DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 23, 2006, 07:07:29 AM
Lamento tantos hilos en ingles en un foro supuestamente para espanol. ?Habra' alguien quien puede ayudarnos con informes desde Mexico?
Mexican Report Cites Leaders for ?Dirty War?
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: November 23, 2006
MEXICO CITY, Nov. 22 ? Just before leaving office, the administration of President Vicente Fox has quietly put out a voluminous report that for the first time states unequivocally that past governments carried out a covert campaign of murder and torture against dissidents and guerrillas from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.
The 800-page report is the first acceptance of responsibility by the government for what is known here as the ?dirty war,? in which the police and the army are believed to have executed more than 700 people without trial, in many cases after torture. It also represents the fulfillment of Mr. Fox?s vow when elected in 2000 to expose the truth about an ugly chapter in Mexico?s history.
?The Mexican government has never officially accepted responsibility for these crimes,? said Kate Doyle, the director of the Mexico project of the National Security Archive, a private research group at George Washington University.
Ms. Doyle and other human rights experts said, though, that the special prosecutor who issued the report, Ignacio Carrillo Prieto, had not succeeded in prosecuting the officials responsible for the crimes it describes in such detail, notably former President Luis Echeverr?a.
Instead of being announced at a public event, as is often the case, the report was posted on the Internet late Friday night. Some human rights experts say that the way the report was released suggests that Mr. Fox?s enthusiasm for ferreting out the sins of past governments has waned since he took office.
The report relies on secret military and government documents that Mr. Fox ordered declassified. It contains lengthy chapters on the killings of student protesters in Mexico City in 1968 and 1971, as well as a brutal counterinsurgency operation in the state of Guerrero, where military officers destroyed entire villages suspected of helping the rebel leader Lucio Caba?as and tortured their inhabitants.
The report offers considerable detail, including the names of military officers responsible for various atrocities, from the razing of villages to the killing of student protesters.
It does not include orders signed by three presidents authorizing the crimes. Still, the document trail makes clear that the abuses were not the work of renegade officers, but an official government policy.
The events occurred during the administrations of Gustavo D?az Ordaz, Jos? L?pez Portillo and Mr. Echeverr?a. The federal security department kept the presidents informed about many aspects of the covert operations. Genocide charges against Mr. Echeverr?a, the only one still living, were thrown out in July by a judge who ruled that a statute of limitations had run out.
?At the end of this investigation,? the report says, ?it has been proved that the authoritarian regime, at the highest levels of command, impeded, criminalized and fought various parts of the population that organized itself to demand greater democratic participation.?
The authors of the report, which was assembled by 27 researchers, go on to state that ?the battle the regime waged against these groups ? organized among student movements and popular insurgencies ? was outside the law? and employed ?massacres, forced disappearances, systematic torture and genocide, in an attempt to destroy the part of society it considered its ideological enemy.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: November 23, 2006, 07:04:31 AM
Rape case has Saudis asking questions about legal system
Woman who says she was raped faces punishment
By DONNA ABU-NASR
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AL-AWWAMIYA, Saudi Arabia -- When the young woman went to the police a few months ago to report that she was gang-raped by seven men, she never imagined that the judge would punish her -- and that she would be sentenced to more lashes than one of her rapists received.
The story of the Girl of Qatif, as the alleged rape victim has been called by the media here, has triggered a rare debate about Saudi Arabia's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present.
The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. These include one in which a group of men got heavier sentences for harassing women than the men in the Girl of Qatif rape case or three men who were convicted of raping a boy. In another, a woman was ordered to divorce her husband against her will based on a demand by her relatives.
In the case of the Girl of Qatif, she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married -- a crime in this strictly segregated country -- at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.
In the sleepy, Shiite village of al-Awwamiya on the outskirts of the eastern city of Qatif, the 19-year-old is struggling to forget the spring night that changed her life. An Associated Press reporter met her in a face-to-face interview. She spoke on condition of anonymity.
Her hands tremble, her dark brown eyes are lifeless. Her sleep is interrupted by a replay of the events, which she describes in a whisper.
That night, she said, she had left home to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. She had just been married -- but had not moved in with her husband -- and did not want her picture to remain with the student.
While the woman was in the car with the student, she said, two men intercepted them, got into the vehicle and drove the couple to a secluded area where the two were separated. She said she was raped by seven men, three of whom also allegedly raped her friend.
In a trial that ended this month -- in which the prosecutor asked for the death penalty for the seven men -- four of the men received one to five years in prison plus 80 to 1,000 lashes, the woman said. Three others are awaiting sentencing. Neither the defendants nor the plaintiffs retained lawyers, as is common here.
"The big shock came when the judge sentenced me and the man to 90 lashes each," the woman said.
The sentences have yet to be carried out, but the punishments ordered have caused an uproar.
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia. Judges -- who are appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council -- have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment.
Saudis are urging the Justice Ministry to clarify the logic behind some rulings. In one recent case, three men convicted of raping a 12-year-old boy received sentences of one to two years in prison and 300 lashes each. In contrast, another judge sentenced at least four men to six to 12 years imprisonment for fondling women in a tunnel in Riyadh.
Saleh al-Shehy, a columnist for Al-Watan, asked Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Sheik to explain why the boy's rapists got a lighter sentence than the men in last year's sexual harassment case.
"I won't ask you my brother, the minister, if you find the ruling satisfactory or not," wrote al-Shehy. "I will ask you, 'Do you think it satisfies God?' "
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Panantukan & Kali Tudo
on: November 22, 2006, 06:44:43 PM
"To add to that question. When at Gaje's camp in PI, you trained with a Panantukan/Suntukan instructor. How did his material vary from the Lucky Lucaylucay material that Guru Inosanto teaches (also from LaCoste, Villabraille, etc).?"
To be precise, the training with Manong Kalimba (sp?) was at GT Gaje's home in Bacolod. GT recently informed me that he had passed away and cleared me to share what I was shown. A bit of my footage with him may appear in the upcoming DBMA "Kali Tudo 2: Striking and Clinch". Poor lineage historian that I am, I am unable to break down clearly the different feeder systems of Inosanto Blend EH. Much was familiar to me, but there were some very interesting differences too.
"My feeling is that MMA gunteens end up like Rodney King's Crazy Monkey with elbow destructions primarily. Someone who has seen Vinnie Giordano's DVD's from the Thai General on Muay Boran said that these positions (CM), are common in empty hand Thai. Rodney just got the okay to teach the methods of his older Thai instructor while in Thailand. Very interesting."
Completely consistent with, or better yet, a good example of, Guro Inosanto's concept of the common thread of the arts of the Majapahit Empire.
I agree that elbow destructions are one of the first applications of Panantukan.
I will get to your questions later.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: November 22, 2006, 05:22:30 PM
Here's a different take on things:
November 22, 2006
How Violent Is Iraq?
I've written previously on the level of violence in Iraq, comparing it to
murder rates in other times and places and to death rates that have been
experienced in actual civil wars. See here and here, for example. My
impression has been that violence in Iraq has skyrocketed since July, when I
found that the murder rate in Iraq was 140 per 100,000 (the usual way in
which murder rates are expressed). I was surprised, therefore, to learn this
morning that rate of violence has increased only slightly:
The United Nations said Wednesday that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in
October, the highest monthly toll since the March 2003 U.S. invasion and
another sign of the severity of Iraq's sectarian bloodbath.
That compares to an estimated 3,500 killed in July. If 3,709 people were
murdered in October, that translates to a rate of 171 per 100,000. That is a
high rate of violent death. But, for purposes of comparison, the murder rate
in Washington, D.C. in 1991 was 80 per 100,000. So the rate of violence in
Iraq today is just over double the rate in the District during the first
Bush administration. I don't recall anyone describing conditions in
Washington in the early 90s as a "bloodbath."
I wrote in June that based on the data at that time, the murder rate in Iraq
outside of Baghdad is about the same as American cities like Chicago,
Philadelphia and Milwaukee. With the current numbers, it looks like that
would still be true.
A consensus seems to have developed that Iraq is a disaster because of
out-of-control sectarian violence. That consensus is driving proposals to
change our policy in Iraq, perhaps in the direction of a pull-out that could
lead to truly cataclysmic violence. So I think it makes sense to step back
and get a more realistic picture of the level of what is happening in Iraq:
violent? Yes. A disaster comparable to a civil war? No.
Posted by John at 11:31 AMhttp://powerlineblog.com/archives/015994.php
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: November 22, 2006, 09:35:19 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia Cooperates, For Now
Russia appeared to make some conciliatory moves toward the United States on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin directed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to coordinate with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in drafting a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Iran and its nuclear program. Lavrov also implored Iran to answer all of the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, while criticizing Tehran for failing to address international concerns over its nuclear ambitions. He further expressed Moscow's concern at Iran's refusal to accept the package of incentives offered by Russia, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
This cooperative tone from the Russian foreign policy contingent is a marked reversal, and seems to be the product of the two meetings last week between Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush has helped to facilitate Russia's entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it appears that the bargain is paying off. However, this is Russia -- nothing is that simple.
The most help on Iran that the Bush administration can hope for from Russia is Moscow's abstention from vetoing a sanctions resolution in the UNSC. Russia has submitted amendments to the existing draft, demanding that any imposed sanctions not be punitive and that Iran be allowed to retain its civilian nuclear program. In light of the newfound spirit of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, any final resolution is thus likely to contain language of compromise on those matters.
However, there is only so far Russia will go toward the U.S. position. Moscow will protect its geopolitical interests at all costs, including abandoning the ever-closer prospect of WTO membership if the Kremlin deems that necessary. Russia is aggressively seeking to secure its own interests, whether it be through using energy as an arm of its foreign policy, jockeying for influence in Middle Eastern affairs, or targeting its own former operatives in exile. The Kremlin's goal is to distract Washington as much as possible, in order to prevent the United States from paying too much attention to Russia's internal affairs and its near abroad.
The overarching tensions between the two Cold War adversaries jeopardize any real consensus on Iran or any other issue. While Bush's breakfast diplomacy appears to be paying off so far, Russia's helpful streak will continue only as long as it is advantageous (or at least not detrimental) to Russian political and economic interests.
Certainly, Washington can -- and might -- do more to coerce Moscow's cooperation. Russia's WTO membership could still be jeopardized by Georgia, which has rescinded its signature from their bilateral agreement. Tbilisi could come to compromise on its position, however, with a little incentive from Washington.
Russia and the United States will take measured steps toward each other, always retaining the option to reverse course if their interests evolve to require it. Although Tuesday's statements suggest a degree of compromise between Moscow and Washington, they do not signal a lasting strategic consensus -- merely a tactical, and temporary, bout of cooperation.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / !Que verguenza!
on: November 21, 2006, 10:46:15 PM
Me imagino que alguien estara' buscando nuevo trabajo , , ,
Martes 21 de noviembre de 2006 | Actualizado 19:35 hs (hace 6 horas 8 minutos)
Noticias | Informaci?n general | Nota
Asaltaron en Buenos Aires a una de las hijas de Bush
Barbara, que visita de inc?gnito nuestro pa?s, sufri? un robo en San Telmo
Una de las hijas mellizas del presidente norteamericano, George W. Bush, fue v?ctima de la inseguridad en Buenos Aires, anoche, durante una visita que la joven realiza en el pa?s.
Una fuente oficial, que pidi? no ser identificada, confirm? a la agencia estatal T?lam que el episodio ocurri? anoche cuando Barbara Bush fue sorprendida por delincuentes que le sustrajeron la cartera.
Seg?n la fuente, la joven se hallaba cenando en un restaurante ubicado en el circuito tur?stico del barrio de San Telmo y, en un episodio cuyos detalles no trascendieron, sufri? el robo del bolso en el cual llevaba una tarjeta de cr?dito.
La fuente consultada confirm? que la hija de Bush se encuentra en el pa?s desde hace 20 d?as y est? alojada en un hotel del barrio de San Telmo, donde la custodian guardaespaldas del servicio secreto de los Estados Unidos.
El sitio de internet de la cadena televisiva ABC News se?al? que Barbara Bush sufri? el robo a pesar de estar protegida por el servicio secreto que custodia a toda la familia presidencial.
La nota de ABC News, que cita un informe del servicio secreto, adem?s se?al? que un agente secreto que hab?a llegado anteriormente por la visita al pa?s de la hija del presidente estadounidense sufri? "un altercado" con desconocidos.
Seg?n la cadena televisiva, el servicio secreto se?al? que no iba a haber comentarios sobre el hecho y la oficina de la primera dama, Laura Bush, dijo que "no comentar?" sobre un viaje no oficial realizado por sus hijas.
La joven acompa?a a su hermana, Jenna Bush, que hab?a viajado a Paraguay para trabajar en un programa de Unicef.
Jenna y su hermana aprovecharon su paso por la Argentina, y salieron a cenar anoche por San Telmo. Ambas ten?an programado un viaje al Chaco para conocer de cerca la vida en las aldeas ind?genas.
Link corto: http://www.lanacion.com.ar/860913
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: November 21, 2006, 07:13:39 PM
No one is taking Rangel seriously. He is a long-time rabble rouser who enjoys posturing for TV cameras. Due to his seniority in Congress he is in a position to start investigations and be a pain-in-the-butt. That said, there has been a goodly amount of corrupt looking practices by the Bush Administration that do deserve investigation. Of course Rangel will try to take it further than that.
The Stratfor piece preceding your post has a pretty sound analysis IMHO. The military doesn't want it, the people don't want it. Its going nowhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: November 21, 2006, 03:58:33 PM
A Fresh Look at the Draft
By George Friedman
New York Democrat Charles Rangel, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for the reinstatement of the draft. This is not new for him; he has argued for it for several years. Nor does Rangel -- or anyone else -- expect a proposal for conscription to pass. However, whether this is political posturing or a sincere attempt to start a conversation about America's military, Rangel is making an important point that should be considered. This is doubly true at a time when future strategies are being considered in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the available force is being strained to its limits.
The United States has practiced conscription in all major wars since the Civil War. During the Cold War, the United States practiced conscription continually, using it to fight both the Korean and Vietnam wars, but also to maintain the peacetime army. Conscription ended in 1973 as the U.S. role in Vietnam declined and as political opposition to the draft surged. From that point on, the United States shifted to a volunteer force.
Rangel's core criticism of the volunteer force is social. He argues that the burden of manning the military and fighting the war has fallen, both during Vietnam War conscription and in the volunteer army, for different reasons, on the lower and middle-lower classes. Apart from other arguments -- such as the view that if the rich were being drafted, the Vietnam and Iraq wars would have ended sooner -- Rangel's essential point is that the way the United States has manned the military since World War II is inherently unjust. It puts the lower classes at risk in fighting wars, leaving the upper classes free to pursue their lives and careers.
The problem with this argument is not the moral point, which is that the burden of national defense should be borne by all classes, but rather the argument that a draft would be more equitable. Rangel's view of the military and the draft was shaped by Vietnam -- and during Vietnam, there was conscription. But it was an inherently inequitable conscription, in the sense that during most of the war, deferments were given for students. That deferment, earlier in the war, extended to graduate school. As a result, by definition, the less-educated were more vulnerable to conscription than the more-educated. There were a host of deferments, including medical deferments, and the sophisticated could game the system easily. A draft, by itself, does not in any way guarantee equity.
During the final years of the Vietnam-era draft, the deferment system was replaced by a lottery. This was intended to (and, to some extent, did) reduce the inequities of the system, although sophisticated college students with low numbers continued to find ways to avoid conscription using the complex rules of the Selective Service system -- ways that the less-educated still couldn't use. The lottery system was an improvement, but in the end, it still meant that some would go into harm's way while others would stay home and carry on their lives. Basing the draft on a lottery might have mitigated social injustice, but basing life-and-death matters such as going to war on the luck of the draw still strikes us as inappropriate.
The switch from deferments to the lottery points out one of the key problems of conscription. The United States does not need, and cannot afford, a military that would consist of all of the men (and now, we assume, women) aged 19-21. That would create a force far too large and far too inexperienced. The lottery was designed to deal with a reality in which the United States needed conscription, but could not cope with universal conscription. Some method had to be found to determine who would and would not serve -- and any such method would be either unfair or arbitrary.
Americans remember World War II as, in many ways, the morally perfect war: the right enemy, the right spirit and the right military. But World War II was unique in that the United States had to field an enormous military. While some had to man truly essential industries, and some were medically disqualified, World War II was a case in which universal conscription was absolutely needed because the size of the force had to be equal to the size of the total pool of available and qualified manpower, minus essential workers. Unless it suited the needs of the military, no one was deferred. Married men with children, brilliant graduate students, the children of the rich and famous -- all went. There were still inequities in the kinds of assignments people got and the pull that was sometimes used. But what made the World War II conscription system work well was that everyone was needed and everyone was called.
Not everyone is needed in today's military. You might make the case for universal service -- people helping teachers and cleaning playgrounds. But there is a fundamental difference between these jobs and, at least in principle, the military. In the military, you might be called on to risk your life and die. For the most part, that isn't expected from teacher's aides. Thus, even if there were universal service, you would still be left with the dilemma of who gets to teach arts and crafts and who goes on patrol in Baghdad. Universal conscription does not solve the problem inherent in military conscription.
And there is an even more fundamental issue. During World War II, conscription, for just about everyone, meant service until the end of the war. During the Cold War, there was no clear end in sight. Since not everyone was conscripted, having conscripts serve until the end of the war could mean a lifetime of service. The decision was made that draftees would serve for two years and remain part of the reserve for a period of time thereafter.
Training during World War II took weeks for most combat specialties, with further training undertaken with soldiers' units or through combat. In World War II, the United States had a mass-produced army with plenty of time to mature after training. During Vietnam, conscripts went through basic training and advanced training, leaving a year for deployment in Vietnam and some months left over after the tour of duty. Jobs that required more complex training, from Special Forces to pilots to computer programmers, were handled by volunteers who served at least three years and, in many cases, longer. The draftee was used to provide the mass. The complexities of the war were still handled by a volunteer force.
The Battle of the Bulge took place 62 years ago. The Tet Offensive was nearly 39 years ago. The 90-day-wonder officers served well in World War II, and the draftee riflemen were valiant in Vietnam, but military requirements have changed dramatically. Now the military depends on highly trained specialists and groups of specialists, whose specialties -- from rifleman to warehouse worker -- have become more and more complex and sophisticated. On the whole, the contemporary Army, which historically has absorbed most draftees, needs more than two years in order to train draftees in their specialties, integrate them with their units and deploy them to combat.
Today, a two-year draft would be impractical because, on the whole, it would result in spending huge amounts of money on training, with very little time in actual service to show for it. Conscription could, of course, be extended to a three- or even four-year term, but with only selective service -- meaning that only a fraction of those eligible would be called -- that extension would only intensify the unfairness. Some would spend three or four years in the military, while others would be moving ahead with schools and careers. In effect, it would be a huge tax on the draftees for years of earnings lost.
A new U.S. draft might force the children of the wealthy into the military, but only at the price of creating other inequities and a highly inefficient Army. The training cycle and retention rate of a two-year draft would swamp the Army. In Iraq, the Army needs Special Forces, Civil Affairs specialists, linguists, intelligence analysts, unmanned aerial vehicle operators and so on. You can draft for that, we suppose, but it is hard to imagine building a force that way.
A volunteer force is a much more efficient way to field an Army. There is more time for training, there is a higher probability of retention and there are far fewer morale problems. Rangel is wrong in comparing the social base of this Army with that of Vietnam. But the basic point he is trying to make is true: The makeup of the U.S. Army is skewed toward the middle and lower-middle class. But then, so are many professions. Few children of the wealthy get jobs in the Social Security Administration or become professional boxers. The fact that the Army does not reflect the full social spectrum of the country doesn't mean very much. Hardly anything reflects that well.
Still, Rangel is making an important point, even if his argument for the draft does not work. War is a special activity of society. It is one of the few in which the citizen is expected -- at least in principle -- to fight and, if necessary, die for his country. It is more than a career. It is an existential commitment, a willingness to place oneself at risk for one's country. The fact that children of the upper classes, on the whole, do not make that existential commitment represents a tremendous weakness in American society. When those who benefit most from a society feel no obligation to defend it, there is a deep and significant malaise in that society.
However, we have been speaking consistently here about the children of the rich, and not of the rich themselves. Combat used to be for the young. It required stamina and strength. That is still needed. However, there are two points to be made. First, many -- perhaps most -- jobs in today's military that do not require the stamina of youth, as proven by all the contractors doing essentially military work in Iraq. Second, 18- to 22-year-olds are far from the most physically robust age group. Given modern diet and health regimens, there are people who are substantially older who have the stamina and strength for combat duty. If you can play tennis as well as you claim to for as long as you say, you can patrol a village in the Sunni Triangle.
We do not expect to be taken seriously on this proposal, but we will make it anyway: There is no inherent reason why enlistment -- or conscription -- should be targeted toward those in late adolescence. And there is no reason why the rich themselves, rather than the children of the rich, should not go to war. Or, for that matter, why older people with established skills should not be drawn into the military. That happened in World War II, and it could happen now. The military's stove-pipe approach to military careers, and the fact that it allows almost no lateral movement into service for 40- to 60-year-olds, is irrational. Even if we exclude combat arms, other specialties could be well-served by such a method -- which also would reduce the need for viciously expensive contractors.
Traditionally, the draft has fallen on those who were barely adults, who had not yet had a chance to live, who were the least equipped to fight a complex war. Other age groups were safe. Rangel is talking about drafting the children of the rich. It would be much more interesting, if the United States were to introduce the draft, to impose it in a different way, on entirely different age groups. Let the young get on with starting their lives. Let those who have really benefited from society, who have already lived, ante up.
Modern war does not require the service of 19-year-olds. In the field, you need the strong, agile and smart, but we know several graying types who still could hack that. And in the offices that proliferate in the military, experienced businesspeople would do even better at modernizing the system. If they were drafted, and went into harm's way, they would know exactly what they were fighting for and why -- something we hardly think most 19-year-olds really know yet.
Obviously, no one is going to adopt this crackpot proposal, even though we are quite serious about it. But we ask that you take seriously two points. Rangel is correct in saying that the upper classes in American society are not pulling their weight. But if the parents haven't served, we cannot reasonably expect the children to do so. If Americans are serious about dealing with the crisis of lack of service among the wealthiest, then they should look to the wealthiest first, rather than their children.
Send questions or comments on this
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Science & God
on: November 21, 2006, 09:32:38 AM
A Free-for-All on Science and Religion
By GEORGE JOHNSON
Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that ?the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,? or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for ?progress in spiritual discoveries? to an atheist ? Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book ?The God Delusion? is a national best-seller.
Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects ? testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.
Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.
Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.
She was not entirely kidding. ?We should let the success of the religious formula guide us,? Dr. Porco said. ?Let?s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome ? and even comforting ? than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.?
She displayed a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn and its glowing rings eclipsing the Sun, revealing in the shadow a barely noticeable speck called Earth.
There has been no shortage of conferences in recent years, commonly organized by the Templeton Foundation, seeking to smooth over the differences between science and religion and ending in a metaphysical draw. Sponsored instead by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps (who acknowledged his role as a kind of ?anti-Templeton?), the La Jolla meeting, ?Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival,? rapidly escalated into an invigorating intellectual free-for-all. (Unedited video of the proceedings will be posted on the Web at tsntv.org.)
