DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: April 18, 2007, 12:28:16 PM
The Populist Republic
By ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA
The Washington Post
April 18, 2007
I am fascinated by the similarities between Russia and Latin America. The latest wave of repression against critics of President Vladimir Putin and the victory obtained by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in last Sunday's referendum, which provides a green light toward setting up a constituent assembly that will give him authoritarian powers, remind us that despotic populism is alive and kicking.
Last weekend's detentions in Moscow and St. Petersburg of members of the "Other Russia," an opposition organization that includes former chess champion Garry Kasparov as one of its leaders, are a reminder that Russia is a ruthless autocracy.
With the exception of Venezuela, the authoritarian institutions operating under democratically elected governments in Latin America are not as bad as Russia's. Power is more decentralized in Latin America, where governments have not been able or willing to wrest back economic influence from the private interests that surfaced during the market reforms of the 1990s. Mexico was also dominated by a party-state for much of the 20th century and underwent a process of reform in the 1990s. Despite its many flaws, reform improved the political and economic environment. In Russia, liberal democracy never quite surfaced. Mr. Putin reacted against the oligarchy of the 1990s by establishing his own oligarchy. By contrast, although there was much crony capitalism, Mexico's system is freer.
With the return of populism to various parts of Latin America, a number of countries are headed in the direction of Russia. The formula usually combines a democratic origin, the dismantling of republican institutions from within and reliance on natural resources that are in high demand in the international markets. Last Sunday, Ecuadorians voted in large numbers to essentially rewrite the constitution. In this, Mr. Correa, who wants to replace democracy with an authoritarian regime, is following the example of his friend Hugo Chavez and of Bolivia's Evo Morales. And if Mexico's and Peru's current governments do not deliver economic improvement, we could easily see populists taking over the reins of power there too.
Russia and Latin America are the products of histories dominated by the absence of civil rights and property rights. In Russia, the absence of a liberal tradition doomed the transition to liberal democracy in the 1990s. In Latin America, the republics of the 19th century preserved the oligarchic structure of the colony. In the 20th century, they mostly experimented with populist democracy and military dictatorship.
Recent developments prove that the populist republic is not a thing of the past in Latin America. And the populist republic -- the combination of democratic appearances and autocratic controls, sustained by the sale of oil and minerals -- has much in common with Mr. Putin's Russia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: April 18, 2007, 12:23:23 PM
Hollywood Interrogates Al Qaeda
By KYNDRA ROTUNDA
April 18, 2007; Page A16
CBS's hit series "Criminal Minds" recently aired an episode entitled "Lessons Learned," where FBI agents traveled to Guantanamo Bay and coaxed a confession from a known terrorist detainee that led to the prevention of an anthrax attack on a Northern Virginia shopping mall. The point of the story was that the regular interrogation tactics (pictured as brutal assaults on the prisoner) were not working, and that the military should adopt the enlightened methods of the crack interrogators from "Criminal Minds."
Having served as an Army Judge Advocate General's Corps officer in Gitmo, a legal adviser to criminal investigators pursuing leads in the war on terror, and a Military Commissions prosecutor, I have first-hand knowledge and experience about what happens there. And here is the ironic truth: The military has outlawed some of the "Criminal Minds" interrogators' tactics -- in response to pressure by the international community.
On TV, an analyst observed the detainee's behavior from an adjoining room behind two-way glass for revealing body movements and language. Subtle movements and body language signaled which statements were true and which were false, leading to a breakthrough that saved lives. In reality, when such a tactic was used at Gitmo the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called it "torture." Gitmo authorities used to employ Behavior Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs, pronounced "biscuits"), trained psychologists/psychiatrists who did exactly what the TV analyst did: used psychology to help interrogators learn the truth. But the ICRC considered their role in planning and assisting with interrogations "a flagrant violation of medical ethics." The military responded by curtailing the role of BSCTs.
On TV, CIA and FBI interrogators used the detainee's religion to gain leverage. The CIA interrogators refused to allow the detainee to pray; then the FBI allowed the prayers but adjusted them to manipulate the detainee's sense of time. Because of the manipulation, the detainee admitted responsibility for an attack that he incorrectly believed had already occurred, allowing the attack to be thwarted. In reality, the U.S. does not manipulate detainee's religious practices. In Gitmo, everything stops, including interrogations, so detainees can pray. The Islamic call to prayer is broadcast, several times a day, over loudspeakers. Everyone in and around the detention camp is forced to listen.
On TV, the interrogators give the detainee a prayer mat and point out the direction to Mecca to win his gratitude. In reality, the U.S. gives religious items such as prayer mats, prayer caps, prayer oil, prayer beads and Qurans to all detainees. They don't need anyone to point out the direction of Mecca because the U.S. paints black arrows on the ground pointing toward Mecca in every cell and around the camp.
In fact, at Camp Bucca, a U.S.-run detention camp in Iraq, the U.S. erected a tent as a makeshift mosque and designated it off-limits to prison guards so that detainees could pray in solitude. The detainees used their privacy to turn the "mosque" into a weapons cache, and then attacked the prison guards. This led to a battle for control of the camp that lasted four days.
Despite the debacle at Camp Bucca, the military still designates some items (such as the Quran) as "off-limits" to prison guards, even though detainees misuse the Quran to conceal illegal contraband, including prescription pills. U.S. forces in Gitmo go to these great lengths despite the fact that the Geneva Conventions provide for POWs to practice their religion only "on condition that they comply with the disciplinary routine prescribed by military authorities."
On "Criminal Minds," the detainee glanced toward bottles of water lining a table, and said, "They line it up to show what I cannot have." In reality, detainees at Gitmo receive ample food and water, including Halal meals and imported seasonal fruits and nuts from their native countries for special occasions.
While the crime show's creators must resort to fiction to depict interrogations, they don't have to fictionalize the contempt that most detainees show for Americans. Hollywood gets that part right. On TV, the fictional detainee said of killing innocent Americans: "There is no such thing, they were infidels . . . they hurt me by existing! The infidels will fall at the hands of the righteous, and that is when the jihad will end."
In reality, according to Gitmo's Web site, one detainee said, "The people who died on 9/11/2001 were not innocent . . . my group will shake up the U.S. and the countries who follow the U.S." Another told military police officers that he would "come to their homes and cut their throats like sheep." Yet another detainee threatened, "I will arrange for the kidnapping and execution of U.S. citizens living in Saudi Arabia. Small groups of four of five U.S. citizens will be kidnapped, held and executed. They will have their heads cut off." These real statements make one thing clear: life in Gitmo has not broken the detainees' spirits.
Hollywood sets unrealistic expectations for many things. The "Criminal Minds" episode represents one instance where truth is tamer, and many would argue stranger, than fiction.
Ms. Rotunda teaches at George Mason School of Law and is director of the law school's clinic that provides pro bono legal assistance to military families. She is currently writing a book about legal issues in the war on terror
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:22:49 PM
This from the editorial page of today's WSJ makes some comparative references to other countries:
By DAVID B. KOPEL
April 18, 2007; Page A17
The bucolic campus of Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., would seem to have little in common with the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City. Yet both share an important characteristic, common to the site of almost every other notorious mass murder in recent years: They are "gun-free zones."
Forty American states now have "shall issue" or similar laws, by which officials issue a pistol carry permit upon request to any adult who passes a background check and (in most states) a safety class. Research by Carlisle Moody of the College of William and Mary, and others, suggests that these laws provide law-abiding citizens some protection against violent crime. But in many states there are certain places, especially schools, set aside as off-limits for guns. In Virginia, universities aren't "gun-free zones" by statute, but college officials are allowed to impose anti-gun rules. The result is that mass murderers know where they can commit their crimes.
Private property owners also have the right to prohibit lawful gun possession. And some shopping malls have adopted anti-gun rules. Trolley Square was one, as announced by an unequivocal sign, "No weapons allowed on Trolley Square property."
In February of this year a young man walked past the sign prohibiting him from carrying a gun on the premises and began shooting people who moments earlier were leisurely shopping at Trolley Square. He killed five.
Fortunately, someone else -- off-duty Ogden, Utah, police officer Kenneth Hammond -- also did not comply with the mall's rules. After hearing "popping" sounds, Mr. Hammond investigated and immediately opened fire on the gunman. With his aggressive response, Mr. Hammond prevented other innocent bystanders from getting hurt. He bought time for the local police to respond, while stopping the gunman from hunting down other victims.
At Virginia Tech's sprawling campus in southwestern Va., the local police arrived at the engineering building a few minutes after the start of the murder spree, and after a few critical minutes, broke through the doors that Cho Seung-Hui had apparently chained shut. From what we know now, Cho committed suicide when he realized he'd soon be confronted by the police. But by then, 30 people had been murdered.
But let's take a step back in time. Last year the Virginia legislature defeated a bill that would have ended the "gun-free zones" in Virginia's public universities. At the time, a Virginia Tech associate vice president praised the General Assembly's action "because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus." In an August 2006 editorial for the Roanoke Times, he declared: "Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same."
Actually, Virginia Tech's policy only made the killer safer, for it was only the law-abiding victims, and not the criminal, who were prevented from having guns. Virginia Tech's policy bans all guns on campus (except for police and the university's own security guards); even faculty members are prohibited from keeping guns in their cars.
Virginia Tech thus went out of its way to prevent what happened at a Pearl, Miss., high school in 1997, where assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his car and apprehended a school shooter. Or what happened at Appalachian Law School, in Grundy, Va., in 2002, when a mass murder was stopped by two students with law-enforcement experience, one of whom retrieved his own gun from his vehicle. Or in Edinboro, Pa., a few days after the Pearl event, when a school attack ended after a nearby merchant used a shotgun to force the attacker to desist. Law-abiding citizens routinely defend themselves with firearms. Annually, Americans drive-off home invaders a half-million times, according to a 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Utah, there is no "gun-free schools" exception to the licensed carry law. In K-12 schools and in universities, teachers and other adults can and do legally carry concealed guns. In Utah, there has never been a Columbine-style attack on a school. Nor has there been any of the incidents predicted by self-defense opponents -- such as a teacher drawing a gun on a disrespectful student, or a student stealing a teacher's gun.
Israel uses armed teachers as part of a successful program to deter terrorist attacks on schools. Buddhist teachers in southern Thailand are following the Israeli example, because of Islamist terrorism.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., long-time gun control advocates, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), agreed that making airplane cockpits into "gun-free zones" had made airplanes much more dangerous for everyone except hijackers. Corrective legislation, supported by large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, allowed pilots to carry firearms, while imposing rigorous gun-safety training on pilots who want to carry.
In many states, "gun-free schools" legislation was enacted hastily in the late 1980s or early 1990s due to concerns about juvenile crime. Aimed at juvenile gangsters, the poorly written and overbroad statutes had the disastrous consequence of rendering teachers unable to protect their students.
Reasonable advocates of gun control can still press for a wide variety of items on their agenda, while helping to reform the "gun-free zones" that have become attractive havens for mass killers. If legislators or administrators want to require extensive additional training for armed faculty and other adults, that's fine. Better that some victims be armed than none at all.
The founder of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, understood the harms resulting from the type of policy created at Virginia Tech. In his "Commonplace Book," Jefferson copied a passage from Cesare Beccaria, the founder of criminology, which was as true on Monday as it always has been:
"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
Mr. Kopel is research director of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., and co-author of the law school textbook, "Gun Control and Gun Rights" (NYU Press).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:15:12 PM
So Rog, what do you suggest? Today's Opinion Journal of the WSJ contains a reference to one practical approach.
Virginia vs. Gun Crime
Much is being made of the fact that Virginia resident Cho Seung-Hui legally bought the guns he used in his killing spree. But there is gun control and gun control.
In fact, Virginia has been a pioneer in clamping down on gun related crimes and has seen gun violence drop dramatically as a result. In 1997, "Project Exile" was launched by a U.S. Attorney in Richmond to move many gun-related crimes to federal court, allowing prosecutors to expedite the cases, impose stiffer sentences and prevent bail being offered to criminals caught using firearms. The last point was especially important: A criminal apprehended with a gun would face instant jail with little chance of being let out before trial.
To make sure the news got around, Virginia set up a private foundation to pay for a public awareness campaign. Word didn't take long to spread. At the time, an aide to then-Gov. James Gilmore told us of one criminal nabbed trying to flush a pistol down a toilet while police were kicking in his door even as the suspect left a pile of drugs for the cops to confiscate. He was apparently more afraid of being caught with a gun than of being caught with drugs.
In similar fashion, Mayor Rudy Giuliani made aggressive use of New York's stop-and-frisk authority to target habitual criminals packing guns as they traveled around the five boroughs. New York City and the state of Virginia have very different gun control regimes, but their success in reducing gun violence came by focusing on criminals, not retailers and the general public. At first, Project Exile in Richmond was controversial, but it quickly proved to be a success -- cutting gun violence in the city by 40% -- and has been adopted across Virginia and copied by other states.
Such laws wouldn't solve the problem of mad shooters like Cho Seung-Hui, and gun-control advocates will undoubtedly continue to demand laws to prohibit all gun sales. Those more interested in results will settle for effective gun control that has proved politically viable -- i.e. aimed at controlling the behavior of the 1% who are criminals, not the 99% who aren't.
-- Brendan Miniter
A Tragedy Foretold
The Virginia Tech killings were foreshadowed last August when escaped jail inmate William Morva allegedly killed a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy just off campus and then fled to the Blacksburg school. His trial for those murders and other charges is set for September. The tragedy generated warnings about the school's vulnerability to violence that were ignored.
Jonathan McGlumphy, a Virginia Tech graduate student, wrote an op-ed in the school newspaper Collegiate Times calling on the campus community to "accurately assess the actions of all parties [in the Morva case] to ascertain what could have been done better or worse." His list was topped by university officials whom he said wrongly allowed morning classes to take place -- an eerie parallel to Monday's murders in which two hours elapsed between the first killings and the bulk of the homicides.
But Mr. McGlumphy saved his real ire last August for the school's policy of prohibiting students, faculty and staff members with concealed handgun permits from carrying legal firearms on campus. He noted that the campus gun ban "is completely artificial, and relies on the honor system... It is impossible to truly prevent someone from bringing a firearm if they are so inclined."
Mr. McGlumphy noted that any permit holder has gone through both firearm training and an extensive background check to obtain that permit. In Virginia, any permit holder must be 21 years of age or older, which excludes most college students, and holders are statistically less likely to commit violent crime than the general population. Mr. McGlumphy bluntly asked in the wake of the Morva incident whether "all students, faculty and staff would have been safer if CHP holders were not banned from carrying their weapons on campus? "
As evidence, Mr. McGlumphy cited a 2002 incident at the Appalachian School of Law in nearby Grundy, Virginia. Gunman Peter Odighizuwa killed three people and was only stopped when two permit-holding students ran to their cars, got their weapons, and subdued him.
But when a bill was introduced in Virginia's legislature last year to allow permit holders to carry guns on college campuses, Virginia Tech officials helped make sure it died in committee. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker boasted: "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
To Mr. McGlumphy such an attitude merely created a campus-wide "Safe Zone" for criminals. "For the university to continue to enforce its no-gun policy is to continue to put students in greater danger from the Morvas of the world," he wrote in Virginia Tech's campus paper last August.
Mr. McGlumphy now sadly concludes that the killings of 32 students and faculty this past Monday may have resulted partly because student Cho Seung-Hui knew that a university lecture hall was one place in Virginia where he had nothing to fear from the law-abiding people he was stalking.
-- John Fund
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 12:07:19 PM
Ummm, for the record actually he didn't call you a name. Also worth considering is that when you posted this
"Coming from a president who thinks pre-emptive wars, assassinations, secret imprisonment, and torture are all a-OK, his presence at the service was fairly inappropriate. If he didn't enjoy effective immunity from the consequences of his policies, it might occur to him that the above could just as easily be said about the masses of dead Iraqis. , , , could it be that why stuff like this is happening with increasing frequency in the US is a question that Bush and his speechwriters would prefer not to examine too closely?"
you open the door to his comment
Returning to the subject at hand "For the record, I am not against guns and I support our right to (some limited) gun ownership. I just don't buy this NRA fantasy of an armed-to-the-teeth (but educated and responsible) population somehow being the solution to all violent crime."
I am delighted to see that you apparently recognize that there is a personal Consitutional right to regulated gun ownership. Have I understood you correctly on this?
I think you will find that most "pro-gun" people can be similarly described. The problem is that there is a very substantial movement in this country, found principally in the Democratic Party, MSM and academia that is passionately for the disarmament or virtual disarmament of the American people. These people interpret the Second Amerndment as a matter of the rights of the States to have a National Guard or something like that. These people simply seek to incrementally increase the burdens and irrationality of the various regulatory schemes of the Feds and the States to eventually destroy gun rights in America-- the very same path as was taken in England and Australia.
But for the disingenuous bad faith of these people pretending to be for reasonable regulation when they actually seek disarmament of the American people I think you would find that the NRA (of which I am a member) would be much more flexible.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Parkour
on: April 18, 2007, 11:39:11 AM
Black Grass or anyone:
I like the point about this having self-defense applications-- sometimes running away is the best course of action and being able to jump from a height with a knowledge of how to do it and of what one is capable seems a good thing.
Any thoughts on how many reps to do? How many days rest between? How to modulate other training? How age affects these answers? And what about those forward rolls that we see in these clips? Is this a show-off technique or is it one that allows for greater absorbancy of the shock of the impact? Do we have a people who parachute who can give us some pointers?
I have a vauge memory of an airborne military person telling me something about if you were falling from a really big height that after the feet hit that it was better to fall to one side of the body than the other; something to do about the organs inside. Anyone?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 11:30:11 AM
OK here's an analysis that has nothing to do with guns-- a WSJ editorial from many years ago that was reprinted today. On a personal note I am left with a sense of wonderment that I should be posting it given who I thought I was in 1968. Life truly is an Adventure.
August 1968 and the death of self-restraint.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 10:00 a.m. EDT
(Editor's note: This editorial appeared in The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 1993.)
The gunning down of abortion doctor David Gunn in Florida last week shows us how small the barrier has become that separates civilized from uncivilized behavior in American life. In our time, the United States suffers every day of the week because there are now so many marginalized people among us who don't understand the rules, who don't think that rules of personal or civil conduct apply to them, who have no notion of self-control. We are the country that has a TV commercial on all the time that says: "Just do it." Michael Frederick Griffin just did it.
An anti-abortion protester of intense emotions, he walked around behind the Pensacola Women's Medical Services Clinic and pumped three bullets into the back of Dr. Gunn. Emptied himself, Michael Griffin then waited for the police to take him away. A remark by his father-in-law caught our eye: "Now we've got to take care of two grandchildren."
As the saying goes, there was a time. And indeed there really was a time in the United States when life seemed more settled, when emotions, both private and public, didn't seem to run so continuously at breakneck speed, splattering one ungodly tragedy after another across the evening news. How did this happen to the United States? How, in T.S. Eliot's phrase, did so many become undone?
We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won't like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
The real blame here does not lie with the mobs who fought bloody battles with the hysterical Chicago police. The larger responsibility falls on the intellectuals--university professors, politicians and journalistic commentators--who said then that the acts committed by the protesters were justified or explainable. That was the beginning. After Chicago, the justifications never really stopped. America had a new culture, for political action and personal living.
With great rhetorical firepower, books, magazines, opinion columns and editorials defended each succeeding act of defiance--against the war, against university presidents, against corporate practices, against behavior codes, against dress codes, against virtually all agents of established authority.
What in the past had been simply illegal became "civil disobedience." If you could claim, and it was never too hard to claim, that your group was engaged in an act of civil disobedience--taking over a building, preventing a government official from speaking, bursting onto the grounds of a nuclear cooling station, destroying animal research, desecrating Communion hosts--the shapers of opinion would blow right past the broken rules to seek an understanding of the "dissidents" (in the '60s and '70s) and "activists" (in the '80s and now).
Concurrently, the personal virtue known as self-restraint was devalued. In the process, certain rules that for a long time had governed behavior also became devalued. Whatever else was going on here, we were repeatedly lowering the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct.
You can argue, as many did and still do, that all this was necessary because the established order wouldn't respond or change. But then you still need to account for the nation's simultaneous dive into extensive social and personal dysfunction. You need to account for what is happening to those people within U.S. society who seem least able to navigate the political and personal torrents that they become part of, like Michael Griffin. Those torrents began with the antiwar movement in the 1960s.
Those endless demonstrations, though, were merely one part of a much deeper shift in American culture--away from community and family rules of conduct and toward more autonomy, more personal independence. As to limits, you set your own.
The people who provided the theoretical underpinnings for this shift--the intellectuals and political leaders who led the movement--did very well, or at least survived. They are born with large reservoirs of intelligence and psychological strength. The fame and celebrity help, too.
But for a lot of other people it hasn't been such an easy life to sustain. Not exceedingly sophisticated, neither thinkers nor leaders, never interviewed for their views, they're held together by faith, friends, fun and, at the margins, by fanaticism. The big political crackups make the news--a Michael Griffin or the woman on trial in Connecticut for the attempted bombing of the CEO of a surgical-device company or the '70s radicals who accidentally blew themselves up in a New York brownstone. But the personal crackups just float like flotsam through the country's hospitals and streets. You can also see some of them on daytime TV, America's medical museum of personal autonomy.
It may be true that most of the people in Hollywood who did cocaine survived it, but many of the weaker members of the community hit the wall. And most of the teenage girls in the Midwest who learn about the nuances of sex from magazines published by thirtysomething women in New York will more or less survive, but some continue to end up as prostitutes on Eighth Avenue. Everyone today seems to know someone who couldn't handle the turns and went over the side of the mountain.
