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30401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on Ron Paul on: July 22, 2007, 08:41:05 AM
Second post of the morning:

The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-
Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul
NY Times
Published: July 22, 2007
Whipping westward across Manhattan in a limousine sent by Comedy Central's
"Daily Show," Ron Paul, the 10-term Texas congressman and long-shot
Republican presidential candidate, is being briefed. Paul has only the most
tenuous familiarity with Comedy Central. He has never heard of "The Daily
Show." His press secretary, Jesse Benton, is trying to explain who its host,
Jon Stewart, is. "He's an affable gentleman," Benton says, "and he's very
smart. What I'm getting from the pre-interview is, he's sympathetic."

 Paul nods.
"GQ wants to profile you on Thursday," Benton continues. "I think it's worth

"GTU?" the candidate replies.

"GQ. It's a men's magazine."

"Don't know much about that," Paul says.

Thin to the point of gauntness, polite to the point of daintiness, Ron Paul
is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, a small-town doctor, a self-educated
policy intellectual and a formidable stander on constitutional principle. In
normal times, Paul might be - indeed, has been - the kind of person who is
summoned onto cable television around April 15 to ventilate about whether
the federal income tax violates the Constitution. But Paul has in recent
weeks become a sensation in magazines he doesn't read, on Web sites he has
never visited and on television shows he has never watched.

Alone among Republican candidates for the presidency, Paul has always
opposed the Iraq war. He blames "a dozen or two neocons who got control of
our foreign policy," chief among them Vice President Dick Cheney and the
former Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for the debacle. On
the assumption that a bad situation could get worse if the war spreads into
Iran, he has a simple plan. It is: "Just leave." During a May debate in
South Carolina, he suggested the 9/11 attacks could be attributed to United
States policy. "Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?" he
asked, referring to one of Osama bin Laden's communiqués. "They attack us
because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years."
Rudolph Giuliani reacted by demanding a retraction, drawing gales of
applause from the audience. But the incident helped Paul too. Overnight, he
became the country's most conspicuous antiwar Republican.

Paul's opposition to the war in Iraq did not come out of nowhere. He was
against the first gulf war, the war in Kosovo and the Iraq Liberation Act of
1998, which he called a "declaration of virtual war." Although he voted
after Sept. 11 to approve the use of force in Afghanistan and spend $40
billion in emergency appropriations, he has sounded less thrilled with those
votes as time has passed. "I voted for the authority and the money," he now
says. "I thought it was misused."

There is something homespun about Paul, reminiscent of "Mr. Smith Goes to
Washington." He communicates with his constituents through birthday cards,
August barbecues and the cookbooks his wife puts together every election
season, which mix photos of grandchildren, Gospel passages and neighbors'
recipes for Velveeta cheese fudge and Cherry Coke salad. He is listed in the
phone book, and his constituents call him at home. But there is also
something cosmopolitan and radical about him; his speeches can bring to mind
the World Social Forum or the French international-affairs periodical Le
Monde Diplomatique. Paul is surely the only congressman who would cite the
assertion of the left-leaning Chennai-based daily The Hindu that "the world
is being asked today, in reality, to side with the U.S. as it seeks to
strengthen its economic hegemony." The word "empire" crops up a lot in his

This side of Paul has made him the candidate of many people, on both the
right and the left, who hope that something more consequential than a mere
change of party will come out of the 2008 elections. He is particularly
popular among the young and the wired. Except for Barack Obama, he is the
most-viewed candidate on YouTube. He is the most "friended" Republican on Paul understands that his chances of winning the presidency are
infinitesimally slim. He is simultaneously planning his next Congressional
race. But in Paul's idea of politics, spreading a message has always been
just as important as seizing office. "Politicians don't amount to much," he
says, "but ideas do." Although he is still in the low single digits in
polls, he says he has raised $2.4 million in the second quarter, enough to
broaden the four-state campaign he originally planned into a national one.

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq,
deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a
life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican
forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of
Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater
campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution - the idea
that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from
Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped
from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it
included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn't go far enough), he
still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them:
Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against
foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party's presidential
candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find,
say, in the pages of Reason magazine.


(Page 2 of 5)

Over the years, this vision has won most favor from those convinced the
country is going to hell in a handbasket. The attention Paul has captured
tells us a lot about the prevalence of such pessimism today, about the
instability of partisan allegiances and about the seldom-avowed common
ground between the hard right and the hard left. His message draws on the
noblest traditions of American decency and patriotism; it also draws on what
the historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American

Financial Armageddon
Paul grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Green Tree. His father, the
son of a German immigrant, ran a small dairy company. Sports were big around
there - one of the customers on the milk route Paul worked as a teenager was
the retired baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner - and Paul was a terrific
athlete, winning a state track meet in the 220 and excelling at football and
baseball. But knee injuries had ended his sports career by the time he went
off to Gettysburg College in 1953. After medical school at Duke, Paul joined
the Air Force, where he served as a flight surgeon, tending to the ear, nose
and throat ailments of pilots, and traveling to Iran, Ethiopia and
elsewhere. "I recall doing a lot of physicals on Army warrant officers who
wanted to become helicopter pilots and go to Vietnam," he told me. "They
were gung-ho. I've often thought about how many of those people never came

Paul is given to mulling things over morally. His family was pious and
Lutheran; two of his brothers became ministers. Paul's five children were
baptized in the Episcopal church, but he now attends a Baptist one. He doesn't
travel alone with women and once dressed down an aide for using the
expression "red-light district" in front of a female colleague. As a young
man, though, he did not protest the Vietnam War, which he now calls "totally
unnecessary" and "illegal." Much later, after the United States invaded Iraq
in 2003, he began reading St. Augustine. "I was annoyed by the evangelicals'
being so supportive of pre-emptive war, which seems to contradict everything
that I was taught as a Christian," he recalls. "The religion is based on
somebody who's referred to as the Prince of Peace."

In 1968, Paul settled in southern Texas, where he had been stationed. He
recalls that he was for a while the only obstetrician - "a very delightful
part of medicine," he says - in Brazoria County. He was already immersed in
reading the economics books that would change his life. Americans know the
"Austrian school," if at all, from the work of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig
von Mises, two economists who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and whose
free-market doctrines helped inspire the conservative movement in the 1950s.
The laws of economics don't admit exceptions, say the Austrians. You cannot
fake out markets, no matter how surreptitiously you expand the money supply.
Spend more than you earn, and you are on the road to inflation and tyranny.

Such views are not always Republican orthodoxy. Paul is a harsh critic of
the Federal Reserve, both for its policies and its unaccountability. "We
first bonded," recalls Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, "because we
were both conspicuous nonworshipers at the Temple of the Fed and of the High
Priest Greenspan." In recent weeks, Paul's airport reading has been a book
called "Financial Armageddon." He is obsessed with sound money, which he
considers - along with the related phenomena of credit excess, bubbles and
uncollateralized assets of all kinds - a "sleeper issue." The United States
ought to link its currency to gold or silver again, Paul says. He puts his
money where his mouth is. According to Federal Election Commission
documents, most of his investments are in gold and silver and are worth
between $1.5 and $3.5 million. It's a modest sum by the standards of major
presidential candidates but impressive for someone who put five children
through college on a doctor's (and later a congressman's) earnings.

For Paul, everything comes back to money, including Iraq. "No matter how
much you love the empire," he says, "it's unaffordable." Wars are expensive,
and there has been a tendency throughout history to pay for them by
borrowing. A day of reckoning always comes, says Paul, and one will come for
us. Speaking this spring before the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation
in Reston, Va., he warned of a dollar crisis. "That's usually the way
empires end," he said. "It wasn't us forcing the Soviets to build missiles
that brought them down. It was the fact that socialism doesn't work. Our
system doesn't work much better."

Under the banner of "Freedom, Honesty and Sound Money," Paul ran for
Congress in 1974. He lost - but took the seat in a special election in April
1976. He lost again in November of that year, then won in 1978. On two big
issues, he stood on principle and was vindicated: He was one of very few
Republicans in Congress to back Ronald Reagan against Gerald Ford for the
1976 Republican nomination. He was also one of the representatives who
warned against the rewriting of banking rules that laid the groundwork for
the savings-and-loan collapse of the 1980s. Paul served three terms before
losing to Phil Gramm in the Republican primary for Senate in 1984. Tom DeLay
took over his seat.

Paul would not come back to Washington for another dozen years. But in the
time he could spare from delivering babies in Brazoria County, he remained a
mighty presence in the out-of-the-limelight world of those old-line
libertarians who had never made their peace with the steady growth of
federal power in the 20th century. Paul got the Libertarian Party nomination
for president in 1988, defeating the Indian activist Russell Means in a
tough race. He finished third behind Bush and Dukakis, winning nearly half a
million votes. He tended his own Foundation for Rational Economics and
Education (FREE) and kept up his contacts with other market-oriented
organizations. What resulted was a network of true believers who would be
his political base in one of the stranger Congressional elections of modern

A Lone Wolf
30402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Giuliani and Race: NY Times on: July 22, 2007, 07:29:31 AM
Of course the NY Times is always a suspect source, but here is a longish piece on Giuliani and his time as mayor of NY with regard to race relations:

Giuliani and Race; NY Times
Those were grim days for race relations in New York City, the early 1990s. There were nearly 2,000 murders each year, blacks and whites died in high-profile racial killings, and a riot held a divided Brooklyn neighborhood in thrall for three dangerous nights.

The Long Run
The Race Factor
This is the first article in a series on the lives and careers of the 2008 presidential contenders.

On Jan. 9, 1994, another match landed in this tinderbox: a caller reported a burglary at a Harlem mosque. The police ran in, and Nation of Islam guards threw punches and broke an officer’s nose.

The mosque’s minister, accompanied by the Rev. Al Sharpton, drove downtown to register their outrage with the police commissioner, a street theater ritual grudgingly tolerated by past mayors.

Except the new mayor — Rudolph W. Giuliani, fresh off his November victory over the city’s first black mayor, David N. Dinkins — decreed that no one would meet with Mr. Sharpton. No more antics, no more provocations.

“I’ve taken a golden opportunity to act like a sensible mayor rather than a mayor who will be moved in any direction,” he said. “I’m an observer of the last 10 years of this city, and I hope to God we don’t continue in that direction.”

More than any other Republican running for president, Mr. Giuliani has confronted the question of race, that most torturous of American legacies.

His 1993 mayoral campaign slogan, often repeated, of “one city, one standard,” emphasized his view that no ethnic or racial group should expect special treatment. And he spoke with a stunning bluntness about what he saw as the failings of the city’s black leadership.

His handling of the mosque fracas set the tone. In the years to come, Mr. Giuliani would rebuff not just the histrionic Mr. Sharpton but nearly every high-ranking black official in the city, even those of moderate politics: congressmen, a state comptroller, influential ministers.

But grabbing hold of the race dial proved easier than turning it to his will.

“I never thought Rudy Giuliani was a racist,” said Fran Reiter, one of Mr. Giuliani’s deputy mayors. “But he was obsessed with the notion there were certain groups he couldn’t win over. And he wasn’t even going to try.”

Black leaders, Mr. Giuliani said in 1994, had to “learn how to discipline themselves in the way in which they speak” if they expected to chat with him. The city’s welfare-state philosophy, he said later, was racist and “enslaved” black New Yorkers.

“We in this city went through years and years of subdividing people, and that became the most important thing, the subdivision people belonged to,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Certainly he knew such words resonated with white voters who formed the backbone of his electoral coalition. What is less certain is whether a man raised and schooled in a white world understood the force with which his harshest words rained down on black New Yorkers.

New York City is 45 percent white and 27 percent black, according to 2000 Census figures.

“He was not patronizing, he was not naïve and I admired that,” said Michael Meyers, president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, who once advised him. “But he could play on the edge of old racial antipathies.”

Mr. Giuliani’s policies, too, stirred anger. His decision to drive down the welfare rolls by cutting benefits and tightening eligibility standards and his deep cuts in social agencies infuriated many. Black voters applauded the drop in crime, but rough police tactics often inflamed tensions.

Mr. Giuliani did not respond to repeated requests made in the last few weeks to discuss his views on race.

Mr. Giuliani, aides say, found a city in the early 1990s where most of the departments affecting the lives of black New Yorkers from schools to welfare to public safety were dysfunctional. Too many citizens expected government to coddle them, and too many black leaders, said Peter Powers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s oldest friends and his first deputy mayor, were afraid to work publicly with a white Republican mayor.

So Mr. Giuliani was intent on marginalizing these critics — even if he had to shun much of the black establishment. Mr. Powers said: “You are talking about some of the people who had been around for a while. Maybe we thought someone else deserved that role.”

Perhaps. But black leaders say Mr. Giuliani, in declining to talk with them, succeeded in isolating himself.

“He just drew a line and said, ‘Anyone who represents the black community, all of the elected officials, are irresponsible and I won’t meet with you,’ ” said former State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, a black Democrat who had a long record of building alliances with whites. “If you’re the leader of the city, you really can’t justify that.”

Good Will, Evaporated

It is one of the more intriguing “what ifs” in city politics. In 1989, a Republican adviser leaned across a lunch table and put this proposition to Bill Lynch, a liberal graybeard: Would Mr. Lynch, who is black, consider working in the mayoral campaign of Rudolph W. Giuliani?

That was not so incongruous an offer as it sounds now. Many saw the incumbent, Mayor Edward I. Koch, then seeking a fourth term, as a racially divisive figure.


Page 2 of 4)

“They thought Rudy could form a winning black-white Catholic coalition,” Mr. Lynch recalled. “They figured if they could attract someone like me, they could pull African-American voters because Koch was anathema to blacks.”

Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery speech in 1992 to hundreds of rowdy police officers who were protesting Mayor Dinkins's policies.
The Long Run
The Race Factor
This is the first article in a series on the lives and careers of the 2008 presidential contenders.

Mr. Lynch instead managed the campaign of Mr. Dinkins, who upset Mr. Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary.
The Giuliani of this period was longer on ambition than fixed views. He was liberal on homelessness and attacked Mr. Koch for calling Mr. Dinkins “a Jesse Jackson Democrat.” These, he said, were racial “code words.”

Some nights Mr. Giuliani went to Bushwick and Brownsville, neighborhoods ravaged by crack, talking to men and women trapped behind triple-locked apartment doors.

“He was trying to learn, in a very linear way, the way that poor people live,” recalled one guide, Michael Gecan, an organizer with East Brooklyn Congregations, a church-based community organizing group.

Mr. Giuliani was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on May 28, 1944. When he was 7, his family became part of the postwar migration to Long Island, eventually settling in North Bellmore, which was 99.7 percent white. He would return to the city to attend Bishop Loughlin High School and Manhattan College, schools that were 99 percent white. He became a passionate Democrat, devoted to John and Robert Kennedy as the civil rights struggle dominated the news.

“What we saw on television horrified us,” Mr. Powers recalled of the battle against Jim Crow laws. “When people kind of suggest, ‘You’re a bunch of white guys,’ it’s as if we didn’t live through America at that time. That’s ludicrous.”

As a federal prosecutor in the 1980s, Mr. Giuliani worked with black ministers to jail corrupt police officers and invited Mr. Sharpton to talk about the plague of crack. “He was not an ideologue, and he had no problem meeting,” Mr. Sharpton said. “Let me tell you, I was a lot more radical then.”

By early 1989, New York magazine wrote of Mr. Giuliani, “He is perhaps the only white politician in town who draws a positive emotional response — hugs and cheers — in Harlem.”

Most of that good will evaporated in the heat of the campaign. Mr. Dinkins became the Democratic nominee; his candidacy was laden with black aspiration and the promise of racial peace. Mr. Giuliani steered right and attacked hard.

When Mr. Dinkins called Mr. Giuliani, who served in the Justice Department, a “Reagan Republican,” he fired back. His campaign ran an ad in a Jewish newspaper with a photo of Mr. Dinkins and Mr. Jackson, a year after Mr. Jackson made a comment widely seen as anti-Semitic. Mr. Giuliani began calling Mr. Dinkins “a Jesse Jackson Democrat.”

Mr. Giuliani lost in 1989 and did not stop running until the next election was over. His political task seemed clear. He could not count on peeling black votes from a black mayor. So he cultivated Jews, ethnic whites and the Hispanic middle class.

With New York pitched into deep recession, its descent hastened by crack and racial disturbances, a campaign riven by race seemed inevitable. “There were people in his camp pushing him hard to tie race to crime,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at Cooper Union who once advised Mr. Giuliani. “I don’t know if this was moral or practical, but Giuliani was having none of it,” Mr. Siegal recalled. “He was insistent that crime was about behavior, not race.”

Still, Mr. Giuliani took a fateful step that would for years prompt questions about his racial sensitivities. In September 1992, he spoke to a rally of police officers protesting Mr. Dinkins’s proposal for a civilian board to review police misconduct.

It was a rowdy, often threatening, crowd. Hundreds of white off-duty officers drank heavily, and a few waved signs like “Dump the Washroom Attendant,” a reference to Mr. Dinkins. A block away from City Hall, Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery address, twice calling Mr. Dinkins’s proposal “bullshit.” The crowd cheered. Mr. Giuliani was jubilant.

“If you’re acculturated to like cops, you don’t necessarily see 10,000 white guys who don’t vote in the city, don’t write political checks and love you for the wrong reason,” an aide said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is working with the Giuliani presidential campaign.

Mr. Dinkins has not forgotten that sea of angry cops. “Rudy was out there inciting white cops to riot,” Mr. Dinkins said in a recent interview.

Mr. Giuliani said he never saw racist signs. “One of the reasons those police officers might have lost control is that we have a mayor who invites riots,” he said at the time. The Giuliani campaign later conducted a “vulnerability study” to identify their candidate’s weaknesses in 1993. This study, obtained by Wayne Barrett, author of “Rudy!” — an investigative biography — offers an unsparing critique: “Giuliani’s shrieking performance at the cop rally may be his greatest political liability this year. Giuliani has yet to admonish those who attacked the mayor with racist code words on signs and banners. Why not?”

Tough Approach on Crime


Page 3 of 4)

Determined to assault the liberal trenches, Mr. Giuliani never blanched at giving offense. He lopped the welfare rolls by 500,000, laid off thousands of black political appointees seen as too liberal and hired hundreds of more conservative whites seen as loyal to his political agenda. And he sent two schools chancellors — one black, one Hispanic — spinning out of town.

In 1995, he proposed cutting welfare benefits, and suggested that many of the poor might profitably leave town. “A natural consequence of a reduction in benefits might very well be that that would happen,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding, “That would be a good thing.”

Mr. Giuliani has written in his book “Leadership” about his belief in the cleansing power of confrontational words. Nor is he enamored of compromise. Asked in 2000 about reaching out to black leaders, he shook his head and said, “What happens when you engage in the dialogue is, you compromise.”

Yet at first, he made inroads into the black community. He endorsed Democratic Gov. Mario M. Cuomo in 1994, which won him applause in black churches. He tackled the sensitive business of removing from 125th Street, Harlem’s shopping strip, the street peddlers who drove many black merchants to distraction.

Izak-El M. Pasha, the imam of the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, ignored other black leaders and helped the mayor with the peddlers.

“Church leaders tried to tell me ‘Man, you can’t be meeting with Giuliani!’ ” said Mr. Pasha, who struck up a friendship with the mayor. “I didn’t care. If you’re not willing to accept he has a strong personality, you have a problem.”

A record plunge in homicides earned the mayor a larger measure of good will. Black New Yorkers appreciated safer neighborhoods and applauded that thousands more of their young men remained alive.

“Rudy’s gift is that he could identify with people who felt trapped by crime,” Mr. Meyers said.

By 1997, Mr. Giuliani’s job approval rating in the black community stood at 42 percent, according to a New York Times poll.

But within these victories lay the seed of a problem. Even as crime dropped by 60 percent, officers with the street crime unit stopped and frisked 16 black males for every one who was arrested, according to a report by the state attorney general. Then came three terrible episodes that raised a pointed question for black New Yorkers: Was crime reduction worth any cost?

One hot night in August 1997, police officers grabbed Abner Louima, a black security guard, during a tussle in Flatbush. Mr. Louima exited a precinct house bleeding after officers jammed a broken broomstick into his rectum and his mouth.

Mr. Giuliani, who was running for re-election, was eloquent in his disgust. “These charges are shocking to any decent human being,” he said.

He created a task force to examine police-community relations, and invited adversaries to join. But Mr. Giuliani swamped his Democratic opponent that November. When his task force released a report the next March, Mr. Giuliani belittled its findings as “making very little sense.”

