Sunday, December 27, 2009

Put Down That Shovel!

Forget old-fashioned infrastructure. Here are six government projects to foster a lasting economic recovery.

By Andy Kessler

Here's a fine article. Inventive, forward looking

It's worth the time to click through to read it in full

The House has passed a $154 billion jobs bill, and the administration has announced a plan to spend $50 billion of repaid TARP money to "create" jobs—this time its green jobs, "shovel ready" infrastructure projects ($27.5 billion for highway construction and repair) and a tax credit for small businesses.

Building roads and bridges willy-nilly won't make us more productive; and without increases in productivity and the associated corporate profits, there can be no sustainable job creation, no increase in standards of living, and no real economic recovery.

Stop thinking concrete and massive construction projects. Think small—photons, electrons and proteins. Here are six ideas:

These six ideas are here

College asks students to power down, contemplate

Good article here.

Please start it here and click through to read it

The Associated Press
Friday, December 25, 2009;
10:40 AM

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project has
found that 82 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds own cell phones.
Ninety-four percent of teens spend time online.

But Lynch fears all that time spent in the 21st century's town square
leaves few opportunities for clutter-free thought. She wants the
students to also pursue the more elusive state of mind that comes with

Friday, December 25, 2009

Terror trials will pose tough questions about Islam

Here is another good piece in the Christian Science Monitor, written in anticipation of upcoming trials of 11 murder suspects moved to US soil from Gitmo,

Washington - The coming trials of 11 Muslim men in the United States for several separate acts of mass murder will sharply refocus attention on Islamic theology. It will also present the Muslim world with a "moment of truth."

Walter Rogers does an excellent job mostly by the simplicity and sincerity of the voice he has managed to secure for his article.  Because of this he is able as an outsider to bring the right questions before the Ummah, the global Muslim community

We hope the good questions raised by Walters will be engaged by the many fine Muslim leaders in the US, who bear these special challenges at the current time.

Read the entire article here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Airlines expected to lose $5.6 billion in 2010

There is one huge oversight in analysis about Airlines. No one factors in the the fact that airlines fully lack what makes businesses successful.

Airlines, especially US carriers perfectly fail establish positive customer relations. Airlines do not respect flyers, flyers in turn don’t like airlines. There is no trust. Commerce is “hold your nose” and fly if you must.

Successful businesses are built on a corporate ethos of true care for clients, followed by clients loyalty and happiness to give our business.

Analysts examine every indicator when sobbing about airlines except the simple truth of what makes a business successful, customer care, and customer loyalty.

GENEVA – The global airline industry will face another harrowing year in 2010, with losses expected to reach $5.6 billion despite some recovery in passenger and cargo traffic, an industry group said Tuesday.

“2009 very quickly got much worse than we expected,” said IATA chief economist Brian Pearce.


North Carolina councilman may face lawsuit over his atheism

Surely we cannot affirm the notion that a public official should be removed from office for "not believing in God," but what do you think of his own defense? Do you agree that the matter is not relevant to public office?

Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell believes in ending the death penalty, conserving water and reforming government -- but he doesn't believe in God. His political opponents say that's a sin that makes him unworthy of serving in office, and they've got the North Carolina constitution on their side.

"The question of whether or not God exists is not particularly interesting to me and it's certainly not relevant to public office," the recently elected 59-year-old said.

The entire article is here

Cecil Bothwell takes the oath of office for the Asheville City Council Dec. 8. His opponents say the admitted athiest can't serve because North Carolina law disqualifies candidates who "deny the being of Almighty God."

Pak religious leaders declare suicide attacks 'haram'

Frank says:

This might be a big “duh” to most, but the formal establishment of this position by established, theological authorities is important

While this might seem obvious to the near total majority of normal, thinking people in the Muslim world and without, still the formal declaration forbidding suicide/genocide coming from several important, established, and respected theological schools in the region is a vital step toward solving the problem of violent militants who pervert religious teachings to defend their bestial horrors.
Lahore, Dec. 14 : Religious leaders from various schools of thought across Pakistan have termed suicide attacks ‘haram’ or un-Islamic.
See more at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Phil Mushnick on Tiger Woods

Of all the ink on the sad sad tale of Tiger Woods, the piece that caught my attention was that of Phil Mushnick in the New York Post.

Mushnick focuses on an event 10 years ago on the links, and on the the 3 days after the 1 car accident rather than on the sordid, and prurient. He notes issues of character, real friends, and the challenges of wealth and power.

So what's the cost of good advice that it's too expensive for Tiger Woods? It seems that all he had to do was face the music before it became deafening. Disarm the alarm quickly, honestly, openly: "We're having some marital issues. Things, right now, are not good, but we hope to resolve them, one way or another. I've cooperated with the police in this matter. Thank you."

Chances are that much of what's blowing in would've blown itself out by now. Some of it wouldn't have even caught the wind. "Hey, from the start, he admitted his marriage is on the rocks, didn't he?" Or did Woods & Co. really think that they could keep the lid on a can of half-opened stink? Why, because he's Tiger Woods?

Woods was long ago attached to a climate-controlled, rep-firm-at-work immaculate image. Some recognized it from the start as nauseatingly bogus. It figures that Team Tiger on Saturday came up with a plan to send Woods into a bunker that no sand wedge, even in Tiger Woods' hands, could beat. But hadn't Woods & Co. always gotten its way? This would be just another sweet up and down to save par.

