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30901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Shariah-2 on: March 16, 2008, 11:10:02 AM

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Of course, merely declaring the ruler subject to the law was not enough on its own; the ruler actually had to follow the law. For that, he needed incentives. And as it happened, the system of government gave him a big one, in the form of a balance of power with the scholars. The ruler might be able to use pressure once in a while to get the results he wanted in particular cases. But because the scholars were in charge of the law, and he was not, the ruler could pervert the course of justice only at the high cost of being seen to violate God’s law — thereby undermining the very basis of his rule.

In practice, the scholars’ leverage to demand respect for the law came from the fact that the caliphate was not hereditary as of right. That afforded the scholars major influence at the transitional moments when a caliph was being chosen or challenged. On taking office, a new ruler — even one designated by his dead predecessor — had to fend off competing claimants. The first thing he would need was affirmation of the legitimacy of his assumption of power. The scholars were prepared to offer just that, in exchange for the ruler’s promise to follow the law.

Once in office, rulers faced the inevitable threat of invasion or a palace coup. The caliph would need the scholars to declare a religious obligation to protect the state in a defensive jihad. Having the scholars on his side in times of crisis was a tremendous asset for the ruler who could be said to follow the law. Even if the ruler was not law-abiding, the scholars still did not spontaneously declare a sitting caliph disqualified. This would have been foolish, especially in view of the fact that the scholars had no armies at their disposal and the sitting caliph did. But their silence could easily be interpreted as an invitation for a challenger to step forward and be validated.

The scholars’ insistence that the ruler obey Shariah was motivated largely by their belief that it was God’s will. But it was God’s will as they interpreted it. As a confident, self-defined elite that controlled and administered the law according to well-settled rules, the scholars were agents of stability and predictability — crucial in societies where the transition from one ruler to the next could be disorderly and even violent. And by controlling the law, the scholars could limit the ability of the executive to expropriate the property of private citizens. This, in turn, induced the executive to rely on lawful taxation to raise revenues, which itself forced the rulers to be responsive to their subjects’ concerns. The scholars and their law were thus absolutely essential to the tremendous success that Islamic society enjoyed from its inception into the 19th century. Without Shariah, there would have been no Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad, no golden age of Muslim Spain, no reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul.

For generations, Western students of the traditional Islamic constitution have assumed that the scholars could offer no meaningful check on the ruler. As one historian has recently put it, although Shariah functioned as a constitution, “the constitution was not enforceable,” because neither scholars nor subjects could “compel their ruler to observe the law in the exercise of government.” But almost no constitution anywhere in the world enables judges or nongovernmental actors to “compel” the obedience of an executive who controls the means of force. The Supreme Court of the United States has no army behind it. Institutions that lack the power of the sword must use more subtle means to constrain executives. Like the American constitutional balance of powers, the traditional Islamic balance was maintained by words and ideas, and not just by forcible compulsion.

So today’s Muslims are not being completely fanciful when they act and speak as though Shariah can structure a constitutional state subject to the rule of law. One big reason that Islamist political parties do so well running on a Shariah platform is that their constituents recognize that Shariah once augured a balanced state in which legal rights were respected.

From Shariah to Despotism


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But if Shariah is popular among many Muslims in large part because of its historical association with the rule of law, can it actually do the same work today? Here there is reason for caution and skepticism. The problem is that the traditional Islamic constitution rested on a balance of powers between a ruler subject to law and a class of scholars who interpreted and administered that law. The governments of most contemporary majority-Muslim states, however, have lost these features. Rulers govern as if they were above the law, not subject to it, and the scholars who once wielded so much influence are much reduced in status. If they have judicial posts at all, it is usually as judges in the family-law courts.

In only two important instances do scholars today exercise real power, and in both cases we can see a deviation from their traditional role. The first is Iran, where Ayatollah Khomeini, himself a distinguished scholar, assumed executive power and became supreme leader after the 1979 revolution. The result of this configuration, unique in the history of the Islamic world, is that the scholarly ruler had no counterbalance and so became as unjust as any secular ruler with no check on his authority. The other is Saudi Arabia, where the scholars retain a certain degree of power. The unfortunate outcome is that they can slow any government initiative for reform, however minor, but cannot do much to keep the government responsive to its citizens. The oil-rich state does not need to obtain tax revenues from its citizens to operate — and thus has little reason to keep their interests in mind.

How the scholars lost their exalted status as keepers of the law is a complex story, but it can be summed up in the adage that partial reforms are sometimes worse than none at all. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman empire responded to military setbacks with an internal reform movement. The most important reform was the attempt to codify Shariah. This Westernizing process, foreign to the Islamic legal tradition, sought to transform Shariah from a body of doctrines and principles to be discovered by the human efforts of the scholars into a set of rules that could be looked up in a book.

Once the law existed in codified form, however, the law itself was able to replace the scholars as the source of authority. Codification took from the scholars their all-important claim to have the final say over the content of the law and transferred that power to the state. To placate the scholars, the government kept the Shariah courts running but restricted them to handling family-law matters. This strategy paralleled the British colonial approach of allowing religious courts to handle matters of personal status. Today, in countries as far apart as Kenya and Pakistan, Shariah courts still administer family law — a small subset of their original historical jurisdiction.

Codification signaled the death knell for the scholarly class, but it did not destroy the balance of powers on its own. Promulgated in 1876, the Ottoman constitution created a legislature composed of two lawmaking bodies — one elected, one appointed by the sultan. This amounted to the first democratic institution in the Muslim world; had it established itself, it might have popularized the notion that the people represent the ultimate source of legal authority. Then the legislature could have replaced the scholars as the institutional balance to the executive.

But that was not to be. Less than a year after the legislature first met, Sultan Abdulhamid II suspended its operation — and for good measure, he suspended the constitution the following year. Yet the sultan did not restore the scholars to the position they once occupied. With the scholars out of the way and no legislature to replace them, the sultan found himself in the position of near-absolute ruler. This arrangement set the pattern for government in the Muslim world after the Ottoman empire fell. Law became a tool of the ruler, not an authority over him. What followed, perhaps unsurprisingly, was dictatorship and other forms of executive dominance — the state of affairs confronted by the Islamists who seek to restore Shariah.

A Democratic Shariah?

The Islamists today, partly out of realism, partly because they are rarely scholars themselves, seem to have little interest in restoring the scholars to their old role as the constitutional balance to the executive. The Islamist movement, like other modern ideologies, seeks to capture the existing state and then transform society through the tools of modern government. Its vision for bringing Shariah to bear therefore incorporates two common features of modern government: the legislature and the constitution.

The mainstream Sunni Islamist position, found, for example, in the electoral platforms of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco, is that an elected legislature should draft and pass laws that are consistent with the spirit of Islamic law. On questions where Islamic law does not provide clear direction, the democratically chosen legislature is supposed to use its discretion to adopt laws infused by Islamic values.

The result is a profound change in the theoretical structure underlying Islamic law: Shariah is democratized in that its care is given to a popularly elected legislature. In Iraq, for example, where the constitution declares Shariah to be “the source of law,” it is in principle up to the National Assembly to pass laws that reflect its spirit.


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In case the assembly gets it wrong, however, the Islamists often recommend the judicial review of legislative actions to guarantee that they do not violate Islamic law or values. What is sometimes called a “repugnancy clause,” mandating that a judicial body overturn laws repugnant to Islam, has made its way into several recent constitutions that seek to reconcile Islam and democracy. It may be found, for example, in the Afghan Constitution of 2004 and the Iraqi Constitution of 2005. (I had a small role advising the Iraqi drafters.) Islamic judicial review transforms the highest judicial body of the state into a guarantor of conformity with Islamic law. The high court can then use this power to push for a conservative vision of Islamic law, as in Afghanistan, or for a more moderate version, as in Pakistan.

Islamic judicial review puts the court in a position resembling the one that scholars once occupied. Like the scholars, the judges of the reviewing court present their actions as interpretations of Islamic law. But of course the judges engaged in Islamic judicial review are not the scholars but ordinary judges (as in Iraq) or a mix of judges and scholars (as in Afghanistan). In contrast to the traditional arrangement, the judges’ authority comes not from Shariah itself but from a written constitution that gives them the power of judicial review.

The modern incarnation of Shariah is nostalgic in its invocation of the rule of law but forward-looking in how it seeks to bring this result about. What the Islamists generally do not acknowledge, though, is that such institutions on their own cannot deliver the rule of law. The executive authority also has to develop a commitment to obeying legal and constitutional judgments. That will take real-world incentives, not just a warm feeling for the values associated with Shariah.

How that happens — how an executive administration accustomed to overweening power can be given incentives to subordinate itself to the rule of law — is one of the great mysteries of constitutional development worldwide. Total revolution has an extremely bad track record in recent decades, at least in majority-Muslim states. The revolution that replaced the shah in Iran created an oppressively top-heavy constitutional structure. And the equally revolutionary dreams some entertained for Iraq — dreams of a liberal secular state or of a functioning Islamic democracy — still seem far from fruition.

Gradual change therefore increasingly looks like the best of some bad options. And most of today’s political Islamists — the ones running for office in Morocco or Jordan or Egypt and even Iraq — are gradualists. They wish to adapt existing political institutions by infusing them with Islamic values and some modicum of Islamic law. Of course, such parties are also generally hostile to the United States, at least where we have worked against their interests. (Iraq is an obvious exception — many Shiite Islamists there are our close allies.) But this is a separate question from whether they can become a force for promoting the rule of law. It is possible to imagine the electoral success of Islamist parties putting pressure on executives to satisfy the demand for law-based government embodied in Koranic law. This might bring about a transformation of the judiciary, in which judges would come to think of themselves as agents of the law rather than as agents of the state.

Something of the sort may slowly be happening in Turkey. The Islamists there are much more liberal than anywhere else in the Muslim world; they do not even advocate the adoption of Shariah (a position that would get their government closed down by the staunchly secular military). Yet their central focus is the rule of law and the expansion of basic rights against the Turkish tradition of state-centered secularism. The courts are under increasing pressure to go along with that vision.

Can Shariah provide the necessary resources for such a rethinking of the judicial role? In its essence, Shariah aspires to be a law that applies equally to every human, great or small, ruler or ruled. No one is above it, and everyone at all times is bound by it. But the history of Shariah also shows that the ideals of the rule of law cannot be implemented in a vacuum. For that, a state needs actually effective institutions, which must be reinforced by regular practice and by the recognition of actors within the system that they have more to gain by remaining faithful to its dictates than by deviating from them.

The odds of success in the endeavor to deliver the rule of law are never high. Nothing is harder than creating new institutions with the capacity to balance executive dominance — except perhaps avoiding the temptation to overreach once in power. In Iran, the Islamists have discredited their faith among many ordinary people, and a similar process may be under way in Iraq. Still, with all its risks and dangers, the Islamists’ aspiration to renew old ideas of the rule of law while coming to terms with contemporary circumstances is bold and noble — and may represent a path to just and legitimate government in much of the Muslim world.

Noah Feldman, a contributing writer for the magazine, is a law professor at Harvard University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This essay is adapted from his book “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,” which will be published later this month.

30902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Shariah on: March 16, 2008, 11:08:15 AM
A Harvard Prof writes in the NY Times:

Why Shariah?
Published: March 16, 2008
Last month, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture in London about whether the British legal system should allow non-Christian courts to decide certain matters of family law. Britain has no constitutional separation of church and state. The archbishop noted that “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land” there; indeed, ecclesiastical courts that once handled marriage and divorce are still integrated into the British legal system, deciding matters of church property and doctrine. His tentative suggestion was that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.

The practical application of Shariah in most Muslim countries (as here, in this Egyptian courtroom) is in matters of family law.
Then all hell broke loose. From politicians across the spectrum to senior church figures and the ubiquitous British tabloids came calls for the leader of the world’s second largest Christian denomination to issue a retraction or even resign. Williams has spent the last couple of years trying to hold together the global Anglican Communion in the face of continuing controversies about ordaining gay priests and recognizing same-sex marriages. Yet little in that contentious battle subjected him to the kind of outcry that his reference to religious courts unleashed. Needless to say, the outrage was not occasioned by Williams’s mention of Orthodox Jewish law. For the purposes of public discussion, it was the word “Shariah” that was radioactive.

In some sense, the outrage about according a degree of official status to Shariah in a Western country should come as no surprise. No legal system has ever had worse press. To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed. By contrast, who today remembers that the much-loved English common law called for execution as punishment for hundreds of crimes, including theft of any object worth five shillings or more? How many know that until the 18th century, the laws of most European countries authorized torture as an official component of the criminal-justice system? As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.

In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act. The extremes of our own legal system — like life sentences for relatively minor drug crimes, in some cases — are routinely ignored. We neglect to mention the recent vintage of our tentative improvements in family law. It sometimes seems as if we need Shariah as Westerners have long needed Islam: as a canvas on which to project our ideas of the horrible, and as a foil to make us look good.

In the Muslim world, on the other hand, the reputation of Shariah has undergone an extraordinary revival in recent years. A century ago, forward-looking Muslims thought of Shariah as outdated, in need of reform or maybe abandonment. Today, 66 percent of Egyptians, 60 percent of Pakistanis and 54 percent of Jordanians say that Shariah should be the only source of legislation in their countries. Islamist political parties, like those associated with the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, make the adoption of Shariah the most prominent plank in their political platforms. And the message resonates. Wherever Islamists have been allowed to run for office in Arabic-speaking countries, they have tended to win almost as many seats as the governments have let them contest. The Islamist movement in its various incarnations — from moderate to radical — is easily the fastest growing and most vital in the Muslim world; the return to Shariah is its calling card.


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How is it that what so many Westerners see as the most unappealing and premodern aspect of Islam is, to many Muslims, the vibrant, attractive core of a global movement of Islamic revival? The explanation surely must go beyond the oversimplified assumption that Muslims want to use Shariah to reverse feminism and control women — especially since large numbers of women support the Islamists in general and the ideal of Shariah in particular.

Is Shariah the Rule of Law?

One reason for the divergence between Western and Muslim views of Shariah is that we are not all using the word to mean the same thing. Although it is commonplace to use the word “Shariah” and the phrase “Islamic law” interchangeably, this prosaic English translation does not capture the full set of associations that the term “Shariah” conjures for the believer. Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose. At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law.

In fact, “Shariah” is not the word traditionally used in Arabic to refer to the processes of Islamic legal reasoning or the rulings produced through it: that word is fiqh, meaning something like Islamic jurisprudence. The word “Shariah” connotes a connection to the divine, a set of unchanging beliefs and principles that order life in accordance with God’s will. Westerners typically imagine that Shariah advocates simply want to use the Koran as their legal code. But the reality is much more complicated. Islamist politicians tend to be very vague about exactly what it would mean for Shariah to be the source for the law of the land — and with good reason, because just adopting such a principle would not determine how the legal system would actually operate.

Shariah is best understood as a kind of higher law, albeit one that includes some specific, worldly commands. All Muslims would agree, for example, that it prohibits lending money at interest — though not investments in which risks and returns are shared; and the ban on Muslims drinking alcohol is an example of an unequivocal ritual prohibition, even for liberal interpreters of the faith. Some rules associated with Shariah are undoubtedly old-fashioned and harsh. Men and women are treated unequally, for example, by making it hard for women to initiate divorce without forfeiting alimony. The prohibition on sodomy, though historically often unenforced, makes recognition of same-sex relationships difficult to contemplate. But Shariah also prohibits bribery or special favors in court. It demands equal treatment for rich and poor. It condemns the vigilante-style honor killings that still occur in some Middle Eastern countries. And it protects everyone’s property — including women’s — from being taken from them. Unlike in Iran, where wearing a head scarf is legally mandated and enforced by special religious police, the Islamist view in most other Muslim countries is that the head scarf is one way of implementing the religious duty to dress modestly — a desirable social norm, not an enforceable legal rule. And mandating capital punishment for apostasy is not on the agenda of most elected Islamists. For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law.

The Sway of the Scholars

To understand Shariah’s deep appeal, we need to ask a crucial question that is rarely addressed in the West: What, in fact, is the system of Islamic law? In his lifetime, the Prophet Muhammad was both the religious and the political leader of the community of Muslim believers. His revelation, the Koran, contained some laws, pertaining especially to ritual matters and inheritance; but it was not primarily a legal book and did not include a lengthy legal code of the kind that can be found in parts of the Hebrew Bible. When the first generation of believers needed guidance on a subject that was not addressed by revelation, they went directly to Muhammad. He either answered of his own accord or, if he was unsure, awaited divine guidance in the form of a new revelation.

With the death of Muhammad, divine revelation to the Muslim community stopped. The role of the political-religious leader passed to a series of caliphs (Arabic for “substitute”) who stood in the prophet’s stead. That left the caliph in a tricky position when it came to resolving difficult legal matters. The caliph possessed Muhammad’s authority but not his access to revelation. It also left the community in something of a bind. If the Koran did not speak clearly to a particular question, how was the law to be determined?

The answer that developed over the first couple of centuries of Islam was that the Koran could be supplemented by reference to the prophet’s life — his sunna, his path. (The word “sunna” is the source of the designation Sunni — one who follows the prophet’s path.) His actions and words were captured in an oral tradition, beginning presumably with a person who witnessed the action or statement firsthand. Accurate reports had to be distinguished from false ones. But of course even a trustworthy report on a particular situation could not directly resolve most new legal problems that arose later. To address such problems, it was necessary to reason by analogy from one situation to another. There was also the possibility that a communal consensus existed on what to do under particular circumstances, and that, too, was thought to have substantial weight.


This fourfold combination — the Koran, the path of the prophet as captured in the collections of reports, analogical reasoning and consensus — amounted to a basis for a legal system. But who would be able to say how these four factors fit together? Indeed, who had the authority to say that these factors and not others formed the sources of the law? The first four caliphs, who knew the prophet personally, might have been able to make this claim for themselves. But after them, the caliphs were faced with a growing group of specialists who asserted that they, collectively, could ascertain the law from the available sources. This self-appointed group came to be known as the scholars — and over the course of a few generations, they got the caliphs to acknowledge them as the guardians of the law. By interpreting a law that originated with God, they gained control over the legal system as it actually existed. That made them, and not the caliphs, into “the heirs of the prophets.”

