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28601  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wali Songo Silat with Pendekar Steve Benitez on: February 20, 2007, 10:29:06 PM
Woof All:

Highly impressive Wali Songo man Tony Felix is on the DBMA Board of Advisors.  This is his teacher. 

Crafty Dog

==============================

PENCAK SILAT
SEMINAR

Direct from London, Pendekar Steven Benitez of Walisongo Pencak Silat returns to Los Angeles for a one-time workshop on Pukulan (striking).

A well-rounded martial art from Indonesia, Walisongo Silat is renowned for its supreme physical conditioning, explosive yet fluid ground movement, and rapid-fire striking.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to train Pencak Silat with Pendekar Benitez in your home town!

When: Sunday March 4
    12 noon – 4PM

  Where: Rey Diogo BJJ
8733 Venice Blvd
LA, 90034

How much: $75 cash
28602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Great Power Strategy: The INF Treaty on: February 20, 2007, 08:36:53 PM
Second post of the day:

The INF Treaty: Implications of a Russian Withdrawal
By Nathan Hughes and Peter Zeihan

Russia is poised to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1987. The treaty prohibits development and deployment of all land-based short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles, as well as all ground-launched cruise missiles. Inspections verifying the treaty were completed in 2001, although elimination was effectively concluded nearly a decade earlier.

Moscow has been dropping hints that it might withdraw from the INF since at least late August. However, two looming developments make this appear to be more of a certainy than rhetoric. First, U.S. basing agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic for ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations now look quite likely to be approved. Second, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START 1, is set to expire in 2009, and Washington has failed to respond to Moscow's numerous offers to launch negotiations on a replacement treaty. Having benefited from the decay in Russia's military strength since the end of the Cold War, the United States clearly has no interest in such a treaty.

As the odds of having a basic U.S. BMD system in Europe increase, Russian statements alluding to a withdrawal from the INF have become more frequent. For example, speaking before the Duma on Feb. 8, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov (who at the time was defense minister) characterized Russian signing of the treaty in 1987 as a mistake. On Feb. 19, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, went even further, threatening that Russian nuclear missiles could be targeted any U.S. BMD installation in Europe. He stopped short of actually threatening to load targeting data into Russia's missile guidance systems, but his meaning was clear.

In a certain sense, Solovtov's implicit threats are meaningless. Russia has no leverage to actually prevent the construction of BMD facilities in Europe, and it would not benefit from mounting a direct military challenge to the United States. But that does not mean the general's statements are completely without sense: If Moscow has a means to legitimately threaten European states -- likely using intermediate-reach ballistic missiles, as during the Cold War -- it retains influence within the region and can leverage that against the United States, as Russia attempts to reassert itself as a great power.

With that in mind, then, let's consider the escape clause that is written into the INF: To withdraw, a signatory must provide six months' notice along with a statement explaining "extraordinary events" that endanger the withdrawing party's "supreme interests." Though there is no defined threshold for "extraordinary events," Moscow has been laying the groundwork for withdrawal by characterizing the emplacement of U.S. BMD installations in Europe as just that.

The Purpose of a Treaty

The 1987 INF treaty was implemented to remove a direct, overwhelming threat to the NATO and Warsaw Pact allies in Europe, drastically reducing the chances and consequences of a conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact states -- but that was hardly the only reason it was negotiated, signed, ratified and implemented.

For the Soviets, the INF was not to be viewed as simply a stand-alone treaty by either negotiating team. Behind the Iron Curtain, it represented a fundamental break with past ideology. Before 1982, the leadership had been convinced of the Soviet Union's permanence. But with the rise of Yuri Andropov and, later, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leadership realized it was losing the Cold War and needed to reach out to the West in a way that would achieve understanding as well as pave the way for future collaboration. The INF treaty was the first crowbar used to pry open the door for Western-Soviet negotiations on everything from troop levels to energy deals to, of course, more arms control treaties.

In the West, the rationale for the treaty was more complex. The conventional military balance in Europe always favored the Soviets; it must be remembered that it was NATO, not the Soviet Union, that maintained a nuclear first-strike doctrine. So on the surface, removing intermediate nuclear weapons seemed to be a self-defeating move. But most of NATO's weapons, then and now, were of American origin -- and for the Americans, the INF served a number of purposes. Removing nuclear weapons with short flight times from hair-trigger alert was a no-brainer for the United States' European allies, but the corresponding calculus in the United States went much deeper.

First, Soviet propaganda in the 1970s had proved quite successful in stirring up European public opinion against the presence of U.S. nuclear forces on the Continent. Because the United States possessed a robust ICBM capability, eliminating intermediate forces not only raised the level of European security but also removed an irritant in trans-Atlantic relations.

For Washington, the second purpose behind the treaty built upon the first. When U.S. weapons systems were stored on allies' territory, those allies often wanted to have a say in how or when those weapons were used. Removing the intermediate missiles from service left the United States fully reliant on its home- and submarine-based ICBMs -- weapons over which no one but Washington could claim influence. The INF treaty technically might have limited U.S. options, but a more holistic evaluation reveals that it actually laid the foundation for a truly unfettered U.S. strategic policy. It is noteworthy that officials who were instrumental in shaping sovereignty-maximizing U.S. strategic policy in recent years, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, served in the Reagan administration's diplomatic service at the time the INF treaty was being patched together.

Third, ICBMs were expensive. Ironically, the Americans saw this as a good thing. The United States possessed the economic gravitas to maintain an ICBM arms race if it needed to; it was an open question at the time whether the Soviets could do the same. In hindsight, of course, the answer was "no." Nor did this come as a shock in Moscow: During the Khrushchev era, in the early 1960s, the Soviets had sought to avoid bearing the cost burden of an ICBM capability. Instead, the Kremlin stationed intermediate-range missiles in Cuba in order to achieve strategic parity with Washington on the cheap. Only after the Cuban missile crisis ended, with the Soviet climb-down, did the Soviets begin making the appropriations necessary to fund a full ICBM program. Now fast-forward to the 1980s: in implementing INF, the Americans locked the Soviets into the most expensive weapons regime available at the time.

Strategic Rocket Forces and Decay

Ultimately, the Russian decision to leave the INF is grounded in these last two factors in American thinking -- as well as the simple fact that the rest of the world has pushed past the Cold War mentality.

For Washington, the war against jihadists has become an overwhelming priority. But even outside of that context, the United States, its NATO allies and indeed, the rest of the world, have already plunged into a pervasive post-Cold War restructuring that is indicative of a shift in defense priorities.

Western European states are far more concerned with domestic matters -- many of them with the rising Arab Muslim demographic in the populace -- than with anything Russians might do. The United States and the Chinese are watching each other warily and taking steps to prepare for what both fear will be a new clash of titans down the road. Only the Central Europeans remain preoccupied with Moscow. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it is Central European states that have been inordinately willing to cooperate with the United States on a missile defense system. Though the system ostensibly is designed to protect the United States against a theoretical missile strike from a state like Iran, the system could target Russian ballistic missile launches -- though only a tiny fraction of any nuclear barrage.

For the Central Europeans, that is reason enough in and of itself to participate in the BMD system; for the Americans, this is merely a side benefit.

Because it anticipates a strategic competition with China eventually, the United States sees limitations on its nuclear arsenal as impractical. Washington almost certainly will walk away from the START I treaty -- which places specific limits on the size and type of nuclear forces the United States and Russia are permitted to possess -- when it comes up for renegotiation in 2009. This would leave it free to force China into the same sort of crushing arms race that so damaged the Soviet Union.

And that means Russia is doing the only thing it realistically can: rattling its nuclear saber.

Russia's problem is that its nuclear arsenal is precisely the problem. Despite its best efforts, Russia's aging nuclear deterrent has continued to crumble, without adequate maintenance. Nor are replacements being made at anything close to a sufficient rate. The fielding of the new SS-27 Topol-M ICBM -- the only fundamentally new missile system that Russia has operationalized since the Cold War's end -- has been excruciatingly slow, with only 45 fielded in nearly a decade and a mere seven new missiles slated for deployment in 2007. The Topol's submarine-launched equivalent, the Bulava, has been so plagued by technical difficulties and delays that it still has not been deployed.

The one thing in all of this that has softened the blow for Russia has been START I. With this treaty in force, Moscow could cling to the hope of one day again achieving some semblance of parity with Washington -- indeed, the treaty was the very embodiment of the Cold War balance of power. But the only way to perpetuate that balance today would be to implement a replacement treaty for START I that allows Russia to retire even more of its expensive, aging arsenal while still maintaining the psychological high-ground of "equality" with the United States. Moscow now understands that this option is not in the cards.

We expect START I to fall by the wayside, discarded in the face of U.S. strategic needs. In order to mitigate the damage, Russia will have no choice but to abandon the INF treaty in response.

The Nuclear Saber and Marginalization

Yet nuclear weapons remain Russia's one trump card. The scale and reach of its Soviet-era Strategic Rocket Forces -- the very heart of Russia's strategic nuclear missile forces -- give Moscow entry to the premier class of world powers (meaning those possessing nukes on the world-smashing level). The nuclear deterrent remains Russia's best means of guaranteeing is territorial integrity (which, given its vast land mass and longest border in the world, cannot be done with conventional ground forces alone).

In the last 16 years, Russia has watched helplessly as the Strategic Rocket Forces eroded, along with Moscow's control over the states of Eastern Europe and along its periphery in the Caucasus. Moscow has attempted to wield its energy supplies as a means of control and to reassert itself diplomatically on the world stage, and it will continue to do so. However, these steps have not been sufficient to prevent U.S. encroachment into Russia's traditional sphere of influence. In fact, some of the countries along its periphery have been quite blunt in citing such tactics as reasons for their decisions to join the U.S. missile shield.

And now, the United States is poised to deploy BMD assets on Russia's doorstep.

From Russia's perspective, the establishment of the new BMD system in Europe would represent the worst of all possible worlds. Its very existence not only would spotlight Moscow's declining diplomatic prowess, but also would testify to Russia's marginalization in the international system.

It is true that any BMD base would not pose a challenge to a Strategic Rocket Forces strike against the West in the near term. The system, assuming it works, at best would be able to shoot down only a handful of missiles at a time, and Russia (despite its many problems) still has hundreds of ICBMs in working order. The long-term picture is rather different: Russian military technological advancements have slowed to a crawl since 1992, while the United State continues to incrementally improve. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the BMD system of 2020 might pose a realistic threat to Russia's strategic ICBM deterrent.

The IRBM Option

Having withdrawn from the INF, Russia would be free to once again begin construction of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) as a means of leveling the playing field. With Russia unable to challenge the United States directly, the establishment of a new Missile Army made up of IRBMs would threaten NATO in a way it has not known since the Cold War.

Russia pioneered "cold launch" technology -- an advanced launch technique -- and has fielded several land-based solid-fuel IRBMs since the 1970s. Though these systems date back 20 years or more, it makes little difference to the populations of the cities within their range whether the nuclear warhead that hits them was designed in 1960 or in 2005. Most important, these IRBMs are much cheaper than the ICBMs of the Strategic Rocket Forces. Intercontinental strike capability is priced at a premium.

Though a direct arms race with the United States remains out of the question, a lopsided race in which the Russians focus on IRBMs could change the game entirely. A barrage of several dozen IRBMs easily could overwhelm a small squadron of BMD interceptors based in Europe -- as well as any system that the United States conceivably might field in the next 20 years.

To be clear, this is not an option that would buy Russia parity with the United States. But it would be a stout reminder to Europe -- and to the United States by extension -- that even a weakened Moscow is not to be trifled with. Unable to reclaim the global power it wielded during the Soviet era, Russia nevertheless could use a new IRBM force to threaten Europe and, in so doing, resurrect a host of diplomatic options that served Kremlin interests very well in the past.

Such a step might not mark Russia as a resurgent world power, but it certainly would reforge perceptions of Russia as a power that is impossible to ignore.
28603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 20, 2007, 05:59:25 PM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Europe and the Mullahs
How the EU subsidizes trade with Iran.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On the record, Europe claims to be as concerned as America about a nuclear-armed Iran. The record also shows, however, that Europe's biggest countries do a booming business with the Islamic Republic. And so far for the Continentals, manna trumps security.

The European Union--led by Germany, France and Italy--has long been Iran's largest trading partner. Its share of Iran's total imports is about 35%. Even more notable: Its trade with Tehran has expanded since Iran's secret nuclear program was exposed. Between 2003 and 2005, Europe's exports rose 29% to €12.9 billion; machinery, transport equipment and chemicals make up the bulk of the sales. Imports from Iran, predominantly oil, increased 62% to €11.4 billion in that period.

In the absence of an official embargo against Tehran, private EU companies have sought commercial opportunities in Iran. But the real story here is that these businesses are subsidized by European taxpayers. Government-backed export guarantees have fueled the expansion in trade. That, in turn, has boosted Iran's economy and--indirectly by filling government coffers with revenues--its nuclear program. The German record stands out. In its 2004 annual report on export guarantees, Berlin's Economics Ministry dedicated a special section to Iran that captures its giddy excitement about business with Tehran.





"Federal Government export credit guarantees played a crucial role for German exports to Iran; the volume of coverage of Iranian buyers rose by a factor of almost 3.5 to some €2.3 billion compared to the previous year," the report said. "The Federal Government thus insured something like 65% of total German exports to the country. Iran lies second in the league of countries with the highest coverage in 2004, hot on the heels of China."
Iran tops Germany's list of countries with the largest outstanding export guarantees, totaling €5.5 billion. France's export guarantees to Iran amount to about €1 billion. Italy's come to €4.5 billion, accounting for 20% of Rome's overall guarantee portfolio. Little Austria had, at the end of 2005, €800 million of its exports to Iran covered by guarantees.

The Europeans aren't simply facilitating business between private companies. The vast majority of Iranian industry is state-controlled, while even private companies have been known to act as fronts for the country's nuclear program. EU taxpayers underwrite trade and investment that would otherwise be deterred by the risks of doing business with a rogue regime.





It's also hard not to see a connection between Europe's commercial interests and its lenient diplomacy. The U.N.'s December sanctions resolution orders countries to freeze the assets of only 10 specific companies and 12 individuals with ties to Iran's nuclear program. Europe's governments continue to resist U.S. calls for financial sanctions, and the German Chamber of Commerce recently estimated that tougher economic sanctions would cost 10,000 German jobs.
As if on cue, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week detected in Tehran a "new ambition" to resume talks. The last time the Europeans promoted such diplomatic negotiations, Iran won two more years to get closer to its goal of becoming a nuclear power. In 2004, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, then-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Iranians to consider Europe a "protective shield" against U.S. pressure. The EU continues to provide a shield for its business interests in Iran, and thus a lifeline to a regime that is unpopular at home and sponsors terror abroad.

WSJ
28604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 20, 2007, 05:24:20 PM
More Al-Qaedism?

Over four years ago, I wrote of a phenomenon I dubbed “Al-Qaedism” to explain why random violence and terrorism by individual Muslims—while not connected with al-Qaeda per se—were still a danger. Often the ill or unhappy try to justify their own failings of inadequacy with a sort of cosmic Islamic rage against the West—one also often abetted by our own failure to counter our enemies’ rhetoric or eagerness to hush up the psychology of such attacks:

“Rather than confront the reality of past character flaws, mental instability, failed marriages, or the bleak future of no money, dead-end jobs, or social ostracism, the al Qaedist — whether an erstwhile Black Muslim, a Middle Eastern immigrant with a criminal past, or mixed-up pampered suburbanites who dabble in fundamentalism — seeks notoriety for his crimes, and therein perhaps at last a sense of importance.”

Beside the numerous examples I listed in that 2002 article, we have witnessed since a number of similar killings—especially Muslim drivers trying to run down others in a sort of politicized road rage, that were officially not listed as acts of terrorism. In this regard, I remember especially the 2006 attack in San Francisco by Omeed Aziz Popal, who apparently chose the area around a Jewish community center to run over people. And then the same year, there was the similar car ramming at the University of North Carolina by Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a graduate student apparently furious over our treatment of Muslims abroad.

I recall all this in the context of the latest shootings in Utah by Solejman Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim, and the recent ramming of Tennessee students by cabdriver Ibrihim Ahmed.

None of these are organized terrorist acts, much less orchestrated by al Qaeda. Rather, the constant furor against the West and sense of victimhood that reverberates in the radical mosques, madrassas, and in worldwide Islamic media, often enhanced and abetted by Western Leftist hysteria, reaches many in a vague and haphazard way to instill a sort of paranoia and desire to lash out at “them”.

And now and again, those with mental problems, or plagued with a sense of failure, or angry about some such grievance, will strike out in terrorist fashion. Likewise we now learn that the sick Ali Abu Kamal, who in 1997 went up the Empire State Building to kill random Americans (he murdered one and wounded several others), was not just despondent over financial losses as reported. But, as his family now brags, Kamal was furious at Israel and America—again a way of rationalizing personal setbacks through cosmic issues that once again reflects the effects of Islamist propaganda on unhinged minds.

The only mystery is that in our politically-correct efforts to deny the possibility of any and all links between such random violence and formal radical Islam, we then go to the other extreme, and deny there is any loose connection at all with perceived Muslim grievance. And that sadly only results in wide scale public cynicism that once again authorities appear hedging for political reasons.

Keep Quiet

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced to the world that she wants a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq. Other Democrats in Congress, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will soon declare their intentions to cut-off of US funding for all military deployments in Iraq.

Well aside from the paradox that the Congress had just approved unanimously the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus (the hero in the recent spate of anti-Bush books on Iraq) to take command of coalition forces in Iraq—the planner of a surge over 20,000 American troops into Baghdad—it is always a mistake in war to assure enemies of our intention not to fight any longer (unless of course you are indifferent to losing).

Do We remember all that?

The most famous example was the 1974 Foreign Relations Act. Passed in the wake of Watergate scandal, the congressional resolution cut off all military assistance to the South Vietnamese government. But that pubic stand-down only encouraged the North Vietnamese communists to violate the Paris peace accords and renew the war—without any more worries of U.S arms shipments or air strikes.

The Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, passed by an isolationist Congress, forbade U.S. military assistance to, or trade in war material with, any belligerent, regardless of whether they were aggressors or victims. Such actions of “conscious” only emboldened Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan to attack democracies and other neutral states. Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were convinced that whatever their provocations, the United States had no stomach to stand up to any of them, or even to join Britain and France in a united front of resistance. World War II with its 50 million dead followed.

Often even mere assurances of restraint by American officials, that suggest either inaction or weariness, have had the same effect as congressional resolutions in assuring interested observers that the United States would either not act in the face of aggression—or tire more quickly of ongoing fighting than their our enemies.

In a routine policy address Cold War warrior and Secretary of States Dean Acheson once warned the communist bloc that the American defensive perimeter in the Pacific went from Aleutians to Japan to the Ryukyus and onto the Philippine Islands. But Acheson, perhaps inadvertently, left out the Korean Peninsula. Many argued at the time that this omission gave the green light for the communists to invade South Korea in 1950 on their erroneous assumption that the United States would not intervene in an area outside its sphere of influence. Three years and hundreds of thousands of war dead followed.

Jimmy Carter had a far worse habit of telegraphing his intention to enemies. In 1977 he declared that America had outgrown its “inordinate fear of communism”. But by that time, global communism from Stalin to Mao had killed nearly 100 million of its own and invaded dozens of natural countries. Nothing “inordinate” about that.

So next when Carter made it clear that he would not retaliate immediately against Iran for storming of the US embassy in November 1979, it was not much of a surprise that the Soviet Union quickly invaded Afghanistan—unafraid of an America that wouldn’t use force to free its own diplomats or punish those who took them.

In a July 1990 in a meeting with Saddam Hussein, then American ambassador Arpil Glaspie purportedly assured the Iraqi government that “ we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam attacked Kuwait a little more than a week later.

In everyone of our wars, there have been terrible setbacks—winter 1776, summer 1864, spring 1918, winter 1942, autumn 1974, and now winter 2007. In almost all of these weeks of depression, there were terrible blunders, and ensuing grumblings about the conduct of the war. Any time we announced our intention in advance to quit or scale back, we later came to regret it; and on the far more numbers occasions when we did not, we did not.

If in peacetime it is wise to keep quiet and carry a big stick, in war it is even more critical not to assure our enemies that we won’t fight to achieve victory.
28605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: February 20, 2007, 05:14:20 PM
Sorry, no URL for this one, but it seems credible.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

New Threats Arise For Border Agents

Sat Feb 17, 1:52 PM ET



It's not just the number of people coming into the U.S. that is a concern for the Department of Homeland Security, but it's from which countries they are coming.

They cross in the cover of darkness and in broad daylight.

Border Patrol agents in San Diego stop nearly 400 illegal border crossers each day.

"We have five or six a day; that's just on a day shift," said Border Patrol agent Tim Feige.

There is no telling how many they don?t stop.

"We never know what they're here for or what their intentions are," added Feige.

10News joined agents on patrol and saw firsthand what they face. In one incident, two men and one woman tried to sneak by right in front of agents. They first hid and then surrendered. The group turned out to be Mexican citizens with no criminal records, and they were processed and sent back to Mexico.

Because 85 percent of those apprehended by agents are from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security classifies the others detained as "OTMs," or Other Than Mexican.

"They try to pass themselves off as being from Mexico," said Border Patrol agent Allen Gustafson.

Last year, OTMs came from 148 of the 193 countries in the world. Several came from what Homeland Security terms ?special interest? countries -- countries that are considered a great threat.

10News learned that in the last six months, agents along the Southwest border caught 15 people from Iran, 35 from Pakistan, 12 from Jordan, two from Syria and five from Lebanon. These are numbers Homeland Security would not officially release.

"We're more aware, not only of terrorists, but terrorist weapons," said Gustafson.

Agents who patrol the coastline have radiation detection equipment and try to at least eyeball every incoming boat.

"The busiest time is the fishing months, when there's a lot of boat traffic. Everyone has got a boat out here; they try to blend in with the regular traffic," said Gustafson.

Potential terrorists are not the only concern.

Agents said many violent criminals cross the border.

"In fact, we caught a person who was number 17 on Mexico's most wanted list," said Feige.

A top priority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to stop the influx of a notoriously brutal gang called the MS-13 -- the Mara Salvatrucha -- a group linked to violence across California and 32 other U.S. states.

According to reports, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras export members of the MS-13 gang.

10News learned that agents have stopped 26,035 undocumented people from El Salvador, 11,781 from Guatemala and 16,370 from Honduras in the last six months. The two fences that line the U.S.-Mexico border stop car traffic, but agents said they look to slow down the people on foot.

"If we have a group jumping the fence, we can get there twice as fast as maybe one of the bigger trucks can," said Border Patrol supervisor George Gibson.

The goal of agents is to catch those crossing and those who help the crossers.

"They usually use these ladders they weld out of rebar, so one of our objectives is to try and grab that ladder before they get it back south," said Gibson.