Playing the Phoenix Open in 1999, Woods, starting his third full year as a pro but already identified as extra super special, hit his drive behind a boulder.

Craig Jones/Allsport
A dozen fans moving a rock away from his ball is an example of the special treatment.

His approach to the green was blocked. No problem. A dozen spectators teamed to shove that boulder out of his way. A boulder that took 12 men to move was deemed, as per The Rules of Golf, "a loose impediment" -- it was for Tiger Woods.

On TV, that day, and for weeks to come, the announcers thought that boulder-shoving scene was great. Most media did, or so they claimed. So what that such an unnatural advantage wouldn't have been extended to some anonymous schnook who was trying to make a paycheck in that tournament, everyone loves Tiger!

But that was never the point. A few party poopers -- I was one -- didn't see the sport in what had happened. It set a bad example -- for Woods. He didn't have to deal with a boulder that was in his way; boulders are for the other guys to deal with.

I was hoping that Woods would have called the do-gooders off that rock, that he'd have recognized that such use/misuse of the rules is excessive, that it violated the "spirit of the rules" (failed the smell test).

But Woods passed on this golden opportunity to prove that he's a sportsman, that he'd do as everyone else must, that under the circumstances, he'd just have to do the best he could.

Ten years later, that boulder is back. This time, though, he had to deal with it, do the best he could. Unaccustomed to such circumstances, he didn't deal with them very well.

But when you grow accustomed to having it your way, every time, all the time, and you're surrounded by those who either serve that end or established it and maintain it, good advice isn't allowed past the gatehouse.

I've often wondered whether Donald Trump, for all his dough, has a real-deal best friend, the kind who can tell him when he's acting like a jerk and remain his best friend. Or does he surround himself with acolytes he confuses as friends, backslappers who tell him what he wants to hear -- or risk excommunication? I suspect it's the latter.

And I suspect that began to become Woods' reality, too. Woods' "pals" allowed him to think that he could beat this because he's Tiger Woods. A real friend wouldn't have allowed him to think such a foolish thing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where in our lives does religion belong?

Religion is a dicey subject. Along with politics it is known to be one of the two big no no's when trying to keep dinner conversation peaceful and civil.

For most, the word religion means buildings (churches, temples, and mosques), beliefs, books (like the Bible, the Qur'an or the Baghavad Gita), the occasional person or two (like the Pope, or the Dalai Lama), and the rare and occasional saint among us (like Mother Theresa). As for the rest, folks tend to think of religion as personal or private. But can it be that easy? A very important piece often does not get the attention or reflection it deserves. What is the place of religion in the larger scheme of life and society?

For example, should religious people do good? Of course, we say. But even with this first simplest and obvious answer, tough questions already arise. What if an irresponsible couple next door constantly left two little ones unattended for long hours every night? What should Bill and Mary, the caring, prayerful, and faithful members of St. Katherine's do? A great many would say, "My gosh, they should not do anything!" That's the job of the city and city services.

Or supposing there was pending legislation, cleverly designed to block a group of believers from moving into my neighborhood, or having a place of worship here? Should conscientious religious people organize or lobby to prevent its passage? Or aren't religious people supposed to stay the heck out of politics? In dozens of situations like these everyday, the neat lines between religion and secular society is tricky.

But if religion is important, and to a vast many it is, then just how it functions in greater society and in day to day life must be important too. What are the rules? Unfortunately, they are not cut and dried, even in a country like the United States. But one thing we can know for sure, good outcomes have their best chance when energetic religious life and secular commitment to a safe and prosperous societies cooperate.

Last weekend, in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Buddhist believers did what no secular or political figures could. Following intense, and extremely volatile naval skirmishes with nuclear-armed North Korea, Buddhist monks from both North and South met together to honor their ancient founder, and perhaps to remind Koreans everywhere that their oneness is ancient, and their wars are young. In this case believers showed a better way by doing something that even could have global consequences.

On the other side, this past Monday, the vice president of Iraq offered a special, government bonus for newlyweds who were mixed Sunni-Shia couples. These special families to be were given $2,000 (to help start married life), a banquet with music, and even a hotel night for their honeymoon. Is that government meddling? Is that blurring the lines of church and state? Or is it a visionary political act to help dissolve forces that foster conflict, terrorism, and radicalization? This time it was the political side that gave the nudge toward a better, more peaceful society.

Where does religion belong in our lives? The answer is never cut and dried. There is no final, fixed formula. But our best chance every time is when the sacred and secular look upon the other as friend and partner.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Belief and Charity, Rough Times Ahead

We humans are both physical and spiritual. Ideally these should function happily in harmony. Often they don't. This war waged within is eloquently described by many religious greats through the ages, the apostle Paul in Roman's 7:23 ("another law at work in my members ... making me a prisoner"), the Sakyamuni in verse 1 of The Dhammapada ("the wheel of the wagon follows the hoof") and others.

Some of us do "not too bad," hitting an OK balance with the two sides of life, but beyond the occasional "pretty good" individual, the spiritual and secular stay at pretty stark odds. Once we get past the single self, the larger social units pretty much spin out of control. It's very hard to get even a single whole family in order, and with each broader unit the problem exacerbates. By the time we get out to big groupings, like cities and states for example the likelihood of balance between the material and the spiritual is slim. For this reason, "church - state" relations always remain in a tumult. They constantly swing this way and that.

