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30151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Thomas Paine on: September 05, 2008, 08:43:34 AM
"Now is the seedtime of continental union, faith and honor.
The least fracture now, will be like a name engraved with the point
of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge
with the tree, and posterity read in it full grown characters."

-- Thomas Paine (Common Sense, 1776)

Reference: Paine: Collected Writings, Foner ed., Library of America

30152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Learning from Maggie Thatcher on: September 05, 2008, 12:45:53 AM
What Mrs. Palin
Could Learn
From Mrs. T
September 5, 2008; Page A15

The glummest face Wednesday night might have been, if only we could have seen it, that of Hillary Clinton.

Margaret Thatcher was a 49-year-old mother of two when she became Conservative Party leader in 1974.
Imagine watching Sarah Palin, the gun-toting, lifelong member of the NRA, the PTA mom with teased hair and hips half the size of Hillary's, who went ... omigod ... to the University of Idaho and studied journalism. Mrs. Palin with her five kids and one of them still virtually suckling age, going wham through that cement ceiling put there exclusively for good-looking right-wing/populist conservative females by not-so-good-looking left-wing ones (Gloria Steinem excepting). There, pending some terrible goof or revelation, stood the woman most likely to get into the Oval Office as its official occupant rather than as an intern.

Imagine Hillary's fury. The gnashing of teeth after all the years of sacrifice and hard work—a life of it—and then the endless nuisance of stylists, makeovers and fittings for Oscar de la Renta gowns for Vogue covers. And surely that gimmicky holding of the baby papoose style by Todd Palin after his wife's acceptance speech is sacrosanct left-wing territory! If only Chelsea had been younger of course, Bill could have done it and then, well, who knows what might have been forgiven him?

American feminists have always had a tough sell to make. To the rest of the world, no females on earth have ever had it as easy as middle-class American women. Cosseted, surrounded by labor-saving devices, easily available contraception and supermarkets groaning with food, their complaints have always seemed to have no relationship to reality.

Education was there for the taking. Marriages were not arranged. Going against social mores had no serious consequences. Postwar American women (excluding those mired in poverty or the odious restrictions of race) have always had the choice of what they wanted to be. They simply didn't decide to exercise it until it became more fashionable to get out of the home than to run it.

Sarah Palin has put the flim-flam nature of America feminism sharply into focus, revealing the not-so-secret hypocrisy of its code and, whatever her future, this alone is an accomplishment. As she emerged into the nation's consciousness, a shudder went through the feminist left—a political movement not restricted to females. She is a mother refusing to stay at home (good) who had made a success out in the workplace (excellent) whose marriage nevertheless is a rip-roaring success and whose views are unspeakable—those of a red-blooded, right-wing principled pragmatist.

The metaphorical hair stood up on the back of every licensed member of the feminist movement who could immediately see she was a monster out of a nightmare landscape by Hieronymus Bosch. Pro-life. Pro-oil exploration in Alaska, home of the nation's polar bears for heaven's sake. Smaller government. Lower taxes. And that family of hers: Next to the Clintons with their dysfunctional marriage, her fertility and sexually robust life could only emphasize the shriveled nature of the one-child family of the former Queen Bee of political female accomplishment.

Mrs. Palin's emergence caused a spasm in American feminism. Caste and class have always been ammunition in the very Eastern seaboard women's movement, and now they were (so to speak) loading for bear. Sally Quinn felt a mother of five had no business being vice president. Andrea Mitchell remarked that "only the uneducated" would vote for Mrs. Palin. "Choose a woman but this woman?" wrote Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer, accusing Sen. McCain of using a Down's syndrome child as qualification for the VP spot.

The hypocrisy was breathtaking. Only nanoseconds before the choice of Mrs. Palin as VP put her a geriatric heartbeat away from the presidency, a woman's right to have a career and children was a shibboleth of feminism. One always knew that women with views that opposed those of official feminism were to be treated as nonwomen. To see it now out in the open was the real shocker.

The fact that this mom had been governor of a state was dismissed because it was a "small state," as was the city of which she had been mayor. Her acceptance speech, which knowledgeable left-wing critics feared would be effective, was dismissed before being delivered. She would be reading from a teleprompter. The speech would be good, no doubt, but written for her.

Had she been a man with similar political views, the left's opposition would have been strong but less personally vicious: It would have focused neither on a daughter's pregnancy, nor on the candidate's inability to be a good parent if the job was landed. In its panic, the left was indicating that to be a female running for office these days is no hindrance but an advantage, and admitting that there is indeed a difference between mothers and fathers that cannot necessarily be resolved by having daddy doing the diaper run.

All the shrapnel has so far been counterproductive. The mudslinging tabloid journalism—is Mrs. Palin the mother or grandmother of her Down's baby?—only raised her profile to a point where viewers who would never dream of watching a Republican vice-presidential acceptance speech tuned in.

Watching the frenzied reaction was déjà vu from my years as a political columnist in Margaret Thatcher's Britain. Modern history's titan of female political life suffered a similar hatred, fuelled to a large extent by her gender. Mrs. Thatcher overcame it magnificently, but in the end, the fact was that she was female and not one of "them"—a member of the old boys' club of the Tory establishment—played a significant role in bringing her down.

She was bound to be disliked vehemently by the left once she began to reveal her agenda of deregulation, sensible industrial relations, and tax reduction. Still among most of her enemies this had to do more with her ideas than her ovaries at the beginning. It was the aristocracy of her own Conservative Party that could not bear the notion of being led by "that woman." "Until she became leader," says Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph and authorized biographer of Mrs. Thatcher, "it was assumed she could not be it because of her sex."

Mrs. Thatcher was originally given the education portfolio by Prime Minister Edward Heath, though she wanted to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, the equivalent of the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Education was considered a woman's job, and regarded as far less important than it would be today. In the education portfolio she was excluded from higher counsels and out of the way. When she challenged Heath for the party leadership in February 1974, at age 49, she turned the tables and used her gender to appeal to the gallantry of disaffected Tory backbenchers. "She's a very brave girl," they would say.

Mrs. Thatcher, a good-looking woman, used her sexual attractiveness to its legitimate hilt. She was known to flirt both with caucus members and the opposition, her face tilted girlishly in conversation. She succeeded politically with those leaders with whom she could flirt—including Ronald Reagan, Francois Mitterrand and most unlikely of all, Mikhail Gorbachev. Her stylish, hint-of-Dr. Zhivago wardrobe for a 1987 visit to the Soviet Union became something of a national obsession.

Such attractiveness had the opposite effect on the Tory grandees. Books have been written on what it was that nurtured their contempt. After all, they were in the same political party, and their fortunes rested on her popularity.

No doubt part of the animosity arose from her origins as the daughter of a Grantham grocer, a woman whose home address was a street number rather than an estate with simply the house name. Lord Ian Gilmour of Craigmillar dismissed Mrs. Thatcher as "a Daily Telegraph woman"—code language for some ghastly suburban creature wearing a tasteless flowered hat. Winston Churchill's son-in-law, Christopher Soames, a man of much genuine intelligence, allegedly called her "Heath with tits"—an inaccurate and inelegant description, but one that captured exquisitely the contempt his class had for her. Both Gilmour and Soames were fired by Mrs. Thatcher in the housecleaning that took place during the late '70s and early '80s. But the core of High Tories remained active in the party waiting to bring her down.

The British feminist movement at that time was of little import. "I owe nothing to women's lib," Mrs. Thatcher remarked, thus assuring herself of a permanent place in their pantheon of evil. During her years in power, Mrs. Thatcher could and did use the rhetoric of home economics in a way a prudent male politician no longer dared do. Metaphors of kitchen and gender abounded in her speeches: "it is the cock that crows," she would say, "but the hen that lays the eggs."

Mrs. Thatcher would have recognized the guns aimed at Sarah Palin as the weapons of the left with feminist trigger-pullers. She also would have known that Mrs. Palin has less to fear from East-Coast intellectual snobs in egalitarian America than she had to fear from her own Tory base in class-prejudiced Britain. She would have told her to stand her ground and do her homework. Read your briefs, choose advisers with care, and, as she once said to me, my arm in her grip and her eyes fixed firmly on mine, "Just be yourself, don't ever give in and they can't harm you."

It wasn't quite true, of course. She did read her briefs, did stand her ground, and in the end they pulled her down, those grandees. But she made history. If a grocer's daughter can do it, a self-described hockey mom cannot be dismissed.

Ms. Amiel is a columnist for Macleans', the Canadian weekly newsmagazine, and a former senior political columnist for the Sunday Times of London.
30153  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: September 05, 2008, 12:38:30 AM
?Que quiere decir "chulo/chula" en Venezuela?  En Mexico una mujer "chula" es muy bonita y simpatica.
30154  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: September 05, 2008, 12:35:31 AM
Academy shorts and shirts will be fine.
30155  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Military Life, The Return and Crafty Dog?? on: September 05, 2008, 12:34:19 AM
Fort Polk LA has its charms too.  In addition to the heat and humidity, the local concept of health food consists of not deep frying the cigarettes.
30156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 05, 2008, 12:00:00 AM
A real snore of a speech tonight from McCain.  cry
30157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 04, 2008, 12:45:10 PM

GOP to Media: Please, Please Attack Sarah Palin

MINNEAPOLIS -- Liberal reaction to Sarah Palin's roof-raising speech last night was somewhat subdued. And there was some surprising agreement from Hillary Clinton's camp that Mrs. Palin had been treated unfairly because of her gender.

Barack Obama's campaign issued a terse statement saying: "The speech that Gov. Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush's speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years."

Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's official attack dog, could muster only this as commentary on Mrs. Palin's performance: "People who like this sort of thing will find this . . . the sort of thing they like." His colleague Andrea Mitchell, who had effusively praised Barack Obama's acceptance speech last week, could only say glumly: "The war has begun."

War is exactly what some Hillary Clinton allies think has been waged on Governor Palin. Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen says some in the media have improperly questioned if Mrs. Palin can adequately take care of her family while she runs for vice president. "There's no way those questions would be asked of a male candidate," agrees Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton's spokesman during her presidential campaign.

Phil Singer, who helped Mr. Wolfson deal with media issues on the Clinton campaign, concurred with his colleague and told "The real indictment that needs to be prosecuted is about her views, not her personal life."

My view is that some liberal commentators have done a good job of enraging not just conservative Republicans but many Hillary supporters with their coverage of Mrs. Palin. I received e-mails last night from two moderate voters who had been leaning towards Barack Obama and are now firmly in the McCain-Palin camp. In the space of less than a week, Sarah Palin has become a part of the culture war and in a way that may catch Barack Obama in the crossfire.

-- John Fund

Advice to Dems: Stop Digging

ST. PAUL -- What did we learn about Gov. Sarah Palin last night? That Democrats aren't the only ones with a budding star political talent in this election. Following a harsh week for the McCain campaign's decision to put up this political newcomer, Mrs. Palin not only eased fears but gave conservative Republicans a reason to be excited this year. Equally important, she has given Democrats a reason to start worrying.

Which leaves the Obama campaign with an interesting choice. Does it continue the Palin discussion which has dominated the news cycle this past week -- and will dominate it going into the weekend -- or should Mr. Obama and his surrogates quickly try to change the subject?

Mrs. Palin still has much to prove on the campaign trail, but it's clear the McCain campaign wants its opponents to continue going after her. Just yesterday, Team McCain released an ad titled "Alaska Maverick," comparing Mrs. Palin's experience not to her counterpart Sen. Joe Biden but to Sen. Barack Obama. If not a first in modern presidential politics, this line of attack is certainly something we haven't seen in a while. And it displays a level of confidence the McCain campaign isn't supposed to be feeling, given the powerful political winds the Democrats have at their backs this year.

In its first attempt at criticizing Mrs. Palin, the Obama campaign sent mixed messages. A statement by spokesman Bill Burton attacking her experience was rejected by the candidate himself only hours later. The lesson? Stop getting into specifics with Mrs. Palin and go back to tying Sen. John McCain to President Bush. There's a reason Mr. Bush -- and his own vice president -- weren't mentioned once in Mrs. Palin's speech last night. Nor in Rudy Giuliani's. Nor in Mike Huckabee's. And just once by Mitt Romney. The strategy for Democrats: Attack what your opponent is trying to hide, not what he's trying to promote. Attack Bush-Cheney, not Mrs. Palin.

-- Blake Dvorak,

Sarah, Get Thee to Chapel Hill

Sarah Palin thrilled the GOP last night in St. Paul, reminding more than a few GOP veterans of how Elizabeth Dole wowed them at the 1996 Republican convention in San Diego. Too bad Mrs. Dole wasn't there to enjoy it. She skipped this week's festivities to focus on her reelection battle against state Senator Kay Hagan in what has become a must-watch race.

And for good reason: A new poll by a Democratic firm shows Mrs. Hagan with a five-point lead, echoing a host of recent polls that show a tight race getting tighter. Mrs. Dole is the biggest star on the North Carolina stage now that John Edwards is in disgrace. Chapel Hill-based venture capitalist Alston Gardner emailed us to explain why she's in trouble: "Much like John Edwards, she's just another pretty face that hasn't delivered for the citizens and leaders of North Carolina. Her focus has always been on a national audience and not doing the less glamorous, but politically necessary constituent services." Ouch.

On Wednesday Mrs. Dole launched her first attack ad against her opponent. The spot portrays Ms. Hagan as a yapping dog and calls her "Fibber Kay," and defends Mrs. Dole as "one of the 10 most admired women in the world" whose "clout works wonders for North Carolina." The campaign also turned up the heat over a scheduled fundraiser for Ms. Hagan in two weeks hosted by author Wendy Kaminer, whose real estate developer husband is a board member of the Secular Coalition for America. Says a Dole press release: "Kay Hagan does not represent the values of this state; she is a Trojan horse for a long list of wacky left-wing outside groups bent on policies that would horrify most North Carolinians if they knew about it."

Husband Bob Dole, who did make an appearance on the Xcel Center floor before Mrs. Palin's speech yesterday, told the Washington Post that he's been busy on the trail supporting his wife as well. "I'm spending three days a week down there helping out," he said. "I just work the side streets. I don't go down Main Street."

Partly to assist in North Carolina, the cash-strapped National Republican Senatorial Committee on Tuesday pulled its ads from New Mexico, abandoning Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in his own fight with Rep. Tom Udall for the retiring Pete Domenici's seat. Bottom line: The Republican triage has begun and Election Day is still two months away.

-- Robert Costa

Quote of the Day

"He may have pulled off the impossible by finding someone who fires up independents and Reagan Democrats while not turning off social conservatives" -- Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, commenting on John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin.

How to Pick Out the Navy Enthusiasts at the RNC

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twin Cities are providing a hearty welcome to Republicans this week. Store windows carry welcome signs. Red, white and blue decorations abound. And the elephant, well, the elephant is everywhere. At a downtown Minneapolis hotel, a herd of topiary elephants, trunks raised, greet the guests. The leader of the pachyderms is an immense creature, almost life size, and visitors must pass beneath her trunk in order to reach the concierge's desk. I say "she" because the lady elephant sports red roses for toenails and more red roses bedeck her tail. A floral G-O-P is emblazoned on her saddle.

The elephant is everywhere at the convention too: on hats, tote bags, lapel pins and every form of jewelry. A delegate from Maine was spied wearing elephant earrings. But another popular accessory features no elephants -- rather, it's a pale blue tie or scarf sported by some Republicans featuring three of the international marine signal flags used by ships at sea. Strung together, the flags spell out the letters JSM, for John Sidney McCain.

-- Melanie Kirkpatrick

30158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: The Big Quiet on: September 04, 2008, 12:44:00 PM
Washington has gone quiet on Iran in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia war. In essence, the Russian action was a declaration that Russia intends to dictate precisely what its near abroad looks like, and pro-American governments are simply not welcome in the mix. If the United States is going to challenge this, it must find a way to free up significant military resources as quickly as possible. Since the vast bulk of American land forces are involved in the Iraq conflict, that means winding that war down.

Which, in turn, cannot be done without Iranian cooperation. It is Iran via its proxies that has the ability to influence the pace and heat of the Iraqi conflict — it played a very real role in both the escalation of violence in 2006 and its marked decline in 2007-2008. So for the United States to have the capacity to counter Russia, it must first strike a deal with Iran.

Stratfor finds it very interesting that the normal noise out of Washington concerning all things Iranian has gone nearly silent. In the past two weeks, only U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has issued so much as a peep on the issue, and even that was oblique and in the context of Washington’s planned missile defense systems in Europe.

So Stratfor is watching the movements of the senior American and Iranian leadership very closely. Currently, Vice President Dick Cheney is in Georgia after having visited Azerbaijan. Tomorrow he flies to Italy for a four-day visit. Any of these locations would be excellent places for Cheney to meet with Iranian counterparts and hammer out the final stages of a deal (negotiations have been ongoing for months now).

Our focus is on the Italy trip right now. Publicly, Cheney will be meeting with senior European intelligence officials over the weekend, and we have picked up a rumor that some Iranian officials will be making a discreet appearance. We cannot emphasize enough that this rumor is unconfirmed, but it makes sense. Everything about this makes sense. The location, the format, the timing, and Russia’s rearranging of the geopolitical constellation.

That, of course, does not mean that it is true. But it makes perfect sense.
30159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 04, 2008, 10:33:57 AM
The digs at BO were beautiful in their graceful brutality  grin

And now the WSJ lays the groundwork for going after Biden:

Biden Was Wrong
On the Cold War
September 4, 2008

The choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has electrified many conservatives and strengthened John McCain's claim that his administration would be far more reform-minded than Barack Obama's. At the same time, it has triggered accusations that Gov. Palin is far too inexperienced to be vice president, and has little knowledge of national security issues.