He endorsed just one suggestion, to change a deputy commissioner’s title. “We can change it from ‘affairs’ to ‘relations,’ ” Mr. Giuliani said.

Two police shootings of unarmed black men followed, one death upon another. In February 1999, the police fired 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant. They said they thought he was reaching for a gun; he was trying to pull out his wallet. A year later, an undercover officer sidled up to Patrick Dorismond, an off-duty security guard, and asked to buy marijuana. Mr. Dorismond took offense; punches flew. Another undercover officer shot him.

Mayor Giuliani released the dead man’s juvenile arrest record. Mr. Dorismond, he said, was no “altar boy.” In fact, he had been an altar boy at a Brooklyn church.

There were marches and a civil disobedience campaign — Mr. Dinkins and Representative Charles B. Rangel were arrested. Mr. Powers, the mayor’s friend, said Mr. Giuliani fell victim to racial provocateurs and an amnesiac city. “A lot of the people in the minority community forgot all the good he did in lowering crime,” he said. “Rudy got demonized.”

With the city perched on edge, the mayor asked to meet with the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood of St. Paul Community Baptist Church. Once they had talked often; Mr. Youngblood, who is black, accompanied Mr. Giuliani on those long-ago trips to Bushwick apartments. But Mr. Giuliani had not taken his calls in years.


Page 4 of 4)

Mr. Youngblood is a leader in East Brooklyn Congregations, an organizing group that prides itself on a cool-eyed view of power. Unhappy with Mr. Giuliani but willing to talk, a half-dozen ministers trooped to City Hall, where they found an angry but chastened mayor.

“We said: ‘We don’t do photo ops,’ ” Mr. Youngblood recalled. “ ‘You must apologize to the Dorismond family.’ ”
Mr. Giuliani turned sharply.

“You don’t understand,” two ministers recall Mr. Giuliani saying. “I have to visit the families of police officers who are shot.”

A minister replied: “Yes, Mr. Mayor, but we have to funeralize the people they shoot. You are not alone, O.K.?”

Mr. Giuliani later expressed regret without precisely apologizing. His approval rating among blacks had fallen to 7 percent by April 2000, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

A Damaged Agenda

The question lingers in conversation with black officials: Did Mr. Giuliani have a black problem, or did blacks just not get him?

He dueled with no end of white officials. Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, a fellow Republican? He’s “running a protection racket.” Gov. George E. Pataki? “Needs his head examined.” The Manhattan borough president, Ruth W. Messinger? She has “really jerky” ideas.

But Ms. Reiter, the former deputy mayor, said a mayor could not assume words register the same for every group. “One city, one standard is fine but unrealistic,” she said. “There are groups, for reasons of history, treated differently, and it happens every day.” Ignore that, she says, and a leader risks tone-deafness.

In the summer of 1999, Mr. Giuliani attended an Urban League fund-raiser at the Sheraton in Manhattan. He strode through the ballroom as though leaning into a strong wind.

“I want to apologize for leaving early,” he said. “It’s very, very hard for me to get a cab.” The ballroom fell silent. Then he went fishing for laughs, and found none. “You think I’m kidding? Have you ever tried to hail a cab in New York?”

He seemed unaware that many in this audience knew perfectly well what it was to hail a taxi that would not stop.

The city did not boil over on Mr. Giuliani’s watch; neither did it unite behind him.

But Mr. Sharpton, whose hand was behind most anti-Giuliani demonstrations, boycotts and attempted embarrassments, said Mr. Giuliani damaged his own agenda by failing to cultivate black allies.

“Rudy wanted to send a message that he wasn’t going to talk with the bad guys,” he said, referring to himself. “Well, guess what? The good guys couldn’t emerge because he wouldn’t talk to them either.”

Save for immigration, Mr. Giuliani rarely fields questions about race on the campaign trail. Republican voters, who are overwhelmingly white, have clamored to hear about 9/11 and terror; a few of Mr. Giuliani’s supporters discuss Mr. Sharpton, mainly as a punch line.

But in a general election, Mr. Giuliani might have to answer questions about his ability to work with black leaders. “His old racial rhetoric could turn off suburban voters,” notes Henry Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant.

Mr. Giuliani asserts that black people are not mysterious to him, even if they find him a puzzle.

“In the case of the African-American community, I understand it really well,” he told a black editorial writer at The Daily News in 1999. “There’s no point trying to educate people that I’m not a racist any more than I’m not a criminal.”

If people can’t figure me out, he added, “that’s their problem.”
30403  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: July 22, 2007, 07:03:43 AM

Good point about knowing your rights! 

The problem is that I have never seen a simple statement of what the police can and cannot do.  What are the criteria that must be met before they can they search me?  My car?  My home? 

What should I do if the officer is NOT meeting these criteria so as to protect my rights? And not get hurt/killed?

CWS, can you/would you help us out here?

30404  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A Howl for my Pretty Kitty on: July 21, 2007, 10:25:17 AM
FYI, Cindy went through 274 registrations for the forum today.  270 of them were spambots.  Lets hear it for the 4 new members of the forum!
30405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: July 21, 2007, 09:31:46 AM
That's very interesting.

What are the symptoms and consequences of inadequate Vitamin D?
30406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Slavery in Islam on: July 21, 2007, 09:11:34 AM
I just ran across this four year old piece, which is followed by something current:
Author of Saudi Curriculums Advocates Slavery
Ali Al-Ahmed

Shaikh Saleh Al-Fawzan

(Washington)… November 7, 2003 …The main author of the Saudi religious curriculum expressed his unequivocal support for the legalization of slavery in one of his lectures recorded on a cassette and obtained exclusively by SIA news.

Leading government cleric Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan is the author of the religious books currently used to teach 5 million Saudi students, both within the and in Saudi schools aboard – including those in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

“Slavery is a part of Islam,” he says in the tape, adding: “Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.”

Government spokesman Adel Al-Jubeir and other officials have repeatedly claimed religious curriculums are being reformed, but Al-Fawzan’s books continued to be used according to the minister of education’s statements published by Al-Watan daily September 14th, 2003.

Al-Fawzan is member of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, a member of the Council of Religious Edicts and Research, the Imam of Prince Mitaeb Mosque in Riyadh, and a professor at Imam Mohamed Bin Saud Islamic University, the main Wahhabi center of learning in the country.

Al-Fawzan refuted the mainstream Muslim interpretation that Islam worked to abolish slavery by introducing equality between the races.

“They are ignorant, not scholars,” he said of people who express such opinions. “They are merely writers. Whoever says such things is an infidel.”

Al-Fawzan’s most famous book, “Al-Tawheed – Monotheism”, is taught to Saudi high school students. In it, he says that most Muslims are polytheists, and their blood and money are therefore free for the taking by “true Muslims.”

Among Al-Fawzan’s other controversial beliefs is the right to ban the marriage of Arab women to non- Arab Muslims, according to his book “Al-Mulkhas Al-Fiqhee” (“Digest of Law”). He has also issued a fatwa forbidden the watching of TV.

Al-Fwazan is also is a leading opponent of those who seek to introduce change to the Saudi school curriculum. He also claimed that elections and demonstrations are western imitations.

According to Saudi liberal writer and scholar Sheikh Hassan Al-Maliki, Al-Fawzan threatened him with beheading if he continued in his criticism of the extremist Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Al-Maliki, who worked for the ministry of education, was fired after he wrote a 50- page paper criticizing Al-Fawzan’s book “Al-Tawheed”.
The Persistence of Islamic Slavery
By Robert Spencer | July 20, 2007

The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun, the minister for humanitarian affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kosheib, a leader of that country’s notorious janjaweed militia. The Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two for prosecution. Charges include murder, rape, torture and “imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty.” Severe deprivation of liberty is a euphemism for slavery. Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly observed not long ago that in Sudan, “slavery, sanctioned by religious zealots, ravaged the southern parts of the country and much of the west as well.”
Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. According to the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), a human rights and abolitionist movement, “The current Khartoum government wants to bring the non-Muslim black South in line with Sharia law, laid down and interpreted by conservative Muslim clergy. The black animist and Christian South has been ravaged for many years of slave raids by Arabs from the north and east and resists Muslim religious rule and the perceived economic, cultural, and religious expansion behind it.”

The BBC reported in March 2007 that slave raids “were a common feature of Sudan’s 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005….According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border -- many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan….Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.” One modern-day Sudanese Christian slave, James Pareng Alier, was kidnapped and enslaved when he was twelve years old. Religion was a major element of his ordeal: “I was forced to learn the Koran and re-baptised “Ahmed.” They told me that Christianity was a bad religion. After a time we were given military training and they told us we would be sent to fight.” Alier has no idea of his family’s whereabouts. But while non-Muslims slaves are often forcibly converted to Islam, their conversion does not lead to their freedom. Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Boubacar Messaoud explains: “It’s like having sheep or goats. If a woman is a slave, her descendants are slaves.”

Anti-slavery crusaders like Messaoud have great difficulty working against this attitude because it is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example. The Muslim prophet Muhammad owned slaves, and like the Bible, the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89). But while the freeing of a slave or two here and there is encouraged, the institution itself is never questioned. The Qur’an even gives a man permission to have sexual relations with his slave girls as well as with his wives: “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame…” (23:1-6). A Muslim is not to have sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else – except a slave girl: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you” (4:24).

In the past, as today, most slaves in Islam were non-Muslims who had been captured during jihad warfare. The pioneering scholar of the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies, Bat Ye’or, explains the system that developed out of jihad conquest:

The jihad slave system included contingents of both sexes delivered annually in conformity with the treaties of submission by sovereigns who were tributaries of the caliph. When Amr conquered Tripoli (Libya) in 643, he forced the Jewish and Christian Berbers to give their wives and children as slaves to the Arab army as part of their jizya [tax on non-Muslims]. From 652 until its conquest in 1276,
Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of slaves to Cairo. Treaties concluded with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia, and Fezzan (Maghreb) under the Umayyads and Abbasids stipulated an annual dispatch of slaves from both sexes. However, the main sources for the supply of slaves remained the regular raids on villages within the dar-al-harb [House of War, i.e., non-Islamic regions] and the military expeditions which swept more deeply into the infidel lands, emptying towns and provinces of their inhabitants.[1]

Historian Speros Vryonis observes that “since the beginning of the Arab razzias [raids] into the land of Rum [the Byzantine Empire], human booty had come to constitute a very important portion of the spoils.” As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many of the Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: “They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside where the populations were defenseless.”[2] The Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever jihadists conquered a territory, “there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain and populace of the place.” When Muslim armies invaded India, “its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country.”[3]

Slaves faced pressure to convert to Islam. In an analysis of Islamic political theories, Patricia Crone notes that after a jihad battle was concluded, “male captives might be killed or enslaved…Dispersed in Muslim households, slaves almost always converted, encouraged or pressurized [sic] by their masters, driven by a need to bond with others, or slowly, becoming accustomed to seeing things through Muslim eyes even if they tried to resist.”[4] Thomas Pellow, an Englishman who was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716, was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to “burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner.”[5]

Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West as well up until relatively recent times. Yet while the European and American slave trade get stern treatment attention from historians (as well as from reparations advocates and guilt-ridden politicians), the Islamic slave trade, which actually lasted longer and brought suffering to a larger number of people, is virtually ignored. (This fact magnifies the irony of Islam being presented to American blacks as the egalitarian alternative to the “white man’s slave religion” of Christianity.) While historians estimate that the transatlantic slave trade, which operated between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, involved around 10.5 million people, the Islamic slave trade in the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean areas began in the seventh century and lasted into the nineteenth, and involved 17 million people.[6]

And when pressure came to end slavery, it moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. There was no Muslim William Wilberforce or William Lloyd Garrison. In fact, when the British government in the nineteenth century adopted the view of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists and began to put pressure on pro-slavery regimes, the Sultan of Morocco was incredulous. “The traffic in slaves,” he noted, “is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam...up to this day.” He said that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect” and that the very idea that anyone would question its morality was absurd: “No one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.”[7]

However, it was not the unanimity of human practice, but the words of the Qur’an and Muhammad that were decisive in stifling abolitionist movements within the Islamic world. Slavery was abolished only as a result of Western pressure; the Arab Muslim slave trade in Africa was ended by the force of British arms in the nineteenth century.

Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well -- notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.

A shadow cast by the strength and perdurability of Islamic slavery can be seen in instances where Muslims have managed to import this institution to the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan Al-Turki, for instance, was sentenced in September 2006 to 27 years to life in prison, for keeping a woman as a slave in his home in Colorado. For his part, Al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias. He told the judge: “Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.” The following month, an Egyptian couple living in Southern California received a fine and prison terms, to be followed by deportation, after pleading guilty to holding a ten-year-old girl as a slave. And in January 2007, an attaché of the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington, Waleed Al Saleh, and his wife were charged with keeping three Christian domestic workers from India in slave-like conditions in al-Saleh’s Virginia home. One of the women remarked: “I believed that I had no choice but to continue working for them even though they beat me and treated me worse than a slave.”

All this indicates that the problem of Islamic slavery is not restricted to recent events in the Sudan; it is much larger and more deeply rooted. The United Nations and human rights organizations have noted the phenomenon, but nevertheless little has been done to move decisively against those who still hold human beings in bondage, or aid or tolerate others doing so. The UN has tried to place peacekeeping forces in Darfur, over the objections of the Sudanese government, but its remonstrations against slavery in Sudan and elsewhere have likewise not resulted in significant government action against the practice. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also noted the problem, but as HRW observes, “the government of Sudan has stonewalled on the issue of slavery, claiming it was a matter of rival tribes engaging in hostage taking, over which it had little control. That is simply untrue, as myriad reports coming out of southern Sudan have made abundantly clear.” For Islamic slavery to disappear, a powerful state would have to move against it decisively, not with mere words, and accept no equivocation of half-measures. In today’s international geopolitical climate, nothing could be less likely.


[1] Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, p. 108.
[2] Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century, Berkeley, 1971. P. 174-5. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 87.
[3] K. S. Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, Aditya Prakashan, 1994. P. 9.
[4] Patricia Crone, God’s Rule: Government and Islam, Columbia University Press, 2004. Pp. 371-372. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 86.
[5] Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. P. 84.
[6] Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus, 2005, pp. 89-90.
[7] Quoted in Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 1994. Reprinted at

30407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 21, 2007, 08:44:30 AM
Israel's new president on Iran's nuclear program--and his own.

Saturday, July 21, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

JERUSALEM--Shimon Peres had not even been sworn in as Israel's ninth president last Sunday when he began making news. While vowing to use his new post to "unify" his deeply polarized country and "speak to all Israelis," Mr. Peres told the Associated Press only hours before his induction that Israel must "get rid of" the territories it has occupied for 40 years and, by implication, the Jewish settlements he helped create. A majority of Israelis agreed with him, he asserted.

"Even before entering his job, he is doing everything to divide the nation . . . and playing into the hands of his friends--the murderers of the PLO," said Zvi Hendel, a Knesset member who represents the influential settler movement. When Mr. Peres took the oath of office in Israel's parliament later that day, a few outraged parliamentarians, unlike most Knesset members, Cabinet officials and 1,000 guests at the nostalgic ceremony, refused to stand, much less applaud.

The provocative declaration was vintage Mr. Peres. In a single sentence, the 83-year-old veteran of veterans--he has held virtually every available possible cabinet job, some of them twice--signaled his determination to use what has traditionally been a ceremonial post to press for peace, fight poverty and promote issues he has long seen as vital to Israel's national security. "The Jews have never been satisfied, neither personally nor collectively," he told me. "And they are right to be so. When you're satisfied, you become a bore."

Judging by its debut, President Peres's tenure will not be boring. During our 90-minute interview and subsequent lunch, at a hotel not far from the Knesset, Mr. Peres seemed to revel in his role as presidential provocateur.
Was he worried about an Iranian atomic bomb? I asked the man who led Israel's successful, once-secret effort to acquire nuclear weapons.

"Terrorism and the warming of the earth are the two great threats to Israel," he began.

Global warming?

Yes, he insisted, the warming of the "earth's refrigerator" ranks second only to terrorism in terms of threat. One day, Israeli homes, factories and cars will run on solar energy. "Better to depend on the sun than the Saudis," he said.

Israel's top threat, however, is nuclear terrorism. Now that President Bush has "boldly and courageously" toppled Saddam Hussein--he declined to give advice about whether, how and when Mr. Bush should bring American forces home--the theocratic rulers in Tehran are Israel's greatest challenge. Iran "wants to destroy all that is modern. But it is a failed state," he said. When the mullahs seized power after the 1979 revolution, Iran had 30 million people; today it has 70 million.

"The regime cannot feed them," Mr. Peres said. There is corruption and drugs, and Persians are barely 50% of the population." The regime, like the Soviet Union, will eventually fail.

But would it do so before acquiring atomic weapons?

"Will the Muslim world enter the modern age before Iran and terrorists get the bomb?" he said, answering a question with a question. No one knows, he continued.

The prospect of nuclear arms controlled by fanatical mullahs and the terrorists they support threatens not only Israel, but all states. "So the world will unite against them," he said. If there is a united front against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "he will lose."

Europe, including Russia, will apply financial pressure on Tehran, he predicted. Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he had recently met, "understands" the threat. "He knows that Chechnya has a Muslim majority and that Russia is losing population," according to Mr. Peres. Meanwhile, the election of Angela Merkel in Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy in France, and the emergence of Labour's Gordon Brown in Britain means "there is a different Europe now."

Mr. Peres went on to say that using military force against Iranian nuclear targets would be premature, since it is possible that Iran could still be deterred by peaceful means. But military action is not off the table. If peaceful deterrence fails, "the red line" on force has to be set by a united front. "It would be the greatest mistake for Israel to draw that line," he warned.

Is Tehran not justified in seeking nuclear weapons given Israel's development of them?

Mr. Peres bristled. "Pakistan did it before us, and India," he asserted, apparently referring to the nuclear tests of those two countries. (Israel has never acknowledged testing a weapon.) His comment would seem to be a departure, by the way, from Israel's steadfast refusal to publicly confirm or deny its possession of what analysts estimate is a nuclear arsenal of some 300 weapons. And "Dimona helped us achieve peace with Egypt," he added, referring to the site of the country's largest nuclear reactor. "Sadat said it openly."

It's preposterous to compare Israel and Iran, Mr. Peres continued. While Israel is determined "not to be the first to introduce nuclear bombs in the Middle East," he said, returning to Israel's deliberate ambiguity regarding its nuclear capabilities--a policy he helped formulate in 1963 as deputy defense minister, and for which he was fiercely criticized--"Iran's leadership says openly they want to wipe us out."

While Mr. Peres said he wanted Tehran to worry about his country's intentions and capabilities, he added that Israel might not be troubled by a nuclearized Iran under non-militant stewardship. "We learned to live with Pakistan," he said. An Iran ruled by moderates "would be a different thing altogether." The peace process itself, or "peace processes," as he called them, are to some extent leadership-dependent.

Mr. Peres doubted, for instance, that peace would be possible with a Syria led by Bashar Assad. As long as Mr. Assad keeps encouraging radical Shiite Hezbollah and undermining Lebanon's integrity, "President Bush is right to resist direct negotiations," he said.

At the same time, Mr. Peres insisted there is now "a good opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians" whose militant Islamic party, Hamas, has rejected the West-Bank-based leadership and seized control of Gaza, the impoverished home of 1.5 million Palestinians.
"We must choose the PLO or Hamas," he said, referring with little nostalgia to the party founded and led by the late Yasser Arafat, who in 2000 finally torpedoed the Oslo peace process that Mr. Peres had secretly launched as Yitzhak Rabin's deputy in the early 1990s. In the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to divide the land that both claimed--precisely where was one of several key issues deliberately left to be clarified in "final status" talks that did not occur.

Though Mr. Rabin--Mr. Peres's long-time rival--Arafat, and he won the Nobel prize for what was then hailed prematurely as the end of the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict, Oslo crashed and burned in 2000 in a resurgence of Palestinian violence.

"Let the Gazans do whatever they want," Mr. Peres said. "We shouldn't stop delivering water or electricity and other basic necessities to them. But if Hamas fires at us, they should not expect thank-you notes. We will strike back. And we will negotiate with the West Bank Palestinian Authority wherever they are," he said. Such negotiations would be no favor to the Palestinians, Mr. Peres insisted.

