrongheaded attempt to placate Iraq's Sunni Arabs failed utterly. Some
military officers suffering from client-itis argue that their Sunnis really
are on our side. But we need to face the facts: For all of Muqtada al-Sadr's
Shia shenanigans, it's the Sunni Arabs who have destroyed Iraq.
We've tried all of the politically correct negotiations-and-aid nonsense.
Now it's time to take sides.
Unfortunately, Washington's impulse will be to continue squandering the
blood of our troops to preserve the - doomed - existing order in the Middle
East, to keep borders intact and the region's miserable kings, sheikhs,
emirs and presidents-for-life in power.
Our political leaders are lazy creatures of habit who default to
yesteryear's failed theories in any crisis. New ideas just upset them.
So any attempt to disengage from our Sunni Arab enemies to back the
ascendant Shia will hit plenty of roadblocks in D.C. The slam-on-the-brakes
question will always be, "Do you want to strengthen Iran?" (Unless, of
course, you're a congressman responsible for intelligence oversight, in
which case all those pesky Sunni/Shia, Iran/Iraq details are beneath your
Equating "Shia" with "Iran," then writing off the Shia option would be
strategic idiocy (in other words, business as usual). Instead, we need to
ask ourselves how we can wean the region's Shia - including restive young
Iranians - from Tehran's breast.
Some Iraqi Shia do feel an affinity for Iran - but many don't; Arabs find
Persians racist and condescending.
Here's the critical issue: How do we channel the unstoppable rise of Shia
power into a course that doesn't threaten us? (One answer: Don't pander to
their deadly enemies, such as Iraq's Sunni insurgents).
And if the terrified Saudis want us to rescue their nasty backsides again,
let's ask just what they plan to do for us in return - then let's see them
actually do it.
But our response to any threat from Riyadh should be a public smackdown.
Without our support, the Saudis are defenseless. Let's stop pretending we're
the ones who need help.
We have to shift onto the winning side of history. Increasingly, that
doesn't look "Sunni side up." Yes, face down Iran. But do it wisely, by
cooperating with those Shia who fear Tehran's imperial ambitions - rather
than alienating them for the sake of Jim Baker's Saudi friends.
We've tried to be fair, and we failed. Now let's concentrate on winning.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / US Dollar
on: December 14, 2006, 04:26:04 PM
The exchange rate of the US dollar is a powerful indicator of many fundamental forces.
How Dangerous is the Dollar Drop?
By Christian Reiermann
Is an end of an era looming in the foreign exchange markets? The dollar has been depreciating against the euro for weeks. Currency experts and the German government don't yet see this as cause for alarm. The US currency's role as a lead currency isn't as important as it used to be, they say.
Christmas on Wall Street: Credit-based prosperity.
Like most central bankers, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), has a penchant for cryptic comments. Injecting a certain degree of incomprehensibility is a signal to the professionals that he's competent. And when it comes to laymen, industry jargon has the desired effect of generating the necessary respect.
Last Thursday the public was treated to yet another example of Trichet's convoluted speaking style. A number of risks, the ECB president said, could jeopardize a generally favorable economic outlook in the euro zone. They included, according to Trichet, "concerns regarding possible uncontrolled developments triggered by global economic imbalances."
What Europe's most powerful protector of the currency was actually saying was this: The gradual decline of the dollar in the foreign currency markets in recent weeks could pose a threat to the economy. What Trichet was also trying to broadcast is that the ECB has recognized and is aware of the threat.
Nevertheless, the European Central Bank in Frankfurt again increased its key interest rate on Thursday by a quarter percentage point to 3.5 percent, which makes the euro more attractive to international investors. The central bankers had no choice but to take the step, having already announced their intentions weeks ago.
Experts have been predicting for some time that the dollar would eventually go into a nosedive, and now that time seems to have come. The US currency has lost five percent of its value against the euro since late October, and 13 percent since the beginning of the year. The euro is currently fluctuating around a value of $1.33, which is only 3 cents away from its all-time high in 2004. And yet Trichet's counterpart Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has done nothing but look on as the dollar plunges.
A sea change appears to be taking place on the international financial markets. For years, global capital flowed in only one direction, with $2 billion going into the United States every day. Investors viewed the world's largest economy not only as a bastion of stability, but also as a place that promised the best deals, the most lucrative returns and the highest growth rates.
Caption: SPIEGEL0650 Seite Bollen Datum: 11. Dezember 2006
The Americans, for their part, welcomed foreign investment. For them, it was almost a tradition to save very little and spend more than they earned -- essentially achieving affluence on credit. Foreigners financed the Americans' almost obsessive consumer spending, which spurred worldwide economic growth for years.
Because the US government was unable to fall back on the savings of its citizens, it too was forced to finance its budget deficit with foreign capital. Both consumer spending and the federal deficit kept the dollar high, because the rest of the world was practically scrambling to invest in the United States.
This phase seems to have come to an end, at least for the time being. "There are fundamental weaknesses in the American economy. This could not continue in the long term," says Alfred Steinherr, chief economist at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).
Investors pulling out
Investors worldwide are becoming sceptical and starting to pull their money out of the United States. They have realized that a people and a country cannot live beyond their means in the long term. The US dollar's exchange rate is starting to crumble as a result of this withdrawal.
The depreciation is causing growing concern about what will happen to the global economy if the United States loses its role as an engine of growth. If German cars, machinery and services become more expensive, will the German economic recovery end before it has really started?
The German government isn't worried yet, at least not officially. Nevertheless, experts in the finance and economics ministries have been keeping a close eye on developments. Although they continue to believe that the changes still fall within the scope of long-term averages, they don't rule out that the situation could worsen.
They believe that a first critical threshold for the competitiveness of the German economy will be reached at an exchange rate of about $1.36 per euro, and that Germany could see major difficulties at rates in the neighborhood of $1.50. If there is turbulence in the foreign currency markets, the government in Berlin will find itself in an especially challenging position. In early 2007, Germany will assume the chairmanship of the so-called G8 group of seven major industrialized nations plus Russia.
Worried about the dollar: The guardian of the euro, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.
The G8 has repeatedly engaged in crisis management to deal with problems in the international financial system. It did so in the 1980s, when the combined forces of the G8 were needed to put a stop to the soaring dollar. It stepped in with equal verve a few years to forestall a decline in the American currency with the so-called Louvre Accord.
There are two principal causes behind the most recent development. Both have to do with the fact that Europe is becoming more attractive for international investors compared to the United States. On the one hand, interest rates in Europe and the United States are moving in opposite directions. "The ECB will continue to raise its key rates next year, whereas interest rates appear to have peaked in the USA," says Joachim Scheide, an expert on the economy at the Global Economic Institute (IFW) in the northern German city of Kiel. This means that financial investments denominated in euros are yielding higher interest and are in greater demand internationally, which in turn leads to a rise in the euro.
The prospects for growth are also shifting. The US economy is cooling off. The government recently lowered its 3.3 percent growth forecast for 2007. If Americans consume less as a result of a decline in foreign capital investment, the United States could even face a prolonged period of more modest growth.
Germany has shed 'sick man' image
By contrast the euro zone economy is robust. Germany, in particular, has surprised many with a stream of good economic news. Unemployment dropped below the psychologically critical threshold of four million in November. The Ifo business climate index, which measures the expectations of businesses, is at its highest point in 15 years, while consumer confidence has reached a five-year high.
In the last quarter of this year Germany, long considered the sick man of Europe, will have transformed itself into an engine of economic growth. According to analysts at Postbank, Germany's annual growth, projected at 3.4 percent, will even exceed that of the United States this year.
This is the kind of news that fuels the expectations of investors who now prefer to invest their money in the euro zone. The result is an increase in the exchange rate for the European Union's common currency. But how will the decline in the dollar's value affect future economic development? Could it cause a major imbalance in the global economy, or will the global economy, and Germany, get off lightly?
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Pessimists are quick to come out of the woodwork whenever a major shift in the financial markets approaches. Many economists and bank analysts, especially in the United States, believe that the correction will happen very suddenly, with the dollar depreciating by 10 to 30 percent within a short period of time.
This would inevitably cause an adjustment crisis. Growth rates would plunge worldwide and a global recession, coupled with a drastic jump in unemployment, could follow.
This doomsday scenario is by no means the majority view. Some experts, especially in Germany, are more optimistic. "The US trade deficit has grown in the course of a few years," says IFW expert Scheide. "It will also gradually decline over a period of several years."
Scheide expects the dollar to lose another 10 percent in value against the euro in the next five years, a scenario that would be much easier to handle for the German and European economies. Companies would have sufficient time to adjust to changes in exchange rates. "In that case even an exchange rate of 1.40 wouldn't be disastrous," said DIW analyst Steinherr.
Germany is a good example of how effectively this can work. Despite the fact that the dollar has lost half of its value against the euro since 2002, exports have not been adversely affected. Indeed, they even increased from €651 billion ($861 billion) to €786 billion ($1.04 triilion). The Germany economy exported more than ever before in October.
Another reason is that the dollar zone is no longer as important for German exports as it was only a few decades ago. Leaving aside exceptions such as the auto industry, other regions of the world have long since become more important to the German economy than the United States, where Germany now sells less than one-tenth of its exports. Germany exports more than 40 percent of its goods and services to other countries within the euro zone, 13 percent to eastern Europe and nine percent to Asia. The turbulence surrounding the dollar has had virtually no effect on German exports to neighboring European countries. Most of the EU's new members have tied their currencies to the euro, and exchange rate risks evaporated for western Europe with the introduction of the euro.
The euro even prevents the kinds of major upheavals in Europe that occurred in the past whenever the dollar fell. When that happened, German businesses and consumers were routinely forced to bear a greater burden of adjustment than the economies of neighboring countries. In the past, if the German mark gained 10 percent in value against the dollar, the French franc or the Italian lira would only gain six or seven percent. As a result, the German mark was overvalued relative to other European currencies, which translated into economic disadvantages for the German economy.
This mechanism was eliminated when the euro was introduced. Now all member states carry the same burden.
The consequences of a declining dollar for the German and European economy will be determined in large part by the way other currencies develop relative to the dollar. "It would be fatal if only the euro were to rise," says DIW analyst Steinherr. "Then it would only be the euro zone that would have to bear the burden of adjustment." But the foreign currency markets suggest a different development, as the dollar is also losing value in relation to other important currencies.
Trade boom: containers in Hamburg port.
The British pound, for example, rose to new highs last week. Even more importantly, the currencies of east Asian growth regions are also appreciating against the dollar. The Thai Baht, for example, gained about 15 percent against the dollar in 2006, while the South Korean Won gained 10 percent. Even the Chinese Yuan, which slavishly followed the dollar in the past, gained more than three percent. Virtually every economy is bearing part of the burden of adjustment.
The decline in the dollar also has its advantages. For Germany, the greatest advantage is that Germans pay less for oil. The oil price is mainly set in dollars worldwide. If the dollar declines, the same amount of oil costs Europe fewer euros, and the money the Europeans save can be spent on other goods.
A similar dynamic applies to exports from the dollar zone. If the decline in the dollar continues, computers, software licenses and machinery from the United States will become less expensive. Both developments would represent a windfall for companies and people in the euro zone, because the same amount of money would buy more goods.
The perils of a currency crash are not nearly as great as they were in the days of the dollar's absolute dominance 30 or 40 years ago. Globalization has led to the development of a number of growth centers in the world economy which share the burden of turbulence. Gone are the days when an American finance minister could boast: "The dollar is our currency, but it's your problem."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: December 14, 2006, 10:28:06 AM
MEXICO: The Mexican federal preventative police force has doubled in size because of the transfer of 10,000 troops from the army and navy, El Universal reported. The move is part of President Felipe Calderon's campaign to combat crime in Mexico.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: December 14, 2006, 07:57:31 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Maintaining U.S. Space Dominance
Robert Joseph, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, publicly insisted on Wednesday that the United States opposes any ban on the weaponization of space. He was careful, however, to say that the United States will continue to abide "scrupulously" by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the placement of nuclear weapons in space.
This comes as no surprise as it has been the position of the U.S. military for years. In 1957, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Thomas D. White forecast that, "Whereas those who have the capacity to control the air control the land and sea beneath it, so in the future it is likely that those who have the capability to control space will likewise control the Earth's surface." The 2004 Air Force Counterspace Operations doctrine lays out the "five Ds" of targeting an adversary's space system: deception, disruption, denial, degradation and destruction.
Maintaining the high ground has always been the foundational principle of military strategy. Space is the ultimate high ground. The U.S. military advantage rests heavily on space -- from navigation and communication to intelligence (including MASINT) and the detection of a nuclear attack. Space assets guide the most accurate munitions in the inventory and allow bombing missions to be re-tasked mid-flight. The importance of space to the U.S. military's overwhelming advantage cannot be overstated.
As such, official U.S. policy states in no uncertain terms that, "Purposeful interference with U.S. space systems will be viewed as an infringement on our sovereign rights" and could warrant a retaliatory use of force.
In the coming years, U.S. dominance of space will be challenged, and the United States intends to maintain its advantage. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Russian-built jamming systems attempted to locally disrupt the United States' global positioning system (GPS). They failed -- and were destroyed by GPS-guided bombs. This was one of the earliest attempts to challenge the United States in space warfare.
The Chinese reportedly have tried to blind or disable U.S. satellites with ground-based lasers. The United States has not officially recognized any Chinese attempt to interfere with its satellites in orbit. But, while targeting a fast-moving satellite and hitting it with a focused laser beam through the varying layers of the atmosphere is a difficult proposition to say the least, even the prospect of such an incident has not gone unnoticed.
The U.S. Air Force -- which controls the majority of U.S. space assets -- takes these potential threats seriously and views them as an indication of things to come. The Air Force has already adjusted the design architecture of its next-generation satellites in an attempt to counter such interference.
There is no doubt that the United States will vigorously defend its advantage in space -- and it will not hesitate for even a moment to use offensive force against an adversary's space assets.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims
on: December 13, 2006, 07:52:15 PM
I've just marked this site for further exploration.
From a Muslim outlook, imams have missed the point on flight behavior
December 11, 2006
M. Zuhdi Jasser
The first thing one must understand about this whole hullabaloo with the Muslim imams taken off a Phoenix-bound plane in Minneapolis is that it most definitely was not about the right to prayer or freedom of worship.
And much as the imams and their handlers may try, it is certainly not about victimization.
But because the case of the six imams (five from the Valley) and US Airways Flight 300 has taken on a life of its own, it would be helpful to look and see what lessons can be gleaned from this story.
All of us as Americans have endured the incremental inconveniences of air travel since 9/11. From 3-ounce fluid limits to random searches, those of us with the first name Mohammed can also attest to humbling profiling. Most of us are quite willing to endure all this because we know the inherent dangers of flying in the world today.
There is little argument that American airport concourses have become clinics of anxiety-laden travelers who have become vigilant in spotting anything out of the ordinary. This vigilance and anxiety is even more acutely felt by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents and airline crews. They will never be rewarded for a safe flight. But they will be globally vilified for one lax call that leads to tragedy.
Into this highly charged environment comes this incident of the imams returning from their conference. To ignore the larger context is to virtually live in an airtight bubble.
The preponderance of evidence points to some troubling coincidences during flight preparation, regardless of where we stand on this issue. The distribution of their seats, while in fact random, raised concern. Changing seats after boarding, rather than before, raised concern. Conversations in Arabic after boarding raised concern. Seatbelt extenders raised concern. However, no passengers refused to board after seeing and hearing the imams pray aloud at the gate. Taken individually, each of the reported actions could be something any of us would do. However, in totality, although unfortunate in retrospect, it remains hard to fault a cautious crew who must act with little information to ensure a safe flight.
But let us look at the response of the imams since the incident.
They rushed toward the media never looking back. They have taken their story of victimization to every soft media they could find. They then stoked the same tired Muslim flames of victimization through their own political pulpits in mosques around the Valley.
Organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and the Muslim American Society also immediately jumped on board, even before the imams' flight reached Phoenix the next day, and began whipping up the drums of victimization. Their handlers flew in from across the country staging rallies and pray-ins so they could teach the American people about this supposed tragedy of injustice.
As a devout Muslim, I have watched this painfully protracted saga unravel, fearing what comes next. The media, especially print media, have bent over backward to hear minorities' fears. Yet public opinion has not seemed to budge in favor of the imams. The lesson here lies in why. It has to do with credibility.
We are all creatures of passion. This fiasco has stirred the passionate cry of victimization from the Muslim activist community and imam community. But where were the news conferences, the rallies to protest the endless litany of atrocities performed by people who act supposedly in my religion's name? Where are the denunciations, not against terrorism in the abstract, but clear denunciations of al-Qaida or Hamas, of Wahhabism or militant Islamism, of Darfurian genocide or misogyny and honor killings, to name a few? There is no cry, there is no rage. At best, there is the most tepid of disclaimers. In short, there is no passion. But for victimization, always.
Only when Americans see that animating passion will they believe that we Muslims are totally against the fascists that have hijacked our religion. There is only so much bandwidth in the American culture to focus upon Islam and Muslims. If we fill it with our shouts of victimization, then the real problems from within and outside our faith community will never be heard.
Though this was not about prayer, let us look at the prayer itself: certainly a central part of our faith both alone and in congregation. The Quran teaches Muslims that God did not make our faith to be too difficult. Thus, during travel, many of us pray alone in silence when we cannot find a private place or where public display is not appropriate.
Prayer is an intimate thing, five times a day for Muslims. It is a personal conversation with God and not about showing others how devout we are.
Congregational prayers are preferred, but in travel (as three of the imams did apparently do) they can be combined upon their arrival in Phoenix.
Alija Izetbegovic, former president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, once said he was never so close to God in his prayers as a Muslim as he was during his solitary confinement for 12 years as a political prisoner struggling for liberty under Josip Broz Tito's oppression.
These imams would do well to learn from President Izetbegovic. He further understood the separation of religion and politics.
He understood God teaches us in the Quran that our religion is based upon intention and that if we perceive that the public situation is not conducive to our congregational prayer, that a forgiving God will understand.
Because these imams and their handlers just don't get it, it's time we Muslims found leadership and organizations that do.
Our predicament is unique, fragile and precarious. We Muslims are a relatively new minority in a nation that gives us freedoms that no other Muslim nation would allow.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, a radical subset of our faith community is seeking to destroy the basis for this liberty.
Either we predominantly direct our passions against these radicals or Americans will not count us as allies in this consuming struggle.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Santorum part three
on: December 13, 2006, 07:29:59 PM
Winston Churchill, in June of 1940--I will close with this, for my colleagues who have been patiently waiting--Winston Churchill, in 1940, addressed the British people as Britain stood alone:
What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.
Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ``This was their finest hour.''
This is the call of this generation. This is America's hour. This is the hour that we need leadership, Churchillian leadership, who had a keen eye for the enemy and a resolve in spite of the political climate to confront it. I ask my colleagues to stand and make this America's finest hour. I regret that the new Secretary of Defense is not up to the task, in my opinion. I hope others are.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Santorum part two
on: December 13, 2006, 07:29:14 PM
So it is today. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. What Iran has found and the Islamic fascists have found is there are plenty of enemies of the United States. In fact, they had a meeting just this year a couple of months ago in Havana, Cuba. The nonaligned states met. There were 100 nations. On their agenda was to redefine the word ``terror'' to include ``the U.S. occupation of Iraq'' and the ``Israeli invasion'' of Lebanon. Of course, there was no mention about the incursion of Hezbollah. They found solace with these countries. We saw it played out at the United Nations just a couple of weeks later where President Ahmadinejad, President Hugo Chavez, to thunderous applause of many in the United Nations community, demonized America. But another member of that crew of nonaligned nations was North Korea.
I mentioned before that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program. They are indeed pursuing a nuclear program, and there have been many intelligence reports published that have suggested there were Iranian scientists there the day North Korea exploded their nuclear weapon. In fact, the scientist who had been working with North Korea, AQ Kahn, is the same scientist who has been working with Iran in the development of their nuclear program. Some have suggested that they are working collaboratively and jointly in their development of nuclear weapons which, of course, would have put Iran's nuclear program well ahead of where everyone believes it to be.
So we have not only the Islamic fascists led by Iran, but we now have an alliance between Iran and North Korea; North Korea, which is a threat in their own right, now with nuclear weapons and their increasing ability to deliver them with long-range missiles, including the development of, as they hope to do, ICBMs which could reach the United States of America.
We confronted North Korea as soon as they detonated their explosives. We had a U.N. resolution confronting them. North Korea condemned that nuclear U.N. resolution and called it ``a declaration of war'' and threatened the United States by declaring:
We will deliver merciless blows without hesitation to whoever tries to breach our sovereignty and right to survive under the excuse of carrying out a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Not only do we have a threat of North Korea now launching a nuclear weapon, but we have the clear threat of North Korea and Iran proliferating nuclear technology. In addition, as Iran, working with North Korea, develops their nuclear program, and as the world sits fecklessly by and lets them do it, others in the region legitimately have their tensions increased and have talked about the need for those nations to develop nuclear weapons,
Thus starting an arms race in a region of the world where it is the last place we want a nuclear arms race.
Finally, we have the issue of whether this nuclear material that is being developed in both North Korea and Iran will end up in the hands of terrorists, to be delivered in a nonconventional way. North Korea is a new threat on the horizon, but it is not alone. In fact, North Korea has expressed direct support for Iran's nuclear development program and stressed that the United States and the West have no right to defy such a program.
The Iranians have also commented officially on friendly ties between Tehran and Pyongyang after the Islamic revolution, saying Iran ``highly praises North Korea for its steadfastness against the domineering policies of the United States.''
But the threat goes even further. Ahmadinejad, with Kim Jong Il, like Mussolini and Hitler, intends to conquer Western civilization. Again, that is not Hitler. But they also, like the Soviets under Nikita Khrushchev, see the advantage of placing weapons of mass destruction within short ranges of the United States.
Obviously, one likely candidate would be Venezuela. I don't know of any regime currently that is more vehement and more anti-American than Hugo Chavez and the regime in Venezuela, so it probably comes as no surprise that Ahmadinejad and Chavez have had meetings, and they are now aligned and allies and working together and have, in fact, formed a defense pact between the two countries.
Venezuela is a serious threat not just because of their relationship within Iran but because of what it has attempted to do throughout the region, as well as its own potential threat.
Just a few weeks ago there was an election in Nicaragua, right before our election, where Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega won the election, took a congratulatory call from Hugo Chavez, who said:
We're happy here. We're very proud of you.
Now, like never before, the Sandinista revolution and the Bolivarian revolution unite, to construct the future, socialism of the 21st century.
Chavez made no secret about his support for Ortega or his support for the new rulers in Bolivia. Chavez is doing all he can to build military power and might and influence in the region of the world that is uncomfortably close to the United States.
As we know, Chavez has been clear about his disdain for America. What we don't know is what Venezuela has been up to. I suspect that most Members of this Senate do not know that Venezuela is the leading buyer of foreign arms and military equipment in the world today, that Chavez is building an army of more than 1 million soldiers. I suspect most in this Senate do not know that over the next year he plans to spend $30 billion to build 20 military bases in neighboring Bolivia which will dominate the borders of Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, assembling those military bases on the borders of the countries I just mentioned. These military bases, while they will be manned by Bolivian soldiers, will be commanded by Venezuelan and Cuban officers.
How does he do this? How is he able to accomplish what Fidel Castro has been seeking to accomplish now for 4 1/2 decades? The answer to that, of course, is very simple. It is a three-letter word: oil. Oil and its huge profits are financing this, just like oil and its huge profits are advancing Islamic fascism in the Middle East. It is no wonder again that Venezuela and Iran have formed an oil pact. Why? As they have clearly said before, oil is a ``geopolitical weapon,'' according to Chavez. He also said:
I could easily order the closing of the refineries we have in the United States. I could easily sell that oil that we sell to the United States to other countries of the world ..... to real friends and allies like China.
They have even closer relationships with the Islamic fascists in Iran. A recent congressional report found that Hezbollah may right now have established bases in Venezuela which have issued thousands of visas to people from places such as Cuba and the Middle East, possibly giving them passports to a vague United States border security.
To make matters worse, we see, with the help of Venezuela, Cuba and China are now exploring for oil within 50 miles of the coast of the United States, while the Senate blocks a measure to allow us to explore for oil within 100 miles of our own shore. So while China, Cuba, and Venezuela draw oil from our shores, we stand idly by and let them do it to arm against us.
Let's not overlook the role of Russia in working with all of these governments--Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. Last summer, Russia signed an arms deal with Venezuela to the tune of $1 billion. Last month, Russia began deliveries to Iran of highly sophisticated SA-15 anti-aircraft missiles valued at $700 million. The purpose of these missiles? To defend Iran's nuclear program. That shouldn't come as a surprise. Russia has consistently opposed the efforts of the United States to sanction the other enemy, North Korea, for their nuclear programs, and has insisted on diluting the effects of every resolution that was passed condemning North Korea. The Russians claim sanctions don't work. Yet, oddly enough, they just imposed sanctions on their neighbor, Georgia.
Yes, we live in a very complex time and we have enemies who are very dangerous, in which their relationships are growing, and so with it their commensurate power to confront terrorists of the world, and the rest of the world sits and hopes and hopes that we can negotiate our way out of this problem; that since we are people of reason and rational folks, we can deal with them on that level. Have we forgotten our history? We have been in this situation before.
I have titled this address ``The Gathering Storm of the 21st Century.'' It is not a coincidence that I do so in harkening to the book written by Winston Churchill, ``The Gathering Storm,'' talking about the lead-up to World War II. Just like Britain in 1940, after the fall of France, we are engaged with a struggle now with the enemy--alone. Just like Britain in 1940, we entreated the rest of the world to join us against this evil, and the world fell silent. For a year and a half until Pearl Harbor, and actually long after that, since the United States was certainly not prepared for war, Britain fought this battle alone. And with the exception of the State of Israel, we are fighting this battle alone, and I suspect we will for quite some time. So what lesson can we learn? What lesson can we learn from history? What we know is America is very reticent to get involved in wars, and rightfully so. In the First World War, we only entered after a German U-boat sank American civilian and commercial ships in the North Atlantic. World War I was the war to end all wars. After the defeat of the German armies, it seemed as if peace was going to be with us for a long time. But it did not last a generation. As I said, we ended up with the situation in World War II. But even after the fall of Europe to the Nazis and the Italian fascists, America stood by, hoping this problem would go away.
It was not until Pearl Harbor that things changed.
The Cold War was only after Stalin's aggression in the Middle East in Greece that we decided to engage and recognize that the Soviet Union was not our friend as many thought after World War II but, in fact, our new foe. And now, after the fall of the Soviet Union we thought we would have a peace dividend, peace for a long time, and we find that other forces of evil have cropped up to confront us.
If it were not for the fact of September 11, we would be allowing that to continue today. But we engaged the enemy because they attacked us directly here at home. But now we are growing tired. We are wearying of the battle. I said earlier that these Islamic fascists understand us better than we understand them. They understand our history better than we understand their history. They need not look long to see how quickly America tires of confrontation and conflict and death.
And so they plan and, more importantly, they kill, every day. It is recorded here every day, and support for this war goes down every day. And they check another box in Tehran.
Winston Churchill wrote in ``The Gathering Storm'' a short description of the gathering storm:
How the English-speaking peoples, through their unwisdom, carelessness and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.
We are at such a moment. Are we going to allow the wicked to rearm? We paid a terrible price for waiting. We lock at each war, each major conflict, we paid a terrible price for waiting. In many cases, it was a price paid in America. In many other cases it was a price paid in countries around the world. Are we going to pay that price at some day in the future or are we going to confront this enemy?
If we learned anything from the 20th century, it should be this lesson: When leaders say they are prepared to kill millions of people to achieve their goal, we must take them at their word. The enemy before us that I have described has said it clearly, repeatedly, and pointedly, and even more threateningly, because this is an enemy who doesn't see death as a tragic consequence of the war; they see it as their objective of war.
The ayatollah and the mullahs of Iran have repeatedly said that the object of jihad is not success, it is death. It is reaching the next level. It is ending this miserable life which we have on Earth and in pursuit of jihad, guaranteeing yourself eternal life with Allah.
Here in America, we refuse to recognize, many, that we are at war with this great evil.
We shrink from the recognition of identifying the enemy and confronting them, whether they be the Islamic fascists led by Iran or the socialist rulers of North Korea and Venezuela. We are sleep-walking through the storm, as we have done in the past. We pretend it is not happening or that it is simply because of the incompetency of the current administration or of a member of that administration.
But how do those who deny this evil propose to save us from these people? By negotiating through the U.N. or directly with Iran? By firing Don Rumsfeld, now getting rid of John Bolton? That is going to solve the problem? These people are now going to be nice to us because we removed these people who were agitating them or causing problems? Maybe relocating our troops to Okinawa or Kuwait or some other place will get these people to simply leave us alone? Maybe if we just abandon Iraq and Afghanistan to the chaos and slaughter of Islamic fascists, their thirst for blood will be met? Or maybe it is just engaging in one-on-one discussions with Iran and North Korea and other reasonable dictators?
No, I do not think any of those things will work. And history has proved they have not worked. We need to begin to confront our enemies. And that does not mean we have to launch a military mission into the countries I spoke of. But we have to do more than just adjust tactics in Iraq. If the focus of the next year and a half is simply adjusting tactics within Iraq, it will fail. It will fail. We must go after the regimes that recruit, pay, train, and arm their surrogate militias in Iraq. Again, I am not talking about military confrontation; I am talking about political and economic warfare to bring down the terror regimes in Tehran and their satellite puppet state in Syria. The best way to do that is to work with their own people who want freedom.
I talked about the Iran Freedom and Support Act, but there is much more we need to do. We need to implement it. And we need to use the public diplomacy apparatus we have to motivate and change the hearts and minds. A free Iran will change the world because it will deprive the terrorists of the single greatest source of support and isolate the likes of Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-il.
Why is a free Iran and a free Iraq so essential? Because neither the United States of America nor any of our Western allies can defeat radical Islamic fascism on our own. We cannot defeat radical Islamic fascism. The only thing we can do is, through democracy-building and through support of moderate Islam, give those who truly seek the true meaning, the true moderate meaning of Islam the opportunity to be successful in suppressing its radical elements. We have to create that environment, and we have not in Iraq because Iran and Syria have not let us.
I remember reading commentaries from so many people talking about that things went well originally in Iraq. It seems like things were going OK, and then, after a year or so, it really started to turn south. Well, immediately after we were there, the Iranians were scared to death of us and dared not play in that sandbox. But they quickly surmised that we were not serious, that we were not going to confront this evil, so they began what we now see.
We need to counter Hugo Chavez. We need to do more to develop closer relationships with the countries in Central and South America, through trade and through diplomatic negotiations. We must fight for the hearts and minds of Central and South America, and we must do so much more deliberately and aggressively than we have. (Marc: I just don't see us as being in a position to do this) We have to do more to confront North Korea and its threat. That includes options, particularly missile defense. Finally, we have to confront the root cause of all of this, the root cause being oil.
There is one regret I have of not coming back here. It is--and my colleagues know I can be somewhat single-minded--to focus the attention of this body and this country on energy security. It is lunacy, it is suicidal to continue to allow the energy markets at the levels they are right now given the fact that a vast majority of those energy dollars are going to people who want to kill us and destroy everything we believe in. We can no longer play games with our energy security.