Among the Sunnis, this model took effect very early and persisted until modern times. For the Shiites, who believe that the succession of power followed the prophet’s lineage, the prophet had several successors who claimed extraordinary divine authority. Once they were gone, however, the Shiite scholars came to occupy a role not unlike that of their Sunni counterparts.

Under the constitutional theory that the scholars developed to explain the division of labor in the Islamic state, the caliph had paramount responsibility to fulfill the divine injunction to “command the right and prohibit the wrong.” But this was not a task he could accomplish on his own. It required him to delegate responsibility to scholarly judges, who would apply God’s law as they interpreted it. The caliph could promote or fire them as he wished, but he could not dictate legal results: judicial authority came from the caliph, but the law came from the scholars.

The caliphs — and eventually the sultans who came to rule once the caliphate lost most of its worldly influence — still had plenty of power. They handled foreign affairs more or less at their discretion. And they could also issue what were effectively administrative regulations — provided these regulations did not contradict what the scholars said Shariah required. The regulations addressed areas where Shariah was silent. They also enabled the state to regulate social conduct without having to put every case before the courts, where convictions would often be impossible to obtain because of the strict standards of proof required for punishment. As a result of these regulations, many legal matters (perhaps most) fell outside the rules given specifically by Shariah.

The upshot is that the system of Islamic law as it came to exist allowed a great deal of leeway. That is why today’s advocates of Shariah as the source of law are not actually recommending the adoption of a comprehensive legal code derived from or dictated by Shariah — because nothing so comprehensive has ever existed in Islamic history. To the Islamist politicians who advocate it or for the public that supports it, Shariah generally means something else. It means establishing a legal system in which God’s law sets the ground rules, authorizing and validating everyday laws passed by an elected legislature. In other words, for them, Shariah is expected to function as something like a modern constitution.

The Rights of Humans and the Rights of God

So in contemporary Islamic politics, the call for Shariah does not only or primarily mean mandating the veiling of women or the use of corporal punishment — it has an essential constitutional dimension as well. But what is the particular appeal of placing Shariah above ordinary law?

The answer lies in a little-remarked feature of traditional Islamic government: that a state under Shariah was, for more than a thousand years, subject to a version of the rule of law. And as a rule-of-law government, the traditional Islamic state had an advantage that has been lost in the dictatorships and autocratic monarchies that have governed so much of the Muslim world for the last century. Islamic government was legitimate, in the dual sense that it generally respected the individual legal rights of its subjects and was seen by them as doing so. These individual legal rights, known as “the rights of humans” (in contrast to “the rights of God” to such things as ritual obedience), included basic entitlements to life, property and legal process — the protections from arbitrary government oppression sought by people all over the world for centuries.

30903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's mom: "A FreeSprited Wanderer who set BO's Path" on: March 16, 2008, 10:37:23 AM
The NY Times does its part for the BO candidacy

In the capsule version of the Barack Obama story, his mother is simply the white woman from Kansas. The phrase comes coupled alliteratively to its counterpart, the black father from Kenya. On the campaign trail, he has called her his “single mom.” But neither description begins to capture the unconventional life of Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, the parent who most shaped Mr. Obama.

Kansas was merely a way station in her childhood, wheeling westward in the slipstream of her furniture-salesman father. In Hawaii, she married an African student at age 18. Then she married an Indonesian, moved to Jakarta, became an anthropologist, wrote an 800-page dissertation on peasant blacksmithing in Java, worked for the Ford Foundation, championed women’s work and helped bring microcredit to the world’s poor.

She had high expectations for her children. In Indonesia, she would wake her son at 4 a.m. for correspondence courses in English before school; she brought home recordings of Mahalia Jackson, speeches by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And when Mr. Obama asked to stay in Hawaii for high school rather than return to Asia, she accepted living apart — a decision her daughter says was one of the hardest in Ms. Soetoro’s life.

“She felt that somehow, wandering through uncharted territory, we might stumble upon something that will, in an instant, seem to represent who we are at the core,” said Maya Soetoro-Ng, Mr. Obama’s half-sister. “That was very much her philosophy of life — to not be limited by fear or narrow definitions, to not build walls around ourselves and to do our best to find kinship and beauty in unexpected places.”

Ms. Soetoro, who died of ovarian cancer in 1995, was the parent who raised Mr. Obama, the Illinois senator running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He barely saw his father after the age of 2. Though it is impossible to pinpoint the imprint of a parent on the life of a grown child, people who knew Ms. Soetoro well say they see her influence unmistakably in Mr. Obama.

They were close, her friends and his half-sister say, though they spent much of their lives with oceans or continents between them. He would not be where he is today, he has said, had it not been for her. Yet he has also made some different choices — marrying into a tightly knit African-American family rooted in the South Side of Chicago, becoming a churchgoing Christian, publicly recounting his search for his identity as a black man.

Some of what he has said about his mother seems tinged with a mix of love and regret. He has said his biggest mistake was not being at her bedside when she died. And when The Associated Press asked the candidates about “prized keepsakes” — others mentioned signed baseballs, a pocket watch, a “trophy wife” — Mr. Obama said his was a photograph of the cliffs of the South Shore of Oahu in Hawaii where his mother’s ashes were scattered.

“I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book — less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life,” he wrote in the preface to his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” He added, “I know that she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her.”

In a campaign in which Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has made liberal use of his globe-trotting 96-year-old mother to answer suspicions that he might be an antique at 71, Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, invokes his mother’s memory sparingly. In one television advertisement, she appears fleetingly — porcelain-skinned, raven-haired and holding her toddler son. “My mother died of cancer at 53,” he says in the ad, which focuses on health care. “In those last painful months, she was more worried about paying her medical bills than getting well.”

‘A Very, Very Big Thinker’

He has described her as a teenage mother, a single mother, a mother who worked, went to school and raised children at the same time. He has credited her with giving him a great education and confidence in his ability to do the right thing. But, in interviews, friends and colleagues of Ms. Soetoro shed light on a side of her that is less well known.

“She was a very, very big thinker,” said Nancy Barry, a former president of Women’s World Banking, an international network of microfinance providers, where Ms. Soetoro worked in New York City in the early 1990s. “I think she was not at all personally ambitious, I think she cared about the core issues, and I think she was not afraid to speak truth to power.”

Her parents were from Kansas — her mother from Augusta, her father from El Dorado, a place Mr. Obama first visited in a campaign stop in January. Stanley Ann (her father wanted a boy so he gave her his name) was born on an Army base during World War II. The family moved to California, Kansas, Texas and Washington in restless pursuit of opportunity before landing in Honolulu in 1960.

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Courtesy of the Obama Family
Ms. Soetoro, right, during her trip to Indonesia from 1988 to 1992. She married an Indonesian, moved to Jakarta and became an anthropologist.

The Long Run
A Mother’s Influence
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

Previous Articles in the Series »
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Milestones: Barack Obama
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Courtesy of the Obama Family
Ms. Soetoro during her field trip from 1988 to 1992. She died in 1995 of cancer.
In a Russian class at the University of Hawaii, she met the college’s first African student, Barack Obama. They married and had a son in August 1961, in an era when interracial marriage was rare in the United States. Her parents were upset, Senator Obama learned years later from his mother, but they adapted. “I am a little dubious of the things that people from foreign countries tell me,” the senator’s grandmother told an interviewer several years ago.

The marriage was brief. In 1963, Mr. Obama left for Harvard, leaving his wife and child. She then married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student. When he was summoned home in 1966 after the turmoil surrounding the rise of Suharto, Ms. Soetoro and Barack followed.

Those choices were not entirely surprising, said several high school friends of Ms. Soetoro, whom they remembered as unusually intelligent, curious and open. She never dated “the crew-cut white boys,” said one friend, Susan Blake: “She had a world view, even as a young girl. It was embracing the different, rather than that ethnocentric thing of shunning the different. That was where her mind took her.”

Her second marriage faded, too, in the 1970s. Ms. Soetoro wanted to work, one friend said, and Mr. Soetoro wanted more children. He became more American, she once said, as she became more Javanese. “There’s a Javanese belief that if you’re married to someone and it doesn’t work, it will make you sick,” said Alice G. Dewey, an anthropologist and friend. “It’s just stupid to stay married.”

That both unions ended is beside the point, some friends suggested. Ms. Soetoro remained loyal to both husbands and encouraged her children to feel connected to their fathers. (In reading drafts of her son’s memoir, Mr. Obama has said, she did not comment upon his depiction of her but was “quick to explain or defend the less flattering aspects of my father’s character.”)

“She always felt that marriage as an institution was not particularly essential or important,” said Nina Nayar, who later became a close friend of Ms. Soetoro. What mattered to her, Ms. Nayar said, was to have loved deeply.

By 1974, Ms. Soetoro was back in Honolulu, a graduate student and raising Barack and Maya, nine years younger. Barack was on scholarship at a prestigious prep school, Punahou. When Ms. Soetoro decided to return to Indonesia three years later for her field work, Barack chose not to go.

“I doubted what Indonesia now had to offer and wearied of being new all over again,” he wrote in his memoir. “More than that, I’d arrived at an unspoken pact with my grandparents: I could live with them and they’d leave me alone so long as I kept my trouble out of sight.” During those years, he was “engaged in a fitful interior struggle. I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America.” Ms. Soetoro-Ng recalled her mother’s quandary. “She wanted him to be with her,” Ms. Soetoro-Ng said. But she added: “Although it was painful to be separated from him for his last four years of high school, she recognized that it was perhaps the best thing for him. And she had to go to Indonesia at that time.”

That time apart was hard for both mother and son.

“She longed for him,” said Georgia McCauley, who became a friend of Ms. Soetoro in Jakarta. Barack spent summers and Christmas vacations with his mother; they communicated by letters, his illustrated with cartoons. Her first topic of conversation was always her son, her female friends said. As for him, he was grappling with questions of racial identity, alienation and belonging.

“There were certainly times in his life in those four years when he could have used her presence on a more daily basis,” Ms. Soetoro-Ng said. “But I think he did all right for himself.”


Fluent in Indonesian, Ms. Soetoro moved with Maya first to Yogyakarta, the center of Javanese handicrafts. A weaver in college, she was fascinated with what Ms. Soetoro-Ng calls “life’s gorgeous minutiae.” That interest inspired her study of village industries, which became the basis of her 1992 doctoral dissertation.

"She loved living in Java,” said Dr. Dewey, who recalled accompanying Ms. Soetoro to a metalworking village. “People said: ‘Hi! How are you?’ She said: ‘How’s your wife? Did your daughter have the baby?’ They were friends. Then she’d whip out her notebook and she’d say: ‘How many of you have electricity? Are you having trouble getting iron?’ ”

She became a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development on setting up a village credit program, then a Ford Foundation program officer in Jakarta specializing in women’s work. Later, she was a consultant in Pakistan, then joined Indonesia’s oldest bank to work on what is described as the world’s largest sustainable microfinance program, creating services like credit and savings for the poor.

Visitors flowed constantly through her Ford Foundation office in downtown Jakarta and through her house in a neighborhood to the south, where papaya and banana trees grew in the front yard and Javanese dishes like opor ayam were served for dinner. Her guests were leaders in the Indonesian human rights movement, people from women’s organizations, representatives of community groups doing grass-roots development.

“I didn’t know a lot of them and would often ask after, ‘Who was that?’ ” said David S. McCauley, now an environmental economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila, who had the office next door. “You’d find out it was the head of some big organization in with thousands of members from central Java or someplace, somebody that she had met some time ago, and they would make a point of coming to see her when they came to Jakarta.”

An Exacting Idealist

As a mother, Ms. Soetoro was both idealistic and exacting. Friends describe her as variously informal and intense, humorous and hardheaded. She preached to her young son the importance of honesty, straight talk, independent judgment. When he balked at her early-morning home schooling, she retorted, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

When Barack was in high school, she confronted him about his seeming lack of ambition, Mr. Obama wrote. He could get into any college in the country, she told him, with just a little effort. (“Remember what that’s like? Effort?”) He says he looked at her, so earnest and sure of his destiny: “I suddenly felt like puncturing that certainty of hers, letting her know that her experiment with me had failed.”

Ms. Soetoro-Ng, who herself became an anthropologist, remembers conversations with her mother about philosophy or politics, books, esoteric Indonesian woodworking motifs. One Christmas in Indonesia, Ms. Soetoro found a scrawny tree and decorated it with red and green chili peppers and popcorn balls.

“She gave us a very broad understanding of the world,” her daughter said. “She hated bigotry. She was very determined to be remembered for a life of service and thought that service was really the true measure of a life.” Many of her friends see her legacy in Mr. Obama — in his self-assurance and drive, his boundary bridging, even his apparent comfort with strong women. Some say she changed them, too.

“I feel she taught me how to live,” said Ms. Nayar, who was in her 20s when she met Ms. Soetoro at Women’s World Banking. “She was not particularly concerned about what society would say about working women, single women, women marrying outside their culture, women who were fearless and who dreamed big.”

The Final Months

After her diagnosis, Ms. Soetoro spent the last months of her life in Hawaii, near her mother. (Her father had died.) Mr. Obama has recalled talking with her in her hospital bed about her fears of ending up broke. She was not ready to die, he has said. Even so, she helped him and Maya “push on with our lives, despite our dread, our denials, our sudden constrictions of the heart.”

She died in November 1995, as Mr. Obama was starting his first campaign for public office. After a memorial service at the University of Hawaii, one friend said, a small group of friends drove to the South Shore in Oahu. With the wind whipping the waves onto the rocks, Mr. Obama and Ms. Soetoro-Ng placed their mother’s ashes in the Pacific, sending them off in the direction of Indonesia

30904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in Spain on: March 16, 2008, 10:15:10 AM
Its the NY Times, so the tone of the piece is what you would expect.  Still some worthy point to be gleaned.

LLEIDA, Spain — As prayer time approached on a chilly Friday afternoon and men drifted toward the mosque on North Street, Hocine Kouitene hauled open its huge steel doors.

As places of worship go, the crudely converted garage leaves much to be desired, said Mr. Kouitene, vice president of the Islamic Association for Union and Cooperation in Lleida, a prosperous medieval town in northeastern Spain surrounded by fruit farms that are a magnet for immigrant workers. Freezing in winter and stifling in summer, the prayer hall is so cramped that the congregation, swollen to 1,000 from 50 over the past five years, sometimes spills onto the street.

“It’s just not the same to pray in a garage as it is to pray in a proper mosque,” said Mr. Kouitene, an imposing Algerian in a long, black coat and white head scarf. “We want a place where we can pray comfortably, without bothering anybody.”

Although Spain is peppered with the remnants of ancient mosques, most Muslims gather in dingy apartments, warehouses and garages like the one on North Street, pressed into service as prayer halls to accommodate a ballooning population.

The mosque shortage stems partly from the lack of resources common to any relatively poor, rapidly growing immigrant group. But in several places, Muslims trying to build mosques have also met resistance from communities wary of an alien culture or fearful they will foster violent radicals.

Distrust sharpened after a group of Islamists bombed commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004, killing 191 people, and in several cities, local governments, cowed by angry opposition from non-Muslims, have blocked Muslim groups from acquiring land for mosques.

The result, Muslim leaders say, is that some Muslims feel anchorless and marginalized.

“A proper mosque would act as a focus, a reference point for Islam here,” said Mohammed Halhoul, spokesman for the Catalan Islamic Council. A quarter of Spain’s Muslims live in Catalonia, the northeastern region that is home to Lleida, but the area has no real mosques.

“I feel like a Catalan,” Mr. Halhoul said, “except when it comes to the question of the mosque.”

Muslims ruled much of Spain for centuries, but after they were ultimately vanquished in the 1400s, their mosques were either left to ruin or converted into churches. Since then, fewer than a dozen new mosques have been built to serve Spain’s Muslim population, which has grown in the past 10 years to about one million from about 50,000 as immigrants have poured into the country.

That rise has coincided with a decline in church attendance in overwhelmingly Catholic Spain, giving new echo to an old rivalry between the two religions. It was the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, who defeated the last Moorish ruler in Spain in 1492 and oversaw the expulsion of Jews and Muslims. Now, as churches struggle to draw a dwindling flock, Muslim prayer halls are overflowing.

“The reality of this country has changed much faster than that of other countries,” Ángel Ros, Lleida’s mayor, said in an interview. “A process that took 30 years in Italy or France has taken 10 years in Spain.”

Lleida is a case in point: a city whose 13th-century cathedral looms from a fortified hilltop over plains that produce half of Spain’s pears and apples, it has drawn a flood of immigrants. They now make up nearly a fifth of the city’s 125,000 residents, compared with 4 percent in 2000. A quarter of them are from Muslim countries. Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, has replaced Saturday as a day off in addition to Sunday on many local farms.

The North Street prayer hall faced opposition from the outset. Marta Roigé, head of the local neighborhood association, said residents tried to block it five years ago by renting the garage themselves, but backed down after the landlord started a bidding war. They have since sued the local council to close it down on the basis that it is a health and safety hazard.


“The tension has grown as the numbers have grown,” Ms. Roigé said. “They’ve set up shops, butchers, long-distance call centers and restaurants.” These businesses, catering to Muslim immigrants, line the surrounding streets.

Skip to next paragraph
The New York Times
The immigrant population has soared recently in Lleida.
She added: “They are radicals, fundamentalists. They don’t want to integrate.”

Muslim leaders, however, say the lack of proper mosques is one barrier to integration. And Spanish authorities and Muslim leaders say the potential for extremism would be easier to monitor at fewer, larger mosques than at the 600 or so prayer halls scattered throughout the country.

Some Muslim leaders believe the tide is starting to turn in their bid to return minarets to Spanish skylines. Following a pact between the Islamic Association and Lleida’s town hall in December, the city may become the first in Catalonia to build a mosque.

The association secured a 50-year lease on a plot of government land on the edge of town, and Mr. Kouitene says the group hopes to break ground next year if it can raise the money.

Several other Muslim communities are on the verge of similar breakthroughs. In the southern city of Seville, Muslims are close to obtaining a plot of land for a mosque after years of bitter local resistance; in 2005 protesters dumped a pig’s head on a plot originally chosen.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition in Catalonia submitted a bill in the regional parliament in December that would oblige local governments to set aside land for mosques and other places of worship. Representatives of Muslim organizations hope it will inspire a similar national law.