Mrs. Palin's lack of mastery of national security issues is often contrasted with Mr. Obama's vice presidential pick, Joseph Biden Jr. Mr. Biden has served in the Senate since 1973, is currently chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and is often described as a "statesman."

In fact, decade after decade and on important issue after important issue, Mr. Biden's judgment has been deeply flawed.

In the 1970s, Mr. Biden opposed giving aid to the South Vietnamese government in its war against the North. Congress's cut-off of funds contributed to the fall of an American ally, helped communism advance, and led to mass death throughout the region. Mr. Biden also advocated defense cuts so massive that both Edmund Muskie and Walter Mondale, both leading liberal Democrats at the time, opposed them.

In the early 1980s, the U.S. was engaged in a debate over funding the Contras, a group of Nicaraguan freedom fighters attempting to overthrow the Communist regime of Daniel Ortega. Mr. Biden was a leading opponent of President Ronald Reagan's efforts to fund the Contras. He also opposed Reagan's efforts to send military assistance to the pro-American government in El Salvador, which at the time was battling the FMLN, a Soviet-supported Marxist group.

Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has consistently opposed modernization of our strategic nuclear forces. He was a fierce opponent of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Biden voted against funding SDI, saying, "The president's continued adherence to [SDI] constitutes one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft." Mr. Biden has remained a consistent critic of missile defense and even opposed the U.S. dropping out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty after the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was the co-signatory to the ABM Treaty) and the end of the Cold War.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and, we later learned, was much closer to attaining a nuclear weapon than we had believed. President George H.W. Bush sought war authorization from Congress. Mr. Biden voted against the first Gulf War, asking: "What vital interests of the United States justify sending Americans to their deaths in the sands of Saudi Arabia?"

In 2006, after having voted three years earlier to authorize President George W. Bush's war to liberate Iraq, Mr. Biden argued for the partition of Iraq, which would have led to its crack-up. Then in 2007, Mr. Biden opposed President Bush's troop surge in Iraq, calling it a "tragic mistake." It turned out to be quite the opposite. Without the surge, the Iraq war would have been lost, giving jihadists their most important victory ever.

On many of the most important and controversial issues of the last four decades, Mr. Biden has built a record based on bad assumptions, misguided analyses and flawed judgments. If he had his way, America would be significantly weaker, allies under siege would routinely be cut loose, and the enemies of the U.S. would be stronger.

There are few members of Congress whose record on national security matters can be judged, with the benefit of hindsight, to be as consistently bad as Joseph Biden's. It's true that Sarah Palin has precious little experience in national security affairs. But in this instance, no record beats a manifestly bad one.

Mr. Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds
30160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on: September 04, 2008, 01:19:02 AM
The Best Man Turned Out To Be A Woman

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his running mate finally gave Republicans a reason to vote for him -- a reason, that is, other than B. Hussein Obama.

The media are hopping mad about McCain's vice presidential selection, but they're really furious over at MSNBC. After drawing "Keith (plus) Obama" hearts on their denim notebooks, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews stayed up all night last Thursday, writing jokes about Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the presumed vice presidential pick. Now they can't use any of them.

So the media are taking it out on our brave Sarah and her 17-year-old daughter.  They claimed Palin was chosen only because she's a woman. In fact, Palin was chosen because she's pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling and pro-tax cuts. She's fought both Republicans and Democrats on public corruption and does not have hair plugs like some other vice presidential candidate I could mention. In other words, she's a "Republican."

As a right-winger, Palin will appeal to the narrow 59 percent of Americans who voted for another former small-market sportscaster: Ronald Reagan. Our motto: Sarah Palin is only a heartbeat away!

If you're going to say Palin was chosen because she's a woman, you're going to have to demonstrate that the runners-up were more qualified. Gov. Tim Pawlenty seems like a terrific fellow and fine governor, but he is not obviously more qualified than Palin.

As for former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, the other also-rans, I can think of at least 40 million unborn reasons she's better than either of them.

Within the first few hours after Palin's name was announced, McCain raised $4 million in campaign donations online, reaching $10 million within the next two days. Which shortlist vice presidential pick could have beaten that?

The media hysterically denounced Palin as "inexperienced." But then people started to notice that she has more executive experience than B. Hussein Obama -- the guy at the top of the Democrats' ticket.

They tried to create a "Troopergate" for Palin, indignantly demanding to know why she wanted to get her ex-brother-in-law removed as a state trooper. Again, public corruption is not a good issue for someone like Obama, Chicago pol and noted friend of Syrian National/convicted felon Antoin Rezko.

For the cherry on top, then we found out Palin's ex-brother-in-law had Tasered his own 10-year-old stepson. Defend that, Democrats.

The bien-pensant criticized Palin, saying it's irresponsible for a woman with five children to run for vice president. Liberals' new talking point: Sarah Palin: Only five abortions away from the presidency.

They claimed her newborn wasn't her child, but the child of her 17-year-old daughter. That turned out to be a lie.

Then they attacked her daughter, who actually is pregnant now, for being unmarried. When liberals start acting like they're opposed to pre-marital sex and mothers having careers, you know McCain's vice presidential choice has knocked them back on their heels.

But at least liberal reporters had finally found someone their own size to pick on: a 17-year-old girl.

Speaking of Democrats with newborn children, the media weren't particularly concerned about John Edwards running for president despite his having a mistress with a newborn child.

While the difficult circumstances of Palin's pregnant daughter are being covered like a terrorist attack on the nation, with leering accounts of the 18-year-old father, the media remain resolutely uninterested in the parentage of Edwards' mistress's love child. Except, that is, the hardworking reporters at the National Enquirer, who say Edwards is the father.

As this goes to press, the latest media-invented scandal about Palin is that McCain didn't know her well before choosing her as his running mate. He knew her well enough, though admittedly, not as well as Obama knows William Ayers.

John F. Kennedy, who was -- from what the media tell me -- America's most beloved president, detested his vice president, Lyndon Johnson.

Until Clinton interviewed Al Gore one time before choosing him as his vice presidential candidate, he had met Gore only one other time: when Gore was running for president in 1988 and flew to Little Rock seeking Clinton's endorsement. Clinton turned him down.

To this day, there's no proof that Bill Clinton ever met one-on-one with his CIA director, James Woolsey, other than a brief chat after midnight the night before Woolsey's nomination was announced.

Barring some all-new, trivial and probably false story about Palin -- her former hairdresser got a parking ticket in 1978! -- the media apparently intend to keep being hysterical about McCain's alleged failure to "vet" Palin properly. The problem with this argument is that it presupposes that everyone is asking: "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?"

No one's saying that.

Attacks on McCain's "vetting" process require the media to keep claiming that Palin has a lot of problems. But she doesn't have any problems. Remember? Those were all blind alleys.

Unfortunately, for the ordinary TV viewer hearing nonstop hysteria about nonspecific "problems," it takes a lot of effort to figure out that every attack liberals have launched against Palin turned out to be a lie.

It's as if a basketball player made the winning shot in the last three seconds of the game and liberals demand that we have a week-long discussion about whether the player should have taken that shot. WHAT IF HE MISSED?

With Palin, McCain didn't miss.
30161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: September 04, 2008, 01:09:12 AM
Geopolitical Diary: More Ripples in the Post-Georgia Pond
September 4, 2008

There are two disparate and odd bits of news that together might add up to something of interest. First, according to the RIA Novosti press agency, two farms in Estonia have formed an independent “Soviet republic” and plan to ask for Russian recognition, according to a group of Estonian communists.

In itself this is not important, to say the least. It is interesting that RIA Novosti would decide to publicize it beyond its worth, but at this point, everyone is hypersensitive to anything that happens, and publicizing it under current circumstances makes some sense. What it does do is to point to real underlying tensions in the Baltics. The Baltic states have large Russian minorities. Many of these are Russian citizens. The Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians have bad memories of Russian occupation and view their countries’ Russian populations with a degree of unease. The Russians claim to be discriminated against. Between ethnic and some degree of ideological differences, there is tension.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recently said that Moscow is responsible for Russian citizens wherever they live. That statement implicitly targeted the Baltic states, essentially saying that Moscow speaks for the Russian minorities and that, therefore, Moscow has a role to play in the internal affairs of these countries. On the assumption that the local Bolsheviks who declared independence are Russian — a fair bet — the Russians could theoretically claim to be responsible for them in some way.

The Russians are not behind this stunt, although they clearly want to publicize it. But it points to a flash point that is truly dangerous. If the Russians were to challenge the legitimacy of the Baltic countries’ treatment of Russians, they would not have problems identifying substantial numbers of Russians who would claim grievances. The Baltics, unlike Georgia, are members of NATO and any political conflict there would inevitably involve NATO. We doubt that the Russians would have any interest in invading the Baltics, but we don’t doubt that under the current conditions they might be interested in stirring up problems in the Baltics. The Russians clearly enjoyed the Georgian crisis, and their appetite for confrontation might be growing. This is a stunt. But it is being reported by Russian media. It is not serious, but the underlying issue is.

Along the lines of straws in the wind, a second nation has recognized the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first was Russia. Now it is joined by Nicaragua. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was, for those old enough to remember, president of Nicaragua in the 1980s, when he led a Marxist government. He was elected again a few years ago, and no one seemed to care very much, including us, since being a Marxist and pro-Soviet didn’t really matter much. Nicaragua’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia does not, by itself, rise to significance, but it does make two points.

The first is that the Russians, should they choose to follow a confrontational course, have recourse to the old Soviet strategy of posing problems for the United States by supporting Soviet allies around the world, and particularly in Latin American where the United States was always sensitive. That strategy is alive because there are Latin American leaders looking for a major power prepared to support them. Nicaragua is one, but Venezuela and Cuba have also spoken in support of Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia (stopping short of outright recognition). There are also rumors that Russia might consider putting military bases in Venezuela and Cuba — another chance for Moscow to push Washington’s buttons.

Second, there appears to be an expectation of support from Russia in return for recognition. We need to be very careful not to assume either that Russia will simply follow a Soviet-model foreign policy or that it has the resources to do so even if it wanted to. Ortega might simply be enjoying a nostalgic moment. Alternatively, Ortega might be fishing for something from the Russians. As with the Baltics, it will be interesting what the Russians do with this opening, or if they even see it as an opening. We are beginning to have opportunities to measure the distance between Russia’s new foreign policy and traditional Soviet policies and see the delta between the two. How the Kremlin deals with these potential openings could indicate just how far the new Russian foreign policy is willing to push.
30162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 03, 2008, 01:30:13 PM
He's No Ed McMahon, But He'll Do

MINNEAPOLIS -- Who will introduce Sarah Palin tonight? The word in town is that President Bush will do the honors in a surprise appearance before the convention. After canceling his appearance for Monday night because of Hurricane Gustav, he addressed the delegates last night by a video hook-up. The feed was live, but he apparently couldn't hear the crowd and didn't pause long enough for the cheers, which kept on coming. LBJ was the last President to miss being physically present at a convention -- he stayed away in 1968.

A rallying cry at last week's Democratic convention was "Eight Is Enough," and when Mr. Bush's appearance was canceled Monday, some Republicans were talking about it being a "blessing in disguise." The conventional wisdom holds that John McCain needs to keep a polite distance from the unpopular President. But Mr. McCain isn't known for hewing to the conventional wisdom.

The other whisper about town is that Mr. McCain has chosen another Texan to introduce him tomorrow night: Michael Williams, chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas and the first African-American in Texas history to hold a statewide elected post. He's a champion of alternative energy and his "Breathe Easy" campaign urges the transformation of the state's bus fleets, especially school buses, from diesel and gasoline to natural gas and propane, which are cheaper and environmentally cleaner.

-- Melanie Kirkpatrick

Scouting Report on Palin: Natural Talent, Needs Coaching

MINNEAPOLIS -- Speculation about how GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will fare in her October 2 debate with Joe Biden is rife here in the Twin Cities.

But thanks to the archives of C-SPAN, it's possible to watch a debate she conducted during her 2006 race for governor. Her opponent was popular Democrat and former two-term governor Tony Knowles. Ms. Palin performed well, showing an organized mind and a populist bent (twice referring to "the will of the people"). In an ironic twist given recent news events, she was even asked what she would counsel her daughter to do if she became pregnant. "I would choose life," Ms. Palin said emphatically.

The one strange note came when the feisty former point guard for her high school basketball team (nickname "Sarah Barracuda") went after Mr. Knowles' qualifications to return to the governor's mansion. "Do we need a chef down in [the state capital of] Juneau?" she asked the debate audience. Mr. Knowles, who owns a restaurant in Anchorage, looked pained and the joust was quickly parried. If she's going to go after Joe Biden's vulnerabilities, such as the fact that he's a Washington lifer who ranks No. 17 in seniority among all senators who've ever served in Congress, Ms. Palin will need some better attack lines.

-- John Fund

The Thrill is Gone

The love affair between John McCain and the elite media is over. The cause of the final estrangement was alienation of affection -- namely Mr. McCain's decision to hook up with a pro-life, moose-hunting unknown governor of Alaska named Sarah Palin.

The resulting media attacks on the fitness and experience of Mr. McCain's running mate led to a quick series of "Dear Media" letters putting the relationship on ice. CNN's Wolf Blitzer told viewers yesterday that the McCain campaign had abruptly canceled an interview with Larry King after a contentious exchange between CNN's Campbell Brown and McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. Ms. Brown had sharply questioned Sarah Palin's foreign policy experience.

That was followed by an attack on the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller for suggesting that the McCain campaign had not vetted the Alaska governor properly. The campaign's blogger Michael Goldfarb wrote: "Ms. Bumiller, if you'd like to try reporting instead of writing fiction, here's a link to our press line," offering up the campaign's telephone number.

Other McCain supporters were even more pointed. At a rally yesterday organized by Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham told the audience that the media doesn't understand what the GOP convention is all about: "Life is the first. Big families. Hunting. Patriotism. Gun ownership. Beating back fat, bloated bureaucracy. Holding government accountable. Fighting liberal corruption. Sarah Palin stands for all of these principles that if taken away from the left, it's over for them. It's over."

I don't know about that, but clearly Mr. McCain and his former media chums won't be exchanging chocolates and flowers much over the next two months.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Never mind the naysayers and inside-the-Beltway snobs who mock John McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. This was a brilliant choice. . . . t offered an alternative to Americans who are ready to shake up Washington but who don't think that Obama is the one to do the shaking. It also showed that neither party is wedded to the old and tired image of four white males vying to lead the country. Besides, those who know Palin best -- her Alaska constituents -- tell reporters they like her, trust her and find her easy to relate to, which happen to be the same personal qualities that many Americans say they find lacking in the Democratic nominee. And anyone who thinks those qualities aren't important in a presidential candidate probably doesn't understand why Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush beat John Kerry in 2004" -- San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette.

Open for Business (Kindly Ignore the Russian Troops)

BRUSSELS -- On Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze's to-do list, somewhere below "get Russian army to leave," is making sure that economic aid comes to his war-ravaged country quickly enough that foreign investors continue to flock its way. The Bush administration is expected to announce today a $1 billion aid package, and Mr. Gurgenidze, while visiting the EU's capital this week, told me he hopes Europe "matches or exceeds that number" when it finally extends its own offer.

Before the Russian troops arrived almost a month ago, Georgia was a budding Caucasian Tiger. As democracy and free-market economics took hold following the Rose Revolution, foreign direct investment quadrupled last year. Those investors should keep coming, Mr. Gurgenidze said, "because fundamentally nothing has changed." The country is still being led by "the same people with the same libertarian leanings"-- the, ahem, visitors from up north notwithstanding.

Mr. Gurgenidze, who has an MBA from Emory University in that other Georgia and formerly played The Donald's role in a local version of TV's "The Apprentice," notes that Georgia's utilities and transportation recovered quickly and there was no meltdown in the country's financial sector. The national currency, the lari, has even appreciated slightly against the dollar during a time when the euro and pound have weakened.

Georgia still has severe problems and will have to lean on its Western allies economically for years to come. Whether or not Mr. Gurgenidze and especially President Mikheil Saakashvili eventually pay a price at the voting booth for taking the Russian bait, the country's future freedom will depend largely on its ability to remain an open and dynamic market.

30163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 03, 2008, 10:11:09 AM
Ginsburg was VERY dry.  A cup of coffee before class was usually a good idea.

I never understood her position that "abortion rights" were a matter of the equal protection clause.  As best as I could tell she was saying that because men didn't get pregnant from sex, women too had a right not to get pregnant from sex.  huh huh huh

She and I knocked heads over National League of Cities vs. Usery and we didn't see eye to eye on the Equal Right Amendment evil

And I can tell you that her concern for States Rights in Bush vs. Gore was a first  angry rolleyes
As for my classmates and their current level of understanding, I think my point still applies to quite a few of them-- especially those that, like BO, never worked in the private sector.
30164  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: September 03, 2008, 09:33:38 AM
The Reuters coverage of our Gathering has been picked up around the world.  Although it has mostly tapered off by now, here's a new one that chuckled me:
30165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: September 03, 2008, 09:27:59 AM
“Not only is [Sarah Palin] young, they’re saying she’s the prettiest candidate for vice president since John Edwards.” —Jimmy Kimmel
30166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 03, 2008, 08:54:10 AM
"There is little need of commentary upon this clause. No man
can well doubt the propriety of placing a president of the
United States under the most solemn obligations to preserve,
protect, and defend the constitution. It is a suitable pledge of
his fidelity and responsibility to his country; and creates upon
his conscience a deep sense of duty, by an appeal, at once in the
presence of God and man, to the most sacred and solemn sanctions,
which can operate upon the human mind."