It is rewarding but frustrating work. The stakes are high, and every day it is more of the same.

In the last six months, nearly 1,200 people from China were caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Agents said Chinese nationals pay smugglers up to $30,000 for passage to the U.S.
28606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 20, 2007, 05:05:51 PM
From Newt's mailing list:

==========================

'Come to Cooper Union'

As I've mentioned to you before here in "Winning the Future," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and I are doing something different on February 28 in New York City. We're meeting at Cooper Union, the site of Abraham Lincoln's most famous pre-presidential speech, to do something about the lack of debate in our presidential debates.

On February 28 at Cooper Union, Gov. Cuomo and I will have a 90-minute, unrestricted, unrehearsed dialogue about the major challenges confronting America today.

We will also issue a challenge to the men and women running for President: Come to Cooper Union and participate in the Lincoln Dialogue Series.

Toss out the rule book, put aside the negative, partisan attacks, and come debate the issues.

Today's Presidential Debates: 32 Pages of Ground Rules

We're going to Cooper Union for a very specific reason: To remind our fellow Americans of a time when campaign debates were real debates, not a series of poll-tested, consultant-written, 30-second sound bites.

Here's how far we've come since that time:

In the 1996 campaign, the rules for the presidential debates were a full 11 pages of dos and don'ts for the candidates. But the consultants who control today's campaigns were just getting started.

By 2004, the debate rules had ballooned to 32 pages, including one rule that ordered the moderator to stop any candidate who dared to depart from the script to refer to someone in the audience.

In addition, the candidates were ordered to "submit to the staff of the [Debate] Commission prior to the debate all such paper and any pens or pencils with which a candidate may wish to take notes during the debate."

Pen and pencils. Talk about the vital stuff of democracy!

Presidential debates are supposed to be an opportunity for Americans to get to know their choices for the leader of our great nation. But how can you get to know someone through 32 pages of rules restricting their speech?

We don't have presidential debates today, we have kabuki theatre: Maximally choreographed, minimally informative performance art by the various candidates.

Watch the Cooper Union Event Live at the Northport Community Arts Center

So what does this have to do with Joan Jackson? And what does it have to do with you?

When Joan Jackson heard that Mario Cuomo and I were going to debate at Cooper Union, her first instinct wasn't to hope that I would use the opportunity to score partisan political points against Gov. Cuomo. It wasn't even to come to Cooper Union and support me.

Joan Jackson's first instinct was to figure out how she could bring our debate to others in her community.

So she went to work. She met with the superintendent of her local public school and told him about the debate between me and Mario Cuomo. He told Joan that she could use the auditorium in the Northport Community Arts Center that is attached to the public school and extend an invitation to the whole county to view the event on their big screen. In 24 hours, she did just that. She contacted the local Republican and Democratic Party leadership and local elected officials and invited them to come. She's writing a news release for the local paper. She stood up at a community meeting and told her neighbors about the debate. The school superintendent even offered to serve cookies and punch.

(Continued below)

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What You Can Do to Get Involved

Joan Jackson is an extraordinary American, but she would be the first to tell you that she isn't unique. She's simply looking for something more meaningful and more productive than our current, negative, partisan campaign culture. And she is doing something about it.

From talking to you and reading your e-mail to me, I know that members of the Winning the Future community share this desire for meaningful, substantive dialogue. We want solutions, not sound bites.

For those of you who are looking to be more than passive spectators in a stale, empty political play, look no further than Joan Jackson. Contact your local school or community center and ask them to carry our February 28 debate live. We will broadcast the event live and on-demand via web cast on www.AmericanSolutions.com.

Then tell your friends, reach out to both Democrats and Republicans. Alert the local paper. Got a blog? Host this YouTube message from me advertising the webcast, and include a link to AmericanSolutions.com, where your readers can sign up for an email reminder.

So come on, toss out the rulebook of politics as usual. Bring the history and the dialogue of Cooper Union to your own community. And be a modern American citizen leader like Joan Jackson.

For more information, just go to Newt.org or AmericanSolutions.com. I hope you'll join us on February 28.

  Your friend,
 
 Newt Gingrich


P.S. - In case you missed it, I wanted to let you know the latest in the fight to promote English as the language of American success and cultural unity. The mayor of Nashville, Tenn., has vetoed a local measure that would have required all government documents to be in English, except where required by federal law to "protect or promote public health, safety or welfare." The mayor said he was afraid the city would be sued if he allowed the bill, which was passed by a vote of 23-14, to become law. Speaking as someone who last week in "Winning the Future" called for the federal government to print all its documents in English, I agree with what Councilman Eric Crafton, the sponsor of the bill, told the AP when he was informed of the mayor's fears: "It's almost ridiculous to the point of being absurd for the mayor to say, 'Well, I'm afraid that somebody might sue us because we want to conduct our business in English.' To me it's a lack of courage and a lack of leadership."

P.P.S. - As I mentioned on Fox News Sunday this weekend, the agreement reached between the United States and North Korea last week only rewards the bad behavior of the North Korean dictatorship. The signal it sends to other dictatorships pursuing nuclear weapons like Iran is to ignore the Americans, ignore the threat of sanctions, get your nuclear weapons, and then cut a deal later, because in the end, the democracies are going to cave. You can read my analysis here.
28607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in North Africa, Mali, the Magreb on: February 20, 2007, 09:27:27 AM
Its the NY Slimes, so read with care-- but several interesting things in this piece.
=======================================================

North Africa Feared as Staging Ground for Terror
By CRAIG S. SMITH
NY Times
Published: February 20, 2007
TUNIS — The plan, hatched for months in the arid mountains of North Africa, was to attack the American and British Embassies here. It ended in a series of gun battles in January that killed a dozen militants and left two Tunisian security officers dead.

But the most disturbing aspect of the violence in this normally placid, tourist-friendly nation is that it came from across the border in Algeria, where an Islamic terrorist organization has vowed to unite radical Islamic groups across North Africa.
Counterterrorism officials on three continents say the trouble in Tunisia is the latest evidence that a brutal Algerian group with a long history of violence is acting on its promise: to organize extremists across North Africa and join the remnants of Al Qaeda into a new international force for jihad.

[Last week, the group claimed responsibility for seven nearly simultaneous bombings that destroyed police stations in towns east of Algiers, the Algerian capital, killing six people.]

This article was prepared from interviews with American government and military officials, French counterterrorism officials, Italian counterterrorism prosecutors, Algerian terrorism experts, Tunisian government officials and a Tunisian attorney working with Islamists charged with terrorist activities.

They say North Africa, with its vast, thinly governed stretches of mountain and desert, could become an Afghanistan-like terrorist hinterland within easy striking distance of Europe. That is all the more alarming because of the deep roots that North African communities have in Europe and the ease of travel between the regions. For the United States, the threat is also real because of visa-free travel to American cities for most European passport holders.

The violent Algerian group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French initials G.S.P.C., has for several years been under American watch.

“The G.S.P.C. has become a regional terrorist organization, recruiting and operating in all of your countries — and beyond,” Henry A. Crumpton, then the United States ambassador at large for counterterrorism, said at a counterterrorism conference in Algiers last year. “It is forging links with terrorist groups in Morocco, Nigeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and elsewhere.”

Officials say the group is funneling North African fighters to Iraq, but is also turning militants back toward their home countries.

The ambitions of the group are particularly troubling to counterterrorism officials on the watch for the re-emergence of networks that were largely interrupted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. While most estimates put the current membership of the group in the hundreds, it has survived more than a decade of Algerian government attempts to eradicate it. It is now the best-organized and -financed terrorist group in the region.

Last year, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda chose the G.S.P.C. as its representative in North Africa. In January, the group reciprocated by switching its name to Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, claiming that the Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, had ordered the change.

“Al Qaeda’s aim is for the G.S.P.C. to become a regional force, not solely an Algerian one,” said the French counterterrorism magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, in Paris. He calls the Algerian group the biggest terrorist threat facing France today.

“We know from cases that we’re working on that the G.S.P.C.’s mission is now to recruit people in Morocco and Tunisia, train them and send them back to their countries of origin or Europe to mount attacks,” he said.

The G.S.P.C. was created in 1998 as an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group, which along with other Islamist guerrilla forces fought a brutal decade-long civil war after the Algerian military canceled elections in early 1992 because an Islamist party was poised to win.

In 2003, a G.S.P.C. leader in southern Algeria kidnapped 32 European tourists, some of whom were released for a ransom of 5 million euros (about $6.5 million at current exchange rates), paid by Germany.

Officials say the leader, Amari Saifi, bought weapons and recruited fighters before the United States military helped corner and catch him in 2004. He is now serving a life sentence in Algeria.

Change of Leadership

Since then, an even more radical leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, has taken over the group. The Algerian military says he cut his teeth in the 1990s as a member of the Armed Islamic Group’s feared Ahoual or “horror” company, blamed for some of the most gruesome massacres of Algeria’s civil war.

He announced his arrival with a truck bomb at the country’s most important electrical production facility in June 2004, and focused on associating the group with Al Qaeda.

Links to the G.S.P.C. soon began appearing in terrorism cases elsewhere in North Africa and in Europe.

In 2005, Moroccan authorities arrested a man named Anour Majrar, and told Italy and France that he and two other militants had visited G.S.P.C. leaders in Algeria earlier that year.

================



His interrogation led to arrests in Algeria, Italy and France, where Mr. Majrar’s associates were quickly linked to an attempted robbery of 5 million euros at an armored car depot in Beauvais, north of Paris. A hole had been blown in a wall at the depot with military-grade C4 plastic explosives, but it was not big enough for the men to get through.

A later investigation turned up Kalashnikov assault rifles, French Famas military assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, TNT and two more pounds of C4. French counterterrorism officials say the group was planning attacks on the Paris Metro, the city’s Orly Airport, and the headquarters of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, France’s domestic intelligence agency.
Italian prosecutors say a related cell in Milan was planning attacks on the city’s police headquarters and on the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, whose 15th-century fresco depicts the Prophet Muhammad in hell.

The G.S.P.C. or its members in Algeria appear to have become a touchstone for groups suspected of being terror cells across the region, in much the way that Qaeda representatives in London were a decade ago.

Wiretaps, interrogation of terrorism suspects and recovered documents suggest that the network has associates in France, Italy, Turkey and even Greece, which is favored as an entry point to Europe because of its relatively lax immigration controls, counterterrorism officials say.

There had been hints that the North African groups were planning more formal cooperation as far back as 2005, when Moroccan intelligence authorities found messages sent by Islamic militants to Osama bin Laden, according to European counterintelligence officials.

Evidence of an Alliance

Indications that a cross-border alliance was under way came in June 2005, when the G.S.P.C. attacked a military outpost in Mauritania, killing 15 soldiers. The attackers fled into Mali, according to the United States military.

Moroccan police officers raiding suspected Islamic militant cells last summer also found documents discussing a union between the G.S.P.C. and the Islamic Combatant Group in Morocco, the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and several smaller Tunisian groups, intelligence officials say.

In September, Al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, released a videotape in which he said that his global terrorist network had joined forces with the G.S.P.C.

The video was followed by an unsettling increase in terrorist attacks across the region, including one against Halliburton employees in Algeria in December that left one Algerian dead and nine people wounded.

But the strongest evidence yet of the G.S.P.C.’s North African cross-border cooperation came in January when Tunisia announced that it had killed 12 Islamic extremists and captured 15 of them. Officials said that six of the extremists had crossed into the country from Algeria.

Their 36-year-old leader, Lassad Sassi, was a former Tunisian policeman who ran a terrorist cell in Milan until May 2001 before fleeing to Algeria, according to an Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro.

Mr. Sassi, now dead, is still listed as a defendant in a current terrorism trial in Milan, which began before he died. He was charged in absentia with providing military clothing and money to the G.S.P.C. while financing and planning suicide bomb attacks in Italy.

Tunisian officials say that Mr. Sassi and five other men — four Tunisians and one Mauritanian — crossed the rugged border from Algeria into Tunisia months ago.

They set up a base in the mountains of Djebel Terif, where Mr. Sassi trained 20 other Tunisian men in the use of automatic weapons and explosives.

A Trail of Violence

The decision to move against the group began when the police in the Tunis suburb of Hammam Lif detained a young woman in December who led them to a house where a gun battle left two suspected terrorists dead, two officers wounded and two other men in custody, a police officer involved said. His account of the events could not be independently verified.

Another arrest led the police into the hills toward the training camp.

Three of the militants and a Tunisian Army captain were killed during a chase through the mountains. Tunisian security forces mounted a search in which 13 more men were arrested and Mr. Sassi was killed.

The remnants of the group fled and members were later tracked down and killed in another gun battle.

Tunisian officials have sought to play down the G.S.P.C. link, and have said the recently dismantled group’s target was the West.

In fact, according to Samir Ben Amor, a Tunisian attorney who defends many young Tunisian Islamists, more than 600 young Tunisian Islamists have been arrested in the past two years — more than 100 in the past two months — trying to make their way to Iraq to fight the United States.

“It’s the same thing that we saw in Bosnia, Kosovo and above all Afghanistan,” said Mr. Bruguière, the French magistrate. “Al Qaeda’s objective is to create an operational link between the groups in Iraq and the G.S.P.C.”

Tunisia is among the most vulnerable of the North African countries, because its rigid repression of Islam has created a well of resentment among religious youth, and its popularity as a tourist destination for Europeans makes it a target.

Tunisian security forces found Google Earth satellite images of the American and British Embassies as well as the names of diplomats who worked in both buildings. But according to the police officer involved in the case and journalists in Tunisia, the targets also included hotels and nightclubs.

An attack on those sites would have dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourist industry, one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange. An April 2002 bombing of a synagogue on the Tunisian tourist island of Djerba, for which the G.S.P.C. claimed responsibility, helped sink the country’s economic growth that year to its slowest rate in a decade.
28608  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Are there Knights? on: February 20, 2007, 09:14:25 AM
Woof All:

I know I still have the question presented about DB/DBMA in all of this, but this AM before I start my day I would like to offer some rambling thoughts on a different element of this thread.

Knights in shining armor were Christian and the Code of Chivalry was in that context, so it occurs to me to extract the universal concept here we may benefit from contemplating this a bit.

Although I am Jewish, recently I read "The Way of the Wild Heart" by John Eldredge a Christian oriented author, which I would describe as an interesting blend of Jungian archetypal analysis and "Manly Christianity" (see the thread of this name on our "Humanities" forum nearby).  There is much in JE's writing that will be familiar to readers of Jungian's such as Robert Bly (author of "Iron John" and other books)  JE is of the Christian school of thought that contrary to the representations of many, Christianity is NOT a pacifist religion and that there has been a feminization of it contrary to God's word/Jesus's  teachings.

"The Way of the Wild Heart" is written about the stages of a man's life and how to father them.   These stages overlap greatly and there is tremendous variation within them.   Working from memory, I would say that JE organizes them thusly:

1) I am embarrassed to say that I do not remember the exact name for this stage but I have lent the book to a friend and so cannot look it up  embarassed  The gist of it is that throught the age of 12 is that the primary mission of the father is to let his son know that he believes in him and takes delight in him;
2) The Ranger/Cowboy takes place from 12 to 21.  Here the boy begins to learn competence in the way of the world in things that often have overtones of danger: chopping wood, competence with tools, rough and tumble activities, hiking/camping, etc.
3) The Warrior begins around 18 and continues until , , , ,.
4)  The Lover begins around 26.  By the Lover, JE does not mean being able to have sex with lots of women or give them lots of orgasms, but to have a sense of the wonder and beauty of Life.  Art and Music are examples of this.  He uses the Torah's King David as an example when he writes Psalms of great beauty.  His point is that until a man has developed this part of himself he is not of much real use to a woman and contrasts young men/males of today who are stuck in the Ranger/Warrior phase and lack the ability to move forward and emotionally commit to a woman and to family life.
5) The King, whom he defines as "Someone whom can be trusted with power" (I like this definition).  For most men this is being the leader of their family
6) The Sage-- an advisor to Kings

Using this framework, Chivalry is the development of the understanding in medieval Christian Warrior culture of bringing the Lover to the Warrior-- thus preparing the way for the emergence of the King e.g. King Arthur.

It is interesting to note that in Homer's Iliad the the book ends not with the sacking of Troy, but with the funerals for Patroclus and Hector.  This drives us modern westerners crazy and thus we see the movie "Troy" include the sacking of Troy.  But why did Homer conclude the Iliad as he did?  Achilles' squabbles with King Agamemnon over Respect are those of a Warrior missing a certain something.  He becomes ashamed of his disrespect to the fallen Hector when confronted by Hector's father, the old King Priam, who is the Sage who teaches him about the seasons of Life.  Achilles' weeps for all that he has done and realizes that he must grant his enemies Respect. 

This for Homer is what the Iliad is about-- the beginning of a new Archetype in Greece's Warrior culture.

Anyway, big themes hastily composed at the start of a very busy day.  Please forgive the inarticulate and imprecise and vague expression.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

PS:  I will look to get to the themes about the Dog Brothers and DBMA in the next couple of days.




28609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: February 20, 2007, 08:28:02 AM
All:

Although this piece is principally about Poland, I have decided to put it here in this thread about Russia.  Stratfor has been very big for a couple of years ago on the subject of Russia and its interpretation of and reaction to US influence in its "near abroad" especially the Ukraine.   

I've seen some mention in the news in the last few days about the Russians making noises about pulling out of some sort of missile treaty with the US because of the missile defense missiles that the US is seeking to put in eastern Europe to defend Iranian capabilities (referenced in this article here)

Marc
==================================

stratfor.com

Geopolitical Diary: Trying to Redefine Poland

Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Feb. 17 released a 374-page report on the workings of the recently liquidated Military Intelligence Service (WSI). The report betrays the country's intelligence apparatus of the past 15 years, outing its practices, people, connections and expertise. Opposition leaders have said the report is a guidebook to Poland's national security. Kaczynski dissolved the WSI in October 2006, saying the agency had overstepped its jurisdiction and infiltrated every aspect of Polish life with agents in political parties, media and businesses. The report is intended to make public the problems that led to the WSI's demise; instead, its opponents are calling it one of the largest breaches of Polish national security.

Uproar over the report is increasing, and former Polish President Lech Walesa has called the move political suicide for the president and his identical twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. However, the move fits into their proclaimed agenda of rooting out all old (communist) institutions, protecting Poland against Russia, solidifying Poland on the international stage and becoming the key European ally for the United States.

But this all assumes that the Kaczynski twins do in fact have such an agenda in mind and have not completely fallen off the wagon, as many of their opponents like to believe. The Kaczynskis are internationally known for making brash choices. Since late 2005, the Kaczynskis have gone through myriad Cabinet ministers, collapsed the government and gone head-to-head with the European Union on many substantial policies. Though these moves have given them an unpredictable reputation, they control enough of the government to ensure they cannot be ousted by a vote of no confidence. The twins are clearly consolidating their power in order to reshape the very definition of what Poland is today.

What the Polish fear most is a Russian resurgence as a great power -- an assertion that has recently become more apparent. Russia has been consolidating power at home, expanding its influence through its energy infrastructure and getting involved in international disputes, such as that with Iran. If the Polish are going to consolidate their power, effectively purge Soviet influence and become weighty enough to be the front line against Russia, then this is the time to do it -- not after Russia fully awakens. And the new government has been swift to both restructure itself and gain influence.

In reshaping Poland, Lech Kaczynski is not only purging the old members of government, but also is ensuring that they can never return. Like his predecessors, Kaczynski vowed to root out communists and their collaborators from the government. But unlike his predecessors, he has actually taken the drastic moves to do so, turning the purge into a virtual communist witch-hunt. The move both rids Soviet influence and consolidates the twins' power in the government. The release of the WSI report is one of the largest and most decisive moves along these lines. By naming people in the WSI who are connected to Soviet intelligence, Kaczynski ensures their names will forever be known for -- alleged or true -- Soviet-ties. The move undermines the entire structure of the WSI and all of its former personnel, ensuring that it and those attached to it can never recover.

Now Poland must create a new, and inevitably non-Russian, model of government and security. This will take years to accomplish and leaves Poland highly vulnerable in the short term. In the meantime, Poland is counting on the United States for protection. However, if this plan is executed, then Poland will be a key -- if not the key -- U.S. ally in continental Europe to counterbalance the Russians. In recent decades this role has been Germany. This is not to say that Poland will replace Germany as the U.S. partner against Russia, especially not in the next few years. However, Poland could become the core of those countries once on the "wrong" side of the Iron Curtain and increase its influence in Europe. And though this would protect Germany, Berlin would still loathe Poland's regional influence.

This all said, it is still just the Kaczynskis' agenda in a government that could be consolidating, but that is still shaky and unpredictable. A shakeup to this degree is very difficult to pull off even under a stable government. And Poland is keeping with its traditional tactic of looking to a power that is not geographically nearby to deal with those near. The last time Poland did this was in World War II, when it looked to the French to help prevent the Germans from invading, which did not work out too well. This time it is looking to the United States. And though it has promised protection to many of its NATO allies, Washington has never had to prove itself. Poland certainly is pushing for a U.S. guarantee since it is inking the deal for a U.S. national missile defense interceptor base to move in as soon as possible.
28610  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: February 19, 2007, 02:47:19 PM
An attempted robbery using sticks

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=04e0c0b111
28611  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here comes Newt on: February 19, 2007, 01:59:37 PM
Here comes Newt
By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
Thursday, February 15, 2007


To echo the famous Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige: “Don’t look back, Newt Gingrich might be gaining on you.” Newt, consigned by many observers to Elizabeth Dole or Dan Quayle status in this GOP nominating process, appears to be moving up into contention, overtaking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and battling to be the conservative alternative to either former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Arizona Sen. John McCain.

To grasp what’s happening, don’t think of states like New Hampshire or Iowa or worry whether it’s too early or too late. The key to following the Republican presidential nominating process this year is to recognize its essential similarity to the tennis’s U.S. Open at Forest Hills. There are quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals.


 
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the GOP Christmas dinner dance in Manchester, N.H., Friday, Dec. 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) In the quarter-finals, the center and the right each sort out the nominees to choose their candidate. On center court, Giuliani seems to be gaining a decisive lead over McCain’s impoverished presidential campaign. But on the right-hand court, unnoticed by most pundits, Gingrich seems to be building a lead over Romney and a host of conservative wannabes. The ultimate winner of the Giuliani/McCain quarter-final will face the winner of the Gingrich/Romney match-up in the semi-finals.

As McCain drops in the polls — he’s down to 22 percent while Rudy is up at 34 percent in the latest Fox News poll — some conservatives seem eager for a “real Republican” to challenge for the nomination. Their first choice, former Virginia Sen. George Allen, lies a-moldering in the grave and his runner-up, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has gone home to Tennessee.