These days a fascinating and important series of issues have arisen in this relationship. The church and not-the-church have gotten themselves tangled up in the world of help. Caring for the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the disaster stricken is a responsibility both for the state, and for the person of faith. But these often struggle in nature and motivation. One issue I've already treated in these pages is the problems created in the world of global disaster relief by aid organizations comprised of proselytizing believers.

Here's another one that looks very difficult. The Catholic church, and the city of Washington DC are facing what looks like a possible impasse. Tim Craig, Michelle Boorstein, and later Carol Morello did a fine job last Thursday and Friday making the issues clear, and as importantly capturing the heat, the tone, the ignorances and arrogances that are coming to participate in this thorny issue:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law.

D.C. Council members are hardening their opposition to the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington's efforts to change a proposed same-sex marriage law, setting up a political showdown between the city and one of its largest social service providers.

Progress is being made in planned legislation designed to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. "Under the bill, headed for a council vote next month, religious organizations ... would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians." But this puts the Catholic Church in a quandry, "Church officials say Catholic Charities would have to suspend its social services work for the city, rather than provide employee benefits to same-sex married couples or allow them to adopt."

Catholic Charities, serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington's homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church.

At issue is $18 million to $20 million in city funds for 20 to 25 programs run by Catholic Charities, but the church pointed out that it supplements funding for city programs with $10 million from its own coffers.

So, as we can see, these bodies (the city and the church) are very tightly wed. They have combined intimately to do much good, lots of lives and great work is at stake, lots of money is all tangled up together, but when something unanticipated like this happens remarkably complex issues arise.

Elected officials insulting believers is not a healthy approach to addressing a complicated matter with much at stake, but sadly bluster is all too often the coin of the political realm. Far better would be quiet discreet, reflective and respectful conversation from sincere adherents on both sides of the opinion.

Any sincere Catholic can be only happy for advances that erode bigotry and persecution. Conversely one cannot expect the Church to conform to obligations contrary to its sacred traditions.

I for one hope that a creative solution can be found that allows the pleasant marriage between city and church, that helps so many in need to persist. I think it can be done. Some fiddling about with nuances, structures, divisions on paper, and solution driven thinking can open the way for all sides to remain in the help game in good conscience. The good work and the collaboration should continue. We should not let the careless and the loud make things harden up. There is no creativity for the sake of good when the mind is rigid, and the heart is prideful.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Papal Cynicism

On October 20, Pope Benedict XVI approved a plan wherein the Pope will issue an apostolic constitution, a form of papal decree, that will lead to the creation of "personal ordinariates" for Anglicans who convert to Rome.

John Hooper of the UK Guardian reports:
More than half a million Anglicans are set to join the Roman Catholic church following an announcement from the Vatican today that Pope Benedict XVI had approved a decree setting up a new worldwide institution to receive them.
Gledhill and Owen in the Australian note the obvious in mentioning the simmering accusation against Rome for "poaching":
Anglicans privately accused Rome of poaching and attacked Dr Williams for capitulating to the Vatican. Some called for his resignation. Although there was little he could have done to forestall the move, many were dismayed at his joint statement with the Archbishop of Westminster in which they spoke of Anglicans "willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church".
A fine and necessary read on the matter comes from Oliver Lough deriving his analysis and commentary from a gaze at history's best known Anglican to Catholic convert, the great churchman and theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Lough opens his reflections pointedly:
The depth of cynicism behind the Vatican's invitation last month to right-wing Episcopalians "to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony" is best understood through one of Rome's most high-profile converts, a certain John Henry Newman.
And goes on to bring back before the modern reader many of the qualities that make Newman an exciting and enduring figure in Western history:
It would be easy enough to assume that the smells, bells, and reassuringly rigid doctrine of the Catholic Church eventually provided too much of a temptation for the intellectually fraught Newman to resist.

As it happened, the spark of his conversion came from a quite different direction. Poring over an obscure 5th century religious text in 1839, he came to the conclusion, despite himself, that the Episcopalian faith was founded on a series of misconceptions that precluded its ever being a "true" church.

What followed was described by Newman as a "great revolution of mind, which led me to leave my own home, to which I was bound by so many strong and tender ties."

His final conversion was some six years in the making, and came at a time when even the merest hint of "popishness" was still anathema in Britain. As one historian puts it, "to enter the Roman Church was literally to exile oneself from English life."

Newman's slow and painful transformation was an act of spiritual and intellectual bravery so profound that it eventually helped kick-start the gradual rehabilitation of Catholicism into conventional society. It involved not just abandoning much of what he had stood for, but immersing himself in a new and alien creed.

Read the entire commentary here

It may well be that such matters arouse in most the feeling of a dusty and complicated past. I recommend though that no social evolution should bring us to the point when major world leaders should be allowed to act without account, and when courage, integrity, and rigorous devotion of mind become a matter of disinterest.