A presentation by Joan Roughgarden, a Stanford University biologist, on using biblical metaphor to ease her fellow Christians into accepting evolution (a mutation is ?a mustard seed of DNA?) was dismissed by Dr. Dawkins as ?bad poetry,? while his own take-no-prisoners approach (religious education is ?brainwashing? and ?child abuse?) was condemned by the anthropologist Melvin J. Konner, who said he had ?not a flicker? of religious faith, as simplistic and uninformed.
After enduring two days of talks in which the Templeton Foundation came under the gun as smudging the line between science and faith, Charles L. Harper Jr., its senior vice president, lashed back, denouncing what he called ?pop conflict books? like Dr. Dawkins?s ?God Delusion,? as ?commercialized ideological scientism? ? promoting for profit the philosophy that science has a monopoly on truth.
That brought an angry rejoinder from Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who said his own book, ?Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine,? was written to counter ?garbage research? financed by Templeton on, for example, the healing effects of prayer.
With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of ?The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,? were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. ?The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty,? said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of ?The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason? and ?Letter to a Christian Nation.?
?Every religion is making claims about the way the world is,? he said. ?These are claims about the divine origin of certain books, about the virgin birth of certain people, about the survival of the human personality after death. These claims purport to be about reality.?
By shying away from questioning people?s deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. ?I don?t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair,? he said.
Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, ?The First Three Minutes,? that ?the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,? went a step further: ?Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.?
With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?
?There are six billion people in the world,? said Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest. ?If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming ? it is like believing in the fairy godmother.?
?People need to find meaning and purpose in life,? he said. ?I don?t think we want to take that away from them.?
Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. ?I think we need to respect people?s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,? he said.
?The Earth isn?t 6,000 years old,? he said. ?The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.? But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being ? Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever ? is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. ?Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,? Dr. Krauss insisted. ?We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.?
That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. ?I am utterly fed up with the respect that we ? all of us, including the secular among us ? are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,? he said. ?Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.?
By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of ?a den of vipers.?
?With a few notable exceptions,? he said, ?the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat??
His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. ?I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,? he said, ?and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.?
Dr. Tyson put it more gently. ?Persuasion isn?t always ?Here are the facts ? you?re an idiot or you are not,? ? he said. ?I worry that your methods? ? he turned toward Dr. Dawkins ? ?how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.?
Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, ?I gratefully accept the rebuke.?
In the end it was Dr. Tyson?s celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that ?the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing.? When Isaac Newton?s ?Principia Mathematica? failed to account for the stability of the solar system ? why the planets tugging at one another?s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun ? Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was ?an intelligent and powerful being.?
It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton?s mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.
?What concerns me now is that even if you?re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops ? it just stops,? Dr. Tyson said. ?You?re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn?t have God on the brain and who says: ?That?s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.? ?
?Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance,? he said. ?Something fundamental is going on in people?s minds when they confront things they don?t understand.?
He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words ?algebra? and ?algorithm? are Arabic.
But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. ?Revelation replaced investigation,? he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.
He did not have to say so, but the implication was that maybe a century, maybe a millennium from now, the names of new planets, stars and galaxies might be Chinese. Or there may be no one to name them at all.
Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.
?She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she?s getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once,? he lamented. ?When she?s gone, we may miss her.?
Dr. Dawkins wasn?t buying it. ?I won't miss her at all,? he said. ?Not a scrap. Not a smidgen.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics, Investing, & Technology
on: November 21, 2006, 07:47:08 AM
The charts with this piece don't print here, but still worth the read.
The Return of M3
in Data Analysis | Economy | Federal Reserve
Last year, we lamented the passing of M3 reporting. This broadest of money supply measures had shown a discomforting increase in liquidity, far greater than what M2 was revealing.
At the time of the M3 announcement, we suspected the Fed was attempting to cover their tracks, disguising an ongoing increase in money supply and an unstated "easing" in Fed bias. Since that time, we have learned: the Treasury Department was also adding liquidity -- a duty they have assumed, in part, in addition to the same performed by the Fed. Indeed, based on the credit growth data Doug Noland published last month ( October Credit Review), it appears that the Fed has ? despite increasing interest rates ? actually eased over the last two years.
In light of all this excess cash sloshing around, we wondered what M3 might look like if it were still being reported.
Wonder no more: We have located 2 separate sources for the reporting of M3. The first is Nowandfutures.com. As this article discusses, recreating M3 from publicly available data was relatively easy to do (to 5 nines accuracy).
As the chart below shows, M3 is alive and well and growing significantly. (A longer term M3 chart can be found here).
M3 January 2003 to present
click for larger graph
Source: Now and Future
Why is this significant? Well, M3 is growing quite rapidly, with the annual rate of change now over 10%. Prior to the announcement of M3's demise, its growth was in the range of 3 - 7%.
Anytime a government agency stops reporting about their goings on, it should raise a few eyebrows. Now we see what happened once the reporting of M3 was killed -- that measure of money supply spiked much higher -- a rate of change that's even greater than 10%+.
Funny how we alter our behavior when we think no one is watching what we are doing, isn't it?
What makes this particularly egregious is that the broadest measure of Money Supply that is still "officially" reported -- M2 -- and its been flat for 2006 (as my pal LK likes to remind me all the time).
Have a look at this chart:
M2 versus M3 Money Supply Growth
Source: Shadow Government Statistics
This is a classic case of "ignore what they are saying, because what they are doing is speaking so loud:" While the Federal Reserve has been reporting rather flat money supply growth in M2 ( blue line), in reality they have been dramatically increasing the cash (red and blue line) available for speculation.
Hence, that sloshing sound you heard. They have been providing the fuel for the rally, the huge M&A activity, the explosion in derivatives -- even the eye popping Art auctions are part of the shift from cash to hard assets. It is just suupply and demand -- print lots of lots of anything, and that thing becomes increasingly devalued. It works the same for cash as it did for Beanie Babies.
Its not just the increase in Money Supply that should be concerning to investors -- its the misdirection about it. If Money Supply matters so little, as Fed Chair Bernanke has been out explaining to anyone who will listen, why pray tell has the Fed been working those printing presses overtime?
Given M3 increases, its no wonder the European Central Bankers laughed at the suggestion.
William McChesney Martin, Jr., Fed Chair from April 2, 1951 to January 31, 1970, famously described the role of Central Banks thusly: "The job of the Federal Reserve is to take away the punch bowl just when the party starts getting interesting."
It seems the present Fed is not only NOT taking the punch bowl away -- they are spiking it with alcohol. I am not looking forward to the hangover that's to follow . . .
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hersch: Next Act-part three
on: November 21, 2006, 07:40:43 AM
A senior diplomat in Vienna told me that, in response to the allegations, I.A.E.A. inspectors went to Parchin in November of 2005, after months of negotiation. An inspection team was allowed to single out a specific site at the base, and then was granted access to a few buildings there. ?We found no evidence of nuclear materials,? the diplomat said. The inspectors looked hard at an underground explosive-testing pit that, he said, ?resembled what South Africa had when it developed its nuclear weapons,? three decades ago. The pit could have been used for the kind of kinetic research needed to test a nuclear trigger. But, like so many military facilities with dual-use potential, ?it also could be used for other things,? such as testing fuel for rockets, which routinely takes place at Parchin. ?The Iranians have demonstrated that they can enrich uranium,? the diplomat added, ?and trigger tests without nuclear yield can be done. But it?s a very sophisticated process?it?s also known as hydrodynamic testing?and only countries with suitably advanced nuclear testing facilities as well as the necessary scientific expertise can do it. I?d be very skeptical that Iran could do it.?
Earlier this month, the allegations about Parchin re?merged when Yediot Ahronot, Israel?s largest newspaper, reported that recent satellite imagery showed new ?massive construction? at Parchin, suggesting an expansion of underground tunnels and chambers. The newspaper sharply criticized the I.A.E.A.?s inspection process and its director, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, for his insistence on ?using very neutral wording for his findings and his conclusions.?
Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran who is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative think tank, told me that the ?biggest moment? of tension has yet to arrive: ?How does the United States keep an Israeli decision point?one that may come sooner than we want?from being reached?? Clawson noted that there is evidence that Iran has been slowed by technical problems in the construction and operation of two small centrifuge cascades, which are essential for the pilot production of enriched uranium. Both are now under I.A.E.A. supervision. ?Why were they so slow in getting the second cascade up and running?? Clawson asked. ?And why haven?t they run the first one as much as they said they would? Do we have more time?
?Why talk about war?? he said. ?We?re not talking about going to war with North Korea or Venezuela. It?s not necessarily the case that Iran has started a weapons program, and it?s conceivable?just conceivable?that Iran does not have a nuclear-weapons program yet. We can slow them down?force them to reinvent the wheel?without bombing, especially if the international conditions get better.?
Clawson added that Secretary of State Rice has ?staked her reputation on diplomacy, and she will not risk her career without evidence. Her team is saying, ?What?s the rush?? The President wants to solve the Iranian issue before leaving office, but he may have to say, ?Darn, I wish I could have solved it.? ?
Earlier this year, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert created a task force to co?rdinate all the available intelligence on Iran. The task force, which is led by Major General Eliezer Shkedi, the head of the Israeli Air Force, reports directly to the Prime Minister. In late October, Olmert appointed Ephraim Sneh, a Labor Party member of the Knesset, to serve as Deputy Defense Minister. Sneh, who served previously in that position under Ehud Barak, has for years insisted that action be taken to prevent Iran from getting the bomb. In an interview this month with the Jerusalem Post, Sneh expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of diplomacy or international sanctions in curbing Iran:
The danger isn?t as much Ahmadinejad?s deciding to launch an attack but Israel?s living under a dark cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction. . . . Most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with families, and Israelis who can live abroad will . . . I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That?s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.
A similar message was delivered by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, in a speech in Los Angeles last week. ?It?s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs,? he said, adding that there was ?still time? to stop the Iranians.
The Pentagon consultant told me that, while there may be pressure from the Israelis, ?they won?t do anything on their own without our green light.? That assurance, he said, ?comes from the Cheney shop. It?s Cheney himself who is saying, ?We?re not going to leave you high and dry, but don?t go without us.? ? A senior European diplomat agreed: ?For Israel, it is a question of life or death. The United States does not want to go into Iran, but, if Israel feels more and more cornered, there may be no other choice.?
A nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten Israel. It could trigger a strategic-arms race throughout the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt?all led by Sunni governments?would be compelled to take steps to defend themselves. The Bush Administration, if it does take military action against Iran, would have support from Democrats as well as Republicans. Senators Hillary Clinton, of New York, and Evan Bayh, of Indiana, who are potential Democratic Presidential candidates, have warned that Iran cannot be permitted to build a bomb and that?as Clinton said earlier this year??we cannot take any option off the table.? Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has also endorsed this view. Last May, Olmert was given a rousing reception when he addressed a joint session of Congress and declared, ?A nuclear Iran means a terrorist state could achieve the primary mission for which terrorists live and die?the mass destruction of innocent human life. This challenge, which I believe is the test of our time, is one the West cannot afford to fail.?
Despite such rhetoric, Leslie Gelb, a former State Department official who is a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believes that, ?when push comes to shove, the Israelis will have a hard time selling the idea that an Iranian nuclear capability is imminent. The military and the State Department will be flat against a pre?mptive bombing campaign.? Gelb said he hoped that Gates?s appointment would add weight to America?s most pressing issue??to get some level of Iranian restraint inside Iraq. In the next year or two, we?re much more likely to be negotiating with Iran than bombing it.?
The Bush Administration remains publicly committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear impasse, and has been working with China, Russia, France, Germany, and Britain to get negotiations under way. So far, that effort has foundered; the most recent round of talks broke up early in November, amid growing disagreements with Russia and China about the necessity of imposing harsh United Nations sanctions on the Iranian regime. President Bush is adamant that Iran must stop all of its enrichment programs before any direct talks involving the United States can begin.
The senior European diplomat told me that the French President, Jacques Chirac, and President Bush met in New York on September 19th, as the new U.N. session was beginning, and agreed on what the French called the ?Big Bang? approach to breaking the deadlock with Iran. A scenario was presented to Ali Larijani, the chief Iranian negotiator on nuclear issues. The Western delegation would sit down at a negotiating table with Iran. The diplomat told me, ?We would say, ?We?re beginning the negotiations without preconditions,? and the Iranians would respond, ?We will suspend.? Our side would register great satisfaction, and the Iranians would agree to accept I.A.E.A. inspection of their enrichment facilities. And then the West would announce, in return, that they would suspend any U.N. sanctions.? The United States would not be at the table when the talks began but would join later. Larijani took the offer to Tehran; the answer, as relayed by Larijani, was no, the diplomat said. ?We were trying to compromise, for all sides, but Ahmadinejad did not want to save face,? the diplomat said. ?The beautiful scenario has gone nowhere.?
Last week, there was a heightened expectation that the Iraq Study Group would produce a set of recommendations that could win bipartisan approval and guide America out of the quagmire in Iraq. Sources with direct knowledge of the panel?s proceedings have told me that the group, as of mid-November, had ruled out calling for an immediate and complete American withdrawal but would recommend focussing on the improved training of Iraqi forces and on redeploying American troops. In the most significant recommendation, Baker and Hamilton were expected to urge President Bush to do what he has thus far refused to do?bring Syria and Iran into a regional conference to help stabilize Iraq.
It is not clear whether the Administration will be receptive. In August, according to the former senior intelligence official, Rumsfeld asked the Joint Chiefs to quietly devise alternative plans for Iraq, to pre?mpt new proposals, whether they come from the new Democratic majority or from the Iraq Study Group. ?The option of last resort is to move American forces out of the cities and relocate them along the Syrian and Iranian border,? the former official said. ?Civilians would be hired to train the Iraqi police, with the eventual goal of separating the local police from the Iraqi military. The White House believes that if American troops stay in Iraq long enough?with enough troops?the bad guys will end up killing each other, and Iraqi citizens, fed up with internal strife, will come up with a solution. It?ll take a long time to move the troops and train the police. It?s a time line to infinity.?
In a subsequent interview, the former senior Bush Administration official said that he had also been told that the Pentagon has been at work on a plan in Iraq that called for a military withdrawal from the major urban areas to a series of fortified bases near the borders. The working assumption was that, with the American troops gone from the most heavily populated places, the sectarian violence would ?burn out.? ?The White House is saying it?s going to stabilize,? the former senior Administration official said, ?but it may stabilize the wrong way.?
One problem with the proposal that the Administration enlist Iran in reaching a settlement of the conflict in Iraq is that it?s not clear that Iran would be interested, especially if the goal is to help the Bush Administration extricate itself from a bad situation.
?Iran is emerging as a dominant power in the Middle East,? I was told by a Middle East expert and former senior Administration official. ?With a nuclear program, and an ability to interfere throughout the region, it?s basically calling the shots. Why should they co?perate with us over Iraq?? He recounted a recent meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who challenged Bush?s right to tell Iran that it could not enrich uranium. ?Why doesn?t America stop enriching uranium?? the Iranian President asked. He laughed, and added, ?We?ll enrich it for you and sell it to you at a fifty-per-cent discount.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hersch: Next Act-part two
on: November 21, 2006, 07:39:22 AM
The Administration?s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House?s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)
The C.I.A.?s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.
A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House?s dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. ?They?re not looking for a smoking gun,? the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. ?They?re looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission.? The Pentagon?s Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.?s analysis. ?The D.I.A. is fighting the agency?s conclusions, and disputing its approach,? the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, ?but they can?t stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community.? The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney?s office, had made just such an assumption?that ?the lack of evidence means they must have it,? the former official said.
Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, under which it is entitled to conduct nuclear research for peaceful purposes. Despite the offer of trade agreements and the prospect of military action, it defied a demand by the I.A.E.A. and the Security Council, earlier this year, that it stop enriching uranium?a process that can produce material for nuclear power plants as well as for weapons?and it has been unable, or unwilling, to account for traces of plutonium and highly enriched uranium that have been detected during I.A.E.A. inspections. The I.A.E.A. has complained about a lack of ?transparency,? although, like the C.I.A., it has not found unambiguous evidence of a secret weapons program.
Last week, Iran?s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced that Iran had made further progress in its enrichment research program, and said, ?We know that some countries may not be pleased.? He insisted that Iran was abiding by international agreements, but said, ?Time is now completely on the side of the Iranian people.? A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. has its headquarters, told me that the agency was skeptical of the claim, for technical reasons. But Ahmadinejad?s defiant tone did nothing to diminish suspicions about Iran?s nuclear ambitions.
?There is no evidence of a large-scale covert enrichment program inside Iran,? one involved European diplomat said. ?But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren?t cheating to some degree. You don?t need a covert program to be concerned about Iran?s nuclear ambitions. We have enough information to be concerned without one. It?s not a slam dunk, but it?s close to it.?
There are, however, other possible reasons for Iran?s obstinacy. The nuclear program?peaceful or not?is a source of great national pride, and President Ahmadinejad?s support for it has helped to propel him to enormous popularity. (Saddam Hussein created confusion for years, inside and outside his country, about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, in part to project an image of strength.) According to the former senior intelligence official, the C.I.A.?s assessment suggested that Iran might even see some benefits in a limited military strike?especially one that did not succeed in fully destroying its nuclear program?in that an attack might enhance its position in the Islamic world. ?They learned that in the Iraqi experience, and relearned it in southern Lebanon,? the former senior official said. In both cases, a more powerful military force had trouble achieving its military or political goals; in Lebanon, Israel?s war against Hezbollah did not destroy the group?s entire arsenal of rockets, and increased the popularity of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
The former senior intelligence official added that the C.I.A. assessment raised the possibility that an American attack on Iran could end up serving as a rallying point to unite Sunni and Shiite populations. ?An American attack will paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we?ll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas, and Hezbollah fighting against us?and the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West. It?s an analyst?s worst nightmare?for the first time since the caliphate there will be common cause in the Middle East.? (An Islamic caliphate ruled the Middle East for over six hundred years, until the thirteenth century.)
According to the Pentagon consultant, ?The C.I.A.?s view is that, without more intelligence, a large-scale bombing attack would not stop Iran?s nuclear program. And a low-end campaign of subversion and sabotage would play into Iran?s hands?bolstering support for the religious leadership and deepening anti-American Muslim rage.?
The Pentagon consultant said that he and many of his colleagues in the military believe that Iran is intent on developing nuclear-weapons capability. But he added that the Bush Administration?s options for dealing with that threat are diminished, because of a lack of good intelligence and also because ?we?ve cried wolf? before.
As the C.I.A.?s assessment was making its way through the government, late this summer, current and former military officers and consultants told me, a new element suddenly emerged: intelligence from Israeli spies operating inside Iran claimed that Iran has developed and tested a trigger device for a nuclear bomb. The provenance and significance of the human intelligence, or HUMINT, are controversial. ?The problem is that no one can verify it,? the former senior intelligence official told me. ?We don?t know who the Israeli source is. The briefing says the Iranians are testing trigger mechanisms??simulating a zero-yield nuclear explosion without any weapons-grade materials??but there are no diagrams, no significant facts. Where is the test site? How often have they done it? How big is the warhead?a breadbox or a refrigerator? They don?t have that.? And yet, he said, the report was being used by White House hawks within the Administration to ?prove the White House?s theory that the Iranians are on track. And tests leave no radioactive track, which is why we can?t find it.? Still, he said, ?The agency is standing its ground.?
The Pentagon consultant, however, told me that he and other intelligence professionals believe that the Israeli intelligence should be taken more seriously. ?We live in an era when national technical intelligence??data from satellites and on-the-ground sensors??will not get us what we need. HUMINT may not be hard evidence by that standard, but very often it?s the best intelligence we can get.? He added, with obvious exasperation, that within the intelligence community ?we?re going to be fighting over the quality of the information for the next year.? One reason for the dispute, he said, was that the White House had asked to see the ?raw??the original, unanalyzed and unvetted?Israeli intelligence. Such ?stovepiping? of intelligence had led to faulty conclusions about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction during the buildup to the 2003 Iraq war. ?Many Presidents in the past have done the same thing,? the consultant said, ?but intelligence professionals are always aghast when Presidents ask for stuff in the raw. They see it as asking a second grader to read ?Ulysses.? ?
HUMINT can be difficult to assess. Some of the most politically significant?and most inaccurate?intelligence about Iraq?s alleged weapons of mass destruction came from an operative, known as Curveball, who was initially supplied to the C.I.A. by German intelligence. But the Pentagon consultant insisted that, in this case, ?the Israeli intelligence is apparently very strong.? He said that the information about the trigger device had been buttressed by another form of highly classified data, known as MASINT, for ?measuring and signature? intelligence. The Defense Intelligence Agency is the central processing and dissemination point for such intelligence, which includes radar, radio, nuclear, and electro-optical data. The consultant said that the MASINT indicated activities that ?are not consistent with the programs? Iran has declared to the I.A.E.A. ?The intelligence suggests far greater sophistication and more advanced development,? the consultant said. ?The indications don?t make sense, unless they?re farther along in some aspects of their nuclear-weapons program than we know.?
In early 2004, John Bolton, who was then the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control (he is now the United Nations Ambassador), privately conveyed to the I.A.E.A. suspicions that Iran was conducting research into the intricately timed detonation of conventional explosives needed to trigger a nuclear warhead at Parchin, a sensitive facility twenty miles southeast of Tehran that serves as the center of Iran?s Defense Industries Organization. A wide array of chemical munitions and fuels, as well as advanced antitank and ground-to-air missiles, are manufactured there, and satellite imagery appeared to show a bunker suitable for testing very large explosions.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hersch: Next Act-part one
on: November 21, 2006, 07:36:45 AM
The author of this piece is a long time Bush hater and often fronts for particular factions within the US Govt. ?That said, he has lots of deep high level sources. ?One needs to read deeply between the lines with him.
THE NEXT ACT
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?
Issue of 2006-11-27
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting ?shorteners? on the wire?that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put ?shorteners? on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.
The White House?s concern was not that the Democrats would cut off funds for the war in Iraq but that future legislation would prohibit it from financing operations targeted at overthrowing or destabilizing the Iranian government, to keep it from getting the bomb. ?They?re afraid that Congress is going to vote a binding resolution to stop a hit on Iran, ? la Nicaragua in the Contra war,? a former senior intelligence official told me.
In late 1982, Edward P. Boland, a Democratic representative, introduced the first in a series of ?Boland amendments,? which limited the Reagan Administration?s ability to support the Contras, who were working to overthrow Nicaragua?s left-wing Sandinista government. The Boland restrictions led White House officials to orchestrate illegal fund-raising activities for the Contras, including the sale of American weapons, via Israel, to Iran. The result was the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-eighties. Cheney?s story, according to the source, was his way of saying that, whatever a Democratic Congress might do next year to limit the President?s authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it. (In response to a request for comment, the Vice-President?s office said that it had no record of the discussion.)
In interviews, current and former Administration officials returned to one question: whether Cheney would be as influential in the last two years of George W. Bush?s Presidency as he was in its first six. Cheney is emphatic about Iraq. In late October, he told Time, ?I know what the President thinks,? about Iraq. ?I know what I think. And we?re not looking for an exit strategy. We?re looking for victory.? He is equally clear that the Administration would, if necessary, use force against Iran. ?The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime,? he told an Israeli lobbying group early this year. ?And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.?