-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)

Reference: Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 545.
30167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: September 03, 2008, 01:00:00 AM
Anyone have any intel on BO's relationship with Frank Marshall Davis?
30168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TTP: BO's favorite Moslem on: September 03, 2008, 12:35:39 AM
Written by Alex Alexiev     
Thursday, 28 August 2008 

As the Democrat Convention's carefully-scripted coronation of perhaps the least qualified major party presidential candidate in recent American history builds up to its climax, few have noticed that the convention's most pregnant political message may have already been delivered before it officially started.

It came in the form of a decision by Obama's campaign to feature the president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Ms. Ingrid Mattson, at an "Interfaith Gathering" of Leftist religious luminaries the day before the convention opened (8/24).

In doing that, Obama and the Democrat leadership rather demonstratively bestowed their seal of approval on the largest and most important front organization of the American Muslim Brotherhood, a conspiratorial Islamist revolutionary movement dedicated, in their own words, to "a grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands." 

The implications of this political legitimization of a group dedicated to the destruction of our constitutional order are so profoundly disturbing that some background on what exactly ISNA and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or Ikhwan Muslimi are is in order.

The Ikhwan beachhead in America was first established by a Saudi-funded group of Muslim Brothers in 1963 at the University of Illinois that became known as the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA).

This was only a year after the founding in Saudi Arabia of the main instrument for export of the violent Wahhabi/Salafi creed, the Muslim World League (MWL). The MWL, like other similar organizations that followed, were the fruit of the symbiotic nexus between Ikhwan organizational talent and Saudi financial muscle, a key synergy that is the single most important determinant of the vast inroads radical Islamism has made in the West since then.

Acting according to the MB's principle of a unitary Islamic movement operating through many fronts, the MSA promptly spawned numerous Islamist professional, educational and publishing spinoffs, before founding the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) in 1973, an ingenious Saudi-funded vehicle for control of American Islam through interest-free financing and holding the title of many Muslim institutions.

Finally, in 1981, the Brotherhood and its Wahhabi patrons felt the need to set up yet another instrument of control of the proliferating American Islamist networks by incorporating ISNA in Indiana as an umbrella organization of these networks. In the process, numerous front organizations that preceded ISNA by many years, including the MSA itself and NAIT, became ISNA constituent organizations.

What never changed was the unremitting hostility of the organization to fundamental American values like democracy, separation of church and state and human rights and its dedication to the ultimate objective of establishing a world-wide Islamic rule under barbaric shariah law.

Under the guidance of well-known Islamist zealots like Muzamil Siddiqui, Jamal Badawi, Abdalla Idris Ali, Iqbal Unus, Ihsan Bagby and many others, ISNA has through the years aided and abetted all manner of extremist and terrorist causes, while mouthing disingenuous calls for interfaith dialog.

While it has been able to fool numerous politically correct useful idiots, ISNA has been less successful with U.S. law enforcement authorities who listed it (and its affiliate NAIT) as an unindicted co-conspirator in a recent terrorism funding case. 

Moreover, attempts to have its name expunged from that list were tersely rejected by the U.S. government citing numerous evidentiary exhibits establishing ISNA's "intimate relationship" with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organizations.

ISNA is intimately involved in yet another major Islamist effort to undermine American society that has so far escaped public scrutiny. Through its affiliate NAIT, it owns and runs the IMAN shariah finance mutual fund which is part of the global financial Jihad effort aiming to legitimize a medieval doctrine that mandates violent jihad against non-Muslims and the killing of adulterers and homosexuals.

Interestingly, the IMAN fund was known as the Dow Jones Islamic Fund until last March when it was revealed that the chairman of its shariah advisory board, Mufti Taqi Usmani, had long called for violence against infidels and sanctioned suicide terrorism.

No less puzzling is the fact that NAIT, which owns most shares of the for-profit multi-million dollar mutual fund and on whose board Ingrid Mattson sits, does not file tax returns since it ostensibly makes less than $25,000 per year.

Perhaps the best evidence of what ISNA really stands for is provided by its own poll of the attitudes of its membership conducted in 2006. By nearly a 3 to 1 margin ISNA members believed that the U.S. government had advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks and allowed them to happen and a majority did not believe that the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the July 7, 2005 bombings in London were Moslem.

Despite such overwhelming evidence of ISNA"s subversive nature, many are willing to give it the benefit of doubt. This is at least partly due to the fact that Ingrid Mattson is the first woman head of a major Islamic organization and is especially skillful in beating the bogus interfaith dialog drums.

For the Obama campaign and more than a few others, this has by itself provided the needed proof that ISNA is a picture of moderation.

Indeed, how can all the lurid tales of Islamist misogyny, gay-bashing and hate-spewing against Christians and Jews be true when ISNA now has a leader that is seemingly an emancipated and enlightened woman dedicated to multiculturalism and understanding? A fair question, it seems, until one starts digging behind the headlines.

It doesn't take long to discover that far from being a new emancipated leader, Ms. Mattson is little more than a useful prop serving the Islamist agenda.

Shortly after she was elected ISNA president in August 2006, the organization's secretary-general Sayyid Syeed announced that this does not change the prohibition against women leading mixed-gender prayer and that Mattson will only be allowed to lead "ritual worship for women." Mattson herself promptly opined that Moslem women are quite content with their segregated prayer space in the mosque.

Nor has she raised even the slightest objection to numerous misogynist statements by her fellow-ISNA executives and Islamist ideologues, Muzammil Siddiqui and Jamal Badawi, who have openly supported shariah restrictions on women traveling by themselves, socialization between men and women, or making friends with non-Muslims and endorsed polygamy and the husband's right to beat his wife.

Or, for that matter, their implicit endorsement of the death penalty for homosexuality. Not to mention ISNA's vituperative anti-Semitism, rejection of basic American norms such as the separation of church and state and its support for the imposition of shariah law in Muslim communities in the West.

It would be interesting to find out whether key democratic constituencies such as feminists and gay and lesbian groups are aware of the real agenda of this newly anointed partner of the Obama coalition for change. Just as it would be for rank and file Americans to learn that as far as ISNA's leadership is concerned American Moslems "should not melt in any pot except the Muslim Brotherhood pot."

In the interest of fairness, the Obama campaign is not the only one to buy uncritically ISNA's deceitful protestations. The Bush Administration, which has had seven years to figure it out, is even guiltier in failing to understand the deeply subversive nature of the Muslim Brotherhood networks and has often acted as a willing dupe to the Islamists.

The number two man at the Pentagon, Gordon England, for instance, followed the advice of a likely Islamist plant in his office - who had lied about his background - in terminating Stephen Coughlin, one of the few genuine experts in the U.S. government on shariah law. Not surprisingly, Mr. England had earlier legitimized through his presence an ISNA convention which teemed with radical Islamist speakers and messages, making himself a useful idiot par excellence in the process.

Not to be overdone, the Administration's former public diplomacy czar, Karen Hughes, whose impeccable credentials as a close personal friend of President Bush were only exceeded by her impeccable cluelessness about radical Islam, proudly declared ISNA members to be her frontline troops in public diplomacy.

The documented failure of the outgoing administration to come to terms with the existence of a well-organized Islamist fifth column in America does not make the democrats? new infatuation with a key part of this fifth column any less serious. Especially because, as the party has veered sharply to the left, parts of it have increasingly embraced radical Islam as a new ally. These have ranged from the ACLU, which has openly allied itself with organizations like ISNA and CAIR, to the Greens who have lately been debating whether to engage radical Islam in a joint struggle to destroy capitalism.

These feelings are fully reciprocated on the other side as the Islamists increasingly see the Left as a potential ally in its quest to undermine Western civilization and replace it with shariah rule.

Following the Democrat mid-term election victories in 2006, the Muslim Brotherhood website ikhwanweb argued that the Democrat victory will work in favor of Moslems and the Muslim Brotherhood inside and outside the U.S. and expressed the hope that the democrats will begin dealing directly with "moderate Islamists."

The Democrat Convention's legitimization of Ingrid Mattson and ISNA would seem to justify such hopes further. One can only hope that the majority of patriotic Democrat voters would soon start asking questions about Obama's new Islamist partners.

Alex Alexiev was for 20 years a senior analyst with the national security division of the Rand Corporation, directing numerous research projects for the Department of Defense and other agencies.  Currently vice-president for research at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, his next book is Jihad on Wall Street: Shariah Finance in the War Against America.

[Note on "Moslem" vs. "Muslim".  Until recently, the normal transliteration for "one who submits" was Moslem.  Somehow, this became politically incorrect, with those-who-submit demanding a spelling of Muslim.  Since Arabic has no written vowels, the actual transliteration from Arabic into English should be "Mslm."  TTP will always opt for the politically incorrect - so in every case other than the actual title of an organization - it will render Mslm as Moslem, never Muslim.] 
30169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Columbia U. and emminent domain on: September 03, 2008, 12:25:52 AM
Columbia University
Has No Right to My Land
September 3, 2008

In the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the government is permitted to take private property only for "public use."

This clause was once limited to true public projects such as the construction of highways, fire houses and public libraries. But over the last 50 years it has been bastardized by the powerful (in collusion with compliant politicians and the acquiescence of the courts) into a weapon used routinely to forcibly take other people's property for nonpublic uses. What is occurring in West Harlem today is a prime example of this abuse.

Columbia University, a private institution, officially announced its desire for a new campus five years ago. The university zeroed in on the Manhattanville area of Harlem -- between 125th and 134th Streets, and between Broadway and the Hudson River. Since that time, while wielding the sledgehammer of the possible use of eminent domain, Columbia has purchased roughly 80% of Manhattanville.

My family has owned for almost 30 years four commercial Manhattanville properties. We run a self-storage business, plus we lease to various large retailers such as a discount store and a supermarket. For over four years we have been fighting the state and Columbia in their joint attempts to condemn my properties for the school's expansion.

This week, the board of directors of the state agency threatening the condemnation -- the Empire State Development Corporation -- will hold two legally required public hearings, ostensibly to give the public a chance to be "heard." I believe that this is merely perfunctory.

Under New York state law, in order to condemn property the state first has to undertake a "neighborhood conditions study" and declare the area in question "blighted." Earlier this summer the state released its study, which concluded that Manhattanville is indeed "blighted." This gives the state the legal green light to condemn my four buildings and hand them over to the university.

The study's conclusion was unsurprising. Since the commencement of acquisitions in Manhattanville by Columbia, the school has made a solid effort to create the appearance of "blight." Once active buildings became vacant as Columbia either refused to renew leases, pressured small businesses to vacate, or made unreasonable demands that resulted in the businesses moving elsewhere. Columbia also let their holdings decay and left code violations unaddressed.

Only a few years ago, this area was undergoing a resurgence. Virtually all property was occupied, many by long-standing family operations such as my own. Now most of those businesses are gone -- forced out by the university. Still, Columbia has not been able to freeze all positive change in the neighborhood. Just in the past few years, three upscale restaurants have opened here. They seem to be thriving.

There is also a conflict of interest in the condemnation process. The firm the state hired to perform the "impartial" blight study -- the planning, engineering and environmental consultant Allee King Rosen & Fleming, Inc. (AKRF) -- had been retained by Columbia two years earlier to advocate for governmental approval of the university's expansion, including the possible use of eminent domain.

When I go to court in a few months to contest the condemnation, I will face an overwhelmingly unfair process particular to New York, and to eminent domain trials. I will not be permitted to question any of the state or Columbia's representatives, nor will I be allowed to have anyone take the witness stand on my behalf. My attorney will only be provided with 15 minutes to speak to the court on a matter that Columbia and the state have been working on for over four years.

Another problem is that in New York, the precise definition of what is blighted is nowhere to be found. It is virtually impossible to defend oneself from something that is not properly defined.

I am still denied access to documents with facts surrounding the Columbia expansion plan, asked for through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. I filed 12 different FOIL requests and have gone to court four times. The courts have now twice ruled that it was improper for the state to refuse to hand over all communication between it and AKRF.

Still, I look forward to my day in court. I am cautiously optimistic that it will expose as unconstitutional what Columbia and the state are attempting to do.

Mr. Sprayregen is the president of Tuck-It-Away, a West Harlem based self-storage company.
30170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Market will punish Putinism on: September 03, 2008, 12:16:54 AM
The Market Will Punish Putinism
September 3, 2008; Page A23

The financial abyss is the deepest abyss of all; you can keep falling into it your whole life.
-- Ilf and Petrov
"The Golden Calf" (1931)

In the early years of the Soviet Union, Marxist policies for a "workers' paradise" wrought such devastation on the Russian economy that Vladimir Lenin was forced to restore certain aspects of market capitalism -- limited private ownership, trade with foreign countries -- to salvage the future of Bolshevism. The line above comes from a famous Russian satire about two scoundrels who took full advantage of the widespread corruption under the New Economic Policy (NEP) to accumulate illegal fortunes.

Fear of financial failure is a recurring nightmare for Russians, who recall with angst the collapse of the Soviet economy at the end of the 1980s. The following decade, in August 1998, a newly constituted Russian Federation defaulted on its government bonds as the ruble lost two-thirds of its value in less than a month, plunging the nation back into bankruptcy.

While humiliation still lingers in the national psyche, Russia has seemingly entered a new phase in its struggle to reconcile totalitarian tendencies with capitalist rewards. Today, oil revenues ostensibly provide a bulwark against economic losses caused by government misjudgments.

But even as Russian tanks assert a physical claim on Georgian territory, Moscow is already feeling the consequences in fiscal terms. Foreign investment capital -- the lifeblood of Russian equity and credit markets -- is draining out as the world recoils.

Group of Seven leaders should take particular note of this spontaneous market phenomenon -- and also take heart. Because no matter what sanctions the European Union might choose to impose, no matter how severely the world's leading industrialized nations jointly condemn their "fellow G-8 member" -- nothing will punish Russia more than to watch the dream dissolve yet again.

Vladimir Putin, who used to chase rats with a stick in the stairwell of his crumbling apartment block during his Leningrad boyhood, today seeks to thrash what he perceives as a hostile world order. He vows to "put an end to the unipolar world ruled by the U.S.," and has shown his willingness to raise the specter of financial ruin -- his nation's deepest fear -- to indulge this obsession.

The irony of the story, and the tragedy, is that Mr. Putin needs little assistance from the U.S. and its trans-Atlantic allies to destroy Russia's own standing in the international political and economic order.

The rout in Russian stock markets actually began before the invasion of Georgia, prompted by Mr. Putin's rumblings of despotic displeasure in late July. The shares of Mechel, one of Russia's leading mining and metals companies, plunged 38% on the New York Stock Exchange after Russia's prime minister publicly accused the company of selling raw materials to foreigners at lower prices than those charged domestically. Perhaps it was Mr. Putin's ominous advice (widely viewed as a sinister threat) to Mechel's owner and director, who was hospitalized at the time -- "I think Igor Vladimirovich should get better as quick as possible, otherwise we'll have to send him a doctor" -- that chilled investor sentiment, wiping out $6 billion in shareholder value in one day.

Only hours earlier, Robert Dudley, president of the Anglo-Russian energy company TNK-BP, was forced to flee Moscow after systematic harassment by government authorities. Locked in a power struggle for managerial control, the joint venture is Russia's third-largest oil producer; its Russian principals want to wring maximum cash payments out of the business while the British side argues for capital investment to increase future production. Analysts suspect the Kremlin is fully complicit in the effort to oust the foreigners -- denying visas to the company's British employees, launching tax investigations, tapping residential phones.

Since the attack on Georgia began in early August, the decline in Russian financial markets has accelerated sharply. The benchmark RTS Index of leading Russian stocks has slumped to its lowest level in two years. The ruble has registered its biggest monthly decline against the U.S. dollar in more than nine years as foreign investors rush to retrieve their capital -- some $25 billion in the last three weeks, according to French investment bank BNP Paribas. The amount of debt raised by Russian companies in August has fallen 87% from July levels. The issuance of new equity has come to a virtual halt -- a mere $3 million was raised in August compared to $933 million in July.

To combat the alarming magnitude of capital desertion, officials at Russia's central bank have scrambled to raise interest rates, allowing the yield on domestic ruble bonds to increase by 150 basis points. But complaints about the tightened credit situation have already begun among Russia's powerful industrial oligarchs. One of them, Vladimir Potanin, paid a recent visit to Mr. Medvedev to let him know that Russian companies' restricted access to world financial markets was causing difficulties. The billionaire businessman suggested that the government tap state reserves to ease the liquidity crisis. Mr. Medvedev quickly acquiesced, promising to unveil a new program of easy credit before the end of September.

It is part of the continuing pattern for Russia -- forever trying to have it both ways with "private" companies in cahoots with the Kremlin, entrepreneurial ambition subject to Big Brother's approval, and capitalism without democracy. It's a pattern that has consistently led Russia to blame outsiders for woes incurred as the result of its inherent dissonance, and to petulantly abandon earlier aspirations for global integration.

And it has always led to the financial abyss. Even now, the outlines of the old command-style economic blueprint are emerging as Mr. Putin promotes his 12-year development plan for the country. The foreign capital required to fund it is disappearing by the minute, however, which means the plan must be altered. Expect the nastiness to ratchet upwards as Mr. Putin wields his stick against his purported enemies. On Friday, he threatened to cut supplies to Europe of "oil, gas, petroleum chemicals, timber, metals, fertilizers" should it align with the U.S. in confronting Russian aggression against bordering nations. In Moscow, reports are circulating that Lukoil executives have been notified by the Kremlin to be prepared to restrict oil deliveries to Poland and Germany through the Druzhba pipeline. (In Russian, druzhba means "friendship" -- a perfect tribute to Orwellian doublespeak.)

What Mr. Putin has yet to learn is that capital does not respond well to extortion. Global investors are not impressed by economic threats to cut off supplies to vital customers. Indeed, they abhor the elevated "country risk" associated with political adventurism.