Unseen Causes in Danger to Water, Untapped Resources for the Protection of Water

This paper was created by commission to be presented at the:
The Fifth Global Forum on Human Settlements
Water and Human Settlements in the 21st Century
November 8 – 9, 2009,
Wuxi, China

Unseen Causes in Danger to Water, Untapped Resources for the Protection of Water
November, 2009

Many may think, “Ah Wuxi, a perfect place for such a conference, because China is a place with severe water resource shortage, and the Chinese government attaches such high attention to the water environmental improvement, that it has made sustainable development a basic state policy.”

But Wuxi is perfect for a different reason.

It is perfect because China is the homeland of “the Old Boy,” the revered and beloved world saint Lao Tzu. Here are his observations:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle...
Fluid as melting ice...
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

From among all saints and seers, perhaps Lao Tzu above all others most fully intuited the eternal and the divine in water.

Importantly in the wisdom of Lao Tzu is that in his few and fleeting words he captures both sides of the truth of water, the nature of the water without, and its mirror in the water within. The great German, Romantic philosopher Novalis said, “Our bodies are molded rivers.”

Al Gore in Earth in the Balance said the same thing (but please do not tell Mr. Gore that Lao Tzu already knew it 2700 years ago, Mr. Gore thinks he discovered it), He said:

Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears--all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth.

What I would like us to do in the few moments I have to present my thoughts is open ourselves and seek for starting points in the magic and the divine in our quest for a healthy and happy world, and a cure for the global water crisis.

I believe the frame of mind and the way of being that can guide our path toward good outcomes and the rescue of our planet lies in the secret voice in water itself. Loren Eiseley, the great natural science writer and recipient of 36 honorary degrees said, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” (Loran Eisley, The Immense Journey, 1957)

But perhaps the one voice that captures most perfectly what I want for us today is that of D.H. Lawrence, from his 1929 poetry collection Pansies (a play on the French word Pensees). He says, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is.” (D.H. Lawrence, Pansies, 1929)

It is vital that we ponder, remember, and honor that third thing, for if we do, and when we do, we lose our indifference, we could no more hurt water than a loved one, and we could no more ignore the thirst, the deaths, and the suffering of the billion, and the little ones, than we could ignore falling into the grip of thirst ourselves.

Certainly the water crisis is a problem for science. And yes it is a problem for policy makers, city planners, and valiant warriors for the rights of the oppressed. But it's deepest face of horror lies within each one of us, it lies in whatever allows me to walk peacefully through life while 3 million water related deaths each year take the lives children under 14.

It is this frightening indifference in us that must be addressed if we have any hope to effectively engage the current and growing global water crisis conversation.

Wherein lies my blindness, my dullness? What is missing in my life, that allows my sense to be so dull? What am I not seeing, not feeling? For each of us is just a single step different from the factory polluting CEO. I lie to myself if I think otherwise.

If we find that we are aware, alert, and invested in rescuing our planet, our brothers and sisters, and the little ones, we can only be thankful for the unknown and unseen that allows us to be awake with a passion and devotion to the grand and pressing a cause.

The secret to saving water is contained in water itself. It cries out to us – water to water. The dew drop and the rapids try with beauty and power to speak to its own self within us. It knows already the path to its rescue. Chuang Tzu (c.360 BC - c. 275 BC) says, “The sound of water says what I think.”

It is us. We are it. It lives, we live. It dies, we die. The holy Qu'ran says, “By means of water, we give life to everything.” (Qu'ran, 21:30).

Water itself contains the secrets, and reveals to us the way to its own rescue. The first of these secrets was recognized by by Lao Tzu when he points out:
The best of man is like water,
Which benefits all things, and does not contend with them,
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.
It is humility, and the contentedness with low places, together with the interior nature to live for the benefit of others that is required at this time to reverse the horrible trends that threaten our fragile environment. The spread of these virtues bode the rescue of water.

Environmental science is vital, it is needed, but the best of it cannot contend with a disordered race whose inner nature wars with our very aqua vita within. It is not the lack of environmental science that has defiled earth's magic, it is an avarice against which Lao Tzu quietly and gently warned, a lack of contentedness with the “low places,” the lack of a natural impulse to live for the benefit of others and not contend with them.

The second secret (also already mentioned) comes from the great thinker and poet D.H. Lawrence, “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing that makes water, and nobody knows what that is.” When I read these words of Lawrence and pause to release the voice of water in me, I think of a couple in love, I think of my own wife and me. A marriage is H2O one part me, and one part the woman I love, but there is a third thing that made us a couple, and nobody knows what that is.

The mystery, beauty, and life giving power of water is the secret of love. Of how two become one to become an ever giving and ever sustaing source of new life.

Humility, contentedness with the low places animated by living for the benefit of all, and the bond of love, care, and respect for the other are the secrets of water that can awaken us to turn back from our careless, violent, and polluting era.

I am 71% water, and so are you. Maybe we have a chance.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Here, Let me get that for ya

Generally, I try to keep Leaves more or less on the serious to semi-serious side. But every so often something comes a long on the lighter side that's worth a look.

These fellows are hard at work making right a mishap.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Late numbers on clunkers

This issue has been reported on, on more than one occasion on this blog:

Clunkers: Taxpayers paid $24,000 per car

Auto sales analysts at say the pricey program resulted in relatively few additional car sales.