Most observers assumed that Romney would fill the void. But he doesn’t seem to have been able to do so. It may be a racist refusal to vote for a Mormon or, more charitably, Romney’s flip-flop-flip from pro-life to pro-choice to pro-life, or it may have been his inconsistency on gay issues, but Mitt seems to be going the way of his father — out of contention. The Fox News poll, which recorded a surge to up to 8 percent of the GOP vote in its Dec. 5-6 tally, now has Romney dropping back to only 3 percent of the vote.

Enter Newt. Hungry for new ideas and desperate after losing Congress, Republican voters seem to be rallying to the only real genius in the race — the former Speaker. The statute of limitations seems to have expired on his personal scandals and Gingrich is striking a responsive chord among conservatives.

Fox News’s Jan. 30-31 survey had Newt leaving Romney way behind and challenging McCain for second place. The former Speaker’s vote share was 15 percent, giving him third place in the current standings.

Episodically, I just addressed a 450-person Lincoln Day dinner of the Lane County Republican Party in Eugene, Ore. A show of hands brought these results: Giuliani, 50 percent; Gingrich, 30 percent; McCain, 6 percent; Romney, 4 percent. A few days before, a speech to an Orlando investors group produced similar results.

But, as the slogan of the New York State Lottery goes: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Newt’s current posture of waiting until the fall of 2007 to see how the process sorts itself out won’t work. The process abhors a vacuum. If Gingrich doesn’t move out to respond to the affection of the GOP base, one of the minor-leaguers — Huckabee, Brownback, Gilmore, Thompson, Hunter or Tancredo — will.

The irony of the GOP field at the moment is that while most Republicans are conservatives, the two frontrunners — Rudy and McCain — are moderates. And this isn’t Nelson Rockefeller’s Republican Party anymore! Gingrich is filling a real political need and if he moves out smartly and files his paperwork, takes his announcement bows, and journeys to Iowa and New Hampshire as a candidate, he might well be a contender.
 

Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com
 
28612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 19, 2007, 11:02:49 AM
1241 GMT -- RUSSIA -- A bird flu outbreak near Moscow involves the dangerous H5N1 strain that can infect humans, Russian health officials confirmed Feb. 19. Nikolai Vlasov, a senior official at Russia's health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, said the strain is probably related to the Asian type of the virus and might have been carried by wild birds migrating from the Caucasus, Balkans or Asian regions. The outbreak, Russia's second of 2007, is the first to be recorded near the capital.

stratfor.com
28613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 19, 2007, 11:00:30 AM
1247 GMT -- IRAN -- Deliveries of uranium fuel for Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant could be delayed because of late payments, which could derail the launch schedule, a Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency spokesman said Feb. 19. Russia had agreed to begin shipping fuel by March for a September launch, with electricity generation to start by November. The Iranians reportedly have cited technical reasons for the payment delays.

stratfor.com
28614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: February 19, 2007, 10:59:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Examining Syria's Fears

In the Middle East, there was a series of events on Sunday that point toward growing pressure for Syria.

First, Syrian President Bashar al Assad paid a visit to Tehran, where Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him Damascus needs to support the government in Iraq, and al Assad spoke out against rumors of a rift between Syria and Iran. The state-owned al-Baath daily in Damascus seemed to support his statements, writing -- in the context of Iranian-Syrian relations -- that, "Though their visions are not identical on everything, they however agree on two basic issues: Iraqi unity and the departure of the occupation forces, and the support of the political process in Iraq."

Meanwhile, Stratfor received word of a deal that Saudi Arabia has offered to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who (along with some other Hamas officials) is based in Damascus. Riyadh apparently has offered to provide protection and diplomatic status to Meshaal and other members of the movement's politburo, without preconditions, should they experience any pressure from Iran or Syria to renege on the agreement signed in Mecca with the rival Fatah party.

The implications of such an offer to Hamas are, for Syria, significant. The Syrians have been harboring Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian groups in hopes of using them as a bargaining chip with Israel, from which Damascus would hope one day to regain the Golan Heights. The Saudis, however, recently were able to bring Hamas and Fatah leaders together to forge a power-sharing deal -- one which appears to be making progress. This raises concerns that Damascus might be losing its influence over Hamas. The concerns are underscored by the offer Riyadh reportedly made to Meshaal, since it means the Islamist Palestinian movement could find an alternative sanctuary.

An even more terrifying prospect for the Syrians, however, would be for Iran to pursue its own national interests in partnership with others, leaving Damascus completely out in the cold, regionally speaking. This is not necessarily an irrational fear -- and it would explain al Assad's decision to visit Tehran at this particular time, as well as a comment he made, in calling for closer cooperation between Iran and Syrian, that the United States and Israel are trying to sow discord among Muslim states.

It is clear that securing its influence in Iraq is one of Tehran's primary goals, and Syria recognizes that Iran might be willing to cooperate with the United States and the Arabs to achieve this end. Moreover, the Alawite-Baathist regime has not been blind to recent negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, or the fact that Iran has called for cooperation between Hamas and Fatah. The perception is that Iran is willing to help ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in exchange for U.S. concessions in Iraq.

The Syrians' worst nightmare, of course, would involve Iran and Saudi Arabia working out a deal to stabilize Lebanon. Saudi-Iranian dealings in recent weeks prompted Hezbollah to back away from demonstrations that had been designed to bring down the Lebanese government. And it would not be beyond the pale for Iran to acquiesce to a broader agreement between Hezbollah (its proxy) and Saudi Arabia's Sunni allies, if Tehran was able to secure its goals in Iraq in exchange.

Such a deal would be immensely detrimental for Syria, given its significant interests in Lebanon. The only way to ensure that something like this does not come to pass is for Damascus to work closely with Tehran. Iran, of course, wants Syria to cooperate on Iraq, as Khamenei clearly stated on Sunday.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether Iran and Syria can work out a mutually acceptable arrangement. But from all appearances, the rumors of a rift between Iran and Syria may indeed have some merit.

stratfor.com
28615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 19, 2007, 10:33:10 AM
Rep. Jefferson is the man in whose refrigerator the FBI found $90,000 in cash.

=================

Rep. Jefferson to Get Homeland Security Seat
Associated Press
Saturday, February 17, 2007; Page A09


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who yanked embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson off a powerful tax committee last year, has decided to put him on the Homeland Security panel, aides to the Louisiana Democrat confirmed yesterday.

The move infuriated some Republicans, who accuse him of being a potential security risk.

Jefferson has been the subject of an ongoing federal bribery investigation related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. His Capitol Hill office and his homes in Washington and New Orleans have been raided by the FBI, and he was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee last June after affidavits and evidence seized in the raids became public.

Nevertheless, Jefferson won reelection in December to a ninth term, and he has been an outspoken critic of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Pelosi's decision to appoint Jefferson to the committee must still be formally approved by House Democrats.

"It sends a terrible message," said Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican. "They couldn't trust him to write tax policy, so why should he be given access to our nation's top secrets or making policy for national defense?

"Members of the committee have access to intelligence secrets, plots here in the country, overseas, and people under suspicion. This shows how unimportant the Democrats think homeland security is," King said.

Jefferson's chief of staff, Eugene Green, called King's criticism "ridiculous and just politics."

"Representing New Orleans as he does, we're very concerned as to what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Green said. "It's just natural for the congressman to serve his constituents on a committee of this nature."

28616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 18, 2007, 12:26:17 PM
Why the Iraq war is turning into America's defeat
(http://www.suntimes.com/news/steyn/260810,CST-EDT-steyn18.article)
 
February 18, 2007
 
BY MARK STEYN Sun-Times Columnist
 
The week's news from Iraq: According to the state television network, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was wounded in a clash with security forces just north of Baghdad. A senior deputy was killed. (Turns out this report was apparently in error.)
 
Meanwhile, the punk cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided that discretion is the better part of mullahs and has temporarily relocated to Iran. That's right: The biggest troublemaker in Iraq is no longer in Iraq. It may be that his Persian vacation is only to marry a cousin or two and consult with the A-list ayatollahs, but the Mookster has always had highly sensitive antennae when it comes to his own physical security -- he likes being the guy who urges martyrdom on others rather than being just another schmuck who takes one for the team. So the fact that urgent business requires him to be out of town for the Big Surge is revealing at the very least of how American objectives in Iraq are not at the mercy of forces beyond their control; U.S. military and political muscle can shape conditions on the ground -- if they can demonstrate they're serious about doing so.
 
Which these days is a pretty big "if." Reporting the sudden relocation, the New York Times decided -- in nothing flat -- that it was yet another disastrous setback. In Iraq, no news is good news, and Sadr news is badder news:
 
''With the new American offensive in Baghdad still in its early days, American commanders have focused operations in the eastern part of the city, a predominantly Shiite area that has long been the Mahdi Army's power base.
 
''If Mr. Sadr had indeed fled, his absence would create a vacuum that could allow even more radical elements of the Shiite group to take power.''
 
As my National Review colleague Rich Lowry marveled: ''So now we need to keep Sadr in Iraq because he's such a stabilizing influence!'' Of course! As Hillaire Belloc wrote, ''Always keep a hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse'' -- and, even when Nurse Sadr is blowing up the kids in the nursery every day, it's best to cling to her blood-drenched apron strings because the next nurse will be an even bigger psycho. America is a big helpless baby who's blundered into a war zone he can never hope to understand.
 
According to a report by the New York Sun's Eli Lake last month, Iran is supporting Shia insurgents in Iraq and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. In other words, it's on both sides in the so-called civil war. How can this be? After all, as the other wise old foreign-policy "realists" of the Iraq Study Group assured us only in December, Iran has "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.''
 
Au contraire, the ayatollahs have concluded they have a very clear interest in fomenting chaos in Iraq. They're in favor of Sunni killing Shia, and Shia killing Sunni, and if some vacationing Basque terrorists wanted to blow up the Spanish Cultural Center in Mosul, they'd be in favor of that, too. The Iranians don't care who kills whom as long as every night when Americans turn on the evening news there's smoke over Baghdad. As I say in my book, if you happen to live in Ramadi or Basra, Iraq is about Iraq; if you live in Tehran, or Cairo, or Bei-jing, Moscow, Pyongyang or Brussels, Iraq is about America. American will. American purpose. American credibility.
 
There was a TV station somewhere -- was it Thunder Bay, Ontario? -- that used to show a continuous loop of a roaring fireplace all night, and thousands of viewers would supposedly sit in front of it for hours because it was such a reassuringly comforting scene. The networks could save themselves a lot of money by adopting the same approach: Run a continuous loop of a smoking building in Baghdad all night while thousands of congressmen and pundits and think-tankers and retired generals run around Washington shrieking that all is lost. America is way out of its league! A dimwitted tourist in a fearful land of strange people who don't watch "American Idol." Iraq is so culturally alien that not a single Sunni, Shia or Kurd has come forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby!
 
Get a grip, chaps! In Iraq, everyone's a tourist. This al-Qaida honcho, al-Masri, is an Egyptian. His predecessor, Zarqawi, was a Jordanian. Al-Sadr is a Persian stooge. For four decades, the country was a British client. Before that, it was a Turkish province. The Middle East is a crazy place and a tough nut to crack, but the myth of the unbeatable Islamist insurgent is merely a lazy and more neurotic update of the myth of the unbeatable communist guerrilla, which delusion led to so much pre-emptive surrender in the '70s. Nevertheless, in the capital city of the most powerful nation on the planet, the political class spent last week trying to craft a bipartisan defeat strategy, and they might yet pull it off. Consider this extraordinary report from the Washington Post:
 
"Democratic leaders have rallied around a strategy that would fully fund the president's $100 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but would limit his ability to use the money. . . . The plan is aimed at tamping down calls from the Democrats' liberal wing for Congress to simply end funding for the war.
 
"The Murtha plan, based on existing military guidelines, includes a stipulation that Army troops who have already served in Iraq must be granted two years at home before an additional deployment. . . . The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat."
 
So "the Murtha plan" is to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. But of course he's a great American! He's a patriot! He supports the troops! He doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years. As John Kerry wondered during Vietnam, how do you ask a soldier to be the last man to die for a mistake? By nominally "fully funding" a war you don't believe in but "limiting his ability to use the money." Or as the endearingly honest anti-war group MoveCongress.org put it, in an e-mail preview of an exclusive interview with the wise old Murtha:
 
"Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president's foreign and national security policy."
 
"Undermining"? Why not? To the Slow-Bleed Democrats, it's the Republicans' war. To an increasing number of what my radio pal Hugh Hewitt calls the White-Flag Republicans, it's Bush's war. To everyone else on the planet, it's America's war. And it will be America's defeat.
 
©Mark Steyn, 2007
28617  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Brittney Spears Tattoo on: February 18, 2007, 09:39:21 AM
That's very funny. cheesy

Tangent:  I find it remarkable that this woman gets a pass for using her fame, money, and kitty for luring Kevin Federline away from a woman who was pregnant with his child and had already had a child with him.  Despicable.

28618  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers East Cost Seminar featuring Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny on: February 18, 2007, 09:33:32 AM
Hah!

That picture is from 1998 or 1999 IIRC which would make me 46 or 47.  The dog is "Moro/Morro", who was my second Akita.   I was still dyeing my hair back then, so there is no grey  cheesy  The foto is from the shoot that Martial Arts Illustrated did for what turned out to be my first cover shot. 


PS:  Regarding the name "Moro".  Several years after I had named him I had some Filipinos tell me that despite my honorable intentions, the dog's name was offensive.  "What about the MILF (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front)?" I asked-- rather reasonablyI thought.  But this rejoinder was deemd insufficient, so to get along I renamed him "Morro", after Morro Bay on the California coast and Morro never knew the difference.
28619  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: February 17, 2007, 11:02:42 PM


http://s75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/ChrisFry/?action=view&current=02_FEB_07_ABC_DFW_Welcome.flv
28620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: February 17, 2007, 10:39:43 PM
COWARDS GIVE UP ON GIS - & GIVE IN TO EVIL
By RALPH PETERS


February 17, 2007 -- PROVIDING aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not "just politics." It's treason.
And signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win isn't "supporting our troops."

The "nonbinding resolution" telling the world that we intend to surrender to terrorism and abandon Iraq may be the most disgraceful congressional action since the Democratic Party united to defend slavery.

The vote was a huge morale booster for al Qaeda, for Iraq's Sunni insurgents, and for the worst of the Shia militias.

The message Congress just sent to them all was, "Hold on, we'll stop the surge, we're going to leave - and you can slaughter the innocent with our blessing."

We've reached a low point in the history of our government when a substantial number of legislators would welcome an American defeat in Iraq for domestic political advantage.

Yes, some members voted their conscience. But does anyone believe they were in the majority?

This troop surge might not work. We can't know yet. But we can be damned sure that the shameful action taken on the Hill while our troops are fighting isn't going to help.

And a word about those troops: It's going to come as a shock to the massive egos in Congress, but this resolution won't hurt morale - for the simple reason that our men and women in uniform have such low expectations of our politicians that they'll shrug this off as business as usual.

This resolution has teeth, though: It's going to bite our combat commanders. By undermining their credibility and shaking the trust of their Iraqi counterparts, it makes it far tougher to build the alliances that might give Iraq a chance.

If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to trust Americans and risk your life after the United States Congress voted to abandon you?

Now that Donald Rumsfeld's gone, the Democrats are doing just what they pilloried the former Secretary of Defense for doing: Denying battlefield commanders the troops and resources they need.

Congresswoman Pelosi, have you no shame?

As a former soldier who still spends a good bit of time with those in uniform, what infuriates me personally is the Doublespeak, Stalin-Prize lie that undercutting our troops and encouraging our enemies is really a way to "support our troops."

As for bringing them home, why not respect the vote the troops themselves are taking: Sustained re-enlistment rates have been at a record high.

And our soldiers and Marines know they'll go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. And no, Senator Kerry, it's not because they're too stupid to get a "real" job like yours or because they're "mercenaries." Some Americans still believe in America.

If our troops are willing to fight this bitter war, how dare Congress knife them in the back?

On Thursday night, I was in Nashville as a guest of the 506th Regimental Combat Team - with whom I'd spent all too brief a time in Baghdad.

The occasion was their welcome-home ball, complete with dress uniforms spangled with awards for bravery. Proud spouses sat beside their returned warriors.

Of course, those soldiers were glad to be home with their loved ones. But they also know they'll go back to one theater of war or another - and no one complained.

They share a value that Congress has forgotten: duty. They're willing to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. Because they know that freedom has a price.

As you entered the ballroom for the event, the first thing you saw was a line of 34 photographs. A single white candle softly lit each frame. Those were the members of the 506th who didn't come home.

Soldiers honor their dead. It's the least Congress could do to honor the living men and women in uniform.

You don't support our troops by supporting our enemies.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."


 
28621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 17, 2007, 01:20:57 PM
Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy
by Ron Paul
by Ron Paul




Statement at Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, February 15, 2007


Transparency in monetary policy is a goal we should all support.  I've often wondered why Congress so willingly has given up its prerogative over monetary policy.  Astonishingly, Congress in essence has ceded total control over the value of our money to a secretive central bank.

Congress created the Federal Reserve, yet it had no constitutional authority to do so.  We forget that those powers not explicitly granted to Congress by the Constitution are inherently denied to Congress – and thus the authority to establish a central bank never was given.  Of course Jefferson and Hamilton had that debate early on, a debate seemingly settled in 1913.

But transparency and oversight are something else, and they're worth considering.  Congress, although not by law, essentially has given up all its oversight responsibility over the Federal Reserve.  There are no true audits, and Congress knows nothing of the conversations, plans, and actions taken in concert with other central banks.  We get less and less information regarding the money supply each year, especially now that M3 is no longer reported.

The role the Fed plays in the President's secretive Working Group on Financial Markets goes unnoticed by members of Congress.  The Federal Reserve shows no willingness to inform Congress voluntarily about how often the Working Group meets, what actions it takes that affect the financial markets, or why it takes those actions.

But these actions, directed by the Federal Reserve, alter the purchasing power of our money.  And that purchasing power is always reduced.  The dollar today is worth only four cents compared to the dollar in 1913, when the Federal Reserve started.  This has profound consequences for our economy and our political stability.  All paper currencies are vulnerable to collapse, and history is replete with examples of great suffering caused by such collapses, especially to a nation's poor and middle class.  This leads to political turmoil.

Even before a currency collapse occurs, the damage done by a fiat system is significant.  Our monetary system insidiously transfers wealth from the poor and middle class to the privileged rich.  Wages never keep up with the profits of Wall Street and the banks, thus sowing the seeds of class discontent.  When economic trouble hits, free markets and free trade often are blamed, while the harmful effects of a fiat monetary system are ignored. We deceive ourselves that all is well with the economy, and ignore the fundamental flaws that are a source of growing discontent among those who have not shared in the abundance of recent years.

Few understand that our consumption and apparent wealth is dependent on a current account deficit of $800 billion per year.  This deficit shows that much of our prosperity is based on borrowing rather than a true increase in production.  Statistics show year after year that our productive manufacturing jobs continue to go overseas.  This phenomenon is not seen as a consequence of the international fiat monetary system, where the United States government benefits as the issuer of the world's reserve currency.

Government officials consistently claim that inflation is in check at barely 2%, but middle class Americans know that their purchasing power – especially when it comes to housing, energy, medical care, and school tuition – is shrinking much faster than 2% each year.

Even if prices were held in check, in spite of our monetary inflation, concentrating on CPI distracts from the real issue.  We must address the important consequences of Fed manipulation of interest rates. When interests rates are artificially low, below market rates, insidious mal-investment and excessive indebtedness inevitably bring about the economic downturn that everyone dreads.

We look at GDP numbers to reassure ourselves that all is well, yet a growing number of Americans still do not enjoy the higher standard of living that monetary inflation brings to the privileged few.  Those few have access to the newly created money first, before its value is diluted.

For example:  Before the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, CEO income was about 30 times the average worker's pay.  Today, it's closer to 500 times.  It's hard to explain this simply by market forces and increases in productivity.  One Wall Street firm last year gave out bonuses totaling $16.5 billion.  There's little evidence that this represents free market capitalism.

In 2006 dollars, the minimum wage was $9.50 before the 1971 breakdown of Bretton Woods.  Today that dollar is worth $5.15.  Congress congratulates itself for raising the minimum wage by mandate, but in reality it has lowered the minimum wage by allowing the Fed to devalue the dollar.  We must consider how the growing inequalities created by our monetary system will lead to social discord.

GDP purportedly is now growing at 3.5%, and everyone seems pleased.  What we fail to understand is how much government entitlement spending contributes to the increase in the GDP.  Rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by hurricanes, which simply gets us back to even, is considered part of GDP growth.  Wall Street profits and salaries, pumped up by the Fed's increase in money, also contribute to GDP statistical growth.  Just buying military weapons that contribute nothing to the well being of our citizens, sending money down a rat hole, contributes to GDP growth!  Simple price increases caused by Fed monetary inflation contribute to nominal GDP growth.  None of these factors represent any kind of real increases in economic output.  So we should not carelessly cite misleading GDP figures which don't truly reflect what is happening in the economy.  Bogus GDP figures explain in part why so many people are feeling squeezed despite our supposedly booming economy.

But since our fiat dollar system is not going away anytime soon, it would benefit Congress and the American people to bring more transparency to how and why Fed monetary policy functions.

For starters, the Federal Reserve should:

Begin publishing the M3 statistics again.  Let us see the numbers that most accurately reveal how much new money the Fed is pumping into the world economy.
Tell us exactly what the President's Working Group on Financial Markets does and why.
Explain how interest rates are set.  Conservatives profess to support free markets, without wage and price controls.  Yet the most important price of all, the price of money as determined by interest rates, is set arbitrarily in secret by the Fed rather than by markets!  Why is this policy written in stone? Why is there no congressional input at least?
Change legal tender laws to allow constitutional legal tender (commodity money) to compete domestically with the dollar.
How can a policy of steadily debasing our currency be defended morally, knowing what harm it causes to those who still believe in saving money and assuming responsibility for themselves in their retirement years?  Is it any wonder we are a nation of debtors rather than savers?

We need more transparency in how the Federal Reserve carries out monetary policy, and we need it soon.

February 17, 2007

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.
28622  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Are there Knights? on: February 17, 2007, 01:17:50 PM
Woof All:

I am delighted to see both Maija and Michael Brown joining in.  A hearty woof of welcome to both of you!

I will need a more leisurely moment to put down some thoughts for this thread, but for the moment share an article written by Dog Hig, who is one of our DBMA instructors in the UK.   I gather that this piece will be published in the UK's "Martial Arts Illustrated" or "Combat", so please do not forward it from here.

TAC,
CD
=====================================================

The Spirituality of the Gathering


In the time I’ve been training in DBMA, the question I’ve been asked more than any other has to “Why do you want to fight at the Gathering?”