I spent a lot of time talking about this war, and I have fought very hard to pass legislation, both the Syrian Accountability Act and the Iran Freedom and Support Act, that will try to hurt our enemies and strengthen our country. I will do my best, after I leave this place, to continue to confront these enemies and to give the United States the opportunity to succeed in this war.
Osama bin Laden said:
In the final phase of the ongoing struggle, the world of the infidels was divided between two superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. Now we--
Now we have defeated and destroyed the more difficult and the more dangerous of the two.
Understand what bin Laden is saying. ``We,'' these Islamic fascists--they claim they defeated the Soviet Union, not Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, not Pope John Paul II, but Islamic fascism, the mujahedin in Afghanistan. History will make a plausible case for this assertion that, in fact, they had a lot to do with defeating the Soviet Union. But he continues with one final sentence:
Dealing with the pampered and effeminate Americans will be easy.
You see, they think they understand us. They think they know how to get to America. Open a paper every day and see what their tactic is. Open a paper every day, turn on a television every day, turn on your radio every day, sign on to the Internet every day and see what their tactic is and see how they believe they will defeat us.
I believe we need strong leadership to confront this greatest enemy that we have. The stakes are high, too high not to join together--Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, American, European--to confront this dangerous enemy. We must stop them.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: December 13, 2006, 07:27:08 PM
Santorum's Farewell Speech--The Full Text
12/7/06 | Rick Santorum
Mr. President, I rise today to talk about why I voted against Dr. Gates and lay out in detail the concerns I have about the security posture of the United States today and how I do not believe that Dr. Gates is the appropriate choice to confront them. While I think he certainly has a lot of positive qualities, and in normal times I would certainly defer to the President's judgment on this, we are not in normal times. I believe we need a Secretary--and I think we need leaders in this country, particularly the Secretary--who has insight into the nature of our enemy and is willing to provide the vision necessary, not just for our people in the military but the country, on how to defeat them. On one particular vital aspect of that vision I think he is in error, and that error causes me to object and to vote no to his nomination.
What I would like to do is lay out what I see as the problem confronting America and the complexity of that problem, which I think has grown more complex since the last time that we have been in this Chamber, over 6 weeks ago. I would like to go back to two speeches I gave last summer, one at the National Press Club, and the other at the Pennsylvania Press Club--one obviously in Washington, the other in Harrisburg. I gave those speeches because I thought it was important that at a time when our country is at war and our country is struggling with this war that we have a better definition as to who the enemy is and what we need to do about it. I made that issue, the issue I discussed in these two speeches and subsequent speeches during my campaign, the centerpiece of the campaign. Many political advisers suggested to me that this was a wrong tactic in a State where the favorabilities for the war and the President were in the low thirties to make this the centerpiece and, in fact, draw divisions between myself and the President where I put myself in a position which some suggested was to the right of the President. But I thought it was important for the country and for me personally as a U.S. Senator to address the issues that I thought were critical to the time.
So I went out and gave two speeches about the importance of defining our enemy. If there has been a failing--obviously, for the last several weeks and months we have been talking about the failings of the administration with respect to the policies within Iraq--I would make the argument that the larger failing, not just of the administration but of the Members of Congress and leaders in this country, is that we have not had the courage to stand up and define the enemy as to who they are and study and understand them and explain to the American people who they are.
I defined the enemy back at the National Press Club speeches as Islamic fascism. I said that is the biggest issue of our time, this relentless and determined radical enemy that is not just a group of rag-tag people living in caves but, in fact, people with an ideology, a plan, and increasingly the resources to carry out that plan, as well as, increasingly, a bigger and larger presence throughout the Islamic world, these radical Islamic fascists.
As I said, I understand this is an unpopular war. When I stepped forward to define the enemy as radical Islamic fascists, I was ridiculed by the media and others, saying that my words were too harsh, saying that at worst my defining the enemy was incorrect, at best it was inflammatory. But I did so because I believe words matter. If you are going to confront an enemy you have to understand who that enemy is and you have to communicate that to the people of America. And we must do that.
Many people talk about this war as if it is an attempt simply to create fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this may be an appealing possible outcome, we all must recognize that Iraq and Afghanistan are battlefields in a much more complex and broader war. That includes every continent with the exception of Antarctica. The war is at our doorstep, and it is fueled, as I mentioned, literally and figuratively by the evil of Islamic fascism.
Whether we know it or not, they have been at war with us, and the State of Iran specifically has been at war with us, since 1979 when they declared war against the United States. They have not rescinded that declaration. So when we talk about engaging Iran as the Secretary, the new, future Secretary of Defense has talked about, we are talking about engaging someone who is at war with us, who has declared war with us, and who has been at war and, and as I will talk about here, and I think it has been widely reported in the press, has been doing a lot to substantiate the claim that they have been at war with us.
But this threat is not exclusively based in Iran. It is gaining strength and spreading throughout every region of the world. I have addressed the issue of Islamic fascism but have not yet spoken to the subject of Iraq. Iraq is the central front in the war on Islamic fascism. However, contrary to the Iraqi Study Group, the Baker-Hamilton commission, the answer to this problem can be found--the answer to Iraq can be found not in Iraq but in Iran. It is Iran and its client State of Syria that serve as the principal instigators and fomenters of the conflict in Iraq today.
The President gets advice from the CIA that the opposition in Iran is weak and divided and therefore we should do nothing in Iran because we have no alternative. We have no one we can use in Iraq to confront the Iranian Government to cause any kind of changes. So the President gets advice from his intelligence team that we are without options in Iran.
The Pentagon advises the President and says we don't know if we have the resources to open up a new battlefield or confront, militarily, Iran, and therefore we have limited options in Iran.
The State Department--yes, State Department--they think that Iran is the solution to the problem; that negotiating with them and getting them to be our pals can in effect solve the problems; so confronting Iran would be the absolutely wrong thing to do in solving the problem in Iraq.
So the President is being advised by all of his minions that Iran and confrontation with Iran is not an option, as we heard from the testimony of the new Secretary of Defense.
Let's look at other interested parties as we look at how we solve the problem in Iraq and dealing with Iran. The American media seems to be very focused and spends a lot of time talking about how poorly things are going in Iraq. They report daily--not just recently but repeatedly for the past 3 years, daily--the body count in Iraq. It is the lead and has been virtually every single day for 3 years.
Is their interest in shifting focus and covering the problems in Iran? Not if we can drive home a story like this in Iraq.
Republicans and Democrats, leaders in the Congress, why don't they focus and talk more about Iran? Democrats, if you look through--as unfortunately many Republicans and Democrats do--look at it through the eyes of politics, why would we change focus and focus on Iran as the problem? We saw from the last election there is grand political advantage of keeping the focus on Iraq and the problems in Iraq. Why aren't the Republicans, then, stepping forward and pointing to the difficulty and problems that Iran is causing in Iraq and call for confrontation? If we saw anything from the last election, the American public has no appetite for a broadening of this war, increasing the complexity of this war. You might be seen as warmongering, digging us deeper and more dangerously into a region of the world that we would rather not be in in the first place.
So what do we have? We have the Baker-Hamilton report which is a prescription for surrender. It is just a matter of time. It is certainly not a prescription for victory. Nowhere does it mention, other than of course that we would like victory, nor is there a prescription for victory in that report.
So now we have the slow process of how we exit ourselves because we have no option to confront the real problem. We have no willingness on the part of any level of Government to confront it. So we are destined at this point to focus on something that is insolvable without confronting Iran, and that is the war in Iraq.
Who are these Iranians? Who are these Islamic fascists? I do not mean to exclude Sunni Islamic fascists because they were the principal--or they were the first, let's put it that way--in launching the war against the United States. I should not say the first. They were the first in recent times--certainly 9/11--in launching the war.
So this is not just a Shia problem, but it is increasingly becoming a Shia-dominated field as they continue to spread control in Iran with their influence and money. But let's not leave out Saudi Arabia and others that have used their resources to foment Islamic fascism all over the world with their resources--Sunni Islamic fascism.
So where are we? What can we do to confront this problem?
The interesting thing is that this problem is growing--I don't know about exponentially, but I don't know of a single country in the Middle East where the threat of radical Islam has not grown over the last 30 years, since Iran took over control--since the radicals took over control in Iran, the last 27 years. Every capital, every regime is feeling the pressure. And not just since 2003, but systematically over the years we have seen, particularly in Arab Muslim countries and Middle Eastern Muslim countries, this rise. But, again, not exclusive: Indonesia, Malaysia--this is not exclusive to the Arab world. Obviously Iran, which is Persia.
So what have we seen over the past 6 months? We saw a situation in the central synagogue in Prague where the Islamic fascists intended to carry out, on Rosh Hashanah, a mass kidnaping when large numbers of Jews would be celebrating the new year. When the world's attention now was focused on Prague, they designed to make impossible demands and then blow up the synagogue and everyone within it. Those people were not marked for death because they supported the war in Iraq. They were not marked for death because they oppressed these Islamic fascists. They were targeted because they were Jews. This is evil.
Islamic terrorists organized an assault on civilian aircraft leaving London, planning to blow up 10 or more planes this summer as they flew over the North Atlantic. You may not know that two of those participants were a husband and a wife, a husband and a wife who were going to board that plane and explode that plane over the North Atlantic while holding in their arms their 6-month-old child.
This is evil.
Islamic terrorists slaughter innocent Iraqis every single day on both sides of the divide within Islam. As we know, in recent days they beheaded an orthodox priest and crucified a 14-year-old boy guilty of nothing but being Christian.
This is evil.
Almost everyone has now heard of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the fact that he denies the existence of the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the Earth. But he has been remarkably clear about his mission, remarkably clear about his messianic vision of a Shiite religion, his vision to destroy the Western world and impose a caliphate on the world in which the world would submit to Islam or die in the process.
Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?
Then he answered himself:
But you had best know this slogan and this goal is attainable and surely can be achieved.
So do we have any questions about the nature of our enemy? Do we have any questions about the capability of this oil-rich country? Yet just this past week President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent an open letter, a conciliatory letter, to the American people, addressed to the ``noble'' American people. He called on America to withdraw from Iraq and end support for Israel, and, of course, to convert to Islam. This man may be a fanatic, but let me assure you he is not a stupid fanatic. This man understands and studies America. The Islamic fascists respect us enough to get to know us. They respect us enough so they know what buttons to push and how hard to push them. They respect us enough to figure out what it will take to defeat us.
I wish that were the case for the American people.
He couched his warning in the words that are familiar and comfortable with Americans--``freedom,'' trying to appeal that he would be free of this illegitimate regime in his mind, which is the current administration, and we would free them of this burden of fighting. It is a great appeal and many would like to see the end of this war, but we should not be fooled.
Our troops in Iraq are being killed by Iranian weapons today paid for with Iranian money smuggled into Iraq by Iranian logistics and utilized by Iranian-trained terrorists.
A couple of years ago you needed a security clearance to know this. Now, if you care to know, if you want to know this uncomfortable truth about Iran, you can know it. Iran is the centerpiece in the assault against us and other countries in the civilized world, which is why I fought so hard for passage of the Iran Freedom and Support Act.
I stood on the Senate floor at this very desk and argued in May or June of this year for passage of the Iran Freedom and Support Act. I said we should not be negotiating with Iran, that we should be confronting Iran.
Bernard Lewis tells a familiar opinion that he has. He tells a lot of them. He said that the oddity in particular of the Arab and Middle Eastern Islamic world is that the more we have strong relations with the government in an Arab Muslim country the more the people of that country hate us; and the more that we stand up and confront leadership of those countries the more the people like us. Is it no wonder he recounts on the day of 9/11 when there was but one Middle Eastern Muslim capital there was a candlelight vigil in support of those who died on 9/11, and that was in Tehran, Iran.
It is not hard to understand when you have regimes throughout the Middle East who oppress their people that when you stand up and confront those regimes and call them the evil they are the people understand and respect your honesty, agree with you, and support you.
This summer when we attempted to negotiate with Iran, we told the people of Iran that we are not on their side, that we want to make deals with people who oppress them, who torture them, who enslave them, who abuse them, and who kill them. That is why we should not have entered into any negotiations in spite of the entreaties of Europe with this evil regime in Iran. We should confront them, and only confront them. If we want the support of the people of Iran, we have to earn it with the integrity of our mission, and we are not doing that.
So I stood up on the floor of the Senate and said we needed to confront Iran, that we needed to fund full democracy groups, that we needed to use the public airwaves and the Internet to disseminate information to cause a change in the Government of Iran, and that we needed to sanction them. And this administration opposed me. The Senate opposed me by, I think, a 54-to-46 vote. That is why I continue to work on the Iran Freedom and Support Act.
Over the intervening months, what happened? Iran did as I predicted on this floor back in the spring--they played us along. They said: Well, you know we will negotiate with you as long as we can continue to produce nuclear materials and continue our nuclear program. So we negotiated and we negotiated and they developed and they developed. So finally in September of this year, enough people on both sides of the aisle and enough people in the administration finally were convinced that this was not a viable strategy anymore. What did we gain? We passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which probably surprised most people in this Chamber. We passed it unanimously--one of the last things we did before we broke. Most Americans don't know it. Unfortunately, most in the Middle East don't know it. I suspect if we went into the bowels of the State Department they may know it, but they are not going to do a damned thing about it because that is not their intent. They do not want to do anything about it. My guess is they will take that money and spend it on a lot of conferences and studies on what we should do instead of giving it to the bus drivers who went on strike as a strike fund so they can stand up to the government. Instead of giving it to dissent groups so they can disseminate information, instead of actively engaging we will appease. We will study, we will delay, and they will have time to further build.
But we did pass the bill. That would be on one of my to-do lists in the next Congress.
Is this bill going to be enforced? Are we going to confront Iran? Are we going to try to do something or are we going to sit by and allow them to develop these weapons? They are not developing them alone. No, there are a lot of reports that they are working with others around the world. Who are those others? I talk about Islamic fascism, and I keep focusing on that. But, unfortunately, over the past several months it is increasingly clear to me that the situation is becoming even more complex. We are not just facing a group of people who are in the Middle East desiring to overthrow the world and oppose a caliphate on us, but they have allies--unlikely allies in some respects, unlikely allies as the German Nazis and Japanese imperialists who had very conflicting ideologies but had a common purpose, and that was destroy the West, destroy the English-speaking world and the Western world, and put it under the domination of those countries.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Immigration
on: December 13, 2006, 03:45:30 PM
Charles Murray on Immigration
What's my position on immigration? Well, since apparently someone asked (and I have never published anything on immigration), here goes.
Regarding illegal immigration:
1. Making laws about who gets to become a citizen, under what circumstances, is a legitimate function of the state.
2. Protecting borders is a legitimate function of the state.
3. Enforcing the law is a central function of the state.
4. Immigration reform must begin first with enforcement of existing immigration law. If it takes a wall, so be it.
5. And while I'm at it, I'll mention that English should be the only language in which public school classes are taught (except for teaching English as a foreign language) and in which the public's business is conducted.
Regarding legal immigration:
1. Immigration is one of the main reasons-I'm guessing the main reason apart from our constitution-that we have remained a vital, dynamic culture, but immigration of a particular sort: Self-selection whereby people come here for opportunity. That self-selection process used to apply to everyone. It still applies to the engineers and computer programmers and entrepreneurs who come here from abroad, but it is diluted for low-job-skill workers by the many economic benefits of just being in the United States. Most low-job-skill immigrants work very hard. But Milton Friedman was right: You can't have both open immigration and a welfare state. The tension between the two is inescapable.
2. Massive immigration of legal low-skill workers is problematic for many reasons, and some of them have to do with human capital. Yes, mean IQ does vary by ethnic group, and IQ tends to be below average in low-job-skill populations. One can grant all the ways in which smart people coming from Latin American or African countries are low-job-skill because they have been deprived of opportunity, and still be forced to accept the statistical tendencies. The empirical record established by scholars such as George Borjas at Harvard cannot be wished away.