NEW YORK ( -- A total of 690,000 new vehicles were sold under the Cash for Clunkers program last summer, but only 125,000 of those were vehicles that would not have been sold anyway, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the automotive Web site

The Cash for Clunkers program gave car buyers rebates of up to $4,500 if they traded in less fuel-efficient vehicles for new vehicles that met certain fuel economy requirements. A total of $3 billion was allotted for those rebates.

What I got with Cash for Clunkers

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bush Preemptive Strike Doctrine Under Review, May Be Discarded


Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon is reviewing the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemptive military strikes with an eye to modifying or possibly ending it.

The international environment is “more complex” than when President George W. Bush announced the policy in 2002, Kathleen Hicks, the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for strategy, said in an interview. “We’d really like to update our use-of-force doctrine to start to take account for that.”

Bush outlined his doctrine of preemptive strike in a speech at West Point in June 2002. He elevated it to a formal strategy that September. For the first time in a doctrine, the U.S. expressed the right to attack a threat that was gathering, not just imminent.

‘Will Not Hesitate’

The doctrine says the U.S. “will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dyson launches the bladeless electric fan

Here's something interesting!

Clunky technology that never changes somehow interests me.

Now who's going to challenge the most arcane hold-over of them all... The windshielf wiper

The Dyson Air Multiplier fan – which looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie – uses advancements in airflow engineering instead of traditional blades to ‘multiply’ air 15 times and push out 119 gallons of smooth and uninterrupted air every second.


Conventional electric fans have gone largely unchanged for years,” notes Mr Dyson. “The fundamental problem has remained the same for more than 125 years – the blades ‘chop’ the air creating an uneven airflow and unpleasant buffeting.”


Saturday, September 26, 2009

You decide

Here's the video of Larry King interviewing Ahmedinijad on the treatment of post-election protesters in Iran:

Here's the New York Times article on rape and torture of protesters (please click through to read the entire chilling and disquieting article):

Iranian Protester Flees Country After Telling of Rape and Torture in Prison

“I was ready to be tortured to death,” he said, his voice trembling. “But not ever to go through what happened to me there.”

Mr. Karroubi and another opposition leader and presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, have vigorously condemned the vicious tactics the security authorities used against the demonstrators, 72 of whom they say were killed. Yet, of all the allegations of brutality and abuse that were lodged, none have presented such a threat to the government as those involving rape and sodomy, which are culturally and religiously unacceptable in Iran.

Human rights groups say that Mr. Sharifi’s account conforms closely with those of other abuse victims. Omid Memarian, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said he had confirmed the credibility of Mr. Sharifi’s story with people close to Mr. Karroubi.

Top U.S. Commander Says Taliban Winning Communication Initiative

Tragically, organizations responsible to maintain the successes and momentum of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) dropped the ball, leaving the world more dangerous, and less equipped to manage current geopolitical challenges.

McChrystal's longing for authoritative religious figures to mediate the ideal of reconciliation was a design and achievement of the IRFWP 2o years ago. The US military has little access, understanding, or credibility in this community that is indispensable to the larger work of dissolving the unique challenges in Afghanistand and Pakistan.

Holbrooke has repeatedly complained that the Taliban has communicated more effectively than the United States. In June, he told a House subcommittee there was a need to refine the coalition's message and use new ways to reach Afghans, suggesting cell phones, radio and other means, the Post reported.

McChrystal said one way to accomplish this is to "disrupt and degrade" the insurgent networks. He suggests getting authoritative figures, such as religious leaders, to deliver messages "so they are credible," the Post reported.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A good argument for the obvious

Rachel Brown in her CSM opinion piece offers some good examples and explanations for that which should be profoundly obvious. Women bear so much of the brunt of war and conflict, surely they must represent an invaluable resource for negotiations and deliberations in pursuit of reconciliation.

Middle East peace effort's missing key: female negotiators.

Women bear the brunt of conflict, so their input for peace is essential.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and representatives of the Middle East Quartet debate whether evictions of Palestinian families are a barrier or catalyst to a two-state solution, Israeli and Palestinian women alike confront the realities of the conflict on the ground.

These women work toward a sustainable peace as committee members, as demonstrators, and as mothers raising and educating their children despite occupation. But their representation in formal negotiations is inadequate.

Because Israeli and Palestinian women are disproportionately affected by occupation and the threat of violence, their input into the national security debate – and international negotiations for peace – is essential.

A brighter side of the deeper parts of human nature

A Paradise Built in Hell

When disaster strikes, ordinary human beings very often do extraordinary things.

Disasters are terrible, awful things. No one could dispute that. But what do those extraordinary events tell us about ordinary humans? One view is that disasters crack society’s fragile social norms, releasing destructive primitive instincts in the form of hysteria, panic, crimes, and other acts of ruthless self-interest.

Another view says that disasters actually release what is best and, ultimately, most authentic about people, spawning amazing acts of compassion, generosity, courage, and self-sacrifice.
In A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit argues strongly on behalf of this latter view. And because it is overwhelming true in most cases, she says, it suggests new ways of thinking about how governments should approach disaster relief.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Ahmadinejad Problem- New thinking is needed

Is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a bad guy?

By all accounts the answer seems to be a clear yes, especially if we are to believe reports of the demonic way he treated his own people in the wake of Iran's recent, so-called elections.