Mr. Peres left the Labor Party where he had spent most of his political life to join former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new Kadima faction, he said, only after Mr. Sharon had accepted his argument that the land had to be divided. Israel had little choice, he argued: Continued occupation of the territories would result either in a non-Jewish Israeli state, or a nondemocratic one, or both. "We cannot defeat or manage the territories," Mr. Peres asserted.

As he discussed Israel's fateful choices and his own policy preferences, Mr. Peres sounded more like a ruling prime minister than a ceremonial president. And with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's approval ratings in the single digits, Mr. Peres is in fact likely to enjoy more political latitude than he would have under a strong, popular leader.

Does he think that Mr. Olmert's government will survive the upcoming report by a commission investigating his disastrous stewardship of last summer's Lebanon war, as well as the various corruption investigations against the prime minister?

"I wouldn't exclude it," Mr. Peres replied--hardly the ringing endorsement that Mr. Olmert gave him in lobbying Knesset members to support his presidency.

But Mr. Olmert's embrace of Mr. Peres was also coolly calculated--aimed not only at strengthening his faltering Kadima, but eliminating a potential rival for Israel's top job. Even at his advanced age, associates said, Mr. Peres had flirted with the notion of becoming prime minister again, the post Israelis had denied him after Rabin's assassination in 1996.

Despite Israel's mistakes and failings, Mr. Peres said, its greatest days are ahead, thanks to globalization. Israel's once agriculture-based economy has been "revolutionized by 15,000-20,000 young people" who have replaced vegetables and fruit with high-tech exports, a once-mocked Peres "vision." "It's the individual capacity to create that counts today," he said. "It's a Jewish age."

In a globalized world, Jews will excel, Mr. Peres went on to say. His own son is but one example. Nehemia Peres, known as "Chemi," 49, the youngest of his three children, heads a venture capital firm called Pitango which is headquartered in one of the glass skyscrapers in Herzliya, a Tel Aviv suburb. Founded in 1993, Pitango now employs 35 people and has invested some $1.2 billion in 130 hi-tech, high-growth start-up companies owned by young Israelis at home and abroad.

"My father is not just a dreamer, he's a doer," said Chemi Peres, 49, the morning after his father's swearing in. "I've seen enough of his dreams come true--Dimona, the development of an indigenous aircraft industry, peace with Egypt and Jordan, an economy of Israeli billionaires"--not exactly the dream of Israel's founders--"in which $2 billion a year is invested each year in over 1,000 companies." And all despite the lack of peace with the Palestinians.

The elder Mr. Peres might have been elected president seven years ago, but the Knesset rejected him in favor of Moshe Katzav, a lackluster former minister from the conservative Likud Party. This was his father's most frustrating and humiliating defeat, Chemi Peres said.
But Mt. Katzav, like President Ezer Weizman before him, was forced out of office by scandal. On the day of Mr. Peres's induction, Mr. Katzav was reportedly closeted with his lawyers discussing a plea bargain in which he had acknowledged charges of forcible indecent assault and sexual harassment in lieu of graver accusations of having raped former female employees.

Some Israelis quietly fear that this presidency, too, may end in tears. Mr. Peres, who will turn 84 in August, is the oldest person ever to hold the post. He would be 91 if he completes two three-and-a-half year terms. "I'm healthy," Mr. Peres replied when I asked about this concern. "I was 12 pounds when born. I nearly killed my mother."

Most Israelis welcomed Mr. Peres's inauguration as president last week. They may be hoping he can restore to the now tarnished office dignity and honor at home, as well as its lost stature and moral authority abroad. But it says something disturbing that, despite the country's impressive prosperity and scientific achievements, there is no one younger on the political scene to play this role.

Ms. Miller, a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, is a writer based in New York.

30408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A Conversation on: July 21, 2007, 08:28:49 AM
An exchange from an email group of which I am a member.  "Scott" is Scott Grannis, noted supply side economist:

Pat is pointing out is that a house purchase triggers other consumption purchases -- furniture, appliances, and so on. The production of these consumption items creates wealth. The people who saved and then built the lumber mills, cement factories, steel factories, appliance factories, housing construction firms, and all the rest are the people we can thank for the bounty of goods available.
The people who buy houses should be exchanging the value of their production -- whatever it might be --- for the production by residential housing constructors and all the other goods makers in the chain of residential housing activity. Normally, that would be the only way to buy a house. Or, a house buyer could borrow money from somebody else who produced something of equivalent value.
Unfortunately, we have evolved a system where mortgage money is created out of thin air and the house buyer uses that new money to bid houses away from other buyers. It's true, as Scott said, that the more desirable neighborhoods can see price increases without monetary inflation -- but that would normally be accompanied by falling prices in less desirable neighborhoods. With rampant credit inflation anybody willing to borrow can move up to a more desirable neighborhood or buy that first house. The result is rising house prices almost everywhere.
By the way, buying stock on the secondary stock market adds nothing to the country's productive capacity. It adds no wealth. The secondary markets are price-discovery markets. A security's price presumably gives us the current valuation of the "factors of production" -- one key to the capitalism's effectiveness. In a socialist economy the factors of production are not privately owned and there is no way to set meaningful prices. The result is an inability, for example, to decide whether it is economically desirable to build a new factory or rejuvenate an old one  -- i.e. "economic calculation" is impossible.
Unfortunately, if a capitalistic country's price discovery mechanisms are distorted by inflation it causes analogous difficulties. Entrepreneurs look at distorted prices and make poor economic decisions. All you have to do is look at all the record breaking deals financed by debt to see that our price setting mechanisms have been distorted to some unknown degree by our ongoing credit expansion.
Tom, I'm as worried about inflation as anyone I know in the professional money management business, but I think your concerns go over the top. My inflation credentials, by the way, go back to the 4 years I lived in Argentina during the late 1970s. I lived and breathed hyperinflation for years, and I've spent many years since then studying how and why it happened. 

It is simply not true that "mortgage money is created out of thin air" as you say. If that were the case then the US money supply would be growing by staggering amounts. Instead, money supply (M1 or M2, take your pick) is growing at very modest rates that are completely consistent with low inflation (i.e., less than 6%). If you take out a mortgage to buy a house, essentially 100% of the money you receive comes out of the pocket of someone else. Almost no one buys a house these days the old-fashioned way ( i.e., from a bank), which means banks are not out there creating money thanks to the fractional reserve system. Very few banks these days are in the business of making AND HOLDING mortgages in their portfolios. Lots of banks make mortgages, but the vast majority are sold to other investors like my firm. Very few, very few hold those mortgages in their portfolios. That's the only way that money can be created out of thin air. That the money supply is growing slowly is pretty much proof of this.

I've talked about this before, but you and other Austrians are obsessed with the notion of credit bubbles and credit inflation. What you don't seem to understand is that credit expansion these days is a private sector phenomenon and has nothing to do with monetary policy or inflation. If I create a business that has a high probability of creating a future cash flow stream, I can monetize that cash flow by issuing a bond. Someone buys that bond from me with cash. That cash is not created out of thin air. It is simply existing cash that changes hands. If my new business runs aground, then my expected cash flows fail to materialize and I default on the bond. The guy who owns the bond is out of luck. No new money was created in this process. 

As for inflation, the Fed can create that by setting interest rates too low. It doesn't require money expansion, it just requires interest rates (which are the only thing the Fed attempts to control) that are too low. Low interest rates undermine the demand for money, and falling money demand results in a more rapid circulation of money, and it is rising money velocity that fuels higher prices. You can observe this process by watching the declining value of the dollar and the rising gold price, and rising prices for hard assets such as real estate and commodities. What we have now is a mild but persistent inflation that could easily last for several more years. But it's definitely not an inflation like what we saw here in the 1970s. Of course, if the dollar were to fall another 15-20% then I might change my assessment, but that remains to be seen.

And as a side note, it is perfectly legitimate for home prices to rise if interest rates fall. A home is like any asset that produces future benefits: the present value of those benefits is their discounted present value. Lower interest rates boost the value of any productive asset.

I understand your points, but let me point out a couple of things and ask some other questions. From Doug Noland's last weekly report: "M2 (narrow) "money" increased $4.5bn to a record $7.264 TN (week of 7/2).  Narrow "money" has expanded $220bn y-t-d, or 6.0% annualized, and $438bn, or 6.4%, over the past year."
Isn't a 6.4% growth rate in M2 rather significant? If it is true that the great majority of that new money goes into real estate construction or various forms of speculative finance, it seems that rate of money creation could distort the relevant prices to a huge degree -- and that is what the Austrian theory says is the cause of malinvestment and economic .
It's true, as you say, that when the banks sell off loans that action prevents those loans from adding to the M2 balances. But banks do keep some loans! Also, many mortgage backed security buyers are highly leveraged hedge funds or other leveraged speculators -- and their leverage is normally obtained from a bank. If the M2 data is correct, the net result is a "moderate" rate of monetary increase instead of a sky rocketing rate -- but 6.4% is sufficient to damage to our economy and transfer countless billions of wealth to the financial players.
When the Fed sets interest rates "too low" the inflationary mechanism, I believe, is primarily the impetuous given to credit expansion. Sure credit creation is a "private sector" phenomenon, but the private sector credit machine is coordinated and protected by the policies of the Fed and the US government. The result is absolutely bizarre behavior by people who are running multi-gazillion dollar enterprises in this industry. I am sure you saw this quote from the Citigroup CEO:
July 10 – Financial Times (Michiyo Nakamoto and David Wighton):   "Chuck Prince yesterday dismissed fears that the music was about to stop for the cheap credit-fuelled buy-out boom, declaring that Citigroup was 'still dancing'.  The Citigroup chief executive told the Financial Times that the party would end at some point but there was so much liquidity at the moment it would not be disrupted by the turmoil in the US subprime mortgage market.  He also denied that Citigroup, one of the biggest providers of finance to private equity deals, was pulling back, in spite of problems with some financings. 'When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance. We're still dancing,' he said… 'The depth of the pools of liquidity is so much larger than it used to be that a disruptive event now needs to be much more disruptive than it used to be.   At some point, the disruptive event will be so significant that instead of liquidity filling in, the liquidity will go the other way. I don't think we're at that point.'"
The Austrian-School economists seem to be obsessed with inflation and credit expansions because their theory tells them that these are the mechanisms that lead directly to boom/bust cycles. The theory very explicitly explains why these consequences pertain, and I have yet to see anyone in the mainstream debunk this explanation. If you know of such a paper, I would love to see it.


In the past year M2 has grown 6.2%; in the past two years 5.5% (annualized); in the past three years 4.9% (annualized).

During the period in which U.S. inflation slowed from double digits (1980) to just 1% (mid 2002), M2 grew at a 6.0% annualized pace. During that same period, nominal GDP grew at a 6.3% pace and real GDP grew at a 3.0% pace (which is exactly the expected long-run growth rate of the economy). Money thus shrunk a bit relative to the size of the economy. The Fed was fighting inflation, and it worked, and it didn't kill or threaten the economy.

With M2 currently growing around 6% or a bit less (M1 hasn't grown at all for over two years, MZM is up at a 6.0% pace over the past two years), needless to say it's hard to make the case that rapid money growth is threatening higher inflation, at least based on the historical evidence. Current growth rates of money are entirely consistent with low inflation and a normal expansion of the economy.

If we are to have rising inflation with 6% M2 growth, we will need a rising velocity of money. There is indeed evidence of this, and it is the case that inflation has risen, albeit moderately, in the past three years--from a low of 1% to today's 2.5-3%.

Higher inflation coming on the heels of very low inflation, and perhaps even some deflation in the late 1990s and early 2000s, could well have stimulated the demand for real assets such as homes and gold and commodities. Lower interest rates, a by-product of collapsing inflation, were also responsible for stimulating the demand for housing.

Contrary to popular belief (and this is indeed heretical even among economists), declining inflation stimulates the demand for money and slows money velocity. Rising inflation tends to do the opposite. People don't want to hold a lot of money when prices are rising. So M2 growth tends to be slow when inflation is rising, and fast when inflation is falling. So just observing the growth of M2 tells you little about what the Fed is doing, or whether money growth is inflationary. Indeed, it is entirely possible that rapid credit and money expansion could occur alongside low and stable inflation. That is what we saw, in fact in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In any event, let's stipulate that there is a huge expansion of credit in the private sector, and that easy access to credit has fueled a housing boom. If the Fed is doing its job and keeping inflation low, that housing boom will not have very long legs. If prices rise too much they will eventually fall. Lenders will lose a bundle, there will be lots of foreclosures, etc. Sound familiar?

30409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 21, 2007, 08:19:23 AM

Afghanistan: A Possible Move by a Political Survivor
Reuters, citing Afghan television, reported July 19 that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Afghan insurgent group Hizb-i-Islami, has issued a signed statement saying his group will cease fighting U.S., NATO and Afghan government forces, and that it will resume political activities. If the statement is true -- and not one invented by the Afghan government and foreign agents, as a purported spokesman for Hekmatyar later claimed -- it indicates Hekmatyar is changing sides -- again. Given the beating his Taliban and al Qaeda allies have been taking at the hands of U.S. and NATO forces, Hekmatyar could be trying to cut his losses and maneuver himself into a more advantageous position on Afghanistan's political scene.

It does seem unusual for Hekmatyar to announce a major shift in his strategy and allegiance in a written statement. In May 2006, when he declared his allegiance to the Taliban and al Qaeda, he did so in a videotaped message. Furthermore, Hekmatyar's latest position seems out of context given his recent condemnation of the United States and its allies. On July 12, via a purported spokesman, he strongly condemned the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque by Pakistani security forces, calling it part of a "crusader war" against Muslims by U.S. President George W. Bush and his allies. Hekmatyar, a northerner from Kunduz province, also called for a revolt against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Furthermore, rumors of changing alliances are often floated by both sides in Afghanistan in an effort to keep each other off balance. These factors, however, do not necessarily mean that Hekmatyar's cease-fire statement is bogus. He rarely appears in public or issues statements using the Internet or other media. In addition, as a Sunni militant leader, Hekmatyar would have to have gone on record as condemning the Red Mosque siege in order to maintain his credentials and legitimacy.

In recent months, the Taliban and their allies have been unable to dictate the tempo of combat in Afghanistan as they did in 2006, when NATO troops new to the country took over from more experienced U.S. units. Since then, NATO -- particularly the Britons and Canadians in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces -- has had more success at preventing insurgent attacks and destroying large Taliban formations. In response to this, the Taliban and their allies have been adopting tactics such as suicide bombings and assassination attempts, rather than traditional Afghan methods of fighting.

Hekmatyar has always been a survivor. He has been a military and political figure in Afghanistan since before the 1979 Soviet invasion, which is no small achievement. Shifting allegiances has been one of his main methods of staying alive in the region's tumultuous political and militant environment. Over the years, he has sought refuge in Pakistan and Iran when various Afghan governments have hunted him. He also has been a CIA asset, has fought with and then against Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud before the Taliban came to power, and has fought against the Taliban. Before this latest statement, his most recent shift in allegiance occurred when the Taliban and al Qaeda were increasing attacks against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces, and Hekmatyar was trying to take advantage of the situation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been trying to reach out to the various insurgent factions in Afghanistan in an effort to divide them. Indeed, Hekmatyar apparently has been considering ending his alliance with the Taliban for some time.

Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami group, which operates on the Afghan-Pakistani border, is a minor player among Afghan militias and militant groups. Over the years, it has lost many leaders and members as a result of combat, shifting alliances and desertions. For Hekmatyar to remain a viable player among Afghanistan's factions, he has to use his political -- rather than his military -- weight.

If Hekmatyar believes the insurgency is going badly at the moment, it would not be surprising to see him try to better position himself on the Afghan political scene -- and declaring a cease-fire would be one way to go about it. In doing so, Hekmatyar would be giving Karzai little, since his group is not a major player. Given Karzai's beleaguered position, however, any apparent defection from the insurgency is a welcome development.

For an insurgency like the Taliban's to win, it just has to survive. The current military situation in Afghanistan is certainly subject to change, and could be altered by a single dramatic event. However, to survive for as long as he has in Afghan politics, Hekmatyar has to think and move in the short term, rather than the long term.
30410  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Growing Opposition and Chavez's "Reform" Plan on: July 21, 2007, 08:13:06 AM

Venezuela: A Growing Opposition and Chavez's Reform Plan

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will attempt to alter Venezuela's constitution without convoking a constituent assembly. The combination of a rising student movement in Venezuela and increasing antagonism between Chavez's government and the Roman Catholic Church could re-energize the opposition movement -- but probably is not powerful enough to challenge Chavez's plan.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decided that his constitutional reform plan should be introduced through amendments by the sitting National Assembly rather than through the convocation of a constituent assembly. Chavez's proposed revisions include an elimination of presidential term limits, and the empowerment of new community councils, as well as unspecified changes to make Venezuela more "socialist."

This new approach to constitutional change could unwittingly galvanize a more energetic opposition movement inspired by two freshly motivated groups: university students and the Roman Catholic Church. Venezuela's opposition movement has been extremely weak and ineffective since the failed coup attempt in 2002, but this could begin to change.

Venezuela's current constitution stipulates that changes that do not modify the fundamental principles and structure of the document can be made via amendments in the National Assembly, while a more serious alteration of the constitution must occur through a constituent assembly. Chavez wants to use the National Assembly to make his reforms because the legislature is full of Chavez loyalists, since the opposition boycotted the last congressional elections. Chavez apparently is worried that if he submits to a constituent assembly, the 39 percent of voters who voted against him in last year's presidential election -- plus voters newly disenchanted by the revocation of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV)'s license -- could muster enough delegates to challenge his plan.

Even if the changes do go to the National Assembly instead of to a constituent assembly, they ultimately must be approved by majority vote in a popular referendum. If Chavez attempts to bypass this referendum process, he likely will encounter large-scale protests. If he allows the referendum to proceed, his agenda is likely to pass but the results could be closer than those of the last presidential election.

If Venezuela's student movement and the Catholic Church can consolidate, they could argue that Chavez's proposed changes are too fundamental to go through the amendment process, and that Chavez's approach to constitutional change is undemocratic. This argument is unlikely to find support in the courts, so the appeal will have to be made directly to the public. Chavez will then either have to crack down visibly on peaceful opposition groups or risk allowing them to build up strength before the referendum. Whether the government's reaction will create more sympathizers for the opposition remains to be seen. For their part, the opposition groups will demonstrate how well organized they can become and whether they can appeal to the lower classes.

Venezuela's student opposition emerged during the RCTV incident in late May and continued marching in the street for weeks. The movement mostly claimed to march in favor of freedom of the press rather than any larger ideological agenda. Douglas Barrios, a student leader from the Metropolitan University in Caracas, even delivered a prepared speech to the National Assembly on behalf of the various student groups. Chavez responded by accusing the groups of being patsies for U.S. attempts to destabilize his regime with a "soft coup."

The student groups are adopting a wider agenda, organizing demonstrations July 20-22 to protest the high crime rates in Caracas. Whether or not this approach appeals to a larger section of the population (demonstrations generally attract dozens to hundreds, and not more than 5,000 at a time), the student movement appears to be here to stay.

The Venezuelan opposition's largest challenge is attracting substantial support from Venezuela's majority poor population. The university students are accused of representing an "elite" which is out of touch with Venezuela's revolution and funded by U.S. interests. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, might have the kind of credibility necessary to break through such arguments.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan Bishops' Conference Chair Monsignor Ubaldo Santana voiced concerns about Venezuela's proposed constitutional reform. In response, Chavez called the bishops "perverts, liars and deceivers." Chavez accused the Catholic leadership of failing to represent the "revolutionary" vision of Jesus Christ to help the poor, while saying there are still many good Catholic priests out there who do represent that vision.

Chavez is implying that Catholic leaders at the local level will not be unified in opposition to his constitutional plans. He is likely correct about this, and the Catholic Church is also far less of a social power than it was in the Latin American world just two decades ago. However, if the bishops can pull together leaders who still have strong connections to their communities and link to the student groups and other opposition movements, there could be a bond strong enough to seriously challenge Chavez's plans.

Chavez is reaching a tipping point in his consolidation of power. He is no longer able to proceed without developing an antagonistic relationship toward interest groups that stand for something other than the "bourgeois elite." It is likely too late for opposition groups to stop his bid to achieve a constitution that allows him to govern indefinitely. However, as Chavez pursues his new socialist government structure, he will increasingly resort to authoritarian measures to punish and discredit opposition groups, further darkening his reputation abroad.