These weaker or more vulnerable people, who in different ways must try to live along life's margins, are among the reasons that a society erects rules. They're guardrails. It's also true that we need to distinguish good rules from bad rules and periodically re-examine old rules. But the broad movement that gained force during the anti-war years consciously and systematically took down the guardrails. Incredibly, even judges pitched in. All of them did so to transform the country's institutions and its codes of personal behavior (abortion, for instance).
In a sense, it has been a remarkable political and social achievement for them. But let's get something straight about the consequences. If as a society we want to live under conditions of constant challenge to institutions and limits on personal life, if we are going to march and fight and litigate over every conceivable grievance, then we should stop crying over all the individual casualties, because there are going to be a lot of them.
Michael Griffin and Dr. David Gunn are merely two names on a long list of confrontations and personal catastrophe going back 25 years. That today is the status quo. The alternative is to start rethinking it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 18, 2007, 11:16:40 AM
"What have we as a society done since Columbine to make such incidents any less likely to occur? This thread (to this forum's credit) started out with expressions of shock and sympathy for the victims, but now it's all but devolved into a discussion about fears that incidents like this will increase the appeal of gun control laws. IMO, that says quite a bit."
Not sure I follow here. You ask what we have done as a society to lessen the chances of such incidents, yet we are not to discuss allowing the population to defend itself vs. disarming the population?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: April 18, 2007, 11:12:18 AM
Well, we seem to be drifting well afield here from "Islam in Australia"
Forgive me this brief return to the subject of this thread
GM, Erik-- excellent exchange you guys have going here and one in which I would like to participate. Any chance of one or both of you re-posting it to a thread where it is more on topic and is more likely to be seen by those interested in these matters? If this is too much of a hassle, then carry on here.
Islamic hate film gets PG rating
By Liam Houlihan
April 15, 2007 01:00am
Death Series movies urge children to martyr themselves
Censor board awarded series PG rating
Film vilifies Jewish as 'army of pigs'
A PRO-TERROR hate film that urges children to martyr themselves in Islam's war on the West and calls Jews "pigs" has been rated PG by Australia's censors.
Sheik Feiz Mohammed's DVD box set, which also calls for the murder of non-believers, was initially seized by Federal anti-terror police. But the Office of Film and Literature Classification has ruled that The Death Series is suitable to be bought and watched by children. The shock decision has seen the nation's peak censorship body slammed as weak and out of touch by family groups and the Jewish community. It has also made a mockery of the Attorney-General's plans to bring in tough new laws that ban material which "advocates" terrorism. The PG decision comes as Australian-born Sheik Feiz, who is in exile in Lebanon, is still preaching to Australians by phone.
The films urge parents to make their children holy warriors and martyrs, and praises jihad as the pinnacle of Islam. The radical sheik makes snorting noises on the films as he vilifies Jews as the "army of pigs". He blames a lack of courage for martyrdom on the battlefield for the "humiliation" of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Guantanamo.
The censors' finding means children of any age can watch the films - but it is advised under-15s have a parent present.
The OFLC finding said the sheik's calls to "jihad" and "martyrdom" were ambiguous. And it found that comments vilifying Jews as an "army of pigs" and saying "behind me is a Jew, come kill him" were mitigated by the context.
The Australian/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council said the PG rating proved the current censorship guidelines had dangerous shortcomings.
"In the Feiz Mohammed case, as well as others, there seems to be inadequate consideration to the dangers posed by the non-fiction advocacy of violence and bigotry, as opposed to its graphic depiction," AIJAC head Dr Colin Rubenstein said.
He said he hoped that a review of the laws would deal with the serious problem of incitement. The Australian Family Association said the Sheik Feiz decision was just the latest ruling by a "hardened" OFLC detached from community values. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21556613-421,00.html?from=public_rss#
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: April 17, 2007, 11:59:35 PM
We're going on a bit of a tangent to the subject of this thread here, but that's OK.
"So, I'm completely with you regarding "wake up folks, something nasty is brewing" like in reference to Nazis and pre-WWII Japanese, but I don't get a sense of differentiation between Islam, Muslims, and terrorism. My in-laws and many, many of their countrymen are Muslims and victims of Islamist terrorism. It freaks me out when public discourse in this country fails to differentiate. Believe me, there's a big, big difference."
Here you bring up a key point I think. I readily grant that the preponderance of posts on the various variations of this subject on this forum tend to be strongly leery of Islam precisely because something nasty is brewing, but I do hope you will have time to invest in reading back in the various threads. If you do so I think you will also find some posting of quite favorable things as well.
As it says on the Rules of the Road WE SEEK TRUTH. It sounds like you belong here as part of this search. The conversation may be vigorous, because Truth matters and its discernment in these troubled times can be as elusive as it is important.
So in closing I draw your attention to certain questions and doubts I have to help you communicate more effectively with me.
a) I sense a "good cop bad cop" routines between "good" and "bad" muslims-- and like good cop/bad cop, ultimately that they are two faces of the same coin.
b) I sense that "good muslims" have a very strong aversion to standing with "good infidels" against "bad muslims".
c) This is shown by the tremendous scarcity of translators and interpretors coming forward from the millions of Arab, Persian and Pakistani immigrants and their children in America.
d) To be Muslim, my understanding is that one must seek Sharia. Sharia is not only a religious idea, it seeks to be the law-- a political idea. And the political idea of Sharia is contrary to Freedom of Choice, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Separation of Church and State-- all core American inalienable rights derived from our Creator. In other words, I do not seeing a way around raising the question that in America Sharia, hence Islam, is per se seditious.
I have more to say, but the wife beckons me to watch "Dancing with the Stars" with her. Methinks these folks would all get fatwa-ed if their dances were to come to the attention of a goodly number of Muslim leaders.
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: April 17, 2007, 10:25:23 AM
ISRAEL/PNA: Israeli troops disguised as Palestinians killed Ashraf Hanaysheh, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade leader, Reuters reported, citing a Palestinian source. The special unit of paramilitary border police saw Hanaysheh near the town of Jenin in the northern West Bank, identified him as a senior operative and surrounded him. When Hanaysheh drew a weapon in response, the officers shot and killed him. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a group in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
EGYPT: Egyptian authorities have arrested a man accused of spying on the country's nuclear program for Israel, state Prosecutor Hisham Badawi said. The man, an engineer employed by Egypt's nuclear energy agency, allegedly took reports from his workplace with plans to exchange them for money. Two other foreigners, reportedly from Japan and Ireland, also have been charged.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 17, 2007, 08:35:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: U.S., Iran Lose from Major Changes in Baghdad
The al-Sadrite bloc pulled out of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government on Monday. This move is a function of intra-Shiite wrangling at the tactical level. The development also affects U.S.-Iranian relations and the stabilization of Iraq, but the question is whether it has brought the United States and Iran closer to a deal on Iraq or has had the opposite effect.
The biggest problem for the United States in Iraq remains radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's movement. In 2004 al-Sadr's Mehdi Army fought battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces to gain recognition as a major Shiite political force and to establish a political presence in Baghdad.
Once in government, and after the eruption of Shiite sectarian attacks against Sunnis following the destruction of the Al Askariyah shrine in As Samarra in February 2006, the al-Sadrites became the major obstacle to containing the Sunni insurgency because of their hyper-indulgence in sectarian killings of Sunnis. And though it already was having trouble in trying to contain this Sunni insurgency, Washington faced an even bigger challenge when Mehdi Army attacks against Sunnis torpedoed negotiations with Sunni political principals.
Since many observers see the al-Sadrites as a major obstacle to U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, and are aware of the hostility between Washington and Tehran, most wrongly infer that the radical Iraqi Shiite Islamist movement is Iran's main proxy in Iraq. The reality is that al-Sadr also has been a problem for the Iranians. Because of its Arab/Iraqi nationalist tendencies and its rivalry with the most pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite group -- the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- Iran has had a difficult time utilizing the al-Sadrite movement for its own goal of securing influence in Iraq.
To realize this goal, Iran knows it must either attain its objective through a Shiite-dominated strong central government in Baghdad or through an autonomous Shiite federal zone in southern Iraq that would be similar to the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north. The al-Sadrites pose a problem to both scenarios.
The establishment of an autonomous southern Shiite zone involves the creation of regional government that would be dominated by the SCIRI since it has a far better organizational setup in the nine Shiite majority governorates in the south. The al-Sadrite power base, on the other hand, would get divided between pockets in the south and in Baghdad -- which is why the al-Sadrites oppose this idea. But even under current arrangements, the al-Sadrites have been the key obstacle in preventing the ruling Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, from emerging as a coherent Shiite political bloc -- a medium the Iranians need to pursue their agenda in Iraq.
Though Iran has indeed obtained short-term tactical benefits by playing the various Shiite factions against each other and by causing inter-faction rifts, a factionalized Iraqi Shiite community is a liability to Iranian interests. The al-Sadrites left the Cabinet to secure their own partisan goals, likely with Tehran's blessing. Iran needed this to happen in order to counter U.S. moves against the clerical regime. But eventually Iran must get al-Sadr to stop being a maverick and fall in line with the Iraqi Shiite establishment because instability within this community is dangerous for Tehran.
This is the point at which U.S. and Iranian interests begin to converge; both Washington and Tehran cannot afford to see the collapse of the current political arrangement. The Bush administration can no longer afford to start from scratch in forming a new coalition government. As for the Iranians, the current arrangement is the best it can expect from a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. It cannot get any better for Tehran but it can certainly get worse.
Therefore, Cabinet reshuffles in keeping with the current power-sharing mechanism are tolerable, but any changes to the basic political formula brought about by the withdrawal of one or more factions from the Cabinet and/or parliamentary coalition could be detrimental to both Washington and Tehran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: April 17, 2007, 08:00:00 AM
Hezbollah's German Helpers
By ALEXANDER RITZMANN and MARK DUBOWITZ
April 17, 2007
Hezbollah arrived in the European Union back in the 1980s, along with refugees from the civil war in Lebanon. Despite its deadly track record and a 2005 European Parliament resolution recommending the banning of the Iranian-funded group, it is still legal on the Continent. France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden prevent the EU from jointly designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Holding currently both the E.U. and G-8 presidencies, Berlin would be in a strong position to head the fight against an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the replacement of Lebanon's fragile democracy with a Tehran-backed Islamic state. So far, however, Germany has squandered this unique opportunity to push for a Hezbollah ban. Berlin's passivity is consistent with its tolerant approach toward the "Party of God" over the past two decades.
While under the watchful eye of German law enforcement and intelligence, Hezbollah enjoys significant operational freedom. In the late 1990s, for example, it was able to recruit in Germany Steven Smyrek, a German convert to Islam, and train him in Lebanon as a suicide bomber. He was luckily arrested at Tel Aviv airport before he could blow up Israeli civilians.
German security services believe that about 900 Hezbollah core activists are in the country and regularly meet in 30 cultural community centers and mosques. These activists financially support Hezbollah in Lebanon through fund-raising organizations, such as the "Orphans Project Lebanon Association." This harmless-sounding charity belongs to the Lebanese "al-Shahid (the Martyr) Association," which is part of the Hezbollah network that supports the families of militia fighters and suicide bombers.
According to a German government report from February, the attitude of Hezbollah supporters in Germany "is characterized by a far-reaching, unlimited acceptance of the ideology and policy (of Hezbollah)." Berlin is also aware that representatives of Hezbollah's "foreign affairs office" in Lebanon regularly travel to Germany to give orders to their followers.
* * *
So why does the German government tolerate these activities?
First, the Hezbollah leadership in Beirut recognizes the value of a German safe haven. It demands that Hezbollah followers carefully obey German law, which Berlin claims they do "to a large extent." Experience from attacks in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere suggest, though, that terrorists follow the law up and until the point they decide to strike.
Second, too many Germany policymakers uncritically accept the idea that there is supposedly a political Hezbollah -- an Islamist but legitimate movement independent of those Hezbollah terrorists who have murdered hundreds of people around the world. To believe that fairy tale, they even ignore Hezbollah's own words. As Mohammed Fannish, member of the "political bureau" of Hezbollah and former Lebanese energy minister put it in 2002: "I can state that there is no separating between Hezbollah's military and political arms."
Hezbollah's leadership, the Shurah Council, controls the totality of its activities -- social, political and what it calls "military." Funding for Hezbollah is fungible: Money collected in Germany supposedly for social and political causes frees up funds for terrorist attacks.
In ignoring the threat from Hezbollah, the German government puts hope above experience. While it tries to spare German citizens from the wrath of Hezbollah, it plays down the danger of a group that seeks to destroy both Lebanese democracy and the Jewish state. In the end, this approach also compromises the safety of German citizens. On July 31, 2006, two Lebanese students, Yussuf Mohammed El Hajdib and Jihad Hamad, placed bombs hidden in suitcases on two regional trains in Germany, but they failed to go off. Germany's federal law enforcement agency concluded that a successful explosion would have resulted in a tragedy on par with the London subway attacks of July 2005. The two suspects said they wanted to take revenge for the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.
Just four month earlier, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah repeatedly urged Muslims on Hezbollah's TV-station al-Manar "to take a decisive stand" in the cartoon controversy. He said that he is certain that, "...not only millions, but hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them." The German federal prosecutor is still investigating the organizational affiliations of the two Lebanese terror suspects.
What is well established already is that al-Manar broadcasts into Germany (and the rest of Europe), the Middle East and North Africa. While eight out of 10 satellite providers (including four European) have dropped al-Manar, ARABSAT, majority-owned by the Saudi government, and Nilesat, owned by the Egyptian government, continue these broadcasts. Hezbollah TV's deadly mix of racial hatred, anti-Semitism, glorification of terrorism and incitement to violence are popular among Arabic-speaking youth in Europe. Young Muslims in Berlin recently asked in a German TV show to explain their hatred of the U.S. and Jews cited al-Manar as one of their primary sources of information.
In the past, the German government has shown strong resolve when it saw a threat to German security. It banned the Hamas "charity" al-Aqsa as well as the radical Sunni Islamist Hizb-ut Tahrir group. And it joined the EU in designating the PKK, the radical Kurdish group, as a terrorist organization.
Would branding the "Party of God" a terrorist group make any difference? Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah himself gave the answer in March 2005 when he told Arab media that European blacklisting would "destroy Hezbollah. The sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed."
With so much power comes great responsibility to act.
Mr. Ritzmann, a former member of the Berlin State Parliament, is a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy. Mr. Dubowitz is chief operating officer of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and director of its Coalition Against Terrorist Media project.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chimpanzees
on: April 17, 2007, 05:53:36 AM
Today's NY Times:
Almost Human, and Sometimes Smarter
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: April 17, 2007
CHICAGO — Observed in the wild and tested in captivity, chimpanzees invite comparison with humans, their close relatives. They bear a family resemblance that fascinates people, and scientists see increasing evidence of similarities in chimp behavior and skills, making some of them think on the vagaries of evolution.
From the top, Ayumu, a 6-year-old male, shows foresight in stacking blocks; chimps can outperform humans at some memory tasks; they use simple tools like twigs to dig out ants and termites, and rocks to crack open nuts.
For some time, paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have known that chimp ancestors were the last line of today’s apes to diverge from the branch that led to humans, probably six million, maybe four million years ago. More recent examination shows that despite profound differences in the two species, just a 1.23 percent difference in their genes separates Homo sapiens from chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes.
And certain similarities between the two species, scientists say, go beyond expressive faces and opposable thumbs.
Chimps display a remarkable range of behavior and talent. They make and use simple tools, hunt in groups and engage in aggressive, violent acts. They are social creatures that appear to be capable of empathy, altruism, self-awareness, cooperation in problem solving and learning through example and experience. Chimps even outperform humans in some memory tasks.
“Fifty years ago, we knew next to nothing about chimpanzees,” said Andrew Whiten, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “You could not have predicted the richness and complexity of chimp culture that we know now.”
Jane Goodall, a young English woman working in Africa in the 1960s, began changing perceptions. At first, experts disputed her reports of chimps’ using tools and social behavior. The experts especially objected to her references to chimp culture. Just humans, they insisted, had “culture.”
“Jane suffered early rejection by the establishment,” Richard Wrangham, a Harvard anthropologist, said. “Now, the people who say chimpanzees don’t have emotions and culture are the ones rejected.”
The new consensus framed discussions in March at a symposium, “The Mind of the Chimpanzee,” at the Lincoln Park Zoo here. More than 300 primatologists and other scientists reviewed accumulating knowledge of chimps’ cognitive abilities.
After one session, Frans de Waal of Emory University said that as recently as a decade ago there was still no firm consensus on many of the social relationships of chimps. “You don’t hear any debate now,” he said.
In his own studies at the Yerkes Primate Research Center at Emory, Dr. de Waal found that chimps as social animals have had to constrain and alter their behavior in various ways, as have humans. It is a part of ape inheritance, he said, and in the case of humans, the basis for morality. The provocative interpretation was advanced in his recent book, “Primates and Philosophers.”
Other reports shortly before the symposium had elaborated on the abilities of chimps as toolmakers. Jill Pruetz, a primatologist at Iowa State University, described 22 examples of chimps in Senegal making stick spears to hunt smaller primates for their meat. Dr. Goodall was the first to call attention to chimps as hunting carnivores, not strictly vegetarians.
Dr. Pruetz observed several chimps jabbing the spears into hollow tree trunks where bush babies often dwell. Just one attempt was successful. Previously, chimps had been seen using sticks mainly to extract termites from their nests.
A team of archaeologists led by Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary reported finding stones in Ivory Coast that chimps used 4,300 years ago to crack nuts. Today’s chimps have often been videotaped using rocks as a hammer to open nuts. The old stones with starch residues from nuts, the researchers said, were the earliest strong evidence of chimp tool use, and the finding suggested that chimps had learned the skill on their own, rather than copying humans.
Other researchers combine field work showing chimp behavior in natural habitats with laboratory experiments that are created to disclose their underlying intelligence — what scientists call their “cognitive reserve.”
For example, chimps on their own would not sit at a computer responding with rapid touches on the screen as a test of their immediate memory. Videos of their doing just that at Kyoto University in Japan especially impressed the symposium scientists.
Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a Kyoto primatologist, described a young chimp watching as numbers 1 through 9 flashed on the computer screen at random positions. Then the numbers disappeared in no more than a second. White squares remained where the numbers had been. The chimp casually but swiftly pressed the squares, calling back the numbers in ascending order — 1, 2, 3, etc.
The test was repeated several times, with the numbers and squares in different places. The chimp, which had months of training accompanied by promised food rewards, almost never failed to remember where the numbers had been. The video included scenes of a human failing the test, seldom recalling more than one or two numbers, if any.
Chimpanzees defend territories and patrol boundaries, as this group is doing in Uganda, where one patrol was seen to kill and mutilate a trespassing male.
QUICK STUDIES Chimpanzees pass on what they have learned. Here a group watches and learns while Georgia, trained separately, puts a token in a bucket to obtain food.
“Humans can’t do it,” Dr. Matsuzawa said. “Chimpanzees are superior to humans in this task.”
Dr. Matsuzawa suggested that early human species “lost the immediate memory and, in return, learned symbolization, the language skills.”
“I call this the trade-off theory,” he continued. “If you want a capability like better immediate memory, you have to lose some other capability.”
Other experiments at Kyoto’s primate center demonstrated the ability of chimps to recognize themselves and focus attention on others. Masaki Tomonaga, who conducted the tests, said that an infant made eye with its mother at about 2 months and that sometime after the first year was able to maintain a gaze as the mother moved about.
Dr. Tomonaga said such “gaze following” developed in humans about the same age, “though infant humans generally have more complex interactions.”
Misato Hayashi, also from Kyoto, described experiments with infant chimps’ manipulating nesting cups and square and cylindrical blocks. They were slower to learn than humans, but the manual dexterity was there. A human starts stacking blocks shortly after age 1, he said; chimps are almost 3 before getting the hang of it.
In experiments with mirrors, researchers showed that chimps had an awareness of themselves that is absent in monkeys but present in dolphins and all the great apes. Similar tests by Emory scientists showed some self-recognition among elephants.
These behaviors were reported by Dr. de Waal and his associate J. M. Plotnik, who said that they “may suggest convergent cognitive evolution probably related to complex sociality and cooperation well documented in both chimpanzees and elephants.”
Other researchers said that when confronted with problems obtaining food from the other side of a fence, chimps were not only clever on their own and often competitive with a fellow chimp, but they also showed a willingness to cooperate with one another to get the job done.
Brian Hare of Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said bonobos outperformed their chimp relatives in cooperative tasks and shared food more readily.
The emotions of caring and mourning have been observed, as in the case of the chimp mother that carried on her back the corpse of her 2-year-old daughter for days after she had died. After fights between two chimps, scientists said, others in the group were seen consoling the loser and acting as mediators to restore peace.
Devyn Carter of Emory described the sympathetic response to a chimp named Knuckles, who was afflicted with cerebral palsy. No fellow chimp was seen to take advantage of his disability. Even the alpha male gently groomed Knuckles.
Dr. Wrangham of Harvard said the challenge to primatologists working in the field was to learn how much of the behavior and “surplus cognitive capacity” observed in captivity applied in the wild.
The answer seems to vary from one isolated chimp community to another. Scientists said that indicated the role of social learning — picking up skills by emulation — and responses to different opportunities in separate cultures.
At Gombe, the site in Tanzania where Dr. Goodall made a name for herself, the chimps with stick tools are accomplished extractors of termites from their nests. But termite fishing is rare in Bossou, Guinea. At Bossou, and not Gombe, chimps have learned to make use of many other tools, including stones for cracking nuts.
Dora Biro of the University of Oxford in England has studied tool use by chimps at the Bossou site. They fold leaves in a mat to sponge water out of tree hollows and scoop algae off stream surfaces. They collect edible ants with sticks. They take stouter tree branches and pound the juicy palm fiber to a pulp, preparing another favorite food.