On November 8th, the day after the Republicans lost both the House and the Senate, Bush announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the nomination of his successor, Robert Gates, a former director of Central Intelligence. The move was widely seen as an acknowledgment that the Administration was paying a political price for the debacle in Iraq. Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group?headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman?which has been charged with examining new approaches to Iraq, and he has publicly urged for more than a year that the U.S. begin direct talks with Iran. President Bush?s decision to turn to Gates was a sign of the White House?s ?desperation,? a former high-level C.I.A. official, who worked with the White House after September 11th, told me. Cheney?s relationship with Rumsfeld was among the closest inside the Administration, and Gates?s nomination was seen by some Republicans as a clear signal that the Vice-President?s influence in the White House could be challenged. The only reason Gates would take the job, after turning down an earlier offer to serve as the new Director of National Intelligence, the former high-level C.I.A. official said, was that ?the President?s father, Brent Scowcroft, and James Baker??former aides of the first President Bush??piled on, and the President finally had to accept adult supervision.?
Critical decisions will be made in the next few months, the former C.I.A. official said. ?Bush has followed Cheney?s advice for six years, and the story line will be: ?Will he continue to choose Cheney over his father?? We?ll know soon.? (The White House and the Pentagon declined to respond to detailed requests for comment about this article, other than to say that there were unspecified inaccuracies.)
A retired four-star general who worked closely with the first Bush Administration told me that the Gates nomination means that Scowcroft, Baker, the elder Bush, and his son ?are saying that winning the election in 2008 is more important than the individual. The issue for them is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice??the Secretary of State??a chance to perform.? The combination of Scowcroft, Baker, and the senior Bush working together is, the general added, ?tough enough to take on Cheney. One guy can?t do it.?
Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush?s first term, told me that he believed the Democratic election victory, followed by Rumsfeld?s dismissal, meant that the Administration ?has backed off,? in terms of the pace of its planning for a military campaign against Iran. Gates and other decision-makers would now have more time to push for a diplomatic solution in Iran and deal with other, arguably more immediate issues. ?Iraq is as bad as it looks, and Afghanistan is worse than it looks,? Armitage said. ?A year ago, the Taliban were fighting us in units of eight to twelve, and now they?re sometimes in company-size, and even larger.? Bombing Iran and expecting the Iranian public ?to rise up? and overthrow the government, as some in the White House believe, Armitage added, ?is a fool?s errand.?
?Iraq is the disaster we have to get rid of, and Iran is the disaster we have to avoid,? Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said. ?Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there??in the White House??and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell?the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.?
Other sources close to the Bush family said that the machinations behind Rumsfeld?s resignation and the Gates nomination were complex, and the seeming triumph of the Old Guard may be illusory. The former senior intelligence official, who once worked closely with Gates and with the President?s father, said that Bush and his immediate advisers in the White House understood by mid-October that Rumsfeld would have to resign if the result of the midterm election was a resounding defeat. Rumsfeld was involved in conversations about the timing of his departure with Cheney, Gates, and the President before the election, the former senior intelligence official said. Critics who asked why Rumsfeld wasn?t fired earlier, a move that might have given the Republicans a boost, were missing the point. ?A week before the election, the Republicans were saying that a Democratic victory was the seed of American retreat, and now Bush and Cheney are going to change their national-security policies?? the former senior intelligence official said. ?Cheney knew this was coming. Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move??You?re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we?re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.? ? But the conciliatory gesture would not be accompanied by a significant change in policy; instead, the White House saw Gates as someone who would have the credibility to help it stay the course on Iran and Iraq. Gates would also be an asset before Congress. If the Administration needed to make the case that Iran?s weapons program posed an imminent threat, Gates would be a better advocate than someone who had been associated with the flawed intelligence about Iraq. The former official said, ?He?s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he?ll be taken seriously by Congress.?
Once Gates is installed at the Pentagon, he will have to contend with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Rumsfeld legacy?and Dick Cheney. A former senior Bush Administration official, who has also worked with Gates, told me that Gates was well aware of the difficulties of his new job. He added that Gates would not simply endorse the Administration?s policies and say, ?with a flag waving, ?Go, go? ??especially at the cost of his own reputation. ?He does not want to see thirty-five years of government service go out the window,? the former official said. However, on the question of whether Gates would actively stand up to Cheney, the former official said, after a pause, ?I don?t know.?
Another critical issue for Gates will be the Pentagon?s expanding effort to conduct clandestine and covert intelligence missions overseas. Such activity has traditionally been the C.I.A.?s responsibility, but, as the result of a systematic push by Rumsfeld, military covert actions have been substantially increased. In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as ?part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran.? (The Pentagon has established covert relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime?s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group ?equipment and training.? The group has also been given ?a list of targets inside Iran of interest to the U.S.? (An Israeli government spokesman denied that Israel was involved.)
Such activities, if they are considered military rather than intelligence operations, do not require congressional briefings. For a similar C.I.A. operation, the President would, by law, have to issue a formal finding that the mission was necessary, and the Administration would have to brief the senior leadership of the House and the Senate. The lack of such consultation annoyed some Democrats in Congress. This fall, I was told, Representative David Obey, of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that finances classified military activity, pointedly asked, during a closed meeting of House and Senate members, whether ?anyone has been briefing on the Administration?s plan for military activity in Iran.? The answer was no. (A spokesman for Obey confirmed this account.)
The Democratic victories this month led to a surge of calls for the Administration to begin direct talks with Iran, in part to get its help in settling the conflict in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke ranks with President Bush after the election and declared that Iran should be offered ?a clear strategic choice? that could include a ?new partnership? with the West. But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. ?It?s a classic case of ?failure forward,?? a Pentagon consultant said. ?They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq?like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.?
The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Condoleezza Rice, who said last month that Iran ?does need to understand that it is not going to improve its own situation by stirring instability in Iraq,? and by the President, who said, in August, that ?Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold? in Iraq. The government consultant told me, ?More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.?
The consultant added that, for some advocates of military action, ?the goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran?s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb?and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.? (Sadr, who commands a Shiite militia, has religious ties to Iran.)
In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative, argued that the Administration had little choice. ?Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran?s nuclear facilities before leaving office,? he wrote. The President would be bitterly criticized for a pre?mptive attack on Iran, Muravchik said, and so neoconservatives ?need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.?
The main Middle East expert on the Vice-President?s staff is David Wurmser, a neoconservative who was a strident advocate for the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Like many in Washington, Wurmser ?believes that, so far, there?s been no price tag on Iran for its nuclear efforts and for its continuing agitation and intervention inside Iraq,? the consultant said. But, unlike those in the Administration who are calling for limited strikes, Wurmser and others in Cheney?s office ?want to end the regime,? the consultant said. ?They argue that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dividing the Iraqi Pie
on: November 21, 2006, 07:05:17 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Dividing the Iraqi Pie
Iraq announced on Monday that President Jalal Talabani and Syrian President Bashar al Assad will travel to Iran this weekend to discuss the security situation in Iraq and its regional implications in a three-way summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iraqi government also said that Baghdad and Damascus will restore diplomatic relations during the current visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
These two events underscore the aggressive moves by Iran and (to a lesser degree) Syria to consolidate their positions ahead of their expected negotiations with the United States over the future of Iraq. Back in Washington, there is great anticipation regarding the forthcoming recommendations from the Iraq Study Group to the Bush administration in a report that is being seen as a U.S. blueprint to stabilize Iraq.
The big question on everyone's mind is this: given the deep divisions among Iraq's Shia, Sunni and Kurds, and given the divergent interests of all the parties who have a finger in the Iraqi pie, what kind of settlement can prevent the Iraqi state from imploding and creating havoc in the region? In other words, is there a formula for resolving the Iraqi crisis that is acceptable to all sides involved?
The triangular struggle within the country and the moves toward creating a federal Iraq with autonomous regions -- enshrined now in the country's constitution -- necessitate a restructuring of the Iraqi state at the subnational level. In fact, this process is already under way, with the creation of the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north and the moves by the Shia to create a similar autonomous zone in southern Iraq.
Currently, the Kurds have authority over the provinces of Arbil, Dahuk and As Sulaymaniyah, as well as de facto control over portions of Diyala, Ninawa and At Tamim provinces. The Shia envision their own future autonomous zone as comprising the governorates south of Baghdad -- Karbala, An Najaf, Al Muthanna, Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysin, Wasit, Al Qadisiyah and Babil.
What this means, however, is that the Sunni zone in central Iraq will be left with just two provinces: Anbar and Salah ad Din (with Baghdad likely being shared by all three sides). Not surprisingly, the Sunnis remain in staunch opposition to these moves because of the fear that such an arrangement leaves them politically and economically emasculated. Such a bleak prospect goes a long way toward explaining the Sunni insurgency. It is unlikely that the Sunnis can reverse the tide, however -- so if there is an agreement, it will be some permutation of federalism, and will require concessions from the Shia and the Kurds.
A potential compromise could have the Kurds giving up the provinces of Ninawa, At Tamim and Diyala. Significantly, the northern oil fields are located in the Kirkuk region in At Tamim province; the Kurds have been trying to run their independent oil operations in this area. However, it is quite possible that an agreement can be reached regarding the distribution of oil revenues, with the responsibility falling on Baghdad to make sure each community is represented. This is one issue on which the Sunni and the Shiite positions are close to one another, because both want oil to be under the control of the central government.
If that happens, the northern parts of these three provinces could merge into the Kurdish zone, while the central and southern areas could become part of the Sunni zone. Such an arrangement might be acceptable not only to the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds, but also to Iraq's neighbors, because it could keep the state from descending into anarchy. The Sunni Arab states would be relieved to see a robust Sunni zone. Turkey's concerns regarding the Kurds in the north could also be assuaged. And Iran will see the formation of the Shiite zone it is seeking in the south. Notably, none of the regional players is actually interested in a complete partition of the country, because of the threat of regional instability. The Arab states have long seen Iraq as a buffer between them and Iran, and the Iranians also want Iraq as a buffer -- but one in which they have more control than the Arab states do.
Of course, there is the question of whether such an arrangement could hold. For the moment, the various players involved in Iraq are likely to endorse such an arrangement just to back away from the precipice. They each have the option of coming back later on and subverting it when it furthers their interests to do so.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli Map
on: November 21, 2006, 06:58:22 AM
Israeli Map Says West Bank Posts Sit on Arab Land
By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: November 21, 2006
JERUSALEM, Nov. 20 ? An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.
Settlements on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.
If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.
The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel?s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times.
The data ? maps that show the government?s registry of the land by category ? was given to Peace Now by someone who obtained it from an official inside the Civil Administration. The Times spoke to the person who received it from the Civil Administration official and agreed not to identify him because of the delicate nature of the material.
That person, who has frequent contact with the Civil Administration, said he and the official wanted to expose what they consider to be wide-scale violations of private Palestinian property rights by the government and settlers. The government has refused to give the material directly to Peace Now, which requested it under Israel?s freedom of information law.
Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Civil Administration, said he could not comment on the data without studying it.
He said there was a committee, called the blue line committee, that had been investigating these issues of land ownership for three years. ?We haven?t finished checking everything,? he said.
Mr. Dror also said that sometimes Palestinians would sell land to Israelis but be unwilling to admit to the sale publicly because they feared retribution as collaborators.
Within prominent settlements that Israel has said it plans to keep in any final border agreement, the data show, for example, that some 86.4 percent of Maale Adumim, a large Jerusalem suburb, is private; and 35.1 percent of Ariel is.
The maps indicate that beyond the private land, 5.8 percent is so-called survey land, meaning of unclear ownership, and 1.3 percent private Jewish land. The rest, about 54 percent, is considered ?state land? or has no designation, though Palestinians say that at least some of it represents agricultural land expropriated by the state.
The figures, together with detailed maps of the land distribution in every Israeli settlement in the West Bank, were put together by the Settlement Watch Project of Peace Now, led by Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran, and has a record of careful and accurate reporting on settlement growth.
The report does not include Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and does not consider part of the West Bank, although much of the world regards East Jerusalem as occupied. Much of the world also considers Israeli settlements on occupied land to be illegal under international law. International law requires an occupying power to protect private property, and Israel has always asserted that it does not take land without legal justification.
One case in a settlement Israel intends to keep is in Givat Zeev, barely five miles north of Jerusalem. At the southern edge is the Ayelet Hashachar synagogue. Rabah Abdellatif, a Palestinian who lives in the nearby village of Al Jib, says the land belongs to him.
Papers he has filed with the Israeli military court, which runs the West Bank, seem to favor Mr. Abdellatif. In 1999, Israeli officials confirmed, he was even granted a judgment ordering the demolition of the synagogue because it had been built without permits. But for the last seven years, the Israeli system has done little to enforce its legal judgments. The synagogue stands, and Mr. Abdellatif has no access to his land.
Ram Kovarsky, the town council secretary, said the synagogue was outside the boundaries of Givat Zeev, although there is no obvious separation. Israeli officials confirm that the land is privately owned, though they refuse to say by whom.
Settlements on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land Mr. Abdellatif, 65, said: ?I feel stuck, angry. Why would they do that? I don?t know who to go to anymore.?
He pointed to his corduroy trousers and said, in the English he learned in Paterson, N.J., where his son is a police detective: ?These are my pants. And those are your pants. And you should not take my pants. This is mine, and that is yours! I never took anyone?s land.?
According to the Peace Now figures, 44.3 percent of Givat Zeev is on private Palestinian land.
Miri Eisin, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that Israeli officials would have to see the data and the maps and added that ownership is complicated and delicate. Baruch Spiegel, a reserve general who just left the Ministry of Defense and dealt with the separation barrier being built near the boundary with the West Bank, also said he would have to see the data in detail in order to judge it.
The definitions of private and state land are complicated, given different administrations of the West Bank going back to the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate, Jordan and now Israel. During the Ottoman Empire, only small areas of the West Bank were registered to specific owners, and often villagers would hold land in common to avoid taxes. The British began a more formal land registry based on land use, taxation or house ownership that continued through the Jordanian period.
Large areas of agricultural land are registered as state land; other areas were requisitioned or seized by the Israeli military after 1967 for security purposes, but such requisitions are meant to be temporary and must be renewed, and do not change the legal ownership of the land, Mr. Dror, the Civil Administration spokesman, said.
But the issue of property is one that Israeli officials are familiar with, even if the percentages here may come as a surprise and may be challenged after the publication of the report.
Asked about Israeli seizure of private Palestinian land in an interview with The Times last summer, before these figures were available, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: ?Now I don?t deny anything, I don?t ignore anything. I?m just ready to sit down and talk. And resolve it. And resolve it in a generous manner for all sides.?
He said the 1967 war was a one of self-defense. Later, he said: ?Many things happened. Life is not frozen. Things occur. So many things happened, and as a result of this many innocent individuals on both sides suffered, were killed, lost their lives, became crippled for life, lost their family members, their loved ones, thousands of them. And also private property suffered. By the way, on all sides.?
Mr. Olmert says Israel will keep some 10 percent of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, possibly in a swap for land elsewhere. The area Israel intends to keep is roughly marked by the route of the unfinished separation barrier, which cuts through the West Bank and is intended, Israel says, to stop suicide bombers. Mr. Olmert, however, describes it as a putative border. Nearly 80,000 Jews live in settlements beyond the route of the barrier, but some 180,000 live in settlements within the barrier, while another 200,000 live in East Jerusalem.
But these land-ownership figures show that even in the settlements that Israel intends to keep, there will be a considerable problem of restitution that goes beyond the issue of refugee return.
Mr. Olmert was elected on a pledge to withdraw Israeli settlers living east of the barrier. But after the war with Hezbollah and with fighting ongoing in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew its settlers in the summer of 2005, his withdrawal plan has been suspended.
In March 2005, a report requested by the government found a number of illegal Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land, and officials promised to destroy them. But only nine houses of only one outpost, Amona, were dismantled after a court case brought by Peace Now.
There is a court case pending over Migron, which began as a group of trailers on a windy hilltop around a set of cellphone antennas in May 1999 and is now a flourishing community of 50 families, said Avi Teksler, an official of the Migron council. But Migron, too, according to the data, is built on private Palestinian land.
Mr. Teksler said that the land was deserted, and that its ownership would be settled in court. Migron, where some children of noted settlement leaders live, has had ?the support of every Israeli government,? he said. ?The government has been a partner to every single move we?ve made.?
Mr. Teksler added: ?This is how the state of Israel was created. And this is all the land of Israel. We?re like the kibbutzim. The only real difference is that we?re after 1967, not before.?
But in the Palestinian village of Burqa, Youssef Moussa Abdel Raziq Nabboud, 85, says that some of the land of Migron, and the land on which Israel built a road for settlers, belongs to him and his family, who once grew wheat and beans there. He said he had tax documents from the pre-1967 authorities.
?They have the power to put the settlement there and we can do nothing,? he said. ?They have a fence around the settlement and dogs there.?
Mr. Nabboud went to the Israeli authorities with the mayor, Abu Maher, but they were told he needed an Israeli lawyer and surveyor. ?I have no money for that,? he said. What began as an outpost taking 5 acres has now taken 125, the mayor said.
Mr. Nabboud wears a traditional head covering; his grandson, Khaled, 27, wears a Yankees cap. ?The land is my inheritance,? he said. ?I feel sad I can?t go there. And angry. The army protects them.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues
on: November 20, 2006, 08:31:50 PM
Jeez, I have the sensation of dealing with my children when they are squabbling
I thought the adjective ludicrous a bit strong, but found the overall tone of voice quite plausible -- seems reasonable to me to note where someone gets their bread buttered. Yes it is tangential to the larger point and non-responsive to your main points and of course you are right that this proves nothing-- the science is the science and deal with it, but Buz, my man, this:
"As is all too usual in these instances, you then proceed to ignore about 90 percent of my argument and instead make shrill statements about some narrow slice. I'm once more throwing it back at you, so I 'spose it's now time for you to run to Crafty again and complain I'm a meanie, then your brother can pile on and call me a troll. Sheesh, what a silly dance."
is not necessary. Bad dog!
The rest, being on the merits, would have been quite effective all by itself
So, Milt, I'd like to ask you to not continue around the mulberry bush with upir brother Buz's personal comments and simply respond to the part of his post which is on the merits: Do you have a "peer reviewed set of data supporting your position"? If so, have at it!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Book Reviews- political and religious
on: November 20, 2006, 03:32:25 PM
November 14, 2006
Steyn's New Book Combines Humor, Accuracy, Depth
BY DANIEL PIPES
The political columnist and cultural critic Mark Steyn has written a remarkable book, "America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It" (Regnery). He combines several virtues not commonly found together ? humor, accurate reportage, and deep thinking ? and then applies them to what is arguably the most consequential issue of our time: the Islamist threat to the West.
Mr. Steyn offers a devastating thesis but presents it in bits and pieces, so I shall pull it together here.
He begins with the legacy of two totalitarianisms. Traumatized by the electoral appeal of fascism, post-World War II European states were constructed in a top-down manner,"so as to insulate almost entirely the political class from populist pressures." As a result, the establishment has "come to regard the electorate as children."
Second, the Soviet menace during the Cold War prompted American leaders, impatient with Europe's (and Canada's) weak responses, effectively to take over their defense. This benign and far-sighted policy led to victory by 1991, but it also had the unintended and less salutary side effect of freeing up Europe's funds to build a welfare state. This welfare state had several malign implications.
The nanny state infantilized Europeans, making them worry about such pseudo-issues as climate change while feminizing the males.
It also neutered them, annexing "most of the core functions of adulthood," starting with the instinct to breed. From about 1980, birth rates plummeted, leaving an inadequate base for today's workers to receive their pensions.
Structured on a pay-as-you-go basis, it amounted to an intergenerational Ponzi scheme under which today's workers depend on their children for their pensions.
The demographic collapse meant that the indigenous peoples of countries like Russia, Italy, and Spain are at the start of a population death spiral.
It led to a collapse of confidence that in turn bred "civilizational exhaustion," leaving Europeans unprepared to fight for their ways.
To keep the economic machine running meant accepting foreign workers. Rather than execute a long-term plan to prepare for the many millions of immigrants needed, Europe's elites punted, welcoming almost anyone who turned up. By virtue of geographic proximity, demographic overdrive, and a crisis-prone environment, "Islam is now the principal supplier of new Europeans," Mr. Steyn writes.
Arriving at a time of demographic, political, and cultural weakness, Muslims are profoundly changing Europe: "Islam has youth and will, Europe has age and welfare." Put differently, "Premodern Islam beats post-modern Christianity." Much of the Western world, Mr. Steyn flat-out predicts, "will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries." With even more drama, he adds, "It's the end of the world as we know it."
(In contrast, I believe that Europe still has time to avoid this fate.)
"America Alone" deals at length with what Mr. Steyn calls "the larger forces at play in the developed world that have left Europe too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia." Europe's successor population is already in place, and "the only question is how bloody the transfer of real estate will be." He interprets the Madrid and London bombings, as well as the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam, as opening shots in Europe's civil war and states, "Europe is the colony now."
The title "America Alone" refers to Mr. Steyn's expectation that America ? with its "relatively healthy demographic profile" ? will emerge as the lonely survivor of this crucible. "Europe is dying and America isn't." Therefore, "the Continent is up for grabs in a way that America isn't." Mr. Steyn's target audience is primarily American: Watch out, he is saying, or the same will happen to you.
Pared to its essentials, he counsels two things: First, avoid the "bloated European welfare systems," declare them no less than a national security threat, shrink the state, and emphasize the virtues of self-reliance and individual innovation. Second, avoid "imperial understretch," don't "hunker down in Fortress America" but destroy the ideology of radical Islam, help reform Islam, and expand Western civilization to new places. Only if Americans "can summon the will to shape at least part of the emerging world" will they have enough company to soldier on. Failing that, expect a "new Dark Ages ... a planet on which much of the map is re-primitivized."
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org
) is director of the Middle East Forum and author of "Miniatures" (Transaction Publishers).
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 20, 2006, 11:47:05 AM
MEXICO: Defeated Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador plans to hold a ceremony at 4 p.m. local time in the Zocalo in Mexico City to inaugurate himself and a 12-person Cabinet as leaders of a shadow government, El Universal reported. Thousands of people are expected to attend the ceremony.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: November 20, 2006, 11:39:34 AM
I thought of starting a new thread for this one, but decided to post it here; apparently these people were badly mistreated because they were Muslim.
today's LA Times:
9/11 prisoner abuse suit could be landmark
Rounded up, Muslim immigrants were beaten in jail. Such open-ended detentions and sweeps might be barred.
By Richard A. Serrano, Times Staff Writer
November 20, 2006
NEW YORK ? Five years after Muslim immigrants were abused in a federal jail here, the guards who beat them and the Washington policymakers who decided to hold them for months without charges are being called to account.
Some 1,200 Middle Eastern men were arrested on suspicion of terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. No holding place was so notorious as Brooklyn's nine-story Metropolitan Detention Center. In a special unit on the top floor, detainees were smashed into walls, repeatedly stripped and searched, and often denied basic legal rights and religious privileges, according to federal investigations.
Now the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs the jail, has revealed for the first time that 13 staff members have been disciplined, two of them fired. The warden has retired and moved to the Midwest.
And in what could turn out to be a landmark case, a lawsuit filed by two Brooklyn detainees against top Bush administration officials is moving forward in the federal courts in New York.
A judge turned down a request by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to dismiss the lawsuit against them. The case is before an appeals court, where a panel of three judges signaled last month that they too believed it should go forward.