30411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 20, 2007, 10:33:55 PM
30412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survival issues outside the home on: July 20, 2007, 09:17:50 PM
Five Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

by Melanie Schwear, Jul 14, 2007
There are attractive garden plants that repel mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are horrible creatures that swarm around you and suck your blood. They cause itchy rashes and can carry disease.

The most common way of repelling or getting rid of mosquitoes involves spraying a large quantity of poisonous chemicals in your yard and on yourself. If you are interested in a more natural approach, consider these plants that repel mosquitoes.
Citronella Grass

Citronella grass is, of course, where companies get the citronella oil. This oil is put in candles and lanterns that can be burned in your yard to repel mosquitoes. Citronella grass is actually a tropic plant that grows to be six feet tall, so it might not be practical in the average suburban backyard.

Catnip is an herb that is most commonly used to stuff in toys or feed to cats for their enjoyment. However, the oil from this plant has actually been found to be more than ten times better at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. Planting this plant near your patio or deck will help repel mosquitoes.

This garden herb also has an oil that repels mosquitoes. While they are attractive plants that both repel mosquitoes and can add interest to your cooking, they are truly tropical plants that are not hardy in cold climates. You can, however, grow rosemary in a pot and take it inside in the winter.

Marigolds have a particular smell that many insects and humans find objectionable. They are a good plant for repelling mosquitoes as well as insects that can attack vegetable plants and aphids. Marigolds are annuals with bright flowers that range from lemon yellow to dark oranges and reds.
Mosquito Plants

There are actually plants on the market that are simply called Mosquito plants. They are advertised as a plant that repels mosquitoes. There are different schools of thoughts on these plants. Some say they do nothing to repel mosquitoes, while other swear by them. More often than not, you can only find them through mail order and internet sales.

While all these plants repel mosquitoes in your yard, you can also make all-natural mosquito repellent from them. Simply crush the leaves or flowers to release the oils and put them in a quantity of alcohol or vodka. Once the mosquito repellent oils have infused the liquid, you can use it just as you would one of the more harmful chemical repellents.

Planting these plants that repel mosquitoes is a great choice for your yard. Not only is it an earth-friendly way of dealing with these pests, it will add beauty to your gardens, and will not jeopardize your health. These five plants that repel mosquitoes are great choices.

Wonder what else there might be, either in preparation and help day-to-day, or after in the longer term when the store's closed and Health Department can't spray for a while.
30413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 20, 2007, 07:40:16 PM

Hey, its your asssertion-- if you can't be bothered to do the leg work neither can I. rolleyes
30414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 20, 2007, 07:37:53 PM
1) My point is to challenge the 500,000 number and assert the 100,000 number.  IMO Albright's brain fart on this point has greatly damaged the reputation of the US because she stupidly agreed to US ownership of the embargo, when it was a UN embargo pushed by nefarious interests (including fellow Muslim countries) and aceded to by the US.  Naturally in that she was the US Secy of State, great weight was given to her words in the Arab/Muslim world precisely because it spoke deeply of poor values/poor thinking-- and just as naturally here in the US her words promptly went down the memory hole.

2) As for casulaties in the War itself, for the numbers you give please give citations for the Lancet (over which IIRC we have already jousted on the Ass'n forum) and "the British government" so stating?

3)  As for which thread for GM's theory of the war, lets take it to the "WW3" thread.
30415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 20, 2007, 07:22:00 PM
May I suggest that it would be a more precise formulation to say that we need to allow Islam to reforrm itself-- which can only be accomplished by sane Muslims if we defend ourselves from the insane ones?
30416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 20, 2007, 07:18:52 PM
Its a long thread.  Since you know what you're looking for, would you be so kind as to give the post number within the thread?  Thank you.
30417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 20, 2007, 07:09:17 PM
Good idea!

So, will we be hearing from you in response to GM's question:  "Want to cite some examples of "harrassment" of Muslim groups by college Republicans?" ?
30418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 20, 2007, 07:06:37 PM
Just briefly chiming in here.  IIRC In yet another lapse of clarity and testicular fortiude, by accepting the premise of an interviewers question, Half-bright aceded to an assertion of 500,000.

As you and I have discussed on the DBMA Ass'n forum, there is no particular basis for this number.  The only article I have seen that seemed to genuinely and seriously assess the human cost of the UNITED NATIONS embargo was in Reason magazine several years ago.  As some of us know, Reason is a libertarian oriented publication and as such the majority of its editors and readers feel quite comfortable with Ron Paul type analysis.  In other words, there is nothing in the filters through which the magazine view the world that would prevent it from finding/agreeing with very high numbers.

Instead, after concluding that NO ONE really could have a clue, the article's best guestimate was about 100,000-- unlike your assertion of children only, this number simply was of civilians.

This is still a horrendous number, but to whom should we give credit?

*The United Nations-- whose embargo it was and whose leashing of the US when it could have finished off Saddam in the Gulf War necessitated the embargo;

* Oil competitors like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Empire who made more money due to the overall decrease in world-wide oil supplies;

*Those who benefited from the corruption of the Oil for Food program-- particularly France, the Soviet Empire and the UN bureaucracy itself all the way up to the Secretary General himself.

Lets wrap this point up and return to the subject of this thread: Media-- yes?
30419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 20, 2007, 12:29:41 PM

 July 19, 2007 -- DEMOCRATS on Capitol Hill have complained for years that the White House "cherry-picks" intelligence. Yesterday, that's exactly what the Dems did themselves with the just-declassified summary of a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.
While preparing for their congressional pajama party Tuesday night (D.C. escort services reportedly had a slow evening), the Dems showed once again that, as wretched as the Bush administration can be, it remains a safer bet in the Age of Terror.

The Dems want to have it both ways. They claim we're not fighting al Qaeda. Then they insist we abandon Iraq to al Qaeda.

And, as a capper, no leading Democrat praised our military when it was revealed yesterday that we captured the senior Iraqi in al Qaeda, Khaled al-Mashhadani. Wouldn't want any good news reaching the voters . . .

The intelligence report in question said, in essence, that, after the devastating blow we struck against al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the terrorists have regained some strength in their safe haven on Pakistan's Northwest Frontier. It doesn't say that al Qaeda is stronger than ever - although that's what the Dems imply.

In 2001, al Qaeda had a country of its own. Today, it survives in isolated compounds. And guess which "veteran warrior" wants to go get them?

Sen. Barack Obama. Far too important to ever serve in the military himself, Obama thinks we should invade Pakistan.

Go for it, Big Guy. Of course, we'll have to reintroduce the draft to find enough troops. And we'll need to kill, at a minimum, a few hundred thousand tribesmen and their families. We'll need to occupy the miserable place indefinitely.

Oh, and Pakistan's a nuclear power already teetering on the edge of chaos.

Barack Obama, strategist and military expert. Who knew?

Not that the problem in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas isn't serious. We should be hitting high-value targets there from the air and employing special operations forces - despite the consequences for the Musharraf government. (Or maybe we could just send in Obama Girl? She'd look hot in a burqa.)

Field Marshall Obama's fire-for-effect belligerence underscores the sad truth that the Dems are perfectly willing to squander the lives of our troops. They just don't want any casualties that might lead to positive results before the 2008 election.

So what's the truth about terrorism? Is the threat worse today than it was in 2001? Why can't we get Osama? Why do the terrorists keep coming?

(We'll skip the embarrassing-for-the-Democrats question about why the terrorists have been unable to strike our country since 9/11.)

Islamist terrorism is about the catastrophic, self-inflicted failure of the Muslim world of the greater Middle East. It's their bad, not ours. They're humiliated, jealous, hateful, stunningly incompetent - and angry about it. And the situation isn't about to change.

We'll face Islamist terror for decades to come. Although only the military can lead this fight, terrorism is like crime in the sense that we'll never eliminate it entirely. But (also as with crime) that doesn't mean it isn't worth reducing terrorism as much as we can.

Does the fact that rapes still occur mean that we should stop arresting rapists? Does our failure to stop all murder mean we should let murderers run wild? Of course not. You nail every criminal you can and make the world safer. But it will never be perfectly safe.

Same with terror.

We have to fight Islamist terrorists tenaciously. And for all its appalling faults, the administration has done a good job on that count. The proof is that we haven't seen 9/11, Act II.

Oh, we will be struck again. It's inevitable. No matter how good you are, the enemy gets in a lick now and then. But an eventual terrorist success won't mean it wasn't worth interdicting all of the other terrorist plots leading up to it.

Every day we live in safety is a win for the good guys.

What about getting bin Laden? Finding a single individual among 6 billion human beings is tough. Look how long it took us to find the Unabomber right here at home (and he didn't have a fanatical protection network). And we only busted him when his own brother turned him in. Still, I'm confident that, one day, we'll see Osama's corpse. And I hope that the Soldier or Marine who kills him has the rocks to plant an American flag in his eye-socket.

Meanwhile, we're killing al Qaeda members (mostly Saudis, thanks) in droves in Iraq. That's a good thing, folks. But the Dems want to call it off: They'd allow a defeated al Qaeda to rebound and declare a strategic victory.

Want to help the terrorists find a new wave of recruits? Give them a win in Iraq.

Bush has gotten plenty wrong. But at least the guy fights. Unlike the Clinton administration - which did all it could to avoid taking serious action against the terrorists as they struck us again and again around the world.

The 9/11 attacks were the culmination of the Clinton presidency. Do we really want to go back there?

If the Dems have a workable plan to put a permanent end to Islamist terror, let's hear it. Prove me wrong. But if they haven't got a serious plan, they need to shut up and help.

Wouldn't it be great if members of Congress - from both parties - could put our country and the safety of its citizens ahead of shabby politicking?

They lie, you die.
30420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excrement heading towards the fan on: July 20, 2007, 07:22:36 AM
Interesting piece GM. 

Here's this from Stratfor:

Geopolitical Diary: Pakistan on the Table, Germany on the Rise

Frances Townsend, Homeland Security adviser to U.S. President George W. Bush, said on Thursday that the United States would be willing to send troops into Pakistan to root out al Qaeda, noting specifically that "no option is off the table if that is what is required." Just in case Islamabad -- or al Qaeda -- missed Townsend's statement, White House spokesman Tony Snow paraphrased it shortly afterward.

While the statements are hardly a declaration of war, one can be positive that Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is going to need a nightcap to get to sleep. It is not every day that the global superpower ruminates that invading your country is an option "not off the table."

Townsend and Snow are hinting at an operation that has been six years in the making. There never really has been any doubt that al Qaeda sought refuge in northwest Pakistan after fleeing the United States' November 2001 assault on Afghanistan. But the absolute necessity of maintaining Pakistan as an ally has stayed Washington's hand (aside from nearly continuous small-scale border raids against targets of opportunity). Rooting out al Qaeda from the tribes that shield it would require a thousands-strong force, ideally with Pakistani cooperation. Until now, the dominant belief in Washington has been that such an operation would lead to a Pakistani rebellion and the consequent overthrow of the Musharraf government. Ergo, the attack has not happened.

But now two things have changed. First, Islamic radicals of the Red Mosque -- whom Pakistani security forces raided July 12 -- have tripped public anger. Out of a mixture of necessity and opportunism, Musharraf is now moving in force against Pakistani's long-ignored jihadist circles.

Until now, the jihadists have been quiet in Pakistan because that is where they recruit, train and fundraise. Now that the state is closing in on them, the suicide bombs have started going off in earnest, with more than 50 dead just on Thursday and more than 200 since the wave of explosions began. The conflict is going to be a bloody one no matter how it goes -- not only does Musharraf need to battle a desperate, experienced force with few places to retreat to, but many within his intelligence services actually are pro-jihadist. The purge and the fighting could well happen simultaneously.

The second big change is that Washington is becoming convinced Musharraf is on his last legs -- and that if his government is going to implode anyway, the United States might as well go in and get al Qaeda. From Washington's viewpoint, if statements alone are sufficient to get the good general to dispose of the jihadists on his own, fanbloodytastic. If not, then the United States has thousands of troops just across the border in Afghanistan available for the job.

Not that this would be easy, of course. As Snow noted, "You don't blithely go into another nation and conduct operations," and this is more than just an issue of politeness. NATO's Afghan operation, as it is now, would be flatly impossible without the supply lines that snake through Pakistan. And if the United States had reliable intelligence as to exactly where al Qaeda's apex leadership was, a grossly excessive tonnage of GPS-guided ordnance would have been dropped on that location ages ago. That means the United States would have to go in with ground forces, and go in big -- and immediately upon arrival, they would be hit from all sides: the Afghan Taliban, and the Pakistani jihadists, the Pakistani public, and even the military.

Situation Reports

1145 GMT -- AFGHANISTAN -- Taliban insurgents kidnapped 23 South Korean Christian volunteers from a bus traveling from the Afghan capital of Kabul to Kandahar late July 19, an Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said July 20. The incident happened in Ghazni province, 110 miles south of Kabul. A Taliban spokesman said the group kidnapped only 18 South Koreans, though he did not outline the group's demands. Two Germans were abducted in Afghanistan on July 18 and the Taliban demanded the pullout of German forces.

1127 -- PAKISTAN -- Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled July 20 that the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was illegal, GEO television reported. The 13-member court ruled 10-3 against the suspension. Chaudhry, who was suspended March 9, is to be reinstated. The government had accused him of obtaining a series of promotions for his son and of assembling a fleet of cars and demanding the use of planes he was not entitled to. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf announced plans to chair a high-level emergency meeting to discuss the growing jihadist violence in the country and the court's decision.
30421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul in 2002 on: July 20, 2007, 06:49:56 AM
Notes the dates of this interview with RP:
30422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: July 20, 2007, 06:22:03 AM
From Anti-CAIR:

PART TWO of the Atlas Shrugs Radio Show interview (excerpts) with Anti-CAIR's Defense Attorney, Reed Rubinstein.
Discussion of how certain MEDIA directly avoids and hides CAIR's terror-ties, the cost of defending defamation lawsuits, and additional information on CAIR's history.

30423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / State Sponsors of Jihadism on: July 20, 2007, 06:20:24 AM

State Sponsors of Jihadism: Learning the Hard Way
By Kamran Bokhari

In the short period of time since some Muslim states began to employ jihadists to further their domestic and foreign policy objectives -- in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- none of these states has been able to quit the relationship and remain unscathed. For various reasons, the once-symbiotic relationships between the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and their jihadist proxies have turned adversarial, while in Syria's case the storm is brewing. In essence, the jihadists have come back to bite the hand that fed them.

An examination of the development of these relationships reveals a similar path. The security and intelligence apparatuses in each of these countries played the lead role in supporting these militant Islamist entities -- in some cases even helping to create them. Over time, these intelligence agencies developed a considerable degree of influence among such groups, though the groups enjoyed significant influence within the security establishment as well.

For domestic reasons, most of these governments aligned themselves with religious extremist forces to consolidate their power and counter challenges from mainstream opposition forces. But more important, the alignment served to further the geopolitical objectives of the state in its region. In the beginning, such relationships tended to go well -- until the state ceased to have a major use for the jihadist group or the group became too powerful to manage.

Normally, despite the ups and downs in the relationship between a country and its allied terrorist entity, the state maintains the upper hand. This is because, although their ideology and interests differ from those of the state, the jihadist groups depend on the state for their survival and prosperity.

The Afghanistan Legacy

Such equilibrium, however, exists as long as the affair remains limited to a one-on-one relationship between the state and its proxy, or only one or two neighboring states get involved. Over time, however, the explosive cocktail of religion and geopolitics has allowed Islamist militant nonstate actors to seek help from other like-minded groups outside their areas of operation, which has helped them consolidate their positions at home.

It all began with the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported Islamist rebels fighting the Moscow-backed Marxist stratocracy in Kabul.

For its part, Washington provided weapons and training to the insurgents it called "freedom fighters," while Riyadh funneled money to them and Islamabad provided logistical assistance. Moreover, these countries made a concerted effort to unite a broad range of Islamist groups. In the process, these groups -- which until then had limited horizons -- got their first real taste of transnationalism. Not only did the decade-long Afghan experience connect the groups, it also laid the foundation for a transnational network -- one that later emerged as a global jihadist network, with al Qaeda as its vanguard.

Although by empowering the jihadists the Afghan venture altered the nature of the relationship between Muslim states and their nonstate proxies, many states continued to do business with their proxies. Even U.S.-led international pressure on countries -- mostly Muslim ones -- to abandon their sponsorship of terrorist entities was not serious enough to force the states to shut down these operations.

The Saudis continued to bankroll Arab legions fighting in Central Asia, South Asia, the Far East, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Pakistan continued to back the Afghan and Pakistani militant Islamist groups, with an eye on securing the now-infamous objective of "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. Islamabad also aimed to counter Indian military superiority by backing Kashmiri separatist groups. Yemen sought the help of jihadist forces to defeat Marxists in the 1994 civil war.

Meanwhile, the 1991 Persian Gulf War played a key role in creating friction between many of these states and their jihadist proxies. The falling out between Osama bin Laden and the Saudi royal family is a classic case. Jihadist groups by then had gained sufficient strength to begin asserting their autonomy, especially in areas where their ideologies and objectives clashed with those of their state patrons.

The evolving relationship between Islamist groups and Muslim states also had a direct impact on the domestic sociopolitical conditions in the concerned countries, which led to the rise of religious conservatives, radical Islamists and other extremist forces. A situation developed in which the very religious ideology the ruling elites had used to consolidate their hold on power was beginning to undercut the state. Because the Islamist militants did not completely turn against the state, however, the situation remained tenable.

The Watershed

Then came 9/11.

The attacks against the United States completely altered the global geopolitical landscape and forced governments in Islamabad, Riyadh, Sanaa and elsewhere to act against their jihadist allies. In the beginning, these Muslim governments tried to make do by simply convincing the Islamist groups to lie low. Some complied, though many others did not -- because by then they had established autonomous operating environments and, more important, they had been emboldened by al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks.

The state patrons, then, were finding that many of their former proxies were going rogue, and that a realignment of the jihadist universe was taking place. Whereas many jihadist groups and factions in the past had "special" relationships with the state, they now found an ally in al Qaeda and its band of transnational jihadists. This pursuit of transnational objectives brought the jihadists in direct confrontation with states whose past relationships with the jihadists were motivated by national interest. The jihadists, in other words, represented no more than instruments through which governments could pursue their goals. Over time, especially during the period following the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies, these Muslim governments increased the pressure on the jihadists.

That said, the break between the jihadists and their patron governments was neither quick nor absolute, which explains why it took some time before the jihadists redirected their actions against the states that were responsible for their initial rise. Despite their growing distaste for their former patrons, the jihadists still needed to maintain operational links with their contacts inside the states' security and intelligence networks.

In many cases, intelligence operatives and security officers who had managed the jihadist groups sympathized with the newly shunned nonstate actors, giving the jihadists significant access to resources that helped them continue to operate -- even under the global counterjihadist regime being imposed by the United States. Although some of these officials were purged and others were transferred, still others managed to balance their official duties with their sympathies to the jihadists. The Pakistani intelligence directorates, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), continues to be plagued by this problem, which would explain the jihadists ease in staging attacks against Pakistani security forces since the Musharraf government began operations against Islamist militant interests in the country's northwest.

Even though the official policy in these states now is based on the conviction that Islamist extremists and terrorists represent a grave national security threat -- and the governments are mobilizing resources to counter the threat -- to varying degrees, the jihadists have sufficiently penetrated the state systems to the point that they still can conduct business.

The fatal mistake governments make is that they try to distinguish between "good" and "bad" jihadists. For the Pakistanis, the Taliban in Afghanistan constitute a resistance movement, though they want the Taliban operating in Pakistan wiped out. Similarly, the Yemenis hunt down some al Qaeda-linked jihadists, but not those who form a crucial support base for the government of President Ali Abdallah Saleh or those who make up an integral part of Yemen's intelligence services. In the same way, the Saudis have undertaken a massive counterjihadist effort in the kingdom, though they still support jihadists in Iraq as a means of containing the rise of the Shia there -- and, by extension, Iran.

However, maintaining an ambivalent policy toward jihadism, while tempting, can be deadly. From a policy point of view, it is easy to box jihadists into the neat categories of good and bad. In reality, however, the jihadist goal is to overthrow secular governments and establish Islamist states, which is why these states cannot hope to do business with jihadists and expect to maintain internal security and stability. Of course, different governments faced with varying domestic and foreign policy circumstances will have different levels of success.