Videos of Bossou nutcrackers show adult chimps, often female, placing a nut on a flat stone anvil and slamming down on it with a smaller rock. Two or three youngsters sit around watching. The adults do not appear to be giving instructions, except by example
What we’ve learned is that manipulation of objects begins around 1 year of age,” Dr. Biro said. “If it involves two or three objects, as in cracking nuts, that happens at 3 ½ to 5 years. If it is not learned by 6 or 7, it will never be acquired.”
Center for Great Apes
Knuckles, top, has cerebral palsy. Although Knuckles' disability made him an easy target, chimps in his community never took advantage of him.
With a Founding Mother in the Field of Primatology (April 17, 2007) At a dense forest in the Congo Republic, Crickette M. Sanz of the Max Planck institute said the chimps seemed as curious about her as she was about them. Groups came forward, calling others to join them. Sometimes, they sat with her for hours, eating fruit, grooming and even mating.
For a more detached study, Dr. Sanz deployed 18 video cameras at remote locations and recorded 84 hours of chimp tool use. Leaf sponging was the simplest, she concluded, and collecting honey with a long stick required the most effort and risk, with termite fishing having “the highest element of success.”
Dr. Sanz, who has worked with her husband, David B. Morgan, on some of the research, described mother chimps’ carefully withdrawing from a hole sticks swarming with black termites while their infants looked on. These social interactions, she said, passed on essential techniques and behaviors to the next generation.
“Socially transmitted adjustable behavior,” Dr. de Waal said, is a hallmark of culture.
Chimp behavior sometimes turns violent, particularly in territorial clashes. In Uganda, John Mitani of the University of Michigan observed chimp patrols regularly policing the forest boundaries of their communities. One patrol was seen assaulting an adult male, killing and emasculating him.
Kristin Bonnie, another Emory primatologist, said the transmission of behavior could be benign and spontaneous, with the prospect of reward being secondary. “It is the desire to act like others, an identification with certain others,” she explained, citing as an example the way chimps usually clasp hands while grooming each other.
At the symposium, researchers said the interest in learning more about chimps was not just a case of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Their behavior and intelligence, scientists say, may offer insights into the abilities of early human ancestors like Australopithecus afarensis, the apelike “Lucy” species that thrived more than three million years ago. A more urgent motivation for the research, primatologists say, is that these are sentient beings and the closest living relatives of humans, and their survival is threatened.
Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, a primatologist at the Lincoln Park Zoo and a symposium organizer, said researchers needed “to keep their eyes out for ways to improve the care of chimpanzees.”
Diseases like ebola and anthrax are taking their toll. Hunting chimps for “bush meat” is increasing. Many of the forest habitats of chimps in central Africa are being cut by loggers and land developers. As a result, Dr. Lonsdorf said, “Groups of the animals are getting closer together, which increased the threat of chimp violence and territorial disputes.”
Dr. Goodall recalled that when she went to Africa nearly a half-century ago, at least a million chimps lived in the continent, and “now there are perhaps only 150,000.” In that time, they have impressed scientists with physical and emotional reminders of their kinship to humans and their occasional triumphs over them at a computer screen.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Home Depot
on: April 17, 2007, 05:41:57 AM
Today's NY Times:
After squabbling over prices for decades, the nation’s big-box retail chains are ready to battle in a new arena: the environment.
Dan Brown stocked organic vegetables and herbs in peat pots at a Home Depot store in Atlanta. The health benefits spur sales of organic food.
Home Depot today will introduce a label for nearly 3,000 products, like fluorescent light bulbs that conserve electricity and natural insect killers, that promote energy conservation, sustainable forestry and clean water.
The initiative — which is expected to include 6,000 products by 2009, representing 12 percent of the chain’s sales — would become the largest green labeling program in American retailing and could persuade competitors to speed up their own plans.
And it signals that Home Depot, the country’s second-largest retailer, is joining the largest, Wal-Mart, in pursuing issues of public concern like climate change that stores have left to governments and environmental groups.
More than 90 percent of the products in the line are already on Home Depot’s shelves, but the Eco Options brand will identify them as environmentally friendly.
Home Depot executives said that as the world’s largest buyer of construction material, their company had the power to persuade thousands of suppliers, home builders and consumers to follow its lead on environment sustainability. “Who in the world has a chance to have a bigger impact on this sector than Home Depot?” said Ron Jarvis, vice president for environmental innovation at the retailer, which is based in Atlanta.
But persuading the majority of Americans to buy less polluting products could prove an uphill battle, at least for now, environmental advocates say. Decades of research have shown that consumers often say they want sustainable products but rarely purchase them. Prices tend to be higher, and consumers complain that the products do not always work as well as those they are meant to replace.
“There has not been a lot of success, frankly,” said Laurie Demeritt, president of the Hartman Group, which consults with retailers like Wal-Mart and Whole Foods on how to sell environmentally sustainable products. A big exception has been organic food. But even there, Ms. Demeritt said, consumers seem to be motivated by the health benefits, not the environmental impact.
Home Depot introduced Eco Options products in Canada in 2004, where the company has fewer than 200 stores — and so far, sales there have been strong.
Mr. Jarvis said Home Depot found that “given the option of a product that performs just as well, we are seeing the consumer would rather buy something that has less of an impact on the environment,” adding, “We are just making that easier.”
The company said it had asked suppliers to produce Eco Option goods at the same prices as conventional merchandise. But it acknowledged that some products would be more expensive at the cash register, even if consumers are likely to save money over time — as in the case of the energy-efficient light bulbs.
Suppliers that qualify for the Eco Options label will be rewarded with what preferential treatment — like prominent shelf space in the nearly 2,000 Home Depot stores in the United States and aggressive marketing through weekly newspaper inserts.
Merchandise can qualify for the new line in two ways. It either meets widely accepted federal and industry standards, like the Energy Star or the Forest Stewardship Council certification process, or its environmental claims are tested and validated by an outside company, Scientific Certification Systems. Ultimately, Home Depot, rather than a third party, determines what products will receive an Eco Options label.
There is, for example, a silicone window and door sealant from General Electric that improves the energy efficiency of heating and cooling systems and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-burning electricity plants. Another product is a glass cleaner from OdoBan that has low levels of volatile organic compounds, vapors linked to health problems. And organic plant food from Miracle-Gro uses no harsh chemicals that imperil water supplies.
For Home Depot, the new program is the culmination of a nearly decade-long journey from environmental whipping boy to green darling. In the late 1990s, groups conducted repeated protests against the company, contending that it sold wood from endangered forests in countries including Chile and Indonesia.
But by 2000, Home Depot had promised to eliminate sales of lumber from environmentally sensitive areas and began giving preference to wood from forests that are managed in ways considered sound.
Since then, Home Depot has worked with environmental groups to develop a variety of green programs, like offsetting carbon emissions from its headquarters by planting thousands of trees in Atlanta.
Its changes mirror those at Wal-Mart, which was heavily criticized by environmentalists for failing to manage storm-water runoff during construction of new stores in the United States and for generating high levels of pollution in countries like China, where many of its products are manufactured. But in 2005, Wal-Mart committed itself to reduce energy use in its stores, improve its trucks’ fuel efficiency and minimize the use of packaging.
Like Home Depot, Wal-Mart is asking that suppliers develop more sustainable products. But Wal-Mart has yet to introduce a broad environmental labeling program.
It is hardly alone. Retailers have been reluctant to brand products as green because of lackluster sales. “The options offered in the past have been a little ahead of their time,” said Lawrence A. Selzer, president of the Conservation Fund, an environmental group that works closely with Home Depot.
But Mr. Selzer said “what feels different today is the level of public engagement” on issues like climate change. “There is a buzz in the country right now,” he said. “The buying public is ready, willing and able.”
Even if the products do not sell briskly, environmental leaders said their presence on the shelves would begin teaching millions of shoppers about the impact of household products like weed killers and light bulbs.
“People hear about the environment, they see commercials, they attend a feel-good meeting, but at the end of the day they don’t know what to do,” Mr. Jarvis of Home Depot said. “We see educating the consumer as being the highest impact of this process.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues
on: April 17, 2007, 12:07:44 AM
Three Cheers for Lawyers
Don't think a good defense attorney matters? Think again.
BY RANDY E. BARNETT
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Years ago, I appeared on "The Ricki Lake Show" in an episode about persons who had been freed on appeal after being wrongfully convicted of crimes. As a former criminal prosecutor with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Chicago, I was there to represent the "prosecution viewpoint" (whatever that might be), along with the leader of New York's Guardian Angels representing the "victims' viewpoint."
The other guests consisted of innocent persons whose convictions had been reversed, their appellate lawyers, their parents and a reporter who had helped vindicate a father wrongfully convicted of murdering his young daughter. As I approached the set, I wondered what I could possibly say that would ward off the hoots of the audience, especially given that I was just as appalled by wrongful convictions and prosecutorial abuses.
The point I decided to make was simple: For better or worse, we have an adversary legal system that relies for its proper operation on having competent lawyers on both sides. In every case I knew about where an innocent person had been convicted, there had been an incompetent defense lawyer at the pretrial and trial stages.
The reaction of the others on the stage with me was stunning. The former defendants all began nodding their heads while their lawyers, who represented them on appeal but not at trial, sat sullenly beside them. Afterwards, some parents even came up to shake my hand.
The crucial importance of defense lawyers was illustrated in reverse by the Duke rape prosecution, mercifully ended last week by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's highly unusual affirmation of the defendants' complete innocence. Others are rightly focusing on the "perfect storm," generated by a local prosecutor up for election peddling to his constituents a racially-charged narrative that so neatly fit the ideological template of those who dominate academia and the media. But perhaps we should stop for a moment to consider what saved these young men: defense attorneys, blogs and competing governments.
Our criminal justice system does not rely solely on the fairness of the police and prosecutors to get things right. In every criminal case, there is a professional whose only obligation is to scrutinize what the police and prosecutor have done. This "professional" is a lawyer. The next time you hear a lawyer joke, maybe you'll think of the lawyers who represented these three boys and it won't seem so funny. You probably can't picture their faces and don't know their names. (They include Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, Michael Cornacchia, Bill Cotter, Wade Smith and the late Kirk Osborn.) That's because they put their zealous representation of their clients ahead of their own egos and fame. Without their lawyering skills, we would not today be speaking so confidently of their clients' innocence.
These lawyers held the prosecutor's feet to the fire. Their skillful questioning at pre-trial hearings revealed the prosecutor's misconduct that eventually forced him to give up control of the case and now threatens his law license. They uncovered compelling exculpatory evidence and made it available to the press; they let their clients and their families air their story in the national media.
There is no rule book for what prosecutors call "heater" cases like this one. Navigating the law, politics and publicity in such case is an art not a science. These fine lawyers displayed all the skills and tenacity that made me want to be a criminal trial lawyer after watching the television series, "The Defenders," when I was 10 years old.
Do you suppose that lawyers like these gained their skills only representing the innocent? Criminal lawyers are constantly asked how they can live with themselves defending those guilty of serious crimes. The full and complete answer ought to be that, because we can never be sure who is guilty and who is innocent until the evidence is scrutinized, the only way to protect the innocent is by effectively defending everyone.
As a prosecutor working "felony review," when I was in a Chicago police station at 3 a.m. deciding whether to approve charges, I had to evaluate the evidence as if I were a defense attorney. Where is the murder weapon? Where are the proceeds of the robbery? How credible are the witnesses? How was the identification of the accused conducted?
In this way, the mere prospect of a competent defense attorney scrutinizing the evidence in the future provides a powerful deterrent to pursuing weak cases even before anyone is charged. Thanks to defense lawyers defending the innocent and guilty alike, prosecutors generally win their cases because they avoid weak cases they may lose. (After the charging stage, a prosecutor's ability to avoid losing at trial by plea bargaining weak cases is a serious, but separate and complex issue.)
Paradoxically, the system's overall accuracy makes defending the truly innocent all the harder. While knowing that mistakes do happen, the accuracy of the system leads everyone, including defense lawyers, to assume that anyone who is charged is probably guilty. After all, they usually are. Notwithstanding the legal "presumption of innocence," in a system that generally gets it right, there is a pragmatic presumption of guilt.
Consequently, effectively defending the innocent usually requires the ability to prove your client's innocence. And that's not easy. Further, because representing the guilty consists mainly of negotiating pleas or knocking holes in the prosecutor's case, defense lawyers do not always develop the skills needed to effectively defend the truly innocent or, as important, know when to deploy them. Defense lawyers become as skeptical about their clients' claims of innocence as everyone else, if not more so. All this contributes to inadequate defense lawyering, which thankfully did not occur here.
Good lawyering alone, however, was not enough to free the Duke players. While the "mainstream" press largely swallowed District Attorney Mike Nifong's narrative of racial oppression, the blogs--especially history professor Robert "K.C." Johnson's blog Durham-in-Wonderland (durhamwonderland.blogspot.com)--provided the means by which the public could learn about the fruits of the defense's efforts. (Mr. Johnson's own difficulty in 2002 obtaining tenure at Brooklyn College over ideologically-motivated opposition was chronicled on this page by Dorothy Rabinowitz, who also, true-to-form, came to the defense of the Duke Lacrosse players.)
Finally, without the competing governing powers of the North Carolina state bar, the Attorney General's office, and potentially the U.S. Justice Department, there would simply have been no one in authority to rein in this prosecutor. It is worth noting, to those who champion political accountability as the highest form of legitimacy, that District Attorney Nifong was elected by, and presumably "accountable" to, his constituents. Nevertheless, his power needed to be checked by competing government agencies and a free press.
Rather than praising the defense lawyers, some of the same folks who whooped in support of Mr. Nifong's efforts are now bemoaning that it was the supposed wealth of these students' parents that enabled them to mount so effective a defense. Never mind that draining all their savings and putting them in debt is an additional injustice resulting from this wrongful prosecution. Of course, as my grandfather used to say, "rich or poor, it's nice to have money," but this case shows that wealth is no defense to public ruin. Sometimes it even invites it.
Let us not be distracted all over again. The difficult problem of innocent defendants typically arises in run-of-the mill cases where prosecutors acting in good faith have no reason to doubt their guilt. It results in part from the pragmatic presumption of guilt, which leads to inadequate defense lawyering, an indifferent press and an oblivious public. There are no easy solutions to this. But refraining from ridiculing lawyers in general, and criminal defense lawyers in particular, would be a nice start, and one that lies within the power of everyone reading these words.
Mr. Barnett is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2004).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: April 17, 2007, 12:03:46 AM
The Arab Invasion
Indonesia's radicalized Muslims aren't homegrown.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
JAKARTA, Indonesia--The headquarters of the Front for the Defense of Islam is reached by a narrow alley just off a one-lane street in a residential neighborhood near downtown Jakarta. But step inside the carpeted reception area, decorated by a mural of a desert mosque and partially open to the sky, and it's as if you've arrived in a bedouin kingdom.
Your host is Habib Mohammad Rizieq Shihab, 41. He is dressed entirely in white, a religious conceit far from typical of most Indonesian ulama, or experts in Islamic theology. To the question, "Where are you from?" Mr. Rizieq is quick to explain that he is descended from the Quraishi tribe, from what is now Yemen. Just how he knows this isn't clear, but it's the symbolism that counts: The Prophet Mohammad was a Quraishi, and the tribe is entrusted with the responsibility for protecting God's House, the Qe'eba, in Mecca. Mr. Rizieq, in fact, is a native of Jakarta.
For the better part of the past decade, Mr. Rizieq and his Front--known by its Indonesian initials FPI--have played a prominent role in Indonesian political life, although the FPI is not a political party. It is an Islamist vigilante group, with the self-appointed mission of policing and, if necessary, violently suppressing "un-Islamic" behavior. Squads of FPI militants have forcibly shut down hundreds of brothels, small-time gambling operations, discos, nightclubs and bars serving alcoholic beverages. They have also stormed "unauthorized" Christian houses of worship, attacked peaceful demonstrators from Indonesia's renascent Communist party, trashed the office of the National Commission on Human Rights and rampaged through airports looking for Israelis to kill.
"Non-Muslims from Dar el-Harb [countries at war with Muslims], if they are in Indonesia, then it is the duty of Muslims to oppose them to the last drop of blood," he says. "George Bush can be killed, too." As for the legitimacy of attacks on American diplomats and civilians, "this is a dilemma," though after a moment's reflection he concludes that they "cannot be disturbed" since they are here with the consent of a Muslim government.
The source of Mr. Rizieq's views--and of the Islamic radicalism that increasingly infects this country--becomes a little clearer as he tells his life story. A poor child but talented student, he won a full scholarship to study at King Saud University in Riyadh. He says he was "not influenced by Wahhabism," which he found excessively literal in its readings of the Quran and Islamic law. As evidence of his moderation, he observes that in his future Shariah state, authorities would not "cut off people's hands for stealing right away. First, you have to raise people up."
Still, Saudi attitudes plainly rubbed off on Mr. Rizieq, particularly in their obsession with religious purity. "I violently reject the mixing of non-Islamic and Islamic theology," he says in reference to the syncretic practices of Indonesian Muslims who often incorporate such pre-Islamic rituals as communing with the spirits of the dead. Muslims who do not pray five times a day, or do not fast during Ramadan, are "infidels, deviants." The same goes for heterodox Islamic sects such as the Ahmadiyya, as well as the great 13th century Sufi mystic Ibn . He is just as opposed to pancasila, Indonesia's secular and pluralist official ideology, which he contrasts invidiously with the Islamic concept of dhimmitude. "The status of being a dhimmi [religious minority] is an exalted one because you are under Islam and you are protected as long as you respect its rules."
Mr. Rizieq claims to have five million followers; in an apparent joke, he proposes to send them to New York "to study and learn." The real figure is probably in the tens of thousands at most. But there is no question Mr. Rizieq has magnified the FPI's influence with his modulated (and so far non-lethal) use of violence, which has helped stave off a full-scale government crackdown while allowing him to bully businesses, communities and individuals at will. He has also reportedly benefited from the support of the so-called Green (Islamic) generals, who rose to prominence in the last years of the Suharto era as the dictator, in a pattern common to ostensibly secular Muslim leaders, sought to shore up his regime by appealing to his "Islamic" constituency.
Less clear is whether the FPI also gets financial support from abroad; knowledgeable observers suggest Mr. Rizieq gets all the money he needs by extorting the victims of his Islamic purification campaigns. But as Imdadun Rahmat, a leading scholar of Islamic extremism in Indonesia, notes, "the radicals are all drinking from the same breast," by which he means the ideological inspiration and financial support provided by Saudi Arabia. The Mecca-based Muslim World League, for example, is notorious for sending its representatives to Indonesia with suitcases of cash to fund its pet projects, often extremist religious boarding schools. The Saudi religious affairs office in Jakarta finances the publication of a million books a year translated from Arabic into Indonesian, according to Angel Rabasa of the Rand Corporation.
Then there is the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies, or LIPIA, a Saudi-funded university in Jakarta, which offers full scholarships to top students. "LIPIA was designed to create cadres," says Mr. Rahmat. Its graduates include Jafar Umar Thalib, the founder of Laskar Jihad, a terrorist group responsible for the death of thousands of Indonesian Christians in the Moluccas.
For his part, Mr. Rizieq tries to distance himself from that kind of violence--although not by much. "If I wanted to I could always bomb these places," he says. "I'd rather have a physical confrontation." He adds that he is in contact with Jemaah Islamiyah, responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing, but only in order to persuade it to change its ways. Why would he set his troops upon mere gamblers or prostitutes while conversing with murderers? "When there is universal agreement among Muslims on [the immorality of] adultery or fornication then we will act violently. When there is no agreement [on issues like terrorism] then the approach is dialogue."
It's a curious form of tolerance, conceived by a man who arrogates to himself the right to define what is and is not Islamic. Is it a harbinger for Indonesia? That will depend on whether his country seeks to remain a part of Asia, or become a satellite of the Middle East.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 16, 2007, 11:44:08 PM
Ayoob article on Whitman shooting and civilian participation. When Texas was what you expected of Texas. Linkhttp://findarticles.com/p/articles/m..._72293265/pg_2
The AYOOB FILES
Case One was the infamous Texas Tower incident of August 1, 1966, in which Charles Whitman shot 45 people, 14 of them fatally. He had earlier stabbed both his wife and mother to death. His weaponry included a sawed-off J.C. Higgins semiautomatic 12 ga. shotgun with which he killed and wounded multiple victims inside the tower, a .30 M-1 carbine with which he shot several people, and the weapon with which he wrought most of his havoc- a bolt-action Remington in 6mm Rem. mounting a 4x scope.
The Austin newspapers reported that "dozens" of armed citizens returned fire on Whitman along with police, primarily using rifles. Most were "deer rifles," many of them accurate, scoped bolt-actions as precise as the killer's weapon. A military reservist deployed an M-14 .308 semi-automatic, believed to be match grade. While the shots came close enough to greatly reduce the death toll, once return fire started after the initial 20 minutes or so, Whitman kept shooting for more than an hour and a half.
Private citizen Allen Crum, armed with a rifle given him by a policeman, led Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy up through the tower to the killer's perch on the roof. They approached the sniper's lair from opposite sides. Crum fired the first shot, which did not strike the killer but did startle and disorient him. Martinez then emptied his service revolver at Whitman, and McCoy fired twice with his Winchester 1200 pump. Whitman fell, dropping his .30 carbine.
Martinez dropped his empty sixgun, grabbed McCoy's Winchester, charged the downed Whitman and shot him once more at close range, arm-into-chest. Researcher Gary M. Lavergne interprets the autopsy of the murderer to say that the fatal shot was McCoy's first shotgun blast from 50 feet away, which caught Whitman in the eyes and forehead and pierced his brain.