But what can the West do to express its rejection of such tactics? Preventing Russia from joining the World Trade Organization means little to a country that disdains the rules of free trade -- on Friday, Moscow banned poultry imports from the U.S. -- and blatantly circumvents antimonopoly policies. Russia's refusal to acknowledge intellectual property rights is consistent, if unscrupulous; according to researchers at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Putin plagiarized much of his dissertation for a Ph.D in economics in 1997 from a management study written by two professors at the University of Pittsburgh in 1978.

The most farsighted move Western governments could make would be to set up a fast-track approach to European Union membership for the most vulnerable of Russia's neighbors: Ukraine. As a parallel step, an interim monetary facility should be arranged to help the country make an early transition to the euro; if the EU balks, the U.S. should offer Kiev the opportunity to dollarize. Investors will be drawn to the stability and freedom of conducting business in a major reserve currency.

Mr. Putin, who harbors dreams of a vast ruble zone across the former Soviet empire, won't like it. But he has to understand: Sometimes the invisible hand strikes back.
30171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Palin in 2006 on: September 02, 2008, 11:53:34 PM
This editorial appeared in the Journal on August, 25, 2006:

Alaska is among the most Republican states in the country, and maybe that explains why incumbent Governor Frank Murkowski finished third in Tuesday's GOP primary, with a mere 19% of the vote. We're hard-pressed to remember an incumbent anytime, anywhere receiving that small a share of the vote, and it's a warning to office holders everywhere about the sour public mood.

Mr. Murkowski is unpopular for a variety of local reasons, but most of them have to do with the kind of incumbent arrogance that has afflicted too many Washington Republicans. The Governor -- who spent 22 years in the Senate before running in Juneau -- made headlines for lobbying the legislature for a private jet because he said his prop plane wasn't speedy enough. When the legislature said no, Mr. Murkowski grabbed $2 million from the department of public security to buy one anyway and used it for campaign and personal trips. Now he'll be flying commercial.

Meanwhile, his pet $20 billion pipeline to transport natural gas to the lower 48 states was tainted by reports of sweetheart deals negotiated with energy companies. The pipeline will help the state's economy, but the cost in government subsidies is enormous. Voters also had a sour taste from the Governor's decision to name his daughter Lisa to the U.S. Senate seat that he gave up in 2002. She won election in her own right by a surprisingly narrow margin in 2004.

The candidate who defeated Mr. Murkowski this week is Sarah Palin, a former small town mayor who ran as, well, a real Republican. She hammered the Governor for misspending tax dollars, and for matching state funds to federal spending earmarks for low priority projects (i.e., the bridge to nowhere). Ms. Palin called the outcome a victory against "politics as usual," and will face a tough battle in November against Democrat and well-known former Governor Tony Knowles.

If Republicans are run out of Congress in November, one big reason will be that, like Mr. Murkowski, they have become far more comfortable running the government than reforming it.
30172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 02, 2008, 08:09:13 PM
BO got into the Senate in a freak election wherein a quality Republican opponent had to drop out at the last moment and only Alan Keyes  rolleyes was available to step in to be his opponent.  BO had 143 days in the Senate before  he announced.  He has a subcommittee from which he could have launched various investigations related to foreign affairs, but , , , how rare! , , , has done nothing.

Look, I went to Columbia Law School-- not Harvard but not too shabby either.  My Constitutional Law prof was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I've been around these people and my clear sense of it is that a goodly number of them are as clueless about the real world as they are bright.  They think to cleverly articulate a synthesis of positions matters in the real world.

BO has done NOTHING but talk and fence with words.  That ain't excrement in the real world.  He has never worked in the private sector, never run a business, never been in harm's way, never broken with left liberal orthodoxy, never put together a major piece of legislation, never written a law reivew article.    The man has DONE nothing.

As for Lady Evita, no she hasn't been convicted, but I have followed her in these matters pretty durn closely and I think her quite guilty.  You would too I suspect , , , if she were a Republican.  evil cheesy smiley
30173  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: September 02, 2008, 07:33:07 PM
Note that this is two years old:

15 States Expand Right to Shoot in Self-Defense
Published: August 7, 2006

In the last year, 15 states have enacted laws that expand the right of
self-defense, allowing crime victims to use deadly force in situations that
might formerly have subjected them to prosecution for murder.

The New York Times

Jason Rosenbloom was shot twice during a dispute over how many garbage bags
Mr. Rosenbloom had put out. The shooter was not arrested.


Graphic: Looser Restrictions on Lethal Force
2006 Florida Statutes: Title XLVI, Chapter 776: Justifiable Use of Force

Pasco Sheriff's Department
Jacqueline Galas, a Florida prostitute, shot and killed a 72-year-old
client. She was not charged.

Supporters call them "stand your ground" laws. Opponents call them "shoot
first" laws.

Thanks to this sort of law, a prostitute in Port Richey, Fla., who killed
her 72-year-old client with his own gun rather than flee was not charged
last month. Similarly, the police in Clearwater, Fla., did not arrest a man
who shot a neighbor in early June after a shouting match over putting out
garbage, though the authorities say they are still reviewing the evidence.

The first of the new laws took effect in Florida in October, and cases under
it are now reaching prosecutors and juries there. The other laws, mostly in
Southern and Midwestern states, were enacted this year, according to the
National Rifle Association, which has enthusiastically promoted them.

Florida does not keep comprehensive records on the impact of its new law,
but prosecutors and defense lawyers there agree that fewer people who claim
self-defense are being charged or convicted.

The Florida law, which served as a model for the others, gives people the
right to use deadly force against intruders entering their homes. They no
longer need to prove that they feared for their safety, only that the person
they killed had intruded unlawfully and forcefully. The law also extends
this principle to vehicles.

In addition, the law does away with an earlier requirement that a person
attacked in a public place must retreat if possible. Now, that same person,
in the law's words, "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his
or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force." The law
also forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of the people covered by
the law, and it prohibits civil suits against them.

The central innovation in the Florida law, said Anthony J. Sebok, a
professor at Brooklyn Law School, is not its elimination of the duty to
retreat, which has been eroding nationally through judicial decisions, but
in expanding the right to shoot intruders who pose no threat to the occupant's

"In effect," Professor Sebok said, "the law allows citizens to kill other
citizens in defense of property."

This month, a jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., will hear the retrial of a
murder case that illustrates the dividing line between the old law and the
new one. In November 2004, before the new law was enacted, a cabdriver in
West Palm Beach killed a drunken passenger in an altercation after dropping
him off.

The first jury deadlocked 9-to-3 in favor of convicting the driver, Robert
Lee Smiley Jr., said Henry Munnilal, the jury foreman.

"Mr. Smiley had a lot of chances to retreat and to avoid an escalation,"
said Mr. Munnilal, a 62-year-old accountant. "He could have just gotten in
his cab and left. The thing could have been avoided, and a man's life would
have been saved."

Mr. Smiley tried to invoke the new law, which does away with the duty to
retreat and would almost certainly have meant his acquittal, but an appeals
court refused to apply it retroactively. He has appealed that issue to the
Florida Supreme Court.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the N.R.A., said the Florida law
had sent a needed message to law-abiding citizens.

"If they make a decision to save their lives in the split second they are
being attacked, the law is on their side," Mr. LaPierre said. "Good people
make good decisions. That's why they're good people. If you're going to
empower someone, empower the crime victim."

The N.R.A. said it would lobby for versions of the law in eight more states
in 2007.

Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said
her group would fight those efforts. "In a way," Ms. Brady said of the new
laws, "it's a license to kill."

Many prosecutors oppose the laws, saying they are unnecessary at best and
pernicious at worst. "They're basically giving citizens more rights to use
deadly force than we give police officers, and with less review," said Paul
A. Logli, president of the National District Attorneys Association.

But some legal experts doubt the laws will make a practical difference. "It's
inconceivable to me that one in a hundred Floridians could tell you how the
law has changed," said Gary Kleck, who teaches criminology at Florida State

Even before the new laws, Professor Kleck added, claims of self-defense were
often accepted. "In the South," he said, "they more or less give the benefit
of the doubt to the alleged victim's account."

(Page 2 of 2)

The case involving the Port Richey prostitute, Jacqueline Galas, turned on
the new law, said Michael Halkitis, division director of the state attorney's
office in nearby New Port Richey. Ms. Galas, 23, said that a longtime
client, Frank Labiento, 72, threatened to kill her and then kill himself
last month. A suicide note he had left and other evidence supported her

Skip to next paragraph

Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post
Robert Smiley, a cabdriver, killed a passenger in an altercation. He was
tried but the jury deadlocked.


Graphic: Looser Restrictions on Lethal Force
2006 Florida Statutes: Title XLVI, Chapter 776: Justifiable Use of Force
The law came into play when Ms. Galas grabbed Mr. Labiento's gun and chose
not to flee but to kill him. "Before that law," Mr. Halkitis said, "before
you could use deadly force, you had to retreat. Under the new law, you don't
have to do that."

The decision not to charge Ms. Galas was straightforward, Mr. Halkitis said.
"It would have been a more difficult situation with the old law," he said,
"much more difficult."

In the case of the West Palm Beach cabdriver, Mr. Smiley, then 56, killed
Jimmie Morningstar, 43. A sports bar had paid Mr. Smiley $10 to drive Mr.
Morningstar home in the early morning of Nov. 6, 2004.

Mr. Morningstar was apparently reluctant to leave the cab once it reached
its destination, and Mr. Smiley used a stun gun to hasten his exit. Once
outside the cab, Mr. Morningstar flashed a knife, Mr. Smiley testified at
his first trial, though one was never found. Mr. Smiley, who had gotten out
of his cab, reacted by shooting at his passenger's feet and then into his
body, killing him.

Cliff Morningstar, the dead man's uncle, said he was baffled by the killing.
"He had a radio," Mr. Morningstar said of Mr. Smiley. "He could have gotten
in his car and left. He could have shot him in his knee."

Carey Haughwout, the public defender who represents Mr. Smiley, conceded
that no knife was found. "However," Ms. Haughwout said, "there is evidence
to support that the victim came at Smiley after Smiley fired two warning
shots, and that he did have something in his hand."

In April, a Florida appeals court indicated that the new law, had it applied
to Mr. Smiley's case, would have affected its outcome.

"Prior to the legislative enactment, a person was required to 'retreat to
the wall' before using his or her right of self-defense by exercising deadly
force," Judge Martha C. Warner wrote. The new law, Judge Warner said,
abolished that duty.

Jason M. Rosenbloom, the man shot by his neighbor in Clearwater, said his
case illustrated the flaws in the Florida law. "Had it been a year and a
half ago, he could have been arrested for attempted murder," Mr. Rosenbloom
said of his neighbor, Kenneth Allen.

"I was in T-shirt and shorts," Mr. Rosenbloom said, recalling the day he
knocked on Mr. Allen's door. Mr. Allen, a retired Virginia police officer,
had lodged a complaint with the local authorities, taking Mr. Rosenbloom to
task for putting out eight bags of garbage, though local ordinances allow
only six.

"I was no threat," Mr. Rosenbloom said. "I had no weapon."

The men exchanged heated words. "He closed the door and then opened the
door," Mr. Rosenbloom said of Mr. Allen. "He had a gun. I turned around to
put my hands up. He didn't even say a word, and he fired once into my
stomach. I bent over, and he shot me in the chest."

Mr. Allen, whose phone number is out of service and who could not be reached
for comment, told The St. Petersburg Times that Mr. Rosenbloom had had his
foot in the door and had tried to rush into the house, an assertion Mr.
Rosenbloom denied.

"I have a right," Mr. Allen said, "to keep my house safe."
30174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 02, 2008, 05:25:48 PM
second post of the day:

Pakistan's Next President
Is a Category 5 Disaster
September 2, 2008; Page A21
If there's a case to be made against democracy, few countries make it better than Pakistan.

On Saturday, Pakistani legislators will elect a new president to replace Pervez Musharraf, the general-turned-strongman who resigned the office last month.

In one corner there is Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a former journalist and one-time political prisoner of Mr. Musharraf who is nonetheless running as the candidate of the general's old party. Mr. Mushahid, probably the best of the bunch, stands next to no chance of winning.

In another corner there is Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, candidate of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party. Mr. Sharif -- whose record includes bankrupting his country, presiding over a disastrous military campaign against India, and attempting to implement Sharia law while awarding himself near-dictatorial powers -- has made it clear he intends to gut the powers of the presidency should he return to office.

And then there is Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Mr. Zardari, who has compared himself to Jesus (an innocent accused of crimes he did not commit), is easily one of the most notorious figures in the long parade of horribles that make up the country's political history. He is, of course, expected to win Saturday's ballot handily.

Just how bad is Mr. Zardari? It would be a relief if it were true that he was merely suffering from dementia, a diagnosis offered by two New York psychiatrists last year. But that diagnosis seems to have been produced mainly with a view toward defending himself against corruption charges in a British court.

Mr. Zardari -- who earned the moniker "Mr. 10%" for allegedly demanding kickbacks during his wife's two terms in office -- has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. In 2003, a Swiss magistrate found him and Mrs. Bhutto guilty of laundering $10 million. Mr. Zardari has admitted to owning a 355-acre estate near London, despite coming from a family of relatively modest means and reporting little income at the time it was purchased. A 1998 report by the New York Times's John Burns suggests he may have made off with as much as $1.5 billion in kickbacks. This was at a time when his wife was piously claiming to represent the interests of Pakistan's impoverished masses and denouncing corrupt leaders who "leave the cupboard bare."

It's an open question whether Mr. Zardari will be more or less restrained in his behavior if he's elected: His return to politics has meant the dropping of all charges against him and the release of millions in frozen assets. (The presidency will also confer legal immunity.) That may make him one of the few men in Pakistan to get richer this year: The economy, which grew in an unprecedented way under Mr. Musharraf, has tanked under civilian management. The Karachi stock exchange has lost about a third of its value and the currency about a fifth in recent months. Markets often have better memories than voters.

It's also an open question whether Pakistan's increasingly dire security outlook will focus Mr. Zardari's mind on the urgent tasks of governance. Mr. Zardari has sought to parley himself internationally as a pro-Western candidate, and maybe he is. Yet over the weekend the Pakistani government agreed to stop its air strikes on the Taliban, in exchange for which Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a religious party, agreed to throw its support to Mr. Zardari. The Taliban has used previous cease-fires to regroup and re-arm for operations against both Afghanistan and Islamabad.

Then there is al Qaeda, now openly endeavoring to use its last redoubts in Pakistan to take over the country. Last month, Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a long broadcast (in English, no less) denouncing Mr. Musharraf as an American tool and calling on Pakistan's army to come over to his side.

That call was unlikely to be heeded against Mr. Musharraf, who could count on the loyalty of his troops. But Mr. Zardari is a caricature of everything that's morally bankrupt with the country's Westernized elite, and thus an inviting propaganda target for al Qaeda and the Taliban. It doesn't help, either, that they are working fertile political soil: 71% of Pakistanis oppose cooperating with the U.S. in counterterrorism, and 51% oppose fighting the Taliban at all, according to a June poll.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban feed on chaos, and a Zardari presidency will almost certainly provide more of it. For Pakistanis, this is a self-inflicted wound and a rebuke to their democracy. For the rest of world, it's a matter of hoping that Pakistan will somehow muddle through. For now, however, this looks like a Category 5 hurricane, dark and vast and visible just offshore.

Write to
30175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medvedev Doctrine and US Strategy on: September 02, 2008, 04:56:31 PM
The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy
September 2, 2008
By George Friedman

The United States has been fighting a war in the Islamic world since 2001. Its main theaters of operation are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but its politico-military focus spreads throughout the Islamic world, from Mindanao to Morocco. The situation on Aug. 7, 2008, was as follows:

The war in Iraq was moving toward an acceptable but not optimal solution. The government in Baghdad was not pro-American, but neither was it an Iranian puppet, and that was the best that could be hoped for. The United States anticipated pulling out troops, but not in a disorderly fashion.
The war in Afghanistan was deteriorating for the United States and NATO forces. The Taliban was increasingly effective, and large areas of the country were falling to its control. Force in Afghanistan was insufficient, and any troops withdrawn from Iraq would have to be deployed to Afghanistan to stabilize the situation. Political conditions in neighboring Pakistan were deteriorating, and that deterioration inevitably affected Afghanistan.
The United States had been locked in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, demanding that Tehran halt enrichment of uranium or face U.S. action. The United States had assembled a group of six countries (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) that agreed with the U.S. goal, was engaged in negotiations with Iran, and had agreed at some point to impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran failed to comply. The United States was also leaking stories about impending air attacks on Iran by Israel or the United States if Tehran didn’t abandon its enrichment program. The United States had the implicit agreement of the group of six not to sell arms to Tehran, creating a real sense of isolation in Iran.
Related Special Topic Page
The Russian Resurgence
In short, the United States remained heavily committed to a region stretching from Iraq to Pakistan, with main force committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of commitments to Pakistan (and above all to Iran) on the table. U.S. ground forces were stretched to the limit, and U.S. airpower, naval and land-based forces had to stand by for the possibility of an air campaign in Iran — regardless of whether the U.S. planned an attack, since the credibility of a bluff depended on the availability of force.

The situation in this region actually was improving, but the United States had to remain committed there. It was therefore no accident that the Russians invaded Georgia on Aug. 8 following a Georgian attack on South Ossetia. Forgetting the details of who did what to whom, the United States had created a massive window of opportunity for the Russians: For the foreseeable future, the United States had no significant forces to spare to deploy elsewhere in the world, nor the ability to sustain them in extended combat. Moreover, the United States was relying on Russian cooperation both against Iran and potentially in Afghanistan, where Moscow’s influence with some factions remains substantial. The United States needed the Russians and couldn’t block the Russians. Therefore, the Russians inevitably chose this moment to strike.

On Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in effect ran up the Jolly Roger. Whatever the United States thought it was dealing with in Russia, Medvedev made the Russian position very clear. He stated Russian foreign policy in five succinct points, which we can think of as the Medvedev Doctrine (and which we see fit to quote here):

First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.
Medvedev concluded, “These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

The second point in this doctrine states that Russia does not accept the primacy of the United States in the international system. According to the third point, while Russia wants good relations with the United States and Europe, this depends on their behavior toward Russia and not just on Russia’s behavior. The fourth point states that Russia will protect the interests of Russians wherever they are — even if they live in the Baltic states or in Georgia, for example. This provides a doctrinal basis for intervention in such countries if Russia finds it necessary.

The fifth point is the critical one: “As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests.” In other words, the Russians have special interests in the former Soviet Union and in friendly relations with these states. Intrusions by others into these regions that undermine pro-Russian regimes will be regarded as a threat to Russia’s “special interests.”

Thus, the Georgian conflict was not an isolated event — rather, Medvedev is saying that Russia is engaged in a general redefinition of the regional and global system. Locally, it would not be correct to say that Russia is trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian empire. It would be correct to say that Russia is creating a new structure of relations in the geography of its predecessors, with a new institutional structure with Moscow at its center. Globally, the Russians want to use this new regional power — and substantial Russian nuclear assets — to be part of a global system in which the United States loses its primacy.

These are ambitious goals, to say the least. But the Russians believe that the United States is off balance in the Islamic world and that there is an opportunity here, if they move quickly, to create a new reality before the United States is ready to respond. Europe has neither the military weight nor the will to actively resist Russia. Moreover, the Europeans are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies over the coming years, and Russia can survive without selling it to them far better than the Europeans can survive without buying it. The Europeans are not a substantial factor in the equation, nor are they likely to become substantial.

This leaves the United States in an extremely difficult strategic position. The United States opposed the Soviet Union after 1945 not only for ideological reasons but also for geopolitical ones. If the Soviet Union had broken out of its encirclement and dominated all of Europe, the total economic power at its disposal, coupled with its population, would have allowed the Soviets to construct a navy that could challenge U.S. maritime hegemony and put the continental United States in jeopardy. It was U.S. policy during World Wars I and II and the Cold War to act militarily to prevent any power from dominating the Eurasian landmass. For the United States, this was the most important task throughout the 20th century.

The U.S.-jihadist war was waged in a strategic framework that assumed that the question of hegemony over Eurasia was closed. Germany’s defeat in World War II and the Soviet Union’s defeat in the Cold War meant that there was no claimant to Eurasia, and the United States was free to focus on what appeared to be the current priority — the defeat of radical Islamism. It appeared that the main threat to this strategy was the patience of the American public, not an attempt to resurrect a major Eurasian power.

The United States now faces a massive strategic dilemma, and it has limited military options against the Russians. It could choose a naval option, in which it would block the four Russian maritime outlets, the Sea of Japan and the Black, Baltic and Barents seas. The United States has ample military force with which to do this and could potentially do so without allied cooperation, which it would lack. It is extremely unlikely that the NATO council would unanimously support a blockade of Russia, which would be an act of war.

But while a blockade like this would certainly hurt the Russians, Russia is ultimately a land power. It is also capable of shipping and importing through third parties, meaning it could potentially acquire and ship key goods through European or Turkish ports (or Iranian ports, for that matter). The blockade option is thus more attractive on first glance than on deeper analysis.

More important, any overt U.S. action against Russia would result in counteractions. During the Cold War, the Soviets attacked American global interest not by sending Soviet troops, but by supporting regimes and factions with weapons and economic aid. Vietnam was the classic example: The Russians tied down 500,000 U.S. troops without placing major Russian forces at risk. Throughout the world, the Soviets implemented programs of subversion and aid to friendly regimes, forcing the United States either to accept pro-Soviet regimes, as with Cuba, or fight them at disproportionate cost.

In the present situation, the Russian response would strike at the heart of American strategy in the Islamic world. In the long run, the Russians have little interest in strengthening the Islamic world — but for the moment, they have substantial interest in maintaining American imbalance and sapping U.S. forces. The Russians have a long history of supporting Middle Eastern regimes with weapons shipments, and it is no accident that the first world leader they met with after invading Georgia was Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This was a clear signal that if the U.S. responded aggressively to Russia’s actions in Georgia, Moscow would ship a range of weapons to Syria — and far worse, to Iran. Indeed, Russia could conceivably send weapons to factions in Iraq that do not support the current regime, as well as to groups like Hezbollah. Moscow also could encourage the Iranians to withdraw their support for the Iraqi government and plunge Iraq back into conflict. Finally, Russia could ship weapons to the Taliban and work to further destabilize Pakistan.

At the moment, the United States faces the strategic problem that the Russians have options while the United States does not. Not only does the U.S. commitment of ground forces in the Islamic world leave the United States without strategic reserve, but the political arrangements under which these troops operate make them highly vulnerable to Russian manipulation — with few satisfactory U.S. counters.

The U.S. government is trying to think through how it can maintain its commitment in the Islamic world and resist the Russian reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union. If the United States could very rapidly win its wars in the region, this would be possible. But the Russians are in a position to prolong these wars, and even without such agitation, the American ability to close off the conflicts is severely limited. The United States could massively increase the size of its army and make deployments into the Baltics, Ukraine and Central Asia to thwart Russian plans, but it would take years to build up these forces and the active cooperation of Europe to deploy them. Logistically, European support would be essential — but the Europeans in general, and the Germans in particular, have no appetite for this war. Expanding the U.S. Army is necessary, but it does not affect the current strategic reality.

This logistical issue might be manageable, but the real heart of this problem is not merely the deployment of U.S. forces in the Islamic world — it is the Russians’ ability to use weapons sales and covert means to deteriorate conditions dramatically. With active Russian hostility added to the current reality, the strategic situation in the Islamic world could rapidly spin out of control.

The United States is therefore trapped by its commitment to the Islamic world. It does not have sufficient forces to block Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union, and if it tries to block the Russians with naval or air forces, it faces a dangerous riposte from the Russians in the Islamic world. If it does nothing, it creates a strategic threat that potentially towers over the threat in the Islamic world.

The United States now has to make a fundamental strategic decision. If it remains committed to its current strategy, it cannot respond to the Russians. If it does not respond to the Russians for five or 10 years, the world will look very much like it did from 1945 to 1992. There will be another Cold War at the very least, with a peer power much poorer than the United States but prepared to devote huge amounts of money to national defense.

There are four broad U.S. options:

Attempt to make a settlement with Iran that would guarantee the neutral stability of Iraq and permit the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Iran is the key here. The Iranians might also mistrust a re-emergent Russia, and while Tehran might be tempted to work with the Russians against the Americans, Iran might consider an arrangement with the United States — particularly if the United States refocuses its attentions elsewhere. On the upside, this would free the U.S. from Iraq. On the downside, the Iranians might not want —or honor — such a deal.
Enter into negotiations with the Russians, granting them the sphere of influence they want in the former Soviet Union in return for guarantees not to project Russian power into Europe proper. The Russians will be busy consolidating their position for years, giving the U.S. time to re-energize NATO. On the upside, this would free the United States to continue its war in the Islamic world. On the downside, it would create a framework for the re-emergence of a powerful Russian empire that would be as difficult to contain as the Soviet Union.
Refuse to engage the Russians and leave the problem to the Europeans. On the upside, this would allow the United States to continue war in the Islamic world and force the Europeans to act. On the downside, the Europeans are too divided, dependent on Russia and dispirited to resist the Russians. This strategy could speed up Russia’s re-emergence.
Rapidly disengage from Iraq, leaving a residual force there and in Afghanistan. The upside is that this creates a reserve force to reinforce the Baltics and Ukraine that might restrain Russia in the former Soviet Union. The downside is that it would create chaos in the Islamic world, threatening regimes that have sided with the United States and potentially reviving effective intercontinental terrorism. The trade-off is between a hegemonic threat from Eurasia and instability and a terror threat from the Islamic world.
We are pointing to very stark strategic choices. Continuing the war in the Islamic world has a much higher cost now than it did when it began, and Russia potentially poses a far greater threat to the United States than the Islamic world does. What might have been a rational policy in 2001 or 2003 has now turned into a very dangerous enterprise, because a hostile major power now has the option of making the U.S. position in the Middle East enormously more difficult.

If a U.S. settlement with Iran is impossible, and a diplomatic solution with the Russians that would keep them from taking a hegemonic position in the former Soviet Union cannot be reached, then the United States must consider rapidly abandoning its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redeploying its forces to block Russian expansion. The threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War was far graver than the threat posed now by the fragmented Islamic world. In the end, the nations there will cancel each other out, and militant organizations will be something the United States simply has to deal with. This is not an ideal solution by any means, but the clock appears to have run out on the American war in the Islamic world.

We do not expect the United States to take this option. It is difficult to abandon a conflict that has gone on this long when it is not yet crystal clear that the Russians will actually be a threat later. (It is far easier for an analyst to make such suggestions than it is for a president to act on them.) Instead, the United States will attempt to bridge the Russian situation with gestures and half measures.

Nevertheless, American national strategy is in crisis. The United States has insufficient power to cope with two threats and must choose between the two. Continuing the current strategy means choosing to deal with the Islamic threat rather than the Russian one, and that is reasonable only if the Islamic threat represents a greater danger to American interests than the Russian threat does. It is difficult to see how the chaos of the Islamic world will cohere to form a global threat. But it is not difficult to imagine a Russia guided by the Medvedev Doctrine rapidly becoming a global threat and a direct danger to American interests.

We expect no immediate change in American strategic deployments — and we expect this to be regretted later. However, given U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to the Caucasus region, now would be the time to see some movement in U.S. foreign policy. If Cheney isn’t going to be talking to the Russians, he needs to be talking to the Iranians. Otherwise, he will be writing checks in the region that the U.S. is in no position to cash.

30176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: September 02, 2008, 03:47:58 PM
IMHO Rice has been a substantial factor in some of President Bush's biggest errors.

Speaking of Hillary Evita Peron, the idea that being married to Bill Clinton was presidential preparation is something I take as seriously as Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan being presidential timber.  After she bombed with her efforts to socialize 14% of GDP, the only substantive things she did were to dodge sniper fire, hide the billing records of her law firm which would have revealed in her role in the criminal activities of her law firm (IIRC Webster Hubbell took the fall and got $700,000 from the Riadys(a Chinese front) for staying quiet), sell presidential pardons via her husband, and steal White House furninture and silverware on her way out of town.

As for Palin, I share the notion she is not ready to step in, but on the other hand, neither is BO-- and he is the presidential candidate for the Dems, not the Veep candidate.  Substantial cognitive dissonance in the Dems brayng about this tongue
30177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reason on: September 02, 2008, 12:00:27 PM
   Many themes here, amongst them gender issues:

Huckabee and Social Conservatives
August 18, 2008
Reports last month told of a meeting of some 90 prominent evangelical leaders deciding to support John McCain for president. While noting disagreements between themselves and Mr. McCain, the group concluded that Mr. McCain shared their most important views, on life and marriage. Matthew Staver, the dean of Liberty University Law School and the organizer of the meeting, said that Mr. McCain "would advance those values in a much more significant way than Sen. Barack Obama who, in our view, would decimate those values."

The group also reached a consensus that they would send a letter to Mr. McCain asking him to pick Mike Huckabee as his running mate. Mr. Staver explained that "it's not a demand; it's a request."

Mr. McCain would do well to reject this request, and the evangelicals would do well to rethink their political strategies.

* * *

Consider the primary season. The losing campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee offer important political lessons for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. Just months ago, pundits were writing the obituary for social conservatism. Frank Rich claimed that the "political clout ritualistically ascribed" to social conservatives "is a sham." "These self-promoting values hacks," he continued, "don't speak for the American mainstream. They don't speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves."

Of course, Rudy Giuliani won't be dancing at the national convention. He didn't win a single primary. To judge from his vote totals and delegate count alone, he was not even a top-tier candidate. Mr. Giuliani gambled that he could win without the social conservatives and lost big time. Score one for the "values hacks."

The unexpected relative success of the Huckabee campaign—sustained by a shoestring budget, a makeshift staff, and a policy platform that seemed to be thrown together overnight—showed just how big an impact the so-called values voters can have. Actually, it understated that impact, since many values voters went with other candidates (like Mitt Romney). So one lesson learned from the Giuliani and Huckabee campaigns was the continued political relevance of social conservatives.

Yet that shouldn't be the only lesson we take away, for Mr. Rich was right about one thing: The leaders of the social conservative movement do not speak for mainstream America. And they never will, so long as they follow the Huckabee model.

But they could. The American mainstream is, especially when compared to other industrialized nations, remarkably conservative on social issues. Lifestyle liberalism has always been a liability for the left in America, as witnessed by the fact that the more socially conservative candidate has won five of the past seven presidential elections. Social conservatives can speak for the mainstream but only if they move beyond the Huckabee approach.

To start with, he ran his campaign solely on religious identity politics. If Mr. Giuliani never effectively reached out to socially conservative Christians, Mr. Huckabee never effectively reached beyond them. He continually told evangelical Christian audiences to support him because he was one of them. Everyone else got the message, too. Mr. Huckabee ran his campaign in a way that would appeal only to conservative evangelicals and would offend—even scare—people outside his religious community.

One incident, in particular, illustrates how Mr. Huckabee narrowed the appeal of social conservatism. While stumping to a largely Evangelical audience in Michigan, Mr. Huckabee said: "I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do—to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."

Reaction to this was quick and fierce, even from generally sympathetic sources like National Review Online's The Corner. Lisa Schiffren quickly pointed out: "Mike Huckabee is going to force those of us who have wanted more religion in the town square to reexamine the merits of strict separation of church and state. He is the best advertisement ever for the ACLU, even if you share his ultimate views on the definition of marriage, or the desirability of abortion on demand." Andy McCarthy added that he usually contrasts America to Islamist nations: "Part of my usual response . . . focuses on the Taliban, their imposition of sharia (i.e., God's law), and the marked contrast to our system's bedrock guarantee of freedom of conscience. . . . Where has Huck been for the last seven years? Does he not get that our enemies—the people who want to end our way of life—believe they are simply imposing God's standards?"

On "Hannity and Colmes," Mr. Huckabee tried to explain what he meant. He wasn't talking about mandating that anyone worship on Sunday or tithe. He was talking about two things only: the human-life amendment and the marriage amendment. But these causes cannot effectively be defended in this way.

Arguing that "God said so" won't persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with you. Even though Americans remain a remarkably religious people, the Bible doesn't carry the authority it once did. And many of those who generally hold the Bible in high regard consider it "dated" and "out of touch" on certain controversial moral questions.

* * *

Luckily, social conservatism has resources for public argument besides the Bible. After all, on many of the day's most important issues—human cloning, embryo destruction, creating designer babies—the Bible offers little specific guidance. And our obligations to treat fellow citizens as equals—as well as the practical requirements for broad political consensus—demand that we rise above sectarian appeals to religious authority. If social conservatism is to win the day, social conservatives—especially those seeking and holding public office—must make public arguments using public reasons to defend human life and marriage.

Defending these moral truths with reason and campaigning on those same reasons shouldn't prove difficult. Mr. Huckabee argued that we should amend the Constitution to fit "God's standards," so we might consider what the Christian tradition has had to say about God's standards. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that "we do not offend God except by doing something contrary to our own good." If Thomas is right, then rather than claim that a debased practice offends God, politicians can—and, I would add, should—explain to the public what aspect of some immoral behavior is contrary to our own good, especially the common good—and why a just and decent society shouldn't accept it.

Rather than argue that abortion is contrary to God's law and that we need to bring the Constitution into conformity with God's law, social conservatives should argue that as a matter of scientific fact the child in a mother's womb is a whole, living human being, and that as a matter of moral truth the direct killing of any peaceable human being is gravely unjust.

John Paul II argued as much. If the universal pastor of the Catholic Church could speak publicly about abortion in a way that was intelligible to non-Catholic Americans, why shouldn't American Christian politicians do the same? This approach was natural for John Paul because of his understanding of divine commands: "The Ten Commandments," he said, "are not an arbitrary imposition of a tyrannical Lord. They were written in stone; but before that, they were written on the human heart as the universal moral law, valid in every time and place. . . . To keep the Commandments is to be faithful to God, but it is also to be faithful to ourselves, to our true nature and our deepest aspirations."

Similarly, social conservatives should ask whether America is being faithful to her deepest aspirations and commitments to human equality and dignity: People are valuable not in virtue of the talents they possess or the contributions they can make to society, but simply in virtue of their humanity. This is why we rightly emphasize that race, ethnicity, sex, intellectual ability, wealth and social status are all irrelevant to our fundamental moral worth. But if that is the case, does age, location or stage of development change one's moral status? After all, what can the newborn baby do to merit worth and protection that an unborn baby can't? Social conservatives should press the argument that if human beings really are equal in dignity, then abortion is inconsistent with our fundamental commitments.

Nor should social conservatives be afraid to argue for maintaining marriage's structure. If marriage isn't the union of one man and one woman coming together as husband and wife to become father and mother to any children their marital love may bring, then social conservatives should demand that their opponents explain what marriage is. Is it simply the union of any consenting pair of sexually active adults? If so, then why only two? And why does it have to be exclusive and permanent—why not open or temporary "marriage"? Indeed, if marriage isn't about a bodily union, then why limit it to sexual relationships at all? How about codependent relatives? How are marriage and children connected? Do children need mothers and fathers, or not? These debates can and, in fact, must be had at the level of reason.

* * *

These sorts of arguments—that the moral truths revealed in the Bible are also consonant with reason—are often associated with Catholicism. But it is not Rome's exclusive property by any means. Many scholars are arguing that natural law should be at home in the Protestant churches, where it has strong roots. Stephen Grabill says as much in his "Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics," and J. Daryl Charles makes a similar plea in his new book "Retrieving the Natural Law: A Return to Moral First Things."