The Unique Situations

Despite having the social, political and economic environment that is most conducive to jihadist activity, Saudi Arabia has been the most successful in combating jihadism. In an effort to undercut the Islamist militants, the kingdom's General Intelligence Directorate has skillfully made use of the same religious, tribal and financial channels that the jihadists use to stage attacks. It is not surprising, then, that the Saudis have been ahead of the curve since June 2004 and have managed to thwart attacks and launch successful pre-emptive strikes against jihadist personnel and infrastructure.
Since the beginning of the jihadist insurgency in the country, Riyadh's security forces have eliminated some half-dozen successive commanders of the kingdom's al Qaeda node. Much of the Saudi success can be attributed to the government's handle on the various cross sections of society. Moreover, the Saudis have had sufficient experience in dealing with rogue Islamist militants.

The kingdom's founder, King Abdel-Aziz bin Abdel-Rehman, successfully quashed the Ikhwan movement (not to be confused with the Muslim Brotherhood) when it began to threaten the interests of the state. The militant Wahhabi movement played a major role in King Abdel-Aziz's attempts to conquer most of modern-day Saudi Arabia in the early 1900s. But when the group wanted to expand its operations into Iraq (then under British control) -- a move that threatened the interest of the king's British allies -- and when it wanted to impose its own brand of Islamic law in the kingdom, King Abdel-Aziz had its members annihilated. Many decades later, in 1979, when the Kaba in Mecca was taken over by a militant Wahhabi group led by Juhayman al-Utaibi, the Saudis were again able to act against the group, even storming the Kaba to flush out the militants.

The situation in Yemen is not that bad either. Like Saudi Arabia, attacks still continue -- most recently against energy-related targets -- but what has helped the Yemenis is that a significant population in the country is Zaydi, an offshoot of the Shiite sect of Islam. Additionally, the Yemeni government is not supporting jihadists for foreign policy purposes, but to ensure domestic political stability. Thus, the jihadists do not engage in active combat. Nevertheless, the country sits on the crossroad of four major jihadist theaters -- Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Somalia and Saudi Arabia -- and the transnational elements from each arena could link up with the locals to create problems for Sanaa in the future.

By far, the most serious threat is that faced by Pakistan. There, the historic mullah-military alliance has fallen apart in recent months. In fact, in the wake of the operation against Islamabad's Red Mosque, the jihadists have taken off the gloves and declared war against the Pakistani state. While successive governments dating back to the country's creation in 1947 have used religious groups and the ulema class to standardize Pakistan's nationalism as one rooted in Islam, the 11-year rule (1977-88) of former military dictator President Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq played a crucial role in creating the Islamist Frankenstein. Though many governments before and after Zia flirted with Islamist actors to pursue foreign policy objectives, it was the Zia regime that empowered Islamists and mullahs at home.

In many ways, the current polarization of Pakistani society is the logical culmination of two competing views of the Pakistani state. Throughout their country's nearly 60-year history as a nation-state, Pakistanis have struggled over whether Pakistan was created to be an "Islamic" polity in which its majority Muslim population could live in accordance with its cultural norms as codified by state law, or whether its founders envisioned Pakistan as a secular state in which the Muslims of British India could safeguard their economic interests.

This situation continues to force the state's hand, and the government is attempting to gain control over the jihadists who are striking at the very security forces that nurtured them in the past. Therefore, given the magnitude of the problem, it is not surprising to see that many Pakistanis are beginning to wonder about the future survivability of their country. Pakistan is unlikely to become a failed state as a result of the social chaos and the weakening of the military-dominated establishment, but the country is headed for serious trouble. However, it is too soon to say whether Pakistan will face a situation like Algeria did in the 1990s, when some 200,000 people died before the government could contain the Islamist insurgency there, or whether it will encounter a more benign insurgency, like that in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s.

Another state that has recently begun using jihadist elements to pursue its foreign policy objectives is Syria. The government not only has allowed jihadists to use Syrian territory as a conduit to Iraq, but also has in recent months redirected some of that traffic toward Lebanon in a bid to regain control of its smaller neighbor -- control it lost in the storm that erupted after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Syria in the 1970s became the first Arab state to face a serious challenge from homegrown jihadists, which is why former President Hafez al Assad decided to strike hard at Islamist forces in 1982 -- an act that led to the killing of tens of thousands of people. The senior al Assad was motivated by the fact that his Alawite-Baathist regime was a minority government in a country where 85 percent of the population was Sunni. His son, President Bashar al Assad, however, is ignoring that statistic and is participating in a dangerous game of backing jihadists in Iraq and Lebanon. It will not be long before these same forces begin to threaten domestic security and stability in Syria, especially with Iraq exploding.

States that have exploited jihadists to further their own interests have derived some short-term benefits, but in the long run, these groups have come back to haunt their former sponsors -- in some cases even threatening the security and stability of the state. In either creating or supporting these groups, the states tend to forget that their proxies will have their own agendas. Given their ideology and transnational links, jihadists groups have proven to be the most deadly proxies.
30424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Energy issues on: July 20, 2007, 05:41:29 AM
Pond scum to jet fuel?

 On A Wing And... Pond Scum?
NZ Company Develops Process To Make Fuel From Algae
A New Zealand company whose beginnings lie in treating excess algae on sewage ponds has reportedly developed a technology to harvest that algae, and extracts the fatty lipids that can be used for fuel.

New Zealand's Independent Financial Review reports Boeing and Air New Zealand are secretly working with Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation, a Blenheim-based biofuel developer, to come up with an environmentally friendly aviation fuel made from wild algae.

The biofuel is made from bacterial pond scum that is created through photosynthesis of sunlight and carbon dioxide on sources such as sewage ponds. Marlborough local media said Boeing paid a visit to Aquaflow earlier this year.

The planemaker has publicly put its support behind biofuel development.

As ANN reported, Boeing has entered into a partnership with Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson to develop a bio-fuel for jet engines... and both parties believe they can fly a 747 with one engine running on biofuel as early as next year.

"The positive effects of biofuel will hopefully reduce or almost get rid of the airlines' contribution to global warming," said Branson.

Branson met with NZ Environment Minister David Parker in January to discuss biofuels in general, including Aquaflow's new technology for wild algae. Up until now, the company has concerned itself with biodiesel for land and marine vehicles.

Dave Daggett, technology leader for energy and emissions at Boeing Commercial Airplanes Product Development, was reported as saying algae ponds totaling 34,000 square kilometers could produce enough fuel to reduce the net aviation CO2 footprint for to zero.

Air New Zealand is reportedly conducting the risk analysis and will provide a test aircraft.

Aquaflow Director Vicki Buck declined to talk specifics, but did say the company now has a major international shareholder and a $5 million capital-raising had been successful.

The paper also reports none of the other entities involved will confirm, deny or comment, either... citing confidentiality agreement issues... but adds there were rumors of the collaborative effort at Boeing's 787 Dreamliner rollout last week.

30425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 19, 2007, 10:22:50 AM
ISRAEL/SYRIA: Israeli President Shimon Peres called for direct peace talks with Syria, saying the leaders of both countries should meet as a symbolic gesture of "mutual recognition." The statement comes after it was revealed that Israel has been passing messages to Syria secretly via Turkish envoys since February. Syrian President Bashar al Assad said July 17 that Syria would be open to talks if Israel promised to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
30426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 19, 2007, 09:54:00 AM

'Slow-Motion Tantrum'
A ruling so silly, the dissenting judge didn't even bother read it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

(Editor's note: Dennis Jacobs is chief judge of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This is his opinion, concurring in part and dissenting in part, in Husain v. Springer, which the court decided last Friday. The entire opinion is available here.)

I concur in the majority's result insofar as it affirms the dismissal of some claims, but I dissent insofar as it reverses the grant of qualified immunity.

I concede that this short opinion of mine does not consider or take into account the majority opinion. So I should disclose at the outset that I have not read it. I suppose this is unusual, so I explain why.

The majority has fulfilled its responsibility to explain at some length its vacatur of a part of the district court's judgment. But this is not a case that should occupy the mind of a person who has anything consequential to do. In a nutshell, the editors of the College Voice student newspaper used it as a campaign flyer to promote the self-styled radicals of the "Student Union" party in a long-ago student election, and the college president, finding that the partisan use of student-activity funds made a mockery of the election rules, directed that the election be re-run. The gist of the complaint is that the editors' speech was chilled, which is deemed to be a bad thing.
This is a case about nothing. Injunctive relief from the school's election rules is now moot (if it was ever viable); and plaintiffs' counsel conceded at oral argument that the only relief sought in this litigation is nominal damages. Now, after years of litigation over two dollars, the majority will impose on a busy judge to conduct a trial on this silly thing, and require a panel of jurors to set aside their more important duties of family and business in order to decide it. See Amato v. City of Saratoga Springs, 170 F.3d 311, 322-23 (2d Cir. 1999) (Jacobs, J., concurring) (noting that a trial over one dollar is a "wasteful imposition on the trial judge and on the taxpayers and veniremen").

With due respect to my colleagues in the majority, and to whatever compulsion they feel to expend substantial energies on this case, I fear that the majority opinion (44 pages of typescript) will only feed the plaintiffs' fantasy of oppression: that plutocrats are trying to stifle an upsurge of Pol-Potism on Staten Island. Contrary to the impression created by the majority's lengthy formal opinion, this case is not a cause célèbre; it is a slow-motion tantrum by children spending their graduate years trying to humiliate the school that conferred on them a costly education from which they evidently derived small benefit. A selection from the illiterate piffle in the disputed issue of the College Voice is set out in the margin for the reader's fun.1

On the merits, I would affirm for the reasons given in Judge Gershon's careful and thorough opinion (which I have read).
President Springer's decision to re-run the election was (to apply the governing standard) not unreasonable in light of clearly established law. The school adopted election rules intended to level the playing field and limit the use of student-activities funds for election-related purposes. President Springer's decision was based on her view that the May 1997 issue of the College Voice was "a thinly veiled student activity fee funded piece of campaign literature for the Student Union slate." The majority remands for a trial on whether the college president acted on an impermissible belief that a school newspaper funded by (compelled) student-activities fees should be balanced.

I think that the First Amendment protects the freedom of the press and that this protection should be strongest when a newspaper prints election-related content at election time. But this area of the law is (unfortunately) far from clear.

In 2003, six years after the student-government election at issue, the Supreme Court upheld numerous limitations on speech during election time--in an opinion that could open the way to direct regulation of a newspaper if its election coverage becomes too "slanted" or "biased." See McConnell v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 540 U.S. 93, 283-86 (2003) (Thomas, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). In 2004, this Court upheld a state election law that provided for the regulation of news stories about candidates based on the discretionary rulings of the law's administrators. See Landell v. Sorrell, 382 F.3d 91, 181-82 (2d Cir. 2004) (Winter, J., dissenting), rev'd sub nom. Randall v. Sorrell, 126 S. Ct. 2479 (2006). That discretion to ensure a "fair" election is the same kind of discretion that President Springer exercised here.

In this light, it cannot be said that in 1997 there was a clear line between a viewpoint-based reprisal against a campus newspaper and [ii] the implementation of neutral and constitutional election standards. In any event, a school administrator should not have to become a constitutional-law professor in order to save herself from personal liability when giving a needed lesson in fair play.

This prolonged litigation has already cost the school a lot of money that could better have been spent to enrich course offerings or expand student day-care. If this case ends with a verdict for plaintiffs (anything is possible with a jury), the district court will have the opportunity to consider whether the exercise merits an award of attorneys' fees in excess of one-third of two dollars.

1. One student journalist laments that he is no longer the friend of the incumbent president of the student government: "I am very sad today. I lost a friend; his name is Joe Canale. . . . Things changed on April 9, 1997. It was a pizza day I won't forget. . . . Joe did not shake my hand and all he said to me, in a rather drone voice, was 'Getting ready for the elections?' From that point on I knew, Joe had disowned me, all because of my affiliation with [the Student Union]. . . . 'When I found out he renounced my friendship, because of my affiliation with Student Union, I adopted the slogan 'Joe Must Go' to console me in my hour of need.' "

Another article denounces "pizza politics": free pizza at student events is "another of the perverse policies set forth by this bureaucratic institution. The pizza is most certainly not 'free.' It was paid for, in full, by the student body of the College of Staten Island, it belongs to them. The pizza is the property of the student body, not of the student government." The same writer is agitated by a student-government planned "Solidarity/Unity Fest" which included a "velcro wall, a climbing mountain, a gladiator joust, a laser tag maze, human bowling, a bungee run, a Velcro wall [another velcro wall?], human fooseball [sic], face painters, jugglers, mimes, 12 different carnival style games and things of that nature." According to the author, this "Fest" was an "attempt[] to coerce votes out of the student body in exchange for carnal pleasures." The article closes with a call to "end the evil tyranous [sic] reign of the current [student government] by whatever means necesaary [sic]."

The paper's coverage of a "so-called Mayoral Forum" complains that the two political

parties "have historically been slaves to the Wall Street corporate tycoons, while either ignoring or killing the working class and poor people of this city and nation."

An editorial sets out the goals of the paper: "We oppose the poisonous divisions fostered on the basis of race by the bosses, who make Black and white workers fight each other for the crumbs off their table . . . even though it is the workers who produce all the wealth." The paper "seeks to engage all those who are committed to fighting exploitation and oppression in common action against the common enemy...capitalism." (ellipsis in original).

The issue features the Student Union's "12-Pt. Program For Change," including a call to "END CORPORATE CONTROL OF THE BOOKSTORE" so that it can "be returned immediately to the student body." The reason: "CUNY in general and CSI in particular have become the crown jewel in [Barnes & Noble's] campaign of corporate terror."
30427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 19, 2007, 09:42:06 AM
Second post of the morning:

1145 GMT -- TURKEY, IRAQ -- Turkey's army shelled Kurdish targets inside northern Iraq, near the town of Zakho, on July 18, a Kurdish official said July 19. The Turkish military recently raised its troop levels at the Iraqi border and has asked the government for guidelines for an offensive against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq. The military accuses the PKK of preparing attacks against Turkish targets.

30428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: July 19, 2007, 09:39:07 AM

Geopolitical Diary: Russia Tries to Re-Treaty the Present

In the grand tradition of the Cold War, Russia staged a press conference on Wednesday to lambaste Western security structures. The star of the show was Yevgeny Buzhinsky, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international legal department. Buzhinsky's tongue practically danced in response to journalists' questions. Honestly, we've seen Broadway productions that are less scripted than this "press conference."

During the presentation, Buzhinsky proposed a number of possibilities to replace the current strategic formats between Russia and NATO. The three documents that make up the bulk of Russian-Western security understandings are the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE).

START places an absolute limit on the number of intercontinental nuclear weapons both Russia and the United States can field, and the INF does the same for intermediate-range missiles, while the CFE restricts how many troops individual NATO states and Russia can maintain -- as well as where Russia can station them. Taken together, the three treaties form the framework for Western-Russian relations, and it is that very framework that a strengthening Russia is now challenging. To a certain degree, this is understandable.

The three treaties locked into place the military realities of November 1990. Since then, not only has the Soviet Union collapsed, but the entire Soviet bloc (sans Russia of course), plus the three Baltic states and Slovenia, also has jumped the fence, taking its militaries with it. Add in more than a decade of Russian military decline and the result is a treaty-mandated system that puts the Russians at a grave disadvantage. It is this that the Kremlin seeks to change.

Such logic -- colored by the rhetoric and minutiae of the day -- is the core rationale for Russia's recent decision to halt its implementation of the CFE Treaty, by far the treaty with which Moscow is most dissatisfied. In addition to justifying this action, Buzhinsky also noted during Wednesday's press conference that the INF should be expanded and a successor to START determined.

Russia is not simply trying to amend the security structures that govern its relationship with the West; it is trying to convince the West to help it lock in a new system that is more representative of Russian fears and strengths. The INF currently applies only to the United States and Russia, but because it was signed during the Reagan administration, other states on Russia's borders have since developed respectable missile programs.

However, it will be START that really gets Russian engines revving in the near future. START is the only treaty that seriously limits Washington's defense spending on the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Since the Russian deterrent is one of the very few assets that guarantee Russia an international voice, Moscow desperately wants to preserve it at a level equal to that of the American program. With Washington looking over the Russian horizon toward a possible arms race with the more financially capable Chinese, there is no way any U.S. administration would agree to renew START in order to make the Russians feel better about themselves. The Russians know this, and it is pushing them to threaten to leave the INF altogether in order to maintain at least a semblance of parity: Intermediate-range missiles, while they cannot reach the United States, are much cheaper to produce.

During the Cold War, the Soviets regularly bandied about similar proposals in attempts to use treaties and Western opinion to lock U.S. force structures into untenable positions. As during the Buzhinsky conference, concepts of fairness and partnership were used liberally in an effort to make Moscow's position seem reasonable. This resulted in peace movements across Europe that greatly complicated alliance management for the Americans. After all, the last thing NATO needed -- and precisely what Moscow was after -- was splits in the alliance that could be exploited.

This time around, that does not seem to be happening. Europe is perhaps more awash than ever in anti-American sentiment due to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, but there have been no mass rallies against U.S. weapons systems or Western parliamentary spectacles against U.S. policy. Most Central European states, such as Poland and Romania, are not buying the Russian line at all, and recent government changes in France and Germany have largely killed the idea of any broad Russian-European rapprochement.

There are structural limitations as well. Disarmament treaties typically only work when there is parity -- and very expensive parity at that -- that forces the two sides to talk. Despite Russia's resurgence, that parity does not exist, so the Americans see no reason to be particularly worried. And, to be perfectly honest, while Europeans -- at a minimum -- remain as nervous about Russia's rhetoric as its hardware, Russia's military degradation is perceived to have been so catastrophic that the Europeans are not breaking ranks. Then again, maybe it is simply that it is hard to play the victim when you are the one who walked away from the CFE Treaty in the first place.

The alliance might be wobbling somewhat, but it has held -- and done so with a much more diverse member list than it boasted in the 1980s. If Russia is going to split NATO and push through a new treaty regime, it will need to do more than simply dust off some old rhetoric.
30429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times: Moktada Sadr on: July 19, 2007, 09:27:24 AM
BAGHDAD, July 18 — After months of lying low, the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has re-emerged with a shrewd strategy that reaches out to Iraqis on the street while distancing himself from the increasingly unpopular government.

Sunni Arab snipers shot Shiites in line at this gas station on the border of Baghdad’s Amil neighborhood. The shooting has decreased since the increase in American troops. The U.S. sent Kurds to stabilize the situation.
Mr. Sadr and his political allies have largely disengaged from government, contributing to the political paralysis noted in a White House report last week. That outsider status has enhanced Mr. Sadr’s appeal to Iraqis, who consider politics less and less relevant to their daily lives.

Mr. Sadr has been working tirelessly to build support at the grass-roots level, opening storefront offices across Baghdad and southern Iraq that dispense services that are not being provided by the government. In this he seems to be following the model established by Hezbollah, the radical Lebanese Shiite group, as well as Hamas in Gaza, with entwined social and military wings that serve as a parallel government.

He has also extended the reach of his militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the armed groups that the White House report acknowledged remain entrenched in Iraq. The militia has effectively taken over vast swaths of the capital and is fighting government troops in several southern provinces. Although the militia sometimes uses brutal tactics, including death squads, many vulnerable Shiites are grateful for the protection it affords.

At the same time, the Mahdi Army is not entirely under Mr. Sadr’s control, and he publicly denounces the most notorious killers fighting in his name. That frees him to extend an olive branch to Sunni Arabs and Christians, while championing the Shiite identity of his political base.

On May 25, in his first public Friday Prayer in months, he explicitly forbade sectarian attacks.

“It is prohibited to spill the blood of Sunnis and Iraqi Christians,” he told Shiites in a much publicized sermon. “They are our brothers, either in religion or in the homeland.”

Almost from the day American troops entered Iraq, the mercurial Mr. Sadr has confounded American and Iraqi politicians alike. He quickly rallied impoverished Shiites in peaceful displays of Shiite strength, as had his father, a prominent cleric. When the Sunni Arab insurgency gained momentum, he raised a Shiite insurgency in direct opposition to the American-backed Iraqi government that had excluded him.

His basic tenets are widely shared. Like most Iraqis, he opposes the American military presence and wants a timetable for departure — if only to attain some certainty that the Americans will leave eventually. He wants the country to stay unified and opposes the efforts of those Shiites who have had close ties to Iran to create a semiautonomous Shiite region in southern Iraq.

After his Mahdi militia was defeated in a bloody battle against American forces in Najaf in 2004, Mr. Sadr established himself as a political player, using the votes of loyal Parliament members to give Nuri Kamal al-Maliki the margin needed to win the post of prime minister.