It's one thing to be branded a villain in the context of international relations, but the litmus test of a leaders' status that seems to carry universal opprobrium is tyranny, brutalizing the helpless under your reign.

This morning's headlines see world leaders with their hands thrown up over
Ahmadinejad's obstinate refusal to cooperate with regard to his nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad: Iran won't halt nuclear work

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday Iran will neither halt uranium enrichment nor negotiate over its nuclear rights but is ready to sit and talk with world powers over "global challenges."

Ahmadinejad also said Iran will present a package of proposals for talks to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany but rejected any deadline for such talks.

President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to take up an offer of nuclear talks with six world powers and trade incentives should it suspend uranium enrichment activities. If not, Iran could face harsher punitive sanctions.

Who are these wonderful conversation partners (five plus one) waiting in the wings to discuss the problems of arms with the evil President Ahmadinejad?

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China — plus Germany offered Iran a modified package of economic incentives June last year in return for suspending its uranium enrichment activities or face harsher sanctions.

Why is Germany not on the security council of the UN? Because the UN was formed largely in response to Hitler's efforts to take over the world.

But now Germany's OK. Let's take look at these lovely five plus one defined so nobly by their stature at the the UN from a different angle?

Oh, by the way, Post-Mussolini's Italy wasn't too popular during the founding of the United Nations either.

Those old arms numbers were shattered by a spike of 33% growth of US arms sales in the last year as reported in yesterday's NYTimes.


Ahmadinejad may be bad, but (sadly) he's not stupid (a phrase that could apply to countless politicians).

Is a nuclear armed Iran bad? Should it be prevented?

Of course, and by all means.

Can it be stopped by a process void of a genuine moral center. Sadly not.

This and a great many current global problems must be met in a system grounded in the radical change that will be put forth in upcoming articles on this site.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Muslims Who Saved The Jews

This article highlighted below is the transcript of an interview with Norman Gershman.

Host Liane Hansen speaks with photographer Norman Gershman about his book Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II, which is also the subject of a documentary called God's House. Greshman spent five years collecting stories of Albanian Muslims who harbored Jewish refugees during World War II.

During the Nazi occupation of Albania and Kosovo during the second World War, Jews facing persecution and death had a small group of seemingly unlikely allies - Muslims. Sixty-five people managed to save some 2,000 Jews, and have been honored by the Jewish Holocaust Memorial as righteous among nations.

Photographer Norman Gershman spent five years taking photos of them and collecting their stories. They've been published in a new book, "Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II." Mr. Gershman joins us from Aspen Public Radio in Colorado. Welcome.

Concept of heritage opens positive interfaith horizons

This collection of excerpted passages below comes from the full NYTimes piece that explains the restoration of Jewish sites in Egypt.

The opening passage shows the reflexive hate for Jews in the region, but the article goes on to explain the history of Jews in the country, and the devotion to preserve this contribution in the name of Egypt's heritage.

Egypt's Public Embrace of a Jewish Past

Khalid Badr, 40, is pretty typical in that regard, living in a neighborhood of winding, rutted roads in Old Cairo, selling snacks from a kiosk while listening to the Koran on the radio. Asked his feelings about Jews, he replied matter-of-factly. "We hate them for everything they have done to us," Mr. Badr said, as casually as if he had been asked the time.

Later in the article Slackman tells of the Hawass's many projects for the restoration of Jewsih sites in Cairo and elsehwere

"If you don't restore the Jewish synagogues, you lose a part of your history," said Zahi Hawass,

Egypt has slowly, quietly been working to restore its synagogues for several years.

It is a historic one, actually, named after Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a physician and philosopher who is considered among the most important rabbinic scholars in Jewish history. He was born in Córdoba, Spain, in 1135, moved to Alexandria and eventually to Cairo.

There are fewer than 100, some say fewer than 80, Jews left in Egypt today, making the preservation projects all the more important, Rabbi Baker said.

US 10 times its nearest competitor

The reputation of the US as militaristic and unworthy of any claim to moral leadership in the world is strengthened by this data detailed in this NYTimes article.

The US towering above all countries in arms sales including with major contracts in the Middle East, as well as with developing countries comes no longer in the easy target of the Bush administration, but now well into the first year of the Obama administration.

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Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows

WASHINGTON — Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier, increasing its share to more than two-thirds of all foreign armaments deals, according to a new Congressional study.

The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.

Italy was a distant second, with $3.7 billion in worldwide weapons sales in 2008, while Russia was third with $3.5 billion in arms sales last year — down considerably from the $10.8 billion in weapons deals signed by Moscow in 2007.

The United States was the leader not only in arms sales worldwide, but also in sales to nations in the developing world, signing $29.6 billion in weapons agreements with these nations, or 70.1 percent of all such deals.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Arabs moving into Israeli settlements

Holy city twist: Upwardly mobile Arabs moving into neighborhoods built for Jews

This July 30, 2009 photo shows Israelis sitting in a coffee shop as Arab women walk past in the French hill neighborhood of northern Jerusalem. A small but growing number of Arabs is moving into Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Most come for the better services and reasonable rents,

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Yousef Majlaton moved into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev for such comforts as proper running water and regular garbage pickup.

The hillside sprawl of townhouses and apartment blocks was built for Jews, and Majlaton is a Palestinian.