The natural-law tradition is neither limited to Roman clerics and Protestant academics nor alien to American political life. The American Founding is largely based on natural law principles understood as "self-evident truths." And the American civil rights movement can serve as a template for how religious reasoning should be brought to the public square and how it can result in meaningful political change. Consider how Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" quotes St. Augustine's declaration that "an unjust law is no law at all." He delves deeper into the Christian tradition to explain his point: "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. . . . To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law."

Underlying Dr. King's argument, and that of the Christian tradition, is the proposition that human reason can know the moral law, the natural law, because human reason participates in eternal reason, the eternal law. Rather than argue from God's commands down to human endeavors, social conservatives should place their emphasis on human flourishing and the moral principles that protect it. Dr. King put it best when he said: "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust." Citing the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, he went on to argue that segregation "substitutes an 'I-it' relationship for an 'I-thou' relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things." This is the precise argument that social conservatives should be making when it comes to abortion, human cloning, and embryo-destructive research.

Of course, we need not make moral arguments alone. If Aquinas, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Paul II are correct to say that true morality is about protecting human flourishing, then when true moral norms have been eviscerated we can expect to find the social fallout. With abortion the results need no social-science research: the fetal corpse is evidence enough. Yet social science indicates that the widespread practice of abortion—initially to be used in only the most tragic and desperate of situations—has led to practices that truly devalue human life: abortion on demand as birth control, selective abortion to reduce the number of children when twins or triplets result from in vitro fertilization, eugenic abortion to do away with genetically "defective" children, and now the practice of embryo destruction for biomedical research, human cloning, and animal-human hybrids. These are the fruits of the abortion seed.

Likewise, the breakdown of family life—children being raised without mothers or fathers and outside of marriage—has spelled disaster for our nation's youth. The left-leaning research organization Child Trends has issued a research brief summing up the scholarly consensus:

Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two-biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.
The studies on children of same-sex parents have so far been inconclusive. Still, there is good reason to think that when Child Trends suggests that children raised by two married biological parents do best, part of the explanation may have to do with mothers and fathers bringing different gifts to the parenting enterprise. These social science findings can easily be multiplied. And their results need to be publicized.

* * *

Clarifying the relationship between reason and morality can help us even in our clash with jihadists. (Andy McCarthy was on to something.) This was among the points that Pope Benedict XVI made in his now-infamous Regensburg Lecture. Benedict argued that competing claims about revelation can, to a certain extent, be settled at the level of reason—that there are reasons why one should believe in the Christian God, and reasonsfor resisting aspects of the Muslim conception of God. Not just theology, though; Benedict argued that morality—public morality—can be objectively known, and reason's capacity for moral truth is the only reliable guide for modern pluralistic society. As Benedict noted, summarizing the argument of the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. . . . The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature."

Amend the Constitution to be in accord with reason, then, is what Huckabee should have said. While Huckabee mobilized many social conservatives to show up at the polls, he did not persuade anyone outside their world to join them. This failure replicated that of social conservatism writ large. Adding Huckabee to the McCain ticket might get evangelicals to vote for McCain in November, but will it get anyone else to? Will it add anyone to the social conservative roster? To be successful, hearts and minds need to be changed. Minds are changed by rational arguments.

30178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Selling the Taliban on: September 02, 2008, 11:53:01 AM
Selling the Taliban
September 2, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan

In the West, assumptions about Afghanistan too often seem premised on the idea that the Taliban are "men in caves," raising questions about why thousands of international troops cannot quickly defeat them.

However, an insurgency is at its heart a battle of wills and staying power, not of military might. Insurgents in Afghanistan appreciate this and have created a sophisticated propaganda operation that both targets what is seen as weakening support back in foreign capitals and seeks to mold perceptions among the Afghan population.

This is no small-scale operation. The efforts include a Web site, Al Emarah, which is updated several times a day in five languages. The English may often be laughable -- with reference to gourds (guards), a "poppet" (puppet) government and "spatial fours" (special forces) -- but it does the job. The Web site mocks government weakness and highlights every perceived foreign misstep to tap a deep vein of nationalism in Afghanistan -- and to raise questions back in foreign capitals about the role of their forces.

For the local audience there are also magazines in Arabic and Pashto, DVDs showing gruesome beheadings and Taliban attacks, and audio cassettes of nationalist chants -- also available as ringtones. Much of this material apparently is produced across the border in Pakistan in the name of the former regime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or by supporters and sympathizers. All of it seeks to tap historic patriotism and fuel often legitimate grievances in Afghanistan. Journalists can reach Taliban spokesmen for a fiery quote day and night, in stark contrast to their government and international counterparts.

All in all, the Taliban are successfully driving the news agenda and creating a perception of a movement far stronger and more omnipresent than it really is. Taliban atrocities often go unreported in areas they have made off-limits to independent verification. And their methods to control the message go beyond those of your typical press office: Community leaders and journalists who might speak up are cowed with threats or worse.

While the Taliban use their media operation to highlight civilian casualties caused by foreign forces, they also deliberately target civilians -- as with the recent murder of three Western women aid workers and their Afghan colleague just an hour from Kabul. Much less reported internationally are the Afghans who work for international NGOs or the government in rural areas and who often face roadblocks where they are checked for any sign of working with foreigners.

One journalist from an insurgency-hit province, whom I recently met, has moved to Kabul because of the relentless pressure. Among other incidents, he says some pupils he interviewed at the opening of a new government school were killed soon afterward for taking part in the event.

The Taliban realize that they will never win head-on engagements with the international forces, but also that they do not have to. A new emphasis on spectacular attacks in 2008, such as the June jailbreak in Kandahar and an assault on Kabul's only five-star hotel in January, has won global headlines and aims to erode international consensus on the need to stay the course. There is talk on the streets of Afghanistan's "worst ever military defeat," with images circulating of local soldiers fleeing April's three-man attack on a military parade attended by President Hamid Karzai and foreign and local dignitaries.

To combat the Taliban, international forces -- and even more importantly the Afghan administration -- need to be much more responsive and proactive in getting their messages out. Highlighting the Taliban's brutality will undercut its claims to legitimacy.

The corollary to this would be enhancing the government's legitimacy, particularly through support of Afghan institutions and security forces. International troops are essential to create a security umbrella for such developments to take place. However, the current focus on increasing troop numbers is meaningless if there is not a strategic plan in which building local capacity is the priority. Most Afghans are still far more fearful of what would happen should foreign troops leave than if they stay, but there are limits to their patience. Enhanced Afghan institutions taking the lead would help negate the Taliban's relentlessly xenophobic campaign.

The Afghan government still needs to prove that this is an administration worth fighting for. It should tackle the current culture of impunity in cases of corruption and abuses by members of the administration. The international community, too, must foster accountability in its actions. With Guantanamo having entered the folk culture of Afghanistan, appearing in poems and songs and undercutting claims about the rule of law, arbitrary detentions by Afghan and foreign forces alike must stop. Much greater transparency and accountability is also needed in cases where there are civilian deaths.

Propaganda may be powerful, but it can be countered by both better communications and, ultimately, with deeds on the ground.

Ms. Nathan is senior adviser in Kabul for the International Crisis Group.
30179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: September 02, 2008, 11:46:51 AM

Traveling Violation - Obama Fails to Bounce

It's starting to become clear why Democrats are mounting such a sustained assault on Sarah Palin. So far the polls leading out of last week's Democratic convention show Barack Obama didn't get much of a bounce, if any.

Gallup poll numbers indicate Mr. Obama got a four-point bounce from the convention but quickly gave up half those gains in the wake of John McCain's announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The latest Zogby poll actually shows Mr. McCain with a narrow two-point lead and a CNN poll shows the race dead even.

Mr. Obama's bounce is less than one-third of the boost that Al Gore got after his 2000 convention or the bounce Bill Clinton was able to achieve in 1992. Even hapless GOP nominee Bob Dole got a four-point bounce out of his 1996 convention.

The Obama acceptance speech last Thursday night was a ratings hit, with 40 million people tuning in. But the race remains essentially where it was before the Democratic convention. Republicans now have the rest of this week to attempt to create a favorable impression of their ticket.

-- John Fund

The Claws Are Out

The snarkiness of many of the comments ridiculing and belittling Sarah Palin is stunning.

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift reported on the McLaughlin Group that the reaction in many newsrooms to the announcement the Alaska governor would join the McCain team was "literally laughter." Ms. Clift, who has written admiringly about many women pioneers in politics, said: "This is not a serious choice. It makes it look like a made-for-TV movie."

Sally Quinn of the Washington Post picked up that theme in discussing the pregnancy of Ms. Palin's 17-year-old daughter. She said this would raise concerns if Ms. Palin "had been enough of a hands-on mother." Time magazine went even further by noting that "if elected, Palin will be the first vice-president in memory to take the oath of office with a child and a grandchild in diapers," a reference to Ms. Palin giving birth to her fifth child only last April.

Democrats, who were so anxious to avoid discussing the John Edwards affair even after clear evidence surfaced of his adultery and alleged illicit parenthood, can't stop talking about Ms. Palin's family troubles. "The name on the tongues of gleeful Dems, meanwhile: Eagleton," notes That's a reference to the 1972 Democratic vice presidential nominee Tom Eagleton, who had to withdraw from the ticket after reports he had been hospitalized for depression.

Somehow I think Democrats and their media allies will be laughing a little less after Wednesday night when Sarah Palin gets her own chance to speak to the American people without a media filter. They may find that all the ridicule will strike many Americans as excessive if the Alaska governor delivers a solid good performance.

-- John Fund

Sarah Steals the Show

Democratic bloggers are manically promoting the theme that the McCain campaign is "in crisis." Is it true?

"What did he know and when did he know it...?" asks Huffington Post in block letters. A blogger at DailyKos gazes longingly into the inverted telescope and declares: "This is a Tom Eagleton disaster for the GOP."

Well, maybe if John McCain is suddenly and uncharacteristically prone to panic. But give the media credit for quickly identifying the Democratic script and trying to turn a story about a teenage pregnancy into one about Mr. McCain's fitness for office. Voters, who have their heads screwed on straighter, undoubtedly still think the story is about an unmarried daughter's readiness to bear a child, not about a vetting miscue. Should Mr. McCain have passed out pregnancy test kits to relatives of his short list? Should he have skipped over a woman he obviously likes and admires because her daughter is having a baby? How silly is this going to get?

A psychologist could explain what the hysteria is really about: overcompensation and a desperate passion to change the subject. We don't know how Ms. Palin will perform under the onslaught, but Republicans who complain Mr. McCain threw away the "experience card" are missing the point. The Palin nomination is a poisoned arrow aimed right at Barack Obama's credentials. It sets up the question: Who's more inexperienced? Ms. Palin repeatedly challenged an incumbent machine and prevailed in fiercely contested battles. Mr. Obama was the output of a machine (Chicago's) and advanced because his electoral opponents (Blair Hull in the Democratic Senate primary, Jack Ryan in the general) conveniently dropped out amid scandals. Yes, Mr. Obama managed to be elected to the Senate but whether he actually did the job is a matter of definitions. Ms. Palin was elected governor and actually set about being governor -- not angling for the next job based on some calculation about her charm.

The Clintons have always been right about one thing: Mr. Obama has risen on a mighty puff of air. Democrats are taking a culpable gamble on whether that puff will dissipate before Election Day or after. By any rational standard, it's their "judgment" and their "vetting process" that should be on trial. And may still be -- with help from Sarah Palin.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Quote of the Day

"Obama began his campaign for the nomination as the outsider candidate, promising fundamental change in Washington and offering a post-partisan approach to politics. With time, he has come to be seen as a much more conventional Democrat who is now half of a ticket based in Congress, the least admired institution in a widely scorned capital. Millions who saw his acceptance speech heard a standard recital of liberal Democratic programs. By picking Palin, McCain has strengthened his reputation not as an ideologue, not as a partisan, but as a reformer -- ready to shake up Washington as his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, once did. My guess is that cleansing Washington of its poisonous partisanship, its wasteful spending and its incompetence will become McCain's major theme" -- Washington Post columnist David Broder.

Palin's Cause

In fall of 2007, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called her legislature into special session to rewrite an oil bill signed a year earlier by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski. This legislative fight will likely earn more scrutiny and carry more weight with voters than any revelation about her unmarried 17-year-old pregnant daughter.

On the surface, she hiked taxes on the oil industry -- a risky political move for a rookie in her first year in office. But the fight in Juneau last year was about much more than taxes. A federal corruption probe had unveiled credible allegations that the 2006 bill had passed only because oil industry executives had bribed enough legislators to allow it to survive very close votes. This came even as separate federal probes were closing in on the state's two GOP legislative powers, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. Ms. Palin ran for office in 2006 not only to push better public policies, but as an avowed change agent within her own party. Not for nothing is she called "Saint Sarah" by some state GOPers. She's not anti-business, but pro-honesty and accountability in government. Her rewritten oil bill forced energy companies to pay more than they otherwise would, but she rebated much of the new revenue back to state residents and has championed a new gas pipeline to bring natural gas to the lower 48 states -- laying the groundwork for a new energy boom in the state.

By putting Ms. Palin on the ticket, Mr. McCain has turned his race into an anti-Washington campaign. That will likely prove a more powerful and enduring storyline than the one preoccupying the media for the past 24 hours
30180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: September 02, 2008, 11:26:09 AM
Endorsed by Michael Yon!
30181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Medvedev on: September 02, 2008, 11:17:34 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Medvedev Doctrine
September 2, 2008 | 0202 GMT
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev gave an extraordinary interview on Russian television’s Channel One over the weekend. In the course of the interview, Medvedev unveiled a five-point doctrine that would govern Russia’s foreign policy going forward. It came in the course of an interviewer’s questions, but the statement was obviously well thought out and planned. It is to be seen as a statement of Russian national policy and is worth presenting here verbatim in translation by the Kremlin:

“I will make five principles the foundation for my work in carrying out Russia’s foreign policy.

First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.

Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.

Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.

Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.

Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors. These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy.

As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

The interviewer then asked for greater definition of the Russian areas of interest. Medvedev replied, “The countries on our borders are priorities, of course, but our priorities do not end there.”

The most important points to take away from this, from our point of view, are as follows. First, the events in Georgia are not to be seen as isolated, but as part of a general shift in Russian policy. Second, the Russians are claiming responsibility for Russian citizens anywhere. This is particularly important in the Baltics, where Russian citizens constitute substantial minorities, and in Ukraine. Russia is making it clear that the treatment of Russians in other regions is a fundamental interest in its foreign policy. Third, the Russians are declaring a sphere of interest in the former Soviet Union, and saying that friendly relations with these countries is essential to Russia. This also means that these countries may not have the option of pursuing policies that Russia regards as unfriendly. Finally, Russian interests are not confined to the former Soviet Union. That obviously means that they extend to Eastern Europe and, in all likelihood, the Middle East as well.

We see this interview as not quite a formal doctrine, but a clear indication of Russian thinking. It is clear that the Russians have now publicly announced what is obvious: Russia has a new foreign policy, and it is ambitious and will unfold quickly rather than slowly.
30182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stop or we will say "Stop!" again on: September 02, 2008, 10:05:46 AM
'Stop! Or We'll Say Stop Again!'
September 2, 2008

With apologies to comedian Robin Williams, that's the line that comes to mind when weighing the European Union's declaration yesterday on Russia's continued occupation of Georgia.

At a special meeting in Brussels, EU national leaders told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to abide by the terms of a French-brokered cease-fire, including a pullback of Russian troops to their preconflict positions. If he doesn't do so, they warned, they will hold another meeting.

That's all. It's been almost three weeks since Mr. Medvedev signed the cease-fire, and five days since Moscow broke with the rest of the world by recognizing the self-declared independence of Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Yet Europe's leaders evidently need more time to ruminate over the situation in the Caucasus.

Well, that's almost all. The European leaders did make one concrete "threat." The EU said it would freeze negotiations with Moscow on a new economic cooperation agreement if Russian forces haven't pulled back to their pre-August 7 positions by next Monday. But this is meaningless. It had taken the Europeans months to agree among themselves to begin the talks, and even before the Russian invasion of Georgia Eastern European leaders had signaled that their countries were unlikely to sign off on any deal anytime soon. Nor was Moscow pushing very hard for it.

During a postsummit press conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the rotating EU presidency, got the obvious question: Is the EU a "paper tiger"? Mr. Sarkozy, visibly angered by the suggestion, responded that "Demonstrations of force, verbal aggression, sanctions, countersanctions . . . will not serve anyone." He didn't say how Brussels' latest tsk-tsk-ing serves anyone in Georgia.

Mr. Sarkozy also insisted that his efforts to reach a cease-fire had borne fruit. Again, the Georgians might beg to disagree. Russia has used the agreement's vague language to justify a continued presence in Georgia far beyond the original conflict zone. The cease-fire called for international talks about security and stability for the separatist regions, but that didn't stop Mr. Medvedev from recognizing their independence. Europe's call yesterday to begin these talks rang hollow; that horse isn't going back into the barn.

The most cynical comment of the day, though, was Mr. Sarkozy's attempt to use the conflict to bully the Irish over their rejection of the union's Lisbon Treaty in June. "This crisis has shown that Europe needs to have strong and stable institutions" like those it would have gotten under Lisbon, Mr. Sarkozy said.

No, what Europe needs is political will -- and a new treaty isn't going to solve that. Rather than scolding Irish voters for exercising their democratic rights, Mr. Sarkozy would do better to name and shame those member states whose desire to curry favor with Moscow kept the EU from taking a firmer stand yesterday.