Now that the leadership is in poor repute, Mr. Sadr has shifted once again. The six ministers in the cabinet and 30 lawmakers in Parliament allied to him have been boycotting sessions. They returned Tuesday, but it is not clear they will stay long.

The mainstream political parties in Iraq realize that Mr. Sadr is growing more influential, but appear to be flummoxed over how to deal with him. They see him as unpredictable and manipulative, but too politically and militarily important to ignore.

“He’s powerful,” said Jaber Habeeb, an independent Shiite member of Parliament and political science professor at Baghdad University. “This is a fact you have to accept, even if you don’t like it.”

The latest stance by the more conventional political parties is to keep him at arm’s length. The two major Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, along with the two Kurdish parties, have been negotiating to form a new moderate coalition.

Mr. Sadr’s political leaders were told he was welcome to join, but the invitation came belatedly, after the other groups had all but completed their discussions. Mr. Sadr’s lieutenants announced that he had no interest in joining.

Experts in Shiite politics believe that efforts to isolate Mr. Sadr are bound to fail.

“Sadr holds the political center in Iraq,” said Joost Hiltermann, the director of the International Crisis Group’s office in Amman, Jordan. “They are nationalist, they want to hold the country together and they are the only political organization that has popular support among the Shias. If you try to exclude him from any alliance, well, it’s a nutty idea, it’s unwise.”

The mainstream parties talk about Mr. Sadr carefully. Some never mention his followers or the Mahdi militia by name, but speak elliptically of “armed groups.” Others acknowledge his position but are reserved on the challenge he poses.

Page 2 of 2)

“Moktada Sadr is one of the political leaders of this country,” Adel Abdul-Mahdi, one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, said in a recent interview. “We disagree on some things, we have differences. We have to work to solve our differences.”

Rahman al-Mussawi, 38, says he is proud that he still has Sunni Arab neighbors on his block, even though Sunni insurgents most likely killed his three younger brothers. A picture of them hangs in his living room.

The Sadrists exhibit a quiet confidence, and are pulling ever more supporters into their ranks. “The Sadr movement cannot be marginalized; it is the popular base,” said Sheik Salah al-Obaidi, the chief spokesman and a senior strategist for Mr. Sadr’s movement in Najaf. “We will not be affected by efforts to push us to one side because we are the people. We feel the people’s day-to-day sufferings.”

A number of working-class Shiites reflected that sentiment in conversations about the Mahdi militia and Mr. Sadr. Their relatives and neighbors work both for the Sadr offices and for the militia, blurring the line between social programs and paramilitary activity.

Mr. Sadr’s offices are accessible storefronts that dispense a little bit of everything: food, money, clothes, medicine and information. From just one office in Baghdad and one in Najaf in 2003, the Sadr operation has ballooned. It now has full-service offices in most provinces and nine in Baghdad, as well as several additional storefront centers. In some neighborhoods, the militiamen come around once a month to charge a nominal fee — about 5,000 Iraqi dinars, or $4 — for protection. In others, they control the fuel supply, and in some, where sectarian killings have gone on, they control the real estate market for empty houses.

The Mahdi militia is deeply involved in that sectarian killing. In a vicious campaign in the Amil neighborhood in western Baghdad, once a mixed working-class neighborhood of Shiites and Sunni Arabs, it has driven out many Sunnis and isolated others in a few enclaves.

Young men, said by residents to be part of the Mahdi militia, check every car coming into the Shiite section of the neighborhood. And many mornings, the bodies of several Sunni Arabs are dumped in a brick-strewn lot near the neighborhood’s entrance. Local Shiites routinely claim that the bodies are of foreign terrorists.

However, each community insists that it is the victim of the other. A sniper in the Sunni Arab area shoots at Shiites lined up to buy at a gasoline station that straddles the two communities. That, in turn, is used to justify retaliatory attacks on Sunni Arabs.

Among Shiites, the militia is viewed as their best form of protection from Sunni Arab insurgents. “This is the Mahdi Army standing in our streets,” said Rahman al-Mussawi, 38, a community leader who says he is proud that he still has Sunni Arab neighbors on his block, even though Sunni insurgents almost certainly killed his three younger brothers. They disappeared along a deadly stretch of road south of Baghdad where Shiites have been victims of Sunni extremists.

Mr. Mussawi gestured to the end of the block, where young Mahdi guards in T-shirts checked cars entering the neighborhood: “The Americans chase them away. If the Americans just would leave, then the neighborhood would be quiet.”

The Mahdi Army’s darker side is rarely discussed in Shiite neighborhoods. In Amil, some people fiercely reject any suggestion that the group runs death squads. Others might admit to some problems, but dismiss them as the excesses of a few bad apples.

“Of course there are some wrongdoings done by renegades in the Mahdi Army who deviated from the good and honorable line of the army,” said Mohammed Abu Ali, 55, a mechanical engineer who helps out in the Sadr office in Amil. “We do not approve these wrongdoings and we try to rid of elements in the Mahdi Army.”

Mr. Sadr began his most recent ascent after the bombing of the golden dome of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, sacred to Shiites, in February 2006. It was one of a string of assaults by Sunni Arab insurgents on Shiites that had gone on for more than two years.

Mr. Sadr’s militia began to strike back, supported by Shiites who felt it was their only protection.

Iraqi politicians say Mr. Sadr made another smart move this spring, when he pulled out of the government to protest its refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. Stymied by infighting, Mr. Maliki has yet to fill the posts.

Shortly after a second bombing in Samarra this June, Mr. Sadr called for a mass Shiite pilgrimage to the Sunni Arab city to honor an imam whose body lies in the ruined shrine. Government officials had to plead with him to cancel it to avoid violence. He eventually did, but not until he had made his point: he was a power to be reckoned with.

Qassim Daoud, a secular Shiite lawmaker, says Mr. Sadr has figured out the alchemy to playing the outsider, but having just enough of a place in the government to have leverage.

“He is one of those people who has two legs, one inside the political process and one outside the political process,” Mr. Daoud said. “So, he uses both to attack the process.”
30430  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Alien-Police Interaction on: July 18, 2007, 06:02:40 PM

Border case defended
By Jerry Seper
July 18, 2007

The U.S. attorney whose office won convictions against two U.S. Border Patrol agents for shooting a fleeing drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks yesterday described as "the big lie" accusations that the prosecutions were not justified.

During a rancorous Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton defiantly said agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, now serving lengthy prison terms, committed "serious crimes" in a case that was not about immigration issues or the Border Patrol but the rule of law.

"Agents Compean and Ramos crossed the line. They are not heroes," Mr. Sutton said. "They deliberately shot an unarmed man in the back without justification, destroyed evidence to cover it up and lied about it. A jury heard the facts and voted to convict.

"There is no one to blame for what has happened but themselves," he said.

But Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and John Cornyn, Texas Republican, questioned whether the 11- and 12-year prison sentences handed to Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean, respectively, were justifiable and whether the decision to grant immunity to drug-smuggling suspect Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was properly handled.

Mrs. Feinstein, who chaired the hearing, asked whether the government's priorities were "out of whack" when it made the immunity offer to "a drug trafficker," noting that Mr. Aldrete-Davila — who abandoned 743 pounds of drugs as he fled to Mexico — was "not an innocent who was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I find it hard to believe that someone trusted with $1 million in drugs is simply an amateur drug mule," she said.

Mr. Cornyn said he had "serious concerns about judgment calls" made during the case, adding that Mr. Sutton's office allowed Mr. Aldrete-Davila to violate the terms of his immunity agreement without consequences.

He and Mrs. Feinstein questioned Mr. Sutton on why the government gave Mr. Aldrete-Davila unlimited and unescorted access to the United States as part of the immunity agreement and whether he might have transported a second load of drugs into the country during that time.

They said that Mr. Aldrete-Davila re-entered the United States on at least 10 occasions from March to November 2005 and that the documentation authorized by the immunity agreement allowed him to cross the border legally at any time without notifying anyone and being unescorted.

"I would like to hear more about the policy that allows for this kind of unsupervised passage into our country and why someone who was known to smuggle in drugs would be given such flexibility," Mrs. Feinstein said.

Mr. Sutton acknowledged that a "humanitarian visa" given to Mr. Aldrete-Davila as part of the immunity agreement may have been "a mistake" but said it is necessary for his office to have access to would-be witnesses in pending cases — some of whom live in Mexico.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) documents, which remain under seal, show that Mr. Aldrete-Davila was the focus of a drug investigation into his reported stashing of 750 pounds of marijuana at a house in Clint, Texas, in November 2005 — nine months after he was shot.

The DEA's investigative reports, according to law-enforcement authorities and others who have seen the documents, said that the owner of the house, Cipriano Ortiz-Hernandez, picked Mr. Aldrete-Davila from a photo display and that the homeowner's brother, Jose Ortiz, told agents that Mr. Aldrete-Davila brought the marijuana from Juarez, Mexico, and identified him as "the person who was shot by Border Patrol agents."

Mrs. Feinstein also questioned why the agents were charged under a federal statute setting a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. She said that as the law was written, it presupposes an underlying crime, adding that there was no underlying crime in the Ramos-Compean case.

She said the law needs to be clarified by Congress to prevent prosecutorial overcharging.

Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were sentenced in October on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and a civil rights violation. The conviction came after Mr. Aldrete-Davila was located in Mexico by Homeland Security investigators.

In the packed audience was Patty Compean and Monica Ramos, both of whom shook their heads in disagreement when their husbands were accused of being responsible for the incident.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 11,000 of the agency's nonsupervisory personnel, disputed government claims that the agents were prosecuted because they shot an unarmed man, covered it up, destroyed evidence and filed false reports.

"Make no mistake about it — Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was not simply a mule as the prosecution tried to claim who was looking to earn $1,000 so he could care for his sick mother," he said. "The wrongdoing here was bringing 743 pounds of marijuana into the country ... and the person who did that was granted immunity by our federal government."

Presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who introduced a bill calling for a congressional pardon for the agents, described their prosecution as "the most severe injustice I've ever seen with respect to the treatment of U.S. Border Patrol agents or, I might add, the treatment of any uniformed officers."

Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, California Republican, said the decision to give immunity to "the drug dealer and throw the book at the Border Patrol agents was a prosecutorial travesty."

"The whole episode stinks to high heaven," he said.

Defending Mr. Sutton were Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar and former Border Patrol sector chief Luis Barker, who headed the office where the shooting occurred. They blamed Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean for failing to follow Border Patrol policies and covering up the incident.

"This has been a tragedy with emotional undercurrent. But there should be no mistake. ... It begins and ends with the actions of Agents Compean and Ramos," Mr. Barker said. "Not the prosecutors. Not the judge or the jury, as has been suggested."

30431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: July 18, 2007, 10:42:10 AM

The indictment handed down Tuesday against Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three others describes in detail how they procured a property in Virginia for the purpose of staging dogfights, bought dogs and then fought them there, and in several other states, over a 6-year period. With at least three cooperating witnesses providing the details, federal authorities compiled a detailed case that traces the birth and rise of Bad Newz Kennels.

But not a single line in the 18-page indictment will generate more rage toward Vick and the others charged -- Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor -- than a sentence near the end. It reads: "In or about April of 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

In interviews I conducted for an earlier story on the subculture of dogfighting and Vick's involvement, several experts described to me the process of "rolling" dogs. Owners take young dogs, usually puppies, and put them in an enclosed area and see how they react. They prod the dogs and urge them to get angry. If a dog shows aggression toward another dog, that's a positive. If a dog is timid, it is useless. Some fighters give away puppies that don't show the required "gameness." Other owners don't bother with the trouble of finding them a home and simply kill them.

Vick and his three associates, according to the indictment, fall in the latter category. Federal investigators allege Vick is a murderer of dogs who weren't willing to fight for his enjoyment. Even worse, his actions appear more sinister than most professional dogfighters. 
30432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: July 18, 2007, 08:08:51 AM
The Bush Doctrine Lives
The president isn't selling out Israel or relaxing his call for Palestinian democracy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

JERUSALEM--Newspapers in Israel yesterday were full of stories about President Bush's call on Monday for the creation of a Palestinian state and an international peace conference. While Israeli officials were quoted expressing satisfaction with the fact that "there were no changes in Bush's policies," commentators questioned whether the Saudis would participate in such a gathering and whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his single-digit approval ratings, could uproot Israeli settlers from the West Bank.

But all the focus on the conference misses the point. Mr. Bush has not backtracked an inch from his revolutionary Middle East policy. Never before has any American president placed the onus of demonstrating a commitment to peace so emphatically on Palestinian shoulders. Though Mr. Bush insisted that Israel refrain from further settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts, the bulk of his demands were directed at the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope," he said, "not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror."

According to Mr. Bush, the Palestinians can only achieve statehood by first stopping all attacks against Israel, freeing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and ridding the Palestinian Authority of corruption. They must also detach themselves from the invidious influence of Syria and Iran: "Nothing less is acceptable."

In addition to the prerequisites stipulated for the Palestinians, Mr. Bush set unprecedented conditions for Arab participation in peace efforts. He exhorted Arab leaders to emulate "peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan" by ending anti-Semitic incitement in their media and dropping the fiction of Israel's non-existence. More dramatically, Mr. Bush called on those Arab governments that have yet to establish relations with Israel to recognize its right to exist and to authorize ministerial missions to the Jewish state.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, which has offered such recognition but only in return for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, will have to accept Israel prior to any territorial concessions. Mr. Bush also urged Arab states to wage an uncompromising battle against Islamic extremism and, in the case of Egypt and Jordan, to open their borders to Palestinian trade.

If the Israeli media largely overlooked the diplomatic innovations of Mr. Bush's speech, they completely missed its dynamic territorial and demographic dimensions. The president pledged to create a "contiguous" Palestinian state--code for assuring unbroken Palestinian sovereignty over most of the West Bank and possibly designating a West Bank-Gaza corridor. On the other hand, the president committed to seek a peace agreement based on "mutually agreed borders" and "current realities," which is a euphemism for Israel's retention of West Bank settlement blocks and no return to the 1967 lines.

Most momentous, however, was Mr. Bush's affirmation that "the United States will never abandon . . . the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people." This means nothing less than the rejection of the Palestinians' immutable demand for the resettlement of millions of refugees and their descendents in Israel. America is now officially dedicated to upholding Israel's Jewish majority and preventing its transformation into a de facto Palestinian state.

Beyond these elements, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's vision was the international conference. The Israeli press hastened to interpret this as a framework for expediting the advent of Palestinian statehood, yet it is clear that the conference is not intended to produce a state but rather to monitor the Palestinians' progress in building viable civic and democratic institutions. The goal, Mr. Bush said, will be to "help the Palestinians establish . . . a strong and lasting society" with "effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law."

Specifically, the conference will assist in reforming the Palestinian Authority, strengthening its security forces, and encouraging young Palestinians to participate in politics. Ultimate responsibility for laying these sovereign foundations, however, rests not with the international community but solely with the Palestinians themselves: "By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future . . . [and] answer their people's desire to live in peace."
Unfortunately, many of these pioneering components in Mr. Bush's speech were either implicitly or obliquely stated, and one might have wished for a more unequivocal message, such as that conveyed in his June 2002 speech on the Middle East. Still, there can be no underrating the sea change in America's policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought about by this administration. If, under U.N. Resolution 242, Israelis were expected to relinquish territory and only then receive peace, now the Arabs will have to cede many aspects of peace--non-belligerency and recognition--well in advance of receiving territory.

Similarly, Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain Israel's Jewish majority signals the total rescinding of American support for Resolution 194, which provided for refugee return. Moreover, by insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Mr. Bush effectively reversed the process, set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution building. Peace-for-land, preserving the demographic status quo, and building a civil society prior to achieving statehood--these are the pillars of Mr. Bush's doctrine on peace.

But will it work? Given the Palestinians' historical inability to sustain sovereign structures and their repeated (1938, 1947, 1979, 2000) rejection of offers of a state, the chances hardly seem sanguine.

Much of the administration's hope for a breakthrough rests on the Palestinians' newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, who is purportedly incorruptible. Nevertheless, one righteous man is unlikely to succeed in purging the Palestinian Authority of embezzlement and graft and uniting its multiple militias.

The Saudis will probably balk at the notion of recognizing Israel before it exits the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees throughout the region will certainly resist any attempt to prevent them from regaining their former homes. Iran and Syria and their Hamas proxies can be counted on to undermine the process at every stage, often with violence.

Yet, despite the scant likelihood of success, Mr. Bush is to be credited for delineating clear and equitable criteria for pursuing Palestinian independence and for drafting a principled blueprint for peace. This alone represents a bold response to Hamas and its backers in Damascus and Tehran. The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."
So, too, the president is to be commended for not taking the easy route of railroading the Palestinians to self-governance under a regime that would almost certainly implode. Now his paramount task is to stand by the benchmarks his administration has established, and to hold both Palestinians and Israelis accountable for any failure to meet them.

Mr. Oren is a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2007).

30433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 18, 2007, 07:55:36 AM
The Bush Doctrine Lives
The president isn't selling out Israel or relaxing his call for Palestinian democracy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

JERUSALEM--Newspapers in Israel yesterday were full of stories about President Bush's call on Monday for the creation of a Palestinian state and an international peace conference. While Israeli officials were quoted expressing satisfaction with the fact that "there were no changes in Bush's policies," commentators questioned whether the Saudis would participate in such a gathering and whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his single-digit approval ratings, could uproot Israeli settlers from the West Bank.

But all the focus on the conference misses the point. Mr. Bush has not backtracked an inch from his revolutionary Middle East policy. Never before has any American president placed the onus of demonstrating a commitment to peace so emphatically on Palestinian shoulders. Though Mr. Bush insisted that Israel refrain from further settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts, the bulk of his demands were directed at the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope," he said, "not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror."

According to Mr. Bush, the Palestinians can only achieve statehood by first stopping all attacks against Israel, freeing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and ridding the Palestinian Authority of corruption. They must also detach themselves from the invidious influence of Syria and Iran: "Nothing less is acceptable."

In addition to the prerequisites stipulated for the Palestinians, Mr. Bush set unprecedented conditions for Arab participation in peace efforts. He exhorted Arab leaders to emulate "peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan" by ending anti-Semitic incitement in their media and dropping the fiction of Israel's non-existence. More dramatically, Mr. Bush called on those Arab governments that have yet to establish relations with Israel to recognize its right to exist and to authorize ministerial missions to the Jewish state.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, which has offered such recognition but only in return for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, will have to accept Israel prior to any territorial concessions. Mr. Bush also urged Arab states to wage an uncompromising battle against Islamic extremism and, in the case of Egypt and Jordan, to open their borders to Palestinian trade.

If the Israeli media largely overlooked the diplomatic innovations of Mr. Bush's speech, they completely missed its dynamic territorial and demographic dimensions. The president pledged to create a "contiguous" Palestinian state--code for assuring unbroken Palestinian sovereignty over most of the West Bank and possibly designating a West Bank-Gaza corridor. On the other hand, the president committed to seek a peace agreement based on "mutually agreed borders" and "current realities," which is a euphemism for Israel's retention of West Bank settlement blocks and no return to the 1967 lines.

Most momentous, however, was Mr. Bush's affirmation that "the United States will never abandon . . . the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people." This means nothing less than the rejection of the Palestinians' immutable demand for the resettlement of millions of refugees and their descendents in Israel. America is now officially dedicated to upholding Israel's Jewish majority and preventing its transformation into a de facto Palestinian state.

Beyond these elements, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's vision was the international conference. The Israeli press hastened to interpret this as a framework for expediting the advent of Palestinian statehood, yet it is clear that the conference is not intended to produce a state but rather to monitor the Palestinians' progress in building viable civic and democratic institutions. The goal, Mr. Bush said, will be to "help the Palestinians establish . . . a strong and lasting society" with "effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law."

Specifically, the conference will assist in reforming the Palestinian Authority, strengthening its security forces, and encouraging young Palestinians to participate in politics. Ultimate responsibility for laying these sovereign foundations, however, rests not with the international community but solely with the Palestinians themselves: "By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future . . . [and] answer their people's desire to live in peace."
Unfortunately, many of these pioneering components in Mr. Bush's speech were either implicitly or obliquely stated, and one might have wished for a more unequivocal message, such as that conveyed in his June 2002 speech on the Middle East. Still, there can be no underrating the sea change in America's policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought about by this administration. If, under U.N. Resolution 242, Israelis were expected to relinquish territory and only then receive peace, now the Arabs will have to cede many aspects of peace--non-belligerency and recognition--well in advance of receiving territory.