“People are realizing the world has changed and they can’t look the other way,” said Mohammed Chaib, a member of the Catalan parliament and the only Muslim lawmaker in Spain.

Some Catholic clerics see things differently. Cardinal Luis Martínez Sistach, archbishop of Barcelona, opposes the bill, which would entitle all religious groups to land on an equal basis. He argues that Catholicism requires different rules.

“A church, a synagogue or a mosque are not the same thing,” he said, according to the conservative Spanish newspaper ABC. The bill, he said, “impinges on our ability to exercise a fundamental right, that of religious liberty.”

While no law on religious land use exists, the wealthy Catholic Church faces no difficulty acquiring land, experts in law and religion say.

Álex Seglers, an expert on church-state relations, is skeptical that the bill will be effective. The bill is vague and gives local governments too much discretion over what land it provides to which group, he says.

For the worshipers at North Street, the next big hurdle is money. Spain’s secular state cannot finance religious buildings, though it has a special arrangement to subsidize the Catholic Church.

“We have a saying in our religion,” Mr. Kouitene said. “Anywhere there are even a few Muslims, you must build a mosque for joint prayer. Otherwise, the devil rules in that place.”

Mayor Ros, for one, welcomes the building.

“We used to have a dominant religion, and now we have many religions and we have to find a way of respecting that fact,” he said. “Churches were the great public works of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance. Now I see a day when every large city in Spain will have a mosque.”
30905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 15, 2008, 09:49:23 PM

 March 14, 2008

Obama and the Minister

March 14, 2008; Page A19

In a sermon delivered at Howard University, Barack Obama's longtime minister, friend and adviser blamed America for starting the AIDS virus, training professional killers, importing drugs and creating a racist society that would never elect a black candidate president.

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Mr. Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, gave the sermon at the school's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Washington on Jan. 15, 2006.

Trinity United Church of Christ/Religion News Service
Sen. Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright

"We've got more black men in prison than there are in college," he began. "Racism is alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run. No black man will ever be considered for president, no matter how hard you run Jesse [Jackson] and no black woman can ever be considered for anything outside what she can give with her body."

Mr. Wright thundered on: "America is still the No. 1 killer in the world. . . . We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers . . . We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Ghadhafi . . . We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God."
His voice rising, Mr. Wright said, "We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians and branding anybody who spoke out against it as being anti-Semitic. . . . We care nothing about human life if the end justifies the means. . . ."

Concluding, Mr. Wright said: "We started the AIDS virus . . . We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty. . . ."
Considering this view of America, it's not surprising that in December Mr. Wright's church gave an award to Louis Farrakhan for lifetime achievement. In the church magazine, Trumpet, Mr. Wright spoke glowingly of the Nation of Islam leader. "His depth on analysis [sic] when it comes to the racial ills of this nation is astounding and eye-opening," Mr. Wright said of Mr. Farrakhan. "He brings a perspective that is helpful and honest."
After Newsmax broke the story of the award to Farrakhan on Jan. 14, Mr. Obama issued a statement. However, Mr. Obama ignored the main point: that his minister and friend had spoken adoringly of Mr. Farrakhan, and that Mr. Wright's church was behind the award to the Nation of Islam leader.

Instead, Mr. Obama said, "I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree." Trumpet is owned and produced by Mr. Wright's church out of the church's offices, and Mr. Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor.

Meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland on Feb. 24, Mr. Obama described Mr. Wright as being like "an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with." He rarely mentions the points of disagreement.

Mr. Obama went on to explain Mr. Wright's anti-Zionist statements as being rooted in his anger over the Jewish state's support for South Africa under its previous policy of apartheid. As with his previous claim that his church gave the award to Mr. Farrakhan because of his work with ex-offenders, Mr. Obama appears to have made that up.

Neither the presentation of the award nor the Trumpet article about the award mentions ex-offenders, and Mr. Wright's statements denouncing Israel have not been qualified in any way. Mr. Obama nonetheless told the Jewish leaders that the award to Mr. Farrakhan "showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community." That is an understatement.

As for Mr. Wright's repeated comments blaming America for the 9/11 attacks because of what Mr. Wright calls its racist and violent policies, Mr. Obama has said it sounds as if the minister was trying to be "provocative."

Hearing Mr. Wright's venomous and paranoid denunciations of this country, the vast majority of Americans would walk out. Instead, Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle have presumably sat through numerous similar sermons by Mr. Wright.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has described Mr. Wright as his "sounding board" during the two decades he has known him. Mr. Obama has said he found religion through the minister in the 1980s. He joined the church in 1991 and walked down the aisle in a formal commitment of faith.

The title of Mr. Obama's bestseller "The Audacity of Hope" comes from one of Wright's sermons. Mr. Wright is one of the first people Mr. Obama thanked after his election to the Senate in 2004. Mr. Obama consulted Mr. Wright before deciding to run for president. He prayed privately with Mr. Wright before announcing his candidacy last year.

Mr. Obama obviously would not choose to belong to Mr. Wright's church and seek his advice unless he agreed with at least some of his views. In light of Mr. Wright's perspective, Michelle Obama's comment that she feels proud of America for the first time in her adult life makes perfect sense.

Much as most of us would appreciate the symbolism of a black man ascending to the presidency, what we have in Barack Obama is a politician whose closeness to Mr. Wright underscores his radical record.

The media have largely ignored Mr. Obama's close association with Mr. Wright. This raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country. Those questions deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far.

Mr. Kessler, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reporter, is chief Washington correspondent of and the author of "The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack" (Crown Forum, 2007).
30906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gone Camping on: March 14, 2008, 05:03:31 PM
Woof All:

I will be camping with my son through Sunday, so in my absence please carry on.

30907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 14, 2008, 01:21:05 PM
What is confusing to me here is that in Euro America, the second name is the middle name and the third name is the family name, whereas in Latino names, the second name is the family name and the third name is the maternal family name.

Thus my name is Marc Frederick Denny in Euro, but in Latino it is Marc Denny S____. (left bland for security reasons)

What is the case in Barack's case?
30908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Clinton Runaround on: March 14, 2008, 01:17:18 PM
Have you ever been to a government office to pick up a document -- your driver's license, say -- only to be sent to another window, where the clerk sends you to another window, where a clerk sends you back to the first to start all over again?

That's what it feels like these days asking Bill and Hillary Clinton about their White House records. Last weekend, USA Today reported that it had finally received some records from the Clinton Presidency four years after making a Freedom of Information Act request. Except that hundreds of pages pertaining to the handling of Bill Clinton's 140 last-minute pardons had been redacted or withheld by the helpful folks at the National Archives.

The Archives told USA Today that they had referred all the excluded and redacted material to lawyer Bruce Lindsey, the longtime keeper of Clinton secrets who's responsible for vetting the records. But Mr. Lindsey refused; apparently he doesn't want to second-guess the Archives. The Clintons themselves, meanwhile, say that everything is in the hands of the Archives and Mr. Lindsey, even though the Archives are acting pursuant to Bill's personal instructions, and those instructions include a provision to allow Mr. Lindsay to second-guess the Archivists.

If you can't easily follow all that, maybe that's the idea.

Last October, NBC's Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton about the White House records at a debate. Her answer: "The Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves." So, while she is "fully in favor" of releasing the records from her time in the White House, those bureaucrats were holding things up. As for the records that her husband had requested remain under seal until 2012, as permitted under the law, "That's not my decision to make," she said. In other words, you'll have to ask at Window 14.

Then in February, Mr. Russert asked again, noting that the Archives had actually turned over 10,000 pages of documents about Hillary Clinton's schedule as first lady to the Clintons for their review, and they were sitting on them. Her answer was again, in effect, "It's not my job."

Those scheduling records are now due to be made public later this month, but the pardon records are stuck in limbo. The Archivists say that it's up to Mr. Lindsey, but also that Mr. Lindsey won't look at them. The Clintons say its up to the Archives, and Mr. Lindsey -- well, his window is closed, we guess.

Then there's the question of the donors to the Clinton Foundation, which raised more than $135 million last year alone. Hillary Clinton says she's in favor of a law that would require disclosure of the donors to Presidential foundations. So what about voluntarily disclosing while a candidate what she favors making mandatory after she's elected? "Well, you'll have to ask them," she said back in September, referring to the foundation. Who runs the foundation? Why, Bruce Lindsey, of course.

So, has Mrs. Clinton suggested that Mr. Lindsey and Bill do the disclosure that she claims to favor? "Well," she told Mr. Russert in New Hampshire in September, "I don't talk about my private conversations with my husband." In other words, this window is now also closed -- at least until the election is over.

30909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 14, 2008, 01:15:57 PM
Home Alone on Earmarks

John McCain may be cruising to a presidential nomination, but he holds limited clout in the chamber he has worked in for over 20 years. Last night, the Senate turned back one of his pet projects, a proposed one-year moratorium on earmarks.

The vote, which technically was on a procedural motion, wasn't even close, with 71 senators voting against the motion by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and 29 in favor. Mr. McCain, who has made opposition to pork-barrel spending a highlight of his presidential campaign, couldn't even sway a majority of GOP Senators to his side. He did bag a surprise supporter in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime member of the Appropriations Committee, who has traditionally defended earmarks.

Democratic Senators clearly are betting that attacks on pork-barrel spending won't resonate with voters this fall. Only three Democrats joined with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, last-minute converts to the anti-pork barrel cause.

Senator McCain said the defeat of the moratorium proved Congress was "the last bastion in America that doesn't get it" regarding government spending. "It wasn't the war in Iraq that caused [the GOP] to lose in 2006, it was the wasteful, pork-barrel spending," he told reporters. "Ask any county Republican chairman in America. Ask any Republican operative in America."

Senator McCain says he still plans to target outrageous government spending as a campaign issue. He just won't be doing it with much support from his Senate colleagues, which may help him even more easily portray himself as someone who would shake up Beltway practices.

-- John Fund

Eliot Aftermath?

How efficient is the Clinton campaign machine? According to RadarOnline, Hillary Clinton's crack Web team had purged Eliot Spitzer's endorsement from the campaign site less than an hour after the New York Times broke the story of his "involvement" with a prostitution ring Monday.

So far, Mrs. Clinton has declined to comment on the Governor's alleged assignations, beyond a terse remark that her thoughts were with his family. But she probably won't be able to dodge the issue if Mr. Spitzer is indicted -- or if a debate catches fire in the media over prostitution, misogyny and related gender concerns. This is touchy territory for Mrs. Clinton, given her own husband's philandering. A Monica-esque debate about powerful older men and vulnerable young women would hardly be a convenient subject right now for the Clinton campaign.

Mrs. Clinton may have airbrushed the New York Governor from her campaign site, but with at least two debates coming up before the crucial Pennsylvania primary, Mrs. Clinton will be lucky if she doesn't have to offer a more elaborate denunciation of Mr. Spitzer's actions.

-- Brian M. Carney

Minister of Hate

Mitt Romney was constantly challenged about the tenets of his Mormon faith and its past treatment of blacks, and finally under pressure had to give a speech in which he discussed the influence of his religious beliefs on his political actions.

Barack Obama says on the campaign trail that his campaign transcends race, but he has refused to discuss beyond cursory comments what he thinks about his own pastor's wild hate speech -- speech that includes dark racial overtones.

Mr. Obama has attended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for some 20 years, and has attended countless sermons there. But when a Jewish group in Ohio confronted him with a list of outrageous statements by Rev. Wright, including calling on blacks to sing "God Damn America" for giving the minority community drugs and engaging in "state terrorism," Mr. Obama more or less waved away the objections.

"I don't think my church is actually particularly controversial," he told the group. He said Rev. Wright "is like an old uncle who says things I don't always agree with," adding that everyone has someone like that in their family.

Mr. Obama won't comment specifically on Rev. Wright's denunciations of the United States, but he did authorize a campaign aide to say that he "repudiated" those comments.

But in presidential politics, that won't be good enough. In a summary of Wright sermons that Ron Kessler offers in today's Wall Street Journal, it's clear that Mr. Obama's pastor has done far more than merely speak favorably of Louis Farrakhan. On the Sunday after 9/11, Rev. Wright mounted his pulpit and claimed that the U.S. itself had brought on the attacks because of its own history of terrorism. "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," he told his congregation. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human."

At some point, in some venue, Mr. Obama is going to have to give a speech directly addressing his longtime pastor's views and answering a simple question: Why didn't he find another church that didn't include a leader who so frequently engaged in such hate speech?

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"The Democrats also must enjoy this bit of trivia: They now control the district that includes the birthplace and boyhood home of the late President Ronald Reagan, the leading Republican icon of our day. But it is the practical political details of the GOP's loss in Illinois 14 that suggest how far the party has slipped.... For starters, it's not just that Hastert long-dominated the district. He personally had the current district drawn in hopes of securing the Republican Party's longstanding hold.... Prior to the 2006 turning point in national partisan politics, the idea of Democrat Foster winning in this improbable place might have seemed laughable" -- Congressional Quarterly's Bob Benenson on this week's special election victory of Democrat Bill Foster in a seat held by retired former GOP House Speaker Denny Hastert.

Quote of the Day II

"The pillars of American liberalism -- the Democratic Party, the universities and the mass media -- are obsessed with biological markers, most particularly race and gender. They have insisted, moreover, that pedagogy and culture and politics be just as seized with the primacy of these distinctions and with the resulting 'privileging' that allegedly haunts every aspect of our social relations. They have gotten their wish. This primary campaign represents the full flowering of identity politics. It's not a pretty picture. Geraldine Ferraro says Obama is only where he is because he's black. Professor Orlando Patterson says the 3 a.m. phone call ad is not about a foreign policy crisis but a subliminal Klan-like appeal to the fear of 'black men lurking in the bushes around white society.' Good grief." -- Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Counting Down the Blue Dogs

November poses daunting prospects for the House GOP. Until yesterday, only five Democrats were retiring from their seats, while 24 Republicans were leaving. Now comes the sixth Democratic retirement, and this one may be a gift to Republicans.

Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer, of Huntsville, is calling it quits after nine terms. Among the last of the Blue Dogs, he easily held down a seat in his state's 5th district despite a heavy Republican lean. George W. Bush won 60% of the vote in 2004 even as Mr. Cramer was reelected with the 73%. As recently as January he was obliged to tell AP he wasn't thinking of changing parties: "I've always been a conservative Democrat who's been a bit of a thorn in the side of our leadership. I'll continue to be a thorn in the side of our leadership."

A thorn no more. His departure not only puts his party at high risk of losing a seat; he will be missed by its dwindling number of conservative voices and also by Nasa, which always had a friend on the appropriations committee. Mr. Cramer's announcement was undoubtedly intended to catch both Democrats and Republicans by surprise. With a June primary scheduled, would-be successors will have to make up their minds quickly and file for an April 4 deadline. Should he choose to make one, Mr. Cramer's endorsement would likely be especially influential in such a contest.

He says only that he's retiring to "spend more time with my family and begin another chapter in my life." Mr. Cramer may not have been thrilled with the direction of his now-majority party under ultraliberal Nancy Pelosi, but a likelier motive for leaving is to make some money. He has spent the past 36 years as an army tank officer, county prosecutor and Member of Congress, none of which (under normal circumstances) is highly lucrative.

-- Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

30910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: March 14, 2008, 01:03:14 PM
I'll be Cub Scout camping with my son for thre days  cool so I will be MIA around here.
30911  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights on: March 14, 2008, 01:02:06 PM
We have a winner!

What was the story you heard?
30912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / This looks very promising on: March 13, 2008, 11:25:15 PM
30913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney on Hannity on: March 13, 2008, 08:12:36 PM
A couple of nights ago Mitt Romney was interviewed at length by Sean Hannity.

I was VERY impressed by the man.  He spoke with a depth that spoke to me of spiritual grounding.   Amongst other things, he essentially offered himself to be McCain's Veep.  Given the heated battle between the two men, this can seem hard to imagine if you hadn't seen the interview, but the way Romney handled himself in the interview made it seem quite plausible indeed.
30914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 13, 2008, 07:58:22 PM
Question:  What was Barack's father's family name?  Hussein or Obama?
30915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 13, 2008, 07:57:14 PM
Political Diary
James Taranto will return Monday, March 17. While he's away, please enjoy complimentary access to the WSJ's subscription newsletter, Political Diary.
March 13, 2008
Is a 'Dump Hillary' Movement Starting to Crystallize?

Hillary Clinton doesn't easily apologize. But she did last night, telling a group of more than 200 black newspaper editors that she was sorry about comments made by her supporters that have upset African-Americans.

"I am sorry if anyone was offended," she said of remarks by her husband comparing Barack Obama's victory in the South Carolina primary to that of Jesse Jackson in the 1980s. "We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama."

She went on to "repudiate" remarks that Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and 1984 Democratic vice-presidential running-mate, made suggesting Mr. Obama would not have been so successful if he were white. Mrs. Clinton pointed out that Mrs. Ferraro had resigned her post with the Clinton finance committee.

Mrs. Clinton made her retreat on the same night that one of her most stalwart liberal supporters turned on her. In a blistering "special comment" tacked on to his MSNBC show, host Keith Olbermann accused Mrs. Clinton of "now campaigning as if Barack Obama were the Democrat, and you were the Republican." Mr. Olbermann didn't mince words -- he accused Clinton advisers of sending "Senator Clinton's campaign back into the vocabulary of David Duke." He tagged Team Clinton with "slowly killing the chances for any Democrat to become president" with its divisive campaign tactics.

While Ms. Ferraro's words were certainly inartful, no one in their right mind believes they should be compared with the rhetoric of David Duke. The fact that former Clinton allies such as Mr. Olbermann are becoming so apoplectic is a sure sign that Mrs. Clinton is wearing out her welcome on the primary stage in many quarters.

-- John Fund

On School Choice, New Guv Is Anything But a Knee-Jerk Democrat

Lt. Gov. David Paterson will become New York's governor next Monday at noon. But while news reports have focused on the trailblazing aspects of his rise -- he will become the state's first African-American governor and the first legally blind governor of any state -- Albany politicos are talking about how policy priorities will change under Mr. Paterson.