It’s a question that’s been asked of me by everyone, family, friends, students, people I meet at seminars, someone even asked me it just before the last Gathering in Bern. The reason for them asking the question changes from person to person, some are asking because they want to try it but want to make sure it’s a sane thing to do first. Others just don’t get it, they see the risk but not the reward.
This article is more for the latter.

The first time I saw the Dog Brothers on tape, I had conflicting emotions.
My first feeling was confusion, why would they do this???
I’d been told by my first instructors that the weapons side of the art was so effective, you could never test it. They said to do so would leave both parties badly injured and there was too much risk. Besides everything we were training had already been battle tested by those who had gone before us. There was no need to put ourselves at risk.
Yet there it was on film, a bunch of guys using their skill to defend themselves and putting their health on the line.
My second feeling was anticipation, because I wanted to do it as well.

The path to my first Gathering took me a few years, but looking back on it, the main thing that stopped me going sooner was me. That wasn’t a bad thing, for all the good I have to say about a Gathering, it’s a dangerous thing to do & you need to be doing it for the right reasons. To paraphrase Crafty “Sometimes, especially the first time, you should just watch”

When I got to Switzerland that first time, the fear running through me was immense. On more than one occasion I thought of backing out & had conversations with Guro Crafty & Guro Lonely about the emotions I was feeling. The openness with which they discussed their own pre-fight emotions will always amaze me. It all boiled down to one thing, if you weren’t scared, there was something wrong. It reassured me to realize that despite all their skill and successful experience, the fear was still there and they did it anyway. My own fear, while still a powerful force, started to seem a little less dominating.

The moment of truth came quickly, the fighters had assembled & Crafty said the Magic words “"No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which he came and our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. However, only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. No suing no one for no reason for nothing, no how, no way."”
Guro Lonely got up and put on his mask for the first fight of the day. If I didn’t do it now, I’d never do it. I felt a moment of detachment as I put on my mask and walked to the centre. The Drummers started, we tapped in & the two most spiritual minutes of my life started.

For the two minutes that we fought, nothing else outside existed, my job, my credit card bills, and the fact that my car needed new brakes….
For the fist time that I can remember, I existed only in the moment. Every second that passed was the only second that mattered. Everything except what was in front of me faded in perspective. A man who is extremely skilled in what he does, pushing me to the limit of what he feels I can take (at one point, I could have sworn that Lonely smiled at me through his mask after setting me up beautifully. He swears he didn’t). The only thing to protect me is the stick in my hand, the light gloves & the thin mask on my face. In those two minutes I experienced a feeling of responsibility and self awareness that had been missing in my life till that point.
In day to day life it’s easy to pass responsibility for everything onto everyone else. You trip in the street, someone should have fixed the paving. You crash your car, the other guy should have watched where he was going. You get knocked out or hurt, your corner or the ref should have stopped the fight earlier.

Here was a place where only I was responsible for my actions, I made the choice to come, I did the extra hours at work to buy my plane ticket, I stood up, I put on my mask and if I got hurt, it was due to the choices I alone had made.
If however I grew in some way, regardless of the outcomes of any of my fights, learned a little, matured a little, moved a little bit closer to being the type of man I want be. Then this would be down to how I dealt with the path I’d chosen.
This was and is a very powerful realisation.

The realisation that I solely was responsible for the direction of those two minutes,  and how I chose to deal with any consequences, has passed through to the rest of my life & I hope it will be with me for a long time to come.

There are a hundred other reasons to fight at a Gathering, for one thing you’ll never meet more honest or friendly people. For me though, it’ll always be to again experience those two minutes and rediscover the awareness they teach. That only I am responsible for my course in this life, and anything else is just excuses or fear.

To remind myself, that when it comes down to it, “Only you are responsible for you”


“Dog” Graeme Higgins has been training FMA for the last 10 years and is the first person in the UK to be both accepted into the Dog Brothers tribe and made a Lakan Guro in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.

To Contact Graeme, please visit
www.combative.co.uk or www.myspace.com/elhig   

For more information on Dog Brothers UK, please visit
www.DogBrothers.co.uk or www.myspace.com/DogBrothersUK
28623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Moderate Muslim intimidated in Tulsa OK on: February 17, 2007, 12:43:32 PM
Moderate Muslim intimidated in Tulsa OK

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/02/16/jamal-miftah-a-moderate-muslims-plight/
28624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 17, 2007, 12:28:34 PM
A Horror Travelogue
by Srdja Trifkovic
Thousands of young Muslims, armed with clubs and sticks and shouting, “Allahu akbar!” riot and force the police to retreat. Windows are smashed; stores are looted; cars are torched. Europeans unlucky or careless enough to be trapped by the mob are viciously attacked, and some are killed.

The scene could be Mogadishu in the aftermath of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address; or Tripoli during the Danish-cartoons fury; or Karachi, Kabul, Gaza, and countless other cities in Dar al-Islam’s heartland, on any number of occasions. Yet a year ago, such scenes were unfolding, for weeks on end, in places with such names as Clichy-sous-Bois, Argenteuil, and La Courneuve. The trouble in the banlieus finally ended, as various Muslim “community leaders” had claimed it would, only when various levels of French officialdom quietly accepted that there were de facto no-go areas within the country, mini-Islamistans run by the dominant local majority. “Mon Clichy à moi, c’est ça!” just about sums it up, on the official website of Clichy-sous-Bois, whose population is 80-percent Muslim.

In practice, this means that local groceries refrain from selling wine, and young Muslim men feel emboldened to use violence against “sluts”—women who do not follow Islamic ways. Many more French-born Arab girls wear the hijab today than did so a year ago: It is their protection against mutilation and gang rape. Failing to do so makes them fair game for both: A knife slash across the scarfless girl’s cheek from the lip to the ear is especially common and known as a “smile.”

The demand for communal self-rule is not new, and it will be made with increasing frequency in the years to come. Of some 25 million Muslims in Western Europe, the majority already consider themselves autonomous, a community justifiably opposed to the decadent host society of infidels. This demand is but the first step: It will lead to the clamoring for the adoption of sharia within segregated Muslim communities and, finally, for the imposition of sharia on the society as a whole.

Europe’s elite class is prepared for this challenge. Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner—a Christian Democrat—sees the demand as perfectly legitimate and argues that sharia could be introduced “by democratic means.” Muslims have a right to follow the commands of their religion, even if that included some “dissenting rules of behavior”: “It is a sure certainty for me: if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist. Could you block this legally? It would also be a scandal to say ‘this isn’t allowed’! The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy.”
=============

The same “essence” was reiterated in similar terms last July by Jens Orback, the Swedish Integration [sic] Minister, who declared in a radio debate, “We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us.” Yes, when we become a minority; the fact that, four months later, both Orback and his Social Democratic government remain in power aptly illustrates Sweden’s political and cultural scene.

Until a generation ago, Sweden used to be one of the safest and most law-abiding countries in the world. Today, in the southern city of Malmö, the authorities are no longer able to deal with the problem of crime among Muslim immigrants, 90 percent of whom are on welfare. They make up one third of the city’s 300,000 people; at the city’s Rosengrad School, of 1,000 students, only 2 were Swedes last year. “If we park our car it will be smashed—so we have to go very often in two vehicles, one just to protect the other,” says policeman Rolf Landgren. Both vehicles are needed to escort Swedish ambulance drivers into certain neighborhoods. Robberies of all sorts increased by 50 percent in 2004 alone, with gangs of young Muslims specializing in mugging old people visiting the graves of relatives. Thomas Anderberg, head of statistics for the Malmö police, reported a doubling of “rapes by ambush” in 2004. Almost all of the increase is attributable to Muslim men raping Swedish women.

Next door in Norway and Denmark, two thirds of all men arrested for rape are “of non-western ethnic origin”—the preferred euphemism for Middle Eastern and North African Muslims—although they account for under five percent of their residents. The number of rapes in Oslo in the summer of 2006 was twice that of the previous summer. All “gang rapes” in Denmark in 2004 were committed by immigrants and “refugees.”

The victims are overwhelmingly Scandinavian women, yet only one in twenty young Muslim men say they would marry one. Their reluctance is explained by an Islamic scholar, Mufti Shahid Mehdi, who told an audience in Copenhagen that European women who do not wear a headscarf were “asking to be raped.” His view is shared by Unni Wikan, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo and a self-described feminist; she holds that “Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative: “Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and they must adapt themselves to it.”

Swedish courts are adapting by introducing sharia principles into civil cases. An Iranian man divorcing his Iranian wife was ordered by the high court in the city of Halmestad to pay Mahr, Islamic dowry ordained by the Koran as part of the Islamic marriage contract.
In the judicial sphere, Britain has gone even further, legitimizing sharia compliance even in criminal cases. A key tenet of sharia is that non-Muslims cannot try Muslims, or even testify against them; and this has been upheld by Peter Beaumont, QC, senior circuit judge at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. Before the trial of Abdullah el-Faisal, a preacher accused of soliciting the murder of “unbelievers,” Justice Beaumont announced that, “[f]or obvious reasons, members of the jury of the Jewish or Hindu faith should reveal themselves, even if they are married to Jewish or Hindu women, because they are not fit to arbitrate in this case.” (One can only speculate what would be the reaction if equally “obvious reasons” were invoked in an attempt to exclude Muslims from the trial of BNP Chairman Nick Griffin for “Islamophobia.”)

The legitimization of sharia has also penetrated culture—both high and popular. In the fall of 2005, British audiences enjoyed a widely acclaimed production of Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century classic. Few noticed, however, that several irreverent references to Muhammad had been deleted. An essential scene in the play, in which the Koran is burned, became the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. Director David Farr and Simon Reade, Old Vic’s artistic director, said that, if they had not altered the original, it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions.” Both agreed that, in any event, the censored version—produced partly with public funds—was better than the original, making the play more powerful and relevant.

====================

The British Council, another taxpayer-funded organization that sponsors cross-cultural projects, sacked one of its press officers, Harry Cummins, for publishing four articles in London’s Sunday Telegraph. British Muslims took exception to his observation that Muslims had rights to practice their religion in the United Kingdom that were not enjoyed by Christians in the Islamic world, “despite the fact that these Christians are the original inhabitants and rightful owners of almost every Muslim land.” His cardinal sin was to note that “it is the black heart of Islam, not its black face, to which millions object.” Abdul Bari, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed Cummins’ firing but expressed “dismay” that the publishing company had not taken action against the editor of the Sunday Telegraph as well.

Public funds were also used to build state-of-the-art senior housing in London’s East End. This housing is to be reserved strictly for Muslim “elders”: English and other white pensioners need not apply. Sirajul Islam, in charge of social services at the local borough of Tower Hamlets, responded to the journalists’ questions about racial and religious equality by stating that a “one size fits all” approach to public services was no longer acceptable in 21st-century Britain: “Tower Hamlets is fortunate to have a diverse mix of communities, and the council strives to ensure that its services are responsive to the differing and changing needs of its residents.”
That these and other fortunes are befalling Britain under “New Labour” is perhaps to be expected, but the revamped Tory Party hardly offers an alternative. Determined that out-Blairing Blair is the only way to regain power, it has, under David Cameron, jumped on the multiculturalist bandwagon and come out in support of retaining and expanding racial, ethnic, and sex-based quotas. Cameron’s colleague, Conservative Party Chairman Francis Maude, claims that immigration has been “fantastically good” for the United Kingdom.

Such inanities are light years away from Churchill’s warning, over a century ago, that “no stronger retrograde force exists in the world” than Islam:

Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.
Churchill’s prescience could not envisage the possibility that the invader would find his best friends and allies at No. 10, Downing Street, at the European Community Headquarters in Brussels, and in dozens of chancelleries and palaces across the Old Continent. Their joint efforts are helping change the face of Europe. Its southern maritime frontier is as porous as that on the Rio Grande. Boats packed with thousands of migrants from Africa and Asia land somewhere along Europe’s coasts every day. Their numbers are unknown, but the cumulative effect is not in doubt: By 2050, these people will account for one third of Europe’s young residents.
In Germany, mostly Muslim immigrants already account for about one quarter of all teenagers and ten percent of the population as a whole. But mention “integration” to Evelyn Rühle, a teacher in Wedding, a predominantly Turkish suburb of Berlin, and she will murmur, “disintegration, more likely,” with a sad smile. Her students’ Muslim parents routinely demand the separation of girls and boys in sports and take their children out of biology classes. Most students speak poorer German than immigrant children did 20 years ago. Their extracurricular activities are limited to attending Koran classes, and many speak only Turkish or Arabic at home.
The growth of digital television has made a host of Turkish and Arabic-language channels available, intensifying language problems and nurturing identities that are informed more by the situation in Lebanon, Gaza, or Iraq than by the events in Paris, Berlin, or London. Millions of Muslim youths all over Europe live in a parallel universe that has very little to do with the host country, toward which they have a disdainful and hostile attitude.

The elite class responds to hostility with ever-greater inclusiveness. Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy’s former minister of the interior, who is responsible for controlling the country’s borders, declared three years ago that the high fatality rate of North African illegals on the high seas en route to Sicily was “a dreadful tragedy that weighs on the conscience of Europe.” His reaction was paradigmatic of the utopian liberal mind-set. If “Europe” should feel guilty that people who have no right to come to its shores are risking their lives while trying to do so illegally, then only the establishment of a free passenger-ferry service between Africa and Southern Europe—with no passport or customs formalities required upon arrival, and a free shuttle to Rome or Milan—would offer some relief to that burdened conscience. Now that Sr. Pisanu and his boss, Silvio Berlusconi, have been replaced by a leftist government even more deeply committed to tolerance and diversity, this solution may finally become a reality.

The tangible results in Italy are as devastating as the moral and spiritual ones. In Venice, the invaders have taken over the Piazza San Marco. In Genoa, the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired have been seized by them “and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped.” In the late Oriana Fallaci’s native Florence, a huge tent was erected next to the cathedral to pressure the Italian government to give immigrants “the papers necessary to rove about Europe,” and to “let them bring the hordes of their relatives” to Italy. As Fallaci described it:

A tent situated next to the beautiful palazzo of the Archbishop on whose sidewalk they kept the shoes or sandals that are lined up outside the mosques in their countries. And along with the shoes or sandals, the empty bottles of water they’d used to wash their feet before praying. A tent placed in front of the cathedral with Brunelleschi’s cupola and by the side of the Baptistery with Ghiberti’s golden doors . . . Thanks to a tape player, the uncouth wailing of a muezzin punctually exhorted the faithful, deafened the infidels, and smothered the sound of the church bells . . . And along with the yellow streaks of urine, the stench of the excrement that blocked the door of San Salvatore al Vescovo: that exquisite Romanesque church (year 1000) that stands at the rear of the Piazza del Duomo and that the sons of Allah transformed into a shithouse.

Europe is increasingly populated by aliens who physically live there but spiritually belong to the umma. They do not want to “adapt” to Florence or any other new abode they conquer; offended and intimidated by beauty and order, they instinctively want to remake it in the image of Anatolia, Punjab, or the Maghreb. Their influx, made possible by the Pisanu malaise, is making the transformation irreversible.

A century ago, Pisanu’s class shared social commonalities that could be observed in Monte Carlo, Carlsbad, or Paris, depending on the season. Their lingua franca was French. Englishmen, Russians, and Austrians shared the same outlook and sense of propriety, but they nevertheless remained rooted in their national traditions, the only permanent vessels in which Weltanschauung could be translated into Kultur. Today’s “United Europe,” by contrast, does not create social and civilizational commonalities—except on the basis of wholesale denial of old mores, inherited values, and “traditional” culture. It creates a cultural similarity that has morphed into the dreary sameness of antidiscriminationism. The Continent is ruled by a secular theocracy focused on the task of reforming and reshaping the individual consciences of its subjects.

======================

The fruits are greeted with haughty arrogance by Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and a grandson of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan insists that Muslims in the West should conduct themselves not as hyphenated citizens seeking to live by “common values” but as though they were already living in a Muslim-majority society and were exempt on that account from having to make concessions to the faith of others. Muslims in non-Muslim countries should feel entitled to live on their own terms, Ramadan says, while, “under the terms of Western liberal tolerance,” society as a whole should be obliged to respect that choice.

If such respect continues to be extended, by the end of this century, there will be no “Europeans” who are members of ethnic groups that share the same language, culture, history, and ancestors and inhabit lands associated with their names. The shrinking populations will be indoctrinated into believing—or else simply forced into accepting—that the demographic shift in favor of Muslim aliens is actually a blessing that enriches their culturally deprived and morally unsustainable societies.
The “liberal tolerance” and the accompanying “societal obligation” that Tariq Ramadan invokes are key. “No other race subscribes to these moral principles,” Jean Raspail wrote a generation ago, “because they are weapons of self-annihilation.” They need to be understood and discarded. The upholders of those principles must be removed from all positions of power and influence if Europe is to survive.

Foreign-affairs editor Srdja Trifkovic is the author, most recently, of Defeating Jihad.
This article first appeared in the December 2006 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
28625  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 17, 2007, 09:14:17 AM
!Que' sorpresa!

=================
NY Times
Chavez threatens jail , , ,

CARACAS, Venezuela, Feb. 16 — Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country’s expanding price controls.

Food producers and economists say the measures announced late Thursday night, which include removing three zeroes from the denomination of Venezuela’s currency, are likely to backfire and generate even more acute shortages and higher prices for consumers. Inflation climbed to an annual rate of 18.4 percent a year in January, the highest in Latin America and far above the official target of 10 to 12 percent.

Mr. Chávez, whose leftist populism remains highly popular among Venezuela’s poor and working classes, seemed unfazed by criticism of his policies. Appearing live on national television, he called for the creation of “committees of social control,” essentially groups of his political supporters whose purpose would be to report on farmers, ranchers, supermarket owners and street vendors who circumvent the state’s effort to control food prices.

“It is surreal that we’ve arrived at a point where we are in danger of squandering a major oil boom,” said José Guerra, a former chief of economic research at Venezuela’s central bank, who left Mr. Chavez’s government in 2004. “If the government insists on sticking to policies that are clearly failing, we may be headed down the road of Zimbabwe.”

For now, Venezuela remains far from any nightmarish economic meltdown. The country, which has the largest conventional oil reserves outside the Middle East, is still enjoying a revenue windfall from historically high oil prices, resulting in a surge in consumer spending and lavish government financing for an array of social welfare and infrastructure programs. Dollar reserves at the central bank total more than $35 billion.

The economy grew by more than 10 percent last year, helping Mr. Chávez glide to a re-election victory in December with 63 percent of the vote. Yet economists who have worked with Mr. Chávez’s government say that soaring public spending is overheating Venezuela’s economy, generating imbalances in the distribution of products from sugar to basic construction materials like wallboard.

Public spending grew last year by more than 50 percent and has more than doubled since the start of 2004, as Mr. Chávez has channeled oil revenues into social programs and projects like bridges, highways, trains, subways, museums and, in a departure for a country where baseball reigns supreme, soccer stadiums.

In an indicator of concern with Mr. Chávez’s economic policies, which included nationalizing companies in the telephone and electricity industries, foreign direct investment was negative in the first nine months of 2006. The last year Venezuela had a net investment outflow was in 1986.

Shortages of basic foods have been sporadic since the government strengthened price controls in 2003 after a debilitating strike by oil workers. But in recent weeks, the scarcity of items like meat and chicken has led to a panicked reaction by federal authorities as they try to understand how such shortages could develop in a seemingly flourishing economy.

Entering a supermarket here is a bizarre experience. Shelves are fully stocked with Scotch whiskey, Argentine wines and imported cheeses like brie and Camembert, but basic staples like black beans and desirable cuts of beef like sirloin are often absent. Customers, even those in the government’s own Mercal chain of subsidized grocery stores, are left with choices like pork neck bones, rabbit and unusual cuts of lamb.

With shoppers limited to just two large packages of sugar, a black market in sugar has developed among street vendors in parts of Caracas. “This country is going to turn into Cuba, or Chávez will have to give in,” said Cándida de Gómez, 54, a shopper at a private supermarket in Los Palos Grandes, a district in the capital.

José Vielma Mora, the chief of Seniat, the government’s tax agency, oversaw a raid this month on a warehouse here where officials seized about 165 tons of sugar. Mr. Vielma said the raid exposed hoarding by vendors who were unwilling to sell the sugar at official prices. He and other officials in Mr. Chávez’s government have repeatedly blamed the shortages on producers, intermediaries and grocers.
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Page 2 of 2)



Those in the food industry argue that the price controls prevented them from making a profit after inflation rose and the value of Venezuela’s currency plunged in black market trading in recent weeks. The bolívar, the country’s currency, fell more than 30 percent to about 4,400 to the dollar in unofficial trading following Mr. Chávez’s nationalization of Venezuela’s main telephone company, CANTV, and its largest electric utility, Electricidad de Caracas.

Fears that more private companies could be nationalized have put further pressure on the currency as rich Venezuelans try to take money out of the country. Concern over capital flight has made the government jittery, with vague threats issued to newspapers that publish unofficial currency rates (officially the bolívar is quoted at about 2,150 to the dollar).

Regardless of efforts to stop illicit currency trading, the weaker bolívar has made imported food, fertilizers and agricultural equipment more expensive. Venezuela, despite boasting some of South America’s most fertile farmland, still imports more than half its food, largely from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and the United States.

Supermarket owners expressed relief when the government this week cut value-added taxes on retail food sales and raised the prices on more than 100 staples in an effort to alleviate the shortages. The announcement included an average 32 percent increase in beef prices and a 45 percent increase in chicken prices.

Following Mr. Chávez’s nationalization threat, supermarket owners were cautious in their public statements. “As long as we are complying with the regulations, I don’t believe there will be any type of reprisal,” said Luis Rodríguez, executive director of the National Supermarket Association.

But many were clearly torn, afraid that their stores could be seized if they complained, but at a loss as to how to continue operating. “If I don’t sell at the regulated price they’ll fine me, and if I don’t sell meat I’ll be out of business,” said a butcher shop owner here.

During his television broadcast, Mr. Chávez said his measures would be laid out in a decree, a power that his rubber-stamp legislature just bestowed upon him. He acknowledged that removing taxes on food sales would deprive the government of more than $3 billion in revenues, higher than the military budget, but he said tax increases on luxuries like beach homes and yachts would make up for part of the shortfall.

Mr. Chávez also said he would raise subsidies for state-owned grocery stores. Economists say such subsidies, together with hefty loans to farmers, have allowed the price controls to function relatively well until recent weeks.

But recent expropriations of farms and ranches, part of Mr. Chávez’s effort to empower state-financed cooperatives, have also weighed on domestic food production as the new managers retool operations. So has the flood of petrodollars into the economy, easing food imports and making some domestic producers uncompetitive, an affliction common to oil economies.

“There seems to be a basic misunderstanding in Chávez’s government of what is driving scarcity and inflation,” said Francisco Rodríguez, a former chief economist at Venezuela’s National Assembly who teaches at Wesleyan University.