Also, I would suggest that anyone who has not yet done so go to our front page, click on "Flight 93 Memorial" and read the article that pops up there.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: It's getting harder and harder to tell the left from the jihadists....
on: April 16, 2007, 08:59:29 PM
As for your most recent post, I'm puzzled-- you said you weren't here, but you know that it wasn't discussed here-- even though I am able from memory to comment that I read that the data and its interpretation were suspect
From what I read, there was little discussion of it. Can you tell me frist-hand what you saw/read or what kind of coverage it got here?
and GM was able at the drop of a cyber-hat post a three year old article that was directly on point?
Did you read the researchers' response to that article, which I quoted in my last post?
The point in question at the moment is the basis of your assertion that it wasn't covered here given that you weren't here and both GM and I were familiar, even now a few years later, with the issue. To this your response is , , , non-responsive.
And no, that it is three years later, I cannot cite the specific pieces that I read about it and no I do not accept your invitation to revisit this issue at this time.
Thank you for explaining the source of your 650k number.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 16, 2007, 08:51:59 PM
Second post of the day:
Iraq: Tehran's Shiite Housekeeping and U.S. Talks
Hours after six ministers belonging to radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc pulled out of the government April 16, protesters in the oil-rich southern city of Basra led by al-Sadr's followers demanded the dismissal of the city's governor. These latest developments reveal a strategy by Iran to restore order in the Iraqi Shiite house to better manage its dealings with the United States regarding Iraq.
Radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr pulled six ministers out of the government led by Iraqi Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on April 16, ostensibly in protest of al-Maliki's inability to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Meanwhile, protesters in Basra led by al-Sadr's followers demanded the removal of the southern city's governor.
The events expose Tehran's efforts to regain control over the Iraqi Shia as it seeks leverage in its negotiations with Washington over Iraq.
Though calling for the "U.S. occupiers" to leave Iraq is a popular nationalist move, the reasons behind al-Sadr's political ploy run much deeper. Al-Sadr tried this gambit before in November 2006, when his followers boycotted parliament and ministries, also demanding a U.S. troop withdrawal. At the time, al-Sadr was focused on how to pressure al-Maliki to keep U.S. forces at bay ahead of an aggressive security crackdown targeting members of his Mehdi Army. After holding out for two months, al-Sadr realized there was nothing stopping the crackdown once Washington singled out his movement as the biggest obstacle to Iraq's stability and that he was better off preserving his political position while his militia faced the prospect of a destructive clash in Sadr City.
The U.S.-led security crackdown placed al-Sadr on the defensive, leaving the rebel leader with little choice but to flee to Iran for his own safety. While in Iran, the chinks in al-Sadr's armor were exposed as several of his commanders failed to heed his calls to stand-down, and engaged in violent clashes with U.S. forces. Al-Sadr was also forced to fire two senior lawmakers from his party when he learned the two met with Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq, during a dinner gathering. His distrust for his own party members was only enhanced when he had to ask al-Maliki on April 5 to suspend two members from his bloc after they backed a plan for the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk that likely will see the city turned over to Kurdish control.
In an attempt to counter the unraveling of his movement, al-Sadr is now taking a calculated risk by threatening to break the already deeply fractured United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the ruling Shiite Islamist coalition led by al-Maliki. Al-Sadr's 32 seats in parliament allow him to hold a majority in this coalition, giving him substantial bargaining power. The fourth-largest component of this coalition, the Fadhila party, recently left the UIA government, making al-Maliki all the more dependent on al-Sadrite parliamentarians. Though al-Sadr has only pulled out his ministers in this latest move, he is signaling he could just as easily withdraw completely from the government, depriving al-Maliki of his ruling coalition. Al-Sadr expects that the ruling Iraqi Shiite bloc will have little choice but to appease the rebel leader and allow his loyalists a more prominent role in the state security apparatus such that al-Sadr can preserve the Mehdi Army.
Al-Sadr's strategy is likely heavily influenced by his protectors in Iran. Al-Sadr does not see eye to eye on a number of issues with his Shiite brethren in Tehran, who have strong ties to his main rival, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim -- the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's most pro-Iranian Shiite party. But the Iranians shrewdly took advantage of al-Sadr's compromised position by acting quickly to provide sanctuary for the rebel leader when the U.S. crackdown intensified in Baghdad. Al-Sadr's increased dependence on the Iranian government adds to Tehran's leverage in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq in a variety of ways.
By demonstrating Iranian control over al-Sadr, Iran can make an offer to the United States to put a lid on al-Sadr and his militia as a gesture of goodwill when the time comes for Iran to offer a substantial concession to the Americans. Forging stronger ties with al-Sadr also works in Iranian interests to weed out the troublemakers within Iraq's severely fractured Shiite bloc -- one of the key obstacles to Iran's ability to consolidate its influence in Iraq.
Iran is fully aware that throughout Iraq's history, the Iraqi Shia have never managed to use their demographic majority to their advantage to dominate the Sunni faction. Under Sunni rule, the Iraqi Shia were largely shut out from government and security positions, and thus made up most of the business community in Iraq. The flow of money from commercial enterprises and oil smuggling in the south drove Iraqi Shiite interests, and created a highly self-interested, divided and competitive Shiite bloc.
In order for Iran to harness the strength of Iraq's Shiite majority, it first has to clean house. A big part of this Iranian campaign is to weaken the anti-Iranian Fadhila party, the dominant Shiite power in the oil-rich southern city of Basra. Fadhila, an offshoot of the al-Sadr movement, dominates Iraq's organized crime network in the south and has emerged from the post-Hussein anarchy as a strong player among Iraqi Shia. Fadhila members have grown accustomed to their control over Iraq's southern oil wealth, and will violently resist any Iranian attempt to take over these oil assets.
It comes as little surprise, then, that just hours after al-Sadr's ministers left the government, thousands of his followers carried out large-scale protests in Basra to demand the resignation of Basra Gov. Mohammed Mosbeh al-Waeli, a Fadhila member. The protesters also included SCIRI members, Fadhila's biggest opponent. The head of Fadhila, Member of Parliament Hussein al-Shimari, said he had seen government intelligence reports that revealed a scheme to assassinate al-Waeli and all of his family April 16. Al-Shimari on April 15 appealed to al-Sadr's followers to prevent these violent outbreaks as a show of good faith, and said the demonstration only aimed to contribute to the overall chaos in Basra by calling for raids on the local council and important buildings, such as banks and the South Oil Co. Fadhila party members have good reason to worry about the death threats against the Basra governor. Losing control over Basra would cripple Fadhila politically and financially, leaving Iran's proxies free to firm up their control over Iraq's oil assets in the south.
The recent behavior of al-Sadr's movement reveals three major points behind Iran's strategy for Iraq:
1. By unleashing the al-Sadrites against Fadhila, Iran aims to weaken its potential foes in the oil-rich south and create enough of a power vacuum that it can insert its more loyal allies.
2. The resignation of the six al-Sadrite ministers sends a wake-up call to Iraq's Shiite bloc to pull itself together and work out an effective power-sharing agreement, or else the U.S. hints of re-inserting a Sunni-dominated government in Iraq could become a reality.
3. The added instability in the south, combined with al-Sadr's move to give up his six ministry positions, allows the Iranians to signal to Washington that Tehran has the pieces in place to make it virtually impossible for the United States to reach a political accommodation in Baghdad that would allow for a U.S. exit strategy from Iraq.
Restoring order in the Iraqi Shiite house is a primary objective for the Iranians to centralize Shiite control across its western border. Until that happens, no major leaps will be taken in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America
on: April 16, 2007, 08:50:38 PM
VENEZUELA: The first South American energy summit has begun on the Venezuelan island of Margarita. At the summit, leaders from Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia and Suriname will discuss energy cooperation, including regional pipeline projects. Ethanol also is expected to be on the agenda. Bolivian President Evo Morales likely will hold separate bilateral meetings with the presidents of Chile, Brazil and Ecuador following the summit.
NICARAGUA: Nicaraguan police completely disassembled the structure of Mexican drug cartel Sinaloa in Nicaragua in a joint operation with the army called Operation Fenix, Nicaraguan police spokesman Cesar Cuadra said. Cuadra added that police have detained 24 Sinaloa members and obstructed activities led by Sinaloa chief of aerial operations Jose Juvenal Mendoza Gonzales and main chief of operations in Nicaragua Guillermo "El Cochi." Police also raided the house of Sinaloa chief of maritime operations in Nicaragua Carlos Cisnado Pasos, who remains at large, along with Guillermo and Gonzales.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Australia
on: April 16, 2007, 08:37:31 PM
I think you will find that GM can speak for himself rather well, but as the forum host please allow me also to answer. A good place to start is with the Rules of the Road thread at the top of this forum.
"The rules of the road around here are pretty simple:
1) Good manners: we speak to each other as if we were face to face.
, , ,
3) WE SEEK TRUTH. Not to profit or be a prophet, but to seek the truth. If the facts prove us wrong, we change our minds.
4) Given the nature of WW3 and the generally low level of understanding of Islam in our culture, it is natural that there will be many pieces about Islam. Some of them will be negative. Some of them will be positive. ALL of them are to be in search of truth. If you disagree with something that someone else prints, the answer is to persuade with Reason and Reality."
Does this help?
PS: Your posted comment about the Barbary Pirates indicates you well add to the mix around here. Welcome aboard!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: It's getting harder and harder to tell the left from the jihadists....
on: April 16, 2007, 08:27:03 PM
Ummm, still waiting for an answer to my query about where that 650,000 number you bandied about came from , , ,
As for your most recent post, I'm puzzled-- you said you weren't here, but you know that it wasn't discussed here-- even though I am able from memory to comment that I read that the data and its interpretation were suspect and GM was able at the drop of a cyber-hat post a three year old article that was directly on point? Oy vey
"But I'd say it's things like this that contribute to this idea that American lives are objectively more valuable than non-American lives. There's a big difference between that and simply caring more about people from your own countries."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pearls before breakfast 3
on: April 16, 2007, 08:00:02 PM
He is. You don't need to know music at all to appreciate the simple fact that there's a guy there, playing a violin that's throwing out a whole bucket of sound; at times, Bell's bowing is so intricate that you seem to be hearing two instruments playing in harmony. So those head-forward, quick-stepping passersby are a remarkable phenomenon.
Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don't take visible note of the musician, you don't have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you're not complicit in a rip-off.
It may be true, but no one gave that explanation. People just said they were busy, had other things on their mind. Some who were on cellphones spoke louder as they passed Bell, to compete with that infernal racket.
And then there was Calvin Myint. Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight.
"Where was he, in relation to me?"
"About four feet away."
There's nothing wrong with Myint's hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.
For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.
The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was "Just Like Heaven," by the British rock band The Cure. It's a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It's about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can't express the depth of his feeling for her until she's gone. It's about failing to see the beauty of what's plainly in front of your eyes.
"YES, I SAW THE VIOLINIST," Jackie Hessian says, "but nothing about him struck me as much of anything."
You couldn't tell that by watching her. Hessian was one of those people who gave Bell a long, hard look before walking on. It turns out that she wasn't noticing the music at all.
"I really didn't hear that much," she said. "I was just trying to figure out what he was doing there, how does this work for him, can he make much money, would it be better to start with some money in the case, or for it to be empty, so people feel sorry for you? I was analyzing it financially."
What do you do, Jackie?
"I'm a lawyer in labor relations with the United States Postal Service. I just negotiated a national contract."
THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE WERE UPHOLSTERED. In the balcony, more or less. On that day, for $5, you'd get a lot more than just a nice shine on your shoes.
Only one person occupied one of those seats when Bell played. Terence Holmes is a consultant for the Department of Transportation, and he liked the music just fine, but it was really about a shoeshine: "My father told me never to wear a suit with your shoes not cleaned and shined."
Holmes wears suits often, so he is up in that perch a lot, and he's got a good relationship with the shoeshine lady. Holmes is a good tipper and a good talker, which is a skill that came in handy that day. The shoeshine lady was upset about something, and the music got her more upset. She complained, Holmes said, that the music was too loud, and he tried to calm her down.
Edna Souza is from Brazil. She's been shining shoes at L'Enfant Plaza for six years, and she's had her fill of street musicians there; when they play, she can't hear her customers, and that's bad for business. So she fights.
Souza points to the dividing line between the Metro property, at the top of the escalator, and the arcade, which is under control of the management company that runs the mall. Sometimes, Souza says, a musician will stand on the Metro side, sometimes on the mall side. Either way, she's got him. On her speed dial, she has phone numbers for both the mall cops and the Metro cops. The musicians seldom last long.
What about Joshua Bell?
He was too loud, too, Souza says. Then she looks down at her rag, sniffs. She hates to say anything positive about these damned musicians, but: "He was pretty good, that guy. It was the first time I didn't call the police."
Souza was surprised to learn he was a famous musician, but not that people rushed blindly by him. That, she said, was predictable. "If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here."
Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.
"People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?"
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies
Let's say Kant is right. Let's accept that we can't look at what happened on January 12 and make any judgment whatever about people's sophistication or their ability to appreciate beauty. But what about their ability to appreciate life?
We're busy. Americans have been busy, as a people, since at least 1831, when a young French sociologist named Alexis de Tocqueville visited the States and found himself impressed, bemused and slightly dismayed at the degree to which people were driven, to the exclusion of everything else, by hard work and the accumulation of wealth.
Not much has changed. Pop in a DVD of "Koyaanisqatsi," the wordless, darkly brilliant, avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life. Backed by the minimalist music of Philip Glass, director Godfrey Reggio takes film clips of Americans going about their daily business, but speeds them up until they resemble assembly-line machines, robots marching lockstep to nowhere. Now look at the video from L'Enfant Plaza, in fast-forward. The Philip Glass soundtrack fits it perfectly.
"Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi word. It means "life out of balance."
In his 2003 book, Timeless Beauty: In the Arts and Everyday Life, British author John Lane writes about the loss of the appreciation for beauty in the modern world. The experiment at L'Enfant Plaza may be symptomatic of that, he said -- not because people didn't have the capacity to understand beauty, but because it was irrelevant to them.
"This is about having the wrong priorities," Lane said.
If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?
That's what the Welsh poet W.H. Davies meant in 1911 when he published those two lines that begin this section. They made him famous. The thought was simple, even primitive, but somehow no one had put it quite that way before.
Of course, Davies had an advantage -- an advantage of perception. He wasn't a tradesman or a laborer or a bureaucrat or a consultant or a policy analyst or a labor lawyer or a program manager. He was a hobo.
THE CULTURAL HERO OF THE DAY ARRIVED AT L'ENFANT PLAZA PRETTY LATE, in the unprepossessing figure of one John Picarello, a smallish man with a baldish head.
Picarello hit the top of the escalator just after Bell began his final piece, a reprise of "Chaconne." In the video, you see Picarello stop dead in his tracks, locate the source of the music, and then retreat to the other end of the arcade. He takes up a position past the shoeshine stand, across from that lottery line, and he will not budge for the next nine minutes.
Like all the passersby interviewed for this article, Picarello was stopped by a reporter after he left the building, and was asked for his phone number. Like everyone, he was told only that this was to be an article about commuting. When he was called later in the day, like everyone else, he was first asked if anything unusual had happened to him on his trip into work. Of the more than 40 people contacted, Picarello was the only one who immediately mentioned the violinist.
"There was a musician playing at the top of the escalator at L'Enfant Plaza."
Haven't you seen musicians there before?
"Not like this one."
What do you mean?
"This was a superb violinist. I've never heard anyone of that caliber. He was technically proficient, with very good phrasing. He had a good fiddle, too, with a big, lush sound. I walked a distance away, to hear him. I didn't want to be intrusive on his space."
"Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day."
Picarello knows classical music. He is a fan of Joshua Bell but didn't recognize him; he hadn't seen a recent photo, and besides, for most of the time Picarello was pretty far away. But he knew this was not a run-of-the-mill guy out there, performing. On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.
"Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn't registering. That was baffling to me."
When Picarello was growing up in New York, he studied violin seriously, intending to be a concert musician. But he gave it up at 18, when he decided he'd never be good enough to make it pay. Life does that to you sometimes. Sometimes, you have to do the prudent thing. So he went into another line of work. He's a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Doesn't play the violin much, anymore.
When he left, Picarello says, "I humbly threw in $5." It was humble: You can actually see that on the video. Picarello walks up, barely looking at Bell, and tosses in the money. Then, as if embarrassed, he quickly walks away from the man he once wanted to be.
Does he have regrets about how things worked out?
The postal supervisor considers this.
"No. If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it's not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever."
BELL THINKS HE DID HIS BEST WORK OF THE DAY IN THOSE FINAL FEW MINUTES, in the second "Chaconne." And that also was the first time more than one person at a time was listening. As Picarello stood in the back, Janice Olu arrived and took up a position a few feet away from Bell. Olu, a public trust officer with HUD, also played the violin as a kid. She didn't know the name of the piece she was hearing, but she knew the man playing it has a gift.
Olu was on a coffee break and stayed as long as she dared. As she turned to go, she whispered to the stranger next to her, "I really don't want to leave." The stranger standing next to her happened to be working for The Washington Post.
In preparing for this event, editors at The Post Magazine discussed how to deal with likely outcomes. The most widely held assumption was that there could well be a problem with crowd control: In a demographic as sophisticated as Washington, the thinking went, several people would surely recognize Bell. Nervous "what-if" scenarios abounded. As people gathered, what if others stopped just to see what the attraction was? Word would spread through the crowd. Cameras would flash. More people flock to the scene; rush-hour pedestrian traffic backs up; tempers flare; the National Guard is called; tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.
As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn't arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn't know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell's free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn't about to miss it.
Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.
"It was the most astonishing thing I've ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn't do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?"
When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.
"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."
These days, at L'Enfant Plaza, lotto ticket sales remain brisk. Musicians still show up from time to time, and they still tick off Edna Souza. Joshua Bell's latest album, "The Voice of the Violin," has received the usual critical acclaim. ("Delicate urgency." "Masterful intimacy." "Unfailingly exquisite." "A musical summit." ". . . will make your heart thump and weep at the same time.")
Bell headed off on a concert tour of European capitals. But he is back in the States this week. He has to be. On Tuesday, he will be accepting the Avery Fisher prize, recognizing the Flop of L'Enfant Plaza as the best classical musician in America.
Emily Shroder, Rachel Manteuffel, John W. Poole and Magazine Editor Tom Shroder contributed to this report. Gene Weingarten, a Magazine staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com
. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pearls before breakfast 2
on: April 16, 2007, 07:58:03 PM
Bell decided to begin with "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won't be cheating with some half-assed version."
Bell didn't say it, but Bach's "Chaconne" is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. It's exhaustingly long -- 14 minutes -- and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.
If Bell's encomium to "Chaconne" seems overly effusive, consider this from the 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann: "On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."
So, that's the piece Bell started with.
He'd clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.
Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.
A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.
Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
No, Mr. Slatkin, there was never a crowd, not even for a second.
It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.
Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler's movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.
Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.
IF A GREAT MUSICIAN PLAYS GREAT MUSIC BUT NO ONE HEARS . . . WAS HE REALLY ANY GOOD?
It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
We'll go with Kant, because he's obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.
"At the beginning," Bell says, "I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn't really watching what was happening around me . . ."
Playing the violin looks all-consuming, mentally and physically, but Bell says that for him the mechanics of it are partly second nature, cemented by practice and muscle memory: It's like a juggler, he says, who can keep those balls in play while interacting with a crowd. What he's mostly thinking about as he plays, Bell says, is capturing emotion as a narrative: "When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you're telling a story."
With "Chaconne," the opening is filled with a building sense of awe. That kept him busy for a while. Eventually, though, he began to steal a sidelong glance.
"It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . ."
The word doesn't come easily.
". . . ignoring me."
Bell is laughing. It's at himself.
"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.
Before he began, Bell hadn't known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.
"It wasn't exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies," he says. "I was stressing a little."
Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?
"When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."
He was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened -- or, more precisely, what didn't happen -- on January 12.
MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.
"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"
Leithauser's point is that we shouldn't be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.
Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one's ability to appreciate beauty is related to one's ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America's most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.
"Optimal," Guyer said, "doesn't mean heading to work, focusing on your report to the boss, maybe your shoes don't fit right."
So, if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby?
"He would have inferred about them," Guyer said, "absolutely nothing."
And that's that.
Except it isn't. To really understand what happened, you have to rewind that video and play it back from the beginning, from the moment Bell's bow first touched the strings.
White guy, khakis, leather jacket, briefcase. Early 30s. John David Mortensen is on the final leg of his daily bus-to-Metro commute from Reston. He's heading up the escalator. It's a long ride -- 1 minute and 15 seconds if you don't walk. So, like most everyone who passes Bell this day, Mortensen gets a good earful of music before he has his first look at the musician. Like most of them, he notes that it sounds pretty good. But like very few of them, when he gets to the top, he doesn't race past as though Bell were some nuisance to be avoided. Mortensen is that first person to stop, that guy at the six-minute mark.
It's not that he has nothing else to do. He's a project manager for an international program at the Department of Energy; on this day, Mortensen has to participate in a monthly budget exercise, not the most exciting part of his job: "You review the past month's expenditures," he says, "forecast spending for the next month, if you have X dollars, where will it go, that sort of thing."
On the video, you can see Mortensen get off the escalator and look around. He locates the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his cellphone -- he's three minutes early for work -- then settles against a wall to listen.
Mortensen doesn't know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there's something about what he's hearing that he really likes.
As it happens, he's arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of "Chaconne." ("It's the point," Bell says, "where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There's a religious, exalted feeling to it.") The violinist's bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big.