Pisgat Zeev is part of Israel's effort to fortify its presence in Jerusalem's eastern half which it captured in the 1967 war.

It wasn't so much the politics of this contested city that drew Majlaton to Pisgat Zeev, however; it was the prospect of escaping the potholed roads and scant municipal services he endured for 19 years while renting in an Arab neighborhood.

"You see that air conditioner?" he said, pointing to the large wall unit cooling his living room. "In the Arab areas, the electricity is too weak to run one that big."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wall Street Journal Criticises Cash for Clunkers Program

This 3 billion dollar program that ran triple over budget and was abruptly abandoned, is a good poster child for those who regard current stimulus concepts socialistic

The US government takes money away from American citizens who earned it, and gives it for free to other citizens who want to buy a new car
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All Clunkered Out

The $3 billion plan is being hailed in Washington as a great success because so many Americans sought to get a $3,500 to $4,500 check financed by other taxpayers in return for trading in their old car.
it's hardly miraculous that some Americans would be willing to apply for "free" money to do what they probably would have done eventually anyway.
the program has proven to be an administrative fiasco, as the central planners at Transportation
had to scramble to borrow workers from the likes of the Federal Aviation Administration to process claims.
The idea that a temporary subsidy program will launch the auto industry onto some new, higher sales and production plane defies logic. More likely, the program will merely have concentrated sales over a shorter period, as buyers either postponed purchases once they learned the program was in the works, or accelerated them to meet the subsidy deadline.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A remarkable technological development

I am excited to read of this project, and look forward to the vast new world that will be opened by this one small step
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Financial Times

CBS and Pepsi bring video ads to printed page

When some readers of Entertainment Weekly open their magazines next month, they will discover characters from US television programmes speaking to them from a wafer-thin video screen built into the page.

The marketing experiment – which is being conducted by CBS, the US broadcaster, and Pepsi, the soft drinks maker

The video, which will play on a screen about the size of those found on mobile telephones, will appear in copies of the Time Warner magazine sent to subscribers in the New York and Los Angeles areas.

Who briefs Richardson

Whence comes Richardson's unique capacity to assess North Korean intentions?

What careless and raggedy political craft
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SANTA FE, New Mexico(AFP) — North Korea is calling for new nuclear talks but wants them directly with the United States, Governor Bill Richardson said after a rare meeting with diplomats sent by Pyongyang.

"We had productive talks," Richardson said. "I got a sense that temperatures have really cooled down since President Clinton?s visit.

Richardson, who met with North Korean delegates Kim Myong-Gil and Paek Jong-Ho at his sprawling hacienda overlooking Santa Fe, said Pyongyang felt it was now up to Obama to make the next move.

"I detected for the first time... a lessening of tension, some positive vibrations."

The White House stated clearly that the North Korean mission had not come at the behest of the Obama administration.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said no message had been passed to Richardson to give to the North Koreans and reiterated Washington's policy on North Korea.

Jerusalem Post criticizes Obama's closeness to Mubarak

Jerusalem Post is clear in its position, but its tone is mature and measured
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Obama delivered his address to the Muslim world in Cairo in June and has already met Mubarak three times since taking office.

Yet, while Obama has called upon the pro-American Arab states, including Egypt, to adopt new confidence-building measures towards Israel such as allowing Israeli airlines to fly over their territories, establishing semi-diplomatic and commercial offices and opening their borders for tourists, Mubarak said that these measure would come only after Israel signs peace agreements with all of its Arab neighbors.

Obama's Cairo speech and his obsession with the settlements issue to the point of exclusion of all other obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, led the Arabs to believe that they don't have to contribute anything to the process and that the US will do all the work for them.

Seventy one senators politely wrote Obama on August 10 that he needs to better balance his strategy:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wall Street Journal condemns Kim Dae Jong's Sunshine Policy

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That rapprochement came in the form of the "Sunshine Policy," arguably his worst mistake although he won the Nobel Peace Prize for it in 2000. He sought to thaw relations with Pyongyang through conciliatory talk and generous aid. Instead, the South's money and other favors propped up Kim Jong Il's regime without yielding lasting progress on denuclearization or human rights—and probably delayed the collapse of the Kim regime. The current president, Lee Myung-bak, has disavowed the policy, which remains deeply controversial in the South.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crash Tutorial on Xinjiang

A particularly high cost government (China) "response"/"crackdown" to rioting by an ethnic minority (the Uighurs, or Uyghurs) is properly big in the news presently.

It is often the case that once tragedy strikes, it becomes too late for us to brush up (or learn for the first time) background to help us understand events in areas outside our general knowledge, because writing becomes too heated, biased, and agenda laden.

These Ürümqi riots that broke out on 5 July 2009 have a great many important implications including historically, religiously, and world-power-relations-wise.

I have assembled one or two articles with good balance and sound information, to help Leaves readers think well in the midst of the flurry of articles that will properly dominate the news in coming days or perhaps longer.

Here is the first, post-raw-breaking-news article that now reports on stage two, the call for an investigation.

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Rights groups press for probe of Uighur deaths in China

WASHINGTON — Three weeks after ethnic violence rocked Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang province, official Chinese news sources are carrying upbeat headlines and photos of smiling Uighurs on the streets, assuring readers that things in western China have returned to normal. On Friday, however, Chinese officials pledged to crack down with an "iron fist" on Uighurs who challenge the authorities.