3. I am not impressed by worries about losing America's Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I'd a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn't read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.
4. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, I would get rid of reuniting-families provisions, get rid of the you're-a-citizen-if-you're-born-here rule, and make immigrants ineligible for all benefits and social services except public education for their children. Everybody who immigrates has to be on a citizenship track (no guest workers). And I would endorse a literacy requirement. Having those measures in place, my other criteria for getting permission to immigrate would be fairly loose. Just having to get through the bureaucratic hoops will go a long way toward reinstalling a useful self-selection process. But, to go back to basics: None of this works unless illegal immigration is effectively ended.
I suppose other libertarians will disagree, but I don't see a single item in this approach that runs against the principles of classical liberalism.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: December 13, 2006, 03:43:37 PM
MEXICO: Former Mexican Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal Carranza and former President Vicente Fox will pay a political price for their role in the unrest in the southern state of Oaxaca, Guillermo Zavaleta, the president of Mexico's Congressional Justice Commission and a deputy from the National Action Party, said. Zavaleta said he believes Abascal has a "great responsibility" for the Oaxaca unrest because he took more than three months to respond to the growing violence.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: December 13, 2006, 10:46:10 AM
Congress Doubles US Weapons Storage in Israel
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 / 22 Kislev 5767
In the last day before its recess Friday, the US House of Representatives and Senate approved loan guarantees to Israel and the doubling of US arms stored in Israel for emergency use.
The new Department of State Authorities Act of 2006 adds three years to the US provision of loan guarantees to Israel (until 2011), also including an aid package for Israel separate from the annual US aid package to the Jewish state.
In 2002 Israel requested loan guarantees from the United States to help it deal with the economic affects of the Oslo War and to prepare for the US war in Iraq. In 2003, Congress approved $9 billion in guarantees over three years.
Loan guarantees are not grants, rather the US is merely cosigning loans for Israel in the event that Israel were to default. This results in better terms on the loans, but has come at a price. Israel sends most of the money directly back into the US economy.
Additionally, a condition of the guarantees is that the money may not be spent on development of any of the areas Israel liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, meaning Judea, Samaria and half of Jerusalem. In addition, whatever the amount of government funds Israel decides to spend in those areas is deducted from the guarantees.
So far, Israel has used $4.6 billion of the $9 billion in US loan guarantees, which were first extended until 2008 and now until 2011.
The Act serves the US as well, doubling the funds allotted to the existing program whereby America stores arms and equipment in classified US facilities in Israel, called War Reserve Stockpiles (WRS).
A WRS is a collection of war materials held in reserve in pre-positioned storage to be used if needed in wartime. America maintains war reserve stocks around the world, mainly in NATO countries, but in some major non-NATO allies as well.
With Friday’s approval, the bill still requires the signature of US President George W. Bush, which should not be a problem, as the move was initiated by his administration.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Immigration
on: December 13, 2006, 09:48:05 AM
Of an Entrepreneur
Mr. Hairston's Stucco Workers
Quit to Become His Rivals;
Illegals Drive Prices Down
A Wife's Political Riposte
By MIRIAM JORDAN
December 13, 2006; Page A1
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- About five years ago, the journey of Starletta and William Hairston from the underclass to the upper class hit a roadblock.
Both were born to poor black Southern families. William, a stucco subcontractor, built a thriving business beautifying houses in the gated communities on this resort island, a magnet for wealthy retirees seeking a laid-back lifestyle by the sea. Starletta, a former flight attendant, won accolades for her community activism.
Then Hilton Head suddenly saw a wave of illegal immigrant workers from Mexico. Mr. Hairston, 54 years old, initially hired the Hispanic newcomers for his stucco business, helping it flourish. But soon, some of those same workers splintered off to form their own businesses, undercutting Mr. Hairston with lower bids to capture jobs. The Hairstons' net income plunged from roughly $500,000 in 1997 to about $70,000 in 2005, according to the couple.
To stay afloat, the Hairstons remortgaged their house twice and sold a condominium and a plot of land. Mr. Hairston now hustles for jobs in Charlotte, N.C., and beyond, looking for better opportunities. Meanwhile, Starletta Hairston, 53, won election to the Beaufort County Council, where she has joined a wave of local officials around the country trying to pass new laws cracking down on illegal immigrants.
Amid the debate over illegal immigration, one of the most contentious questions is whether unauthorized workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries displace U.S. workers, especially low-wage workers in agriculture, cleaning and construction.
The Hairstons' saga shows that the issue is not just about low-paid workers, but also entrepreneurs who set out to make their own fortune. As an ambitious small-business man, Mr. Hairston helped himself to undocumented immigrant labor and thrived with it. But as more immigrants flocked to the area and acquired skills, some of them harnessed their own entrepreneurial drive and became competitors.
CAST YOUR VOTE
Question of the Day: What is the net effect of illegal immigration on the U.S. economy?Mr. Hairston got his start in the plastering business in his native North Carolina. His business took off in Atlanta in the late 1980s when construction in the city boomed. Mr. Hairston married Starletta, the daughter of a maid who raised eight children alone, in 1985. The next year they had a son, William III. The couple restored a dilapidated boarding house in downtown Atlanta and moved in.
By the mid-1990s, stucco jobs increasingly took Mr. Hairston and his predominantly black crew from Atlanta to Hilton Head Island. Mr. Hairston fell in love with the moss-draped oak trees and intercoastal waterways inhabited by snowy egrets. Golf and hotels had turned the area into a resort mecca, and in the mid-1990s, a housing boom in the area allowed Beaufort County to boast the fastest growth and lowest unemployment in the state. "There was tons of work ... and only a couple stucco contractors in the whole area," recalls Mr. Hairston, a tall, strong man who sports a shaved head and a goatee. For some time, he commuted from Atlanta, living in motels or houses that he rented for himself and his employees. "He was a good subcontractor," says Ellis Smith, owner of Sandcastle Constructors, a local home builder for whom Mr. Hairston did several stucco jobs.
Mr. Hairston eventually convinced Starletta to leave Atlanta for Hilton Head. Mrs. Hairston had just had the couple's second son, Skylor, when she arrived in 1993. In Hilton Head, the Hairstons were far from their roots. They rented houses in tony gated communities. Typically the only black family, the couple says they endured complaints from white neighbors who didn't like seeing company trucks parked in the driveway or their son's plastic playhouse in the yard.
Mr. Hairston's business thrived. He says there was more work than he could keep up with, and a dearth of locals willing to do the heavy lifting required of stucco work: mixing and lugging buckets of cement, for example. "It was hard to find people willing to work sunrise to sunset," says Mr. Hairston. Many people, he added, only "worked long enough to keep their trailer lights on."
Latin American immigrants were just starting to trickle into the area, as word spread that jobs in construction and hospitality were plentiful. Immigrants were increasingly bypassing traditional gateways, like California and Texas, to seek work in the Southeast.
So Mr. Hairston, who until then had mostly relied on black labor, hired a handful of Mexicans. He says they were diligent and eager to learn. They were "prepared to acquire basic knowledge and not afraid to try" new work, says Mr. Hairston. When he needed more hands, his Mexican workers sent for their relatives back home and elsewhere in the U.S. Mr. Hairston says they presented Social Security numbers, and he in turn paid taxes and workers' compensation although he acknowledges some of them had probably entered the U.S. illegally.
In 1997 the stucco business made $971,000, according to the Hairstons' tax return. To handle his blossoming business, Mr. Hairston rented a large office with four rooms, two restrooms and warehouse space behind it. He bought a condominium and a plot of land as investments. Flush with success, the Hairstons broke ground on a 7,600-square-foot, three-story house with an ornate gold-and-black gate, a cherub fountain in the front and a large swimming pool in the back.
As Hilton Head prospered, more and more Mexican immigrants flocked there. From 1% of the population in 1995, Latinos accounted for 11% of Hilton Head's 34,000 residents in 2000, according to census figures. Officials peg the current Latino population at about 15%.
One immigrant who prospered was Fidel Serrano.
After eking out a living as a baker at a doughnut shop in Houston for five years, Mr. Serrano moved to Hilton Head Island in 1994, joining two brothers who had recently settled there. "There was plenty of work and life was calmer here for the kids," recalls Mr. Serrano, a native of Mexico. Mr. Serrano, his wife, two sons and two brothers rented a rundown two-room trailer, for which they collectively paid $600 a month.
Mr. Serrano began to work in stucco, perfecting his skills as an employee of Mr. Hairston's Pro Plastering & Stucco. He says he earned $8 to $10 an hour during the two-and-a-half years he worked for Mr. Hairston. In the beginning, Mr. Serrano recalls, Mr. Hairston still employed several black workers. But gradually Mr. Hairston came to rely more on Mr. Serrano and other Mexican immigrants. "We showed up for work every day and we were dedicated," Mr. Serrano recalls.
On His Own
Around 2000, Mr. Serrano struck out on his own, working as a subcontractor to Mr. Hairston. He supplied Mr. Hairston with crews for several jobs. "I was able to train the workers," who were all Spanish speakers, he recalls. Mr. Hairston typically paid him about 25% of the value of the contract for the job, he says. Mr. Serrano says that he pays taxes on all his workers, as well as workman's compensation.
Mr. Hairston says that for a while it didn't bother him that some of his Latino workers, like the Serranos, struck out on their own. "I never thought I would be competing against them," he says. But he felt particularly stung when he encountered one of his workers -- who had asked for two weeks off -- working on an $80,000 job on a high-end house that Mr. Hairston's company had bid for.
Mr. Hairston's business gradually began to unravel. Mr. Hairston "would bid and another guy who used to work for him would bid on the same job," recalls Greg Goldberg, another builder, who is currently president of the local home builders' association. Mr. Goldberg himself says he hired some of Mr. Hairston's former workers.
Mr. Hairston says that he never knew by how much he was undercut because the bidding process in construction isn't open. Builders often approach two or three subcontractors and invite them to make an estimate for a project. The builders rarely reveal the value of the winning bid to the losing parties.
Mr. Hairston says that he found himself losing bid after bid. Longtime customers didn't want him, he says -- a fact the contractors confirm. "We get happy with a subcontractor that does good work and we'll use him all the time," says Mr. Smith of Sandcastle Constructors. Currently, he employs Premium Stucco, owned by Fidel Serrano, Mr. Hairston's former employee. "They do an excellent job,'" he says, noting that they are working on a $2 million house that his company is building.
Mr. Serrano received his green card last year and bought a three-bedroom house. Most of his jobs are in luxurious gated communities, some of the same ones where Mr. Hairston thrived a decade ago. "Work is the only thing you can do to better yourself," Mr. Serrano says. "We aren't expecting the government or anyone to support us." He says that Mr. Hairston does good work and declines to comment about his former boss's financial difficulties.
In addition to facing competition from former workers, Mr. Hairston says he also faced competition from subcontractors hiring illegal immigrants and paying them under the table. Mr. Hairston says that while he hired undocumented workers he paid payroll taxes and workman's compensation for them which added about 20% to his labor costs.
Other subcontractors agree they are being undercut by competitors who hire illegal immigrants off the books. Danny Miller, who runs a stucco business called Two Brothers, says that "on a weekly" basis, his company loses bids for jobs to contractors who hire illegal immigrants. "That pretty much explains it all," says Mr. Miller.
At Sea Island Supply, owner Ron Sandlin remembers when mainly blacks and whites came in to buy brick, stucco and masonry materials. Now, his clientele is 85% Hispanic. He and his staff are taking Spanish lessons at a local college.
Though construction in Hilton Head continued to boom, Mr. Hairston closed his business office in 2002. He began to seek jobs in other markets. By 2003, revenue from Mr. Hairston's stucco business had fallen to $182,000 from $971,000 six years earlier.
As their fortunes were souring, Mrs. Hairston, a Republican who had become involved in community activities, decided to run for a seat on the 11-member County Council of Beaufort County. Her long hair usually adorned with a headband, she campaigned on improving conditions in impoverished areas. In a runoff, she defeated her white male Republican opponent by 50 votes and took office in January 2003.
Shortly after taking office, Mrs. Hairston requested a meeting with Hilton Head Mayor Tom Peeples, himself a residential developer. "William didn't understand why he couldn't win any bids. I thought, 'Let's find out what we can do,' " recalls Mrs. Hairston. "We went in there to say we were willing to work with him," says Mr. Hairston. Mr. Peeples told them that it was about who could give him the best price, according to the couple.
Mr. Peeples didn't reply to several messages left at his business office and voice mail.
Gradually, Mrs. Hairston found a new political inspiration: the immigration issue. "I saw inequities," she says, adding she also felt illegal immigrant workers were being exploited. Others see her motivation differently: "Starletta got bitter because of her husband's business," says Juan Campos, a Hilton Head restaurateur and Latino activist. Mrs. Hairston says she isn't motivated by her husband's plight, noting that Mr. Hairston no longer does business in the area.
In September, Mrs. Hairston presented a draft of an "illegal immigration relief ordinance" to the County Council. Under the ordinance, companies that knowingly hire undocumented laborers could have their business licenses revoked. The ordinance would require that all businesses volunteer to participate in a federal government pilot program that verifies whether a Social Security number matches an individual's name. It would bar illegal immigrants from getting a business license.
If the ordinance passes, "costs for yard service, green fees and house painting might escalate marginally for a while," Mrs. Hairston says, but "we will hold the moral and ethical high ground."
The County Council voted overwhelmingly to move the proposal forward in the first and second readings. But after loud opposition from Hispanic residents and many employers, the council instead approved on Monday a watered-down version called "lawful employment ordinance," which is less controversial and mainly reinforces existing federal and county employment codes. The council is to take its final vote on Dec. 27.
Whether the ordinance passes or not, it's not helping the Hairstons now. Starletta Hairston lost a Republican primary in June and will go off the council next year. William Hairston hasn't bid on a job in Beaufort County for at least two years. Instead he flies to North Carolina every week, where he says he uses a native-born, mostly black crew.
Mr. Hairston remains in touch with some of his old workers. A few months ago, Paul Serrano, who with his brother Fidel left to form a rival stucco company, approached Mr. Hairston to help him secure a green card which would put Paul Serrano on the path to citizenship and allow him to travel back and forth legally to Mexico to visit his elderly mother who is ill.
Mr. Hairston agreed to fill out forms attesting to his former employee's business skills and good character. He says he did it as an act of compassion but acknowledges the larger irony.
"He's my competition and I just signed papers to get him legal," says Mr. Hairston. "I'm making it possible for him to live the American dream."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia
on: December 13, 2006, 08:29:40 AM
Herewith we begin a thread dedicated to Russia with a piece from today's WSJ:
By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
• Putin Puzzle Revisited
• The Market to End All Markets
• Buy This Newspaper!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Holman W. Jenkins Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and writes editorials and the weekly Business World column.
Mr. Jenkins joined the Journal in May 1992 as a writer for the editorial page in New York. In February 1994, he moved to Hong Kong as editor of The Asian Wall Street Journal's editorial page. He returned to the domestic Journal in December 1995 as a member of the paper's editorial board and was based in San Francisco. In April 1997, he returned to the Journal's New York office. Mr. Jenkins won a 1997 Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business and financial coverage.
Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Jenkins received a bachelor's degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. He received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and studied at the University of Michigan on a journalism fellowship.
Mr. Jenkins invites comments to email@example.com
Putin Puzzle Revisited
December 13, 2006; Page A19
You have to admire the perseverance of Western energy investors in Russia, whom no amount of homicide, arbitrary contract abrogation or naked shakedowns can discourage.
Though Shell is being muscled out of a $20 billion deal to develop a Far East oil and gas field, and though American minority shareholders got wiped out along with Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the seizure of Yukos, Western money continues to take its chances on Russia out of desperation more than anything else. The world may be rich in hydrocarbons but opportunities for Western corporations are vanishing behind closed nationalist doors in country after country, where governments increasingly monopolize the development and production of oil.