The suit, which also names top federal prison officials and individual guards as defendants, seeks an unspecified amount of money from the government. More significant, it hopes to hold federal law enforcement authorities responsible for their open-ended, "hold-until-cleared" policy for detainees. After Sept. 11, the FBI was in no rush to investigate the detainees, and many men were held in limbo. If the lawsuit prevails, it will create precedents that will probably bar authorities from carrying out such sweeping roundups in the future.
The case is proceeding with just one of the detainees who sued. The government settled with the other, former Manhattan deli operator Ehab Elmaghraby, who this year accepted a federal government payout of $300,000.
But Elmaghraby, who has returned to Egypt(ummm, it says below "deported"), said he could not forgive the guards who jammed a flashlight up his rectum.
"They destroyed me. They destroyed my family," he said in a recent telephone interview. "So I want the officers to stay one week inside those cells. They would kill themselves before the week was finished."
Ashcroft and others have defended the detentions. In a new book, Ashcroft wrote: "Was it worth it to detain and charge hundreds ? in order to find one or more of the key men sent to America to facilitate a second wave of attacks on the United States? I thought so then, and I think so more today."
Five investigations by the Department of Justice inspector general's office, most of them never publicized, documented wholesale abuse of the Muslim detainees at the Brooklyn detention center. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, 84 men were held there. None was charged in the attacks. Most were deported on immigration infractions.
One disturbing incident, repeated over and over, is particularly haunting ? inmates head-slammed into a wall where the staff had taped a T-shirt with an American flag printed on it. The motto on the shirt proclaimed: "These colors don't run." In time, that spot on the wall was covered with blood.
"They told me, 'Look at our flag. You see the blood that is coming down from our flag? We're going to make you bleed every day like this,' " Elmaghraby recalled.
He said they grabbed his back and sides and rushed him head-first into the wall. "Blood came out of my mouth," he said.
The inspector general determined that many guards were "emotionally charged" in the weeks after Sept. 11. A jail lieutenant told investigators that guards carried around "a great deal of anger." Another lieutenant said prisoners purposely were handed over to teams of up to seven guards, all of them "spiked with adrenaline." That lieutenant further described some of the guards as "talking crazy" and "getting ready for battle."
In legal briefs filed this year with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, attorneys for Ashcroft and Mueller defended their policy, saying that Washington after Sept. 11 was "confronted with unprecedented law enforcement and security challenges." They said Ashcroft and Mueller had been working with "no clear judicial precedents in this extraordinary context."
Ashcroft in his recent book, "Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice," wrote that the goal was to prevent another catastrophic attack. He was not bothered by holding detainees for long periods.
"If we can't bring them to trial," he wrote, "so be it."
Mueller also has defended the decision, but in a speech to the ACLU acknowledged that the inspector general did "a very good job of pointing out areas where we can do better." He said that clearer criteria were needed for deciding when to hold immigrants as terrorism suspects and that law enforcement should do more to speed up investigations.
Elmaghraby moved to the U.S. in 1990, married and operated a deli near Times Square in Manhattan. Nineteen days after Sept. 11, he was arrested, apparently because his landlord in Queens had applied for pilot training.
For the first three months in the jail, he said, he was denied a blanket, pillow, mattress and toilet paper. He was locked away in his bare feet.
"No shoes for a terrorist," he said he was told.
He said he was repeatedly strip-searched, dragged on the ground and punched until his teeth shattered. He said that he was displayed naked in front of a female staffer, and that guards violated him with a flashlight and pencil.
Elmaghraby, 39, broke down crying in a recent interview. "They don't treat you like a person," he said. "They treat you like an animal."
He was held for nearly a year ? until August 2002. After pleading guilty to minor credit card fraud charges (plea bargains often are to far less than the actual list of charges-- one would guess especially here where the mission would be deportation. If he is this kind of thief, what credibility to give his claims?), he was deported to Alexandria, Egypt.
He has lost track of his wife in New York (?!?) , he said, and his deli business went under. And he spent most of his $300,000 settlement to repair his stomach and esophagus, which he said were damaged because jail doctors did not properly treat him for severe indigestion and hypertension.
The former detainee with whom the lawsuit is proceeding, Javaid Iqbal, is also 39. Iqbal, a Pakistani, came to America a dozen years ago. He married and he worked as a cable repairman on Long Island. He was arrested in November 2001, apparently after agents interviewed him in his apartment and spotted a magazine showing the twin towers collapsing.
He said he was mocked as a "Muslim terrorist and a killer." He was strip-searched, punched in the face and kicked in the back. He said guards urinated in his toilet, then turned off the water so it would not flush.
He was denied a copy of the Koran. "No prayer for terrorists," he said he was told.
Iqbal was released at the end of July 2002. He pleaded guilty to having false immigration papers and was deported to Faisalabad, Pakistan. His lawyers declined to let him be interviewed.
Guards at the detention center first denied there was any mistreatment, then slowly came forward. Finally videotapes were uncovered that showed abuse, including detainees head-butted into the T-shirt on the wall.
Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said 13 staff members have been disciplined. Two were fired, two received 30-day suspensions and one was suspended for 21 days. Two more were suspended for four days, three for two days, and three were demoted.
Warden Dennis Hasty retired in April 2002. He is named as a defendant in the lawsuit but his lawyer, Michael L. Martinez, said Hasty had not been aware of the abuse and had been "appalled and upset" to learn of the allegations.
The lawsuit was filed in Brooklyn in May 2004. Last year, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled against a bid by Ashcroft and Mueller for a dismissal.
The judge said the furor over Sept. 11 did not warrant such drastic measures. He rejected, he wrote, "the argument that the post-Sept. 11 context wholly extinguished ? a pretrial detainee's due process rights."
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Bolivia tambi?n es de Fidel
on: November 20, 2006, 07:38:47 AM
1242 GMT -- BOLIVIA -- The governors of six of Bolivia's nine departments broke relations with President Evo Morales Nov. 19, claiming he has violated regulations regarding the currently convened Constitutional Assembly. The move is a response to Morales' Nov. 17 declaration that the assembly can pass individual clauses by a simple majority, obviating the need for compromise between Morales' party and the opposition. www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 20, 2006, 06:16:14 AM
Hope I'm not overloading everyone's reading time this morning!? Here's more from Germany:
More than 70 Muslim workers have been stripped of their security clearances at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport for alleged links to terrorist organizations. Now the unions representing the workers are threatening to strike.
When French nationalist politician Phillipe de Villiers decried the "Islamization of France" in his book "The Mosques of Roissy" this spring, he was called xenophobic, extremist, paranoid -- and a best-selling author. Indeed, despite some heavy criticism of his views, the French were snatching up his book in droves, and the government started heeding his warnings.
"Islamists and criminals from the housing projects are working in concert to put the airport under Shariah law, threatening managers and the rare employees of French origin," he wrote. Two months after de Villiers' claims that "Allah's workers" had access to sensitive security zones at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered all unofficial prayer sites in the airport closed. Now, as a result of an anti-terrorism investigation, 72 Muslim airport employees have been stripped of their security clearances.
The workers -- who are mainly baggage handlers and aircraft cleaners -- are accused of having visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One is thought to have been close to a senior figure in an Algerian terrorist group with links to al-Qaida, and another is thought to have been a friend of "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid. Reid is currently serving a life prison sentence in Colorado for attempting to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoe.
Charles de Gaulle airport -- also called the "Roissy" -- is located north of Paris, and many of its employees are Muslims of north-African descent who live in the rundown suburbs nearby. De Villiers claims in his book that clandestine mosques line the tunnels beneath the airport's runways and that some luggage handling companies employ members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Workers and unions complain the suspensions amount to religious discrimination. Legal suits and labor strikes are on the table. France's largest trade union, the CFDT, filed a discrimination lawsuit in mid-October over the revocations, while 10 affected workers are taking legal action in individual capacities. Now the unions representing the airport workers have announced that they are meeting next Tuesday to consider strike action. On the following Friday, a court in Cergy-Pontoise will hear the case for unfair dismissal brought by six men who were sacked.
Jacques Lebrot -- the French government official who oversees the airport -- insists that religion is not the issue. "Monsieur or Madame X who goes to pray in a mosque and travels to Mecca for the pilgrimage is not the problem for us. But we will ask questions if we find someone who has spent holidays several times in Pakistan," he told reporters. Eric Moutet -- a lawyer for the suspended workers -- told the New York Times: "We have not seen any objective evidence against our clients. The only common denominator we see today is that they are all Muslim."
For de Villiers, though, that may be reason enough. As head of the far-right party, Movement for France, he's basing his 2007 presidential bid on an anti-immigrant platform. His campaign is unlikely to garner any significant proportion of the vote, but he's sure to sell a few more books.
AFTER HEADSCARF COMMENTS
Police Protection for German Parliamentarian
A German parliamentarian of Turkish origin has called for Muslim women to throw off their headscarves and embrace Western values. After receiving death threats for the remarks, she is under police protection. Politicians are defending her right to free speech.
With the increased focus on immigrants in Germany, it sometimes seems like integration success stories don't exist. They do. And Ekin Delig?z is one of the country's finest. A Turkish-born German citizen, she now serves in the seat of German democracy, the Bundestag. But, cultural emissaries like Delig?z don't only build bridges, they also sometimes expose the vast differences that make their existence so crucial.
That, in fact, is why Delig?z is now kept company by a police detail. The Green party member has received death threats for calling on Muslim women to take off their headscarves and to embrace German society and values two weeks ago. "You live here, so take your headscarf off," Delig?z was quoted by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper as saying.
In addition to the threats, she has also been the victim of a negative media campaign in Turkey with tabloid stories comparing her to the Nazis. In a letter of complaint written to the Turkish Ambassador by the head of the Green Party Renate K?nast, she indicated that Delig?z had been "insulted in writing, by telephone, and also in person ... overwhelmingly by Turkish men."
Delig?z sees the headscarf as a symbol of female oppression and patriarchy. If it were just a fashion accessory, she says, "then I wouldn't now be under police protection."
A number of Muslim organizations in Germany have accepted an invitation from K?nast and the Greens to discuss the threats and to talk about "behaving with respect toward each other."
Meanwhile, a number of German politicians are vociferously denouncing the threats and defending Delig?z's right to freedom of speech. "It is absolutely legitimate that a woman who is Muslim herself ... makes this appeal, said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Sch?uble. In an interview with the German radio station RBB, he continued, "What we lawmakers must decisively support is that someone can voice these opinions and that one doesn't need police protection to do so."
Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag and a close ally of Chancellor Merkel, called the threats "a severe attack on the core values of our constitution."
Delig?z is pleased at the support the German government has provided. "Most threats were supposed to intimidate me," she said, "but in a democratic society it should be possible to also express a critical opinion."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 20, 2006, 06:11:23 AM
Here is one of the articles in that final URL:
PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN IV.
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is considered to be the direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad and, as the 49th imam, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. A minority community within the Muslim faith, the Ismailis include some 20 million members scattered across 25 countries in Central Asia, Europe and Eastern Africa. The Aga Khan himself lives near Paris in Aiglemont Palace. Born near Geneva, the prince grew up in Kenya, Switzerland and London before being educated at Harvard. At the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather as the Aga Khan, thus becoming a religious leader and the administrator of billions in assets. Fed by his family inheritance and a 10 percent tithing fee from Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan channels much of the money into the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world's most important private development aid organizations. The Aga Khan has two sons from his first marriage - - Rahim, 34, and Hussein, 32. He also has a son from his second marriage to the German princess Gabriele zu Leiningen - - six- year- old Ali Mohammed. The Aga Khan must name one of his sons as his successor, but that choice will remain a secret until his death.
SPIEGEL: Your Highness, in a lecture Pope Benedict XVI quoted Emperor Manuel as saying: "Show me just what Muhammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as a command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." This quotation from the 14th century has caused great uproar in the Muslim world. Why? And what was your reaction?
Aga Khan: From my point of view, I would start by saying that I was concerned about this statement because this has caused great unhappiness in the Islamic world. There appears to be momentum towards more and more misunderstandings between religions, a degradation of relations. I think we all should try not to add anything to worsen the situation.
SPIEGEL: Benedict XVI did explicitly dissociate himself from the emperor's quoted statement. The pope's own position with regard to his lecture is that he wanted it to promote a dialogue; and since then, several times, he has expressed his respect for the world religion that is Islam. Was it just an unfortunate choice of words? Or was he deliberately misunderstood?
Aga Khan: I do not wish to pass judgement on that, nor can I. And it might also be unreasonable for me to presume that I know what he meant. But that (medieval) period in history, to my knowledge, was one of the periods of extraordinary theological exchanges and debates between the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world. A fascinating time. The emperor's statement does not reflect that, so I think it is somewhat out of context.
SPIEGEL: The theme of Pope Benedict's lecture was different, it was one of his favorites: the link between faith and reason which, he said, implies a rejection of any link between religion and violence. Is that something you could agree on?
Aga Khan: If you interpret his speech as one about faith and reason then I think that the debate is very exciting and could be enormously constructive between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world. So I have two reactions to the pope's lecture: There is my concern about the degradation of relations and, at the same time, I see an opportunity. A chance to talk about a serious, important issue: the relationship between faith and logic.
SPIEGEL: If the pope were to invite you to take part with other religious leaders in a debate about faith, reason and violence, would you accept?
Aga Khan: Yes, definitely. I would, however, make the point that an ecumenical discussion at a certain stage will meet certain limits. Therefore I would prefer to talk more about a cosmopolitan ethic stemming from all of Earth's great faiths.
SPIEGEL: Does Islam have a problem with reason?
Aga Khan: Not at all. Indeed, I would say the contrary. Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God's creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.
SPIEGEL: So, what are the root causes of terrorism?
Aga Khan: Unsolved political conflicts, frustration and, above all, ignorance. Nothing that was born out of a theological conflict.
SPIEGEL: Which political conflicts do you mean?
Aga Khan: The ones in the Middle East and in Kashmir, for example. These conflicts have remained unresolved for decades. There is a lack of urgency in understanding that the situation there deteriorates, it's like a cancer. If you are not going to act on a cancer early enough, ultimately it's going to create terrible damage. It can become a breeding ground for terrorism.
Now to the issue of spreading faith by the sword: All faiths at some time in their history have used war to protect themselves or expand their influence, and there were situations when faiths have been used as justifications for military actions. But Islam does not call for that, it is a faith of peace.
SPIEGEL: It's true that horrible crimes were committed in the name of Christianity, for example by the crusaders. That was long ago, that's the past. But jihadists commit their crimes now, in our times.
Aga Khan: It is not so far in the past that we have seen bloody fights in the Christian world. Look at Northern Ireland. If we Muslims interpreted what happened there as a correct expression of Protestantism and Catholicism or even as the essence of the Christian faith you would simply say we don't know what we are talking about.
SPIEGEL: "The West (will stand) against the Rest" wrote Professor Samuel Huntington in his famous book "Clash of Civilizations." Is such a conflict, such a clash inevitable?
Aga Khan: I prefer to talk about a clash of ignorance. There is so much horrible, damaging, dangerous ignorance.
SPIEGEL: Which side is responsible?
Aga Khan: Both. But essentially the Western world. You would think that an educated person in the 21st century should know something about Islam; but you look at education in the Western world and you see that Islamic civilizations have been absent. What is taught about Islam? As far as I know -- nothing. What was known about Shiism before the Iranian revolution? What was known about the radical Sunni Wahhabism before the rise of the Taliban? We need a big educational effort to overcome this. Rather than shouting at each other, we should be learning to listen to each other. In the way we used to do it, by working together, with mutual give-and-take. Together we brought about some of the highest achievements of human civilization. There is a lot to build on. But I think you cannot build on ignorance.
SPIEGEL: Nonethless, it is striking that a particularly large number of Muslim-dominated states figure among the most backward and undemocratic states in the world. Is Islam in need of an era of enlightment? Is the faith even incompatible with democracy as others claim?
Aga Khan: As I said before, one has to be fair. Some of the political leaders have inherited problems that are in no way attributable to the faith. New governance solutions have to be tested and validated over time. Nor do I believe Muslim states are systematically economic underperformers. Some of the fastest growing economies and some of the most successful newly industrialized countries are in the Islamic world. Now concerning democracy: My democratic beliefs do not go back to the Greek or French (thinkers) but to an era 1,400 years ago. These are the principles underlying my religion. During the prophet's life (peace be upon him), there was a systematic consultative political process. And the first imam of the Shiites, Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali, emphasized: "No honor is like knowledge, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation."
SPIEGEL: If pluralism, civil society and Islam can coexist harmoniously, as was proven in the past, then why is this so seldom achieved nowadays?
Aga Khan: I think we have a very diverse situation in the Islamic world. Wealthy countries with enormous ressources, newly industrialized countries, extremely poor ones.
SPIEGEL: Not many are functioning democracies.
Aga Khan: People speak about failed states. I do not think that states can fail, but democracies certainly can. The failure of democracy is not specific to the Islamic world. Indeed, about two years ago, the United Nations carried out an in-depth analysis of democracy in South America. About 55 percent of the population in South American states said that they would prefer to live under a paternalistic dictatorship instead of an incompetent or corrupt democracy that is not improving their living condition.
SPIEGEL: Most of your Ismaili constituency lives in states that cannot be called perfect democracies: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. What makes democracies fail?
Aga Khan: I ask myself every day what we can do to sustain the multiple forms of democracy, to make these forms of government work, whether it is in Latin America, Africa or the Middle East.
SPIEGEL: And what do you believe to be the answer?
Aga Khan: I admit that I live in a mood of frustration. What is the point in these areas of the world of carrying out a referendum in a population that essentially cannot read and write? What is the point in testing a constitution with a population that knows no difference between a presidential regime or a constitutional monarchy? Elections, constitutions -- all this is necessary, but not sufficient. I think we have to accept that countries have different histories, different social structures, different needs, so we have to be a great deal more flexible than we have been.
SPIEGEL: Nor is democracy monolithic. The American model of democracy is no panacea for the rest of the world. Has George W. Bush aggrevated the situation with his particular way of bringing democracy to the Middle East? Can the United States still win the war in Iraq?
Aga Khan: I am very, very worried about Iraq. The invasion of Iraq had an impact across the world like nothing before in modern times. The invasion has unleashed every force in the Islamic world, including the relations between the Arabs and non-Arabs and the relationship between the Shia und the Sunni.
SPIEGEL: You mean the war created a new terrorist base and radicalized people?
Aga Khan: Indeed. It mobilized a large number of people across the Islamic world, who before then were not involved, and indeed I think they did not want to be.
SPIEGEL: Do you share the view of the American professor and Islam expert Vali Nasr that the balance of power in the Muslim world is undergoing a decisive shift, that Shiites could become the most influential force from Baghdad to Beirut, that the future of the Middle East will be shaped by wars between different Muslim factions?
Aga Khan: When the invasion of Iraq took place, we were told two things: (that there would be) regime change and democracy. Well, anyone who knew the situation in Iraq, as you did, I did, but what did that mean? That meant a Shia majority; it could not have been otherwise. Anyone who then concludes that the next issue is a Shia majority in Iraq is going to start thinking, What does that mean in the region, what does it mean in the Islamic world, what does it mean in relation to the West? All that was as clear as daylight, you didn't even have to be a Muslim or a scholar to know that.
SPIEGEL: In your opinion, was it pure ignorance and naivete that made the Bush government start the war? Was it really about introducing democracy or a strategic decision about conquering oil fields and military bases?
Aga Khan: I wish I could answer that question.
SPIEGEL: Are you in contact with the religious leaders in Iraq, like Grand Ayatollah Sistani? And with the religious leaders of Iran as well?
Aga Khan: We have frequent contacts with important personalities in both countries.
SPIEGEL: What would it take to get you to go to the region as a mediator?
Aga Khan: This is, at the moment, not one of my priorities. One day maybe, we might consider (participating in the) reconstruction (effort).
SPIEGEL: When you compare the invasion in Iraq with the one in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida worked hand in hand ...
Aga Khan: ... there I see a completely different picture. First of all, the Afghan regime at the time was quasi totally detested by the people; it was equally unpleasant for Sunnis as it was the for Shias and it was totally unacceptable I think just in terms of overall civilized life.
SPIEGEL: Afghanistan is currently being confronted with major problems and the situation seems to be deteriorating by the hour. What went wrong? And what can the West do to make the situation more stable?
Aga Khan: The security situation is indeed very worrying -- it is getting worse, especially in the south. Most of our projects are in the capital and in the north where (the situation) is better but not satisfying. We can supply energy from Tajikistan, we can provide civil services. We try to avoid the danger that certain areas in Afghanistan will be rehabilitated more quickly than others. If this development overlaps with ethnic divides you have another problem. But the main problem is that most people in Afghanistan have not seen an improvement in their daily lives. The process of reconstruction does not seem to be penetrating. We have not succeded in bringing a culture of hope to this country. One of the central lessons I have learned after a half century of working in the developing world is that the replacement of fear by hope is probably the most powerful trampoline of progress.
SPIEGEL: President Karzai is a personal friend of yours. Many people see him as a weak leader, and some call him "Mayor of Kabul" because he is unable to control large parts of the country.
Aga Khan: We should do everything to help him. He has an enomously complex agenda to deal with. He is our best hope. And besides, he is the elected leader and we have to work with the parliament.
SPIEGEL: Even if warlords and a former members of the Taliban are represented in Afghanistan's parliament?
Aga Khan: You either accept the results of democracy or you don't. Otherwise you talk about qualifying democracy.
SPIEGEL: That means the West should deal with the radical Islamist Hamas as well?
Aga Khan: You have to work with whoever the population has elected as long as they are willing to respect what I call cosmopolitan ethics. Now, it's true that Hamas has a record of conflict ...
SPIEGEL: ... of outright terror ...
Aga Khan: ... but it would not be the only time that movements that have such a record make it into parliament, and even end up in charge of government later on. Can I remind you of Jomo Kenyatta and his Mau Mau movement in Kenya, for example, or the ANC in South Africa? Take away the causes of extremism and extremists can come back to a more reasonable political agenda. That change to me is one of the wonderful things about the human race.
SPIEGEL: You know Syria's president, Bashar Assad, very well. You recently visited him again in Damascus. In contrast to the American administration, the German government is trying to get him involved in the Middle East peace process.
Aga Khan: I would like to compliment the German government and others in Europe who have taken the decision to invite President Assad to be a party to the peace process. The process of change from decades of political directionalism is something that needs time, as you saw in East Germany. I think there are many reasons to go out of our way to assist Syria in making the transition from the past to the future.
SPIEGEL: If you look back at the years that have passed since World War II -- the Cold War between the East and the West, the ideological conflict with communism -- would you ever have thought that this conflict could be replaced by one between the West and radical Islamists?
Aga Khan: I beg you, please get away from the concept of a conflict of religion. It is not such a conflict. Nobody will ever convince me that the faith of Islam, that Christianity, that Judaism will fight each other in our times -- they have too much in common. That's why I am talking about this global ethic which unites us all. That's why we are trying to work with the Catholic Church in Portugal on a program aimed at immigant minorities. I am aware of a sense of disaffection with the society that many young Muslims feel because they think that the Western society has the intention of marginalizing or damaging them.
SPIEGEL: The German government just organized a conference with many different Muslim groups and personalities who live in Germany. Do you consider such a forum useful or is it just window dressing?
Aga Khan: We can avoid misunderstandings by having such a forum where people from different faiths consult each other so they understand what really affects them. Once you have committed an offense all you can do is to try and reverse it. Anyone who knows the faith of Islam, for example, would have known that the caricatures of the prohet were profoundly offensive to all Muslims.