On many levels, Mr. Paterson is likely to be even more liberal than Eliot Spitzer. Rick Brookhiser of National Review calls him "liberal to the marrow." The new governor opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and wants to revise the state's harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws. Last year, he stirred up controversy when he appeared to endorse a proposal to let legal residents who were non-citizens have the right to vote. Even pro-immigrant Mayor Mike Bloomberg refused to join that crusade, asking: "If voting is given to everybody, what's the point of becoming a citizen?" On taxes, Mr. Paterson is likely to be even more in favor than Mr. Spitzer of redistribution and tax hikes targeted at the "wealthy."

But on at least one issue, Mr. Paterson breaks from liberal orthodoxy. He is passionately in favor of school choice and has even spoken at two conferences held by the Alliance for School Choice. At one, he pulled off the rare feat of quoting both Martin Luther King Jr. and individualistic philosopher Ayn Rand approvingly in the same speech.

Here's hoping Mr. Paterson puts education reform ahead of tax policy as he draws up his list of priorities.

-- John Fund

It Pours, Man, It Pours

The news just keeps getting worse for Republicans in Congress: After losing a Congressional seat that once belonged to former Speaker Dennis Hastert in Illinois, the party lost what may have been a winnable seat in Indiana. Adding insult to injury, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $1.2 million losing the Illinois race and yet didn't spend a penny in Indiana despite its candidate getting slammed by the NRCC's heavy-spending Democratic counterpart.

But members of the House Republican Caucus aren't ready to pack it in and go home just yet. The party raised $8.6 million at an annual dinner in Washington last night, headlined by President Bush, exceeding even the $7.5 million goal set for the shindig. And members of Congress let it be known they consider the loss of the former Hastert seat an aberration that can be blamed on the candidate.

While the loss was a blow, GOP leaders blamed dairy owner and wealthy businessman Jim Oberweis for being a flawed candidate. "Jim Oberweis went from being perceived [as] the tenacious guy to just being a wealthy individual looking for a gig," one Republican Member of Congress said. "There's nothing the NRCC is going to do about that. To lay [the loss] on the doorstep of the NRCC, it would be inaccurate."

In turn, a strategist familiar with the Illinois campaign suggested Mr. Oberweis lost because Democrats effectively tied him to President Bush, even casting the special election as an opportunity to vote against the current administration. That has to be troubling to national Republican leaders, who have long maintained that Mr. Bush will not be on the ballot, and thus not a factor, in 2008.

Shrugging off the Bush albatross would be difficult enough if the party were on an equal financial footing with Democrats. But that's hardly the case. Even after last night's dinner (and assuming they spent nothing on the dinner), the NRCC still trails House Democrats by more than $20 million in cash on hand. The job of defending a stunning number of vulnerable open seats will be even more difficult if the GOP has an empty checking account.

-- Reid Wilson,

Quote of the Day I

"[T]he percentage of Republican identifiers voting in Democratic nomination contests has increased significantly in recent weeks -- from 4 percent in states that held primaries in January and February to 9 percent in the March 4 primaries to 12 percent in Mississippi on Tuesday.... Overall, 9 percent of the Mississippi Democratic primary voters were self-identified Republicans who voted for Clinton.... But did these Republicans just turn out to assist McCain by prolonging the Democratic fight or boosting a candidate they consider easier to beat? The exit poll suggests another motivation. These Clinton Republicans also expressed very negative views of Barack Obama... [so] the primary motivation of Clinton's Mississippi Republicans may be a desire to stop Barack Obama, although many may be motivated by tactical shenanigans as well" -- Mark Blumenthal, editor and publisher of, writing in the National Journal.

Quote of the Day II

"I met Eliot Spitzer during his first semester in law school, my first year teaching criminal law at Harvard. He was smart and ambitious, which certainly didn't set him apart from the rest of his classmates at Harvard. What did, and what brought him to my door, was that he was interested in a career in politics.... Maybe he was absent the day we discussed the Mann Act. But I don't think so.... Eliot Spitzer knew better, but he clearly forgot that the rules apply to everyone. Especially him. Now, the face in the mirror is the one that did him in. Poor Eliot. I do feel sorry for him. But there are some things you can't teach, some things that can only be learned through painful experience. Hubris is what it's called" -- Susan Estrich, former campaign manager for Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in 1988, reflecting on her time teaching Eliot Spitzer at Harvard Law School.

Getting Religion on Earmarks, Slowly

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both become last-minute converts to a proposal to declare a moratorium on earmarks, the pork-barrel projects dropped into legislation with little scrutiny or oversight. But don't expect Democratic Senate leaders to follow them as the moratorium comes to a vote on the Senate floor today.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois is a big booster of Mr. Obama, but he declares himself "disappointed" in his Illinois colleague's embrace of the moratorium proposed by GOP Senator Jim DeMint. Similarly, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has parted ways with Hillary Clinton over the proposed time-out on earmarks. Mr. Schumer privately expressed disgust when Senator DeMint held a news conference outside the Capitol building that featured a man in a 6-foot-tall pink pig suit ridiculing Congressional excess.

No wonder, then, Mr. Obama raised the eyebrows of more than a few Democratic colleagues when he announced this week that Congress' "earmark culture" was broken and "needs to be re-examined and reformed." Republican Senate leaders now are in danger of being outflanked unless they step up the pace and embrace the DeMint moratorium themselves. Yet the Hill newspaper reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is delaying any statement on earmarks until a task force he appointed two months ago to study the subject reports back to him. Missouri Republican Kit Bond isn't on the task force but had a succinct summary description of the moratorium idea: "Stupid." Statements like that have spending foes worrying that the task force is simply designed to punt on reform.

For his part, Mr. DeMint says his colleagues are acting like addicts who refuse to admit they have a problem. He told this week: "We need to go cold turkey." Anything less would be "like telling an alcoholic, 'Don't drink as much.'"
Jay Leno: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has admitted that he has been involved in a prostitution ring. This is the same man who when he was attorney general went after the prostitution rings. So apparently for not giving him good service. ... [This] means Hillary Clinton [is] now only the second angriest wife in the state of New York. ... Neither Barack nor Hillary can win the nomination outright. You know, because it’s so close. So Hillary’s kind of caught between Barack and a hard place. ... Technically, neither of them can win. It shows you how bad it’s gotten for the Democrats. Forget winning the general election, they can’t even win their own election. ... You know, there’s talk in some Democratic circles of letting the states of Michigan and Florida re-vote. Today, Al Gore said, “Oh, now you think of this! Great!” ... They’re talking about a re-vote primary where people would mail in their ballots. That’s a great idea, combine the reliability of the people in Florida who count the ballots with the efficiency of the Post Office. What could go wrong there?
30916  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Medecina Privada on: March 13, 2008, 07:16:39 PM

"El chavismo parece estrechar su cerco sobre los profesionales que ejercen la medicina privada. A los insultos y ofensas que hoy les dedicó Hugo Chávez se une una disparatada noticia que publicó hoy el “Diario Vea” y que va en la misma dirección: “se van del país” y eso es inmoral … ¿Pasará a ser ilegal?

El presidente Chávez, en el acto de bienvenida a un grupo de estudiantes de Medicina Comunitaria celebrado este martes en Caracas, ha calificado de “apátridas” y de “personas que venden su alma al diablo” a los médicos venezolanos que prefieren trabajar en Europa antes que hacerlo en Venezuela.

Con un profundo desprecio hacia esa postura, el Presidente ha dicho que “aquí eso se puede hacer”, imaginamos que en una comparación referencial a Cuba donde no se puede hacer porque a los cubanos no se les permite salir del país.

Así pues, la decisión de un ser humano, en el ejercicio de su sagrada libertad en un mundo cada vez más globalizado, ha merecido los duros calificativos del Presidente hacia este grupo de ciudadanos.

No es sorpresa que el Presidente insulte, ofenda y desprecie y menos a los médicos que ejercen en el sector privado, quienes se han sufrido diversas arremetidas del Primer Mandatario.

El Diario Vea publicó también este martes un artículo sobre lo que llama “Fuga de Médicos”.

El disparatado artículo afirma que el Colegio de Médicos recibiría 3 millones de Euros por cada médico que va a trabajar a Europa, pero habla por sí mismo.

La pregunta que deja en el ambiente es si después de tachar la actividad de un médico de decidir trabajar en el exterior, se calificará, en el futuro, como ilegal."
30917  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights on: March 13, 2008, 06:49:25 PM
Trivia question:  In that pool hall scene, there is a moment where the camera gives us "Sticks" POV.  Who handles the double sticks representing Sticks's sticks?
30918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The wheel turns on: March 13, 2008, 05:32:27 PM
This article was sent to me by someone who has been to Afg. more than twice.  The piece does manage to leave out the little matter that after being helped by us against the Russians it hosted the preparations of a brutal terrorist attack upon us.

Afghanistan comes full circle as NATO seeks Russian help, Canada
Mon. Mar 10
ONE OF THE most ironic twists to the ongoing mission in Afghanistan emerged from the NATO meetings held in Brussels last week. With member countries either reluctant or unable to add military resources, NATO is now seeking assistance from Russia, its erstwhile Cold War enemy and one-time "evil occupier" of Afghanistan. In fact, the irony is so thick that we should first roll back decades’ worth of propaganda and start at the very beginning.

NATO was formed in 1949 as a collective self-defence alliance to prevent any encroachment of the Soviet Union into Western Europe. The Soviets responded to this by creating their own defensive coalition of Communist countries (the Warsaw Pact) to protect them from any eastward expansion of NATO’s influence. The nuclear arms race was at its zenith and even Europeans, still recovering from the massive destruction and carnage of the Second World War, understood the importance of maintaining large conventional armies. Troops and tanks were regarded as a preferable deterrent to an apocalyptic mushroom cloud.

The impasse that resulted in Europe did not prevent the U.S. and Soviets from waging war by proxy in non-aligned Third World countries around the world. Afghanistan, in fact, became a key battleground for the CIA and the KGB. Since it bordered the Soviet Union’s central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the U.S. knew that Moscow could not afford to ignore events in impoverished and underdeveloped Afghanistan.

Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, Soviet engineers undertook several major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including the construction of the Salang tunnel through the Hindu Kush Mountains, which provided the first viable access between the country’s northern and southern provinces. A full-scale program was introduced to train Afghan army officers and a large number of economic aid packages were extended to Kabul’s Communist government.

The Americans decided things were going a little too smoothly for the Kremlin, so they decided to stir things up a little. By arming and funding Afghan Muslim extremists who were already resisting the social changes, the Americans sought to draw the Soviets into a full-scale military intervention. By 1979 events had escalated to the point where the instability, lawlessness and flourishing drug trade along their shared border could no longer be ignored by the Kremlin. Following a coup staged by the KGB in Kabul, the newly appointed Afghan Communist president invited Soviet troops to deploy a security assistance force to help him stabilize Afghanistan.

It would have been high-fives all around for the CIA planners watching the Soviet tank columns rolling south through the Salang tunnel. The Russian bear had taken the bait and put his paw squarely on the American trap. On the surface, the U.S. vehemently denounced the invasion of Afghanistan and in protest they pulled their athletes out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Behind the scenes, the U.S. ramped up military aid to the Afghan guerrillas and assisted in bringing in foreign mujahedeen fighters — such as a young Saudi Arabian zealot named Osama bin Laden — to bleed the Soviets white.

The stated objectives of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan were to provide a secure environment, equality for women, a centralized education and medical system, and the training of a self-sufficient Afghan army. While this may sound eerily similar to the current wish list for the NATO coalition in Afghanistan, a friend of mine at the American embassy was quick to point out one fundamental difference: "The (Soviets) were Communists," he emphatically stated, as if that in itself made any further explanation unnecessary.

The U.S. plan worked like a charm and by the time the last of the Russian troops retreated out of Afghanistan in 1989, they had left behind 50,000 dead comrades, the Moscow treasury was bankrupt and the Soviet Union was in a state of dissolution. The U.S.-equipped Afghan warlords finally triumphed over the Communist regime in Kabul and then turned on each other in an orgy of destruction and bloodletting. Whatever Soviet-built infrastructure was still intact in Kabul in 1996 was destroyed when the Taliban movement forced the mujahedeen warlords north of the Hindu Kush.

In the wake of 9-11, the planners in the White House must have suffered from short-term memory loss as they rushed to throw their troops into the very same trap they had built to destroy the Soviets. After using military force to topple the Taliban, the Americans appointed Hamid Karzai as president. His first act as leader was to invite the U.S.-led coalition to deploy a security assistance force to prop up his regime.

Unlike the Soviets, the Americans didn’t need to deploy in support of this request — they were already on the ground.
Now into the seventh year of their occupation and with the American economy on the point of collapse, NATO is looking to Russia for help in transporting troops and equipment into Afghanistan. (Any source of this assertion?) With the skyrocketing oil prices boosting the Russian ruble to dizzy new heights and no one asking for their troops to fight and die in Afghanistan, it would seem that the wheel of fate has turned a full circle.

If you want to drive this point home, go out and rent an old copy of Rambo III. That’s the sequel wherein Sylvester Stallone fights alongside the guerrillas, and the final credits dedicate the movie to "the brave mujahedeen in Afghanistan."

I kid you not.

30919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Govt overstepping bounds on: March 13, 2008, 05:15:22 PM
"If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its
authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people,
whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have
formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the
Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 33, 3 January 1788)
30920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Superbugs on: March 13, 2008, 05:11:01 PM

The War on Superbugs
Lots of bad news—so little good news
By G.W. (Bill) Riedel, Ph.D.
Special to the Epoch Times Mar 13, 2008

Bacteriophages are one answer to the superbug crisis. (Ada Fitzgerald-Cherry/The Epoch Times)
A report entitled: "The Epidemic of Antibiotic-Resistant Infections" published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2008:46, Jan. 15, page 155 starts as follows: "We are in the midst of an emerging crisis of antibiotic resistance for microbial pathogens in the United States and throughout the world."

As of the year 2000 an estimated 70,000 deaths due to nosocomially acquired [hospital acquired], drug-resistant infections occurred per year in hospitals throughout the United States. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus seriously sickened more than 94,000 Americans in 2005 and almost 19,000 died, more than the 17,000 Americans who died of AIDS-related causes. As more bacteria become resistant to the old antibiotics there are few new antibiotics being developed because most pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from research for new antibiotics, in part because developing new antibiotics is a slow and costly process.

In Canada the official body counters tell us that "an estimated 220,000 patients who walk through the doors of hospitals each year suffer the unintended and often devastating consequences of an infection," and they estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 Canadian patients die annually from such infections. That would mean that from January 1, 2000 to April 30, 2008 there will have been 100,000 Canadian victims of superbug infections.

Against so much bad news it would be logical that the news media would jump on any opportunity to publish any good news. So when the Bacteriophage 2008 meeting in Herefordshire was chosen for the release of initial Phase II clinical trail data of the first fully-regulated clinical trail to test whether phage therapy really works as a treatment option for superbug infections, one would have expected a media flurry, especially since the trail reported positive results.

To date only two such reports can be found when using Google-News with the string "phage therapy." The first report, which this author found was entitled: "Technology to defeat bacterial infections shows positive results" and was published by Disease/Infection News, 25-Feb-2008 at

In this trail the U.K. company Biocontrol Ltd. used bacteriophages against Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which are often resistant to traditional antibiotics. Over a 17-month period a double-blind Phase II trail took place at a specialist London hospital involving 24 patients with chronic ear infections that were not responding to antibiotic treatments. Significant improvements amounting to a mean 50 percent reduction in symptoms were noted as compared to a mean of only 20 percent in the control group who did not receive phages. The company now plans to perform Phase III trails for the ear treatment as soon as possible and is looking at the future possibility of treating patients with cystic fibrosis where lung infections with Pseudomonas aeruginosa are common and dangerous.

Dr. Riedel,, has a Ph.D. in Microbiology/Food Science. He has held various positions in research, industrial food science, and consumer product regulatory affairs in Canada.
30921  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mya 3-4: Guro Crafty Dog at Manassas VA on: March 13, 2008, 12:39:35 PM
Contact: Dino & Ashley
(703) 330-1113
30922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dershowitz on The Spitzer Affair on: March 13, 2008, 11:59:08 AM
The Entrapment of Eliot
March 13, 2008

The federal criminal investigation that has led to Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor of New York illustrates the great dangers all Americans face from vague and open-ended sex and money-transaction statutes.

Federal law, if read broadly, criminalizes virtually all sexual encounters for which something of value has been given. Federal money-laundering statutes criminalize many entirely legitimate and conventional banking transactions. Congress enacted these laws to give federal prosecutors wide discretion in deciding which "bad guys" to go after.

Generally, wise and intelligent prosecutors use their discretion properly -- to target organized crime, terrorism, financial predation, exploitation of children and the like. But the very existence of these selectively enforced statutes poses grave dangers of abuse. They lie around like loaded guns waiting to be used against the enemies of politically motivated investigators, prosecutors and politicians.

There is no hard evidence that Eliot Spitzer was targeted for investigation, but the story of how he was caught does not ring entirely true to many experienced former prosecutors and current criminal lawyers. The New York Times reported that the revelations began with a routine tax inquiry by revenue agents "conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks." This investigation allegedly found "several unusual movements of cash involving the Governor of New York." But the movement of the amounts of cash required to pay prostitutes, even high-priced prostitutes over a long period of time, does not commonly generate a full-scale investigation.

We are talking about thousands, not millions, of dollars. We are also talking about a man who is a multimillionaire with numerous investments and purchases. The idea that federal investigators would focus on a few transactions to corporations -- that were not themselves under investigation -- raises as many questions as answers.

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.

In this case, they wiretapped 5,000 phone conversations, intercepted 6,000 emails, used surveillance and undercover tactics that are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns. Unlike terrorism and other predatory crimes, prostitution is legal in many parts of the world and in some parts of the U.S. Even in places like New York, where it is technically illegal, johns are rarely prosecuted. Prostitution rings operate openly, advertising "massage" and "escort" services in the back pages of glossy magazines, local newspapers and television sex channels.