Mortensen doesn't know about major or minor keys: "Whatever it was," he says, "it made me feel at peace."
So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there's another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money.
THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: "The awkward times," he calls them. It's what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn't noticed him playing don't notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord -- the embarrassed musician's equivalent of, "Er, okay, moving right along . . ." -- and begins the next piece.
After "Chaconne," it is Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," which surprised some music critics when it debuted in 1825: Schubert seldom showed religious feeling in his compositions, yet "Ave Maria" is a breathtaking work of adoration of the Virgin Mary. What was with the sudden piety? Schubert dryly answered: "I think this is due to the fact that I never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers of that kind unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion." This musical prayer became among the most familiar and enduring religious pieces in history.
A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.
"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."
Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.
You can see Evan clearly on the video. He's the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.
"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."
So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan's and Bell's, cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.
"Evan is very smart!"
The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother's heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.
There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.
IF THERE WAS ONE PERSON ON THAT DAY WHO WAS TOO BUSY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE VIOLINIST, it was George Tindley. Tindley wasn't hurrying to get to work. He was at work.
The glass doors through which most people exit the L'Enfant station lead into an indoor shopping mall, from which there are exits to the street and elevators to office buildings. The first store in the mall is an Au Bon Pain, the croissant and coffee shop where Tindley, in his 40s, works in a white uniform busing the tables, restocking the salt and pepper packets, taking out the garbage. Tindley labors under the watchful eye of his bosses, and he's supposed to be hopping, and he was.
But every minute or so, as though drawn by something not entirely within his control, Tindley would walk to the very edge of the Au Bon Pain property, keeping his toes inside the line, still on the job. Then he'd lean forward, as far out into the hallway as he could, watching the fiddler on the other side of the glass doors. The foot traffic was steady, so the doors were usually open. The sound came through pretty well.
"You could tell in one second that this guy was good, that he was clearly a professional," Tindley says. He plays the guitar, loves the sound of strings, and has no respect for a certain kind of musician.
"Most people, they play music; they don't feel it," Tindley says. "Well, that man was feeling it. That man was moving. Moving into the sound."
A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view of Bell than Tindley did, if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.
J.T. Tillman was in that line. A computer specialist for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he remembers every single number he played that day -- 10 of them, $2 apiece, for a total of $20. He doesn't recall what the violinist was playing, though. He says it sounded like generic classical music, the kind the ship's band was playing in "Titanic," before the iceberg.
"I didn't think nothing of it," Tillman says, "just a guy trying to make a couple of bucks." Tillman would have given him one or two, he said, but he spent all his cash on lotto.
When he is told that he stiffed one of the best musicians in the world, he laughs.
"Is he ever going to play around here again?"
"Yeah, but you're going to have to pay a lot to hear him."
Tillman didn't win the lottery, either.
BELL ENDS "AVE MARIA" TO ANOTHER THUNDEROUS SILENCE, plays Manuel Ponce's sentimental "Estrellita," then a piece by Jules Massenet, and then begins a Bach gavotte, a joyful, frolicsome, lyrical dance. It's got an Old World delicacy to it; you can imagine it entertaining bewigged dancers at a Versailles ball, or -- in a lute, fiddle and fife version -- the boot-kicking peasants of a Pieter Bruegel painting.
Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he's not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: "I'm surprised at the number of people who don't pay attention at all, as if I'm invisible. Because, you know what? I'm makin' a lot of noise!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pearls before breakfast
on: April 16, 2007, 07:56:43 PM
There's clips on the webpage where this article appears, but don't know how long they will be therehttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.
By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 8, 2007; Page W10
HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
Monday, April 9, 2007 1 p.m. ET
Post Magazine: Too Busy to Stop and Hear the Music
Can one of the nation's greatest musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Gene Weingarten set out to discover if violinist Josh Bell -- and his Stradivarius -- could stop busy commuters in their tracks.
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Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?
The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.
The acoustics proved surprisingly kind. Though the arcade is of utilitarian design, a buffer between the Metro escalator and the outdoors, it somehow caught the sound and bounced it back round and resonant. The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician's masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang -- ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.
So, what do you think happened?
HANG ON, WE'LL GET YOU SOME EXPERT HELP.
Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world's great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?
"Let's assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don't think that if he's really good, he's going to go unnoticed. He'd get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."
So, a crowd would gather?
And how much will he make?
Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.
"How'd I do?"
We'll tell you in a minute.
"Well, who was the musician?"
A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.
Bell was first pitched this idea shortly before Christmas, over coffee at a sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. A New Yorker, he was in town to perform at the Library of Congress and to visit the library's vaults to examine an unusual treasure: an 18th-century violin that once belonged to the great Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. The curators invited Bell to play it; good sound, still.
"Here's what I'm thinking," Bell confided, as he sipped his coffee. "I'm thinking that I could do a tour where I'd play Kreisler's music . . ."
". . . on Kreisler's violin."
It was a snazzy, sequined idea -- part inspiration and part gimmick -- and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship even as his concert career has become more and more august. He's soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad, but he's also appeared on "Sesame Street," done late-night talk TV and performed in feature films. That was Bell playing the soundtrack on the 1998 movie "The Red Violin." (He body-doubled, too, playing to a naked Greta Scacchi.) As composer John Corigliano accepted the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, he credited Bell, who, he said, "plays like a god."
When Bell was asked if he'd be willing to don street clothes and perform at rush hour, he said:
"Uh, a stunt?"
Well, yes. A stunt. Would he think it . . . unseemly?
Bell drained his cup.
"Sounds like fun," he said.
Bell's a heartthrob. Tall and handsome, he's got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott. When he performs, he is usually the only man under the lights who is not in white tie and tails -- he walks out to a standing O, looking like Zorro, in black pants and an untucked black dress shirt, shirttail dangling. That cute Beatles-style mop top is also a strategic asset: Because his technique is full of body -- athletic and passionate -- he's almost dancing with the instrument, and his hair flies.
He's single and straight, a fact not lost on some of his fans. In Boston, as he performed Max Bruch's dour Violin Concerto in G Minor, the very few young women in the audience nearly disappeared in the deep sea of silver heads. But seemingly every single one of them -- a distillate of the young and pretty -- coalesced at the stage door after the performance, seeking an autograph. It's like that always, with Bell.
Bell's been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live." He's learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified "pshaw."
For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: "I'm not comfortable if you call this genius." "Genius" is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.
It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.
It would be breaking no rules, however, to note that the term in question, particularly as applied in the field of music, refers to a congenital brilliance -- an elite, innate, preternatural ability that manifests itself early, and often in dramatic fashion.
One biographically intriguing fact about Bell is that he got his first music lessons when he was a 4-year-old in Bloomington, Ind. His parents, both psychologists, decided formal training might be a good idea after they saw that their son had strung rubber bands across his dresser drawers and was replicating classical tunes by ear, moving drawers in and out to vary the pitch.
TO GET TO THE METRO FROM HIS HOTEL, a distance of three blocks, Bell took a taxi. He's neither lame nor lazy: He did it for his violin.
Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master's "golden period," toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.
"Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete," Bell said, "but he, he just . . . knew."
Bell doesn't mention Stradivari by name. Just "he." When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. "He made this to perfect thickness at all parts," Bell says, pivoting it. "If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound." No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.
The front of Bell's violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood.
"This has never been refinished," Bell said. "That's his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula." Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.
Like the instrument in "The Red Violin," this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman's hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief -- a minor New York violinist -- made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument.
Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.
All of which is a long explanation for why, in the early morning chill of a day in January, Josh Bell took a three-block cab ride to the Orange Line, and rode one stop to L'Enfant.
AS METRO STATIONS GO, L'ENFANT PLAZA IS MORE PLEBEIAN THAN MOST. Even before you arrive, it gets no respect. Metro conductors never seem to get it right: "Leh-fahn." "Layfont." "El'phant."
At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it's that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers' bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be "hot." They sell briskly. There's also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you've won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.
On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break -- a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world's most famous musicians -- but only if they were of a mind to take note.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Virginia Tech Shooting...
on: April 16, 2007, 03:43:20 PM
There's going to be a lot of wild and contradictory rumors being bandied about as facts-- and powerful biases within the MSM against guns as they so often do may look to install falsehoods as facts in the public mind.
Keep your eyes open and hold on to all relevant info before the "inconvenient" parts get sent down the Orwellian memory hole.
Here's Stratfor from a few minutes ago:
U.S.: A Well-Planned Shooting Spree
At least 32 people were killed April 16 when an individual or individuals went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg, Va. This was obviously an attack for which the killer prepared, and the high killed-to-wounded ratio suggests the killer was skilled and thorough.
At least 32 people were killed April 16 when an individual or individuals went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus in Blacksburg, Va. The shooter reportedly used two 9 mm semiautomatic pistols to kill his victims, many of whom were lined up and shot.
The first shooting occurred around 7:15 a.m. local time on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory, where one victim was killed. The second shooting occurred approximately two hours later in Norris Hall, an engineering building. The gunman reportedly entered the building, chained the doors shut behind him and moved from classroom to classroom executing students.
This was obviously an attack for which the killer prepared. The high killed-to-wounded ratio suggests the killer was skilled and thorough. Police were still investigating the first shooting at the dorm when the other shootings occurred. It is possible the killing in the dormitory was meant as a diversion to occupy police while the gunman moved on to his primary target, Norris Hall.
Within the last two weeks, there were two separate bomb threats against engineering department buildings at the university. These could have been a form of preoperational surveillance to gauge the response times and procedures of university police.
Unconfirmed reports coming from Blacksburg have identified the suspect as an Asian individual in his mid-20s. In all probability, the delay in identifying the culprit or culprits is because the intelligence community is running foreign and criminal intelligence traces on the suspect(s). Police believe the shooting spree might have been the result of an off-campus incident. They are not certain whether the suspect was a student, nor have they ruled out the possibility that he had accomplices. Arrests reportedly were made this morning.
The largest killing spree on a U.S. campus until this incident was in 1966, when Charles Whitman killed 15 people in the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1999, two high school students in Columbine, Colo., killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: It's getting harder and harder to tell the left from the jihadists....
on: April 16, 2007, 03:36:21 PM
I'd like to add here that it wasn't just the fact of 3,000 people being killed. It was also the particular targets which were chosen. In addition to the WTC (significant not only in its own right but also because it was the second attempt at this particular target, which indicates a unusual degree of sustained focus) my understanding is that the plane that hit the Pentagon did so because the killer pilot couldn't steer well enough to hit the White House and the Pentagon was Plan B.
And what was the target for Flight 93? The Capitol Building? The nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics
on: April 16, 2007, 10:32:51 AM
The Wolfowitz Files
The anatomy of a World Bank smear.
Monday, April 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.
Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.
The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.
The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank's general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz's lawyers:
"First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member." (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)
That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board--composed of representatives from donor nations--decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza's job entailed a "de facto conflict of interest" that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.
Ms. Riza was on a promotion list at the time, and so the bank's ethicists also proposed that she be compensated for this blow to her career. In a July 22, 2005, ethics committee discussion memo, Mr. Danino noted that "there would be two avenues here for promotion--an 'in situ' promotion to Grade GH for the staff member" and promotion through competitive selection to another position." Or, as an alternative, "The Bank can also decide, as part of settlement of claims, to offer an ad hoc salary increase."
Five days later, on July 27, ethics committee chairman Ad Melkert formally advised Mr. Wolfowitz in a memo that "the potential disruption of the staff member's career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record . . ." In the same memo, Mr. Melkert recommends "that the President, with the General Counsel, communicates this advice" to the vice president for human resources "so as to implement" it immediately.
And in an August 8 letter, Mr. Melkert advised that the president get this done pronto: "The EC [ethics committee] cannot interact directly with staff member situations, hence Xavier [Coll, the human resources vice president] should act upon your instruction." Only then did Mr. Wolfowitz instruct Mr. Coll on the details of Ms. Riza's new job and pay raise.
Needless to say, none of this context has appeared in the media smears suggesting that Mr. Wolfowitz pulled a fast one to pad the pay of Ms. Riza. Yet the record clearly shows he acted only after he had tried to recuse himself but then wasn't allowed to do so by the ethics committee. And he acted only after that same committee advised him to compensate Ms. Riza for the damage to her career from a "conflict of interest" that was no fault of her own.
Based on this paper trail, Mr. Wolfowitz's only real mistake was in assuming that everyone else was acting in good faith. Yet when some of these details leaked to the media, nearly everyone else at the bank dodged responsibility and let Mr. Wolfowitz twist in the wind. Mr. Melkert, a Dutch politician now at the U.N., seems to have played an especially cowardly role.
In an October 24, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz, he averred that "because the outcome is consistent with the Committee's findings and advice above, the Committee concurs with your view that this matter can be treated as closed." A month later, on November 25, Mr. Melkert even sent Mr. Wolfowitz a personal, hand-written note saying, "I would like to thank you for the very open and constructive spirit of our discussions, knowing in particular the sensitivity to Shaha, who I hope will be happy in her new assignment."
And when anonymous World Bank staffers began to circulate emails making nasty allegations about Ms. Shaha's job transfer and pay in early 2006, Mr. Melkert dismissed them in a letter to Mr. Wolfowitz on February 28, 2006, because they "did not contain new information warranting any further review by the Committee." Yet amid the recent media smears, Mr. Melkert has minimized his own crucial role.
All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza's pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn't true, it's clear that his enemies--especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own--are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.
Equally cynical has been the press corps, which slurred Mr. Wolfowitz with selective reporting and now says, in straight-faced solemnity, that the president must leave the bank because his "credibility" has been damaged. Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.
The only way this fiasco could get any worse would be for Mr. Wolfowitz to resign in the teeth of so much dishonesty and cravenness. We're glad the Bush Administration isn't falling for this Euro-bureaucracy-media putsch. Mr. Wolfowitz has apologized for any mistakes he's made, though we're not sure why. He's the one who deserves an apology.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: April 16, 2007, 08:32:43 AM
A discouraging piece from today's NY Times-- an often suspect source:
Attacks Surge as Iraq Militants Overshadow City
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
Published: April 16, 2007
BAQUBA, Iraq — They maneuver in squads, like the American infantrymen they try to kill. One squad fires furiously so another can attack from a better position. They operate in bad weather, knowing American helicopters and surveillance drones are grounded. Some carry G.P.S. receivers so mortar teams can calculate the coordinates of American armored vehicles. They kidnap and massacre police officers.
The New York Times
The Sunni guerrillas and extremists who now overshadow this city demonstrate a sophistication and lethality born of years of confronting American military tactics. While the “surge” plays out in Baghdad just 35 miles to the south, Baquba has emerged as a magnet for insurgents from around the country and, perhaps, the next major headache for the American military.
Some insurgents have moved into Baquba to escape the escalation in Baghdad. But the city has been attracting insurgents for years, particularly after American officials in Baghdad proclaimed it and surrounding Diyala Province relatively pacified over a year ago and drew down their troop presence.
When 70 insurgents broke out of a Mosul jail in March, for example, escapees from Chad, Yemen, Syria and Afghanistan were apprehended here, the Iraqi police said. And Sunni fighters continue to heed calls by insurgent leaders to converge here.
It is impossible to say how many insurgents are in Baquba now. Using a broad definition that comprises not just those who actively fight, but also those who place bombs and others paid by insurgents, some military officials put the number around 2,000. It is a nasty stew that includes former members of the Saddam Hussein army and paramilitary forces, the Fedayeen; angry and impoverished Sunni men; criminal gangs; Wahhabi Islamists; and foreigners.
While most insurgents here are not as hardened, that is similar to the numbers in Falluja in 2004, before a bloody Marine offensive to retake the city, said Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, deputy head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, who fought in Falluja.
As the insurgent ranks have swelled, attacks on American troops have soared. The 5,000-member brigade that patrols Diyala Province has had 44 soldiers killed in five months, more than twice the number who died in the preceding year.
On the ground in Baquba, it is not hard to see why. Despite recent seizures of stockpiles, the insurgents have a ready supply of artillery shells and material to make bombs, the biggest killer of American troops here. Some bombs destroy American vehicles. Some are used to booby-trap houses to crash down on Americans. Some are used in larger battle plans: Before overrunning an Iraqi Army outpost south of Baquba, guerrillas laid bombs on the road that Iraqi and American forces would later use to try to rescue the outpost. The minefield blocked the reinforcements, and the Iraqi soldiers at the outpost fled.
The guerrillas seem increasingly well organized and trained. An insurgent force trying to overrun an American outpost in southern Baquba was repelled only after American soldiers fired more than 2,000 Coke-bottle-size rounds from Bradley fighting vehicles and 13,000 rounds from M-240 machine guns.
“They were firing from every direction, trying to get us to concentrate on one spot while the other guys were maneuvering,” said Cpl. Bill McGrath, who said the M-240 barrels glowed cherry red and had to be swapped out a half-dozen times. “These were well-trained military types, not like the guys who shoot tanks with AK-47s. A lot of these guys we never saw. We’d just see muzzle flashes.”
The tactics reflect the skill and resolve of the insurgency here, soldiers say. “To say the guys we are fighting are any less smarter than me, that would be crazy,” said Lt. Col. Morris Goins, commander of the 1-12 Combined Arms Battalion.
The Sunni groups seem to be cooperating like mob families, with ever-shifting alliances. Colonel Goins likens it to the HBO series “The Sopranos.” “We’ll work together today, but when they are no longer of any value,” he said, they part company.
They are capable of disciplined and sustained operations. In early March, a guerrilla force chased a four-man American sniper team through palm groves around the Diyala River for more than two hours, after cutting off the Americans’ escape routes. The snipers were cornered in a sharp bend of the river, officers said, before helicopters finally flew in to rescue them.
Some are purely fanatical. American forces on the main road in western Baquba reported their astonishment during a night in which, over the course of an hour and 15 minutes, they gunned down four teams of guerrillas trying one after the other to plant a bomb in the same spot.
There are many reasons for the mayhem. Diyala and Baquba had significant Shiite and Sunni populations. Shiite-dominated security forces in the city inflamed tensions by persecuting Sunnis, but remain ill prepared to fight the insurgents without support of American forces. Basic government services like food and fuel deliveries have collapsed.
Sunni extremists operate with an extraordinary ruthlessness that terrorizes residents into submission. And Baquba has always had a heavy population of former Baathists and Fedayeen, providing a sympathetic backdrop for the insurgency. Some fighters still wear black Fedayeen uniforms, American officers say.
“Our city has become ruins, even its people,” said one Baquba resident, Mohammed al-Zaidi, 34. “We have no hope to live for.”
Colonel Jackson said he believed that the largest portion of insurgents were disgruntled men or others who just needed money. The rest are homegrown Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis, foreigners and their rivals, Shiite militiamen. Falluja, he said, had a significantly higher proportion of hardened and skilled fighters.
However, he added, “the core of the insurgents in Baquba are as well trained as they were in Falluja.”
Fighters from the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia largely loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, have also flooded north from Baghdad and now control villages west of Baquba and north of Sadr City. The police chief of Khalis, a city controlled by the Mahdi Army, was arrested by American forces in March for sectarian wrongdoing.
Thousands of Shiites have been killed or displaced in Baquba. But the roots of the gruesome toll that Sunni killers have taken here is partly a consequence of Shiite aggression in Baghdad, where Shiite death squads drove Sunnis out. Many angry Sunnis sought refuge in Baquba, and helped fuel the insurgency.
The human disaster that unfolded in Baquba was a mirror image of much of Baghdad — Sunni death squads wiping out Shiite families. The Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad responded by sending a new Iraqi Army commander who arrested Sunnis with no evidence, while the recently fired provincial police chief stocked his ranks with Shiite Mahdi militiamen.
American soldiers cited repeated instances of Iraqi troops or police officers terrorizing Sunnis in Diyala. The Iraqi forces’ conduct induced some Sunnis to turn to the insurgency for protection, American officers said. Iraqi lawmakers in Baghdad continue to block provincial elections that would give Sunni Arabs — a majority in Diyala, but one that largely boycotted the last provincial elections — a real stake in government.
As the insurgency has swelled in Baquba, many soldiers here described an American force spread astonishingly thin. The 5,000-member Third Brigade Combat Team of the First Cavalry Division is based in Baquba. But its forces have responsibility over a wide region in Diyala, which is about the size of Maryland, and parts of neighboring Salahuddin Province.
American commanders began a strategy here similar to the new security plan in Baghdad, pushing soldiers into small forward bases deep in insurgent territory.
The troops say that before reinforcements arrived it had essentially been left up to a few dozen foot soldiers and a few tanks from Company B of the 1-12 Battalion to patrol from eastern Baquba to Zaganiya — an insurgent-dominated region of hundreds of thousands of people. “The takeaway was that we had freakin’ next to nothing” for an area with many terrorists, said Capt. Pete Chapman, the company commander.
With areas like Zaganiya receiving little attention, insurgent ranks grew unchecked. Eight of the 300 soldiers in the Fifth Squadron of the 73rd Cavalry Regiment have been killed near Zaganiya since they arrived in March to secure the village. The squadron has been sweeping the area northeast of Baquba, while the Fifth Battalion of the 20th Infantry Regiment rushed north from Taji in March to reinforce Baquba.
(Page 3 of 3)
A number of officers said additional battalions were still needed for new patrol bases and operations. None would speak for the record. The senior American commander in Diyala, Col. David Sutherland, said he believed there were enough troops in Baquba now.
The Iraqi Insurgency At one newly built outpost in Baquba, nicknamed Disneyland, soldiers staff lookouts and sniper posts and sleep on cots. They say they control little outside the tall concrete barriers. “You see anybody out there with binoculars, you light them up!” Sgt. Gary Rojas barked on a radio to American snipers one recent afternoon, after an Iraqi insurgent bullet struck the second floor.