“There are competent people in the government who know that Chávez needs to lower spending if he wants to defeat these problems,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “But there are few people in positions of power who are willing to risk telling him what he needs to hear.”

=====================

Rodriguez es una idiota.  Inflacion esta' causado por exceso de circulante monetario-- punto y fin.  Y nunca funciona controles de precio salvo en muy corto plazo.  Siempre llegan a donde esta' Venezuela se encuentra en este momento.  Un gobierno no se puede prohibir la ley de la gavidad (the law of gravity) ni la ley de oferta y demanda.  Tampoco funciona jamas falta de respeto de los derechos de propriedad privada.
28626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRA vs. The UN on: February 17, 2007, 08:57:43 AM
A debate between the UN and the NRA.  Shows just how extreme and uninformed the UN/anti-gun position is.
In four parts:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmg_zMuQEDk
28627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 16, 2007, 08:00:55 PM
Iran: A Second Attack in Zahedan
February 16, 2007 22 09  GMT



A strong explosion occurred during the evening of Feb. 16 in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, in Sistan-Balochistan province. According to the Iranian Baztab News agency, the explosion was caused by a noise bomb that was placed in front of a police car. Iranian security forces reportedly are engaged in a shootout with several militants.

From the initial details of the blast, this appears to be a planned ambush of Iranian security forces. By placing the noise bomb in front of the police car, the perpetrators were able to draw the police to the area of the attack, where they could then fire on the officers. There are no details as of yet on the number of attackers or security forces involved.

This is the second attack in Zahedan in the past two days. On Feb. 14, a Baloch militant group called Jundallah claimed responsibility for a bus bombing that killed 11 elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members and wounded 31 others. In response to that attack, Iranian police detained 65 suspects and aired the confession of one of them during a two-minute broadcast on Iran's state-run Hamoun television. The suspect, Nasrollah Shamsi Zehi, said he escaped to Pakistan after robbing a bank in Zahedan. He was then trained by Jundallah for two months and told he would receive $1,200 for each mission. According to a Baztab report citing an unnamed Iranian security source, the detainees have no connections inside Iran. Instead, they were trained by intelligence agencies and were tasked with assassinating regional Sunni leaders in order to foment a provincial or national crisis.

The Zahedan attacks fall in line with U.S. efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilize the Iranian regime.
28628  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: February 16, 2007, 07:54:43 PM
http://www.newt.org/multimedia/default.asp?mi=408

An audio excerpt from a Newt Q&A.  I must say, Newt continues to impress me.  I hope he will run!

28629  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam & Democracy part three on: February 16, 2007, 07:37:39 PM
The greatest casualties of this broad-brush repression were basic values of tolerance, political pluralism, and free speech that are essential to democracy. The institutions of democracy, like an independent judiciary, free political parties, civil society, and the separation of powers, were undermined. On realizing that the non-violent, democratic path to power or reform was blocked, some felt vindicated in embracing violence as the only way of bringing about change. Polarization, extremism, and political violence all flourished. It is worth mentioning that liberal, pluralistic forms of political Islam have been a particular casualty of this unpromising political climate. On the one hand, they have been subjected to repression by state authorities as undesirable expressions of political dissent. On the other, they have been marginalized by some within the political Islamic movement itself for being utopian and ineffectual.

At the same time as many U.S. allies in the region were stifling democracy (with only token criticism at best from the West), the United States strongly criticized its foes in the region as enemies of democracy and human rights. There is no doubt that the governments of Iran and Sudan and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan were richly deserving of such criticisms, but the violations of human rights perpetrated by these regimes in particular were added to the indictment against Islamism in general. The mostly unspoken accepted wisdom became that U.S. allies in Egypt, Jordan, or Tunisia may have their failings, but we have to choose between them and the Iranian mullahs, the Taliban, and Sudan's National Islamic Front, and that choice is easily made. Human rights also became a vehicle for criticizing other regional foes like Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Hicks asserted that many people in the Muslim world and elsewhere quickly recognized a double standard in U.S. advocacy of human rights and democracy in the region. If the United States is so critical of Iran for not better protecting women's rights, then why is it silent about the abject situation of women in Saudi Arabia? If the Iraqi people deserve to choose their own leaders, then what about the Egyptian people or the Tunisian people? In Afghanistan, the United States was willing to cooperate with the mujahedin, and to call them freedom fighters, during the conflict with the Soviet Union, even though their commitment to democracy was virtually non-existent, Hicks pointed out.

There has been a glaring contradiction between U.S. rhetoric supporting democracy and human rights, on the one hand, and a policy that held major violators of human rights like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be key strategic allies while at the same time condoning repression by other allies, like Egypt, on the other hand. The perception of double standards was exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where many Muslim observers thought that Israel was allowed to disregard international law with impunity, whereas Muslim states like Iraq or Libya could be subjected to international sanctions or even armed intervention for their departures from international norms.

U.S. policy, Hicks continued, recognized the importance to regional stability and political development of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first Bush administration and the Clinton administration expended considerable effort in promoting the Madrid process and then the Oslo process. However, even these well-intentioned initiatives, especially in the middle and later phases of the Oslo process, had negative repercussions for democratization in the region. Supporting the "peace process" became an article of faith and the main goal of U.S. policy in the Arab world. Dissent from this orthodoxy was regarded as unhelpful by the United States. U.S. allies claimed that they were taking great political risks for peace by going against the views of their people, and this assertion was generally accepted. U.S. policy did not seem to question what was creating this public mood that was supposedly hostile to peace with Israel and whether more repression was the way to deal with it. In fact, many U.S. allies were fanning the flames of anti-Israeli sentiment and exploiting such feelings as a distraction from domestic problems and as another reason to keep the lid on political dissent.

Out of this morass of contradictions and double standards it is not surprising that some hostility toward U.S. policy developed, and some skepticism about the values the United States claimed to espouse. Indeed, some in the Muslim world expressed open hostility toward democracy and human rights as alien western values, and found an enthusiastic audience in doing so. Hicks asserted that this hostility is largely a reaction to the use to which such values had been put by cynical authoritarian governments and by the West, rather than a lack of identification with common values of justice and human dignity. Unfortunately, a kind of self-fulfilling stereotyping of Muslim attitudes to human rights and democracy has developed, partly as a result of the disaffection expressed by many in the Muslim world towards "democracy" and "human rights" as they have experienced them in practice.

What can be done? Hicks noted that promoting democracy abroad is not something new for the U.S. government, even if there has been less of it in the Muslim world than elsewhere. There are lessons to be drawn from Eastern Europe and Latin America, regions where democratic advances since the end of the Cold War are discernible, and from the former Soviet Union and parts of Africa, where signs of progress are often less apparent. Perhaps the most important lesson is that there is no single prescription that will ensure a transition to democracy. Local conditions vary enormously. In the vast and diverse Muslim world it will be necessary for the U.S. government to develop country-specific plans to promote democracy.

Hicks then offered four recommendations:

Increase substantially both the proportion and the amount of U.S. foreign assistance that is spent on promoting democracy in the Muslim world. It is important to note that simply spending more is not a solution by itself. We can learn from the example of U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt, which has remained at high levels even while foreign aid budgets elsewhere were evaporating. In Egypt the United States has funded democratization projects and supplied hundreds of millions of dollars of other civilian assistance while, by any measure, democratic freedoms have contracted. To succeed the United States must demand accountability from the recipient governments. The question then becomes, is the United States willing to have a more adversarial relationship with regional leaders, and perhaps to see some of them overthrown, as part of the messy process of promoting democracy? These leaders, after all, are valued because they are seen as assisting in the protection of vital U.S. national interests.
Provide governments and other key interest groups in Muslim societies with incentives to encourage democratic reforms. A major commitment to foreign assistance to the Muslim world by the U.S. government would provide an attractive incentive to recipient governments to embark on the path to reform. Foreign assistance should be linked to clear progress in strengthening institutions of accountability. Here domestic interest groups independent of existing power elites take on a particular importance, because existing leaders typically have little interest in diluting their own privileges. When providing foreign assistance, the U.S. government must insist that there be a free press, that the judiciary be independent, and that civil society organizations operate free from governmental interference.
Incentives should come not in the form of aid alone, which inevitably has some patronizing connotations. Real partnerships, especially in the field of trade, but also in a host of other areas, including cultural and educational ones, are also important. The positive impact on democratic reforms of Turkey's accession process to the European Union is a good case in point. Because many sectors of Turkish society anticipate benefits from EU membership, there has been a considerable groundswell of support for the stringent reforms required by the European Commission. The process of change has been and is painful to many entrenched interests. Nevertheless, the business community has put pressure on the government to press forward with political as well as economic reforms. Business elites in other Muslim states, who recognize the benefits of participating in the global marketplace, and who also recognize that the price of entry is compliance with international standards, are a largely untapped resource for democratic change.
Take seriously the existing framework of multilateral agreements and treaties that bear on democratization, such as those in the field of human rights. Since there is skepticism over the U.S. government's motives in promoting democracy in the Muslim world, it is wise to disarm doubters by embracing multilateral approaches with like-minded governments wherever possible. Treaty bodies within UN human rights mechanisms—like the Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture, which oversee state compliance with treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—are highly regarded for the integrity of the work of their members, who sit as independent experts. Their work is often favorably compared to the politicized machinations of the UN Human Rights Commission, for example. Yet these effective bodies are chronically underfunded. Members operate with little or no research support and their findings are virtually unknown beyond the world of human rights specialists. It would surely be a sound investment for the U.S. government to lend its financial and political support to the work of these under-appreciated institutions.
Promote regional accountability mechanisms. The Muslim world is lacking in regional accountability mechanisms. The great virtue of such mechanisms is that they cannot be accused of being alien or inauthentic because they are of the region over which they exercise jurisdiction. Again, Turkey provides an example of the merits of such mechanisms. One of the reasons for Turkey's advantage over other Muslim states in its progress towards democratization is its longstanding participation in the human rights mechanisms of the Council of Europe, especially its acceptance of the right of individual citizens to petition the European Court of Human Rights and its agreement to be bound by the rulings of the court. The benefits go beyond the individual cases that have been heard before the court. Turkey's legal community and human rights organizations increasingly know and make use of the fact that there is a functioning mechanism for them to resort to in the face of state violations. The United States should make great efforts to promote effective regional mechanisms of accountability within existing regional institutions like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States.
28630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: February 16, 2007, 07:35:31 PM
As Khan pointed out, the rise of political Islam has made the concept of Islamic sovereignty central to Islamic political theory and that concept is often presented as a barrier to any form of democracy. The Quranic concept of sovereignty is universal (that is nonterritorial), transcendental (beyond human agency), indivisible, inalienable, and truly absolute. God the sovereign is the primary law-giver, while agents such as the Islamic state and the Khalifa (God's agents on earth) enjoy marginal autonomy necessary to implement and enforce the laws of their sovereign. At the theoretical level, the difference between the modern and Islamic conceptions of sovereignty is clear. But operational implications tend to blur the distinction.

Democracies are seen by some Muslim activists as systems in which human whim is the source of law, whereas Islamic principles are transcendental and cannot be undermined by popular whim. But what many of them fail to understand is that democratic institutions are not just about law. They are also about prevention of tyranny by the state. Regardless of where sovereignty is placed theoretically, in practice it is the state which exercises it and not God. Even though God was supposedly sovereign in Taliban's Afghanistan, it was in fact the Taliban that was sovereign there; Mullah Omar ruled, not God. Sovereignty in fact is always human, whether in a democracy or an Islamic state. The issue is not whether people are sovereign, but how to limit the de facto sovereignty of people, since they reign under both systems. Democracy with its principles of limited government, public accountability, checks and balances, separation of powers, and transparency does succeed in limiting human sovereignty. The Muslim world, plagued by despots, dictators, and self-regarding monarchs, badly needs the limitation of human sovereignty, Khan argued. Many Muslim activists also fail to recognize that Islamic governance is interpreted differently by different Islamic scholars, and hence is not nearly as immutable as they contend.

While sovereignty belongs to God, it has been delegated in the form of human agency (2:30). The political task is to reflect on how this God-given agency can be best employed in creating a society that will bring welfare and goodness to the population both now and in the future. God is sovereign in all affairs, but God has exercised sovereignty by delegating some of it in the form of human agency. God cannot become an excuse for installing and legitimizing governments that are not accountable to their citizens and responsive to their needs.

Khan described a precedent set by Prophet Muhammad that demonstrates how democratic practices and theories are compatible with an Islamic state. This is the compact of Medina, referred to by some scholars as Dustur al-Madina (the Constitution of Medina). After Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Yathrib in 622 CE, he established the first Islamic state. For 10 years he was not only the leader of the emerging Muslim ummah (community) in Arabia but also the political head of Medina. He ruled as political head as a result of the tripartite compact that was signed by the Muslim immigrants from Mecca, the indigenous Muslims of Medina, and, significantly, the Jews of Medina. Although the Medina compact cannot serve as a modern constitution, it can serve as a guiding principle.

The compact of Medina also illustrates, Khan pointed out, the proper relationship between divine revelation and a constitution. Muhammad, if he so wished, could have merely indicated that the truth revealed by God would serve as the constitution and forced this revelation upon both the Muslim and non-Muslim residents of Medina. Demonstrating instead a democratic spirit quite unlike the authoritarian tendencies of many of those who claim to imitate him today, Muhammad chose to draw up a historically specific constitution based on the eternal and transcendent principles revealed to him but also sought the consent of all who would be affected by its implementation. Thus, the first Islamic state was based on a social contract, was constitutional in character, and had a ruler who ruled with the explicit written consent of all the citizens of the state. Today, Khan argued, Muslims need to emulate Muhammad and draw up their own constitutions in a manner that is both appropriate for their specific circumstances as well as based on eternal principles.

The constitution of Medina established the importance of consent and cooperation for governance. According to this compact, Muslims and non-Muslims were equal citizens of the Islamic state, with identical rights and duties. Communities with different religious orientations enjoyed religious autonomy. The constitution of Medina established a pluralistic state—a community of communities. The principles of equality, consensual governance, and pluralism were central to the compact of Medina. Khan noted that it is amazing to see how Muhammad's interpretation of the Quran was so democratic, tolerant, and compassionate, while some contemporary interpretations, like that of the Taliban, are so harsh, authoritarian, and intolerant.




Islam and Human Rights
Muslim views on human rights can be grouped into three broad categories, according to Mahmood Monshipouri. The first group is Muslim conservatives. They tend to look to both the classical and medieval periods for inspiration. Conservatives adopt a communitarian view that sees the individual as part of the community, to which he or she owes certain obligations. Conservatives' emphasis on drawing boundaries around the community is expressed not only in stipulations about dress for women (hijab) and the repression of women's sexuality, but also in the proclamation of a different way of life and of a transformation of mind by bringing the faithful back to the proper practice of the faith and tradition.

These conservatives tend to view the western world's advocacy of human rights as a mechanism by which the West hopes to establish its hegemony over the Muslim world. They have vehemently objected to several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), including Articles 16 and 18, which deal with equality of marriage rights and freedom to change one's religion or belief. They also object to the provisions on women's rights, questioning the equality of gender roles and obligations. Islam, they argue, prohibits the marriage of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man. Apostasy (ridda) is forbidden and is punishable by death.

Muslim conservatives challenge the idea of natural reason as an independent source of ethical knowledge. According to conservatives, following past traditions (taqlid) and returning to established norms in times of crisis are two cardinal rules of Islamic orthodoxy. Among the most prominent of the conservative leadership advocating these positions are such scholars as Sayyid Abu al-A'la al-Maududi (1903­79), Hassan al-Banna (1906­49), Sayyid Qutb (1906­66), and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902­89).

Muslim reformists or neomodernists, in contrast, are more receptive to non-Islamic ideas, practices, and institutions, according to Monshipouri. They argue that material progress is necessary to bring about human and economic transformation within an Islamic framework. They stress the need for the continuity of basic Islamic principles but believe that Islamic law (sharia) is historically conditioned and needs to be reinterpreted in light of the changing needs of modern society.

A comparison between two reformist positions helps explain the contending perspectives within this camp. Some reformists have argued that what conservatives call divine law in reality only reflects the interpretation of a few specialists. Abdolkarim Soroush, an Iranian philosopher, has argued that "divine legislation in Islam is said to have been discovered by a few and those discoverers think that they have privileged access to the interpretation of this law" (Soroush and Charles Butterworth at the Middle East Institute, November 21, 2000, "Islamic Democracy and Islamic Governance," www.mideasti.org/html/b-soroush.html). Having questioned the monopoly over interpretation by one group or class, Soroush argues the need for a dialogical pluralism between those inside and outside of religious intellectual fields. Human rights, according to Soroush, lie outside religion and are not solely intrareligious arguments based on jurisprudence (fiqh). Rather, they belong to the domain of philosophical theology (kalam) and philosophy in general (Reason, Freedom, and Democracy in Islam: Essential Writings of Abdolkarim Soroush, ed. Mahmoud Sadri and Ahman Sadri, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 128­129). Some values, he argues, cannot be derived from religion. Human rights is the case in point. The language of religion and religious law is essentially the language of duties, not rights.

Sheikh Rached al-Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian An-Nahda political party, articulates a different vision and rationale for reform. For Ghannouchi, the central question is how to free the Muslim community from backwardness and dependence on the "Other." Reconciling Islam and modernity, according to Ghannouchi, involves introduction of democracy and freedom, both of which are consistent with Islamic principles. The community not the individual remains the ultimate reality, and democracy and freedom of thought are tools that Muslims should use to achieve their community's goals and defend its interests (Abdou Filali-Ansary, "Islam and Liberal Democracy: The Challenge of Secularization," Journal of Democracy, vol. 7, no. 2, 1996, pp. 76­80).

The third group, according to Monshipouri, are the Muslim secularists. Secular Muslims look to the experiences of the secular West as guiding models in an effort to promote their country's development. Secularists often support policies and programs that are grounded in pragmatic considerations. Muslim secularists are reluctant to replace secular laws with sharia. To secularists, Islamic practices such as shura and bay'a (a binding agreement that holds rulers to certain standards and governs relations between rulers and the ruled) have failed to support individual political participation and to provide a basis for democratic accountability by governments. Secular rule is the prevailing pattern in the Muslim world; with the exception of Iran since 1979, Sudan since 1989, and Afghanistan under the Taliban, the Muslim world is ruled by secular regimes.

The Muslim world is indeed in uncertain transition, with its youth facing cultural disorientation and its political scene dominated by internal power struggles. The greatest threats to human rights in the Muslim world are not religious or theological but political. In a globalizing world, concern has been expressed about whether Muslims will lose the ability to control their own economies, power, and cultural assets. Many in the Muslim world, however, see hope in such a globalizing world. The youth, women's organizations, the press, intellectuals, and Islamic reformers all see great opportunities, especially if they become part of the global civil society.

The biggest question is how to adopt new ideas and policies while maintaining religious and cultural integrity. Monshipouri argues that to maintain such a balance, the Muslim world's elites, scholars, and activists must interpret Islamic values and social norms in a manner consistent with modern and internationally recognized human rights. The western world must treat Muslim masses as partners in the struggle against human rights abuses, while helping to empower reformist voices and civil society.

Despite the degree to which human rights are suppressed in Muslim countries, two grassroots movements are struggling to change this situation. The first is the women's movement and the second is the youth movement. Over the long term they can have enormous impact on human rights in these countries. Women are beginning to effectively assert their rights, and in some countries young people are agitating against governmental oppression and corruption.

Monshipouri concluded his presentation by making three points. First, the greatest threat to human rights in the Muslim world comes not from Islam but from economic, political, and educational forces. Second, human rights struggles in the Muslim world will be lost or won on the national level, not on the international level; it is up to Muslims themselves to decide how much respect to accord human rights. Third, those countries that have weak civil society structures and authoritarian regimes are fertile ground for terrorism. If western countries want to suppress terror then they have to foster civil society and support those movements that express dissenting voices within these repressive political systems. Western countries can also apply economic and political pressure on these authoritarian regimes to encourage fundamental change.




What Can the United States Do?
Neil Hicks noted that while the shortcomings in human rights and democratization of many U.S. allies in the region have been noted in official statements, particularly in the U.S. State Department's annual country reports on human rights practices, policy has tended toward the preservation of the status quo for fear of what might replace it. In the Arab world especially, authoritarian leaders have traded on their self-proclaimed status as bulwarks against Islamic extremism.

For the most part, the United States went along with the fiction that repression in the Muslim world was the best way to prevent Islamism from growing as a threat to the West and to U.S. vital interests. In the name of confronting radical Islam, Hicks said, basic rights and freedoms were virtually extinguished in Tunisia and severely curtailed in Egypt. In Turkey, Malaysia, and Algeria, authoritarian regimes employed anti-democratic measures to suppress Islamic movements that were gaining popular support.

28631  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam & Democracy on: February 16, 2007, 07:33:41 PM
This is an old article, but well worth the read.
 
http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr93.pdf
 
September 2002 | Special Report No. 93

Islam and Democracy
David Smock

 Download full PDF report

Summary
Democracy building remains an uphill struggle in most Muslim countries.
The explanation of why so many Muslim countries are not democratic has more to do with historical, political, cultural, and economic factors than with religious ones.
Nevertheless, many Muslim activists, using broad and sometimes crude notions of secularism and sovereignty, consider democracy to be the rule of humans as opposed to Islam, which is rule of God.
Scholars of Islam agree that the principle of shura, or consultative decision-making, is the source of democratic ethics in Islam. But a great deal more reflection is required to clarify the relationship of shura to democracy.
In establishing the compact of Medina, Prophet Muhammad demonstrated a democratic spirit quite unlike the authoritarian tendencies of many of those who claim to imitate him today. He chose to draw up a historically specific constitution based on the eternal and transcendent principles revealed to him but also sought the consent of all who would be affected by its implementation.
Conservative Muslims tend to view the western world's advocacy of human rights as a modern agenda by which the West hopes to establish its hegemony over the Muslim world, whereas reformist Muslims tend to be more receptive to new ideas, practices, and institutions. Reformists stress the need for continuity of basic Islamic traditions but believe that Islamic law (sharia) is historically conditioned and needs to be reinterpreted in light of the changing needs of modern society. Secular Muslims look to the experiences of the secular West as models in an effort to promote their countries' development.
Despite the degree to which human rights are suppressed in Muslim countries, two grassroots movements are struggling to change this situation. Women are beginning to effectively assert their rights, and in some countries young people are agitating against government oppression.
The United States has generally accepted the fiction that repression in the Muslim world is the best way to prevent Islamism from growing as a threat to the West and to U.S. interests.
Those countries that have weak civil society structures and authoritarian regimes are fertile ground for terrorists. If western countries want to suppress terror then they must foster civil society and support movements that bolster democratic trends within these repressive political systems.
The United States should: (a) increase substantially the amount of U.S. foreign assistance that is spent on promoting democracy in the Muslim world; (b) provide governments and key interest groups in Muslim societies with incentives to engage in democratic reforms; (c) take seriously the existing framework of multilateral agreements and treaties that bear on democratization, such as those in the field of human rights; and (d) promote regional accountability mechanisms.