Western investors have gotten accustomed to overlooking a lot in Russia, but they may be unwise to overlook the sensational polonium murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a critic of Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Putin's presidency is constitutionally mandated to end in 2008 when new elections will be held. But who is Putin's Putin? Mr. Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin by promising that, whatever purges Mr. Putin might carry out, Mr. Yeltsin and his family would be shielded. Mr. Yeltsin was old, ill, alcoholic and Mr. Putin's offer must have seemed one he couldn't refuse. Mr. Putin is young and vigorous, and has no reason to put his fate in the hands of a successor or successors who wouldn't be able to guarantee his lifelong immunity even if they wanted to.
In turn, if Mr. Putin amends the constitution to keep himself in power, it could provoke international repercussions that could undermine the assumptions on which much international investment is based.
To wit: For a lot of reasons, investors have been able to assume that, whatever happened in Russia, their home governments would at least be supportive of their investment efforts. President Bush pronounced Mr. Putin a friend, and needs Russian support for U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan. German politicians have pushed and cajoled energy firms to increase ties to Russia. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder even sits on the supervisory board of a Gazprom affiliate. All this reflects a Western calculation that Russia has nuclear weapons; Russia is a potential nightmare; Russia has energy the world needs. We must cling to Mr. Putin as an acceptable partner and hope for the best.
The Litvinenko murder, rightly described as the first case of nuclear terrorism, opens up a can of worms. The world media is enthralled with the story. Several British and German bystanders show traces of polonium poisoning. The heat will be on investigators to get to the bottom of the matter, and such investigations have a way of running beyond the power of governments to keep the lid down.
More threatening to Mr. Putin, Litvinenko wrote a book linking him to the original sin of modern Russian politics, a string of apartment bombings in 1999 in Moscow and other cities that killed hundreds. The bombings were blamed on Chechen terrorists, letting acting President Putin launch the second Chechen war and helping him win election in his own right. There soon followed a series of homicides and arrests and constitutional moves that shut down prospects of journalistic and legislative investigation into whether the bombings had actually been a government provocation.
Now, there was some eye-rolling when this column two years ago noted parallels between Mr. Putin's career and Saddam Hussein's. Saddam came to power after the early retirement of his mentor, who (like Mr. Yeltsin) promptly became invisible. Saddam's first act was to start a war. Etc.
But the real point was that Saddam became a hostage of his miscalculations, especially overestimating the power Iraq's oil gave him to manipulate other governments. Mr. Putin's best option, perhaps his only option, is to play out his hand, putting his chips on Western governments to cover up for him. Last week the Duma gave preliminary approval to a law that would directly grant the president power to impose economic sanctions on foreign nationals. The Jamestown Foundation, which monitors Russian politics, reports: "The proposed legislation, 'On Special Economic Measures in Case of an International Emergency Situation,' would let the president freeze trade contracts, stop financial transactions, prohibit tourism, and impose other economic sanctions."
Sen. Richard Lugar, who sees which way events are moving, late last month gave a speech in Latvia warning NATO urgently to adopt the position that energy sanctions imposed on a member state are an act of war against NATO itself.
Put yourself in Mr. Putin's shoes. It's hard to see how, except by holding onto power and trying to use it to control his circling enemies, he could hope to avoid becoming a target of political or legal retribution sooner or later. He's riding high in domestic polls, thanks to a recovering economy, no small thing. But the Litvinenko murder may have been the thread that begins the unknitting. The real threat has always been Ryazan. That's the Russian city where, on Sept. 22, 1999, a resident noticed men unloading bags of "sugar" into the basement of a large apartment block. The sugar was the explosive RDX; the men were Russian federal security agents. Moscow claimed the incident was a training exercise, but the apartment bombings, which had killed 300 of Mr. Putin's subjects, suddenly stopped.
Western governments have been nothing if not resolute in turning away from Ryazan and the evidence of the crime that allegedly underwrote Mr. Putin's rise to power. Western leaders might prefer, all things considered, to see him remain in power rather than deal with the consequences of Ryazan. But it is not in the nature of the world that such a mystery can be concealed forever, or its consequences ducked.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Conan the B. & Robert Howard
on: December 13, 2006, 08:16:53 AM
Perhaps Sun Helmet, who was an artist for the Conan comics from Marvel (I proudly have an autographed cover he did in my office) can share some additional insight , , ,
From Pen to Sword
Conan the Barbarian was first a literary figure.
BY JOHN J. MILLER
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger recently won an easy re-election as California's governor. His movie-screen alter ego, Conan the Barbarian, never had to bother with yawping masses of voters--but he seems no less popular these days, judging from a revival movement that's winning a new generation of fans for one of the best-known characters that American literature has produced.
If Conan isn't first remembered as a literary figure, it's because the culture has embraced him so completely on film, in comic books, and as an icon of thick-muscled, sword-wielding manhood. Yet he got his start on the printed page as the invention of Robert E. Howard, a rural Texas pulp writer who lived from 1906 to 1936.
Enthusiasts have celebrated Howard's centenary all year long with pilgrimages to the tiny town of Cross Plains, where a family home has been turned into a shrine-like museum, plus the release of several anthologies of stories and a new biography, "Blood & Thunder," by Mark Finn. These festivities culminated at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas, last month when a group of devotees announced the establishment of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, which hopes to arrange for the publication of everything its namesake ever wrote--an estimated 3.5 million words of prose and poetry.
The Conan stories make up only a small fraction of this huge output: There are 21 of them, including a novel, and they were written at breakneck speed between 1932 and 1935. As with everything by Howard, their quality varies dramatically: A fantasy classic such as "Beyond the Black River" remains a riveting tale that undermines popular notions of frontier progress and manifest destiny; "The Vale of Lost Women," however, is a clunky piece of hackwork that would be instantly forgotten were it not for the fame of its star character.
Yet the stories share a fundamental power because Howard was a skilled action-adventure storyteller. So were a lot of other pulp writers, of course. What ultimately set Howard apart was a dazzling imagination that dreamed up the sword-and-sorcery subgenre of fantasy literature before anybody had heard about J.R.R. Tolkien and his hobbits.
With Conan, Howard created a protagonist whose name is almost as familiar as Tarzan's. In his influential essay on Howard, Don Herron credits the Texan with begetting the "hard-boiled" epic hero, and doing for fantasy what Dashiell Hammett did for detective fiction. Suddenly, the world--even a make-believe one such as Conan's Hyboria--was rendered seamier and more violent, and Howard described it in spare rather than lush prose.
Conan has a knack for locating damsels in distress, but he is no knight in shining armor who piously obeys a code of chivalry. Instead, he is a black-haired berserker from a wild and wintry land called Cimmeria. He has little patience for social conventions he doesn't understand. "The warm intimacies of small, kindly things, the sentiments and delicious trivialities that make up so much of civilized men's lives were meaningless to him," wrote Howard in "Beyond the Black River." Conan occasionally thinks his way out of a problem, but more often he reaches for a weapon and slashes his way out. "There's nothing in the universe cold steel won't cut," he boasts.
The Conan stories don't unfold in a straight, sequential narrative. Each one is a stand-alone episode from an action-packed life. Howard once claimed that he wasn't creating "these yarns" as much as "simply chronicling [Conan's] adventures as he told them to me."
In the tales, Conan takes his turn as a thief, pirate, mercenary, tribal chieftain and, finally, king. He is never comfortable in any of these roles. You can take the boy out of Cimmeria, but you can't take Cimmeria out of the boy: Just about everywhere Conan goes and no matter what he does, he is an outsider who follows only a rough sense of personal honor. He has been called an existential hero because he feels no responsibility to be anything other than his authentic, barbaric self. "I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content," he says in "Queen of the Black Coast."
Conan's view of life is predictably bleak and brutal: "In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray, misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity," he says. "I seek not beyond death."
Neither did Howard. When he learned that his mother had slipped into a fatal coma, he typed a four-line couplet: "All fled, all done/So lift me on the pyre/The feast is over/And the lamps expire." Then he went to his car and shot himself in the head. He was 30 years old.
Fans sometimes speculate about what would have happened if Howard hadn't committed suicide--and kept on writing into, say, the years of the Reagan presidency. Would he have gone on to write westerns, a genre in which he dabbled and displayed a growing interest? Would he have matured as an author?
Whatever the case, Howard did leave behind a big pile of material--much more than many writers who live twice as long. In addition to Conan, there are stories about Solomon Kane, a Puritan swashbuckler; Kull, a warrior from Atlantis; and Bran Mak Morn, the king of an ancient race. Many aficionados consider "Worms of the Earth" and "The Dark Man," a pair of Bran Mak Morn stories, to be his finest.
Since 2003, Del Rey has issued definitive texts on each of these heroes, based on Howard's own manuscripts rather than the edited and bowdlerized versions that have appeared elsewhere. Three of these collections contain everything Howard ever wrote on Conan, including previously unpublished story fragments. With October's release of "Kull: Exile of Atlantis," the sixth in the series, Del Rey says it has put out more than 200,000 of these books.
A small industry of armchair scholars has made it possible. "We've gone pro," says Leo Grin, the editor of a journal and blog called "The Cimmerian." Yet they've also had to battle for respectability. "The comics and the movies have brought in fans, but they've also been an albatross," says Rusty Burke, an editor of the Del Rey books. "We're maybe 10 or 20 years behind H.P. Lovecraft."
Last year, Lovecraft, another 1930s pulp writer, slithered his way into the literary canon when the Library of America issued a definitive book of his influential horror fiction. Howard is not nearly as cerebral as Lovecraft, but Lovecraft never seized the Zeitgeist with a character like Conan.
The albatross may grow heavier before it grows lighter: Dark Horse Comics calls Conan one of its best-selling titles, Funcom will launch a highly anticipated online game next year, and Warner Bros. reportedly wants to make a new flick. All of this will expand Howard's growing fan base.
One thing seems certain: After Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest of us are long gone, Conan will still be wandering, sword in hand and ready to excite ever more readers.
Mr. Miller writes for National Review and is the author of "A Gift of Freedom."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: December 13, 2006, 08:07:12 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Plans for Iran
The director of Russia's state nuclear fuel exporting firm, Atomstroyexport, announced on Tuesday that his company will begin preparing to transport Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant -- which was also built by the Russians -- in January 2007. He estimated that Bushehr will become operational approximately six months after the fuel arrives in March.
The statement raised heckles throughout the West, where governments -- particularly those of the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- are attempting to slow and, if possible, stop Iranian efforts to launch a nuclear program. And since sanctioning Iran for its nuclear amibitions is the only headline item on the U.N. Security Council's to-do list, international diplomacy seems firmly on track for a train wreck.
But the picture is not nearly as clear-cut as it seems, and no player's role is murkier than that of Russia.
Yes, the Russians are constructing the Bushehr facility and making a pretty penny for doing so; yes, they are contractually committed to supplying Bushehr with Russian-fabricated nuclear fuel; and yes, in order to protect these contracts and their political influence in Iran they have threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that enacts strict sanctions against the country, particularly if those sanctions mention the Bushehr project.
But that hardly means they are enthused about the idea of Iran possessing a robust nuclear program. Russia's interests are simply better served by keeping the project in limbo.
An operational Bushehr would drastically reduce Russia's options and influence, both with the West and with Iran. Once Bushehr goes online and the Russians collect their payment, the West will no longer see Russia as an integral player in the international conflict because Moscow's commercial obligations to Tehran will have been fulfilled. Additionally, the West will not look kindly on any Russian steps to help Iran operationalize its nuclear program.
Moreover, buried in the Russian fuel supply contract is a clause that requires all spent nuclear fuel from Bushehr (which contains plutonium) to be repatriated to Russia. There is little to no doubt that Iran's nuclear agenda is not limited to civilian energy purposes. Should Iran divert such material to a weapons program, Russia would know immediately. In that case, not only would Russia have become a major contributor to the Iranian nuclear project, but it also would be shouldered with the responsibility of restraining a soon-to-be nuclear Iran.
However, so long as Bushehr is not yet operational -- or even better, nearly operational -- the picture is starkly different. The West needs Russia to use its influence over Iran to bring the country to the nuclear negotiating table. Iran needs Russia to use its influence at the U.N. Security Council to shield it from sanctions. Should Bushehr become an operational reality, those needs, and the influence that goes with them, will disappear.
Russia likes to insert itself into issues that let it meddle with U.S. interests, and the Middle East makes for a good playing field. The Iranian nuclear controversy allowed Moscow to carve out a place for itself at the table and assume the role of either spoiler or facilitator, depending on Russian interests. After gaining entry into the World Trade Organization in November, Russia began to soften its stance on sanctions and has now come up with a new draft that shows some promise of surviving a Security Council vote. (The draft conveniently leaves the Bushehr project out of the sanctions package.) At the same time, Russia has been careful not to alienate its friends in Tehran; it has repeated its promises of nuclear fuel shipments while assuring the Iranians that it will make sure any Security Council resolution on sanctions is watered down. Even though such weakened sanctions would hold little significance and be almost impossible to enforce, they would allow the United States to signal to Iran that the nuclear issue will not be ignored while the world watches Iraq.
In the end, however, Russia knows the limits of its influence over Iran; Moscow can best manage its position by leaving the Iranians -- and Bushehr -- hanging.
The only remaining question is: How long can Russia milk this?
The answer is: Longer than one might think. The original deal to build Bushehr dates back to 1995. The project was scheduled to be completed in 1999, and even the Russians have quietly admitted that the reactor core has been ready since late 2004. But because Russia has always based its decisions on politics rather than on reality, the reactor's unveiling might still be a long time coming.
1220 GMT -- UNITED NATIONS -- Russia canceled talks on Iranian nuclear sanctions late Dec. 12 because the United States raised the issue of a jailed Belarusian politician during a closed-door U.N. Security Council session on Cote d'Ivoire and Lebanon, Russian diplomats said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 13, 2006, 07:55:25 AM
One War We Can Still Win
By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
Published: December 13, 2006
NO one can return from visiting the front in Afghanistan without realizing there is a very real risk that the United States and NATO will lose their war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other Islamist movements fighting the Afghan government.
Declassified intelligence made available during my recent trip there showed that major Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami sanctuaries exist in Pakistan, and that the areas they operate in within Afghanistan have increased fourfold over the last year.
Indeed, a great many unhappy trends have picked up speed lately: United States intelligence experts in Afghanistan report that suicide attacks rose from 18 in the first 11 months of 2005 to 116 in the first 11 months of 2006. Direct fire attacks went up from 1,347 to 3,824 during the same period, improvised explosive devices from 530 to 1,297 and other attacks from 269 to 479. The number of attacks on Afghan forces increased from 713 to 2,892, attacks on coalition forces from 919 to 2,496 and attacks on Afghan government officials are 2.5 times what they were.
Only the extensive use of American precision air power and intelligence assets has allowed the United States to win this year’s battles in the east. In the south, Britain has been unable to prevent a major increase in the Taliban’s presence.
The challenges in Afghanistan, however, are very different from those in Iraq. Popular support for the United States and NATO teams has been strong and can be rebuilt. The teams have created core programs for strengthening governance, the economy and the Afghan military and police forces, and with sufficient resources the programs can succeed. The present United States aid efforts are largely sound and well managed, and they can make immediate and effective use of more money.
The Islamist threat is weak, but it is growing in strength — political as well as military. The Afghan government will take years to become effective, reduce corruption to acceptable levels and replace a narcotics-based economy. As one Afghan deputy minister put it to me during my trip: “Now we are all corrupt. Until we change and serve the people, we will fail.”
No matter what the outside world does, Afghans, the United States team and NATO representatives all agree that change will take time. The present central government is at least two or three years away from providing the presence and services Afghans desperately need. The United States’ and NATO’s focus on democracy and the political process in Kabul — rather than on the quality of governance and on services — has left many areas angry and open to hostile influence. Afghanistan is going to need large amounts of military and economic aid, much of it managed from the outside in ways that ensure it actually gets to Afghans, particularly in the areas where the threat is greatest.