Later, Iraqi and American troops walked out of Disneyland, sprinted alongside a wall on the deserted street and then broke into a house 200 yards away. They found the sniper’s nest on the second floor, along with a shell casing. A perfect spot for a sniper, Sergeant Rojas said. The unit climbed into a Bradley to go search another nearby house. First Lt. Karim Branford ordered a move back to the outpost, fearing a trap, before they had gone two blocks from it. “I’m not going to take guys into a baited ambush,” he said.
The Americans said the Iraqis performed well. But the Iraqi soldiers said that most Iraqis assigned to the outpost had fled, kicking back some of their pay to commanders to avoid punishment. Colonel Sutherland said the Iraqi troops were accounted for.
The Iraqi soldiers fretted that the insurgents had better equipment compared with their two clips and rickety Kalashnikov rifles. Like Baquba’s residents, they are intimidated. An Iraqi, Sgt. Raad Rashid, said his countrymen would flee if Americans abandoned the outpost. “Twenty minutes later we’d be gone,” he said. “They would surround this place and kill us.”
The insurgency’s remarkable ability to terrorize residents, killing those who help Americans while coercing others, is undeniably one of its biggest weapons. It appears to be well financed, too.
“Some guys will give you $300 to put this in a hole in the ground and attach a wire,” said John M. Jones, head of the provincial reconstruction team in Diyala, explaining how insurgents recruit bomb emplacers. “Where are the other incentives?”
With the combination of threats and money, Mr. Jones said, the insurgents’ offers are hard for residents to refuse. “You might not agree with the philosophy of what he’s saying, but he’s got the big guns, and they live in the same neighborhood. It’s you, your wife and kids. What can you do?”
Such intimidation makes progress impossible. “We are not able to make even baby steps,” he said. “I hope we’re laying the framework for future baby steps. Right now, I’d say we are pretty much frustrated.”
An Iraqi reporter for The New York Times contributed to this report. (Marc: Does this mean the NY Times never left the Green Zone?)
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Condiciones de Alerta
on: April 15, 2007, 07:00:57 PM
Estados de alerta, El código de colores de Jeff Cooper
Por Tom Givens
La mayoría de la gente discurre por la vida distraídamente desatenta del mundo que hay a su alrededor. Ellos están preocupados pensando en el trabajo, en problemas personales, o como tener una cita con una chica u otras trivialidades, sin reparar en el ambiente que los rodea. Al no prestar atención a lo que los rodea, se colocan en un peligro innecesario.
Vaya y siéntese una tarde en la sala de espera de la guardia del hospital de su ciudad, tómelo como una experiencia educativa. Observe a los infortunados que llegan por atención y tendrá una ilustración excelente de este punto. Cerca del 20% de los clientes estarán realmente enfermos, descartemos a estos. El 80% restante están allí porque no prestaron atención a lo que los rodea, será gente que cayo por una escalera, porque se llevo por delante una columna, o se lastimaron con alguna maquina, o se cruzaron con algún vehículo ...O tal vez permitió que un ratero se le acercara sin ser notado y lo golpeara con un ladrillo en la cabeza.
Usted puede ser estúpido, distraído o descuidado en su trabajo todos los días sin que nada pase, hasta que un día las probabilidades estén en su contra y termine herido. Lo mismo pasa en la calle: Usted puede ser estúpido, distraído o descuidado sin que nada pase, hasta que un día su camino se cruce con el de un delincuente. La gran mayoría de los delincuentes son oportunistas, los que solo golpean cuando se les presenta una oportunidad viable. No le presente la oportunidad y evitara el riesgo!
Aprendiendo a observar el ambiente circundante, a evaluarlo y a reaccionar apropiadamente a lo que usted ve, puede obtener una gran porción de control sobre su destino.
Esto requiere que aprenda a subir y bajar en una escala de atención, como haciendo los cambios en un auto, así puede equiparar su nivel de atención/preparación con los que requiera la situación en ese momento. En un auto, uno hace los cambios basado en el trafico o en la velocidad deseada. En la calle, uno debe aprender a “hacer cambios” mentalmente, para equiparar el nivel de amenaza enfrentado. Existe una amplia escala de atención que va desde un estado inconsciente y no preparado, hasta la condición de estar listo para ejercer una violencia mortal instantáneamente, en caso de ser necesario. Uno no puede vivir totalmente de un lado o del otro del espectro.
Si trata de vivir en el fondo de la escala, eventualmente será víctima de un accidente o de un delincuente. La pregunta no es si sucederá algún día, sino “cuando” sucederá. Por otro lado, no podemos ir por la vida con la mano apoyada en la pistola que tenemos en la funda, listos para disparar si algo se mueve! Lo que debemos aprender a hacer es a ascender y descender en esta escala, según lo dicten las circunstancias a nuestro alrededor. Este es un sistema muy fácil de aprender, que nos ayudara a tener el “estado mental” apropiado para tratar con cualquier conflicto que nos toque enfrentar.
Si usted tuviera que enfrentar a un delincuente que amenaza su vida, siendo una persona normal, se enfrentara con tres enormes dificultades. Ellas son:
1- Reconocer la presencia del delincuente a tiempo
2- Darse cuenta, internalizar y aceptar que ESE HOMBRE, AHÍ MISMO, si usted no lo detiene, va a matarlo por razones que usted no comprende.
3- Superar la resistencia a ejercer violencia mortal contra otro ser humano.
Analicemos cada una. Antes que nada debe verlo y darse cuenta que es una amenaza para usted, los delincuentes son de carne y hueso y no seres invisibles. Típicamente, ellos atacaran acercándose sin ser vistos a alguien metido en la niebla mental diaria en la que se mueven estas personas. Aprenda a disipar esa niebla y vera antes los signos de alarma, y así podrá estar preparado.
Segundo, es muy difícil para una persona normal, racional, sociable y civilizada aceptar el hecho que vive junto a gente que NO ES ni normal, ni racional, ni sociable o civilizada.
Hay gente ahí afuera a la que no le importan sus esperanzas o planes para el futuro, no les importa su familia, ni les importa todo el dolor y el sufrimiento que infligen, simplemente no les importa. Pueden matarlo por el contenido de su billetera, así pueden comprar su ración diaria de drogas. Pueden violarla porque sienten que no tienen ningún poder, excepto mientras están degradando y abusando de alguien más. Pueden matarlo simplemente para ascender un rango en su banda callejera. Sabe que? No importa “por que?” La reacción típica de la víctima es “Pero, por que alguien querrá lastimarme?” A quien le importa “por que?”
Tercero, será difícil para usted poner sus miras en el centro del pecho de un ser humano y apretar el gatillo, sabiendo que transformará a alguien vivo, que respira, en una masa de carne muerta. No deje que nadie le diga que será algo fácil. Como sociedad, no queremos que sea algo fácil, verdad? Es por eso que ciudadanos honestos y armados no le disparan a otras personas por discusiones o accidentes de transito. De hecho, los disparos hechos por ciudadanos armados casi siempre son considerados justificados por las autoridades, mientras que casi un tercio de los disparos hechos por la policía son caratulados cuestionables o injustificados. Los ciudadanos son reacios a disparar, aun cuando es necesario. Debe superar este obstáculo si su vida esta en peligro. Tendrá que darse cuenta que hay momentos en que la fuerza mortal no solo es perdonable, o justificable, sino que es lo que se necesita.
Por suerte, existe un sistema para ayudarlo a superar estos tres problemas. Aprendiendo a usar este sistema, practicándolo y haciéndolo parte de su rutina diaria, estará seguro de ver un ataque en su inicio y estará en condición tanto física como mental para defenderse. Este sistema, llamado “El código de colores” fue mostrado por primera vez por Jeff Cooper, quien lo enseñaba en Gunsite.
Tuve la buena suerte que Jeff me enseñara esto al comenzar mi carrera, y puedo decir sin reservas que este sistema salvo mi vida en varias ocasiones. No el tipo de arma que tenia, no la marca de la munición, sino este sistema mental de alerta.
Creo tan fuertemente que este sistema es una de las armas más importante para tener en el arsenal, que siento que es mi deber compartirlo con usted.
Como mencioné antes, hay que aprender a “hacer cambios” hacia arriba y hacia abajo en nuestra escala de alerta. La escala consiste en cuatro estados mentales, a los cuales Jeff los nombro con colores. Los colores simplemente nos permiten conceptualizar y discutir estos estados mentales. Debe aprender a subir y bajar en esta escala según las circunstancias a su alrededor cambien, como invariablemente lo harán a medida que pase el día.
CONDICION BLANCA: blanco es el nivel más bajo en nuestra escala. En condición blanca uno esta desatento, distraído. Puede ser caracterizado como “soñar despierto” o “preocupado”. La gente en condición blanca suele ir caminando con sus cabezas bajas, mirando a sus pies, no se darán cuenta del peligro hasta que literalmente los tenga agarrados del cuello.
Frecuentemente se ven ejemplos de esto: en el tráfico, cuando alguien se queda parado mientras los demás vehículos ya arrancaron, estos conductores están en condición blanca. Cuando un automovilista se lleva por delante a una moto, cuales son las primeras palabras que dice? No lo vi! Y no están mintiendo, están tan desatentos que no notaron una moto de 200Kg y a su conductor de 90Kg ahí mismo, delante de ellos.
Estas mismas personas son las que serán víctimas del crimen violento, porque el delincuente ataca al desatento, al complaciente, al perezoso, al preocupado. ¿Por que? Porque el delincuente quiere caerte encima, tomar lo que quiere, y desaparecer, sin ser herido o atrapado. ¿Cuál será la persona que estará mas a su merced? Alguien en condición blanca. Estoy seguro que habrá visto en las películas cuando un policía le lee los derechos a alguien que arrestan. Las víctimas podrían tener una tarjeta similar. Si todavía están vivos para cuando llega la policía, pueden sacar la tarjeta y leer:
¡Dios mío, paso tan rápido!
¡Apareció de repente al lado mío!
¡Ni siquiera lo vi!
Entonces, ¿cuando es aceptable estar en condición blanca? Solo cuando esté en casa, con las puertas cerradas, la alarma prendida y con el perro echado a sus pies. Solo entonces podrá “apagar” su mente si lo desea, porque existen suficientes capas de protección y advertencia para permitirle despertar, tomar su equipo y tener su mente “encendida”.
Si deja su casa, deja la condición blanca allí también. En el instante que deja su casa, sube un nivel, a Condición Amarilla.
CONDICION AMARILLA: Este es un estado general de relajada atención, sin ningún punto de atención especifico. No está mirando a nada ni a nadie en particular, simplemente lleva su cabeza erguida y los ojos abiertos. Está atento a lo que pasa a su alrededor, usted es difícil de sorprender, y por eso, difícil de lastimar. No espera ser atacado hoy, simplemente reconoce la posibilidad.
Cualquier cosa en su inmediata cercanía que le resulte inusual, fuera de lugar, o fuera de contexto, debe ser vista como potencialmente peligrosa, hasta que tenga la oportunidad de comprobar que no es así. Alguien que se ve fuera de lugar o alguien haciendo algo que no tiene un propósito obvio, debe ser observado con mucho cuidado. Cuando tu “radar” capta algo raro, inmediatamente subis otro nivel en la escala, a Condición Naranja.
CONDICION NARANJA: Este es un elevado nivel de alerta, con un punto de atención especifico. La diferencia entre Amarillo y Naranja es este especifico punto de atención, que será la persona que llame su atención por lo que este haciendo. Podría ser que este usando una gruesa campera en diciembre, que este parado al lado de una columna en el estacionamiento de un shopping, en vez de subirse a un auto e irse. Podría ser que lo haya encontrado ya en tres de los negocios que visitó. Sus acciones hicieron que lo notara como una posible amenaza.
¿Cómo determinar si alguien es una amenaza? Hay que tomar en cuenta todos los signos disponibles que tengamos: su vestimenta, comportamiento, apariencia y/o acciones, todas son pistas para determinar si es o no una amenaza. Lo más importante es “leer” su lenguaje corporal. Cerca del 80% de la comunicación humana es a través del lenguaje corporal. Los criminales muestran pequeños indicadores “pre-agresión”, los que son fáciles de reconocer una vez que se aprende a buscarlos.
Cuando usted sube a Naranja, su foco de atención estará en este individuo que llamo su atención, pero no dejará de tener una visión general del lugar. No queremos que sus amigos nos sorprendan.
Todo empieza cuando mira al tipo en cuestión y evalúa sus intenciones, buscando toda la información que pueda obtener, en nueve de cada diez casos, después de unos pocos segundos de observación notara que sus razones son inofensivas, haciendo que vuelva a bajar a Amarillo... pero, y el décimo? Él es un depredador, que podría caerle encima si estuviera desatento. Ahora que esta al tanto de su presencia, usted corre mucho menos riesgo.
Mientras evalúa al tipo y ve las cosas que lo convencen de sus malas intenciones, empiece a jugar al “que pasaría si...” en su mente, para comenzar a formular un plan de acción.
Así es como nos mantendremos adelante en la “curva de poder”. Si él actúa de repente, tendremos listo al menos un rudimentario plan para enfrentarlo y así responder rápidamente. Diciéndose a usted mismo: “Este tipo parece como que va a asaltarme, que voy a hacer al respecto?” empieza con la vital preparación mental para ganar el “altercado”
Aun con un plan simple preparado, su reacción física será segura e inmediata si es que el “malo” decide atacar de todos modos. Si después de evaluarlo, decide que SI es una amenaza, entonces escala hasta el nivel mas alto de alerta, Condición Roja
CONDICION ROJA: Cuándo esta en rojo, ¡esta listo para pelear! De hecho puede o no estar peleando, pero esta PREPARADO MENTALMENTE para hacerlo. En muchas, sino la mayoría de las veces cuando esta totalmente en “Rojo” no estará haciendo nada físicamente hablando. Todo el proceso de escalar de Amarillo a Naranja y después a Rojo y de ahí bajar otra vez en la escala según la situación es resuelta, ocurre sin ninguna actividad física de su parte. La clave es que esta mentalmente preparado para un conflicto y puede actuar físicamente si la situación lo requiere.
Cuando ya cree que una amenaza es real y esta completamente “rojo”, lo que estará esperando es su “Gatillo Mental” que es una acción especifica, predeterminada de parte de él que resultará en una reacción inmediata, positiva, agresiva, defensiva, de parte suya. Así es como se logra la velocidad necesaria para ganar. Teniendo una decisión pre-establecida en su mente puede moverse lo suficientemente rápido como para lidiar con el problema. Sin esa preestablecida decisión, ese tiempo precioso que podría haber usado para actuar, será malgastado tratando de decidir que hacer cuando el malo te ataque.
Este “Gatillo Mental” será diferente, dependiendo de la situación. Podría ser, “Si gira ese arma en mi dirección, le tiro” o también “Ya le dije que se detuviera, si da un paso mas con ese (cuchillo/destornillador/martillo) en su mano, le tiro. Cualquiera sea el gatillo seleccionado, es un botón que una vez presionado, resulta en una acción inmediata de su parte.
Su principal enemigo es el tiempo de reacción. Si no esta atento a lo que lo rodea y no ve a ese tipo sospechoso, podría ser dominado por él, antes que puedas formular una defensa efectiva. Por otro lado, si esta pensando: “Quizá tenga que lastimar a este tipo si no se calma” probablemente ya haya ganado esa pelea, porque entiende mejor que él lo que esta pasando. La mejor pelea termina antes que el perdedor se de cuenta que fue lo que paso. Si es sorprendido en Condición Blanca, va a necesitar de 5 a 6 segundos para darse cuenta que esta pasando, tomar una decisión y responder. Simplemente no dispone de ese tiempo.
Hay un par de trucos que puede usar al principio de su entrenamiento que lo ayudaran con esto. ¿Se acuerda que uno de los tres problemas que mencione mas arriba seria el “hacerlo?” ¿Usar fuerza mortal cuando se la requiere? Para ayudar con esto, cada mañana cuando se calce su arma en la cintura, recuérdese a usted mismo: quizá tenga que usar mi ama hoy. Esto fija en su subconsciente (que maneja el 90% de su vida) que existe una razón por la que usamos nuestras armas: ¡podemos necesitarlas para salvar nuestras vidas!
Cuando se dio cuenta que alguien puede ser una amenaza y eso hizo que escalara hasta la Condición Naranja, piense: “quizá hoy tenga que dispararle a él!” Créame, si puede internalizar que alguien en particular es una amenaza para su vida, pero que tiene los medios para detenerlo si fuera necesario, es más fácil lidiar mentalmente con la situación.
Veamos un ejemplo para ilustrar estos principios. Supongamos que esta trabajando en una joyería, un negocio pequeño en los suburbios que da a la calle. En este momento es la hora del almuerzo y por eso esta solo, no hay clientes tampoco. ¿Cuál es el estado mental en el que esta? Amarillo, porque esta en la calle, en el mundo real y por eso esta con la cabeza en alto y ocasionalmente echa una mirada a través de la vidriera hacia la calle.
Como no hay nadie mas en el negocio, cualquier problema que se presente necesariamente llegará desde ahí. Usted querrá enterarse del problema mientras este afuera, no cuando ya este frente suyo, mostrador de por medio.
En uno de sus vistazos a través del vidrio, ve a dos hombres de veinte y pico estacionando un auto viejo frente a su negocio, se bajan y nota que usan joggings idénticos, entran al negocio y se separan. Inmediatamente ya esta en condición Naranja. Ellos no hicieron nada ilegal, nada agresivo, pero están “fuera de lugar” fuera de lo común, entonces usted escala en su estado mental y empieza a pensar “Esto parece un posible asalto. Quizá tenga que lastimar a estos tipos. Si las cosas se ponen feas, me tiro detrás de esa caja fuerte y así puedo tirar hacia esa pared sin poner en peligro a nadie en el estacionamiento. Tengo un plan.” En este momento los esta mirando y monitoreando sus movimientos. Si se van, baja un nivel a amarillo una vez que se hayan ido.
Si se quedan, probablemente se pongan a hablar en una esquina y brevemente discutirán lo que han visto. Entonces se acercaran hacia donde esta y luego de tratar de distraerlo (¿puedo ver ese anillo de atrás?) Sacaran sus armas y pedirán lo de valor. Si estuvo usando el sistema, paso de amarillo a naranja cuando entraron, y a rojo cuando se acercaban. Esta preparado. Debido a que los delincuentes saben leer el lenguaje corporal (sus vidas dependen de ello), ellos verán que esta preparado y simplemente se irán. Cerca de 9 de cada 10 se irán en ese momento sin confrontar. Al irse, bajara de rojo a naranja y de ahí a amarillo.
¿Qué hacemos con el décimo par, el que no se va? Ellos pueden estar drogados, o borrachos, o ambas cosas y no reconocieron su nivel de alerta. Ellos seguirán estúpidamente con su asalto. De acuerdo con estudios del FBI, cerca del 80% con los cuales tendrá que enfrentarte estarán bajo la influencia de alguna droga o del alcohol en ese momento. ¿Las buenas noticias? Estarán borrachos o drogados y eso será terrible para sus reflejos, tiempo de reacción y coordinación motora. Será relativamente fácil tratar con ellos, SOLO si esta mentalmente preparado (condición roja) e hizo sus deberes.
Si entraron y después de observarlos pasa a naranja, y cuando se le acercan, pasa a rojo y después vuelve a bajar, habrá pasado por toda la escala sin siquiera tocar su arma, lo cual es muy común. El punto es que hubiera estado preparado para usar su arma de ser necesario. Esta es la manera como se ganan las batallas, estando mentalmente preparado para ganar.
Las armas son necesarias
Pero naides sabe cuando;
Ansina, si andas pasiando,
Y de noche sobre todo,
Debes llevarlo de modo
Que al salir, salga cortando.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 300
on: April 15, 2007, 01:37:15 PM
At last the wife and I arranged a date last night and planned to see "300". Long story short, after much misadventure 300 became impossible and in search of brownie points I deferred to her request for "Perfect Stranger" which I found perfectly boring. Ugh.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Predators part 2
on: April 15, 2007, 10:08:19 AM
That shift has been profitable for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The company, which remains privately held, refuses to disclose its revenue or profits. But it now employs more than 2,400 workers and has sold more than 200 unmanned planes since 1993, according to a spokesman.
In 2005, the Air Force announced that it was ordering enough Predators to equip 15 squadrons over five years, at a price of $5.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security has bought two Predators for border control, and Italy and Turkey have also bought planes.
A research firm, the Teal Group, predicts that the handful of U.A.V. manufacturers will collect about $55 billion worldwide over the next 10 years. General Atomics is expected to dominate a large portion of that market, said Philip Finnegan, an analyst at Teal.
When Mr. Rumsfeld stepped down last year, one of the mandates that had bolstered the Predator for so long also disappeared.
“Transformation is dead as a political idea,” Mr. Thompson said. “Rumsfeld was discredited by Iraq, and when he left, his priorities left with him.”
That presents a challenge for General Atomics, which is also confronting a flurry of competition. The major military contractors, including Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have all jumped into the U.A.V. game. With billions of dollars at their disposal and deep military relationships, those companies can outspend smaller rivals.
“This is an exploding marketplace, and we intend to claim a larger market share as it grows bigger and bigger,” said Gemma Loochkartt, a spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman. “Being a leader in this sector is important to maintaining leadership within the defense industry.”
So General Atomics is aggressively building on its existing clout. Unlike many other military contractors, which wait for a guaranteed contract to build new products, General Atomics has set aside what some analysts estimate at $50 million to build the next generation of Predators.
“We can move faster because we’re smaller, and we make sure people know that,” says Mr. Blue, who, at 72, still actively guides the company’s strategic direction. General Atomics has upgraded its manufacturing with a diverse range of automated and laser-guided tools that allow it to quickly change design specifications and produce custom-built planes, a flexibility that analysts say is almost unrivaled within the military industry.