If the federal government really wanted to shut down these operations, they could easily do it without a single wiretap or email intercept. All they would have to do is get an undercover agent to answer the ads, arrange for the "escort" to go from New York to New Jersey and be arrested. But many in law enforcement would much rather reserve these statutes for selective use against predetermined targets.

In this case, if the serendipitous bank audit really led federal agents to Mr. Spitzer, and Mr. Spitzer led them to the Emperor's Club, and federal prosecutors really wanted to get the Club, they could easily have sent an undercover cop to pose as a john, instead of tapping phones and reading emails -- tactics designed to catch and embarrass Mr. Spitzer with his own recorded words, which could be, and were, leaked to the media. As this newspaper has reported: "It isn't clear why the FBI sought the wiretap warrant. Federal prostitution probes are exceedingly rare, lawyers say, except in cases involving organized-crime leaders or child abuse. Federal wiretaps are seldom used to make these cases . . ."

Lavrenti Beria, the head of Joseph Stalin's KGB, once quipped to his boss, "show me the man and I will find the crime." The Soviet Union was notorious for having accordion-like criminal laws that could be adjusted to fit almost any dissident target. The U.S. is a far cry from the Soviet Union, but our laws are dangerously overbroad.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted political adversaries over the years. The weapons of choice are almost always elastic criminal laws. And few laws are more elastic, and susceptible to abuse, than federal laws on money laundering and sex crimes. For the sake of all Americans, these laws should be narrowed and limited to predatory crimes with real victims.

Mr. Dershowitz teaches law at Harvard University and is the author of "Finding Jefferson" (Wiley, 2007).
30923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama on offense on: March 13, 2008, 11:45:40 AM
Obama on Offense
March 13, 2008

It came as a relief to hear, in the last few days, that both Democratic candidates were now about to go on the attack, though pundits agreed such low tactics had been forced on Barack Obama. There's something reassuring about the usual election season blather over negative campaigning. That relief is a response, mostly, to any whiff of normality promising to emerge in the current Democratic race.

Still, the prospects are thin, given the rapturous response Mr. Obama has enjoyed at the hands of a good part of the press -- attitudes so obvious that the usual stern media denials that their coverage was other than objective have been hard to find. Anyone who doubts this bias has only to look at the past week's charges that Hillary Clinton and company have been playing the race card -- the latest in a series of such accusations made by Obama surrogates, carried forward by the media.

Of those offenses, the most memorable, perhaps, concerned Bill Clinton's challenge to the record Sen. Obama claimed regarding his long opposition to the Iraq war, which Mr. Clinton called "a fairy tale." In short order, word was put out that the former president had insulted black Americans and their high hopes for this election, by use of this disparaging term, "fairy tale." Mr. Clinton, some charged, had denigrated Mr. Obama's entire candidacy as a fantasy.

There was, too, the Martin Luther King/Lyndon Johnson saga. Here Hillary Clinton's incontestably accurate comment -- that it had taken the action of a president, Lyndon Johnson, to pass the Civil Rights Act, and thus bring to fruition the goal to which Dr. King had devoted his life -- ignited storms of outrage, furious commentaries on how Sen. Clinton had played a sly race card, diminishing Dr. King's importance in comparison to that of the white president.

In all, the pattern of these charges may well suggest a race card in play, only it wasn't the Clintons who were playing it.

The latest charge arose from a "60 Minutes" interview a week ago, in which Mrs. Clinton was supposedly contriving a way to suggest that Mr. Obama is in fact a secret Muslim. In the stories carried elsewhere in the media, the case against her rests on five words.

The entire "60 Minutes" exchange -- showing her effort to answer interrogator Steve Kroft's persistent questions -- would have been more instructive. Because, as in so many interrogations, an emphatic no -- when the investigator is looking for another answer -- is never enough.

Mr. Kroft: "You don't believe that Sen. Obama is a Muslim?"

Mrs. Clinton: "Of course not. I mean, you know, there is no basis for that. I take him on the basis of what he says. You know, there isn't any reason to doubt that."

Kroft: "You said you take Sen. Obama at his word that he's not. . . . You don't believe that he's. . . ."

Clinton: "No, no. There's nothing to base that on, as far as I know."

Kroft: "It's just scurrilous . . .?"

Clinton: "Look, I have been the target of so many ridiculous rumors that I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets, you know, smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time."

The now famous five words, "as far as I know" come trailing a sentence showing an interviewee clearly trying to fill space -- babbling, as we all do, when there's nothing more to say and the persistent interrogator requires, nevertheless, more talk. Clearly, that "as far as I know" is chatter, without import, in the midst of emphatic declarations rejecting the notion that Mr. Obama is Muslim.

Without import except, of course, to the cadres prepared to find in those words material for the manufacture of another story of a Clinton outrage. To do so requires reporting only the sentence in which the phrase appears, while leaving out all that came before and after. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert did precisely that in a column on Saturday, charging that those five words represented "one of the sleaziest moments of the campaign to date."

Mr. Herbert is far from alone in this stunning assessment -- a measure of the fevers that have swept so many journalists away in the course of this campaign.

Mr. Obama, in the meantime, has now found occasion to try going on the attack against Mrs. Clinton as he has been urged -- though not without trepidation from supporters worried about the effect on his image as an inspirational leader and voice of a new politics. Could he even do such things? Yes he could.

As he showed in an angry speech this week, in which he lashed out at Mrs. Clinton for raising the possibility that he could serve as vice president, the worriers were right. The candidate will have to find, at the very least, an attack mode other than the preening and petulance on display Monday.

For all of Mr. Obama's celebrated speeches, his capacity to attract and arouse crowds, we know mostly his public persona -- a presence confident, forward-looking, thoughtful. Of his actual attitudes, social and political, his views about the nation he plans to lead, those lengthy speeches have revealed remarkably little, other than a belief that American hearts are filled to bursting with their yearning for change. We shall see.

His closest adviser, Michelle Obama, has left little doubt about her views of American society, and its people. These views have received relatively scant coverage, other than in the brief period that followed her observation on the campaign trail in Wisconsin a few weeks back, when the wife of the candidate told crowds that she was, for the first time in her life, "proud" of her country. It was an attention-getting pronouncement quickly amended and recast, once the uproar of amazement began to be heard.

Everyone can have an untoward moment under the pressures of campaigning. It was obvious, nonetheless, that this was no blip, no failure to express her real thought. She said exactly what she'd wanted to say. And for doing so Mrs. Obama expected no amazed response. The comment reflected her deeply held, grim view of American society, one she was accustomed to sharing with others who thought likewise. Why should it not have come tripping from the tongue?

It was, furthermore, just one of numerous such revelatory statements she has regularly made. In speeches on the campaign trail she has held forth on her view of America, which is, as she describes it, a country that is "downright mean" and "driven by fear." She recently waxed irate over the American attention to security interests, arguing that we should be "changing the conversation" and building diplomatic relations "instead of protecting ourselves against terrorists." A minor note, to be sure, though it's to be hoped that a President Obama will not turn to this closest adviser for her views on the national defense.

A New Yorker profile published last week quotes numerous stump speech pronouncements, among them Mrs. Obama's assertion that most Americans' lives have gotten worse since she was a girl. "So if you want to pretend like there was some point in the last couple of decades when your life was easy, I want to meet you."

In short, not only is existence in America a desperate proposition for most citizens -- anyone claiming to have led a satisfactory one not sunk in the hell that is American life is, quite simply, lying. America is, she has elsewhere informed audiences, a nation whose "souls are broken."

It is a vision striking for its consistent hostility to any notion that Americans have cause for optimism and pride in their country: striking, too, for the stark and obvious absence, in this graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, of any sense of the reasons Americans might revere their nation and consider themselves fortunate to be its citizens.

Doubtless we shall hear more about Mrs. Obama's views as the campaign goes on. In the meantime, we can only imagine how this will all play out in the event of an Obama presidency. First Lady Michelle Obama would certainly encounter foreign reporters who have attentively covered the campaign and who have questions to ask. One of them may well be, "Madame First Lady, would you care to tell us more about your oft-stated view of America as a nation whose soul is broken? And a word, if you would about the desperate lives lived by most Americans?"

The response would be interesting to hear.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
30924  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Liner lock issues on: March 13, 2008, 10:27:47 AM
30925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Spitzer Affair on: March 12, 2008, 11:27:57 AM

Eliot the 'Enforcer'
March 12, 2008; Page A21

As the political career of Eliot Spitzer melts down, many will lament that what the governor on Monday called his "progressive politics" fell victim to his personal foibles. If only he hadn't made mistakes in his private life, they will moan, New York could have been redeemed from its squalid, special-interest dominated stagnation.

That's nonsense. More is at issue here than a mere private mistake. The governor's frequent use of a prostitution ring was of public concern -- because, notes Henry Stern, head of the watchdog group New York Civic, "people could easily have blackmailed him, you can't have that if you're governor."

True enough, New York's dysfunctional and secretive state government desperately needs fumigation, with both political parties sharing in the blame. But Mr. Spitzer's head-butting approach to redemption -- involving the arbitrary use of power and bully-boy tactics -- was no improvement. As for reform, his first budget grew state spending at three times the rate of inflation, and is a major reason the state now faces a $4.5 billion deficit. When the governor tried to reform the state's bloated Medicaid program, the health-care workers' union ran a TV campaign against him, and he quickly caved.

Mr. Spitzer seemed to excel only in the zeal with which he would go after perceived adversaries. Last summer, his staff infamously used the state police to track the movements of Joe Bruno, the Republican president of the state senate, in an effort to destroy his career. Mr. Spitzer then ferociously fought investigators who wanted to examine his office's email traffic for evidence the governor himself may have been involved. His approval rating in New York, a strongly Democratic state, fell to 27%.

Despite that wakeup call, months after the Bruno incident Mr. Spitzer called up a close ally of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This source told me that the governor asked him to deliver what the ally considered a threatening and insulting message to the mayor. The Bloomberg confidant, who like many sources commenting on Mr. Spitzer refused to be named, advised the governor to reconsider if that was the message he really wanted to send, but the governor insisted.

No doubt more examples of Mr. Spitzer's dubious behavior will now find their way into the media. But his career as a prosecutor provided plenty of warning signs he was destined for trouble, and each of his political campaigns featured clear attempts to circumvent campaign-finance laws. For example, in 1998 Mr. Spitzer admitted to the New York Times that he had skirted state election laws by failing to disclose a last-minute infusion of cash into his 1994 campaign for attorney general from his wealthy father.

Such chicanery wasn't an auspicious launching pad for his own investigations of corporate misbehavior. He certainly did expose some malfeasance and shady dealing. But historian Fred Siegel notes that he quickly moved on to "less and less substantial" and appropriate targets in search of headlines. And he used New York's Martin Act, a uniquely harsh law allowing prosecutors to declare almost anything a "fraud," and no requirement on their part to prove criminal intent, to trample the due-process rights of anyone blocking his path to the TV cameras.

Companies almost always agreed to Mr. Spitzer's demands that they pay stiff fines and change the way they operated -- all without any trials or judicial determinations that they had done anything wrong. "It became a kind of blackmail," Mr. Siegel says, "in which he said to companies, if you don't put my friends in high positions in your company I'll drag you through the mud."

"He was the investigator, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner," says Thomas Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He notes that Mr. Spitzer would frequently settle with corporate higher-ups, who were wealthy enough to pay millions in fines, and then go after their lower-level employees. Those individuals were often found not guilty at trial -- but these courtroom defeats, as Mr. Spitzer learned from the experience of that other hyperactive prosecutor, Rudy Giuliani, would generate few headlines.

Mr. Spitzer cloaked his naked devaluation of the rule of law with gauzy rhetoric that was perfectly pitched to make many liberals ignore his strong-arm tactics. He harshly criticized advocates of judicial restraint such as Antonin Scalia as believing in "a dead piece of paper." In a Law Day ceremony, Mr. Spitzer was blunt: "I believe in an evolving Constitution. . . . A flexible Constitution allows us to consider not merely how the world was, but how it ought to be."

He was vague as to just what his Brave New World would look like. "One of the things that I enjoy about going to Washington is the opportunity of testifying, chapter after chapter, that self-regulation has failed," he said to reporters, adding, "What is it to be replaced with? I'm not sure."

Still, he was pretty sure of his blowtorch tactics. In 2005, Mr. Spitzer revealingly told TV host Stephen Colbert in all seriousness that as a kid he was the "enforcer" on his soccer team, the guy who "took people out."

An enduring lesson of the Spitzer meltdown should be that crusaders of all types who operate outside the rule books themselves merit a gimlet eye of scrutiny. An enduringly popular symbol in our culture is the man on the white horse who comes to clean up the town and purge it of its errant ways. But in the harsh reality of politics, for every selfless Lone Ranger who arrives on his trusty steed and does good, there are many more budding Napoleons who harshly impose their will -- and fall prey to vices they pledged to root out.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
30926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: March 12, 2008, 11:24:05 AM
Spitzer's Media Enablers
March 12, 2008; Page A21

The fall of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer holds many lessons, and the press will surely be examining them in coming months. But don't expect the press corps to delve into the biggest lesson of all -- its own role as his enabler.

Journalists have spent the past two days asking how a man of Mr. Spitzer's stature would allow himself to get involved in a prostitution ring. The answer, in my mind, is clear. The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices.

Journalism has many functions, but perhaps the most important is keeping tabs on public officials. That duty is even more vital concerning government positions that are subject to few other checks and balances. Chief among those is the prosecutor, who can use his awesome state power to punish, even destroy, private citizens.

Yet from the start, the press corps acted as an adjunct of Spitzer power, rather than a skeptic of it. Many journalists get into this business because they want to see wrongs righted. Mr. Spitzer portrayed himself as the moral avenger. He was the slayer of the big guy, the fat cat, the Wall Street titan -- all allegedly on behalf of the little guy. The press ate it up, and came back for more.

Time magazine bestowed upon Mr. Spitzer the title "Crusader of the Year," and likened him to Moses. Fortune dubbed him the "Enforcer." A fawning article in the Atlantic Monthly in 2004 explained he was "a rock star," and "the Democratic Party's future." In an uncritical 2006 biography, then Washington Post reporter Brooke Masters compared the attorney general to no less than Teddy Roosevelt.

What the media never acknowledged is that somewhere along the line (say, his first day in public office) Mr. Spitzer became the big guy, the titan. He had the power to trample lives and bend the rules, while also burnishing his own political fortune. He was the one who deserved as much, if not more, scrutiny as onetime New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso or former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.

What makes this more embarrassing for any self-respecting journalist is that Mr. Spitzer knew all this, and played the media like a Stradivarius. He knew what sort of storyline they'd be sympathetic to, and spun it. He knew, too, that as financial journalism has become more competitive, breaking news can make a career. He doled out scoops to favored reporters, who repaid him with allegiance. News organizations that dared to criticize him were cut off. After a time, few criticized anymore.

Instead, reporters felt obligated to run with whatever he handed them. Consider the report in the wake of a 2005 op-ed in this newspaper by John Whitehead. A respected Wall Street figure, Mr. Whitehead dared to criticize Mr. Spitzer for his unscrupulously zealous pursuit of Mr. Greenberg. Mr. Spitzer later threatened Mr. Whitehead, telling him in a phone call that "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done." Some months later, after more Spitzer excesses, Mr. Whitehead had the temerity to write another op-ed describing what Mr. Spitzer had said.

Within a few days, the press was reporting (unsourced, of course) that Mr. Whitehead had defended Mr. Greenberg a few weeks after a Greenberg charity had given $25 million to the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation -- a group Mr. Whitehead chaired. So Mr. Whitehead's on-the-record views were met with an unsourced smear implying bad faith. The press ran with it anyway.

In 2005, Mr. Spitzer went on national television to suggest that Mr. Greenberg had engaged in criminal activity. It was front-page news. About six months later, on the eve of a Thanksgiving weekend, Mr. Spitzer quietly disclosed that he lacked the evidence to press criminal charges. That news was buried inside the papers.

What makes this history all the more unfortunate is that the warning signs about Mr. Spitzer were many and manifest. In the final days of Mr. Spitzer's run for attorney general in 1998, the news broke that he'd twisted campaign-finance laws so that his father could fund his unsuccessful 1994 run. Mr. Spitzer won anyway, and the story was largely forgotten.

New York Stock Exchange caretaker CEO John Reed suggested Mr. Spitzer hadn't told the truth when he said that it was Mr. Reed who wanted him to investigate Mr. Grasso's pay. The press never investigated.

Mr. Spitzer's main offense as a prosecutor is that he violated the basic rules of fairness and due process: Innocent until proven guilty; the right to your day in court. The Spitzer method was to target public companies and officials, leak allegations and out-of-context emails to a compliant press, watch the stock price fall, threaten a corporate indictment (a death sentence), and then move in for a quick settlement kill. There was rarely a trial, fair or unfair, involved.

On the substance, his court record speaks for itself. Most of Mr. Spitzer's high-profile charges have gone up in smoke. A New York state judge threw out his case against tax firm H&R Block. He lost his prosecution against Bank of America broker Ted Sihpol (whom Mr. Spitzer threatened to arrest in front of his child and pregnant wife). Mr. Spitzer was stopped by a federal judge from prying confidential information out of mortgage companies. Another New York judge blocked the heart of his suit against Mr. Grasso. Mr. Greenberg continues to fight his civil charges. The press was foursquare behind Mr. Spitzer in all these cases, and in a better world they'd share some of his humiliation.

Instead, remarkably, they continue to defend him. Ms. Masters, his biographer, was on CNN the day Mr. Spitzer's prostitution news broke, reassuring viewers that the governor really was a "lovely" guy. Other news reporters were reporting what a "tragedy" it was that such a leading light in the Democratic Party could come to such an ignoble end.

There's little that's tragic about Mr. Spitzer, unless you consider his victims (which would appear to include his own family). The press would do well to meditate on that, and consider how many violations they winked at and validated over the years. Politicians don't exist to be idolized by the press, at least not by any press corps doing its job.

Ms. Strassel, who covered Eliot Spitzer's investigations, now writes the Journal's Potomac Watch column from Washington.