Introduction
 An election banner in the Spring 2000 Iranian elections reads: "Obtaining Women's Rights, Freedom of Thought, and Social Justice."
Photo courtesy Jon Alterman
Is it true, as some claim, that democracy is basically a western concept and ideology and therefore fundamentally at odds with the values and principles of Islam? If so, then the Muslim world, consisting of 55 countries populated by more than 1.4 billion people, is doomed to dictatorship and oppression. Moreover, Muslims would have to choose between their religion and democracy. In introducing the discussion, Radwan Masmoudi asserted that there is no inherent contradiction between Islam and democracy and that democratic ideals and principles are also Islam's ideals and principles. Thus, the explanation of why so many Muslim countries are not democratic lies in historical, political, cultural, and economic factors, not religious ones. "Not only must we understand these reasons, but we must also find out what needs to be done to correct this situation. What can we as Americans and especially as American Muslims do to promote democratization in Muslim countries?"

U.S. administrations have generally chosen to build strong ties with those regimes in Muslim countries that seem to support American interests, ignoring their records on human rights, accountability, and democracy. "We have been content to support dictators in the Muslim world, as long as they are allies and do what we want them to do. What are the implications of this policy for the Muslim world? Could this policy lead to the growth of political extremism, political violence, and anti-Americanism?" asked Masmoudi. If we want to change our policy and promote democratization in the Muslim world, can we do it without destabilizing the region and allowing extremist groups to come to power? Do we have to choose between democracy and stability? Or is there a way to promote democratization without causing havoc and anarchy?

While these issues have been asked for many years, they have taken on new significance since September 11. Particularly important is the question of whether the lack of democracy in Muslim states has provided fertile ground for the recruitment of supporters for al Qaeda and other extremist groups. Moreover, has the growth of Islamic extremism reduced the likelihood that democracy and Islam can co-exist?




The Problem of Democracy in the Muslim World
Democracy building remains an uphill struggle in most Muslim countries, asserted Laith Kubba. Progress in liberalizing societies, modernizing institutions, and developing infrastructures is generally slow and limited. Worldwide democratic trends have in most cases failed to transform authoritarian and patriarchal political cultures in Muslim countries. Military officers, westernized elites, and tribal/traditional leaders usually keep a monopoly over state power. The weakness of democracy in many Muslim countries is also evident in the many indicators used by western institutions to measure the extent of openness of states and societies. This is most evident in political violence, violations of human rights, and abuse of public office.

Most Muslim countries are at an impasse. Dysfunctional, corrupt, repressive states are neither willing nor capable of reform. Apathy and despair breed radicalism. The failure of secular politics in Muslim countries provides fertile ground for the rise of political Islam. Moderation of Islamic political movements is closely linked to inclusion in the political process, while radicalization is linked to repression and exclusion.

Most Muslim countries, like others in the developing world, are driven by deep needs and a passionate quest for modernity, development, and dignity, Kubba said. For the past several decades, their vision of a better future was anchored in a simple version of a strong central state with a top-down reform approach. That vision was thought to be more likely to succeed than democracy, which offered a complex, multi-institutional participatory system anchored in individualism and liberal values.

Failure of strong secular states to meet the increasing demands of newly educated societies led to soul searching for alternatives. Following the 1979 revolution in Iran, social and political groups became aware of the power of religion in mobilizing public support. Islam, whose ownership, interpretation, and use are open to all, continues to be dragged into the arena as a sharp instrument that may be used by the ruler and opposition alike, by the modernists and conservatives alike, and by groups on the left or right of the political spectrum. Various Islamic groups agree on favoring Islam over secularism but differ on their leanings toward democracy or authoritarianism.

Over the past two decades, as the communist development model failed and models of both secular and Islamic governance failed to deliver solutions to growing social and economic needs, Muslim intellectuals started to advocate democracy and human rights. They did so not only to achieve modernity, development, and dignity, but also to ensure a better practice of Islam.

In Kubba's view the key to understanding the root cause of the democracy predicament in Muslim countries does not lie in the text or in the tradition of Islam but in the context of modernity, politics, and culture. The rather arbitrary use of the term Islamic to describe states, regions, and even people adds to the confusion and blurs the real issues. Although a solution may require addressing Islam and its interpretations, the basic issue is not about Islam but about Muslims. It is not about religion but about modernity. Islam is only one element in the history and culture of the 55 Muslim nations in more than eight distinct regions. Their cultures are influenced to widely varying degrees by the traditions and values of Islam. They are as diverse as the cultures of predominantly Christian nations from Latin America to the Philippines.

Despite the rather bleak situation at present, Kubba noted that there are grounds for hope. Education is having a significant impact. In addition, there are strong pressures toward liberalization, both because the media continuously provide alternative models from other countries and because states in the Muslim world can no longer function without fundamental structural reforms and without more effective partnerships being developed between the government and the governed. "Looking ahead, I am an optimist. We need to watch the discourse taking place among Muslim intellectuals by which they are bringing about authentic Islamic interpretation of how they should govern themselves in modern societies. I have a lot of faith that this debate will lead to democracy and to full recognition of human rights, but it will come with local language and interpretation and it will be approached from a totally different perspective than we are accustomed to in the West."




Compatibility of Islam and Democracy
In considering the compatibility of Islam and democracy, Muqtedar Khan noted, one must recognize that it is false to claim that there is no democracy in the Muslim world. At least 750 million Muslims live in democratic societies of one kind or another, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Europe, North America, Israel, and even Iran. Moreover, there is little historical precedent for mullahs controlling political power. One exception is Iran since the revolution in 1979 and the other is the Taliban in Afghanistan. For the preceding 1500 years since the advent of Islam, secular political elites have controlled political power.

Two extremely different groups, one from the West and one from the Muslim world, have been arguing that Islam and democracy are incompatible. On the one hand, Khan pointed out, some western scholars and ideologues have tried to present Islam as anti-democratic and inherently authoritarian. By misrepresenting Islam in this way they seek to prove that Islam has a set of values inferior to western liberalism and is a barrier to the global progress of civilization. This misconception also promotes Israel's claim to be the sole democracy in the Middle East.

On the other hand, many Muslim activists, using broad and sometimes crude notions of secularism and sovereignty, consider democracy to be the rule of humans as opposed to Islam, which is rule of God. Those who reject democracy falsely assume that secularism and democracy are necessarily connected. But secularism is not a prerequisite for democracy; religion can play a significant role in democratic politics, as it does in the United States.

As Khan noted, Muslim scholars agree that the principle of shura is the source of democratic ethics in Islam. While there is considerable truth in this claim, one must also recognize the differences between shura and democracy before one can advance an Islamic conception of democracy based on shura. Shura is basically a consultative decision-making process that is considered either obligatory or desirable by different scholars. Those who choose to emphasize the Quranic verse "and consult with them on the matter" (3:159) consider shura as obligatory, but those who emphasize the verse praising "those who conduct their affairs by counsel" (43:38) consider shura as merely desirable. There is no doubt that shura is the Islamic way of making decisions, but is it obligatory? Does a government that does not implement a consultative process become illegitimate? We do not have decisive answers to those questions.

More and more Muslim intellectuals agree that consultative and consensual governance is best. Jurists, however, are more doubtful or ambivalent. Many jurists depend on non-consultative bodies for their livelihood and are in no hurry to deprive themselves of the privileges that non-consultative governments extend to them. But even if shura is considered supportive of democratic process, the two are not identical, Khan asserted. What is clear is that a great deal more reflection is required among leading Muslim thinkers about the nature of shura and its relationship to democracy, as well as other Islamic principles that relate to democratic practice.

28632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: February 16, 2007, 06:47:56 PM
I had hoped for some commentary, but , , , oh well , , ,

Here's another big picture piece on Russia:

================

Putin and Progress
By PADMA DESAI
February 16, 2007; Page A14

Whatever the West's grave misgivings about Vladimir Putin, they are not widely shared by the Russian people, who consistently give their president 70% approval ratings in opinion polls. Even former Presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin, much admired in the U.S., have given a nod of approval to Mr. Putin's "strategic" direction, even though they express reservations about his moves to consolidate federal authority.

Nonetheless, there are two pertinent issues to face. First, would any Russian president succeeding Mr. Putin act differently in foreign policy? Second, is Russia regressing irretrievably into authoritarianism, or is she likely to embrace Western democratic norms despite the zigzags?

The Kremlin's pursuit of national interests in foreign policy, whether we like it or not, reflects a broad agreement among Russians. Indeed, on a whole range of issues ranging from NATO's eastward expansion to Mr. Putin's hardball tactics with the independent states in Russia's neighborhood, the majority of Russians support his decisions. Even Russia's leading reformers regard the neighborhood as Russia's area of interest.

Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who successfully carried out a series of reforms during his 2000-2004 tenure, insists that Russians "have special interests and responsibilities" in their immediate neighborhood. "We have a long history of shared problems and common tradition, although the former Soviet republics are now independent states," Mr. Kasyanov told me in a December 2004 interview.

Anatoly Chubais, the legendary privatizer of Russian industry, was even more explicit in his pronouncements, suggesting that Russia should become a "liberal empire." In an interview on Vremya TV, he added, "We must be frank and straightforward and assume this mission of leadership, not just as a slogan but as a Russian state policy. I believe this mission of leadership means that Russia is obliged to support in every way the expansion of its business outside Russia."

In short, unlike Europe and Japan, which share U.S. concerns despite occasional differences, Russia always will have geopolitical interests in its immediate neighborhood, extending its decision-making periphery as far as the Middle East and China. This does not imply that the West should uncritically accept specific decisions in pursuit of these interests, such as the expulsion of Georgians from Russia. But even if Russians were to subscribe to liberal Western values as President Bush desires, their future leaders still might choose to define their interests independently. Moscow would continue to engage the U.S. leadership in win-lose dialogues over Russia's determined foreign policy.

But never mind the likelihood that a liberal, democratic Russia might change its foreign-policy style: What are the prospects of such a Russia emerging in the first place? If it's correct to say that a prospering middle class -- dare one call it a bourgeoisie? -- inevitably leads to the rise of democracy, then Russia fits the bill admirably. The transformative changes in Russia, a remarkable development since Mr. Gorbachev's glasnost, are phenomenal. Russians are acquiring private housing, automobiles and fixed and mobile telephones at a dizzying speed. The overall poverty rate has declined from around 35% in the mid-1990s to about 10% today, and 70% of college-age youngsters receive a higher education.

There has been much angst over Russian muscle-flexing on the pricing and supply of oil and gas. However ham-handed, Moscow has simply used its bargaining power to extract better economic terms in situations of bilateral monopoly. Gazprom, the Russian gas supplier, has sought maximum possible terms from its European customers before they switch to alternative energy sources. At the same time, Ukraine and Belarus have bargained with Gazprom over transit charges because Russian gas must pass en route to Europe via pipelines located in their territories.

Russian industry and energy sectors will increasingly adopt market-economy rules and practices as they learn to interact and integrate with Western business. Recognizing this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed with Mr. Putin a 2006 agreement in which Wintershall, the energy unit of German chemical giant BASF, and Gazprom exchanged equivalent stakes in early 2006. More contracts are proliferating with French and Italian partners. Russia's giant power company is poised to raise $10 billion in the next two years and to invite Western companies to supply power generating units, technology and management know-how. Gazprom, according to some reports, is set to raise $75 billion in the next decade for financing a variety of projects. Will American businesses be sidelined from lucrative contracts and a liberalizing, market-oriented mission in a fast growing and diversifying Russian economy?

"There is a definite consensus among Russian society and the elite that Russia needs a market economy," Yegor Gaidar, Mr. Yeltsin's young reforming prime minister told me in October 2004. "By contrast, our struggle to form a robust, functioning democracy has not brought decisive results. . . . I do not think that the educated, urban populations in large countries such as Russia can put up with undemocratic regimes for long."

Ms. Desai, Harriman professor of comparative economic systems and director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia, is the author of "Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin" (Oxford, 2006).
28633  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Training on: February 16, 2007, 06:43:59 PM
I am reminded of the story of the old boxing trainer who was asked about his fighters having sex during training: "Its not the sex I'm worried about, its the looking for it."

Anyway, here's a piece about ab training:

http://www.chekinstitute.com/articles.cfm?select=12

and here's an interview with author Paul Chek-- a wide range of comments follows:

http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=885647
28634  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language on: February 16, 2007, 06:30:57 PM
Time to Put English First
by Newt Gingrich

Posted: 02/12/2007
One of the most frequent complaints I hear when I'm out traveling and speaking to groups is the lack of importance given to English as the language of success in the United States today. Whether it's the government's printing election ballots in other languages or bilingual education, Americans are concerned about the future of English as a unifying bond in our country.

Of course, don't expect to hear a lot of discussion of this topic in Washington. When was the last time you heard a politician talking about the fact that the Rasmussen poll reported that support for English as the official language was 85 percent? Or that the Zogby poll had it at 84 percent? With overwhelming public support like this, you would expect that promotion of English to be on the agenda of every elected official. But it's not. Instead, talking about English as a unifying bond -- and about learning English as the essential precondition for success in America -- is taboo. Why? Because the left labels anyone who talks about the importance of learning English as bigoted against immigrants.

Not 'English Only.' English First.

When the left and the elite media are done with it, any expression of support for emphasizing the importance of English is turned into a lack of support for welcoming new Americans. Those who support "English first" -- that is, those who believe that English should be the language of government, but other languages are perfectly fine in communities and commerce -- are portrayed routinely as supporters of "English only" -- that is, advocates of outlawing all languages other than English.

But historically, nothing could be further from the truth. English is not and never has been the only language in America. My wife's grandmother came to the United States as a young woman speaking only Polish. She learned English quickly, but her children grew up speaking both Polish and English.

For much of our history, the U.S. has absorbed waves of immigrants by helping newcomers assimilate into our culture. After all, there's no such thing as a genetic U.S. citizen. To become an American means becoming an American in values, culture and historic understanding.

Our one nation under God grows and prospers by embracing and welcoming the newly arrived and helping them to adjust properly.

Most Americans support continuing this welcoming tradition. But to do so successfully, we have to ensure that English remains our language of government and public discourse. In fact, to be pro-English and pro-assimilation into American culture is to be pro-legal immigration. If we fail to properly assimilate newcomers into the United States, the American people won't long support continuing immigration.

Australia Switches From Multiculturalism to Citizenship

You don't have to look far to see other countries who have experimented with failing to assimilate their immigrants and lived to regret it.

The Canadian government is currently taking another look at its policy of allowing dual citizenship for immigrants.

In Australia, they recently renamed their Ministry for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Ministry for Immigration and Citizenship. What's in a name change? Plenty. The change marks a shift by the Australians from a policy of government enforced multiculturalism -- encouraging immigrants to cluster in the same communities and schools and retain the culture of their old countries -- to a policy of assimilation. The reason for the change wasn't politics, it was profoundly practical. Their policy of multiculturalism had led to the creation of a closed and violent ghetto of Lebanese Muslims.

Instead of making Australia a more culturally rich and vibrant place, failing to assimilate new immigrants had the opposite effect and made the country a more violent place. Congratulations to the Howard government for having the courage to believe in their Australian cultural values and national identity.

English is the Language of American Success and Cultural Identity

We need a similar kind of courage here in America.

English is the language of American success and provides the basis for American cultural unity.

As a part of any comprehensive immigration reform, we should renew our commitment to our cultural values by teaching legal immigrants to speak and read the English language, educating them about U.S. citizenship based upon U.S. history and giving them an understanding of the Founding Fathers and the core values of American civilization. We should continue to encourage those who want to become U.S. citizens, but it is important that we grant citizenship to only those individuals who also want to embrace and assimilate into the culture of the United States.

Action Agenda to Promote the English Language

What can we do to make English the language of government and civic discourse? Three action items top the list:

President Bush should end multilingualism in federal documents. The requirement that federal documents be printed in different languages was created by executive order. President Bush should repeal this executive order.


Make English the language of U.S. citizenship. Return to English language ballots, to a focus on English language literacy as a prerequisite of citizenship, and to an insistence that U.S. dual citizens vote only in the United States and give up voting in their birth nations. These were principles widely understood and accepted for most of American history, and they enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants and assimilate them and their children into an American civilization.


Replace bilingual education with intensive English instruction. We should have a National Program for Intensive English Instruction that would provide highly intensive English and U.S. history and civics training for new immigrants so that they can have the practical skills to become successful U.S. citizens.
It's the Right Thing to Do.

We can be dramatically more successful in helping those who want to embrace American values and culture, and become citizens, to assimilate far more effectively. As we work to reform our immigration policies, especially citizenship reform measures, we must never lose sight of the self-evident truths affirmed at our founding. That we are all created equal -- citizen and non-citizen alike -- because we recognize that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If we are to live out these truths, then we must recognize that every person has an inherent human dignity that must be respected. And that these truths morally bind us to create a workable immigration solution -- founded upon English as the official language of government and patriotic integration as the fundamental model of citizenship for new Americans.


Your friend,

Newt Gingrich
28635  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: February 16, 2007, 05:56:07 PM
Woof Dean:

In DBMA we take from Bando "The Three Hs: Hurting, Healing, Harmonizing".   Thank you for for sharing with us your knowledge of healing.  Scratch that itch to your heart's content.

TAC,
CD

28636  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: February 16, 2007, 01:38:15 PM
Mexico: The Looming Fight for Control of Matamoros?
Hundreds of Mexican soldiers briefly patrolled the streets of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state, Feb. 15 as part of the federal government's response to the seizure on the U.S.-Mexican border of a large weapons shipment that passed through the capital. The contents of the cache suggest an effort is under way to equip or reinforce a heavily armed unit of enforcers for one of Mexico's two main drug cartels. The cartels, in other words, appear to be gearing up to fight for ultimate control of Matamoros.

The Mexican attorney general's office announced Feb. 11 that a tractor-trailer containing weapons and an armored pickup was seized by the Mexican army in Matamoros, just south of the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. Among the weapons seized were 18 M-16 assault rifles, including at least one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher, and several M-4 carbines. Also recovered were 17 handguns of various calibers, more than 200 magazines for different weapons, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories. A Nissan Titan pickup truck outfitted with armor and bullet-proof glass also was inside the trailer.




The semi, which was registered in the United States, entered Matamoros from the south after having passed through both Ciudad Victoria and Valle Hermoso. It is unclear where the shipment originated, though it could have come from Central America, or even the United States along a circuitous route designed to avoid police roadblocks and other anti-smuggling measures. Putting soldiers on the streets of Ciudad Victoria, even for a few hours, might have been President Felipe Calderon's way of telling the cartels that authorities know what is going on there.

Matamoros, however, is where the real battle appears to be gearing up. Matamoros is in territory controlled by the Gulf cartel, the main rival of the powerful Sinaloa federation of cartels -- and it is possible the Gulf cartel's enforcers were attempting to prepare for an expected fight with the Sinaloa federation over control of the city's drug-smuggling operations.

One indication of this is the type of weapons and equipment seized. The identical assault vests, load-bearing equipment and other accessories, along with the standardized nature of the rifles -- exclusively variants of the M-16 -- indicate the shipment probably was meant to equip or reinforce a single heavily armed unit rather than an unorganized gang. Therefore, the Zetas -- former Mexican elite soldiers who work for the Gulf cartel as enforcers -- stand out as the mostly likely intended recipient of these weapons. Given their military background, the Zetas would want to have a high degree of standardization in the weapons and equipment they use, and they also would be more comfortable with M-16s, which are standard issue in the Mexican army.

Matamoros is a vital transshipment point, or "plaza," for the movement of drugs and other contraband into the United States from Mexico. From border towns like Matamoros that sit astride highways, high-ranking cartel members known as gatekeepers control the traffic of contraband across the border, collect payments from smugglers and oversee money-laundering operations for the cartels.

Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas, who had run his operation from a Mexican prison since his 2003 arrest, was extradited to the United States in January, which could hinder his efforts to maintain control of the Matamoros region. The Sinaloa federation, then, might have decided to take advantage of the disruption in the Gulf cartel's command structure to make a play for the plaza at Matamoros.

Although Matamoros has not seen much cartel-related violence recently, that could change as the Zetas move to repel attempts by the Sinaloa federation to assert its influence in the city.
28637  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: February 16, 2007, 01:37:33 PM
Mexico: The Looming Fight for Control of Matamoros?
Hundreds of Mexican soldiers briefly patrolled the streets of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state, Feb. 15 as part of the federal government's response to the seizure on the U.S.-Mexican border of a large weapons shipment that passed through the capital. The contents of the cache suggest an effort is under way to equip or reinforce a heavily armed unit of enforcers for one of Mexico's two main drug cartels. The cartels, in other words, appear to be gearing up to fight for ultimate control of Matamoros.

The Mexican attorney general's office announced Feb. 11 that a tractor-trailer containing weapons and an armored pickup was seized by the Mexican army in Matamoros, just south of the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. Among the weapons seized were 18 M-16 assault rifles, including at least one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher, and several M-4 carbines. Also recovered were 17 handguns of various calibers, more than 200 magazines for different weapons, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories. A Nissan Titan pickup truck outfitted with armor and bullet-proof glass also was inside the trailer.




The semi, which was registered in the United States, entered Matamoros from the south after having passed through both Ciudad Victoria and Valle Hermoso. It is unclear where the shipment originated, though it could have come from Central America, or even the United States along a circuitous route designed to avoid police roadblocks and other anti-smuggling measures. Putting soldiers on the streets of Ciudad Victoria, even for a few hours, might have been President Felipe Calderon's way of telling the cartels that authorities know what is going on there.

Matamoros, however, is where the real battle appears to be gearing up. Matamoros is in territory controlled by the Gulf cartel, the main rival of the powerful Sinaloa federation of cartels -- and it is possible the Gulf cartel's enforcers were attempting to prepare for an expected fight with the Sinaloa federation over control of the city's drug-smuggling operations.

One indication of this is the type of weapons and equipment seized. The identical assault vests, load-bearing equipment and other accessories, along with the standardized nature of the rifles -- exclusively variants of the M-16 -- indicate the shipment probably was meant to equip or reinforce a single heavily armed unit rather than an unorganized gang. Therefore, the Zetas -- former Mexican elite soldiers who work for the Gulf cartel as enforcers -- stand out as the mostly likely intended recipient of these weapons. Given their military background, the Zetas would want to have a high degree of standardization in the weapons and equipment they use, and they also would be more comfortable with M-16s, which are standard issue in the Mexican army.

Matamoros is a vital transshipment point, or "plaza," for the movement of drugs and other contraband into the United States from Mexico. From border towns like Matamoros that sit astride highways, high-ranking cartel members known as gatekeepers control the traffic of contraband across the border, collect payments from smugglers and oversee money-laundering operations for the cartels.

Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas, who had run his operation from a Mexican prison since his 2003 arrest, was extradited to the United States in January, which could hinder his efforts to maintain control of the Matamoros region. The Sinaloa federation, then, might have decided to take advantage of the disruption in the Gulf cartel's command structure to make a play for the plaza at Matamoros.

Although Matamoros has not seen much cartel-related violence recently, that could change as the Zetas move to repel attempts by the Sinaloa federation to assert its influence in the city.
28638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: February 16, 2007, 12:27:51 PM
It always worries me when you and I agree  grin

I have no problem with reasonable regulation, indeed I would even consider not extending the legal protection of the corporate form to those who engage in commerce in these items-- but the larger point about live and let live needs to be the guiding principle.
28639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Inger part two on: February 16, 2007, 12:25:05 PM


MarketCast

(intraday audio-email) remarks were inclined to anticipate revival efforts in-front and after Chairman Bernanke's testimony, but are concerned about this fling that's inclined to reverse virtually anytime. That the market hasn't been 'parabolic' like in 1999-2000 is definitely helpful; but since we're not looking for a secular peak, that's not the structure we're anticipating anyway. Hence; a milder sloping rally can still shift into (described mode). That certain foreign markets dipped -from parabolic- might be a concern transmitted across the sea. That's entirely ignored by panting optimists at current extended levels. Guideline short efforts weren't expected to work until a post-Fedhead time. Our view holds rallies occur, but unsustainable (per ingerletter.com).
Bits & Bytes . . .

provide investors ideas in a few stocks, often special-situations, but also covers an assortment of technology issues (needed for assessment of general factors in tech overall, or as compelling developments call for) that are key movers in the NDX, SOX or S&P, plus ideas ingerletter.com thinks might merit further reflection.
Apple (AAPL); Level 3 (LVLT); Intel (INTC); Texas Instruments (TXN), Microsoft (MSFT); Motorola (MOT); QPC Lasers (QPCI); Whole Foods (WFMI); LightPath (LPTH); Intel (INTC); PURE Bioscience (PURE); InkSure (INKS); Ionatron (IOTN); and Northrop (NOC); a small group commented upon via accompanying audio.

We can't answer detailed questions for you (how could we; companies release what they will when they do; ditto for the Departments of Defense or Homeland Security); but these are topics previously explored as part of our assessment of advanced tech stocks; notably for key reasons: we view Directed Energy Weapons and all related or sector products, of any 'pure play' or high-power solid-state laser-related companies, as new potentially important 'disruptive technologies' to benefit the U.S. defense; they're important as anything else able to shift the world into 21st Century technology.

If you do quote excerpts of our remarks anywhere on the internet, please respect our work; as we request mentioning it came from www.ingerletter.com . At the same time, please realize sending or posting our entire Daily to another investor isn't fair to us or members, unless done rarely only, so as to help enlighten an investor as to our work (that courtesy graciously appreciated). No web site is permitted to repost any Daily Briefing in it's entirety, in any routine way. A financial web site may request to receive a once-weekly partial excerpt of a Daily; frequently available on most Wednesdays.

Members please note:

we have no association with publicly traded firms (never have had; never will) other than as shareholders while trading from time-to-time if deemed necessary for personal reasons; especially once initial targets are reached. We may be right or wrong on a stock, but are not financial PR or IR, and have never, and will never, be compensated by a company, or their representatives, directly or indirectly, for coverage. Our opinions may be valid or invalid, but reflect solely our own views.
Comments are interpretative speculative postulations, provided 'as is with all faults', and all risks, with no assurance about future performance of anything (markets or for stocks) in any way whatsoever. Personal necessity, irrespective of opinion on stocks, may periodically require buys or sells deemed appropriate or required, without notice.

In summary . .

events continue reminding us of risks Allied fighting forces face, given continued attacks on free peoples, by elements including organized terrorist forces in various countries. A world addressing terror threats continues, as domestic issues absorb us less as we focus on the Middle East crisis and World War III avoidance.
Though few generally concurred for three years, our consistent view has been slow but persistent American growth isn't negative, allowing the protracted gradual growth without ancillary significantly high interest rate pressures. There's no truly-restrictive monetary policy; nor is there likely to be one, irrespective of (pressures as reviewed). That is a potential feature developing ahead, maybe late 2007-2009, barring disaster.

McClellan Oscillator

finds NYSE 'Mac' shuffling with intervening rebounds recently at +40 for the NYSE; and +7 on the NASDAQ, with complacency pervading ideas of sustainable extensions. It's also the case markets ignored 'negative divergences' in big-caps once again; preparatory to this key (and probably failing) upside flailing run.
It isn't fair to suggest we dispute bullish fundamentals; in fact we argued this thrust of a friendly monetary policy by the Fed when few others did during the crucial 2001-'02 timeframe. It hasn't changed; but an excess of those joining the chorus of celebrants 'now realizing' this five-year-plus old fiscal philosophy has developed, is what needs correcting. So that's the point here; we're not secular bearish; just desire a correction.

Issues continue including oil, terror; the whole Middle East, Korea, and economics. As assessed for a couple weeks, extended rebounds were showing just exhaustion syndromes , and now without interpretation or forecast, increasingly negative action.

Overall continue to think major Senior Indexes ideally reverse anytime; considerably so maybe; especially if we rebound only to reverse in the wake of Fed 'Hill' testimony. Wednesday bounced immediately because the Chairman's testimony allowed it to by validating the 'Goldilocks' prospects (in theory); but if the argument holds or not, this activity may merely set-the-stage for renewed downside (as ingerletter.com outlines). Again it is not that we disagree about the longer-term (we concur); it's the shorter-run that is so extended that historically not having correction is inherently dangerous. It's preferable that the adjustment occur sooner rather than later, for a bullish longer-term healthy condition to prevail. All the 'terrific' discussion about Fed policy or inflationary moderations are irrelevant if the international situation collapses, or the market does; for which there is precedent, irrespective of the prevalence of an optimistic unanimity. As a matter of historical note it's only when everyone's 'already in', because optimism reigns supreme, that matters can be 'rocked' by events other than a market valentine.

Enjoy the evening,
28640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: February 16, 2007, 12:24:10 PM
In a nearby thread I posted yesterday Col. Ralph Peters' piece about Mookie Sadr's apparent flight to Iran to avoid our surge in Baghdad.  The following piece from an investment letter (which I post in its entirety so as to maintain context) has a very different interpretation and one well worth considering IMHO.

=========================================

Gene Inger's Daily Briefing. . . . for Thursday, February 15, 2007:

Good weekend!

The market's 'Valentine' . . .

based on the Fed Chairman's testimony was no huge surprise, and simply allowed robust relief rallying based on the continued 'perception' of moderating growth amidst mild inflationary pressures, as now being Fed-verified. It was probably assisted by the inability of the 'Valentine's Day' massacre at Chrysler to ruffle feathers much; though there are concerns clearly other than sweetheart issues.
In this regard that combination of factors contributing to rally extensions (Oil inventory reports didn't hurt..more). Nobody reported Switzerland's proposals to Iran essentially resulting in 'nuclear control' that could foster optimism or a sense of relief. However, it was reported that the Shiite leader (Sadr) had departed for Teheran, presumably fear of a JDAM (big precision bomb) falling on his head being a part of that determination.

We suspect there's more to it. While we can't verify that the extreme Shiite zealots of his ilk are fleeing in fear of U.S. retribution (as warranted as that surely is), neither do we dismiss another possibility; that the Western media hasn't considered. What's that one asks? Well, how about extremists being in Iran to assist coordination with Tehran as to how they might expand their mischief in Iraq or alternatively (even concurrently) address any American efforts to interdict their attempts to broaden regional influence.

And does the recent enemy effectiveness against our helicopters mitigate air-cover to our Forces, in a similarity to what happened to Russia against the Taliban after they'd acquired the capability to either knock-down choppers or compel evasive maneuvers. Yes, we say we aren't planning to attack Iran. But what if Iran continues attacking us?

Let's at least explore what might occur should push-come-to-shove, instead of simply accepting the idea of a U.S. disengagement or conversely engagement to protect the region (which the Battle Groups and Patriot Missile battery dispositions suggest likely as this goes forward). Let's presuppose that the road to conflict is underway, though I am not suggesting it's unavoidable. If it goes thusly (and keep in mind though maybe the media highlights General Pace saying that the evidence of Iranian weapons may be mostly circumstantial, that's not to say they're not involved or this won't escalate), it might be of interest to speculate how such a conflict could actually ramp-into-action, and what the implications are for commodities; not least in Oil, and thus to financials.

Yesterday a story surfaced about 'Austrian' sniper rifles in the hands of 'insurgents' at the margin, or in the hands of Iranian agents at the maximum, taking-out Americans, and at considerable distance. If you saw 'Future Weapons' on the Discovery Channel a few days ago, you likely saw this weapon, which is more accurate than the Barrett semi-automatic weapon our forces use, and which was also displayed on that show's comparison. Because the accuracy is unbelievable up to a half-mile distant (think as to how far that is for a sniper's round), the U.S. and UK had protested Vienna's sale a couple years back to Iran for 'policing'. Clearly I see the evidence of where they are. I also find it unconscionable to imagine that the Pentagon will sit-back and sustain this.

Assume America is heading toward war with Iran, inadvertent or otherwise. A picture of how the conflict might emerge, is becoming clearer. In all-out war, basic American military tactics will be air attacks, naval blockades, offshore bombardments, and the destruction of oil and power infrastructure, plus Iran's Persian Gulf naval presence.

Iran presumably will respond with deployment of ground forces on its borders, attacks more likely by their proxy-armies in Iraq against American troops inside Iraq, and also the likely activation of hundreds of trained, well-armed, dormant terror cells peppered from one end of the Persian Gulf to the other; plus possibly proxies in Lebanon etc.

America's visible response would derive from the two Naval carrier groups deployed in the Persian Gulf, supplemented by USAF fighters and bombers from neighboring quasi allies (but infiltrated heavily by Shiites and Islamist sympathizers), like Kuwait, Oman, Qatar -where U.S. Central Command bases operations for that region- plus of course the United Arab Emirates, and possibly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, should all the stops be pulled-out, and the tentative efforts of Sunni terrorists to bring a harmonious theme to both Sunni and Shiite 'jihad' efforts against the West, actually not succeed.

Bases in Europe possibly wouldn't be utilized, excepting Great Britain probably, if it's determined that B2 bombers need to be utilized operating out of bases there (we're in a sense nearly at a point where concerns about 'domestic' Islamic terror must take at best a secondary concern in England, even if there's a likelihood of renewed enemy terror actions in England, which they might anyway; and which this would tend to sort of smoke 'em out, though it will be controversial or surely dangerous). There's no way (in our thinking) to at this point mollify or pacify Islamic threats in England (or France) particularly, short of just doing what's in the 'real' national interests of these societies, come what may; as well as dealing with whatever comes (I suspect if unassimilated groups such as the Moslems in Europe fail to put their adopted homes ahead of old-country views of the world that theoretically they wanted to get away from when they moved to new residence, Europeans will stop putting up with 'victimization' nonsense, and get on with their lives, even if it means upsetting 'political correctness' or certainly perpetrator's lives; something European tradition experienced before if challenged). It thus strikes us that there won't be a risk of 'Eurabia' because Europe will reverse this.

As to an American land invasion of Iran; nonsense. It's out of the question, given Iran has a 1 million-strong army, neighbors won't allow it, and the lack of American troops to carry it out is obvious to everyone. That's dangerous however, because 'perception of impotency' to engage the Iranians may compel things going beyond 'expectations'. To wit; the Iranians could get quite cocky about their ability, thus underestimating us.

Also generally unreported, there have been some increases in opposition to fanatical 'mullah governance' in Tehran. Just today a number of 'Revolutionary Guard' extreme shock troops were killed or injured in an attack on a bus carrying them inside Iran. It's a 'sign of the times', in that at least some younger (that's key) Iranians aren't steeped, to the extent their elders think, in the ways of 'revolution', and/or admire al Qaeda, or even the West, to which they'd like to see a great Persian people re-embrace in time.

We doubt that the CIA is behind these efforts inside Iran. But we see this as welcome and a reason to be very careful how we tread, lest we (in typical Washington fashion) disrupt that which may undermine the enemy without our having to do Herculean type tasks. We suspect that the radical Shiite Sadr is actually in Iran to help Iran figure-out how to suppress and discipline their own 'sects' and population, plus plot adventurism against the forces of stability in Iraq. They may in fact be coordinating an effort not so much to 'ensure his safety' as reported in the news here, but to deny safety to civilian groups and the U.S. military in Iraq. In essence Sadr is the Quisling of this era, so if it is presumed that he is not there simply 'fleeing' (U.S. media oversimplification) then it is conceivable that he's there to help the demagogues plot their takeover of Baghdad.

Should it be shown Iran is plotting a takeover of Iraq (reserved for ingerletter.com) we could find a point where U.S. Special Operations may be pushed into Iran to carry out attacks on the country's prized nuclear research facilities or designated 'hot' or Quds (shock troop) targets. The objective: dismantling mullah command and control of Iran.

We dispute the conventional notion that Teheran's most lethal weapon is manpower, alone. We dispute the simplicity of the argument that destruction of their Air Force or Navy, accomplished in a day or two, would negate the risk from their terrorist forces, very much as they do threaten, numerous parts of the world. But right there, in their neighborhood, we believe the evidentiary use of sophisticated sniper rifles and AEP's (that's my acronym; Advanced Explosive Devices, which are the infrared-triggered as well as totally devastating 'shape charges', so I'm not going to minimize these, calling them simply IED's, because they're not improvised, but advanced munitions) provide ample evidence of surreptitious involvement of the Iranians with the terrorists, and we again believe all these discussions minimizing their capabilities underestimate enemy capabilities, just as was done in the past, and just as was/is done in the Lebanon too.

These jihadist and Shiite guys are professional killers, and they are being supported by a terrorist state: Iran. No ifs ands or doubts here. This is not political correctness; it is simply realistic political assessment. We aren't championing war; but war is coming to us; we have a choice: retreat or respond. Simply: face the music, as it is facing us. While there's valid argument as to whether or not the United States should be or not be involved between roving marauding or dangerous groups of Arabs and Persians, there is no underestimating the dangers as inherent in this situation. We even think that the (wishful thinking whether he's in Iran or still in Iraq) basic idea of Sadr fleeing to Iran misses the point: we believe he's working with the Iranian fanatics, not simply seeking refuge. There's a great difference; asylum versus conspiracy for making war. Or worse, for planning overthrowing the Baghdad regime. Again it's all a reflection of 'desire' (or naiveté) that reports tend to oversimplify all of this. Ingerletter.com hence believes that facing the reality of this before it faces us in devastating ways is the key.

From its army alone, we should point out that Iran can marshal oh, a several hundred thousand troop force along its border with Iraq and Afghanistan to pressure American forces in those countries, and it can call on Syria to inflame its border region with Iraq as well. Or pretend that attacks on the IRG today was not from al Qaeda.. (reserved).

Iraqi Shiite militias (partial remarks reserved for ingerletter.com members). Together, these radicals command some 80,000 to 100,000 men; armed, funded, trained, and possibly planning coordination by Iran right now, via the personage of Sadr's 'visit' to Iran for the purpose of fomenting war, not fleeing. Iran's air defense is modernized; thanks to Russia. Should it prove adequate, it risks downing American pilots, sapping morale and raising more political questions here. Iranian dogma dictates that war will translate into regional upheaval; but it may not if it spooks Sunni's into realizing their perceived enemy (even al Qaeda's) isn't what they thought (the U.S.), but their closer neighbor; Iran. It may actually be demonstrated if Iran targets U.S. Central Command in Qatar and the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet in Bahrain, which has a majority who are Shiite so possibly pro-Iranian. Or in Lebanon, pro-Iranian Hezbollah might fire-up the place, as conceivably would Hamas in Gaza. Only myopic views see these not intertwined.

One way or another, such a war will involve oil production and prices, and not drop oil into the 20's or 30's that so many bulls are expecting to embolden the stock market in the near-term (that's increasingly absurd, even without such a dangerous conflict; just because the 'war threat matrix' quotient keeps prices from dropping like that). A U.S. strategy will need to maximize Iranian pain without setting world oil prices ablaze with fear of supply disruptions. To do this, possibly as a 'blockade' or threat prior to attack, U.S. assaults must freeze Iran's offshore oil platforms while preventing Iran's shutting down everyone else by blocking the Straits of Hormuz to oil export shipping. Perilous.

If other oil producers, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, maintain production and/or exports up, any rise in prices can be contained below a tolerable $85 a barrel in such a scenario. Now we're not advocating such a scenario; but with today's stock market, and the Goldilocks scenario, being bantered about as if there is no alternative to glee (in wartime?), it seems logical to contemplate the other side of the coin just in case.

Daily action . . .

is viewed by certain pundits as being the best of times to now make money; actually the move is the reward for those who already owned. One most risky approach might be the funds that invest in (reserved specifics) that have run-up most lately, while we do not dispute anything Chairman Bernanke said, absent disruptions.
For now, upside momentum continues, and generally sidestepped worrying about a couple other issues that surfaced during the day publicly, but weren't focused on (the Austrian arms showing up in the hands of those shooting at our boys is an example).

Increduously nobody is (yet) focusing on war or Trade Gap issues. Neither are they yet noticing how it's increasingly 'testy' in a military environment (maybe they notice, but they don't think it has meaning for stocks), or are they contemplating implications of what may be a frustration by (of all people) the terrorists and insurgents perceived leading the Jihad adventures, versus Tehran-backed Shiites, who have used certain weakness among the Sunnis to sow discord, and also to usurp leadership roles. This of course relates less to wanting expanded restored Islamic caliphates, we think, but more towards a quest to assert non-Arab-led Persian hegemony in the region. We'll offer the argument that risk is not low, but extremely high, and that this is not a lower risk investment environment because the market went up so much. Au contraire; it's higher and that increases the threat scenario; whether credit default concerns, war(s) or other areas. If the world doesn't fall apart, then the correction (nearly inevitable) is going to be constructive; if the world does fall apart; well then dangers are (reserved).

28641  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: February 16, 2007, 12:23:13 PM
Broadband Breakout
February 16, 2007; Page A14
"I love the free market, but the fact is more concentration means less competition, and these markets are less free than they should be. And this Commission is about regulation -- regulators. I always worry a little when I hear regulators shy away from regulation talk."

-- Senator Byron Dorgan (D., North Dakota) addressing members
of the Federal Communications Commission at a recent hearing.

If you're wondering where the new Democratic majority in Congress is inclined to steer telecom policy, look no further than Mr. Dorgan's comment above. Note how he pays lip service to free markets while ultimately favoring more regulation for its own sake.

But more regulation is the last thing today's telecom industry needs, at least if empirical evidence is any indication. As FCC Chairman Kevin Martin reported at a Senate hearing earlier this month, the industry is now taking risks in a way it hasn't since the tech bubble burst six years ago.

"In 2006, the S&P 500 telecommunications sector was the strongest performing sector, up 32% over the previous year," said Mr. Martin. "Markets and companies are investing again, job creation in the industry is high, and in almost all cases, vigorous competition -- resulting from free-market deregulatory policies -- has provided the consumer with more, better and cheaper services to choose from."

Much of this growth has been fueled by increased broadband deployment, which makes high-speed Internet services possible. The latest government data show that broadband connections increased by 26% in the first six months of 2006 and by 52% for the full year ending in June 2006.

Also noteworthy, notes telecom analyst Scott Cleland of the Precursor Group, is that of the 11 million broadband additions in the first half of last year, 15% were cable modems, 23% were digital-subscriber lines (DSL) and 58% were of the wireless variety. Between June 2005 and June 2006, wireless broadband subscriptions grew to 11 million from 380,000.

This gives the lie to claims that some sort of cable/DSL duopoly has hampered competition among broadband providers and limited consumer options. That's the charge of those who want "network neutrality" rules that would allow the government to dictate what companies like Verizon and AT&T can charge users of their networks. But the reality is that the telecom industry has taken advantage of this deregulatory environment to provide consumers with more choices at lower prices. Verizon's capital investments since 2000 exceed $100 billion, and such competitors as Cingular, T-Mobile and Sprint are following suit. So are the cable companies.

It's also worth noting that the deregulatory telecom policies pushed by Mr. Martin and his immediate predecessor, Michael Powell, have accompanied a wave of mergers -- SBC/AT&T, Sprint/Nextel, Verizon/MCI, AT&T/BellSouth. Most of these marriages were opposed by consumer groups and other fans of regulation on the grounds that they would lead to fewer choices and higher costs. In fact, these combinations have created economies of scale, and customers are clearly better off.

The result has been more high-speed connections, along with greater economic productivity, but also an array of new services. The popular video-sharing Web site YouTube is barely two years old. And it wouldn't exist today but for the fact that there's enough broadband capacity to allow millions of people to view videos over the Web.

Increased broadband demand has also been good news for Internet hardware companies like Cisco and Juniper, where annual sales are up by nearly 50%. A Journal report this week notes that "North American telecom companies are projected to spend $70 billion on new infrastructure this year," which is up 67% from 2003.

And prices are falling, by the way. Between February 2004 and December 2005, the average monthly cost for home broadband fell nearly 8%. For DSL subscribers, it fell nearly 20%. Which means that consumers are benefiting from new services and different pricing packages, as well as getting better deals.

The one sure way to stop these trends is by bogging down industry players with regulations or price controls that raise the risk that these mammoth investments will never pay off. Yet that seems to be the goal of Senator Dorgan and other Democrats such as Representative Ed Markey, another "Net neutrality" cheerleader, who is planning his own hearings. Consumers will end up paying for such policies in fewer choices and higher prices.
28642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 16, 2007, 11:13:25 AM
Iran's Smoking Guns
Now Austrian sniper rifles show up in Iraq.

Friday, February 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Following the weekend intelligence disclosures about Iranian-supplied weapons killing GIs in Iraq, we predicted Tuesday. that "a large part of Washington will pretend the evidence doesn't exist, or suggest the intelligence isn't proven, or claim that it's all the Bush Administration's fault for 'bullying' Iran." Sure enough, President Bush faced a barrage of questions Wednesday wondering whether senior Iranian leaders were really aware of the weapons transfers, whether he was using "faulty intelligence," and whether the disclosures were part of a strategy designed to "provoke Iran."

So here is the state of our public discourse: American military officials present prima facie evidence of Iranian weapons implicated in killing 170 U.S. soldiers and wounding 600 more, and Washington's main concern is not for the GIs but in refighting the last intelligence war.