Despite a demand for its products that far outpaces supply, the company has kept the Predator relatively cheap — about $19.2 million a plane, according to a study that the Government Accountability Office released last year. “For the military, $19 million is almost an impulse buy,” said John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense research firm in Washington.
YET however much General Atomics competes on price, some of its most dexterous strategies have involved overtly political tactics.
In 2006, a study conducted by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity and other watchdog groups said that General Atomics had spent $660,000, more than any other company, sending Congressional staff members on trips. Company executives said the jaunts allowed staffers to help educate foreign governments about the Predator’s successes, although they acknowledge that they also improved the company’s relationships in Washington.
“Everyone else was doing it, so we did, too,” says Mr. Cassidy at General Atomics. After the study was released, General Atomics decided to sponsor less than $10,000 worth of Congressional trips a year.
General Atomics has also hired scores of former military commanders and has partnered with Lockheed Martin to pursue a $2 billion Navy program, one of its first such joint projects.
Equally important, the company has begun whispering to lawmakers about the importance of diversifying the military marketplace, say lobbyists who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the company. In part to preserve that selling point, General Atomics has spurned acquisition offers from major military contractors, Mr. Blue says.
Analysts say the trends that have kept General Atomics’ fortunes aloft are likely to persist for decades.
“It took 30 years for the world’s militaries to completely absorb and implement the technologies that started with panzerdivizions,” says Mr. Goure, the defense analyst. Although military strategists talk about organizing war-making around information and intelligence, the truth is that it will take decades for that transformation to be complete. In the meantime, leaders are likely to latch onto emblems of transformation — like the Predator — as symbols of progress.
“Once you prove that something works, a flurry of activity starts that builds the infrastructure for more innovations, and fights over who controls the new technologies emerge,” Mr. Goure says. “That’s when things become permanent.”
Such fights have already broken out over Predators. This year, the Air Force told Congress that it, rather than other branches of the military, should control the deployment of unmanned planes. Commanders in other military branches have voiced disagreement.
“The Predator has become a very durable and powerful symbol in a very short time,” says Mr. Thompson, the defense analyst.
That transition is even more impressive, considering what the Predator cannot do.
“It is unclear if this plane will ever meet some of the key suitability tests the Air Force applies to most aircraft,” said Mr. Ehrhard, the military analyst. “But no one seems to care that much.”
WHICH brings us to a final bit of advice for visiting General Atomics: Don’t count on leisurely send-offs. When its corporate jet lands back in San Diego, the company’s president is likely to bound out, make a dash for his BMW — the one with the license plate reading “UAV S”) — and shout out a hasty goodbye.
“I gotta run,” said Mr. Cassidy, the pilot and executive, after a recent flight. “We’ve got planes to sell.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: April 15, 2007, 10:06:47 AM
The Pilotless Plane That Only Looks Like Child’s Play
By CHARLES DUHIGG
Published: April 15, 2007
IF you’re the type of shopper who spends billions of dollars on lethal military gadgets, and you’re ever invited to visit General Atomics Aeronautical Systems — the small, privately held San Diego company that has quickly become one of the military industry’s most celebrated businesses — take a bit of advice: accept a ride on the corporate jet.
Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., left, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, prepares for takeoff. He was commander of the Navy station that housed the “Top Gun” school. He even had a bit part in the movie.
The plane isn’t fancy. The cabin is cramped and the seats a little threadbare. (Want a beverage? Open the cooler, help yourself and quit whining about the heat.) Still, such bare-bones accoutrements haven’t stopped a parade of top military officials and politicians from clamoring for their own seats on General Atomics flights.
If you’re lucky, after the jet lands at the company’s airstrip in the high desert east of Los Angeles, you’ll tour one of the room-sized shipping containers clustered near the runway. Inside is a video-game addict’s idea of a cockpit, with joysticks, gauges and high-tech screens sprouting everywhere and a cushy chair that has improbably become one of the sexiest seats in the military. From that perch you can guide an unmanned airplane, known as the Predator, that is potentially thousands of miles away and can hover over suspected enemies for dozens of hours before raining down missiles.
For years, such planes — known as U.A.V.’s, for unmanned aerial vehicles — were pariahs within the military industry, scorned by commanders who saw them as threats to the status quo. But during the last several years, U.A.V.’s have amassed unusual political firepower. “For a long time, the only thing most generals could agree on was that they didn’t want any unmanned vehicles,” says Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Now everyone wants as many as they can get.”
In fact, only a decade ago, crucial Air Force commanders were lobbying to prevent battlefield deployment of U.A.V.’s, according to Congressional staff members. By 2005, however, John P. Jumper, then the Air Force chief of staff, had sufficiently about-faced to tell Congress that “we’re going to tell General Atomics to build every Predator they can possibly build.”
This transformation is, in many ways, a reflection of how the military’s priorities and goals have changed over the last decade. It is also a testament to how much clout General Atomics has amassed in a short period of time.
All of which raises another bit of advice if you’re visiting General Atomics: Don’t be late.
More than one official has learned the hard way that when the pilot of the General Atomics corporate jet says he’s flying back at noon, he means it. And that pilot is likely to be Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., a 34-year Navy veteran, former rear admiral, onetime commander of the station where the “Top Gun” flight school is based and now the president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Mr. Cassidy’s belly may hang a bit over his belt now, but he’s so authentic that when the producers of the film “Top Gun” needed someone for a bit part who oozed power, they cast him.
Which is only fitting, for while General Atomics boasts elaborate technological gizmos and martial splendor, its authority also derives from its political savvy. In the last decade, the company has outgunned some of the nation’s biggest corporate heavyweights in the battle for prized military contracts. Soon, analysts say, Americans may rely on a host of General Atomics military devices, including magnetic cannons that use pulses of electricity to drop ammunition on distant targets, radar systems that can see through even the densest clouds and guns that shoot laser beams.
“Everyone talks about how the world has changed,” Mr. Cassidy says. “We’re building the technology for where it’s going.”
NO single moment marks the ascent of General Atomics. But to understand its rise and what that says about changes in military contracting, it helps to go way back, to a point before a pair of wealthy, intensely private brothers bought it, before General Dynamics spun it off, and before it even existed — to the 1930s and a group of angry German commanders plotting revenge.
After World War I, while France and other Allies were building military defenses modeled on trench warfare, German commanders were shaping a nimble fighting force. Using new technologies — like radio and fast-moving armored vehicles — they created the blitzkrieg, or “lightning war,” a strategy that allowed them to end-run their enemies’ trenches by using panzerdivizions — small, sprightly forces that revolutionized how battles were fought. In 1940, Germany toppled France in 20 days and the panzerdivizion symbolized war’s shift from drawn-out conflicts using massive fortifications to rapid-fire engagements built around manned, motorized armor.
Nearly 70 years later, the Predator and General Atomics reflect the military’s transformation from conflicts built around manned armor to strategies organized around surveillance. U.A.V.’s embody the potential for quick, relatively effortless wars fought by drones controlled from great distances, and thus have become lightning rods for battles over the military’s direction.
Page 2 of 4)
General Atomics, the progenitor of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, started life in 1955 when a major military contractor, General Dynamics, feared that the military hardware market might dry up. It began exploring peacetime uses of atomic energy, but abandoned the effort when cold-war military spending took off. General Atomics eventually passed through the hands of a number of energy companies before landing in the lap of two Denver real estate moguls, Neal and Linden Blue, who bought it in 1986 for about $50 million.
At the time, a big part of the company’s revenue came from contracts focused on fusion experiments. (General Atomics, today a sister company to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, still runs one of the world’s largest fusion programs.) But the Blue brothers wanted to pursue the fascination with airplanes and national security they had carried since they were students at Yale in the 1950s, Neal Blue said in an interview.
While still in college, they persuaded Life magazine to finance a trip around South America on a propeller-driven Tri-Pacer, in exchange for sending back photographs. After graduation, the brothers moved to Nicaragua to found a cocoa and banana plantation with the family of Luis Somoza Debayle, then Nicaragua’s president. (They were “enthusiastic supporters” of the United States-backed fight against Communism in Nicaragua during the 1980s, Mr. Blue said, though, he added, not formally involved.)
After serving in the Air Force, the brothers expanded their business holdings to include petroleum mines in Australia, natural gas wells in Canada, manufacturing concerns in the former East Germany and hundreds of acres of ranches in Arkansas, Colorado and California. Neal Blue, now the chairman of the company, said that both brothers have top-secret clearance with the United States government, but declined to discuss if they have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
All the while, they remained flying enthusiasts. Linden Blue served as president of Beech Aircraft from 1982 to 1984 and was briefly imprisoned by Fidel Castro after his private plane skirted Cuban airspace a few weeks before the Bay of Pigs incursion.
Soon after the brothers gained control of General Atomics in 1986, they unleashed their passion for advanced aviation by turning the company into a leading pioneer in drone warfare.
Military efforts to develop unmanned planes had existed for decades, but unreliable technology and shifting priorities had killed most of the programs. The Blues, however, were convinced that technological advances in microprocessing and global positioning systems had made it possible to build inexpensive, technologically reliable and ultralight unmanned airplanes that could stay aloft for days. They poured tens of millions of dollars into the project, eventually establishing a separate company, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Neal Blue said.
At the time, the Defense Department was less enthusiastic.
“The military can react to new threats and new enemies very quickly, but there is a very high bar to shifting how forces are deployed, because a mistake can be catastrophic to national security,” said Andrew L. Ross, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. “Commanders are skeptical about machines that remove soldiers from the field.”
The Predator itself has offered critics some ammunition. One analyst estimates that 20 percent of all Predators sold to the United States military have crashed, because of errors by pilots controlling them from the ground. Another analyst, who has flown the aircraft but asked not to be identified to maintain his relationship with General Atomics, says they offer significantly less maneuverability than manned jets.
Another analyst who has studied the history of U.A.V.’s says the Predator has failed at some crucial tests.
“It has never done everything the military originally wanted it to do,” said Tom P. Ehrhard, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonpartisan research organization. “It still fails on flight reliability, flight worthiness, the camera’s accuracy, the ability to fly through clouds. There are a whole series of operational limitations that normally would prevent a device like this from getting military adoption.”
Officials at General Atomics declined to discuss those and other criticisms in detail. An Air Force spokesman said that the number of Predator crashes had declined, and that the plane’s limitations had not prevented its combat use.
Another obstacle to military adoption of U.A.V.’s, say the Blues and others, is a dynamic even older than the panzerdivizion: resistance to innovations that threaten entrenched power structures.
“There is a very strong tendency to reward commanders for figuring out how to win the last war,” says Neal Blue. “The fiefdoms within the Department of Defense were built upon putting more people into airplanes or into the battlefield. Technologies that didn’t include cockpit pilots or moving soldiers were seen as unattractive.”
Page 3 of 4)
For its part, the Air Force disputes that turf wars ever impeded the Predator’s deployment. “It is hard to name any other aircraft that has accomplished so much in so little time, or that has had such an immediate impact on how we conduct combat operations,” it said in a statement. “It was the Air Force that gave birth to the concept that Predator could both find and attack fleeting targets, a concept that has paid huge dividends.”
The Blue brothers bought General Atomics in 1986 for $50 million. Neal Blue is now chairman.
Nonetheless, the Blues’ early attempts to find military supporters of U.A.V.’s during the 1980s and early ’90s met with little success.
“No fighter pilot is ever going to pick up a girl at a bar by saying he flies a U.A.V.,” says Andrew F. Krepinevich, a former Defense Department analyst who is executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “When defense contractors initially talked about U.A.V.’s, they advertised them as replacements for fighter pilots. Fighter pilots don’t want to be replaced.”
BUT, ultimately, fighter pilots don’t run the military. Politicians do. And when Bill Clinton entered the White House in 1993, there was already a sense among some elected officials that the military was stuck in cold-war thinking, according to members of Congress at the time.
Those politicians, however, were increasingly butting heads with Pentagon officials. And the military industry, which collected billions of dollars a year selling expensive jets and submarines, was in no rush to tell customers that they needed smaller, cheaper equipment.
So the politicians used stealth tactics. In 1993, John M. Deutch, a deputy defense secretary under President Clinton, invited Neal Blue to the Pentagon under the pretense of discussing fusion reactors. Mr. Blue said in an interview that when he walked in, he discovered an array of high-ranking officials waiting to hear about the Predator. Mr. Deutch asked how long it would take to deliver a flight-ready aircraft. Six months, Mr. Blue promised.
“We were looking for technologies that were sufficiently path-breaking that they offered justification for changing military doctrine,” Mr. Deutch recalled.
Flashy images helped, too. The live video feeds from cameras attached to Predators were transmitted to commanders and politicians back home.
“There was a lot of work to make sure that G.A.’s product made it to the battlefield before the bureaucracy could stop it,” said Representative Duncan L. Hunter of California, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “We knew that once we sent all those pictures to Washington, D.C., the debate would be over.”
After the Predators’ deployment in the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, the military’s support for them began to grow. Although many analysts were already suggesting that Predators could easily carry weapons — cruise missiles use similar technologies — General Atomics avoided even mentioning such possibilities until clients requested them.
“There was an unspoken deal. It was obvious the technology existed to make the Predator into more than just a surveillance platform,” said Daniel Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a military policy research group in northern Virginia. “But fighter pilots shoot the missiles, and fighter pilots have a lot of power within the Air Force. So G.A. made it clear pilots didn’t have to worry about Predators doing something they hadn’t asked for.”
(In the late 1990s, armed Predators were rolling off the assembly line two months after they were requested by Air Force commanders, according to company executives.)
After taking office in 2001, President George W. Bush gave his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, a mandate to remake the military into a more technologically advanced organization, and U.A.V.’s became a top priority, say former department officials. The Sept. 11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan heightened the push.
By the time a Predator-launched missile killed a suspected Al Qaeda leader in 2002, even the public was accustomed to hearing about unmanned planes’ successes. Voicing enthusiasm for U.A.V.’s became an easy way for the military brass to show that it had signed on to Mr. Rumsfeld’s program.
“Predators became emblematic of what Rumsfeld wanted,” said Loren B. Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute. “Suddenly, everyone was saying they were ordering Predators, whether they actually wanted them or not.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Fred Thompson part two
on: April 14, 2007, 12:36:36 PM
Thompson also served as chairman of the Senate Government Relations Committee, which he used to investigate fundraising irregularities in the 1996 presidential election cycle. Republicans had high hopes that Thompson's inquiry would add to the political difficulties of the Clinton White House stemming from its malfeasance on campaign financing.
After the hearings ended, Fox News Channel's Brit Hume described Thompson as "flying high before his hearings . . . and shot down once they started and all the way through them."
Thompson says "the congressional investigative function is not a prosecutorial function" and acknowledges that the hearings produced "mixed result in many respects." He believes the criticism stems from the fact that "few people went to jail."
As Thompson considered his future, he began telling friends that he was not certain he wanted to seek reelection in 2002. He changed his mind after the attacks of September 11. Thompson, who served at the time on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced in late September that he would run again. "Now is not the time for me to leave," he said. "This is the way now, it's perfectly clear, for me to contribute the most." He spent the next several weeks traveling to churches throughout Tennessee talking about the attacks and the coming U.S. response to them.
At a hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on October 4, 2001, Thompson sounded a skeptical note about the prospect of reorganizing the federal homeland security bureaucracy. "The government, basically, cannot manage large projects very well," he said. "Maybe we can learn from our past experience with other government agencies and other crises and things of that nature and not make the same mistakes as we go about trying to rearrange these boxes and decide who reports to who and who has what authority. And maybe we'll take the lessons that we've learned from our other management problems in particular."
Then in late January 2002, his daughter Elizabeth Panici died suddenly following a heart attack. She was only 38. Thompson's friends say he was devastated. A month later he announced that he had changed his mind--he would not seek reelection. "I simply do not have the heart for another six-year term."
At a press conference after his announcement, he lashed out at the media for their intrusive coverage of his private life. "Every public official has to understand that he or she is a public official and that's the price you pay. For the most part, that's appropriate," he said. "That's the price your whole family pays. There are lines to be drawn. I think it's extremely unfortunate and uncalled for for the local newspaper to discuss the details of this. Her death obviously played in my decision, but the details of all of that, what news value does that have? Why did she have to pay that price? Why does her little five-year-old boy have to pay that price because her daddy chose to try to serve his state and his country? It's over the line and more like the National Enquirer-type stuff than anything else."
In his final months in the Senate, Thompson concentrated his efforts on legislation that would create the Department of Homeland Security. He fought efforts by Democrats to subject the new workforce to union and collective bargaining rules that apply to federal employees more broadly. The bill passed two weeks after the 2002 midterm elections, on a vote of 90-9.
"This is the most significant thing I've been involved in and certainly the most significant thing I've had my name on because it involves the main function of government, and that is protecting its citizens."
More than four years later, munching on a turkey sandwich and sour cream and onion potato chips at his dining room table, he displays an unusual willingness to second-guess his own decision. After Thompson criticized the growth of bureaucracy under the new director of national intelligence, I asked him why the new bureaucracy under Department of Homeland Security is any different.
"Well, to tell you the truth, in retrospect, we may conclude that it wasn't any different. But it got to the point where almost anything would have been an improvement," he says. "A lot of those agencies were in and of themselves dysfunctional, so bringing them together was not going to make everybody greater. . . . But you've got to start somewhere and you can't wait until everything is just right until you start coordinating. So we were kind of jumping aboard a moving train."
It was an admirably honest appraisal of what he once pointed to as the crowning achievement of his career in Congress. As we spoke, I was struck by the fact that Thompson didn't seem to be calibrating his answers for a presidential run. On issue after contentious issue, I got the sense from both his manner and the answers he gave me that he was just speaking extemporaneously. Many of his answers would drive a poll-watching political consultant nuts.
My suspicions were confirmed when Thompson asked at one point if he could have a transcript of our interview. "I found myself talking on some subjects that I haven't really thought that much about," he explained. "Oh, so this is what I think, huh?"
* Thompson says he came to respect George W. Bush during the 2000 campaign because of his plan to reform Social Security. Congressional Republicans considered the plan a political liability, and it went nowhere. Thompson says that although it was only tinkering on the margins of real reform, it was a good start. He won't share his own plan--"I'll roll that out at the appropriate time"--but the general principle he articulates sounds like a political risk.
"It's based upon the proposition that granddad and grandmom will be willing to sacrifice a little bit if they feel like it helps their grandkids avoid financial disaster, and that their sacrifice is not going to be wasted down some government rathole," he explains. "Under most plans, most good plans, you know current retirees probably would not be affected that much at all. . . . We've been operating under the assumption in this country that it's the third rail and that if you talk about it, those people who are most concerned about retirement programs will kill you. I don't think that's true."
* He believes that elements of the CIA were out to get Scooter Libby and his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby, though not the original leaker of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, was convicted of lying and obstructing justice. "It makes me mad as the devil just to think about it," Thompson says. He had never met Libby when he volunteered to serve on the advisory board of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. Is Libby innocent? Thompson answers with one word. "Yes."
Do you think there will be negative political fallout from defending the convicted former chief of staff to an unpopular vice president?
"I have no idea. I have a hard time seeing it. If I'm wrong about the temperature of the American people on this, then I'm wrong about a lot of things about the American people. And we might as well find out."
* I asked him about his vote for the Iraq war and the Bush administration's failure to explain to the American public the real story of the prewar intelligence on Iraq. I ask Thompson how it is possible that a majority of the country believes the Bush administration lied about Iraqi WMD, when the U.S. intelligence community and the world consensus was that Saddam Hussein had these weapons.
"Part of it had to do with what has become almost a knee-jerk suspicion on the part of a lot of people with regards to anybody in authority," he says. And then he directly faults the Bush administration. "A part of it has been the administration's inability to sufficiently communicate the reality of the situation. It's not just the president. . . . You have to have an organized, pervasive ability to get your message across and rebut erroneous misstatements of the history. It is amazing to me how something like this could be perceived so erroneously by so many people. Because we all
know what the facts are. We've all seen the statements and the comments of Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the list goes on and on and on."
Thompson slips into sarcasm. "It is amazing to me how a man that they say is so dumb fooled so many real smart people. But that's what they're saying about Bush. Bush
canoodled the entire Democratic establishment. Absurd on its face, and yet some people want to believe that sort of thing."
Then he goes on to give a better defense of the White House than anything that has come out of the White House communications shop in four years.
The irony here is that intelligence services had consistently over the years understated the capabilities of enemies and potential enemies. Now, here there was unanimity among the intelligence services, some of whom are supposed to be better than ours. . . . People don't understand intelligence. They don't understand. It's seldom clear. It's often caveated. It's sometimes flat-out wrong. Different people often have different ideas. That's what a president is faced with. And some today would say that politically a president has got to have unanimity before he can make a choice. And then they say that if he has that unanimity, the president has to make that choice--at the same time talking about how deficient our capabilities are. But if those deficient capabilities produced a recommendation, the president of the United States and leader of the free world has to take that recommendation. That has been so faulty in the past. It's absurd. Presidents in the future, as always, have to make a determination based on a lot of things, and intelligence is one of them. And the president not only has the right to evaluate the intelligence that he's receiving, he has a duty to do that. He listens to the British. I mean, if history was any judge, I don't know about now, but if the Brits tell me that there's an [Iraqi] deal with Niger and our guys don't know whether there was or not, I tend to rely on the Brits. I mean, those are the calls the president's got to make, and the question is really: Which way do you want the president to lean? Caution--that it's probably not so? When bad news is delivered, he gets mixed messages, he gets various intelligence reports of various kinds. Did you want him all balled up in all of that, you know, trying to apply some kind of a scientific equation to it for fear that somebody in an intelligence committee is going to wave it around at a hearing later on or something like that? Is that what it's come to? If so, the world is going to be a lot more dangerous than it otherwise already is. You've got to exercise the authority and the responsibilities that you've been given. I mean, in this debate over intelligence and what it is and what it ought to be and how it's used and all of that, you know, [it] needs to be dealt with and laid out in a way that people can understand it. . . . The next report says somebody's got weapons of mass destruction, you know what're we going to do with that? You know, just because history--a cat won't sit on a hot stove twice, but he won't sit on a cold stove either.