This means the United States needs to make major increases in its economic aid, as do its NATO allies. These increases need to be made immediately if new projects and meaningful actions are to begin in the field by the end of winter, when the Islamists typically launch new offensives.
At least such programs are cheap by the standards of aid to Iraq. The projects needed are simple ones that Afghans can largely carry out themselves. People need roads and water, and to a lesser degree schools and medical services. They need emergency aid to meet local needs and win hearts and minds.
The maps of actual and proposed projects make it clear that while progress is real, it covers only a small part of the country. Even a short visit to some of the districts in the southeast, near the border with Pakistan, suggests that most areas have not seen any progress. Drought adds to the problem, much of the old irrigation system has collapsed, and roads are little more than paths. The central government cannot offer hope, and local officials and the police cannot compete with drug loans and income.
The United States has grossly underfinanced such economic aid efforts and left far too much of the country without visible aid activity. State Department plans call for a $2.3 billion program, but unless at least $1.1 billion comes immediately, aid will lag far behind need next year.
Additionally, a generous five-year aid plan from both the United States and its NATO allies is needed for continuity and effectiveness. The United States is carrying far too much of the burden, and NATO allies, particularly France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are falling short: major aid increases are needed from each.
And United States military forces are too small to do the job. Competing demands in Iraq have led to a military climate where American troops plan for what they can get, not what they need. The 10th Mountain Division, which is responsible for eastern Afghanistan, has asked for one more infantry brigade. This badly understates need, even if new Polish forces help in the east. The United States must be able to hold and build as well as win — it needs at least two more infantry battalions, and increases in Special Forces. These increases are tiny by comparison with American forces in Iraq, but they can make all the difference.
The NATO allies must provide stronger and better-equipped forces that will join the fight and go where they are most needed. The British fight well but have only 50 to 75 percent of the forces they need. Canadians, Danes, Estonians, Dutch and Romanians are in the fight. The Poles lack adequate equipment but are willing to fight. France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey are not allowed to fight because of political constraints and rules of engagement. Only French Special Forces have played any role in combat and they depart in January. NATO must exercise effective central command; it cannot win with politically constrained forces, and it must pressure the stand-aside countries to join the fight.
Finally, the United States and NATO have repeated the same mistakes that were made in Iraq in developing effective Afghan Army and police forces, rushing unready forces into combat. The manning of key Afghan army battalions is sometimes below 25 percent and the police units are often unpaid. Corruption and pay problems are still endemic, equipment and facilities inadequate. Overall financing has been about 20 percent of the real-world requirement, and talks with Afghan and NATO officials made it brutally clear that the Germans wasted years trying to create a conventional police force rather than the mix of paramilitary and local police forces Afghanistan really needs.
The good news is that there is a new realism in the United States and NATO effort. The planning, training and much of the necessary base has been built up during the last year. There are effective plans in place, along with the NATO and American staffs to help put them into effect.
The bad news is the same crippling lack of resources that affect every part of the United States and NATO efforts also affect the development of the Afghan Army and police.
It was obvious during a visit to one older Afghan Army battalion that it had less than a quarter of its authorized manpower, and only one man in five was expected to re-enlist. At one police unit, although policemen were supposed to be paid quarterly, they were sometimes not paid at all, leaving them no choice but to extort a living. (In one case, the officer in charge of pay didn’t even fill out forms because he had been passed over for promotion because of his ethnicity.)
The United States team has made an urgent request for $5.9 billion in extra money this fiscal year, which probably underestimates immediate need and in any event must be followed by an integrated long-term economic aid plan. There is no time for the administration and Congress to quibble or play budget games. And, once again, the NATO countries must make major increases in aid as well.
In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the allies to honestly assess problems in the field, be realistic about needs, create effective long-term aid and force-development plans, and emphasize governance over services may well have brought defeat. The United States and its allies cannot afford to lose two wars. If they do not act now, they will.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: December 12, 2006, 11:10:27 PM
Knife-wielding man tackled in mall
var isoPubDate = 'December 11, 2006'
By Christian Burkin
') December 11, 2006
Record Staff Writer STOCKTON - A bizarre stabbing briefly interrupted holiday shopping Sunday evening at Sherwood Mall, but it was back to business as usual less than an hour later.
According to police, an altercation between two men at the Whimsy Family Entertainment arcade led to a vicious knife attack.
The victim suffered both lacerations and stab wounds but is expected to recover, police said.
After the stabbing, several eyewitnesses said, rather than escape, the attacker wandered around the mall, dripping blood and trailing a cleaver-style knife, following a route that was not unlike a shopping trip before eventually being tackled to the ground.
Police were unable to provide an exact time line or identify the suspect late Sunday, but after the stabbing, the attacker's first stop was the mall's security station, where he slashed security monitors - breaking at least one of them - without interruption.
Next, he drifted over to Sunglass Hut, smashed open the glass counter and grabbed a pair of sunglasses before heading for Best Buy. That was at around 5:40 p.m., said Robert Shaw, an employee of Software Etc., which sits between the security station and Sunglass Hut.
Shaw said he didn't see any guards in the area at the time, though shoppers already were fleeing, some of them dropping purses and cell phones as they ran. But at that time, Shaw said, he had other things on his mind.
"I just wanted to get people to the back of the store," he said.
Eventually, the attacker made his way back toward the mall's food court, grabbing a Christmas tree and dragging it behind him along the way.
"He had blood on his shoes and his blade, and he just picked up a Christmas tree and started dragging it around," said Michael Davis, 29.
Finally, the attacker was tackled in the food court.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said her husband was waiting in line at Panda Express, unaware of what was going on, when the attacker returned. Her husband, who works in construction, tackled the man and wrestled him to the ground, she said.
Stockton Police Department spokesman Pete Smith could not confirm who stopped the knife-wielding man, but he said he had heard that shoppers were involved. Police arrested the suspect at the scene, and he was booked into the County Jail on assault charges. It was not known if there was any relationship between the attacker and the victim, and there was no known motive.
Mall security guards would not comment on their activities during the incident, and calls for comment from mall management were not returned.
The entire food court was taped off after the incident, and officers walked around the area, marking smears of blood on the tile.
With just 15 days left before Christmas, the brief outward rush of shoppers reversed itself, and rubberneckers returned to browsing the mall's stores.
The victim, who police would only say was a man in his mid-20s, was treated at St. Joseph's Medical Center for stab wounds and lacerations to the head. He was expected to recover, Smith said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: December 12, 2006, 11:11:58 AM
Today's NY Times
The Energy Challenge
The Cost of an Overheated Planet
By STEVE LOHR
Published: December 12, 2006
The iconic culprit in global warming is the coal-fired power plant. It burns the dirtiest, most carbon-laden of fuels, and its smokestacks belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.
The Energy Challenge
Fossil Fuel Economics
Articles in this series are examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future.
Chris Keane for The New York Times
James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy and chairman of a leading utility trade group, at an electrical substation in Charlotte, N.C.
So it is something of a surprise that James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a coal-burning utility in the Midwest and the Southeast, has emerged as an unexpected advocate of federal regulation that would for the first time impose a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. But he has his reasons.
“Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide,” Mr. Rogers said. “And we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be.”
Global warming is not only an environmental hazard, but also a great challenge for economic policy. Without economic incentives, analysts say, the needed investments in industrial cleanup, innovative low-carbon technologies, fuel-efficient cars and other ways of reducing energy waste will not occur.
Mr. Rogers’s stance is far from universal within the power industry, but it has surprising support, particularly from those, like him, who also produce electricity from carbon-free nuclear reactors.
And despite the Bush administration’s adamant opposition to any limits on fossil fuel emissions, the idea is beginning to pick up momentum in the American political arena as well. Already, California has adopted a policy aimed at reducing the state’s contribution to global warming by 25 percent in the next 14 years.
In Washington, several influential lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, a leading Republican contender for president in 2008, have introduced legislation intended to limit the nation’s carbon dioxide output.
But how would those goals be achieved? Global warming can be seen as a classic “market failure,” and many economists, environmental experts and policy makers agree that the single largest cause of that failure is that in most of the world, there is no price placed on spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Yet it is increasingly clear that there is a considerable cost to carbon dioxide emissions, especially to future generations, as climate specialists warn of declines in farm output in poor tropical countries, fiercer hurricanes and coastal floods that could make many people refugees.
Price List for Polluting
“Setting a real price on carbon emissions is the single most important policy step to take,” said Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at Harvard University. “Pricing is the way you get both the short-term gains through efficiency and the longer-term gains from investments in research and switching to cleaner fuels.”
Some academics see an analogy between a global warming policy and the pursuit of national security in the cold war. In the late 1950s, American military spending reached as high as 10 percent of the gross domestic product and averaged about 4 percent, far higher than in any previous peacetime era. A Soviet nuclear attack was a danger but hardly a certainty, just as the predicted catastrophes from global warming are threats but not certainties.
“The issues are similar in that you pay now so things are less risky in the future — it’s an insurance policy,” said Richard Cooper, a Harvard economist. “And in the cold war, we taxed ourselves fairly highly to mitigate that threat.”
What makes such a view more than a conceptual argument is that executives like Mr. Rogers, who is also chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group whose members provide 60 percent of the nation’s electric power, are also pushing for a carbon dioxide-pricing policy to reduce the risk to their companies.
They say that only with some sort of federal policy in place — which would probably take the form of a tax on carbon dioxide waste from any source, or a “cap and trade” regulatory system — will it become clear what carbon cleanup or fuel-switching moves their companies may have to make, and on what sort of timetable.
Investors in alternative energy projects also emphasize the need to set policy priorities.
“We need a policy framework for the long term,” said Vinod Khosla, a leading environment-oriented venture capitalist. “Fifteen years is the minimum horizon of stability that we need.”
Beyond incentives for business, a national global warming policy should include increased federal spending on research on futuristic technologies to curb carbon emissions, advocates say.
Combating global warming, they say, will require over-the-horizon breakthroughs involving safe nuclear energy, hydrogen power and advanced carbon sequestration — or technologies that have not yet been imagined.
But even today, there are sizable opportunities, by insisting on more efficient energy use, that are not being seized, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. In a new report, the institute, a business-oriented research group that is part of McKinsey & Company consultants, estimated that the yearly growth in worldwide energy demand could be cut by more than half through 2020 — to an annual rate of 0.6 percent from a forecast 2.2 percent, using current technology alone.
Page 2 of 3)
Available steps that would yield a more productive, and efficient, use of energy include compact fluorescent lighting, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements and an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards.
Carbon’s Possible Future All these moves, McKinsey said, would save money for consumers and businesses. “We were really surprised by these huge straightforward opportunities that are not being taken,” said Diana Farrell, the McKinsey Global Institute’s director. “In some senses, there is a big market failure.”
Energy efficiency can help slow the pace at which the risk from global warming risk increases, but it cannot reverse the trend alone. In the very long term, environmental experts say, the world’s economy needs a technological transformation, from deriving 90 percent of its energy from fossil fuels today to being largely free of emissions from fossil fuels by 2100, through cleanup steps or alternative energy sources.
Science and Uncertainty
Given all the uncertainties, the scientists and economists who design and run simulations of global warming policy acknowledge that their work is at best a tool for thinking about climate change issues.
Still, they tend to agree that over the next 50 years, the cost of slowing and eventually reversing carbon emissions growth will be 1 to 2 percent of global economic output. They assume the focus over those years will be mainly on efficiency and cleaning up electricity generation.
In later years, their cost projections become more varied, ranging from 1 percent to as high as 16 percent of global output, depending on assumptions about how difficult it will be to wean the world’s vehicle fleet from fossil fuels, and to make other technological leaps.
“Going past 2050, the cleverness really has to kick in,” said John M. Reilly, an economist at the M.I.T. Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.
A global warming policy would be shaped first by science and social values, before economics. A sensible goal, according to many environmental specialists, is to try to avert a doubling or more of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in this century.
“This is not something that goes on inside a computer, but a grand political calculation,” said Stephen H. Schneider, a climate expert at Stanford University.
Yet even in realms of social policy, where uncertainty is high, there is an implicit calculation of costs and benefits. In the case of global warming, the cost of society’s insurance policy may well be worth it, measured in the damage averted.
But it will not be cheap. Take the experts’ consensus estimate that curbing carbon dioxide emissions over the next 50 years will, on average, cost about 1 percent of global economic activity annually.
It seems a modest figure. Yet in today’s terms, 1 percent of the United States economy is more than $120 billion a year, or $400 a person.
Put another way, $120 billion is about equal to the Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2001; it is also roughly the amount spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars this year.
“There’s no easy way around the fact that if global warming is a serious risk, there will be serious costs,” said W. David Montgomery, an economist at Charles River Associates, a consulting group.
A price on carbon dioxide emissions, most economists agree, would be the most efficient way to combat global warming. And the price, they say, should start small to give industries time to adapt, then ratchet up over the years to encourage long-term investments in energy saving, carbon cleanup and new technology.
The two methods of pricing carbon are to charge a tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the air, or to place a cap on total emissions and then let polluters trade permits to emit a ton of carbon dioxide.
Economists like William D. Nordhaus of Yale and Mr. Cooper of Harvard advocate a tax as the clearest price signal to the energy marketplace, and less susceptible to political tampering and market manipulation than a cap-and-trade system. It could also be used to raise revenue to offset other taxes.
In a recent paper, Mr. Cooper suggested an initial tax around $14 a ton of carbon dioxide emitted, which he calculated would translate roughly into a 100 percent tax on coal and add 12 cents to each gallon of gasoline. Such a tax would raise as much as $80 billion a year in the United States.
“There’s nothing sacred about the number,” he said, “but you need to get a significant price into the system to create the incentive for people to go out and look for solutions.”
A Quota or a Tax?
(Page 3 of 3)
Economically, a cap-and-trade system has the same goal as a tax, putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, but goes about it differently. A limit would be placed on overall emissions, with polluters allocated permits. Then, companies able to go below their emission targets would be allowed to sell their unused “permits to pollute” to companies that could not.
Carbon’s Possible Future A cap-and-trade system also has some political advantages. It can deflect the anger over higher costs and enable governments to use their allocations to essentially buy political support, since permits are the equivalent of cash. Big polluters, who will have to invest most to clean up, could be granted extra allowances in the early years of the program to subsidize their investments.
In the United States, caps and trading have a record of success in combating acid rain, which is caused by sulfur dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants.
“People said it was a crazy idea, too complicated and too regulatory,” said Richard L. Schmalensee, an M.I.T. economist who was an economic adviser to the first President Bush when the sulfur emissions program was designed. “But the lesson learned was that a cap-and-trade system can work.”
The global warming legislative proposals before Congress — including one sponsored by Senator McCain and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and another by Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico — envision cap-and-trade systems.
But the challenge of controlling carbon emissions is far greater than sulfur. Carbon dioxide is a pervasive byproduct of the economy, and the polluters are many and varied. Once emitted, carbon dioxide is vexingly long-lived in the environment.
The early struggles of the European Union’s carbon emission trading system, set up last year, point to the administrative and political difficulties. The European governments, responding to lobbying by domestic businesses, handed out permits that exceeded the emissions that most companies were already putting into the air. When that became clear in April, the market price of carbon dioxide emissions fell by half.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who will soon take the chair of the Senate environment committee, has pledged to push Congress to impose a price on carbon dioxide emissions, as the Europeans have done.
Yet without coordinated international action, even if the United States — the largest source of carbon emissions — reined them in, this would have only limited effect on global warming. China is on track to surpass the United States as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide by 2009, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.
“Unless China and India are brought in, it won’t matter much what the developed world does,” said Scott Barrett, a professor of environmental economics at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.
But developing nations like China and India, energy specialists say, would certainly avoid joining any international effort on global warming without an emphatic move by the United States.