Well, here's an item that doesn't seem to have been manufactured by Dick Cheney. According to a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph, U.S. forces in Baghdad have recently discovered 100 high-powered sniper rifles made by Austrian gun-maker Steyr-Mannlicher. The .50-caliber Steyr can accurately fire an armor-piercing round at a range of 1,500 meters. The weapon is good against Humvees, helicopters and body armor.


 

In 2004, Iran purchased some 800 Steyrs, allegedly for use against drug traffickers. At the time, both U.S. and British officials urged the Austrian government to bar the $15 million sale, fearing the weapons would fall into enemy hands. Former Austrian Chancellor Wolfang Schüssel thought otherwise, and let the deal go forward. To better grease the skids, then-Steyr-Mannlicher CEO Wolfgang Fürlinger made the case that the weapons were basically harmless and that Tehran had signed "end-user certificates" guaranteeing they would not be re-sold, according to the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.
Today, the Austrian government pleads that the sale had been "checked very thoroughly," and that "what happened to the weapons . .  . is the responsibility of the Iranians"--which prompts the question of why the Austrians would have bothered with the end-user certificates. The Bush Administration took a less cavalier view and in 2005 banned Steyr-Mannlicher from bidding for U.S. government contracts.

It remains to be confirmed whether the serial numbers on the Steyrs found in Iraq match those from the 2004 sale--if they do, it ought to prompt a top-to-bottom review of all Austrian military contracts. Meantime, is it too much to expect American journalists and Members of Congress to devote as much skepticism to Iran's motives and behavior as they do to Mr. Bush's?

WSJ
28643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 16, 2007, 10:57:55 AM
As best as I can tell, there is merit to the analysis that says that President Bush really took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan.  Although I supported the decision to go into Iraq, I cannot say that those who said we needed to finish in Afghanistan first did not have a valid point.

Afg in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban seemed to have plenty of warm fuzzies for what we might bring, but now 5 years later much more has happened and the terrain is different. 

Do we have a coherent strategy at this point?

=============================================

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 — President Bush warned on Thursday that he expected “fierce fighting” to flare in Afghanistan this spring, and he pressed NATO allies to provide a bigger and more aggressive force to guard against a resurgence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda that could threaten the fragile Afghan state.

Skip to next paragraph
Multimedia
 Back Story With The Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg (mp3)With American and NATO commanders pressing for more troops and experts predicting that further gains by the Taliban could put the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai in danger, Mr. Bush used his presidential platform to lay out what he said was substantial progress in Afghanistan since 2001, but also a continuing threat.

The remarks, to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization here, amounted to an unusually high-profile acknowledgment from Mr. Bush of the precarious state of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a country the administration long held up as a foreign policy success story.

The speech renewed criticism from Democrats that had the United States not been tied down in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan would not have turned dire. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Bush’s new strategy would not do enough to tamp down the Afghan drug trade. Outside experts criticized the president for painting too rosy a picture.

The speech was also a striking effort by the White House to focus attention back on Afghanistan at a time when Congress is debating resolutions criticizing Mr. Bush’s strategy in Iraq and the administration is making a case that Iranian forces are supplying Shiite militants in Iraq with roadside bombs.

“Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly fivefold,” Mr. Bush said. “These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.”

Mr. Bush said the question now was whether to “just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away” or to step up the fight.

“The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue,” Mr. Bush said. “The Taliban and Al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense.”

Mr. Bush noted that he has already extended the tour of a 3,200-soldier American brigade and called on Congress to provide $11.8 billion more to pay for operations in Afghanistan over the next two years.

The president said his administration had completed a review of its Afghan strategy, and would work to increase the size of the Afghan army from 32,000 troops to 70,000 by the end of next year, and to bring in additional allied troops to support the fledgling army.

“When there is a need, when the commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, ‘We need additional help,’ our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in the mission,” Mr. Bush said.

He promised to build new roads that would help spur economic development, to battle an increase in the opium trade and to try to forge better ties between Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan.

At the same time, Mr. Bush pledged to work with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who hide in that country’s remote mountainous regions — a situation he described as “wilder than the Wild West.” And, echoing his lament that 2006 was a difficult and disappointing year for Iraq, the president said the same had been true in Afghanistan.

Some critics of the administration’s handling of Afghanistan said Mr. Bush was still understating the difficulties there.

“We underfinanced, undermanned and under-resourced the war in Afghanistan for the last four years, and now we face a serious threat that the Taliban will succeed in destabilizing the country enough in 2007 to make the Karzai government collapse at some point,” said Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Saban Center for Middle East Studies at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning research organization in Washington. He called the speech “a long overdue recognition that we need to do a lot more.”

Both Mr. Riedel and Rick Barton, an expert in Afghanistan reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Mr. Bush’s new strategy did not do enough to promote security and economic development. Mr. Barton, who published a report in 2005 measuring progress in Afghanistan in that year, is about to publish another, and said the situation has turned measurably worse since his first study.

“We’ve gotten into a situation where things have really turned negative and the average Afghan has lost confidence in both the safety of his country and the ability of the leadership to turn things around,” Mr. Barton said. He said the president “is definitely acknowledging that, but his reality therapy is not as thorough or as complete as I think it needs to be.”

On Capitol Hill, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, released a statement criticizing the speech. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and several other Republicans have been pressing the Bush administration to do more to crack down on Afghanistan’s opium trade; she said the new strategy lacked “practical initiatives to target major drug kingpins and warlords whose trade in opium finances the Taliban’s campaign.”

As Iraq has dominated the American psyche, some lawmakers, most recently the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, have called Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” The Democratic National Committee, responding to Mr. Bush’s speech on Thursday, issued a statement saying, “The Bush administration took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan.”

But Mr. Bush pointed to what he called “remarkable progress” since the American invasion in 2001: A democratically elected government with a parliament that includes 91 women; more than five million children in school as opposed to 900,000 under the Taliban; and the return of more than 4.6 million refugees.

The president’s speech came after his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, attended his first conference of NATO defense ministers last week in Seville, Spain. At the meeting, Mr. Gates pressed his allied counterparts to fulfill their commitments of troops in time for a spring offensive against the Taliban.

Currently, NATO has about 35,000 troops in Afghanistan, about 13,000 of them American. The United States has 9,000 more troops in Afghanistan operating outside the NATO mission, handling tasks like specialized counterterrorism work and helping to train Afghan forces. Gen. David J. Richards of Britain, the outgoing NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last month that NATO was 4,000 to 5,000 troops short.

But NATO commanders have been constrained by so-called caveats — restrictions imposed by member nations on how their troops may be used and where they may be sent. The Bush administration has been pressing the allies to lift those restrictions, and the president renewed that call on Thursday, saying NATO commanders “must have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand.”
28644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ya can't make this up on: February 16, 2007, 10:18:27 AM
Clinton fundraiser Daphna Ziman:

"Hillary Clinton is the right candidate.  The nation is in deep need of a mother figure who will lead the people out of a violent world and back into caring for the poor and the disabled, mostly caring for our children, our future."
28645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: February 16, 2007, 12:52:46 AM
One wishes it might have occured to President Bush to begin expanding the size of the military (thus overruling Secy Rumbo) 3-4 years ago.  Even candidate Kerry was calling for an increase of 50,000 so it would have been easy for Bush to make the call.  Now that he has thrashed our troops and led , , , as he has, now the President sacks Rumbo and asks for 90,000.  It is going to be a lot harder now to build up the numbers than if he had not listened to Rumbo's huibris.
28646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Euro-Russian Cold War on: February 15, 2007, 08:31:53 PM
Europe, Russia and a New Kind of 'Cold' War
Summary

A Russian oligarch is predicting natural gas shortages in Russia. Europe has good reason to be worried.

Analysis

Anatoly Chubais, CEO of Russian electricity megafirm Unified Energy System (UES), said at a Feb. 15 news conference that planned changes to the country's electricity sector will result in increased demand for natural gas -- which in turn will lead to shortages of the fuel. Those most likely to suffer from the evolution will be European consumers as Russia discovers it has insufficient supplies for export.

After a decade of false starts, the Russian electricity sector is finally beginning its long-awaited reform, which for UES means getting broken up into a large number of regional and local power generating companies -- in theory at least.

One of the many consequences of this will be increased electricity production. Russia's oligarchs currently have to cut deals (and often plead) with UES to make sure they have enough electricity to supply their corporate empires. Now they can simply pay -- through the nose if need be -- to acquire power generation assets for themselves, and add on or modify them as necessary to meet their needs. Particularly in the case of power-intensive industries such as aluminum production, such assets will be constantly run to the red line to ensure full profitability.

As Chubais went on to note, such increased power generation will invariably lead to greater consumption of the natural gas used to produce electricity -- and that is a problem.

Although Russia remains the world's largest producer and exporter of natural gas, state energy firm Gazprom has not excelled at exploring for and developing new natural gas sources. Add in higher electricity demand and an ugly word crops up: shortage. Chubais -- one of the few people in Russia with access to all the data -- projects that in 2007 national demand plus export contracts will edge out supply by 4 billion cubic meters (bcm), ramping up to 40 bcm by 2010.

The results of such a shortfall are fairly easy to predict. Russian electricity and natural gas demand is highest in the winter, when the Russians huddle around their heaters in a desperate effort to avoid freezing solid. Their collective demand for power means that not enough natural gas is left over to meet Gazprom's export contracts. Flows to Europe consequently slacken, as happened for the first time in the early weeks of 2006. Chubais, intentionally or not, is putting Europe on notice that supply interruptions will become an annual affair in the future.

It is probably beyond Gazprom's technical capabilities to turn this situation around without a major change in worldview -- which is not in the cards at the moment. The mammoth firm can do a couple of things, however, to mitigate the coming shortages. First, it can use its political heft -- Gazprom is far and away the most politically powerful firm in the country -- to increase domestic Russian prices. Higher natural gas prices on the subsidized Russian market translate into lower Russian consumption, freeing up more natural gas for export.

Second, Gazprom is working to reduce natural gas' share of the market as an electricity feedstock. On Feb. 8 Gazprom swallowed up (that is: "initialed a deal to form a joint venture with") Siberian Coal Energy Co., which produced about 90 million metric tons of coal in 2006, supplying 30 percent of Russian demand and 20 percent of Russia's coal exports. The deal also brings under Gazprom's control most of the country's electricity generation that is not currently under UES. Gazprom's plan is simple: replace natural gas with coal in as many power plants' fuel mixes as possible.

Both of these strategies are smart and will work, but bridging a 40 bcm gap -- for reference, France uses about 45 bcm a year -- in three years is simply not feasible. Europe will need to learn to get by with less, and even that assumes the Kremlin's political goals do not further limit supplies.

Europe's takeaway should be simple. Regardless of whether European leaders believe Russia's energy policies are politicized (and they are), Russia will soon lack the capability to supply Europe with all the natural gas it wants -- even if the Russians are able to maintain their output levels in the long term (which is in doubt). So, unless Europe wants to feel the cold of winter more keenly, it will need either to find replacement supplies, move its economies away from natural gas, or both.




Other Analysis
Geopolitical Diary: Al-Sadr Lies Low
Russia: Putin's Cabinet Reshuffle
Global Market Brief: The Politics of South African Land Reform
Canada: The Changing Shape of Energy Politics
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28647  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Euro Martial Arts on: February 15, 2007, 02:33:31 PM
Woof Karsk:

Outstanding!

This deserves its own thread.  Would you please repost what you have posted here as a new thread?

TAC,
CD
28648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 15, 2007, 07:29:00 AM
Second post of the morning:

stratfor.com

Geopolitical Diary: Al-Sadr Lies Low

Nasser al-Rubaie, the head of Iraq's Sadrite parliamentary bloc, and other supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday that statements by U.S. military officials in Iraq alleging that al-Sadr has fled the country for Iran are untrue. An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later said al-Sadr is on a brief routine visit to Iran and would be back shortly. There also are reports that first- and second-tier commanders of the Mehdi Army in Baghdad are in Iran as well in order to evade a security crackdown.

While al-Sadr has visited Iran in the past, and doing so again at this juncture would be reasonable, the leader likely remains based in Iraq -- where he is growing ever more distrustful of his fellow Shia and trying hard to maintain a low profile.

Al-Sadr has lain low, likely somewhere in the holy city of An Najaf, since remarking in January that he feared for his personal safety in the wake of U.S.-Iraqi plans to secure Baghdad and crack down on militias. Since then, he has seen the arrest and kidnappings of Iranian diplomatic officials in Iraq, which surely made him even less willing to risk travel or public appearances.

The Sadrite bloc controls the largest number of parliamentary seats in the ruling Shiite coalition -- the United Iraqi Alliance -- and has several ministers in the Cabinet. Al-Sadr is not about to abandon his movement and flee, especially as his Mehdi Army prepares to face a major government offensive. And if he did, he certainly would not go to Iran.

Contrary to popular perception, Iraq's Sadrite bloc is the Shiite group that is least friendly toward Iran. Al-Sadr cannot completely trust the Iranians, who have strong ties to his main rival, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim -- the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's most pro-Iranian Shiite party. Iran could use al-Sadr and his militia as leverage in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq; when the need arises, Iran might pull the plug on the Shiite leader as a gesture of good will toward the United States.

While al-Sadr has long been wary of the threat from SCIRI, he also does not trust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Hizb al-Dawah party. Until now, al-Sadr has maintained a decent working relationship with al-Maliki; however, the prime minister recently abandoned his opposition to a U.S. crackdown on Sadrite militia activities. Al-Sadr knows the Shiite-dominated government is working closely with the U.S. military, and does not want to risk further support for more U.S. operations against him. Even so, al-Sadr reportedly is on the U.S. military's "no-touch list," meaning U.S. forces will not detain him out of fear that his arrest could inflame his supporters and cause them to escalate the overall level of violence in the country.

U.S. statements regarding the Shiite leader's alleged flight to Iran likely are part of psyops designed to weaken him by convincing those within his political movement and its armed wing that he has abandoned them ahead of the impending U.S.-Iraqi crackdown. There already are some indications that al-Sadr does not have complete control over his militia. By playing up the idea that al-Sadr has fled to Tehran, the United States can sow doubts among members of the Mehdi Army before U.S. and Iraqi forces pounce. And confusion about al-Sadr's whereabouts will prove especially damaging to the Sadrite bloc, given its heavy focus on its leader and his family.

Stratfor mentioned in its annual forecast that the coming U.S. surge will focus on containing al-Sadr. For now, Iraq's political and military situation has rendered the Shiite leader quite vulnerable. Whether al-Sadr makes an appearance in order to counter U.S. attempts to paint him as a cowardly captain abandoning his ship remains to be seen.

28649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 15, 2007, 05:10:10 AM
WSJ

Awaiting the Dishonor Roll
February 15, 2007; Page A18
Congress has rarely been distinguished by its moral courage. But even grading on a curve, we can only describe this week's House debate on a vote of no-confidence in the mission in Iraq as one of the most shameful moments in the institution's history.

On present course, the Members will vote on Friday to approve a resolution that does nothing to remove American troops from harm's way in Iraq but that will do substantial damage to their morale and that of their Iraqi allies while emboldening the enemy. The only real question is how many Republicans will also participate in this disgrace in the mistaken belief that their votes will put some distance between themselves and the war most of them voted to authorize in 2002.

The motion at issue is plainly dishonest, in that exquisitely Congressional way of trying to have it both ways. (We reprint the text nearby.) The resolution purports to "support" the troops even as it disapproves of their mission. It praises their "bravery," while opposing the additional forces that both President Bush and General David Petreaus, the new commanding general in Iraq, say are vital to accomplishing that mission. And it claims to want to "protect" the troops even as its practical impact will be to encourage Iraqi insurgents to believe that every roadside bomb brings them closer to their goal.

 
As for how "the troops" themselves feel, we refer readers to Richard Engel's recent story on NBC News quoting Specialist Tyler Johnson in Iraq: "People are dying here. You know what I'm saying . . . You may [say] 'oh we support the troops.' So you're not supporting what they do. What they's (sic) here to sweat for, what we bleed for and we die for." Added another soldier: "If they don't think we're doing a good job, everything we've done here is all in vain." In other words, the troops themselves realize that the first part of the resolution is empty posturing, while the second is deeply immoral.

All the more so because if Congress feels so strongly about the troops, it arguably has the power to start removing them from harm's way by voting to cut off the funds they need to operate in Iraq. But that would make Congress responsible for what followed -- whether those consequences are Americans killed in retreat, or ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, or the toppling of the elected Maliki government by radical Shiite or military forces. The one result Congress fears above all is being accountable.

We aren't prone to quoting the young John Kerry, but this week's vote reminds us of the comment the antiwar veteran told another cut-and-run Congress in the early 1970s: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" The difference this time is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha expect men and women to keep dying for something they say is a mistake but also don't have the political courage to help end.

Instead, they'll pass this "non-binding resolution," to be followed soon by attempts at micromanagement that would make the war all but impossible to prosecute -- and once again without taking responsibility. Mr. Murtha is already broadcasting his strategy, which the new Politico Web site described yesterday as "a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options."

In concert with antiwar groups, the story reported, Mr. Murtha's "goal is crafted to circumvent the biggest political vulnerability of the antiwar movement -- the accusation that it is willing to abandon troops in the field." So instead of cutting off funds, Mr. Murtha will "slow-bleed" the troops with "readiness" restrictions or limits on National Guard forces that will make them all but impossible to deploy. These will be attached to appropriations bills that will also purport to "support the troops."

"There's a D-Day coming in here, and it's going to start with the supplemental and finish with the '08 [defense] budget,'' Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D., Hawaii) told the Web site. He must mean D-Day as in Dunkirk.

All of this is something that House Republicans should keep in mind as they consider whether to follow this retreat. The GOP leadership has been stalwart, even eloquent, this week in opposing the resolution. But some Republicans figure they can use this vote to distance themselves from Mr. Bush and the war while not doing any real harm. They should understand that the Democratic willingness to follow the Murtha "slow-bleed" strategy will depend in part on how many Republicans follow them in this vote. The Democrats are themselves divided on how to proceed, and they want a big GOP vote to give them political cover. However "non-binding," this is a vote that Republican partisans will long remember.

History is likely to remember the roll as well. A newly confirmed commander is about to lead 20,000 American soldiers on a dangerous and difficult mission to secure Baghdad, risking their lives for their country. And the message their elected Representatives will send them off to battle with is a vote declaring their inevitable defeat.

28650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Books on: February 15, 2007, 04:17:19 AM
Libertarians in America
Free to choose, and a good thing too.

BY JOHN H. FUND
Thursday, February 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Scores of books have been written on the role of communists and socialists in the U.S., dour chronicles of welcome failure. But very few writers have devoted much attention to the role of libertarians, a more appealing and optimistic group of thinkers, political activists and ordinary citizens who believe that respect for the individual and the spontaneous order of market forces are the key to progress and social well-being.

The neglect is strange, given how much libertarians and their limited-government logic have shaped the culture and economy of the U.S. The ideas of John Locke and David Hume animated the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Libertarian principles kept what we think of as "big government" in check for much of the 19th century and well into the 20th, despite tariffs and war. The federal income tax officially arrived, in permanent form, as late as 1913. Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, took a famously minimalist approach to governing. Of course, we now live in a post-FDR age, with government programs everywhere. Still, the libertarian impulse is part of our political culture. "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism," Ronald Reagan declared.

Today, pollsters find only 2% of people refer to themselves as libertarians, but some 15% of voters hold broadly libertarian views and can be a swing factor. In the photo-finish presidential race of 2000, some 72% of libertarian-minded voters supported George W. Bush. Last November, many of them abandoned the GOP, disillusioned by its profligate ways, and helped hand control of Congress to Democrats.

With "Radicals for Capitalism," Brian Doherty finally gives libertarianism its due. He tracks the movement's progress over the past century by focusing on five of its key leaders--Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman. The emphasis is on their ideas, but Mr. Doherty also takes into account their personal struggles--not least their feuds with other thinkers and their relation to an intellectual establishment that for most of their lives thought they were either crazy or irrelevant or both.





Libertarian ideas have enjoyed a surge of respect lately, helped by the collapse of Soviet central planning, the success of lower tax rates and the appeals of various figures in popular culture (e.g., Drew Carey, John Stossel and Clint Eastwood) who want government out of both their bedroom and wallet. Even so, libertarianism is often not the people's choice. Part of the problem is the inertia of the status quo. "In a world where government has its hand in almost everything," Mr. Doherty writes, "it requires a certain leap of imagination to see how things might work if it didn't." Many people couldn't make that leap when, for example, economists proposed channeling some Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts.
Mr. Doherty introduces us to an entertaining cast of minor characters who kept individualist ideas alive from the New Deal through the Great Society. There was Rose Wilder Lane, the editor of her mother's "Little House on the Prairie" frontier books, and Robert Heinlein, the science-fiction writer who coined the acronym "Tanstaafl" (for "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch"). Howard Buffett, the father of financier Warren Buffett, was a fiery Old Right congressman from Nebraska who compared the military draft to a form of slavery. During World War II, Henry Hazlitt put economic analysis from his friend von Mises into unsigned editorials he wrote for the New York Times, then a far more free-market paper than today.

Mr. Doherty is candid enough to note that not every individualist he sketches consistently respected the rights of individuals. Textile baron Roger Milliken, for instance, required his executives to attend a libertarian "college" in the Rockies but also lobbied for tariffs to protect his products. And other libertarians showed a certain want of personal character. LSD guru Timothy Leary raised money for Libertarian Party candidates but didn't exercise the integrity or personal responsibility he himself said must accompany freedom. Ayn Rand sold millions of copies of her novels but treated her acolytes abominably and "ended up kicking out of her life pretty much everybody."

Inevitably--as with any constellation of like-minded people--there is squabbling and the petty search for heretics. But there is also, Mr. Doherty shows, the great work of fertile, unorthodox minds. Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick abandoned the New Left when he realized capitalism worked best but acknowledged feeling for a while that "only bad people would think so." Hayek, a supreme rationalist, ended his life believing that "a successful free society will always be in a large measure a tradition-bound society." He even praised religion for encouraging restraint and long-term thinking "under circumstances where everyone believes that God will punish all for the sins of some."





Today the Internet has become, Mr. Doherty notes, an efficient way to transmit libertarian ideas and show their practical application. (With its decentralized, free-wheeling ethos, the Internet is itself libertarian without even trying to be.) Jimmy Wales, the man who started the interactive online encyclopedia Wikipedia, believes that "facts can help set the world free." The largest retail market in the world is eBay, which allows anyone to buy and sell without a government license.
Louis Rosetto, the "radical capitalist" who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, "contrarians end up being the drivers of change." Among the most ornery contrarians, he says, are the libertarians "laboring in obscurity, if not in derision." They have managed "to keep a pretty pure idea going, adapting it to circumstances and watching it be validated by the march of history." Mr. Doherty has rescued libertarianism from its own obscurity, eloquently capturing the appeal of the "pure idea," its origins in great minds and the feistiness of its many current champions.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com. You can buy "Radicals for Capitalism" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

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