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30901  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 01, 2008, 11:29:00 AM
I am profoundly grateful for a quiet stretch in my work that allows me to enjoy my family.
30902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: July 01, 2008, 11:06:04 AM
I too wonder if Strat is a bit too in love with a particular theory about what's going on to see this for what it is.
30903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Puppy offends on: July 01, 2008, 11:04:18 AM
Muslims outraged at police advert featuring cute puppy sitting in policeman's hat

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:15 PM on 01st July 2008

A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman's hat advertising a Scottish police force's new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims.

Tayside Police's new non-emergency phone number has prompted complaints from members of the Islamic community.

The choice of image on the Tayside Police cards - a black dog sitting in a police officer's hat - has now been raised with Chief Constable John Vine.

The advert has upset Muslims because dogs are considered ritually unclean and has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert.

Dundee councillor Mohammed Asif said: 'My concern was that it's not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards.

'It was probably a waste of resources going to these communities.

'They (the police) should have understood. Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they'd seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn't have done it.'

Councillor Asif, who is a member of the Tayside Joint Police Board, said that the force had a diversity adviser and was generally very aware of such issues.

He raised the matter with Mr Vine at a meeting of the board.

The chief constable said he was unaware of the concerns and that the force had not sought to cause any upset but added he would look into the matter.

Councillor Asif said: 'People who have shops just won't put up the postcard. But the police have said to me that it was simply an oversight and they did not seek to offend or upset.'

Cards featuring police dog-in-training Rebel have been distributed to communities throughout the area to advertise the single number point of contact for non-emergency calls to the police.

Rebel has proved a popular recruit for Tayside Police after coming through the very first Lothian and Borders Police dog-breeding programme in February.

One of seven German Shepherd pups born in early December, he has now completed his course of inoculations, and is free to venture out onto the streets of Tayside.

A spokesman for Tayside Police said: 'Trainee police dog Rebel has proved extremely popular with children and adults since being introduced to the public, aged six weeks old, as Tayside Police's newest canine recruit.

'His incredible world-wide popularity - he has attracted record visitor numbers to our website - led us to believe Rebel could play a starring role in the promotion of our non-emergency number.

'We did not seek advice from the force's diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards. That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.'

Find this story at
30904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: Liberty's sources on: July 01, 2008, 10:55:33 AM
"Liberty must at all hazards be supported.  We have a right to it,
derived from our Maker.  But if we had not, our fathers have earned
and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates,
their pleasure, and their blood."

-- John Adams (A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)

Reference: The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, Thompson,
ed. (28)

30905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tortured Evidence on: June 30, 2008, 11:22:39 PM
Tortured Evidence
July 1, 2008
Democrats on Capitol Hill are continuing their "torture" hearings, with selective leaks suggesting that government officials delighted in cruel and inhuman punishment. Allow us to tell you the story they aren't telling friendly reporters.

Consider the case against former Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes, who in 2002 recommended the use of some "enhanced" interrogation techniques, such as light deprivation, stress positions and removal of clothing. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on that recommendation. Michigan's Carl Levin, the main Monday morning Senator, has been portraying this as illegal and disdainful of other Pentagon lawyers.

But Mr. Haynes was offering advice consistent with Justice Department legal briefs. And a document produced by Mr. Levin's own investigation shows that Mr. Haynes was willing to listen to internal critics. Among Mr. Levin's star witnesses was former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora. That's the same Mr. Mora who in 2004 wrote a long statement about his role in the interrogation debate, and his interaction with Mr. Haynes.

According to that document, Mr. Mora arranged a meeting with Mr. Haynes in late 2002 to object to certain Guantanamo interrogation techniques. Mr. Haynes explained that he believed the techniques were legal and weren't torture. Mr. Mora agreed torture was not the "intent," but worried the interrogations could get out of hand. "Mr. Haynes listened attentively throughout. He promised to consider carefully what I had said," Mr. Mora wrote.

Several weeks later, concerned the policy hadn't changed, Mr. Mora again met with Mr. Haynes, who said that some U.S. officials felt the techniques were necessary to elicit information from men believed to have participated in 9/11 with knowledge of other terror plots. "I acknowledged the ethical issues were difficult. I was not sure what my position would be in the classic 'ticking bomb' scenario . . . ," Mr. Mora wrote.

Mr. Haynes said he'd get back to him, and he did by initiating two meetings – including one between Mr. Mora and the legal adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – so Mr. Mora could register his concerns. "I regarded Mr. Haynes's initiative to schedule the above two meetings as a positive development and a sign that he not only took my arguments seriously, but that he possibly agreed with some or many of them."

About five days later, Mr. Rumsfeld suspended the techniques, and set up a working group to develop new recommendations. It was Mr. Haynes who oversaw an effort to find consensus among that group. Mr. Mora was also pleased by a letter Mr. Haynes sent to Senator Patrick Leahy, which Mr. Mora wrote was "the perfect expression of the legal obligations binding DOD and the happy culmination of the long debates in the Pentagon as to what the DOD detainee treatment policy should be. I wrote an email to Mr. Haynes expressing my pleasure on his letter and stating that I was proud to be on his team." Keep in mind this was written by one of the most vocal internal Pentagon critics of aggressive interrogation.

We report all this because it shows that, even as Senator Levin tries to portray a Bush Administration conspiracy to ram through "illegal" interrogation methods, what we really had in the period following 9/11 was a legitimate difference of opinion. President Bush ordered political appointees to prevent another attack, in part by breaking al Qaeda detainees, and they argued over how best to do this. Mr. Levin is now using those internal disagreements to play "gotcha," when he should be congratulating Administration officials for their willingness to listen and their moral conscience.

What isn't in doubt is that these public servants acted in good faith, and their efforts are one reason the country hasn't been attacked again. As political smears go, this tortured exercise is low even by Carl Levin's degraded standards of fairness.
30906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat on Hersh article on: June 30, 2008, 02:10:40 PM
U.S. President George W. Bush issued a highly classified presidential finding in late 2007 approving the initiation of covert operations focused on “undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” according to a July 7 article in The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh. Congressional leaders reportedly have been informed of the finding, and approved up to $400 million dollars to fund the operation.

This is, of course, explosive news. What is explosive is not that the United States is spending money on covert operations in Iran, but that someone has leaked a highly classified document to a reporter. The secret is now out; indeed, it was released before the article’s publication date. Hersh said only that the person who gave him the information was familiar with the document’s contents. This means his source is a person with extraordinarily high, code-named clearance — not to mention a criminal.

We would expect the Bush administration to be launching multiple investigations to find the leaker. If he is a Republican or a member of the administration or the intelligence community, then massive damage control is essential. If he is a Democrat who leaked (or an official of an agency deemed unfriendly to the administration), the incident represents a political opportunity. Everyone who had access to that document should be attached to a polygraph right now. Washington should have been in turmoil all weekend.

It wasn’t. Aside from some desultory comments, no one seems terribly upset that a major covert operation has been uncovered in the press and thereby crippled.

We are certain that a journalist of Hersh’s stature, writing for a respected publication like The New Yorker, did not make his story up. Since arrests are not pending, we can only conclude that the information was deliberately leaked to Hersh by the administration. This would not be the first time Hersh has been used as a channel by administration leakers. In 2006, he reported that the administration was carrying out covert operations in Iran for roughly the same end. Hersh is not friendly to the administration to say the least. A story by him carries great credibility because it appears to be an authentic scoop by a major journalist revealing things the administration doesn’t want revealed. Such a story therefore increases the sense of uncertainty in Iran substantially more than if a minor, pro-administration journalist published it. As we have pointed out in the case of the Mediterranean air exercises by Israel, the United States and Israel are intent on increasing the psychological pressure on Iran. This story fits into that pattern.

The only thing interesting in the story is the idea that until late 2007 there had been no presidential finding and the United States was not engaged in covert operations in Iran to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program and foment regime change. Given the administration’s stance on Iran, it is unthinkable that the intelligence community would not have been running operations in Iran for years focused on just these things. Stratfor has regularly reported on various bombings in the southwestern Arab regions of Iran as well as in Sistan-Balochistan, noting that these would be likely areas to foment unrest.

The latest finding could be an intensification in operations, but the authorization to spend up to $400 million to mess with the Iranians is really not all that much money — especially since that is the cap, and the time frame for expenditures isn’t authorized. But as Hersh made clear in 2006, operations already were under way, meaning a finding had to have been in place.

With all due respect to Mr. Hersh and The New Yorker, this is a report on the obvious. The United States regards Iran as a major target for covert operations, urgently wants to know everything it can about Iran’s nuclear facilities and would love to overthrow the Iranian government. A few hundred million, even on a long shot, is the least the United States would throw at this. As for a finding in late 2007, we do not know where the bureaucratic process is right now, but there have been presidential findings on covert operations in Iran for almost thirty years. Still, the details the administration has decided to make available to The New Yorker via Hersh should make worthwhile reading.

The important point is that unless there has been a massive breach of security, the administration has again acted to increase tensions with Iran — and this just a week after floating the idea of increased diplomatic ties with Iran and about ten days since leaking the report on the Israeli exercises. Since this article has been in preparation for weeks or months, and its publication date has not been under administration control, it remains unclear where in the sequence this leak was intended. But psychological warfare with Iran seems the order of the day, and this article is clearly part of it.

Our read of course might be wrong. Grand juries might be convening as we write and the FBI could be ranging all over D.C. taking statements from everyone with access to covert U.S. plans in Iran. But until that happens, we look at this as another attempt to make the Iranians feel insecure.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
30907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: June 30, 2008, 02:06:38 PM
Tom Brokaw and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are old friends, having met 30 years ago when Mr. Brokaw was NBC's correspondent in Los Angeles. But that didn't spare Arnold from tough questioning in the mold of the late Tim Russert when Mr. Brokaw interviewed him for "Meet the Press" yesterday.

Mr. Brokaw began by asking just how much had really changed in California. "When you ran for governor in 2003, you ran as a fiscal conservative who would change the system, who would bring business-like techniques," the host said. "Now, you are facing a $15-billion deficit here in California. Unemployment is running at about 6.8%; you've got the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. If you were the CEO of a public company, the board would probably say, 'It is time to go.'"

Mr. Schwarzenegger joked: "Are you always this positive?" He then launched into a defense of some of his spending -- especially on infrastructure -- and said economic conditions were sour everywhere: "People are struggling, and I think we see that all over the world."

But Mr. Brokaw wasn't done. "Before you came in, governor, you said the spending was out of control. Your rate of increase in spending is about the same as your predecessor, Gov. Gray Davis. It has grown at about 34% since you took office."

A startled governor, who rode into office during the 2003 recall campaign excoriating the spending record of Democrat Davis, insisted: "The numbers are misleading. We have paid off a lot of debt. . . . I am very proud that we paid off a lot of debt and that we got the economy going again."

In truth, California's state government has taken on billions in new debt to pay for infrastructure projects. It also faces massive new obligations. Just last month, a federal court-appointed prison medical czar ordered the state to pay an additional $7 billion to build new facilities for inmates.

California's tough times have led to a slide in Mr. Schwarzenegger's approval ratings to about 40%, a fact the NBC host dryly noted by saying: "It is tough to govern under those circumstances."

But the governor was unfazed. "Not at all. I'm having a great time."

No one doubts that. Arnold has the role of a lifetime. But Californians aren't having a great time. The millions of Californians who voted for the Terminator five years ago in part because of his pledge to "blow up the boxes" of state government are wondering why their state is once again in the same fiscal fix as in 2003.

-- John Fund

A Sun Rises in the West

Governor Bill Ritter, who grew up on a Colorado farm, aced his first appearance on "Meet the Press" yesterday, appearing unpretentious and focused -- and hardly put off by host Tom Brokaw's questions about how a Western, pro-life Democratic Governor fits with the national party's "progressive" platform.

"I think the Democratic Party in the West has been able to say that [a pro-choice position on abortion] is not going to be a litmus test," Mr. Ritter answered. The national Democratic Party may have a pro-choice platform in Denver, but such planks hardly mean Democrats "don't very much embrace people who might have different views. I'm a great example of that."