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

30927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: March 12, 2008, 11:20:26 AM
Hard to decide which thread for this piece-- here it is:

The Pentagon vs. Petraeus
March 12, 2008; Page A20
Yesterday's resignation of Admiral William Fallon as Centcom Commander is being portrayed as a dispute over Iran. Our own sense is that the admiral has made more than enough dissenting statements about Iraq, Iran and other things to warrant his dismissal as much as early retirement. But his departure will be especially good news if it means that President Bush is beginning to pay attention to the internal Pentagon dispute over Iraq.

A fateful debate is now taking place at the Pentagon that will determine the pace of U.S. military withdrawals for what remains of President Bush's term. Senior Pentagon officials -- including, we hear, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, Army Chief of Staff George Casey and Admiral Fallon -- have been urging deeper troop cuts in Iraq beyond the five "surge" combat brigades already scheduled for redeployment this summer.

Adm. William Fallon, during testimony on Capitol Hill in May, 2007.
Last month Mr. Gates agreed to a pause in these withdrawals, so that General David Petraeus could assess whether the impressive security gains achieved by the surge can be maintained with fewer troops. But now the Pentagon seems to be pushing for a pause of no more than four to six weeks before the drawdowns resume.

It's possible the surge has so degraded the insurgency -- both of the al Qaeda and Shiite varieties -- that the U.S. can reduce its troop presence to some undetermined level without inviting precisely the conditions that led to the surge in the first place. The withdrawal of one combat brigade from Iraq in December hasn't affected the stunning declines in insurgent attacks and Iraqi civilian deaths over the past year.

Then again, a spate of recent attacks -- including a suicide bombing Monday that left five GIs dead in Baghdad and a roadside bombing yesterday that killed 16 Iraqis -- is a reminder that the insurgency remains capable of doing great damage. An overly hasty withdrawal of U.S. forces would give it more opportunities to do so. It could also demoralize Iraq forces just when they are gaining confidence and need our help to "hold" the areas gained by the "clear, hold and build" strategy of the surge.

This ought to be apparent to Pentagon generals. Yet their rationale for troop withdrawals seems to have less to do with conditions in Iraq and more with fear that the war is putting a strain on the military as an institution. These are valid concerns. Lengthy and repeated combat deployments have imposed extraordinary burdens on service members and their families. The war in Iraq has also diverted scarce funds to combat operations rather than investment -- much of it long overdue -- in military modernization.

But these concerns are best dealt with by enlarging the size of the Army and Marine Corps and increasing spending on defense to between 5% and 6% of gross domestic product from the current 4.5% -- about where it was at the end of the Cold War. By contrast, we can think of few things that would "break" the military more completely -- in readiness, morale and deterrent power -- than to leave Iraq in defeat, or in conditions that would soon lead to a replay of what happened in Vietnam.

This Pentagon pressure also does little to help General Petraeus. The general is supposed to be fighting a frontal war against Islamist militants, not a rearguard action with Pentagon officials. We understand there is a chain of command in the military, and General Petraeus is precisely the kind of team player who would respect it.

That's why as Commander in Chief, Mr. Bush has a particular obligation to engage in this Pentagon debate so that General Petraeus can make his troop recommendations based on the facts in Iraq, not on pressure from Washington. It was Mr. Bush's excessive deference to the Army's pecking order that put lackluster generals such as Ricardo Sanchez in charge when the insurgency was forming, and that prevented General Petraeus from assuming command in Iraq until it was nearly too late. Having successfully resisted pressure from Congressional Democrats for premature troop withdrawals, it would be strange indeed for Mr. Bush to cave in to identical pressure from his own bureaucracies.

As a political matter, an overly rapid drawdown would also only complicate the choices the next President will have to make about troop levels, whether that's John McCain or one of the Democratic contenders. Mr. Bush owes it to his successor to bequeath not only a stable Iraq, but also policy options that don't tempt disaster. Preserving a troop cushion that allows for future withdrawals without jeopardizing current gains would do just that.

That's a decision that rests with Mr. Bush alone, who in seven years as President has often proved more adept and determined in fighting enemies abroad than imposing discipline on his own, so often wayward, Administration.

30928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: March 11, 2008, 10:37:15 PM
From the freebie Friday letter:

Gilder Telecosm Forum Member (3/1/08): George, What has changed to make
you view NetLogic (NETL) as having better long-term prospects?

George Gilder, Gilder Telecosm Forum (3/1/08): Comparing NetLogic (NETL)
with Sigma (SIGM) and Cavium (CAVM), and I have come to the conclusion
that NetLogic will be needed for IPv6 and that IPv6 will prevail over the
next decade. EZchip (EZCH) and NetLogic can work together where multiple
fast lookups are required.

EZchip has an architecture that can accommodate 7 layers, but 7 layer
processing will not happen for several years and when it does, TCAMs
(ternary content addressable memories) and so called knowledge processors
will be complementary for the first phases....

Cavium is a proven company pioneering in the largest but also most
competitive markets. It is in the upper layer processor field that is also
contested by the new Cisco (CSCO) control plane devices, LSI Corp. (LSI),
Applied Micro Circuits (AMCC), other control plane processors, RMI and all
the multicore multiprocessor innovators out there, from Intel (INTC) and
AMD (AMD) to Tilera and dozens of others.
To read more of George Gilder's posts and those of the Gilder Telecosm
Forum members, visit and become a Forum member

@#$%@$^$%^&&^  angry angry angry  You'd think I'd have learned by now.
30929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenoma on: March 11, 2008, 10:19:39 PM
I don't have a URL for this, but it sure does capture something:

"My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world.  I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it." -- Barack Obama
30930  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicle issues on: March 11, 2008, 07:53:29 PM
Great to see the participation on this.  The process of collective analysis helps us all.

A hearty amen on room to maneuver the car!  I believe I averted a carjacking one time precisely with this technique.

As far as using the car as a weapon, perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I am picturing the car already turned off when the excrement hits the fan and the driver's window down.  Who knows, perhaps the key was already removed from the ignition?  Question:  Under these circumstances with a vigorous assault coming in through the window, could you start your car up and get it in gear?

Also a hearty amen on the merits of a serious dog-- but not everyone wants or can have such an animal in his/her life.

I find it hard to second guess the woman getting out of the car.  Her man was under attack and behind the reactionary curve.  Is she just supposed to sit there and do nothing?

Backing into parking spaces is a traffic infraction here in LA-- apparently lots of arguments get going when someone wants to back into a space and the following car has pulled up too close for this to be possible. 

Tire iron?  Great tool-- are legal issues presented by keeping it in the cab of the truck?.  If stored in back in the spare tire well it probably is not accessible in timely manner.

In some 30 states, CCW is an option for those who take the time to go through the necessary process.
30931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: March 11, 2008, 07:31:57 PM
I liked Fairport Convention-- good memories.  Pentangle I liked even more.
30932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Book on John Adams on: March 11, 2008, 07:29:42 PM
A friend writes:

I'm halfway through the book John Adams, by David McCullough. This is the second time I've read it, I picked it back up when I heard HBO was doing a series based on the book. This book is a must read for anyone that wants to feel and breathe in the nature of the times of the American Revolution, as well as get inside the head of one of our Founding Fathers. It's hard to imagine the extremes of the times and the circumstances that shaped the mind, that shaped a nation. It received a very much deserved Pulitzer when it came out in 2001. You folks in Europe will be interested as well, Adams, spent much of the war in Europe trying to get assistance in supporting the effort to break from England.
30933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD/WSJ on: March 11, 2008, 12:31:05 PM
Just What the Doctor Ordered

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel has been spending time in the hospital with the flu the last few days, but he is likely to have gotten a real morale booster yesterday with the news of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's meltdown.

Mr. Rangel, who has represented Harlem in Congress for 38 years, is known to hold the prickly governor in minimal high regard. He has often snidely referred to Mr. Spitzer as "the smartest man in the world," a reference to the governor's well-known arrogance.

Should Mr. Spitzer resign, Mr. Rangel would also be in the catbird's seat. Lt. Gov. David Paterson, a former state senator from Harlem, is a longtime protege of Mr. Rangel and would likely grant his mentor wide influence over patronage and fiscal issues. "Rangel could have instant access to Paterson anytime of the day or night," is how one New York Democratic leader evaluates Mr. Rangel's likely importance in a Patterson administration.

So if Mr. Rangel makes an even swifter recovery from the flu than is expected, there will be good reasons for that new spring in his step and twinkle in his eye.

-- John Fund

Deus Ex Machine Politics

There is little chance that New York will be competitive in the presidential race this year, but the Spitzer scandal will breathe new life into New York's battered GOP. Poised to fill the governor's seat is Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat who has little name recognition and lacks the force of personality that animated Mr. Spitzer's political career. Mr. Paterson, an ally of Rep. Charlie Rangel, will likely be a seat-warmer while both parties prepare to battle for the governor's mansion in 2010. Democrat Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will likely now become the de facto leader of his party in the state.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno, a veteran political infighter, will take the lieutenant governor's seat, giving him a larger platform to use for Republican advantage. He could run for governor himself in two years. But it's more likely that he'll find someone else within his party to carry the Republican banner. If Rudy Giuliani wants to get back into the game, this is his chance. There's also a possibility that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be interested. And then there's John Spencer, the former mayor of Yonkers who ran against Hillary Clinton for senate in 2006. He has a fundraising base, knows what it takes to run a statewide campaign and has executive experience.

A little more than a year ago, Eliot Spitzer's gubernatorial landslide (69%) was the biggest the state had ever seen. New York seemed on a path to becoming a one-party state. Democrats tightened their grip on the state's General Assembly, won every state-wide elective office and even won in a few upstate congressional districts that traditionally favor Republicans. This year, led by Mr. Spitzer, Democrats looked likely to win control of the last vestige of Republican power in New York, the state Senate. How quickly things change. Republicans now see an opening to reverse their fortunes in New York, only helped if Mr. Spitzer tries to cling to office. It remains to be seen if the state and national GOPs are up to seizing the opportunity.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"In lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. On ABC, the only hints as to Spitzer's party were a few seconds of video of Spitzer beside Hillary Clinton as they walked down some steps and a (D) on screen by Spitzer's name over part of one soundbite. NBC didn't even do that. While ABC and NBC failed to cite Spitzer's political affiliation in the four minutes or so each network dedicated to the revelations, both managed to find time to applaud his reputation and effectiveness as the Empire State's Attorney General before becoming Governor" -- Brent Baker of the conservative Media Research Institute.

Follow the Money

 The fall of Eliot Spitzer, caught in the roll-up of a high-end prostitution ring, is bound to be an occasion for a great deal of dime-store psychoanalysis about what led to his self-destructive behavior.

But perhaps the most interesting detail isn’t the all-too-familiar tale of a politician imagining himself immune to the laws and standards he prescribes for others. The most interesting detail is how he got caught.

The New York Governor, who made his bones doggedly pursuing alleged financial crimes, was undone by his own bankers. The financial transactions by which he endeavored to conceal his payments to the Emperors Club were unusual enough that they prompted a referral by his bank to the IRS, which in turn brought in the FBI and ultimately the prosecutors. Based on the information currently available, Mr. Spitzer himself was the thread that began the unraveling of the Emperor's Club prostitution ring.

Prosecutors are supposed to know better. But in this case, Mr. Spitzer appears to have left behind precisely the kind of paper trail that he once used himself in pursuit of Wall Street malefactors, real or imagined. The latest burble from the TV talking heads this morning now suggests that Mr. Spitzer is delaying his resignation as leverage for a favorable plea bargain. If so, he apparently learned at least one thing from his years as a dictator of humiliating plea bargains to those caught up in his publicity-seeking investigations. All the more ironic, then, that the Sheriff of Wall Street gave himself away with his slippery financial dealings, rather than his sordid appetites, ending in his disgrace.

-- Brian M. Carney

30934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Split from Georgia? on: March 11, 2008, 12:08:22 PM
It appears that the blowback from Kosovo continues.


Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said March 11 that Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions will secede if Georgia becomes a member of NATO, Reuters reported. Rogozin said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia “do not intend to join NATO.”

30935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gilder not so hot on EZCH on: March 11, 2008, 11:45:02 AM
Apparently Gilder is no longer so gung ho on EZCH.  I'm guessing why the stock has declined some 40% in the last few weeks cry cry cry
30936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water on: March 11, 2008, 11:43:42 AM
Amid Water Shortage,
Australia Looks to the Sea
March 11, 2008; Page A1

PERTH, Australia -- As global water shortages loom, this remote city on Australia's parched western coast is giving desalination -- the arduous process of removing salt from sea water -- new clout.

Opened in late 2006, Perth's $360 million desalination plant sucks in roughly 50,000 gallons of the Indian Ocean every minute. It then runs that water through special filters that separate out the salt, yielding some 25,000 gallons of drinkable water -- enough to meet nearly a fifth of Perth's current demand.

Patrick Barta 
Perth is pushing desalination as a way to feed the city's water needs and keep parks -- including Kings Park, above -- green.
For decades, critics dismissed desalination as a costly boondoggle that burns colossal amounts of energy, including dirty fuels like coal. Technologically complex, it's also far more expensive than tapping other water sources. The few major desalination plants that did make it to fruition went up mainly in the Middle East, which had energy -- and money -- to burn.

Perth's facility squarely tackles both environmental and financial concerns. It gets around the issue of noxious emissions by harnessing power from a wind farm. By relying primarily on renewable energy -- a recent trend in desalination -- the plant releases fewer dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Upgraded systems remove salt more efficiently than past processes, making operating costs less daunting.

Despite higher water bills for consumers, officials here deem the project so successful that they plan to build a second, $875 million desalination plant. Once online, it will allow Perth to source as much as a third of its water from the ocean and significantly cut its dependence on rain-fed reserves.

Not long ago, "desalination was something you'd do only when you didn't have any other choice," says Jim Gill, chief executive of Water Corp., Perth's state-owned water supplier. Now, "there just aren't that many sources left."

Patrick Barta visits Perth for a look at how the city aims to cope with a growing water shortage through desalination of sea water.
Perth's plunge into desalination comes at a critical time, when water is emerging as the world's next major natural-resources challenge. Water use, like oil, is surging as economic growth takes off in China, India and elsewhere. According to the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka, about a fifth of the world's population, or more than 1.2 billion people, already lives in areas with insufficient supply.

Due to changing rainfall patterns linked to climate change, many places -- including parts of Australia, the American Southwest, India and Western Europe -- are getting as much as 10% less rain than they used to. There's also a global push to expand agriculture, the world's biggest guzzler of water, to meet growing food and alternative energy demand.

As many as 75 major desalination projects are in various stages of development world-wide, including a $300 million facility north of San Diego. Although large-scale desalination is still unpopular in the U.S., local officials and private investors are pressing to build plants in other states such as Texas and Massachusetts.

Several Australian cities are adding massive desalination plants. The largest, near Melbourne, carries a price tag of more than $2.5 billion. Similar facilities are envisioned in Spain and India. And London is planning a $400 million plant along the River Thames.

Combined Impact

Environmentalists worry that the combined impact of these plants will be devastating, especially if they run on power generated by cheap coal. Big desalination plants can burn through enough electricity annually to power more than 35,000 homes a year.

Last June, WWF, the international conservation organization, released a major report challenging the desalination boom. It cited a potentially "major misdirection of public attention, policy and funds."

Yet WWF staffers acknowledge there could be a place for some desalination plants -- so long as certain criteria are met. First, however, they want cities to exhaust other options, such as water recycling. If plants are eventually called for, the WFF wants to see them built like the one in Perth.

"Perth is going to be the model for desalination in the developed world," says Tom Pankratz, an industry consultant in Houston. Although other facilities might not employ the same renewable sources for power, most of the newer ones are trying to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, says Mr. Pankratz, including the latest plants in London and Sydney. "Everyone is thinking that's going to be the way of the future."

Surrounded by desert, this remote Western Australia city is booming as a center for mining iron ore and other valuable commodities. By some estimates, Perth is attracting as many as 750 families a week, and now has a population in excess of 1.3 million.

But in recent years, water supplies have shrunk as rainfall levels declined -- possibly due to factors related to global warming. In the 1980s, annual inflows into reservoirs fell to less than 300 billion liters a year; by the late 1990s, the figure was down to fewer than 150 billion liters.

Leading the charge for desalination was Mr. Gill, 61 years old, a self-taught expert on climate change. A native Australian, he received a master's degree in public administration from Harvard and worked for many years at Western Australia's railway system before joining the Water Corp., the state-owned company, in the mid-1990s. His hobbies include trekking deep into the Australian Outback to see aboriginal rock paintings in their original setting.

He says he noticed the sharp drop-off in available water after studying historical charts at Water Corp. Then, in 2001, Perth had one of its worst droughts ever. Reservoirs were less than 25% full and officials worried the city would run out of water completely.

Water Corp. executives ordered residents to restrict garden sprinkler use to two days a week. One scuttled idea involved towing, and melting down, an iceberg from Antarctica.

Officials also mulled the case for desalination. Mr. Gill's engineers had studied it before as part of a long-term planning process, and had concluded the method was viable. But they didn't think it would be needed until 2020 at the earliest.

At first analysis, the cost seemed "horrifying," Mr. Gill recalls. According to David Lloyd Owen, a water expert at United Kingdom-based consulting firm Envisager, even the cheapest desalinated water can cost eight times more than traditional groundwater sources, which can be tapped for as little as five cents per cubic meter.

Mr. Gill changed his mind after desalination experts in Germany and elsewhere acquainted him with the latest technological improvements. He also saw that other water sources were becoming more expensive to exploit -- making desalination look more attractive.

Most modern facilities use a process known as reverse osmosis. This involves pushing water under high pressure through porous membranes that filter out the salt. Energy is needed to raise the pressure and then force the water through the membranes.

In recent years, engineers have developed better membranes that capture salt more effectively than before, and they've improved "pre-treatment" methods to remove large particles from water before it goes through the process. Newer facilities also use "energy recovery devices" that allow them to recycle as much as 90% of the energy that's expended.

Working to Convert

By 2003, Mr. Gill was working to convert a dubious public. Homeowners fretted over potentially higher water bills, which stood to rise by as much as 12%. Environmentalists warned that saline discharge would turn a nearby bay into a giant salt lake.