“Every year we delay, we contribute to another year of delay in China, India and elsewhere,” said Jason S. Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group of energy experts. “The ecological and economic imperative is to start now.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: December 12, 2006, 11:04:52 AM
Here is a Holiday tip.
Oil-- Olive oil that is-- Not just 8 days a week; but 365 days a year!
New Year's Resolution No. 1: Prevent Cancer, Use Olive Oil
If you want to avoid developing cancer, then you might want to add eating more olive oil to your list of New Year's resolutions. In a study to be published in the January 2007 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists from five European countries describe how the anti-cancer effects of olive oil may account for the significant difference in cancer rates among Northern and Southern Europeans.
The authors drew this conclusion based on the outcomes of volunteers from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Spain, who consumed 25 milliliters (a little less than a quarter cup) of olive oil every day for three weeks. During this time, the researchers examined urine samples of the subjects for specific compounds known to be waste by-products of oxidative damage to cells, a precursor to cancer. At the beginning of the trial, the presence of these waste by-products was much higher in Northern European subjects than their Southern European counterparts. By the end of three weeks, however, the presence of this compound in Northern European subjects was substantially reduced.
"Determining the health benefits of any particular food is challenging because of it involves relatively large numbers of people over significant periods of time," said lead investigator Henrik E. Poulsen, M.D. of Rigshospitalet, Denmark. "In our study, we overcame these challenges by measuring how olive oil affected the oxidation of our genes, which is closely linked to development of disease. This approach allows us to determine if olive oil or any other food makes a difference. Our findings must be confirmed, but every piece of evidence so far points to olive oil being a healthy food. By the way, it also tastes great."
Another interesting finding in the study suggests that researchers are just beginning to unlock the mysteries of this ancient "health food." Specifically, the researchers found evidence that the phenols in olive oil are not the only compounds that reduced oxidative damage. Phenols are known antioxidant compounds that are present in a wide range of everyday foods, such as dark chocolate, red wine, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Despite reducing the level of phenols in the olive oil, the study's subjects still showed that they were receiving the same level of health benefits.
"Every New Year people make resolutions that involve eating less fat to improve their health," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "This academically sound, practically useful study shows that what you eat is just as important as how much you eat. No wonder Plato taught wisdom in an olive grove called Academe."
The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org
) is published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and is consistently ranked among the top three biology journals worldwide by the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB comprises 21 nonprofit societies with more than 80,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB's mission is to enhance the ability of biomedical and life scientists to improve -- through their research -- the health, well-being, and productivity of all people. FASEB serves the interests of these scientists in those areas related to public policy, facilitates coalition activities among member societies, and disseminates information on biological research through scientific conferences and publications.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 12, 2006, 11:00:04 AM
U.S. tries Google for intelligence on Iran
Internet search yields names cited in U.N. draft resolution
• Googling Iran intel?
Dec. 11: NBC Andrea Mitchell reports on the State Department using Google to find information on Iran's nuclear program.
By Dafna Linzer
Updated: 1:24 a.m. PT Dec 11, 2006
When the State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranians who could be sanctioned for their involvement in a clandestine nuclear weapons program, the agency refused, citing a large workload and a desire to protect its sources and tradecraft.
Frustrated, the State Department assigned a junior Foreign Service officer to find the names another way -- by using Google. Those with the most hits under search terms such as "Iran and nuclear," three officials said, became targets for international rebuke Friday when a sanctions resolution circulated at the United Nations.
Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons. In some internal debates, policymakers win out and intelligence is made public to further political or diplomatic goals. In other cases, such as this one, the intelligence community successfully argues that protecting information outweighs the desires of some to share it with the world.
But that argument can also put the U.S. government in the awkward position of relying, in part, on an Internet search to select targets for international sanctions.
None of the 12 Iranians that the State Department eventually singled out for potential bans on international travel and business dealings is believed by the CIA to be directly connected to Iran's most suspicious nuclear activities.
"There is nothing that proves involvement in a clandestine weapons program, and there is very little out there at all that even connects people to a clandestine weapons program," said one official familiar with the intelligence on Iran. Like others interviewed for this story, the official insisted on anonymity when discussing the use of intelligence.
What little information there is has been guarded at CIA headquarters. The agency declined to discuss the case in detail, but a senior intelligence official said: "There were several factors that made it a complicated and time-consuming request, not the least of which were well-founded concerns" about revealing the way the CIA gathers intelligence on Iran.
That may be why the junior State Department officer, who has been with the nonproliferation bureau for only a few months, was put in front of a computer.
More than 100 names
An initial Internet search yielded over 100 names, including dozens of Iranian diplomats who have publicly defended their country's efforts as intended to produce energy, not bombs, the sources said. The list also included names of Iranians who have spoken with U.N. inspectors or have traveled to Vienna to attend International Atomic Energy Agency meetings about Iran.
It was submitted to the CIA for approval but the agency refused to look up such a large number of people, according to three government sources. Too time-consuming, the intelligence community said, for the CIA's Iran desk staff of 140 people. The list would need to be pared down. So the State Department cut the list in half and resubmitted the names.
In the end, the CIA approved a handful of individuals, though none is believed connected to Project 1-11 -- Iran's secret military effort to design a weapons system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The names of Project 1-11 staff members have never been released by any government and doing so may have raised questions that the CIA was not willing or fully able to answer. But the agency had no qualms about approving names already publicly available on the Internet.
"Using a piece of intel on project 1-11, which we couldn't justify in open-source reporting, or with whatever the Russians had, would have put us in a difficult position," an intelligence official said. "Inevitably, someone would have asked, 'Why this guy?' and then we would have been back to the old problem of justifying intelligence."
A senior administration official acknowledged that the back-and-forth with the CIA had been difficult, especially given the administration's desire to isolate Iran and avoid a repeat of flawed intelligence that preceded the Iraq war.
"In this instance, we were the requesters and the CIA was the clearer," the official said. "It's the process we go through on a lot of these things. Both sides don't know a lot of reasons for why either side is requesting or denying things. Sources and methods became their stated rationale and that is what they do. But for policymaking, it can be quite frustrating."
Washington's credibility in the U.N. Security Council on weapons intelligence was sharply eroded by the collapse of prewar claims about Iraq. A senior intelligence official said the intelligence community is determined to avoid mistakes of the past when dealing with Iran and other issues. "Once you push intelligence out there, you can't take it back," the official said.
U.S., French and British officials came to agree that it was better to stay away from names that would have to be justified with sensitive information from intelligence programs, and instead put forward names of Iranians whose jobs were publicly connected to the country's nuclear energy and missile programs. European officials said their governments did not rely on Google searches but came up with nearly identical lists to the one U.S. officials offered.
"We do have concerns about Iranian activities that are overt, and uranium enrichment is a case in point," said a senior administration official who agreed to discuss the process on the condition of anonymity. "We are concerned about what it means for the program, but also because enrichment is in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution."
The U.S.-backed draft resolution, formally offered by Britain and France, would impose a travel ban and freeze the assets of 11 institutions and 12 individuals, including the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the directors of Iran's chief nuclear energy facilities, and several people involved in the missile program. It would prohibit the sale of nuclear technologies to Iran and urges states to "prevent specialised teaching or training" of Iranian nationals in disciplines that could further Tehran's understanding of banned nuclear activities.
The text says the council will be prepared to lift the sanctions if Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's director general, concludes within 60 days that Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing of uranium and has halted efforts to produce a heavy-water nuclear energy reactor.
Uneasy about sanctions
Many Security Council members are uneasy about the sanctions. The Russians and the Chinese -- whose support is essential for the resolution to be approved -- have told the United States, Britain and France they will not support the travel-ban element of the resolution, according to three officials involved in the negotiations. Russia is building a light-water nuclear reactor in Iran and some people on the sanctions list are connected to the project.
"The Russians have already told us it would be demeaning for people to ask the Security Council for permission to travel to Russia to discuss an ongoing project," a European diplomat said yesterday.
U.S. and European officials said there is room for negotiation with Russia on the names and organizations, but they also said it is possible that by the time the Security Council approves the resolution, the entire list could be removed.
"The real scope of debate will be on the number of sanctions," one diplomat said. "Companies and individuals could go off the list or go on."
Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: December 12, 2006, 08:35:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Calderon's Presidential Challenges
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who took office Dec. 1, began his term on unsteady ground. He faces an unresolved conflict in the southern state of Oaxaca, was inaugurated amid a physical brawl in the legislature, is troubled by widespread questioning of his legitimacy after his July 2 election win by a razor-thin margin, and continues to be publicly challenged by his defeated opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who established a "shadow" government.
Given his unsteady start, Calderon knows he must act with resolve if he is to preserve or earn any respect. Settling the Oaxaca conflict is Calderon's first attempt to assert his leadership.
Tensions in Oaxaca have recently lessened, following the Dec. 4 arrest of Flavio Sosa, leader of the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO). Authorities arrested Sosa in Mexico City after he arrived to negotiate with the federal government. A Dec. 10 Oaxaca City march, calling for the release of Sosa and other arrested APPO members and the removal of Oaxacan Gov. Ulises Ruiz, drew less than 2,000 supporters.
High-ranking Democratic Revolutionary Party members led the march, since APPO's remaining leaders are in hiding for fear of being arrested. The hole-up of APPO members highlights the Federal Preventive Police's success in countering the group. The police have carried out massive arrests and raids, and have launched a full investigation into APPO allegations that many of the protest-related shootings have been by off-duty or undercover vigilante police officers.
Calderon's willingness to contend with Oaxaca and issue a serious response within his 10-day rule is a notable diversion from predecessor President Vicente Fox's reluctance to address Oaxaca's unrest. Fox deployed federal forces to Oaxaca at the last minute, making Calderon's administration committed to the conflict for the long haul. When federal forces eventually pull out of the city, Calderon wants to ensure they hand over control to a local authority that is accountable and trustworthy -- no easy task.
Calderon has something to prove, and the weakening APPO is a convenient target. But Sosa's arrest and the subsequent raids and investigations will not be enough to assure Calderon's authority for his entire term. Though he is unlikely to target Lopez Obrador's movement -- since it is largely irrelevant -- Calderon will seek out more avenues, such as cracking down on drug cartels and corruption and improving government transparency, to establish his validity as president and build alliances with opposing parties. He already intends to pursue massive governmental reforms, many of which will be undoubtedly unpopular; however, we can expect to see Calderon lead his quest for change with labor reforms that will create more jobs -- a popular issue in Mexico, where job creation has rarely approached demand.
Maintaining control of his government will prove to be a challenge for Calderon, who, regardless of his successful show of force in Oaxaca, must contend with a fractured populace and a divided Congress. Calderon has proven that he has the backbone to govern Mexico and settle internal conflicts, but Oaxaca is only a start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: December 11, 2006, 03:50:38 PM
Monday, December 11, 2006
Incoming House intelligence chief botches easy intel quiz
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, who incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped to head the Intelligence Committee when the Democrats take over in January, failed a quiz of basic questions about al Qaeda and Hezbollah, two of the key terrorist organizations the intelligence community has focused on since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."
That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.
Reyes could also not answer questions put by Stein about Hezbollah, a Shiite group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that is based in Southern Lebanon.
Stein's column about Reyes' answers was published on CQ's Web site Friday evening.
In an interview with CNN, Stein said he was "amazed" by Reyes' lack of what he considers basic information about two of the major terrorists organizations.
"If you're the baseball commissioner and you don't know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox, you don't know baseball," Stein said. "You're not going to have the respect of the people you work with."
While Stein said Reyes is "not a stupid guy," his lack of knowledge said it could hamper Reyes' ability to provide effective oversight of the intelligence community, Stein believes.
"If you don't have the basics, how do you effectively question the administration?" he asked. "You don't know who is on first."
Stein said Reyes is not the only member of the House Intelligence Committee that he has interviewed that lacked what he considered basic knowledge about terrorist organizations.
"It kind of disgusts you, because these guys are supposed to be tending your knitting," Stein said. "Most people are rightfully appalled."
Pelosi picked Reyes over fellow Californian Rep. Jane Harman, who had been the Intelligence Committee's ranking member, and Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, who had been impeached as a federal judge after being accused of taking a bribe.
Calls from CNN to Reyes' office asking for reaction to Stein's column have not been returned.
Full story from CQ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: December 11, 2006, 10:18:21 AM
Geopolitical Diary: India's Nuclear Negotiations Enter a New Phase
After 16 months of lobbying and debate, U.S. President George W. Bush is set to sign a landmark civilian nuclear deal with India into law on Monday. The move comes as Congress is preparing to wrap up its lame-duck session -- and as the administration is searching for a much-needed foreign policy success.
With this deal, India will assume roughly the same position as Israel in the nuclear club. Though India is not a signatory of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. Congress has made a rare exception for it to bypass some key elements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act. Thus, in exchange for placing its civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards, India will be given access to civilian nuclear fuel and technology from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group -- and sales to India can technically begin.
Nonproliferation lobbyists in Washington have been vocal in their protestations that making such extraordinary exceptions for a nonsignatory sets a dangerous precedent for rival nuclear powers, like China, to sign similar deals with countries like Pakistan -- whose reputation was badly tarnished by the discovery of A.Q. Khan's peddling of nuclear secrets.
Opponents also assert that by allowing India to import uranium for its civilian reactors, the deal indirectly contributes to the advancement of India's military reactors -- which, significantly, are not under international safeguards. Simply stated, the argument is that India, at its current rate of domestic uranium production, could not sustain the production of weapons-grade plutonium and enriched uranium for both military and civilian use. Under the nuclear deal, however, India will be able to import uranium for its civilian reactors and, therefore, could divert more of its domestic uranium production toward its military reactors.
Despite such concerns, the Bush administration is determined to forge ahead with this deal. Below the surface lies Washington's goal of developing India as a strategic proxy in the Indian Ocean basin. During the Cold War, such a close partnership was nearly impossible: India, despite its socialist tendencies, gravitated toward the Soviet orbit even though it publicly was committed to nonalignment. In that environment, the United States was compelled to throw its support to Pakistan, seeking to counter Soviet expansion on the subcontinent. However, the dissipation of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry provided an opening for Washington to re-examine its South Asia policy and pursue a strategic alliance with India. The economic and military strengthening of a secular, democratic power in the region was seen as a way to help safeguard the United States' energy interests in the Gulf and deal with a growing threat from China. And, following the 9/11 attacks, the relationship with India was seen as a way to sustain pressure on Pakistan, forcing its compliance in helping to contain transnational jihadists.
Though the strategic underpinnings of the nuclear agreement are well-defined, the actual legislation has taken a beating over the past year and a half -- and there doubtless will be grumblings from India when the revised agreement goes before the Indian Parliament for debate. For instance, the latest version of the legislation contains a clause mandating that the U.S. president "must terminate all export and re-export of U.S.-origin nuclear materials" to India, and discourage other suppliers from continuing nuclear exports to India should India test a nuclear device, as it did in 1998. Indian atomic scientists and military officials are wholly opposed to a moratorium on nuclear testing, and likely will declare this provision a deal-breaker.