SPIEGEL: Again, this whole affair was misused by radical Islamists. They added caricatures much more offensive than the original ones to incite the masses.
Aga Khan: But I am told that there was an internal debate between the editors of that publication and they actually knew what they were doing. They took a risk and somebody should have said to them, Why get into that situation? Now we are talking about civility, which is a completely different concept. If we are talking about civility in a pluralist society, then how do you develop that notion of civility, particularly where there is ignorance. And that's the thing that's worrying. And that's why I get frustrated when I see these situations that go on and on and on. Because I'm not willing to believe that they are all inspired by evil intent.
SPIEGEL: Provocative, sad and distasteful. But the freedom of the press is one of the highest values in our democracy. We have to balance one thing against the other and we will allow non-believers to express even outrageous opinions.
Aga Khan: I think that you are now referring to one of the most difficult problems that we have and I don't know the answer. The industrialized West is highly secularized; the Muslim world is much less secularized and that stems largely from the nature of the faith of Islam, which you know and I know has an intrinsic meshing with everyday life. And that is a scenario where people of goodwill need to think very, very carefully.
SPIEGEL: In some of your speeches you mentioned Kemal Atat?rk in a positive context. Turkey followed his path and is one of the very few countries with a predominant Muslim population where there is separation of church and state. Would you like to see others go the same way?
Aga Khan: I am not opposed to secularism as such. But I am opposed to unilateral secularism where the notions of faith and ethics just disappear from society.
SPIEGEL: Your Highness, we thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Stefan Aust and Erich Follath.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: November 20, 2006, 05:51:32 AM
Activists of an opposition Islamic alliance chant slogans to protest against amendments to Pakistan's Islamic laws in Karachi November 17, 2006. Rights activists welcomed on Thursday amendments to Pakistan's Islamic laws that will allow rape victims to seek justice without the need for four male witnesses but said the laws should be scrapped altogether.
A friend comments:
? need for four male witnesses? Qur?an 24:13
This is only one of many surprising dictates in the Qur?an. Qur?an 2:282 states that a women?s testimony in court is worth half as much as that of a man. I highly recommend reading Robert Spencer?s books (Islam and the Crusades, The Truth About Muhammad. It appears from my reading that moderate Muslims chose to ignore the parts of the Qur?an they find uncomfortable in this day and age. However, they lose the theological debate if challenged. I think this could be the main reason that the Muslim community has been largely muted in response to terrorist acts. Muhammad stated that ?War is deceit? and all is fair when dealing with non Muslims (infidels).
It will be truly interesting to see if this proposed amendment stands because it goes directly against what Allah allegedly (and conveniently) told Muhammad (Qur?an 24:13) after Mohammad?s favorite wife Aisha was accused of having an affair. The Qur?an is supposed to be the exact word of Allah and not subject to interpretation. Could this amendment, if passed, set a huge precedent for further amendments more in vogue with our current century?
I also found it interesting that the vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs yet everyone who recites the Qur?an is instructed to use ancient Arabic. It is highly doubtful that most Muslims understand the words they are saying when reading and praying even if they are Arabs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 20, 2006, 05:45:25 AM
A German friend shares these two articles with me about prosecuting Islamofascists in Germany
The Spiegel is Germanys largest and most famous magazine for politics, economics and social matters. It also is very critical. You may be interested:http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,448921,00.htmlhttp://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,449003,00.html
My friend's comments on these two articles:
Ever since the attempted bombings on two trains in Germany, people have become more aware that they could be a potential target for terrorists. As the German government strictly abides torture any kind of illegal action to gather information, they have had a hard time to collect evidence. As you may read as an example in the second story, evidence obtained by the Syrians were not admissible in the German court. Despite the struggle for a verdict, this trial will be the first of many to come. Germany already expelled some radical muslim leaders (one was brought back to Turkey to face trial there). It's a slow development, but Germany wil have more expierence next time and be able to handle such a case more quicker in compliance with german civil law or as the articles closing statement goes "The final law represents the German civil servants' riposte to the mob-like methods of the war on terror."
Motasseq has now been arrested to await the final verdict.
In its online-edition the Spiegel magazine has dedicated a website to the topic of Muslims in Europe, collecting all its english articles. You may be interested:http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,k-6817,00.html
Several very interesting articles in the final URL.? Very valuable to get the perspective of a major mainstream German publication -- all in English!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay Parents
on: November 20, 2006, 05:25:48 AM
Page 7 of 9)
In many respects, R.'s experience would seem to confirm the worst fears of
those - inside and outside the gay community - who think attempts to
re-engineer family dynamics in this way are doomed from the start. "I could
never get a regular schedule for visiting," R. said. "I was always kept at a
distance. I was never brought in in a way where I felt like I was being
acknowledged as really more than just a friend." This went on for years, and
he started to tear up as he described it. What pained him most, he said, was
the feeling of irrevocability, the fact that each moment was a lost
opportunity. "I was basically watching her grow up and having no control,
just watching it go by. I would see her on the street, it was like, you
know, you can imagine, I was looking at my child but not having access to
Like a lot of lesbian mothers at that time, M. said, she and her partner
were, as she put it, "kind of paranoid. We didn't want to promise a set
amount of time or, say, summer vacation or any of that stuff." She
continued: "I think one of our big mistakes in our situation was we had no
clue, all three of us going into it, and there weren't that many people for
us to talk to or things to read about it. He was just saying he wanted to be
around and be known and have a relationship. And looking back, even that
seemed scary to us."
It was a deeply painful period for R. "I mean, if I were to say anything to
people who were thinking about something like this," he said, "it would be
that with this kind of donor relationship, this web of affinity and
genetics, it's not like an article of clothing where someone gives it to you
and then it's yours and you can walk away. If you don't want to have to be
answerable to somebody, then go to an anonymous sperm bank. It's like they
wanted the privilege of being able to say to their children, 'That's your
father,' without having to really give up anything. And so, what's that
Luckily for R., things changed over time. When his daughter was 2, her
nonbiological mother became impregnated with sperm donated by a gay black
friend. She bore twins. A couple of years later, the mothers split up. A
custody battle ensued, in which the white mother tried to gain sole custody
of all three children. The judge ruled against her. The final agreement
essentially assigned the three mixed-race children to the white mother
roughly 60 percent of the time and to the black mother 40 percent of the
The current family tree is a crazy circuit board: The black woman has a new
female partner. The white woman is now living with a man, and the two have
had their own child. So, as R. said, between the one child that R. has with
the black mother, the twins borne by the white mother with a black donor and
the newest, fourth, child born to her with her new male partner, all of whom
have some sort of sibling relation to one another, things can be a little
confusing. "They're quite a little petri dish of a family, as you can
imagine," R. told me. The children go from the white mother, who lives in a
SoHo loft, to their black mother, who lives in a nice, middle-class row
house in Crown Heights. On weekends, they often visit the white mother's
family's country estate. "I'd say they're like divorce kids," he said. "They've
got a family that split up; they go back and forth." But the kids love both
their mothers, and though the relationships may seem confusing to outsiders,
there is certainly no lack of people in their lives who care about them -
something many "straight" families can't claim.
How he fits in as a father is less clear. Since the mothers broke up five
years ago, R.'s relations with the birth mother - and his daughter - have
warmed. When R.'s daughter turned 6, he was allowed to see her alone for the
first time. And now? "It's a work in progress," he said. "We really enjoy
each other. There are still issues about how much I get to see her." But by
now, R.'s birth mother wants him to have a relationship with his daughter.
"My perspective has changed," she said. "It's good for her; it's good for
him; there's no reason not to. She loves hanging out with him." R.'s
relationship with his daughter's other mother remains strained. When I asked
to speak with her through an intermediary, she declined to comment.
Page 8 of 9)
R. is not quite sure yet what his daughter thinks of him. He knows that she
knows he's her father. But he's not sure what that means. A couple of years
ago, he said, he took her to the Museum of Natural History. Outside, they
bought a hot dog. "She couldn't open the soda," he said, "so she asked the
vendor, 'Can you open this?' And he said, 'Well, ask your father.' So she
started hearing that from strangers at a certain point. She probably didn't
know exactly who I was."
He is still not positive to what degree any of the children in the various
branches of the family have affixed their relation to all the parents. The
white woman's twins, the ones not biologically related to him, identify him
as a "donor" - not their donor, not their father, but a title, donor, like
uncle or godparent. As for his daughter, he said, "there are many men in her
mothers' lives. There are friends; there is the donor father of his daughter's
siblings; and there is the white mother's new partner." With all of these
men in quasi-parental roles, he conceded, "I'm not sure if I'm - I can't say
honestly that I know that she's accessing anything through me that she's not
getting anywhere else."
Struggling to be precise, he said: "She recognizes me. I feel like we have a
relationship, that there's some . . . that I mean something to her, that she
recognizes an affinity that's not just: I like this guy; he's a nice guy; I
have a fun time with him. I think she sees me as being part of some kind of
heritage of hers. Now maybe that's my wanting to make a relationship where I
want there to be one, but I think that there is something there." He
mentioned that last summer his daughter and her twin brothers visited R.'s
family on Cape Cod. At the end of the trip, he was able to spend an entire
day alone with his daughter and his own family - his parents and siblings.
After the day was over, M. told him that his daughter hoped maybe next year
she would be able to spend two days there.
"So," he laughed, "who knows? Maybe in the end, all of this will be a plus.
Maybe we won't end up having that typical Oedipal hand baggage that she'll
have with her primary parents. It's been a long road. It's been very up and
down. But I got through it, and I wouldn't ever say I wish I hadn't done it.
Because it's great, actually, to have her in my life. I just" - he paused -
"would certainly have done it very differently."
It was late August on a wooden deck overlooking a quarter-acre lot in Coon
Rapids, a suburb north of Minneapolis. The deck was next to a three-bedroom
house. A big glass table was loaded with barbecue fixings of time eternal:
bean salad, chips, nuts, corn on the cob and the staple of American
child-rearing, juice boxes. The guests included two gay fathers, one gay
boyfriend-cum-stepdad, three lesbian mothers (one couldn't attend) and four
P. J., David and Bobbie's co-parent, is an X-ray technician with a bawdy and
infectious sense of humor. Mark's co-parents, Candi and Jean, one of whom is
a former prison guard, were more reserved. Eight conversations were juggled
as children came and went, screaming, laughing, crying, demanding juice
boxes, spilling juice boxes, getting sand on the frosting on their mouths
and so on. Eli arrived - post-chemo, post-stem-cell-transplant. He looked
fragile and skinny. His veins glowed slightly in the sunshine. His blond
hair was coming back, silky and short. One of his front teeth was missing,
and he gawked, open-mouthed, squinting in the sun.
P. J. told me that he seemed to have overcome most of his physical problems
in a matter of months. The emotional trauma might take longer. She recalled
his, and her, time at the hospital. "To watch your 5-year-old son staring
through a glass-pane window at a room full of other 5-year-olds playing
ball, and he can't do it. And the look of sadness on his face. Every day it
was: 'Mom, why am I here? Why do I have to do this? Why, why, why?' "
Eli had run off to play in the yard. He looked fine. Just awkward.
Mark and Candi and Jean's child, also Mark, showed up, looking still
"Is that the monkey shirt?" someone asked him.
"What's Wyatt doing?"
"He's downstairs playing."
An electronic child monitor sat on the table, confirming that Wyatt was
indeed downstairs playing.
A bee buzzed. One of the mothers swatted it. "No bugs! Bugs are not
"I need some water."
Little Mark followed Eli to the backyard. Big Mark followed little Mark.
David followed big Mark. All of them marched past the Playskool house and a
litter of toys to the T-ball setup. Eli began to swat at a Wiffle ball.
Wyatt emerged from downstairs.
A chorus of parents began to chirp. "Hey, big guy!" "Hi!" "Hey, big guy!"
"You big guy!" "Come here, you!"
Page 9 of 9)
Wyatt ran to Bobbie and gave him a big kiss and a hug. Bobbie, whom I
initially judged to be a bit dour, was clearly warmed to the quick. And it
was only at that moment that I realized he was as much a part of the family
as everyone, even if his role seemed more precarious. Wyatt made the rounds,
hugging everyone. Little Mark returned and also went around kissing and
hugging everyone. The adults cooed.
The conversation skittered and zigzagged as it does in any group of people
addlebrained by the presence of four children. Topics covered school
meetings, health benefits, the rate at which kids outgrow clothes.
Circumcision (pro or con). Potty training. Toys. Birthdays. Sibling
relations. Crying (when to ignore, when not to).
Suddenly, Eli's mother jerked up. Where's Eli? David shrugged, lazily. "He's
off being a boy!"
Wyatt nestled into her lap. "I want grape!"
"You want grape? You want some mandarin oranges, too?"
He shook his head.
"You want some cantaloupe?"
He shook his head again. "Uh-uh."
"You want some nuts?"
"What do you say?"
Candi turned to me. So, she wanted to know, What's this article about? I
told her it's about part-time fatherhood for gay men and how well it works
out and how it works out, period. She seemed suspicious. But . . . what's
the agenda? she asked. I laughed. Hadn't she heard? Journalists are
A bee came around the table. Eli panicked. He kept whining until it began to
seem a bit attention-seeking. David asked him to quiet down a few times and
finally told him to leave the table. Candi's attention returned to me: "Why
is this worth a story? It's not even worth discussing. We're just as
American as our next-door neighbors. You see all these families with
stepdads and stepmoms and half brothers and half sisters. What do you say
about marriages that 50 percent of the time end in divorce? Why are we so
threatening?" Most heterosexual parents, she said, marry, have sex "and then
suddenly: 'Whoops! We're pregnant!' Our families are designed. They're
conscious. They don't just happen by happenstance. We had to sit down and
say: O.K., what's your relationship to the kid going to look like? What's
our relationship to each other going to look like? What's this family going
to look like?" She didn't understand what the big deal was. "We want the
same things that every other family wants! You know? We shop at Costco; we
shop at Wal-Mart; we buy diapers. We're just average. We're downright
Two or three Saturdays after the barbecue, back in New York, R. knocked on
the door of an East Village apartment. His daughter had been at a sleepover,
and he was picking her up for an afternoon visit. A mellow, biracial couple
answered and greeted him warmly. His daughter gathered her things, and we
were on our way.
Now 10, R.'s daughter, H., has long, frizzy brown hair and hazelnut skin.
She seemed very composed for her age. R. stopped her in the hallway. "Well,
do I get a hug?" he asked awkwardly. He stooped, and they hugged. He rolled
his eyes. "God, I wonder when I'll have to stop asking." It was mildly
humiliating, but the moment passed almost instantly, and in 10 seconds we
were outside in some of the last true summer warmth.
R. asked what she had gotten such and such a friend for her birthday. H.
shrugged: "A monkey. Well, not a real monkey. But a notebook with monkeys on
it. She loves monkeys."
H. is tall for her age. As she walked and talked, she had an adorable way of
punctuating the air with her fist every few syllables. Usually she jabbed
with her right hand, and sometimes she jabbed with her left. It wasn't a
rap-video imitation; it just seemed like her own way of being.
R. asked her, "So . . . do you have any notion of what you want to do
today?" It seemed slightly studied. Notion. Child. Planning. Do today.
We stopped by a boutiquey snack place to get H. some gourmet hot chocolate.
She had Glac?au Vitaminwater instead. Passing some tables outside, she was
spotted by her hockey coach. He shouted several times to get her attention.
"How're you doing?" he asked. She nodded, but ever so slightly. Very cool.
He asked her again, not noticing the nod. "Hey! How're you doing?" Finally,
obligingly, H. said, "O.K." Pause. She ambled off with R.
The coach laughed. "Hey, anyone ever tell you you're a great
conversationalist?" R. said goodbye for her.
As we walked, R. repeated, "So, do you have any notion of what you want to
do today?" She said she needed to buy a present for a second friend, whose
birthday was also coming up. What did she want to get? R. asked.
Oh, maybe something by Paul Frank, she answered.
I asked who or what Paul Frank was. H. looked at me as if maybe I wasn't so
bright, but tried to explain. R. offered his two cents. "Paul Frank makes
stuff and puts his brand or whatever all over it, and then because of that,
it sells for more."
H. argued that Paul Frank's stuff was cute. R. disagreed. It was not cute.
H. disagreed. It was cute.
"I mean, come on," she insisted. "At least he's better than Hello Kitty."
"Why?" R. asked. "Why is he better than Hello Kitty?" She looked at him with
tolerant pity. "Because Hello Kitty is . . . dumb."
Correction: Nov. 19, 2006
Because of an editing error, an article on Page 66 of The Times Magazine
today about gay parents misstates, in some copies, the number of states that
passed amendments banning gay marriage in the recent midterm elections. It
was 7, not 11.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay Parents-part two
on: November 20, 2006, 05:23:41 AM
Page 4 of 9)
Mark, 48, Jean, 37, and Candi, 34, now have two children - Mark (named after
his father) is Candi's biological son, and another boy, Joseph, now 7 months
old, is Jean's biological son. For a long time Mark, who was working as a
freelance information technologist and financial consultant in Minneapolis
until he took the job at the museum, could arrange his schedule to suit the
mothers' needs. He spends time with the kids once a week, sometimes alone,
sometimes with his long-term partner, Jeffrey, who is 36 and went to college
with Candi, and sometimes with one or both mothers. The relationship among
the fathers and mothers has been a surprise benefit, he said, creating a
brother-sister feeling. Despite the fact that the mothers are still
financially responsible for the children, Mark has put them in his will.
Each birthday and Christmas, he deposits a $1,000 bond for their education.
Like any good father, he said, "I want to see them do well."
When I asked him if he ever ran into resistance from school personnel or his
own family about his less-than-conventional parenting arrangement, he told
me a story. He had taken the girls, as he calls his lesbian co-parents, to
Wisconsin to visit his mother and his sisters. "We went to a lake place over
by Wausau." He laughed. "My nephew" - his sister's son - "had a lot of
questions. He was asking my mom, 'Why does Mark have two moms?' My mom was
like, 'I didn't know what to say.' "
Mark continued: "I guess in people's minds there's a kid's cartoon drawing
of a family unit. Well, ours is the same thing. It's just that the
characters have changed a bit. People make a lot out of it, but it's really
quite simple: you've got four parents now instead of two. And they're all
together." Considering how many heterosexual parents are overworked,
divorced or otherwise unavailable, he said, in the end he advised his mother
what to say to anyone asking about little Mark: "Tell 'em he's lucky."
If Mark's role as a father comes closer than some to a traditional dad's,
that of his friend David falls squarely in the middle of the "more than an
uncle but less than a father" continuum. At 43, David works for the
University of Minnesota general counsel's office and is very serious about
furthering his acting career. (He and Mark became friendly through a theater
company Mark used to manage.) When David's friends, P. J. and Vicki, now 52
and 37 respectively, approached him about "helping them out with kids," he
was receptive, although he had reservations. The first was that he wasn't
interested in being a full-time dad. His acting career, he said, "pretty
much supersedes anything else. Spending a lot of time with little ones, that's
not where my focus is. I'm far too selfish a person." He still had plans to
leave Minneapolis for New York or L.A. to further his career. But in the
end, he agreed, with several conditions.
The major one was, as he put it, "if we do one, we're doing two." David
agreed with P. J., who didn't want to create an only child. "Nothing against
only children," he explained, "but I feel that it's important for kids to
have a sibling. I remember when I was growing up, with my brother, you just
kind of go, What's going on with Mom and Dad?" How much more, he wondered,
would a kid need an ally with strangers asking questions about his or her
The mothers insisted on one other condition: until or unless David actually
left for the bright lights of Broadway, his interaction with the kids had to
be consistent. As P. J., the children's nonbiological mother, said: "I told
him you have to choose. You're either going to be in for five cents or you're
in for a buck."
David, Bobbie (David's long-term partner), P. J. and Vicki were more laid
back than were many co-parents I met. They made no legal or quasi-legal
document. They never spelled out exactly how often David would see the
children, just that it couldn't be once a week and then once a month. The
attitude shared by David, P. J. and Vicki (Bobbie, as the nonbiological
father, was the least involved in the discussions) was, as David summed it
up: "If stuff happens, then it happens; it happens in married people's
lives, it happens in straight people's lives and it happens in single
mothers'. Stuff happens everywhere, to everybody."
When I asked David whether he and his partners had gone to a doctor or used
the "turkey baster" method to become pregnant, his answer surprised me. He
looked at me with a big, devilish grin. "We did it," he answered.
David had never been with a woman, but he and Vicki decided that they didn't
want the process to be impeded by technology. Using syringes and cups seemed
inorganic and inefficient. Sperm would lose potency during each transfer. "I
wanted the numbers," David said. The first attempt resulted in an uneventful
two hours of awkward huffing and puffing. As David remembers: "We were sort
of like, O.K., then! Let's get breakfast!" But within a month, after another
try, Vicki became pregnant. "Thank God for videos," David said.
David has now fathered two children with Vicki: Eli, who is 6, and Wyatt,
who is 21/2. Being a parent has not been without its challenges. One morning
last October, Eli woke up with abdominal pains. P. J. took him to the
emergency room. The doctors found a mass in his abdomen, which turned out to
be a tumor. The diagnosis was neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer of the
sympathetic nervous system.
"At the outset," David said, "They said he was at Stage 4, high risk, which
is just about as bad as you can get." The tumor was the size of a fist and
had wrapped itself around every major blood vessel in his abdomen and
attached itself to his kidney and liver. It had also metastasized into Eli's
bone marrow and lymph nodes. At one point, the doctors gave him a 30 percent
chance of survival.
During eight and a half hours on the operating table, the doctors removed
the tumor, one of Eli's kidneys and his appendix. Soon after, he began
chemotherapy, had a stem-cell transplant and started radiation. Luckily,
David told me, the treatment took.
When the crisis first hit, everyone came together and dealt with it as a
team. Vicki quit her job to be the full-time caretaker, and as David told
me, any notion of part-time fathering went out the window. All hands were
called on deck, and everyone responded in kind. After the initial trauma,
however, when the emergency decisions and arrangements had been made and
treatment was under way, David wanted to return to his part-time role. As he
admitted later, this caused "some resentment." The mothers, or at least
Vicki, expected that David would continue to be more involved.
"It was tough, because I was under the impression we were all going to stand
together," Vicki told me later. "As time went on, it was: 'Well, I'm going
to work. I'm going to a play. I have this; I have that.' And so the bulk of
everything sort of fell on my shoulders." The treatment schedule was
grueling and left P. J. on her own with Wyatt; cancer was not something the
family had planned on. "You go in under the assumption that you're going to
have a healthy child," Vicki said. "Some things worked and some things didn't
work. David, the way he describes himself, he's the machine who figures
things out and gets things done; I'm more emotional; and P. J. is really
levelheaded; Bobbie's not necessarily a man of action but feels things
really deeply - we all sort of reverted to our roles and got through it." As
a mother, she felt it was her job to bear the brunt of Eli's care. But, she
said, "it would have been much nicer to have the responsibilities spread out
a little more. I think David's aware of my feelings."
David, as he explained it to me, saw things a little differently: "I'm like,
Well, at the beginning, I was needed in that role. Now that things are
together and moving, I'm pulling myself back, because I'm not - I didn't
sign on for -." He stalled. He still had his bills to pay, his house to pay
off and all his other affairs. Most significant, he said, "this wasn't a
responsibility that I necessarily took on. You know? This was where the
untraditional part of the family arrangement came into question or got
defined or whatever. Because that's not what my role is here." It was, he
said, at times, "a difficult wire to walk."