Perth's newspapers blasted the project in editorials and cartoons. Critics insisted the idea didn't address Perth's long-term water problems, which they say require more efforts to promote conservation.

Desalination "is exactly like taking an aspirin for a tumor," says Jorg Imberger, director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia in Perth. He believes people are simply using too much water. While the Perth plant was under consideration, he says, he phoned the state premier directly to voice his complaints.

Mr. Gill, meanwhile, responded to naysayers by warning that Water Corp. might impose a total sprinkler ban if water supplies didn't improve.

To counter environmental opposition, his team considered planting thousands of trees to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

But the real breakthrough came with a plan to use renewable power from a $165 million wind farm. The project's developers, which include private investors and a government-owned power company, had wanted to build the facility for years, but needed a big customer.

Making sure the desalination plant didn't burn fossil fuels was necessary to "defuse one of the key arguments against" it, Mr. Gill says. The eco-friendly design "also suited our values."

Mr. Gill cultivated unusual allies, including members of Perth's gardening industry. He also circulated charts and diagrams to the public showing the huge drop in water supply -- an effort that won over Geoff Gallop, then the state premier. Government officials approved the plant in late 2004.

"I wanted to make sure we had water security," says Mr. Gallop, now a professor at the University of Sydney.

The plant was up and running by late 2006. Situated in a bland industrial park 45 minutes south of the city, it includes a first-stage facility that removes silt and other impurities from water that's piped in from the adjacent, azure-blue sea. The water is then moved into a giant building the length of a football field where it is pressurized and sent through membranes in high-tech vessels.

The resulting water is treated with chlorine to meet health standards and piped into a reservoir that feeds into the local water supply. Leftover salt is flushed back into the ocean, where it disperses.

The facility even includes a tap where visitors can take a quick slurp. "Tastes better with whiskey," says project manager John Stansfield. When the process is finished, the water has a salt-free taste.

The Facility's Value

Some Perth residents still question the facility's value. Advocates for the poor say that lower-income citizens, including many Aboriginals, can't afford to pay more for water.

"Why are we building desalination plants to help wealthy people have gardens?" asks Irina Cattalini, director of social policy at the Western Australian Council of Social Service, an advocacy group.

Other desalination foes worry that Perth's success may be inspiring other cities to follow suit, but with lesser regard for any environmental toll.

At the Garden Affair, a small garden center in one of Perth's wealthier neighborhoods, some patrons indicated they have no intention of cutting back their water use -- even if the additional supply comes at a higher price.

"In the long run, we have to have the water, don't we?" said Lorraine Cook, a 65-year-old retiree who was shopping there one recent afternoon.

"I'd rather have a garden that uses more water" than have to give up azaleas, roses and other such plants, said Joanna Gage, a 45-year-old compliance manager at a financial-services company.

Even some of the country's biggest critics of desalination have warmed up to the Perth facility -- including, to a degree, Mr. Imberger of the University of Western Australia. Desalination "gives you security," he acknowledges. And he's pleased about the use of renewable energy.

Mr. Gill and others agree that desalination isn't perfect. "The price of water will probably go up over time, but it's scarce -- I think people realize that," says Mr. Gallop, the former state premier. "We're in a new world now."

Write to Patrick Barta at
30937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 11, 2008, 11:37:00 AM
Tijuana Lives up to Its Reputation
The violent city of Tijuana, Baja California state, more than lived up to its reputation for mayhem this past week thanks to a series of incidents that left more than a dozen people dead. In a March 3 incident that sparked a six-hour gunbattle, military forces responding to an anonymous tip arrived at a suspected safe-house only to be met with gunfire as they sought entry. The soldiers established a security cordon around the area and waited for army special forces. The military forces led the raid on the building, and detained several gunmen who had sheltered inside. Later in the week, a police patrol came under fire when it sought to stop a convoy of suspicious vehicles. In another incident, police reported the discovery of five kidnapping victims, including one teenager.

While these kinds of violent incidents have become routine for the city, organized criminal activity in Tijuana has become increasingly fractured over the years. Historically, the city’s criminal networks have been involved with the Arellano Felix crime family. Also known as the Tijuana cartel, the Arellano Felix organization at one time was among the most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico. Following the arrest of several top members in the 1990s, however, the cartel lost much of its power. As a result, many of the smaller gangs that once worked for the cartel lost their source of income, and began expanding their operations to other activities to make money.

An Arellano Felix Brother Returns
The return of one of the cartel’s former leaders could change the equation. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was released from a U.S. prison this past week and deported to Mexico, where he became a free man for the first time since 1993. The oldest brother in the family, Francisco Rafael at one time was responsible for organizing cocaine purchases from Colombian suppliers. He was arrested in 1993 by police in Tijuana on weapons charges, and was behind bars in Mexico until 2006, when he was extradited to the United States and sentenced to six years for selling cocaine to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1980. Given credit for time served in Mexico, however, he was released after just two years.

Although Francisco Rafael has been out of the picture for 15 years, it seems likely that he will eventually go back to the family business. It is difficult to determine what impact this change will have on the cartel’s operations, however, especially since his return might not be welcomed by other criminal organizations in the city. One important area to watch is whether the cartel becomes involved in the cocaine business. It has been several years since the Tijuana cartel has been involved in large-scale independent cocaine trafficking, but it is possible that Francisco Rafael’s previous experience in coordinating cocaine purchases could be put to use again. While significant changes to Tijuana’s dynamic will not happen overnight, potential ramifications of the former leader’s return must be watched closely.

Targeting Small Gangs in Monterrey
Police in Nuevo Leon state launched an effort this past week to crack down on several small gangs in the Monterrey area that officials believe are connected to the Gulf cartel. In a series of raids, authorities detained more than 500 people as they swept through areas where these gangs are believed to be operating and selling drugs. But the raids did not produce the results that authorities were looking for. For example, 381 people — including many drug addicts — were detained in one raid, but only one pistol, small quantities of drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized. While it would not be surprising to learn gangs in the Monterrey area are connected with the Gulf cartel, there is no evidence these particular organizations did more than sell drugs on the street.

These raids represent one of the challenges authorities in Mexico face as they battle the country’s drug problem. While drug-dealing gangs like those targeted in Monterrey represent a public safety issue that must be addressed, focusing on them requires diverting people and resources from the mission of hunting down the members of the large cartels that are the heart of the problem.

March 3
One person died and several were wounded during a six-hour firefight between security forces and suspected drug gang members in Tijuana, Baja California.

Five bodies were discovered in a makeshift grave used by a drug-trafficking group in Chihuahua state.
The bodies of two men were found in two separate incidents in Mexico state. One victim had been shot in the head at close range while the other had been shot several times.
Ten assailants killed a candidate for local office in a small town in Guerrero state.
March 4
A raid on an alleged Gulf cartel safe-house in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, resulted in the seizure of seven firearms, 23 fragmentation grenades, nine armored vehicles and body armor.
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, discovered the bodies of five people who had been abducted the day before. At least one of the victims was a minor.
The body of an unidentified man shot in the head at close range was found along a highway in Hidalgo state.
March 5
The bodies of three kidnapping victims were found in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The victims, one of whom was a minor, were abducted from their homes March 3.

A man in Tijuana, Baja California state, died after being shot twice in the head while walking.
A Durango state police officer died outside his home when he was shot at least 70 times by gunmen traveling in two vehicles.
A police commander in Nuevo Leon escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt by three men who pursued him as he left work.
A firefight in Torreon, Coahuila state, between military forces and suspected gang members left one gang member dead and another wounded.
Gunmen fired on a group of police officers assigned to a congressman’s protective detail in Oaxaca state. Three officers were wounded; the congressman was not in the city at the time of the attack.
Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, exchanged gunfire with armed assailants traveling in three vehicles.
March 6
The bodies of three unidentified victims were found outside the office of the attorney general in Oaxaca state.
March 7
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, announced the arrest of three men in possession of nearly 100 firearms, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, 23 grenades, and half a ton of marijuana.
Authorities in the port city of Manzanillo, Colima state, seized more than $11 million in $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills in a shipping container aboard a freight ship. The seizure took place after a routine inspection of the ship — which was headed to Panama — revealed irregularities in the container’s paperwork.
A police commander in Oaxaca state was shot dead while sitting in a park cleaning his shoes.
March 8
One soldier and six gunmen were reported dead after a firefight in Chihuahua state.
Two police officers in Jalisco state died when assailants fired on them with automatic weapons.
March 9
A taxi driver in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, was shot dead by a group of gunmen traveling in a vehicle.
30938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NSA Domestic Spying Grows on: March 11, 2008, 10:38:18 AM
NSA's Domestic Spying Grows
As Agency Sweeps Up Data
Terror Fight Blurs
Line Over Domain;
Tracking Email
March 10, 2008; Page A1

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency's mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

It isn't clear how many of the different kinds of data are combined and analyzed together in one database by the NSA. An intelligence official said the agency's work links to about a dozen antiterror programs in all.

A number of NSA employees have expressed concerns that the agency may be overstepping its authority by veering into domestic surveillance. And the constitutional question of whether the government can examine such a large array of information without violating an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy "has never really been resolved," said Suzanne Spaulding, a national-security lawyer who has worked for both parties on Capitol Hill.

NSA officials say the agency's own investigations remain focused only on foreign threats, but it's increasingly difficult to distinguish between domestic and international communications in a digital era, so they need to sweep up more information.

The Fourth Amendment

In response to the Sept. 11 attacks, then NSA-chief Gen. Michael Hayden has said he used his authority to expand the NSA's capabilities under a 1981 executive order governing the agency. Another presidential order issued shortly after the attacks, the text of which is classified, opened the door for the NSA to incorporate more domestic data in its searches, one senior intelligence official said.

The NSA "strictly follows laws and regulations designed to preserve every American's privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," agency spokeswoman Judith Emmel said in a statement, referring to the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA in conjunction with the Pentagon, added in a statement that intelligence agencies operate "within an extensive legal and policy framework" and inform Congress of their activities "as required by the law." It pointed out that the 9/11 Commission recommended in 2004 that intelligence agencies analyze "all relevant sources of information" and share their databases.

Two former officials familiar with the data-sifting efforts said they work by starting with some sort of lead, like a phone number or Internet address. In partnership with the FBI, the systems then can track all domestic and foreign transactions of people associated with that item -- and then the people who associated with them, and so on, casting a gradually wider net. An intelligence official described more of a rapid-response effect: If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city -- for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans -- the government's spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

The haul can include records of phone calls, email headers and destinations, data on financial transactions and records of Internet browsing. The system also would collect information about other people, including those in the U.S., who communicated with people in Detroit.

The information doesn't generally include the contents of conversations or emails. But it can give such transactional information as a cellphone's location, whom a person is calling, and what Web sites he or she is visiting. For an email, the data haul can include the identities of the sender and recipient and the subject line, but not the content of the message.

Intelligence agencies have used administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI -- which don't need a judge's signature -- to collect and analyze such data, current and former intelligence officials said. If that data provided "reasonable suspicion" that a person, whether foreign or from the U.S., was linked to al Qaeda, intelligence officers could eavesdrop under the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program.

The White House wants to give companies that assist government surveillance immunity from lawsuits alleging an invasion of privacy, but Democrats in Congress have been blocking it. The Terrorist Surveillance Program has spurred 38 lawsuits against companies. Current and former intelligence officials say telecom companies' concern comes chiefly because they are giving the government unlimited access to a copy of the flow of communications, through a network of switches at U.S. telecommunications hubs that duplicate all the data running through it. It isn't clear whether the government or telecom companies control the switches, but companies process some of the data for the NSA, the current and former officials say.
30939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NY Times: By products of Bio-fuel on: March 11, 2008, 08:58:11 AM
Published: March 11, 2008
MOUNDVILLE, Ala. — After residents of the Riverbend Farms subdivision noticed that an oily, fetid substance had begun fouling the Black Warrior River, which runs through their backyards, Mark Storey, a retired petroleum plant worker, hopped into his boat to follow it upstream to its source.

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Dana Mixer for The New York Times
Nelson Brooke, the executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, walked along an area of the river near Moundville, Ala.

Enlarge This Image
Nelson Brooke
Oil and grease from a biodiesel plant had been released.
It turned out to be an old chemical factory that had been converted into Alabama’s first biodiesel plant, a refinery that intended to turn soybean oil into earth-friendly fuel.

“I’m all for the plant,” Mr. Storey said. “But I was really amazed that a plant like that would produce anything that could get into the river without taking the necessary precautions.”

But the oily sheen on the water returned again and again, and a laboratory analysis of a sample taken in March 2007 revealed that the ribbon of oil and grease being released by the plant — it resembled Italian salad dressing — was 450 times higher than permit levels typically allow, and that it had drifted at least two miles downstream.

The spills, at the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation plant outside this city about 17 miles from Tuscaloosa, are similar to others that have come from biofuel plants in the Midwest. The discharges, which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” said Barbara Lynch, who supervises environmental compliance inspectors for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “This is big business. There’s a lot of money involved.”

Iowa leads the nation in biofuel production, with 42 ethanol and biodiesel refineries in production and 18 more plants under construction, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. In the summer of 2006, a Cargill biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls improperly disposed of 135,000 gallons of liquid oil and grease, which ran into a stream killing hundreds of fish.

According to the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group, biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable and suitable for sensitive environments, but scientists say that position understates its potential environmental impact.

“They’re really considered nontoxic, as you would expect,” said Bruce P. Hollebone, a researcher with Environment Canada in Ottawa and one of the world’s leading experts on the environmental impact of vegetable oil and glycerin spills.

“You can eat the stuff, after all,” Mr. Hollebone said. “But as with most organic materials, oil and glycerin deplete the oxygen content of water very quickly, and that will suffocate fish and other organisms. And for birds, a vegetable oil spill is just as deadly as a crude oil spill.”

Other states have also felt the impact.

Leanne Tippett Mosby, a deputy division director of environmental quality for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said she was warned a year ago by colleagues in other states that biodiesel producers were dumping glycerin, the main byproduct of biodiesel production, contaminated with methanol, another waste product that is classified as hazardous.

Glycerin, an alcohol that is normally nontoxic, can be sold for secondary uses, but it must be cleaned first, a process that is expensive and complicated. Expanded production of biodiesel has flooded the market with excess glycerin, making it less cost-effective to clean and sell.

Ms. Tippett Mosby did not have to wait long to see the problem. In October, an anonymous caller reported that a tanker truck was dumping milky white goop into Belle Fountain Ditch, one of the many man-made channels that drain Missouri’s Bootheel region. That substance turned out to be glycerin from a biodiesel plant.

In January, a grand jury indicted a Missouri businessman in the discharge, which killed at least 25,000 fish and wiped out the population of fat pocketbook mussels, an endangered species.

Back in Alabama, Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Black Warrior River and its tributaries, received a report in September 2006 of a fish kill that stretched 20 miles downstream from Moundville. Even though Mr. Brooke said he found oil in the water around the dead fish, the state Department of Environmental Management determined that natural, seasonal changes in oxygen levels in the water could have been the culprit. The agency did not charge Alabama Biodiesel.

In August, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, in a complaint filed in Federal District Court, documented at least 24 occasions when oil was spotted in the water near the plant.

Page 2 of 2)

Richard Campo, vice president of Alabama Biodiesel, did not respond to requests for an interview, but Clay A. Tindal, a Tuscaloosa lawyer representing the refinery, called the suit’s claims “sheer speculation, conjecture, and unsupported bald allegations.” Mr. Tindal said that “for various reasons,” the plant was not now producing fuel.

The company has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it has entered into a settlement agreement with state officials that requires it to pay a $12,370 fine and to obtain proper discharge permits.

Don Scott, an engineer for the National Biodiesel Board, acknowledges that some producers have had problems complying with environmental rules but says those violations have been infrequent in an industry that nearly doubled in size in one year, to 160 plants in the United States at the end of 2007 from 90 plants at the end of 2006.

Mr. Scott said that the board had been working with state and environmental agencies to educate member companies and that the troubles were “growing pains.”

Ms. Lynch said some of the violations were the result of an industry that was inexperienced in the manufacturing process and its wastes. But in other instances, she said, companies are skirting the permit process to get their plants up and running faster.

“Our fines are only so high,” Ms. Lynch said. “It’s build first, permit second.”

In October 2005, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management informed Alabama Biodiesel that it would need an individual pollution discharge permit to operate, but the company never applied for one. The company operated for more than a year without a permit and without facing any penalties from state regulators, though inspectors documented unpermitted discharges on two occasions.

For some, the troubles of the industry seem to outweigh its benefits.

“They’re environmental Jimmy Swaggarts, in my opinion,” said Representative Brian P. Bilbray, Republican of California, who spoke out against the $18 billion energy package recently passed by Congress that provides tax credits for biofuels. “What is being sold as green fuel just doesn’t pencil out.”
30940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Hutchison on: March 11, 2008, 08:52:31 AM
Pakistan's Progress
March 11, 2008; Page A20

A democratic transition of power is taking shape in Pakistan. Last month, the country held parliamentary elections that were a resounding defeat for President Pervez Musharraf. This week the country's two main political parties worked out a power-sharing agreement. A new prime minister could be named within days.

This is encouraging, but it fuels a debate in Washington over whether the United States should prop up Mr. Musharraf. My view is that we have a better chance of finding a strong ally in the war on terror in Pakistan if a legitimate democratic government takes root.

And make no mistake, we need a strong ally against al Qaeda in Pakistan. The country is fighting terrorism at every level of its society, but its ability to carry on this fight is weakened by the fragility of its constitutional order and the impotence of its governing institutions. Terrorists thrive when a nation can't control its own territory, and when the government is seen as illegitimate by its people -- two conditions that have existed in Pakistan for years as it has exported both terrorism and black-market nuclear technology.

Unfortunately, all of Pakistan's leaders are flawed. Mr. Musharraf took power in 1999 in a military coup. Ali Zardari, head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), spent time in prison on corruption charges, which he claimed were politically motivated (some have recently been dismissed). Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who is head of the Muslim League, has a tendency toward anti-Americanism.

However, there are redeeming qualities in all of these men. Mr. Musharraf loosened his grip on power, took off his military uniform, and allowed fair parliamentary elections. He also conceded defeat on election day. He has been a partner in the war on terror. He believes that, above all else, Islamist extremists must be defeated. He is willing to defer to the new parliamentary majority and possibly to step down or slip into a ceremonial and advisory role.