Wow. How the party must have changed since popular Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey was denied a speaking turn at the 1992 Democratic convention because he adhered to Catholic teaching on abortion. Mr. Ritter, 51, is a former Catholic missionary in Africa who endorsed Mr. Obama on June 3. Numerous liberal blogs, from DailyKos to Democratic Underground, have buzzed ever since about Mr. Ritter's chances to be Mr. Obama's vice presidential nominee.

A recent Quinnipiac/Wall Street Journal/Washington Post poll shows Mr. Obama leading Senator John McCain by 49%-44% in Colorado, where the Democratic Convention will be held this summer. Colorado is one of several states potentially in position to swing a close election and Mr. Ritter could presumably help Mr. Obama with westerners, men and Catholics. Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas is another Catholic Democrat considered a viable Obama veep choice, though Ms. Sebelius, unlike Mr. Ritter, is pro-choice.

That said, history has not beamed on Catholic Democrats seeking the vice presidency. Edmund Muskie, who grew up in a large Polish Roman Catholic family, lost alongside Hubert Humphrey in 1968. George McGovern failed with two Catholic vice presidential nominees in 1972, Thomas Eagleton and Sargent Shriver. In 1984, Walter Mondale selected pro-choice Catholic Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, who struggled throughout the campaign with the abortion issue.

Of course, the problem in all these cases wasn't the veep candidate but the headliner. So the real question may not be whether Mr. Obama wants Mr. Ritter, but the other way around.

-- Robert Costa

His Best Work Was on Super-8

Bob Barr, now running for president on the Libertarian ticket, couldn't be more excited about having former movie actor Sonny Landham running on the same party line in Kentucky, where Mr. Landham announced last week he will challenge the powerful four-term GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell.

"I think that throughout the South there are a lot of disenchanted Republican voters and blue-collar Democrats who are looking for a new choice," Mr. Barr, a former Republican Congressman from Georgia, tells PD. "We both want an open political system, lower taxes and a rational defense policy. I think those issues will resonate among those groups."

Mr. Barr says his favorite Landham film was "Predator," the 1987 Oscar-nominated blockbuster directed by John McTiernan. And no wonder -- the same film also features Arnold Schwarzenegger (a future governor of California) and Jesse Ventura (a future governor of Minnesota). How could Mr. Landham be anything but a shoo-in now that he has turned to electoral politics?

"One of the best movies of all time," adds Mr. Barr.

For his part, Mr. Landham says the Kentucky race is his "to lose" (though the polls may beg to differ). He seems to enjoy calling Mr. McConnell "Boss Hogg" after the corrupt politician from "The Dukes of Hazzard." He also calls the Democratic challenger in the race, millionaire businessman Bruce Lunsford, an "elitist." "This whole campaign is about the economy," says Mr. Landham. "We have to start to drill everywhere -- onshore, offshore, build more refineries, start using coal and burn it cleanly and efficiently. We have to reindustrialize America," he adds. "I am for unionizing the whole globe."

On presidential politics, Mr. Landham has warmer feelings for the Democrat than the Republican. "Senator Obama is like Ronald Reagan, in that he thinks America's best days are ahead," he says, though Mr. Landham still intends to support the Libertarian candidate Mr. Barr. "This country is ready for revolution," says Mr. Landham. "John McCain is the same, old ancient Washington politics. . . . John McCain has not figured out who he is. One minute he's for something, the next minute he's against."

Mr. Landham, who says Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon influenced him politically, will bring a whole Pullman coach of baggage into the race. He spent 31 months in jail on assault charges, though the conviction was reportedly overturned on appeal. And he began his acting career in adult films in the 1970s. "The only thing I can say is that if you've seen my movies, you've seen my shortcomings," he says.

"I did it for the money. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Anybody who enjoys sex, yes, they'll enjoy it," says Mr. Landham, adding that "Andrea True and Georgina Spellman were two of the best actresses I worked with in adult films."

Now if only Ms. True and Ms. Spellman are registered to vote in Kentucky. . . .

-- Robert Costa

Quote of the Day

"The New Deal exists principally on an emotional plane for Barack Obama. To him the New Deal is something you play like a song, to make you or your constituents feel better. Let me be clear: It's too early to judge Obama on economics. But he does seem unaware of the economic consequences of government expansion that happens under the New Deal name. Politicians generally act as if there is no cost to reconnecting with voters by building new New Deals. But the whole exercise of writing law out of New Deal nostalgia is a form of national narcissism. Call it New Deal narcissism" -- Amity Shlaes, author of the New Deal history "The Forgotten Man," writing in National Review.

The Spirit of 13

It was 30 years ago this month that the Reagan revolution was launched. To be exact, on June 6th, 1978 California voters by a two-to-one margin approved the property tax cut called Proposition 13. Arthur Laffer, one of the few economists in the state to endorse the measure, called it "the greatest tax revolt since the Boston Tea Party."

Despite dire claims that Prop. 13 would cause the prisons to open, the police to lay down their guns and the schools to board up, a strong majority of voters approved the measure. Howard Jarvis, the proposition's author, was decried as a "rabble rouser" by the Los Angeles Times. Prop. 13 slashed property taxes by 30% and capped annual increases to 1%. The Jarvis Foundation points out that even a majority of firefighters voted for it, though their union was fiercely against it.

For the next 20 years, California's economy grew at a record pace. Population and income growth surged almost 30% faster than the rest of the nation. Mr. Laffer projected that the measure would cause the greatest housing boom in California history, and he was right. As a consequence, the static revenue losses from the tax cuts were minimal. Ronald Reagan witnessed the policy and political success of Prop. 13 and -- having originally opposed the measure -- latched on to supply-side economics as a consequence.

The left has tried to condemn Proposition 13 every time the state runs into financial trouble -- like right now. But a new Field Poll finds that 30 years after its passage, 57% of Californians say they would still vote for it and only 23% say they would be against it -- i.e., the same two-to-one margin.

According to Field Research: "Voters in this state remain highly supportive of [Prop 13] and its main provisions." Arnold Schwarzenegger should be paying close attention.

California has enormous budget problems today with housing values down by more than 30% over the past 18 months. The only thing that can save the state and return its economy to high growth might be another Proposition 13-type tax rebellion.

30908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Seymour Hersh on Secret Bush moves against Iran on: June 30, 2008, 10:11:34 AM
Its Seymour Hersh, so super caveat lector.

Normally I like to post the content in addition to the URL, but this one is just too long for that.
30909  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 27, 28-29 DBMA Camp with Guro Crafty on: June 30, 2008, 09:35:43 AM
This weekend also turned into a DBMA DVD shoot featuring Bruno.   The DVD will be an introduction to Garrote Venezolano with lots of footage of the old masters in Venezuela sparring and with Bruno teaching some of the distinctive footwork of GV.   cool
30910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Liberty on: June 30, 2008, 09:31:52 AM
"Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to Benjamin Vaughn, 14 March 1783)

Reference: Respectfully Quoted, p. 201
30911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: the former Mrs. Chavez on: June 29, 2008, 10:33:19 AM
Political Diary
June 26, 2008
Chávez Meets His Match
It's not been a good month for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. He had to do an about-face and call on the Marxist guerrilla group FARC to stop trying to overthrow the government of neighboring Colombia, lay down its arms and release its 700 hostages. But that head fake came only after evidence surfaced that Mr. Chávez had actually offered FARC leaders $300 million to support their terrorist operations and had even given them their own nameplate on an office in Venezuela's Pentagon.

Now Mr. Chávez has trouble on the domestic front. Marisabel Rodríguez, the former first lady of Venezuela whom Mr. Chávez divorced in 2004, announced she will run for mayor of one of Venezuela's most important cities in November local elections. She will run as an opposition candidate because she wants to "change the face and way of doing politics in this city and this country," she told reporters.

The candidacy of Ms. Rodríguez, a public relations executive, will no doubt revive stories about the couple's messy divorce. She is apparently a past master at psychological warfare against her ex-husband. "Marisabel doesn't hesitate to talk about Chávez on TV while holding their daughter, and that is the kind of tactic the opposition likes because to fight a media figure like Chávez you need to shock people in some way," says Arturo Serrano, a political scientist, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

30912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WP: My Heart on the Line on: June 29, 2008, 08:42:40 AM
My Heart on the Line

By Frank Schaeffer

The Washington Post

Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was
defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in
Iraq , it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who
has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues
and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way. John was
headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and
flawless uniforms. I did not. I live in the Volvo-driving, higher
education-worshiping North Shore of Boston. I write novels for a living. I
have never served in the military.

 It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown
and New York University . John's enlisting was unexpected, so deeply
unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering the question,  "So where is
John going to college?" from the parents who were itching to tell me all about
how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school
John attended, no other students were going into the military.

 "But aren't the Marines terribly Southern?" asked one perplexed mother
while standing next to me at the brunch following  graduation. "What a waste, he
was such a good student," said another parent. One parent (a professor at
a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and
suggested that the school should "carefully evaluate what went wrong."

 When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000
parents and friends were on the parade deck stands.  We parents and our
Marines not only were of many races but also were  representative of many
economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of
pickups, others by bus. John told me that a lot of parents could not
afford the trip.

 We in the audience were white and Native American. We were Hispanic, Arab
and African American and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars
of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with  battles' names. We were
Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids
from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock
forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos. We would not have been mistaken for the
educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John's private
school a half-year before.

 After graduation one new Marine told John, "Before I was a Marine, if I
had ever seen you on my block I  would've probably killed you just because you
were standing there." This was a serious statement from one of John's good
friends, an African American ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John
said, "would die for me now, just like I'd die for him."

 My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and
insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local
diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in  the Corps.
They are facing the same dangers as my boy. When the guy who fixes my car
asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in
the Navy.

 Why were I and the other parents at my son's private school so surprised
by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most
powerful and educated families did their bit. If the idea of the immorality of the
Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged
the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military
service once that war was done?

 Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists? Is the world
a safe place? Or have we just  gotten used to having somebody else defend

What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the
janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm's
way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

 I feel shame because it took my son's joining the Marine Corps to make me
take notice of who is defending me. I feel hope because perhaps my son is
part of a future "greatest generation." As the storm clouds of war gather,
at least I know that I can look the men and women in  uniform in the eye.
My son is one of them. He is the best I have to offer. He is my heart.
30913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: on: June 29, 2008, 01:03:45 AM
Justices for Free Speech
June 28, 2008; Page A10
It has been a splendid week for the Bill of Rights at the Supreme Court. In addition to their landmark gun rights ruling, the same five Justices took another whack at Congress's attempts to limit political speech via campaign-finance limits. John McCain, call your office.

In Davis v. FEC, a 5-4 majority overturned a portion of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law that exempted the political opponents of rich candidates from the usual fund-raising limits in order to "level the playing field." Known as the Millionaire's Amendment, the law saddled wealthy, self-financing candidates with burdens designed to help their opponents. Millionaires had to report expenditures within 24 hours, while their opponents were allowed greater coordination with political parties and could raise three times the usual $2,300 limit on individual contributions. Naturally, this idea came from Congressional incumbents who hate wealthy challengers.

The case was brought by Jack Davis, a New York Democrat who twice ran a self-financed campaign to oust Congressman Tom Reynolds. Mr. Davis's spending triggered the millionaire limits, despite Mr. Reynolds's well-stocked campaign bank accounts. Though he lost both times, Mr. Davis was fined by the Federal Election Commission for failing to report expenditures in the 24-hour window.

Reformers justify the special rules for millionaires by crying fairness – an argument that Justice Samuel Alito dispatched in his majority opinion. "The argument that a candidate's speech may be restricted in order to 'level electoral opportunities' has ominous implications," he wrote, and is "antithetical to the First Amendment."

If Congress can massage the rules to level the playing field for candidates of differing personal means, what's to stop Congress from doing it for other reasons and in other ways? Some candidates are celebrities, others have famous political names, and still others may be adored by the local newspaper. Should Congress level the field for their opponents too? No prior Court opinions, Justice Alito added, support the notion that reducing the "natural advantage" of rich candidates is a legitimate government objective.

The ruling puts in jeopardy similar attempts to favor some candidates over others in such states as Arizona and Maine. More important, it signals that five Justices on the current Court view campaign-finance limits with increasing skepticism.