As we talked, Bobbie, who is 45 and has been David's partner for nine years,
arrived, wearing a black polo shirt. He's well over six feet tall, big like
David. His expression seemed sour, but when he smiled, he revealed a broken
bicuspid, which produced an oddly sweet effect. Unlike two of the other gay
"stepdads" I met in my research, who had described themselves as playing a
sort of "fun uncle" role, Bobbie admittedly played the family heavy. Maybe,
he said, in some ways it was his Mormon upbringing. "I just set more limits
and probably expect more out of the kids," he said.
Recently, when the entire family took a weeklong trip to the East Coast and
visited David's mother, Bobbie recalled, Eli handed an orange peel to one of
his aunts for her to throw away rather than walk 10 feet to a garbage can.
Bobbie chastised him, and Vicki took exception to that. Bobbie was left
feeling, as he put it, "disenfranchised from the family unit."
He continued: "There's definitely a pecking order. Vicki is on top, then
David, then P. J., then me." Coming last, he said, is an inherently
difficult position to maintain. If he gets too involved, he gets yelled at
for doing so in the wrong way. If he seeks distance, he gets called on the
carpet for being aloof.
"There have been a couple of times when I've been made to feel that I'm the
fourth wheel," he said. Once, he was told, "Look, you're only here because
of him" - because of David. "I was told that to my face," he said, looking
pained. "That was probably the deepest knife in the back I've ever had in my
life. That totally destroyed my entire self-image as part of the family."
As in most families, members get hurt to a degree that seems unfathomable -
they feel exiled, exact revenge, remain silent, do what they need to do,
then pick themselves up and keep going. I later learned that David never
changed diapers. When the children were with their fathers, the job fell to
Bobbie. When I mentioned the disparity, both men smiled. That's the way it
For David, the admittedly vain actor, one of the supreme joys of fatherhood
is the idea that one day his sons might see him on television. He imagines
them turning on the TV and pointing him out to their friends: "There's my
dad!" Bobbie has a nearly opposite take. "A lot of what Mormonism is about
is what you're passing on to the next generation, some type of legacy,
whether emotionally or through teaching." His fondest wish is to empower his
kids, to help Eli find happiness, "after all the drama and heaviness of his
illness," to help Wyatt become, say, "a great mathematician who goes on to
become famous and prove great new theories or something along those lines."
Page 6 of 9)
Being a father has taught him, he said, to "look for the enjoyment in life
rather than the humor. Watching a kid discovering an anthill and watching
him spend a half-hour poking around, discovering the way ants move and walk.
It makes you stop and look at nature all over again, because you're
rediscovering it through kids' eyes."
As David listened to Bobbie describe this, he smiled very warmly. When the
kids call Bobbie Dad, he said, "I know that just fills his heart. You know?
It fills his heart." Bobbie positively beamed. "It does fill your heart
when, you know, when they call you Dad. You feel like you're a part of
If David and Bobbie's experience was tumultuous but ultimately rewarding, R.'s
venture into fatherhood seemed cursed from the beginning. "I don't think any
of us expected that we would find the pregnancy happening before we actually
sat down and did a contract," he told me. "I mean, I think part of it was,
we thought, Oh, this is going to take a while. And there was just this
excitement about getting started." So R. and his co-parents began trying to
become pregnant before any papers had been drawn up. Lowering his voice and
faltering a bit, R. continued, "So it was foolish of us to kind of do that."
What happened next would have been remarkable for any family. R. took a
monthlong vacation to Australia, where he contracted hepatitis. The illness
progressed to a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barr? syndrome, and
after he returned to New York, he became fully paralyzed and lay ill in the
hospital for several weeks. He recovered, but by the time he resumed
discussions with his parent partners, more than five months had passed.
During his absence, R. said, his partners had suffered what he called
"serious amnesia." Instead of keeping to terms he had thought long-ago
settled, they now said: "No, we never agreed to these. We just said we
understand that's what you expected."
The discussions became heated and disagreeable. Someone suggested mediation.
His partners chose the mediator, a woman, he said, who had written a
parenting book in which she seemed to be saying that to give the father any
rights at all was to open the door to disaster. In R.'s view, her position
was: "If you give the guy any rights, he may want more and want to take the
child away from you."
Lawyers were hired, both prominently involved in New York's gay community.
The two lawyers had worked together on activist fronts, and because of this
shared history, R. thought his partners' lawyer would be sympathetic to a
harmonious outcome. Wrong. As R. recalled, "The first thing she said to my
lawyer was: 'Your client's not getting any rights. I just want you to know.
Whatever he thinks he's getting, he's not getting it.' "
M., the woman who carried R.'s child, told me that, in fact, she and her
partner were afraid to give R. any official access to their daughter. "The
contract we wanted him to sign really didn't give him any rights, didn't
really specify anything," she said, "because that's the advice we got from
our lawyer - no spelling out of rights." They didn't want to lay the
groundwork for him to demand custody later.
So much for brotherhood, sisterhood, gayhood - amity had curdled into
enmity. R. said his "partners" blamed him for the discord. Every time he
tried to approach them directly, he said, they refused.
Meanwhile, the pregnancy had reached the third term. R. was despondent. Over
the last nine months, his desire to be a parent had only become more ardent.
Now he had apparently fathered a child he might never get to see. His
lawyer, he said, told him: "I don't know what to say. You're in a terrible
position." R. could have insisted on his rights as a biological father. He
could have used legal precedent in New York State to press for joint custody
or, at the very least, visitation rights. But then, of course, it would have
been an awfully contentious beginning for a family. R. chose to honor the
original intent of his and his partners' undertaking. In effect, he caved
After R. ceased making specific demands, tensions eased - somewhat. R. and
the mothers had a rapprochement - enough of one to allow him to be at the
hospital during his daughter's birth. But later, when she began to speak,
his daughter never called him Dad, Daddy, Father - anything of the kind.
"For a long time," he said, "I was just . . . my name." He was seldom, if
ever, allowed to be alone with his daughter. There were times, he admitted,
when he grasped the amount of full-time devotion it took to raise a child
and felt relief that the job was not his. But more often, he said, he would
observe "the physical relationship my daughter had with her mothers and feel
tremendous pain that I was never going to have that."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gay & Straight
on: November 20, 2006, 05:21:14 AM
The following piece takes exactly the tone that one would expect from the NY Times. ?What will happen to the heterosexual children of these "parents" as they hit puberty and the behaviors that they have imprinted from their "parents" create profound problems? And if homosexuality is genetic, then won't the children be exponentially likelier to be homosexual if both their parents are? What madness is this?
Steve Stenzel for The New York Times
P.J., left, and her partner Vicki with David, right, and his partner Bobbie.
Vicki is holding Wyatt, age 2 1/2, and Eli, 6, is standing.
R. described himself as "a man in his 40s, voluntarily employed in the
arts," a situation made possible, he explained, by a private family income.
His six-foot frame is fit and slim; his eyes, blue and bright. He dresses in
a cultured but casual way, an aesthetic captured in his speech, in which
phatic blips like "kind of" or "sort of" are interspersed with terms like
"Richter-esque." As in Gerhard, the German painter.
In an effort to become a parent of a sort, R., who is gay, agreed, 11 years
ago, to donate sperm to a lesbian couple aspiring to pregnancy. A few years
before, R. became friendly with a woman - white and upper class like
himself - through the gay activist world. They weren't good friends, he
said, "just friendly." The woman had a partner, a middle-class black woman,
whom R. knew less well but who seemed solid.
The couple decided that the black partner would become impregnated with a
white man's sperm so that the baby would be biracial, reflecting the
appearance of both mothers. They approached R. about being the donor. (Like
all the subjects I spoke to for this article, R. asked that I not use his
full name - R. is his middle initial.) It seemed like a good fit, R. said.
"My life and my family background and my socioeconomic position kind of
matched the profile of the nonbiological partner." R. and the white woman
even looked somewhat alike.
R. had always loved being around kids, particularly his niece and nephew,
whom he saw often. But like many gay men, R. never thought of himself as a
likely candidate for fatherhood. He always felt that parents opting to raise
a child alone were choosing a rocky road, and at the time, R. himself had no
long-term partner. He did, however, have an ex-boyfriend who had started a
donor relationship with two lesbians; it seemed to be going well. He quickly
became taken with the idea. Having a child of his own, he thought, would
mean creating a relationship more intense and involved than what he had with
his siblings' children. "I guess I felt that maybe I wanted to have some
kind of more lasting relationships in my life," he said. "I said I was
And thus began a series of conversations. R. made it very clear that he had
no ambition to be a primary parent and that he was happy to renounce his
parental rights. (The latter is crucial to many lesbian couples, allowing
the nonbiological mother to adopt and protecting her bond with the child in
the event of the death of, or separation from, the biological mother.)
Nevertheless, R. saw himself playing a significant role in the child's life.
"I saw myself holding a baby," he said. "I wanted a child to be part of my
life. I wanted to have a relationship with somebody that was in some sense
unconditional, that wasn't subject to the fading whims of friendships. And I
don't think it's because I was not finding commitment somewhere else. I
wanted to develop a relationship where I was nurturing somebody in a
consistent way. I wanted to show up and be part of a child's life in a
R. said he felt that it would be fussy and unrealistic to insist upon
specific visitation hours, but on the other hand, he said, "I didn't want to
be someone who's wheeled out on holidays." His expectation was to see the
child a few times per month. "No one said, 'That's a problem.' Everyone
seemed to be on the same page." And so, according to R., "we went ahead and
started to try to get pregnant."
Virtually every lesbian couple electing to use a known donor's sperm pursues
one of two methods of artificial insemination. One is for the man to go to a
clinic, have his sperm harvested and then passed to the mother, usually by
doctor-assisted injection. The other, homier and cheaper course is commonly
known as the "turkey baster" or "natural" method. As R. described it, after
confirming that he was H.I.V.-negative, he simply went over to the mothers'
house and masturbated into a sterilized container. The women injected it
into the would-be mother's vagina with a needleless plastic syringe, and
voil?. It could not have been easier, R. said with a shrug. Happened on the
first or second time. Like, not a problem.
Since the 1970s, when gay men and lesbians began gaining wider acceptance,
there has been a substantial increase in the number of children being reared
by gay parents. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 34 percent of lesbian
couples and 22 percent of gay male couples are raising at least one child
under 18 in their home. Even allowing for a higher percentage of families
willing to identify themselves as gay, these numbers still represent a large
increase from the 1990 census. "It is more than just a product of better
reporting," says Gary J. Gates, a senior research fellow at the Williams
Institute, a center dedicated to sexual-orientation law and public policy at
the U.C.L.A. School of Law. "The percentage of same-sex couples raising
children more than doubled for men and increased by about 50 percent for
women. Couple that with a fairly large body of anecdotal evidence about
child-rearing among gay people, and I think that this is strong evidence of
a 'gayby' boom."
Though precise breakdowns are hard to come by - demographers have yet to
track all the different types of gay families - for many gay parents, the
family structure is more or less based on a heterosexual model: two parents,
one household. Heather may have two mommies, but her parents are still a
couple. Then there are families like R.'s and his partner's that from the
outset seek to create a sort of extended nuclear family, with two mothers
and a father who serves, in the words of one gay dad, as "more than an uncle
and less than a father." How does it work when Heather has two mommies, half
a daddy, two daddies or one and a half daddies?
"People are in many cases redesigning 'family,' " says Judith Stacey, a
sociology professor at New York University. Stacey has written about gay
fathers, gay mothers, gay men who form family units with single lesbians and
lesbian couples who form households with one gay male father. As radical as
families like R.'s may seem, she says, in her experience the people
engineering them aren't motivated by ideology but by a deep, and frankly
conventional, desire to have children. "They want to have a relationship to
children," she says. "And they want to be able to create whatever kinds of
security and stability they can. They're drawing from all kinds of
traditional forms, but at the same time, they're inventing new ones."
Primary among the reasons mothers to be choose to become impregnated by a
known donor who remains part of the family is a reluctance to raise children
in the shadow of anonymous heritage. As one donor dad, an East Coast lawyer
named Guy, told me, his lesbian co-parents "felt like it was important for
their kids to know as much as they could about their story. When there's an
anonymous donor, it's not always an ideal situation for the child." As for
why lesbians often choose donor fathers who are gay, Judith Stacey and
others told me that many prefer gay men for reasons of "solidarity." "They
think that gay men will be more sympathetic, more amenable to agreements
they might create and stick by," Stacey says. And finally they - along with
the straight women who choose to use gay donors - say they feel that gay men
simply come with less baggage. Heterosexual sperm donors are more liable to
marry and father children of their own, which has the potential of causing
jealousy and competition among the children and their mothers.
While the role of the mother in gay co-parenting arrangements can, on a
day-to-day basis, be quite traditional, the father's is often part-time and
ancillary from the first. Why would any man, gay or straight, choose a kind
of fatherhood that would seem to curtail both its joys and responsibilities?
In part, the answer has to do with the fact that a gay man's options are
already somewhat limited. Though gay men can and increasingly do become
parents through adoption or by using surrogates, pursuing those avenues can
be difficult. Many (though not all) states allow "single people" to adopt,
but in practice some make it tough for gay men to do so. Surrogacy can be
wildly expensive, easily costing $100,000 or more for multiple egg harvests,
in vitro fertilization and the surrogate mother's expenses. Most of the men
I spoke to didn't want to be single parents; they cherished the idea of
fathering children with partners they knew and liked.
Frequently, gay men and women entering into co-parenting arrangements draft
some kind of document that specifies participants' roles and
responsibilities - the father's visitation schedule, how many kids everyone
plans to have together, what happens if one of the partners moves, dies or
becomes involved with a new partner. These homemade, sometimes expensively
drafted documents can run as long as 30 pages. Many agreements stipulate
that the donor will waive his parental rights, allowing the nonbiological
mother to become a legal parent. (Three states have statutes permitting
second-parent adoptions; nearly two dozen others have granted such rights
through the courts.) But generally, unless the co-parents choose to use a
clinic, a donor may relinquish his parental rights only after the child is
born. What if the father sees the child and decides he can't bear to part
with her? What if the new mothers decide he is wanted less than originally
agreed? It is not unusual, in such cases, for custody battles to ensue.
Agreeing to be a father while stepping out of the way means navigating a
thicket of emotional and legal issues. "I talk to a lot of guys who have
this offer from women," Guy, the East Coast lawyer, said. "And I always say:
'You've got to completely trust these people. Because this relationship is
going to be so tested in so many ways. If you can't talk through every
single, possible issue, this is not going to work. You've got to be able to
bring your fears to them and vice versa. "
Drawing up an agreement can have what Guy called "immense
stop-look-and-listen value." That is, it makes "you think for a minute about
what you're doing." But as he readily admitted, such documents - even when
drawn up by a lawyer - often carry little legal weight. According to Arthur
Leonard, a New York Law School professor and an expert on sexuality and the
law, families can draft as many documents as they want, but "in the eyes of
the law a parent is either the biological parent or an adoptive parent or,
in some jurisdictions, a de facto parent." At best, co-parenting agreements
serve as a way to establish intent, which state courts can choose to factor
into their decisions - or not. Charged, above all, with looking out for the
best interest of the child, judges are free to ignore even the most
Page 3 of 9)
"The law," Leonard went on to say, "has lagged far behind in taking account
of nontraditional family forms." Partly, he said, this can be attributed to
the "natural inertia in the legislative process." Legislatures on all
matters are "slow in reacting to changes in society," but in this case they
are also reluctant to offend socially conservative voters. (In the midterm
elections this month, seven states voted to ban same-sex marriage.) Finally,
Leonard said, despite the current outcry about "activist judges," many
courts are skittish about reshaping social issues from outside legislative
A result is that gay donor dads must not only trust that their co-parents
will abide by whatever agreements they have designed but also hope that as
dads they have managed to adequately predict their own reaction to being a
parent. As Guy, who has two children of his own with a lesbian couple, said:
"A lot of guys can't do that. They think they can do it, but when the baby's
born, they really can't." In other words, a father-donor working with a
lesbian couple must make peace with the fact that he just isn't going to be
a TV dad, a heterosexual dad or a full-time gay dad. "Ideally," as Guy put
it, you need to be "willing to accept that the baby has two parents, who are
the two moms - and then there's you."
Each of the 10 gay donor dads I met with in recent months maintained a
different level of involvement with his lesbian partners and their children.
Some co-parents buy houses near one another and interact nearly every day.
Others, like Guy and his co-parents, live a thousand miles apart and arrange
visits or vacations together every few weeks or months. (When I asked Guy if
there was any downside to fathering in this way, he answered yes, missing
the kids. "They give me incredible joy," he said. But then he added, "It's
the kind of thing where it's, you know, when you miss someone, although that
hurts, it's a good reason to feel bad.") One donor dad told me that he never
had any plans to be a father. The day he realized he was gay, he said, he
felt he had been given a pass. No child-rearing. No Little League talk or
barbecues. He looked at donating his sperm as "helping my friends make a
family." But like a lot of gay donor dads I spoke to, he didn't fully
anticipate just how attached he would become. He is now thrilled to visit
with his 21/2-year-old daughter every Wednesday from 4p.m. to 6 p.m. When I
asked him what she called him, he said: "That'll be her choice. I think 'Dad'
is a word. That's a word I hope to use."
Others always knew they wanted to be fathers. Before embarking upon the
creation of his family, Mark, who works at a local museum, spent years
discussing the idea of being a co-parent with two lesbian friends, Jean and
Candi. At first, he said, the tone was " 'You know, wouldn't it be fun if we
all had kids? And then it kind of got more serious as time went on."
Mark and the mothers to be took the time to discuss every conceivable angle.
What would happen if one or another combination of parents didn't agree with
the others? What would happen if someone died? They talked about their
family backgrounds, how they had been raised, what they liked and didn't
like about their upbringing. They wrote a document in which Mark was
absolved of any financial role in the child's life. (Many co-parents put
this stipulation in their agreements; the father's sustained financial
support of the child could be used to help establish his claim to custody
should relations become contentious.) He also agreed to put the child up for
adoption by the nonbiological mother once it was born. Moreover, it was
spelled out that the child would be brought up knowing Mark was the father
and that Mark could visit as agreed upon.
At first Mark's role was circumscribed. But, he said, from the moment of
birth, "things just got a lot nicer than that." Candi had a natural
delivery, and as Mark described it to me, watching the process of birth had
a transformative effect on him: "The excitement, the fear that maybe
something could go wrong. And to watch the head crown - it was just
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Theory
on: November 20, 2006, 04:53:18 AM
Demographic Reality and the Entitlement State
November 13, 2006
The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, is an investigative arm of Congress charged with the thankless task of accounting for the money received and spent by the federal government. As you might imagine, people who spend all day examining the nitty-gritty realities of federal spending and deficits might not share the voters' enthusiasm for grand campaign promises.
David Walker, Comptroller General at GAO, has been on a speaking tour of the U.S recently-- and he pulls no punches when explaining just how precarious our nation's entitlement system really is.
He explains that Social Security and Medicare are headed for a train wreck because of demographic trends and rising health care costs. The number of younger taxpayers for each older retiree will continue to decline. The demand for "free" prescription drugs under Medicare will explode. If present trends continue, by 2040 the entire federal budget will be consumed by Social Security and Medicare. The only options for balancing the budget would be cutting total federal spending by about 60%, or doubling federal taxes.
Furthermore, Walker asserts, we cannot grow our way out of this problem. Faster economic growth can only delay the inevitable hard choices. To close the long-term entitlement gap, the U.S. economy would have to grow by double digits every year for the next 75 years.
In short, Mr. Walker is telling the political class that the status quo cannot be maintained. He is to be commended for his refreshing honesty and unwillingness to provide excuses for the two political parties, the administration, or the even the entitlement-minded American public.
I urge everyone interested to visit the GAO website at www.gao.gov
, where you can view a report entitled: "Our Nation's Fiscal Outlook: The Federal Government's Long-Term Budget Imbalance." This report should be required reading for every politician in Washington.
Are ever growing entitlement and military expenditures really consistent with a free country? Do these expenditures, and the resulting deficits, make us more free or less free? Should the government or the marketplace provide medical care? Should younger taxpayers be expected to provide retirement security and health care even for affluent retirees? Should the U.S. military be used to remake whole nations? Are the programs, agencies, and departments funded by Congress each year constitutional? Are they effective? Could they operate with a smaller budget? Would the public even notice if certain programs were eliminated altogether? These are the kinds of questions the American people must ask, even though Congress lacks the courage to do so.
If we hope to avoid a calamitous financial future for our nation, we must address the hardest question of all: What is the proper role for government in our society? The answer to this question will determine how prosperous and free we remain in the decades to come.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nuclear Power
on: November 20, 2006, 04:34:00 AM
My default bias on nuclear power tends to be strongly negative. I worry about what to do with by-products both for concern over accidents and for concern over the risks of theft; it being a source of unsound countries building nuclear bombs; catastrophes such as Chernoble; and nuclear reactors being targets to terrorist attack-- e.g. what if Flight 93 had its target the reactor at Three Mile Island. One screw-up could screw up a lot of mother earth for a very long time.
I distrust the experts. Here in California, the Diablo Canyon reactor was built on an earthquake fault line.
Something like that does not inspire confidence to say the least.
That said, with the strong pressures to move beyond petroleum, the nuclear question is being presented again and of course advocates are proffering what they believe to be solutions to concerns.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Needed for Nuclear Power
Fuel recycling mitigates waste worries and is key to new plant construction
By WILLIAM R. STRATTON and DONALD F. PETERSON
BETWEEN 1965 AND 1985, the U.S. constructed 110 nuclear electric-power reactors and is now operating 103 atomic plants that provide 20% of the nation's electric-power demand. Their operating record in recent years has been little short of phenomenal. Because of their safety and operating records, their permits or licenses are being extended from 40 to 60 years.
A number of electric utilities are on the verge of submitting applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a combined construction and operating license. The proposed reactors will be of an improved and simplified design, pre-approved, more amenable to maintenance and operation than the first-generation reactors designed before 1980. All will be of a size to provide 1,000 to 1,500 megawatts, day and night, wind or no wind, rain or snow. Some studies estimate that more than 1,000 additional power stations of this size will be needed in the next half-century. After reviewing seven comprehensive studies, the World Nuclear Association stated flatly in December 2005 that nuclear power is competitive now.
This is good news. But there is still a problem created 30 years ago when President Jimmy Carter forbade the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, establishing the once-through fuel cycle and effectively killing active development of commercial nuclear power. This wrong-headed decision was prompted by concern about the spread of nuclear weapons. Carter expected that the rest of the world would follow our lead, but no other countries have so limited their application of nuclear technology.
Supply and Storage
Carter's decision did create two other problems, neither foreseen by his administration nor fully solved, even after 30 years. The first is the problem of supply. It may be that insufficient uranium ore exists to fuel the nuclear-power industry for an extended period. The thermal neutron light-water reactor industry is sustained by the uranium-235 isotope -- only 0.7% of naturally occurring uranium. This must be enriched to about 3% U-235 to be suitable for power-plant fuel. Some studies suggest that there are limited quantities of uranium ore, others are more optimistic. The availability of adequate uranium to sustain the once-through cycle is still an open question.
The second and more significant issue is that of storing or disposing of spent fuel. This may be a red herring, but it has a very powerful odor. Many people believe that disposing of spent fuel is a show-stopper.