Similarly, Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain Israel's Jewish majority signals the total rescinding of American support for Resolution 194, which provided for refugee return. Moreover, by insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Mr. Bush effectively reversed the process, set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution building. Peace-for-land, preserving the demographic status quo, and building a civil society prior to achieving statehood--these are the pillars of Mr. Bush's doctrine on peace.

But will it work? Given the Palestinians' historical inability to sustain sovereign structures and their repeated (1938, 1947, 1979, 2000) rejection of offers of a state, the chances hardly seem sanguine.

Much of the administration's hope for a breakthrough rests on the Palestinians' newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, who is purportedly incorruptible. Nevertheless, one righteous man is unlikely to succeed in purging the Palestinian Authority of embezzlement and graft and uniting its multiple militias.

The Saudis will probably balk at the notion of recognizing Israel before it exits the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees throughout the region will certainly resist any attempt to prevent them from regaining their former homes. Iran and Syria and their Hamas proxies can be counted on to undermine the process at every stage, often with violence.

Yet, despite the scant likelihood of success, Mr. Bush is to be credited for delineating clear and equitable criteria for pursuing Palestinian independence and for drafting a principled blueprint for peace. This alone represents a bold response to Hamas and its backers in Damascus and Tehran. The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."
So, too, the president is to be commended for not taking the easy route of railroading the Palestinians to self-governance under a regime that would almost certainly implode. Now his paramount task is to stand by the benchmarks his administration has established, and to hold both Palestinians and Israelis accountable for any failure to meet them.

Mr. Oren is a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2007).

30434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: July 18, 2007, 07:47:09 AM
Thanks for the save Doug!  (PS I accidentally deleted your email about Scott G.  embarassed Would you resend it please?)

As for the NK situation, at the moment it looks like President Bush may actually have a win on this one.  As for Strat's analysis, I can't really comment-- I haven't understood the NK situation all along  cheesy
30435  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: July 18, 2007, 07:20:38 AM
Social Programs to Combat Gangs Seen as More Effective Than Police
Area Officials Advocate Mix of Prevention and Enforcement
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2007; B03

When it comes to fighting gangs, there's the New York City approach, and there's the Los Angeles approach, according to the Justice Policy Institute. And one statistic dramatizes the difference:
Two years ago, Los Angeles police reported 11,402 gang-related crimes; New York police, 520.

In a report being issued today, "Gang Wars," the Washington-based institute says it found overwhelming evidence that cities such as New York and suburbs and rural areas that use extensive social resources -- job training, mentoring, after-school activities, recreational programs -- make significant dents in gang violence. Areas that rely heavily on police enforcement, such as Los Angeles, have far less impact.

The institute analyzed dozens of academic reports on combating gangs and conducted research on the best ways to reduce gang violence. The report does not discuss gangs in the Washington area or its suburbs, partly because extensive investigations have not been performed in the region.

"Nobody we talked to thought that D.C. had a real gang problem," said Kevin Pranis, one of the report's authors. "Which is good news."

Institute officials say they hope the report will persuade legislators, in Washington and across the country, to allocate more money to proven social programs that target illegal gang behavior and less for large-scale arrest-and-imprison initiatives that often show short-term gains but make gang problems worse.

Officials in the District and its suburbs often stress the importance of both prevention and enforcement. In 2003, then-D.C. police chief Charles H. Ramsey launched the Gang Intervention Partnership Unit, working with schools, neighborhood groups and resident activists to reduce violence.
An independent report issued last year, looking at the unit's effects on the city's Latino population, gave a resounding endorsement: The number of Latino gang-related homicides in the city dropped from 21 between 1999 and 2003 to zero between 2003 and 2006.

"Suppression [enforcement] alone, that doesn't work," said Sgt. Juan Aguilar of the D.C. police. "That's only a Band-Aid. You've got to get to the root of the problem. It's social."

Similar sentiments were expressed by officials in Arlington and Fairfax counties, who said their police departments work closely with a variety of social service providers. In 2005, after a spate of gang violence in Northern Virginia, Fairfax launched a Coordinating Council on Gang Prevention and required several county service providers to participate.
Last year, Arlington launched its "Attention to Prevention" initiative to provide mentoring, leadership training and tutoring for youths. Police spokesman John Lisle said, "It's clear to us, to reduce the impact of gangs, it's not just a matter of locking people up."

The Justice Policy Institute describes itself as a think tank dedicated to ending society's reliance on incarceration and promoting effective solutions to social problems.

Statistics show that youth crime in the United States is at its lowest levels in 30 years and that gangs are responsible for a relatively small share of crime. In addition, according to a national Justice Department survey of police departments, gang membership declined from 850,000 in 1996 to 760,000 in 2004.

But occasional outbursts of violence prompt the media and politicians to seek immediate answers, said the report's authors, Pranis and Judith Greene.

"And it's more about politics than it is about serious efforts to do something," Greene said yesterday. "It's frustrating to see officials come forward with money for mass arrests, when the money is so sorely needed in programs that are tried and true and can really work."

In New York, the use of social programs to prevent gangs started in the 1950s, and the programs have continued to receive funding throughout the cycles of gang activity, the new report says. Street-level social workers, gang intervention programs and job training have been used for decades. "New York really doesn't have a chronic gang problem," said Greene, a New York resident.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, "retains the dubious honor of being the gang capital of the world," the report says. A 25-year anti-gang effort has cost taxpayers billions of dollars but has resulted in six times as many gangs and twice the number of gang members, because Los Angeles has not adequately funded social programs, the report says.

"There are very little services," said Luis J. Rodriguez, a former Los Angeles gang member who is a member of that city's Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development. He said the city has 61 gang intervention workers to handle about 40,000 gang members.

"We need substantial, root-based work, ways for people to get out of gangs," Rodriguez said. "But there are no jobs, rehabilitation or treatment, and schools and services do not work with gang kids."
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30436  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Suzanne Spezzano: Majadpahit Silat on: July 17, 2007, 11:35:22 PM
The Spezzanos would be more on top of Wali Songo's influence than I, but I will say that Ma-phil-indo=Malaysian+Filipino+Indonesian and Majapahit refers to the Majapahit Empire, the boundaries of which were not indentical to the current boundaries of Malaysia, the RP, and Indonesia.  I think I have this right , , ,
30437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: July 17, 2007, 09:05:39 PM
Defecting Iranian Intelligence General Reveals Iranian Nuclear Secrets.

Iranian general, Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in Istanbul last February, has defected and is being held by the United States, Yedioth Ahronot published Sunday. Asgari was considered by the US one of the top intelligence officials in Iran. His defection was made possible thanks to an intricate CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) operation, climaxing in him joining Western intelligence officers in Istanbul, who then had him and his family transferred to the US.

Asgari, who according to reports is being held in a top-secret military installation, has been able to shed a new light on much of the Iranian regime's most inner workings, especially regarding the Iranian nuclear development project. Up until now, Iran - according to known intelligence - has been building two nuclear plants, in Arak and Bushehr, and has been using centrifuges to enrich uranium. Iran, Asgari told his interrogators, is working in another stealth path, toward achieving its nuclear goal. This third method involves attempts to enrich uranium by using laser beams along with certain chemicals designed to enhance the process. These trials are held in a special weapons facility in Natanz.

This new information has those who know its details in full worried. The fact the Iranians are trying to find new ways to enrich uranium is not new onto itself, but the progress made, at least according to the information given by Asgari, is much greater than was suspected. Western intelligence agencies are now busy analyzing the information Asgari provided them with, and estimating just how long is it before Iran has a nuclear bomb.

According to a source, Iran had caught on to Asgari's defection, and had taken preventive actions to protect its intelligence assets, in anticipation of the information he may reveal. [Bergman/Middle East News/8July2007]
30438  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: July 17, 2007, 08:55:30 PM

Por favor, alguien me puede explicar que son:

1) AFI
2) PFP

30439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey, Kurds, Iran, US on: July 17, 2007, 08:47:13 PM
Turkey: Kurds, Iran and Prodding the United States

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 17 defended a preliminary natural gas deal with Iran to carry natural gas to Europe following strong criticism of the agreement from the White House. With U.S.-Turkish relations taking a serious hit from the Iraq war and its aftermath, Turkey is clearly sending a political message to the United States that it still has a number of ways to pressure Washington into cracking down on Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels in northern Iraq.


Iran and Turkey have signed a preliminary agreement to pump Iranian natural gas to Europe via Turkey, a senior Turkish energy official who requested anonymity said July 16. A U.S. State Department spokesman criticized the agreement the same day, saying now is not the right time to invest in Iran's energy sector, and that Iran has not necessarily proved itself to be the most reliable partner in this regard. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by defending the agreement, saying Iran had made an attractive offer. He added, "Should we not think of our country's interests at this point? Is the United States going to ask why we did not seek their permission? I believe [the United States] will understand."

Turkey signed a deal with Tehran in 2001 to ship 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Iranian natural gas from Tabriz to Europe via Turkey. Washington greatly disapproved of the deal at the time, not liking the idea of a NATO ally defying its sanction strategy against the Islamic republic. Iran and Turkey now apparently have decided to take their energy cooperation a step further by signing an agreement to pump 30 bcm of natural gas per year to Europe via Turkey, leaving no need for alternative supplies to feed the Nabucco pipeline project.

The European Union designed Nabucco to reduce its dependence on Russia for natural gas. Though clearly Europe will fund Nabucco, and Turkey makes the most sense as the primary transit point into Europe, there is still the question of which country actually will fill the pipeline with natural gas. In no particular order, the prospective suppliers for Nabucco are Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Complications attend each of these suppliers.

Turkmenistan, for example, would have to violate existing energy agreements with Russia to become a dedicated supplier for this project. Iraq remains an incoherent mess. Egypt and Saudi Arabia would require infrastructure largely built from scratch to do the job. Finally, Iran has a wall of political sanctions that would have to be broken down through a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement. In spite of this, Iran is probably best positioned to supply Nabucco. The 2001 Iranian-Turkish deal already allows about 10 bcm to be shipped into Turkey, and unlike Saudi Arabia or Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey share a border. Moreover, Iran also has larger natural gas reserves than all the other prospective suppliers combined.

Turkey previously has talked about getting Russia to supply natural gas for the pipeline, which defeats the Europeans' original purpose of building it. By now saying Iran will be a major partner in Nabucco, Turkey appears to be sending a clear political message to Washington that Ankara is unhappy with the U.S. handling of Iraq and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish rebel group that focuses its attacks on Turkey -- using bases in northern Iraq as its refuge and a staging ground for operations.

Turkey harbors deep reservoirs of resentment toward the United States. Turks at practically every level of society argue that the United States has done nothing to contain the PKK, while Washington hypocritically expects full compliance from Ankara to help calm the situation in Iraq. Ankara also fears that any political settlement the United States attempts to push through in Baghdad will allow Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to make considerable progress toward greater political and economic autonomy -- something that could encourage Kurdish separatism inside Turkey. As a result, Turkey has spent the past few months engaged in heavy military posturing to convince the KRG and Washington that Ankara will not hesitate to send troops into northern Iraq to take care of the PKK, even if this ends up derailing Washington's political negotiations over Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are eager to take advantage of this deterioration in U.S.-Turkish relations by forming a strategic partnership with Ankara. Turkey also steadily has improved relations with Syria and has sought to assume the role of mediator between Israel and Syria, despite Washington's wish to keep Damascus isolated.

Iran, Turkey and Syria all find common cause in ensuring that Iraqi Kurdistan is boxed in by its neighbors. Iran also sees itself and Turkey as the rightful powerhouses of the Middle East -- as non-Arabs and as successors to the Ottoman and Safavid empires, respectively. Of course, plenty of divisive issues hamper such a partnership, including Turkey's secularist and Iran's Islamist ideology, as well as their opposing stances toward the West. But with the U.S.-Turkish relationship taking a beating, Iran sees a gap that it very much wants to fill. In fact, the Iranians already have begun to prove their worth to the Turks by launching cross-border operations against PKK rebels in northeastern Iraq.

This explains why Erdogan rather cheekily ridiculed Washington's expectation that Ankara ask for the U.S. position before signing this deal with Iran. Erdogan's comments also come just five days before the July 22 Turkish parliamentary polls. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party wants to extract maximum electoral mileage by tapping the growing anti-U.S. sentiment within the Turkish public. Though Erdogan is relatively confident that the AK Party will hold onto its parliamentary majority, he also knows his party will lose some seats, and he is trying to minimize this loss as much as possible.

This obvious political jab by the Turks intended to apply greater pressure on Washington to give into Turkish demands and crack down on PKK rebels in northern Iraq is sure to grab Washington's attention. The only way to break Turkey out of this growing strategic partnership with Iran and Syria will be through action against the PKK. In the interest of gluing Iraq back together, Washington does not appear prepared to take such action just yet -- meaning U.S.-Turkish relations are bound to suffer further as a result.
30440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 17, 2007, 05:13:09 PM
I proudly note that our Poltical Rants thread passed 60,000 reads today!

30441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: July 17, 2007, 04:28:23 PM

Week out of Focus: Washington, Iraq and Al Qaeda
By George Friedman

Last week, the United States focused on the state of the war -- not just the one in Iraq, but the broader war against al Qaeda. A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was released asserting that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and is either at or near its previous capabilities. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his gut told him there is an increased risk of an al Qaeda attack in the United States this summer. President George W. Bush said at a press conference that the July 15 status report on Iraq would show that progress is being made in the war. When the report actually was released, it revealed a somewhat more pessimistic picture in some areas. Meanwhile, the Republican Party was showing signs of internal strain over the war, while the Democrats were unable to formulate their own collective position. So, it was a week in which everyone focused on the war, but not one that made a whole lot of sense -- at least on the surface.

In some ways, the most startling assertion made was that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Pakistan. What is startling is that it appears to acknowledge that the primary U.S. mission in the war -- the destruction of al Qaeda -- not only has failed to achieve its goal, but also has done little more than force al Qaeda out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan. Chertoff's statement that there is a high threat of an attack this summer merely reinforces the idea that the administration is conceding the failure of its covert war against al Qaeda.

This is not an impossible idea. A recent book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tim Weiner, "Legacy of Ashes," provides an extraordinary chronicle of the CIA's progressive inability to carry out its mission. So the NIE claim might well have been an admission of failure. But it was an odd admission and was not couched as a failure.

What made this odd is that the administration is not known to concede failure lightly. During the same week, it continued to assert the more dubious proposition that it is making progress in Iraq. Why, therefore, was it releasing such pessimistic reports on al Qaeda, and why was Chertoff saying his gut tells him an attack this summer is possible? Why make the best-case scenario for Iraq and the worst-case scenario for al Qaeda?

There is nothing absurd about a gut call in intelligence, and much of the ridicule of Chertoff was absurd. Intelligence analysis -- particularly good intelligence analysis -- depends on gut calls. Analysts live in a world of incomplete and shifting intelligence, compelled to reach conclusions under the pressure of time and events. Intuition of experienced and gifted analysts is the bridge between leaving decision-makers without an analysis and providing the best guess available. The issue, as always, is how good the gut is.

We would assume that Chertoff was keying off of two things: the NIE's assertion that al Qaeda is back and the attacks possibly linked to al Qaeda in the United Kingdom. His gut told him that increased capabilities in Pakistan, coupled with what he saw in England and Scotland, would likely indicate a threat to the United States.

One question needs to be asked: What should be made of the NIE report and the events in the United Kingdom? It also is necessary to evaluate not only Chertoff's gut but also the gut intuitions of U.S. intelligence collectively. The NIE call is the most perplexing, partly because the day it appeared Stratfor issued a report downplaying al Qaeda's threat. But part of that could well be semantics. Precisely what do we mean when we say al Qaeda?

When U.S. forces talk about al Qaeda, they talk about large training camps that move thousands of trainees through them. Those are not the people we talk about when we discuss al Qaeda. The people who go through the camps generally are relatively uneducated young men being trained as paramilitaries. They learn to shoot. They learn to devise simple explosives. They learn infantry tactics. They are called al Qaeda but they are more like Taliban fighters. They are not trained in the covert arts of moving to the United States, surviving without detection while being trained in flying airliners, and then carrying out complex missions effectively. They are al Qaeda in name and, inside Afghanistan or Pakistan, they might be able to do well in a firefight, but they are nothing like the men who struck on 9/11, nor are they trained to be. When the U.S. government speaks about thousands of al Qaeda fighters, the vision is that the camps are filled with these thousands of men with the skill level of the 9/11 attackers. It is a scary vision, which the administration has pushed since 9/11, but it isn't true. These guys are local troops for the endless wars of the region.

When we think of al Qaeda, we think of the tiny group of skilled operatives who gathered around Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef in the 1990s. That group was capable of planning attacks across continents, moving money and men around the world -- and doing so without being detected. Those people have been the target of U.S. intelligence. The goal has been to capture, kill or bottle up those men in inaccessible places in order to prevent another attack like 9/11 or worse.

If the NIE report meant to say this group has reconstituted itself, it would be startling news. One of the ways this group survived is that it did not recruit new members directly into the core organization. One of the ways Palestinian terrorist organizations have been destroyed is by allowing new personnel into the core. This allowed intelligence agencies to vector agents into the core, map them out and destroy them. Al Qaeda was not going to make the same mistake, so it was extremely reluctant to expand. This has limited its operations. It could not replace losses and therefore weakened as it was assaulted. But it did protect itself from penetration, which is why capturing surviving leaders has been so difficult.

If the NIE report is true, then the NIE is saying al Qaeda not only has been recruiting members into the core group, but also that it has been doing so for some time. If that is true then there have been excellent opportunities to penetrate and destroy what is left of it. But we don't think that is true, because al-Zawahiri and others, possibly bin Laden, are still on the loose. Therefore, we think the NIE is saying that the broad paramilitaries are active again and are now located in Pakistan.

Strange Week in Washington

Alternatively, the NIE is saying that a parallel covert group has been created in Pakistan, is using al Qaeda's name and is mounting new attacks. The attacks in the United Kingdom might have been part of its efforts, though they are an example of why we have always argued that terrorism is technically much more difficult to carry out than it might seem. Those attacks were botched from beginning to end. Unlike strikes by al Qaeda prime -- the core group -- these attacks, if they represent an effort by a new al Qaeda, should be a comfort. It was the gang that couldn't shoot straight operating globally. If Chertoff's gut is speaking about a secondary group in Pakistan carrying out attacks similar to those in the United Kingdom, then certainly there is cause for concern, but nothing like the concern that should be felt if al Qaeda prime is active again. But then we don't think it can be, unless it has recruited new members. And if it has been recruiting new members and U.S. intelligence hasn't slipped someone inside during the process, then that would be not only a shame but also the admission of a major intelligence fiasco. We don't think that is what the NIE is discussing. It is a warning that a group calling itself al Qaeda is operating in Pakistan. That can be called a revived al Qaeda, but only if one is careless with terminology.

It should also be remembered that the United States is placing heavy pressure on the Pakistanis. A report leaked early last week by the New York Times confirmed what Stratfor said as early as January 2004, that a major incursion into northwestern Pakistan had been planned by the United States but was called off at the last minute over fear of destabilizing President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Or, more precisely, it was called off after Musharraf promised to carry out the operation himself. He did so, but ineffectively and half-heartedly, so that al Qaeda prime was not rooted out.

By leaking the report of the planned incursion, the United States was reminding Musharraf of his guarantee. By issuing the NIE report, it was increasing pressure on Musharraf to do something decisive about militant Islamists in Pakistan -- or the United States would have to do something. Already heavily pressured by domestic forces, Musharraf ordered the raid on the Red Mosque last week, demonstrating his commitment to contain radical Islamism in Pakistan and root out al Qaeda -- or at least that part of al Qaeda that is not part of the isolated primary group. Between the implicit threat of invasion and the explicit report that Pakistan is the center of a new al Qaeda, Pakistan got the message. Whether Islamabad will be able to act on it is another question.

So the NIE report was meant to pressure Pakistan, even if it looked like an admission of the total failure of the intelligence community's mission. Chertoff's warning of attacks this summer was partly an attempt to warn that there might be attacks like those that happened in the United Kingdom -- to which the answer is that one can only hope that they would be exactly like those. Even had they been successful, they would not have risen to the level of 9/11 or even close. And they failed.