Sooner or later, they are likely to run up against the Court's own original sin in this area, Buckley v. Valeo, which in 1976 first allowed fund-raising limits. They should also revisit McConnell v. FEC, which in 2003 upheld most of McCain-Feingold. The arrival of Justice Alito has clearly changed the Court's approach to these cases, and there may now be a majority to reassert the Court's obligation to protect political speech in a democracy.

As for Mr. McCain, we assume his campaign-finance travails this year have been educational. He became a media fave by embracing fund-raising limits as a cause, only to watch as the media now drops him for Barack Obama, who refuses to adhere to the same limits and so will vastly outspend the Republican in the fall. Such are the rewards of pursuing liberal admiration.
30914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: June 28, 2008, 11:20:56 AM
Indeed!!!  I try to stay focused on what the success of what I perceive to be the mission, but there are moments when I wonder if the America of our Founding Fathers will survive.   cry cry cry
30915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: June 28, 2008, 11:16:30 AM
 angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry angry
30916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 28, 2008, 11:10:06 AM
The smoothness with which he morphed from gun grabber to Individual Constitutional right with "reasonable" regulation is scary.

Another doctor joke:

"You want the good or the bad news first?"

"Good news."

"My son just got accepted to Harvard Medical school."

"What's the bad news?"

"You're paying for it."
30917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 28, 2008, 11:06:15 AM
Have a wonderful time-- looking forward to continuing the conversation when you return.
30918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ-- Noonan on: June 28, 2008, 11:05:15 AM
Let McCain Be McCain
June 27, 2008; Page A11
The big political headline this week, of course, involves John McCain's endless and humiliating attempts to placate Mitt Romney by bowing to demands he hire his operatives and pay his campaign debt. So far all he's got is a grudging one-sentence endorsement from that rampaging rage-aholic Ann Romney.

Oh wait, got confused, that's Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

M.E. Cohen 
The way it used to be is you ran and lost and either disappeared or pitched in. Mrs. Clinton continues making Mr. Obama look the dauphin to her embittered and domineering queen.

What a hothouse of egos and drama the Democratic Party has become.

Mr. McCain just can't get as much coverage as Mr. Obama, or the coverage is dutiful and therefore deadly. "McCain Unveils Proposal." "McCain Responds." At Google News there are 97,000 stories on Mr. McCain as I write this column, 138,000 on Mr. Obama. You know Mr. McCain's problems. He's old, he's angered everyone along the way, he never seems to mean it. His stands seem like positions. He bebops from issue to issue and never seems fully engaged in the real meat of policy, the content of it.

Also, we all know him. This, in time, will become a benefit to him—a big one. At the moment, early on, it's not. Mr. Obama has the lightning, he's new, he's still just being discovered. Or, as a person who runs a news site that traditionally treats Republicans fairly told me, "He's fun." McCain supporters have ginned up email campaigns aimed at people who run sites saying, to paraphrase, We notice your coverage is heavily Obama. We hope this is not a financial or opportunistic decision. We hope you're not tired of being brave. I should say it looks like it's ginned up by McCain supporters, or rather D.C. Republicans.

What a hotbed of incompetent manipulation they have become.

Mr. Obama's coverage is not all press bias. He sells papers and moves traffic. So right now it's all about him, or rather will be when Big Bertha gets out of the way. People are going to keep looking at him because they've heard the polls that say he's 5 or 12 or 15 points ahead. They can stop him or ease his way. They're looking to figure out which.

What can Mr. McCain do? It's still early, a lot of history has yet to unspool, we've entered summer and the shallow part of the campaign, the doldrums, there's a little space. He should take advantage of it and have some fun.

This would be a good time for him to get interesting again. And he'll find it easy because he is interesting. That's why the boys on the bus loved him in 2000. That's why the Republican base rejected him in 2000. He was hot and George W. Bush was—well, let's call it mellow. Mr. McCain attacked Christian conservative leaders while Mr. Bush played them. Republicans were trying to recover from eight years of interesting. They didn't want more.

I used to think what Mr. McCain's aides thought after he started winning: He has to change now, be more formal, more constrained. That was exactly wrong.

Let McCain be McCain. Get him in the papers being who he is, get people looking at his real nature. Maybe then they'll start taking him seriously when he talks policy. Maybe he'll start taking himself seriously when he talks policy.

The most interesting thing about Mr. McCain has always been the delight he takes in a certain unblinkered candor. There is also the antic part of his nature, his natural wit, his tropism toward comedy. All this was captured wonderfully by Mark Leibovich last February in the New York Times. Mr. McCain had taken the lead in the primaries and had gone from being "one of the most disruptive forces in his party" to someone playing it safe. In an airplane interview he said things like, "There is a process in place that will formalize the methodology." Then he couldn't help it, he became McCain:

"[He] volunteered that Brooke Buchanan, his spokeswoman who was seated nearby and rolling her eyes, 'has a lot of her money hidden in the Cayman Islands' and that she earned it by 'dealing drugs.' Previously, Mr. McCain had identified Ms. Buchanan as 'Pat Buchanan's illegitimate daughter,' 'bipolar,' 'a drunk,' 'someone with a lot of boyfriends,' and 'just out of Betty Ford.'"

That's my boy. That's the McCain his friends love, McCain unplugged. The fall will be dead serious. At this point why not be himself, be human? Let him refind his inner rebel, the famous irreverent maverick, let the tiger out of the cage. It won't solve everything but it will help obscure some other problems. His campaign is still not in great shape, his advance operation is not sharp—the one thing Republicans always used to know how to do!—he has many aides and few peers, and aides so doofuslike they blithely talk about the partisan impact of terror attacks.

And there is another problem that is bigger than all of that, and he is going to have to think himself through it. And that is that there is a sense about his campaign that . . . John McCain has already got what he wanted, he got what he needed, which was to be top dog in the Republican Party, the party that had abused him in 2000 and cast him aside. They all bow to him now, and he doesn't need anything else. He doesn't need the presidency. He got what he wanted. So now he can coast. This is, in the deepest way, unserious. JFK had to have the presidency—he wanted that thing. Nixon had to have it too, and Reagan had to have it to institute his new way. Clinton had to have it—it was his destiny, the thing he'd wanted since he was a teenager.

The last person I can think of who gave off the vibe that he didn't have to have it was Bob Dole. Who didn't get it. And who had a similar lack of engagement in terms of policy, and philosophy, and meaning.

Everyone in New York is saying, "What will happen?" "How do you see it?" "Who will win?" In this year of all years, who knows? My sense of it:

The campaign will grind along until a series of sharp moments. Maybe they will come in the debates. Things will move along, Mr. Obama in the lead. And then, just a few weeks out from the election, something will happen: America will look up and see the inevitability of Mr. Obama, that Mr. Obama has already been "elected," in a way, and America will say, Hey, wait a second, are we sure we want that? And it will tighten indeed.

The race has a subtext, a historic encounter between the Old America and the New, and suddenly the Old America—those who are literally old, who married a guy who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, and those not so old who yet remember, and cherish, the special glories of the Old—will rise, and join in, and make themselves heard. They will not leave without a fight.

And on that day John McCain will suddenly make it a race, as if moved by them and wanting to come through for them one last time. And then on down to the wire. And then . . .

And then. What a year, what an election. It continues to confound and to bedazzle.
30919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: June 28, 2008, 11:04:07 AM
The NK situation continues to befuddle me.  I lack confidence in Bush's judgment and fear Bolton is right.
30920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: June 27, 2008, 09:52:56 AM

I've noted that whenever he says "As I have always said , , ," he is about to lie about what he previously said.  Most recent example, his comments yesterday on Heller.  How on earth can someone say the Second is an individual right AND have supported the DC law?  And what about all his previous statements of arch-liberal nature?  Oh, barf.  angry

Anyway, here's this:

Monsieur Obama's Tax Rates
June 27, 2008

Celebrity chef Alain Ducasse insists that his change of citizenship this week from high-tax France to no-income-tax Monaco wasn't a financial decision but an "affair of the heart." Right. But even if he's being sincere, plenty of other Frenchmen have moved abroad to escape their country's confiscatory taxes.

Americans should be so lucky: Theirs is the only industrialized country that taxes its people even if they live overseas. That hasn't been a big problem as long as U.S. tax rates have been relatively low. But with Barack Obama promising to lift rates to French-like levels, this taxman-cometh policy could turn Americans into the world's foremost fiscal prisoners.

And make no mistake, taxes under a President Obama could be truly à la française. The top marginal tax rate, including federal, state and local levies, could approach 60% for self-employed New Yorkers and Californians. Not even France's taxes are that high now that President Nicolas Sarkozy has capped the total that high-earning Frenchmen like Mr. Ducasse can pay in income, social and wealth taxes at 50% of earnings.

Mr. Sarkozy set this "fiscal shield" because he knows that tax rates affect behavior. When he visited London this year, he observed that the British capital is now home to so many French bankers and other professionals seeking tax relief that it's the seventh-largest French city. Those expatriates choose not to use their creativity and investment capital to benefit France and its economy.

Senator Obama's plans to raise income, Social Security and capital-gains taxes amount to a belief that people don't react to punitive tax rates. If so, he needn't worry about people leaving the country and could let them pay taxes in whichever part of the globe they choose to live in. Once Americans are paying French-style tax rates, they ought to have the same freedom to move as Alain Ducasse.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video

30921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Heller on: June 27, 2008, 09:36:24 AM
News Flash: The Constitution Means What It Says
June 27, 2008; Page A13

Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion in yesterday's Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller is historic in its implications and exemplary in its reasoning.

A federal ban on an entire class of guns in ordinary use for self-defense – such as the handgun ban adopted by the District of Columbia – is now off the table. Every gun controller's fondest desire has become a constitutional pipe dream.

Getty Images 
Two important practical issues remain. First, will this ruling also apply to states and municipalities? That will depend on whether the Supreme Court decides to "incorporate" the right to keep and bear arms into the 14th Amendment. But in the middle of his opinion Justice Scalia acknowledges that the 39th Congress that enacted the 14th Amendment did so, in part, to protect the individual right to arms of freedmen and Southern Republicans so they might defend themselves from violence.

My prediction: This ruling will eventually be extended to the states.

Second, how will the court deal with firearms regulations that fall short of a ban? The majority opinion strongly suggests that such regulations must now be subjected to meaningful judicial scrutiny. The exact nature of this scrutiny is not clear, but Justice Scalia explicitly rejects the extremely deferential "rationality" review advocated by Justice Stephen Breyer.

Most likely, gun laws will receive the same sort of judicial scrutiny that is now used to evaluate "time, place and manner" regulations of speech and assembly. Such regulations of First Amendment freedoms are today upheld if they are narrowly tailored to achieve a truly important government purpose, but not if they are really a pretext for undermining protected liberties.

My prediction? Because gun-rights groups like the NRA have so successfully prevented enactment of unreasonable gun laws, most existing gun regulations falling short of a ban will eventually be upheld. But more extreme or merely symbolic laws that are sometimes proposed – whose aim is to impose an "undue burden" by raising the cost of gun production, ownership and sale – would likely be found unconstitutional. All gun regulations – for example, safe storage laws and licensing – will have to be shown to be consistent with an effective right of self-defense by law-abiding citizens.

Justice Scalia's opinion is exemplary for the way it was reasoned. It will be studied by law professors and students for years to come. It is the clearest, most careful interpretation of the meaning of the Constitution ever to be adopted by a majority of the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia begins with the text, and carefully parses the grammatical relationship of the "operative clause" identifying "the right to keep and bear arms" to the "prefatory clause" about the importance of a "well-regulated militia." Only then does he consider the extensive evidence of original meaning that has been uncovered by scholars over the past 20 years – evidence that was presented to the Court in numerous "friends of the court" briefs.

Justice Scalia's opinion is the finest example of what is now called "original public meaning" jurisprudence ever adopted by the Supreme Court. This approach stands in sharp contrast to Justice John Paul Stevens's dissenting opinion that largely focused on "original intent" – the method that many historians employ to explain away the text of the Second Amendment by placing its words in what they call a "larger context." Although original-intent jurisprudence was discredited years ago among constitutional law professors, that has not stopped nonoriginalists from using "original intent" – or the original principles "underlying" the text – to negate its original public meaning.