"We will keep to the policy of launching 'pre-emptive strikes' against and cracking down on enemies with an iron first to curb violent criminality," Nur Berkri, the chairman of the regional government, said Friday, according to Xinhua, the official news agency.

The Chinese government said that 197 people were killed and more than 1,600 injured; Kadeer thinks that the numbers are much higher.

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Where is this?

Look here:
and here:

Next I would like to draw your attention to two articles that are quiet in tone, and very helpful to provide background and context to help understand the recent history pertinent to the outbreak of the riots that drew such intense government fire.

The first is from Ariana Eunjung Cha of the Washington Post Foreign Service
URUMQI, China -- When the local government began recruiting young Muslim Uighurs in this far western region for jobs at the Xuri Toy Factory in the country's booming coastal region, the response was mixed.

But others, like Safyden's 21-year-old sister, were wary. She was uneasy, relatives said, about being so far from her family and living in a Han Chinese-dominated environment so culturally, religiously and physically different from what she was accustomed to. It wasn't until a local official threatened to fine her family 2,000 yuan, or about $300, if she didn't go that she reluctantly packed her bags this spring for a job at the factory in Shaoguan, 2,000 miles away in the heart of China's southern manufacturing belt.

The origins of last week's ethnically charged riots in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region, can be traced to a labor export program that led to the sudden integration of the Xuri Toy Factory and other companies in cities throughout China.

Uighur protesters who marched into Urumqi's main bazaar on July 5 were demanding a full investigation into a brawl at the toy factory between Han and Uighur workers that left two Uighurs dead. The protest, for reasons that still aren't clear, spun out of control. Through the night, Uighur demonstrators clashed with police and Han Chinese bystanders, leaving 184 people dead and more than 1,680 injured in one of the bloodiest clashes in the country's modern history. Two Uighurs were shot dead by police Monday, and tensions remain palpable.

Both Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the country's population and dominate China's politics and economy, and Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority living primarily in China's far west, say anger has been simmering for decades.

By moving Uighur workers to factories outside Xinjiang and placing Han-run factories in Xinjiang, Chinese officials say, authorities are trying to elevate the economic status of Uighurs, whose wages have lagged behind the national average. But some Han Chinese have come to resent these policies, which they call favoritism, and some Uighurs complain that the assimilation efforts go too far. Uighurs say that their language is being phased out of schools, that in some circumstances they cannot sport beards, wear head scarves or fast as dictated by Islamic tradition, and that they are discriminated against for private and government jobs.

The second is from The New Atlanticist Policy and Analysis Blog,by Griffin Huschke:
With recent violence in China’s western province of Xinjiang, Washington is increasingly ensnared in events dealing with the Uyghur community in China. However, many questions remain about the true goals of this Turkic ethnic group: are they terrorists bent on overturning law and order, or freedom fighters trying to throw off the yoke of a repressive government?

The quick answer is “neither.” Making any generalizations about a population is, of course, difficult: Uyghurs are geographically and culturally diverse. In order to understand the conflict that recently flared in Xinjiang, it is important to note not all Uyghurs see themselves as such. Data gathered by Professor Justin Rudelson show that many Turkmen identify with labels that correspond to their home town or religion as opposed to ‘Uighur.’ Rudelson showed that the concept of a Uyghur ethnicity is often a fuzzy, particularly in the lower and middle classes.

This lack of a Uyghur identity is due to hundreds of years of separation resulting from formidable natural barriers. While those of the same ethnicity had settled around the region, the vast desert and rugged mountains sometimes made travel outside Xinjiang more feasible than travel within the province. Thus, those in the oasis town of Ili have a much stronger historical and cultural connection with the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan than with their ethnic cousins in Kashgar, China.

How does this help us understand the recent strife in Xinjiang’s capital city of Urumqi? The localized identity, which has existed for thousands of years, may be beginning to shift. While it is too early to begin to discuss a true “pan-Uyghur” identity (as promoted by the World Uyghur Congress, for instance), ethnic Turkic peoples in the region are beginning to feel more isolated from their Han countrymen. In addition to Urumqi, ethnic strife in Shaoguan and other areas of China are making Uyghurs feel more vulnerable and cognizant of their “otherness.” Indeed, violence is becoming increasingly common place. Charles Hutzler in the AP:

Tens of thousands of what the government calls "sudden mass incidents" rock China every year, presumably soaring in number since Beijing stopped releasing the statistic publicly in 2005, when there were 87,000 of them. While loss of life is rarely on the scale of the Xinjiang riot, protesters often vent their rage on public property, burning government offices and cars.

This does not necessarily mean Uyhurs are feeling closer to other Uyghurs—large rifts still exist between Uyghurs. However, these riots indicate that the vast majority of peaceful Uyghurs are likely increasingly uneasy about coexistence with greater China.

At present, only localized and fragmented sentiments of “Uygur-ness” persist, and China still has an opportunity to integrate the Uyghurs into the wider economy and society. However, if Uyghur grievances in Urumqi and elsewhere are not taken seriously, the further growth of “us/them” sentiments may cause more violence in the near future.

I hope these maps and two articles give the kind of background that will allow Leaves readers to recognize the subtlety and complexity of the issues, and not fall prey to easy labels and superficial analyses