The other big sticking point for India is a provision on securing its cooperation in containing Iran, which U.S. lawmakers have stressed is a necessary condition. The original Senate bill contained a binding clause, stating the need for a presidential determination that India is "fully and actively participating in U.S. and international efforts to dissuade, sanction, and contain Iran for its nuclear program consistent with United Nations Security Council resolutions." The revised bill, however, includes a non-binding provision that calls for the president to give a "description and assessment" of India's compliance in dealing with Iran. Though the requirement has been watered down, the mere inclusion of an Iran clause will be cause for protest by India's vocal leftist parties. These parties provide needed support for the ruling Congress-led coalition, and they use their growing political clout as a means of pressure to keep the Singh government from getting too friendly with the United States and thereby alienating long-standing allies like Iran.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have his challenges ahead, to be sure, but in presenting the deal to Parliament, he can be expected to emphasize that it does not embody the final form of the nuclear agreement. Rather, the first major hurdle has been cleared: for the U.S. Congress to change existing laws on selling nuclear supplies to a nonsignatory of the NPT. Washington and New Delhi now must enter a new phase of negotiations to draft a binding bilateral treaty, termed the "123 agreement." They will spend the next several months ironing out the remaining kinks in order to arrive at a final draft -- which again must go to the U.S. Congress for approval. During this treaty construction process, the more contentious, nonbinding aspects of the legislation will likely fall through the cracks, giving Singh more leeway to sell the deal at home.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Reality of the street...
on: December 11, 2006, 07:53:37 AM
Wrong weapon: the Der/Kifer incident - The Ayoob Files
American Handgunner, Sept-Oct, 2003 by Massad Ayoob
Situation: The intruder snarls, "I'm going to kill you." Believing you and your partner are going to be shot, you perform the indicated response. Next thing you know, you're on trial for Murder.
Lesson: It's the reasonable perception that counts. Conceal nothing from your attorney, understand the law, and know "the truth will set you free."
June 30, 2001, about 9:30 PM. The big, dilapidated building at 1301 North Wolfe Street in East Baltimore is surrounded by urban blight. Heroin syringes and beer bottles alike litter the filthy alley alongside the building, and even the sidewalk in front. The building is owned by Lum Der, a Chinese immigrant who followed the American Dream and found it with hard work. The top half of the structure houses Lum's wholesale restaurant supply business. The bottom half is occupied by Abacus Refinishing, a partnership that has been run for the last six years by Lum's son Kenny and his partner, Darrell Kifer, both 35.
The place has been haunted by repeated burglaries, sometimes daily. There's been one just today. Someone smashed through a bricked-up second floor window and took a pile of restaurant supplies. Darrell and Kenny had to spend the afternoon repairing the giant hole in the wall. Now, delayed by that and working late, they're finally finishing their project of the day; repairing a huge wooden bar top from a local tavern. Lights are on downstairs. Industrial fans are blowing to clear glue and varnish fumes and also to dissipate the brutal summer heat. It's obvious to anyone outside that the building is occupied.
They both hear a crash from upstairs.
With a sigh, work is set aside. Perhaps something just fell over, but they have to check. Because of the recent burglaries, and because this is a neighborhood where there have been murders, each brings a gun to work. Kenny is one of the relatively few citizens in Baltimore licensed to carry concealed, and he is wearing a Heckler and Koch US? Compact .45 auto, in a nylon holster on his right hip, with a spare magazine in front of the scabbard. Darrell retrieves the Mossberg 500 shotgun he brings to work daily in a case and keeps loaded there, with eight shells in the full-length magazine under its 20" barrel and a ninth in the firing chamber. All nine are Winchester Low Recoil CO buckshot. Kenny's pistol is also fully loaded with nine rounds, all Cor-Bon 185 grain +P JHP. They don't really think they're going to find an intruder; they never have before. They're just checking for peace of mind. As they go up the narrow staircase that leads to the second floor, Kenny's pistol is still holstered and Darrell's sho tgun is casually down at his side.
They reach the top of the stairs where the second floor warehouse spreads out in front of them in disarray It is dimly lit with only the left bank of lights turned on; the staircase brings them up facing the darkened right side. In front of them, a slender, dark-clad figure rises from a hunkered-down position, its back toward them. They are about 35 feet apart.
Kenny shouts, "Hey!"
The figure faces them, and the intruder says, "I'm gonna kill you motherf***ers!"
They see he is holding something, a dark object, down by his left side in his left hand. Now, he brings it up toward them. There is only one thing to do, and both men do it simultaneously.
Kenny Der draws his pistol, going to the two-handed stance he has always practiced at the shooting range, though he has never fired this particular handgun since he purchased it. This USP is a Variant One, traditional double action, carried hammer down and off safe. Kenny cracks off the first shot double action then fires another as he realizes that he is exposed to the gunman, and begins to drop to kneeling to reduce his target profile. Beside him, Darrell hastily triggers a single un-aimed shotgun blast and runs sideways to his left to get out of the intruder's line of fire.
This puts Darrell, with the 12-gauge, to the antagonist's right and about 25 feet from him. A southpaw, Darrell raises the gun to his left shoulder and pulls the trigger. Nothing. He has forgotten to pump. He racks the action and bam-bam-bam, fires three shots as fast as he can work the slide and trigger. He sees the figure spin and fall, and stops pumping and shooting. Meanwhile, Kenny has kept up a drumbeat of fire with his pistol and gone to slide-lock. He, too, sees the man go down.
Darrell feels a desperate urge to be out of there and sprints back toward the stairs, bumping Kenny as he goes. Kenny reloads, tucking the empty magazine reflexively back in its pouch, and cautiously moves forward keeping his HK trained on the downed figure. He gets a couple of yards away and sees that the man is motionless, looking like a pile of bloody rags, face down. The fallen assailant's left hand is behind him, palm up in what reminds him of a swimmer's stroke. And, near that hand is his weapon.
Oh, God. It's not a gun after all. It's a black steel hammer, just like the ones they use in the shop.
Kenny Der turns and follows Darrell Kifer. He gets on the cell phone and immediately dials 911.
Paramedics arrive first. Elements of Baltimore PD's famous homicide unit arrive some 25 minutes after the shooting. By now, of course, all lights have been turned on so rescue personnel can work on the wounded man and so the first responding patrol officers can clear the building of any other burglary suspects, none of which are found. Tygon Walker, age 37, is pronounced dead of multiple gunshot wounds at the scene. The businessmen tell the cops what happened.
Their guns are taken as evidence. Der has fired all nine rounds that were initially in his pistol and did not fire after reloading. When Kifer's shotgun is unloaded, five live rounds are remaining in the magazine and the last spent shell fired is recovered from the chamber. Three spent 12-gauge hulls and nine spent .45 ACP casings are recovered from positions consistent with where the men tell the detectives they were when they fired. No arrests are made.
Both armed citizens go home shaken. Der finds himself sitting up late, with his other pistol at hand, a Para-Ordnance P13.45. Felons in East Baltimore tend to run in packs and he is desperately afraid of gang retaliation for the shooting. Kifer is likewise distraught; paramedics have had to administer oxygen to him at the death scene.
A police record check shows Tygon Walker to be a career criminal with numerous convictions for burglary and assault. Autopsy shows that six of the nine .45 slugs have struck him, five remaining in the body and that there are numerous buckshot holes of entry and exit in the corpse, with 13 of the .33 caliber lead balls lodged in the cadaver. Many of the wound tracks, and all of the potentially lethal ones, have entered from behind the lateral midline. Extensive needle tracks are also present on both arms.
A toxicology screen shows that at time of death, Walker had 510 micrograms per liter of free morphine in his bloodstream, and 0.21% blood alcohol content. This means that he was more than 2.5 times legally drunk (a standard of 0.08%), and the pathologist who did the autopsy will later tell the Grand Jury how massive the amount of heroin he had on board. Heroin addicts found dead from overdose, he will testify, are often found with only one or two hundred micrograms per liter in their blood.
Five days after the shooting, both men report to the police department to be interviewed in detail, accompanied by legal counsel. Darrell Kifer's interview goes uneventfully. At one point in Der's interrogation, he is asked whether he went up to the body and replies in the negative. After the interview he discusses this with his lawyer, David B. Irwin, and tells him about going up a couple of steps away from the corpse and seeing the hammer. Irwin has him immediately sit down with the lead investigator and explain that. Questioning turns intensively to whether or not he planted the hammer in the suspect's dead hand.
Five months later, the Baltimore City Grand Jury will return a true bill of indictment charging both Der and Kifer with Murder in the First Degree.
The attorneys arrayed against one another in State of Maryland v. Kenny Der and Darrell Kifer were all famous for their courtroom skill, representing a virtual duel of the titans. Mark Cohen, chief prosecutor under district attorney Patricia Jessamy, argued the case personally. Widely considered the best prosecutor in an office of some 200 experienced criminal trial attorneys and one of the best in the country, Cohen had recently prosecuted a young Baltimore man for shooting a priest he claimed had sexually assaulted him. The priest "took the Fifth" on the witness stand and the jury acquitted the man who shot him.
Der was represented by Dave Irwin and Joe Murtha, who became nationally famous for their skillful representation of Linda Tripp during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Kifer's lawyer was Leslie Stein, a well-known local criminal defense specialist.
Trier of the facts was Judge John Glynn. Both sides had agreed to a bench trial, in which there would be no jury and the judge would determine the facts as well as the applicable law. Trial began on Friday, January 17, 2003, in Baltimore Circuit Court, just before the MLK Day holiday weekend. In his opening statement, prosecutor Cohen said it was Murder One because the two defendants had lain in wait to ambush and kill, and because they shot Walker multiple times and in the back. Because they had not retreated as Maryland law required them to do, and because the pistol had been loaded with hollow point bullets. He also implied that the defendants had planted the hammer in Tygon Walker's dead hand. Testimony began with the lead detective, Bob Cherry, describing the scene as he arrived, starting the audiotape of the defendants' interviews.
On Day Two, the judge allowed the defense's only expert witness, me, to testify out of sequence because dates had conflicted with another murder trial on the opposite coast. I explained and demonstrated with still photos and video how even in brighter light than what the defendants had to work with, at the distance of 35 feet, the black steel hammer (16" long, weighing just under 3 pounds) was, when held by its head, almost indistinguishable from a long barreled, blue steel revolver. I used as exemplars an 8 3/8" barrel S&W .44 Magnum (12" overall, just over 3 pounds) and a 10" Dan Wesson .357 (14" long, just over 3 pounds). The judge was shown how a right-handed man might pick up such a hammer with his left hand to feed it to his right hand in a striking posture, exactly mimicking a "man with a gun" appearance.
In states such as Maryland that have a retreat requirement in their self-defense law, retreat is only demanded when it can be done so with complete safety to oneself and others. I explained if the men had turned and ran toward the stairs, they would have been helpless and could have easily been shot in the back, supporting this contention with videotape of firing the .44 with live ammo at 35', recorded by a PACT timer. Two men could not have gotten down the stairs in time, and then found the keys to open the double dead-bolt lock that led into the street where the prosecution said they should have fled. They would likely have been murdered while attempting to do so.
Using a videotape on this issue I had done previously for the American Bar Association and the American Law Institute (1), it was demonstrated the human body can turn 180 degrees in only a fraction of a second. This was supplemented by a video we had done the previous August at the Continental range in Maryland, with the defendants using exemplar weapons. Der had acted out his nine-shot firing sequence a couple of times, each at about 3.5 seconds. Kifer had been able to fire a three-shot sequence from a 12-gauge Mossberg pump in 0.94 of one second. This was absolutely consistent with the time it takes a human body to spin away from danger to it, and with the buckshot pattern entry wounds found on Tygon Walker. I had timed, at the death scene, how long it took Kifer to sprint from his first firing position to his second. In total, from first round to last, the thirteen shots had probably been fired in no more than five seconds.
An Ability Factor
I was also able to explain why the state's pathologist had listed as two shotgun blasts fired into the body was actually only one. The wound pattern on Walker's left arm was identical to the buckshot pattern in his left lower back. Six of the nine pellets in a single blast had torn into the forearm and five had gone through, re-entering the torso amidst the three pellets that had missed the arm.
Finally, it was explained that under contemporary training standards, the hand movement of Walker and the black object in his hand, which both defendants described to police, created an "Ability factor," the reasonable and prudent belief that Walker possessed the power to kill. Being within easy range of the long barreled black revolver the hammer so closely resembled, "Opportunity factor" was fulfilled: their antagonist could be reasonably believed to be capable of killing them both immediately. Finally, the statement "I'm gonna kill you MFs" clearly created "Jeopardy factor," the reasonable and prudent belief the opponent's intent was to kill or cripple them. Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy came together to create a situation of immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to them which, under the Maryland law, absolutely justified their use of lethal force against Tygon Walker.
The prosecution picked up the ball again in the waning hours of day two and all of day three. Lead investigator Bob Cherry returned to the stand. On cross-examination -- respectful from Irwin, brutal from Stein, like "good cop/bad cop" -- Detective Cherry proved to be an honest man as well as a skillful investigator. He allowed he had never seen a homicide case like this one where the shooters were so forthcoming with information, and still charged with murder. The only new evidence beyond the statements of Kifer and Der that had developed in the five months between interrogation and Grand Jury, Cherry testified, was a statement from the dead man's mother that he was right handed. Of course, the two defendants could not have known that, and there were any number of reasons why Tygon Walker might have picked up the hammer with his non-dominant hand. Needle tracks on both arms indicated that he was ambidextrous enough to inject a heroin syringe with either hand. The state's final witness, a medical examiner who had not done the actual autopsy, admitted the angle of wounds was consistent with a rapidly turning man and with the defendants' accounts of the events. The prosecution closed.
Der and Kifer took the stand on day four, confirming what they had told detectives back when the shooting happened. Der explained that he hadn't mentioned approaching the body at first for fear of being falsely accused of planting the hammer, which he believed had been stolen by the deceased in a previous burglary. (Asphalt embedded on that hammer showed it had been used to pound the outside wall: it had entered the scene from the outside in, almost certainly carried there by the burglar himself.)
Both sides offered impassioned closing arguments, having called only three people apiece to testify before closing their cases. Judge Glynn did not need to waste time with further deliberation. At 3:45 PM on Thursday, January 23, day four of the trial, the judge ruled both defendants Not Guilty on all counts. An ordeal that had lasted for 18 months was over at last.
Tell everything to your attorney before you and he sit down with the investigators to go over the details. If Der had done so, there would not have been the perception that "he lied to us about approaching the body, so he or his partner must have planted the hammer as a throw-down." This had a great deal to do with the decision to bring the case forward.
Many of the defendants' supporters believe the race card was at work here. Within a close time frame to this shooting, an African-American businessman in Baltimore shot and killed an African-American burglar under very similar circumstances, and the DA's office ruled the homicide justifiable. Der, American-born and of Chinese descent, and Kifer, a Caucasian, had killed an African-American. Some believe this created political momentum to bring murder charges in spite of the facts and the law, particularly during a time when the district attorney was coming up for re-election in Baltimore. I can't confirm or deny whether this is true. But, as with the trial of the four NYPD officers who fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo and were acquitted of all charges at trial, this case shows that if you did the right thing based on reasonable perception and acted within the law, justice should ultimately prevail over "the race card." It did this time.
Go ahead and carry hollow points. It's the safest ammo for all concerned, and has been proven to stop fights quicker. When the other side falsely accuses malicious intent in selecting this ammo, you and your expert witnesses will be able to shoot that allegation down as effectively as we did in this case.
Aim, don't just point. Kifer's first shotgun blast, hastily triggered without a visual index, missed entirely. Of Der's first point-fired shots, all missed their target except for a ricochet that struck Walker in the front of one shin. When Kifer triggered his last three shots in a sub-one second volley, the gun was at his shoulder and his eye could see the muzzle was on target; all three blasts inflicted dynamic, stopping hits. Der point-shot every round, and by the time he was dialed in and hitting, his .45 slugs still struck peripherally and by themselves quite possibly would not have brought Walker down. Had each man taken a fraction of a second to aim at the beginning, one or two +P .45 bullets and a shotgun blast entering from the front would very likely have dropped the antagonist. This would have prevented allegations of malice and murder based on "too many shots" and "shots in the back."
I want to thank the many contributors to the defense fund that financed the successful advocacy for Der and Kifer. They all helped to do justice.
(1) "Use of Lethal Force in Self Defense: What Prosecutors, Defenders and Policy-Makers Should Know," American Law Institute/American Bar Association, 2001, $166 postpaid from Police Bookshelf PO Box 122, Concord, NH 03302.