Of course, the originalism of both Justices Scalia's and Stevens's opinions are in stark contrast with Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion, in which he advocates balancing an enumerated constitutional right against what some consider a pressing need to prohibit its exercise. Guess which wins out in the balancing? As Justice Scalia notes, this is not how we normally protect individual rights, and was certainly not how Justice Breyer protected the individual right of habeas corpus in the military tribunals case decided just two weeks ago.

So what larger lessons does Heller teach? First, the differing methods of interpretation employed by the majority and the dissent demonstrate why appointments to the Supreme Court are so important. In the future, we should be vetting Supreme Court nominees to see if they understand how Justice Scalia reasoned in Heller and if they are committed to doing the same.

We should also seek to get a majority of the Supreme Court to reconsider its previous decisions or "precedents" that are inconsistent with the original public meaning of the text. This shows why elections matter – especially presidential elections – and why we should vet our politicians to see if they appreciate how the Constitution ought to be interpreted.

Good legal scholarship was absolutely crucial to this outcome. No justice is capable of producing the historical research and analysis upon which Justice Scalia relied. Brilliant as it was in its execution, his opinion rested on the work of many scholars of the Second Amendment, as I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge. (Disclosure: I joined a brief by Academics for the Second Amendment supporting the individual rights interpretation; one of my articles was cited by Justice Scalia and another by Justice Breyer in his dissent.)

Due to the political orthodoxy among most constitutional law professors, some of the most important and earliest of this scholarship was produced by nonacademics like Don Kates, Stephen Halbrook, David Kopel, Clayton Cramer and others. Believe it or not, Heller was a case of nearly first impression, uninhibited by any prior decisions misinterpreting the Second Amendment.

Last but not least, tribute must be paid to the plaintiffs – Shelly Parker, Dick Anthony Heller, Tom Palmer, Gillian St. Lawrence, Tracey Ambeau, and George Lyon – who went where the National Rifle Association feared to tread, and to their lawyers Robert Levy, Clark Neily, and lead counsel Alan Gura. I was privileged to witness Mr. Gura argue the case – his first Supreme Court argument ever – and he was outstanding. Heller provides yet another reminder of the crucial role that private lawyers play in the preservation of our liberties.

Mr. Barnett, a professor at Georgetown Law, is the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2004).
30922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Silver Bullet on: June 27, 2008, 09:02:43 AM
Silver Bullet
June 27, 2008; Page A12
The 2008 Supreme Court term ended with a bang yesterday as the Justices issued their most important ruling ever in upholding an individual right to bear arms. The dismaying surprise is that the Second Amendment came within a single vote of becoming a dead Constitutional letter.

That's the larger meaning of yesterday's landmark 5-4 ruling in D.C. v. Heller, the first gun control case to come before the Court in 70 years. Richard Heller brought his case after the Washington, D.C. government refused to grant him a permit to keep a handgun in his home. The District has some of the most restrictive handgun laws in the country – essentially a total ban. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision by Judge Laurence Silberman, overturned the ban in an opinion that set up yesterday's ruling by taking a panoramic view of gun rights and American legal history.

In a First, High Court
Affirms Gun Rights
June 27, 2008; Page A1

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to keep handguns in the home, ending a debate about the Second Amendment's 18th-century language while opening new battles over the politically charged issues of guns, crime and violence.

See how justices have split in cases this term
In a 5-4 opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court struck down perhaps the nation's toughest gun law, a 1976 District of Columbia ordinance that effectively bans handguns and required that rifles be disassembled or disabled by trigger locks in the home.

The decision stopped short of invalidating other local, state and federal gun regulations. The court also declined to hand legislators a blueprint for permissible gun regulations, acknowledging that the contours of the Second Amendment right, like other constitutional rights, will have to be mapped in litigation over the years to come.

Gun-rights advocates said their efforts will now swing toward challenging handgun bans in other cities, licensing laws and other statutes, such as zoning laws that ban gun stores. Among the issues that the court left to future litigation: whether the government can restrict other kinds of firearms besides handguns, specifically assault weapons, which have been the focus of numerous legislative battles at the state and federal level.

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down one of the nation's strictest gun bans, ruling that individuals have the right to own guns for personal use. Video courtesy of Reuters. (June 26)
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, one of the NRA's chief opponents, said there could be a silver lining. Because the decision eliminates the specter of gun confiscation, advocates will be more willing to come to the table and discuss other gun-control issues.

Reflecting the passion and political importance of gun owners in an election that could be decided by independent voters, both presidential candidates immediately embraced the opinion -- while shading their comments to emphasize different portions of the decision that appealed to their varying bases.

Candidates React

"Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right -- sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly," said Republican John McCain, seeking to join the gun enthusiasts' celebration while warning that the decision still left open the chance that lawmakers could enact firearms regulations that stopped short of an outright ban. "This ruling does not mark the end of our struggle."

His Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, was more restrained, saying that he "always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms." He emphasized that while the ruling protects a core right and "the D.C. gun ban went too far," the protection "is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe."

Getty Images 
Three activists from Virginia cheered the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the District of Columbia's gun ban Thursday.
The Bush administration sought simultaneously to endorse the decision while assuring the public that existing federal gun regulations would remain intact.

"As a longstanding advocate of the rights of gun owners in America, I applaud the Supreme Court's historic decision today confirming what has always been clear in the Constitution: the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear firearms," the president said in a statement. He urged the District of Columbia to "swiftly move" to protect residents' Second Amendment rights.

In its own statement, however, the Justice Department noted that the court said some restrictions on gun possession were permissible. The Justice Department said it "will continue to defend vigorously the constitutionality, under the Second Amendment, of all existing federal firearms laws."

The court's decision appears to strike a balance on gun ownership that reflects the views of the general public. A majority of Americans, 59%, said they oppose laws that ban the sale of handguns, according to an April poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. Yet a similar number, 58%, said it is more important to place controls on gun ownership versus the 37% that said it is more important to protect the right to own a gun.

Despite the opinion's broad language, it was unclear if it would apply beyond the District of Columbia, the federal enclave whose unique status as the seat of government makes it part of no state. Although the district's elected City Council operates autonomously under home-rule legislation approved by Congress, Washington's municipal government is, as a constitutional matter, part of the federal government.

In a footnote, Justice Scalia noted that the issue known as "incorporation" -- whether federal rights also are binding on state governments -- wasn't before the court, and observed that prior cases "reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government." In a 1997 book, he suggested views even more ominous for gun enthusiasts, writing that "properly understood, [the amendment] is no limitation upon arms control by the states."

For Dick Heller, the security officer who challenged the ordinance, the court's 5-4 ruling means district officials must issue him a license to keep a handgun in his Washington home. But it doesn't necessarily allow him to buy another one in the district -- or require the city to allow gun stores to operate within its boundaries. District officials, noting that the decades-old gun ban was widely popular within their city, pledged to do all they can to limit firearms in their jurisdiction.

Elsewhere, cities with tough gun laws seized on the decision's focus on Washington. Because it only concerns the District of Columbia, the ruling "does not apply to state and local governments," said Benna Solomon, a deputy corporation counsel for Chicago. Chicago has one of the strictest gun regulations. City officials said they are expecting a challenge but would continue to enforce its handgun ban until ordered by a court to cease.

Associated Press 
Pro-gun advocates and supporters of the District of Columbia's firearms ban demonstrated outside the Supreme Court in March.
States with assault-weapons bans or licensing requirements for gun owners said that they felt confident their laws wouldn't have to change as a result of the ruling. "The decision affirms the right of states to regulate gun ownership in order to preserve public safety," said David Wald, a spokesman for New Jersey's attorney general.

The village president of Morton Grove, Richard Krier, said that lawyers were reviewing the community's ordinance following the decision and that he had "every intention" of complying with it.

Morton Grove has banned the possession of handguns in the homes of its 22,000 residents since 1981, as well as other dangerous weapons.

Delivered on the last day of the Supreme Court's term, the 5-4 decision underscored the central place the court plays in the nation's politics and culture as well as its law. For the third time this month, a major constitutional issue was decided by a single vote -- that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the maverick conservative who earlier sided with the court's liberals to extend habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees and bar the execution of child rapists. Today, he lined up on the right to hold that each household in Washington may arm itself with deadly weapons to fend off intruders.

Gun-Right Origins

Justice Scalia's opinion was a 64-page tour from the obscure origins of gun rights in the fratricidal wars of 17th-century England through the violent struggles that defined America in its colonial revolt against the British crown, its division over slavery and the subsequent repression of freed blacks. It continued through to the modern era, where battles against foreign invasion and between internal factions have given way to urban crime.

"By the time of the founding, the right to have arms had become fundamental for English subjects," Justice Scalia wrote, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. "The Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right."

The Second Amendment, in its entirety, reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That phrasing has led to countless debates over what precisely is being protected -- a right of states and their citizens to organize militias, obviating the need for a standing army; a right of individuals to arm themselves, in case they may someday need to form a militia; or some other construction involving either or both personal and collective rights.

The Supreme Court last heard a Second Amendment case in 1939, when it upheld a federal ban on interstate transport of short-barreled shotguns. Since sawed-off shotguns had no "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument," the court found then. Ever since, most courts have seen the amendment as providing for weapons possession in connection with service in a militia, or its modern descendant, the state-run National Guard.

Justice Scalia, however, wrote that his opinion was consistent with the 1939 ruling, which he saw as holding only that not all guns were covered by the Second Amendment. Otherwise, he wrote, why would the court focus on "the character of the weapon rather than simply note that the two crooks were not militiamen?"

Gamut of Restrictions

The court's liberal wing strenuously disagreed, offering its own historical construction that emphasized a gamut of restrictions on firearms over the same swath of time and asserting that the 1939 case, which itself examined precedents on weapons possession dating to colonial times, had settled the matter.

Yet the lead dissent, by Justice John Paul Stevens, did not dispute that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. Rather, he wrote, the question was the "scope of that right," which protected militia service but left additional regulation to the judgment of the legislature. The Second Amendment's drafting history revealed the founders' "concern about the potential threat to state sovereignty that a federal standing army would pose," something that could be checked by state militias, he wrote, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

--Gary Fields and Louise Radnofsky contributed to this article.

Write to Jess Bravin at and Susan Davis at

In writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia follows the Silberman Constitutional roadmap in finding that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is an individual right. The alternative view – argued by the District of Columbia – is that the Second Amendment is merely a collective right for individuals who belong to a government militia.

Justice Scalia shreds the collective interpretation as a matter of both common law and Constitutional history. He writes that the Founders, as well as nearly all Constitutional scholars over the decades, believed in the individual right. Many Supreme Court opinions invoke the Founders, but this one is refreshing in its resort to first American principles and its affirmation of a basic liberty. It's not too much to say that Heller is every bit as important to the Second Amendment as Near v. Minnesota (prior restraint) or N.Y. Times v. Sullivan (libel) are to the First Amendment.

Which makes it all the more troubling that no less than four Justices were willing to explain this right away. These are the same four liberal Justices who routinely invoke the "right to privacy" – which is nowhere in the text of the Constitution – as a justification for asserting various social rights. Yet in his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens argues that a right to bear arms that is plainly in the text adheres to an individual only if he is sanctioned by government.

Justice Breyer, who wrote a companion dissent, takes a more devious tack. He wants to establish an "interest-balancing test" to weigh the Constitutionality of particular restrictions on gun ownership. This balancing test is best understood as a roadmap for vitiating the practical effects of Heller going forward.

Using Justice Breyer's "test," judges could accept the existence of an individual right to bear arms in theory, while whittling it down to nothing by weighing that right against the interests of the government in preventing gun-related violence. Having set forth this supposedly neutral standard, Justice Breyer shows his policy hand by arguing that under this standard the interests of the District of Columbia would outweigh Mr. Heller's interest in defending himself, and the ban should thus be upheld.

But as Justice Scalia writes, no other Constitutional right is subjected to this sort of interest-balancing. "The very enumeration of the right takes [it] out of the hands of government" – even the hands of Olympian judges like Stephen Breyer. "Like the First, [the Second Amendment] is the very product of an interest-balancing by the people – which Justice Breyer would now conduct for them anew."

In that one sentence, Justice Scalia illuminates a main fault line on this current Supreme Court. The four liberals are far more willing to empower the government and judges to restrict individual liberty, save on matters of personal lifestyle (abortion, gay rights) or perhaps crime. The four conservatives are far more willing to defend individuals against government power – for example, in owning firearms, or private property (the 2005 Kelo case on eminent domain). Justice Anthony Kennedy swings both ways, and in Heller he sided with the people.