At the present rate of production, there will be enough spent fuel waiting in 2010 to fill the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, which has a capacity of 70,000 metric tons. Of course, the squabbling over regulations for storage at Yucca Mountain continues with no license in sight. The previous requirement for 10,000 years of safe storage recently has escalated to millions of years.
If a new surge of power-plant construction is about to begin, the spent-fuel problem must be solved. The rising demand for electricity suggests that the rate of plant construction will surpass that of the 1970s by a large margin -- depending in part on the congressional perception of global warming. New Yucca Mountain-type storage sites will be required, and we will see intense bureaucratic infighting over safety and security needs.
It's not often understood that the protracted times for the safe storage of spent fuel result from the presence of "transuranics" in it, not from the direct products of uranium fission. Transuranics are the isotopes that build up in the fuel when a uranium atom captures one or more neutrons without fission. Some of these decay into different elements: For example, plutonium-241 decays to americium-241, which then, too, can capture neutrons. Several of these isotopes have lifetimes in the thousands and tens of thousands of years. Some generate enough heat to be a problem.
Beyond the not-in-my-back-yard syndrome, transuranics are the reasons for the difficulties with storage in a repository like Yucca Mountain.
Fortunately, solutions to the waste problem are under development in the U.S., France, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. It's overdue, since recycling of fuel and waste was the intent of the pioneering engineers of nuclear power plants back in the 1950s.
A recycling process in use abroad comprises about three chemical steps and permits some separation of uranium, plutonium, other transuranics and fission products. The volumes of contaminated liquid waste is drastically reduced. The plutonium from this process can be used in thermal neutron reactors, but for only another two cycles because the higher isotopes of plutonium stop the fission process.
Another method still being developed is called pyrometallurgical recycling or electro-refining. This removes the fission products from the uranium, plutonium and other transuranics. Waste volume would be small, consisting almost entirely of fission products with much shorter half-lives than transuranics, so the necessary storage times would be reduced from thousands to hundreds of years. The remainder, consisting of plutonium mixed with other transuranics, is an unattractive target for theft but perfectly acceptable as fuel for fast-neutron breeder reactors. Early estimates suggest it is a much less expensive process to separate the several parts of spent fuel.
U.S. nuclear engineers have extensive experience with breeder reactors, which are the necessary final step in this development of modern nuclear-reactor technology using a closed fuel cycle. Among the initial reactors developed after World War II, Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 was the first in the world to generate electricity from nuclear energy; the event took place in Idaho in December 1951. Its successor, called EBR-2, operated successfully for 30 years from the early 1960s, generating more than 60 megawatts of electricity and serving as a test bed for experiments at the same time.
Fast-neutron breeder reactors can use all the transuranics and fission them to generate electricity. These reactors can be designed to produce excess plutonium from U-238 for additional fuel, or burn plutonium to generate electricity. They burn or transmute the troublesome part of the spent fuel, while producing electric power and more plutonium for other fast reactors, or thermal neutron reactors using mixed-oxide fuel.
Various designs of this reactor concept have been constructed and operated successfully in the U.S. and other countries. Prototype plants have existed in France since 1974, in Russia since 1981, and Japan plans to incorporate the closed fuel cycle with breeder reactors systematically in this century. Both India and China have plans for constructing breeder reactors.
The technology now exists for recycling spent reactor fuel, and fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors have been operated for many years. The critical components of the closed fuel cycle are ready for prototype operations, preferably an integrated demonstration financed by a consortium of electric utilities or the Department of Energy.
This is an expensive but necessary investment for the future. Yucca Mountain storage expense could be reduced to a small fraction of present costs, and mandatory storage time reduced to a few hundred years.
The closed cycle, using enriched uranium for fuel in light-water reactors, recycling of spent fuel through an electrochemical process, and using the recovered plutonium and other transuranics as fuel in a breeder reactor, is complete. It's not a simple process, but it's essential to assure ample energy for the indefinite future. It will be expensive to start, but there are no viable alternatives. The time to expand nuclear-power generation is now.
WILLIAM R. STRATTON and DONALD F. PETERSON are nuclear scientists, retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory. They are members of the Los Alamos Education Group, a non-profit organization advocating increased use and development of nuclear energy.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November Gathering 2006
on: November 19, 2006, 06:39:46 PM
A fine, fine day today. Just a quick yip before heading out to the Fighters Dinner:
Amongst the highlights of the day:
*a very exciting 2x2 knife fight with some sound tactics
* cattle prod vs. cattle prod
* empty hand vs. knife
* EH vs. stick
* Stick vs. Shocknife
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Interesting Knife Fight
on: November 19, 2006, 06:34:47 PM
Gracias por la ayuda espanol.
That certainly fleshes things in a bit.
Of scientific interest here:
a) the lack of immediate effect of the stabs to the kidney region on one of the PTs;
b) the failure to see the knife in the hand-- this is something that is well-established in the literature as being quite common, but here we see it in action
c) the obliviousness of many by-standers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: November 19, 2006, 07:59:13 AM
Weird-- The NY Times calls for a bigger military:
The Army We Need
Published: November 19, 2006
One welcome dividend of Donald Rumsfeld?s departure from the Pentagon is that the United States will now have a chance to rebuild the Army he spent most of his tenure running down.
Mr. Rumsfeld didn?t like the lessons the Army drew from Vietnam ? that politicians should not send American troops to fight a war of choice unless they went in with overwhelming force, a clearly defined purpose and strong domestic backing. He didn?t like the Clintonian notion of using the United States military to secure and rebuild broken states.
And when circumstances in Afghanistan and Iraq called for just the things Mr. Rumsfeld didn?t like, he refused to adapt, letting the Army, and American interests, pay the price for his arrogance.
So one of the first challenges for the next defense secretary and the next Congress is to repair, rebuild and reshape the nation?s ground forces. They need to renew the morale and confidence of America?s serving men and women and restore the appeal of career military service for the brightest young officers.
That will require building a force large enough to end more than three years of unsustainably rapid rotations of units back into battle, misuse of the National Guard, overuse of the Reserves and conscription of veterans back into active service.
Congress also needs to work harder at rebuilding the links between the battlefront and the home front that a healthy democracy needs. That does not require reinstating the draft ? a bad idea for military as well as political reasons. It requires a Congress willing to resume its proper constitutional role in debating and deciding essential questions of war and peace. If Congress continues to shirk that role, expanding the ground forces would invite some future administration to commit American forces recklessly to dubious wars of choice.
But keeping the Army in its present straitjacket would bring bigger and more immediate problems. Even assuming an early exit from Iraq, the Army?s overall authorized strength needs to be increased some 75,000 to 100,000 troops more than Mr. Rumsfeld had in mind for the next few years.
A force totaling 575,000 would permit the creation of two new divisions for peacekeeping and stabilization missions, a doubling of special operations forces and the addition of 10,000 to the military police to train and supplement local police forces. The Marine Corps, currently 175,000, needs to be expanded to at least 180,000 and shifted from long-term occupation duties toward its real vocation as a tactical assault force ready for rapid deployment.
That big an increase cannot be achieved overnight. It will take many months, and many billions of dollars, to recruit, train and equip these men and women. Every 10,000 added will cost roughly $1.5 billion in annual upkeep, plus tens of billions in one-time recruitment and equipment expenses.
But all the needed money can be found by reordering priorities within the defense budget. Thanks to six years of hefty budget increases, there is no shortage of defense dollars. They just need to go where the actual wars are. Contrary to pre-9/11 predictions, the early 21st century did not turn out to be an era of futuristic stealthy combat in the skies and high seas. Instead, American forces have been slogging it out in a succession of unconventional ground wars and nation-building operations.
If the new Pentagon leaders and the new Congress are prepared to take on the military contracting lobbies, they could take as much as $60 billion now going to Air Force fighters, Navy destroyers and Army systems designed for the conventional battlefield and shift it to training and equipping more soldiers for unconventional warfare. America cannot afford to dribble away money on corporate subsidies disguised as military necessities.
Congress also needs to hold the executive branch accountable for the use of American troops abroad. Administration officials must be pressed to explain intelligence claims and offer plausible strategies. Pentagon leaders should be instructed to stop using National Guard units for overseas combat instead of homeland security. And uniformed commanders should be pushed for candid assessments about conditions on the ground and the realistic choices available to policy makers.
Rebuilding the Army and Marine Corps is an overdue necessity. But it is only the first step toward repairing the damage done to America?s military capacities and credibility over the past six years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: November 18, 2006, 01:05:45 PM
ROAD 60, West Bank, Nov. 14 ? For four years, the separation barrier Israel has been building just inside the West Bank boundary has drawn protests from Palestinians and international censure for the hardship it imposes on their movement and access to jobs and land.
Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times
But getting much less notice have been parallel and perhaps even more restrictive measures imposed by the Israeli military much deeper inside the West Bank. The internal checkpoints and barriers on roads have increasingly limited movement, something Palestinians say they find especially grating, because they are not trying to enter Israel, only to go from one Palestinian area to another.
On a two-day, 75-mile trip along Road 60, the main north-south highway that runs along the hilly spine of the West Bank, a reporter and a photographer for The New York Times examined the daily friction between Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers.
In one of the more sweeping restrictions, men under 35 from the northern West Bank are generally not allowed to leave the area. The rules often change, but this one has been enforced most days for the last four months, Palestinians say.
?My main job now is waiting in line,? Hakim Abu Shamli, 40, said during a two-hour delay at a teeming checkpoint. Mr. Abu Shamli, an electrical engineer, lives in Tubas near the city of Nablus, and for years his commute to work was a 20-minute taxi ride. Now he leaves home at 5:30 a.m. to reach his job by 8, and he is often late. There are always two checkpoints, and one recent day there were seven, he said.
The Israeli military says that the web of travel restrictions was imposed in response to the Palestinian uprising that erupted in 2000 and that the measures have greatly reduced the number of deadly attacks by Palestinians.
?We?re seeing an increasing fragmentation of the West Bank,? said David Shearer, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which monitors the West Bank. ?The whole fabric of life for the Palestinians has been disrupted.?
His office says Palestinians traveling within the West Bank now face 542 obstacles, 83 of which are guarded by soldiers, compared with fewer than 400 a year ago. The obstacles have effectively divided the West Bank into three sectors ? northern, central and southern ? and limited movement among them.
?We know these measures harm the quality of life of the Palestinians, but they save the lives of Israelis,? said Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the government department that deals with the Palestinians.
As Palestinians make their way through dozens of military checkpoints, they are delayed for hours, rerouted to dirt roads and sometimes turned back altogether on their way to jobs, schools and family visits. They also face hundreds of unattended obstacles that include earth mounds, concrete blocks and trenches that have cut many roads, forcing lengthy detours.
?I used to work as a laborer in Israel,? said Mutie Milhem, 33, a taxi driver near Jenin who had just endured a lengthy wait at a checkpoint. ?When that became difficult, I thought it would be easier to be a driver in the West Bank. But every day here becomes harder. We never know what we are going to face.?
Jenin has the reputation as the most radical West Bank town, a center for militancy, and Israel has increasingly isolated it. Israel?s separation barrier, which consists of fences and walls, blocks travel in three directions, and the only way out of Jenin to another city is Road 60 to the south.
The town?s economy has been hit hard, and the main taxi stand overflows with frustrated drivers working their way through packs of cheap cigarettes. The drivers write their names on a blackboard and wait, sometimes for a day or more, before they are called to take passengers outside Jenin. Then they begin hitting obstacles well before reaching the closest Palestinian city, Nablus, less than 20 miles away.
Road 60 is closed to Palestinians for a short stretch that passes by Shavei Shomron, one of many Jewish settlements built on hilltops overlooking the road. To circumvent the blockade there, Palestinian taxi and truck drivers created a rutted path that travels across open fields for several miles.
By the western entrance to Nablus, at the Beit Iba checkpoint where Mr. Abu Shamli, the engineer, was stuck, the Israeli soldiers grew angry as the Palestinian crowd began bunching around them. The soldiers began confiscating identity documents as a punishment, though they later returned them.
Along Road 60 Israel says the multiple layers of security not only keep Palestinian attackers out of Israel but also protect the 250,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Before the Palestinian uprising began in 2000, obstacles in the West Bank were relatively few.
?Route 60, used both by the Israeli and Palestinian populations, is a designated location for terrorist attacks against Israelis,? the Israeli military said in a statement. ?If it were not for Palestinian terrorism, the crossings would not have been established.?
The Israeli military listed 13 actual or attempted Palestinian attacks on Road 60 in the last year, with four Israelis killed. In addition, Palestinians threw stones or fired on cars dozens of times.
In the northern West Bank, jobs are extremely scarce and the movement restriction on men under 35 has made it virtually impossible for them to look elsewhere in the West Bank for work. University students, most of them commuters, also face a tough time with changing rules.
?Sometimes I can?t make it to the university,? said Ala Suboh, 21, an engineering student at Al Najah University in Nablus. ?Other times I make it but I?m not allowed to leave the city and have to spend the night on the floor of a friend?s house.?
The Hawara checkpoint, on the southeastern edge of Nablus, is about 15 miles from the closest West Bank boundary, and a few years back it consisted of several soldiers on the side of the road checking identity documents. Now it resembles an international border.
Israel says internal checkpoints like the one at Hawara are crucial. Numerous would-be suicide bombers have been stopped there.
In 2002, West Bank Palestinians carried out more than 50 suicide bombings; this year there have been two that killed Israelis.
Many Palestinians going through the checkpoint are commuting to Nablus from their homes in surrounding villages. Yet Palestinians must go through turnstiles and metal detectors, while soldiers work on computers in glass booths.
It routinely takes an hour or more to pass during the morning and evening rush hours. Cars cannot pass unless they have permits from Israel. Some taxis and trucks have them, but private Palestinian cars on Road 60 are rare, because the permits are so hard to obtain.
The next major city along the road is Ramallah, the de facto political capital. Traditionally Palestinians have regarded the contiguous cities of Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem as one metropolitan area.
But now Israel does not allow the vast majority of West Bank Palestinians to enter Jerusalem. So they can no longer take Road 60 to Bethlehem and the south, but instead must take a lengthy detour on a narrow, winding road through the barren hills east of the city, which also includes a checkpoint.
Gabriel Jacoman, 50, was raised in a house on Road 60 as it enters Bethlehem. In 1994 he opened a chicken restaurant that thrived by serving the tourists who came from Jerusalem to visit the tomb of Rachel, the biblical matriarch.
Today his home and neighboring restaurant, now shuttered, are sandwiched between 25-foot concrete walls built across Road 60. One wall is several hundred yards north of his home and serves as the border between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The second wall is a few paces south of his front door, part of the wall built around Rachel?s Tomb.
?This was the road everyone took from Jerusalem to the southern West Bank,? Mr. Jacoman said. ?Now you can?t take it in either direction.?
In the 1990s, Israel rerouted parts of Road 60 so that it looped around some Palestinian towns. Those bypasses allowed Jewish settlers to travel the West Bank without having to go through Palestinian towns, where they often faced stones or worse.
The center of Hebron, the southernmost West Bank town on Road 60, is ghostly quiet. Aside from occasional pedestrians, the only activity consists of Israeli security forces patrolling near the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Several hundred Jewish settlers live in the city. Israel has imposed some of its most severe restrictions on roughly 30,000 Palestinians who used to live in the center; many have moved out, at least temporarily.
?The whole area is completely dead,? said Talib Karaki, 50, who lives with more than 100 members of his extended family in a two-house compound near the tomb.
Last month Mr. Karaki?s 3-year-old grandson, Walid, picked up gravel and started tossing it toward a soldier at the checkpoint, Mr. Karaki said. The soldier came to complain, and a big argument ensued.
?The whole thing was ridiculous,? the grandfather said. ?But it shows how crazy our life has become.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: November 18, 2006, 12:54:52 PM
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.
The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet", would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said.
It is one of several weapons being developed by scientists to combat militants, it said. Others include super gloves that would give the user the strength of a "bionic man" and miniature sensors to detect suicide bombers.
The research integrates nanotechnology into Israel's security department and will find creative solutions to problems the army has been unable to address, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Yedioth Ahronoth.
"The war in Lebanon proved that we need smaller weaponry. It's illogical to send a plane worth $100 million against a suicidal terrorist. So we are building futuristic weapons," Peres said.
The 34-day war in Lebanon ended with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire in mid-August. The war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Prototypes for the new weapons are expected within three years, he said.
? Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 18, 2006, 08:29:20 AM
Ser Spiegel, Nov. 17, 2006
Germany's Struggle To Prosecute Terrorists
By Dominik Cziesche
Germany has had little success in jailing suspected accomplices of Mohammed Atta, largely for lack of evidence. A risky foreign mission launched by its security services went badly awry.
On that fateful morning of September 11, 2001, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli must have known that their lives were about to change forever. The moment the first images of the blazing World Trade Center hit the screens, Zammar, considered a mentor to the attack's ringleaders by Germany's security services, and Mamoun Darkazanli, long suspected of supporting al Qaeda, were speaking on the phone. Shortly afterward, they met up. For about an hour, Darkazanli later recalled, he and Zammar followed the coverage on TV.
Mzoudi on trial (before Hamburg's Higher Regional Court, 2003): Sharing quarters with Mohammed Atta
It was to be their last meeting. For almost five years, Zammar has been languishing in a Middle Eastern prison cell. Darkazanli still lives in his Hamburg apartment, despite the authorities' best efforts to indict him. The fate of these two Islamists epitomizes the dilemma faced by Western democracies in their war against terror. Can it be won without impinging on civilians' constitutional rights? And can a state governed by the rule of law afford to cooperate with countries that use torture in their interrogations?
Zammar was abducted by CIA officers during a trip to Morocco at the end of 2001 and taken to Syria, a country that practices torture. That made Syrian-born Zammar, who had acquired German citizenship in 1982, one of the first victims of "rendition," a U.S. practice that rides roughshod over fundamental legal principles. He is now incarcerated in a 6x3 foot cell, a gaunt shadow of his former 300-pound self.
The German authorities have long been aware of Zammar's circumstances. Back in November 2002, officials from Germany's federal investigative agencies embarked upon a top-secret mission to interview him in Damascus. Their superiors had stipulated in their brief that "under no circumstances may German agencies and their personnel take part, either actively or passively, in torture." If at any time they discovered that a detainee was being treated "inappropriately," they were to halt the mission immediately.
Back in Germany, just after the 9/11 attacks, Zammar had mocked a judge at his trial, saying: "The law obligating me to testify here is not an Islamic law. As a consequence, I do not feel bound by it." But in Damascus, he was proving almost garrulous. Clad in a dark-gray jalabiya and a green army anorak, he chatted to his visitors over pistachios and tea about things that had never passed his lips in Germany. He volunteered, for example, how he had encouraged the 9/11 attackers to enroll at a terrorist training camp.
But Zammar also bemoaned being left to vegetate in his tiny cell. The German officials noted that he looked emaciated, but could discern "no visible sign of infirmity."
The dubious Syrian jaunt did little to further the Germans' 9/11 investigation. Evidence obtained through the efforts of Syrian torturers is inadmissible in a German court. Details of the trip leaked late in 2005 placed Merkel's fledgling government in an embarrassing bind - and left ministers groping for explanations: "It was the unanimous view of all the officials involved" that proper interviewing conditions were "not violated," a spokesperson for the country's new grand coalition said.
In fact, the previous coalition - comprising the Social Democrats and Green Party - had struck a very questionable bargain to secure permission for the interrogation in the first place. In return for access to the prison, the German authorities suspended espionage proceedings against some Syrian intelligence agents. "We wouldn't do that again," says one official today.
The government got itself into trouble of a different kind over Zammar's associate, Darkazanli. In his case, the German investigators played it strictly by the book, but an entire army of German and American experts were unable to produce enough evidence to indict him in Germany.
Probably no other case has damaged Germany's reputation as much as this one, especially in Washington. Intelligence services had to explain why they had not monitored Darkazanli more closely in the build-up to 9/11, while the German federal prosecutor's office was accused of doing too little too late. For weeks on end, the government faced a barrage of media accusations that top suspects had nothing to fear in Germany.
But Darkazanli is by no means the only suspected terrorist to escape prosecution, compounding the impression of legal lethargy. The state's attorneys failed to build cases against most of the hijackers' associates. A handful have quit the country in the interim; some left voluntarily, others were deported. Only one - Ramzi bin al-Shibh - is being held by the U.S. at an undisclosed location.
But many continue to live in Germany - because they are married to German nationals, or still enrolled at universities. And above all because nobody can prove they were complicit in Mohammed Atta's plans.
In the wake of 9/11, the Federal Prosecutor launched proceedings against just two of the terrorists' associates: Abdelghani Mzoudi and Mounir al-Motassadeq, known in Hamburg's department of interior affairs simply as "M & M."
Hamburg's higher regional court sentenced al-Motassadeq to 15 years for being a member of a terrorist organization and an accessory to 3,066 counts of murder. The conviction was then quashed by the country's Supreme Court. In a second trial, the sentence was reduced to seven years. But Germany's Federal Court of Justice this week affirmed his conviction and extended the charges to include 246 counts of abetting murder for the deaths of the passengers and crew members of the airlines used by the hijackers. The court said the evidence proved that al-Motassadeq had been aware that attacks were being planned. It turned the case back to the lower court and said the thousands of deaths in New York and Washington could be taken into consideration when al-Motassadeq is sentenced.
In the original trial - an attempt to convict al-Motassadeq of belonging to a German-based terrorist organization - the courts resorted to sleight of hand. Since supporting foreign terrorist groups was not punishable before September 11, the judges simply reversed the sequence of events. In the court's version, a terror cell based in Germany had decided to carry out attacks in the U.S., before its members traveled to Afghanistan to drum up support. In other words, bin Laden hadn't recruited henchman Atta. Atta was the global mastermind and bin Laden his loyal follower.
Continue to Part 2
Germany's Struggle To Prosecute Terrorists (2)
Return to Part 1
The German Supreme Court rejected this theory as implausible, and overturned the sentence. The lack of statements from key witnesses, including that of Chalid Sheikh Mohammed, also affected their ruling. The strategist behind the attacks is being held by the Americans at an undisclosed location - outside the range of normal jurisdiction, and beyond the reach of even the longest arm of the law. Although German intelligence is privy to some of his testimony, German courts are not - as is also the case with Zammar's statements to the Syrians.
Klaus Tolksdorf, the presiding judge at Germany's Supreme Court, warned that terrorism did not justify "barbarous, uninhibited war." In doing so, he clearly rejected the strong-arm methods advocated by Washington, which former CIA antiterror chief Cofer Black once euphemistically referred to as "taking off our kid gloves." Tolksdorf's words expose the (self-imposed) limitations of the German state, but leave its prosecutors on the horns of a dilemma.
Knut M?ller / DER SPIEGEL
Islamist Zammar (2001 in Hamburg): "The law is not an Islamic law; as a consequence, I do not feel bound by it"
Like his friend al-Motassadeq, Abdelghani Mzoudi also underwent weapons training at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. He even spent some time living at Marienstrasse 54 in Hamburg, the house where the student terrorists hatched their plot. But Hamburg's higher regional court was forced to acquit him, too - again for lack of evidence.
At the trial, the federal prosecution service and representatives of the country's security services had entangled each other in a web of contradictions. While one was insisting that Mzoudi had been in Hamburg when the attacks were planned, the other was claiming the terrorists had hatched their conspiracy in Afghanistan in his absence. Mzoudi was acquitted, and now lives in Morocco, where he unfailingly sings the praises of Germany's legal system.