The fact is that, in a simple empirical sense, the one thing that has been successful in this war is that there has not been a single follow-on attack to 9/11 in the United States. The reason might be because al Qaeda either doesn't want to attack or lacks the resources. Another answer might be that it has been stopped by effective U.S. counterterrorism activities. This is a subject that needs analysis. In our view, it is the latter. But the simple fact is that the one mission achieved by the administration is that no attacks have occurred.

There have been numerous warnings of potential attacks. Such warnings are always interesting. They imply that the United States has sufficient intelligence to know that attacks are being planned but insufficient intelligence to block them. The usual basis of these warnings is an attack elsewhere. The second is access to a fragmentary bit of intelligence, human or electronic, indicating in a nonspecific way that an attack is possible. But such warnings usually are untrue because an effective terrorist group does not leak information. That is its primary defense. So chatter about attacks rarely indicates a serious one is imminent. Or, and this happens, a potential attack was aborted by the announcement and by increased security. We have no idea what Chertoff saw to lead him to make his announcement. But the fact is that there have been no attacks in six years -- and should there be a strategic attack now, it would represent not a continuation of the war but a new phase.

All of this neatly intersected with Bush's discussion of Iraq . He does not want to withdraw or announce a time line for withdrawal. His reason should be that a withdrawal from Iraq would open the door to Iranian domination of Iraq and a revolution in the geopolitics of the Arabian Peninsula. Bush has not stated that, but it is the best reason to oppose a withdrawal. Not announcing a timetable for withdrawal also makes sense because it would be tantamount to announcing a withdrawal. It tells Iran to simply sit tight and that, in due course, good things will come to it.

The primary U.S. hope for a solution to Iraq is an understanding with Iran. The administration both hates the idea and needs it. A withdrawal would make any such understanding unnecessary from the Iranian point of view and end any chance that Iran will reach an agreement. In our view, Iran appears to have decided not to continue the negotiating process it began precisely because it thinks the United States is leaving anyway. Therefore, Bush must try to convince the Iranians that this isn't so.

Bush has not given a straightforward justification for his concerns from the beginning, and he is not starting now, although the thought of an Iran-dominated Iraq should give anyone pause. But in arguing that the war in Iraq is a war against al Qaeda, and that al Qaeda is getting stronger, he justifies the continuation of the war. In fact, Bush explicitly said that the people who attacked the United States on 9/11 are the same ones bombing American troops in Iraq today. Therefore, the NIE report and Chertoff's warning of attacks are part of the administration's effort to build support for continuing the fight.

Bush's problem is that the idea that Iraq is linked to al Qaeda rests on semantic confusion -- many things are called al Qaeda, but they are different things. Something called al Qaeda is in Iraq, but it has little to do with the al Qaeda that attacked the United States on 9/11. They share little but the name.

U.S. policy on Iraq and the war is at a turning point. There would normally be a focusing down to core strategic issues, such as a withdrawal's consequences for the strategic balance of power. That not only is not happening, but Bush, for whom this is the strongest argument against withdrawing, also seems incapable of making the argument. As a result, the week saw an almost incoherent series of reports from the administration that, if examined carefully, amounted to saying that if you think the war in Iraq is going badly, you should take a look at the war against al Qaeda -- that is a total failure.

We simply don't think that is true. Of course, you can never prove a negative, and you cannot possibly prove there will be no more attacks against the United States by the original al Qaeda. Also, you can claim anything you want on a gut call and if it doesn't happen, people forget.

The intellectual chaos is intensifying -- and with it, the casualties on the ground.
© Copyright 2007 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.
30442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 17, 2007, 02:40:55 PM
"A series of staged or permitted attacks would be spun by the captive media as a vindication of the neoconsevatives' Islamophobic policy, the intention of which is to destroy all Middle Eastern governments that are not American puppet states. Success would give the US control over oil, but the main purpose is to eliminate any resistance to Israel's complete absorption of Palestine into Greater Israel."


SB Mig, do you have a URL for this piece?

30443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 17, 2007, 02:35:15 PM

TURKEY/IRAQ: Turkey will be making a "strategic mistake" if it launches a cross-border operation against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, said Abdul Rahman Chaderchi, a senior Kurdistan Workers' Party official. Chaderchi also renewed calls for a cease-fire between the two sides. He said a Turkish incursion into Iraq would unite Kurds on both sides of the Iraqi-Turkish border, as well as U.S. forces, against Turkey.
30444  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: July 17, 2007, 01:45:38 PM
Mexico Security Memo: July 16, 2007
July 16, 2007 1945 GMT

Hints of a Broken Cease-fire

Violence in the northern state of Nuevo Leon has erupted once again, starting with the attempted assassination of a police chief in Guadalupe on July 14, followed by the targeted killing on July 15 of a police officer in the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza. The July 14 attack is significant because it was the first against a police or government official in the state since June 12, when the warring Gulf and Sinaloa cartels apparently declared a cease-fire. Before June 12, such attacks occurred almost daily. Violence also has increased elsewhere in Mexico in recent days, suggesting that the cease-fire has been broken or at least strained. Last week's Mexico Security Memo indicated that any cease-fire would be short-lived, and we expect more killings across the country during the coming week.

Cartels and Kidnapping Rings

Authorities in Nuevo Leon said July 10 they had dismantled a kidnapping gang in Monterrey known as Las Estacas by detaining 14 members of the group in raids at two residences. The raids followed the July 1 arrest of seven members of Los Halcones, a similar kidnapping ring. Police officials said Las Estacas and Los Halcones are both linked to the Gulf cartel.

The deteriorating security situation in Mexico has contributed to a high rate of kidnappings throughout the country, and this has had a significant impact on business. For example, many of the large corporations operating in Baja California state have upgraded security at their facilities in order to mitigate this threat. Even so, abductions are on the rise in Baja California, especially in Tijuana. In most cases involving the kidnapping of high-value targets, the victims are released unharmed after a ransom is paid. These kinds of crimes are examples of the deteriorating security situation.

An Added Security Burden

As Mexico's security forces continue operate against drug cartels, they will have to take on the additional burden of increasing security at energy installations. A group known as the People's Revolutionary Democratic Party (PDPR), a splinter group of the People's Revolutionary Army (EPR), claimed responsibility July 10 for recent pipeline explosions in Guanajuato and Queretaro states.


Without mentioning any specific threats, the PDPR said it will continue a vague harassment campaign against "economic interests of the oligarchy" until the government releases two political prisoners allegedly detained May 25 in Oaxaca state. The PDPR is the most active splinter faction of the EPR, though during the last several years its activities have only been writing and posting online anti-government manifestos.

That the group has apparently pulled off a successful bomb attack against multiple energy targets -- the government has yet to confirm the PDPR was behind the bombings -- could indicate a shift in operations. The most likely scenario, however, is that the group acted when it did because it could, out of operational readiness, and that it will be unable to stage another such attack anytime soon. It is worth noting that Mexican security forces are known to be extremely effective against small anti-government groups such as the EPR; while the police might be wary of taking action against the cartels, they have no problem hunting down poorly armed Marxist rebels.

July 9
The body of a man was found wrapped in a blanket with his arms tied behind his back and a single gunshot wound to the neck in Tonala, Jalisco state.
One man died and another was wounded during an attack by six heavily armed men in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan state.
July 10
Police discovered the body of a man in a shallow grave with his arms tied behind his back and two gunshot wounds to his head in Charapan, Michoacan state.
July 11
Three gunmen died in a firefight with federal police on a highway near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state.

July 12
Mexican soldiers on a routine patrol in Sonora state seized 3.5 tons of marijuana, four vehicles and a number of federal police uniforms.
July 13
Federal police in Tijuana, Baja California state, detained three members of the Gabacho kidnapping gang, which is suspected in the abduction of several local business owners.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza condemned threats to U.S. journalists by cartel hit men.
Police in Veracruz state reported that six people had been kidnapped in separate incidents by heavily armed men wearing uniforms similar to those of the Federal Investigative Agency.
July 14
The body of a man wrapped in a blanket was found along a highway outside Acapulco, Guerrero state. He evidently had been tortured.
July 15
Two men were found shot to death on the side of a highway in Durango state.
Two men were shot to death by several gunmen in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, in apparently related incidents.
30445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: July 17, 2007, 11:14:48 AM
From MY:
===========Hello From Baqubah:

Superman is published at:

I made an appearance today (Tuesday) from Baqubah on Good Morning America to talk about events in Baqubah.  That video should be available on their site, and includes loud combat video I shot yesterday (Monday.)

I will be appearing on the Laura Ingraham radio show tomorrow (Wednesday.)

 We realize the site has become difficult to navigate after growing beyond all expectations, both in content and readership. The site will be overhauled during the coming months, but the work is very expensive so this will happen in stages.   


This site depends 100% on reader support.  Every bit helps and is critical.  We'll revamp the site as funding permits to allow for easier searches, and will continue to bring cutting edge stories from the war.


Very Respectfully,
30446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Dismal Savings Rate on: July 17, 2007, 02:56:57 AM
Don't Dismiss Our Dismal Savings Rate
July 17, 2007; Page A17

The main fallacy in monetary theory and policy is the confusion of money and wealth. Money is wealth from the individual perspective since individuals can usually exchange it for goods and services. Money -- and financial assets easily converted to money -- may not be wealth for society as a whole if the production of goods and services has not kept pace with claims on it. Early spenders may have some success, but inflation will dilute the buying power of others. The bottom line is that real wealth has to be produced; it can't be printed.

Don't call me a Keynesian, but Keynes's Paradox of Thrift is another example of the fallacy of composition -- what's true for the individual may not be true for the group. Most U.S. families should be saving more. Indeed, the personal saving rate -- the percentage of disposable income not spent on consumption -- hovers around zero, with frequent dips into negative territory. This is made possible, for a while, by selling assets, accumulating debt, or spending capital gains in the housing and stock markets. Money obtained by realizing capital gains spends as well as money earned on the job. But not if too many of us try it at once.

The Paradox of Thrift says that attempts to save more in the aggregate reduce consumption spending, which, if not offset by increases in other spending, will reduce total spending and income. The paradox comes in when attempts to save more results in reduced saving out of lower incomes. The irony is that policy makers advise more saving but those who take the advice will benefit only if most of us ignore it, and policy makers are implicitly counting on that outcome.

A parallel is the farmer who hopes for a good crop year. But, if all or most farmers have a good crop year, the decline in prices may more than offset higher yields. What our farmer really needs is a good crop in a bad crop year. Then he could look for a popular restaurant that isn't crowded.

I realize this is not very sophisticated stuff, but it's on my mind because of the many talking heads I hear dismissing the adverse consequences of our low personal saving rate by saying it ignores capital gains as a source of spending. "Properly measured," they say, saving is not a problem.

Again, that may be true for the few, but not for the many. A penny saved may be a penny earned, but it matters whether it was earned by producing more or by a rise in the price of existing financial assets. A stock or housing market boom creates apparent wealth in the form of capital gains, but trying to convert it to real wealth en masse can make it disappear.

Economists say the main reason they worry about the budget deficit or the current account deficit is their impact on domestic saving. But my guess is that only other economists really get their meaning. Most people may be even further misled by the implication they hear that since the main harm of deficits is their impact on saving, they must not be too harmful after all. The old-fashioned notion that deficits are bad because they create debt that must be paid back with interest is probably a better prod to constructive behavior. Or that deficits impose a burden on our children or grandchildren.

Alan Greenspan has been one of the few economists to explain these matters correctly and -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- understandably, usually in the context of Social Security or other entitlement reforms. Whenever confronted by various financial fixes during congressional testimony, he frequently pointed out that any solution to the problem had to include real economic growth. With claims on output growing rapidly, output has to grow equally rapidly, or the claims are bogus. Any solution to our entitlement problems must include a bigger, more productive economy in the future. It's really as simple as not selling more tickets to the Super Bowl than there are -- or will be -- seats in the stadium. Of course, the political preoccupation with distribution rather than production puts unnecessary limits on the size of the economy on Super Bowl day.

The problem goes beyond government entitlement programs. Consider the baby boomers whose IRAs, 401(k)s and personal investments helped drive the stock market to record highs. What happens when cash-in time comes? There will be a mountain of paper claims on output, but will there be an equally tall mountain of output?

The great French economist, Frederic Bastiat, said that "The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else." It's time to get real about producing real wealth, not just financial claims on wealth.

Mr. McTeer is a fellow at National Center for Policy Analysis and former president of the Dallas Fed.

30447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: July 17, 2007, 02:44:57 AM
'For the Sake of One Man'
Getting the facts straight about the old-new Russia.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

In the six or seven years in which they interacted on a regular basis, Vladimir Putin's police state and journalist Fatima Tlisova had a mostly one-way relationship. Ms. Tlisova's food was poisoned (causing a nearly fatal case of kidney failure), her ribs were broken by assailants unknown, her teenage son was detained by drunken policemen for the crime of not being an ethnic Russian, and agents of the Federal Security Services (FSB) forced her into a car, took her to a forest outside the city of Nalchik and extinguished cigarettes on every finger of her right hand, "so that you can write better," as one of her tormentors informed her. Last year, the 41-year-old journalist decided she'd had enough. Along with her colleague Yuri Bagrov, she applied for, and was granted, asylum in the United States.

Ms. Tlisova and Mr. Bagrov are, as the wedding refrain has it, something old, something new: characters from an era that supposedly vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union 16 years ago. Now that era, or something that looks increasingly like it, seems to be upon us again. What can we do?

The most important task is to get some facts straight. Fact No. 1: The Bush administration is not provoking a new Cold War with Russia.
That it is seems to be the view of Beltway pundits such as Anatol Lieven, whose indignation at alleged U.S. hostility to Russia is inversely correlated with his concerns about mounting Russian hostility to the U.S., its allies and the likes of Ms. Tlisova. In an article in the March issue of the American Conservative, the leftish Mr. Lieven made the case against the administration for its "bitterly anti-Russian statements," the plan to bring Ukraine into NATO and other supposed encroachments on Russia's self-declared sphere of influence. In this reading, Mr. Putin's increasingly strident anti-Western rhetoric is merely a response to a deliberate and needless U.S. policy of provocation.

Yet talk to actual Russians and you'll find that one of their chief gripes with this administration has been its over-the-top overtures to Mr. Putin: President Bush's "insight" into the Russian's soul on their first meeting in 2001; Condoleezza Rice's reported advice to "forgive Russia" for its anti-American shenanigans in 2003; the administration's decision to permit Russian membership in the World Trade Organization in 2006; the Lobster Summit earlier this month at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport (which Mr. Putin graciously followed up by announcing the "suspension" of Russia's obligations under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty).

This isn't a study in appeasement, quite. But it stands in striking contrast to the British government's decision yesterday to expel four Russian diplomats over Mr. Putin's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the former FSB man suspected of murdering Alexander Litvinenko in London last November with a massive dose of polonium. "The heinous crime of murder does require justice," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday. "This response is proportional and it is clear at whom it is aimed." Would that Dick Cheney walked that talk.

Now turn to Fact No. 2. Russia is acting with increasingly unrestrained rhetorical, diplomatic, economic and political hostility to whoever stands in the way of Mr. Putin's ambitions.

The enemies' list begins with Mr. Putin's domestic critics and the vocations they represent: imprisoned Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky; murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya; harassed opposition leader Garry Kasparov. It continues with foreign companies which have had to forfeit multibillion-dollar investments when Kremlin-favored companies decided they wanted a piece of the action. It goes on to small neighboring democracies such as Estonia, victim of a recent Russian cyberwar when it decided to remove a monument to its Soviet subjugators from downtown Tallinn. It culminates with direct rhetorical assaults on the U.S., as when Mr. Putin suggested in a recent speech that the threat posed by the U.S., "as during the time of the Third Reich," include "the same claims of exceptionality and diktat in the world."

None of these Kremlin assaults can seriously be laid at the White House's feet, unless one believes the lurid anti-Western conspiracy theories spun out by senior Russian officials. And that brings us to Fact No. 3. Russia has become, in the precise sense of the word, a fascist state.

It does not matter here, as the Kremlin's apologists are so fond of pointing out, that Mr. Putin is wildly popular in Russia: Popularity is what competent despots get when they destroy independent media, stoke nationalistic fervor with military buildups and the cunning exploitation of the Church, and ride a wave of petrodollars to pay off the civil service and balance their budgets. Nor does it matter that Mr. Putin hasn't re-nationalized the "means of production" outright; corporatism was at the heart of Hitler's economic policy, too.

What matters, rather, is nicely captured in a remark by Russian foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin regarding Britain's decision to expel the four diplomats. "I don't understand the position of the British government," Mr. Kamynin said. "It is prepared to sacrifice our relations in trade and education for the sake of one man."

That's a telling remark, both in its substance and in the apparent insouciance with which it was made: The whole architecture of liberal democracy is designed primarily "for the sake of one man." Not only does Mr. Kamynin seem unaware of it, he seems to think we are unaware of it. Perhaps the indulgence which the West has extended to Mr. Putin's regime over the past seven years gives him a reason to think so.

Last night, Ms. Tlisova was in Washington, D.C., to accept an award from the National Press Club on behalf of Anna Politkovskaya. "She knew she was condemned. She knew she would be killed. She just didn't know when, so she tried to achieve as much as she could in the time she had," Ms. Tlisova said in her prepared statement. "Maybe Anna Politkovskaya was indeed very damaging to the Russia that President Putin has created. But for us, the people of the Caucasus, she was a symbol of hope and faith in another Russia--a country with a conscience, honor and compassion for all its citizens."
How do we deal with the old-new Russia? By getting the facts straight. That was Politkovskaya's calling, as it is Ms. Tlisova's, as it should be ours.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

30448  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Training too much? on: July 17, 2007, 12:00:43 AM
What is your purpose in lifting them?
30449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: July 16, 2007, 10:37:55 PM
30450  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Amenazas/threats to US Reporters on: July 16, 2007, 01:01:41 PM
Mexico's Drug Cartels: The Threat to U.S. Reporters
Editors at the San Antonio Express-News ordered their Laredo, Texas, correspondent to leave the U.S.-Mexico border city July 12 after a source told the reporter he was in danger of being killed. The threat reportedly originated from Los Zetas, enforcers for the Gulf drug cartel. In response to the threat, the Dallas Morning News has instructed its Mexico City-based correspondent to stay away from the border for the time being.

Death threats against journalists are common on the Mexican side of the border -- and it is not uncommon to see them acted on. Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based nongovernmental organization that advocates international press freedom, lists Mexico as the most dangerous country in the world -- except for Iraq -- for journalists. The group's 2006 report said nine journalists were killed and three others went missing last year. Journalists from major media outlets, as well as smaller local newspapers, have been killed or have disappeared after reporting on the activities of the drug cartels.

Even journalists working for smaller media outlets closer to the border that cover cartel activities in Mexico have been warned by their sources about their safety. A reporter working for a television station close to the border was threatened after the station aired a story about the Zetas. It is safe to say the killings and the threats against reporters are having a chilling effect on the coverage of drug-trafficking operations in Mexico.

So far, there are no reports that the cartels have carried out targeted killings of American journalists on either side of the border. U.S. authorities, however, believe the Zetas have crossed into the United States and killed other people on the U.S. side. Threats against reporters on the U.S. side, therefore, could easily escalate to an attempt against an American journalist inside the United States. Moreover, there is no reason to believe the enforcers would not strike at American reporters covering drug trafficking on Mexican soil.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza on July 13 publicly condemned threats against U.S. journalists covering the cartels in Mexico. This indicates that the issue is being taken seriously at the higher levels of the U.S government, and will figure into Washington's relations with Mexico City.

The cartels are used to getting their way when it comes to influencing media coverage of their activities. Because of the intimidation and killings, many Mexican editors have been forced to be more selective in their coverage, even closing their papers temporarily until things cool off with the local cartels. The Cambio Sonora newspaper in Sonora state decided to close down temporarily in May following two grenade attacks at the newspaper -- probably from the Comando Negro, enforcers working for the Sinaloa federation of cartels. In February 2006, Nuevo Laredo's El Mañana newspaper ceased its investigative reporting on drug trafficking after an attack with assault rifles and a grenade at the newspaper left one of its reporters paralyzed.

Although some U.S. media outlets appear to be taking action to mitigate the threat against their reporters covering Mexican drug cartels, American journalists continue to follow what has become a major international news story. As the coverage continues, the cartels -- which have not demonstrated any fear of U.S. law enforcement -- could feel compelled to demonstrate their ability to reach across the border.
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