Heller leaves many questions unanswered. Contrary to the worries expressed by the Bush Administration in its embarrassing amicus brief, the ruling does not bar the government from regulating machine guns or other heavy weapons; or from limiting gun ownership by felons or the mentally ill. Any broad restriction on handguns or hunting rifles will be Constitutionally suspect, but legislatures will still have room to protect public safety.

Heller reveals the High Court at its best, upholding individual liberty as the Founders intended. Yet it is also precarious because the switch of a single Justice would have rendered the Second Amendment a nullity. With the next President likely to appoint as many as three Justices, the right to bear arms has been affirmed but still isn't safe.
30923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Change of mind on: June 27, 2008, 08:42:46 AM
"Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear."

-- James Madison (responding to his niece asking what was wrong,
28 June 1836)

Reference: James Madison: Commander in Chief, Brandt, vol. 6 (520)
30924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: States' sovereignty on: June 26, 2008, 09:12:47 AM
"But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or
consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the
rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not,
by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 32, 3 January 1788)

Reference: The Federalist
30925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 26, 2008, 09:06:54 AM
30926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: June 26, 2008, 09:06:07 AM
Fight Terror With YouTube
Published: June 26, 2008
Baku, Azerbaijan
NY Times

AL QAEDA made its name in blood and pixels, with deadly attacks and an avalanche of electronic news media. Recent news articles depict an online terrorist juggernaut that has defied the best efforts by the United States government to counter it. While these articles are themselves a testimony to Al Qaeda’s media savvy, they don’t tell the whole story.

When it comes to user-generated content and interactivity, Al Qaeda is now behind the curve. And the United States can help to keep it there by encouraging the growth of freer, more empowered online communities, especially in the Arab-Islamic world.

The genius of Al Qaeda was to combine real-world mayhem with virtual marketing. The group’s guerrilla media network supports a family of brands, from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (in Algeria and Morocco) to the Islamic State of Iraq, through a daily stream of online media products that would make any corporation jealous.

A recent report I wrote for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty details this flow. In July 2007, for example, Al Qaeda released more than 450 statements, books, articles, magazines, audio recordings, short videos of attacks and longer films. These products reach the world through a network of quasi-official online production and distribution entities, like Al Sahab, which releases statements by Osama bin Laden.

But the Qaeda media nexus, as advanced as it is, is old hat. If Web 1.0 was about creating the snazziest official Web resources and Web 2.0 is about letting users run wild with self-created content and interactivity, Al Qaeda and its affiliates are stuck in 1.0.

In late 2006, with YouTube and Facebook growing rapidly, a position paper by a Qaeda-affiliated institute discouraged media jihadists from overly “exuberant” efforts on behalf of the group for fear of diluting its message.

This is probably sound advice, considering how Al Qaeda fares on YouTube. A recent list of the most viewed YouTube videos in Arabic about Al Qaeda included a rehash of an Islamic State of Iraq clip with sardonic commentary added and satirical verses about Al Qaeda by an Iraqi poet.

Statements by Mr. bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, that are posted to YouTube do draw comments aplenty. But the reactions, which range from praise to blanket condemnation, are a far cry from the invariably positive feedback Al Qaeda gets on moderated jihadist forums. And even Al Qaeda’s biggest YouTube hits attract at most a small fraction of the millions of views that clips of Arab pop stars rack up routinely.

Other Qaeda ventures into interactivity are equally unimpressive. Mr. Zawahri solicited online questions last December, but his answers didn’t appear until early April. That’s eons in Web time.

Even if security concerns dictated the delay, as Mr. Zawahri claimed, this is further evidence of the online obstacles facing the world’s most-wanted fugitives. Try to imagine Osama bin Laden managing his Facebook account, and you can see why full-scale social networking might not be Al Qaeda’s next frontier.

It’s also an indication of how a more interactive, empowered online community, particularly in the Arab-Islamic world, may prove to be Al Qaeda’s Achilles’ heel. Anonymity and accessibility, the hallmarks of Web 1.0, provided an ideal platform for Al Qaeda’s radical demagoguery. Social networking, the emerging hallmark of Web 2.0, can unite a fragmented silent majority and help it to find its voice in the face of thuggish opponents, whether they are repressive rulers or extremist Islamic movements.

Unfortunately, the authoritarian governments of the Middle East are doing their best to hobble Web 2.0. By blocking the Internet, they are leaving the field open to Al Qaeda and its recruiters. The American military’s statistics and jihadists’ own online postings show that among the most common countries of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq are Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. It’s no coincidence that Reporters Without Borders lists Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria as “Internet enemies,” and Libya and Yemen as countries where the Web is “under surveillance.” There is a simple lesson here: unfettered access to a free Internet is not merely a goal to which we should aspire on principle, but also a very practical means of countering Al Qaeda. As users increasingly make themselves heard, the ensuing chaos will not be to everyone’s liking, but it may shake the online edifice of Al Qaeda’s totalitarian ideology.

It would be premature to declare Al Qaeda’s marketing strategy hopelessly anachronistic. The group has shown remarkable resilience and will find ways to adapt to new trends.

But Al Qaeda’s online media network is also vulnerable to disruption. Technology-literate intelligence services that understand how the Qaeda media nexus works will do some of the job. The most damaging disruptions to the nexus, however, will come from millions of ordinary users in the communities that Al Qaeda aims for with its propaganda. We should do everything we can to empower them.

Daniel Kimmage is a senior analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
30927  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 26, 2008, 08:40:53 AM
Woof Dog Dean:

I am glad to see that GM Estalilla is well.  Please give him my regards.

30928  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: First Post, a Few Questions. on: June 26, 2008, 08:30:33 AM
Woof John:

Welcome aboard.  I hope others will chime in to answer your questions as well.

1) Yes  cheesy

2) Vid-lessons are part of the Dog Brothers Martial Arts Association (DBMAA).  Click on the appropriate page on the website here, and fill out the application.

3) Groin protectors and mouth guards are allowed.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
30929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: June 26, 2008, 08:22:54 AM
Rachel, forgive my martian linearity  wink but this is not the question presented.  The question presented is whether
a) the Consitution compels the State to make it a crime or civil offense
A. I'm sorry -- I  don't feel capable of answering that question.


But you HAVE answered it- in the affirmative- when you supported the CA SCT's decision!

Rachel, forgive my martian linearity but this is not the question presented.  The question presented is whether
, , ,
b) the State should make it a crime or civil offense
RACHEL.  The short answer is yes for actions not thoughts ( sexual orientation should have the  same protections for that we do for  gender, age, disabilities, etc) but the long answer there would be exceptions.  For example religious organizations should be able to discriminate.    ( I didn't think that was a question I was avoiding -- I thought I had answered it)

Yes you have begun to "answer" it, but my point was to define the question presented.  So, lets explore a bit further.  You now say that religious organizations should have the right to follow their beliefs and discriminate.  What about religious individuals?  And, why should atheists have lesser rights?

Which brings us to the next question presented:

Since  when called upon the point you are unwilling to say that the Constitution compels redefining marriage, and you say that discrimination should be illegal, how can you argue that the judiciary is the branch to carry this out over the expressly voted wishes of the people of California?  Why is this not a matter for the political process? (Executive and Legislative, plebecite (sp?) )


Regarding the Albanian story, the point seems to be as thoroughly glossed over as possible, but this can be described a Muslim custom too, yes?
30930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 25, 2008, 11:22:26 PM
30931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 25, 2008, 10:47:18 PM
30932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: June 25, 2008, 04:27:56 PM
A response to the preceding article from another forum:
Great article Crafty Dog. This is all pretty real for me, I will celebrate one year since the day I left Anbar on July 14th, in Camden no less.

there have been great gains in Anbar. I had the privelige of spending 16 1/2 months there in 2006 and 2007. When we got there, we were told Anbar is lost, don't try to save it, just try to keep it from getting any worse. I am most familiar with the Fallujah, Lake Habbiniyah, Habbiniyah, RTE Lyman/Michigan AO. So I can't speak for Ramadi or along the border. But 3 months before we left, SECDEF came and gave a speech and Camp Fallujah and praised Anbar for the gains the province had made. I didn't get to see it, somebody had to keep Abdullah and Achmed from dropping a mortar on him from down by the river.

Anywhoo, when we got there we hadn't even seen IA or IP, not even recruiting posters, some of the people hadn't heard of them. When We left they were directing traffic on Michigan on the other side of the bridge in Fallujah. They were running their own COPs on Lyman doing checkpoints over the bridge(the bridge blew up a months after they took over, but baby steps). That tribal shit was just starting when we left as well.

I don't miss Anbar in particular, it is a cruel unforgiving place. I miss certain things about war a bit, but I am glad to hear that things are still improving there.
30933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Weakness and Liberty on: June 25, 2008, 09:39:03 AM
"[H]owever weak our country may be, I hope we shall never sacrifice
our liberties."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Report on a National Bank, 13 December 1790)

Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge,
ed. (4)
30934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indonesia on: June 25, 2008, 03:57:37 AM
Jakarta's Slippery Slope
June 25, 2008

With the World Peace Forum under way in Jakarta today, Indonesia is happy to boast of its commitment to interfaith dialogue. The 200,000 members of the Ahmadiyah sect would disagree.

On Thursday, Islamic radicals sealed off more than 10 Ahmadiyah mosques in Indonesia. This was the predictable outcome of a June 9 government ruling barring the Ahmadiyah from "dissemination activities," whatever that means. Their crime? Peacefully worshipping a liberal form of Islam.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sold the ruling as a way to forbid a "deviant" Islamic group from propagating their ideas but not banning them outright. But it was really a cave-in to radicals such as the Islamic Defenders Front, who advocate strict interpretations of Islam and have made their views known by beating up people in the streets.

Now, a coalition of Islamic fanatics, the Forum Umat Islam, has taken the ruling as a pretext to shut down Ahmadiyah mosques. In response, Mr. Yudhoyono has ignored the Indonesian constitution's freedom of religion clause and done nothing.

Perhaps he is worried about sparking wider violence if he opposes the well-funded and well-organized Forum Umat Islam. Or perhaps he wishes to court what he perceives as the "Muslim vote." But short-term gain could have serious long-term consequences.

If radical thugs are allowed to target Ahmadiyah houses of worship today with impunity, what prevents them from targeting other kinds of Muslims tomorrow? Or Christians? Or Sikhs? The government's refusal to protect the Ahmadiyah threatens the underpinnings of Indonesia's tolerant society. It's a familiar theme in history, and one that has not boded well for liberal democracies.

30935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO on social Security on: June 25, 2008, 03:39:20 AM
Obama's Social Security Fine Print
June 25, 2008; Page A15

Last week, Barack Obama revealed his plan to shore up Social Security's shaky finances by raising the income level on which the payroll tax is applied. Currently, incomes above $102,000 are exempt, with that threshold rising every year indexed to wage inflation. Mr. Obama would keep that limit in place, but then assess payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000, which his campaign claims would apply to only the richest 3% of Americans.

Mr. Obama angered liberals last year when he admitted that there was a "Social Security crisis." But at least Mr. Obama's base should be appeased now that his solution to the "crisis" is to soak the rich. One liberal columnist actually noted with glee the fact that this would take us back to top tax rates not seen since the 1970s.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Obama's new tax would siphon off 0.4% of gross domestic product annually. Combined with Mr. Obama's other tax-hike initiatives, "the total tax on labor would be close to 60 percent. In high-tax states like California and New York, the top rate would be even higher."

Would it help Social Security's financing problems? Mr. Obama has no idea. One of his senior economic advisers admitted to me that no one on the campaign has run any detailed models or performed any rigorous analysis. When one proposes an enormous tax increase, shouldn't there at least be a spreadsheet somewhere?

But the most alarming thing about Mr. Obama's proposal is that the $250,000 threshold, above which the payroll tax would be applied, refers to household income, not individual income. So it's quite deceptive when he claims that the $250,000 threshold will "ensure that lifting the payroll tax cap does not ensnare any middle class Americans."

Suppose your household consists of you and your spouse, each earning wages of $150,000 per year. Currently, you are each subject to the payroll tax up to $102,000 of wages, so together you are taxed on $204,000. Under the Obama plan, you'd be taxed again on another $50,000 of wages.