For now, the Continent is determined to talk things out with Moscow. When will it realize that Moscow doesn't to listen?
30183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin on: September 02, 2008, 10:03:03 AM
second article of the morning

Ignore the Chauvinists.
Palin Has Real Experience.
September 2, 2008; Page A21

In Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain has found a fellow maverick to be his running mate -- one who can help bring the right kind of reform to Washington. Ms. Palin, like Mr. McCain, has a strong record of battling the status quo, restoring accountability and effectiveness to government, and working to secure energy independence, root out corruption and curb wasteful spending.

As the chief executive of the nation's largest state, Ms. Palin oversees some of the country's largest energy reserves. She came into office at a critical time in Alaska politics, facing a system plagued by corruption. Her response was to immediately begin cleaning it up. The results of her leadership today speak for themselves: Ms. Palin's approval ratings top 80% -- more than 60% higher than that of the Democratic Congress.

Ms. Palin has a tangible, impressive record of achievement and executive experience. She is head of the Alaska National Guard and the chairman of two multistate agencies that make energy decisions that affect all Americans. While Barack Obama spent almost all of the past two years running for president, Ms. Palin has been running a state.

It's telling that Sen. Obama chose to give a negative, partisan speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He envisions a Democratic monolith in Washington that will solve all of our problems.

But Ms. Palin knows that real change doesn't come from rigid adherence to party lines. She has transformed her state's government from what she called a "good ol' boys network" to an accountable, successful system. Like Mr. McCain, Ms. Palin realizes that the problem isn't a Republican administration or a Democratic Congress. It's business as usual in Washington.

Ms. Palin's experience in reforming Alaskan government shows she's ready to lead on the national stage. She stood up to members of her own party who abused their power, risking her political career by protesting ethics violations. Ms. Palin went on to pass ethics reform. She has put the people's interests ahead of her own -- like Mr. McCain.

A McCain-Palin administration will not tolerate pork-barrel spending. In Washington, Mr. McCain spoke out against the "Bridge to Nowhere," a $400 million waste of the taxpayers' money that led to an island with a few dozen residents. In Juneau, Alaska, Ms. Palin made sure the bridge went nowhere, canceling the earmark. She wasn't afraid to use her veto pen, and Mr. McCain won't be either.

In a state where energy production is a top priority, Ms. Palin is an expert in the field. She has never shied away from challenging the influence of big oil companies, all the while fighting for the development of new energy resources. Ms. Palin worked with Democrats and Republicans to institute a rebate that used the state's vast oil revenues to help offset the high costs of fuel and heating in the state.

Ms. Palin has been a leader in the fight for American energy independence. Like Mr. McCain, she understands that we need an "all of the above" solution to secure our energy future. Her influence extended far beyond Alaska as she recently pushed through a gas pipeline project that will bring new supplies and lower prices to the lower 48 states.

Just last month, meanwhile, the Democrats running Congress went on vacation rather than vote to allow offshore drilling, which would reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Beyond ethics and energy, Ms. Palin shares Mr. McCain's passion for conservation. Mr. McCain often speaks of his admiration for Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist and sportsman who surely would have enjoyed Ms. Palin's company. She grew up hunting and fishing in Alaska, and she understands the importance of responsible stewardship of our environment.

All women should be proud of Mr. McCain's selection of Ms. Palin as his running mate, an historic moment that came the week of the 88th anniversary of women's earning the right to vote. Sarah Palin will break through the glass ceiling that, as she noted on her first day as the vice presidential nominee, has 18 million new cracks thanks to Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Pfotenhauer is a senior policy adviser and national spokesperson for the McCain campaign.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
30184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain's tax policy on: September 02, 2008, 09:58:54 AM
John McCain
Has a Tax Plan
To Create Jobs
September 2, 2008; Page A23

John McCain's tax policies are designed to create jobs, increase wages and allow all Americans -- especially those in the hard-pressed middle class -- to keep more of what they earn. His plan achieves these goals in three important ways.

First, he proposes a package of tax incentives that will create jobs and raise earnings by inducing firms to invest more in the U.S. Second, he is strongly committed to blocking any increase in tax rates while doubling the personal exemptions for families with children, which will reduce the tax burden on working Americans. Third, he proposes a new, refundable tax credit that will increase health-care coverage, reduce the cost of health care, and provide more funds for families and individuals to purchase health care.

Here's how the three components of Sen. McCain's tax plan will work in practice.

To create jobs, Mr. McCain will reduce the corporate tax rate -- now at 35% the second highest among all industrial countries -- to one that doesn't penalize firms for doing business here. To encourage small businesses to expand, he will fight against higher tax rates on their income.

To increase wages, Mr. McCain will provide incentives to raise productivity, which leads to higher wages. To increase productivity, he will provide incentives for developing and applying new technologies by expanding the tax credit for research and development, and by making that credit permanent.

More savings and investment in businesses also raise productivity. Mr. McCain will stimulate saving by keeping tax rates low on the returns to saving in the form of dividends and capital gains. He will also allow faster depreciation of assets, which encourages investment. And he will strengthen the incentive to save by reducing the maximum estate tax rate, with a substantial, untaxed exemption.

In stark contrast to Barack Obama, Mr. McCain believes that tax policy should be used to foster the creation of jobs and higher wages through economic growth, rather than to redistribute incomes. The economy is not a zero-sum game in which some people can enjoy higher incomes only if others are made worse off.

Mr. McCain's plan will significantly ease the tax burden on American families with children by doubling the personal exemption to $7,000 from $3,500. This means a larger percentage tax reduction for families with smaller taxable incomes, and specifically helps families in the middle income levels. And a President McCain will enable people to keep more of their earnings by preventing Congress from raising tax rates.

Mr. McCain's overall tax policy will also expand health-insurance coverage, and make health care more efficient. Most taxpayers will also pay less in tax. Here's how it will work. His plan includes a refundable tax credit of $2,500 for single individuals and $5,000 for couples, if they receive a qualifying health-care policy from an employer (one that includes adequate coverage against large medical bills), or buy a qualifying policy on their own. The credit will replace the current tax rule, which excludes employer payments for health insurance from employees' taxable incomes.

This tax credit will be available to everyone, including the self-employed and the employees of businesses that do not provide health insurance. Thus it will lead to a major expansion of health-insurance coverage. The tax credit will of course be available to people who are between jobs, or have retired before they're eligible for Medicare.

Since any part of the credit not used to pay for insurance could be invested in a health savings account, individuals will have an incentive to choose less costly health-insurance policies. This will improve the efficiency of health care, to everyone's benefit.

Importantly, the tax credit will be a clear gain for most employees. Consider a married taxpayer whose employer now pays $10,000 for a health-insurance policy. Ending the exclusion will raise that individual's taxable income by $10,000 -- but the $5,000 tax credit will exceed the extra tax liability whether the marginal tax rate that individual pays is 10% or 35% or anywhere in between. Indeed, the lower the taxpayer's income, the more of the credit that will be available to pay for health care that's not reimbursed by insurance.

Sen. Obama was at best disingenuous in his convention speech when he criticized the McCain plan for taxing health benefits. The health insurance tax credit exceeds the extra taxes on existing benefits.

Mr. Obama also criticized Mr. McCain on the grounds that he doesn't cut taxes on 100 million families. But this ignores the fact that Mr. McCain's health-insurance credits would benefit most taxpayers and that many people who are not currently eligible for the increased personal exemption will become eligible when they have children. When these features are taken into account, the vast majority of today's 140 million taxpayers would pay lower taxes under the McCain plan.

Tax revenues will increase robustly over the next few years with Mr. McCain's overall tax strategy as the economy grows -- even with conservative economic growth assumptions. And by maintaining strong control over the growth of government spending, Mr. McCain will bring the budget into balance. His long record of fighting against excessive government spending, his plans to veto earmarks and reverse the spending binge of the past few years, and his strong commitment to balancing the budget can make this goal a reality.

Mr. McCain's tax policy stands in strong contrast to Mr. Obama's ever-changing tax proposals. Although it is difficult to know just what Mr. Obama would do if he were elected, it is clear that he wants to raise taxes on personal incomes, on dividends, on capital gains, on payroll income and on businesses -- all of which will hurt the U.S. economy. He regards the tax system as a way to redistribute income, and disregards the resulting adverse incentive effects that reduce employment and economic growth.

Mr. Obama's claim to being a big tax cutter defies credibility. His assertion that he would cut taxes on 95% of families reflects his one-time $1,000 rebate payouts, and a variety of new government spending handed out through the tax system.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, has been clear that he wants to preserve the favorable incentive effects of the existing low tax rates -- and to reduce taxes in other ways that will strengthen the economy, create jobs and help current taxpayers, including those without health insurance.

Messrs. Feldstein and Taylor are economic advisers to John McCain and professors of economics at, respectively, Harvard and Stanford.

30185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Victory in Anbar on: September 02, 2008, 09:53:14 AM
Victory in Anbar
September 2, 2008
Two years ago, on September 11, 2006, the Washington Post stirred an election-year uproar with this chilling dispatch:

"The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there . . ."

But there was something we could do: Pursue a different counterinsurgency strategy and commit more troops. And on Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. "We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near," said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory.

Yes, the stunning progress in Anbar owes a great deal to the Awakening Councils of Sunni tribesmen who broke with al Qaeda terrorists and allied with U.S. forces. But those Sunni leaders would never have had the confidence to risk their lives in that way without knowing the U.S. wasn't going to cut and run. The U.S. committed some 4,000 additional troops to Anbar as part of the 2007 "surge," along with thousands more Iraqi troops.

The world has since seen al Qaeda driven even from what the terrorists and many in the Western press had claimed were Sunni enclaves that welcomed the terrorist help against the American "occupation." The result has been the most significant military and ideological defeat for al Qaeda since the Taliban was driven from Kabul in 2001. In danger of being humiliated in Iraq in 2006, the U.S. has demonstrated that it has the national will to fight a longer war. The Sunni Arab world in particular has noticed -- and is now showing new respect for Iraq's Shiite government.

For Iraqi politics, the Anbar handover is especially meaningful because the Shiite-dominated Iraq military will now provide security in a largely Sunni province. Anbar is the 11th of 18 provinces that the coalition has turned over to Iraq control, but the first Sunni province. The government of Nouri al-Maliki now has a further chance to show its ability to represent the entire country, the way it did when the Iraqi military routed Shiite militias in Basra and Sadr City in the spring.

For U.S. politics, it is worth recalling that that 2006 Washington Post story became part of a Beltway consensus that defeat in Iraq was inevitable. Democrats made withdrawal the center of their campaign to retake Congress, Republicans like Senator John Warner became media darlings for saying the war couldn't be won, and the James Baker-Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group laid out a bipartisan road to retreat. According to memos disclosed Sunday in the New York Times, even senior officials at the State Department and Pentagon opposed the surge. President Bush, heeding Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno as well as John McCain, overruled the defeatists and ordered a renewed U.S. commitment to Iraq.

The Anbar handover is above all a tribute to the hundreds of Americans who have fought and died in places like Fallujah, Ramadi and Hit over these last five years. Over the horizon of history, we tend to recall only the successes in previous wars at such places as Guadalcanal, Peleliu and the Chosin Reservoir. We forget that those wars and battles were also marked by terrible blunders and setbacks, both political and military. What mattered is that our troops, and our country, had the determination to fight to an ultimate victory. So it is with the heroes of Anbar.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
30186  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife Clips on: September 02, 2008, 09:30:52 AM
Woof Maxx:

Perhaps it is sheer vanity on my part, but ever since DLO 1 came out I've been seeing a lot of demonstrations of Prison Sewing Machine attacks wink  This demonstration is well done, but it is a demonstration, not the actual thing- which is what I am looking for here.

That said, it is giving me a starting point  smiley

30187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin vs Biden on guns on: September 01, 2008, 08:58:15 PM
Sarah Palin and Joe Biden: Worlds Apart

Friday, August 29, 2008

Even before this week, the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was clear. For one, McCain joined more than 300 other members of Congress in signing a "friend of the court" brief, in District of Columbia v. Heller, urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Second Amendment and against D.C.'s handgun ban.

Obama refused to sign the Heller brief, and supports reinstituting the Clinton gun and magazine ban. He also supports Ted Kennedy's bill to ban semi-automatic handguns in the guise of "micro-stamping," and supports banning inexpensive handguns as "junk guns."

But now that each candidate has chosen his running mate, the difference is even clearer than before. And when it comes to guns, the two prospective vice-presidents are as far apart as the states from which they hail.

Sen. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a NRA Life Member and hunter who says, "I support our Constitutional right to bear arms and am a proponent of gun safety programs for Alaska's youth," adding "I have always strongly supported the personal use of fish and game by Alaskans. I grew up hunting and fishing in Alaska, and I am proud to raise my children with this same uniquely Alaskan heritage."

NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox says "Governor Palin doesn't just talk about supporting the Second Amendment, it's part of her life, and she did her part to vindicate the Second Amendment for all Americans when Alaska joined 30 other states in signing a legal brief supporting Heller's challenge to the D.C. gun-ban."

As for Joe Biden, from Delaware, the Brady Campaign sums it up in a straightforward enough fashion, saying, "Senator Biden has been a consistent supporter of the Brady Campaign," and "Senator Biden was a key player in the fight for the federal assault weapons ban that passed in 1994. He also worked hard for passage of the Brady Law (sic)."

In fact, Biden introduced an "assault weapons" ban in Congress five years before the Clinton gun and magazine ban was imposed. In 1989, Biden's Senate Bill 1970 proposed to ban the Colt AR-15 and eight similar firearms as "assault weapons," and authorize the Secretary of the Treasury (in reality, BATF) and the Attorney General to recommend to Congress any other firearms, regardless of type, to be banned as "additional assault weapons."

As lead sponsor of the Senate crime bill to which the Feinstein gun ban amendment was attached, Biden was instrumental in the passage of the 1994 Clinton gun and magazine ban. Biden reiterated his support for the ban—and, in fact, took credit for authoring it—in response to a question at the CNN/YouTube debate earlier this year (to view the video, please click here).

Biden voted for the ban on a stand-alone vote in 1993, and voted to extend the ban in 2004 as an amendment to the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act." He also included a renewal of the ban in his crime bill last year, along with gun show restrictions.

Currently, Biden's S. 2237 proposes to renew the Clinton ban on roughly 200 makes and models of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns on the basis of things like the shape of their grips, and on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, regardless of the kind of firearm in which they are used.

As if that's not enough, Biden voted against the law that prohibits lawsuits designed to bankrupt law-abiding firearm manufacturers and dealers. He also refused to sign the Congressional brief in Heller, and voted to confirm only one of the five justices who ruled in favor of the Second Amendment in Heller, yet he voted to confirm all four justices who voted against the Second Amendment in that case.

To put it simply, Gov. Sarah Palin would be one of the most pro-gun vice-presidents in American history, and Joe Biden would definitely be the most anti-gun.
30188  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Knife Clips and articles; knives on: September 01, 2008, 08:01:51 PM
Woof All:

Please help me by bringing good knife attack and/or knife wound clips to my attention, either by posting here or by emailing them to me.

Thank you,
Guro Crafty
30189  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: September 01, 2008, 06:16:22 PM
Woof C-Kaju:

Thank you very much.  It may take me a day or two to get my wife to run off a copy.

30190  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: September 01, 2008, 04:45:11 PM
Woof All:

I will be re-starting my Saturday at 13:00 (1 PM) class at the Inosanto Academy on September 9/13.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
30191  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: September 01, 2008, 01:08:32 PM
Woof All:

I have a CD of an interview that I did which I think went rather well and would like to have it transcribed.  Any suggestions as to how to go about this?

30192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: September 01, 2008, 12:32:46 PM
Profiles of valor: USA 1st Lt. Pixler
In October 2007, then-First Lieutenant Ross Pixler of the United States Army Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division was on patrol in al Bawi, Iraq, when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by an IED. The ensuing explosion killed three fellow soldiers and wounded Pixler, the driver and the gunner. Pixler, acting on his training, immediately checked on the driver and gunner, both of whom were unconscious, and then took up a defensive position. “Everything goes really fast, and I wasn’t really stopping to think about what I was doing,” he said. “I was doing what I was trained to do.” Still reeling from his concussion, Pixler and the rest of his unit had to fight off a small arms attack; Pixler directed air support as well.

Hours later, as the attack was repelled, Pixler and the other survivors were loaded onto another Bradley and began moving toward base when another IED exploded, crippling that vehicle. The soldiers then fought off a second attack before finally making it back to their base. For his bravery and tenacity while injured and under attack, Pixler was awarded the Silver Star. Now-Captain Pixler considers it “an award for every single one of the soldiers that were out there, and the ones that can’t come home.”
30193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fructose on: September 01, 2008, 10:41:20 AM
Sorry, I lost the URL for this:

Does Fructose Make You Fatter?
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener used in many processed foods ranging
from sodas to baked goods. While the ingredient is cheaper and sweeter than
regular sugar, new research suggests that it can also make you fatter.

In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose
to body fat with "surprising speed,'' said Elizabeth Parks, associate
professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center in Dallas. The study, which appears in The Journal of
Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are
metabolized differently.

In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly
formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like "a traffic cop" who
coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters
glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy
or turn it into triglycerides.

But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being
quickly converted to body fat.

"It's basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence," Dr. Parks
said. "It's a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways
that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom
line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the

For the study, six people were given three different drinks. In one test,
the breakfast drink was 100 percent glucose. In the second test, they drank
half glucose and half fructose; and in the third, they drank 25 percent
glucose and 75 percent fructose. The drinks were given at random, and
neither the study subjects nor the evaluators were aware who was drinking
what. The subjects ate a regular lunch about four hours later.

The researchers found that lipogenesis, the process by which sugars are
turned into body fat, increased significantly when the study subjects drank
the drinks with fructose. When fructose was given at breakfast, the body was
more likely to store the fats eaten at lunch.