* He is equally blunt about Iran. Thompson says that the actions of the Iranian regime--harboring senior al Qaeda leaders, funding and training Iraqi insurgents, supplying terrorists in Iraq with devices that are killing American soldiers--are acts of war. He stops short of calling for a military response, but seems to suggest that he would be saying something different if circumstances were different.
"Unfortunately, today it can't be considered in isolation, so you have to take into consideration our capabilities and our priorities worldwide right now. And unfortunately we're stretched too thin." Nonetheless, he says, the long-term objective in Iran is the same one that led to the Iraq war. "I think the bottom line with Iran is that nothing is going to change unless there is a regime change."
* In the days since Thompson allowed that he was thinking about running for president, his views on abortion have come under scrutiny. Thompson finds the news reports from his first run for Senate perplexing.
"I have read these accounts and tried to think back 13 years ago as to what may have given rise to them. Although I don't remember it, I must have said something to someone as I was getting my campaign started that led to a story. Apparently, another story was based upon that story, and then another was based upon that, concluding I was pro-choice."
But, he adds: "I was interviewed and rated pro-life by the National Right to Life folks in 1994, and I had a 100 percent voting record on abortion issues while in the Senate."
Darla St. Martin, associate executive director of National Right to Life, supports Thompson on those claims. She traveled to Tennessee in 1994 to meet with him. "I interviewed him and on all of the questions I asked him, he opposed abortion," she told the American Spectator's Philip Klein.
Thompson says he thinks Roe v. Wade is bad law and should be overturned, but he says he does not support a Human Life Amendment.
One of the few times Thompson was unwilling to share his thoughts came when I asked him if he thought Rudy Giuliani was too liberal to win the Republican nomination and if Hillary Clinton could make a good president. The only question he would answer about his potential rivals concerned John McCain.
Thompson was one of four senators to support McCain in 2000 and served as the national co-chairman of his campaign. So I asked him why he's not supporting McCain again.
"You know the old joke about--what about me? As self-centered as that sounds, and it is, that ought to be the way it is." He adds: "Besides, you can't predict what's going to happen anyway, with any of them. Anybody could implode. Anybody could take off."
Before his appearance on Fox News Sunday, Thompson called McCain to let him know that he would announce that he was seriously considering a presidential bid. The conversation was friendly. "If we do this," he says, "we'll remain friends and we'll be friends after this."
There is considerable talk among the other Republican campaigns that the Thompson boomlet is driven by little more than celebrity. Maybe. But history suggests that Thompson may actually be underpolling right now. As was the case when he ran for office in Tennessee, he has a very recognizable face but his national name identity is actually quite low.
Gallup conducted a survey in late March asking respondents an open-ended question: "What comes to your mind when you think about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson?" Sixty-seven percent of Republicans responded that they had no opinion of Thompson or were not familiar with him. And yet he shows up in the top three choices of potential Republican nominees in most of the polling that includes his name. As voters come to associate that name with a familiar and well-liked face, and if they get to see the personable Thompson on TV, Thompson strategists assume those polling numbers can only go up.
When Thompson met with Bill Frist at the Mayflower Hotel, they had important business to discuss. More than two years ago, Thompson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is "indolent" lymphoma, a slow-growing form of the disease that is not usually symptomatic. If you're going to have one of the 33 varieties of lymphoma, Thompson says, this is the one you want. "It's easy to diagnose, easy to treat and easy to live with," Frist, a physician, confirms. But it sounds scary, the kind of thing that might spook potential primary voters if it were disclosed by an announced candidate.
"We thought we had to get it out early," says Frist, "in the sense that he's going to be announcing."
If Frist's acknowledgment that Thompson was going to run may have been a slip, Thompson's own words also suggest he's running. He says he understands "how hard it is, how difficult it is, how embarrassing it is, how intrusive it is." And he knows that as a candidate he could be subject to harsh attacks.
"That's the least of it anymore," he says. "It's not pleasant, but it's not that important anymore because you're straight with your family, you have a level of understanding and knowledge about your family, and they with you, and with the man upstairs, and that's that. You know, ain't really much past that. And it kind of frees you up in a way."
Yes, it does.
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
© Copyright 2007, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another Fred Thompson
on: April 14, 2007, 12:32:34 PM
From the Courthouse
to the White House
Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role.
by Stephen F. Hayes
04/23/2007, Volume 012, Issue 30
A strange thing happened a few weeks back when I went to the Café Promenade at the Mayflower Hotel for an off-the-record interview with an unpaid adviser to the non-campaign of unannounced presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
Fred Thompson showed up.
Thompson was there to have lunch with Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a powerhouse consultant with ties to the White House. The two men worked together in the fall of 2005 on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Thompson had invited Gillespie to lunch to discuss a potential presidential bid.
On March 11, just a week before, Thompson had appeared on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that he was giving "serious consideration" to running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Ever since, advisers on other campaigns have tried to figure out how he'll affect the race if he runs.
Several patrons in the restaurant recognized Thompson. One well-dressed man with thick white hair approached him for an autograph. It's possible that this man wanted the autograph because Thompson served for eight years as a senator from Tennessee. But it's more likely that he wanted a memento of the day he ate at the same restaurant as Arthur Branch, the sagacious district attorney on Law & Order; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Law & Order: Trial by Jury; and Conviction, a spin-off of, well, you can probably guess. The same man returned to the table twice more. Each time Thompson put his conversation on hold and graciously tolerated the interruption.
After an hour, Thompson and Gillespie--currently chairman of the Republican party of Virginia--rose and left the restaurant. Ten minutes later, Thompson walked back in with former senator Bill Frist. They were led to a different table, but Thompson's waitress was the same. She laughed as she took his new order. Thompson says this second lunch was unplanned. Although he and Frist talk daily, the two Tennesseans met this time by chance. Finding they both had gaps in their schedules, they spent the next two hours at Café Promenade talking about a Fred Thompson for President campaign.
There is some discontent among Republicans with the current choices for the party's nominee in 2008. The complaints are well known: Senator John McCain, the maverick Republican, is too much maverick and not enough Republican. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is thought to be too willful and too liberal: He recently suggested he would allow his new wife to attend cabinet meetings and reaffirmed his support for federal funding of abortion. Mitt Romney seems pleasant and competent, but pleasant and competent doesn't beat Hillary Clinton. Senator Sam Brownback is unknown and uncharismatic. And former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is from Arkansas.
According to an adviser to one of the leading candidates, the rationale for a Thompson run is best illustrated--as so many things are--by The Simpsons. In one episode, Homer Simpson's civic-minded neighbor Ned Flanders tells a large crowd of fellow Springfield citizens that they must choose someone to lead an anticrime campaign in the town.
"Who should lead the group?"
"You," shouts a man from the crowd. The entire mob begins to chant.
"Flanders! Flanders! Flanders!"
When Flanders humbly begins to explain that he doesn't have much experience in such matters, Moe the Bartender cuts him off.
The crowd joins in.
"Someone else! Someone else! Someone else!"
One obvious advantage Fred Thompson has is that he's someone else.
In recent Republican presidential preference polls, Thompson tends to run third, behind Giuliani and McCain but ahead of Romney and the rest of the field. In a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll released last week, Thompson came in second, just ahead of McCain, with support from 15 percent of those surveyed. In late March, Thompson won a straw poll of Republicans in conservative Gwinnett County, Georgia, earning more votes than all of the other candidates combined. And Iowa Republican party executive director Chuck Laudner told the Washington Times, "He's the biggest buzz in the state."
Representative Zach Wamp, a fellow Tennesseean who is running an effort to "Draft Fred," tells me he expects 60 congressional Republicans to show up early next week at a meet-and-greet with Thompson. Mark Corallo, who has volunteered to answer press inquiries for Thompson, has been getting dozens of calls each day--not only from reporters, but from Republicans around the country who have seen his name in the newspaper and tracked him down at his private consulting firm to sign up for a Thompson campaign. Politicians are reaching out to Bill Frist to offer their support. Says Frist: "I have governors who have called me, fundraisers I've known from my days as majority leader who are ready to go."
All of this, for a candidate who has not yet announced for anything.
Last week, I went to Thompson's home in the verdant Washington suburb of McLean, Virginia, to talk to him about his prospective presidential run. We spoke for more than four hours about his life in Tennessee, his family, his acting career, his foray into politics, and his future.
I was 30 minutes late. Thompson, who was on the phone with Howard Baker, his political mentor, didn't seem to care. He hung up, extended his large hand, offered a friendly greeting, and led me to his office. We were alone. Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.
The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?--and might have dampened Thompson's natural candor. On subjects ranging from Social Security to abortion, the CIA and to Iran, there would be lots of candor over the next several hours.
And by the end of the conversation, two unexpected realities had emerged. If he joins the race for the Republican nomination, and if he campaigns the same way he spoke to me last week, Fred Thompson, a mild-mannered, slow-talking southern gentleman, will run as the politically aggressive conservative that George W. Bush hasn't been for four years. And the actor in the race could well be the most authentic personality in the field.
Thompson seems to recognize that he wins the guy-I'd-want-to-get-a-beer-with primary the moment he announces. He comes across as a regular guy--"folksy" will be the political cliché that attaches to his candidacy--and punctuates explanations of his positions with the kind of off-the-cuff homespun witticisms that Dan Rather spent a career trying to come up with.
We sat facing each other in leather armchairs, and after some small talk I asked him what life was like growing up in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He began talking, and about 30 minutes later it was already 1994 and he was about to be elected to the U.S. Senate. I'd tried to interrupt with questions here and there, but he had a story he was determined to tell.
It's a good story. Thompson was born in Alabama and lived for most of his young life in Middle Tennessee. His father sold used cars and his mother took care of the house. Neither one graduated from high school, although Thompson's father earned his high school equivalency certificate later in life. His family ate dinner every night at 6:00 P.M. "It was like clockwork," he says. Thompson was not a great student in high school. At one point, he says, several of his teachers worked together to strip him of the title given to him by a vote of his peers--Most Athletic--because his grades were substandard. His father was something of a jokester, but also when necessary a disciplinarian.
"I grew up not having anything to live up to from an economic or professional standpoint, but having a lot to live up to from a growing-up and becoming-a-man standpoint," says Thompson.
That example would be important at a young age. Thompson married his high school sweetheart at 17, and together they enrolled at Memphis State University, where he studied philosophy and political science. Thompson worked several jobs to put himself through college and support a growing family.
"I sold clothing," he says. "I sold shoes. I sold baby shoes. I sold ladies shoes. I worked in a factory."
His wife's uncle and grandfather were both lawyers, and Thompson says he wanted to live up to the professional standards of her family. The law school at Vanderbilt University had seemed an unattainable goal for an underachieving high school student from a family without means. But it was a goal nonetheless. Thompson got serious academically as an undergraduate, and won admission.
Once a lawyer, he had a brief stint with the U.S. attorney's office, then went into private practice--"hung out my shingle," he says--and volunteered to work for Howard Baker's reelection campaign for Senate in 1972. Shortly after Baker returned to Washington he asked Thompson to join him for what he thought would be a short-term project. A special committee had been established to look into the Committee to Reelect President Richard M. Nixon, and Baker, the panel's top Republican, asked Thompson to serve as minority counsel. Thompson could often be seen at Baker's side as the investigation grew from a routine oversight hearing into the proceedings that would cause a president to resign. Thompson, who wrote a book about his experiences called At That Point in Time: The Inside Story of the Senate Watergate Committee, asked the question that led to the revelation of the White House taping systems. "Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?" And Thompson is often credited with feeding Baker the line that would become one of the most famous of an era: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
Thompson says he passed up several offers with big Washington law firms to return to Nashville, where he entered a private practice with two law school classmates. He took the case of Marie Ragghianti, the head of Tennessee's Parole and Pardons Board. Ragghianti had grown concerned about what she saw as a pattern of suspicious pardons ordered from the office of Governor Ray Blanton. Her suspicions were later confirmed and Blanton was forced from office in a cash-for-clemency scandal that continued until his last day.
Peter Maas, author of Serpico, turned Marie Ragghianti's story into a book creatively titled Marie and published in 1983. Director Roger Donaldson bought the movie rights and came to Nashville to interview the major players. After meeting Thompson, Donaldson asked him if he'd like to play himself in the movie. Thompson agreed.
Over the next two decades, Thompson would appear in dozens of films and television shows as a character actor, often one who personifies government strength. It is a role that seems to fit. "Literally, I don't think Fred ever acts," says Tom Ingram, a longtime friend from Tennessee who now serves as chief of staff to Senator Lamar Alexander. "He played himself in Marie, and he's been playing himself ever since."
When Donaldson needed someone to play the role of CIA director in his next film, No Way Out, he turned to Thompson. A string of movies followed: The Hunt for Red October, Days of Thunder, Die Hard 2, Curly Sue, Cape Fear, In the Line of Fire. And there were cameo appearances on TV's Matlock and later Sex and the City.
Thompson never moved to Hollywood, choosing to stay in Tennessee, where he continued to practice law and remained involved in Republican politics. When Al Gore was elected vice president, Tennessee's Democratic governor, Ned McWherter, appointed one of his top advisers to serve until the 1994 elections, when a replacement would be elected to fill the final two years of Gore's term. Thompson's name came up early, and eventually, in July 1993, he filed papers for an exploratory committee.
Thompson knew from the beginning that it would be a difficult race. His opponent was Jim Cooper, a popular conservative Democrat who had developed a national reputation as a legislative expert on health care, widely considered one of the country's most important issues. Thompson started the race well behind Cooper. He told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that he was a moderate Republican. The reporter who interviewed Thompson described him as "pro-choice," but noted that he supported restrictions on abortion at the state level and opposed federal funding. (A 1994 story in National Review also described Thompson as pro-choice.)
In a poll taken in February 1994, 36 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Cooper, while just 17 percent supported Thompson. The Hotline, a Washington-based digest on campaigns and elections, reported the poll results under the headline: "They Know Thompson's Face, But Not His Name." It would prove to be an accurate diagnosis of Thompson's difficulties.
"For a year, I didn't scratch," Thompson says, looking back.
At the low point, Thompson met at a Cracker Barrel with Ingram. Thompson told his friend that he wasn't having any fun campaigning and was pessimistic about his chances to win. He was considering dropping out. Thompson had had it with the rubber-chicken Republican dinners and the rigors of campaigning across the state. "Fred was beleaguered by the traditional way of running for office," Ingram remembers. "He was expressing his misery over things."
Ingram had a question for Thompson: What would you do if you ran the way you wanted to run? Thompson thought for a minute, then said he'd shed as much of the campaign apparatus as possible and drive around the state in a pick-up truck. Ingram suggested he do just that, and Thompson thought it a good recommendation. Thompson would soon be known for his red pick-up truck. Cooper's campaign complained that it was a Hollywood-style gimmick designed to make Thompson look down to earth, and it surely was that. "But it was more than a device," Ingram insists. "It made Fred comfortable as a candidate. He felt liberated to just be himself."
Thompson ran on a strong small-government--even antigovernment--message. "America's government is bringing America down, and the only thing that can change that is a return to the basics," he said. "We will get back to basics and make the sacrifices and once again amaze the world at how, in America, ordinary people can do very extraordinary things." Thompson emphasized issues that would appeal to disaffected voters--making laws apply to the members of Congress who pass them; congressional pay raises; entitlement reform.
It was a message that began to resonate. Two months before the election, a poll by national Republicans put the race dead even. And as Thompson increased his advertising--allowing voters to put his famous face together with his name--he took the lead, and it grew. "Some people knew me and knew my face, but I started out 20 points behind" he says. "I just had to work at it until I raised enough money to go on television and then I went up pretty fast." Cooper asked for and was given free air-time for his ads after stations played movies starring Thompson. But it was too late.
Thompson won 61 percent of the vote, Cooper just 39 percent. Part of the explanation was that Thompson was swept along in the historic Republican tide of 1994. But Cooper would later say that he'd underestimated the political importance of Thompson's film career. "He was in so many movies," Cooper told the Nashville Tennesseean in 2002. "I should have been more worried than I was because that is a powerful way to present yourself to the public."
Thompson's new colleagues in Washington immediately tried to capitalize on his ability to communicate. Bob Dole, recently elevated to Senate majority leader, picked Thompson to present the televised Republican response to a national address by President Bill Clinton.
On Christmas Day, 1994, Thompson was a guest on ABC's This Week. Sam Donaldson opened the interview by telling viewers that while they might not know the name Fred Thompson, they might recognize his face. "I want to just show people how accomplished you are, because if they have been sitting at home saying, 'You know, I know this guy, I know this guy,' there's a reason," he said, before playing clips of the actor.
Thompson was at his most self-deprecating. "When they needed some middle-aged guy who'd work cheap, they'd call me for a little part and I'd go out there two or three weeks and knock one out," he explained to Donaldson.
Donaldson asked Thompson why he was chosen to give the GOP response to Clinton. "I want to keep boring in on this question of--perhaps you were chosen because the Republican leaders said, 'Fred Thompson is not just another pretty face.' I mean, Fred Thompson--"
"That's for sure."
Then Donaldson asked Thompson about presidential politics. "Who are the Republicans going to put up to run for the presidency in two years?"
"I think that it's going to be wide open," Thompson replied. "I think that there's at least a half a dozen people out there. There might be someone that hasn't been mentioned."
"Let me give you a name," Donaldson pressed. "Let me give you a name: Fred Thompson. Senator Fred Thompson."
Thompson found the suggestion amusing. "There's one thing, I think, for certain that I've observed around here over the period of time that I've been here, and watching all this for years, and that is when people come to town, somewhere along the line, if they do anything at all, if they're shown to be able to put one foot in front of the other, they're mentioned for the national ticket. So now you've mentioned me, and I appreciate it, so we can move on to more serious topics."
Thompson had not yet been sworn in.
In eight years in the Senate, Thompson developed a reputation for an independent streak, yet he compiled a voting record more conservative than one might expect of one who had described himself as a moderate in his first campaign. Over the course of his time in Congress he earned a lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union of 86 percent. He was not quite as conservative (using 2002 numbers) as Rick Santorum (87), Strom Thurmond (91), Trent Lott (93), or Jesse Helms (99), but more conservative than Arlen Specter (42), Olympia Snowe (52), John Warner (82), and John McCain (84).
His voting record suggests a strong belief in federalism. Thompson was frequently a lonely voice opposing the federalization of what in his view were state issues. His unwillingness to compromise on that principle even put him on the losing end of a 99-to-1 vote on the so-called Good Samaritan law, legislation that protected individuals from being sued if their good faith efforts to help someone in distress were unsuccessful. He thought it should have been left to the states.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo Groundwork have in store for us??
on: April 14, 2007, 10:02:11 AM
For the moment I think I will keep my cards close to my vest
At the moment the intention is to shoot "Kali Tudo 2" this summer.
I've heard of Eddie Bravo and his rubber guard, but do not know much about it. Roy Harris has an excellent reputation, but again I do not know much about his particular approach. Machado BB and Inosanto Blend man Chris Hauter introduced me to the Machados back in 1990. Its been several years since I've seen what Chris is up to, but I always found him to be very innovative in his thinking and approach.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Martial Art teacher gets 15 years for pledging to teach AQ
on: April 14, 2007, 09:55:17 AM
SB Mig et al.
In the year 2000 I received a very brief email from an email address in Syria asking for knife training. I asked who they were and they replied that they were a "Syrian kickboxing club". I did not respond further and have always wondered who they were , , ,
I have received other inquiries which also had my spider sense tingling and have acted accordingly.
In answer to your specific questions:
1) I do gage to the best of my ability and have deflected away some people.
2) To "ensure" is not possible. One can only do one's best. IMHO we also need to keep in mind that there is lots of lethal info out there and that virtue does not consist of fighting it by defanging one's self. I do believe that a society of sheeple is more likely to have problems than a society where criminals, Islamo-fascists, etc must fear the capabilities of a righteous unorganized militia.
3) One part of the answer for me is that with our Die Less Often material is that I orient the answer around defending the knife attack as is commonly done by thug culture. Thus, unless I feel confident about who is in the room, I do not show what thug culture already does not know. I also seek to anchor the material continuously with higher consciousness values.
You may remember a thread here on this forum where I asked about finding out about people's criminal records. Unfortunately it seems that getting someone's records is either illegal, really expensive and/or a great pain in the ass (e.g. records are county by county). The logic of this eludes me. To me it seems quite sound for criminal records to be a matter of easily accessible information to one and all.
4) We can only do the best we can-- and must avoid letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. FWIW I see my posting of this thread as an example of raising consciousness about these issues. The more we the unorganized militia think about these things, the better I suspect we will do in making good choices.
What can you tell us about what has happened with the Silat Mubai people? What news of their leader (Usatz Hussein Udom or something like that?)
Concerning mixing martial arts and politics, at the moment my thinking is that for some arts (e.g. submission grappling) keeping them separate is possible. Others, e.g. Kali/FMA because of their weaponry orientation, need to be careful about how they go about things. Western civilization in general and the United States in particular are being targetted by world-wide Islamo-fascism. In many circumstances, the skills and knowledge of our art would be ideal for the killers of Islamo-fascism and we must be vigilant.
The Adventure continues,