At the current payroll tax rate of 12.4% – 6.2% from wage-earners and 6.2% from their employers – your household would be looking at a tax hike of $6,200 per year. You probably didn't consider yourself rich before, and you certainly won't after paying that tax bill.

But that tax bill could be higher still. While the payroll tax has always been calculated just on wages from labor, Mr. Obama hasn't decided yet what forms of income will be included in the $250,000 threshold. It's an open question whether it might include interest on savings and capital gains income.

And neither has Mr. Obama said whether the rich – and, truth be told, the middle class – paying his new higher taxes will get correspondingly higher Social Security benefits when they retire. Throughout the history of the Social Security program, there has always been a connection between what you contribute in taxes and what you get back in benefits. If Mr. Obama uncaps the wages subject to tax, but doesn't uncap benefits, then he has severed the link between them. Social Security would stand revealed not as a work-related contributory retirement system, but simply as a tax-funded welfare and income-redistribution program.

And for all that, Mr. Obama's proposal won't help Social Security's long-run solvency problems.

According to the Social Security Administration actuaries, uncapping all wages subject to the payroll tax (not just those above $250,000) doesn't make much difference to the system's long-run solvency. If the increased payroll tax payments earn increased benefits, then only about one third of the system's 75-year shortfall is addressed. Even if there is no corresponding benefit increase, only about half the shortfall is addressed.

Remember, that inadequate result is what you get when all wages are subject to payroll taxes. Mr. Obama's plan – even with his household definition of $250,000 income – would collect far less than that. No wonder Mr. Obama's economic advisers aren't interested in doing any detailed analysis.

Worst of all, even the small contribution to Social Security solvency that Mr. Obama's plan might make is entirely illusory. In fact, the more taxes his plan collects, the worse Social Security's long-term situation gets. That's because all plans based on collecting taxes and saving them in the Social Security Trust Fund for future benefit payments rely on the U.S. government being able to redeem the Treasury bonds that trust fund holds.

There's only one place that the money to redeem those bonds can come from: taxes. So ironically, any tax dollars collected today will have to be collected all over again – plus interest. You like the idea of paying more taxes today for Mr. Obama's Social Security plan? Then just wait 20 years or so, because you'll get to pay more taxes all over again.

Mr. Luskin is chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC.
30936  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Before dashcams on: June 24, 2008, 05:14:47 PM
An older lady gets pulled over for speeding...
Older Woman: Is there a problem, Officer?
Officer: Ma'am, you were speeding.
Older Woman: Oh, I see.
Officer: Can I see your license please?
Older Woman: I'd give it to you but I don't have one.
Officer: Don't have one?
Older Woman: Lost it, 4 years ago for drunk driving.
Officer: I see..Can I see your vehicle registration papers please.
Older Woman: I can't do that.
Officer: Why not?
Older Woman: I stole this car.
Officer: Stole it?
Older Woman: Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.
Officer: You what?
Older Woman: His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you
want to see.
The Officer looks at the woman and slowly backs away to his car and
calls for back up. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the car. A senior
officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun.
Officer 2: Ma'am, could you step out of your vehicle please! The woman
steps out of her vehicle.
Older woman: Is there a problem sir?
Officer 2: One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car
and murdered the owner.
Older Woman: Murdered the owner?
Officer 2: Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car, please.
The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk.
Officer 2: Is this your car, ma'am?
Older Woman: Yes, here are the registration papers.
The officer is quite stunned.
Officer 2: One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands
it to the officer. The officer examines the license. He looks quite
Officer 2: Thank you ma'am, one of my officers told me you didn't have
a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up
the owner.
Older Woman: Bet the liar told you I was speeding, too.
30937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Handing over Anbar on: June 24, 2008, 05:05:05 PM
U.S. troops will formally hand over security responsibility for Iraq’s largest Sunni province, Anbar, to Iraqi security forces June 28, according to a June 23 Reuters report. Despite real and impressive security gains in the last year because of sectarian conflict and strong intra-Sunni contentions in Anbar, the move is problematic at best. How the security handover plays out in Anbar could prove the most critical indicator of the future position of Sunnis in a Shiite-dominated Baghdad, which in turn is the key element in the U.S.-Iranian struggle for Iraq.

Related Special Topic Page
Iraq, Iran and the Shia
Gov. Mamun Sami Rasheed of Anbar province, Iraq’s largest Sunni province, said the U.S. military will transfer control of the province’s security to Iraqi forces June 28, Reuters reported June 23. U.S.-led coalition forces have so far transferred security control for three Kurdish provinces in the north and six Shiite provinces in the south. Though Anbar will be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces returned to Iraqi security control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, it will thus be the first predominantly Sunni region handed back to Iraqi government control.

While the performance of Iraqi government security forces has been mixed, they have begun to demonstrate a limited capability to stand on their own. In Anbar, these forces will meet Sunni forces known as the Awakening Council that have imposed a tribal-controlled peace on the province. The meeting of these Sunni elements and government forces will serve as a key litmus test for Iraq’s emerging post-Baathist security establishment.

As late as 2006, chronic tensions between local Sunni police forces and Shiite-dominated national police and army units in Anbar province were palpable, occasionally even breaking out into isolated gunbattles.

These tensions arose because Iraq’s police and army are dominated by Shia while Anbar — the country’s largest province in terms of land area — until late 2006 was a major insurgent theater for both Sunni nationalist and jihadist groups. Intra-Sunni rivalries in the western province will play a key role in assisting the Shia to take control. This could lead to a resumption of violence in Anbar as various groups seek to take advantage of the new security environment.

Anbar’s size makes it key to the future Sunni entry into a Shiite-dominated political system, explaining why the United States has given the province a disproportionate amount of attention. Much of this attention was spent on assisting in the formation of an 80,000-strong tribal force known as the Awakening Councils. Not only were these groups instrumental in controlling the Sunni nationalist insurgency, they turned their guns against al Qaeda-led jihadists. It is these fighters, currently on the Pentagon’s payroll and backed by Saudi Arabia, that have both the Iraqi Shia as well as their Iranian patrons extremely concerned. Under the Awakening Councils’ tenure, Anbar has gone from one of the deadliest provinces in Iraq to one of the safest.

Tehran already has warned of a major uprising if the ongoing talks between the al-Maliki and Bush administrations on a future U.S. military presence in Iraq lead to a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, especially one conferring significant security powers on the United States. Meanwhile, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has been blocking any progress on the re-Baathification process, which is supposed to oversee the return of Sunnis in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy, even when the Shia agree to it in principal. Therefore, the Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies view the transfer of Anbar’s security as an opportunity to check the Sunni resurgence in the new Iraqi republic.

Coalition and Iraqi commanders want to transition about 20 percent of the Awakening Councils fighters — or about 15,000 out of the total of 80,000 Sunni tribal militiamen — to the Iraqi Security Forces, which comprises the army, national police and Iraqi police. Most of these fighters would be inducted into the national police, which is recruited and deployed locally, giving the Awakening Councils some degree of official influence at the local level. Shiite-dominated Baghdad sees the 15 percent figure as sufficient, but it falls far below the expectations of the Anbar’s Sunnis.

Awakening Councils also are in the process of transitioning from a militia into a political movement, and hope to take advantage of provincial elections slated in the fall to consolidate their de facto gains into formal political power. The Iraqi Sunnis know that a demographic-based constitution severely limits their share of power in the central government, so the Sunni’s best bet is to entrench themselves in their region (comprising Anbar, Salah ad Din, At Tamim, and Ninawa provinces, and to lesser degree, Baghdad, Diyala and Babil provinces) as much as possible.

But at the local level, intra-Sunni rivalries between those Sunnis who are already part of the state (such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’s Tawafoq Iraqi Front, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament) and those who initially shunned the post-2003 political system (e.g., Awakening Councils, the Sunni religious establishment, various tribal elements, Islamist insurgents, and Baathists) will prevent the Sunnis from consolidating their power. The internal problems of the Sunnis could thus give the Shiite-dominated security forces a tactical advantage in establishing their control in Anbar.

Sectarian and intra-Sunni dynamics have the potential to recreate security problems in Anbar as Iraqi forces assume responsibility for security. Ultimately, an Iraqi state imposing its writ on its territory will require a U.S.-Iranian understanding establishing an ethno-sectarian balance of power in Iraq. But before that can happen, a balance of power has to be achieved within both Shiite and Sunni communities. The outcome of the coming provincial polls will to a great degree settle the internal balance within Iraq’s Shia and Sunnis, thereby preparing the two sides for and ultimate face off.

Back to top
30938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: June 24, 2008, 04:35:38 PM

IAEA Chief: Iran Could Make Nuke In 6 Months
CBS News Interactive: About Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CBS) ― The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Iran could create a nuclear weapon in six months.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei spoke on Al-Arabiya television on June 20, discussing Iran's nuclear program, and the potential for the Middle Eastern country to produce a nuclear weapon.

"If Iran wants to turn to the production of nuclear weapons, it must leave the NPT, expel the IAEA inspectors, and then it would need at least, considering the number of centrifuges and the quantity of uranium Iran has...It would need at least six months to one year," ElBaradei said.

"Therefore, Iran will not be able to reach the point where we would wake up one morning to an Iran with a nuclear weapon," he said.

His interviewer then asked "If Iran decides today to expel the IAEA from the country, it will need six months to produce [nuclear] weapons?"

The IAEA chief answered, "It would need this period to produce a weapon, and to obtain highly-enriched uranium in sufficient quantities for a single nuclear weapon."

The ElBaradei interview was conducted one day after reports emerged of a large-scale military exercise by Israel.

U.S. officials said they thought the Israeli exercises were meant to warn Iran of Israel's abilities to hit its nuclear sites.

ElBaradei also warned that he will resign as chief of the UN nuclear agency if Iran is attacked by any country.

"I always think of resigning in the event of a military strike...If military force is used, I would conclude that there is no mechanism left for me to defend," he said.

"The reports this week of Israeli military maneuvers, which took place in early June, provoked the IAEA warning," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Pamela Falk, who is based at the U.N., "because atomic energy chief ElBaradei has been pleading with Iran to accept a new package of incentives before another round of sanctions would be imposed."

"The problem in the region is that, as time passes and the clock is ticking on Iran's uranium enrichment program, there is a fear that Israel will act, as it did in Syria last year, to attack at least one of Iran's nuclear facilities," said Falk, who was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week.

"Israel is evidently the most threatened by the last IAEA report, which concluded that there are unanswered questions about Iran's ability to eventually develop nuclear weapons," said Falk, "so it is elBaradei himself who produced the report that is making Israel nervous."

Meanwhile, Iran is reiterating its decision to continue enriching uranium, calling Western pressure to suspend the work "illogical."

The statement by a government spokesman came as Europe waits for Iran's formal answer to an international package of incentives designed to rein in its nuclear program.

Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham on Saturday as saying that his country will respond to the package at a convenient time.

The package would give Tehran economic incentives, and the chance to develop alternate light-water reactors, in return for dropping the uranium enrichment.

(© 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
30939  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: A Father's Question on: June 24, 2008, 10:35:40 AM
Scottish schools ban Father’s Day cards
Fear of embarrassing children of single mothers or lesbians prompts move
Kathleen Nutt
Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness.

Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples.

The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday.

While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday.

The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire.

Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year.

“This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not.

“The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers.

“I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children.

“Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said.

“It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce.

“Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively.”

A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.”

Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.

30940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Father's Day cards banned on: June 24, 2008, 10:34:48 AM
Scottish schools ban Father’s Day cards
Fear of embarrassing children of single mothers or lesbians prompts move
Kathleen Nutt
Christian references have been removed from Christmas cards and school sports days excised of competitiveness. Now Father's Day has become the latest event to fall victim to the forces of political correctness.

Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father’s Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples.

The politically correct policy in the interests of “sensitivity” over the growing number of lone-parent and same-sex households, has been quietly adopted by schools across Scotland.

It only emerged this year after a large number of fathers failed to receive their traditional cards and gifts last Sunday.

While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothering Sunday.

The ban has been introduced by schools in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Clackmannanshire.

Currently, some 280,000 children in Scotland live in single parent households, accounting for just 7% of the total.