According to the Hamburg judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt, Germany's criminal law is designed to handle clubs and associations, but is powerless to stop "sporadic fundamentalist cells springing up," organizations that fail to elect treasurers and submit regular reports.
This plays into the hands of men like Mohammed B. and Abderrazek L., just two of scores of students from Islamic fundamentalist circles.
Mohammed B. was an electrical engineering major who flunked his exams twice as long ago as 1995. After that he reported sick before each further test, to avoid being thrown off his degree program. He was friends with two of Atta's alleged accomplices, Said Bahaji and Zakariya Essabar, both of whom are still at large. In March 2000, his Internet connection was used twice to access a website containing information on U.S. flying schools. But not by him, he claims.
He once wrote to his uncle in Morocco that the Germans were waging war on Islam, but would never win. In the fall of 2003 he returned to Morocco of his own free will; there was no evidence to justify deportation.
Abderrazek L., a short, stocky man, once shared an apartment with Mzoudi. Among his possessions the police found one video showing Chechen Mujahideen beheading a captive. And another in which imams encourage good Muslims to "kill the children of the unbelievers ... drag off their women and destroy their homes."
Once again, the authorities hit a brick wall. "I'd like to stress that being someone's acquaintance doesn't necessarily mean 'knowing' them," said Abderrazek L., detailing his links with the hijackers' associates. "We are all Muslims, and at the mosque we are all brothers." He knew most of those involved in the attacks, but without knowing much about them, he claimed.
And what about the videos? "I didn't watch them all from beginning to end," he professed. And anyway, who's to say he shares the imam's views? He didn't think the attacks of 9/11 were "all that good" - given all the innocent victims, he says.
Abderrazek L. has at least left the country: one of the first from the wider group of people linked with the terrorists. But in the war on terror, his case neither raises the German judiciary's profile nor enhances its image.
In the beginning, things had looked so different. Immediately after September 11, the Germans seemed on the brink of dramatic breakthroughs. Within days the police had made rapid progress, documenting the key information and major participants. They searched Darkazanli's apartment just 48 hours after the attacks, confiscating papers and instructing him to report for questioning two days later. Which he did: the following Saturday Darkazanli duly turned up and was interrogated from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Convicted terrorist al-Motassadeq: Accomplice in the murder of 246 passengers and crew members
"How long have you known Said Bahaji?" he was asked about a man who continues to evade capture. "Does the name Mohammed Zammar ring a bell?" And: "Do you know Abdelghani Mzoudi?" They questioned him about the hijackers and about bin al-Shibh, one of the plotters.
They also quizzed Darkazanli about his business connections. "Don't you find it strange that your business partners in the United States are all in jail for their parts in bomb attacks?"
His answer: "No. I was just looking to make some money with these people. In my line of business, I can't be expected to know what everyone else is up to."
The authorities first took an interest in Darkazanli's unusual connections as early as 1993, when they intercepted a wire transfer from his wife's bank account to the suspected head of an Afghan training camp. The alleged purpose of the payment: "child support." Then there was the discovery of a photo showing Darkazanli wielding a submachine gun in Afghanistan's mountainous Hindu Kush region. And then there was his alleged involvement in the purchase of a ship for al Qaeda, contributing - according to Spanish investigators - 152,000 deutschmarks toward the total price of 760,000 deutschmarks. Darkazanli insists that none of these transactions are connected to terrorism.
In 1998, Mamduh Mahmud Salim - Osama bin Laden's purported financier - was arrested in Bavaria. Since that day Darkazanli, who had power of attorney for one of Salim's accounts in Frankfurt, has been eyed as a major catch.
Federal investigators twice asked prosecutors to institute legal proceedings against Darkazanli prior to 9/11. But they refused.
And so he stayed in his home on a leafy side street in Hamburg's Uhlenhorst quarter, a few steps from the Alster Lake. In the days following the attacks, local joggers were joined by hordes of camera crews, journalists and investigators - all demanding an explanation for the crime. But as he has repeatedly done, Darkazanli denied any links with al Qaeda.
Today, the crowds have disappeared. It looks as if Darkazanli is living happily ever after, having yet again slipped through the prosecution's net, unlike his friend Zammar. And at first glance it seems as if the authorities have suffered yet another setback in their war against terrorism.
But appearances can be deceiving. Before the German parliament retired for its summer recess, it ratified new legislation on EU arrest warrants, allowing the extradition of German nationals to other EU states. This could prove crucial to the Spanish authorities who have long been demanding Darkazanli's handover. Unlike their German counterparts, Spanish prosecutors believe they have the evidence to prove Darkazanli's membership in al Qaeda. They see him as an accomplice of the Islamic fundamentalist Imad Yarkas, who was given a 27-year sentence for his role in the 9/11 attacks.
Darkazanli appealed successfully against the attempted deportation at Germany's Constitutional Court. He was due to be put on an Iberia Airlines flight from Berlin's Tegel Airport to Madrid's Barajas Airport, but the judges suspended the extradition order minutes before take-off. The court requested increased safeguards for German citizens against extradition, which should only be permitted, they ruled, "in cases where the offense has a typical cross-border dimension from the outset and shows a corresponding gravity, as is the case with international terrorism or organized trafficking in drugs or human beings." The government lawyers returned to the drawing board.
It was a convoluted process, they say - unlike the case of Zammar, who was simply blindfolded, bundled onto a plane, and spirited away to a torture chamber. With Darkazanli, the legislation had to be meticulously worded, reworded and reworded again; there were thirty-odd drafts in all. The final law represents the German civil servants' riposte to the mob-like methods of the war on terror. Darkazanli, they say, has yet to fully appreciate the danger he faces.
But - they suspect - that will soon change.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Interesting Knife Fight
on: November 18, 2006, 07:41:57 AM
OK, assisted by reading through the comments, this is what I got from it:
There are three or four groups here:
1) some Polish tourists (the big white guys?),
2) some South Americans (the smaller guy in the dark shirt and pants and the knife, the woman, and?-- some of the commentators thought them African of some sort),
3) two transit security guys, (long dark pants/white shirts) You see them start to intervene, and at one point it looks like one has some sort of ASP, but as the knives start coming more aggressively into play they disengage. You see one returning to the train and coming out again various times.
4) maybe some passers-by
If I were to guess what happened:
Two SA (white shirt/dark pants and dark shirt/dark pants) men driven out of the train car with punches by the PTs. The SAs drive the PTs back into the train car. They drive back out and focus on the dark shirt SA who pulls/already had? a knife. By so doing they turn they back on the white shirt SA for a moment. One PT turns to face him (in the picture his skin color appears to be more African black than SA brown-- so maybe the commentator who said the group I am calling SA was actually African may be right-- however just to have a name I will go with the majority opinion of the commentators and continue to say SA) and drives him back to where they aren't really visible while in the foreground the other PT and shoves dark shirt SA to the ground. (While this is happening this is where we first see the dark-skinned woman in the white sleeveless top.) He gets up and throws a caveman overhand stab. Steppin in from the train door, an additional PT (or the one who previously drove white shirt SA back) ambushes darkshirt SA from his 0300 and the TS guys enter the fray from the train now on the left. One TS guy drives the PTs back into the train while the other restrains dark shirt SA. Does TS realize that he has a knife?
Anyway, that's all the breakdown I have time for now-- we're only 25% through the clip at this point-- but perhaps it will help everyone follow from here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: November 17, 2006, 09:42:01 PM
Dutch seek ban on burqas in public
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP)-- The Dutch government, facing re-election next week, said Friday it plans to draw up legislation "as soon as possible" banning the head-to-toe garment known as burqas and other clothing that covers the entire face in public places.
The announcement puts the Netherlands, once considered one of Europe's most welcoming nations for immigrants and asylum seekers, at the forefront of a general European hardening of attitudes toward Muslim minorities.
"The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing -- including the burqa -- is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens," Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said in a statement.
"From a security standpoint, people should always be recognizable and from the standpoint of integration, we think people should be able to communicate with one another," Verdonk told national broadcaster NOS.
Basing the order on security concerns apparently was intended to respond to warnings that outlawing clothing like the burqa, worn by some Muslim women, could violate the constitutional guarantee against religious discrimination.
The main Dutch Muslim organization CMO has been critical of any possible ban. The idea was "an overreaction to a very marginal problem" because hardly any Dutch women wear burqas anyway, said Ayhan Tonca of the CMO. "It's just ridiculous."
"This is a big law for a small problem," he said. Tonca estimated that as few as 30 women in the Netherlands wear a burqa and said the proposed law could be unconstitutional if it is interpreted as targeting Muslims.
He also said that the security argument did not stand up.
"I do not think people who have bad things in their minds would wear a burqa," he said.
In the past, a majority of the Dutch parliament has said it would approve a ban on burqas, but opinion polls in advance of national elections on November 22 suggest a shift away from that position, and it is unclear if a majority in the new parliament would still back the government-proposed ban.
Amsterdam's mayor, Job Cohen, of the opposition Labor party, said he would like to see burqas disappear, though he did not advocate a ban.
"From a viewpoint of integration and communication, naturally it's very bad," he told reporters. "You can't speak with each other if you can't see each other, so in that sense, I'd say myself the less (it's worn), the better."
The issue has resonance throughout Europe, Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently caused a stir by saying he wants Muslim women to abandon the full-face veil -- a view endorsed by Prime Minister Tony Blair. In France, the center-right's leading presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has increasingly been adopting some of the rhetoric of the extreme-right.
Germany, which also has a large Muslim immigrant community, has a law banning teachers in public schools from wearing head scarves, but no burqa ban.
In Holland, policies associated with the nationalist fringe in 2002 have been co-opted by the center: holding asylum-seekers in detention centers, more muscle for the police and intelligence services, and visa examinations that require would-be immigrants to watch videos of homosexuals kissing and of topless women on the beach. Everyone must learn to speak Dutch, and Muslim clerics must mind what they say in their Friday sermons for fear of deportation.
The Netherlands is deeply divided over moves by the government to stem the tide of new arrivals and compel immigrants to assimilate into Dutch society. The issue was given added urgency with the 2004 slaying of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Muslim fanatic and the failed attempt to expel a Somali-born critic of Islam.
Around 1 million Muslims live in the Netherlands, about 6 percent of the population of 16 million.
After France banned the wearing of head scarves in public schools, the Dutch government decided to leave that question up to individual schools. Most allow head scarves.
The city of Utrecht has cut some welfare benefits to unemployed women who insist on wearing burqas to job interviews. The city claimed the women were using the burqa to avoid working, since they knew they would not be hired.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Read it all!
on: November 17, 2006, 06:02:22 PM
Sorry I haven't yet found a way to get through.
1) So, do you want a debate or do you just want to throw out some dem "talking points" and run?
Baiting and antagonistic
MD: A bit so perhaps-- "conversation" might be a better choice than "debate" but certainly it is quite possible to respond to this one on the merits in a civil way. For example: "I would prefer a conversation. Yes? Sorry my list registered with you as talking points, actually I think them rather sound. Shall we engage on each of them one by one?"
It is the nature of these things that sometimes someone gets a tad abrasive or takes something as having a tone not intended. But in such moments, I offer what Guro Inosanto says, "Be the temperature, not the thermometer."
2) Do you feel better about this newly elected congressman?
MD: I don't get you at all here. A perfectly reasonable question.
Anyway, "brown-nosing" and "forum troll" are of a different order.
I hope this helps everyone get a sense of the vibration we are looking for here.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November Gathering 2006
on: November 17, 2006, 04:37:54 PM
Due to a failure to come to terms by Spike's production company and the R1 Gym, Spike will not be shooting this Gathering.
Spike and I will be talking next week about where to go from here.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread
on: November 17, 2006, 04:16:12 PM
Former boxing champion Mike Tyson is to become a male escort after agreeing to work at legendary Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss' new legalized brothel for women. Fleiss bought 60 acres of land in Nevada, and his work is scheduled to begin on Heidi's Stud Farm.
She has high hopes for Tyson, once heavyweight champion of the world - despite the fact he is a convicted rapist.
She says, "I told him, 'You're going to be my big stallion.' It's every man's fear that their girlfriend will go for Mike Tyson."
Tyson, 40, adds, "I don't care what any man says, it's every man's dream to please every woman - and get paid for it." http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2006/11/16/mike_tyson_to_be_a_prostitute?full=1
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Read it all!
on: November 17, 2006, 03:52:18 PM
Posting an article accusing the Left of "smug self-righteousness" is a bit different than
b) forum troll
c) the personal condescension of "Well, at least you keep yourself occupied"
As for the number of his posts, I am glad for them. I find his posts to be consistently interesting and informative.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Book Reviews
on: November 17, 2006, 11:39:35 AM
Of Mailer and Murder
by Theodore Dalrymple
On a recent visit to New Zealand, I happened across a book that I had long intended to read, In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Henry Abbott. (Before the advent of the Internet, which equalised world prices, New Zealand used to be the best place in the English-speaking world for second-hand books.)
The name probably faintly rings a bell. He was a career criminal, and had spent the vast majority of his life in penal institutions of one kind or another. At the time he first wrote to Norman Mailer, he was serving a sentence of up to nineteen years for having killed another inmate. Previously, he had broken out of jail and robbed a bank. For whatever reason, he was not a good man.
Mailer was much taken, however, by his literary ability, his prose style and his thoughts (among other things, he was a communist, and was of the opinion that the American penal system was far worse than that of the Soviet Union, even in the time of Stalin). Mailer supported Abbott?s appeal for parole, and Abbott was duly released. His book was published, he became for a short while the lion of the New York literary scene, a kind of interesting specimen (a petty criminal would have been of no interest, of course), until, a couple of days prior to the publication of the favourable review of his book in the New York Review of Books, he killed again, only six weeks after his release. His victim was a young man, an aspiring writer, who was working temporarily as a waiter, with whom Abbott had an impulsive quarrel. He stabbed him with a knife that he ?happened? to have on him.
Abbott was on the run for a short while, but then returned to prison where, about twenty years later, he hanged himself. In his only other book, called My Return, he argued that he could not have intended to kill the young waiter, because he stabbed him only once, and a man like him would have stabbed him many times had he intended to kill him. This was not the argument of a good man.
In fact, there was a passage in his first book, In the Belly of the Beast, that might have alerted Mailer and others to his penchant for stabbing people. It describes how prisoners take revenge in prisons. It is worth quoting in full:
Here is how it is: You are both alone in his cell. You?ve slipped
out a knife (eight- to ten-inch blade, double-edged). You?re
holding it beside your leg so he can?t see it. The enemy is
smiling and chattering away about something. You see his eyes:
Green-blue, liquid. He thinks you?re his fool: he trusts you. You
see the spot. It?s a target between the second and third button on
his shirt. As you calmly talk and smile, you move your left foot
to the side to step across his right-side body length. A light
pivot toward him with your right shoulder and the world turns
upside down: you have sunk the knife to its hilt into the middle
of his chest. Slowly he begins to struggle for his life. As he
sinks, you will have to kill him fast or get caught. He will say
?Why?? Or ?No!? Nothing else. You can feel his life trembling
through the knife in your hand. It almost overcomes you, the
gentleness of the feeling at the center of a coarse act of murder.
You?ve pumped the knife several times without even being aware
of it. You go to the floor with him to finish him. It is like cutting
hot butter, no resistance at all. They always whisper one thing at
the end: ?Please.? You get the odd impression that he is no
imploring you not to harm him, but to do it right. If he says your
name it softens your resolve. You go into a mechanical stupor of
sorts. Things register in slow motion because all your senses are
drawn to a new height. You leave him in the blood, staring with
dead eyes. You strip in your cell and destroy your clothing,
flushing it down the toilet. You throw the knife away. You jump
under the showers. Your clarity returns.
No doubt the first thing that struck Mailer about this passage was its quality as prose. It is very graphic. But the words, after all, are those of a murderer, and suggest more than a merely vivid imagination. It would have been as wise to take them literally as it proved to be foolish not to have taken the words of Mein Kampf literally. But Mailer lived in a world (that of radical politics protected by a bourgeois order) in which words never really meant what they said or said what they really meant, in which moral exhibitionism was the highest good and the sine qua non of the regard of one?s peers. So safe were they in their literary enclave that reality didn?t matter much; what counted was the ability to use words in the approved fashion, and truth was nowhere.
Ten years later, Mailer indirectly recognised his mistake, saying that the Abbott episode was not one of which he was proud. But it seems that the disregard of reality that he displayed has now entered the New Zealand criminal justice system.
You probably think of New Zealand as an empty land of beautiful landscapes: and so it is. It is tolerably prosperous, it is egalitarian in ethos, it is uncrowded, even its fauna and flora are gentle. It has no native carnivores and no snakes. Its climate is temperate and in places among the most pleasant in the world. It should be peaceful.
And so it once was. In 1950, when it was one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it had almost no crime whatever, or at least an irreducible minimum of crime. Now it has one of the highest crime rates in the western world, including crimes of violence. It is very puzzling.
While I was in New Zealand, I learned of two cases that seemed emblematic of the Mailerian developments in the new Zealand criminal justice system. The first concerned a man with 102 convictions, many for violence including rape. (I should point out that 102 convictions means many more offences, since the conviction rate is never 100 per cent of the offending rate, and is sometimes only 5 or 10 per cent of it.)
This man nevertheless became eligible for parole. As conditions of parole, the board told him he must not drink, smoke cannabis or frequent certain places. The man told the board that he would abide by none of these conditions, but he was released on parole anyway. Within a short time, he had killed three people and so maimed a fourth that she will never recover.
The second case was of a man with many previous convictions, some for violence, who abducted and murdered a young woman aged 24. He was imprisoned and applied for bail. Three times he was turned down, but a fourth judge granted him bail. He was sent to live at a certain address, where he befriended his neighbours, who did not know that he was accused of murder. Eight months later, while babysitting their children, he killed one of them.
Perhaps the most extraordinary twist of this terrible tale is that the parents of the murdered child then had another baby, which the social services then removed from them on the grounds that they had previously entrusted a child to the care of a murderer and were therefore irresponsible parents. The state blames its citizens for the mistakes - if that is what they are - that it makes.
What lies behind this terrible, wilful incompetence? I suppose some people might say that anecdotes mean nothing; that it is statistics we have to look at, and the majority of people sent out on parole, or on bail for murder, do not kill again. The questions we should be asking are what proportion of people who say in advance that they have no intention of abiding by parole conditions go on to commit serious crimes if granted parole anyway, and what proportion of accused murderers granted bail kill again while on bail. In the light of these questions, the decisions taken in the two cases I have cited might appear slightly less absurd.
This is dust in our eyes, however. The presumption must be against someone who has been convicted of 102 previous offences, many of them violent, or someone who has been convicted of many previous offences and is suspected on the strongest possible grounds of having killed. It is morally frivolous to suggest otherwise.
In other words, the moral frivolity of the New Zealand criminal justice system could not have been more plainly demonstrated than in these two cases. (On the day before my departure from the country, a young man, also with a long record, who attacked an old woman in her eighties, and fractured her facial bones in two places, having first given her what he called ?a king hit? - that is to say a single punch that felled her - was sentences to a year?s imprisonment, which, with remission, will mean he will be at liberty in less than six months.) The question arises, Where does this moral frivolity come from?
The judges in New Zealand are not entirely to blame, since they have to sentence according to guidelines laid down for them. They cannot impose any sentence that they happen to think is just. But they do not protest against guidelines that are patently absurd. Nor was there any reason why the fourth judge should have granted bail in the first case I described. Therefore the judges cannot absolve themselves entirely of responsibility.
Lying behind the frivolity of the New Zealand criminal justice system (which also infects the British system) is a willingness to ignore, or an unwillingness to take seriously, the most obvious prognostic signs, or even to take considerations of justice into account. Just as Mailer failed completely to recognise the significance of the passage in Abbott?s book, which after all was composed of letters to himself, that I have quoted above, so the judges and others in New Zealand ignored the most obvious considerations in their dealings with the criminals before them. Their own reputation for generosity of spirit and lack of vengefulness was more important to them than protection of the public.
Lying in a layer of the mind yet deeper than this desire for approbation is the baleful influence of Rousseau?s idea that Man is or would be good but for the influence of society upon him. If this is the case, then the murderers in the cases I have cited were as much victims as their victims, and the society which has thus victimised them has no moral right to treat them harshly. Rather, it must reform, indeed perfect, itself. Until it does so, it ought to expect cases of the kind I have described.
This, of course, was precisely Abbott?s point in his letters to Mailer. He said that society had made him the way he was, and thus had no right to point the finger at him; throughout the book, he alluded in a moral fashion only to what had been done to him, never what he had done.
There is no doubt, of course, that most criminals come from a very bad background (though it does not follow, thank God, that everybody from a bad background is a criminal, else we should none of us be safe in our beds). Of course, where the bad background itself comes from is another question, and much disputed. I think in large part it comes from the intellectual and moral zeitgeist that intellectuals have created. But the undoubted fact cited above has confused us utterly, and caused us to confute two questions: first, how do we prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place, and second, how do we prevent those who have become recidivist criminals from committing further crimes? The two questions have different answers, and there is not a single answer to them both. When, however, we mistake the first question for the second, and the second for the first, we end up making Mailer?s, and the New Zealand criminal justice system?s, mistakes, over and over again.
One thing is evident, however: those who make the mistakes do not pay the price for them. They feel the warmth of generosity without feeling the cool current of responsibility.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone'
on: November 17, 2006, 09:08:54 AM
A German friend with good feeling about the US with whom I shared the Steyn piece had this to say:
Ever since I have been introduced by you to the idea that Europe may become part muslim I have been discussing this topic with people around me I know. We all consider this a very absurd prediction.
1.) Yes, there will be a gap in the social welfare. After all, the birthrate prediction is a statistic and may not represent the actual situation but can only show trends. One trend is that people get children at a later age than our parents. The average family now has two children at the age of 31, before it has been at the age of 21. There are a lot of young couples around me that have children now. Europeans will not die out.
2.) Yes, most countries in Europe have problems with their immigrants. France and England are an exception due to their colonialist past. They will face massive problems in the future. However not all of these immigrants are Muslims. There are a lot of people from former Yugoslavia and Africa. A lot of immigrants from Arabian countries however are Christians. Due to the conflicts in those countries, it has become harder for them to live there. A lot of refugees from Iraq for example are secular Christians.
3.) Yes, fundamental islam has become a haven for lost souls. Indeed, to a lot of young kids of former immigrants Islam gives a home. BUT, Islam does not equate terrorism, as being christian does not include being a mormon. There is fundamental islamism in Europe, as there is a by far greater number of hardworking, honest and reasonable muslims, no better or worse than a jew or christian.
4.) Europe will NOT become semi-muslim - this is wishful thinking. There're facts you can build such a theory on. Europe rather will see another wave of Nationalism.
5.) Europe has a different mechanism of integration. While in the US an immigrant is assimiliated within one generation, in Europe it takes about 3 - 4 generations. Immigrants then also aren't assimiliated, but in a profound process the origin culture is being put under a test by European values. That brings forth a lot more conflict and takes longer.
6.) Yes, Europe has an identity crisis. The changes of the 1990s were over here , not in the US. 20 years ago the new members of the EU have been our enemies. 20 years ago we learned to shoot russians in the military, now they're our ally. The US will have to show a bit more sensitivity to the changes we haven't yet been able to acclimate to anyhow. If you want Europe as a new enemy, I guess scribes like Hanson, Peters or Steyn will be very quick to give reasons for that.