Dr. Parks noted that the study likely underestimates the fat-building effect
of fructose because the study subjects were lean and healthy. In overweight
people, the effect may be amplified.

Although fruit contains fructose, it also contains many beneficial
nutrients, so dieters shouldn't eliminate fruit from their diets. But
limiting processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as
curbing calories is a good idea, Dr. Parks said.

"There are lots of people out there who want to demonize fructose as the
cause of the obesity epidemic," she said. "I think it may be a contributor,
but it's not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for
their activity level. We're overeating fat, we're overeating protein and we're
overeating all sugars."
30194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Catching up on: September 01, 2008, 10:17:26 AM
"Work as if you were to live 100 Years, Pray as if you were to
die To-morrow."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Poor Richard's Almanack, 1757)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, ed., Library of America
"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive
their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but
reclaim them by enlightening them."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Edward Carrington, 16 January 1787)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies
were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of
the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way
they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency
of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold
and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to
concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the
public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law
by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of
the constitution, and working its change by construction, before
any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm
has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth,
man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all
liability to account."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Monsieur A. Coray, 31 October 1823)

Reference: respec. Quoted

"Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United
States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to
every religious sect. "

-- James Madison (letter to Jacob de la Motta, August  1820)

Reference: Our Sacred Honor, Bennett, pg. 333


"I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 85, 1788)

"All good men wish the entire abolition of slavery, as soon as
it can take place with safety to the public, and for the lasting
good of the present wretched race of slaves.  The only possible
step that could be taken towards it by the convention was to fix
a period after which they should not be imported."

-- Oliver Ellsworth (The Landholder, 10 December 1787)

Reference: The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Farrand,
ed., vol. 3 (165)
"Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy,
and wise."

-- Benjamin Franklin (Advice to Young Tradesman, 1748)

Reference: Franklin: Writings, Lemay, Library of America (320)

“The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counselors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.” —Thomas Jefferson


“‘Trust me’ government asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties. The trust is where it belongs—in the people. The responsibility to live up to that trust is where it belongs, in their elected leaders. That kind of relationship, between the people and their elected leaders, is a special kind of compact.” —Ronald Reagan

30195  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 01, 2008, 09:31:47 AM
Grateful for a wonderful family vacation visiting my mom in upstate NY and taking my children to see the place of my youth-- NYC, and grateful to be back home.
30196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus on: August 31, 2008, 09:26:30 PM
August 29, 2008
With Cold War tensions building in the Black Sea, the Turks have gone into a diplomatic frenzy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan had his phone glued to his ear on Thursday speaking to his U.S., British, German, French, Swedish and Finnish counterparts, as well as to the NATO secretary-general and various EU representatives. The Turks are also expecting Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili to arrive in Istanbul on Aug. 31. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to arrive for a separate meeting with Turkish leaders early next week.

The Turks have a reason to be such busy diplomatic bees. A group of nine NATO warships are currently in the Black Sea ostensibly on routine and humanitarian missions. Russia has wasted no time in sounding the alarm at the sight of this NATO buildup, calling on Turkey — as the gatekeeper to the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas — to remember its commitment to the Montreux Convention, which places limits on the number of warships in the Black Sea. As a weak naval power with few assets to defend itself in this crucial frontier, Russia has every interest in keeping the NATO presence in the Black Sea as limited and distant as possible.

Turkey is in an extremely tight spot. As a NATO member in control of Russia’s warm-water naval access to the Black Sea, Turkey is a crucial link in the West’s pressure campaign against Russia. But the Turks have little interest in seeing the Black Sea become a flashpoint between Russia and the United States. Turkey has a strategic foothold in the Caucasus through Azerbaijan that it does not want to see threatened by Moscow. The Turks also simply do not have the military appetite or the internal political consolidation to be pushed by the United States into a potential conflict — naval or otherwise — with the Russians.

In addition, the Turks have to worry about their economic health. Russia is Turkey’s biggest trading partner, supplying more than 60 percent of Turkey’s energy needs through two natural gas pipelines (including Blue Stream, the major trans-Black Sea pipeline), as well as more than half of Turkey’s thermal coal — a factor that has major consequences in the approach of winter. Turkey has other options to meet its energy needs, but there is no denying that it has intertwined itself into a potentially economically precarious relationship with the Russians.

And the Russians have already begun using this economic lever to twist Ankara’s arm. A large amount of Turkish goods reportedly have been held up at the Russian Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Sochi and Taganrog over the past 20 days ostensibly over narcotics issues. Turkish officials claim that Turkish trucks carrying mostly consumer goods have been singled out for “extensive checks and searches,” putting about $3 billion worth of Turkish trade in jeopardy. The Turks have already filed an official complaint with Moscow over the trade row — with speculation naturally brewing over Russia’s intent to punish Turkey for its participation in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and to push Ankara to limit NATO access to the Black Sea.

But the Russians are playing a risky game. As much as Turkey wants this conflict to go away, it still has cards to play — far more than any other NATO member — if it is pushed too hard. As Turkish State Minister Kursat Tuzmen darkly put it, “We will disturb them if we are disturbed. We know how to disturb them.” If Turkey gets fed up with Russian bullying tactics, there is little stopping it from allowing an even greater buildup of NATO warships in the Black Sea to threaten the Russian underbelly.

The Turks could also begin redirecting their energy supply away from the Russians, choosing instead to increase their natural gas supply from Iran or arrange for some “technical difficulties” on the Blue Stream pipeline. The Russians also ship some 1.36 million barrels per day of crude through the Black Sea that the Turks could quite easily blockade. These are the easier and quicker options that Turkey can employ. But there are some not-so-quick and not-so-easy options for Turks to consider as well, including riling up the Chechens in the northern Caucasus or the Turkic peoples in Central Asia and within the Russian Federation to make trouble for Moscow.

These are not options that Ankara is exactly eager to take, but they remain options, and will be on both the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers’ minds when they meet in the coming days.

30197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stay or go? on: August 31, 2008, 06:03:54 PM

When the summer holidays end tomorrow, the parents of 1,400 pupils at the Badabher Government Girls' School will face a difficult choice. By Nick Meo in Peshawar

Last Updated: 7:22PM BST 30 Aug 2008

Should they let their daughters go back to lessons in the rubble of their school, blown up by the Taliban in the middle of the night, or should they keep them safe at home?

Hashim, the caretaker who was held at gunpoint by masked gunmen, was warned that they would be back if the school is rebuilt. He fears that next time they could blow it up with pupils inside.

Yet this is not Kandahar, the Taliban capital of southern Afghanistan, but Peshawar - a city of 1.4 million people in neighbouring Pakistan, once celebrated as a cultural haven for artists, musicians and intellectuals.

A year ago schools were considered safe in the city, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. But the Taliban insurgency that has been growing in the wild mountains that rise in the distance is spreading into urban Pakistan.

Clerics and political leaders critical of the Taliban have been kidnapped and shot dead, around 15 suicide bombers have attacked inside the city, and to escape kidnappers businessmen are giving up and moving to the capital Islamabad, two hours drive away, or overseas to Dubai if they can afford to.

Nobody has ever known the city so fearful.

Musli Khan, a clerk who lives near the remains of the school, was disconsolately picking through the mess. The main building collapsed from the force of the explosion and the walls that were left were riddled with giant cracks.

Some chairs and schoolbooks had been pulled from the rubble, he said, gesturing at a damaged Koran.

"And these people say they are Muslims," Mr Khan muttered, shaking his head sadly before checking himself: it is dangerous now to be too critical of the Taliban, especially in suburbs on the outskirts of Peshawar. Here, at night, the police must lock themselves into fortified outposts for safety, and armed fighters prowl at will.

During a hasty and nervous drive to Badabher, only six miles from the city centre, The Sunday Telegraph passed three police stations which have been attacked with rockets in the past few weeks. "You must not stop for long at the school," said our guide, a local reporter. "Out here the Taliban have their spies everywhere."

On the same morning that the school was blown up last week, America's chief diplomat in the province narrowly escaped assassination when her car was ambushed as she drove to work.

A day earlier four Pakistani employees of an international aid organisation were kidnapped.

The stuttering new government in Islamabad has promised a bold strategy to fight militants with new vigour, but their words were greeted with jaded sceptism by those who can't afford to leave the besieged and fearful city.

A protective ring of security checkpoints is supposed to hold back the anarchy in the mountains, at the edge of a huge swathe of the nation that the Government has lost to bandits and rebels, but the checkpoints are slowly retreating nearer to the city and some police stations are now abandoned entirely at night.

Muhammad Asaf, president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce, said that for the first time ordinary people are really scared.

"The Taliban is getting stronger day by day," he said. "They are more confident now – every time there is a suicide bomb they are on television claiming responsibility. They didn't used to do that."

Mr Asaf, whose daughter lives in Britain, counts himself as a friend of America but he blames the US for goading former president Pervez Musharraf into a bloody war with the Pushtun tribes around Peshawar, some of which support the Taliban and al-Queda. "The tribal people are peaceful but if you bomb their lands their families will want revenge," he said.

Sultan Agha, the head of a moderate Sufi religious sect and a man of influence who is consulted before a chief minister is appointed for the province, said he now travels no more than six miles from Peshawar's boundary.

"It is unsafe to say anything against the Taliban because they will come and kill you," he said over a cup of green tea, before listing the moderate clerics who have been murdered for speaking out against suicide bombers – now known as "suiciders" in Pakistani English.

"The Taliban are growing in number and it is quite possible that they could take control of Peshawar," he said. "The Government could stop them, certainly, but it is too preoccupied with political infighting."

Since Pervez Musharraf was forced from office a fortnight ago, the ruling coalition has fallen apart amid bitter recriminations, leaving Pakistan hovering on the brink of violent political turmoil.

The former coalition partners, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, are now preparing to fight an electoral battle for control of the country - but their feuding has raised a disturbing question: can the eventual winner cope with the terrorism that threatens to destroy their troubled nation?

Britain and America, deeply alarmed at the deterioration, are throwing money at development projects in the almost lawless tribal areas, but in conditions of anarchy it is hard to know whether the cash is being well spent.

It is too dangerous for the influx of aid workers who have arrived in Peshawar's safer suburbs to get out and visit the projects, so they have no idea whether their efforts to build schools or drainage systems are winning over tribesmen.

More lethal Westerners are also said to be at large. Crew-cut, Pushtun-speaking Americans have arrived again in the big hotels, keeping themselves to themselves and reminding people of the 1980s when CIA operatives haunted Peshawar as they armed the tribesmen against the Soviets.

As Pakistanis never tire of pointing out, those same tribesmen are now fighting jihad once again, but this time against American soldiers on the other side of the border.

Taliban influence has even crept into Qissa Kawani, the street of the storytellers, in the heart of Peshawar's bazaars, where the mournful chanting of a Taliban CD was playing.

"I hate that noise," said Insanullah, the owner of a shop selling Pushtun music DVDs which he is now too scared to play.

Music store owners have been killed in bombings and he receives threatening letters but said he will continue because he has invested all his money in his little shop and has no other livelihood. On the city outskirts most have closed down.

"People still like music, but they are afraid for their lives and business is terrible," he said.

One of the city's most famous singers, Baryali, moved to Kabul to be safe and another, Wazir Khan, was briefly kidnapped by the Taliban and has gone into hiding since his release.

The city's cinemas are almost empty because customers fear bombs and even Peshawar's poets are censoring themselves.

Taous Dilsouz used to write songs about the war against the Soviets, then about Pakistani politics, but these days he sticks to safe subjects. "No poets will write songs about what is happening to our city," he said. "And even if they did they could not find singers who are brave enough to sing them."

Outside Peshawar it is much worse. Assadullah Khan, a watchman from the town of Mardan which is still nominally under government control, said: "Out of five brothers in my town, one will support the Taliban. The people are poor and illiterate, and they listen to what the clerics say. Some of my friends have joined the Taliban – they pay them for fighting."

In Bajaur Agency, a Taliban stronghold a few hours from Peshawar, the new government has launched a military offensive which it said has killed hundreds of militants.

According to the UN 260,000 have fled the fighting, and refugees interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph spoke of civilians killed in bombing raids. Dislike of the Taliban runs so deep that many want the government to continue the offensive nevertheless.

"We want to be part of Pakistan and we want the army to get rid of the Taliban," said one 18-year-old, who described seeing dogs eating the bodies of bombing victims lying in his village before he fled.

However, with ordinary people suffering in the air raids, a new generation is turning its anger on the government. It is a sign that the blunt instrument of the Pakistani army may sometimes be counter-productive.

Mohammad Ali, a 20-year-old man who was squatting in the middle of a flyblown camp rolling a lump of hashish in the palm of his hand said he could still hear the sound of the planes and the bombing in his head.

"Why didn't they just arrest those Taliban, why were they bombarding us?" he asked. He claimed that about a dozen civilians had died in his village but that the Taliban fighters had left long before the planes arrived.

"We want peace, but we can not have it because of this terrorist America which orders our government to attack its own people," he said. "The Taliban are Godly people, they are Islamic, and we are happy that they send suicide bombers for revenge.

"If it is God's Will, definitely I will join them now. We have to defend our villages and our religion."
30198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: August 31, 2008, 06:01:18 PM

Saturday, August 30th 2008, 10:41 PM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by northwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, told The Associated Press Saturday.

"Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.

They were still breathing as mud was shoveled over their bodies, according to media reports, which said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Zehri told a packed and stunned Parliament on Friday that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers to stop making such a fuss about it.

Several lawmakers stood up in protest, describing the so-called honor killings as "barbaric."

Human rights groups accused local authorities of trying to hush up the executions, which according to local media reports and activists took place a month ago in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district.
30199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 31, 2008, 05:52:41 PM
FWIW, my initial reaction is that I like her a lot, but a chain is as strong as its weakest link.  Here that is the idea that this woman is remotely prepared to lead the US against Ahmadinejad and the Iranian nuke program or Putin, to deal with the Pak-Afg situation, and so many other knotty world situations.   On first blush, she's not even close. This certainly isn't enough to change my mind about McC over BO, but I do worry about how it will play.

That said, in many ways she is an imaginative choice.  One positive amongst many is that she will give the chattering class something to chatter about besides His Glibness.
30200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucusus on: August 30, 2008, 11:02:56 AM


With Cold War tensions building in the Black Sea, the Turks have gone into a
diplomatic frenzy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan had his phone glued to his
ear on Thursday speaking to his U.S., British, German, French, Swedish and Finnish
counterparts, as well as to the NATO secretary-general and various EU
representatives. The Turks are also expecting Georgian Foreign Minister Eka
Tkeshelashvili to arrive in Istanbul on Aug. 31. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov is due to arrive for a separate meeting with Turkish leaders early next week.
The Turks have a reason to be such busy diplomatic bees. A group of nine NATO
warships are currently in the Black Sea ostensibly on routine and humanitarian
missions. Russia has wasted no time in sounding the alarm at the sight of this NATO
buildup, calling on Turkey -- as the gatekeeper to the Dardanelles and Bosporus
straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas -- to remember its commitment to
the Montreux Convention, which places limits on the number of warships in the Black
Sea. As a weak naval power with few assets to defend itself in this crucial
frontier, Russia has every interest in keeping the NATO presence in the Black Sea as
limited and distant as possible.
Turkey is in an extremely tight spot. As a NATO member in control of Russia's
warm-water naval access to the Black Sea, Turkey is a crucial link in the West's
pressure campaign against Russia. But the Turks have little interest in seeing the
Black Sea become a flashpoint between Russia and the United States. Turkey has a
strategic foothold in the Caucasus through Azerbaijan that it does not want to see
threatened by Moscow. The Turks also simply do not have the military appetite or the
internal political consolidation to be pushed by the United States into a potential
conflict -- naval or otherwise -- with the Russians.
In addition, the Turks have to worry about their economic health. Russia is Turkey's
biggest trading partner, supplying more than 60 percent of Turkey's energy needs
through two natural gas pipelines (including Blue Stream, the major trans-Black Sea
pipeline), as well as more than half of Turkey's thermal coal -- a factor that has
major consequences in the approach of winter. Turkey has other options to meet its
energy needs, but there is no denying that it has intertwined itself into a
potentially economically precarious relationship with the Russians.
And the Russians have already begun using this economic lever to twist Ankara's arm.
A large amount of Turkish goods reportedly have been held up at the Russian Black
Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Sochi and Taganrog over the past 20 days ostensibly over
narcotics issues. Turkish officials claim that Turkish trucks carrying mostly
consumer goods have been singled out for "extensive checks and searches," putting
about $3 billion worth of Turkish trade in jeopardy. The Turks have already filed an
official complaint with Moscow over the trade row -- with speculation naturally
brewing over Russia's intent to punish Turkey for its participation in the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and to push Ankara to limit NATO access to the Black
But the Russians are playing a risky game. As much as Turkey wants this conflict to
go away, it still has cards to play -- far more than any other NATO member -- if it
is pushed too hard. As Turkish State Minister Kursat Tuzmen darkly put it, "We will
disturb them if we are disturbed. We know how to disturb them." If Turkey gets fed
up with Russian bullying tactics, there is little stopping it from allowing an even
greater buildup of NATO warships in the Black Sea to threaten the Russian

The Turks could also begin redirecting their energy supply away from the Russians,
choosing instead to increase their natural gas supply from Iran or arrange for some
"technical difficulties" on the Blue Stream pipeline. The Russians also ship some
1.36 million barrels per day of crude through the Black Sea that the Turks could
quite easily blockade. These are the easier and quicker options that Turkey can
employ. But there are some not-so-quick and not-so-easy options for Turks to
consider as well, including riling up the Chechens in the northern Caucasus or the
Turkic peoples in Central Asia and within the Russian Federation to make trouble for
These are not options that Ankara is exactly eager to take, but they remain options,
and will be on both the Turkish and Russian foreign ministers' minds when they meet
in the coming days.

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