Tina Woolnough, 45, from Edinburgh, whose son Felix attends Blackhall primary, said a number of teachers at the school had not allowed children to make Father’s Day cards this year.

“This is something I know they do on a class-by-class basis at my son Felix’s school,” said Woolnough, who is a member of the school’s parent-teacher council. Some classes send Father’s Day cards and some do not.

“The teachers are aware of the family circumstances of the children in each class and if a child hasn’t got a father living at home, the teacher will avoid getting the children to make a card.”

Family rights campaigners have condemned the policy as “absurd” and claimed it is marginalising fathers.

“I’m astonished at this, it totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child’s mother or not,” said Matt O’Connor, founder of Fathers For Justice. “It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren’t important.”

Alastair Noble, education officer with the charity Christian Action, Research and Education, added: “This seems to be an extreme and somewhat absurd reaction. I would have thought that the traditional family and marriage are still the majority lifestyles of people in Scotland. To deny the experience of the majority just does not seem sensible.”

Victoria Gillick, the family values campaigner, accused schools of politicising a traditional fun activity for children.

“Children like making things, and making things for someone is great fun. I wouldn’t call it politically correct, I’d just call it stupid,” she said.

“It seems quite unfair to deny those children whose parents are together and who want to make cards from enjoying the experience. Stopping children from making Father’s Day cards is reinforcing the fact that some fathers are not there, it’s actually drawing attention to the issue.”

Local authorities defended the move, saying teachers needed to act sensitively at a time when many children were experiencing family breakdown and divorce.

“Increasingly, it is the case that there are children who haven’t got fathers or haven’t got fathers living with them and teachers are having to be sensitive about this,” said a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council. “Teachers have always had to deal with some pupils not having fathers or mothers, but with marital breakdown it is accelerating.”

Jim Goodall, head of education at Clackmannanshire council, said: “We expect teachers and headteachers to apply their professional skills and behave in a common sense manner. They have to be sensitive to the appropriate use of class time and the changing pattern of family life. We trust our staff to act sensibly and sensitively.”

A spokesman for South Ayrshire council said: “We are aware of the sensitivities of the issue and wouldn’t do anything that would make any child feel left out or unwanted in any way.”

Edinburgh city council said the practice on Father’s Day cards was a matter for individual schools.

30941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 10:17:12 AM
That helps understand the rationale, although I am still not persuaded.  And the question remains "Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts?"
30942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 09:44:08 AM
"The rationale for this new fingerprint registry is thin. Were a significant number of bad loans made by ex-convicts? And how would the targeting of lower-level employees – rather than executives like Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo – stem the creation of problematic mortgages?"
30943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 24, 2008, 09:38:29 AM
"But a campaign based on Barack Obama's shortcomings may not be enough on Election Day."

EXACTLY so.  Part of BOs appeal so far I believe to be grounded in the fact that people are tired of the Hatfield vs. McCoys squabbling of Washington and BO speaks in positives.
30944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: June 24, 2008, 09:11:52 AM
Nor by me , , ,
30945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: June 24, 2008, 09:08:17 AM

"A local spirit will infallibly prevail much more in the members
of Congress than a national spirit will prevail in the legislatures
of the particular States."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 46, 29 January 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist, No. 46.

30946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes Columnist: Bush was right?!? on: June 24, 2008, 04:23:52 AM
The Bush Paradox
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Published: June 24, 2008
Let’s go back and consider how the world looked in the winter of 2006-2007. Iraq was in free fall, with horrific massacres and ethnic cleansing that sent a steady stream of bad news across the world media. The American public delivered a stunning electoral judgment against the Iraq war, the Republican Party and President Bush.

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All Conversations » Expert and elite opinion swung behind the Baker-Hamilton report, which called for handing more of the problems off to the Iraqi military and wooing Iran and Syria. Republicans on Capitol Hill were quietly contemptuous of the president while Democrats were loudly so.

Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid considered the war lost. Barack Obama called for a U.S. withdrawal starting in the spring of 2007, while Senator Reid offered legislation calling for a complete U.S. pullback by March 2008.

The arguments floating around the op-ed pages and seminar rooms were overwhelmingly against the idea of a surge — a mere 20,000 additional troops would not make a difference. The U.S. presence provoked violence, rather than diminishing it. The more the U.S. did, the less the Iraqis would step up to do. Iraq was in the middle of a civil war, and it was insanity to put American troops in the middle of it.

When President Bush consulted his own generals, the story was much the same. Almost every top general, including Abizaid, Schoomaker and Casey, were against the surge. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was against it, according to recent reports. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called for a smaller U.S. presence, not a bigger one.

In these circumstances, it’s amazing that George Bush decided on the surge. And looking back, one thing is clear: Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call.

Bush is a stubborn man. Well, without that stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch, he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.

Bush is an outrageously self-confident man. Well, without that self-confidence he never would have overruled his generals.

In fact, when it comes to Iraq, Bush was at his worst when he was humbly deferring to the generals and at his best when he was arrogantly overruling them. During that period in 2006 and 2007, Bush stiffed the brass and sided with a band of dissidents: military officers like David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and outside strategists like Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Jack Keane, a retired general.

Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.

The additional fact is that Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one.

The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others.

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.

30947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: June 24, 2008, 04:19:42 AM
Capt. Ford's Drive To Victory In Afghanistan
By SEAN HIGGINS | Posted Friday, January 18, 2008 4:30 PM PT

Capt. Sheffield F. Ford III's mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan, sounded simple enough. It just wasn't easy.

"The specific goal was to re-establish order to a certain area," Ford, 36, said matter-of-factly during a phone interview from Fort Bragg, N.C., last month.

"Re-establish order" meant "drive out the Taliban." His forces would push them out of three villages.

Sheffield Ford poses near Afghanistan's Kajaki Dam in May 2006, a month before the bloody battle against terrorists led to his receiving a Silver Star.
The Taliban weren't going anywhere without a fight.

On June 23, 2006, Ford led his Army Special Forces unit and a contingent of Afghan soldiers in what was dubbed Operation Kaika.

It turned out to be a pitched, 2 1/2-day battle against a group of Islamist radicals vastly larger than the Americans had expected.

The coalition forces totaled 72 men. The Taliban had more than 200. At times Ford's men were surrounded on four sides. At other times the fight was so close, the enemy was yards away. "We were expecting some resistance, but not of that nature," Ford recalled. "They basically laid siege to us."

Despite the danger, chaos, exhaustion and fear, Ford led the coalition forces to a lopsided victory.

The battle claimed the lives of an estimated 125 terrorists and just five coalition soldiers: two Americans and three Afghan interpreters.

It was one of the largest battles in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion of 2001. Last fall, Ford was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.

"Capt. Ford's courageous actions and determined leadership in the face of an overwhelming attack by a well-armed and determined enemy force prevented the destruction of his circled detachment," reads the narrative accompanying the award.

It concludes: "His gallantry, dedication to duty and selfless sacrifice exemplified the warrior ethos."

Ford is a native of Dixon, Calif., a farming community near Sacramento. He joined the Army at age 17, eventually becoming a member of the elite Special Forces.

That took him to Afghanistan's Panjawi district in 2006. It's among the country's remotest places — where people live in mud huts and drive on nearly impassible roads.

It is also one of the most contested regions in that country. "It's just a constant battle there," Ford said.

Operation Kaika began because the Taliban were moving into farming villages. The terrorists gave villagers an ultimatum: Leave or support us. It was the middle of harvest season, and the locals couldn't afford to lose their grape crops.

Coalition troops intended to sweep in and roust the Taliban with a show of superior force. Afghan policemen would later guard against the Taliban's return.

The first part of the plan hit a firewall. The Taliban hit back hard against Ford's men. The terrorists had heavy weapons and sophisticated communications. Ford later learned that a senior Taliban commander was leading the attack.

It was like nothing the 18-year Army veteran had encountered. The Taliban in that region rarely attacked in that way.

The battle over the three days included three firefights totaling 17 hours of hard fighting.

The valor award's narrative reports that during the first fight, Ford led the attack from an exposed vehicle's turret gun: "Under an extraordinary volume of small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, he remained in the exposed turret, ignoring the strikes of bullets and grenade fragments around him, accurately and calmly firing into the Taliban assault."

He did this while coordinating the rest of the defense and reporting its status to headquarters.

Ford fired from the exposed turret again the second day after the Taliban targeted a follow-up assault.

When the Taliban realized it outnumbered the coalition forces, other jihadists entered the fray. They were convinced they had the Americans cornered. "They were yelling and cursing at us, saying this time they were going to capture us," Ford recalled. "They told the Afghan soldiers to give up and leave."

He could call in air support, but the Taliban pressed in too closely. Ford and his men ran the risk of having themselves bombed.

An immediate risk was the perimeter. At one point only a three-foot-high wall separated some allied forces from the Taliban.

Coalitions troops were so desperate, they called in Afghan police for backup. The terrorists countered by ambushing the cops, who never made it to the coalition's position.

"That was how we knew we were surrounded," Ford said.

Again he maintained calm, coordinating the counterattack and ensuring that the defenders held the perimeter. Instead of hunkering down, they attacked the enemy. That helped them regain the initiative and push the Taliban back.

Through it all, said Ford, he was "most definitely" scared but refused to get rattled. He focused on protecting his men. He mostly succeeded, yet his master sergeant, Thomas Maholic, didn't make it.

"Anybody who would say they don't feel fear or get scared during such a battle, well, I couldn't believe them," Ford said. "With all emotions, it is how you control it and how you focus on what you are going through so you can have a positive outcome."

Ford says a major part of the mission's success was his team's communications. Yes, firepower, high-tech equipment, bravery and the air support that eventually came were crucial. But they would've been wasted if his forces couldn't coordinate counterattacks.

Communications involved more than making sure everybody received orders. The troops had to know what those orders were.

Confusion could have reigned, since only a dozen of Ford's men were American. The rest were Afghans, most of whom didn't speak English. The language barrier posed a serious danger.

That's why three of the coalition forces killed were interpreters. They had to be right there in the thick of the battle.

"Each one of the personnel on the (Special Forces) team has to be able to have those leadership capabilities in order to command their element of the indigenous (Afghan) forces," Ford explained. "So really it was the whole team coming together that made it successful and allowed us to survive."

Also key was bonding with the Afghan troops. The Americans trained with them constantly. They ate with them and struck up friendships to help build mutual respect.

"There's a term we use for soldiers who do a really good job: He's a fire-and-forget kind of guy," Ford said. "That means I can tell the guy the end state of what I want to be done and turn around and attend to other things because I know that it is going to get done."

That is the way the Afghan force was, he says. Despite the Taliban's threats, the local troops stuck by the Americans throughout the battle.

In addition to Ford, two other Americans, including Maholic, received the Silver Star for their actions in the battle. Three more received the Bronze Star.

The Special Forces commander, Maj. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, during the medal ceremony lauded Ford and others who stood up to the Taliban by staying that "each one of these men would simply say that they were doing their job and taking care of their fellow teammates."

30948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / My friend the fanatic on: June 24, 2008, 03:05:15 AM
The following cuts against the aspirations of the preceding post:

Unfriendly Fanatics
June 24, 2008

My Friend the Fanatic
By Sadanand Dhume
(Text Publishing, 271 pp., A$34.95)

Terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam have dominated news headlines for years, yet Western readers are often left wondering what motivates such radicalism, and how it spreads. Few nations are more strategically vital to the struggle for the "soul" of Islam than Indonesia. Home of the world's largest Muslim population and democracy, Indonesia's ancient traditions of pluralism and tolerance are under siege by a well-organized and heavily financed extremist movement.

The current radical trends in Indonesia are inextricably linked to Islam's 700-year history in the East Indies. Sunni Islam arrived peacefully in what is now Indonesia, brought by Arab, Indian and Chinese merchants active in the fabled spice trade. Once they acquired sufficient economic power, such merchants established Islamic city-states that rebelled against, and ultimately destroyed, the pre-existing Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit. It was only the subsequent military and political triumph of indigenous Javanese in 1586 – following a bloody, century-long struggle – that preserved the region's pluralistic and tolerant traditions, in the form of a deeply spiritual understanding of Islam that did not conflict with pre-existing faiths.