Mr. Zardari succeeded his wife, Benazir Bhutto, as head of the Pakistan People's Party after she was killed in a terrorist attack in December. He has publicly pledged to fight the war on terror and echoes his late wife's calls for a strong democracy, a parliament that represents the people, and improved education and economic conditions.

Mr. Sharif often seems hostile to America. In the 1990s, he supported Shariah law and tended to interfere with the judiciary. When asked who might replace Mr. Musharraf as president, Mr. Sharif once responded with the name of A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and the chief proliferator of nuclear technology. But even Mr. Sharif now champions the rule of law and an independent judiciary, and defends Pakistan's constitution.

Regardless of who becomes the next prime minister, the issue of how he comes to power is now vitally important. Mr. Musharraf must be allowed enough room to peacefully transition to a strong democracy, and to figure out how to exit the stage with the grace of a leader who recognizes the will of the people.

There is talk of hastening him out the door with impeachment proceedings. The U.S. should caution Pakistani leaders to consider the consequences carefully. Impeachment could destabilize Pakistan and postpone work that must be done to establish an independent judiciary, crack down on terrorists, and jump-start development.

The new coalition has suggested that it might de-emphasize military operations against terrorists along the western frontier provinces where al Qaeda made its stronghold after the fall of Afghanistan. The leaders have suggested dialogue, economic development, and political enfranchisement as the key tools for pacifying Pakistan's frontier. These comments concern many of us who take this as a sign that Pakistani efforts against the terrorists might further flag. But the emphasis on providing services to the population -- from security to running water -- in order to win their participation in the political life of the state is fundamental to starving extremists of popular support. The Islamist parties' dismal showing in the recent election suggests that this strategy may already be working.

As long as Pakistan's leaders support democracy and practice it, we will be their enthusiastic partner. Our security depends on helping them improve internal security and the rule of law, which are prerequisites of popular legitimacy for any government and essential for foreign investment. As support for a secular and democratic government grows, our ongoing efforts to help turn the Pakistani army into an effective counter-terrorism force will start paying enormous dividends. If that happens, Pakistan will emerge as a more effective and reliable partner in the war against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Ms. Hutchison, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.
30941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Spitzer Affair on: March 11, 2008, 08:44:06 AM
I hope Spitzer goes down hard, not because I believe in the criminalization of the behavior in question, but because , , , well, read this from the WSJ:


Spitzer's Rise and Fall
March 11, 2008; Page A20
One might call it Shakespearian if there were a shred of nobleness in the story of Eliot Spitzer's fall. There is none. Governor Spitzer, who made his career by specializing in not just the prosecution, but the ruin, of other men, is himself almost certainly ruined.

Mr. Spitzer's brief statement yesterday about a "private matter" surely involves what are widely reported to be his activities with an expensive prostitution ring discovered by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. Those who believe Eliot Spitzer is getting his just deserts may be entitled to that view, but it misses the greater lesson for our politics.

Eliot Spitzer
Mr. Spitzer coasted into the Governorship on the wings of a reputation as a "tough" public prosecutor. Mr. Spitzer, though, was no emperor. He had not merely arrogated to himself the powers he held and used with such aggression. He was elected.

In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of "illegal" behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.


Read a selection of Journal editorials and op-eds about New York's Governor, including coverage of Mr. Spitzer's tenure as the state's chief law enforcement officerIn perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer's lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. "I will be coming after you," Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead's account. "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done."

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone -- embroiled in Mr. Spitzer's investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso -- that the AG would "put a spike through Langone's heart." New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that "the attorney general acted like a thug."

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats -- some rhetorical, some acted upon -- by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

Eliot Spitzer's self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff's enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state's Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. On any level, it was nuts. Somehow, Team Spitzer thought they could get by with it. In the wake of that abusive fiasco, his public approval rating plunged.

Mr. Spitzer's dramatic fall yesterday began in the early afternoon with a posting on the Web site of the New York Times about the alleged link to prostitutes. The details in the criminal complaint about "Client-9," who is reported to be Mr. Spitzer, will now be played for titters by the press corps. But one may ask: Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official.

There really is nothing very satisfying about the rough justice being meted out to Eliot Spitzer. He came to embody a system that revels in the entertainment value of roguish figures who rise to power by destroying the careers of others, many of them innocent. Better still, when the targets are as presumably unsympathetic as Wall Street bankers and brokers.

Acts of crime deserve prosecution by the state. The people, in turn, deserve prosecutors and officials who understand the difference between the needs of the public good and the needs of unrestrained personalities who are given the honor of high office.

30942  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: March 11, 2008, 08:42:06 AM
Travis is very good.  I did Sayoc training with him.  He also offers CSW MMA trainiing.
30943  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicle issues on: March 11, 2008, 08:39:50 AM

Terrible.  Folks, lets turn this into a case study.  What did the assaulted family do well, and what could be improved?

1) The man getting punched through the window:  What are the options here?  Rolling up the window may put the teen in prime striking range.  Drive the car backwards out of the parking spot?  If the car was turned off, could you start your car and get it in gear?  How useful is it to point the left elbow in an effort to spike/defang the attacking fist?  What options are there for preparing one's driver area with weapons for just such a scenario?  What are the legal issues of doing so?

2) What about the woman/wife&mother? getting out of the car?  Yes the general rule is stay in the car, but it appears her man was in trouble-- can this action be faulted?

3) One sees the terrible process of escalation.  The teen's mother, having beat up the wife/mother, then sics her husband on the wife mother with brutal consequences and the haole husband, having gotten out the car to defend his woman gets dropped very hard.  How to fight a Samoan when unarmed?  What are the legal issues in Hawaii/our respective states in bringing weapons into play?  Would a folder be enough?  If that is the option at hand and one believes deadly force to be appropriate, what is the best way to go about it?

30944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams: Laws of Nature and the Creator on: March 11, 2008, 08:19:42 AM

"In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound
by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of
the Creator."

-- Samuel Adams (letter to the Legislature of Massachusetts,
17 January 1794)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (224); original The Writings
of Samuel Adams, Cushing, ed., vol. 4 (356)
30945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gulf States and the Shiite Conundrum on: March 11, 2008, 08:12:26 AM

Geopolitical Diary: The Gulf States and the Shiite Conundrum
March 10, 2008
Kuwait has experienced an unusual series of Shiite protests. The protests in the usually controlled society were sparked by the arrests of Shiite mourners and government members who organized a rally after the killing of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah. The Kuwaiti Shia — who comprise roughly 30 percent of the emirate’s population — rarely organize, let alone rally or protest. The recent unrest has served to remind the government of previous Shiite incidents, such as when militants hijacked two airliners in the 1980s.

The incidents have put the Kuwaiti government in a difficult position. It can’t ignore pro-Hezbollah sentiments among some of its Shiite citizens. But it cannot adopt a tough stance against them either without risking inflaming Shia throughout Persian Gulf Arab states. The Kuwaiti Shia themselves probably will not let things spin out of control, but even so, unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, where 20 percent and 70 percent of the population, respectively, is Shia.

Thus far, Shia in all three Gulf Arab states have not been openly pro-Iranian or Pan-Shia. But simmering Shiite unrest could boil over, given tensions arising over Iraq and Lebanon combined with perceptions of unfairness at home. The Sunni Arab states fervently don’t want this to come to pass, and so far they don’t have a serious problem on their hands. But their fears could prompt action that might produce the very outcome they are trying to avoid.

The present concerns of the Gulf states — which for the most part are all U.S. allies — are dredging up fears from decades past of a potential Shiite fifth column with an Iranian sponsor. Tehran already is causing regional tensions with its support of the Shia in Iraq and of Hezbollah in Lebanon. These tensions could become a conflagration if the Shiite populations in the Sunni states of the Gulf catch fire.

For its part, Iran is delighted at the timing of the pro-Hezbollah sympathies in the Gulf states. Tehran is coming off of an embarrassing week after Washington snubbed the Iranians when they turned up in Iraq for another set of negotiations. The Iranians have since been using excuses such as “scheduling issues” as reasons the Americans didn’t show up. In reality, the United States doesn’t feel it needs to be at the table with Iran at the moment. Instead, Washington is waiting things out with the Iranians, preferring for the moment to make Tehran sweat over a potential showdown between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This means the Iranians need a lever in their negotiations with the United States. Selecting the Gulf Shia is a great option that scares many of Iran’s opponents in the game, from Sunni Arab states to the United States. But Iran may not proceed too far down this path, since if it does not score a knockout punch with its Sunni Arab neighbors, it will have created new implacable foes for itself. And Iran doesn’t need any more of those just now.

30946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Press ignore terrorist stopped by armed student on: March 11, 2008, 08:09:37 AM
Press 'ignore' terrorist stopped by armed student
'Yitzak Dadon's apparently well-placed bullets interrupted a rampage'

Posted: March 07, 2008
9:33 pm Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily

A gun rights organization in the United States is accusing
the media of trying to conceal the fact that a gunman who
attacked students at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav seminary
was stopped by an armed student at the school.
Authorities report that Ytizhak Dadon, 40, was a "private
citizen who had a gun license and was able to shoot the
gunman with his pistol," according to a statement released
today by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
In its earlier reporting on the tragedy, WND confirmed, "One
terrorist reportedly was shot to death by a student who was
However, the gun rights organization said "the American press
is downplaying his heroism because it proves that armed
students can stop campus gunmen."
"Yitzhak Dadon is a hero," said Alan Gottlieb, the chairman of
CCRKBA, "and he is living proof that armed students have a
place on college campuses. Thankfully, his quick action was
reported by the international press … so unlike incidents here in
the United States where the press was able to completely ignore
the actions of armed students or teachers, the truth about this
incident will not be suppressed."
He continued, "Mr. Dadon is not going to become a victim of this
conspiracy of silence. Elitist American college administrators, the
national press, nor anti-gun politicians can sweep this incident
under their rug."
The gun rights group said international reports credit Dadon, who
studies at the school, had his pistol available when the shooting
erupted. "When the gunman emerged from a library, Dadon reportedly
shot him twice in the head. The gunman was subsequently shot by
the off-duty soldier," the group said.
"Yitzhak Dadon's apparently well-placed bullets interrupted a rampage,"
Gottlieb said. "What a pity that someone like Mr. Dadon was not in
class last April at Virginia Tech. What a tragedy that anti-gun extremism
would keep him from attending class at Northern Illinois University. He
would never be allowed to teach at Columbine High School, hold a job
at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, or go shopping at Omaha's Westroads Mall.
"America's acquiescence to anti-gun hysteria has led to one tragedy
after another," Gottlieb stated. "This disastrous policy has given us nothing
but broken hearts and body counts, and it's got to end. The heroism of an
armed Israeli seminary student halfway across the world sends a message
that we needn't submit to murder in victim disarmament zones. That's why
his actions are getting such short shrift from America's press. It's a story they
are loathe to report because it affirms a philosophy of self-reliance that they despise."
The organization boasts more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide,
and is dedicated to preserving firearms freedoms through active lobbying of elected
officials and facilitating grass-roots organization of gun rights activists in local
communities throughout the United States.
WND had reported just days earlier on plans in Arizona, where lawmakers are
considering a way to stem the wave of unarmed students killed in campus
slayings by allowing adults to carry firearms onto the grounds of state universities.
"The police got to both the Virginia Tech murder scene and the New Life Church
[in Colorado] in about six minutes," noted Larry Pratt, the chief of Gun Owners of America.
"At Virginia Tech, 30 people died. At New Life, two died in the parking lot and once
the bad guy got inside the building he was engaged by (armed) security team
volunteers and nobody else died. In fact, he was finished in about 30 seconds."
Pratt noted the circumstances of the two attacks. After killing two people at a Christian
training center in Arvada, Colo., last December, 24-year-old Matthew Murray went to
Colorado Springs intending more murder and mayhem.
Murray shot and killed two girls in the New Life Church's parking lot, then headed inside
the building where thousands of worshippers were concluding a service.
A volunteer security guard, Jeanne Assam, confronted him almost immediately and
fired at him. He fell, and an autopsy later said he had shot himself.
But at Virginia Tech, Cho Seung-Hui, 23, armed himself and went to a classroom
building on a campus where guns were banned. He fatally shot a total of 32.
The latest attack on unarmed teachers and students happened on Valentine's Day,
when Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, walked into a Northern Illinois University auditorium
and shot and killed five people, and wounded 16 others.
The gunman then shot himself.
In Jerusalem, reports said one or possibly two gunmen infiltrated the Mercaz Harav
Yeshiva, located near the entrance to Jerusalem, and fired hundreds of rounds of bullets
at students. One terrorist, who may have been armed with an explosive device, made
his way to the yeshiva's main study room, where about 80 students were reportedly gathered.
Israeli police said eight were killed and nearly a dozen were wounded, some seriously.
30947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: March 10, 2008, 10:14:21 PM

A minister, a priest and a rabbi went for a hike one day. It was very hot. They were sweating and exhausted when they came upon a small lake. Since it was fairly secluded, they took off all their clothes and jumped in the water. Feeling refreshed, the trio decided to pick a few berries while enjoying their "freedom." As they were crossing an open area, who should come along but a group of ladies from town.

Unable to get to their clothes in time, the minister and the priest covered their privates and the rabbi covered his face while they ran for cover.

After the ladies had left and the men got their clothes back on, the minister and the priest asked the rabbi why he covered his face rather than his privates.

The rabbi replied, "I don't know about you, but in MY congregation, it's my face they would recognize."
30948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: March 10, 2008, 10:09:07 PM
BO may win the Dem nomination with stuff like this, but I think/hope? he loses the general election with it.  If the American people decide that this in C in Chief material truly we are done for.
30949  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Filipino martial arts schools near Whittier? on: March 10, 2008, 10:05:04 PM
Michael Ritz and Greg Moody - Apprentice Instructor
Practical Defense Systems
Chula Vista, CA

James Stacy: Personal Trainer
1250 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Suite H
Vista, CA 92084
phone#  760-758-8500
30950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al-Sadr dying? on: March 10, 2008, 01:55:22 PM
Iraq: The Long-Term al-Sadrite Threat
Stratfor Today » March 10, 2008 | 1848 GMT

Iraqi Shia carry a poster of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr during a rallySummary
Rumors surfaced over the weekend of March 8-9 that radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is comatose in an Iranian hospital. While the sources for this information are dubious and the rumors have not been verified, the announcement comes as al-Sadr’s movement is under pressure to demonstrate its cohesion. If al-Sadr were to die, the repercussions for his movement — and for the United States — would be tremendous.

Rumors surfaced over the weekend of March 8-9 that radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is in a coma in an Iranian hospital after consuming poisoned food. The sources for this information are dubious and Stratfor has not yet found any evidence to support these claims. Meanwhile, there have been a number of mainstream media reports citing top al-Sadr aides as saying that the maverick Shite leader is still very much in charge of his movement despite a sabbatical in Iran, where he is trying to shore up his religious credentials, and an acknowledgement that many of his erstwhile followers had gone rogue.

Clearly, al-Sadr’s movement is under immense pressure to demonstrate that it is very much a cohesive force despite the massive internal problems in the past couple of years. Al-Sadr has seen many commanders and fighters from within his militia, the Mehdi Army, go rogue and many political figures from within his al-Sadrite bloc also break orbit in the wake of U.S. and Iranian attempts to control the movement. Indeed, since the rise of the al-Sadrite movement after the regime change in Baghdad in 2003, both Washington and Tehran have also encouraged factionalization within the movement, in keeping with their respective objectives.

At the same time, the group needs to compete with rival Shiite groups — especially Iran’s principal proxy, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim; Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawah party; and al-Fadhila, an al-Sadrite offshoot. Its opponents have always tried to marginalize the al-Sadrite movement, calling it politically and religiously amateurish. Considering how rival Iraqi Shiite groups accuse one another of being Iranian agents, al-Sadr’s spending a disproportionate amount of time in Iran is hurting the credibility of his group, which has actually tried to promote itself as an Iraqi/Arab nationalist movement to differentiate itself from most of its rivals, who spent a great deal of time in Iran after Iraq’s Baathist regime fell.

More recently, the United States showered praise on al-Sadr and his group in exchange for his commitment to ending violence. While this gives the group much-needed recognition, it also hurts the al-Sadrites’ credibility. The move to transform his group from a rejectionist group to a mainstream political movement in order to better compete with the ISCI and its Badr Brigades has further weakened al-Sadr. Therefore, al-Sadr’s movement and the Iraqi Shiite community are the intended audience for the recent statements attributed to al-Sadr and those from his key associates that counter perceptions that al-Sadr has surrendered his movement to a U.S.-Iranian arrangement.

Regardless of the al-Sadrites’ current condition, the far more important matter is that of the future of the movement in case of al-Sadr’s death. About a year ago Stratfor discussed how the al-Sadrite movement is in the process of imploding in spite of al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership. However, should al-Sadr die of either natural or malicious causes, the geopolitical and security implications — for Iraq, the United States and Iran — would be massive.

The al-Sadrite group is a family/clan-based movement, and al-Sadr is the only surviving male member of the clan of any worth. His exit from the scene could aggravate the ongoing internal schism within the group and lead to its disintegration. Rival factions would try to take advantage of the vacuum, which would lead to infighting and then to a major shake-up of the Iraqi Shiite political landscape.

Of course, it would be a very important opportunity for al-Hakim’s ISCI to seize upon in order to realize its objective of establishing a virtual monopoly over the Iraqi Shia. But the fragmentation of the al-Sadrite movement would also create security problems and lead to intra-Shia and even Shia-Sunni violence. The Iranians — like their proxy in Iraq — could exploit a fragmented al-Sadrite movement and use it against the United States, but they would have their hands full in trying to maintain control.

For the United States, the repercussions would be the most severe, considering how long and hard Washington has been trying to stabilize Iraq. An al-Sadrite movement without an al-Sadr at the helm could reverse the gains Washington has made during the past year, which has seen significant drops in violence. Given its size, its capability to engage in violence and the fragile nature of its leadership, the al-Sadrite movement is a ticking bomb.

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