In "My Friend the Fanatic," journalist Sadanand Dhume guides the reader deftly through the whirlpool these currents have created. Descriptions of a young, charismatic author titillating avant-garde audiences in the nation's capital – with her sexually provocative short stories and performance art – alternate with on-the-scene reportage of Muslim radicals' success at mobilizing grassroots support throughout the vast archipelago. Mr. Dhume took an unusual trek through Indonesia's lush, tropical landscape with Herry Nurdi, the "fanatic" of the book's title and editor of Sabili, a mass-circulation extremist magazine whose explicit goal is to undo radical Islam's history of failure in Indonesia and assure its final triumph.

By some counts at least, Mr. Nurdi and his ilk are winning. In recent years, extremists have taken advantage of regional autonomy to impose Shariah-based regulations in nearly 70 of Indonesia's 364 local regencies. These laws, among other things, compel women and girls to wear so-called "Muslim" clothing that reveals only the face, hands and feet, even if they are Christian; require students, civil servants and even couples applying for marriage to demonstrate an ability to read the Quran; and effectively restrict women from going out at night without a male relative.

Mr. Dhume's description of the extremists' rise will be dispiriting to those who view democracy as an antidote to radicalism. Indeed, one of the most striking facts he reports is the extent to which those leading the charge to institutionalize radicalism in Indonesia today are directly linked to postindependence rebellions and failed extremist movements from the past. Whereas their ideological forebears (and literally, in many cases, their fathers or grandfathers) were crushed by Indonesian nationalists committed to upholding Indonesia's secular constitution and pluralist state ideology, the new generation of radicals use democracy and the symbols of Islam to erode and ultimately destroy Indonesia's heritage of religious pluralism and tolerance. This phenomenon is rendered possible and dramatically accelerated by the tendency of opportunistic politicians and political parties – often corrupt and lacking in Islamic legitimacy – to engage in a "chase to the lowest common denominator" of Islam, in a cynical attempt to prove their Muslim bona fides.

Unfortunately, the current government in Jakarta – led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – has done little to retard the rapidly metastasizing phenomenon of political Islam. This threatens not only religious minorities such as the Muslim Ahmadiyah sect and Christians, but also the safety and security of the Indonesian nation-state itself. Just this month, in fact, religious extremists beat a group of moderates marching for religious freedom on the grounds of the national monument, in full view of onlooking police and the nearby state palace.

While Mr. Dhume argues convincingly about the radicals' current strength and momentum, he is strangely silent about their most vocal and effective opponents, who represent the world's best hope for a truly democratic and tolerant Islam. Virtually absent from Mr. Dhume's book are the valiant efforts of Indonesian Muslim leaders to stem the Arab petrodollar-funded tide of radical Islam, and thereby uphold the secular foundations of the Indonesian nation-state. Former President Abdurrahman Wahid, a member of the LibForAll Foundation which I head, has vigorously opposed the Islamist agenda and succeeded at blocking many of their initiatives. So, too, have other key leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the world's biggest Muslims organizations, which are based in Indonesia and boast 70 million followers.

Islam's future – as a religion of peace and tolerance, or of hatred, violence and supremacy – may well hinge upon Indonesia's destiny, as Middle East financial backers and their indigenous allies well know. Mr. Dhume is pessimistic, sensing that the "totalitarian cast" of the extremist movement will "grind what remained of a once proud culture to a hollow imitation of Arabness." Yet while the situation is undoubtedly grave, it is far from hopeless. Indonesia boasts a moderate public and self-confident Muslim leaders who do not conflate Islam with arrogance, extremism, supremacy or violence. Mr. Dhume's book shows that the battle is raging, but its conclusion is far from preordained.

Mr. Taylor is the chairman & CEO of the LibForAll Foundation, a nonprofit that works to reduce religious extremism worldwide and discredit the use of terrorism.
30949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Free to choose wrongly on: June 24, 2008, 03:00:45 AM
Free to Choose, But Often Wrong
June 24, 2008; Page A17

By Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
(Doubleday, 206 pages, $21.95)

Flirting With Disaster
By Marc Gerstein, with Michael Ellsberg
(Union Square, 340 pages, $24.95)

Consider Linda, a 31-year-old woman, single and bright. As a student, she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice and also participated in antinuclear protests. Which is more probable? (a) Linda is today a bank teller; (b) Linda is a bank teller and active in the feminist movement.

When psychologists Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky conducted an experimental survey in the early 1980s asking people to answer this simple question, they discovered, to their surprise, that most respondents picked "b," even though this was the narrower choice and hence the less likely one. It seems that saliency – in this case, Linda's passionate political profile – trumps logic.

Over the past quarter-century, Mr. Kahneman and his colleagues have gone on to identify a range of flaws in our critical faculties, reshaping the study of economics by challenging the assumption that a person, when faced with a choice, can be counted on to make a rational decision.

While Mr. Kahneman (who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002) has confined most of his writing to academic journals, his ideas have found their way into popular culture through books such as Barry Schwartz's "The Paradox of Choice" and Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan." "Sway," by brothers Ori and Rom Brafman, is the latest addition to this literature. It offers a breezy introduction to the science of decision-making and shows the many ways in which logical thought can be subverted or "swayed."

Loss aversion, for example, may explain why car rental companies persuade us to purchase gratuitous insurance or why flat-rate telephone plans are so popular even when they end up costing us more. Value attribution – transferring "value" signals from one thing to another – may explain why hot-dog sales at the Coney Island food stand of "Famous Nathan" Handwerker shot up when he recruited local doctors to shop there while wearing their white coats and stethoscopes. Procedural justice may be the reason why venture capitalists favor the entrepreneurs who communicate with them most; a willingness to observe the dictates of process is taken as a proxy for quality.

Some examples in "Sway" are less forceful than others. It seems a bit much, for instance, to blame value attribution for the failure of morning commuters to applaud a virtuoso violinist performing in jeans and a baseball cap at the entrance to a subway station. A simpler explanation: People were in a hurry to get to work. But the pacing of "Sway" is so fast that even questionable examples are gone in seconds, and soon you're on to the next, perhaps more enlightening, vignette.

While the Brafmans are amused by our irrationality, Marc Gerstein is troubled by it and wants to understand why we have such difficulty recognizing our mistaken thinking before it is too late. In "Flirting With Disaster," Mr. Gerstein (assisted by Michael Ellsberg) explores the psychology underlying a series of disasters, including the Challenger explosion, the flooding of New Orleans, the collapse of Arthur Andersen and the fall of Long-Term Capital Management, a hedge fund run by supposed "geniuses." Mr. Gerstein believes that each disaster resulted from a series of bad decisions that could have easily been avoided. Why weren't they?

In some cases, such as the 1981 collapse of the skywalk of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency, the central problem was a design change that was not properly evaluated. In New Orleans, bureaucratic inertia stripped the intensity from a series of urgent warnings. Another source of danger is the conviction that sophisticated models will enable us to capture complexity and defeat uncertainty. Long Term Capital fell as a result of such hubris.

Mr. Gerstein is passionately interested in people and is profoundly disappointed when they behave badly; he is especially critical of bystanders – workers who know enough to speak out but who decide not to do so or who stop short of preventing a bad thing from happening. For Mr. Gerstein the question isn't just why NASA pushed for a Challenger launch over the objections of its engineers; he also wants to understand why the engineers relented despite their obvious concerns. Similarly, he is frustrated by employees at Arthur Andersen who reported gross irregularities to their managers but simply gave up when their complaints were ignored.

Mr. Gerstein concludes that there are too many disincentives to speaking up; he would like to see more whistleblowers. He would also like us to pay more attention to warnings from experts. An important question raised by "Flirting With Disaster," though, is whether unheeded expert warnings are either as significant or as potentially useful as he implies. It seems probable that there is an element of selection bias here: Such warnings may be extremely common, especially in high-risk activities such as space flight or options trading – we just notice them when they happen to be both ignored and right.

Moreover, the distinction between good ideas and dangerous ones – or between good leaders and bad – is seldom as clear as Mr. Gerstein would have it. Decisions must often be made with imperfect information. Clearly, a balancing act must be performed each time a rocket is set to launch, each time a new drug or medical device is introduced, and, for that matter, each time a decision is made. There is always a trade-off between action and reflection. Even if we could address every conceivable concern, disasters would still occur (after all, we can't think of everything) – only they would be accompanied, in the long run, by considerably less innovation and progress.

As Mr. Gerstein urges, though, we could all do more – in our personal and professional lives – to reduce error, learn from mistakes and resist the passive acceptance of a flawed status quo. The question is whether we're rational enough to respond to the challenge.

Dr. Shaywitz is a management consultant in New Jersey.
30950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: How to win the war of ideas on: June 24, 2008, 02:56:36 AM

How to Win the War of Ideas
June 24, 2008

Military action against insurgents, terrorists and those who give them safe harbor is essential. It is working now in Iraq, and has helped keep Americans safe since 9/11. But as President Bush's National Strategy for Combating Terrorism put it two years ago, "In the long run, winning the War on Terror means winning the battle of ideas."

Many of the strongest supporters of ideological engagement can be found in the Department of Defense, starting with Secretary Robert Gates, who reminded senators earlier this year that the Cold War was "as much a war of ideas as it was of military power." Unfortunately, since the rise of Islamic terror, we haven't done enough on this front.

That's changing. Throughout the government and the private sector, the war of ideas is in early renaissance. The enthusiasm is bipartisan, and we have the opportunity to leave a robust legacy for the next administration.

But what kind of war of ideas will fit the terrorist threat today? First, we need to get the goal straight.

While educational exchanges and other such efforts seek over the long term to encourage foreigners to adopt more generally favorable views of the United States, the war of ideas today should have a different, specific focus. The aim must be to ensure that negative sentiments and day-to-day grievances toward the U.S. and its allies do not manifest themselves in violence. We want to create an environment hostile to violent extremism, especially by severing links between al Qaeda and like-minded groups and their target audiences.

For starters, we should confront the ideology of violent extremism directly. The most credible voices here are those of Muslims themselves – especially Islamists – who have publicly disavowed al Qaeda's methods and theology. Lately such apostates include Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, who laid the foundation for the movement's bloody ideology and has now repudiated it, and Noman Benotman, a Libyan close to Osama bin Laden who rebuked al Qaeda bluntly last year.

Our public diplomacy efforts should encourage Muslims, individuals and groups, to spread the denunciations of violence by these men and others far and wide. But non-Muslim Americans themselves should not shrink from confidently opposing poisonous ideas either.

A second approach to the war of ideas may, in the long run, be even more effective. Call it "diversion."

The ideology that motivates al Qaeda and similar groups is based on the notion that believers have a duty to carry out the excommunication (and execution) of unbelievers, or even of those who collaborate with unbelievers, or refuse to resist them. This ideology posits a Manichean world, divided into two camps: one practicing the terrorists' version of Islam, the other not.

This is a fantasy, but a distressingly powerful one. Our vision is a pluralistic world with many peaceful and productive choices on how to order one's life. The task is not to persuade potential recruits to become like Americans or Europeans, but to divert them from becoming terrorists.

We do that by helping to build networks (virtual and physical) and countermovements – not just political but cultural, social, athletic and more: mothers against violence, video gamers, soccer enthusiasts, young entrepreneurs, Islamic democrats. For example, there is an emerging global network of families of Islamic victims of terrorist attacks. While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas needs to adopt the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from being recruited into violent extremism.

Unlike the containment policy of the Cold War, today's diversion policy may not primarily be the responsibility of government. My own job, as the interagency leader for the war of ideas, is to mobilize every possible American asset – public and private, human and technological – in the effort.

Where does Iran fit in? The pool of future suicide bombers and insurgents is sustained by people like the leadership of Iran. Both of the approaches I have outlined – ideological confrontation and diversion – should appeal to a proud and sophisticated Iranian population that is open to pluralistic ideas.

What we seek is a world in which the use of violence to achieve political, religious or social objectives is no longer considered acceptable, efforts to radicalize and recruit new members are no longer successful, and the perpetrators of violent extremism are condemned and isolated.

Military success is necessary, but it is not sufficient – for the simple reason that we face as an enemy not a single nation, or even a coalition, but a stateless global movement. Without a vigorous war of ideas, as we kill such adversaries others will take their place.

Mr. Glassman was sworn in on June 10 as under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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